Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 8.21

The Afternoon Inquisition is a new daily feature here at Skepchick.

It’s simple. One of the regular contributors will post a question each afternoon around 3pm EST, but this is where you, dear reader, get to shine. Each question is meant solely to initiate discussion, and we want to read what you have to say.

So let’s start simple and kick things off with a philosophical classic: 

Can a religious person be a skeptic?

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

Related Articles

237 Comments

  1. It depends on how you define religion. I go to Church on Sundays with a few of my friends. While I don’t believe a lot of it, I greatly appreciate some of the morals that are taught. While I don’t consider myself to be a bible-toting Christian, I would say I am at least slightly religious.

    I enjoy the church I go to, because I can ask skeptical questions, and I can have intelligent conversations with the people.

  2. Can a religious person be a skeptic?

    Yes. Skepticism isn’t a belief, it’s a process.

    I think it will lead, inevitably, to atheism but it’s entirely possible to be skeptical, “evaluate evidence”, yet not get around to subjecting your own beliefs to that microscope. There’s only so much time, and a lot of woo out there.

    Heck, we see it on skeptical sites all the time. :)

  3. It may be a classic, but it’s a good question, and one on which skeptics will probably never reach a consensus. My short answer is no, because religion doesn’t stand up to any sort of critical evaluation. Many skeptics view it as a separate (and perhaps exempt) category, considering religion and science “non-overlapping magesteria” or stating that science examines the natural, not the supernatural (so science is the wrong medium with which to evaluate religion). This is one of those topics on which my opinion is probably harsh enough to piss people off. I say no. The evidence for a higher being is inconclusive at best. The truth is no one really knows if a higher being exists, so agnosticism is the honest approach. Atheism is also a reasonable POV because it’s reasonable not to believe in something for which tno evidence exists.

  4. I think so but they deliberatly avoid applying that skepticism to their religious beliefs. I work in a small accounting agency. The partners and, I think, everyone but me are christian. When it comes to a box of papers needed to complete a tax return, prepare a set of books or audit a company very percise skepticism is applied.

  5. As with nearly everything, there are degrees of religious belief and of skepticism. I’d think that anyone whose religious belief can be classified as fundamentalist (on either end of the religious-atheist spectrum) would tend not to be a critical thinker and therefore would not be a skeptic at least insofar as religious beliefs are concerned. Whereas mainstream believers in religion would be capable of some degree of skepticism regarding these beliefs (e.g. perhaps accepting the creation myth as an analogy rather than fact). In any case, though, I think that even someone who is not capable of being a skeptic of his or her own religion, can be skeptical of other things, so I’d conclude that the general answer is: “Yes, a religious person can be a skeptic,” with the caveat “but not necessarily of his or her own strongly held faith, whether that faith be in fundamentalist dogma or anything else.”

  6. it’s entirely possible to be skeptical, “evaluate evidence”, yet not get around to subjecting your own beliefs to that microscope.

    I agree with this. Too many subjects exist to be an expert on all of them. And if I hadn’t examined religion, I could very well still be Christian.

  7. The answer depends, at least in part, on your definitions of the words “religious” and “skeptic.”

    Personally, I think it’s possible for a person to be both simultaneously, but I think it’s a difficult balance to maintain. There are enough people on this blog who were formerly true believers to make it obvious that it is possible for them to start questioning their beliefs. Did they suddenly stop being religious the moment they started asking questions? I don’t think so. But I do think people then usually go in one of two directions from there. I think the most common direction is for them to forsake their earlier beliefs and embrace logic and empiricism. A less common path is an attempt to reconcile their core beliefs with logic and reality. Of course, it could be argued that the second choice results in a person who is no longer “religious” in the strictest sense, since they probably no longer adhere strictly to the tenets of their organized religion. Maybe you would call them “spiritual.”

  8. If a skeptic is skeptical about all aspects of life, than the answer is almost certainly “Not for long.”

    I agree with others who pointed out the need for a good definition of “religious,” too, though. Does Unitarian Universalism count? How about some sort of hopeful deism based on awe at the beauty in the world? It seems like some “religious” sentiments could co-exist with a pretty good level of skepticism, though perhaps the Platonic ideal of a rational person would not have any religious beliefs whatsoever.

  9. Yes. Skepticism isn’t a belief, it’s a process.
    ————————–
    It also isn’t well defined. At the very least, to be a skeptic, you have to be willing to be wrong, if the evidence shows that you are wrong. That’s sort of a soft skepticism that’s compatible with a very fluid version of religion.

    But if skepticism is taken to mean that you hold no beliefs for which you have no evidence, than I don’t see how you can be a skeptic and religious.

  10. I think so but they deliberatly avoid applying that skepticism to their religious beliefs. I work in a small accounting agency. . . .

    So they can be skeptics, they just can’t be good skeptics?

    LOL, I don’t think that’s fair. If everyone here were to think about it, I’m sure we could each come up with at least 10 things we believe without ever really having questioned why we believe it.

    For some people, religion is just such a fact of life, they can’t even comprehend questioning it. It would be like questioning the existence of gravity, or trees*.

    * – yes, I suppose you could do that, but it would generally be considered a philosophical exercise. Most of the world is in agreement that gravity and trees exist.

  11. Personally, I think it’s possible for a person to be both simultaneously, but I think it’s a difficult balance to maintain. . . .

    Do you see that attempt to maintain balance by the religious person as evidence of religion being an emotional crutch?

    I mean, I have access to this process, and I apply it to things that are important to me. Certainly if I were religious, religion would be important to me, and I would apply that process accordingly. I wouldn’t stop short for fear of exposing my emotional opiate as so much fluff. Yet, if one is both a skeptic and a religious person, isn’t that exactly what he or she must do?

  12. i think it’s very possible to be objective and have some sort of faith, but religious and skeptic? the word religious brings order and tradition to mind, rather than a personal initiative or longing to believe, worship, etc. science also has certain connotations, such as order and discipline. these traits bring it to clash with other areas, like art. and for years, it was thought that art and science should exist as two different entities. more recently, people re beginning to bridge the gap. i’m not saying that every artist is a scientist and vice versa, but the relation, when present, is accepted. the same can be said for religion and science. it all comes down to a personal choice and how long you are willing to pursue one at the sake of the other. if you’re ideas can’t hold up to scrutiny, those ideas aren’t worth having to begin with. i approach everything with an open mind, but in a very Socratic manner, so i guess it is possible to be empirical and “spiritual”, as long they do not contradict each other.

  13. It also isn’t well defined. At the very least, to be a skeptic, you have to be willing to be wrong, if the evidence shows that you are wrong.

    Completely agree with that core definition.

    But if skepticism is taken to mean that you hold no beliefs for which you have no evidence, than I don’t see how you can be a skeptic and religious.

    I, for one, believe in quite a few things for which I hold no personal evidence. I’ve got a good practical grounding in thermodynamics based on observation, but I doubt I could even write up the basic theory behind zener diodes, let alone have any evidence that they work as advertised.

  14. The short answer is, of course, “Yes”.

    Let’s not kid ourselves – we all believe things without firm evidence, because it’s pleasant, convenient, or otherwise suits our purposes.

    Take free will. I can’t prove it exists. I can barely even define it (in any philosophically rigorous way). But I choose to provisionally accept it as a real thing, because the alternative (determinism) – though possibly true – seems so counterproductive and anti-humanist.

    Does that mean I’m not a skeptic? Of course it doesn’t. It just means that I’m not always applying skeptical glasses to everything around me.

    And if I can do it for free will and remain a skeptic, someone else can do it for the supernatural and remain a skeptic.

    True, many of them don’t. But many of them do. There are many thousands – I dare say millions – of people out there who are both skeptical in their day-to-day lives and actions (where it matters, as far as I’m concerned) and religious. I’m happy to know some. I’ve even been called out once or twice by them for not applying enough skepticism to my own cherished beliefs (for example, here).

  15. Good question but tough to answer without a couple of definitions;

    skeptic = ?
    religious = ?

    If your definition of skeptic is what most of your readers would accept and your definition of religion is that which is practiced by the majority of the U.S. population? Then, no.

    If the definition of Religious is expanded to include a more Sagan-esque view of the universe, or Skeptic is defined as simply doubter then sure they are totally compatible.

  16. I think it depends on the angle from which you look at it. Everyone is a skeptic on some subjects, and while I hesitate to say that no one is a skeptic about everything, I’d be amazed if someone actually turned up who is.

    To my way of looking at it, skepticism is not a state of being, so much as a road. It a path leading to knowledge and understanding. It’s part of the larger and more comprehensive highway of science, if I may continue the analogy needlessly because I like it.

    Any person walking that road can rightly call themselves a skeptic, no matter how far along they may be, and no matter how often they get distracted and wander off in other directions. By this reasoning (which I freely admit is my own preferred opinion), yes, a religious person can very much be a skeptic. It will likely lead to atheism if they pursue it, and will definitely lead away from Christian Fundamentalism (for example) fairly quickly.

    There are, of course, other takes. For some, they will not consider a person a skeptic until they have specifically addressed certain principle ideas skeptically. Common examples of “required thinking” for these people would include astrology, UFOs, ghosts, homeopathy, and religion. Obviously, the specific list varies from person to person, which is part of the reason I reject any such definition, as it will by necessity be nothing more than a fistful of arbitrary lines.

    In short, I say yes, but I understand perfectly why some people would say no. It is really a question of semantics.

  17. I think that it is less a religious crutch than it is a way to get along in a society that is both religious and vindictive. Outside of these forums and with a very small group of people that I trust my atheism is kept quiet. I know that much of the business in this area is facilitated through church connections. People are more likely to bring you their business if they know you are a “good christian”.

  18. I don’t think I was clear in the second part,

    If you expand Religious to include a Sagan-esque view of the universe and humanity in general and still maintain the generally acceptable definition of skeptic as put forth by this blog then yes they are compatible.

    If you keep religion defined as the majoritarian practice and simply define Skeptic as Doubter then you’ve essentially just described Christianity. After all, without Doubt, what role would Faith play? I’ve listened to a number of sermons in my day that made Doubt a near requirement (Questioning = Bad; Doubt = Good), doubt after all is perfectly human and one of the many ways Satan tries to getcha. Faith however is something just barely less than divine and is an expression of your unequivocal love for God.

  19. I think most people who would be considered skeptics have at least one “blind spot”. Granted, believing in any sort of supernatural being is a pretty big blind spot for a skeptic. On the other hand, it probably impossible to be perfectly skeptical about everything all the time. You’d spend all your time testing and retesting hypotheses. A passage from “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” comes to mind…

    The ruler of the Universe waited for as long as he could. When he heard the faint sound of the ship’s engines starting he spoke to cover it.

    “It’s nothing to do with me,” he said, “I am not involved with people. The Lord knows I am not a cruel man.”

    “Ah!” barked Zarniwoop, “you say ‘The Lord’. You believe in something!”

    “My cat,” said the man benignly, picking it up and stroking it, “I call him The Lord. I am kind to him.”

    “Alright,” said Zarniwoop, pressing home his point, “How do you know he exists? How do you know he knows you to be kind, or enjoys what he thinks of as your kindness?”

    “I don’t,” said the man with a smile, “I have no idea. It merely pleases me to behave in a certain way to what appears to be a cat. Do you behave any differently? Please, I think I am tired.”

  20. It is a matter of definition. If to be a skeptic it is necessary to put your critical eye towards everything equally, then no. But with that definition nobody is likely to be a true skeptic.

    We all seem to have sacred cows; we all have a tendency to jump through mental hoops to avoid cognitive dissonance; and we have a great ability to compartmentalize our knowledge.

    I say the true skeptic is skeptical of their own skepticism. They recognize their weaknesses, try to be open to criticism, and if someone points out contradictory beliefs to them, they take this seriously and reevaluate their positions even if it does cause cognitive dissonance.

    It is unlikely we will be perfect at this, and we will probably always rationalize some silly beliefs to ourselves. But it is a spectrum. Those who tend to look at things skeptically and recognize these pitfalls are true skeptics in my book.

  21. I would say this. No one is 100% skeptical 100% of the time. Someone can be a skeptic and just not apply their skepticism to religion. Doesn’t mean they aren’t a skeptic in general, just means that they are human.

    Of course, it’s a huge ommission, and that’s why I think most skeptics are not religious.

  22. @TimMills

    (for example, here

    That’s a damn good post, Tim. Particularly, I liked the section beginning with “But just because I disagree doesn’t mean I can’t try to put myself in their shoes, see what it’s like. ”

    I see all too often the “Because I’m right, they’re wrong” statements that I associate with fundamentalists even in science and skeptical writings, without even a trivial effort to understand the opposing point of view.

    Heck, one of PZ’s guest bloggers, Sastra, got flogged (not the fun kind) by commenters when trying to do just that.

  23. I define skepticism as trying your hardest to see the world as it really is not as you think it is or how it should be. We evolved with certain built in filters. We overlook things that don’t conform to what we think is real. It can be an exhausting practice to try and overcome the filters and see what is actually there. But ulitimatly I think it is worth it. But I could be wrong.

  24. Heck, we could take this to stupid lengths. I have never met anyone who posts or comments on this blog. I have never spoken to any of you on the phone. This entire blog including this post could be a huge piece of performance art by one lonely fat man living in his mother’s basement. I don’t think it is. That would be stupid. But I don’t have any proof that it isn’t.

  25. This entire blog including this post could be a huge piece of performance art by one lonely fat man living in his mother’s basement.

    Who told you about- I mean… Ummm… That’s a silly idea… Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  26. This entire blog including this post could be a huge piece of performance art by one lonely fat man living in his mother’s basement.

    —————

    It is for the person proposing the lonely fat man hypothesis to provide the evidence for that hypothesis. Lacking any such evidence, I see no reason to behave as if it is true.

  27. Can a religious person be a skeptic?

    I am an atheist and know squat about religion. I find though, that often times, atheists/agnostics/whatever always seem to consider religionists to be simpletons, incapable of deeply logical thought. Similarly, many atheists/agnostics/whatever, always seem to think that their question or conumdrum, is THE QUESTION or CONUMDRUM that will trip religionists up.

    My experience is that most of these questions are often, pretty trivially dealt with, and dealth with long ago, and were initially brought up by religionists.

    They’re not as stupid or uninsightful as we would love to believe.

  28. My experience is that most of these questions are often, pretty trivially dealt with, and dealt with long ago, and were initially brought up by religionists.

    Really? It seems to me that most of them were artfully dodged long ago. You can’t just shrug your shoulders and say “Oh, the Problem of Evil? Free will is the explanation.” Since that explains nothing, and in fact, begs the question of the existence of free will anyway.

    Note, that’s just an example of one question to which you might have been referring, since you gave no examples, I’m just guessing what you were talking about here. Feel free to toss off a different one that has been trivially dealt with if you like.

  29. I find though, that often times, atheists/agnostics/whatever always seem to consider religionists to be simpletons, incapable of deeply logical thought.

    Well, I would not count myself among those who consider the religious simpletons. I know many who are extremely bright people.

    But I think that’s why this question is so intriguing. The thought processes by a religious skeptic could be an entire psychology lecture in itself. The implications are interesting to say the least.

  30. @gabriel

    replace “blockquote” on both ends with the following:

    i = italics
    u = underline
    b = bold (I think you can use “strong” as well)

    To do a link is a little trickier

    Do this

    <a href=”http://skeptigator.com”>My Blog</a>

    To get this

    My Blog

    These codes will generally work on any blog’s comments especially WordPress

  31. @Rystefn

    To my way of looking at it, skepticism is not a state of being, so much as a road. It a path leading to knowledge and understanding. It’s part of the larger and more comprehensive highway of science, if I may continue the analogy needlessly because I like it.

    That’s certainly the most elegant phrasing thus far. It neatly captures “skepticism as a process” and “skepticism as a child of science”.

    @Gabrielbrawley

    This entire blog including this post could be a huge piece of performance art by one lonely fat man living in his mother’s basement.

    You cannot be told what the basement is; you have to experience it for yourself. Follow the white rabbit.

  32. Really? It seems to me that most of them were artfully dodged long ago. You can’t just shrug your shoulders and say “Oh, the Problem of Evil? Free will is the explanation.” Since that explains nothing, and in fact, begs the question of the existence of free will anyway.

    Does the bible ever mention free will? I can’t find any place where free will is talked about in it.

  33. My experience is that most of these questions are often, pretty trivially dealt with, and dealth with long ago, and were initially brought up by religionists.

    Umm… If by trivially dealt with you mean given an answeer that is meaningless and trivial?

    Any solutions or answers I’ve heard to these conundrums has been dealt with in such a way that only someone desperately wanting to accept the answer can accept the answer. Even the writings of Aquinas and Augustine can’t stand up under their own logical fallacies.

  34. Does the bible ever mention free will?

    The Bible kind of waffles on the subject but I don’t know that it ever addresses it directly. It is clear in the text that the god of the desert can and does interfere with people’s decision-making, at the very least, but the fact that he often responds specifically to the choices people make implies that people either have some amount of self-determinism, or that their god is a douche who hurls Mario into a flaming pit for all eternity for having the audacity to dare jump when he pushes the A button.

  35. Can religionists be skeptical? I think the answer is clearly yes. I suspect they can use the same thought processes we might, but that they start off with a different set of axioms.

    Remember, we don’t question axioms. They are assumed to be true and self-evident and the rest of the proof and logic are based on them.

    I am pro-choice.

    One of the real gotcha questions by people who claim to be skeptical (and pro-choice and liberal) that they know, just know, will nail the pro-life christianists to the wall is:

    Anna Quindlen: How much jail time for women who have abortions

    (If the web archive isn’t working, just google “How much jail time for women who have abortions”)

    Since she wrote that (and long before), pro-choice folks know, just know, that this question will expose Christianists for the dupes, and fascists they are, and that there is no way they can answer that question.

    It turns out that these folks are well equipped to answer that question. And I suspect they had thought of the question long before Anna Quindlen did.

    Here, the National Review asks that specific question to several
    pro-life experts: Is “How much jail time?”

    I am pro-choice, but when I read the pro-choice pundits using this gotcha question and the pro-life responses, I have to hand the debate over to the pro-lifers. Their answers are logical, complete, sensible, and show deep thought on the issue. The pro-choicers for the most part, merely, boastfully, yell, “gotcha” and then stick their fingers in their ears to the answers and sing, “la la la”, “I ain’t listening!”

    I think we are mistaken to believe that questions like: “can religionists be skeptical” will reveal anything other than our own hubris. I suspect it’s more productive to treat people as “our equals” intellectually, if not “our betters.”

    Related to my rant from yesterday, “Can a feminist who believes in the patriarchy be skeptical?”

  36. Hey Sam, was the Afternoon Inquisition thing your idea? Bravo good sir!

    Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for it. Jen posed the idea, and in an email chain, the rest of us had a little input to make it what it is.

  37. I am pro-choice, but when I read the pro-choice pundits using this gotcha question and the pro-life responses, I have to hand the debate over to the pro-lifers. Their answers are logical, complete, sensible, and show deep thought on the issue. The pro-choicers for the most part, merely, boastfully, yell, “gotcha” and then stick their fingers in their ears to the answers and sing, “la la la”, “I ain’t listening!”

    I disagree with the pro-lifers, but I think they won that round in the debate. And I think they did it because we are foolish if we think they are not skeptical.

  38. Although Free Will as a phrase is nowhere to be found, the idea of Free Will is there;

    For the Heebs

    Joshua 24:15 – “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

    For the Jeebs

    2 Peter 1:10 “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure” (if we have no choice in the matter then we cannot affect our election)

  39. How much jail time for women who have abortions

    I never saw this as a “gotcha!” question that would reveal the folly of anti-abortionists. It seems to me to be the legitimate immediate question to ask of someone who promotes the criminalization of anything – what should the punishment be? I mean, if you can’t agree on whether or not something should be legal at all (which seems to be the case in this), you may come to an acceptable compromise through this route…

    For example, I am completely opposed to Speed Limit laws on the highways. I think the idea is just stupid. however, so long as the punishment remains the mild slap on the wrist that it is, I don’t make a big deal about it. It is resolved to my satisfaction for the moment, and to most people’s satisfaction, more or less.

  40. @ jerry

    I think we are mistaken to believe that questions like: “can religionists be skeptical” will reveal anything other than our own hubris. I suspect it’s more productive to treat people as “our equals” intellectually, if not “our betters.”

    I don’t think we are trying to score gotcha points here. I think this was meant to make us think about our own axioms and to make us question them. But I could be wrong. Maybe Sam was trying to be rude. I don’t think he was though.

    @Rystefn

    people either have some amount of self-determinism, or that their god is a douche who hurls Mario into a flaming pit for all eternity for having the audacity to dare jump when he pushes the A button

    I think of it as more the second part.

  41. Absolutely, one can be religious and skeptic. To claim otherwise would be a false dichotomy. In the chapter “Newton’s Sleep” in “The Demon-Haunted World,” Carl Sagan agrees with the Dalai Lama that “religious doctrine that is insulated from disproof has little reason to worry about the advance of science.”

  42. I think of it as more the second part.

    Actually, there are bits where this is demonstrably the case… only in addition to hurling Mario into the pit, he also kills all the firstborn of Mushroom Kingdom because Mario jumped when he pushed the A button.

  43. I suspect they can use the same thought processes we might, but that they start off with a different set of axioms.

    This is true. I think the day I became an atheist was when I came to the conclusion that we should questions even our fundamental beliefs when they are called into question. Up until then it’s just not something you subject to any kind of real critical analysis.

  44. Maybe Sam was trying to be rude. I don’t think he was though.

    Absolutely not!

    Just trying to initiate a good discussion, and make us think, as you suggested.

    Sorry if it seems like I was being mean.

  45. @gabriel

    There others in the NT as well (John or Luke?) but they are a little more vague, 2 Peter is about as direct as it gets.

    Now nevermind that Gods “hardening” of pharoah’s heart seems to point a slight condition on man’s free will. And that would “Man has Free Will (unless God takes it away)”

  46. Don’t forget what was done to San Francisco and New York

    You show me a reference to New York or San Fransisco in the Bible, and I’ll convert right now.

    Note – “Bible code” doesn’t count.

  47. I don’t think you were trying to be rude or mean.

    I actually think it’s a good question to ask and explore but I think the “answer in the FAQ” should be a “Yes, and… but…” and not an overly simplistic “No.” I just think far too many self-claimed skeptics might go for the “No.”

    Full Disclaimer: I really enjoyed the movie, “The Name of the Rose”, which sort of lies in between both positions. (I am pretty sure I would not have made it through the novel.)

  48. Sam,
    I was trying to be funny. I’m sorry. I’ll stop doing that.

    No worries.

    But I think it’s important to mention that, as the Afternoon Inquisition goes on, there may be some discussions that elicit “passion” from the commenters. At least I hope there will be some.

  49. I don’t know about New York or San Francisco but Lot’s wife totally had that comin’. If the Bible teaches us nothing else, uppity women always get what’s comin’ to ‘em. [cough]Jezebel[cough]

    Right. And let’s not forget that one of the rewards for allowing your wife to be turned into a pillar of salt is nasty cave-sex with your daughters!

  50. I think the last few days have seen more than enough passion spring out of this question (though admittedly, from tangents to this question).

    Maybe you should ask about abortion, euthanasia, or polygamy tomorrow… That should be lively.

  51. @Rystefn

    or that their god is a douche who hurls Mario into a flaming pit for all eternity for having the audacity to dare jump when he pushes the A button.

    If god is the monkey, who then are the high-hats? o.O

  52. It seems to me to be the legitimate immediate question to ask of someone who promotes the criminalization of anything – what should the punishment be?

    I’m not a lawyer, but I believe suicide and attempted suicide are both illegal. We don’t speak of punishment so much as treatment.

    But read the answers in the NRO for people who have considered this far longer than I have.

    And I think at one point the question was reasonable, but I think many bloggeers clearly turned it into a gotcha never understanding there were reasonable answers to it.

    (In general, for reasons of free speech and critical thinking, I would hate to be caught saying a question is not reasonable(, though Vincent Bugliosi convinced me the question asked of Bill Clinton is almost always considered unreasonable… by prosecutors, but that’s for different reasons.))

  53. Maybe you should ask about abortion, euthanasia, or polygamy tomorrow… That should be lively.

    No doubt.

    But just as a programming note, one of the Chicks will post the Afternoon Inquisition on Friday, another Chick will post on Saturday, and on and on.

    I’ll be posting the Inquisition every Thursday.

  54. Lot had cave sex with his daughters? I thought that was Noah. Did two different great men of god in the old testament engage in incest?

    How dare you besmirch the name of the inventor of the “rainbow as symbol”!!!

  55. I’m not a lawyer, but I believe suicide and attempted suicide are both illegal. We don’t speak of punishment so much as treatment.

    Where I live, they both are illegal. Only last year was the law changed so that lethal force is no longer authorized to prevent a suicide attempt. I’m not talking about the fuzz, here, either. Any person walking down the street who came the the “reasonable” conclusion that another person was about to take a fistful of pills could legally shoot them in the head to prevent it from happening. That’s not treatment.

    However, you only point out a reasonable answer to the question. “What should the punishment be?” “Oh, there shouldn’t be one, we just use the law to compel people to get help.”

    That’s not anything like showing the question is meant as a “gotcha!” I will concede that it could be used with that intention, and that it would be foolish to do so.

  56. Are the inquisitions designed to always ask serious thoughtful questions of philisophical importance?

    The only guidelines we have are, the questions should elicit discussion (obviously), but they should also be about or related to the topics normally discussed on Skepchick.

  57. I think it depends on the person and the religion, although a predisposition to religious belief would indicate a basic willingness to buy into the supernatural.
    Islam seems the least superstitious of the major religions – muslims generally dismiss ghosts, witchcraft and other woo as a load of nonsense and you’ll be hard pressed to find a modern Egyptian who thinks King Tut’s curse is anything other than a pile of camel dung.

    On the Christian side, there’s a really aggravating doc running on UK Channel 4 at the moment called ‘Make Me a Christian’ in which a group of unbelievers agree to abide by the edicts of a bunch of cross-demoninational Christian clerics for a month. One Anglican Priest subjected a woman with an unfortunate interest in Wicca to a pretty creepy exorcism. Not because Wicca is crap but because her belief in it will land her in hell. The disturbing thing was how seriously she took his ranting.

  58. One can definitely limit the areas to which one applies one’s skepticism, being skeptical of certain things while choosing to remain credulous on others is a distinct possibility.

    That being said, I’m religious in the sense that I am a Unitarian Universalist, but I am not someone who accepts supernatural religious teachings.

    This question hinges a lot on what constitutes being religious — is it church/temple/mosque attendance, it is a question of what doctrine one accepts, or how one lives one’s life? Some people go to church because they just enjoy it but if hard pressed they might not actually agree with the doctrine expressed there (possibly not even knowing what the doctrine of their church is).

    For me being a good (religious) Unitarian Universalist means thinking about issues of life’s meaning in a thoughtful and rational way. For a lot of people the term “religious” is a pejorative term, meaning acceptance of irrational belief or false god(s).

    I don’t agree with what a lot of people believe, but I do my best to be tolerant and kind in my disagreement. As long as no one tries to impose their beliefs on me or the public school system, I’m happy.

    Is mocking of religious belief likely to lead people to embrace skepticism or is it going to entrench them in an anything-but-skepticism mindset?

  59. @ Sam

    The only guidelines we have are, the questions should elicit discussion (obviously), but they should also be about or related to the topics normally discussed on Skepchick.

    That would seem to leave it open to everything. I remember having a huge amount of fun with the sunday monster movie posts and comments.

    Which would make a really cool inquisition.

  60. @Waltdakind

    The only guidelines we have are, the questions should elicit discussion (obviously), but they should also be about or related to the topics normally discussed on Skepchick.

    What are those churchs like. I’ve kicked around the idea of going to one of their services. I’m an atheist but I would like a community to belong to and I have heard of atheists attending their services.

  61. I could bring back Monster Sundays again, too, now that I’m home. It seems like Sundays are a usually very slow around here. I have often wondered if all of our readers and other bloggers were at church. So that’s my sideways answer to Sam’s inaugural question.

  62. Gabe, you let me down… I mean, think about it: “The only guidelines we have are, the questions should elicit discussion (obviously), but they should also be about or related to the topics normally discussed on Skepchick.”

    I’d go to that church. That’s the kind of religion I can really get behind.

  63. Rystefn,

    I was just curious about his church. From what little bit I have heard they sound really different from what I am familiar with. I have heard that their creed is pretty close to

    The only guidelines we have are, the questions should elicit discussion (obviously), but they should also be about or related to the topics normally discussed on Skepchick.

    Which would be a church I could attend. I really do miss the sense of community I got from going to church. It was the rest of it I couldn’t stomach.

  64. Writerdd,
    Please bring back monster sunday. I loved that stuff. Get up after my wife has gone off to church. Make myself some biscuits and gravy to go with my coffee and whisky and read the monster sunday. Just loved it.

  65. Some UU congregations are more atheist heavy than others — services vary, though usually you can get a good idea of what you’re in for if you check the topic in advance (most have websites).

    I actually led a service with my mom on The God Delusion (even though I wouldn’t strictly identify as an atheist). The basic message I gave was that whether one is an atheist or not, Dawkins is worth a read and has some really valid criticisms that everyone should consider.

  66. It seems like Sundays are a usually very slow around here. I have often wondered if all of our readers and other bloggers were at church.

    Replace “were at church” with “were too hung over from Saturday night to find their computer” and you’ve probably got it. ;)

  67. Replace “were at church” with “were too hung over from Saturday night to find their computer” and you’ve probably got it. ;)

    Or, in many cases, we just stay up so late on Saturday nights that our Sunday mornings start around 4pm… or maybe that’s just me.

  68. @waltdakind

    I’m really glad you weighed in on the UU church. I’ve heard really good things about it from some rational friends, including my atheist sister. I attended two services this summer, after staying away from church completely for over 24 years, and I’m looking forward to going to more services when I get back from the road this autumn.

    I like that UUs are accepting of atheists, but I’m not yet clear on whether a good UU is expected to have a postmodernist-like acceptance of woo belief when confronted with it. Is it considered bad form to express disagreement with others in the church (not during a service, of course)?

    Also, what do you think of this essay: http://www.wvinter.net/~haught/UUskeptics.htm

    Do you think those criticisms are fair? Is the UU church really becoming more “churchy”?

  69. My answer to this question is, of course. Its a false dichotomy otherwise. It really depends on how sharply defined the definitions of “religious” and “skeptic” are. We have to remember that religion is not necessarily just a belief system. There are many cultural aspects to religion. Buddhism and Hinduism, for example. Are these religions or life philosophies.

    Another question would be, does a non belief in the mythology handed down through your community make you less a member of your community? For certain fundamentalist and oppressive sects where outward skepticism is not tolerated, the answer is yes. The same sentiment might also apply to certain hard core members of the skeptical community, where religion is not tolerated.

    I equate religion as the acceptance of my place in the universe. I likely will never know why I’m here, where the universe came from, or what all this about anyway. This is not a God of the Gaps position, because my opinions will have to change when evidence dictates that it should.

    If we view the universe with a sense of awe and wonder, we are humbled. If we realize that we are a part of the machinery of the universe, we are connected. If we participate in cultural rituals (religious or otherwise) with our friends and family, we are part of a community. If we question and become confused and frustrated, we are human. When I go to shul, read Torah, make shabbos etc. , I have a sense of all of this, while at the same time doubting that there is a God.

    I am religious and skeptical.

    (Check out my blog @ http://www.psychojam.blogspot.com )

  70. I do not buy into the “everybody believes in or has faith in something” rationalization.

    So I would like to see your evidence that there really is such a thing as objective reality. Kindly prove to me that I am real, please.

  71. Some people are just religious because of tradition and because of family. You can be religious without believing in anything. This is less common/obvious with Christianity, but it’s quite common to be an atheist-Jew or a humanist-Jew, and many of these people are practicing their religion without believing in the supernatural. Other people enjoy the ritual and celebration and community, as mentioned by some people in this thread, and so they participate for other emotional reasons which may have nothing to do with belief.

  72. Someone being both a skeptic and religious (we’ll leave out agnostics and all the new-agey stuff as they most of time are doubters that like the comfort of some vague idea of a god), I don’t think it is possible. My reasoning is that for one to be religious is to not question why things work and merely accept things as is, while a skeptic knows the world around them isn’t solved with a few passages from a book. Skeptics want to know how things work, and are willing to see things on more than one level.
    Penn once made a vlog on Cracker about the fact that for one to be truly religious you cannot just half-ass believe and call yourself a believer. If one doubts anything said in a religious work, then you are a skeptic and an Atheist. While Penn can at times be a little extreme (come on now, it is Penn here), his post and opinion is pretty good. Penn’s example is this “If the Bible demands it’s followers to kill their child in His name, and if one of those followers decided to not to it, then they are an Skeptic and an Atheist”.
    While I see your points WRITERDD (and they are very valid points), taking the idea of being religious as being around other people is interesting. As a child, I never looked at going to a Lutheran Church as some sort of spiritual-thing, but rather just an hour where I could meet up with friends and have juice and a pastry. So yeah, religion was in the big picture of the get-together but the question I ask is that if one were to take the religious context out of the ritual/celebration, does that change that person’s overall opinion/impact of it? If it doesn’t change then with the absence of religion, then the religious factor didn’t really matter to them to begin with.
    Sorry if that was too long-winded. ~

  73. Rystefn:
    I do not know if you are real or merely another name that Sam uses pretending to be another person . But I have seen, touched, smelled , tasted (licking and kissing .. not eating [take that back I have “eaten “some women]) talked to people,seen pictures and videos of people, so its not a stretch to believe that other people exist. If I think you exist and you really do not (maybe you are some computer generated person),that belief will not have a negative effect on me or anyone else.When someone says I have faith because ,when I flick a light switch, I expect the light to come on, I would say no it is an expectation because I have seen it over and over again. If you want to believe, when you are hungry, that whatever you imagine is real and your belief will totally nourish you (because there is no objective reality) you are free to do so. I do not want to force anyone to believe anything. But when the hunger pangs hit ,whether you are Rystefn or actually Sam ,you are probably going to reach for the actual food.
    If you want to go way out and say I am in the Matrix and my experiences are all a dream I am still going to react to things I perceive. If I twist my ankle it hurts like hell whether I exist in reality or the matrix. I also know from past experience I can not make myself heal instantaneously by wishing it were so.
    Lastly, you must be real because Sethmanapio says he kicks your ass on a routine basis.
    Sorry for the last line but if you got angry, I proved you are real. If you are imaginary it does not matter.

  74. “If the Bible demands it’s followers to kill their child in His name, and if one of those followers decided to not to it, then they are an Skeptic and an Atheist”.

    If Penn actually believes that, then he’s an idiot. That’s worse than the “everyone really believes in God, so there’s no such thing as an atheist” crap I hear from time to time. At least the deluded religionist nutter is denying your disbelief. Penn is saying that even if you believe in God, you’re still an atheist. That’s just dumb.

  75. So I would like to see your evidence that there really is such a thing as objective reality. Kindly prove to me that I am real, please.

    ———————-

    Well, first off, these aren’t related issues. Second, I can’t provide you with any evidence that there is an objective reality, and you know it. However, that is a red herring to the actual issue, which is that I don’t have to have a prior belief in objective reality to believe that I percieve an objective reality. The simplest explanation for this phenomena is that there is an objective reality, so until I get some evidence that contradicts that, I can provisionally believe that there is an objective reality. You’ll have to make up your own mind, as does everyone. That’s what it means, in a large part, to be a skeptic: evaluating evidence with reason to reach conclusions for yourself.

  76. Sorry for the last line but if you got angry, I proved you are real.

    If I actually got angry, sure… but no part of that actually proves the objective reality of my existence. Not even close.

    You point to personal experience of other people, but you cannot demonstrate that any of it was reality.

    You make comments about my belief not nourishing me, but that’s got no bearing. I didn’t ask that you prove that my imaginary sandwich isn’t real, I asked you for to prove that something IS real.

    I don’t care whether or not you can heal yourself by thinking about it, that’s not pertinent to the conversation here. Do you know why that is? Because I didn’t ask about anything pertaining to you at all. Whether you, or any aspect of your existence, is objectively real or not, that speaks not at all to whether or not I am.

    Do you see the point here? I rather think you do not. You must begin with a premise for which there is no proof, and base your conclusions upon that premise, otherwise, you can never reach any conclusion about anything.

    “Existence is real” is a leap of faith. “Anything exists” is a leap of faith. “There is an objective reality” is a leap of faith. “I exist” is a leap of faith. That last one, by the way, is my starting premise. I can’t prove it, and neither can you. It is a belief, nothing more. Blind faith, if you like. I won’t say that everyone has such a premise, but anyone who doesn’t is clearly mad. I see from your post that you accept some sort of objective reality, and therefore you also have a premise of faith.

    I guess you aren’t a skeptic, either.

  77. Rysyefn,
    Penn says a lot I don’t agree with. What he was saying in his post was targeted at the people that claim to be religious but aren’t in it whole-heartedly. Where I agree with him is the problem with people cutting and pasting which parts of religion to follow. And while he is pretty much generalizing everyone, he really has no middle ground and was his opinion on it that I was sharing.

    My opinion within, was merely that a person claiming to be religious by cutting-and-pasting the parts they don’t like, makes them more a skeptic and doubter of the entirety of it. One can be a skeptic and not an Atheist (that aspect I disagree with Penn on), sorry if my opinion in prior post was lost. I have been reading your posts Rystefn for a good while and enjoy hearing your opinion. Thanks. ~

  78. I can’t provide you with any evidence that there is an objective reality, and you know it.

    That was precisely my point, yes.

    I don’t have to have a prior belief in objective reality to believe that I percieve an objective reality.

    Yes. you do. But, tossing that issue to the side for the moment, as it’s not terribly important, let’s look at the important part here: if you believe that you perceive an objective reality, then you believe that without evidence. Unless you can claim to have some of evidence that you perceive an objective reality which doesn’t rest on the prior presumption that you are perceiving an objective reality. If you have such evidence, I invite you to present it.

    The simplest explanation for this phenomena is that there is an objective reality

    Assertion without evidence. Try again.

    Really, though, it’s not until you combine it with what comes after that the real gap in logic presents itself…

    until I get some evidence that contradicts that, I can provisionally believe that there is an objective reality

    Begging the question combined with circular logic. You have just said nothing more than “A is true, therefore I accept that A is true.” A concept which does not become less ridiculous when you add the word “provisionally.” You begin with a baseless premise and from that premise extrapolate that it might be true. How do you start with the given “there is an objective reality” and come to the conclusion from it that “maybe there’s an objective reality”?

    To those who think that there is no one in the world who holds no beliefs for which he has no evidence, meet me.

    Really? Then where the evidence for this objective reality you assert? Where’s the evidence that you perceive one? I’d love to see it.

  79. Tim, I’m actually fairly certain that Penn doesn’t believe in the literal statement that people who don’t stone disobedient children are atheists. I’m fairly certain he was intentionally pushing the idea to the most extreme phrasing he could come up with while still making the point he was trying to make, which was to call out the people who cherry-pick their beliefs. He was using a false dichotomy to bring people’s attention to what they’re doing, hoping to shock them into maybe wondering why they accept some bits and reject others.

    …I think. IF I am wrong, then he’s a raving lunatic.

    To be clear – my post was about the Penn sentence, which, as you said, is extreme. That’s his way, and it works put pretty well for him. Your point, which I agree with, is that pretty much any religious belief must not have been skeptically examined if it is holding in the mind.. at least, that’s what I gathered, anyway. The point we disagree on here is merely the definition of the word “skeptic.”

    Personally, I prefer the more inclusive definition.

    Partly because I like travel metaphor.

  80. One can be mostly rational even if they are irrational with regards to certain cherished beliefs. So yes a religious person can be a skeptic, just not consistent in their application of skepticism to all of their own beliefs.

  81. How do you start with the given “there is an objective reality” and come to the conclusion from it that “maybe there’s an objective reality”?

    Hahaha! All this mental masturbation is killing me!

    :-P

  82. Phew, this is fun! Late to the conversation though. I think this was hinted at but I don’t know if it was said explicitly, but lots of scientists are religious, lots of very good scientists. No, I don’t know what the statistics are, though I do remember that the most prominent scientists are atheists. However, lots of very good scientists are skeptics by trade, in their field and outside of it, just not with their religion. So… whatever that is worth :-) It’s all about degrees of skepticism and belief and partitioning of different aspects of life.

  83. As someone who is relatively new to this community of skeptics ( I guess I discovered this concept in 2006) I have found this discussion fascinating primarily because I have wondered if I truly fit in.

    I was raised as a conservative Jew, transitioned into a reformed Jew after my bar mitzvah, and in college I intensely began to question the concepts of organized religion in general. In speech class I was known for my funny speeches; however, after my last speech I left the podium to a sudden and prolonged silence when I first publically took apart organized religion ( this was in 1975). When I finally sat down, there was a roaring explosion of applause from most, but not from the teacher. Twas my first B grade. :) I knew I was on to something!

    Organized religion plays no role in my life now: ever.
    Culture does.
    However, religion often influences culture. Thus I allow that it might indirectly effect and influence me.
    But one can be spiritual without being spiritual as differentiated by the compact Oxford dictionary:
    • adjective 1 relating to or affecting the human spirit as opposed to material or physical things. 2 relating to religion or religious belief.

    Therefore, I am spiritual, but not religious.

    But do I ever ponder if God was a force that initiated the universe? Yes. Because it’s a cool topic. It can’t be proven.

    Just like string theory.

    All skeptics are empiricists

    (Again, from the compact Oxford dictionary:

    empiricism
    /empirrisiz’m/

    • noun Philosophy the theory that all knowledge is derived from experience and observation. )

    Except string theorists.

    See, even scientists can follow a train of thought, a theory, via blind faith, religiously.

    So, I am culturally embracing, spiritually feeling, non organized religious practicing empiricist, who mocks string theorists for creating a world based on math alone, but no evidence.

    Therefore, after perusing this specific forum, I now conclude – Ich bin ein Skeptic.

  84. Begging the question combined with circular logic. You have just said nothing more than “A is true, therefore I accept that A is true.”

    ——————

    And if I had said anything remotely like that, this would be a good point. Unfortunately, you missed my point entirely.

    The statement “I believe I percieve an objective reality” is not a statement about an objective reality, it is a statement about the nature and consistency of my perceptions. It doesn’t assume that the reality exists, it is simply a statement about what I experience.

    Your mistake is in thinking that when I say “I percieve an objective reality” that I am asserting that there is an objective reality there to be perceived. That’s an easy mistake to make, but I hope this clears things up.

  85. If you say so. I’m willing to allow that it may have been a failure of communication. However, if there’s not an objective reality, then you do not perceive one. You perceive something, and you believe that it is an objective reality without a shred of evidence.

  86. “I exist” is a leap of faith.

    ————–

    Ah! I see where you have a problem! You think that you might not actually exist to have reactions to sense data! Thus, you aren’t grasping my original argument.

    Okay:
    P1. There is something. If there were nothing, there would be no experience of these words, no concept of words, etc. There is something, call it Entity 1, or E1 for short.
    P2. Given E1, either E1 consists of everything, or there are things that are not E1.
    Conclusion: If you are part of E1, you exist. If you are not part of E1, you must also exist in order to be part of E1’s experience.

    Therefore: Rystefn exists. The nature of that existence (figment of my imagination, cross dresser from Ohio, whatever) is in doubt. But the existence of Rystefn is not.

  87. You perceive something, and you believe that it is an objective reality without a shred of evidence.

    ————

    Not so. The existence of an objective reality is merely the simplest explanation for my perception. That’s why my belief is provisional, if more data shows up, I’ll have to revise my conclusion.

  88. OK, so your proof that the Rystefn exists holds that the Rystefn exists, but that existence may well be the same sort of existence by which one could say with equal surety that Thor, Lo Pan, Bigfoot, Captain America, Baal, Raiden, Drizzt, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard all exist. I’ll grant you that. Not precisely what I meant by existence, but a perfectly valid usage of the word.

    Your belief is provisional, and without a shred of evidence. It may be the simplest explanation, I won’t comment on that as it has nothing to do with my actual point. There is precisely zero evidence either way. None. You provisionally hold that objective reality exists because it seems the more simple explanation of your perceptions to you. This is not evidence. It is an admirable quality that you hold your faith in it not unshakably (forgive my clumsy double-negative), as I also hold the premise of my own actual existence as a real thing (as opposed to an imaginary thing, like the Easter Bunny).

    That said, you do still hold to it without evidence. As do I. I’m honest enough with myself, though, to admit that I accept the objectivity of reality not because there’s evidence, or even that I see it as the most likely explanation. I hold to it out of convenience. If you don’t accept an objective reality of some kind, then you really can’t believe in much of anything, because all evidence of anything is suspect, isn’t it? That way madness lies.

  89. Some of these prove I exist, prove that the door exist are fun but they are just thought exercises. Assuming that this isn’t all the dream of a fat man living in his mother’s basement. If I punch you and then you punch me back I would accept these actions as proof of existence. However I could be so crazy that I am sitting on the floor of a living room looking into a snow globe imaging everything. So fuck it. We exist lets move on to something else.

  90. Can a religious person be a skeptic?

    Generally not at the same time.Although religion is a way of thinking that is defined by a group and skepticism is a way of thinking that is defined by a group, they are really quite similar.I believe that the biggest difference between a religious group and a group of skeptics are 1) the qualities in people that are rejected from the group and 2) how non-members are treated differently than members.As a rule, one is either born into a religion or religion develops within one’s self in response to a basic need (like when my dad stopped drinking and found Jesus). To be skeptic, however, one must make a choice; it is very difficult to develop into a skeptic if you’re still slugging back two bottles of vodka a day, people are shooting at your house, or you have to eat out of trash cans. That said, it is easy to continue to be a skeptic in those harsh conditions. Why? Skepticism is in response to cognitive needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy.Although skeptics range from the overly polite to Rystefn, so do religious people. Of note, however, that religious people are much nastier than Rystefn and don’t know how to have a good time. This is because religious people resent the people who aren’t in their group and skeptics resent the behavior of people who aren’t acting as skeptics. Both are valid.However, one cannot reliably use both sets of rules to participate with other people. Yes, if a Islamic skeptic met another Islamic skeptic, they could interact in both groups. But one cannot generally assume that this is the fact during a random meeting.Or as my (Christian) roommate put it: You come down stairs (to the party) or you gonna be on your computer all night?Indeed, I wish the party were at my computer.

  91. Your belief is provisional, and without a shred of evidence.

    ————-

    No, my belief has all of the evidence that I have available, that is, my perceptions. I have perceptions, and I have to explain them to myself (not to you, because you may be a figment of my imagination, at this stage of the process). Either I’m the source of all data, or I get data from an objective (external) reality. Based on my ability to manipulate and comprehend the data, it is unlikely I am the source. This is at least a shred of evidence that I am not the source.

  92. I got in a pretty hefty argument with DD about polygamy a few months back, and when I mentioned something (it was at like 180 at the time, I think), I was told there was one that broke the 200 line at some point.

  93. No, my belief has all of the evidence that I have available, that is, my perceptions.

    Which is not evidence, because if there is no objective reality, then they mean nothing. Your perceptions can only be evidence of anything at all if you start from the premise that objective reality exists for you to perceive it. You’re using circular logic.

  94. Rystefn: My dictionary defines objective as having to do with a known or perceived object as distinguished from something that exists only in the mind. If I saw you in person by definition I would objectively know you exist. You are right since I never met you I do not objectively know you exist. You might actually be Sam as I said before. Correct me if I am wrong but you appear to be trying to play matrix mind games where knowbody truely knows anything so its OK to believe anything.
    I did not explain very well my original statement. Faith in my dictionary (relating to religion) means unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence. This is the kind of thing where someone says they know there is a god and they know exactly what he wants.

    An example of the rationalization I mentioned is I’ve read religious people saying everyone has some kind of faith and use spousal trust as example. People that are married generally know their spouse before getting married and have seen their behavior. They have been treated kindly and anticipate or expect the behavior to continue. I think it is using different meanings of the word faith .
    I do not have religous type faith in things I think are real;I act upon them based on reaction to stimuli or my past knowledge of them. Maybe you did not read my light switch sentence but I do not have faith (a belief without evidence or proof) that the light will come on when I flick a switch but an EXPECTATION based on past experiences. Yes there are other definitions for faith such as confidence or reliance that I would apply to myself. What I find irritating is the fast and loose deliberate substitution and spin between the various meanings.
    In a similar vein I dislike when people say everybody believes in something implying all beliefs are equally valid.
    I do not care if someone has faith in things such as there is a heaven to go to when they die. The problem is there are too many faith based beliefs that cause conflict, misery, and suffering. It’s just too much of a copout to say do not criticize , let them continue with their potentially societal harming beliefs because they have faith and everyone has faith in something.
    To reiterate I do not need to make a leap of faith deciding existance is real. Whether existance is real or imaginary (dream,matrix,etc.) I react to certain stimuli , have certain “instincts” (desire for social contact,etc) and have expectations based upon things I learned from past experiences.Your point that we cant really know anything is meaningless when trying discuss issues to foster a skeptical outlook to improve society. If I apply it to one of your other comments ,I could say ,hey ,you say everyone is a skeptic on something; how do you know? Have you met everyone ? How do you know anyone exists? How do you know what they are thinking. You might not exist so we shouldnt listen to you. Does that lead to meaningfull dialogue or sound more like grade school bantering?

  95. The answer is yes, the two are compatible, because both are self-applied terms we made up to describe how we think.

    Otherwise, as is clearly demonstrated in the comments, we get bogged down in definitions. And then, who has the last word on wether a person is religious or skeptical? You? Me? Sam?

    Being skeptical does not dictate what kind of conclusions a person arrives at – there are no ‘right’ answers. Therefore, I believe that a person can consider themselves to be both religious and skeptical, and I have seen those people comment on this website.

    Whether they are good at their religion or are good skeptics is completely subjective and consequently irrelevant.

  96. Jerry,
    you thought the pro-lifers won the debate against Quindlen’s article? Did you not notice none of them answered the question?
    A few NR contributors said there never was any punishment for women getting abortions before roe, but none of them said if they thought there should be jail time if abortion is made illegal again.

  97. OK, first, before we wander off on another semantic discussion, let me clarify. The word “objective” has several meanings. Most of them are fairly similar, but small differences can matter.

    Since I’m making the assertion that you cannot prove an objective reality, I think it only fair that we should use the meaning I intended when making the original statement, yeah? So – for the purposes of this discussion, please to understand when I use the word “objective,” I mean “having reality independent of the mind.”

    That’s any mind, individually or in concert.

    So. On to the meat of your post here.

    Correct me if I am wrong but you appear to be trying to play matrix mind games where knowbody truely knows anything so its OK to believe anything.

    You miss the point slightly, but I think I see where you’re coming from here. Nobody truly knows anything except as it relates to the assumed premise from which they began. If you begin with no assumed premise, then you cannot know anything, and you’re a crazy person, even if you are right (which you might well be).

    I begin from the premise that I exist. seth begins from the premise that his observations are real. There’s nothing wrong with this. You need some such premise to function.

    That said – it is not ok to just believe anything. One should constantly strive to come up with an internally consistent set of rules by which you understand the universe to behave. If you accept that bad things happen, for example, you must reject the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent entity. The two are mutually exclusive.

    If you reject that bad things happen, then you have a whole slew of other presumptions which must fall in line with that, and so on and so forth. Everything is intertwined. If A, then B; if B then C. If not-A, then D; If D, then E. You follow?

    Maybe you did not read my light switch sentence

    I did, but I got distracted. For that I apologize. I’ll address it now.

    I do not have faith (a belief without evidence or proof) that the light will come on when I flick a switch but an EXPECTATION based on past experiences.

    I agree completely. You have faith (a belief without evidence or proof) that your memories are of actual events. Even granting an objective reality as we generally accept is, that’s a shaky proposition. The vast majority of us, perhaps all of us, have memories which are not of actual events. Is it unreasonable to act as if all those memories are real? Not at all. There is a large and diverse collection of interrelated memories reinforcing one another, and more added regularly – but you could very well have crafted within a broken mind a highly complex series of false memories supporting the delusion that any such sense as light. If you reject this out of hand as a practical concern, then you’ve done the only thing that will keep you from complete madness. However, this is a thought exercise wherein, if you trace your logic far enough, you will always come to an unsupported premise of the sort that “Reality is objective.”

    In a similar vein I dislike when people say everybody believes in something implying all beliefs are equally valid.

    I would dislike that as well, but you are inferring something I have neither said, nor intended. The string of beliefs required for an internally consistent worldview which includes a literal interpretation of the Bible boggles my mind, since it requires a self-contradictory universe. I’m inclined to call that less valid than the objectivist belief.

    It’s just too much of a copout to say do not criticize

    The day I say that, I want to you kick my teeth down my throat, then chain me to a Vista Cruiser and throw me into the Ship Channel.

    To reiterate I do not need to make a leap of faith deciding existance is real.

    Yes, you do.

    I… have expectations based upon things I learned from past experiences

    Past experiences which you cannot prove ever happened except from the assumption that an objective reality exists.

    you say everyone is a skeptic on something; how do you know?

    Because if a person were to believe everything they wold make even less sense than Mr. Adams’s electric monk. Remember how I spelled out my baseless assumption? It led to a world where someone who believes everything without evidence is a loonie of the highest degree for the duration of their extremely short life. If you look into your own worldview based on your initial assumption, I hazard to think that you would reach the same conclusion.

    You might not exist so we shouldnt listen to you.

    Non sequitur. My existence or nonexistence has no bearing on the validity of my points.

    Does that lead to meaningfull dialogue or sound more like grade school bantering?

    If you feel that my words add nothing to the conversation, feel free to ignore them. It won’t hurt my feelings. Hell, I can’t even prove to you that I have any.

  98. Your perceptions can only be evidence of anything at all if you start from the premise that objective reality exists for you to perceive it.

    ——————-

    You still aren’t understanding what I’m saying. The perceptions are evidence. They are evidence of the existence of at least one entity. Would you agree that this is true, or do we have to back up to proving that there exists more than nothing?

  99. I think religious people can. I think any people who are actively skeptics are, by definition, skeptics. Unfortunately, when it comes to their own belief, it is unskeptic. Basically, they can be actively skeptics of other phenomena and unskeptic of their own. Skepticism is not exactly a written out belief like religion. So I think different people have different levels of skepticism.

  100. Rystefn,
    Wow, one goes out to dinner and comes back to over 30 additional posts on here. Anyways, yeah the definition of skeptic is sort of a grey area depending on who is defining the word. Some people unfortunately think that if you are a skeptic then by default you are an Atheist or that feeling a spiritual connection with the world means some sort of “god-thing”. Spirituality is merely a word that organized religion stole and attached to connect with their god, personally I think it is about time we skeptics and Atheists took that word and it’s original meaning back.
    But yeah, upon talking with Carr2D2 over dinner, we both came to the idea that you can be spiritual and still be a skeptic. Though in order to be religious one must adhere to it’s dogmatic laws of not questioning things, which eliminates the ability to question or be skeptical. Questioning a dogma doesn’t mean a person is an Atheist, but merely someone who knows at least some part of that religion is bullshit and that makes them a Skeptic. While an Atheist acknowledges that all of it’s dogma is bullshit.

    Really enjoying this blog as it is so interesting hearing so many thoughts on this. Now I best get packing as I have an early flight to ATL tomorrow. Cheers ~

  101. seth begins from the premise that his observations are real.

    ———–

    No, I don’t. I explained this in post 151. In post 152, you appeared to understand what I was saying, but now you are making the same mistake again.

    Let me try again: To ME, my perceptions are a phenomena that needs to be explained, I.E. WHY do I perceive things, and specifically, why are my perceptions consistent with the existence of an objective (that is, external) reality? For example, why can’t I levitate objects, why don’t I understand every language, etc.

    My provisional answer to that question is that there exists an external reality.

    I don’t start with the assumption that external (objective) reality exists, I just start by asking questions about what I experience.

    Does that make more sense?

  102. That perceptions exist is proof that something exists. Well, in as much Santa exists. YOUR perceptions in no way prove to anyone, not even yourself, that there is an objective reality on the other end of them.

    Your perceptions are evidence of nothing except that you have perceptions. Outside of your own head, they aren’t even that.

  103. Though in order to be religious one must adhere to it’s dogmatic laws of not questioning things,M/blockquote>

    So a belief system of questioning everything cannot be a religion, even if it is mandated by a god at the top that you are to question everything, even the existence of said god? Hypothetically. I’ve never heard of such a religion, though I think it would be fucking awesome if it was out there.

  104. I haven’t read any of the comments because I wanted to answer this w/o influence.

    My answer: absolutely.

    I take my brother as an example. We both can laugh at pet psychics, dowsers, and spoon-benders. He is very critical of sloppy thinking. He is also a born-again Christian, found Jesus in college, ended up attending seminary and now has a Master’s in Theology. But I would say he got there through a skeptical approach: considering the evidence.

    He read the Bible, he read the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, and many philosophers both secular and otherwise. After considering the evidence, he concluded that Christianity is true. He and I don’t agree on this, but I at least respect the approach he took. I would say he’s quite skeptical.

    I would also argue that we all dial our skepticism to some degree; we all have things we accept w/o much substantiating evidence. I assume the majority of the contributors to this site aren’t solipsists; we assume an external reality with no real way to back that up other than it seems to work. It’s a pragmatic fallacy, and we all recognize that, but we probably don’t dwell on it much and go on with our lives.

    So some others dial their skepticism back further. Take, for example, the many scientists who are also religious. I’m an astronomer and know many other astronomers and physicists who can be highly critical when reading journal articles or attending talks and yet maintain some level of faith in their chosen deity.

    I suppose that’s a long way of saying, “yes”.

  105. YOUR perceptions in no way prove to anyone, not even yourself, that there is an objective reality on the other end of them.

    —————

    And I never claimed that they did. I said: I have a provisional belief in objective reality as the simplest explanation of the phenomena of my perceptions.

    I never claimed that my perceptions were proof of anything other than themselves. What I said was that it is reasonable to draw conclusions based on evidence: I have the evidence that I exist, I have perceptions. One of two things is true-either I’m the only thing that exists or I am receiving data from an external source. If I am the source of all data I would expect greater control over that data. That such control does not manifest means two things:

    1. I am constrained to behave as if there is an external reality, regardless of the truth of that assumption.
    2. It is MOST likely that such a reality exists.

    I don’t have to take any leaps of faith to get there. These are rational conclusions, based on evidence.

  106. And before anyone jumps up with “But that’s only evidence to YOU….”

    So what? The question at hand is whether I have to take the existence of objective reality on faith. I do not. You have to make up your own mind, based on your own dataset.

  107. 2 is where you fall. You fall, because you leaped here:

    I would expect greater control

    Given that even with the assumption of an external reality, it is demonstrably not the reality you perceive at all times, and given that your mind demonstrably CAN create false realities over which you have little or no conscious control, and that it does so on a regular basis, and that there is still ZERO evidence that any reality actually exists independent of the mind, it’s actually a bit more likely that no such reality exists. However, whether it’s real or not, that’s the world you live in, and so you choose to accept that it is real out of pragmatism and justify it to yourself afterward.

    You’re quite good at that justification, I’ll admit.

  108. so you choose to accept that it is real out of pragmatism and justify it to yourself afterward.

    ————-

    No, that would be my weak position in post 178. I go beyond that to the strong position that there is most likely an external reality for a lot of reasons. One of them is that I can’t control the world, can’t speak all languages, the existence of the concept of imaginary numbers, the consistency of the world, etc. etc. etc. There’s about a million reasons why I don’t believe I’m the only thing that exists.

    But hey, you aren’t constrained by my reasoning. That’s why I say you have to make up your own mind. My mind apparently doesn’t work like yours… I don’t demonstrably create false realities over which I have little or no conscious control, for one thing. What the heck are you talking about?

  109. Wow, what a long discussion.

    The answer is, clearly, “yes”. There seems to be a rough consensus on that. Everyone who answered “no” used a nonstandard definition of “religion” (one that excludes, for example, Atheistic Buddhism or Unitarian Universalism) or “skeptic”.

    This is a quote from ordinarygirl, but it’s a common sentiment:

    However, if a person applies skepticism to religion, I don’t think that person can stay religious.

    Any religion which is based on identity (such as Judaism, as writerdd pointed out) or practice (assuming that the practises harm none) rather than belief is essentially immune from skeptical enquiry. It’s only when a testable claim appears that skepticism kicks in, and even then, skepticism only applies to the claim.

    How can two rational, skeptical, people can end up with differing political beliefs? Answer that, and enlightenment will follow.

  110. I don’t demonstrably create false realities over which I have little or no conscious control

    Yes you do. Even so-called “lucid dreaming” leaves much out of the control of the dreamer, and that’s a pretty rare condition. Most dreamers are just along for the ride and tend to have even less control over their reality than people in the waking world.

  111. How can two rational, skeptical, people can end up with differing political beliefs? Answer that, and enlightenment will follow.

    I think it depends on the wiggle room of the specific political belief and the underlying core value…just like religion.

  112. Yes you do. Even so-called “lucid dreaming” leaves much out of the control of the dreamer, and that’s a pretty rare condition.

    ————–

    First off, how do you know I dream at all? Why would you assume that?

    Second, I don’t really recognize my dreams in your description of dreams. They aren’t false realities at all. For one thing, I’m always aware that I’m dreaming. And I always get sensory input from outside the dream, and I’m usually aware that I’m getting it. Maybe we just have different dreams.

    But that really only addresses one of about 1 million reasons to think that there are at least 2 entities that exist. And if anything, to me, the difference between the dream state and the waking state is an argument for 1+ entities. I mean, I’ve never been able to change a television channel by holding my breath in the waking state, but I can do it in the dream state almost ever time.

  113. Sometimes the dream itself changes, and sometimes the television explodes. And sometimes the television is actually on in the room I’m in, and there is nothing to be done about it, even if I make it disappear, I can still hear the damn thing. Which is sort of my point, in’it?

  114. Rystefn has convinced me that there is no discernable reality. Maybe the earth is a giant piece of dandruff on a huge head. Conversely ,dandruff on our heads are tiny planets or whole universes. Therefore all head and shoulders should be banned. People who use it should be put to death for mass murder. You can not prove that there are no tiny little humans living on some of those planets so we must act as if it is true. Since no one can be sure of reality you can drive down the road with your eyes closed. Maybe when you open your eyes you will be like DR Who and appear in some strange planet in a far off time. No use looking when crossing the road because the truck you see or hear might not really be there. On the other hand ,better not cross the road because the trucks you are not able to see or hear until they magically materialize in front of you will run you down. I hear it happened to Rebecca but I can’t really be sure there actually is a Rebecca. Oh well back to drinking my morning coffee. I hope its coffee and not booze . Too early in the morning for booze . Wait is it morning?

  115. How can two rational, skeptical, people can end up with differing political beliefs? Answer that, and enlightenment will follow.

    The real question is can a person be a libertarian and a skeptic. Clearly the answer is no.

  116. The real question is can a person be a libertarian and a skeptic. Clearly the answer is no.

    —————-

    Hmm… not sure if this is sarcasm or not. I’m pretty sure that you can be a libertarian and a skeptic. For example, I am both a libertarian and a hardcore skeptic. In fact, being skeptical is what led to me being a libertarian.

  117. How can two rational, skeptical, people can end up with differing political beliefs? Answer that, and enlightenment will follow.

    ——————-

    I gave this one some thought… I think that first, this has to do with the fact that humans aren’t identical deterministic finite state machines. In fact, we may not ever be finite state machines at all, and we almost certainly aren’t deterministic.

    Which is a long way of saying, same input = different output. Heck, you can’t even manage same input, because by the time the input is processed, its different input for every person. Then there are priorities, everyone has some list of things that they think are important. Then you have uncertainty, it is difficult to know what policies will achieve what outcomes, because the economy and society in general aren’t DFSMs either, or at least not ones we can understand or control. So even if you and I agree on priorities, we agree on what’s important, we may disagree on how best to achieve it.

    This is why federalism is such a valuable idea, and why it is such a shame that we’ve dropped it: national measures don’t allow for good experimental data, but state and local measures do.

    Well… better data, anyway.

  118. Sure, you can be religious and skeptical. These things require definition. “Skepticism” is a process of evaluating statements to discover if they are reasonable. Religion is the systematic practice resulting from a faith in a spiritual system.

    Religions usually contain two types of claims: material (doing x will increase the chances of y) and spiritual.

    Material claims are testable. A good skeptic will test them. Most testable claims of all the religions I know have long been debunked.

    Spiritual claims are not testable. That doesn’t mean they are exempt from skepticism — only that skepticism can only determine if the claim is “reasonable”, not if it’s “provable”.

    Most common religions believe in at least one supernatural being or force. There’s no evidence for this, of course; and the “invisible dragon” argument is a valid one. However, it’s not entirely unreasonable to believe that some spiritual being exists, and to allow that belief to be a source of comfort and inspiration.

    It’s a fine line to walk, of course, but it is possible.

  119. However, it’s not entirely unreasonable to believe that some spiritual being exists, and to allow that belief to be a source of comfort and inspiration.

    ——————

    I’m not sure I know what you mean by this. Exists how? Exists where? What do you mean by “spiritual being”. If this being is not material, how can it be said to “exist”? How does “spiritual existence” differ from “material existence”? How does a non-material being interact with a material world? How does a non-material being gather material data?

  120. Skeptigator: I agree. I was rambling around trying to express the same thing and you said it so succinctly. Good work. I like that name also.
    I agree with what sethmanapio says about how people can hold different political beliefs. There is biologically variability so that there is a spectrum of desires and tastes. As an example some lust for power and leadership at all costs, others do not want to lead even if assigned that duty,with a whole spectrum of feelings in between.

  121. You ever get the feeling some people like to argue for the sake of arguing, instead of for the sake of understanding?

    You tryin’ to make somethin’ of it? Black is white, up is down, and zebra crossings are not dangerous. :-P

  122. > I’m not sure I know what you mean by this. Exists how? Exists where? What do you mean by “spiritual being”. If this being is not material, how can it be said to “exist”? How does “spiritual existence” differ from “material existence”? How does a non-material being interact with a material world? How does a non-material being gather material data?

    ———————-

    You make my point astonishingly well. Any claim that a hypothetical spiritual being would interact with the material world should be testable, and therefore amenable to skeptical inquiry.

    Skeptical atheism has a premise that what is “real” is only that which is observeable (or at least has observable effects). That’s a fine premise, and one I ascribe to myself.

    Skeptical theists, however, reject that premise. The premise is, of course, itself untestable.

    A skeptical belief in the spiritual instead chooses a premise that “real” can include things that exist outside of a material reality. Skeptical theists don’t hold out a belief that a god will intervene materially — that is, they don’t expect miracles.

    Instead, they find that their own belief that there is some being that *cares* — even if that being doesn’t (or can’t) do much about it — to be comforting or inspiring.

    The skeptical theists I have met also have another common denominator: they don’t believe atheism to be any less reasonable than their own position.

    Beyond that, I can’t really answer many of your questions, as I’m not a theist. My definition of “spirituality” is awe and inspiration at how wonderful the universe and natural world are, and how much humanity has left to learn about them.

  123. Damn…. I’ve got some catching up to do. Better get on it.

    Sometimes the dream itself changes, and sometimes the television explodes. And sometimes the television is actually on in the room I’m in, and there is nothing to be done about it, even if I make it disappear, I can still hear the damn thing.

    Demonstrating your lack of control. At least in the waking world, you have enough control to push a button and the TV turn off.

    Rystefn has convinced me that there is no discernable reality.

    I’m not going to quote this whole post, just making it clear which one I’m referring to. The response is to the post as a whole, not this sentence. Your entire post boils down to argument from consequences. I’ve already addressed it. We all make a pragmatic choice to exist as if the world is real. This is not proof that is. It’s not evidence that it is. It’s rather like the fundy claim that if we believe in evolution, then we’re all free to rape and murder and steal.

    If this being is not material, how can it be said to “exist”?

    This from the guy whose proof of my existence also proves that Thor exists. Come on.

    You ever get the feeling some people like to argue for the sake of arguing, instead of for the sake of understanding?

    Have you met someone who came to an understanding through an argument? I’d wager it’s an extremely rare occurrence.

    Who the heck posts at 2:30am. How do you go to work with that little sleep.

    Some people live in other time zones. Some people work on different schedules. Some people are insomniacs anyway. Some people are fat, unemployed forty year-old losers living in their mom’s basement making up multiple personae and arguing between them just to mess with people’s heads.

  124. Some people live in other time zones.

    I thought that the time stamp was the local time of the commenter not my local time. Which is it? I didn’t think about the work schedule. But you are right. I can remember working the 11p to 7a shift in college. Man I do not miss that. Nothing like an 8:00am class after working all night.

  125. By the beard of Randi I forgot I need to define every word I use so that the exact, precise meaning of each word over 3 letters around here can be understood by some people (see 4 below).

    Try my annotated version so there will be as little ambiguity as possible

    You(1) ever(2) get the feeling(3) some people(4) like(5) to argue(6) for the sake of arguing(7), instead(8) of for the sake of understanding(9)?

    1 – a generic descriptor to no one in particular
    2- in recent memory, I’m not looking for a thorough self-examination back until you were in your mother’s womb
    3 – an idea, thought not necessarily a physical or emotional phenomenon
    4 – collectively referring to a select group of people in the comment thread
    5 – enjoy, derive pleasure
    6 – have a discussion,debate or any other exchange of words (written, including digital, or spoken) where at least 2 parties having differing opinions, ideas or thoughts.
    7 – multiple words, the act of having a discussion, debate or any other exchange of words (written, including digital, or spoken) where at least 2 parties having differing opinions, ideas or thoughts.
    8 – to the exclusion of
    9 – multiple words, the act of acquiring knowledge or perceiving, in this case, one of the other participant’s ideas, thoughts and/opinions involved in the argument (see 6 above)

  126. You know no matter how good the future inquisitions are they will never live up to this one. I can see us 20 years down the road saying. “Well that was a good question but you should have been around back when Sam posted the first Afternoon Inquisition. Those were the days. Now get off my lawn you punk kids.”

  127. I thought that the time stamp was the local time of the commenter not my local time.

    I don’t know if it’s your local time, but it’s surely not mine… unless you have a time machine and posted this half an hour from now, in which case… can I borrow it?

    Skep, that is perhaps the best comment on this entire thread. After #42, of course.

    I was beginning to think you left.

    I did. I just came back is all. I’ll be leaving tonight, too. Tomorrow as well, while we’re on the subject. Maybe Sunday, I don’t make plans that far in advance very often.

  128. You know no matter how good the future inquisitions are they will never live up to this one. . . .

    Well, it’s about 15 minutes to the next question. I think Masala is posting it. So we’ll see soon enough.

  129. Sure you can borrow my time machine. You just have to present a valid operators license and I want to make sure that your insurance will cover any accidents related to the use of the time machine. I don’t want to be on the hook if you step on a butterfly.

  130. Rystefn ; You state we all make choices to behave as if the world is real. Prove it. Prove I am not an animal that has instincts and involuntary reactions to stimuli. Prove it. Use your own standards in your own arguments. Instead of constantly setting up strawmen and knocking them down, use your own criteria and prove it. Do not change the subject, redefine things in ways obviously contrary to my intended meaning and prove it.
    My dandruff paragraph was not an argument of the consequences of such a belief but to show how easy it is to make shit up. We used to do that back in grade school and say wow thats really deep. But what value for meaningful dialogue to improve your community,nation ,relations with friends loved ones etc does it hold to state that no one can truely know anything but no one operates using those assumptions (including you). So you completely missed or deliberately misinterpreted one point. If the world is a big piece of dandruff and we can never know ,who gives a darn , it would have NO effect on how we live our lives.
    Another thing, evidence need not be 100% proof. If I saw my father and my neighbor plant certain kind of seeds that grew into vegetables and did it myself a number of times this is evidence that planting seeds can grow into vegetables. If I show someone else, they can try it as many times as they like if they do not believe it. If someone says that they have faith that god wants me to stone adulterers or homosexuals to death. I have no way to check to see if that true . I never have seen or heard god and no one has been able to tell me how to. There is a very fundamental difference between those 2 examples. Your contention that we can not know reality and no one operates using that premise has no useful purpose except to argue for arguments sake.

  131. “Well, um, yeah. It was a dig on Penn and Shermer, who are basically retarded in their political views but pretty sharp in most other areas.”

    I tend towards the libertarian myself, and although I agree that Penn is over-the-top, Shermer has a lot of intelligent things to say. I’m trying to stay away from politics right now, since it just doesn’t make sense to me at the end of the day… there are so many loose ends and data points and it’s just never clear-cut to me! But I’ve just started Shermer’s “Mind of the Market” so that will probably be enjoyable.

  132. When Shermer goes off the libertarian deep end, I just don’t follow him. When you’re smart enough, you can make even stupid ideas sound reasonable, and Shermer qualifies in this instance. And, like my mom always told me, “If your friends jumped off the roof, would you follow them?” Hi mom. I guess I learned something.

  133. Prove it. Use your own standards in your own arguments.

    I do use my own standards. I clearly stated that my entire worldview and therefore everything I do and say steps from an unsupported premise. I admit, and I’m fine with it. I’m not the one claiming to have proof or evidence here, I admit to having neither.

    it would have NO effect on how we live our lives.

    I don’t give a shit how you live your life. That has no bearing on my point here, which you have completely missed or deliberately misinterpreted my point. I’m not here “to improve your community,nation ,relations with friends loved ones etc.” That has fuck all to do with my point. You declared that you do not buy into the idea that everybody has faith or believes in something. I responded with a call for evidence of an objective reality. You had your chance to say that you do not believe in any such thing, and you did not, so I can only assume that you do. You had your chance to say that you meant some other kind of definition of faith or belief, and you did not, so I can only assume that’s what you meant.

    Seth at least tried to back up his claims that he accepts nothing without evidence, and did a pretty fucking good job of it, too, honestly. You, on the other hand, have nothing. You attack the idea that there might be no objective reality, and you attack the argument as a whole as not having a meaningful purpose. You’ve attacked me with false accusations of straw man arguments but you have not even come close to defending your original statement.

    Stop dodging or shut your pie-hole. Either provide evidence that you have no faith and believe nothing, or admit the contrary, then point to someone else who has no faith and believes nothing. If you simply reject the idea that everyone has faith or believes in something because there are just so damned many people you can’t accept that it’s a universal, go ahead and say that, it’s a fair statement, and I have said it myself more than once in this very thread… in which case, I have to ask why the Hell you’re aggressive about my stance, since it would seem that we agree on all points.

  134. My original statement never said I had proof of an objective reality. I said I do not buy into (.. rationalization ) which means I believe or in my opinion. You then set up a straw man regarding objective reality. Clearly just as you know your belief sytem I know what I believe. You still ignore the possibility that I am an animal that has involuntary reactions and instincts. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt (instead of calling you a liar) and say it is obvious you did not read all my posts because I DID specifically state later that my original statement was not explained well and hinged on using varying meanings of the word faith and spinning them as if they were the same. READ POST 166 in its entirety. I had a chance to explain I meant another definition of faith AND DID. I even state that definitions for faith such as confidence or reliance apply to me .Granted I will admit I am not the best communicater(writing or speaking). Maybe if you read my post instead of getting violent you might understand it even if you do not agree with it.

  135. Jerry,
    you thought the pro-lifers won the debate against Quindlen’s article? Did you not notice none of them answered the question?
    A few NR contributors said there never was any punishment for women getting abortions before roe, but none of them said if they thought there should be jail time if abortion is made illegal again.

    I would say they answered “Mu.” Mu is a perfectly reasonable answer, and may be the only answer to many questions.

    Stomping up and down and demanding they answer THE question is the trap. It also indicates that the questioner is not interested in a conversation, or dialog, or debate, but they are playing a game and trying to trap you. They explained that it never was a punishment before, so why would people insist we punish people that way now? They showed (IIRC) that there is a class of “crimes” that embody that philosophy. (E.g. suicide)

    Indeed, I think they won the debate precisely by the quality of answering “mu”.
    Mu”

    Mu … it is more famously used as a response to certain koans and other questions in Zen Buddhism, intending to indicate that the question itself was wrong.
    The Mu koan is as follows: A monk asked Zhaozhou, a Chinese Zen master (known as J?sh? in Japanese): “Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?”, Zhaozhou answered: “Wú” (in Japanese, Mu).

    Some earlier Buddhist thinkers had maintained that creatures such as dogs did have the Buddha-nature; others, that they did not. Therefore, to answer “no” is to deny their wisdom, whereas to say “yes” would appear to blindly follow their teachings. Zhaozhou’s answer has subsequently been interpreted to mean that all such categorical thinking is in fact a delusion. In other words, yes and no are both right and wrong. This Koan is traditionally used by students of the Rinzai school of Zen as their initiation into Zen study.

    In his 1974 novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig translated mu as “no thing”, saying that it meant “unask the question”. He offered the example of a computer circuit using the binary numeral system, in effect using mu to represent high impedance:

    For example, it’s stated over and over again that computer circuits exhibit only two states, a voltage for “one” and a voltage for “zero”. That’s silly!

    Any computer-electronics technician knows otherwise. Try to find a voltage representing one or zero when the power is off! The circuits are in a mu-state.

    According to the Jargon File, a collection of hacker jargon and culture, mu is considered by Discordians to be the correct answer to the classic logical fallacy of the loaded question “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”.[1] Assuming that you have no wife or you have never beaten your wife, the answer “yes” is wrong because it implies that you used to beat your wife and then stopped, but “no” is worse because it suggests that you have one and are still beating her. As a result, various Discordians proposed mu as the correct answer, alleged by them to mean “Your question cannot be answered because it depends on incorrect assumptions”.

    The word features prominently in Douglas R. Hofstadter’s 1979 book, Gödel, Escher, Bach, where it is used fancifully in the context of discussions on symbolic logic, particularly Gödel’s incompleteness theorem.

  136. Since I posted an apology but received no response I figure I will ramp up the sarcasm.
    Hey RYSTEFN shut your piehole and open your eyes to read post 166. Had you read it and comprehended it then I must assume that you are a LIAR because your last post is full of inaccurate claims.
    If you think you are not using strawman arguments, you need to learn what they are.
    In your last post you state: You declared that you do not buy into the idea that everybody has faith or believes in something. That’s not what I wrote. I wrote: I do not buy into the “everybody believes in or has faith in something” rationalization. You have conveniently left out the word rationalization to change the meaning . You have changed a vague sentence into a declarative one having a meaning I did not intend. I was objecting to RATIONALIZATION and not making any comment on how many do or do not have faith or belief. I was objecting to someone saying everyone has beliefs so all beliefs should be unquestioned ,respected or treated as the same. All people do have beliefs but the consequences can be different. When the same type of thing is said about faith, it has different connotations and too the consequences are different.
    When you posted your original question I thought this has nothing to do with my statement and figured you were angry because I made a bad joke to try to cool things down in another post so you were going to try to mess with me by being an ahole. That is why I put sarcasm and some aholey stuff in my response because I thought if he wants to be an ahole I can be one too. I reconsidered somewhat ,figured my post was vague and maybe misunderstood so I tried to explain in post 166 what I really meant.
    I could see in your last post you were angry, thought perhaps did not really understand my first post and did not read subsequent ones.
    But since I offered an apology and received no response I have rereevaluated to think my first assumption was correct and you were being an ahole.
    I wish I knew about the answer Mu because that is how I should have responded to your first question. I find it very hard to communicate especially when the other person has no desire or makes no attempt to. Maybe you ARE here only to act cool and impress chicks. No use of me responding anymore to an ahole except for this last post so others can read post 219 and 166 to make up their mind if they can trust anything you write. Maybe 1 or 2 more if I see you posting on future topics trying to act all clever and cool to make sure people come back and see this.

  137. Rystefn: Did not know it was your birthday. I would have toned down the sarcasm. I apologize if it upset you.

    I’ll thank you to not give me special treatment, no matter what day it might be. If you think I’m wrong, then bloody well say so.

    My original statement never said I had proof of an objective reality

    Nor did I accuse you of saying it. I accused you of saying that you do not buy into the idea that everyone believes or has faith, at which point I challenged you. If weren’t referring to yourself as the person who has no faith and believes in nothing, please point me to the person you were referring to, and we can argue about that person instead.

    You then set up a straw man regarding objective reality.

    If it is a straw man, why is it being defended so strongly?

    You still ignore the possibility that I am an animal that has involuntary reactions and instincts.

    Why shouldn’t I? An involuntary and instinctive belief is a belief nonetheless.

    READ POST 166 in its entirety.

    If you aren’t arguing for the objective reality I challenged might not exist, and if you aren’t arguing against the kind of belief or faith I’m saying everyone must have – why the Hell are you arguing against my posts?

    In response to your post at 166, I posted at 169. That is where I posted the definitions I was using for “faith” and “objective reality.” Since you continued to argue with me after that, either you were arguing against my stated points, or you were just being a douche and arguing for mo reason at all. By that point, I was arguing with seth, who WAS arguing against my points, using the definitions I laid out, and if you wanted to have a separate side argument about a completely different idea, maybe you should have spelled it out and cut down on the confusion.

    Maybe if you read my post instead of getting violent

    You are obviously using some definition of the word “violent” other than the one in common usage… Or do you think I’m here on the other end of the line beating people up and breaking things in response to your comments?

  138. K, so I haven’t read all the posts yet, but here’s my short answer. As Penn says, “Everybody got a gris gris.” He admits this may even apply to himself. So, even though you may have some category in which you have a blind spot, whether it be religion, politics, or alternative medicine, you can still be a skeptic. If not, I would imagine there would be very few ‘actual skeptics’.

  139. Since I posted an apology but received no response I figure I will ramp up the sarcasm.

    Ummm… did you think I had nothing better to do on the weekend of my birthday than to argue on the internet? I’m not sure what gave you that idea, but it was mistaken. I was off at a string of parties. Since I’m still recovering, I hope you’ll understand if I’m my usual charming self today.

    Hey RYSTEFN shut your piehole and open your eyes to read post 166.

    Read it, responded to it, read your last call to respond to it, responded to that as well. Happy?

    If you think you are not using strawman arguments, you need to learn what they are.

    They are the argument against a point your opponent is not making. Since the argument I am attacking is being defended, I can only assume that it is a stance that at least some of my opponents actually hold. Since seth came out and specifically stated that he does hold it, I guess it wasn’t a straw man.

    I was objecting to RATIONALIZATION and not making any comment on how many do or do not have faith or belief.

    Then why the Hell did you keep arguing with me?

    I was objecting to someone saying everyone has beliefs so all beliefs should be unquestioned ,respected or treated as the same.

    To which I already responded. I said very specifically that they should be treated the same, so, again – why are you still arguing with me?

    figured you were angry because I made a bad joke to try to cool things down in another post

    Fair enough. Let me clear things up a little – I will not drag anything from one thread to another unless someone else does so first. Believe it or not, I’m a big fan of leaving things where they lie.

    I could see in your last post you were angry

    You misinterpreted the evidence. Very little on this site has ever made me angry, and to the best of my recollection, it’s never yet been you.

    But since I offered an apology and received no response

    I addressed this already, but I’ll assume it was a simple case of us typing at the same time, and mine hitting before you were finished so mine went up first. To reiterate – do not apologize because of what day it is. If you are apologizing for escalating an argument, then apology accepted, though you really have nothing to apologize for, as you were nothing like alone in that, nor even the first, I think.

    I wish I knew about the answer Mu because that is how I should have responded to your first question

    Perhaps so, but let me ask you this: If you had responded thus, and someone else responded to my challenge, would you still have leapt into the fray?

    Maybe you ARE here only to act cool and impress chicks.

    Have I ever said anything to indicate otherwise?

  140. I accused you of saying that you do not buy into the idea that everyone believes or has faith, at which point I challenged you.

    ———-

    And I pointed out that I don’t. Which I don’t. You keep on insisting that I do, but this insistence is predicated on an intimate knowledge of my perceptions and mental processes that you simply do not have.

    As I have said, the real world, the one I percieve that has continuity, consistent rules, string theory, etc. has features such that it is unlikely that I am creating them. You interpret the data differently, and insist that my dreams are evidence to support your interpretation.

    My dreams are not evidence to support your interpretation because they don’t ever act like the waking state and the waking state consistently does act like the waking state. They do not have many of the features of “reality”, and the difference is obvious to me. Continuity of memory is one, consistency of physical laws, the list goes on forever.

    If I am the only entity in the universe, I would expect greater control (like I have in dreams), inconsistent physical laws, (which I get in dreams), an awareness that I’m making all of this up (just like my awarenes in dreams), the ability to understand foreign languages (which I always have in dreams), and an awareness that I can sense things outside of reality (just like I can hear things outside of the flat, surreal dreamscapes I generate). None of these things are the case.

    On the other hand, if there is an objective reality, I would expect to understand a tiny fraction of the information that I am aware of, which is exactly the case. I would expect to learn new things, which is the case. I would expect people to stay dead, stay angry, and so forth. I see all these things.

    Can you think of a feature of reality that should exist that does not exist, such that I should drop the objective reality hypothesis? Is there something that I would expect to be true that is true that supports the E1 hypothesis you propose as being “simpler”.

  141. When you’re smart enough, you can make even stupid ideas sound reasonable, and Shermer qualifies in this instance.

    ————————-

    Really? Because to me, libertarianism is the only political philosophy that stands any chance of evaluating the world as it is. Maybe you should come up with an example of where Shermer is stupid and why.

  142. A skeptical belief in the spiritual instead chooses a premise that “real” can include things that exist outside of a material reality.

    ——–

    No, it includes the premise that the “real” does include things that exist outside of material reality. And that’s why your premise is unreasonable.

    I agree that there may exist a multitude of things that are outside of the realm of current observation. In the limit case, I suppose there are things that will always be outside of observation. But you go farther, into thinking that you know something about the nature of things that are not merely beyond observation, but beyond interaction.

    I’m sorry, but “outside material reality”? What does that even mean? In what sense are you using the word “exist”? And in what sense is it at all reasonable to take your speculations about something that you cannot observe or interact with or indirectly observe the freakin’ effects of as even remotely accurate descriptions of these spiritual beings that you are making up?

    The reason I don’t think that your position is as reasonable as mine is because it isn’t as reasonable as mine.

  143. Rystefn: You asked why the Hell I kept arguing. As I explained I thought you were deliberately intending to aggravate me and did not want a legitimate discussion. I have a very very low tolerance to intelligent ,nonmentally impaired people who deliberately choose to aggravate me and there is a reason. It is a long story no one need read it but it will give me comfort to write it.When it became evident that my mother had alzheimers disease I moved in and cared for her for 8 years. I would leave her at a daycenter when I went to work. She gave me alot of unintentional aggravation (not just repeating things but doing many other things I need not detail). The only way I kept my sanity was to repeat over and over she has a disease she cant help it. Every time I would say that my tolerance for an intelligent mentally healthy person giving me BS went down to where it is almost nonexistant. Advice to anyone reading this: get a power of attorney done now ,do not wait. My mom had only a will so I had to go thru the courts to get legal guardianship and it is a pain and costs more. Advice to women get a bone scan. My mom got up one night took a step and her hip snapped. She did not fall and break it, the weight of standing caused the weak bone to break and she was not obese. I fed her a balanced diet and took her routinely to doctors but no one avised me to check on it. She never regained the ability to walk so I chose to leave her in the nursing home because I would not be able to safely care for her by myself. She had additional health problems that caused her constant pain and one day she said I want to go to heaven to be with my mother and I am not going to eat anymore. Of course I did not believe her and figured in 5 seconds she would forget the whole idea. But she did not. She starved herself to death and died the end of May this year. The nursing home staff and I did everything we could to convince her to eat but she would not. She would only drink water. At home she loved ensure on her cereal or as a snack. She refused that . When it became evident what she was doing the Drs said they could take her to the hospital and have a tube put into her stomach thru which nourishment could be given. Since I was legal guardian I had to make the decision. She was not totally “out of it”. If you said something to her she would respond appropriately. For instance if you said your wheelchair is blocking me,she would respond I am sorry I will move. Some later stage patients do not even respond to their name. Additionally she did not have trouble swallowing ( later stage suffers do) as she could easily drink water but refused nutritious fluids like ensure or even juice. I decided it was her decision and told the Drs not to insert the tube as long as she was constantly presented with food so at any time she changed her mind it would be there which they did. The nursing home staff and I never stopped attempting to coax her to eat but she stubbornly refused. I never realized how long it can take a person to starve to death and it is a horrible thing to watch especially a loved one. She was my mother but become like my child(when I still cared for her she would ask my permission to have a snack or take a nap and be afraid if I left the room or wake up screaming from nightmares). The last 4 days of her life , she did not open eyes or respond to my touch. They had these little sticks with sponges attached so you could dip it in the water ( I think they called it thickened water) and put it in her mouth. She got to the point where she would use what little energy she had and slap my arm away.The dr was giving her some morphine type drug as needed (when she began thrashing or twitching) to control the pain but changed it to every hour when I said I could not bear to watch her suffer anymore. I stayed with her as much as i could during the last days .I thought it might give her comfort and ease her fear if she was afraid to die that someone she knew was next to her. On the night of her death the nurse told me I should probably go home and come back in the morning. I thought she would survive thru the night because her breathing had become much stronger. Earlier she was having apnea type periods where she would stop breathing for a long period and then start breathing with a big gasp. I left about 9pm . At 2:30 am my telephone rang and I knew what it would be. The nurse said that often people will try not to die with a loved one in the room. I drove over to see her one last time before the undertaker would take her.
    Sorry for such a sad story and no need to respond, after revealing such personal information I do not plan on returning to this websitesite and will delete the page from my bookmark.

  144. sethmanapio:

    Really? Because to me, libertarianism is the only political philosophy that stands any chance of evaluating the world as it is.

    To me, libertarianism is yet another utopian political philosophy which has not shown itself to be any different in principle from any previous utopian political philosophy. Like all utopian political philosophies, it utterly fails to take into account human nature and the fact that society doesn’t start off as a level playing field.

    Libertarianism is indistinguishable from other utopian political philosophies in that it defines its primary virtue (“freedom” in the case of libertarianism) as “the state of being me, or someone like me”, where “me” refers to any proponent of the philosophy and excludes everyone else. Such philosophies have the property that you can end up worse off under such a system if it’s implemented, but only if you make a free choice to not be like “me”. As always, those who would apparently have no such free choice simply aren’t trying hard enough to be like “me”.

    Libertarianism is distinguishable from many other utopian political philosophies in its amusingly perverse property that much of the success under the system is achieved posthumously. For example, violating what, under a collectivist system, would be called “safety standards” is handled by suing the responsible party after you die in a preventable incident. In this respect, libertarianism more closely resembles American Evangelical Protestantism than a serious political philosophy. This is one of the many ways that the two groups manage to co-exist within the Republican Party.

  145. This is one of the many ways that the two groups manage to co-exist within the Republican Party.

    ————–

    That’s a bold statement, especially since there are basically no planks of the republican party platform that are even vaguely libertarian in nature.

    Libertarianism is no utopian. There is no illusion in libertarian philosophy that you can create a perfect society, in fact, much of libertarian thinking is that maybe things would be better if people stopped laboring under the delusion that they can create a utopia.

    Libertarianism defines “liberty” as the state of being free of coercion and being free to make decisions, good or bad. It isn’t a political system, so there is no way that people can prosper or not prosper if it is implemented.

  146. That’s a bold statement, especially since there are basically no planks of the republican party platform that are even vaguely libertarian in nature.

    Sure there is. The Republicans are the party of “small government”. Just ask Michael Schiavo if you don’t believe me.

    Libertarianism is no utopian. There is no illusion in libertarian philosophy that you can create a perfect society, in fact, much of libertarian thinking is that maybe things would be better if people stopped laboring under the delusion that they can create a utopia.

    Ah, so libertarianism is essentially the Intelligent Design of political philosophy, then. We don’t know a way to fix this, so revel in your ignorance instead. Before you know it, invisible-hand-of-the-market-didit.

  147. Ah, so libertarianism is essentially the Intelligent Design of political philosophy, then.

    —————

    Okay… so the people who think that economies are emergent, natural phenomena that we don’t fully understand are the ‘intelligent design’ group, and the people who think that markets require intelligent designers to function properly are the evolutionists? Dude, your metaphors suck.

    Is this inanity an example of the supposed skepticism that led you to dismiss libertarianism? Because if it is, I am sincerely not impressed.

    That said, I don’t dogmatically subscribe to the Libertarian party platform. I just think that the core hypothesis, that maximizing happiness is best achieved by allowing each person the most opportunity to maximize their own happiness, is well supported. If you want to argue against it, you should start by explaining why you don’t believe in emergent phenomena and then move on to why you don’t think that swarm algorithms work and then move on to why you don’t think that people can get through this intersection without someone directing freakin’ traffic. And when you’re done redefining reality and ignoring the richness and complexity of the natural world and human societies, explain to me again why you imagine you’re being a skeptic.

  148. Okay… so the people who think that economies are emergent, natural phenomena that we don’t fully understand are the ‘intelligent design’ group, and the people who think that markets require intelligent designers to function properly are the evolutionists? Dude, your metaphors suck.

    Dude, you haven’t been keeping up with the tone of this thread. Thanks for biting, by the way.

    But since you asked: Markets are intelligently designed to some extent. They are created by humanity to serve a specific purpose: the efficient distribution of capital.

    If there were no sentient beings, there would be no markets.

    You’re also right that organisations take on a life of their own beyond any single individual in it. I’ve fought a parking ticket, hell, I’ve spent time on hold. I well know how an organisation can be more dysfunctional and incompetent than any single person who works there.

    […] then move on to why you don’t think that people can get through this intersection without someone directing freakin’ traffic.

    Since you asked, the way that people can get through that intersection is “inefficiently”.

    It helps that almost everyone is on a bike. If you had to take a dozen 9 tonne trucks through there every minute, you’d have some serious problems. Hanoi’s traffic management system works, but it doesn’t scale.

Leave a Reply

You May Also Enjoy

Close
Close