TED Conversations

Tim Colgan

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Has religion outlived it's usefulness?

I'd like to start this conversation with a quote from Richard Dawkins:

"Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful!"

The Guardian, October 11, 2001
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/oct/11/afghanistan.terrorism2

So my question is - assuming religion ever did serve a useful function for humanity, is it perhaps time that we get beyond religion and develop other tools to provide for human needs?

NOTE: To people making comments - I encourage you to not only give a brief response to the main question but also try to respond to one or more of the other comments. Keeping it brief, respectful and perhaps phrased as a question will help generate a true conversation. Thanks. And come back and visit when you can.

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Closing Statement from Tim Colgan

Many thanks to all those who contributed to this discussion. Upon starting this conversation I was concerned that ted wasn't the right place, fearing it would be dominated by a single mind-set. But the diversity of opinions expressed here is amazing. These threads represent a true mosaic of human opinion. Perhaps not a perfect sampling, but a fascinating cross-sample of personal beliefs. The conversations themselves reveal a bit about humanity - filled with sibling rivalries, with moments of compassion. Highly recommended to anyone to take the time to read.

Although it's probably obvious from the conversation's introduction that my intentions included an agenda, that agenda was soon blown out of the water. We had trouble coming to agreement on the definition of religion. Whether it's called religion or not, humans need institutions to provide it's function. To me religion is most symbolized by it's place - temple, mosque, synagogue, church... A place where people gather to share their humanity and ponder the infinite, and their place in it. Perhaps ted is one of those places.

Thanks again to all who contributed. It has been truly enlightening. That's to say, each of you has shone light into some aspect of our topic.

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      Feb 21 2011: Agreed Birdia. Do you have any inputs on how to convince others to rely on rational thought vs dogma?
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        • Feb 28 2011: Hi Birdia, Im Nick from the UK, ive only just joined this site, and i certainly have not read all the letters on this subject, so please excuse if im repeating what some else has said. Im with Kathy K on this subject, but the point i wish to make is that to believe in God is not necessarily 'blind faith'. The universe was either created by chance [big bang] or it was'nt. To believe as i guess most atheists do that there was an explosion out of absolutely nothing, 'by chance' seems to me less logical than to believe in a creator. Perhaps us trying to understand God is like gold fish trying to understand how the fridge works [smile]
          I think a lot of people treat God like a 'magician' who will put all their errors right, But i find if for example one prays for patience, 'life' will throw at you many chances to have exactly that.
          Ultimately 'nothing' can be proved 100% , one cant even PROVE we exist !! [i believe we do] so i guess we all need to have a certain amount of faith.
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        Feb 26 2011: @Tim: the trick about your question is the word "rely."

        To rely on dogma when evaluating facts is a recipe for disaster. But relying on rationalism when trying to create meaning in one's life is fruitless.

        I'd suggest rewording it:
        "How do we convince others to rely on rational thought for discovering reliable facts?"
        And:
        "How do we convince others to use the power of myth and storytelling to give their lives meaning without disregarding these tools just because they are not rational?"
        • Feb 27 2011: Hi Jack. Tell me one thing Jack. I experienced once a person that was what I called "clairvoyant" and that person told me things about my past and my future that they had absolutely no possibility of knowing. I repeat... absolutely no "physical" possibility of knowing certain things about me and my life. I had never met this person before... never seen this person before... and none of my friends had "ever seen or met this person before" Tell me now... what is your theory for the fact that that person "knew" so much about me and my personal life.... I am really a quite sober person. Very stable... wife and children... hardly ever sick.... I'm actually about as solid as a person can be. Down to earth. Both feet on the ground....never hallucinated... May I ask again....How did this stranger know so much about me and my life? If you have never had such a meeting with a "seer" than I suggest you look one up. You may find one in your local newspaper adds... but watch out... there are many out there who are just after you money... Hadn't these things actually come true in my life (or already were true) than I too could write off the whole phenomenon as BS... but the fact is they were true. And furthermore there were lots of other people in the room that can verify this..... so what is your explanation Jack??
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          Feb 27 2011: hey man I'm a christian and I'm relaying just on rational thoughts (I ignore some of 'irationa thought' until I work them out ) but a lot of things (the most in my opinion) are very rational.

          of course are a lot of methaphysical things in a christian doctrine but they can be comprehend also , at least some of them......and methaphysics is an science as I know (ironie)
        • Feb 28 2011: If the reality is quantum, there is no conflict between "rational thought" and "spirituality". Rational thought and spiritual thought are absolutly nessesary as a complex quantum particle called a human being. The quantum world reserves at least half of the experience at any given time to be unknown, and the other half known. You need both views to see the wonder of it all but you can only use one to the exclusion of the other!

          I Love quantum reality, half of it is wonderful, and I don't know much about the other half. Sounds a lot like a lot of religions to me, just not as beautiful.
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          Feb 28 2011: @daniel -- cold reading?
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          Feb 28 2011: Jack: Have really enjoyed all your posts (very thought provoking).

          Agreed - both rational thought and learning from myths have value.

          Why do you think that people are so drawn into taking myth as fact?
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        Feb 28 2011: This is in reply to "daniel hehir" above (the reply system is broken, no?):

        Daniel: thank you for sharing that experience. Please know that I have no desire to minimize the power that that had in your life. I believe you had that experience and I'm glad for it.

        But when people who claim to be clairvoyant are tested they are, as a rule, found to be frauds. Otherwise the Pentagon would have found a way to weaponize such talents (the economic argument: http://xkcd.com/808/)

        "I had a profound mystical experience that affected me" isn't a problem. But systematizing it is. The benefit of religion is limited to personal growth, only science can provide us with facts that are equally true for each of us.

        What would you think of a large social movement that tried to rely on clairvoyance for determining important matters like who should be elected to Congress and how income should be distributed?
        • Feb 28 2011: "What would you think of a large social movement that tried to rely on clairvoyance for determining important matters like who should be elected to Congress and how income should be distributed?"

          That would not be wise. Reason and knowledge must be employed even if you are clairvoyant. If you accept the idea as a rational person that quantum mechanics and quantum anomalies exist, then you must also accept that the entire universe is a quantum system of reality. The anomalies we observe in the lab are a direct observation of the fundamental rules of this reality.

          These rules allow for such phenomenon as is typically assigned by rational minds to mysticism or psi. These things are not necessarily bogus if the rules of quantum mechanics and quantum physics are applicable everywhere and at any time.

          By this logic then, we are free to rationally explore the stranger forms and events of our experience that do not necessarily fit into what is known of the physical world. Faith and clairvoyance are possible. But you must test your information against your knowledge or you are just guessing and believing rather than understanding.

          So electing a government by Psi is probably not a good idea for most of us, even though it worked for the Dali Lama. The Dali Lama was chosen by experienced psi experts. I think they did a good job, I just don't know how they managed it.
        • Feb 28 2011: Hey Jack. These threads are hard to follow. I don't like this new system at all.
          I'm not putting down the scientific method. I'm saying if you are operating under the theory that all crows are black.... and suddenly a white crow shows up... than your whole theory is blown out of the water.... You see... just one example is enough to force you to reshape your theory... "change your way of thinkin"
          Thats all I'm saying. Have you ever heard of a french guy called Jacques Lusseyran? He lost his sight as a child, but could still "see" with the type of vision that I'm referring to above. He was used by the French secret service in the second world war to locate where the Germans were hiding. This is fact and can be documented. I have the book beside me now. Its called "And there was Light" IBSN82-09-01429-3 Take a look in your local library and order it if they don't have it. It will give you a new perspective on life.... I'll tell you that !!
        • Feb 28 2011: Another thing Jack.. Ancient societies were very much based on exactly that. Their leaders were often "seers" and what we see today in tribal societies in Africa that still have medicine men are remnents of this. Where the scientific mind is not developed, they turn to frogs eyes and ears of nutes. The clairvoyants are still out there in our time but generally speaking are also remnents of the past. I wrote another message to you further down the page, but I think we have to complain about this new system of "reply" to TED .. it doesn't work worth a damn...
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          Mar 1 2011: Jack D. Canty ;
          r/t 'only science can provide us with facts that are equally true for each of us.'

          Greetings,
          Just curious how might you describe the science (or lack thereof) behind, for instance, the Ten Commandments and the consequences that more than typically come with going against them?
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          Mar 1 2011: Wayne:

          Interesting that you should bring up the Ten Commandments. Here in West Chester we have them plastered on the courthouse wall. Here's the plaque:

          http://blurblawg.typepad.com/.a/6a00e54f871a9c88330147e0f9f4d4970b-popup

          I've always been struck by number 10:

          "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

          and wondered how much that language has been used to justify slavery and the treatment of woman as property. Which gets to the crux of the problem - the interpretation of myth as literal fact.

          Why can't we read these things as metaphorical lessons and not take them as fact?
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          Mar 1 2011: Slavery is an emotive word due to the excesses of evil men against the Africans. As in many things, mans weakness is somehow taken as God's fault. There were no slaves in Eden. The following is more typical of God's instruction on the subject. It reads like it can be taken literally.

          Deu 15:11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
          Deu 15:12 If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free.
          Deu 15:13 And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed.
          Deu 15:14 Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you.
          Deu 15:15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.
          Deu 15:16 But if your servant says to you, "I do not want to leave you," because he loves you and your family and is well off with you,
          Deu 15:17 then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your maidservant.
          Deu 15:18 Do not consider it a hardship to set your servant free, because his service to you these six years has been worth twice as much as that of a hired hand. And the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.

          :-)
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          Mar 1 2011: Peter:

          Always was a bit concerned about Deu 15:12. Only a fellow Hebrew counts?
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          Mar 1 2011: Peter: I'm curious about your interpretation of Leviticus 25:44-46, especially how it contrasts Hebrew versus non-Hebrew slaves. I would also be very interested to read your take on Exodus 21:20-11. Bear in mind that both of these passages appear as commands from God, not the excesses of men.
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          Mar 2 2011: Tim/Tony

          It seems to me that God does treat his own differently. His own children, compared to those who live down the street. These were different times, when mayhem & murder was even more prevalent than now. Certainly Ex.21v21 has me puzzled, but I'm not that smart.
          With the bible it is usually the case that the more is read, the better the understanding. Try these :-
          Lev 24:17 "Anyone who takes another person's life must be put to death.
          Lev 24:19 "Anyone who injures another person must be dealt with according to the injury inflicted--
          Lev 24:20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Whatever anyone does to hurt another person must be paid back in kind.
          Lev 24:22 "These same regulations apply to Israelites by birth and foreigners who live among you. I, the LORD, am your God."

          No doubt many Atheists would cite this sort of thing as contradictions, but to me it's just another step to understanding. This was the reason that Jesus came, because we cannot fully understand all the rules. He said :-
          Mat 22:37 Jesus replied, " `You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' [fn]
          Mat 22:38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
          Mat 22:39 A second is equally important: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' [fn]
          """Mat 22:40 All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."""

          So, yes, you can trip me up quite effectively; as I said, I'm not that smart. Please don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you hunt for a reason to dismiss the bible, that's exactly what you'll get, if you search for truth, you will be pleasantly surprised.

          :-)
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          Mar 2 2011: Peter: please understand that our disagreement is not personal. I've heard the argument all too often that God's idea of slavery was a sort of gentle servitude and that the real injustice came from man, when in fact biblically-endorsed slavery indeed could be quite brutal. You simply seemed to be presenting a one-sided view, and this is not the forum for one-sided views.

          My own journey through the Bible was indeed one of a seach for truth. I became a non-believer because of passages like this, after doing my level best to reconcile them. One approach to the apparent contradictions is to chalk it up to the limits of human understanding. In fact, this approach makes a lot of sense: if God is infinitely more complex than we are, who are we to judge the merits and validity of His commands? The problem here is that the logic doesn't go far enough: if indeed God writes this opaquely, what makes us so sure it's from God at all? In other words, I found I could not have it both ways: claim ignorance when faced with biblical absurdities, yet at the same time claim certainty with regard to its divine origin and consequent infallibility.

          For the sake of argument, the Bible could very well be the infallible Word of God, and our brains just too small for the task of grasping it. But if that is really the case, our brains are also too small to make sweeping conclusions such as "it's the infallible Word of God". Thus, my argument is not against the Bible per se, but against the kind of certitude promoted by religion. The driving motive behind this certitude is a desire for security -- as the writer of Hebrews so eloquently puts it, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see" (Heb 11:1, NIV).
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        Feb 28 2011: This scientific method that we have developed to understand the known universe, reaches the limits of its effectiveness where it as a process, at best measures reality as our senses and current use of our mental faculties are able to process physical existence.

        Make no mistake. the sciences of the mind are in their infancy.
        Further, unaided, our senses (and by extension most tools we use in producing empirical data about our environment) are feeble compared to those enjoyed by the vast majority of other species on earth and our attempts to match or rival the abilities of said species are based on what 'we think' our senses say about how they perceive our world. Subjective theory at best in my opinion.
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          Mar 1 2011: Hi Birdia
          "it has already been proven that our universe is expanding – has the bible mentioned anything about that?"
          Isa 42:5 This is what God the LORD says— he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
          Isa 45:12 It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.
          Jer 10:12 But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.

          etc etc

          :-)
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          Mar 4 2011: Peter:

          "My own hands stretched out the heavens"

          Were these real hands or metaphorical hands that stretched out the heavens?

          I really don't see why it's so important to insist on literal interpretations of anything in Holy Scripture. Do you really think that the message "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" would get lost if it turned out that there was really no guy named Jonah who got swallowed by a whale?
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          Mar 4 2011: Hi Tim

          Jesus is the one who stretched out the heavens, however I would say that he had no literal hands before he was born of Mary. So in my opinion the hands in this case are metaphoric; that's my opinion.

          Jonah & the Big Fish (maybe not whale) is written as a literal account, so I treat it as such. Maybe some hebrew scholar would make an alternative case, which I would have to consider.

          To me it's about credibility. If the bible is what it claims to be then it must be perfect. Any fault must be in translation, or in my understanding; if not then it's not the word of god. So far I am satisfied with it, & learning more week by week.

          The Golden Rule is great to live by, & believing that it also pleases God gives a bit of extra incentive.

          :-)
        • Mar 10 2011: Hi Birdia,
          Yes, odd system here, only just found your reply. Yes the universe is expanding according to scientists, but it is more than probable that new information will be found, and what was once 'proven' is shown to be wrong, remember it was only a few hundred years ago they could prove the earth was flat, logical right? otherwise you would fall off!! well im sure the same sort of thing will keep on happening, im sure you get my drift.
          The bible of course mentions creation, but as i said, to have a universe to explode out of nothing , 'by chance' to me seems illogical. which reminds me of a little story, it goes like this... A scientist in the future had created life, and he challenged God , saying that he was like God because he had created life, God said to him, ok prove it to me, ok says the scientist, and bends down to scoop up some soil, and God then says to him 'get your own soil' so you see my point.
          It is fascinating to me that the universe floats in nothing, and is expanding into nothing, and perhaps the universe is in God and not the other way round, I propose that God is absolute simplicity and absolute mystery at the same time, and the bible quotes God describing himself by the words .. I AM, not i am big, or i am intelligent or i am wonderful, but I just AM !!!
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          Mar 2 2011: Hi Birdia
          Oh I think God has made it out of his book. I speak to him daily & often get feedback. The book helps me to know when it is him & when it is just me. He never contradicts the book.

          Hbr 11:6 So, you see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

          Rev 3:20 "Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.

          So we have to give him the 'benefit of the doubt'. We have to take a step of faith, based on our understanding of the bible. (Best to start with New Testament).
          If we can do that & invite him in then your questions will be answered in due course. I have no doubt in his existance now, but I had to take a step of faith initially.

          Speak to him.
          :-)
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          Mar 2 2011: Hi Biridia ..........regarding your first paragraph I think the main idea from it is that: "man glorifies and attaches himself to this fictional 'God' to feel secure and safe" , but Birdia if we have done it............why we have done it? why almost all people from the earth feel that (are all in danger and they all have need of protection , I don't think)?.......you can't say that we have invented the idea of God , because if you say that you should answer to the next questions : Why we have created the idea of God (who had have this so great imagination to invent something like that?) because God is outside of our world , how could we know about Him? and why exatcly this idea is so well-known , why people are saying that they have a need to worship something? (all the people have done it throughout the history to a lot of "gods")
          What determined people to talk for God or against Him(all people do one of it)?
          Why all people from the surface of the earth are so influenced of this idea ,( some talk against it or some talk for it)?Why all people are thinking at least once in their life at this idea?...............What determined us to do all these things?........we was educated differnetly but all, absolute all people know about something supernatural even though they accept it or not?
          " the character we call 'God' has been used to cloak man's fear and despair through the centuries" you said in the first paragraph that "God" is a fictional chaacter but if He is, how could that ficton make us feel safer , happier .....if is just a fiction?
          How could a fiction impose a psychological presence?(and think at all the history)..........

          ..............is imposible that the idea of God to be a fiction......God is very very real................
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          Mar 2 2011: Hi Birdia

          I agree with Eduard. To an extent we see what we want to see. Dozens of peoples all over the world have a flood story in which some were saved by getting on a big boat. Athiests will say that the biblical narrative is a copy of these stories, I would say the opposite. The fact that the story is so well known to me verifies that it probably happened.
          There is tons of real life evidence that the bible is accurate in many fields. If you have time, here is some archeological evidence to consider.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWawVUZg3Es&feature=related

          :-)
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          Mar 2 2011: yeah ..........the chinese culture is one of the greatest
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          Mar 3 2011: The single chinese book that I've read is "The art of war " by Sun Tzu........I was especially facinated by the stuffs which I've heard and saw about chinese culture .......and I'm still learning.
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        Feb 27 2011: Kathy, I appreciate how, in your last line, you discuss the reverence people have for their holy text. I think that's something that the modern atheist movement should take more note of: people actually care about the text and feel connected to it.

        Your claim that the bible withstands scrutiny is in need of massive clarification. It continues to be a source of meaning and connection for billions of people, yes. But there are large religious movements that treat the bible as some kind of encyclopedia in which one can look up facts about God. And that's a problem.

        I think what Tim Colgan and Richard Dawkins are trying to point out is the great horror that comes when we take a text that has a rich narrative tradition but is not factually reliable and use it as a replacement for the rigorous application of science.

        I'm sure you can understand the fear some people have if a president of the United States believed that dinosaurs walked the earth seven thousand years ago and that Jesus was coming back "any minute now." Somebody who has the launch codes to our nuclear arsenal cannot be permitted to believe that those are facts. It could mean the death of us all.
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        Feb 27 2011: You said that Holy Scripture is a connection to truth that we can rely on and, as a testament, it's stood the test of time
        But I wonder, which Scripture? Or more generally, which text even? We could take the most prominent ones: The Bible, The Koran, The Torah and discover that each asserts itself as, unequivocally, 'the' holy book.
        This, in itself, is aside from numerous internal contraindications and considers only three of thousands of equally confident scriptures each of which, in themselves, fail to reveal accurately even the most basic facts about our world.
        Too, withstanding ages does not necessarily imply truth. Consider the long held geocentricism that was, mind you, aggressively, and falsely, supported by the church.
        Moreover, I believe your assessment of science is flippant. While it is true that science is always updating, this is its greatest strength and does not counter its truth or relevance but, rather, reinforces it. Science does not continuously reinvent itself, it refines itself in light of new facts but, always, it is moving closer to the truth; a singular, not erratic, trajectory. For example, the discovery of heliocentrism, a product of evidence overturning apocryphal beliefs, or of a new lifesaving treatment, deduced by science, overturning a false and ineffective 'traditional' method.
        Finally, I think that it is a bit rash to claim that referencing a holy book as irrational is blatantly ignorant. While there is something to be said for the numinous aspects (this bit I suspect you mean when you say "[not] via the intellect alone") of religion, these experiences are not singular ones and occur across all religions, and even for non-religious individuals. Nor is there any reason to suspect that these experiences are outside the realm of science.
        Also, Atheism is not the simple consequence of not understanding and 'giving up'. Rather, it and, in general, non-religious views take relgion as a hypothesis, consider the evidence, and adjudicate.
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          Feb 27 2011: "fail to reveal accurately even the most basic facts about our world"................I totaly disagree, the religion(christianity) reveals a lot of facts (not just the basic facts) but a lot of facts , which(the most of them) was proved just in the last centuries by science(and surely science and religion aren't in relation of enmity).
          "Consider the long held geocentricism that was, mind you, aggressively, and falsely, supported by the church." the Bible from the begining have ever said that the earth is "circular" , the wrong was just the interpetation of the Bible(have you ever read the bible?).

          I don't know why so many are putting science and religion in relation of enmity(perhaps they don't know too well neither what is saying religion nor what is saying science) , they aren't enemy ....they are just to complementary things.
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          Feb 28 2011: Birdia, I appreciate your contrast of philosophy and science, I see them fulfilling complementary roles as well.

          I'm curious how you'd describe the difference between religion and philosophy. Particularly when they creep close together like with Pythagorus or Plato. Is it just belief in a theistic being that separates them, or is it something more?
      • Mar 4 2011: Absolute knowledge Kathy, absolute moralism, and absolute certainty, all of these seem to me incredibly dangerous. As for religious texts themselves I have read many and enjoyed some immensely the prose edda in particular is fascinating and beautiful but they contain no absolutes, only insights into human beings and the different models they make of the world. The march of science is one of model refinement, as time passes our models become more accurate, but they are never absolutely true, they are only true, until they are not. This seems to me to be a much more preferable system.
    • Feb 27 2011: I really like your response Birdia. And I think the task at hand, in replacing religion with other tools to provide for human needs, is to find an overarching humanitarian concept that has multiple paths to accomplish it.
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        • Mar 1 2011: The scariest thing is the defense for religion by saying science is against it, a religion in itself, etc.

          No...it's merely a method of figuring out how something works. You start off with a hypothesis "IF this THEN that" and create controlled tests to prove it true or false. THATS IT. So really it clashes only when the information obtained begins to potentially disprove a long held belief a group of people have.

          Personally I'm tired of the labels. Yes of course I have certain feelings and ideas of how things should work but I am willing to accept that they have no place in reality if the accumulated information says otherwise. We tend to not want to be wrong or let go.(Comes down to Fear of the Unknown)

          Obviously im on the side thats says it's outdated. But I'm willing to say that many of my statements are merely strong opinion without the personal research to back it up.

          ***Do you think there is a way to quantify all the information and dialogue that many people have put into this debate and elsewhere?

          To condense and calculate the accuracy or inaccuracy of our 'views' with INFORMATION compiled(feelings, proven/unproven facts, percentage of people, etc)...to perhaps get something closer to a definitive answer out of the chaos many people talking.
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          Mar 1 2011: Hi Birdia
          "Science is based on facts with no mysticism or a fixed set of 'beliefs', so how can it be classified as a 'religion'?
          Besides, science is not 'against' anything; basically, it is 'for' anything that can be proven. Science can even prove 'beauty' with geometry"

          For me science oversteps itself into belief with assertions about the Big Bang, Abiogenesis, Dinosaur extinction date, Macro evolution etc. These things cannot be proven, but to cast doubt on the truth of them will bring a major backlash, as many scientists have found to their cost. It's good to have theories, but unless they can be tested they are faith based, & not strictly scientific. Don't you think?

          :-)
        • Mar 2 2011: Exactly science is neutral. As strong information processing creatures I think we always want know. If we don't know or cant figure it out we create our own answers to feel content. We usually need a reason to do something right?(My guess is we always do)

          And as 'thought provoking' as some peoples responses are how can we make such an in depth analysis of things that have very little/no proof? OR when we have such contrasting information that says otherwise...doesn't that create a high probability the belief as it is false by default.

          How about the statement that science cannot explain 'this' or 'that' therefore it's wrong. I mean isn't that a cop out for the fact that science has not explained it YET? I can't say it will but we are gaining so much new knowledge every single day(and exponentially).

          @Peter. We've created many methods to test the things you've stated. Like the Hadron Particle accelerator in relation to the Big Bang. We have math equations that explain gravity, electricity, and other forces. Yet we don't have one for the 'invisible man'. Again I'm not against God but if there's people so strongly defending it step up to the plate to create some controlled tests and numbers for comparison.
        • Mar 2 2011: P.s. Your right.

          We need to start an idea thread on how the make commenting much more effecient. It makes me not even want to have multiple conversations. Perhaps we should start a thread on this alone. Ha

          TED should focus on making these interactions as powerful as possible. Which is why I think crowd sourcing the information has amazing potential for something greater here.
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    Mar 5 2011: What I'm going to say is for the sincere and honest persons who are atheists:
    This are tow points about where we shouldn't look after God(the God from christianity):
    1. if God exist we can't find out too much about Him from science because science is dealing with what God have created (the science is COMING from He's creation).... How could someone say that I don't belive in the existence of God , because I didn't find anything in science about Him?(of course you didn't)...it isn't the science business to say if God exist or not because science is about He's creation not about Him ...........so all the scientists are talking rubbish about it if they say us that God doesn't exist.
    2. Let's turn now to philosophy........ the philosophy is created by the human mind(by our thinking) ok? but the human mind is very limited (I think it's obvious that) while God(if there is one) is perfect , is unlimited and from it results that we can't rely on philosophy to say us if God exist or not........our mind is very limited while God is perfect......how could we understand Him?how could we find out about Him there? .......so from that results that we can't conceive God and all philosophers are talking rubbish if they say us something about the existence of God relying on philosophy then.
    And not forget the science isn't against the Bible.
    To say something like: "I'm relying on science and on philosophy when I'm saying that God doesn't exist" ........that's the most unscientific thing that you ever could say, because I repeat again isn't the science business to say something about the existence of God .
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      Mar 5 2011: So you're saying that there's no evidence either way and so the existence of God is just an idea over millions of ideas that somehow has a lot of backing? For if philosophers and scientists are talking rubbish about God, who is left to make a case for God? (I personally do think scientists and philosophers have a case to make but let's ignore that for the sake of addressing your argument)

      I mean everyone can have an idea that isn't backed by anything and that's fine, until you let it actively guide your life in a way that affects others. Evangelicals trying to convert, Creationists using religion to deny science, people denied the simple right of freedom of expression because of so-called blasphemy, homosexuals being condemned (not to mention any of the horrible deeds of the past)...if you have an idea, for which the evidence is void, you should not expect more respect from others than people who believe in ghosts or psychics.
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        Mar 6 2011: "For if philosophers and scientists are talking rubbish about God" maybe what I gonna say will seem (bu just will seem because it isn't) very hypocrite : scientists and philosophers are talking rubbish just when they are saying us that God doesn't exist( the reasons for that statement are said above)
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        Mar 6 2011: noone ............ God make for Himself.
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          Mar 6 2011: he's not making any case for himself seeing as the Universe can be seen to run without him. I rest my case, if the idea of God is but an idea, there's no reason why this idea of the Universe should trump all others. You're basing your life on a single unprovable idea. Oh dear.
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        Mar 7 2011: this "unprovable"(I repeat by science methods) gives the most obvious proof about God, and there are yet some scientific proofs ........but many of them depend from what perspective you look at them.
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          Mar 8 2011: Nonsense, unprovability is not proof at all. In computer science and maths there are many problems that are qualified as undecideable because one outcome is unprovable. Does a program P terminate? It's possible to prove it terminates, because when the program terminates it can output yes. It's impossible to prove it doesn't terminate, because it can never output 'no' because it runs indefinitely in that case (you'd have to wait forever just in case it prints 'yes'). Does that mean we somehow assume by its unprovability of termination that it terminates? Of course not, makes no sense.

          Equality, God's unprovability is proof of nothing at all. It's completely illogical. Scientific evidence doesn't vary depending on perspective, that's the point of scientific evidence. If you've got some scientific evidence, bring it forward.

          Also you never answered my post where I ask you what you mean about the universe being as quantum as it can be...which again...doesn't...make...sense...

          Also I've provided backing to my "this is false" statements about the old testament. Please reply to that too. I'm genuinly curious how you fit your old testament literalism with modern science.
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        Mar 8 2011: Unprovability now is a very big proof because as I said we are talking now about supernatural.......it's a wrong to compare that with any normal things (like computer science or maths).Sorry I didn't see your post but
        ok I'll answer you now, I've said there about the creation of the univers being like the most quantum that could ever be : " And God said, Let there be..........." "And God said, Let there be.." that's the most quatum that could ever be : to say and to appear.(and I know enough about quantum mechanics).
        "It says the Moon is a source of light" it don't say that (have you ever read the Bible ar the Genesis at least).
        "the Earth being a circle is another simple one" again the Bible have never said that the earth is a circle (this was said by the some churches).
        and now man, we have to clarify something, you all the time use evolution as explication (and seems to me that you confuse the evolution with the science , sorry if I'm wrong) for me evolution is another wrong worldview so I please you to explain what you wanna say from a more neutral perspective as I'm doing..........you can praise the evolution theory but from a more neutral state, ok?(thank you).
        AS I said the creation was just a matter of days( I'm speaking now from a creationist perspective) and thus don't matter too much who was created first.
        "The theory of evolution is also the reason why you cannot have two people, Adam and Eve as progenitors of a whole species." the evolution theory isn't a reasoon for me ,( I thought you noticed that) so please give me another reason for which the Adam an Eve couldn't be our ancestors.(about incest ....was a different situation then and thus it can't be called incest, think at that situation ).
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          Mar 8 2011: If unprovability is proof, invisible unicorns are in fact real. Would you agree?

          Saying some gibberish and then saying you understand quantum mechanics doesn't mean you understand quantum mechanics. The world cannot be "quantum" as "quantum" refers to an amount not a state. that's like saying the world is as light-year as it could be. I don't believe one second you understand anything about quantum mechanics.

          The passages I refer to are actually in the Bible:

          Genesis 1:16-17 "God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night."

          Isaiah 40:22 "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers."

          The argument about Adam and Eve remains the same. Incest leads to an increase in lethal pairs of genes. It's a known fact. Unless you also want to deny the field of genetics as you do with evolution.

          Now that I know you are a Creationist, I know I've wasted my time. You claim that your God does not deny science and yet you embrace the views of Creationism which go against the well-established theory of evolution (which is not a worldview, it's science). If you're a young Earth Creationist, I'd like to point out that the theory of relativity proposed by Einstein does conflict with your views as this theory sets a limit at which matter can travel (the speed of light). Given that we receive light from stars that are millions of light-years old, how can you fit that with your view that the Universe is a mere 6,000 years old? If that were the case, many star's light would not have reached us yet. how has it reached us already given Einstein's strict laws of relativity? Geology also does not fit into your view. Radioactive decay is also in conflict with your views (I bet you're not a fan of carbon dating and the like).
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        Mar 8 2011: Matthie to give you scientifics proofs right now is imposible here , if you really want more details visit :
        http://www.reasons.org/.
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          Mar 8 2011: Eduard: I watched some of the videos on that page and they seem to argue in favor of the Big Bang theory and creation over more then a few days.
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          Mar 8 2011: Or you could debate instead, which is the reason why we're here in the first place. Why don't you do what I do and read your own material so that you can use it in argument? Sending me links just looks like the ultimate cop-out.
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          Mar 9 2011: Thanks for the posting though. I like seeing the various viewpoints.
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        Mar 9 2011: Unicorns........I don't know , but they have nothing to do with what I said.
        And I wasn't talking about a state , I'm really interesting how you understood that.(I was talking about that very less intuitive particles way of taking values , I tried to bring the Bohr principles to extreme.......anyway.. .... ).
        Genesis 1:16-17 "God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.".....but here isn't say anything about the fact that moon is a source of light , it say just that the moon lights govern the night.
        Isaiah 40:22 "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers." how I understand, here it is said about the circular surface of the earth, not about the fact that earth is a circle.(i
        Adam and Eve have had a lot of children including daugthers and in Mesopotamia at that time wasn't something unusual to get married with your sister.(look at the archaeological evidence from Ur ,Uruk and others localities) and in the Bible are mentioned and others posibilities.
        I never said that I'm a creationist , I've just said that creation is in my opinion more plausible than evolution(with other words of course)...... evolution is a worldview rooted in science , more exatcly it rest upon the scientific facts interpetations.
        From creationist perspective it's easy to give an answer to this so called problem with this huge distances between earth and other stars. Look an explication: at the beginning God have created as it is said in the Bible all celestial corps , and it's posible that the light to reach then suddently on the earth withuot traveling all the distance , it's what I call the God-hand ,and from then the light is traveling ( then was the beginning and then when the things was created was set and the natural laws including what say us relativity) ..........this could be an explication .
        I accept the carbon dating , what I don't accept is the interpetation of this scientific facts
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          Mar 9 2011: I'm trying to illustrate a point with the invisible unicorns. If the unprovability of a concept is the ultimate proof of something, the existence of invisible unicorns is ultimately proven by its unprovability using your argument.

          Genesis 1:16-17 the light of the Sun (which in both case is what illuminates Earth) is treated as two different lights. The Moon is treated as its own light which it isn't.

          Isaiah 40:22, in what way is the surface of the Earth circular? There is nothing circular about the surface of the Earth. The Earth is a spheroid. That much is true. But given that the surface of the Earth wraps around in all directions, there really is nothing circular.

          In the case of Adam and Eve, the fact that Adam and Eve had a lot of children or that incest was somehow alright back then (so you accept moral relativism?) doesn't change the fact that genetically, they probably could not make it past 2-3 generations because of genetic similarity and lethal pairs of genes (if we have two copies). Everyone has copies of recessive genes which are lethal. If you aquire a pair of these genes you die. Obviously, if you reproduce with someone who shares the same parents, you will have a very high chance of aquiring lethal pairs and this will increase with following generations. All of Adam and Eve's grandchildren would be either extremely sickly or dead.

          Evolution is not a worldview. Opinions don't count with science, only evidence. The theory of evolution follows the rigorous scientific methodology and to go against it is to deny so many known facts in biology.

          Your explanation of how light trumped the speed of light at some time before the laws of nature were instaured contradicts so many known facts about the Universe such as the fact that many of the stars that we see in our sky that are millions of years old are 2nd generation stars, that is, stars that were formed from the explosion of the first stars. They were bound by the speed of light and yet we see them.
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          Mar 9 2011: Besides, if that were even the case, the light from all these distant stars would immediately dissapear the moment the speed of light was put into action. Your scenario, apart from being high fantasy solves absolutely no problems. I bet you don't accept the Big Bang theory either for convenience.

          Carbon dating has been cross-correlated with other methods of dating closed-systems, you cannot just pretend that somehow nature gets its quantities wrong just to fit your idea of a young Earth.

          Your understanding of science is extremely poor, but I suspected that already, especially when you said the world is as quantum as can be (which doesn't mean anything in the English language). You cannot go from a fixed conclusion and search out some convenient premise, you start with premises that lead to a conclusion.
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        Mar 9 2011: "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
        and its people are like grasshoppers.
        He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
        and spreads them out like a tent to live in." I think it's enough clear that here it isn't said anything about the earth having a circular form. ....(and the same for the case with the moon)
        "Your understanding of science is extremely poor, but I suspected that already, especially when you said the world is as quantum as can be (which doesn't mean anything in the English language)".....I said the creation is the most quantum that could ever be and who knows something about quantum mechanics will understand what I wanted to say. "You cannot go from a fixed conclusion and search out some convenient premise, you start with premises that lead to a conclusion." .............(lol) ..........according to the God very essence the science begin from Him , He's the source of the science.( it was in my mind all the time and all my arguments rest upon it )...........I won't say anything more because I think that at least this statement provide enough light for understanding what I said.
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      Mar 5 2011: Eduard - Your god sounds like a pantheistic god. Is god simply everything?
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        Mar 6 2011: no Tim , I don't know why do you have the impresion of a pantheistic god because I didn't meant that.
        All what I said is that science can't tell us if God exist or not , because its object of research is the creation of God not God Himself (the pantheists say us exact what's opposite)
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          Mar 6 2011: If god is not everything, is he finite?
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          Mar 6 2011: Eduard: I'm trying to understand your conception of GOD.

          Tell me if this agrees with your understanding:

          GOD is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. GOD is everywhere and came before all things. GOD is incomprehensible in his entirety by humans since the mind of a human is finite and GOD is infinite. However GOD is manifest in all we see and think. He is the creator of all things.
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        Mar 6 2011: "However GOD is manifest in all we see and think." that's the pantheistic part and it's false (God in his essence is good , all we see and think isn't all the time good=a childish argument but it reflect what I wanna say).
        "GOD is everywhere" he's omnipresent......He's like a spirit............yeah that is what I wanted to say but not that was the central point there.
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          Mar 6 2011: How about this:

          GOD is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. GOD is everywhere and came before all things. GOD is incomprehensible in his entirety by humans since the mind of a human is finite and GOD is infinite. He is the creator of all things.
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          Mar 6 2011: Correct Tim; you got it.

          He also came to earth & introduced himself to us, died to pay for our sins, & resurrected to prove his power over death. He is a real historical character. The only candidate as far as I know. It is true that we cannot be certain he was here scientifically, but that would make Julius Caesar a bit iffy as well. At least we can check the evidence & decide for ourselves.

          :-)
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          Mar 6 2011: The word G-O-D is a word consisting of three letters G, O, D. Words in a way are metaphors. They don't have meaning in themselves but serve as placeholders for something beyond themselves. Try my last post with "GOD" replaced with "the universe" and "he" replaced with "it" (plus my final addition).

          The universe is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. The universe is everywhere and came before all things. The universe is incomprehensible in its entirety by humans since the mind of a human is finite and the universe is infinite. It is the creator of all things through the process of evolution (eternal change).

          Now I agree that a personification of the universe is a bit easier to think of. But in any case GOD is not a person. And people seem to be drifting away from the conviction that GOD is a "he".

          I totally agree with you that it "isn't the science business to say something about the existence of God".

          When the word GOD is defined properly (and we must have some definition if we are going to discuss the concept), then "his" existence is a tautology. If GOD is what you define him as then if anything exists then GOD exists. The debate over GOD's existence is immaterial.

          What we do need to debate though, is how literally we should be interpreting the bible. Especially since those who claim to know the true meaning seem to exploit that conviction to control others.
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          Mar 6 2011: Is God so omnipotent he can change his omniscient mind?
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          Mar 7 2011: Hi Tim
          "The universe is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. The universe is everywhere and came before all things.:
          The universe cannot be omniscient as it has no brain.
          The universe cannot be omnipotent as it's power is finite.
          The universe is only omnipresent within itself. Even I can claim that.
          Current science assumes the universe is finite, not infinite.
          If the universe arose by itself, then it would be an effect without a cause; not scientific.
          "GOD is not a person" If we are talking about the Christian God; yes He is.
          This way of looking at things does get a mention as the attitude towards the end of the world.--

          Romans 1v5 "Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself,"

          I would question that bible believers are more prone to control than the rest of humanity. I don't think Gadaffi, or Mugabe are big bible fans. Surely if the bible is taken literally then the 'true meaning" is plain to all. Isn't exploitation more likely when a Guru is necessary to explain it to you. Aka the Roman Catholic church holding services in latin, & the priests becoming the Gurus ?
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          Mar 7 2011: Man Peter. Just when I think I've got you cornered, you come back for more. Don't agree with your reasoning, but sure do admire your fortitude.

          My use of the word "universe" was unfortunate. What if we use the word "totality" to mean all things, all ideas, all thoughts, all universes and all creators. That would include all knowledge, all power and be everywhere. How does that differ from your conception of god?
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          Mar 7 2011: Hi Tim

          That's a very slack set of attributes from someone coming from the 'scientific' camp. We are in territory which is totally unknowable. (Is that a word ?)

          God is a spirit, now also incarnate in a man. He is all the 'omnis'. That's as much as He choses to reveal, & it is more than we can understand. As I have said before, "does your goldfish understand your occupation?"

          Sometimes we're just out our depth. He loves you & wants to care for you; that's as much as I know. Not enough ? That's your choice.

          :-)
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          Mar 7 2011: No debating that :-(
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          Mar 8 2011: @Matthieu "Is God so omnipotent he can change his omniscient mind?"

          Think of your thought as the current state of your brain. Think of God's thought as "the current state of everything".

          Can you change your mind? Or does it change on it's own? Does that make you impotent?
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        Mar 7 2011: Hey Tim read in every dictionary , look in philosophy, seek wherever you want .........GOD IS A PERSON.(or at least a supernatural power).
        "I totally agree with you that it "isn't the science business to say something about the existence of God"." I'm very glad that you accept it.................and now : What base do you rely on when you say that God doesn't exist?
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          Mar 7 2011: From my understanding (see above), if god is defined properly arguing existence is a tautology. By definition god exists.
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          Mar 8 2011: Hi Tim

          So you agree that God exists, but not as a person ? You see the universe as God ? Also God (being the universe) has no brain ? You're really just calling matter God; I guess that's materialism, which is fair enough.

          Consider Mt.Rushmore. We have all the natural resources to carve the presidents heads. We have wind, rain, blown sand, & as much time as you like. Would a materialistic hypothesis stand ? Not likely, it is obvious that there was an intellect behind the formation.
          However consider the four presidents themselves; billions of times more complex; & we have a full blown materialistic scientific theory for their manufacture. I find that a bit bizarre, don't you ?

          :-)
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          Mar 8 2011: Peter: I'm sure you know this one.

          If man is so complex he must have a creator, then wouldn't the creator be even more complex and need a creator?

          Where does that logic get us?

          Glad to see you hadn't given up on me Pete. Had me worried there.
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          Mar 8 2011: Hi Tim

          Give up on you ? You seem interested & respectful, you deserve respectful replies.

          I suppose the same logic is used by Dawkins with Panspermia. Is it called "Infinite regress"?.

          As close as I can understand the logic is this. If God is material then he is created & by default would require a creator. As God (my one) is spirit, He is non material. As he has existed eternally & non-material He is the only candidate for the ultimate creator. Because he has always existed He requires no creator. This is the logic I use to understand the One eternal spirit God of the bible. I am a flawed human, so I'm probably wrong. I'm not going to mention goldfish.

          :-)

          & Birdia

          Certainly didn't mean to give you the creeps. It is a difficult subject to explain, as it does go beyond our understanding. So does building a universe, it is all a bit supernatural. Sorry about that, not meant to be scary.

          :-)
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          Mar 9 2011: Hi Birdia

          The God of the bible has three facets. Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. We too have three facets, Body, Mind, & Spirit. It is our Spirit that is made in God's image. It will survive the death of our body, whether we believe or not.
          If & when we ask God to come into our lives, His Holy Spirit joins with ours & guides us. This is the best I can explain it in simple terms.
          Holy Spirit & Holy Ghost are just different names for the same thing. The movies take advantage of our sub-conscious knowledge of the fourth (spirit) dimension to scare & entertain us. I don't want to get into whether scary ghosts exist or not. It is an interesting study, but unlikely to raise any enthusiasm among those who don't even acknowledge a spiritual dimension to life. The Holy Ghost however has nothing in common with scary ghosts (if they exist at all).

          Tim was making the point about any god needing a more powerful god to create him, who in turn would need a more powerful creator etc.....ad infinitum. This is the infinite regression argument , & of course cannot be true, as eventually we need a creator who was not created.
          Dawkins postulates panspermia as a possibility for life's beginnings. However this does suffer from the infinite regression problem. The God of the bible is, as we said, a spirit; ie He has no material being, no atoms. As such He is not affected at all by the passing of time. I believe this agrees with the latest science. So we have a non-created (How can one create something with no atoms ?) being who lives in a timeless eternity. If that being had the power to create our universe, then the bible would make a lot of sense.

          I know it's a stretch, but we are hear, we are magnificent, & we've got this book that spells it all out. The only problem we have is we don't realise just how dumb we are. We seem to think that it's all very simple & we've got it all almost worked out. Bad mistake !

          I find you just as respectful as Tim.

          :-)
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          Mar 9 2011: Peter: Just to correct one misconception. I don't think we will ever get it all "worked out". Think of science this way. The universe (the totality if you will) is an infinite plane. Our knowledge is a circle on that plane. As our knowledge grows, the the edge of that circle keeps getting bigger making us more and more aware of how little we know. But that's a wonderful (full of wonder) thing.
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          Mar 10 2011: Hi Tim
          I like that way of putting it. As the song said "The more I find out, the less I know".

          Hi Birdia

          How wonderful it would be if I could give you concrete evidence. No-one can say how the world came to be with any certainty. The present scientific "Best Shot" is the Big Bang. Think about it. Nothing exploded & produced masses of Hydrogen/Helium that shot off in all directions. Boyles Gas Law states something like 'Gas expands to fill space'. However in direct contradiction of this law we are told that the gas 'clumped together' under gravity to form stars. There is nothing 'scientific' about that.

          The DNA in our bodies contains what amounts to a computer program which instructs the cells how to make a person. This program is mind-boggingly complex. With all our knowledge we can only scratch the surface of it. The obvious explanation is that some intelligence greater than ours put it together. The scientific community is telling us otherwise, but of course cannot demonstrate this in the lab. There is nothing 'scientific' about that.

          The whole big bang - evolution scenario is a possibility; the god scenario is another possibility. If you go the god route, then there is a choice of gods. If you go the evolution route there are also different choices. I believe that the bible is the key, because it makes sense in the light of history. I am convinced that I am right. Each one of us must decide on the evidence. Not on the opinion of others; no matter how qualified.

          :-)
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          Mar 10 2011: Hi Birdia.

          I am not a scientist either; I am a mechanical engineer. I have a great hunger to understand how things work. I have a Harley Davidson motorcycle, & know how that works. It was made in a factory covering many acres by many thousands of skilled workers. there was no other way to make it.
          Imagine, if you will, a HD motorcycle with a factory "inside" the motorcycle; which must still be the same size to operate effectively. Now that HD is capable of producing the whole HD range of engines, colors etc. As it is being ridden it collects raw materials from the environment & produces regularly new motorcycles.
          With such complication there are bound to be mistakes, so we need fault diagnosis & repair to be built in as well. We now have a product that is far outwith human abilities. Now a HD is a simple machine, could we imagine a self-replicating Space Shuttle ?
          You see where this is going. This is called a Von Neumann Machine. This is what you & I are.

          I am not afraid of God, or no-God. I am in awe of the engineering I see around me. I know for a fact that such things can never be the result of 'natural forces'; intelligence is required. To me it's just common sense. I have looked for persuading evidence from the evolution lobby, but it's just not there. Everything is an interpretation of the evidence, which could equally well be interpreted in another way. I will continue to look; what convinces you that there is no God ?

          :-)
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          Mar 11 2011: Hi Birdia

          At least we agree on motorbikes :}. I can only speak for the bible, I do agree that there are "Holy" writings which are causing havoc in the world. However it is the people who cause the real havoc; a book is only paper & ink. There is nothing in the bible that would cause me to harm anyone. I am told to love everyone; including those who hate me. That I endeavour to do.
          What I understand is this. There are forces for good & forces which are for evil. I can feel these forces within me. Many times it is more convenient to tell a "white" lie to get over a problem. Often I am tempted to break the speed limit when no-one is looking. I often watch movies which are "iffy". We all indulge ourselves, knowing full well that there are children starving in Africa. We all have a constant battle to try and do the "right" thing.
          Recently our UK politicians have been caught enlarging their expenses. I can sit in judgement on them, but what would I have done if I had their temptations ? So to me it is no surprise that some people give in to the pressure on them and commit atrocities. It all depends on what influences are on each person.
          Jesus said that we would know people "by their fruit". People on the right path would have good fruit, & people on the wrong path would have bad fruit. So if we have people who are following a "Holy" book, we are at liberty to judge the book by the fruit of it's people. Having said that, we are all capable of good or evil, but in general it works.
          If God is good, then the good guys have the truth. If God is evil, then the evil guys have the truth. Jesus died & rose again to point us in the right direction.

          :-)
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          Mar 12 2011: Thank you Birdia, may catch you later.

          :-)
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        Mar 8 2011: Tim when you say that the word"god" is a tautology you rely your afirmation on the idea that 'god' is the creation itself(if I understood corect); that's a very matted problem (and Hegel has said that) but look a reason that prove that this idea is wrong: in univers there is a clear difference between good and bad(I could argue very favorable for that),more than that some things from the univers are good and others are bad (good and bad are two very very opposite conceptions, states of being....) but God is just one (that noun is at singular) , He's a whole, ..how could be God and good and bad in the same time? how could be what's good and bad piled in the same "thing"? they are two opposite "things"....... it's imposible.
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      Mar 6 2011: Sounds more like he's making God vague to evade argument. Which would be fine by me if that was how all religious people spoke of God all the time.
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        Mar 6 2011: if I evaded an argument please tell me to not evade it second time.
    • Mar 6 2011: Eduard,

      Your argument necessarily is and thus relies in philosophy. Does that mean that philosophy has permission to argue for a god, but not against?

      Then if you are talking about a specific god, such as the Christian god (which you suggest in a semi-unclear way at the beginning of your argument), how do you know that you are talking about the Christian god? What does distinguish this god from any other god? The point is, an undefined god is beyond anybody to test and/or prove/disprove. At the same time, such a god is in the very same category as anything imaginary as long as it is defined in a way that it is beyond our reach. Thus, such a god can easily be dismissed as mere and useless imagination. If you actually define a way to distinguish this god, then you might have to retract your claims of unreachability. For instance, Pete thinks that his version of the Christian god is the author of an infallible book(s), claims that the book convinced him because of its accuracy, yet, when tested, the accuracy most of the time is either read into the text, or the independent data and evidence are dismissed in favour of the text. That makes Pete's god too obviously false regardless of how strongly Pete holds to this belief. (Sorry Pete, and hello after all this while!).

      So, which version of a Christian God do you believe, and how do you know this from any other gods? How do you distinguish this god from anything imaginary?
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        Mar 7 2011: Hi Gabo

        Long time no see. Did you not get saved yet ? I like your style; you apologise for telling me I'm wrong. I appreciate that, some folks give me a hard time you know.

        I think you will find Eduard has the same god as me, but doesn't take the 6-days or the worldwide flood literally. That right Eduard ?

        I have never come across any other god bothering Dawkins & Co. It's always Jehovah/Jesus of the Old & New Testaments. I wonder if there's a reason for that. Even Allah doesn't attract the same venom.

        :-)
        • Mar 10 2011: Hey Pete,

          Well, it might be that there is nothing to be saved from. ;)

          Also, well, I saw a few videos where Dawkins was attacking some muslim stuff going on in England. Take it this way Pete, if Christianity if what an atheist sees everyday, which religion would this atheist attack mostly? Since there are lots of muslims moving into England, their turn comes in proportion, I guess. Also, you seem to dismiss the many references to sex-mutilation, most of which happen under religions other than Christianity. Maybe your perception is mainly a combination of two things: (1) of course, Dawkins would choose first to attack the religion he knows best; (2) you notice the references closer to Christianity better than those to other religions because that offends you, or concerns you, more personally.

          Best as always!
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          Mar 10 2011: Gabo........if you will read again what I said you'll see that I said that we can't know God by scientific methods , ok? but we know God (we who belive in Him) and to can know Him it's possible just beliving (the procces is reverse after beliving it's possible to know Him.) .......and the procces is so, just becasue He is incoprehensible scientifically.........and it constitute a reason of His singularity and divinity.
          "but did not say many of the things attributed to him"....you can't be serious (if you know what are you talking about) He said a lot of things about Him , all his life He've done it.
          "there's many more options"........if you'll study Him and his life you'll find out that there aren't at all many more options.
          "I can dismiss yours because it contradicts itself in its book(s)" He never done it (and of course you can't share me no example).
          "...............science to criticize their gods, but their gods are "perfect thinking" and "beyond" you to understand. This is proven "by revelation" in their god's books" man, I ever talked just about a God (read again and try to connect the dots better than you've done) because there is no other god there is just One(maybe I've mentioned the word "god or gods" but just like in in the last part of this last sentence and with the same mean).What do you think that I accept the truth of the Bible and in the same time I'm talking about the existence of other gods?(or you don't know anything basically from the Bible).
          "But I bet you think that the popolvuh is subject to philosophical and scientific scrutiny." of course ,you are right , and if you will try to connect the dots better in what I said you'll find out why I'm saying that you are right .
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        Mar 7 2011: "your argument necessarily is and thus relies in philosophy. Does that mean that philosophy has permission to argue for a god, but not against?" ....I like it man : and the answer is yes because :
        1. they are talking against God , I'm talking about a method .
        2. God is the perfect thinking (you could imagine Him like a thinking power) ,He's Himself the perfect philosophy(He couldn't be otherwise, all what is otherwise is a lie I could argue about it) and thus to philosophize against Him it's very absurd , it would be like to cut the branch from beneath your feet.
        I'll begin with that:
        "At the same time, such a god is in the very same category as anything imaginary as long as it is defined in a way that it is beyond our reach. Thus, such a god can easily be dismissed as mere and useless imagination": the answer is:He can't because it is exatcly the opposite way in reaching to know Him that is to say from Him to you(He's revealed).
        I already said two answers at these questions:"how do you know that you are talking about the Christian god? What does distinguish this god from any other god?" an namely:
        0.the revelation.(through Bible)
        1.I know because as He is described in the Bible can't be imagined by noone......it's something that you(and anyone)never could imagine .
        2. He say about Him what no another god, man , philosopher ...anyone could ever say.(how he describe Himself it's something the noone could invent).
        3. Others gods in what they say contradict themselves, in fact all other gods do that(you just have to study their books) .
        4. He said about Him that He's the perfect thinking.
        5. Jesus Christ have said what noone could ever say.(there's just two choices: or He's the craziest man that has ever existed (and will) or He's what he said that is ).
        Anothres gods are lies and because they are anothers...........
        • Mar 10 2011: Eduard,

          You kinda missed the point. If your god is beyond imagination, philosophy, and science, then you would not be able to claim that it is the Christian god. You could only claim that there is this incomprehensible thing out there. Once you claim that your god is the Christian one you attach it to something, and it becomes subject to every scrutiny we can think about as per your own method against other gods.

          The very same way you dismiss other gods because they "contradict themselves in their books," I can dismiss yours because it contradicts itself in its book(s). Thus, anybody can claim that what happens is that you are using philosophy and science to criticize their gods, but their gods are "perfect thinking" and "beyond" you to understand. This is proven "by revelation" in their god's books. Man, the popolvuh has almost no contradictions compared to the bible. But I bet you think that the popolvuh is subject to philosophical and scientific scrutiny. All you did is produce useless assertions that vanished once you attached your god to its supposed revelation.

          In 5 you say: "there's just two choices: or He's the craziest man that has ever existed (and will) or He's what he said that is." Or a person on which these fables are based existed, but did not say many of the things attributed to him, or was well-intentioned, but failed at conveying the ideas properly, or someone else wanted him to be presented and sold as the son of "God," or was a very successful quack as many "religious leaders" of our time, or there was no Jesus whatsoever ... there's many more options ...

          Sorry, but you wrote utter nonsense. I don't think this can go anywhere from here, other than, as just happened, showing the inconsistency and inherent contradictions in your main claim.
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        Mar 10 2011: Hey Gabo

        I saw that program where Dawkins had a go at the muslim guy re the penalty for leaving the 'faith' (ie death). I give him full marks for that, & was right behind him. Political correctness has an iron grip at present, & freedom of speech is a thing of the past. Dawkins showed a lot of courage.

        It could be that Christianity is what he knows best. He is obviously concerned; as we all are; about the atrocities committed in the name of Allah. So why are his sights on Christ ? Could it be that he thinks Allah & Jehovah are the same guy ? This is a common misconception among non-christians. It is a mistake to tar all beliefs with the same brush. The fact that there are lots of different religions out there may point to one being true, rather than there being a lot of religions for no particular reason.

        I take it you mean circumcision by "sex-mutilation". That is a Jewish command from god, & ensures sincerity if nothing else. It does no harm, some doctors even say it's a good thing. I wouldn't pierce my navel or tattoo "Harley Davidson" on my arm, but lots do & that's ok.

        Death is what you; & all of us; need saved from. It's 100% effective.

        :-)
        • Mar 13 2011: Hey Pete,

          Remember that there have been atrocities committed in the name of Christ too. I don't think that Dawkins thinks that Jehovah and Allah are the same guy, simply because he does not think any of them exists. But he might think, for very good reasons, that they are both versions of the same fantasy and that yours would be just another version. I don't see why would this be a misconception. If your god existed Pete, why would this god be a different one because the Jews, for instance, or the muslims, did not believe that Christ was this very god incarnate? How would that suddenly transform the first god into something else? How would your acceptance of Christ as a form of your god invalidate the past god? Suppose Christ is not your god incarnate. Would that mean that your basic god is not the same as the basic god of the Jews? People have different ideas of who I am, and some of those ideas might be about what they knew about me when I was in high school. They don't know that now I am a scientist. That might make my image in their minds wrong, but I am still the same person.

          In any event, I doubt that such a thing matters to Dawkins, he would be as critical of all of them if they derived from independent religious roots. He opposes religion as inherently irrational, not only because they can be dangerous.

          There are other examples of sex mutilation that are not as harmless as the tattoos you are talking about. But I was mentioning them as examples of critiques made by Dawkins to religions other than Christianity. I needed no explanation about them being harmless or not. Also, you decide if you want a tattoo, religious sex mutilation is not decided by the babies.

          Best my friend.
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    Mar 3 2011: See this is the big mistake everyone makes when they argue in favor of religious truth. When scientists say "there is something true that is beyond our observation" everyone jumps to the conclusion that scientists are talking about God. That's an error in logic. What scientists are implying is exactly what the sentence is stating, there is something out there which is true beyond our capacity to observe it. To claim this truth is God or anything else for that matter is to delve into fantasy land just like I can claim there are leprechauns because science hasn't uncovered them yet.

    So just to repeat one more time. "A truth beyond our ability to observe" does not equal "God".

    Until we observe this truth it can only be considered a black box or an unknown.
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        Mar 3 2011: Who Dawkins? To tell you honestly I never read Dawkins I feel like he can't say much on the subject that I don't know. I debated this topic for over a decade both with philosophy, theology and science students. I am even a little weary of debating it, I wanna move on to more interesting topics so I have no reason to read Dawkins.

        Are you talking about him. If so why does he bother you?
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        Mar 3 2011: Impressive, his digestive system must have evolved backwards. But I still see no reason to hate on Dawkins, it seems to me that a Godless universe is a lot more probable and I see no reason why he shouldn't have the right to share his intellectual opinion.
        • Mar 4 2011: That occurs, many "scientists" usually with fairly dodgy credentials try exactly this tack, they however are much less respected and so get less coverage. Atheism has everything to do with science, logic and rational thinking, I can't think of anyone more uniquely qualified to espouse atheism than an evolutionary biologist. Not only this but Dawkins isn't the first sceintist to say "enough", Carl Sagan was also anti-religion. As Dawkins himself says, "We are all athiests to some extent, some of us just go one God further."
        • Mar 5 2011: Okay Kathy lets look at it logically, sorry if you have heard this argument before but it bears repeating, I tell you that there is a fully grown space whale orbiting a planet 200 light years distant. Now you could believe me, you could disbelieve me, or you could withhold judgment until more evidence is available. Logically you should do one of the latter two, since I have provided no evidence and what evidence I could provide would be spurious. But now let's think rationally and scientifically, space whales have never been observed, there is no reason to assume they ever will be observed so now you are guided toward the middle response of disbelief. That is why I say atheism has everything to do with logic reason and the very fundamentals of scientific empiricism. I'd like to finish with a Carl Sagan thought experiment that I think explains the logical fallacy of belief better than I ever could:

          "Look at the pale blue dot of our planet. Take a good long look at it. Stare at the dot for any length of time and then try to convince yourself that God created the whole universe for one of the 10 million or so species of life that inhabit that speck of cosmic dust. Now take it a step further: Imagine that everything was made just for a single shade of that species, or gender, or ethnic or religious subdivision. If this doesn't strike you as unlikely pick another dot. Imagine it to be inhabited by a different form of intelligent life. They too cherish the idea of a God who has created everything for their benefit. How seriously do you take their claim?"
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          Mar 3 2011: I don't wanna be impolite but think at communism Birdia , it's an idealogy.............Karl Marx , Engles ............................................and are a lot of demagogues today and ever was
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          Mar 4 2011: Birdia,

          I agree, religion has been such a long tradition especially in Western civilization that it goes unchallenged. Most people accept the existence of God without even asking for a burden of proof. In science such a thing is unheard of so naturally a lot of tension exists even though some scientists accept religion, more out of conventional behavior and norms than anything else.

          In my opinion religion offers an easy means to provoke a war. It is alot easier to manipulate people when they are indoctrinated and oblivious to facts, it is alot easier to justify your own actions when you truly believe they are righteous. I find that with philosophy and science the field of study encourages people to look for problems, criticize and be skeptical. Thus such subjects do not encourage complacency
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        Mar 4 2011: Kathy, just to let you know in science positives are given priority over negatives. As far as scientists are concerned there is no god because positive evidence shows there is none. Negatives can never be proven true so science ignores them.

        But I understand how you might feel about Dawkins and if it weren't for Dawkins I'm sure there would be another atheist to debate creationists. I am glad that Dawkins has made himself a public figure and has dispelled particular myths creationists were trying to push forward not just as an ideology but also onto our schools as well.
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        Mar 4 2011: Practically every argument for put forward by creationists he's done a really good job of dispelling, I consider creationism very bad science.
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          Mar 4 2011: Hi Budimir

          I love debates on this, but Dawkins isn't up for debate, he considers it beneath him. He has dispelled few, if any, creationist ideas. I can understand his position. In a straight fight the creationist normally wins. Dig me out one where the evolutionist wins & I will watch it eagerly.

          :-)
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          Mar 4 2011: Peter, you're right:

          Why Richard Dawkins Doesn't Debate Creationists

          www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhmsDGanyes

          Quote: "If you were a professional geologist would you agree to have a debate with a flat-earther?"
        • Mar 4 2011: Here's one for you the myth of irreducible complexity has been refuted by many eminent scientists, including Dawkins, even the supposedly "invincible" flagella argument has been debunked. The fossil record clearly shows evolution, the genetic record clearly shows common ancestry, geological evidence clearly shows the Earth to be about 4.3 billion years old rather than the 6000 claimed by the Bible, transit of light clearly shows the universe to be about 14 billion years old, what else is left? Creationism is bunkum, you don't need it to be true to believe in God, not even to believe in the God of the bible. Just let it go as the nonsense that it is, the Theory of evolution by natural selection is as close to fact as any science can be, and attacking it on creationist grounds is the equivalent of bringing a table tennis paddle to a nuclear war.

          Edit: sorry for that last simile, on reflection it's a little violent, but the point stands none the less.
        • Mar 5 2011: Sorry Kathy I'll reply to both your comments here as I seem unable to reply to your comment below. Dawkins's claims about Yahweh are textually accurate and in fact the image of the Christian God would have been in full keeping with the views held in the middle ages. I refer you to Milton's portrayal of God in Paradise Lost. To call it a temper tantrum and to claim he does not understand seems a pretty arrogant stance considering in literary and historical terms his account is accurate. As for the bible not saying anything about the Earth's age or making other scientific claims I don't think you need me to tell you of the priest who calculated the age of the planet by tracing the generations back to Adam & Eve, it may not be a direct claim of the bible but the inference is there and this was considered gospel truth (excuse the pun). Although I like Dawkins, I don't consider his work without fault, (I am not religious about it), perhaps he does hammer hard on ignorance but I don't see why his perfectly reasonable arguments should be discounted as a result.
      • Mar 4 2011: Dawkins is often called militant, what is understood by this term? He debates forcefully with those who wish to debates him but no more so than his opponents. I have often seen him deal very kindly with those who are hopelessly entangled in doctrine. Militancy to me implies physical force, or at least physical threat, Dawkins has offered neither, he simply outlines perfectly reasonable and logical arguments against religion. If any individual holds their faith to be above all criticism one has to ask why. Do they fear it won't stand up? Do they fear the wrath of a vengeful God on Dawkins will somehow spill over onto them? Do they fear..?
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      Mar 3 2011: I very agree Budimir............."So just to repeat one more time. "A truth beyond our ability to observe" does not equal "God". " but still I'm beliving in God very. much.............
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        Mar 4 2011: Ok Eduard that is alright. I know lots of people that believe and if it is good for your well being and happiness I am all for it.
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        Mar 3 2011: yes.......you have succeeded.............. what you said make me think deeper at that face of world.....you didn't convinced me ( I don't think that someone could do that, maybe that's a problem)....................." urge anyone to examine their beliefs often and to keep their minds open, because this world is still a war-ridden place full of hatred even after so many thousands of years of violence. Each one of us is responsible because we owe our existence to this beautiful place we call Earth. And I BELIVE science and philosophy are our last chance to save nature and resolve human conflicts" I very agree with you because and I BELIVE............thank you.........
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    Feb 26 2011: Kathy K:

    In response to your question:

    "The way you say 'rational thought v dogma' infers that dogma does not require rational thought. Is this your contention?"


    Before that can be answered we need to agree on definitions. Are the following acceptable? (if not, please propose your own):

    From Wikipedia:

    "Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or by extension by some other group or organization. It is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted, or diverged from, by the practitioner or believers."


    And from an english dictionary:

    "rational - in accordance with the principles of logic or reason."
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      • Feb 26 2011: Do you not think it presumptuous to assume that all atheists lack the intelligence to understand religious texts? Do you think it a coincidence that a vast majority of Ph.Ds around the world have cast aside religion? What wisdom is there to be gained by stories of a woman being magically created from a rib?

        What you refer to as "failure to comprehend" is in fact, a logical, rational determination that such writings are fictitious. As any well educated person will agree, comparing mathematics to religion, is like comparing iron to clouds. And the abandonment of religion will not lead to the abandonment of philosophy, or morals, but will in fact lead to an age of enlightenment. Peace, on a global scale can never be achieved while religion prevails. A brief look at history proves that. Nearly every great conflict in human history was the result of a religious dispute.

        Those who cling to religion in this day and age, do so out of fear, whether they acknowledge that fear or not. But the shift away from religion is not something to be feared. It should be embraced. For only when religion is gone, can there be true equality in the world.
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          Feb 27 2011: to comprehend Bible you have need of Holy Spirit according to The Bible.........now it's simple , you have Holy Spirit you comprehend Bible , you haven't , you not comprehend Bible .........and how all that scientists talk against Bible it's logic that they not have Holy Spirit...........in other words are speaking rubbish ...that according to Bible
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          Feb 27 2011: intelligence is a relativ term in comprehending Bible
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        Feb 28 2011: Kathy:

        Do you apply this thinking to all scriptures which have been labeled "holy", such as the Vedas, the Koran, the teachings of Confucius, etc?
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          Mar 1 2011: Good point Birdia.

          So Kathy - what does "holy" mean to you. Is it indisputable fact? Does the Koran fall into that category as well?
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          Mar 2 2011: Kathy:

          The Koran has been difficult for me to read in the same way the bible was. I read three or four pages then lose interest. Am waiting for a good CD version to come out. That was the only way I made it through the bible (quite a good way in fact).

          The Gita was a much more interesting read. Was always interested in Indian thought, particularly since reading Hesse's Siddhartha as a teenager. An Indian friend at work gave me an old tattered version of the Gita that was published the year I was born. Was somewhat disappointed to discover the plot involved a deadly war between families and Krishna advised Arjuna to enter it whole-heartedly. But I suppose we can take that metaphorically, can't we? The core theme of the Gita is the concept of god as the totality of the universe (including us). That concept of god I can deal with. It's the more parochial gods I have a problem with.

          Concerning your question of faith. It seems that religions have unjustly hijacked the term. If a person acts consistently trustworthy, we have faith in that person. If there is some part of our lives that we have no control over, we can choose to have faith that things will work out, and they generally do. To apply faith to a religious text may be of benefit to an individual. And in that sense it may be truth. But ample evidence indicates that wide-spread application of that approach invariably leads to division between peoples, political manipulation, and justification for war.

          I'm curious about your concept of holy scripture. How do you define the line between holy texts and non-holy texts? Is any text that has been utilized by a group of people over hundreds of years as a foundation of their society automatically holy?
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    Feb 23 2011: Can anyone, religious or not, think of faith as being anything but a drug? Both drug dealers and drug addicts will hate those who try to 'cure' them. Try to take away the piles of money made by drug dealers!! Try to take away the comfy dreams the drug addicts keep themselves vapored in!! Takes courage to face the tough reality, doesn't it! Volunteering horrifying withdrawal symptoms? Not a chance!! Not if 3/4 of the earthlings would have to undergo treatment. So what if they endanger the entire humanity? From behind the piles of easy money or behind the thick vapor of delusion it's hard to see even a doomsday missile coming at you full speed. For them the end will be sudden and quick. No worry about the agony of watching it in the making or in flight.
    Beloved believers, it's not your many faiths that keep us awake at night, it's the SURE IMMINENT COLLISION between them!!!!
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      Feb 24 2011: Good points. Anyone got a good response to Ariana?

      How do we deal with the "imminent collision" that the multitude of current faiths seem to destine?
    • Feb 28 2011: "imminent collision"? You mean past, present and future collisions? What do we call ...Belfast, Balkans, Spanish Inquisition, ongoing Middle East, Shia-Sunni.......? Political conflicts? Land issues? Tribal rivalries?

      Glad to know there's "no hypothesis" for collisions. Isn't it nice to know we're all the same children of god, all going to the same heaven and I am the queen of england.
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    Mar 17 2011: It is a little mind that glorifies its self because it can - at will - manipulate the time and space of things smaller than itself. It is this same mind than cannot support the idea of something bigger willfully manipulating it.
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    Mar 4 2011: On ancient texts.

    In other threads we have touched on the topic of Holy or Sacred Texts. Hopefully we can delve into this topic a little more deeply.

    I've always been a fan of literature. In the last 40 years of my life there has never been a point when I wasn't in the midst of reading a book. All literature has something to teach us.

    Can we say that any text that has been around for long enough time and served as a foundation for a society's belief-system probably has something to teach us and should be elevated in some sense?

    Is it necessary to elevate it beyond this by saying it has some additional metaphysical property as if it had been sprinkled with magic pixie dust?
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      • Mar 5 2011: The phrase magic pixie dust to me seems perfectly apt, it is merely how Tim views the situation, As for holy text being somehow more "wise" I find this concept really interesting, for example the writing of Shakespeare is also open to myriad interpretations and presents a detailed and interesting study of the human condition and morality as do those of Philip K Dick. Why are these not considered "holy"?
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      Mar 5 2011: Hi Tim

      The bible is 66 books written over 1500yrs by 40 authors most of whom never met. It is full of history, prophecy, science, poetry, & explains who we are & where we're headed. It reads as a continuos narrative in spite of it's patchwork authorship. It can be checked factually, & torn to pieces if found wanting. Men have spent entire lifetimes studying it & still had much to learn. It has changed millions of lives for the better, & many claim to have met with our creator in it's pages.
      It deserves to be treated with respect; it is different.

      :-)
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        Mar 5 2011: Kathy/Peter/everyone:

        So perhaps the "holy" books are those that went through an extended process of change and selection. The best stories survived and the lesser ones were eliminated. The stories were many times retold and improved upon. The collection of stories were integrated into the society and became part of the society. Many of these stories may be the distillation of universal truth. They can create an aha moment giving insight and speaking to the heart.

        Why do we need any additional metaphysical explanation?
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    Feb 28 2011: I'd like to start a new thread with a quote from Joseph Campbell:

    "Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble." Joseph Campbell

    So - open question - can we accept the holy scriptures as mythical metaphors or is it necessary that we take them as facts?
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      Mar 1 2011: Hi Tim

      The trouble with "mythical metaphors" is which "translation" we accept. Surely everyone will see a different meaning. Let's say there's a couple of dozen "Holy Scriptures"; is it really beyond the wit of man to check them out literally & see if any make sense. If not then demote them. If we are still left with "mythical metaphors" then I for one am lost, as we will be left with millions of interpretations.

      :-)
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        Mar 2 2011: Peter: I thought we already had millions of interpretations.
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          Mar 2 2011: Tim

          Touche' . That's my point. We have to start with evidence.

          :-)
    • Mar 2 2011: Is "the curvature of space" a metaphor or a fact? Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. Does it have to stop being fact to be a metaphor, or vice versa?
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        Mar 2 2011: Fascinating point Charles. Could we even say words are metaphors? And numbers (I'm particulary intrigued by the number 3 as you can see from another post)?

        So perhaps the question should read "can we accept the holy scriptures as mythical metaphors or is it necessary that we take them literally?" The point being that if their meaning is open to debate then perhaps we can head off the un-holy alliance of politicians and clergy when they push their official story.
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          Mar 2 2011: Hi Tim

          Politicians & Clergy are certainly into the metaphors, although many of their flock stick with literal. That's what happens when people get ideas above their station. I'll join you in heading off the unholy alliance.
          If we take things literally (where they are obviously meant that way) then things are open to be investigated regarding their literal truth. metaphors on the other hand just go round & round.

          :-)
  • Feb 25 2011: daniel & Kathy:
    I notice your repeated reference to “consciousness”,“spirit” and “soul” and other incorporeal concepts. It appears that you believe in the independent presence of these non-physical things which have a common property in that they are intangible, impalpable and incapable of being investigated objectively (Similar to other religious entities). Why should a person give much weight to something that we have no indication? Among possible explantions for this unwarranted stance, both religiosity and psychologic tendency to cling to “something” immaterial that can defy death are apparent reasons .

    Science don’t ignore weird phenomena, on the contrary these represent the subject material for scientific research. When a mysterious phenomenon is well documented, science would attempt to find an explanation: In the past, ultrasonic effects constituted part of magician tricks until science made an explanation. When telepathy puzzles us, science attempts to explain it, e.g. quantum explanation. However many superphysical phenomena/concepts are not real (not reliably-not systematically documented) and the job of science is to recognize unexplained real phenomena from non-real claims. Till now there is no evidence that “consciousness” is real thing separate from the brain (the same applies for “spirit” and “soul”). Our current knowledge indicates that conscious activity is a result of nerve function influenced by stimuli.

    Our species has a wonderful capacity to imagine and conceptualise with the aid of complex brain and advanced language. Our wonderful brain allows us to undertake complex rational analysis, appreciate poetry and beauty but also makes it possible to deceive ourselves and others (illusions, hallucinations, non-real images…etc).
    • Feb 25 2011: to A Latif.
      Are you saying that consciousness is an illusion, hallucination or a non-real image?..Are you saying that the activity of consciousness... thinking.... is also an illusion? Can you tell me how science explains these things with quantum mechanics and the like? Whether or not consciousness has its origin in the physical brain or is free from the physical brain, the fact remains that consciousness, with its thinking nature, is without a doubt a purely non-physical activity. Call it superphysical if you like. But it astounds me that people that are generally wide awake, inquisitive and, to use an already coined word... bright.... can be so blind to the activity that lies within each of us and fills your head and mine with ideas(immaterial) and feelings(again immaterial) and then turn around and say..."well, science is working on it....we will get to the bottom of it soon..... quantum physics... brain neurons firing....etc. ....etc. ... etc." Science will never get to the bottom of it with purely materialistic explanations. There is and never will be a "selfish gene" that can stand there and ask itself "What am I doing here?" "What brought this all about?" No never! But the " I " in you can ask these questions. The I in all of us, at least to the degree the I is "awake within itself"... again you might say.... well, the " I "
      has not been recognized by science and therefore must be an illusion or some sort of hallucination or non-real image. There is no longer any meaning in your arguments... because there are so many non-physical aspects of the human being that must be taken for granted before you can even begin to discuss these things. Don't you see that? Thinking itself is a "spiritual" activity. If the word to you is strange,scares you away or creates a feeling of antipathy, then try to use a more "quantum" type of content in but never the less, the content is purely immaterial. Thinner than the thinest gas you can imagine.
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        • Feb 27 2011: Hi Kathy, started my own debate about "consciousness" stop in if you like. The discussion may take another direction than whats going on here. Only 2 visitors so far. But the topic is interesting. I don't think you and I are too far from each other in our way of seeing things but I must warn you, I have some pretty radical ideas that I've picked up along the way. Maybe some of the others here might like to stop in too... search on consciousness.. under ideas....
      • Feb 26 2011: daniel: Are you claiming to be some kind of oracle? How do you know what science will discover in the future? Claiming that thought is spiritual and will never ever be proven otherwise is exceedingly narrow-minded. By your explanation of thought, one would have to pray or meditate in order to think beyond "mmm hungry". Are chimps spiritual? Of course not. Yet they think, and are capable of problem solving that requires multi-dimensional thinking.
        Moreover, your lack of understanding when it comes to biology is not proof that science is wrong. All it proves, is that you don't understand it. Don't be so quick to call intelligent people "blind" when you are unwilling to even consider ideas outside of your own beliefs.
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      Feb 25 2011: A Latif: What do you think about the utility of metaphorical language from the point of view of simply dealing with day-to-day life?

      The issue of the spirit is an interesting one. The word "spirit" was derived from the word "breath". One can easily imagine observing a dying person breath their last breath and correlating that with a certain separation of the body from it's fuller former self.

      So from a pragmatic standpoint, doesn't it, at times, serve a purpose to speak of such things with analogies?
      • Feb 25 2011: No analogy intended
      • Feb 26 2011: Tim, if the case is limited to just “utility of metaphorical language from the point of view of simply dealing with day-to-day life” it wouldn’t be that serious matter, but adherents believe in the factual existence of these things and this prepares them not only to accept Shamanism, Trance Mediums and the like but probably also make them susceptible to adopt negative attitudes that hurdle human progress.

        Notice how one Sufi would states his “thoughts”, excerpt : “Now, a star emits its own light, but this visible star is only the physical body of the spiritual star”. This resembles the mystic notion that human body is the physical expression of the immaterial soul/spirit. It is an expression of human psychologic desire to outlive death and the Epic of Gilgamesh is the first written document that registers this impossible dream and all other fancied derivatives.

        The tendency to believe in the abstruce, necromantic and arcane shows how people enjoy flights of contemplation and envision other intangible, imaginary worlds and entities. This attraction by the esoteric and the mystical causes humans to recycle, uncritically, pre-modern era terms, concepts and imaginations, imaginations and non-real concepts that have roots in the mythical and magical worlds of ancient societies and early human beings who lived hundreds of thousands of years ago (as well as from more recent indigenous people like the Yanomamo and Australian Aborigines) , which have been also entrenched, in one way or another, by organised religions. Humanity has an efficient tool, scientific rationality, which help us to gain real perception of ourselves and of the world around us.
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          Feb 26 2011: Interesting points A Latif. How about wrapping up with a simple question to see how others respond?
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          Feb 26 2011: I'm doubting if the religion say that body is the physical expression of the immaterial soul.........as I know (and how's and my opinion) there are two different 'substances' material(body) and immaterial(soul) that are forming an human being, no more that that.
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        Feb 26 2011: Wikipedia:

        A phenomenon (from Greek φαινόμενoν), plural phenomena or phenomenons, is any observable occurrence.

        Dictionary:

        a fact, occurrence, or circumstance observed or observable
      • Feb 26 2011: It's simply because our "physical eyes" are not developed enough to "see". Just compare your own sense of smell to that of for example a blood hound. A blood hound can smell 50,000 times better than a person can. Compare your sight to that of an eagle. Compare your hearing to that of a whale. Our senses are limited. But there are people who are able to "see" into unseen realms. They are called clairvoyant. They can see what is called the aura. They can sometimes see glimpses of the past and even glimpses of the future. Maybe heal illness. Take this example. You meet a person that is colorblind ... you try to tell him of all the wonderful "colors" that are in the world. but he refuses to believe you... because he can only see shades of gray... This is how it is with the world of soul and spirit. Without training your inner perception you cannot see into these realms. You of course must be free to totally deny their existence..and rightly so, as we see by many comments here, many choose to do just that. But to one who has had direct experiences of such realities, you cannot come and say that they are simply hallucinations or deceptive brain function. If one briefly allows oneself to accept certain "thought-building blocks" to understand such non-physical phenomenon, a whole world of explanations will open up to a curious mind. But the wonderful thing about thinking is this... You can accept something as "truth" today.... but tomorrow is a new day.. with new facts that present themselves. The nature of thinking is free. You can simply set your thoughts on your "mental shelf" until you get more time to go back and take a closer look. In the mean time, we use the word "believe" I can cast aside tomorrow that which I thought was true today. You see, we are truly free beings. Dogma binds both the scientific mind as well as the religious mind. There is no difference. But of course some people, on both sides of the fence claim to have found the only truth.
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          Feb 27 2011: Daniel, I think there's a big difference between senses of smell and clairvoyance. Namely: testability.

          If you have someone who claims to have a good sense of smell you can blindfold them and hold items under their nose, asking them to identify each. This is a loose application of science and it's a good way to measure the validity of the person's claim.

          If you have someone who claims to be clairvoyant you can apply the same sort of test. The reason many people don't believe in clairvoyance isn't because they have their allegiance with science. It's because clairvoyance always fails under scrutiny, revealing itself to be false.

          Which is not so say that non-observable phenomena should all be chalked up to brain malfunction. But anything that cannot be measured should not be relied upon as if it were a usable fact.

          I doubt you'd pay real money for a computer that was built using mathematical rules devised by clairvoyant people. You'd be pretty certain the thing wouldn't work.
  • Feb 24 2011: I just read some comments and felt that an atheist from completely different part of world would shed some light to the matter. I was born hindu and now i am atheist. In such discussion what i have seen is that people of certain religion defend their religion but do not really defend other religion. If one believes religion is the way for GOD to speak to us, then one should also see uniformity across all religions. But it is never the case. For instance some religious group would say pork is forbidden but beef is ok. It may seem to us banal issue but it has cost people their lives. Religion is local culture. Culture should change with need of time.
    Last year i attended a talk from Dan C Dennett in Berlin and really liked his idea of "NURSECROP". Religions (Nursecrop) were indeed natural phenomenon and were also vital to development of human culture (Maincrop) . The maincrop (human culture) is now mature and ripe enough and nursecrop (Religions) can be outrooted.
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      Feb 25 2011: Sulav: Definitely welcome as many perspectives as possible into the conversation.

      The nursecrop vs maincrop concept is very interesting. Can you describe more what the maincrop entails. Does it incorporate some religious-like aspects for meeting human needs?
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    Feb 18 2011: "Religion" I read once "is a dead rock. All religion of the world, there are about 300, are dead rocks. They don't flow, they don't change, they don't move with the times. And anything that is dead is not going to help you, unless you want to make your own grave. Then perhaps the rock maybe helpful"

    Religion is not an organization, but a quality.

    So yes, the dogmatic, radical, extreme religious 'belief' - or however one may wish to put it - is not useful anymore. But religiousness, culture, a healthy 'middle path' way of life.. they will never outlive themselves.

    This way of life may become a widespread belief, but what matters is that the idea at the very core is kept safe. Generally, at the core of every belief or religious system lies humility and change.

    Religions have had a bad case of 'lost in translation' .. thats all!
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    Mar 7 2011: @ Kathy

    Did you expect me to be polite after you deemed me a subhuman because I am not "spiritually evolved?"

    You are bringing back the 18th century rationalist mentality except you switched the terms and definitions of what it is to be human. In the 18th century the human was defined as the rational animal and that led to justifying many atrocities, from colonalization to slavery, in your eyes the human is the spiritual animal. You are just switching the terms but you are ultimately establishing an elitist philosophy of human nature based on "spirituality." How can you tell me that's not a dangerous way to think?

    It's one thing to be spiritual it's another to think you are above others because you are spiritual. In my eyes you are still just an evolved monkey (and I don't mean that as an insult).
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    Mar 3 2011: The starting statement for this conversation was Dawkin's commentary on 9/11. But for me, a more significant factor for wanting to confront religion was the US action against Iraq. Being a democracy, I think all American's hold a degree of responsibility for that atrocity. And it's hard for me to believe that the religious factor did not weigh in our decision to attack. The fact that support for the war correlated with religious fundamentalism. The fact that the Iraqis were not of "our" religion. The fact that Bush felt god supported his decision.

    Do others feel as I do? If not can you at least understand my reasoning?
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        Mar 3 2011: Kathy: I have no control over your postings and would not censor this conversation in any case.

        I noticed there is a discussion on ted censorship here:

        http://www.ted.com/conversations/821/regarding_ted_conversations_mo.html

        Let me know if you find out anything.

        Am still digesting the holy text posting.
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        Mar 4 2011: Kathy: Don't see any place where we disagree. The ancient texts that have stood the test of time deserve special attention, but need to be interpreted metaphorically.

        On this subject I'll be starting a new thread. Look for one starting with "On ancient texts".
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        Mar 6 2011: Kathy:

        What part of my argument (start of thread) do you disagree with:
        . that Americans are responsible for the actions of their government?
        . that it was an atrocity?
        . that there is a correlation between religious fundamentalism and support for the war?
        . that there is a causal relationship between religious fundamentalism and support for the war?
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        Mar 7 2011: Well, it looks like this thread has become a bit of a monologue since no one else seems to want to address these issues. But I feel the need to record my views in our conversation. I'll assume that we agree that 1) all Americans hold a degree of responsibility for the actions of our government and 2) the US action in Iraq was an atrocity and move on to my third and forth points.

        To me the correlation between religious fundamentalism and support for the war is apparent in what I see around me. For example, in my town there protesters come out almost every weekend. Here are some pictures:

        www.flickr.com/photos/tcolgan001/2538401685/sizes/l/in/set-72157605358634821/
        www.flickr.com/photos/tcolgan001/2538402955/sizes/z/in/set-72157605358634821/

        The building in the background of the first picture is the Courthouse with the plaque of the Ten Commandments that I mentioned in a previous post. Talking to these people it's obvious how much religious fundamentalism plays a role in their thinking. But if my observations are in doubt, there are plenty of polls which quantify the correlation:

        www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1010-02.htm
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        Mar 7 2011: Moving on to the causal relationship.

        Is it any coincidence that this war was in the land of the Tigris/Euphrates? No. Recent revelations from the ex-President of France Jacques Chirac reveal that Bush "saw Gog and Magog" at work:

        Bush, Gog and Magog
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2009/aug/10/religion-george-bush


        Moreover, its been long known how Rumsfeld manipulated Bush using religion. The use of biblical references in White House briefings was the most blatant:

        Donald Rumsfeld's holy war: How President Bush's Iraq briefings came with quotes from the Bible
        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1184546/Donald-Rumsfelds-holy-war-How-President-Bushs-Iraq-briefings-came-quotes-Bible.html


        Cenk does the best job of summing it all up:

        http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=4cd_1243897142
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5tWP9ouk6Y
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          Mar 7 2011: Tim,
          This issue of believing in Bronze Age « prophrcies » is really a serious, annoying thing and it tells about one of the most bothering and horrifying aspects of religions. The Middle East conflict over the Palestinian issue is one of the most tragic events of our time, it is a continuous bleeding since the 40's of the last century, which is basically fed by belief in such old Biblical tales/"prophecies". Now your link revealed another tragic event (the Iraq war) that has been triggered by adopting another Biblical “prophecy” . How many people have been killed and suffered from these two prophecy-motivated aggressions? Hundreds of thousands if not millions; and how do religion morals warrant such acts?. What makes one stop and reflect deeply is the ability of blind faith to transform the mentality of contemporary people into savage mentality of desert nomads who lived thousands of years ago…
  • Mar 1 2011: Hi Budimir, so I understand how you feel, but I wanted to pass along this podcast that explores the roots of terrorism since you brought that up specifically. It's an interview with Scott Atran, who is an anthropologist and sociologist (and also an Athiest). He has spent years investigating this issue and interviewing terrorists. The gist of it is that many of the terrorists he interviewed did not have religious upbringings, but "converted" to radical, fundamentalist religious groups in their early twenties because they were disenfranchised politically and economically. Religion became a good cover for political and terrorist action. Anyway, it's facinating and gives some good insight into what motivates humans to act in such a ruthless fashion (and it's not simply religious creeds). If you are not interested in understanding, as you say, this might not be for you, but others might benefit from listening to it, so I'll post it:

    http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2011/demonstrations-hopes-dreams/
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      Mar 1 2011: Thank you for the link. The origin and cause of fundamentalist behaviour is not something I wouldn't bother understanding. I've suspected that ideology is not the source of violence, the source is usually economic. These conflicts will never be resolved through violence or incarceration. In the long term these conflicts will be solved through an global economy that doesn't force people to take desprate actions, that doesn't exploit them and reduce their dignity.

      You have a very good point (gave you a little TED credit). Why are facts important in all this though? There is nothing intrinsically moral or political to facts, but it is true that people make different decisions when they are presented with facts. In the case of terrorism one cannot present a rational argument for the idea that if you blow yourself up you are going to heaven. But when it comes to other political decisions say the war on Iraq, facts that later emerged about the war and why it was started infuriated people. Political and moral decisions are not made in a vacuum, the incentive to do something is always connected with something material and you highlighted that when you spoke of economically motivated political action.

      It is just that with religious creed one can use the veil of ideology more effectively. George W Bush for instance claimed that God spoke to him and the war on Iraq was justified, same ignorance different context.
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        Mar 1 2011: Hello Budimir,
        I must applaud the humility or someone as openly passionate as yourself. Way to grow friend.

        I have often thought it strange that European and North American cultures find it inappropriate of other nations to react with violence when treated in ways the aforementioned would never tolerate.

        I would suggest that enough is enough when we can no longer perceive how our overindulgence imposes unfair (or life threatening) constraints on others. Our system needs to evolve.

        Thanks Cynthia.
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      Mar 6 2011: Cynthia:

      Finally got around to listening to the podcast. Very insightful.

      I agree that religion is not the cause of violence, but does provide an excuse for those who want to manipulate. A point I think the speaker makes at times.

      The part in the conversation I liked most was the description of the influence of religion on early American communities. That cohesive, sharing aspect of religion, I think, is it's most important value. Can that be achieved without belief in divine scriptures and without becoming exclusive?
  • Feb 27 2011: I think that this whole question is irrational. Politics has caused many more wars and turmoil than religion. Politics assumes that ones party can dictate right and wrong. It assigns power to persuasive people. So why, if you find religion so threatening do you not see the same threat in politics? And how many so called religiously motivated actions are really political cloaked in religion. In my experience religious belief is a lot more rationale than non-religious belief. IN fact religion is responsible for more of the creativity that has lead to breakthroughs in art and science than non religious activity.

    The more rational question is why people are threatened by religion. One the non-religious are a very arrogant group, believing that their perceptions and their logic is far superior to the 98% of humanity that has believed in some form of Deity. Rather than raise a question about whether or not they have missed the the boat they attack the majority. Oh and btw the way there have been many wars and conflicts that were started and encouraged by atheists. Communism was atheistic in principal. Should we talk about the 50 million or so people that were killed in Communist conflicts. Oh, thats right religious people condemned those activities. How irrational of them.

    So it seems to me the real question is why are you attacking religion? What is so threatening to you that you have to attack religion? Is it guilt, or some unexpressed desire? Or is there really some truth to the argument?
    • Feb 27 2011: Yes, you're right. Political ideas can become dogmas, can do an awful lot of harm. Religion and politics have been interwoven for millennias. I guess it has a lot to do with lust for power and with jealousy.
      You are also right when you remember us how much art has been created thanks to religion (I don't know about science).
      I attack religion because I've been more than once deeply hurt and traumatized by persons who call themselves good believers or religious, and because they have done it with arguments connected with religion.
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      Feb 27 2011: I think that current north american and european cultures have morphed the term religion into something evil, pathologic or not to be trusted. I believe religion is simply a belief system or tool, comparable to politics with its rules etc.. for controlling the dangerous whims of an otherwise selfish species. The problem is that those at the top tend to corrupt its value.
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    Feb 27 2011: "Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet."
    --Napoleon Bonaparte, French emperor (1769-1821).

    Religion is a tool (weapon) that has been used against the masses for eons. There are far more USEFUL modern tools (weapons) to use on the masses nowadays.
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      Feb 27 2011: so-called religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.........
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      Feb 27 2011: especially for uneducated people ,for the crowd
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    Feb 26 2011: Tim, if by 'religion' you mean 'theism', then I'd say yes. But I believe that religion, in the general sense, is one of our most potent tools to solving the world's problems.

    Consider this definition of theology: "A lens that combines a person's or group's set of values into a single narrative."

    Dawkins attacks a straw man, singling out a specific type of narrative that causes destruction. Specifically, he points to religious traditions that conflate truth and myth and are unable to distinguish between story and fact.

    Here are some excellent examples of how religion, as crafted by humans, has enabled people to transcend their normal limitations and do good:
    - Evangelical Christians in Britain were the singular force pushing for the abolition of English slavery.
    - various Christian groups in America specifically crafted an abolitionist theology to oppose the pro-slavery theology of the American South. That battle was not rationalism vs religion but a struggle between two religious narratives with very different values on human life.
    - Immigrant groups, from all cultures, use the skills of creating religious narrative to retain personal and corporate relational ties when they find themselves isolated within a new foreign culture.
    - Food moralism in the modern progressive movement is a form of religion (though it hates to think of itself as such). It places moral values on eating various foods based on the sustainability and perceived cleanliness of those foods.

    So is it obsolete? No. It just requires that good and intelligent people commit themselves to keeping the narratives of their culture on track. If we abstain from religion entirely then the fools among us will hold a monopoly on moral language. It's our job to weave our values into a single story that can be understood by many and do good for all.
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      Feb 21 2011: Kathy:

      You bring an issue which has emerged in this conversation which I had been thinking about bringing up.

      Many posts below define religion as a personal belief-system. Something about which should be respected as an individual right.

      The concept of religion which I had hoped to discuss in this conversation is a dogmatic belief system. That is one based on a "holy" scripture or divinely inspired authority.

      So let me rephrase the question: "Has religion (scriptural or divine authority-based) outlived it's usefulness?"
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        Feb 21 2011: Hi Tim

        If the bible is true in the literal sense, then it can never outlive it's usefulness. If the creator of the universe is really trying (with some success) to communicate with us, then perhaps we should listen.

        Many of us have come to the conclusion; based on the available evidence; that this is indeed the case. This may be called 'dogmatic belief' if you wish. It has a good record of 'stickability' & is unlikely to be moved by any fleeting hypothesis. If it is indeed true then it is in no-one's interest that it should be.

        :-)
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          Feb 21 2011: Peter: It seems that your argument based on "stickability" would apply to any major religion. Are you saying that the most powerful one is the one to go with?
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        Feb 22 2011: Hi Tim

        No; in many cases Might is Wrong. However the fact that religion is so widespread & long-lasting should merit serious investigation rather than just derision or a shrug of the shoulders. Much of religion is hot air, but that is easily analysed & rejected. It may be important to some; as is poker, or baseball; but there is no earth moving consequence to the practice.
        I can only speak of my own experience as I undertook my search. When I got to the bible I found that it contained much that could be checked & verified, or otherwise. We can call on archeology, history, biology, plus common sense, & the world around us, to check it out. It also says that we must believe God exists before we can truly understand. I am totally persuaded & can see God at work in my own life on a day to day basis.

        To quote Mr. Dawkins on this different God..."Jealous & proud of it, petty, unjust, unforgiving, control freak, vindictive, bloodthirsty, ethnic cleanser, misogynistic, homophobic, racist infanticidal, philicidal, pestilential, egonomiacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully" (God Delusion)

        Do you form opinions like that concerning non-existant personages ?
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          Feb 23 2011: Peter: Agreed that Dawkins can be a bit blunt, but I don't think his description of the god of the bible is an exageration. A couple of years ago I purchased the bible on CD and spent a few months listening to it from beginning to end (unlike the selective readings I was exposed to as a youth in church). I was struck by some of the same aspects that Dawkins enumerates in your quote above. For example, on the issue of ethnic cleansing:

          "When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you may nations...then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy." Deuteronomy 7:1-2

          "...do not leave alive anything that breaths. Completely destroy them...as the Lord your God has commanded you..." Deuteronomy 20:16

          And I'm sure that any of the items you mentioned can be similarly substantiated with biblical quotes (pick one and I'll research it for you if you have any doubt).

          I assume from your question:

          "Do you form opinions like that concerning non-existant personages?"

          you were attempting to point to the apparent contradiction in describing something that one is arguing doesn't exist. But Dawkin's methods aren't the essential element of discussion.

          Getting back to your original point - "the fact that religion is so widespread & long-lasting should merit serious investigation rather than just derision". How does religion differ from slavery in that regard? Slavery was until a couple of hundred years ago a widespread and long-lasting institution (and in fact condoned by the bible). Yet human society has learned to adapt other types of social structures to replace it. Might the same also be true of religion? That is, aren't we capable of adapting it from a dogma based on an ancient text written for a tribal culture to something more appropriate to modern society?
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        Feb 24 2011: Hi Tim

        I guess I could side with you on disagreeing with God on many occasions, but that wouldn't change the fact that God would be right. If Joshua had obeyed & completely decimated the tribes at that time, the middle east may well be a totally different place than it is today. God can tally the body count into the future & assess the final outcome. Many of these peoples were totally depraved; murdering children etc., so their habits could infect those around them.
        Our lives are important to us, but at the end of the day are very short. If there is life after death, then our lives here are trivial in comparison to eternity; that again is God's call. Both the Egyptians & the Hebrews that crossed the Red Sea are now dead.
        Slavery was a practice that allowed folks who couldn't pay their bills to work it off. They were to be well treated & it was temporary. That is a different practice from evil men deeming Africans as sub-human & treating them worse than animals.

        While the Old Testament is an important part of our heritage, the fact is that Jesus came & died puts things in a new light. We are no longer bound by the many rules of the OT & our focus is on Him.

        I agree the bible is an ancient text; however it is like a workshop manual for the universe. It tells how it started, it tells how it will end, & it gives the highlights in between. The daily news paints a picture very much like the bible foresaw thousands of years ago. The bible will still be relevant at & beyond Armageddon.

        I understand that you don't see it that way, but many of us do, & I assume that you want all sides to answer your question. So I would say yes, 'religion' has outlived it's usefulness; if it ever had any. However I am talking about knowing our creator, which is a different matter entirely.

        :-)
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          Feb 24 2011: Peter: Thanks greatly for all your input, because yes I do want to hear all sides. In fact I find it rather boring to have discussions only with those who agree with me. Hope you'll come back and add to the other threads.
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          Feb 24 2011: Kathy: I've thought a lot about the "mind, body, spirit" trinity, but never heard of "spirit, soul, body". Where can I learn more about that?
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          Feb 25 2011: you are both wrong : there is niether "mind , body,spirit " nor "spirit, soul , body" , the soul includes and mind and spirit , look in an dictionary (and sometimes mind=spirit, look in philosophy)
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          Feb 25 2011: Eduard: Took your suggestion and did a bit of wikipedia reading. Two quotes:

          "Some languages use a word for "spirit" often closely related (if not synonymous) to "mind"."

          "The English word spirit (from Latin spiritus "breath") has many differing meanings and connotations, all of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body."

          So I think we're open to multiple interpretations on this one. I'm a bit biased by my Catholic upbringing which dwelt on the trinity concept of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. A while back I was struck by another trinitarian concept. While walking through a department store (must have been Target, the sign was red) I was struck by the advertisement headlined "Body, mind, spirit". The parallels are amazing. Perhaps the human mind works well with threes.

          Consider also Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam".

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Creation-of-adam.PNG

          Here we have God (in a cloud shaped like a human brain), reaching out to Adam (the corporeal lump on the ground), and you can just imagine the spark about to be transmitted between their fingers (the spirit?).

          Maybe the Hegelian dialectic is at play here. What is life? Thesis - the body. Antithesis - the mind. Synthesis - the spirit.

          And, although the ying/yang is generally concidered a duality principle, couldn't it also be considered a trinity principle? We have the ying, the yang and the ying/yang. The whole being greater then the sum of the parts.

          You seem to be a bit of a philosopher. What do you think?
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          Feb 25 2011: Kathy: Didn't see your comment until reading Eduard's above. In any case what do you think of the observation I've made?
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        Feb 25 2011: Dogmatic religion isn't any different any other static non-evolving or non-heuristic system. I'd be comfortable saying that humanity has outgrown the need for any dogmatic systems, be they religious, scientific or economic.
  • Feb 20 2011: Scientific rationality is the faculty to achieve freedom from the long persisting and chronic obsession with the supernatural. However, scientific rationality is still in its infantile stage at this phase of human development/evolution (sometimes a wishful thought, triggered by modern scientific leaps, would occur to us that humanity has outgrown its infantile stage of development. Though many individuals have already attained this status yet this is not a reality on societal scale). Hundreds of millennia of metaphysical thoughts and imaginations outweighs a mere two centuries of modern scientific knowledge. So, what has to be done to achieve the goal of sensible human world devoid of anthropopsychic imaginations and unwarranted/non-evidential thoughts? The way, in my opinion, is to take advantage of the wonderful power of scientific discovery and scientific logic to entrench and spread scientific rationality by all possible means.
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    Feb 18 2011: Thank you for the question Tim. Check out the idea I posted about memetic condoms to prevent extremism. I would appreciate your thoughts. I was in a religious cult in the 70s and have spent my life thinking about what really happened to me. Ultimately what I am concerned about, regarding religion at this time in the evolutionary process, is that it can and often does create circular logic. This circular logic disallows the brain to function properly/fully. It can create the potential for extremism because most religions claim the "truth" and cannot challenge anything within their particular flavor of dogma. That would be challenging "God". This creates the potential for extremism and unthinkable acts. It creates "us" and "them" thinking.
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      Feb 21 2011: Diane:

      Finally got around to watching your ted presentation

      www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ex_moonie_diane_benscoter_how_cults_think.html

      and found it totally fascinating. Moreover it seems like your experience of having been in a cult gives you a background which provides a lot to offer to this conversation.

      I'm very curious if you could speak to the question of what the cult was giving you that you needed and relate this to what religion ("divinely inspired") offers to people and how they might be persuaded to meet those needs without some dogma?
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    Feb 18 2011: Religion as a tool for self discovery... hmmm.... surrender critical thought and accept the perceptions of others as your own? I find myself through consensus and agreement, an affinity with the perceptions and conclusions of others? I find myself by losing myself in their midst? Philosophy, religion, "personal training": variations of the same theme: I can't do it on my own. The biology of acceptance and acquiring a sense of place in the "community" is a very strong pull. The need to simplify things so that critical thought can be closed is a way to deal with fear. "If you aren't busy being born, you are busy dying."
    • Feb 18 2011: So should one assume you are anti-social. That you've never read a book, watched a movie, left your nice comfy confines.

      I'll assume this is not the case. Just as with each person, your interactions have developed your attitude and lifestyle. Why should your course be more relevant that those who seek assistance from outside influences. While your final sentence is technically correct, not everyone arrives at that conclusion in the same way you did.
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        Feb 19 2011: What one might process in the existenstial equation may not be relevant at all. If one is, as you suggest, a mere condensation of data and we are flawed mechanical devices merely responding to stimuli with no real choice then absurdity overcomes purpose. It is not anti-social to ask everyone to consider the "red pill" and develop independent thought. It is possible to assimilate one's experiences criticaly. Am I to be defined by my consumption of my environment? I may be what I eat, but do I have to be what I read, hear, and see? If that is the case, pass the SOMA and save me a seat in front of the television because those who control the media I ingest are destined to control my critical thought. If you aren't making up your own mind, some one else is. Are there no individuals left? Are we all distillations of the cultural input we can't, don't dare, resist? Where do your ideas come from? Is inspiration an elctro-chemical event in our brain prompted by stimuli? Impericists win? You know who someone is and how they think by their education? Hitler studied to be an artist.
        • Feb 20 2011: Then we agree. I'm just not sure how your "real choices" are better than theirs. Further more, who decides what "real choices" are the correct ones? You? Them?
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    Feb 17 2011: Respectfully I say that to discuss any kind of direct action against religion - ever more by people outside its quarters - is plainly nonsense. Live it to those who are inside to bring balance and consistency upon their beliefs.

    The radicals - on any matter, issue or belief are a danger to themselves and others: if he is a believer, an agnostic, or an atheist. Of course any bad or wrong behaviour should be adressed by law and justice. But subjectively what can a disagreer do?

    Try to eliminate or to put any kind of limits or restrain on people's creed is just impossible. And using the argument that it is for the sake of humanity is just like throwing the baby away with the dirty water.

    Religion cannot be properly defined or characterized. Any kind of human movement in groups motivated by some kind of idealism or subjectivity can fall into the same trap. Anti religion is another kind of religion. Freedom above all is the best policy.

    Christianity has shown itself to be extremely bad on many occasions, and extremely good on others. The same applies to other religions. September 11 - how awfull and heartbreaking - is one example of the many attrocities played by man.

    Many give the argument that Western society would not be what it is otherwise if it wasn't for its Christian pressupositions and beliefs.

    Now, as we live in times where Institutions are on the brink - let the reactions, the reform movements, the self healing efforts and so on, be natural, spontaneous and nevertheless human.
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      Feb 18 2011: The issue which Dawkins so elegantly puts forth is the need to confront religious (i.e. - dogmatic) thinking. No, I don't believe that direct action in the form of laws or violence are the appropriate means of overcoming it. But concerted efforts by those who consider it fallacy to promote reason vs. tradition could have an effect.

      If more people in Bush's or Blair's inner circle had confronted them on their divine inspirations, perhaps it could have had a significant effect.
      • Feb 18 2011: You are taking your thoughts and the ideas of RD and formulating your own answers on how to grow as a society. Meanwhile, the religious masses are taking their thoughts, combining them with their chosen reference material and generating their conclusions. The fact seems to be that, with a "god" as your inspiration or not, we all see the world through our own eyes and have developed our own opinions. In terms of catering to our human needs, doesn't each man deserve the opportunity to satisfy this need the best way he sees fit? Even if that man is an elected official?

        BTW, I agree about Bush. But I was not presented with his situation and his responsibility.
        • Feb 19 2011: Everyman is indeed entitled to his own belief system. But the shape of society should not be determined by archaic principles that come from a "divine source". And when society is controlled by ideas that run counter to reason, and are esteemed to be above debate, thats when it becomes a problem. The ideas propagated by religion are so often shoved down the throat of those who don't know any better, and maybe it fulfills something for them, but there should be a way in which a light is spread on the fact that each idea is in and of itself, fallible.
        • Feb 25 2011: >>>Mr Internet
          First off, what archaic principles are shaping society? I just want some clarification of the specific principals your talking about and why they are bad. Also, which of these ideas run counter to reason?
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          Feb 25 2011: "Given that life only exists because of this divine source, this point is moot."

          Prove it.
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          Feb 27 2011: It's true, I thought that by 'theosophist' you meant 'theologist'. You proved me otherwise, I accept that. How you then conclude from this slip-up that I don't have the intellectual capacity to understand the old testament is beyond me (yes, I realise the irony of this sentence). But I think that says a lot about your particular way of reasoning. Personal attacks aside, doesn't evolution show that species aren't as immutable as you assert given time?

          I mean the laws are immutable, but I don't see them meaning what you conclude for them. Systems evolve within those laws of nature, laws that are synonymous with the way particles interact which each other and how space-time itself takes form. I think you're skipping a lot of steps between your conclusion and premise;
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          Feb 27 2011: Kathy: "the intellectual mind cannot conceive of spirit. I repeat, it cannot." are you saying that no one whom considers themselves to be spiritual can be intellectual?
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          Feb 27 2011: I apologize for making this short, it is late.
          For Miss. K,
          I hold a great contention for your argument about the energy scientists talk about and religion's concept of spirit. The concept of energy is fundamental to physical sciences and is astoundingly well understood. If you could provide evidence for, a definition of, and the connection therein to energy, for the for the concept you presented in the word 'spirit', I would appreciate it.
          Moreover, nitpicking on words and harassing Mathieu for not looking up the particulars of a definition or the etymology of a word is an ad-hominem attack and is a logical fallacy that does not negate his argument nor advance yours whatsoever.
          Also, claiming that one's mind is too intellectually dense for 'spirituality' holds no weight and is not an argument. Therefore, it does not diminish the statements of others or advances yours.
          Also, this idea of the 'immutable law of nature' is complete bunk.
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          Feb 28 2011: Kathy K., you seem to run a little too wildly with your conclusions about my character. It'd be nice to see you try weaken my position with actual arguments rather than attacks. I know what immutable means, I was making a specific comment about some of the things you said such as:

          "Plant an apple tree, rely on it producing apples, not figs.
          A cow will bring forth a calf, not cubs."

          Is in not true that given enough time, from one species other species can be borne out? The apparent immutability of organisms is only but an illusion of a short timescale.

          Sure there are laws of nature that don't ever change for our particular Universe, but from none of these can we seriously conclude your so-called 'elegant' conclusion. Things bringing forth their kind? On the contrary I see transformation everywhere. The elements that compose us were forged in the hearts of massive stars for example.
          Like Michael says, your immutable law of nature idea is complete bunk.
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        Feb 19 2011: With due respect to the brilliant Mr. Dawkins, I find his confrontation of religion to be out of alignment with some of his own work.

        Surely the human mind holds onto religion for a specific reason. A frontal, logical, attack on the belief systems does little good. Dawkins talks about helping the "middle of the road" people to know that living a life without religion is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. If that is his end goal, then maybe his approach is working.

        Minds that hold tightly to the religious meme do so for a reason. Subtlety is required. I call that work "meme tweaking" whereby new ideas are submitted in a way that does not trigger a defensive response by the core meme.

        It continues to surprise me that Dawkins uses such a brute force technique.
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          Feb 21 2011: Steve: You make an important point about the futility of direct confrontation against religious dogma. Yet isn't one of the most important aspects of "meme tweeking" in this respect the power of indoctrinating children in the belief-system?

          So just taking one issue for discussion - might it not be very important, from a societal deprogramming perspective, of a movement such as prohibiting prayer in publicly funded schools?
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          Feb 22 2011: If I were given the opportunity to suggest a name for the next TED conference, I would strongly recommend Os Guiness for his sharp and intelligent pointing of potential errors that American Society might bring about in following a radical secularism as well as the radical religious right. Every time we polarize the discussion or our intents, we do an awfull job on liberty, diversity and unity.

          His 2008 book The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It - challenges us to a higher and more noble position that is more than being tolerant: to be civil. And I agree with him. The public square is not to be naked (stripped of any religion) nor to be sacred (as some Muslim Societies are - and sad to say - some radical Christians would love).

          Although the question was not posted - but it comes about that when we want to square in on religion (or better saying to put religion on the table and try to strip it). This is just an impossible task for the quest to believe is innate in the human being, and that is what gives us power to decide and live. Each one of us has a personnal faith - Philosphy and Epistemology will give us more light on the matter.

          So as I tryed to make my point in my other comments - we fall into a trap not being able to separate Religion from other forms of 'ism's. The assumption that Religion follows a sacred text is limited. What counts is not what we explain for our deeds and behaviour (afterward) but what came before, and caused us to act (and live) and that is ... our personnal belief system.
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          Feb 22 2011: Reply to Volney:

          So maybe we can divide the discussion into two parts:

          Scriptural based religions: Do you believe it is wrong to confront scriptural based thinking and "evangelize" in favor of reason?

          Non-scriptural based religions: How do you define this? If the definition is "a personal belief system", then I guess the original question could never be answered in the negative, for how could personal belief systems ever cease to be useful?
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          Mar 6 2011: Volney: Your suggestion on Os Guinness motivated me to investigate and I found this video

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOXzgs7Tyys

          Os is definitely a master of the metaphor. Thanks for your suggestion. Although you and I differ on technicalities, I appreciate your sticking it out in our discussion.
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        Feb 21 2011: When we look upon someonelse's creed or worldvision and consider it a fallacy, we are creating a religion of our own, thus making an argumentative circle that entraps our own position. We cannot use 'reason' (the Rational framework that is) as a superior assumption in which we build our argument. Even if we have to go into Philosophy - this has to be clarified.

        RD does in fact create a new religion to fight a widespread creed under the umbrella which peolple believe in a Supreme Being. It is easy to fall into a cry mourning for having to live in the same world where people don't accept the same 'ism as we do.

        I understand perfectly well - even though being a Brazilian - that American Society is in a constant strugle with the religious influence perpetuaded by those with political power. But the Democratic Sistem has to find ways to minimize any kind of bad influence.

        I would say - since Mr. Bush is mentioned - that the great majority of the Latin American Christians (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox) did not endorse his decision for war, and felt that his motivations were more personnal than religious.
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          Feb 21 2011: It reminds me of the Atheist walking through Belfast. He was accosted by a gang of youths who demanded to know whether he was "Catholic" or "Protestant". No doubt the answer may have dire consequences, so he answered "I'm an Atheist." Thinking for a moment the young men retorted; "Yes, but is that a Catholic Atheist, or Protestant Atheist ?"
          We have the same thing in the central belt of Scotland, divided by football team. What has this to do with sincere faith in Jesus Christ ? Absolutely nothing, but many people just lump it together in their mind.
          I think freedom of speech is sacrosanct , should be protected at all costs & if young men want to follow 'religious' football teams then ; subject to the rule of law; that should be allowed. If we start banning religion, then it will only be a matter of time before they ban bingo, fishing, or whatever your particular thing happens to be. We must protect the freedom of others if we aspire to freedom for ourselves.
          The Americans seem to have a problem with their democracy. Doesn't the guy with the most votes get in ? If not then fix it, or maybe folks don't vote for Atheists. It's democracy right ?

          :-)
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          Feb 21 2011: Volney: All your comments are very thought provoking and bring up interesting points.

          One which is most striking to me is your associating belief in reason to a form of religion. I can see the parallel in terms of both being a belief system. But when I talk about religion, I'm referring to a belief system based on a holy scripture and/or a divinely based authority.

          I'm wondering - what is your opinion concerning the usefulness for this type of religion? Can you understand my interest in seeing this type of thinking diminish?
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        Feb 24 2011: I find it a little frustrating that the UX for this new conversation system does not easily allow ongoing reply threading....

        But to @Tim's points above, I am a fan of Stephen Prothero's push to teach comparative religion in public schools with a focus on the top ten religions by population. In addition, I believe our schools would do well to teach a modernized from of Aristotelian Ethics. Science and Public Eduction have let go of the subjective discussion of the a fulfilling human experience. I think this may be the unmet demand that religion fills.

        When we begin to have modern discussions of human thriving I believe much of revealed religion will begin to naturally fade away. I see no need to directly confront the irrational constructs of revealed theology from the Abrahamic traditions. Instead, something should be offered to humanity that is more relevant and useful. When that happens, the archaic belief forms to wither.

        Society is a memetic marketplace with major brands holding much market share. Any group wishing to displace stalwart brands will need to supply something that fulfills the existing demand. Personally I believe there is an enormous unmet demand for rational spirituality. Or maybe it should be called applied spirituality.
        • Feb 24 2011: Steve, I am sorry but I can't figure out just what in the hell you are talking about.....
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          Feb 25 2011: Steve: Your comment opened the floodgates on an aspect of this conversation which I have been having trouble with.

          In my comments in other threads, I've searched for benefits of religion, but had trouble coming up with anything more that "meeting a need for community".

          But your phrase - "fulfilling human experience" - open my mind to other ideas such as:
          . where one can go to teach
          . hear music and participate in it's making
          . be in a visually interesting environment
          . get involved in social movements
          . be part of a book club
          . do some meditation
          . etc, etc

          Which are perhaps all related to a need for community but somehow (for me at least) broadens the purpose of religion.

          Do you know of any good examples of religion-like communities developing which provide these benefits without resorting to a dogmatic and/or exclusionary mindset?
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        Feb 27 2011: Tim, I'm attempting to build one here: http://sbnr.org

        The concept is to service the group of people that are Spiritual But Not Religious through discussion of applied spiritual practices and the wonder of every day experiences. It will be a community based on intersection values not belief. It is non-dogmatic except in its dogmatism of being non-dogmatic. It's on a shoestring budget right now as we get it going and is only a glimmer of what it is intended to be.
  • Feb 17 2011: "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible" --Bertrand Russell
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    Mar 5 2011: @ Kathy

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh0F4FBLJRE Here he is dispelling a myth.

    @ Peter Law

    It's impossible for creationists to win in any serious debate. They have no scientific evidence of a creator, by default they fail to provide burden of proof. If creationists really had a case for creationism, you would see publications on it in peer reviewed journals. If the science community is not putting out too many journals on it then it means the scientific community doesn't consider it to be credible science. It's that simple.
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      Mar 5 2011: that's the evidence: we don't have too much "scientific" evidence about our Creator because He's the Creator.......we haven't how to find out too many things about Him just looking at his creation (all what we could find out is about He's creation not about Him) ok? it's like yo say that we'll find out a lot of things about an engineer just looking at the house that he had built............but we human beings ,we still have a proof : the morality.
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        Mar 5 2011: What is this hang up on creationism? Even if we accept the concept of god, might "he" not create through the process of evolution? The creation myth seems to be one of the most metaphorical of all the stories in the bible. Or is there some need to believe in the fantastical?
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          Mar 6 2011: Tim is absolute neccesarly that God to be the Creator because:
          Let's look at what we can understand better: at the most developed being :the genius. A genius is very intelligent , clever...........and so on.......but besides this what make him to be a genius is his capacity of create (E.g. Newton, Enstien, Kant , Plato,Socrate we look at their creation that have remaind us )...........more exatcly a genius can't be genius if he don't create, his capacity to create gives him the title of genius (look everywhere you want and you'll find it out or better read Schopenhouer.)
          So God who is perfect perfect genius can't be so without to create. He's in the nature of God to create.............a true God create, of that the Bible say us about creation.
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        Mar 5 2011: Eduard, you cannot possibly use all of nature to posit the existence of God if other equally (if not more) probable possibilities exist. A rock could be the product of an abstract artist's chiselling or it could just be a rock. That's not conclusive proof of a chiseller. If one can make a case for something else than God with the same statement, you can't really be making a case at all.

        As for morality, people need to stop pretending like this is an entirely religious construct that has not undergone decades of serious psychological and biological study. Chimpanzees display quite a complex sense of morality to which we as humans can only boast to have added words to really. Even better, the mirror neurons that play such a crucial part in our sense of empathy (and there's a TEDtalk about it actually) were first discovered in a Capucin monkey. Besides, not all morality is objective, a lot is relative and given that the Catholic church, among many religious institutions, has had to update its morality landscape countless times along with the rest of society (sometimes lagging behind), one can hardly say that religion is the prime deliverer of morality. When the least moral of believers can display more morality than the most moral of non-believers then a case could be made that morality can only flow from religion. Until then, it's another false proof.
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          Mar 6 2011: Matthieu I agree with your argument for normal things (rocks, even human beings...) but I disagree with it now because here we are talking about something supernatural (God..) and exatcly that there aren't too many proofs (scientifically) about His existence prove that God exist.(if have existed too many proofs God would ease to be god; I mean if we could discover God through scientifics methods).
          "As for morality, people need to stop pretending like this is an entirely religious construct " I never pretend that the morality is a religious construct because isn't.......it is God construct .........and regarding the monkeys, you should make a distinction: morality isn't just an instinct (as you described) it is something like the conscience and no animal have conscience or something like that(morality).The morality is very objective think just at its nature and look in moral philosophy for more details.........but I think that morality in my mind means something and in yours something else so we should described both what we mean by morality if we wanna make any sense..............(I've tried to do that on "How important is religion").
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        Mar 6 2011: Well see that is not true at all. Many Apes have consciousness and moreover have self-consciousness. This has been tried and tested many times. Their moral behavior may not be as sophisticated as ours, but that is simply because we have words to put to that morality. There are also many examples of chimpanzees showing culture the way Human beings do with behaviors that are only observed in one family of chimpanzees in one remote part of the world, eliminating the possibility of instinctual behavior.

        I would conversely argue that a fair part of our morality is instinctual, especially when it comes to empathy and mirror neurons which we share with many Apes and Monkey (we are related after all). When you see suffering and this suffering affects you, you didn't exactly chose at some previous point to feel bad, you just get that melancholic feeling, a deep rooted instinct that comes from our evolutionary heritage as social animals.

        I think that to posit that all animals are somehow 100% instinctual machines while Humans have this added depth of consciousness all to his own is ludicrous given that we come from the same evolutionary process.
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          Mar 6 2011: I'm really mystified about what you understand by morality and consciousness(if you want to say me would be very well).
          Look, that is fully accepted by everyone :"Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is a sense of behavioral conduct that differentiates intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good (or right) and bad (or wrong)"(that's from wikipedia)in other words the morality say to our reason what's good and what's bad , without the reason ,morality would have no sense. And now you say that morality is something instictual , but it isn't because the instincts are good or bad depending on situations, but morality say us what's good or what's bad so it can't be niether good nor bad , it's something above good and bad , it's like a judge.
          Suppose you see a man who's going to drown, one of your instinct in that moment will say you to help him(the herd instinct) , another will say you to run away because is dangerous there and you could also drown (the instinct of survival) but morality now will judge between these two instincts and will say you what's the good insitnct (so the morality can't be also an instinct because it judge between instincts)...................the chimps haven't something like that, more than that it haven't reason (and we know now that without reason the morality have no sense)..........and so on.
          "..........eliminating the possibility of instinctual behavior. " an possible explication here could be that the chimps react different at the same instinct.
          And I repeat you again : don't interest me at all something like "this have been tested...." "I think that ....." please give me reasons.
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        Mar 6 2011: You talk about the instinct of helping someone, a behavior that people would deem moral, so you must agree there is an instinctual facet to morality. Also you can look up the vast amount of work that has been carried out on animals and consciouness, you clearly aren't up to date on that.

        For the chimp case I'm talking about behavior adopted by one chimp and mimicked by other members of the same group by example. This behavior is then taught to the younger generations and carried out. Orang-Outangs have also been seen wielding tools to aid themselves. You need to watch more animal documentaries, you underestimate non-human animals so much.

        Ever heard of Washoe, the chimpanzee who was taught sign-language and then taught it to her Son? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washoe_%28chimpanzee%29

        There's also that Gorilla Michael that painted its dead pet dog and the mother Koko who in this video expresses her sadness at losing her pet kitty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqTUG8MPmGg

        How could you seriously think that only humans have consciousness, it makes no sense for us to be the only animals endowed with it!
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          Mar 7 2011: ........first of all I'm not animal , I'm human being, ok?
          Matthieu I've just said you : The morality and the consciousness have no sense, are useless without reason and the animals have no reason (that's very well-known by everyone)......so it's obvious the result of what I said.
          "there is an instinctual facet to morality" the morality have no instinctual face , it judge between instincts.
          very interesting about the chimps but this still don't prove anything about morality ....just maybe it prove that chimps could be tamed more that any animal.
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        Mar 8 2011: Human beings are animals Eduard. Better, human beings are classified as Great Apes (family that includes, Chimps, Gorillas, orang-outang and bonobos). We all evolved, why would human beings have their own class separate from the rest of the animal kingdom, its senseless...

        "The morality and the consciousness have no sense, are useless without reason and the animals have no reason (that's very well-known by everyone)"...so screw my animal psychology lectures from a notoriously good UK university, screw all the biology books I've ever read, screw everything I've learned about animals ever because in your weird worldview, non-human animals are 100% instinctual beings incapable of reasoning. Back your statement up damn it! (you can't by the way, its patently untrue).
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          Mar 8 2011: "Better, human beings are classified as Great Apes " classified by who?.......that's subjectivism.
          Hey do you wanna say that animals have reason?.........And in my turn man , I screw all the philosophy that I ever read and is imposible for animals to have reason (read Kant , Hegel , Nietzsche, Plato.....) and the definition of reason don't let you to say that animals have reason:"The faculty of reason (sometimes also called rationality or the faculty of discursive reason in opposition to "intuitive reason") is a mental ability found in human beings and normally considered to be a definitive characteristic of human nature.[1] It is closely associated with such human activities as speech, science, art, mathematics and philosophy."
          ...........and think at least at the consequences of having animals reason....... are too huge too immoral .
          THE REASON AND THE MORALITY ARE ARE JUST FOR HUMAN BEINGS CATECORICALLY.More than that there is no scientist (and never was) who say that animals have reason and morality.......they are just for humans , they make us human beings...........and that's a reason for that I'm saying that I'm not an animal.
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          Mar 8 2011: Eduard - I think you are right about reason, my first thought was, as Matthieu seems to argue that, all animals have some form of reason. But reading through the wikipedia page (plus the wikipedia "talk" tab which has an interesting debate), it seems as if reason has historically been essentially defined as "the kind of thinking which only humans do". Which seems to me unfortunate, but a common anthropocentric way of analysis which would be nice to overcome.
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          Mar 8 2011: The issue of morality seems to be more open to debate.

          From wikipedia:
          "Biologists contend that all social animals, from ants to elephants, have modified their behaviors, by restraining selfishness in order to make group living worthwhile. Human morality, though sophisticated and complex relative to other animals, is essentially a natural phenomenon that evolved to restrict excessive individualism and foster human cooperation."

          and from "Animals can tell right from wrong":

          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/5373379/Animals-can-tell-right-from-wrong.html

          "Prof Bekoff, who presents his case in a new book Wild Justice, said: "The belief that humans have morality and animals don't is a long-standing assumption, but there is a growing amount of evidence that is showing us that this simply cannot be the case"
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          Mar 9 2011: No Tim this "have modified their behaviors, by restraining selfishness in order to make group living worthwhile" or something like this do not prove that animals have morality, morality isn't about modify behaviour(it is more than that ), I've tried to explain that in a answer to Matthieu.
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        Mar 8 2011: It's not subjectivism, it's the natural classification as revealed by the theory of evolution, to deny our relatedness with all Great Apes is to deny evolution.

        Furthermore, my argument was that many animals are endowed with consciousness and certain forms of morality, you accomodated reason in this and declared that consciousness and morality were redudant without reason thus implying that instict and reason form a dichotomy. Given the definition of reason you adopt, this cannot be true as much of observed animal behavior cannot be categorized as being the product of instinct or (by wikipedia's definition) the product of reason. Congratulations on naming a few famous philosophers, most of whom (if they ever said anything about animals at all) lived prior to the publication of "On the origin of species" and all that followed.

        Please back your statements with evidence and argument rather than caps. lock (especially if you're going to make bad spelling mistakes). It's rude and it's strongly discouraged (check the terms and conditions of TEDConversations if you don't believe me).

        "More than that there is no scientist (and never was) who say that animals have reason and morality"

        That's a bold claim. Not one? How about, Frans De Waal? There you go. The simple power of Google.

        If you cannot accept the simple fact that Human are animals then it might be pointless to even continue. It's basic biology.
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          Mar 8 2011: "classification as revealed by the theory of evolution" exatcly what I said=subjectivism.Kant , ......... they are philosophers not biologists , they have talked about morality not about animals for obvious reasons.(thank you for congratulations (sarcasm)) ...........Frans De Waal(I don't know too much about him)....... hm.....but if he is talking about something like :
          ""The possibility that empathy resides in parts of the brain so ancient that we share them with rats should give pause to anyone comparing politicians with those poor, underestimated creatures."[3]
          "I've argued that many of what philosophers call moral sentiments can be seen in other species. In chimpanzees and other animals, you see examples of sympathy, empathy, reciprocity, a willingness to follow social rules. Dogs are a good example of a species that have and obey social rules; that's why we like them so much, even though they're large carnivores."[4]
          "To endow animals with human emotions has long been a scientific taboo. But if we do not, we risk missing something fundamental, about both animals and us." he prove again that I'm right because I was talking about morality not about moral sentiments and not about emotions.(not about emphaty . sympathy.......).
          And yes , I cannot accept this very simple so called 'fact' that we are animals.(read again my posts if you still didn't notice the reasons ).
          You see, none of my arguments rest upon biology because I don't think that we are animalsa and because I think that ohters sciences are more able to talk about thems like morality , reason , conciousness.......in other words about human beings.
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        Mar 9 2011: Well if you can't accept facts for what they are such as the fact that humans are animals, I think there's no point arguing with you. If empathy, altruism, cooperation and all manner of behaviors that take in account the importance of others is not to be classified as morality, then I'm afraid to say that morality must not represent all that much. Unless you mean that the exact same behavior in humans is morality and isn't in animals and that just seems ridiculous.

        I don't really argue anything about reason, I'm mainly arguing that regardless of whether we consider animals to have reason or not, the way morality and consciousness expresses itself in certain animals cannot be argued to be purely instinctive behavior.

        My final reply to any of your posts.
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          Mar 9 2011: even though we aren't at all good parteners in conversation thank you for sharing your ideas..........I'm afraid that you again didn't understand what I said (neither my English don't let me to be more clear in saying my ideas)...........anyway ..........
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      Mar 5 2011: Hi Budimir

      That's an in-house myth. Creationists don't believe we are descended from any other creature.

      And the link to the debate won by the Evolutionist is..............?

      :-)
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        Mar 5 2011: Is there something about the cohesive power of myth that the more bizarre it is the more it unites the group? Is this why the debate on creationism is so important?
        • Mar 5 2011: The literal interpretation of the bible is a relativeley new idea, I think it got going in the late forties or fifties. Before this and still now theologians considered the bible almost entirely metaphorical. Evolution is accepted in the Vatican with many biblical scholars composing new ideas about God as originator rather than creator. I think to question evolution now is to ignore the reams of research and the tons of physical evidence. Like Tim I am surprised people feel the need to predicate their faith on creationism.
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        Mar 5 2011: The evidence that the theory of evolution has won the 'debate' (as though there seriously ever was one) can be found at your local Waterstones or any book store near you. Not everyone relies on youtube and other laymen links for their evidence.
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        Mar 6 2011: Harvinder: I appreciate your input, but just wanted to expound on one point. Although there was some opposition to Darwinism since the time of Darwin, in the US I believe it really got going with the Scopes trial (the "Monkey Trial") in 1925 lead by the politician William Jennings Bryan. Bryan was a populist and, from what I've read of him, appeared to be a compassionate person. Realizing that Scopes (the teacher who was the defendant in the case) was really not at fault, he offered to pay his fine. Bryan didn't concern himself with the science behind evolution. His fear was that if society believed in survival of the fittest, they would be less compassionate towards one another. In a way his fears were manifest in the implementation of the Nazi racist policies. Personally I don't think that suppressing science is the proper way of dealing with the conflict between science and religion, but historically others thought differently (viz Galileo).
      • Mar 16 2011: Pete,

        Sorry to correct you on this, but evolution did not "win by debate." If it did it would not be science. Evolution won a long time ago, hands down, by evidence. Evidence is what counts. Whatever rhetorical arts displayed by your favourite creationist quacks gain nothing but the approval of their already committed public. Such arts might appeal to you and prevent you from accepting reality, yet, they amount to nothing else.
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          Mar 17 2011: Hi Gabo
          I like the way you apologise for correcting me.

          Many debates are held by neutral venues. Colleges, Atheist societies etc. Both sides give it their best, questions are answered, & a good time is had by all. How can debate be biased ? The debate is won on the presentation of the evidence, not on opinions. Surely that is the fairest way we have to evaluate truth ? Sure, some folks are more charismatic, but that can apply to both sides, & taken into account when it comes to evaluation.

          Pity this page is closing down.

          :-)
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          Mar 6 2011: Maybe a *spark* of mortal consciousness from Kathy?

          ==

          It sure gets me going.
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          Mar 7 2011: Kathy: Was just a metaphor used in jest. No desire to offend. You do stimulate the conversation. That's a good thing.
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          Mar 6 2011: Great video Mark. I think that everyone involved in our conversation here is seeking to transcend their personal boundaries in some sense (why else would they be here?). The video gives some good tips.
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    Mar 2 2011: I would like to say yes, religion has outlived it's usefulness. I look at religion as an excuse for people to segregate themselves. For example, islam and christianity. I am a christian, but i find fault with christianity itself. It has so many subdivisions that believe in the same core christian principles but segregate themselves on stupid irrelevant things. Life is greater than all that. Thats just my take on it.
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    Mar 1 2011: Hey Tim ,
    r/t the Ten Commandments and "Why can't we read these things as metaphorical lessons and not take them as fact?"

    Well I believe the answer to this question is the same reason why some cant see science as subjective theory and not take it as fact.

    I don't understand your correlating coveting thy neighbors wife and slavery. Can you explain?

    What would happen to the respective quality of your lives if you were to go after your neighbors wife or steal her car?
    Or does your value system really allow for you to "stop being so damed respectful!"
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      Mar 2 2011: Wayne:

      They are correlated by their presence in the same commandment. Which might not be such an issue in itself if it weren't symptomatic of a general thread which runs throughout the bible. That is condoning slavery and treating woman as property. And again when people (as many do) confuse the metaphorical reading by literal interpretation gets to the core problem of religion in the modern world.

      I'm attempting to maintain a focus on the issues. The introduction with a quote from Dawkins was not meant to be a statement of my personal dogma, but merely a starting point for discussion. So respect to people - yes. Respect for counter-productive ideas - no. I think they need to be aired. Don't you?
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    Mar 1 2011: Jack D. Canty, you are truly insightful.

    "How do we convince others to rely on rational thought for discovering reliable facts?"

    And

    How do we convince others to use the power of myth and storytelling to give their lives meaning without disregarding these tools just because they are not rational?"

    Your comment reminds me of a Russian saying that goes "think with your heart and feel with your mind"

    If I may:

    How do we convince others as to the futility of solely using theories, equations and formulas produced in a finite mind; to definitively explain the infinite glory of the universe?

    and

    How do we convince others as to the rewards of having faith in the wisdom inherent to certain belief systems.
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      Mar 1 2011: so you really belive that religious people are beliving something without proofs , or they are beliving something without using their reason ................. I don't know why there is that conception among some people because I'm a religious person and I don't belive someting without using my reason.......and are a lot like me ..........some scienteists : Hugh Ross , Alistar McGrath , Josh Mcdowell.....................and many others
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        Mar 1 2011: No Eduard, I did not say that religious people believe things without proof. We use our reason and find proof everywhere we look. (although I do not like what the term "religious" has become) I have my faith and believe there is a God.
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          Mar 2 2011: perfect then..............sorry if I said something wrong about you but was needed to clarify that
  • Mar 1 2011: The short answer to the title question for me is that religion has not outlived its usefulness, in much the same way as bipedalism has not outlived its usefulness. This is partly because I have a much broader definition of what religion is than what Tim means by the word.

    "But when I talk about religion, I'm referring to a belief system based on a holy scripture and/or a divinely based authority."

    As I understand this definition, the question is about a particular form of religion. Furthermore, other posts suggest that an implicit postulate is being proposed that such a belief system excludes any rational thought. Such a postulate is readily falsifiable. There are hundreds of millions of people who believe in a deity or deities and/or scriptures who also engage in rational thought.

    All people engage in rationality. All people engage in irrationality.

    I believe that bad things which are attributed to religion are more accurately attributed to other pressures some of which have been mentioned here: economics, psychological illness, social and political disenfranchisement, etc. Blaming 9/11 on religion, for example, is like blaming 9/11 on the invention of airplanes.

    Even with this narrow focus on revealed, theistic religion, to me asking Is it still useful? is a bit strange. No one sits down and invents a religion in order to perform a use or to accomplish something. Revealed religion in particular starts as the result of an experience and interpretation of that experience. At the same time it's a dedication and a way of life. One can agree with it or not. One can have other religions or other outlooks. But it's a part of the human experience that exists with or without purpose as an expression of our curiosity and desire to know as well as our desire to love, to give, and to have meaning. Whether one believes in M-theory or not: does that serve a purpose? Perhaps not directly, but it's a manifestation of components of humanness that are very useful.
  • Mar 1 2011: I didn't get a "reply" option next to Birdia's last post, so I'll repost here. Birdia, I'm not sure you read what I posted previously. I said Confuciansim did not have a divinity or god, and but is a system of moral, social and philosophical system. It actually can be considered as a religion, because not all definitions of religion include a supernatural divinity. Religion is also defined as "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practice generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects." In fact, Confuscianism was even considered the state religion of some Eastern Asian countries. It may even be the shining example of religion because it specifically stays focused on values, which is the basis of my argument. I don't think religion practice necessarily gets in the way of science in all realms. That's why I put the Duke University School of Spirituality and Medicine in there for consideration because at Duke, scientific research is being done on how religious belief and practice can positively impact health. Even the Mayo Clinic today lists "spirituality" as an alternative method to combat cancer. So, I think the more interesting debate is not whether religion gets in way of progress, but can religion and science be complimentary players in advancing civil society?
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      • Mar 1 2011: Hi Birdia, I certainly understand why you wouldn't be inclined to agree Confucianism is a religion, especially if you believe there is one definition for religion, such as "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs." There are, however, multiple definitions for religion, and the earlier one I posted, "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practice generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects" would actually classify Confuciansim as a religion. And, as I'm sure you know, people also debate whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophical system some times, but no matter. Though I think you bring up a good point about delivery and approach, I don't think it's fair to say debate doesn't happen in religious circles or within religion. It happens all the time, and that's why religious ideas change and evolve, because humanity changes and evolves. Are people who blindly follow an idea or belief without putting it into context to be commended? I don't think so, neither in religion nor in politics. In fact, some of the greatest prophets asked some of the hardest questions about the meaning of life and how to live it. Are there religious leaders that try to instill fear in people's hearts and hinder free thinking? Sure there are, just like in politics. I just think that when you take a genuine interest in religious teachings, try to truly understand what they are about and what purpose they might serve, it can paint a different picture. I'm not even suggesting you have to believe in a God, or be of a certain religion to do this (in fact, if you're not, it's probably easier to be objective!) but I'm advocating that trying to understand something from the inside rather than criticizing it from the outside is more useful.
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      Mar 1 2011: Cynthia and Birdia:

      This fuzzy ground between religion and philosophy is an interesting concept. Although there may be some consolation of philosophy it does seem that religions tend to be more effective at consolidating individuals into communities. Is there some way that the benefits of the adaptability of rational philosophical thought can be combined with the cohesiveness of religion or are the two mutually exclusive?
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        Mar 1 2011: I think that philosophy is a part from religion (because as have said Birdia is in our nature to philosophize , and many of religious persons do that) but I do not think that religion is a part from philosophy..........in my opinion religion is superior because it is dealing with some of the greatest ideas that was ever heard , and because philosophy is up to our mind and our mind as is very well-known by anyone, is limited.(I'm reffering now just at religions in which there is a supernatural power).....if we look so (as I described) at philosophy and religion I think that we'll find a way in that the benefits of the adaptability of rational philosophical thought to can be combined with the' cohesiveness' of religion .
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    Mar 1 2011: Wayne Busby,
    You try to reconcile the irreconcilable: Science Vs myth/magic/shamanism/superstition: they don’t meet, they don’t mix.
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      Mar 1 2011: I'm sorry, I think you are wrong. All things are related.

      My paradigm and developing theories:

      Relentless in its search, the first order of life is immortality.

      As with all life, all knowledge is related and immortality goes to those species who most wisely make use of their intellects, exploring even beyond know limits to make constructive use of the correlations.

      Those enlightened ones understand that chaos can only exist if every moments circumstance is not the consequence of our in/action in the moment before. To those enlightened, chaos is but order with options.

      Luck or chance is a human concept used to explain a situation or outcome determined by and dependent on events beyond the limits of our physiology to perceive and therefore predict or order...

      See the talk on 'African Fractals'.
      • Mar 2 2011: Wayne.
        Sorry, this is non-productive. Without research, without rigorous methodology and standards, without theory, without systematic observation and observational evidence, without facts on which one makes formulation of laws and principles, and without ordered knowledge verifiable and liable for testing; without all that any thought of the character of what you mentioned is utter contemplation/ philosophizing.
        I repeat: Science Vs myth/magic/shamanism/superstition: don’t meet, they don’t mix.
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          Mar 2 2011: Did you view the Talks I suggested? If not you're correct, this discussion is unproductive. I am sorry that you are so bound by your religion that you cannot think outside of its constraints.
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        Mar 2 2011: Wayne:
        "the first order of life is immortality"
        "immortality goes to those species who most wisely make use of their intellects"

        With all due respect, how do we know these statements are actually true, and not just speculation? This, I think, is the fundamental distinction separating science from other forms of inquiry: with science, we have ways of checking for error. Granted, these methods have limits, but at least we have something instead of nothing. In those areas where we cannot experiment and test, science is mute.

        When it comes to "spirituality," however, it seems to be a free-for-all. If we have no way of separating wheat from chaff, fact from speculation, how do we guard against error?
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          Mar 2 2011: To elaborate:

          Greetings Tony, r/t wheat from chaff:

          Life in all its forms seek an optimal level of adaptation to environmental stressors and the acquisition of vital resources, thereby maximizing the possibility of continuing each particular species (expression of life), indefinitely.

          Out side of the natural resilience which graces what species we have left on this planet (including our own), the best chance we might have for surviving ourselves is 'the wise use of our intellects.'

          Never does nature say one thing and logic another. Its not hard to understand if you use some uncommon sense.
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        Mar 3 2011: Hi Wayne,

        Sorry for the misunderstanding. I thought you were referring to some sort of supernatural existence -- rather than the continuation of biological species -- when you used the word "immortality."
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          Mar 3 2011: Understood. My greatest Hope is for all of us to use all our tools constructively. As you may have guessed I am not a scientist (lol). Thank you for providing me examples of your insight. this is a feast.
          Respectfully. Cheers.