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« New NASA Chief to Revisit Hubble Decision The RantsSo, When Does the Backlash Come? »

An Ongoing Conversation About Beliefs
2005.04.13 (Wed) 03:07

We recently received a comment on one of our Allison DuBois posts asking about our beliefs and our skeptical approach to life. The commenter, Cat, had the following to say:

I feel for you guys being so sceptical. I imagine that for you when we die there is no after life. I couldn't imagine how painful that would be to not believe in the life of souls. How do you believe in such a depressing and unhopeful existence. Please feel free to email me about this although I don't think you will. All I feel for you is the deepest sympathy. To believe in something greater than yourself leads to humility rather than arrogance.

Cat's inquiry was polite enough and it posed some interesting questions. We posted a reply (the original is on the Rant linked above), and also e-mailed her, but we felt that this thread deserved its own post as well. Since the conversation was (and is) still in progress, and since it is somewhat larger in scope than the Allison DuBois post where it began, we have moved the discussion here. (As a note, we had a lot of fun finding good links for our reply. Some of those images are absolutely awe inspiring!)

Basically, Cat brought up a topic that we had recently been considering posting about — the meaning of life, the nature of belief, and all that jazz. Cat's questions and comments were, in many ways, typical of how many others seem to envision those like us. As atheists and skeptics, people seem to think that our lives must be devoid of all meaning, but that just isn't the case. For our part, we have discovered profound meaning in many aspects of existence, as outlined in our response below. We're sure that other atheists have different opinions, and we'd love to hear about them as well.

Cat is certainly still welcome to participate, as is everyone else who wants to. We're sure that others have been on various sides of this debate before, so let us know what you think. Our first reply to Cat's comment is below.

Actually, Cat, from our perspective, we would say very similar things about you. Note that we're not trying to be facetious or sarcastic; we're just trying to explain to you what our point of view really means, instead of the "depression" and "hopelessness" you imagine.

We feel for you believing that you do have an eternal soul. We imagine that for you, when we die, there is some mystical afterlife; and you wait your entire life to experience it. However, there is no such place, and that goes for you as much as it does for us.

In point of fact, this truth does not at all depress us or leave us without hope — we are actually quite happy people. Sure, it can be disheartening sometimes when people close to us die, since we don't believe they exist in any way afterwards; but to us, that's no reason to delude ourselves with fictional tales. In fact, it makes us savor life all the more, knowing how limited and precious it is. There's nothing depressing or hopeless about it; we live to contribute to the advancement of our species as a whole, and even more importantly to provide comfort, security, love and as many laughs as possible to those from whom we would ask only the same in return. This fulfills us far more than living our lives with the expectation of something more after we die.

Thanks for your sympathy, but with all due respect, we really don't need it. In fact, if you're one of the people who believe that this life is just preparation for an everlasting life to come, then we have the deepest sympathy for you — to us, it would be terrible to waste the only life we have waiting for something that isn't coming.

And to put your mind at ease — we do believe in things greater than ourselves; they're all around us, all the time, and can be seen with our own eyes. When we think about how enormous and old the universe is, how many stars and planets there are, and the awesome distances between them, it humbles us greatly. When we see the genuine, real beauty of this tiny planet we inhabit, and consider the amazing processes through which it came to be, it humbles us greatly. When we think about the fantastic complexity and diversity of living organisms, it humbles us greatly. When we ponder cutting edge scientific ideas (like relativity, string theory, or M theory), it humbles us greatly.

We don't need our "something greater" to be a god or other mystical phenomena. The majesty of the real world is great enough. It is the picture of humility, indeed, to recognize that mankind is — in the big picture — an insignificant plague on a tiny rock orbiting a nondescript star at the edge of a random galaxy in an unimaginably tremendous universe. Being able to recognize this fact, and still being able to recognize the unique wonderfulness of individual human beings, is the perfect example of compassion and humanity.

We find meaning in what we do while we live, not in what happens after we are dead. We derive our happiness from our actions and our interactions, and we hope to make others happy in the same way. To us, that's what life is about: not the imagined reward of an afterlife, but the reward of living itself.

As a note, though, we would say that there are many for whom religious or "spiritual" belief absolutely leads to arrogance. We won't lump you into this group, but we certainly have come across more than a few people like that. From our perspective, it is the height of arrogance to believe that a supremely powerful, unknowable entity has specially selected your species in general, and you in particular (on the basis of your willingness to believe in it), as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

And of course we'll be happy to e-mail you this reply, and to reply to you further if you like. Why would you think that we wouldn't? Other than the slight implication that we could use more humility (which we won't get hung up on), your comment was perfectly polite. We aren't in the habit of biting off the heads of people whose views differ from ours, so long as they are fair and polite about it.

Thanks for your comment — you'll receive our e-mail shortly.

According to Cat's next reply, it seemed that our arrogance had been confirmed in her eyes. We're not pointing any fingers at Cat here — as we said, we believe that this is just how a lot of people see atheists. For people who believe in supernatural forces, we imagine that it would be very difficult to understand how anything that is not magical could possibly be as impressive or important as their own mystical beliefs.

Cat's reply was as follows:

OK I'm impressed, I wasn't expecting a response. I am Buddhist and believe in reincarnation until we reach enlightenment, thats where I'm coming from. I believe we choose to live a physical life in order for our eternal souls to learn lessons that we cannot learn in spirit. But hey I'm open to all kinds of possibilities and don't get me wrong I relish this physical life and am not just waiting to die for any kind of serene heavenly afterlife. But really I am just guessing as to what happens when we die, but you don't seem to be guessing, your post indicates that you know what happens when we go...how do you KNOW that your belief is utterly the only one to have? How can you be so assured that your belief is correct? Has one of your posse died and come back with the ultimate truth? You see thats the real arrogance I see in your belief, you leave no other possibilities open for discussion what you believe is right and everyone else is on the wrong track. That smacks to me of right to lifers who refuse to allow individuals freedom to make their own choices as they are so utterly convinced that their convictions are the only ones to be held. Yes, you have indeed come out and slammed my post to you and let me put this to you, you guys DON'T know and as a friend of mine put it so well, we won't know until we die and then it's too late. So where do you guys stand on ghosts? What animates our bodies from the moment of birth? Are all psychics phonies in your eyes? I have had experiences in my life that suggest that we do exist in spirit, and that is what I base my response on. Obviously you have had experiences in your life that lead to your beliefs and thats cool. If it was in any way possible to prove my beliefs to you I would but alas no way is known. So we stand on opposite sides of an argument with no possible way of proving either sides correctness. I know what I'd rather be and thats a believer rather than a sceptic. I'd rather have my faith than your certainty, however happy it makes you.

The following is the reply we had worked up, which is posted below for the very first time.

— • —

Cat, let us start by saying that it wasn't at all our intention to "slam" your comments, and we're kind of disappointed that you saw our reply in that way. In fact, we started our last reply with a statement that we weren't being sarcastic or facetious — we were simply trying to illustrate our view so you could understand it.

That also leads us to the next important note — we never claimed to "know," in the definitive way to which you seem to refer, whether there is or is not an afterlife, a soul, or a god. We're not sure why you think that we did make such a claim. All we can guess is that the phrasing we used near the beginning of our reply misled you. Our statement was:

We feel for you believing that you do have an eternal soul. We imagine that for you, when we die, there is some mystical afterlife; and you wait your entire life to experience it. However, there is no such place, and that goes for you as much as it does for us.

However, this was just us re-using the phrasing that you used in your initial comment. It was not an attempt to say that we "know" that there is no afterlife. That said, while we don't claim to "know," we do claim to have a pretty good case for our position.

Here's why: it's all about evidence. The stronger the evidence we have for a specific viewpoint, the more likely it is to be true. There is absolutely zero established, confirmed evidence for any psychic, paranormal, supernatural or "spiritual" phenomena. No "medium" has ever conclusively proven contact with a dead person, no paranormal investigator has ever conclusively proven that dead people wander around as ghosts — and so on, and so on. And the thing is, all it would take is one instance where proof existed — just one — and we would have to adjust our view of the world. Yet to date, we haven't needed to do so. On the other hand, there is an extremely large amount of evidence that suggests that the scientific view of how the world works is accurate. So, we go with the scientific approach, the only approach that actually follows through on its hypotheses, either supporting or refuting them through empirical observation and evidence.

In a comment over on the Rant which sparked this discussion, Myrddin makes a wonderfully salient observation:

One of the main characteristics of mankind is that it has a huge drive to investigate and innovate. Mankind leaves no stone unturned in its drive to get further, faster, easier ... Why would there be such a blindspot, if the paranormal really worked?

Why, indeed? The fact that literally thousands of years have gone by without a single piece of evidence for supernatural phenomena, while in a mere few hundred years of intense scientific inquiry we have gathered mountains of evidence for the scientific worldview, should lead to the obvious conclusion: there is no evidence for the paranormal because the paranormal doesn't exist.

Despite what you may think, Cat, there is no arrogance inherent to our position. We certainly do leave "other possibilities open for discussion" — just give us a testable, falsifiable hypothesis on any subject or phenomenon, and we'd be very interested in the outcome of the subsequent experiments. In our experience, this approach tends to lead to a predictable outcome: none of the experiments support the paranormal hypothesis being tested, and the believers end up saying that the paranormal explanation is true anyway. That's fine, if that's all it takes for others; but we require a more rigorous test of accepted knowledge.

And Cat, we take exception to (and some offense at) your suggestion that we are anything like the right to life morons out there. You stated:

That smacks to me of right to lifers who refuse to allow individuals freedom to make their own choices as they are so utterly convinced that their convictions are the only ones to be held.

There is a glaringly obvious difference: the problem with the right to life crowd isn't that they believe that abortions are unacceptable (they are welcome to that belief), but rather that they attempt to impose that belief on others via legislation, propaganda, and violence. You seem to agree that this is a problem, based on your statement above. However, that is not at all our position with regard to religion and/or the paranormal. While we believe it is important to get the facts about these things out in the open, ultimately it is up to each individual to decide what they want to believe. We have no desire at all to force you to stop believing in psychics, ghosts, or reincarnation. We actually wrote a post about this a little while back called "Believe What You Want to Believe." It states, in part, the following:

It is important to understand that we fully support your right to believe whatever you want to believe, regardless of the supporting facts, or lack thereof. We firmly support your right to your own personal beliefs, and we would gladly argue for you to maintain that right. That said, it is equally important to understand that we maintain the right to not believe what you believe, and to think that what you believe is silly. Just because you believe something passionately, don't expect us to respect that belief. We will respect your right to hold that belief, but not necessarily the belief itself.

The main issue here is that we should all have the right to believe whatever we want to believe, as long as that belief doesn't infringe on the rights of others.

In a nutshell: believe what you want to believe, just don't expect universal respect for your beliefs, and don't try to force your beliefs on anyone else. From what we've read from you, we don't think you are asking for either of those things.

We also want to address some of the questions you posed:

So where do you guys stand on ghosts?

We believe that ghosts do not exist. There isn't a single shred of convincing evidence for ghosts. Every supposed piece of evidence that we've seen can be quite easily explained, if you know what to look for. Science can be a wonderful tool! We'll gladly look at any compelling evidence for the existence of ghosts — to date, we've seen nothing even remotely convincing. Of course, as usual, we have no problem if others want to believe in ghosts, as long as that belief doesn't infringe on our lives.

What animates our bodies from the moment of birth?

Our bodies are animated by the electrochemical impulses delivered throughout our nervous system to instruct our muscles to move. There's nothing at all mysterious about this process. Of course, you may have meant to ask the more meaningful question: "From where does our conscious self arise?" The answer to that is both complicated and incomplete, as yet, and would be better explained by a cognitive scientist.

Are all psychics phonies in your eyes?

Well, since we believe that psychic powers are not real, then by extension, we believe that self-proclaimed psychics do not really possess such powers. Are they all "phonies"? To be fair, we would say that some are frauds and con artists, while some actually delude themselves into believing that they really do have these powers. Neither scenario, however, makes them correct. Once again, we'll qualify this by stating that we would welcome evidence to the contrary — we've just never seen any that has stood up to scientific scrutiny. And as usual, anyone who wants to is free to believe in psychic powers, as long as it doesn't interfere with our lives. That means no admitting completely unverifiable (read: any) psychic revelations as evidence in court, or as a reason to issue a search warrant — but feel free to drop $300 on a personal reading about your financial future, if you're so inclined.

If it was in any way possible to prove my beliefs to you I would but alas no way is known. So we stand on opposite sides of an argument with no possible way of proving either sides correctness.

Well, there is no evidence at all for the beliefs that you hold, and that's okay. We just find it interesting when people who hold such beliefs try to assert them as factual with no real evidence to support their claims. From our perspective, we may not have definitive knowledge of the position we hold, but we can point to a lot of evidence in favor of our beliefs. We can also debunk much of the supposed evidence for beliefs like yours (though certainly not all of it since so much is merely anecdotal). Remember, we can't "prove" that the things you believe in do not exist — we can't prove a negative, we can only show that specific claims are false. In the end, you are correct in saying that we will likely not convince one another to change beliefs. In our experience, the anecdotal evidence that you lean on for your beliefs is enough for you, and will never be enough for us. So, it is a gap that usually cannot be closed.

I know what I'd rather be and thats a believer rather than a sceptic. I'd rather have my faith than your certainty, however happy it makes you.

In all sincerity, feel free to be a believer in whatever makes you happy. We would never try to stop you. You asked (and made assumptions) about our lives, our beliefs and our feelings, and we simply explained our actual point of view. Not only are we saying that you are welcome to your beliefs, we would gladly argue for your right to maintain them. This is a free country (at least until the Religious Right takes over — and trust us, you being a Buddhist, we're all on the same side in that battle), and no one can tell you what you can or cannot believe.

You do make a strange assertion here when you say that being a believer or a skeptic is about what you'd "rather" be. That's simply not true for us. All other factors aside, given the choice, we'd love to live in a world in which the supernatural is real, where wishing really does make it so; but throughout our lives we've experienced, observed, and learned, just like everybody else, and we've discovered that wishing does not make it so. In our experience, nobody can talk to ghosts, and nobody is verifiably reincarnated. So we are skeptics because it is an approach to knowledge that does not presume anything other than a logical, sensible (in every meaning of the word), consistent environment around us. From our perspective, we find it strange that more people don't take this approach. Shouldn't everyone prefer to live in such a world, where we have a definitive approach to learning rather than just a "hope" of learning through revelation? We know we would.

Cat, we are in no way trying to slam your comments, or make you give up your beliefs. From what we've read from you, we would guess that you have no desire to force your beliefs on others, which means that we wouldn't really have a bone to pick with you at all. We don't agree with your beliefs, and we think they are silly, but you would probably say the same about us and our beliefs. And that's okay. We can live together quite comfortably on this planet, our diverse beliefs intact, just as long as none of us follow the misguided lead of the Religious Right by trying to cram our personal beliefs down the throats of others. We probably won't be best friends, but we certainly don't need to be enemies.

— • —

So, hey: skeptics, true believers, anybody else (except the damn comment spammers) — what do you think of the topics we've touched on with Cat? What is your "something greater," and your approach to learning about the universe around us...and why? From what we've seen of the blogosphere and our readers, there is no shortage of opinions in this world; let us know what yours are.


— • —
[  Filed under: % Bullshit  % Greatest Hits  % Religion  ]

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Comments (52)

catherine_j, 2005.04.13 (Wed) 10:08 [Link] »

I remember, as a teenager, I read a science book (for fun, because I was and still am a big geek) that brought up the way planetary systems are (believed to be) formed from particles of dust and debris and gasses left over from the formation of their parent star. And, of course, everything *on* those planets is necessarily formed from the same material. In other words ... we're all made of stardust. I can't begin to describe the awe and wonder I felt right then.

The size and complexity of the universe does indeed make me feel small and humble ... and extraordinarily lucky just to be here. My existence is nothing less than a win in a great cosmic lottery with unimaginable odds, and if there is nothing more beyond this life, that doesn't diminish its value one bit.

Alas, as with so many other ideas, I can't express it nearly as well as Monty Python:
"So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth."

I don't believe that our lives are imbued with meaning and purpose by some Creator before we're born. I believe that meaning and purpose are things we find for ourselves ... and, to be honest, I find my own view -- that the meaning of life is ours to construct, and not something assigned to us by an outside force -- considerably more inspiring. Others will disagree, and that's fine. I know plenty of people who believe plenty of wacky things, and I don't think any less of them for it. But I do have a problem with people assuming I must see life as meaningless, just because I don't see blind faith as a great virtue.

Thanks for putting up such a thoughtful post on this. :)



The Two Percent Company, 2005.04.14 (Thu) 22:48 [Link] »

We're glad to hear that we weren't the only ones reading science books for fun when we were kids! We definitely know that feeling of awe, Catherine...



Cat, 2005.04.19 (Tue) 10:10 [Link] »

Hello Again Folks,
Well it feels weird to have my comments dissected and commented on and then to be granted a whole page, thats like wow :)
When you made the comment in your post that "We imagine that for you, when we die, there is some mystical afterlife etc. However there is no such place & that goes for you as much as it does for us." That was the phrase I had objections to as that was written as a statement of fact, but such a statement cannot be verified unless someone dies and comes back with the ultimate truth. OK so its only a minor technicality on your behalf but thats what got me going.
The truth is, your comments are eloquent, rational and logical and apart from having different views on eternal souls and an afterlife, I find myself really liking you guys.
This may sound strange and maybe is the first sign of madness but I talk to the people I have lost & get a kick out of thinking that they hear me.
I topped my classes in High School for Science and know the wonder that is the voyage of discovery for science. Nerd alert!!
Take it easy folks & thanx for the argument as it really made me sit down and work out my beliefs. I look forward to knowing the truth one day as I believe the truth is much more magical and wondrous then the human mind can conceive.
Many blessings
Cat



The Two Percent Company, 2005.04.29 (Fri) 17:51 [Link] »

Cat — all things considered, we like you, too. Though our beliefs may differ, we wish you nothing but the best. Thanks for the discussion! You're always welcome here.



Ceecee, 2005.05.03 (Tue) 08:21 [Link] »

Hi there,
I've just completed reading this thread and found it an interesting discussion. Thus, I decided that far be it for me to pass up a chance to ramble incessantly. I do believe in an afterlife, don't worry I have no intention of imposing my belief onto you, although from your rants it would seem like a near impossible task of converting you if I was so inclined. However, when it was mentioned that paranormal beliefs have circulated since cavemen, and in your opinion 'literally thousands of years have gone by without a single piece of evidence for supernatural phenomena' How has it come to be that in the era of technology and scientific advancement the belief in the paranormal is still prevalent?
How is it that you must continue to disprove theories of the existence of spiritual entities and the connection of those who claim to have connection to the other side such as Allison Dubios if their is 'mountainous' scientific evidence to prove otherwise?
Could there be a slight possibility in your mind, even the slightest, that the reason why the belief in the paranormal has continued from the cavemen to contemporary 21st century because there may be some slight truth in the possibility of a higher existence?
You understand as much as I do how rare 100% certainties are. Could some things be unexplainable by science and left up to faith?



The Two Percent Company, 2005.05.03 (Tue) 13:39 [Link] »

Ceecee,

Actually, you are misreading what we said above. You ask:

How is it that you must continue to disprove theories of the existence of spiritual entities and the connection of those who claim to have connection to the other side such as Allison Dubios if their is 'mountainous' scientific evidence to prove otherwise?

What we actually said is:

The fact that literally thousands of years have gone by without a single piece of evidence for supernatural phenomena, while in a mere few hundred years of intense scientific inquiry we have gathered mountains of evidence for the scientific worldview, should lead to the obvious conclusion: there is no evidence for the paranormal because the paranormal doesn't exist.

What we are talking about is the mountain of evidence supporting the scientific view of the world, not the evidence "disproving" the paranormal. You can't "disprove" the paranormal, so no such evidence exists. Rather, what we are saying is that, over a few hundred years, the scientific method has produced mountains of evidence for scientific claims, yet after thousands of years, there is no evidence of paranormal claims.

You ask:

How has it come to be that in the era of technology and scientific advancement the belief in the paranormal is still prevalent?

Sadly, people have been ignoring science in favor of fantasy for a long time, and the practice shows no signs of going away. As far as why they ignore science, we can't say — we can only report that it happens far more often than we'd like it to happen. Check the statistics on how many Americans believe that the earth was created according to the Biblical account as opposed to via the means theorized by science and you'll see what we mean. People, for all their higher brain functions, are animals — we have evolved with specific behaviors and abilities which served us well before the advent of civilization, but which can serve as a hindrance to true scientific scrutiny of observed phenomena. (As an example, think pareidolia.)

Regarding our stance on faith-based beliefs, we cover that pretty thoroughly in another post called "Believe What You Want to Believe."

Do we admit the possibility of the paranormal? Of course. The same goes for just about any wild claim that we can think of — we admit the possibility, we just think that the possibility is so low as to make no odds. It's possible that there will be a massive power outage across the entire United States before we finish this sentence, it just isn't all that likely. (Nope...didn't happen.)

Could some things be taken on faith? Sure, everyone does this. Sometimes when we're sitting in traffic, not moving, and we need to be somewhere ten miles away in ten minutes, we have a faith-based belief that we can still make it on time. Call it optimism, positive thinking, or denial, we all do it. But we don't confuse our delusions of punctuality with actual fact. In the same way, lots of people believe in the paranormal, and that's okay. We just don't like it when these same people try to give the paranormal a false veneer of science and factuality.

And sure, some things may currently be unexplainable by science, but that's no reason for science not to try.



CeeCee, 2005.05.06 (Fri) 05:30 [Link] »

Hi there,
I agree, you're completely right. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. However, we appear to differ greatly in opinion when it comes to respecting that persons belief. You emphasise the respect you have for a person to hold a belief and yet do not feel the need to extend that respect to the belief itself. Thus when that belief differs from yours, you mock it...politely of course, but still mockingly (equating the faith I spoke of with that of the desire to be somewhere on time). Why then respect one and not the other?
If one subsequently leads directly to the other?
What you truly respect is a person's right to share your belief, which is why, and you will surely disagree, that your writing can sometimes take on the attitude of haughty schooboy trying to educate an extremely unenlightened group morons (maybe not the best analogy). Therefore, I guess in some way I needed you to acknowledge the fact that a possibility of 'another' exists, even though in your eyes it's the equivalent to nothing. Remember one in a hundred billion is still a chance regardless of how 'low' you may think it. I truly apologise if anything I said may have offended.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.05.06 (Fri) 13:49 [Link] »

Ceecee,

No, you aren't offending us, you just don't seem to understand what we're saying.

To us, respecting a person's right to hold a belief in no way leads to respecting the belief itself. We're not really sure why you think they go hand-in-hand, but we disagree.

You also say about us:

What you truly respect is a person's right to share your belief...

Not true at all. As we said, we fully respect a person's right to hold any belief at all, no matter how silly or misguided we think it is. As an extreme example, we respect a person's right to believe in white supremacy even though we find that belief itself abhorrent. Why does insulting a silly or misguided belief system mean to you that we don't really respect a person's right to hold that belief? Can you explain why you think this?

Keep in mind that, despite what you might think, we don't go out of our way to mock others' beliefs in our daily lives. When conversing with Ann, the "pagan" from a previous Rant, we keep our mouths shut about the many ludicrous beliefs she professes. The mistake that you seem to be making — and don't worry, it's a common mistake among internet surfers — is in assuming that our "personalities" on this website represent our daily actions and routines. They simply don't. This website is a vehicle for personal expression — a place where we can express our real opinions on such bullshit without offending the people with whom we interact on a day-to-day basis (who don't seem to read our site). This isn't to say that we never voice our opinions outside of this web site — we certainly do, when it is appropriate to do so (usually, when they are elicited by others). For us, this website is a place where it is always appropriate to voice our opinions since that's why we started it in the first place.

To us, respecting a person's right to hold a belief is a matter of freedom. Above all, we believe in civil liberties and the right to decide how we each live our own lives. That's why we respect the right to hold a belief. However, that doesn't stop us from calling bullshit "bullshit." Being able to do that is, to us, also a matter of freedom. Doing anything else when confronted with something that we think is crap would be useless "politically correct" angling, and we have no desire to engage in that kind of behavior. We also don't expect others to do so, and they are free to mock our beliefs.

Finally, there are beliefs that differ from ours that we respect. There are also beliefs that we do not hold that, though we don't respect them, we don't mock them either. However, when people make claims like those Allison DuBois has made, or when people demonstrate slack-jawed adherence to what people like Allison say, we feel absolutely no need to refrain from mocking them. Why do you?

Let's stay on this topic for a minute. How do you think that people who believe in psychics, homeopathy, alien abductions and the like should be treated? How about evolution deniers who are trying to remove science from public schools and replace it with religion? How about holocaust deniers who, in essence, are actually calling living people who survived the holocaust liars? How about the white supremacists we referred to above? Should we respect all of these beliefs as well? What does respecting them mean? Does it mean not telling our kids that they are bullshit? Does it mean not speaking out against them in the public arena? Does it mean teaching both sides in schools? Are some beliefs above mockery, and others not? Are some forms of showing respect expected and proper, but others not required? In your opinion, where is the line to be drawn? Keep in mind that there are generally as many beliefs as there are people to hold them — if you draw the line anywhere, you're going to be "excluding" some people, while including others. We've chosen to draw no line — any belief system, including our own, is open to mockery or scorn. We're extending that invitation to any person on the planet — the only codicil is that, if people are going to shit on somebody's beliefs, we would prefer that they use some logic or evidence (or preferably both) to back up their opinions. Of course, they're free not to, but then they won't have much of a case.

As a note, we weren't mocking you by using the example of believing that we'll be somewhere on time; we were just trying to show that even people who don't think that they have faith-based beliefs actually do engage in some, no matter how mundane they might be. Also, we were trying to show that admitting the possibility of something in no way means that we would or should behave in such a way as if it is actually true. As we suggested, to us the chances of that huge continental power outage are roughly the same (very roughly) as the chances of there being a god up in the sky. Based on these probabilities, we would no more start living our lives as if a god existed than we would immediately start lighting candles and testing flashlight batteries.

Please let us know what you think on the questions above. We would really like to understand your thoughts.



CeeCee, 2005.05.07 (Sat) 08:17 [Link] »

Hi there,

The mistake that you seem to be making — and don't worry, it's a common mistake among internet surfers — is in assuming that our "personalities" on this website represent our daily actions and routines.

If you are referring to the haughty schoolboy (or girl) comment made earlier. Then you misconstrue my intention, I was merely stating a trend I saw in your writing more so than actually commenting on the non-virtual aspect of your life. Rather, I would surely hope that these ‘personalities’ would be a reflection of your daily actions and routines. I now begin the back-peddling part of the section.

Ashamedly I admit I hadn’t actually factored in other views when I spoke of respect. I argued passionately and quite narrow-mindedly instead, of that respect towards my views and my beliefs, for that I erred terribly. Thank you for aiding one of the ‘misguided’.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.05.07 (Sat) 11:47 [Link] »

CeeCee,

You're right, our writing on this site certainly does reflect our views accurately; and — when appropriate — we would offer the same opinions in our daily lives. However, the difference is that it isn't always appropriate to do so in real life. With Ann, the correct thing to do is to let her raise her child. It's not our place to tell her that what she is doing is wrong. Here on our site, though, we have a forum specifically designed to allow us to broach such a topic; or, for that matter, any topic.

Just so you know, we weren't implying that you were one of the people out there with misguided views. Frankly, we don't know what your views are, so we can't comment on them in any way (you didn't supply them, we won't infer them!). We were just explaining why we respect a person's right to hold a belief that we don't agree with, but don't necessarily respect the belief itself.

We do hope that you don't feel we were condescending to you. We freely admit that we sometimes take on a condescending tone, and that sometimes we're outright rude; but we try to do so only when we believe it is warranted. For example, when Patricia, who believes that water has a memory, told us how we can seem more "credible," we were certainly a bit condescending in our reply. And when HawkingS (a.k.a. Sniffles) threw half-assed psychoanalysis at us in order to build his own straw man argument, we were justifiably rude right back to him. You, on the other hand, had honest and valid questions. You didn't shovel crap at us, and you didn't try to hammer us with what we "really" believe. We have no intention of being rude or condescending towards you, and we hope that you didn't feel that we were.

Thanks for your comments.



Jodie, 2005.06.17 (Fri) 10:02 [Link] »

I originally started out tonite in a search for information on Allison DuBois, this is where I ended up. I have been reading your website for more than an hour now and I find it all very facinating.
I find myself in a position where I don't know what I believe and indeed find myself in search of something to believe in. I guess it comes down to the hope that it will somehow make my life more meaningful. Alas I find myself as confused as ever, since you, and folks who have written to you, both make such convincing arguments. I will be back to this website, though i don't know if I will ever make up my mind one way or the other.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.06.17 (Fri) 11:58 [Link] »

Well, Jodie, what you're doing is the best thing you can do — you are researching this stuff for yourself. We're happy to tell you what we believe and why, but at the end of the day, no one can tell you what you should believe.

If you want to understand more about the arguments on both sides of the fence, just keep doing what you're doing. We could tell you lots of places to look for information, but you seem to be doing okay on your own.

One thing we'd suggest as it relates to psychics and mediums (like Allison DuBois); look into "cold reading" before you make up your mind. You can find a good write-up in the Skeptic's Dictionary (check out "hot reading" and "subjective validation" while you're there), and in lots of other places. You can also see examples of cold reading on Penn & Teller's Bullshit, season one. Once you see how cold reading works, our guess is that you'll never look at a so-called psychic the same way again.

Thanks for stopping by.



charles potnar, 2005.08.16 (Tue) 20:24 [Link] »

You folks are as dogmatic as any "fundamentalist" view, your "religion" being the "reductionist-materialist" stance being the well known populist view. You know what I mean. The "tenents" of this faith include the well worn adage that "conciousness and mentality are an epiphenomenon of the chemical and neurological processes in the brain" and "psychic phenomena are systems of belief, rather than actual demonstratable phenomena" etc etc etc.
Well, much of what I have read here seems to be in the same class as the defensive pronouncements of the most ardent of fundamentalist preachers, who will brook no serious consideration of any view of existence than the "unvarnished and unassailable truth"

That's a rather limiting way to approach things, and I am sure as life experience continues, you will be running into the walls of your "unassailable truth" no less than the frustrated preacher on the road to conversion of the Unwashed Masses.

I know, I know, that you will respond to this saying that "no one can know the absolute truth, but SO FAR" etc etc. Well, fine and dandy, but it is kind of obnoxious of you to dismiss out of hand the world view of others so readily. Why can't you be satisfied with "knowing the truth" as it were? Why must you spend so much energy trying to "enlighten" the "ignorant populace?

Your strident defense of your world view is going to get you a: people seeking answers, who will gladly accept your "tenents" and b: the dirision of intelligent people who have opinions different from yours. Now "a" will swell your head and make you think you are doing worthwhile work, but "b" will keep you longing for the wisdom and sincere respect from others you so desperately seek.

Have a great day. Thanks.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.08.17 (Wed) 00:02 [Link] »

You know, this was actually one of the most polite and cordial threads on our entire site, until charles chimed in. We're sure our regular readers appreciate his "spicing things up" as he has.

charles,

It's hard to imagine a more misguided reading of our views than the one that you just described. In short, your take is completely inaccurate. In contrast to your comment, though, we'll actually provide support for our assertion.

First, thanks for explaining to us what our religion is — now that you've filled us in, all that's left is for us to explain that you are wrong. According to your definition, science is a religion. Sorry, no, that's not right. You talk about fact-based and faith-based beliefs as if there was no difference, and that's not at all correct. If you can't see the difference between the two, then there isn't much that we can do for you in the space of this comment.

For our part, the only "dogma" we've espoused in this Rant or in the comments was: no belief without evidence. Gee, what a horrible, terrible tenet to hold! How dare we get so dogmatic? C'mon, charles, spare us the usual nonsense about how lack of religion is really a religion. It's old and tired, and it was a crappy argument when it was new. We enjoy our hobby of not collecting stamps, too.

In addition, you seem convinced that we are unwilling or unable to hear about viewpoints that differ from our own. Sorry, no, that's also wrong. We are always willing to hear from others who disagree with us, as long as they have something logical and intelligent to say. Sadly, your contribution didn't meet those criteria, but we decided to reply to you anyway.

See, charles, if we had a belief in an "unassailable truth," then we would be like the religious folks, and our intractable beliefs would run us into walls as we grew older. However, since we embrace logic, reason, and science, and since this approach allows for changes in our point of view inspired by actual evidence, we can manage to avoid the walls you speak of.

You go on to ask why we can't be satisfied with "knowing the truth" as we see it. Why do we spend time writing what we write? Well, charles, there are so many people out there spouting off utter nonsense as if it was absolute fact that we feel it is important to counteract the bullshit. What you seem to regard as just another "world view," we see as dangerous, harmful misinformation.

We've talked about this before. It's nice to sit back and say that everyone's views should be respected and that no one should make fun of or denounce the views of others, but in the real world, that kind of politically correct approach just gets you into trouble. An example we've given before is just above, in the comments of this very post. Ceecee implied that because we mocked the beliefs of others, we didn't respect the right of others to hold beliefs other than our own. Our reply was, in part:

How do you think that people who believe in psychics, homeopathy, alien abductions and the like should be treated? How about evolution deniers who are trying to remove science from public schools and replace it with religion? How about holocaust deniers who, in essence, are actually calling living people who survived the holocaust liars? How about the white supremacists we referred to above? Should we respect all of these beliefs as well? What does respecting them mean? Does it mean not telling our kids that they are bullshit? Does it mean not speaking out against them in the public arena? Does it mean teaching both sides in schools? Are some beliefs above mockery, and others not? Are some forms of showing respect expected and proper, but others not required? In your opinion, where is the line to be drawn? Keep in mind that there are generally as many beliefs as there are people to hold them — if you draw the line anywhere, you're going to be "excluding" some people, while including others. We've chosen to draw no line — any belief system, including our own, is open to mockery or scorn. We're extending that invitation to any person on the planet — the only codicil is that, if people are going to shit on somebody's beliefs, we would prefer that they use some logic or evidence (or preferably both) to back up their opinions. Of course, they're free not to, but then they won't have much of a case.

We'll pose the same question to you. If we decide to respect all world views, then what's to say that any of the crazy shit above shouldn't be taught in schools, or promoted by the government? Help us to understand which of the above are worthy of speaking out against, and which are above reproach, according to you.

Since we've answered your question about why we created our site, we'll turn your own question back on you, charles. You came to our site, and formed an opinion about us. Then, you decided to write this comment so that, in addition to us, the whole world could read it. So our question is: why couldn't you be satisfied with "knowing the 'truth' about us" as you saw it? Why did you spend time and energy sharing your (for lack of a better word) view? We expect that if you honestly answer that question, you will understand why we do what we do here.

As far as what our site will get us, your psychoanalysis isn't worth the pixels we're viewing it on. We aren't looking for followers, and we aren't looking for respect. Our site is an outlet to write about what we want to write about. If others enjoy reading it, that's great. If others enjoy contributing to an intelligent discussion, that's even better. But if you think we're longing for any kind of acceptance, you're very much mistaken.

Finally, the word is "tenets," not "tenants" (which you didn't spell correctly either). Make that mistake once, and we'll call it a typo. Make it twice, quite prominently — you put freaking quotation marks around it both times — and we have to assume that you don't know the word. Dictionary.com is a wonderful resource.

Have a great day.



charles potnar, 2005.08.17 (Wed) 23:24 [Link] »

Ok. "Tenents" it is. I stand corrected. I am glad I could "spice things up." I remember from somewhere that "Discomfort is a necessary prelude to enlightenment." Well, if I have misconstrued your motivations, I will stand corrected, but the argument between us seems to be a little more distilled after your post.

I disagree with you that Science is not in the same class as Religion. There is a certain approach that proponents of either step off from, and that is that their system is "based upon a logical analysis of the Universe around us, the evidence of the Past, and the reasoned thinking of the greatest minds of the day." Religious proponents espouse this view as well as ardent Scientists.

I remember having an argument with a co-worker and friend. She voiced the view that the Sun would follow a course of stellar evolution that would eventually lead to it becoming a red giant in a few billion years. She voiced this with certainty, citing facts, figures, the histories of similar massed and composited stars. When I pointed out that we could not know for sure that the sun would be a red giant, as we and everyone we know would be long gone and unable to ascertain what had happened to the sun, she continued to vociferously press her point that "all available evidence backs up my point of view" and she continued to spout facts, figures and the observations of scientists throughout the centuries.

When I pointed out that not everything is known about the underpinnings of the Universe, and that science is an evolving discipline, and subject to revision, it washed past her as if water around a stone.

I pointed out that there is a higher probability that the sun would eventually turn into a red giant than not, based upon what we know, but the water still rushed past the stone. "There is no doubt," she said, "all evidence points to this scenario"

Well, at least we exchanged views.

Science has repeatedly been turned upon its head.
It's inevitable that this will happen again and again.

We know nothing of where we come from, why we exist, the nature of existence, where we are going.

In my opinion, to ascribe ANYTHING as certainty beyond the observable basics that we all need to breathe, that we all need to eat, that we all excrete waste, sweat, rest, reproduce and die and are inextricably part of this magnificent mystery called Universe is Religion.

Is there absolute proof that conciousness does not survive? I can demonstrate with certainty that there is gravity.
This can be demonstrated to anyone, easily, reproducibly.

I would ask whether the non-existence of soul or conciousness, separate from Body, be categorically demonstrated? Do we know enough about conciousness, where it comes from, why it is necessary, and where it goes (if it does go) when life ceases?

Why do we need to be conscious at all? Computers function perfectly well without it, as do other complex devices. Would it not be more advantagious evolutionarily to be complex, smoothly functioning automatons, without the hindrance of decision making, pondering, sense of self, and other variables that slow things up?

I say that until more is known about the nature of Mind, and Universe, no one viewpoint about the ultimate nature of things can be any more valid than any other.

Thanks for your time and sharing.



Rockstar, 2005.09.22 (Thu) 16:15 [Link] »
no one viewpoint about the ultimate nature of things can be any more valid than any other.

Translation:

I posted a bunch of bullshit ideas and got taken to task for them being stupid. So here's some woo-woo to make me feel better.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.10.03 (Mon) 10:15 [Link] »

In short, Charles, your understanding of science and religion is highly flawed. For example:

I disagree with you that Science is not in the same class as Religion. There is a certain approach that proponents of either step off from, and that is that their system is "based upon a logical analysis of the Universe around us, the evidence of the Past, and the reasoned thinking of the greatest minds of the day." Religious proponents espouse this view as well as ardent Scientists.

It's hard to imagine how you could be more off base. Religion is not even remotely "based upon a logical analysis of the Universe around us, the evidence of the Past, and the reasoned thinking of the greatest minds of the day." How you can say that with a straight face is beyond us. And yes, some proponents of religion might say that this is their approach, but that doesn't make it true.

Regarding your conversation with your friend — well, remember way back in the previous paragraph when we said it's hard to imagine how you could be more off base? Now we don't have to tax our imaginations so much. You are painting your friend as having a dogmatic belief in a specific scientific theory. Assuming that you are correctly representing your friend's beliefs (and we have our doubts), all you have shown is that she doesn't understand science. In effect, you have shown that she views science as a dogmatic pursuit, much akin to religion. Why the Holy Hell would it follow that, just because she thinks this way, her view somehow represents an accurate description of scientific thought as a whole? Her lack of knowledge of the scientific method means nothing. Hell, she could have said that science taught her that she can fly by flapping her arms — that doesn't mean that science really makes that assertion, it just means that she's wrong.

Your next statements about the sun becoming a red giant illustrate some fundamental flaws in your understanding of science. You say:

When I pointed out that we could not know for sure that the sun would be a red giant, as we and everyone we know would be long gone and unable to ascertain what had happened to the sun, she continued to vociferously press her point that "all available evidence backs up my point of view" and she continued to spout facts, figures and the observations of scientists throughout the centuries.

First, the likelihood that our sun will evolve into a red giant is more massive than you can possibly imagine. Perhaps your friend, understanding the magnitude of her statement that "all evidence points to this scenario," simply stated her point as a fact, while still understanding that all science is subject to review. After all, if we all paused to place caveats on every statement we ever made, we'd never get through a conversation. For example, when we say that ghosts do not exist, do we mean that we've conducted extensive tests and "proven" that there are no ghosts? No, we mean that there has never been a single shred of evidence to support a belief in the existence of ghosts, and until such evidence is produced, we don't believe in them. We further mean that, to us, this lack of evidence is so damning, that the probability of there being ghosts is so low as to make no odds. Hence, in the interests of science, logic, and common sense, we say it as a firm certainty to save time. Your friend was likely doing the same thing.

Second, like any scientific theory (this one about star formation, development and collapse), it is called a theory (as opposed to a hypothesis) because it is supported by evidence. If evidence surfaces that refutes it, then scientists will examine that evidence and rework the theory.

Third, you, Charles, seem to be waiting to directly and personally observe something before you nod and agree that it's true. If that's your approach, then we suggest you steer clear of astrophysics — instead, you can spend your time pondering such heavy thoughts as "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?" In fact, you seem to take that one step further by asking "If a tree falls in the middle of New York City on a busy street and I am not around to hear it, does it make a noise?" There's a difference between having "an open mind" and being absurdly credulous. Douglas Adams' Ruler of the Universe is a humorous demonstration of an "open mind" taken to the absurd extreme you suggest — in real life, somebody who would behave that way is simply an idiot. There's no payoff, you see — there's literally no reason to try or do anything if you refuse to accept that there are internally consistent and symmetrical laws of physics.

You go on to say:

Science has repeatedly been turned upon its head. It's inevitable that this will happen again and again.

Well, you're wrong here, but we know what you're trying to say. Science — which is to say the scientific method and the scientific approach to learning about the universe — has never been turned on its head. We believe that what you mean to say is that various scientific theories have, over time, been proven wrong and, as a result, are no longer seen as accurate descriptions of the way the universe works. That is, of course, correct. And do you know what it is that has always turned these old scientific theories on their heads? That's right, Charles — science. It is the scientific method itself that is used to overturn old theories and replace them with new ones. In fact, that's the wonderful thing about science: it isn't immutable and intractable like religion; it is open to the possibility of new thoughts and ideas overturning the old ones so long as those new ideas can produce evidence in their favor. Since religion has no evidence in its favor, it can't turn "science" (or, as you should have said, an individual scientific theory) on its head. See the difference?

You then say:

Why do we need to be conscious at all? Computers function perfectly well without it, as do other complex devices. Would it not be more advantagious evolutionarily to be complex, smoothly functioning automatons, without the hindrance of decision making, pondering, sense of self, and other variables that slow things up?

Quite frankly, there are lots of tweaks we can think of that would have been more advantageous from an evolutionary standpoint. Would lacking consciousness be one of them? Not necessarily. Limb and organ regeneration would be, though, and we don't have that. Hell, we can even think of a more mundane one: it would be more advantageous if the retina was not constructed inside-out. The way it is now, the nerve fibers have to pass through the retina to make their way to the brain, resulting in a blind spot for which the brain has to pull some cognitive tricks to compensate. Surely, it would be more advantageous to not have such a blind spot, and yet, evolution has taken us down this less-than-perfect path. And...? What's your point?

You close with:

I say that until more is known about the nature of Mind, and Universe, no one viewpoint about the ultimate nature of things can be any more valid than any other.

No, Charles. The viewpoints with actual evidence backing them up get to be considered quite a bit more valid. That's how science works.



smickers, 2005.10.11 (Tue) 19:43 [Link] »

Why is it that when Cat disagrees with you, and manages to be quite brief and succinct, you write such long and, might i say, rambling replies? It sort of makes you look really defensive.

Your site actually reminds me of fundamentalist christian websites, where every minute detail of what people say is pored and agonised over before judgement is prounounced...

By the way, I'm not a religious person.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.10.11 (Tue) 21:26 [Link] »

In general, smickers, we're thorough. We like to prevent misunderstandings or misinterpretations (which have come up unexpectedly in the past) before they occur. We have a lot to say on a variety of issues. And, quite simply, we like to write. Why the heck else would we have started a blog?

Specifically, Cat made some incorrect assumptions about us, and also asked us some direct questions. Our replies were designed to clear up those incorrect assumptions and to answer Cat's questions. Quite frankly, we were conversing with Cat at that time, and not with you. Cat seemed to be perfectly happy with our replies, based on her last response. She thanked us for the exchange as it made her sit down and work out her beliefs (her words). In fact, many of the other commenters echoed Cat's sentiments about this being a good thought-provoking discussion. So, if the person we were actually directing our replies to (as well as some others) found the exchange to be worthwhile, we're not sure why we would count your opinion above those others. If you don't care for the structure of an exchange that you weren't even a part of, our advice — in all sincerity — is to ignore it.

Oh, and as for your statement that we reminded you of a Christian fundamentalist web site — if you read above, Cat drew a parallel between us and the pro-lifers that we defended at some length. We could have just told Cat "nah-ah, we are not" and left it there, but we chose to explain why her comparison was inaccurate. For you, in the interests of brevity, we'll just stick with: "We are nothing like fundies — you should be able to see the vast differences on your own."

We have a question for you now, smickers: why did your comment "ramble" into a statement regarding your being "not a religious person"? We would guess that you added that because you wanted to clear that point up before we assumed otherwise. So...you're not religious. Potential confusion avoided. We got it. You get it?



charles potnar, 2005.10.23 (Sun) 01:58 [Link] »

I see that others are moved to describe your site as similar in tone to the detailed, defensive, long and rambling exhortations of the religious fervent, who seeks to verify to others and himself the veracity of the dogma his teachers laid on him. his dogma.

It's true that you folks sound very much like the students fresh out of the Sweeting World Evangelical Center here in Chicago.

The difference is that you have a lot more air masqurading as "unassailable facts" than any one of them ever had. But in the final analysis, it's still air, same style of "facts and figures" that those kids from Sweeting spout to demonstrate that the world is only several thousand years old, not billions, and that God created the Universe in six days. After all, the Evidence is There, if ONLY you would interpret events correctly.

As far as I can see, my analogy of science as religion still stands. If you don't believe me, hie thee hence to the nearest "creationism" website.

Hey, thanks for an interesting and stimulating webpage!



charles potnar, 2005.10.23 (Sun) 02:00 [Link] »

I see that others are moved to describe your site as similar in tone to the detailed, defensive, long and rambling exhortations of the religious fervent, who seeks to verify to others and himself the veracity of the dogma his teachers laid on him. his dogma.

It's true that you folks sound very much like the students fresh out of the Sweeting World Evangelical Center here in Chicago.

The difference is that you have a lot more air masqurading as "unassailable facts" than any one of them ever had. But in the final analysis, it's still air, same style of "facts and figures" that those kids from Sweeting spout to demonstrate that the world is only several thousand years old, not billions, and that God created the Universe in six days. After all, the Evidence is There, if ONLY you would interpret events correctly.

As far as I can see, my analogy of science as religion still stands. If you don't believe me, hie thee hence to the nearest "creationism" website.

Hey, thanks for an interesting and stimulating webpage!



The Two Percent Company, 2005.10.23 (Sun) 17:01 [Link] »

As usual, charles, you have your facts ass-backwards. You didn't bother responding to a single one of the points made in our reply to you (or to smickers) — instead you stuck your fingers in your ears and said "Nuh uh! I'm right!" Well, bully for you. You can successfully avoid intelligent discourse by being an idiot. So, in point of fact, it seems like you are the one acting like a religious zealot, charles, since that's a tactic that they tend to lean on pretty heavily. Frankly, if you can't provide some logical, rational reasoning for your arguments — instead of just saying "No, no, no, no, I'm right, I'm right!" — then just fuck off.

Point by point, since (as we've mentioned) we believe in being thorough:

  1. So because some other random person shares your misguided and mistaken view that we sound like the religious idiots, that means you're right? Nope, sorry. If that were true, we would've thrown up our hands in victory the moment Rockstar commented above, supporting our view of you. But we didn't. Perhaps this mistaken sense of what constitutes "proof" helps to explain your complete lack of scientific understanding.
  2. Our teachers didn't "lay some dogma" on us...in fact, we challenged nearly every teacher we ever had on pretty much any topic. Our current outlook is a result of personal experience and analysis, rather than listening to what somebody else told us. Our advice is to lay off the half-assed psychoanalysis, because it makes you sound like an arrogant ignoramus (which is the worst kind of ignoramus).
  3. Name one piece of solid evidence for the religious viewpoint. You can't — there isn't any. It's not a question of interpretation, it's a question of massive amounts of evidence versus a complete lack of evidence. We're not sure how we could make it any more clear than that.
  4. You say: "As far as I can see, my analogy of science as religion still stands." Well then, you must be fucking blind, because we clearly outlined the differences above. Let's spell it out in black and white for you: with science, one comes to conclusions based on observed evidence; with religion, one tries to come up with evidence for one's chosen conclusion. If you can't grasp that massive difference between the two approaches, then you're a completely lost cause.
  5. What, you think we haven't visited creationist websites? Why the hell else would we be so annoyed by them?
  6. You know, centrist secular rationalists are finally coming out of their shells in the blogosphere, and it's about time that they exhibited the well-deserved outrage they feel at all the bullshit going on in the world. We will continue to exhibit this outrage, because it is a valuable tool for change. You, on the other hand, can continue with your useless, pseudo-academic "We can't prove anything beyond all doubt, so why believe anything?" line of shit. Enjoy.

Thanks for the double post — we always enjoy getting useless comments in duplicate. As we said above, if you don't plan on actually addressing any of our points in your reply, then please refrain from replying. We're getting tired of explaining your flawed arguments to you over and over again.



charles, 2005.10.29 (Sat) 09:36 [Link] »

People, I don't tell you to "f off" or "get the f out" . Please extend the same courtesy to your respondants.

Anyway, I don't have all the time you floks have to craft statements supporting my point of view.

Simply, how can you be absolutely sure that "with science, one comes to conclusions based on observed evidence; with religion, one tries to come up with evidence for one's chosen conclusion".

Unless you have interviewed everyone involved with religious explorations or scientific research, which I don't think is possible, stating something like the above as " fact" won't convince me or any other dicerning individual that you know what you are talking about!

Please, bear with me, I don't want to devolve into name calling.

Do you ever notice that it's always "all in the mind" whenever the "paranormal" comes up? Same thing with "alien abductions" "ghosts" "religious experience" "contact with the departed" "near death experience" ? It's all "all in the mind".

This tired "explanation" is overused by adherents to the "scientific" paradigm of the day because one of the basic tenents of said paradigm is that "conciousness is an epiphenomenon of brain function"

This is leaned on so heavily, verily as much or more so than the most ardent of religious devotees leans on certain passages of Scripture!

I must remind you that the best "scientific" minds of Wilbur and Orville Wright's day proclaimed that the Wright brothers were engaged in the most fantastic of fantasies. "Based on the soundest of observations, and of the most concrete scientific and engineering principles, the idea that a craft that is heavier than air can fly is no less a fantasy than the children's book's descriptions of castles in the clouds"

I might also remind you that people are conditioned to think of research as what takes place in universities and institutions funded by various monies. Wilber and Orville (and many, many others) show that research is what takes place in basements and barns with people's own money.

"Established" thinking is a BENCHMARK, not a TRUTH.

I hope you can come to understand the "massive" difference.

Thanks again.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.10.30 (Sun) 18:27 [Link] »

Sweet Jesus with pickles and relish, charles, you still don't get it. We'll try one last time, then we'll commence ignoring you (and any further rehashing of your same old tired arguments will be relegated to our Urinal).

First, we extend courtesy to those who earn it, not to just anybody who comments on our site. We aren't the fucking Welcome Wagon, and we're not interested in pleasing everyone. You, charles, have not earned any courtesy or respect from us. Why? You came here and, in your very first post, performed a half-assed psychoanalysis of us which was totally incorrect, making baseless assumptions and assigning both knowledge and motivation to us without any actual information to back it up. We find that annoying and incredibly cliché. In addition, you have thus far failed to address any of the points we've made or any of the questions that we have asked; instead, you've been sitting tight with your fingers in your ears, saying "I'm right, I'm right!" over and over again. If you think we should extend you some courtesy based on that type of behavior, then you have an extremely skewed sense of social interaction. We also use cuss words here — they are words, like any other, and they often express our feelings about a particular topic much better than any "socially acceptable" word ever could. Deal with it.

Second, we'll address this statement:

Simply, how can you be absolutely sure that "with science, one comes to conclusions based on observed evidence; with religion, one tries to come up with evidence for one's chosen conclusion".

Unless you have interviewed everyone involved with religious explorations or scientific research, which I don't think is possible, stating something like the above as " fact" won't convince me or any other dicerning individual that you know what you are talking about!

Let's start with the obvious point here, with a mistake that you've made over and over again, and which we've pointed out every time you've made it: stop equating the actions of individual people with the methodology they purportedly utilize — in this case, stop confusing people who say they're "scientific" with science itself. You started your comments by telling us that since your friend has a dogmatic belief in science, therefore science is a dogma. We patiently pointed out why that was wrong (just scroll up to read it). Now you are just doing the exact same thing all over again by stating that, in order to understand science, we must interview all scientists.

You were wrong when you first made this point, you were wrong when you kept harping on it, and you're still wrong now. The scientific method is a specific approach to observing and measuring whatever it is one wants to observe and measure. Using science, one comes to conclusions based on observed evidence. That is a fact. Period. End of fucking story. If you find a dozen scientists who aren't following this approach, that does not mean that the definition of the scientific method changes to encompass their approach. Instead, it means that those people are not following the scientific method. One more time for the cheap seats: it doesn't mean that science itself is wrong just because some yahoo isn't following the rules; it means that said yahoo isn't doing good science.

It's the same thing with the incredibly trite and overused Wright Brothers parable that you regurgitated above. The idea that "Person A was laughed at, and later proven correct" logically leads to "Person B is laughed at, so he must be correct" is one of the worst examples of rational thinking, and one we come across repeatedly from the same tiresome claimants (like you). Your version has a slight tweak to it; you're saying "Person A was laughed at by Person B, who was supposed to be a scientist, therefore science is wrong." Yes, people laughed at the Wright Brothers. Yes, some of them were, by profession, scientists. But someone who is truly applying the scientific method (a skeptic, or basically a critical thinker) doesn't laugh at something because "it seems silly." They laugh at something because it lacks any hypothesis to test (like creationism), or because in all previous tests, it has completely failed to produce any valid evidence (like psychic powers). So, if these scientists were laughing at the Wright Brothers because they thought their ideas were silly, without ever applying the scientific method to their analysis, then they were not practicing good science. But as we said above, that doesn't in any way change what the definition of good science is.

In case you still aren't getting it, here's another example of why this is an asinine and completely inaccurate position. According to some surveys that we've discussed before, one percent of Christians who were asked if they believed that Jesus was the son of God responded that there was no Jesus. So, these people call themselves Christians, and yet don't believe in Christ. Do we therefore alter the definition of Christianity to fit what this one percent of supposed Christians said? No, we realize that these people aren't following the recognized definition of the group they claim to be a part of, and we move on. You, charles, don't seem capable of making this rather easy rational leap.

You should really try to grasp this, charles. You seem to be totally oblivious to this clear and simple piece of knowledge, even though we've gone through it for you over and over again. This isn't our opinion — in fact, it isn't even something that one can have an opinion on — it is a statement of fact. Kind of like "circles are round" or "triangles have three sides" — the scientific method defines science; the opinions or actions of particular scientists do not.

We're interested in having intelligent discussions with people who share our views and with people who hold alternative views from our own. However, an intelligent discussion isn't what we've been having with you. Either understand what science is, and actually address the points we've made in an intelligent way, or — and we do mean this in all sincerity — Fuck Off.

PS: For the last time, the word is tenets. "Tenents" isn't even a word ("tenants" is, but that's not what you were trying to say). You've made this mistake every time the word came up, even when you were acknowledging our correction. As we said, typos are one thing, but if you don't know the word, then don't use it. Really, this is indicative of your overall incapacity to understand basic facts. If you can't even absorb this simple fact after numerous corrections, we have little hope that you will ever absorb the other facts we've outlined above.



charles potnar, 2005.10.30 (Sun) 20:27 [Link] »

Look, fellas. the Religionalists and the Scientists see the same thing. They interpret things differently. Observation and explanation mean little to the Religionist and "faith" mean little to the Scientist. Where the two meet is that they are BOTH "works in progress" so to speak, and are going about interpreting Universe in different ways.

By the way, this is a gross oversimplification and as you probably know there are many many different "toolboxes" to use when interpreting Universe.

You make good points, but you will not be able to convince someone to interpret Universe with YOUR set of tools if they have used a different set and are comfortable with that and are getting the "results" they feel ok with.

So why work to "convince" someone that their "toolbox" is any worse or better than yours?

My whole point here is that truth and toolboxes and all are relative processes. One can point out that with the Advent of Imperical Science things haven't gotten better, what with the world at war, millions starving, environmental degradation, pollution et all.

Can't you concede that the Scientific Toolbox can only go so far? That it is very limited when it comes to understanding and working with human relationships? That "unquantifiable" forces may take a more important role in terms of Planetary Survival?

Durn those "unquantifiables" anyway. Can how much you love somthing be "measured"? I am suggesting that Broader Perspectives have more value than the observation of physical minutae. That "unquantifiable" portion that Science cannot even approach has a lot more to do with how the world runs than Science does, I say, and some kind of respect is in order for different ways to handle and move through and influence Universe.

If you really don't want me to post any more, I will respect your wishes. Adieu.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.10.30 (Sun) 22:51 [Link] »

charles,

You've either conceded some of our points, or just stopped harping on yours without substantiating them. Either way, thank you. Let's look at some of your new points:

Look, fellas. the Religionalists and the Scientists see the same thing. They interpret things differently. Observation and explanation mean little to the Religionist and "faith" mean little to the Scientist. Where the two meet is that they are BOTH "works in progress" so to speak, and are going about interpreting Universe in different ways.

No, religion is not a work in progress. Religion is a set of tenets that were set in stone long ago, and never change (until, like the Catholic Church, they have no choice but to give in to social pressures). Science is a work in progress not because science itself changes, but because science is always answering more and more questions. To classify them as the same thing (which you have, until now, been doing), in any way other than that they are both approaches to explaining occurrences, is incorrect.

Yes, there are many different toolboxes to use in interpreting the universe, and yes, we can understand your simplified version of this concept and accept it for the purposes of this discussion. To go along with that for a moment, what we're saying is simply: religion is the faith-based approach and science is the fact-based approach. Is one more valid than the other when it comes to testing phenomena in the world around us and predicting results? You're damned right one is, and it's the fact-based approach. In a faith-based approach, literally anything goes — any explanation can be used as long as it fits (vaguely) within the framework of the established (and untested, since it too is faith-based and not fact-based) belief system. That's not a useful tool for interpreting anything.

As far as why we try to convince people to utilize the fact-based approach, well, it's important to note that we don't try to convince everyone — in our experience, some people are beyond convincing. We have no desire to convince them. But, we do feel that it is important to point out how religion, while useful in some ways (such as controlling the masses) is not in any way, shape, or form an equal to or a substitute for science. As far as we're concerned, that's a worthwhile goal.

My whole point here is that truth and toolboxes and all are relative processes.

Well, "truth" depends on how you mean it in this context. In one sense (actually, the classical sense), "truth" means accuracy or successful application — hence the phrase of antiquity: "may your sword strike true." In that sense, science certainly seems to be more "true" than religion. The Romance languages' words for "truth" are all based on the Latin verus — which, taken literally, means "that which is real." Assuming you're not going to engage in mental masturbation and act like Douglas Adams' Ruler of the Universe, that which is real is not a "relative process." Sorry, that's just not how it works.

One can point out that with the Advent of Imperical Science things haven't gotten better, what with the world at war, millions starving, environmental degradation, pollution et all.

It's fairly silly to blame all the ills of the world on science, or to imply that science should have solved all of these problems by this point in time. To be fair, it's equally silly to blame these problems on religion. However, science has helped a lot more than it has harmed, and we would say the opposite about religion.

You think things haven't gotten any better as a result of science? Are you fucking kidding? Do we need to talk about average life expectancy in developed countries? Do we need to talk about the eradication of previously fatal diseases, and the lowered mortality rates of diseases that still exist? Religion taught for thousands of years that the mentally ill were cursed, or possessed, or similarly supernaturally influenced. Science has begun to figure out the neurological chemical reactions that lie at the root of mental illness, and antipsychotic drugs today work wonders. Historically, religion has shunned every advance in astronomy to come down the pike, but science has made those advances, and furthered our understanding of the universe in which we live.

Hell, the very fact that you are even aware of, for instance, the degradation of the environment is thanks to science. If we only had religion to light the way, we'd probably blame the death of ecosystems on the fact that local residents were having premarital sex — which would be so very useful. So we reject your point that the advent of empirical science hasn't made the world any better. We're sure that if you stop to think about it, you'll agree.

In the comparison of approaches to testing and successfully predicting phenomena, it is simply a fact that science is superior to religion — not because of some abstract assessment of the "human value" of the two, but simply because it has actually achieved results where religion has not. End of story. If people don't want to accept that: fine, they don't have to. But meanwhile, people who do are going about making the world a better place to live.

Can't you concede that the Scientific Toolbox can only go so far? That it is very limited when it comes to understanding and working with human relationships? That "unquantifiable" forces may take a more important role in terms of Planetary Survival?

Unquantifiable issues are just that: unquantifiable. Science doesn't even pretend to answer them (nor would any respectable scientist claim it does). As a note, though, religion doesn't answer them either. If you disagree, please give us some specifics. It is important to note that the unquantifiable issues that you present are purely human concepts, which have absolutely no meaning outside of a single human mind. Do we respect these human values? Sure, inasmuch as they are a large part of how we live our lives. But as for questions about how the universe works outside the confines of our own minds, we'll stick to science, which has a proven track record in that arena.

The bottom line, as always, is that we'll certainly respect others' rights to "handle and move through and influence Universe" using whatever approach they choose — people are free to believe what they want to believe. But under no circumstances will we respect their approach, if it cries out to us that it's bullshit. Don't confuse respecting a person's right to hold a stupid belief with respecting the belief itself.

At the end of the day, charles, you just don't seem to understand what science is. Note that we're not being smug and saying that our "opinions" on these issues are correct; we're saying that these issues aren't matters of opinion, and that you just don't accept the facts. If you someday get past that hurdle, then we might be able to have a productive discussion.

Our advice is to look into this on your own, and to understand your deficiencies in this area. Or don't — it's no skin off our asses. But if you choose not to, then yes, we'd prefer that you refrain from posting in the future. Frankly, you're currently in the bucket of people we have no desire to convince of anything — until you at least understand what it is that you don't understand, we're just wasting our time explaining these things to you over and over.



Tanooki Joe, 2005.11.29 (Tue) 01:00 [Link] »

Bravo, Two Percent Company. That was the best takedown of those annoying postmodern "skeptics" that populate the interweb. It's always amusing to watch them declare that science is impotent -- on their computers.



The Two Percent Company, 2005.11.30 (Wed) 23:35 [Link] »

Tanooki Joe: We hear you. We get awfully tired of people clamoring on about how we "can't know anything," and we should therefore just sit back and treat all sorts of ridiculous notions with respect. They seem to take the phrase "keep an open mind" to such an extreme that it's a wonder they manage to avoid getting killed when they cross the street. You know, since those cars aren't really there if you don't believe in them.



Tom, 2005.12.01 (Thu) 09:43 [Link] »

Hi ,
My name is Tom ... I do not belive in Organized religion. I am a scientist by nature and believe in evolution. I am an amateur fossil hunter as well. I had a near death experience 11 yrs ago. Which led to an out of body experience. Im 32 yrs old now and communicate with the other side. I can and do communicate with those that have left this world of existance. I invite you to contact me. I can show you first hand. Mediums are real. We can and do communicate with the other side. We can get info from spirit. I didnt ask for this. It just happend to me. I never gave it a 2nd thought before my accident. but the accident opened it up for me. Ive lost friends do their religious beliefs because of my ability , ive scared a lot of people with it and ive helped people as well. It is indeed truth and part of life. We do live on ... This isnt the end ... But a skeptic will not always look at the evidence , of which there is inumerous amounts..
Tom



The Two Percent Company, 2005.12.01 (Thu) 13:15 [Link] »

Tom,

We are going to be very direct with you — please don't mistake this for anger, although it may look very similar in your eyes. You see, it's just that we've heard this exact same story so many times, we feel like our eyes are going to bleed. It always starts with an assertion designed to show us that the commenter is a logical person who scoffs at bullshit, and then leads into a personal account of why their pet form of bullshit is 100% really and truly real. Along the way, the commenter almost always demonstrates serious errors in critical thinking, and sometimes (though not always) devolves into an insult aimed at "close-minded skeptics." Your comment follows the standard pattern pretty closely.

Here's the assertion that you are a logical person:

I do not belive in Organized religion. I am a scientist by nature and believe in evolution. I am an amateur fossil hunter as well.

Then the personal experience of bullshit (snipped for brevity):

I had a near death experience 11 yrs ago. Which led to an out of body experience. Im 32 yrs old now and communicate with the other side. I can and do communicate with those that have left this world of existance. ... We do live on ... This isnt the end ...

And here, wrapped into one part, is a veiled insult aimed at "closed-minded skeptics," along with a serious error in critical thinking:

But a skeptic will not always look at the evidence , of which there is inumerous amounts..

Let's take your comment as a whole. You claim to be a scientist by nature, but then make the demonstrably false statement that there is "inumerous amounts" of evidence supporting the existence of spirit mediums. That is 100% untrue. There is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence for the paranormal — like your account above — but there isn't a shred of scientific evidence for such claims. Not one shred.

Want to bring up Gary Schwartz and the other loony professors who claim to have scientific evidence of the paranormal? Bzzzzzt! Sorry — if they aren't releasing their data and allowing peers to both review it and attempt to replicate their results, then it isn't science...it's bullshit. See, we've looked at the so-called evidence, and we've taken part in experiments. It isn't that we aren't willing to look at the evidence, it's that it doesn't exist.

Look, you're welcome to believe whatever you want to believe — hell, we would fight for your right to hold your beliefs. But don't confuse your faith-based beliefs with the fact-based beliefs of science. It's silly and, frankly, insulting.

As far as your offer to show us first hand that your abilities do exist, you're welcome to try. Please use our Contact Page to send us details of your claims. We will then work out a test of your claims, and we will be happy to publish the results on our site.

Be specific. If you can only get the names of your target's dead pets from the spirits, then tell us that and we'll design the test accordingly. So be as specific about your claims as possible. Be warned in advance — if you require something from us in order to do your thing, we may not provide it. For example, we are not going to provide any personal information, or locks of hair, or vials of blood. In the end, it is our prerogative to decide what we are willing to share; so again, it is important that you be specific up front.

Please do not post your claims on one of our Rants — it would be off-topic no matter where it landed. You may certainly reply via comment to our other points outlined above, but please stick to doing so only on one Rant — not both Rants that you double-posted your initial comment on. We would suggest that "An Ongoing Conversaton About Beliefs" is more relevant to your thoughts than "Allison DuBois — Even More of a Hypocrite Than Previously Thought."

We will wait for your e-mail via our Contact Page.



% Trackback » 2005.12.02 (Fri) 13:21
"In Which We Try to Accept a Psychic Challenge" from The Two Percent Company's Rants

The gauntlet has been thrown down, and we have accepted the challenge. Now all that remains is to see if the self-proclaimed medium who issued the challenge actually accepts our acceptance. Perhaps a little explanation is in order. Just yesterday, we... [More]


Rockstar Ryan, 2005.12.05 (Mon) 16:30 [Link] »

Hi, my name is Rockstar Ryan and I'm 25 years old. I run a critical thinking blog on teh internets and am a skeptic. But two years ago I heard a voice coming from my ass. There were several invisible gnomes there, talking to me. I tape recorded them, but other skeptics seem to ignore all the evidence. If you want to come listen to my ass, I'll prove it to you.



Jeff from the Two Percent Company, 2005.12.05 (Mon) 16:36 [Link] »

It's all true, every word of it. Rockstar's tape recordings of his ass are a true phenomenon. Why, just the other night I heard a fantastic Sousa march wafting from his nether regions.



Fan, 2006.05.27 (Sat) 11:09 [Link] »

I'm a Buddhist. Which means i try to practice buddhism everyday. because after all it's not a religion actually. it's a teaching from Buddha. I think we both have something in common. that we should live the life we're living now happily. be kind to others and all. but for me there is an after life until we reach an enlightenment. i also believe that people who can communicate to the other side or see things in the future must have some purpose in their lifes. maybe to help themselves or other people. it's just not somethng to argue about. everybody has a right to believe in what they want to believe. i have not been to the other side so i don't know if my belive is the one that is right or yours.



The Two Percent Company, 2006.06.05 (Mon) 15:03 [Link] »

Fan,

We agree completely with your statement that everyone has a right to believe whatever they want to believe; in fact, we even wrote about that very idea a while back, and often find ourselves referring readers to that exact Rant to explain this position. We would gladly fight for the rights of people to indulge in whatever beliefs make them happy, no matter what we may think of the beliefs themselves.

As far as Buddhism, we don't want to get caught up in semantics, so we won't debate whether or not it is a religion (though we do classify it as such personally), but one thing is clear: it is, like Christianity or Judaism, a faith-based belief system, in that it is not evidence-based. Like those religions, Buddhism teaches many moral and ethical lessons which we absolutely agree are valuable — though we don't think any of these lessons are exclusive to Buddhism, and they can in fact be learned through simple human interaction and careful reasoning. On the other side, there are a lot of fantastic (read: unbelievable) things that Buddhism teaches, and we look at those teachings the same way we look at the Christian resurrection myth. In general, though, Buddhism doesn't seem to be as strict about enforcing belief in every aspect of its dogma as many other religions are, so you may presumably eschew many of the far-out concepts and still be a Buddhist.

One thing we need to correct, though, is your apparent belief in psychics:

i also believe that people who can communicate to the other side or see things in the future must have some purpose in their lifes. maybe to help themselves or other people. it's just not somethng to argue about.

You are starting your statement from the assumption that psychics are real, which is a false assumption. They are not real psychics (which, as far as we're concerned, is an oxymoron) — they are either liars or self-delusional creduloids. So, while the self-delusional ones may think that they have a higher purpose, quite simply: they're wrong.

As we've said, everyone has a right to believe whatever they want to believe, but that just doesn't make faith-based beliefs any more factual or true.



Annette, 2007.12.29 (Sat) 03:42 [Link] »

I have read about the first half of this web page and perused down through the rest. I am a skeptic. I used to be a strong believer in a higher power; but the more I research, the more I see that none of it holds up to scrutiny. I have major resistance in becoming an atheist. It also leaves a vacuum in my belief system as far as why we should endure and what solace to offer those in despair. So far, no atheist literature has given an answer that satisfies me.
Sorry to pose another "God in the gaps" theory, but how can there be no good evidence for psychic ability? As a child, I had dreams that came true in detailed, cinematic proportions. Yes, I had lots of dreams that didn't come true -- most of them didn't come true. But, for example, my first (not most detailed) of these experiences was when my father told me we were going to a restaurant we'd never been to before. As soon as we walked in, I told him we had been there & we argued over it. I even pointed to the girl walking around who was to be our waitress & then pointed to the booth in which we'd be seated. Later on, I learned I had some control over how my mind dreamed at night; and as I became older, I found these experiences to be quite disturding, so I suppressed this ability. I still get dreams that come true every now & again, but in less frequency & detail as when I was a child. So, even though this is not any kind of real proof under scientific standards, I know it to be true. Is that not psychic ability?
Also, I learned that my dad had dreams that came true. Which would imply a more physical, inherited trait. Anything I've googled on this has presented me with a list of mystical explanations. Am I just as much in the dark on this as anybody?



Bronze Dog, 2007.12.30 (Sun) 14:33 [Link] »
I have major resistance in becoming an atheist. It also leaves a vacuum in my belief system as far as why we should endure and what solace to offer those in despair. So far, no atheist literature has given an answer that satisfies me.

Unfortunately, sometimes the truth is nasty. But knowing the truth is the first step in fixing a problem. Personally, I've never experienced too much trouble with finding reasons to live. For post-death, about all I can think to do is archive my stuff and hope I'm wrong on some details. Of course, I fail to see what deities and the afterlife have to do with one another. If I can make a D&D campaign setting where the afterlife predates the local deities by hundreds of millions of years, I don't see what's to stop real life from doing it if the "supernatural" exists, since no one's tagged down any rules whatsoever for that kind of stuff, since they can't find it.

But, for example, my first (not most detailed) of these experiences was when my father told me we were going to a restaurant we'd never been to before. As soon as we walked in, I told him we had been there & we argued over it. I even pointed to the girl walking around who was to be our waitress & then pointed to the booth in which we'd be seated.

Sounds related to deja vu: There's some kind of chemical switch to let us know when we're reviewing memories or experiencing real time. In deja vu, the switch gets flipped the wrong way, so that when we're experiencing something for the first time, we're falsely attaching the memory label to those experiences.

I still get dreams that come true every now & again, but in less frequency & detail as when I was a child. So, even though this is not any kind of real proof under scientific standards, I know it to be true. Is that not psychic ability?

This smells of confirmation bias. Record the rates and the details of the dreams as soon as you can. Memory also gets very muddled when it comes to dreams, so your memory of a dream is more easily altered. It happens to a lot of people, until they return to their dream diary, in which case, the fresh memory of the dream differs greatly in some significant detail.



Annette, 2008.01.02 (Wed) 14:17 [Link] »

Yay, I'm so glad for your response. As for you being able to find enough reasons to live, that's all fine & good for the average, decent living person with enough money rolling in & a few friends to have a comfortable life. But what about those in the world who could easily think of more reasons to commit suicide than continue living? --people with irreversible problems? An indiffferent universe would logically assess the benefits of ending. But a comapassionate person would feel compelled to deduce the possibility of another kind of logic. -- perhaps grossly speculative, but I think the possibility certainly holds weight.

"If I can make a D&D campaign setting where the afterlife predates the local deities by hundreds of millions of years, I don't see what's to stop real life from doing it if the "supernatural" exists, since no one's tagged down any rules whatsoever for that kind of stuff, since they can't find it.
"
I might not understand this statement, but I'll try. What's D&D? Are you saying we existed for a hundred million years before our perceptions of deities came into play? There are all kinds of things animals cannot concieve, that we have found to exist. Anyway, I don't believe in deities in the traditional ways they've been presented. Some cases are either true or not, & some may be expressions of similar ideas in different forms. An athiest girlfriend of mine once said she thinks the universe to be bigger than any deity -- which makes no sense because, if there is a deity, it would be the other way round. I tend to lean on the side of pantheism & animism in my regard to God.

In response to your comment on deja vu, my understanding on deja vu is the feeling of having experienced a moment before, but not necessarily knowing when or how. I've had that, too. But, what I'm referring to are dreams I actually had that came true -- wherein I knew what was going to happpen next. I'm really not trying to sell anything. If, as you wrote,"the truth is sometimes nasty, but knowing the truth is the first step in fixing the problem", no good would come of denying the factuality of these events. I may just very well have to start a dream journal to prove I'm not crazy, but who knows how long that would take to start getting true dreams again. For now, for the sake of argument, if it were really true, what kind of probable implications might we reach? It really may not have anything to do with the supernatural. Who knows? Perhaps, there just isn't enough information on this.
Thankyou for engaging.



Bronze Dog, 2008.01.03 (Thu) 07:55 [Link] »

D&D: Dungeons & Dragons. General fantasy game. Mostly what I'm trying to say is that without evidence of the supernatural, we have no reason to make rules like "the afterlife requires a deity".

Prophetic dreams: My main points were 1) your memories of your dreams can change. A vaguely related dream can be distorted to a false memory of a prophetic one, 2) Sometimes you have the dream after the event.

I'm glad you're going to be writing a dream diary, but there's one possible difficulty with your attitude: People have lots of dreams, so some might come true by dumb luck.

On the deja vu, I was referring to your restaurant experience. You could have been experiencing it then, thinking you had been there before.

This isn't about "denying the factuality of these events," it's about establishing them in the first place. Lots of people experience similar things, and they usually turn out to be mundane psychological tricks. A couple have happened to me, but being aware that I'm fallible and subject to self-deception is helpful to know. There's no reason to think that anyone's case is abnormal, so far.



dikkii, 2008.01.04 (Fri) 11:23 [Link] »
I'm glad you're going to be writing a dream diary, but there's one possible difficulty with your attitude: People have lots of dreams, so some might come true by dumb luck.

There's also a major problem with confirmation bias here, too. Something that Bronze Dog really only scratched the surface of.

Say I have a dream where I'm walking down the street. Then I write this down in my dream diary.

Would it be considered a "positive" if the next day, I found myself walking down the street? I mean, this is pretty mundane. And extremely typical for the kinds of dreams that I end up having.

I did go through a period where my dreams were all high-budget action movies, but those days are far behind me now.



Annette, 2008.01.04 (Fri) 13:10 [Link] »

I understand what you guys are saying. But I would like to think I'm perceptive enough to know the difference between vague similarities in my dreams, and an exact replication of detail for detail events in which there was no way I could've known what was to come next. I appreciate the attempt to explain brain tricks, but it was not that. I suppose there really is no way for me to prove anything right now. I hope in the future there may be. So, we'll each rely most on our own personal experiences.



TimmyAnn, 2008.01.04 (Fri) 13:45 [Link] »

Yeah, because if it were brain tricks, you'd know it, right? Except that that's the whole point, you wouldn't know it. Memory is a subjective thing, you can't be sure unless you specifically wrote down the dream before the real events happened and they martched in detail. And even then, of course, there'd probably be some differences between what you wrote and what happened in the dream since dreams are rarely remembered entirely.



Tom from the Two Percent Company, 2008.01.04 (Fri) 14:00 [Link] »

Annette,

It isn't a matter of how perceptive you are — memory is fallible for all of us. Humans tend to think of their memories as rock-solid, immutable, and accurate, when in fact they are vague, highly subjective to change, and often wildly inaccurate. And the most insidious thing about this is that, even when a memory has changed substantially, we are still wired to believe that it is unchanged and on the mark.

This is one main reason why anecdotes are the least reliable form of evidence — the perceptions and memories of any human (no matter their job, their intelligence, or their professed world view) are simply too prone to error to be counted as substantial evidence.

I recall a television program in which a group of people was taken on a tour in the desert and, as part of an experiment, they were walked past a staged scene. In the scene, there were people dressed like military personnel and the area was roped off. They were told to move along, and they were ushered quickly away. Later, they were asked about the experience. Some remembered the "soldiers" holding guns when, in fact, they were unarmed. Some recalled others in the group being threatened — again, not true. Still others recalled seeing wreckage, or even alien bodies, even though neither were present. When they were asked again some time later, the incorrect recollections were even more widespread and more outlandish. I wish I could find a link to that program, but alas, I cannot. It illustrates the point quite well.

Of course I'd me remiss if I didn't point out that my recollection above may be flawed as well. Perhaps, upon viewing the program in question, I would find that no one recalled seeing aliens or wreckage, even though I am completely certain that I recall that in the program. And that's the problem with human memory.



Jason Spicer, 2008.01.06 (Sun) 02:35 [Link] »

Annette, you wrote:

I am a skeptic. I used to be a strong believer in a higher power; but the more I research, the more I see that none of it holds up to scrutiny. I have major resistance in becoming an atheist. It also leaves a vacuum in my belief system as far as why we should endure and what solace to offer those in despair. So far, no atheist literature has given an answer that satisfies me.

I have a somewhat different take on things than some of the other posters above, and than I typically see from atheists. I find the athiest worldview quite liberating. I'm happy that there's no judgmental skydaddy just waiting for me to screw up. And when you really think about the concepts of heaven and hell, how could you tell the difference after a few thousand years? Everything gets boring after a while. I could only stomach so many hosannas, and as for hell, if people can learn to appreciate 5-star Thai food, then a lake of fire would just be a matter of acclimation. Don't get me wrong, I'd prefer to live a couple hundred years, but I'm not so sure about a few thousand.

But mostly, I'm much happier seeing the world as it is than believing in the gauzy fairy tale offered by my previous attempt at Christian faith. (Occasionally, I'm still angry that I was so strenuously sold a bill of goods as an unsuspecting child, but I'm getting over that.) I think it's quite satisfying to realize that science can actually answer some questions. It doesn't bother me that science can't answer some other questions (yet); religion can't answer any, so science is way up on that score.

It used to bother me (though surprisingly not that much) that I had to give up my religious beliefs. After a while, you just get used to the idea that there's no substance to religion, and you come to terms with the idea that you're better off coming up with your own Sunday morning activities. Or lack thereof. (See Julia Sweeney's "Letting go of God".)

It still sucks when loved ones go and die on you, but let's face it, that pretty much sucks even for religious believers. I never really got a whole lot of solace from believing that I'd see them again in a few decades. (Holy shit! A few decades? And what am I supposed to be doing in the meantime?) And the tears on the faces of the supposed believers sure seemed to suggest a hollowness to their beliefs.

As for enduring in the face of hardship, people can put up with almost anything. I think this is mainly because there's always the chance that tomorrow will be better. If you die, there's no chance. Even people in concentration camps can find a way to keep going. (See the writings of Viktor Frankl, minus the quasimystical bits.)

I think of suicide in young, healthy people as a severe lack of perspective. A tormented teen can grow into a contented old fart, but only if they don't check out early.*

People in excrutiating pain when certainly at death's door are in another category, and in that case, I think suicide or assisted suicide can make sense. But angst is generally curable by just waiting until it wears off.

(*Contented old fartitude not guaranteed; there is substantial risk of codgerhood; for best results, adopt a pet; store in a warm, dry place.)



Annette, 2008.01.13 (Sun) 22:10 [Link] »

Jason Spicer: I'm glad to see your references to Julia Sweeney & Victor Frankyl. Man's Search for Meaning certainly aided my perspective when I read it at 20. And Julia's show was part of the beginning of a new search for me when I saw it last year.
I agree with a lot of what you wrote & find it quite insightful. But, I find the argument against God that most atheists put up to be against the traditional "invisible man in the sky" (George Carlan) attitude; a god outside oursleves who controls our destinies. That is a very slavish and even belittling POV & one in which I could never come to terms.
Life just feels to me to be so very futile when all this learning we do, and all the effort we put into life just ends.
We've all heard it said that "Life is pain", "Life is hard". When I took history of world religion, a tenet with which I identified was Buddha's first noble truth: dukkha - "suffering". According to Houston Smith, the word's implications refer to wheels whose axles are off center, or bones that have slipped from their sockets. "Life, in the condition it has got itself into, is dislocated. As it's pivot is not true, friction is excessive, movement (creativity) is blocked, and it hurts."
I do wonder if the recognizing of this life trait could be any indicator that we may be living in a sort of "Twilight Zone"; and in such case, could it be an indicator that if something is wrong, there may be a plane where life is corrected.
As for pain when a loved one dies -- the sources of the grief vary. It's not necessarily a hollow grief (though, I believe you're on to something). For me, my dad died when I was twelve. At the time, I comforted myself by telling myself he was in heaven, but my grief came because I knew I would miss him. And looking back on my own tormented teen years years, I grieve because I so needed a father's guidance. So, I suppose my grief is for me.

TimmyAnn & Tom: Again, I know I can't prove anything. I believe what you've presented on memory is true. Earlier, I only gave a very brief example of my dream. I would ask my dad to repeat the incident if he were here. My mom was there, but she often doesn't remember movies she saw three months ago. My experiences keep getting refuted by being dismissed as untrue and the product of my unreliable mind. I could repeat the incidents myself, but to do so properly would be tedious, & nobody else's dreams are ever that interesting. May it suffice to say for now that I knew events which were going to happen, that did happen, & I had said so ahead of time -- and this was, again, within the context of an exact replication of a dream.



Tom from the Two Percent Company, 2008.01.14 (Mon) 10:23 [Link] »
May it suffice to say for now that I knew events which were going to happen, that did happen, & I had said so ahead of time -- and this was, again, within the context of an exact replication of a dream.

I understand that this is your recollection of what happened. I even understand that you are 100% certain of how both the dream and the events the dream predicted unfolded. I've been there. Especially when I was a child. And my 100% certainties have often been shown to be 100% false.

But even if no one was able to dismiss my amazing memories as untrue, that still wouldn't change the fact that, as anecdotes, they were experienced without the benefit of rigorous scientific controls. As such, they simply don't amount to reliable evidence.

I'm not trying to harp on this — I just want to make sure I'm clear about the answer to your question. After all, you posed the question that, given your dreams that you believe came true, "how can there be no good evidence for psychic ability?" The answer, distilled down to the most basic response, is twofold. First, there are mundane explanations for what you experienced. The fallibility and malleability of human memory, confirmation bias, and subjective validation are probably the front runners here, though other factors certainly could play a part. Second, the lack of scientific controls renders these anecdotes as unreliable evidence. Taken together, these two points answer your initial question.

You also state:

But, I find the argument against God that most atheists put up to be against the traditional "invisible man in the sky" (George Carlan) attitude; a god outside oursleves who controls our destinies. That is a very slavish and even belittling POV & one in which I could never come to terms.

Frankly, the arguments against the god(s) you mention above and any other notion of god(s) are the same, as far as I'm concerned. There is a complete lack of evidence for any supernatural beings.

Life just feels to me to be so very futile when all this learning we do, and all the effort we put into life just ends.

Yeah, it can feel that way sometimes. I remember (or at least I think I do) learning as a child how many insects are born only to reproduce and die shortly thereafter. "But they don't do anything," I said. "They continue their species, but why bother when they don't do anything else meaningful with their lives?" Not long after, it occurred to me that, in the grand scheme of things, humans aren't much different from insects. Looking at the big picture, we are born, we reproduce, and we die. Anything else is just window dressing, and it's soon lost to the sands of time (for the most part, and for most of us). That's life.

But, on a small scale, we live to be happy. We better ourselves through education, and physical effort, and mental effort in order to lead personally fulfilling lives. Yes, all of that is lost when we die (though what we've passed on to others remains a little longer), but the idea is to make the time after birth and before death more fulfilling. It would be wonderful if there was some other life — some other place — to go after we died. Even better if this new place was not as harsh and painful as the one we live in now seems to be at times. But wishing for "something more" or even seeing a need for that "something" to counteract a life that seems terribly unfair and sometimes pointless doesn't make it true.



Jason Spicer, 2008.01.15 (Tue) 02:00 [Link] »

Grass and bugs exist to make more grass and more bugs. Humans exist to make more humans. Sadly, humans evolved giant brains to help us in our efforts to make more humans. As a pitiable side effect, our giant brains started caring about things besides making more humans. (Not to mention overthinking the hell out of the process of making more humans.) Oh well, might as well make the best of things and have fun with it. And remember it could be worse. Dung beetles evolved to live in dung as a way to make more dung beetles. They'd probably be happy to have evolved giant brains instead. Though they'd probably need giant brains to notice that.

As to the idea of precognition, aside from all the other issues raised in the above posts, consider the following thought experiment: Every day, you indulge in a little creative writing. You imagine a scenario that could happen in your life and you write it down. Give it some detail--a particular setting like your home or a restaurant you go to. Throw in some people you know, some strangers, a little dialog, etc.

Then wait a week or two to see if anything like your scenarios actually happens. I submit that the creative writing would not be precognition, even if you did it enough times for some of the scenarios to "come true" to several decimal places of congruence. Coincidence can explain some of these events. If the details are sufficiently close to your dreams (some of your brain's most creative work, generally), you'd get that eerie sense of deja vu, even though there is no actual connection between the dreams and the events.

One of the tricks in our giant brain bag of tricks is to notice "eerie" similiarities as a way to heighten our awareness of things that might eat us or that we might want to eat. Since we evolved the Coincidence Noticer(TM), the population has exploded and the pace of our lives has picked up immensely. Consequently, we get inundated with coincidences. We should discount them, but that pesky evolutionary equipment is still hard-wired to make them stand out.

This is why "psychic" cold reading works. This is why casual statistics can so easily lead us astray. This is why the concept of statistical significance is so important. We can't trust our brains to tell us what is significant anymore, so we need to have some mathematical rules to follow. If you go with your gut, you'll be easy to convince.

There's a lot of great research in this area. The book recommendations at the top right of this page are a great place to start. And remember that in a population of 6.5 billion, a million to once chance hits 6,500 times a day. But I just made up that statistic, so you'll probably want to disregard it.



Donny, 2008.07.12 (Sat) 23:30 [Link] »

I really enjoy reading these debates on belief and science, and I can't help thinking that the skeptics are (in some small ways) similar to the old religious fanatics who were once (and I suppose still are in some places) so afraid of what science had to offer. What I see in both is the refusal to let anything in that does not fit the practiced paradigm. The scientific definitely has an advantage over the spiritual worldview in that it can be proven, so to speak.
But, we must remember that we measure the world and the universe by our own bodies and our own physical interfaces with it. Was the world flat before someone sailed around it? Of course not, but nobody could see or imagine the spherical nature of the earth until exploration opened up the possibility of that truth. I think the skeptic belief system risks (much less than the far more fantastic spiritual belief system) being wrong for the simple fact that it only allows what current science can see. And, anyone who has followed science in the past fifty years knows that what we can see today (quantum physics, to name one example) would have been viewed as skeptically one hundred years ago as the current skeptics view subjects like ghosts or psychics.
I doubt both the believers and the skeptics. I think both have decided they have found the truth, and are therefore both in danger of extreme disapointment when their truth proves wrong.
Anyone educated on the history of science should know how often and how drastically scientific "facts" can change with new discoveries.
Be careful, skeptics. Before you summarily dismiss everything that your senses cannot measure, remember that even your senses might be measuring things incorrectly. Einstein proved Newton wrong, did he not?
I think pragmatism is a good approach for skepticism. Faith is actually useful, and I think everyone (even the so-called skeptics) use it in their daily lives. For instance, I have faith that my family loves me and is not just pretending. I have some evidence to show it is true, but I'm not submitting it to rigorous scientific testing. That would take some of the warmth out of my relationships with them, I believe. Science is useful in some areas of life, but so are things like faith, and even fantasy. The trick is to find where each of these fits and use them all accordingly.
Personally I am very skeptical of things like religion and psychic phenomena, but I am also skeptical of the reach of science. I don't think I can explain everything in the universe, nor do I believe in omniscience, for a god or for a scientist. There are truths that science does not approach.



The Two Percent Company, 2008.07.15 (Tue) 17:00 [Link] »

Donny, we're going to try to be as nice as we possibly can, here, but — first and foremost — fuck off.

Okay, that's out of the way. Now let's try to explain to you why your ridiculous little "let's all be ever-so-egalitarian about this" bullshit is just plain wrong and why it really just pisses us off.

First of all: did you bother to read the thread you just commented on? At all? For fuck's sake, we've already answered every "point" you've come up with more times than we can fucking count, in this and countless other threads, and we're getting fed up with this shit. Don't take anything that we're saying here as evidence that you've "stung" us, that we're "offended," or that we're frothing fundamentalists (nice try there) — it all boils down, quite simply, to your diatribe being utter bullshit that has been addressed so many times we feel like clawing our brains out having to address it yet another motherfucking time.

But, just for you, Donny, because you're so "special" and "unique" and came up with all of these totally "original" and "accurate" ideas that "nobody" has thrown at us before (irony quotes, of course, generally indicate the opposite of what they contain), here you go.

I can't help thinking that the skeptics are (in some small ways) similar to the old religious fanatics who were once (and I suppose still are in some places) so afraid of what science had to offer.

Except, of course, that the skeptics are the ones doing the science, dipshit, and the religious fucks are not. So what the fuck are we supposed to be afraid of in your ridiculous little comparison? We're certainly not afraid of what science has to offer — why would we be, when we're the ones examining the science being done (and we're the ones doing it) all the fucking time? If the fucking religiosos and woos would do some science to back up their claims, we'd be happy to look at the results and alter our own conclusions if those results contradict what we've already determined. You see, you illustrious asshole, that's science. But the idiots aren't doing science — they want us to just look at any old bullshit they come up with and offer it some respect, without going through the rigorous demands of the scientific method. What the fuck are you (and they) smoking? By the same token, we're not afraid of what the woos are offering, since it's just more of the same old asinine, atavistic, superstitious, magical bullshit they've always offered...and we've always countered. Easily. Handily. Too many fucking times. If anything, we're scared of the tedium and sheer volume of idiocy being thrown at us, not the "ideas" they "come up with" (which, of course, they don't — it's the same bullshit every generation, with a few mad-libs plugged into the appropriate spots).

The scientific definitely has an advantage over the spiritual worldview in that it can be proven, so to speak.

No, the advantage is that the scientific worldview is built on solid, observed, experimental, replicable evidence. And the spiritual worldview is built on wishing. There's a gigantic difference between how we just phrased that, and how you did. That difference itself is the very clear and concise understanding we have of how the scientific method works, and the abysmal lack of understanding you have.

Was the world flat before someone sailed around it? Of course not, but nobody could see or imagine the spherical nature of the earth until exploration opened up the possibility of that truth.

Wrong again. There was empirical evidence, long before the world was even partly circumnavigated, that we live on a globe. Experiments with the lengths of shadows at different times in different geographical locations, observation of parallax effects, perceptions of distant objects on the horizon — all pointed towards the obvious. The idea that Columbus (or any explorer before or after him) "proved" that the world was round bespeaks a profound ignorance of science and history. So stop fucking deluding yourself and/or lying to others, and fucking learn something.

I think the skeptic belief system risks (much less than the far more fantastic spiritual belief system) being wrong for the simple fact that it only allows what current science can see. And, anyone who has followed science in the past fifty years knows that what we can see today (quantum physics, to name one example) would have been viewed as skeptically one hundred years ago as the current skeptics view subjects like ghosts or psychics.

You are such an ignorant ass. Skeptics don't "only allow what current science can see," dipshit — they only embrace what can be reliably demonstrated. That's a pretty fucking big difference there, and it's quite evident in the fact that we've made any progress at all as a species. Did the New Testament give us the cure for polio? Did fuckholes like Deepak Chopra invent the digital processor? No, you twit. Stop regurgitating this utter bullshit, look around, and see who has provided you with everything you rely on, every day, to go about your daily life (not to mention being able to survive at all).

Further, you fucking ignorant dipshit, any intelligent individual with a grasp of the scientific method still views quantum physics (to name one example) skeptically even today. You stupid ass — that's the difference between understanding science and, simply, not. All theories are provisional. Including the ones common unscientific idiots like you think are "proven." Some theories have more evidence than others — we function as if they are established and accurate because they are, but there is always the possibility that new evidence will come to light that encourages investigation and provides us with an even more accurate view. Period.

We are still "skeptical" of quantum physics, because skepticism doesn't mean what you want to pretend it means. It doesn't mean we say "no" — it means we say SHOW US. And quantum theorists do show us, which is why we give their ideas some respect. Ghost-philes and bullshit psychics do not show us — they simply tell us, which demonstrates nothing, and provides us with no evidence. When they decide to fucking show us, and if they have anything to actually show, then we may actually give their hypotheses some attention. But not until then. Jesus-motherfucking-shit-Christ, how clear do we have to fucking make this?

I doubt both the believers and the skeptics. I think both have decided they have found the truth, and are therefore both in danger of extreme disapointment when their truth proves wrong.

Wrong, dipshit. As we said, all scientific knowledge is provisional, as anyone with a firm grasp of the scientific method will tell you. That is entirely the opposite of thinking we've found the "truth." Whereas believers proudly and stupidly bellow about their sure things, whatever their particular sure things are, and neither demonstrate any evidence nor leave themselves open to evidence contradicting their bullshit sure things.

Anyone educated on the history of science should know how often and how drastically scientific "facts" can change with new discoveries. Be careful, skeptics. Before you summarily dismiss everything that your senses cannot measure, remember that even your senses might be measuring things incorrectly. Einstein proved Newton wrong, did he not?

Ah, the old "science was wrong before" canard. Jesus Christ on a fucking stick, are we sick of this ignorant, assheaded argument. Scientific "facts" do not change, cockhammer. The body of scientific knowledge grows and develops. Some hypotheses or established theories about the facts stand the test of time; some do not. The facts don't fucking change. We just derive new theories from observation and experimentation. Whereas the religiosos and woos just keep on keepin' on, with the same old bullshit they've always had (whether they coat it in shiny new paint or not).

Further, how fucking dare you suggest that we are the ones assuming that anything unsensed by us should be dismissed? It is the skeptical approach that acknowledges human fallibility — of sensory apparatus, perception, analysis, cognition, memory storage and recall, and on, and on — and therefore requires replicability and confirmation by independent sources. Only the fucking woos and religious fucks think that a fucking anecdote amounts to evidence; only they decide that their senses can't be fooled, as long as they're "just sure of it!" What's more, why do you think you even know with such certainty that there are phenomena that exist that can't be detected by human senses? Because skeptics — scientists — discovered these phenomena through a variety of indirect methods, and we've developed equipment that can detect them. You are such an abominably stupid fuck.

And no, asshole, Einstein did not "prove" Newton wrong. As a matter of fact, the only reason you even know who Newton is, dickhead, is because his equations and theories are so incredibly accurate on the midway level between the very large and the very small that we still use them today. NASA still uses Newtonian, not Relativistic, physics to figure out most of their flight trajectories. Relativity works excellently at huge, macrocosmic levels; quantum physics works excellently at tiny, microcosmic levels; Newtonian physics still informs what we do in our everyday lives, because it works, even if it breaks down when you go too far up or down. Only an asshole like you, with such a rudimentary grasp of science and history, would dare to suggest otherwise. "Einstein proved Newton wrong, did he not"? He did not. You are such an asinine moron.

Faith is actually useful, and I think everyone (even the so-called skeptics) use it in their daily lives. For instance, I have faith that my family loves me and is not just pretending.

Blah blah blah, you can't measure a dream, you can't science a hug, you can't calculate love. Things which no skeptic has ever pretended you can actually do. You fuck, of course we use a modicum of what you call "faith" in our daily lives, in terms of relationships, in terms of "hoping" we get to work on time, in terms of "knowing" the car will start (though that last example may be more about science or more about faith, depending on our experiences with the car we're using). What we do not do is use faith when it comes to empirical explorations, where it is both unnecessary and potentially harmful to the development of an accurate conclusion. Dipshit.

And, incidentally, you don't just rely on faith that your family and friends care about you, unless you're a fucking doormat all your life. If they continually shit on you and treat you like dirt, then, empirically, you've every reason to believe they don't care about you; if they are more often polite, respectful, considerate, generous and loving toward you, then, empirically, you've every reason to believe they do. Faith can help you out with stuff like this, but even there, it can't replace the actual critical thought and reasoned logic that is the hallmark of the scientific process.

Personally I am very skeptical of things like religion and psychic phenomena, but I am also skeptical of the reach of science.

Take a look at what you just said, shit-for-brains. You and all of the "appeasers" like you are fucking hypocrites, and we're fed up with your self-contradictory bullshit. If you want to argue against the skeptical, scientific approach to figuring stuff out, then come up with another approach that works just as well — but you don't get to use the skeptical, scientific approach to do it, you motherfucking greedy little shit, because you are then inadvertently acknowledging that we got it right. Which, unfortunately for you, is pretty much the point: we did. It's not about our "facts," asswad, it's about the fact that the only successful, tangible results human beings have ever achieved have been derived from skepticism and the application of the scientific method (which requires skepticism), while bullshit magical thinking, even limiting our scope to that fifty percent of the time where it hasn't utterly fucked us over, has got us nothing and nowhere — end of story.

And before you respond and tell us how angry we are, and how that proves your point, or how that renders our arguments meaningless, or how that means that we suck donkey balls, please take note: we've addressed such pathetic ripostes before. Those with any useful intelligence know how an argument is constructed, and how to tell reason from invective, even when both are present. So if that's all your potential reply has to offer, pissant, then don't fucking bother.

Rock on with your hypocritical, ignorant self, dickhead.



Donny, 2008.07.15 (Tue) 20:59 [Link] »

I've read several of your rants, discussions, etc., and this is the most I've seen you cuss anyone.

Nice.

You guys are fun.

I wonder if you are aware of the effects of anger on health. Maybe you just don't care, but with the fire in that diatribe, I would suggest you check your blood pressure.

I think you've misunderstood my statement, or perhaps you've assumed you know what I actually believe. Very scientific, that. My intent was not to suggest that what you call " fucking woos and religious fucks" are actually right about anything. I think that guff is idiotic as well.

What bothers me about the skeptic warriors is the same thing that bothers me about the psychic, or religious, or new age warriors, the ire with which they clutch at their beliefs, the high and mighty approach they take to the rest of humanity and the sheer arrogance in believing that they've realized--everyone else is wrong. It reminds me of annoying sci-fi nerds arguing about which uniform the captain wore in episode 234.

Much of what you were screaming in your response is exactly what I was trying to point out, that science is is never certain, that human understanding of the world is limited, that doubt and denial are not the same thing. Oh wait, you didn't like that last one, did you? Guess what? I can use skepticism to doubt whatever I want to doubt, even the golden-ness of your asses.

And, yes, Newtonian Physics has been (not completely but largely) disproven by twentieth century physicists. NASA still uses it, not because the math is air-tight, but because it works.

Of course I used the term "fact" loosely, but the shifting of theoretical science (which is closer to what you accused me of missing) is what I meant.

Gravity, for instance, is treated as a sort of "fact" but it is really nothing more than a theory. Just because understanding the phenomenon that way works in the ways we need it to doesn't make it fact. This is what I mean by pragmatism. Does it really matter if gravity is a complete crock? Only if a new explanation can serve us better than the old one. In that sense, the newer physicists who have deconstructed the math of Newton are not getting in the way of NASA using Newton's and Newtonian science's explanations of physics.

Don't be so sensitive. Oh, who am I kidding; I would love to see what new names you can create to attack me with. Certainty is a lie. I don't care who is telling it. Enjoy the panic attacks.

Are you angry because I'm thinking outside of your circles? Listen, I trust the results of science in as much as human senses can measure, record, use and revisit those results, but there are limits. "If I don't see it, it doesn't exist," is a childish and dangerouly egotistical philosophy to live by. That was my main point. I see you ran with what you thought that meant, but make sure you're being scientific abou this. Maybe I did bring up some points that have already been dealt with; I apologize that I did not peruse the entire website (including your--I'm sure very scientific--partisan political views). I didn't realize you were so insecure about it.



The Two Percent Company, 2008.07.16 (Wed) 14:24 [Link] »

Is it possible that you could play the part of the stereotypical fuckheaded troll any better than you have, Donny? Sure, your first comment missed a few of the critical statements that we always hear from fucks like you, but it was so full of a lack of understanding of science and skepticism that we were willing to forgive you and award you Master Troll status. Your second comment, though, has truly done asshats of the world proud. You've built on that complete lack of knowledge, and added in liberal doses of half-assed psychoanalysis, inane musings, back-pedaling, failure to read what we've said, and fuckheaded ignorance. Bravo, Donny! An impressive showing on your second outing.

I've read several of your rants, discussions, etc., and this is the most I've seen you cuss anyone.

Well, then, you haven't read very many at all, have you?

You guys are fun.

Yes. And you are a dipshit. But we've mentioned that already, haven't we?

I wonder if you are aware of the effects of anger on health. Maybe you just don't care, but with the fire in that diatribe, I would suggest you check your blood pressure.

Sweet! That little "check your blood pressure" comment is one of the most over-used stereotypes that we see from fuckholes like you. In fact, it's right here on our "Dipshit Comment" Bingo Card, in slot B-2. Keep 'em coming, Donny! And for the record (once again), not one of our members has high blood pressure, nor ever has had high blood pressure. We're all in the average or below average range there, son. But you're in good company — famous pretend psychic and media whore Allison DuBois made the same suggestion about her critics (which would include us). Yeehaw, buckeroo! You're as accurate as she is!

But we digress. We wonder if you are aware that every "fact" (loose or otherwise) that you've spewed forth onto our site is fucking bunk. Like the one above, for example. Unlike you, we know that showing anger at fuckholes like you (as opposed to silently brooding about their abject ignorance) can in fact be quite healthy. We've also read about a UCLA study that might be of interest here:

Anger is good for you, as long as you keep it below a boil, according to new psychology research based on face reading.

People who respond to stressful situations with short-term anger or indignation have a sense of control and optimism that lacks in those who respond with fear.

...

The video cameras caught subjects' facial expressions during the tests, ranging from deer-in-the-headlights to seriously upset. The researchers identified fear, anger and disgust using a psychologist's coding system that considers the flexing of particular sets of small muscles in the face.

The researchers also recorded people's blood pressure, pulse and secretion of a high-stress hormone called cortisol, which can be measured in the saliva and collected with a cotton swab.

The people whose faces showed more fear during the [study] had higher blood pressure and higher levels of the hormone. The findings were the same for men and women.

...

So in maddening situations in which anger or indignation are justified, anger is not a bad idea, the thinking goes. In fact, it's adaptive, Lerner says, and it's a healthier response than fear.

You certainly are maddening, Donny, so it appears that, according to this study, our anger may actually be good for us. Wow, look at that! You're fucking full of shit yet again! Who'd've thought? Well, we'd've, of course.

I think you've misunderstood my statement, or perhaps you've assumed you know what I actually believe. Very scientific, that. My intent was not to suggest that what you call " fucking woos and religious fucks" are actually right about anything. I think that guff is idiotic as well.

No, your statements were all quite clear. And our responses to those statements were all quite clear. What we've said is that your comments display an almost complete lack of understanding of what "science" and "skepticism" actually are. You have not said that the creduloids are "right" — and you will find no place where we said that you did — but you have certainly suggested that their approach to these subjects has as much merit as ours, and we've explained (yet again) to another fucking troll (you) why that is a ludicrously misguided assertion — we did not state that your point was "the creduloids are right." (Try to name one actual instance where we've ascribed a "belief" to you that you did not state yourself. Go on, shit-for-brains, give it a go!) You, however, still don't fucking get it. It seems that you, Donny, are too fucking stupid to understand what we're saying. Which is precisely what we suggested in our previous response.

What bothers me about the skeptic warriors is the same thing that bothers me about the psychic, or religious, or new age warriors, the ire with which they clutch at their beliefs, the high and mighty approach they take to the rest of humanity and the sheer arrogance in believing that they've realized--everyone else is wrong. It reminds me of annoying sci-fi nerds arguing about which uniform the captain wore in episode 234.

See, this is what we mean when we say that you have no grasp of what science and skepticism really are, or how they work. For you to classify science and skepticism as "belief systems" on equal footing with religion shows how poorly you understand what you're trying to talk about. It isn't arrogance that makes us say that the scientific method is "right" — it's the fact that it produces the best results. Not just for us, but for fucks like you who want to pretend otherwise while simultaneously taking advantage of everything that scientific achievement has given them. But you don't understand that, do you?

It has nothing to do with us — our own agreement with it doesn't enter into it. The internal combustion engine will continue to work whether or not we or you believe it, and you can actually watch it happen; organisms will evolve over the course of antibiotic experiments whether we or you believe it, and you can actually watch it happen; the Internet, cellular phones, fertility treatments, and Xerox machines will do what they do whether or not we or you believe it, and you can actually see the results; and on and on and on. None of this has to do with "seeing" the phenomenon, by the way — you've likely never seen the inner workings of a Xerox machine or any number of useful devices, yet you can see that they have worked after the fact. After the Xerox, you have a photocopy of your original; after the cell phone, you've just had a conversation with someone on the other side of the world. Actual results, dickhead. Meanwhile, gods or fairies or ley lines or crystals or happy magical energy fields or any of the countless bullshit ideas conceived over thousands of years generally only affect the people who believe in them (despite frequent claims to the contrary), and you can't see any fucking clear indication that they even exist or had any effect whatsoever. Has this honestly escaped your attention? No, wait — don't answer that.

And you still want to pretend that ideas presented with no fucking evidence whatsoever and not even a solidly defined mechanism even come close to knowledge gleaned through the rigorous, peer-reviewed, self-correcting scientific method? You're a thick-headed fool, Donny.

Much of what you were screaming in your response is exactly what I was trying to point out, that science is is never certain, that human understanding of the world is limited, that doubt and denial are not the same thing.

No, Donny, you just think that we are echoing what you said because you don't fucking understand how science works. Your statements were fucking wrong and we were correcting you. The reason you can't see that is because you don't understand what you're talking about.

In addition, if you think we are engaging in denial of some fact, please point out the specific fact we are denying, and explain why someone "not in denial" would embrace it as true. You see, we've noticed that you, like every fuckheaded disphit who tries this approach, have completely failed to provide a single argument countering any of our arguments. So here's your chance to prove us wrong. Go on, Donny, take one of our arguments from anywhere on our site and mount a counterargument. Our guess: you haven't got the mental capacity to do it.

Guess what? I can use skepticism to doubt whatever I want to doubt, even the golden-ness of your asses.

You can go ahead and doubt that the earth is round and call it skepticism if you like, asshat, but that's no different from making asinine, incorrect statements and thinking of yourself as intelligent (not that we have anyone in mind when we say that, mind you). Fuck, Donny, you can eat a lump of shit and call it caviar, but that doesn't make you right. Once again, all of this tracks back to your failure to understand what science and skepticism really are.

And, yes, Newtonian Physics has been (not completely but largely) disproven by twentieth century physicists. NASA still uses it, not because the math is air-tight, but because it works.

Oh, we love this one, Donny. Let's see if we've got this straight. First you said "Einstein proved Newton wrong, did he not?" We explained why that statement was utter nonsense. And your response is that yes, Newtonian Physics has been disproven, but NASA uses it not because it's right, but because "it works." Um, yeah, you shitheaded fuck — and why does it work? Because it's still fucking valid, and it hasn't been "disproven" at all. Relativity and quantum physics (and, hopefully, eventually, a more Unified Theory) are more accurate on certain levels (didn't we cover this already, dipshit?); Newtonian physics remains accurate on the levels that we use it, which is about as far from "disproven" as you can get — because the usefulness or "truth" of a theory relies on being able to apply it accurately and accurately predict the results. Your ignorance is truly staggering.

Sometimes we wonder if being as stupid as you are makes your head hurt. You sure make our heads hurt.

Of course I used the term "fact" loosely, but the shifting of theoretical science (which is closer to what you accused me of missing) is what I meant.

Gravity, for instance, is treated as a sort of "fact" but it is really nothing more than a theory. Just because understanding the phenomenon that way works in the ways we need it to doesn't make it fact. This is what I mean by pragmatism. Does it really matter if gravity is a complete crock? Only if a new explanation can serve us better than the old one. In that sense, the newer physicists who have deconstructed the math of Newton are not getting in the way of NASA using Newton's and Newtonian science's explanations of physics.

The term "nothing more than a theory" is one more of those hallmarks of people who don't understand science (in fact, we can now fill in G-4 on our card as well). Either learn what the scientific definition of the word "theory" is or just don't bother responding. Pretending to know anything about the scientific method, and then blatantly using the layperson's version of "theory," is both pathetic and irksome.

The rest of your paragraph seems to be nothing more than misinformed claptrap, so unless you can show us where Newtonian physics has been disproven (no cut-and-paste, idiot, and show your work — citations count), please shut the fuck up about this myth you've created.

Don't be so sensitive. Oh, who am I kidding; I would love to see what new names you can create to attack me with.

Hm. Well, we already mentioned that we aren't offended by your crap. We pointed out beforehand that our irate reaction would be based on the fucking annoyance we feel at having to deal with one more ignorant fuck like you. And yet you're still going to repeat this trite and untrue bullshit. Hey — no wonder we accuse you of not reading what we've written before you fucking comment.

Certainty is a lie. I don't care who is telling it.

Yes, absolute certainty is a lie. But by using the scientific method — the single best approach to measuring and predicting our universe that has been devised, a sentiment which is based not on dogma but on clear and simple results (such as the fact that we're having this conversation at all, separated by however many miles and with everything stored away for posterity in little ones and zeroes) — we can be as certain as it's possible to be. By embracing belief systems that have no grounding in science (and, by simple and direct extension, no grounding in skepticism), we are setting aside the best tool we have at our disposal, and instead leaping blindly off a fucking cliff. The fact that you can't see that simple, obvious difference is fucking staggering.

Enjoy the panic attacks.

BINGO! With the half-assed psychoanalysis portion of your comment complete, we have now filled in our entire fucking card. Thanks, you vapid fuck, for playing the role of asshat so fucking well.

Are you angry because I'm thinking outside of your circles?

Wait, we already have Bingo, Donny. No need to keep spouting out the stereotypes. Once again, for the cheap seats: we are angry because you are stupid and fucking annoying. We've explained the reasons for our annoyance ad nauseam and in advance. Nothing pushes our buttons quite like arrogant ignorance, and you are demonstrating that infuriating combination quite effectively. So unless by "thinking outside of [our] circles" you meant "too fucking rockheaded for words," you're wrong again. But if you did mean that, then yeah, you're spot on.

As usual, we can point out how often we've asked people to not just think what we think. We want others to come up with their own conclusions based on the facts in evidence. But that's the key: based on the facts in evidence. And that means that you can back up any conclusions you offer with critical reasoning and actual reality. If you can't do that, you're not "thinking outside of [our] circles" — you're just not thinking. That is not only going to piss us the fuck off, it's going to completely invalidate any of the so-called "arguments" you make and the "conclusions" you come to. It fucks you, Donny — not us.

Listen, I trust the results of science in as much as human senses can measure, record, use and revisit those results, but there are limits. "If I don't see it, it doesn't exist," is a childish and dangerouly egotistical philosophy to live by. That was my main point.

Once again, you are showing your failure to understand what we're talking about here. "If I don't see it, it doesn't exist" is a dangerous and incorrect philosophy. Which is, of course, why we don't subscribe to it: because that's not even remotely what science is all about. Educate yourself on science, and then maybe you can have this discussion. Until then, you just sound like a fucking moron.

I see you ran with what you thought that meant, but make sure you're being scientific abou this.

Thanks, you fuck. We'll take that under advisement. Last we heard, Ted Bundy was telling us to be more compassionate, Pat Robertson was chiming in about being more tolerant, and George Bush told us to work on our oration. We'll tuck your advice into the same folder, m'kay?

Maybe I did bring up some points that have already been dealt with; I apologize that I did not peruse the entire website (including your--I'm sure very scientific--partisan political views). I didn't realize you were so insecure about it.

No, fuckhead. If you had read only the fucking post you fucking commented on and nothing else on our site, you would have seen that we've addressed your asinine points before. For fuck's sake, our replies to charles potnar alone covered almost the exact same points that you made. So no, we aren't chastising you for not finding our answer to your question in some obscure corner of our site — we're chastising you because you didn't bother to fucking read the thread on this very fucking post before you opened your mouth and spewed the same shit all over our site. (Not only that, but we've had to say this exact same thing before as well — that the answers are just above, not tucked away somewhere. You're coming through on the Promise of the Troll in spades, kid.) We are consistently amazed at people who decide to comment without ever bothering to fucking read what's been said before them.

And regarding our political views: since — by your own admission — you didn't read any of them, we thank you for your unbiased and highly informed decision that they are partisan. In point of fact, they are not in any way tied to a political party (as we have elucidated on many occasions that wholesale political allegiances are a sad, ineffective method of determining your positions). Our views — be they political or otherwise — are quite rational and, even more importantly, consistent across the board. If you can manage to read about one of them and mount an actual fucking argument against us, please feel free to do so. If not (and boy do we suspect "not"), then fuck off.

Seriously, fuck off. You are too fucking stupid to comment here. If you comment here again without addressing an actual argument we've made on our site, you will be moved to the Urinal or banned outright. We have no more time to waste on a fuckhole like you.

One more time: make an actual, valid, relevant point, or fuck off.



Tim Hendrix, 2010.03.03 (Wed) 23:07 [Link] »

Hi guys, this is my first time on your site, I am enjoying myself SOOO much. Beautiful refutations and counter arguments, succinct, just the right amount of vitriol when needed. I thought at first that you were a bit quick to insult Donny, but I changed my mind. He wilfully ignorant, and deserving of your scorn. I realise this thread is very old now, but after finishing the page I just wanted to let you know I exist, and I'm a fan!

Tim



Ryan W., 2010.04.02 (Fri) 17:01 [Link] »

I miss ass-gnomes. I'm bloggin' again, 'bout time you all did so!

Love from Your Rockstar.




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