UPDATE: The comments at the Intersection—normally only one or two per post—have swelled by an order of magnitude on the “birther post”. Many commenters point out, as I did below, that Mooney advocates firm and uniform rejection of birther claims but a kinder, gentler treatment of equally specious claims about religion.
When pressed in these comments, Mooney simply denies that unsupported birther claims have anything to do with unsupported Jebus claims, and takes the opportunity to once again flog Unscientific America. He also pulls a Fermat, saying, “I have a marvelous answer, but the margins of my computer screen are too small to contain it.”:
I want to thank everyone for the comments, but I must say, I’m a bit dazed by this thread…it just never occurred to me that we’d have a birther/totality of religion analogy. To address the questions being raised under this heading would be tantamount to redebating all the issues that were debated after Unscientific America came out in 2009…e.g., mega time consuming, and probably not productive, I’m afraid.
Sorry, but evidence is evidence, and what’s good for the birthers is good for the faithful.
I would not have thought this possible in the fractious blogosphere, but I’m pretty sure that the decline in readership at The Intersection mirrors its readers’ recognition that there’s little intellectual integrity—but a lot of self promotion—to be found at the site.
At the Intersection, Mooney discusses—and agrees with—House Majority leader Eric Cantor’s stand that Obama’s citizenship is a stupid issue that should be dropped. Mooney says:
I’m growing increasingly convinced that outside of true mental illness, people believing weird things–or even being in denial about certain facts–is not craziness or insanity. Rather, it’s very normal, even if often lamentable. It’s human nature to convince yourself of things that humor your prior beliefs. In this case, the prior belief is a certain strain of Obama hatred, but it could be pretty much anything.
And that’s why Cantor’s stand is important–because as Brendan Nyhan explained on Point of Inquiry, the more we see a uniform rejection of birther claims across the punditariat and political world, and especially on the Republican side, the more they will become simply untenable. At that point, many birthers will still cling to their beliefs–but their wrongheaded view, much like the view that cigarettes don’t cause lung cancer, will no longer trouble serious discourse.
I agree! But isn’t there another set of beliefs that is just as untenable, but even more harmful, than the claim that Obama is an alien? And shouldn’t we start uniformly rejecting those claims, too, knowing that that strategy will eventually purge them from serious discourse.
I refer to religion, of course, which Mooney thinks should not be rejected, but respectfully engaged.
I’d love to see Mooney also call religious belief “untenable” and “wrongheaded,” but I’m not holding my breath.
156 thoughts on “Chris Mooney on birthers”
I’m afraid Mooney has already invested too much in non-corporeal columns, piers, walls, slabs, beams, arches, and frames for building apophatic bridges that lead to crazy town.
Well, you could either wait, or you could build a time machine.
That article reminds me of the movie “Total Recall” – except in that movie it was the old version of the character that turned out to be the unprincipled villain.
So what the hell happened to Mooney? He seems so *reasonable* in that piece.
The significant passage may be here:
The word “Templeton” appears five times in that article. I guess over the years, the question “How come all those other people get showered with riches and I don’t?” can tend to prey on the mind, if your mind is of a certain bent to begin with.
the more we see a uniform rejection of birther claims across the punditariat and political world, and especially on the Republican side, the more they will become simply untenable.
I think he’s missing the point about “birtherism”. Its adherents really do believe that Obama is foreign and alien, and it doesn’t particularly have much to do with birth certificates, or notices in Hawaiian newspapers. His name could be Yankee Doodle Dandy, with indisputable evidence of birth in Heartland, USA, and that would not change their minds one iota.
Now, if he happened to have a little less melanin, on the other hand…
Yes. It’s just…can he not see it?! I…good grief!
Er, I didn’t see Cantor say anything like “Obama’s citizenship is a stupid issue that should be dropped.” I saw him hem and haw and dodge David Gregory’s question (which the latter had to ask three times) and then give an answer that was actually very lukewarm and totally different than the shut-down “stupid issue” line of Jerry’s paraphrase. As Steve Benen puts it:
(There’s more from Benen at the link above.)
So we actually have a broader parallel between Cantor’s treatment of birtherism and Mooney’s treatment of religion than this post recognizes. Both men coddle notions that they recognize to be nonsense on grounds that are thoroughly political. Cantor’s refusal to explicitly denounce birtherism is a whole hell of a lot like Mooney’s refusal to openly criticize (popular forms of) religion.
Anway, I don’t see any reason to contrast Cantor’s courage to Mooney’s cowardice; if that “Meet the Press” appearance is any indication, Cantor is just as much a coward as Mooney is.
Moreover Cantor makes *the exact same mistake* that christians do on criticism and Mooney on religion, namely confusing the issue with the person. Cantor/christian: “crazy talk … call anyone crazy”, Mooney: “science and religion compatible … religious scientists”.
It’s Mooney Tunes!
Amen to this. Cantor’s performance during that Meet the Press interview was underwhelming and displayed the breadth of his intellectual cowardice and dishonesty on pretty much all issues . . . not that Cantor’s intellectual cowardice and dishonesty is any less than, say, Harry Reid’s, with respect to what must be done to deal with the inevitable fiscal crunch.
Direct link to the post:
So far, none of the replies have noted the discrepancy.
“It’s human nature to convince yourself of things that humor your prior beliefs.”
Ooooh! So close. Physician, heal thyself.
The more I hear Mooney, the more inconsistent philosophically he seems. I just don’t give him any time anymore.
To those with faith in faith, religion isn’t harmful.
I think Mooney’s fundamentalist approach here is all wrong. We should not be creating a combative environment with the birthers; we should be building bridges! We should be seeking common ground!
For instance, a-birther fundamentalists like Mooney like to focus on the fact that many Birthers believe Obama was born in Kenya. Instead of emphasizing our differences, shouldn’t we be finding commonalities? For instance, both birthers and abirthers agree that Barack Obama was born; we merely differ on the “ways of knowing the location where he was born.”
We may use different methods and practices, but we are all engaged on a human quest to seek truth. While birthers place their faith in the writings of Joseph Farah and the “legal inerrancy” of Orly Tait’s various lawsuit filings, abirthers take an equally faith-based position that looks to infallible texts such as a birth certificate. What these abirther fundamentalists like Mooney forget is that a birth certificate is not the same as a birth, it is merely a record, or a “model” of the birth. Postmodern thought is quite clear that there can be no epistemological certainty about a birth certificate, therefore we must recognize it as just as arbitrary as any other piece of evidence.
Now I’m not criticizing those abirthers who have the humility and civility to recognize that they don’t have a monopoly on truth. If pressed, I must admit that, while I don’t think there is truly any way of knowing whether Obama is an American citizen, it is my personal belief that he is. But this is a philosophical position, not a scientific one. Mooney’s failure to acknowledge this is simply a manifestation of his birthological ignorance.
In any case, birtherism is not a science textbook. Never was supposed to be. Perhaps, instead of focusing on minor factual errors in the birther account (such as Obama’s birthplace and citizenship), we should instead seek to learn the universal human truths that are illuminated by these stories.
+1 internets for you, James.
Why Dr Dr Dr Dr BioLogos, how eloquent you are!
I can haz Templeton muhny now?
I just kinda smiled through the post, but that really made me laugh – especially when taken along with the third reply to ERV @ #2
Moreover, his intolerance toward the birthers isn’t helping.
Laugh out loud funny, James.
I just woke the baby.
And we mustn’t forget that birtherism is all about compassion.
Just yesterday I was thinking about what it would take to pull off a Sokal-style hoax on Biologos. I believe James Sweet could do it, though he probably needs a co-conspirator (for example a Wheaton College professor willing to “loan” his identity).
Well done, James.
Jerry should put up this comment as an actual post on the website. And send it to Mooney. I kinda want to know what Mooney would make of it.
Sweet’s comment, that is.
You, sir, are more awesome than anyone has a right to be.
Oh well you see the way you fix this is just to decide that goddy beliefs are not “weird” – because after all they’re majoritarian (in the US, which after all is all that counts) and held by millions of perfectly normal, nice, civil, affable, mainstream people, excuse me, I mean folks.
I think Mooney might want to steer clear of that approach too, considering at one point something like 1 in 6 Americans were birfers… if a few cards fell the other way, it could have become a majority position pretty quickly.
You would think – but majoritarianism is clearly the bedrock of a lot of his positions.
In that case I’d bet dollars to donuts that he’ll change his tune.
Obama could put this issue to rest by releasing his birth certificate. Since he won’t do that, it’s only fostering questions about his citizenship. This has nothing to do with “more people rejecting the claims,” this has to do with evidence that can easily be presented.
There’s sufficient evidence including testimony of people who have seen it and a newspaper announcement for chrissake.
Right, “people who have seen it.” No one has a political stake in this, do they. Just release the certificate and the issue goes away
See below. And I presume you reject the announcement in the Hawaiian newspaper too.
I think there’s a semantic debate to be had over whether Hedgefundguy is really a concern troll… or just an ordinary troll. I vote ordinary. (I say not concern because that implies that Hedgefundguy is posing as a sympathizer of the person to whom he’s offering advice. He arguably is, but I think not really, not much.)
Hawaii governor claims record of Obama’s birth ‘exists in archives’ but can’t produce the vital document
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1348916/Hawaii-governor-says-Obamas-birth-record-exists-produce-it.html#ixzz1Byv2V160
You’re whacked and stupid. Don’t breed, your alleles are defective.
Somebody demanding reliable evidence quoting the Daily Fail? Nothing ironic about that at all, nosireebob.
Since you missed it above, let me remind you that you can have a look at a picture of Obama’s birth certificate for yourself.
You’re right! It’s all part of the fifty-year-old conspiracy of an American woman to have a black baby in Kenya (or Indonesia) so he could become president and secretly push his Islamist-atheist-communist agenda by trying to pull the US out of a recession. It’s so obvious!
You missed the part where Hawaii privacy laws make it illegal for him to do so.
My god, how far back does the conspiracy go? Even previous Hawaii legislatures are in on it!!!!11eleventy!!!
It goes back to the Illuminati, the NWO, and, through thousands of years – the Reptiods!
I thought everyone knew that Obama was a Reptoid, just like Bush, and (probably) every president before them!
This goes back to #25-26 – not sure why it didn’t reply correctly.
Don’t forget Queen Elizabeth II!! Clearly a lizard, her name is almost ‘Lizard’ too! Proof!!
Gawd bless her! – oops!
This kind of desperate clinging really does make me laugh.
This is the United States we’re talking about here – home of the PATRIOT Act, McCarthyism, the CIA, NSA, DHS, FBI and endless other acronyms which spell “We’re watching you very closely”.
If there was one fucking country in the WORLD that could delve into a person’s background to a sufficient level to see whether they qualify for office, it’s the USA. Do you honestly think the governor of Hawaii and the Obama family and lord-knows-who-else could hide such a massive, scandalous secret from the US Government and all its agencies? Are you really that thick?
Obama’s an American. He’s your president. DEAL WITH IT.
Shit, after 8 years of GW Bush you should be praising Jeebus that, for better or worse (or more of the same), you got an educated man who can appear in public and connect a few words without embarrassing your entire country.
Oh you elitist you.
Funny, I found it right here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BarackObamaCertificationOfLiveBirthHawaii.jpg
From the WIKI ?
Anyone can edit that!
(ducks, runs, cowers, hides…)
Fake, the Certificate # is blanked out and it clearly states “Any alterations invalidate this certificate”.
Takes off looney hat.
Indeed, the article says that Governor Abercrombie thinks an actual Birth Certificate may not exist in the archives. So now what’s the president supposed to do? He can’t release a document that isn’t there, right?
Since there’s no Birth Certificate, and the man is already POTUS, I guess the only recourse is to impeach him. The Republicans have the House, so they can start the impeachment process right away. Those citizens who think this Birth Certificate stuff is a big deal should start writing their congressperson. (Of course, it is likely that nothing would guarantee Mr. Obama a second term more than impeachment proceedings for something so silly. Famously, President Clinton’s approval rating actually went up after the GOP’s inane impeachment hearings. Nothing spells “out-of-touch” like impeaching a sitting president for a clerical error in Hawaii while unemployment hovers at 9%.)
No one with a political stake in it, like the Republican Party? John McCain? The whole RNC? I know they all support Obama…
Not as funny as James.
You mean you want him to release this birth certificate?
Or is it your complaint that his campaign did it instead of him personally handing you the original?
Gordon Bennett – I am older than him! ‘Hedge fund guy’ sounds a bit Republican to me…
Found it! http://tinyurl.com/4lbljt7. Sorry for the salty language.
Even if you didn’t have it, even if it was burned up in a fire, he is a US citizen because his mother is a US citizen. Period.
John McCain was born in Panama, that doesn’t make him a freaking Panamanian does it?
That’s not how US citizenship works. Children born to US nationals abroad aren’t automatially US citizens; their parents have to fill out paperwork at the nearest embassy or consulate.
If one parent is a US citizen and the other parent is not, the child is a citizen if
* the US citizen parent has been “physically present” in the US before the child’s birth for a total period of at least five years, and
* at least two of those five years were after the US citizen parent’s fourteenth birthday.
A quick check says yes, Ms Dunham matched all of those.
This is not as straightforward as Mr. Sajanas makes it appear. This statute was passed after the presidents’ birth and superseded a previous statute that was passed prior to his birth and which stated that 5 years of physical residency were required subsequent to the parents 14th birthday. In effect, the statute cited in Wikipedia lowered that requirement from 5 years to 2 years.
Now, of course, since there is overwhelming evidence that the president was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961, the statute is moot in his case.
However, just as an exercise in constitutional law, consider the following hypothetical. Suppose that the birthers were actually able to come up with credible evidence that, in fact, the president was born in Kenya. The question then becomes which of the two statutes is applicable. If the first statute is applicable, the president is not a natural born citizen. If the second is applicable, he is.
There are legitimate arguments that can be made for either case. It could be argued that the first statute is applicable because it was the one in effect when the president was born. On the other hand, it could be argued that the second is applicable under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.
Does he have the hat?
Birther claims are demonstrably false. Were religious claims in general similarly demonstrably false there would be a clear disconnect between Mooney’s strong denumciation of the birther movement and his accomodationism toward religion. Since there has been — so far at least — no such demonstration…not so much.
The religious claims that the planet is 6,000 years old, that there was a two-person genetic bottleneck, that there was a global flood 4,000 years ago, that there was a significant Jewish presence in Egypt that ended with mass infanticide, and on and on are all trivially demonstrably false.
As are pretty much all of the Christian claims about Jesus. Those claims are for spectacular, very public, earth-shattering events…yet all mention of said events is perfectly absent from the copious contemporary record (the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Pliny the Elder, the Roman Satirists, etc., etc., etc., etc.).
I’m hard pressed to think of a single significant religious claim that isn’t obviously false in an easily-demonstrable manner.
Ben, you forgot the gaping chest wound and protruding intestines.
Gee, I did.
Gaping chest wound! Talking plants! Angry giants! Reluctant heroes with magic wands! Sea monsters!
Did I miss any?
You missed my most favourite bit, the zombie uprising.
The hordes of the faithful – the zombies – unthinking creatures – are already here & dwell among us.
Two *different* creation stories *in the same text*?
Even more serious for religious claims is the claim that Joshua got god to stop the sun in the sky for a day. Aside from the fact that such an occurrence would lead to catastrophic consequences, the absence of which violates all the laws of physics, there is no mention of such an occurrence in the records of other civilizations that were contemporaneous with Joshua. One would think that such an event would cause comment elsewhere in the world.
There is no good reason to think birther claims are true. There is no good reason to think claims that ghosts exist are true. There is no good reason to think claims that fairies exist are true. There is no good reason to think claims that “God exists” are true.
Alla same typa thing.
You just had to go and poke Ben Goren with a stick didn’t you ?
I bet that you are not concerned with “religious claims in general” but with one very specific ostensibly mono-theistic religion that has 3 deities and a pantheon of lesser angels, demons, devils, cherubim, incubuses, etc, ad nauseum that would put an honest polytheistic religion to shame.
Perhaps you and hedefundguy should form a club.
To considerable chagrin, Cantor’s the speaker at jac’s alma mater’s Charter Day this year.
“I’m hard pressed to think of a single significant religious claim that isn’t obviously false in an easily-demonstrable manner.”
I eagerly await your demonstration that the claim “God exists” is false.
I’ll be glad to do so as soon as you choose to offer a coherent definition of the term, “god,” that isn’t logically absurd.
I have no such claim to defend. Thus asking me to create one is a silly attempt at burden-shifting. If your assertion is that any “God exists” claim is necessarily incoherent and necessarily false as a consequence, go ahead and support it.
OK, if you insist.
1. The universe is all natural.
2. No supernatural creature, event, or act has ever been proven to exist under any reasonable demands of empiric investigation.
3. All supernatural creatures, therefore, are conceptions of imagination only and do not exist.
4. All gods are supernatural creatures.
5. All gods are conceptions of imagination only and do not exist.
Seriously, some people write books about this nonsense. But the rest of us just dismiss it as useless fiction and get on with our lives.
#1 isn’t demonstrated. #3 doesn’t follow from #2. #4 isn’t demonstarted. Therefore, not even close. Seriously.
Then I take it you can describe a non-natural universe (or multiverse)? Have at it.
If 1 hasn’t been demonstrated, I’d like to see the evidence of THAT.
3. Most certainly follows, since there are only two options. Either it’s real, or it’s made up.
And if gods aren’t by definition supernatural creatures, then what the fuck kind of being ARE you talking about? Some alien?
“#1 isn’t demonstrated.”
It is trivial to demonstrate, such a monism (physicalism, aka materialism, aka naturalism for some) can be tested by simply making a binomial test on the accumulated sum of tested natural theories. That is, theories of processes that have something in common like causality or energy (which signifies shared conserved quantities over time).
With the current science production that sum was sufficient large somewhere around the -80’s or so to surpass 3 sigma certainty. (You need something like ~ 250 000 tested hypotheses, models or full theories for a robust test; albeit I understand that ~ 4000 of them may suffice for a simpler test.) At that time this theory on physics has tested “beyond reasonable doubt”.
And that is sufficient as this monism is the simplest theory explaining observations. Alternatives, call them supernaturalism if you will, that doesn’t have the requisite characteristics (such as no unlawful agents) are by definition dualist and must be rejected.
Dualist theories need to predict and test on observations that natural theories can’t to get back in the game. What “significant religious claim” predict and test observations in your mind? “God exists” doesn’t do any of that. It was always impotent, and now known to be false to boot. Seriously.
“Physicalism holds that all that really exists are physical things. […]
Most modern scientists and philosophers are physicalists, but the idea is far from obvious, and it is not as widely accepted in the larger community as it could be.”
Also, the evidence hasn’t existed all that long. But longer than the standard cosmology WMAP evidence (~ 7 years). So this, the “standard monism” should definitely get out there.
Of course, “Mooney isn’t helping”!
#1 is definitely demonstrated – everything we have available to test fits perfectly. You’re trying to make a case that without omniscience, this statement cannot be made, but that’s just semantics – you actually cannot disprove the statement, which is exactly the argument you’re trying to make in defense of god. Logic fail.
#3 does indeed follow from #2, and #4 is the very definition of god that you avoided providing. You’re not very good at this, are you? No matter what you might have learned from your, uh, “associates” about assertions, they don’t hold up here.
Ah hah, I freaking knew it!
No, that is not our claim. Our claim is that “God” as most people understand the term demonstrably does not exist. You can always redefine the term, but… that’s pretty fucking boring, isn’t it?
If I said, “RPS eats babies”, and you said, “That’s demonstrably not true!”, and I replied with, “Well, by ‘eats’ I meant ‘thinks they are really cute'”, would you consider that a valid argument? Yeesh…
As they say, you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d be perfectly happy with a clear demonstration of how “God” as commonly understood doesn’t exist.
Given that you think that there is a commonly understood definition of “God” it shouldn’t take much effort on your part to define the term.
Except, of course, that neither you nor anybody else is capable of expressing this so-called “common understanding” of the term.
Maybe you can give us a clear demonstration of how “UQHGaeFABZec” as commonly understood doesn’t exist? No, I won’t define it for you; you’ll just have to go off of the common definition.
Oh — and, while you’re at it, do please provide us the exact date that you stopped beating your wife, okay?
Hey, kids, for some clarity on this issue, let’s step back and consider the REAL god: We all stand naked before Google. I offer you The Church of Google, with its 9 proofs
God is no more reasonable leprechauns or Santa Claus or Jesus visiting North America or the FSM. Or for that matter that you were born on Mars, and through a grand conspiracy, was returned to earth to convince you and all other non-conspirators that you’re an earthling.
Cut the “you can’t disprove a sufficiently undetectable conspiracy” bullshit. Your kind always moves the goalposts such that the god conspiracy is always just beyond the level of detectability for the time in question. Until you bring positive evidence, you don’t get to play.
You might want to take your objections up with James (“Our claim is that ‘God’ as most people understand the term demonstrably does not exist”) Sweet.
James Sweet is doing yeoman’s work trying to meet you on your own terms as far is logically possible. And if you’d actually agree to those terms (which are far too generous, IMO) he’d wipe the floor with your arguments. But I’m not willing to play that game. As is obvious, you won’t even pin down the notion of “god” sufficiently to interrogate that idea. So, until you provide positive evidence for your views, you don’t get a seat at the table of rational discourse.
You don’t really understand what you’re saying. Failure to provide a disproof, while not only impossible, does not actually change the status or the possibility of anything in the universe – it’s simply a null set. You cannot disprove the Giant Mortoblort, which I just made up, but this provides nothing in support of a Mortoblort. Imaginary beings do not gain statistical significance with the lack of proof against them. It’s a hack argument.
You know, there’s a reason our courts work from the standpoint of establishing positive evidence, and not from disproving an accusation…
So, you want me to demonstrate that “‘God exists’ is false,” yet you won’t define what you mean by the term, “God”?
And you think I’m the one shifting the burden of proof?
Jesus Christ, but they’re getting dumber every year.
The claim “God exists” is perhaps *the* most foundational and significant of religious claims. Since you claim to be able readily to demonstrate that all significant religious claims are false, you should be able to demonstrate the falsity of this one, in whatever iteration. That you now want to duck the challenge is understandable if you haven’t got the goods to back up your lofty claim. Oh, and the resort to calling me stupid is as inspired as it is unsurprising.
It’s about as foundational and significant as the claim that there is a teapot in orbit somewhere between earth and mars.
The significant claims are those that impinge on reality; jebus was born of a virgin, mo flew from Mecca to Jerusalem on a winged horse, Joshua stopped the sun in the sky.
“It’s about as foundational and significant as the claim that there is a teapot in orbit somewhere between earth and mars.”
Somehow I suspect that religionists of varying stripes think the claim that “God exists” is foundational and significant. But I could well be wrong — Ben says I’m stupid after all.
RPS: Perhaps as well as demanding others produce stuff, you could produce for us the reasons why you think the existence of God is even plausible. And you can’t say “Because a lot of people believe it.”
Presumably you would say “leprechauns don’t exist” (don’t you think that?), so what’s the difference with God?
You’re right. Ben Goren was overstepping when he said “I’m hard pressed to think of a single significant religious claim that isn’t obviously false in an easily-demonstrable manner.” There are some things which can’t easily (or ever) be shown to be false. But that’s not even the issue. The number of supernatural beings whose existence is unfalsifiable is limited only by the human imagination.
I’ve always held the position that it’s reasonable to treat unsubstantiated outlandish claims as though they were false. They might be true but until they are established as such, we can operate under the belief they it’s false. Disbelief is the starting position. That’s why it’s not necessary to set out to “disprove” the God hypothesis in order to dismiss it. All we have to say is those that make the claim have failed to establish it with any reasonable certainty.
I wish Godophiles would stop taking refuge in our inability to falsify their claim.
Your point is a fair one, Andrew. In response to you (and Prof. Coyne above), I’ll offer the two issues about God that trouble me most (not that they are demonstrative).
1. We know from other areas of study (e.g., behavioral finance) that when people make decisions based upon both reason and emotions (as opposed to either alone), the result is better and more accurate. I wonder why the “reason alone” approach with respect to God (of whatever conception) should be different. If it isn’t, perhaps the vast majority of believers (despite ga-zillions of differences) has something to tell us after all.
2. It seems to me that naturalism demands determinism (Prof. Coyne has all but admitted as much as I recall). But none of us really believes that to be true — otherwise this conversation and all attempts to convince others would be incoherent. Plus, every time I try to test determinism, it fails (or so it seems to me).
@RPS And is this the basis for your claim that religious claims in general have not be demonstrated as false ?
Decisions? What decisions?
We’re not trying to pick between the burger and the hot dog for lunch; we’re trying to determine if invisible sky daddies exist. Emotion has no more role to play in this discussion than it should over the existence of a ring around Uranus. It’s either a logically-coherent proposition or it ain’t; there’s either evidence for or against its existence or there ain’t; and it either is there or it ain’t.
And we know that the universe isn’t deterministic. That’s the front-page headline story about quantum mechanics.
So I don’t know where you were going with either of your two points, but it sure seems to be nowhere, fast.
“Emotion has no more role to play in this discussion than it should over the existence of a ring around Uranus.”
You might take a look at the Iowa Gambling Task research, for example, before answering so hastily. I’m not talking about burger v. hot dog.
“And we know that the universe isn’t deterministic.”
You might make that argument to Andrew Cashmore (and Prof. Coyne). You might also explain how either randomness *or* determinism can offer meaningful choice.
RPS, I haven’t a clue what you’re driving towards, and you’ve all but convinced me that you don’t, either.
This all started with you claiming that the proposition “God exists” isn’t falsifiable, and you’ve done nothing but dodge and weave ever since I asked you to clarify what you mean by that impossible-to-nail-down term, “god.”
Now you’re off on some rant about the role that quantum randomness plays in personal choice. Unless you’re trying to deify the double-slit experiment, may I suggest you come back to the discussion and tell me how I can pick this “god” of yours out of the crowd?
Or maybe it’s time for you to concede that there’s no point in falsifying that which can’t even be defined — which, after all, is the point that I’ve been making all along.
Oh, sweet Jebus, the fact that people get “emotional” over God is supposed to give the notion some credibility? PLEASE!
People get emotional over all kinds of things that are palpably untrue. John Hinkley got emotional over thinking that Jodie Foster loved him.
It is an insult to our intelligence to suggest that people’s emotional connection to God gives the existence of God any credibility at all.
Ben — You keep assuming I have a God-conception to defend. I don’t. But I also see no basis to conclude that the idea(s) of God is (are) no more well founded than the birther movement. I think the God-question remains an interesting and unresolved one.
“…the fact that people get ’emotional’ over God is supposed to give the notion some credibility?”
If your statement had any logical or even emotional connection to my concern you’d have a basis for ridicule. Sadly, it doesn’t.
RPS, don’t you think the mere fact that you’re not even able to present a coherent definition for the term might — just maybe — be an indication that there’s nothing there to define?
Seriously. It’d be one thing to propose that there’s a teapot orbiting Venus. It would be an extraordinary discovery, but perhaps one of the Soviet probes had some extra payload added on by secret pranksters.
But, when it comes to gods, even the believers can’t tell us what they mean by the terms. And, when they try, they step all over themselves with meaningless nonsense as childishly transparent as “bigger than the biggest number you can think of, including ‘infinity.'”
When it comes right down to it, as laughably insane as the birther notions are, they can at least state their claims and their claims are theoretically possible (even if thoroughly debunked). The religious can’t even meet that low a bar.
“If your statement had any logical or even emotional connection to my concern you’d have a basis for ridicule”
He was responding directly to a comment you made.
“A ring around Uranus”! Tee hee!
(Yes, I’m 12.)
Except for the minor little detail that there are thousands upon thousands upon countless thousands of gods, and damned little agreement on what they are and aren’t.
The Jews have a god they call, confusingly enough, “God,” to whom it wouldn’t even occur to impregnate a virgin so he could offer himself to them as a replacement for the Paschal lamb. The Christians have a god, again named, “God,” who did exactly that. The Muslims have a god whom they call “Allah” but whom they assure us is identical to the Jews’s “God” god and the Christian’s “God” god. Allah would be as horrified at the thought of taking human form as the Jew’s “God,” though Allah did direct one of his subordinate gods, Gabriel, to have a demigod named Muhammad take a lot of dictation.
And that’s just the major branches of the three popular religions to come out of the Middle East!
So, no. I’m not going to waste my time on a wild goose chase attempting to refute each and every idiotic notion the religious have about their particular gods.
If you want me to demonstrate that one of these gods is fictional, pick one of them, tell me how you tell this particular god apart from the rest, and I’ll tell you why you’re an idiot for thinking it deserves special treatment.
Ben didn’t actually use the word stupid but I can understand why you would be sensitive to this sort of criticism.
Don’t take it personally, it is your ideas that are being criticized.
To the extent that you do not hide behind your ideas and honestly respond to the comments an questions to you post you can be sure that you will be treated civilly.
However don’t assume that respect for you as person translates in any sort of respect for your ideas.
“Ben didn’t actually use the word stupid….”
I stand corrected. I’m merely “dumb” and an “idiot.” That’s *so* much better.
“…but I can understand why you would be sensitive to this sort of criticism.”
You misunderstand. I’m not sensitive about it — I don’t care a whit. But it’s typical.
“Don’t take it personally, it is your ideas that are being criticized.”
That’s patronizing and false on its face. But I won’t belabor the point because it doesn’t matter and I don’t care.
Your arguements have been demonstrated to be unconvincing, RPS. Just saying.
To be fair – you have yet to provide any evidence to the contrary. Supply us with something that might even bear a passing resemblance to evidence, and the Bayesian statistical model might update your status.
RPS – RIP
Yeah, we’ve kinda been over that ground ad nauseum, so you must be new here.
In the same way you can demonstrate the claim “leprechauns exist” is false.
Or unicorns. Or fairies. Or monsters hiding under the bed (invisible monsters who disappear the moment you turn on the light and look for them).
Invisible monsters under the bed who disappear the moment you turn on the light and look for them? Thanks a lot. Now I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight.
In my house, the monster isn’t under the bed, he’s on top of the bed. And he has fangs and claws! He doesn’t disappear when I turn the light on, either…instead, he rolls over on his back and demands a belly rub if it’s early enough in the night or screams in my ear that I feed him now neow NEOW! if it’s early enough in the morning. Do you have any idea how hard it is to sleep with a hungry monster screaming at you?
On the other hand, for some reason, I seem to have even more trouble sleeping when the monster isn’t there….
Your monster seems easily appeased. Imagine having 3 of them. (Yes, we did just get a new kitten last week.)
New kitten! Sweet! Congratulations!
Here’s hoping the other two are welcoming….
Uh oh. Terri and I aren’t to blame, are we?
Nah, no one’s fault. It’s been nearly a year since Bryxie died, and we were ready. British Shorthair boy named, tentatively, Merlynus. I know we should rescue, but the need for a Brit was overwhelming. The grrrls now tolerate being in the same room with him.
If all Brits are as adorable as Bryxie, I can see why.
Thanks, Ophelia. He’s just enough like her to make us smile, but different enough that we don’t break down and cry every 10 minutes. We expect great things from him.
Any pics yet? An online album somewhere?
And that’s pretty much what this comes down to. “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” It’s a most sensible rule-of-thumb.
There is no evidence that any kind of god exists. Therefore, the claim “God exists” is demonstrably false.
Technically it is unproven.
I think RPS is doing a decent job, for the most part, in pointing out some of the ways atheists make mistakes in logical argument (or more accurately he is laying some logical traps that some of us are falling into).
If you accept that we can never prove the absolute non-existence of something (leprechauns of Gods) then it is important to argue along those lines. There is no evidence for the existence of Gods or Leprechauns. If someone states they exist then we need only ask them to provide evidence.
I think this underlines one of the most important semantic changes in atheism over recent years – the fact that atheism can be defined as someone who does not believe in God – rather than the old “someone who believes that God doesn’t exist”. I suspect that this is due to atheism becoming a more scientifically and skeptically based movement compared to its origins in philosophy and theology.
The problem isn’t that neither evidence nor proof exists for the existence of gods; the problem is that a definition doesn’t even exist.
The common attempts at definitions all depend on logical absurdities, which is why believers seem so reluctant any more to even offer them up.
If somebody came to you claiming to have found somebody who can draw, on a flat piece of paper laying on a table, a figure with three sides and three right angles, and without resorting to semantic tricks like re-defining “flat” to mean “warped around a sphere,” you wouldn’t need to bother with any kind of evidence, proof, or the rest. You’d simply dismiss the person as an ignorant and gullible fool.
And, guess what? Every god is “defined” (for certain bastardizations of the term) as being able to do exactly that. For what else is a miracle but an expression of the impossible, and what is a god without its miracles? Stated thus, gods are defined as beings that do that which cannot be done; they are self-contained contradictions.
At this point, believers start going down the path of special pleading. Their gods have powers that are reserved to them alone; only their gods have the secret formula for stretching the paper over the sphere. But, again, the super-powers are always revealed to be either impossible or of no more significance than James The Amazing Randi making a back-bush tribe worship him as a god.
I didn’t say it was proven, I said that claims of a god or gods’ existence are demonstrably false.
Quite. That’s why I changed the terms in my comment above (somewhere). The claim isn’t (or shouldn’t be) “we can prove god doesn’t exist”; it is (or should be) “we can find no good reason to think god exists (and the same applies to any other imagined supernatural X).”
How would “God exists” be a significant claim? It either is the reason for the falsifiable claims, or it isn’t significant.
Really, who cares about fairies and gods?
I am shocked and dismayed at Mooney’s SHRILL and STRIDENT ranting. Such absolutism will surely only push away the moderate birthers who are open to dialog.
I think we must take immediate action to offset this tragedy. Perhaps if we did a picture campaign, with Republicans and Kenya birth certificates standing together…? Oh wait….they already did that.
How about a billboard campaign reminding everyone that the question is far from answered? I would link to an image of one of these billboards, but I’m afraid big Internet abirther meanie bullies like Mooney might attack me for it!
What if two football teams played the same game for two years.
I’d vote to give both teams their own ball so they won’t have to fight over it.
A clump of grass in my back yard is more interesting than they think the world is.
Hilarious. In a single thread we have a birther pretending that Obama wasn’t born in Hawai’i, and a guy who wants us to disprove “God exists” but hasn’t even specified which god he’s talking about. It’s a buffet of intellectual failure.
Only thing that would make it better is if we had some antivaccer screaming about the conspiracy to bury the evidence.
It’s always a question of how you characterize the words. While I agree with Congressman Cantor that calling someone crazy–in that I take his reference to be w.r.t. mental health–I would say the birthers are ‘people who are crazy in their opposition to Obama at all costs’ with the issue of his birth being their standard.
By the same token I would agree that ‘religion’ as a belief in the supernatural, especially a creating and controlling is born of ignorance or being misguided, I embrace the idea of ‘religion’ which is born of a sense of reverence for life, even reverence for everything, which is the taproot of many religious beliefs.
Just as science moves with new discoveries, so too the committed religious move with it. That there is disagreement about religious beliefs for which there is no objective evidence, there is also disagreement within the scientific community beyond the limits of objective evidence.
In an earlier post I noted that the discourse on what constitutes a species was viewed as a ‘characterization’ (at least that’s what I recorded in memory when reading it) instead of ‘definition.’ For me, that was a significant view. Characterization fits religion as well since many scientists agree as to one of a few characterizations of species, while no religionists (those who are serious scholars of religious fundamentals) agree as to whether God is a useful word and if so, its characterization. Cupitt says “Life is God.” Geering suggests, “God is Gaia.”
The Australian tax dept defines religion as involving supernatural beliefs, your religion does not qualify and few people subscribe to it. The taproot of religion is money, they want yours. All religions demand a share of your cash, that’s why the tax dept needs a definition!
Matthew 7:5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Did anyone else notice this circular reasoning?
If I understand correctly, Mooney’s saying if people who believe weird things aren’t mentally ill they aren’t insane either.
I think what is significantly interesting is that Mooney found for himself a bit of political passion and wrote a good article, worthy of the tenfold increase in otherwise trickle of comments that now adorn his blog.
And then, when pointed out to him that he slipped very much into ‘gnu’ mode while writing that article, his own mental conformation bias and self-delusion kicked on.
“No no no, they’re not the same thing, and it’s too long and tiresome to explain why.” and he returns once more to the zombie mode.
Self-deception is a funny old bird.
And by “swelled by an order of magnitude”, you mean of course that now there are 30 comments at the Intersection, instead of the usual 3. Awesome!
Why turn on the comments feature at all if the only comments you’re going to let through the gate are the ones that agree with you? How is Mooney not embarrassed by this?
Oh gawd…I just have to comment on the Mooney extract, and I’m doing it before seeing if there already are comments saying what I want to say, because I WANT TO SAY what I want to say.
I want to thank everyone for the comments, but I must say, I’m a bit dazed by this thread…it just never occurred to me that we’d have a birther/totality of religion analogy.
Well it should have! And if it really didn’t, that’s a good indication of what’s wrong with the way he thinks. Of course they’re analogous, and if he can’t see why…well you get the idea.
To address the questions being raised under this heading would be tantamount to redebating all the issues that were debated after Unscientific America came out in 2009…e.g., mega time consuming, and probably not productive, I’m afraid.
Redebating?? Were debated??! Not by him! All the debating was done by other people. All he ever contributed was banning people who debated too energetically.
There. [re-combs hair]
The comments have freaked out – the order has gone all wrong.
I wonder what documentation the Bush State Department relied upon when it issued a passport to Sen. Obama.
A birth certificate, perhaps?
Not including his birther post, there are nine posts on his front page. None has more than five comments. Three, or four maybe, have no comments. The others had two.
If he can’t piss off someone like you or PZ, he gets almost no traffic at all… He has so totally screwed the pooch with his weaselly bullshit…
I’m laughing my ass off.