This conversation is closed.

If religious belief is so strong, why isn't it strong enough to allow children to make up their own minds on the evidence available?

It is clear from many TED conversations that the debate between darwinists and creationists rages on. My feeling is the debate is fruitless, you cannot have a reasoned debate about creationism simply because it is a belief system completely devoid of logic and reason. You cannot convince creationists of their misunderstanding in the face of overwhelming evidence, so I won't attempt to. You have an inalienable right to your belief system.

So my question is simply this:

If religious belief is so strong, why isn't it strong enough to allow children to make up their own minds? Why can't children be trusted to look at the available evidence for themselves? Have the courage of your convictions and don't impose them on impressionable young minds. As an adult you hold sacred the human right to believe whatever you want, don't deny your children the same right when they too become adults by closing their minds now to the options.

For an insight into why religious indoctrination of children is so destructive to them and the future of our planet, read authors far more eloquent than me: Thomson and Aukofer, Why we believe in gods; Tomasello, Why we co-operate & Origins of human communication; Dawkins, The God delusion; Harris, The End of Faith. See where they take you. To help you open young minds to the beauty of the natural world (without needing to invoke a deity) try: Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow &The greatest show on earth. The Magic of reality and The Ancestor's tale are accessible to young enquiring minds that should be left open to all possibilities, some of which are more likely to represent reality than others.

Closing Statement from Michael Stewart

Thanks to everyone who contributed; Edward, Peter, Tyne, Iain, Gabo, Steve, Mary, Patrick. The question was perhaps a little inflammatory, but I do feel it is valid, even if the answer is pretty obvious. The biggest influence in a childs life is its parents and it is very hard not to introduce some sort of bias based on your understanding of the world when you raise a child. This is virtually impossible for the religious parent because of the certainty that an errant child will go to the relevant 'hell'. Similarly, the worry for an atheist/agnostic is that their child will somehow believe one of the various bronze age creation myths.

But really the question shouldn't have become a personal one. 'Children' are a collective. You can't interfere with the belief system that is taught at home. What we can do is try our hardest to ensure that 'our children' , future generations are educated to the highest possible standards of scientific understanding in school. Evolution, natural selection, geology, astronomy, cosmology must be explained and understood as fact, based on evidence and peer review. Not diluted and misrepresented by any personal belief.

The debate followed the same pattern as any on faith vs evidence. Both sides angered and frustrated by the others refusal to accept what is obvious to them. With a hint of righteousness and self-assuredness from both. The people that participate will not be swayed by the opposing arguments, but hopefully those watching on the periphery will be given plenty to think about.

The Final thought comes from an enlightened and infinitely wiser younger brother. Give children science. its more exciting than any book written by man, or god. science is the observation of the universe around us. it may be performed by man, and so arguably could be corrupted, but it is forever changing and therefore can be trusted. man cannot. true science is not a belief system, but ironically the only way to enlighten yourself without misdirection

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    Jan 23 2012: Atheism is in many ways as secular as creationism. I think the important thing is that we realise the absolute need for people to understand forces that were previously beyond our comprehension. religion did not start as a malignant feature, but a way to teach the world that the earth has a history, and man has a history. All religions, whether western or eastern share the fundamental principals in their stories, as does atheism.

    All belief systems account for creation, and one has to be careful to regard themselves as atheist. being an atheist does not mean you accept all scientific facts, instead it is just the rejection of deities, and indeed many people who have strong religious beliefs also are scientists themselves. i think a better term is enlightened, whether you believe or do not believe in god, you have enlightened yourself to how you perceive the universe.

    the problem (one of) with religion, be it creationism in this particular conversation, or any, is that those who are not enlightened, who have not come to a decision based on how they view the universe and its marvels, instinctively learn their world views from those who have, most likely a parent. atheists will be quick to say there is no god, and those with a religion will give reason for why there is. but as enlightened humans, there is a responsibility to give children scientific fact. science is not inherently biased towards religion or atheism, it is those instead that are subjective, and the passion that comes with that mind will only see the science they believe supports their world view.

    give children science. its more exciting than any book written by man, or god. science is the observation of the universe around us. it may be performed by man, and so arguably could be corrupted, but it is forever changing and therefore can be trusted. man cannot. true science is not a belief system, but ironically the only way to enlighten yourself without misdirection or deception.

    Evolution is evident
    • Jan 23 2012: Surely an enlightened answer, thank you Iain.

      Science is progressive, knowledge builds up and builds up, it changes and 'evolves' as understanding improves. I am not naive enough to think we have all the answers, or indeed if we ever will. But the only way to understand our universe is through observation, the collation of evidence and submitting that evidence for peer review, allowing the cycle to complete. and restart. As you rightly say, man cannot be trusted and man conducts science - but luckily it is not just one man with one version of events. Science is the collective knowledge of humanity, with myth and legend filtered out due to a lack of evidence.

      Above all - yes, yes, yes, give children undiluted, unadulterated, undistorted science. Train them how to think critically using reason and logic and they will not fall for unsubstantiated myth. Only by ending the vicious cycle of religious indcotrination will humanity as a whole become enlightened. I pray (joke!) that we haven't destroyed ourselves before that time comes.
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        Jan 23 2012: reason and logic leads to progression as you say. In my humble and perhaps controversial opinion, the sooner the argument of religion is seen as obsolete, the better. i just fear that promoting atheism is always going to keep the idea of a god or not at the forefront of discussion, when surely we are aiming for a future where our belief system is reformed around the wonder and beauty of Nature, united as part of the universe, globally working towards discovery and exploration on the grandest scales. If we argue there is no god, then there will always be the argument that there is, as disproving deities is as hard as disproving the flying spaghetti monster. so surely atheism is outdated, and as archaic as religion itself, and believing in no god is as futile as believing in one.

        getting back to the original discussion, though the questions are rhetorical, i would say i look forward to a future where my children would not have to consider whether they follow a religious doctrine or not - that making up their own mind on organised religion is a moot point - because they will see that its much more magnificently overwhelming to look at the cosmos around them.
        • Jan 23 2012: A well reasoned argument, your logic is impecable and I would agree with you in whole if organised religion were a benign entity 'working towards discovery and exploration on the grandest scales'. But instead it is mired in outdated dogma, the majority of which is tacitly disregarded by moderate religion as being superceded by social advancements - democracy, women's suffrage, human rights are all human inventions far more moral and ethical than many 'words of god'. There is no progress here, there hasn't been for centuries, the very nature of religion perpetuates its own myth with amazing fidelity, by the very process that is the subject of my question. The basic tenets of misnomeric ideas such as 'intelligent design' are totally at odds with a full and awe-inspiring understanding of our universe. There is no room for progress because the word of god can't and hasnt changed. Not until a new 'good book' arrives which brings religion up to date with (or surpasses?) our own social and scientific advancement will any progress be made by religion.

          You propose a very appealing utopia where the utter magnificence of the cosmos can be understood and delighted in by all (and I don't think this depends on whether you believe a supernatural power lit the blue touch paper or not - as long as we accept it was lit several billion years ago). But how do you propose we arrive at such a place without challenging the self-perpetuating institutions which have stunted our progress (to varying degrees) for centuries and have only recently been discarded by a pitiful few.

          You are right that atheism or a belief in god isn't the issue here. For me atheism is a logical extension of being a scientist. But it doesn't matter if you believe in god, provided you accept the science. A blind refusal to accept scientific fact (tectonics, geology, astronomy, evolution are all good examples) because they don't fit your world view must be opposed by any sane human being, before its too late.
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    Jan 21 2012: Do Atheists influence their children to believe there is no God? If so, that is religious (having to do with the spiritual) indoctrination. If an Atheist encourages reading Hawkins, Dawkins and Harris but avoids the Koran, the Bible and Confucious, that is religious indoctrination. Am I correct?
    • Jan 21 2012: Yes edward, i agree, to a certain extent. Enforcing any one world view on your children will close their minds to other points of view and i fervently hope that i am able to answer my chils questions in an open and balanced way. If he questions me on religion i will explain the fundamentals without distorting or misleading, but of course any answer on god and religion would need to encompass a wide selection of religions as examples. The point is, focusing on one single belief system simply because it is the one you personally hold does the child a disservice- they will believe it as gospel because you said it is so. Science isnt a belief system, my smartfone is working right now, it allows the logical and reasonable consideration of any idea based on its merits. And, in any case, the atheists child will be a reasonwd and open minded adult.
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        Jan 21 2012: Thanks Michael for your most refreshing, non-combative response. (I have always thought people really can talk about religion and politics if they will respect one another). We agree that many people are followers of their religion because they were indoctrinated in it from birth, and it is the family tradition. This truism applies to all views of things of God. . . even Atheism. I think each person should ask if they hold their beliefs about God because they searched and found the truth for themselves, or because they were raised believing the way they do. Again, even Atheists should do this. Thanks Michael.
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        Jan 21 2012: Hi guys

        Children do get their values from their parents to a large extent. I think however that if they are raised in a loving way, then they are bound to question everything; that' s just the way they are wired.
        The education system, along with the media has been beating the Darwin drum a lot recently, but still half of the US doesn't believe it. Folks don't just accept without question..
        There was a bit of news recently where a christian couple were refused adoption because they wouldn't promise to teach the children it was ok to be gay.i think we should trust the well tested system of just allowing parents to get on with it, without interference.

        • Jan 21 2012: Hi peter, welcome to the debate. Thanks for the thumbs up edward! My response would not always have been so non-combative, but you're right, the only way for humanity to progress is by peopl of different views arguing their case but respecting the right to have a different opinion. Personally, i find the creationist position untenable because it flies in the face of reason and critical thinking, whilst trying to misleadingly discredit peer-reviewd science. And it is creationists children i fear for rather than a reasonable religious person who has likely come to terms with the fact of evolution.

          The simple facts are that humans have evolved to need to believe in a supernatural power. Religious feelings have clearly provided an evolutionary advantage to our ancestors, otherwise they wouldnt exist. Our brains are wired to believe in god and this is even more true for children who yearn to please authority figures. A minimal understanding of brain development shows how believing in a god is almost inevitable without purposeful training to think critically using reason and logic. It is far easier to believe in god than to throw off the shackles of ones culture and defy your elders, particularly when our brains want to believe.

          By indoctrinating our children we are reinforcing brain processes that already exist to allow a child to conform to the culture they find themselves in. As an open minded critical thinker i know i will raise the consciousness of my children and they will b very likely to grow up also open minded and critical of unfounded ideas. Can a creationist say the same?
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          Jan 22 2012: In a traditional, functional,family environment we absolutely do get our values largely from our parents, I agree Peter. It is not workable to leave our children out of that segment of our lives devoted to God, or to the non-existence of God. Parents cannot insulate their children from their beliefs about life's questions like education or proper social conduct. I think Mr. Stewart's question has merit by pointing-out that "religious" beliefs are not limited to those who believe in spirituality. Atheists are also responsible to answer how they raise their children with regard to the concept of God. Good parents want what they believe is best for their children. Thanks.
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        Jan 21 2012: Hi Michael.

        "Personally, i find the creationist position untenable because it flies in the face of reason and critical thinking, whilst trying to misleadingly discredit peer-reviewd science. And it is creationists children i fear for rather than a reasonable religious person who has likely come to terms with the fact of evolution."

        You find creationism untenable; I find Darwinism untenable. Presumably both of us gave due thought to our positions. Both views are shared by millions.
        Precisely why do you think children need protection from my ideas, but yours are not a problem?

        • Jan 21 2012: Hi peter, as my original posting implies i do not want this debate to become a battle of belief systems, no one who has a strong opinion either way will be swayed. Let me say this however, i find creationism untenable because it misleads people and purposefully distorts evidence for its own gain. You no doubt find darwinism untenable because it does not provide your world view a leg to stand on and therefore you cannot entertain the facts.

          The difference is, as i have alluded to above, i am more than happy for my offspring to explore every possible aspect of existence with an open and enquiring mind, whereas a creationist actively strives to discredit overwhelming peer-reviewed evidence in order to maintain their belief system into the future. Science does not need to discredit world views in order to survive, it will persist without my efforts, creationism will not.

          So my original question remains, if you are so sure about the existence of an interventionist god, why do you not allow children to follow their own path, surely if he exists and has a plan, they will find their own way to him without your help.
        • Jan 27 2012: No Pete, kids don't need protection from your ideas, but from being indoctrinated into them. Your beliefs induce horrifying fear only to alleviate it with the belief in a god (which is the origin of the horror in the first place). That's pure evil. That, you can't do to my children. That, you should be forbidden from doing to any children. Express your ideas to adult audiences. Once they have passed the most impressionable years, they will be free to accept or reject them. But children. That's child abuse.
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      Jan 22 2012: Hi Michael

      Not sure where you get the idea that creationists indoctrinate their children & Atheists don't.

      Everyone is different, some folks live their lives through their children, some don't. Using stereotypes is not a valid argument. It is very common for children to rebel & go in the opposite direction, so any brainwashing attempt may well backfire.

      I don't think there is anything innate in creationists that would make them any different in that regard from Athiests. I love to watch the debates on u-tube etc. That way you get a feel for both sides, or TalkOrigins (Athiest site) where they list rebuttals to the creationist arguments, that way you can judge. If youngsters asked me, I would advise these sort of routes in the first instance. It's the truth we are all after at the end of the day, & if I don't have it I need to get it.

      You seem to have been unlucky in your chosen creationists. Most of them are ok with letting the evidence do any persuading.

      • Jan 23 2012: Thanks for your reply Peter. Its not that I think all creationists indoctrinate and all atheists provide a balanced view of the world to their children - clearly we cannot generalise like that. But it must also be clear that there is a growing movement (mainly in America - although can I generalise?) that rather than being content to hold their own views and leave it at that, they take great pains to distort real, hard-won scientific discovery and effectively mislead the public on the value and power of evidence. The most sinister aspect of this culminates in law suits preventing teachers from teaching the facts of evolution in non-secular schools, leaving them to face dismissal at best and intimidation and violence at worse. This lack of proper scientific education will be compounded by reinforcement of dubious facts about intelligent design by their parents. There is therefore a growing number oif children who have been completely brainwashed - your term - into accepting fundamentalist ideas. Fundamentalism is the road to annihilation, no matter which religious doctrine is followed. Unfortunately for the World, home grown fundamentalists are just as dangerous as the muslim fundamentalists you are all so scared of.

        The main reason for asking my question is a realisation that organised religion itself is the problem, not the specific doctrines followed. Religion has withoutdoubt played an essential role in human development, from our earliest beginnings 150,000 BCE to the renaissance and beyond. It provides an explanation for our existence (the details may vary!) - an imperative that every human must feel strongly 'where do we come from'. It also provides comfort in a harsh unforgiving world where death is around the corner and strikes without discrimination. This world largely does not exist anymore due to the advancements of science. In fact, we now know exactly where we come from withou the need for deities.

        Religion is now a force for harm, not good.
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          Jan 24 2012: Hi Michael.

          The trouble, in my opinion, is that you see Atheism as some sort of ultimate truth. In truth it is just another faith, or religion, that has caused it's own brand of havoc historically.

          Some science has gone the same way. We see natural selection producing variation, & extrapolate it into a whole history of the universe. To an extent this is ok, but to then insist that it is proven fact is bound to cause upset. No one is going to argue with empirical science; why would they? The problem comes when honest dissent between scientists & others is treated as heresy by the scientific establishment. These dissenting scientists are relabelled non-scientists or quacks, sent to scientific Siberia. I guess in one way this is the way science advances, the truth will prevail & lots of folk will look foolish. Rather ungentlemanly way to go on though, more like schoolyard bullying.

        • Jan 27 2012: But you argue against empirical science Pete. You do. Why would you? You tell me. I can't guess your motivation. I can only see that you indeed argue against empirical science. That's a fact.

          That you are wrong becomes evident the moment you misrepresent the scientific and the atheistic positions. Atheism is no religion. Evolution is not extrapolated into a history of the whole universe, regardless of many facets being presented with the same word. Nobody talks about "natural selection" when referring to the Big Bang, or to star formation, or to atomic buildup inside stars.

          As for biological evolution, it is proven beyond reasonable doubt. You shield yourself against understanding the evidence, but that's your personal freedom. I can't make you look at it. But the proofs are right there for you and anybody to see.

          Your dissenting "scientists" are quacks through and through Pete. Look, I have had some very strong scientific arguments. Those often involve conflicting evidences for scientific problems. We discuss the data, we reanalyze the data, we look for more and better data, and sometimes we can't come to an agreement. Though I don't keep track, I think I have lost to the evidence more often than I have won. Well, this is very different to your quacks. Your quacks cherry-pick "findings," misrepresent such "findings," do their "research" by quoting rather than by looking at the data, and build straw-men of scientific disciplines they don't like, all from cosmology to geology to biology. That's what makes them quacks. It is not that they "don't believe evolution," is that their methods are far from scientific. Lies, misquoting, and misinformation are not scientific methods Pete. That's why I call them quacks, because their methods, rather than falling into the scientific category, they fall into the snake-oil salesman category. How is that a condemnation for heresy? How is that schoolyard bullying?
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      Jan 24 2012: There is a TED talk by Tyler Cowen called, "Be Suspicious of Stories". Near the end of the lecture he makes a similar point that you made in your original post, and that is when you read books that are aimed to alleviate you from one bias you are developing new biases from the books you are reading. Perhaps my way of saying it is not the best, but hopefully you get the idea that it was similar.
      • Jan 24 2012: Thanks tyne, but are you suggesting we shouldnt read books in case we are duped by the author? I The reading i have recommended are varied in their themes and points of view and are by no means the extent of my library. Everyone should read with a critical mind and judge an authors words on their merit, certainly not blindly believe what you read, in essence that is the whole point i was trying to make. If you would consider it i highly recommend the greatest show on earth- the evidence is real. You could even borrow my copy with margin notes added, often in disagreement with dawkins' turn of phrase! Essentially i added a bibliography because their argumemts are far more eloquent than mine. Why we believe in gods is also compelling reading. I will check out tyler cowen.
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          Jan 25 2012: I made a mistake in my comment. I did not mean to suggest we shouldn't read books. I did mean to reference the first comment you made. "Enforcing any one world view on your children will close their minds to other points of view... " This is the comment I was responding to and what my reference is relevant to, and I apologize for the confusion.
    • Jan 26 2012: Oh what a load of nonsense. Teaching kids "not to believe" is not religious indoctrination. It would not be even in your supposed scenario because there is no coercion (compare that to damnation, going to hell, being born in sin, needing salvation, salvation coming from the very same being that threatens you with hell ...).

      In any event, my kids did not read Dawkins, Harris, or Hawkins (Did you really mean Hawking? Are you for real? How reading "a brief history of the universe" would make kids atheists? I know about the newer book, but Hawking is not all about gods. Even that book is mostly about physics, I did not even notice if Hawking mentioned gods in it.). Not a single book promoting atheism. I tried to get them to read the Bible but they got bored very quickly. They reached atheism all by themselves. The only thing I did was abstain of telling them that there was this omnipresent being willing to burn them in hell if they did not believe. I also abstained from telling them that the bible is the inerrant word of such a being. How is abstaining from telling such lies become indoctrination?

      I don't believe any of those fantasies called gods. But I would not discourage reading Bibles or Korans or Confucius (Confucius? Are you for real?). I can't understand where you get these nonsensical ideas about what atheists would do. For one, the books have some very cool stories, show how ethics and morality change with times and cultures, some poetry is superb, can contain some wisdom (and loads of stupidity too). For another, reading them would encourage atheism all by itself.

      Come on.
      • Jan 26 2012: I read Stephen Hawkings recent book and you're right the furore in religious quarters was over nothing. Barely a mention of god and no new physics that hasn't been well covered elsewhere. Not a bad book, but I won't be re-reading it.

        I started reading the bible from page one when I was about 12/13 - I was too horrified to continue past about 200 pages! Didnt see any poetry, just racism, agression oppression, genocide, rape..........But we shouldn't read it literally, God in his wisdom spoke in metaphors so we could be free to interpret it any way that suits our population domination aims. Anyway, the new testament is what counts.
        • Jan 27 2012: You are right about the Bible. I got the poetry and such because when I was a kid, we would be shown only those parts. Instance of wisdom, the parable of the talents. At least in its version in Spanish it makes a lot of sense: if you have talents, however few, you should use them (It's a story about three guys who get one lots of talents, talents were a kind of currency, the next fewer than the first, the last only one. The last one does not use the talent, but rather hides it for fear of losing it ...).

          But I got horrified once I started reading it by myself. Just like you.
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        Jan 27 2012: When your children are old enough to answer what will they say about the teaching they received at Daddy's knee? Q: Did you learn to think for yourself; did he tell you his thoughts about why we are here; how we got here; where "here" came from; how everything is controlled; was everything always like it is now; will everything always be like it is now; does death end our existence?. . .beyond academics everything a parent teaches a child is about the reality, or the irrelevance, of God. PS: Hawking, just before losing his ability to communicate, announced there is no longer a need for God. That is not a statement about physics. Here is a bit of the Bible poetry you got as a kid: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good." Psalm 14:1 KJV. If you believe reading books like the Bible encourages atheism then you would do well to keep reading. May God, who is full of mercy, bless you as you read His Word.
        • Jan 27 2012: Ed,

          Psalm 14:1 read differently in my bible, it was something like: "the stubborn has said in his heart: no God! They are corrupt ..." So it was about those who disobeyed "God," not about nonbelievers. I checked, and this translation is closer to the originals, maybe King James' changed it to target nonbelievers for some political reason. That's not part of the poetry though. Obviously you have not read the bible carefully, otherwise you might be inclined to fear the utter evilness of the god you believe, or find the contradictions and stop believing this god. I don't know if you would become an atheist though. There's lots of options.

          "Daddy will everything be like it is now?"
          "What do you think? Is everything today as it was yesterday? Is everything as it was a month ago? A year ago?"
          "no, so then everything will not be as it is today!"
          "oh, but does everything change, or some things change other things don't?"
          "ah! so not everything will be as it is today, but some things might!"


          "Daddy what happens after we die?"
          "What do you think?"
          "I don't know, that's why I ask. Some kids at school told me there is another life"
          "What do you think of their idea?"
          "Well, they told stories"
          "Do you think the stories are real?"
          "I don't know"
          "Hum, so maybe you should ask them where do these ideas come from, whether these ideas are the same for most cultures ..."


          A tad more difficult than just "God did it." But there's no support for God-did-it anyway. Besides, I did not fill their hearts with fear (and love at the same time) for an imaginary omnipresent monster. Christian hearts are so horribly corrupt they can't see that they worship a mafia boss who sells them "protection." Funny how they might fear selling their souls to Satan, yet they sell it to a much major demon. One whose evilness is much more convoluted. If it existed, you would have to fear whether this demon would comply with your version of the contract, or get you through some convoluted loophole.
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        Jan 27 2012: Please share the name of the translation of the Bible which translates Psalm 14:1 as "stubborn" instead of "fool". I cannot find it.
        For someone who does not believe God exists you sure have spewed a lot of venemous personal attacks on Him personally, not on His teachings or His followers but on Him personally: QUOTE: mafia boss; a much major demon; one whose evilness is convoluted;this demon; utter evilness. Until now, I have found PhD's to be not so emotionally volatile. Their scientific training seems to give them a more careful, thoughtful demeanor. Seek the LORD while he may be found Mr. Moreno.
        • Jan 28 2012: Hi Ed,

          As for "stubborn," I read the Bible first in Spanish. The word there is "necio." Some have a "there is no god," others have a "no god" as in answering "no" to a command by this god ... I saw the same in other languages, but then I asked some bible scholar about the original. But I don't think that matters too much.

          Oh, no emotional volatility on my part. A mere description of what this character appears to be according to this book of yours. Actually, volatile would fit this character quite well now that you mention it. I can't have attacked personally a fictional character though.

          Don't worry about my soul. If I have one, it is safe. If there is a god, it is not that character of the Bible. It is too contradictory to be true.
  • Jan 26 2012: "Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are like us.' Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: 'Because the animals are not like us.' Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction." ~Professor Charles R. Magel

    Dean Radin claims he is belittled by scientists, and I think he is a very serious, careful researcher. (Aren't ad hominem attacks one tool of indoctrination?)

    "Superstition is knowledge deduced or obtained without logic. Consequently," since logic could not be deduced via logic, logic is therefore superstitious." (*/

    Is evidence available for anyone?
    "And this is not an isolated story. Around half of all of the trial data on antidepressants has been withheld, but it goes way beyond that."
    I doubt that the supression is just in that specific area of academia/politics.

    " astronomically high..."
    as in the case of the efficacy of Aspirin - (~.0004%?) Bah! too much money to be made to carefully question that, though.

    But neither am I comfortable with things such as putting kids in camouflage & giving them escrima sticks as in Jesus Camp. That scares & shames the hell out of me, (forgive the pun).

    I'm not sure logic & reason will win, (too much power & ego in the way), nor am I even sure it should, (as what will happen to art, & wonder?) [I suppose the weeds will win in the end ;-) .]
    • Jan 26 2012: I'm afraid your probably right about the weeds winning - nature will endure even if we destroy ourselves. Will god still exist if there is no one left to pray to him? At the very least he'll be bored. :-)

      About the aspirin, no-one has claimed it is 100% effective but it has an astronomically high probability of being a molecule that inhibits cyclo-oxygenase 1 and 2 to prevent the production of prostaglandins and thereby reduce pain - all mediated by endogeneous molecules that have an astronomically high probability of having evolved from predecessor molecules (and are remarkably close to molecules in other species, making those animals viable candidates for medical experimentation before computer simulations allowed us to progress ((slowly). Cro-magnon man undoubtedly knew about the pain-killing and fever reducing properties of willow bark - they just didn't know why it worked.

      Thanks for your contribution though - I'm glad you don't advocate jesus camp!
      • Jan 27 2012: I just hope that our sense of respect for these medical-test animals has been enough to carry us to respecting life & our place in the world, instead of just wanting more MTV.
        Thank you too.
    • Jan 26 2012: Ps, cro-magnon man lived during the last glacial interstitial period - about 25-35,00 years ago. The geology and archaeology makes the probability know where I'm going! But the insurmountable evidence is there for you to see with your own eyes - if you want to see it. :-)
  • Jan 26 2012: Perhaps they feel the need to fight scientific indoctrination with religious indoctrination?

    Someone once said that it is the job of parent to raise children who no longer need their protection; (or something like that).
    • Jan 26 2012: Sorry steve but there is no such thing as scientific indoctrination, its called education. There are no doctrines to follow. The evidence is available for anyone who wishes to see it and the facts are evident. Science doesnt say 'this is definitely the truth' more like based on all available evidence the probability of this being true is so astronomically high that for our human purposes we can consider it fact. Unless compelling evidence arises to the contrary, in which case we will reconsider our interpretation of the evidence. Thats the same for everthing from 'the heart pumps blood' to 'the universe is at least 13billion years old.' Organised religion has perpetuated myth and legend without opposition, feel the need to fight, yes, but dont expect to win, logic and reason will prevail, in the end.
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    Jan 24 2012: "Why can't children be trusted to look at the available evidence for themselves?" . Being raised Catholic, I can say that a majority of firm believers have the belief that if their children are not worshiping they are sinning. Sins are bad so, in the eyes of a God-fearing parent, raising children in the absence of their faith is comparable to abusing that child or condemning them for life. Serious business for a family!
    • Jan 24 2012: A straight and to the point answer, thank you. You are right of course, it must be virtually impossible to allow your own children to be tempted by and fall to the dark side. There is no getting away from it, beliefs will always be passed from parent to child to a lesser or greater extent. You say you were raised a catholic, do you still consider yourself to be catholic? If yes, do you feel it is because of your upbringing or despite it? If no, what made you change?
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        Jan 24 2012: I do not consider myself Catholic and though I attended a Catholic school and a Catholic church I never have. I did not pay much attention to the feelings or beliefs of the people around me until I was age 12, so perhaps this delay created for me a detached feeling from what my peers believed. As I got older I followed the lead of my brother who became very skeptical of the intentions of religion and cult cultures. My parents did not discourage this though we attended church so I began to see conflict within our lifestyle. I went through many years of bitterness towards the Catholic religion. Disagreements in the 8th grade with my teacher over what our religion sees as immoral and sinful (mostly that I did not believe homosexuality is a sin) were the 'last straw' that made me feel ostracized from the church and my peers. Years later, and with much reflection, I have no bitterness but instead a willingness to find a way to communicate with those whose beliefs conflict with mine.
        • Jan 25 2012: Thanks Tyne for an honest and personal account. It seems to me that perhaps your parents knew you had to make up your own mind and were happy for you to enquire about other world views. Perhaps they wished they had been given the same option as children?

          I too discovered a similar conflict at a similar age. We went to church (of England - a little less fervent than the catholic one, but still church nevertheless) every week and I attended all the youth groups and bible classes etc. As I got older, around 14 or so I began to seriously question the logic of what we were being told. I think there was always disbelief at the back of my mind but as a child you do go along with what authority figures tell you is true.

          It soon became clear that they couldn't answer my questions about the obvious discrepancies between creation and evolution (thankfully taught in school in England, then and now) the responses tended to be "we don't ask those questions" or "its better not to think about it". Needless to say my religious 'beliefs' did not last much longer and were exchanged for a growing scientific enlightenment.

          Your point about morals and sin is spot on - I think most people know instinctively that homosexuality is no more wrong than having black skin or being tall and so when religion insists otherwise it immediately loses credibility. I could digress here about the absolute fallacy that without religion we would have no morals - but thats another debate.

          Your final point about trying to communicate is where I struggle most. Being open-minded to me means being open to new ideas and adjusting/updating your worldview based on what you learn. Unfortunately I have seen little more than a blind refusal to accept the facts (about evolution) and therefore sensible discourse is nearly impossible. This might explain my schoolyard bullying commented on above, but sites like this certainly widen the channels of communication.
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    Jan 21 2012: Hi Michael,

    I really enjoyed your last entry...I gave you a thumbs up.

    Reading it reminded me of two other conversations going on that are interconnected with this one. I hope you will visit them and comment. You have a very balanced view of life. Here are the links to the two conversations:

    I am also reminded of three quotes:

    "If you don't stand up for something, you will fall for anything" Unknown to me

    "My mind is always open, I don't think there is even a door" N.S. Nye

    "The mind is like a parachute, it works best when it is open" Unknown to me

    Lastly, I think, and this is my personal opinion, based on years of working with children from all walks of life, and many cultures and religions: I find that caring parents, who feel their way is the best for them, try to instill their moral values on their children. The path of least resistance, in my opinion, is what eventually influences children to "follow" their parents footsteps. Fear of the unknown, prejudices and intolerance to name just a few factors might also contribute to the children not searching out other answers to life.

    But look, I think TED is made up of people from all over who appear to have open minds....well some of us...and each time I log on I learn something NEW....and I quickly share it with my, there is HOPE!!! Don't you think?
    • Jan 21 2012: Thanks mary, i will have a look at the conversations you recommend. And yes, the reason i have chosen TED to hsve this debate is because it is populated by open minded human beings, whatever their personal beliefs. There is hope for our race and our planet, but it is a precarious hope. Please continue to enlighten your children about everything possible. The further reading i have recommended in my opening statement is accessible to all.
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    Jan 21 2012: I think it is dangerous to believe . When we hold on to beliefs we then have a strong urge to defend these beliefs.

    Simply put, God does not want to be believed in, God wants to be understood.

    There is no existential merit in believing, but everything to be gained to the glory of God through UNDERSTANDING.

    Patrick McCarthy