The good news and the bad news

July 14, 2011 • 3:53 am

First the bad. This is what greeted me this morning: a lovely comment, which I’ve posted, from a twelve-year-old lad (presumably male) who runs the website basketballonmymind.

I hate your site and your book there is no such thing as evolution only God could make the beautiful plants,animals, and people we see today this site is a scam to make people think we as humans know everything but we don’t God does even Charles Darwin himself declared at his death bed that God created it all thank you for your time and God bless You

If you wish to educate him, there’s an email at the site, but please—no invective or harshness. Maybe a few recommended readings would suffice, but of course it’s likely to be a futile effort.  After all, he implies that he’s read my book.

The good news is that reader Glenn read this on my Aquinas post:

Unless you read literally hundreds of books, you don’t qualify for your Discussing Theology merit badge.  In contrast, you can read only one book to fully grasp both the tenets and evidence for evolution.

and made me a merit badge! (I don’t deserve it yet as I haven’t started Aquinas.)

172 thoughts on “The good news and the bad news

    1. Well, adults can be harder to change but that may not be their fault. What is unforgivable is narrow-minded rejection of material evidence, though even then we should have some understanding of why they cannot see.

  1. As I said in a previous comment in the last theology thread, you are only reading Christian theology. How about Hindu or Sikh or Islamic or ancient Egyptian theology? How can you possibly reject those gods unless you have done some reading in those areas (although I guess Feder has done without the necessary reading!)? More badges needed!

    1. As I sometimes say: I don’t need to drink the entire glass of milk if I noticed on the first sip that the milk had gone sour. I already know too much.

      Also, I would rathet go with sensible, known good food, that try eating every pile of dirt I found just to be able to reject all piles of dirt as a ground for good food.

      It is of course an interesting thing to read all these things, but it is also a giant waste of time unless you plan on using it to argue against theologans… a case in which you are already playing on their turf, and your chances of ‘winning’ (convincing, ‘converting’) are miniscule anyhow.. If a theologan has done his or her theology studies without losing their faith, chances are they are lost cases anyhow.

      1. ^This.

        Seriously, JC, stop torturing your mind and wasting your time. Professional theologians’ only talent is post-hoc rationalisations for their faith. No amount of flaws and contradictions in theology you point out will convince them otherwise. Any theologian who has studied theology and is still a Christian is a master at self-deception and compartmentalisation.

        I wasted eight years of my life studying theology, and my one piece of advice would be: don’t bother! All theology can be knocked down with one question: where’s the evidence?

    2. If JC were in a country where those faiths were more widely followed that might be worthwhile, but the USA is broadly ‘christian’. I would not have said the Ancient Egyptians had a ‘theology’ in the OED’s first definition a, “The study or science which treats of God, His nature and attributes, and His relations with man and the universe; ‘the science of things divine’ (Hooker); divinity.”, but then I read this quotation in the OED definition of theology c, “Applied to pagan or non-Christian systems.” –
      1662 E. Stillingfleet Origines Sacræ i. ii. §8 “Had we no other demonstration of the greatness of mans Apostacy and degeneracy, the Ægyptian Theology would be an irrefragable evidence of it.” You have to love old books!

    3. I’m not sure if ancient Egyptian theology (or most pantheistic ones I know of) really had as much need for convoluted “proofs”. “I can conceive of nothing so great as Ra, but it is greater to exist… oh wait, what if there were a dog-headed guy? That’d be great, as great as Ra, I bet. What if they fought? Cooool! I’ve gotta get my quill!”

  2. I hate your site and your book

    Has he read it? Why not send him a copy with compliments and suggest he take it apart on his blog?

        1. Not in abstract. He hates the book itself, particularly because of its color. I presume.

  3. I posted the following – awaiting moderation –
    which I hope was not too over the top.

    Over at the Why Evolution Is True website we were delighted that you took an interest in the subject with your comment, however you made some egregious errors. This article by James Moore, who is a Darwin expert, explains how the incorrect rumours about a ‘deathbed conversion’ began & were promulgated by evangelical Christians
    I suppose that you have not actually read the evidence for evolution but it is vast. The key word here is evidence. The Bible does not unfortunately constitute evidence for the creation of beautiful plants, animals & humans, or even ugly plants, animals & humans by a god, rather it is evidence of people trying to make sense of the world in the best way they could at the time. Times change & we now have tangible evidence of evolution at work – that is why diseases are so hard to fight because when we find a drug that works, the bacteria are rarely all killed. Those that survive pass on their genes to the next generation & eventually the disease is resistant to drugs. That is natural selection at work. Best wishes, Dominic

    1. Why is it that the religiously infected, regardless of age, have such disdain for not only science, but also for our beautiful English language?

      A fitting response to this youngster would be “Please learn how to use proper punctuation, you lazy petulant little shit.”

      1. I understand your frustration but think you are being a tad unfair – without knowing about his education & background. Also I think by being reasonable it is more likely someone will stop & consider.

      2. In large parts of the social web, relaxed attention to grammar is common and accepted. Websites such as WEIT are exceptionally literate..

        1. “In large parts of the social web, relaxed attention to grammar is common and accepted.”

          I have a hypothesis that part (26 11/31%?) of that is due to people typing on FLAT laptop keyboards which, from my experience, contributes to mistakes.

          1. Not to mention phones, etc. I’d do away with caps, too, under those conditions.

            I think it also has to do with the idea that much of this communication is supposed to be informal–they don’t call it “chatting” for nothing.

            At any rate, unless something is mind-achingly difficult to read or out-of-the-ordinary sloppy, I find carping at grammar is mostly resorted to with posters who challenge a given community’s tenets; so it always seems like a–what’s the logical fallacy I want? Sort of like an ad hom, but with grammar. 😀

            (Despite all the above, I’m a total grammar Nazi myself, usually…)

    2. It’s a lovely note, Dom, but it’s vastly above his reading level. WEIT is above his reading level, as well, so balloonboy is probably lying when he claims to have read it. People who have the reading and comprehension skill to read WEIT can usually manage basic usage, grammar and punctuation when they write. This not evidenced by balloonboy in his post.

      1. Oh. Speaking of reading comprehension, I see that he doesn’t claim to have read the book, only that he hates it. I suck.

      2. Interesting: I repeatedly misread basketball-on-my-mind as basket-balloon-…. Once I parse basket as a complete word (incorrectly), then I start parsing the rest of the string as balloon-… (even though ball-on-… would still be valid, but make less sense, which is probably why I don’t parse it that way).

        1. I just thought he was speaking French.

          Yeah, Dominic. Way over his head. Except for the “petulant”, Vincent was much closer.

        2. By the great sweaty socks of Thor, I didn’t get the kid’s name right, either.

          I’ll be back when I’ve finished my remedial reading course.

            1. Re: Thor and Woden:

              I have been an atheist since age 7, when I realized that it is all nonsense and the adults were trying to brainwash me–without allowing my questions or dialogue. But, perhaps one should not dismiss the godhead until one has experienced it for onself. I recently met a remarkable woman, and she makes me Woden….

              1. Actually, the space-then-punctuation rule is a defensible typographical convention…it’s just very nonstandard.

                It’s so nonstandard that no graphic designer I’ve ever worked with (and I’ve worked in the business) would think to set type that way, but it’s not nonstandard that any of use would criticize a work set that way on those grounds, provided the rest of the design worked well.

                I might maybe use it for a certain type of archaic-style work, if that were the character I was trying to capture. But, again, it’s unlikely that it would occur to me to do so.



              2. @ Ben – it is like that in the King James Bible, which explains Basketballboy’s view I suspect

              3. Hmmm…I don’t recall it being like that in the Gideon Bible I probably still have stashed away somewhere, so it’s probably that particular edition of the KJV you have.

                It does tend to be more common in more archaic works, yes.

                It might also be more common in other languages. Or, possibly, even other regions. The English, for example, tend to place punctuation outside of quote marks, and they reverse the priority of single and double quote marks.

                So long as you’re consistent within the work — or, at least, intentionally inconsistent to an effect that enhances the meaning of the text — that’s all that really matters. (Of course, if it’s part of a serial publication, the publication will have its own style guidelines to which you must conform, regardless of your personal preferences.)



              4. @ Ben,

                Thanks for not being a punctuation Nazi. Those of us who learned typing on actual typewriters are sick of hearing things like “NEVER use 2 spaces after a period.” Hell, it’s just motor memory.

              5. wait we’re not supposed to put two spaces after a period anymore? When did that happen?

              6. No worries, Diane. You spend enough time doing typesetting wondering if you should use an em dash or an en dash or a double em dash with or without surrounding spaces, and you quickly realize that all typographical rules need to be adjusted to the situation.

                Drew, in most settings (see the above caveat), the additional space after a period creates a visual break in the type that is often disruptive and hinders easy reading of the copy. The period itself already, by its very nature, comes pre-packaged with a lot of extra horizontal space, and the preprogrammed spacing routines in most software is designed to create a good amount of space after a period.

                My advice would be first to not beat yourself up over spacing twice after a period, and secondly to suggest that there’s almost never a good reason from a typographical perspective to do so. Further, it is increasingly common for computers to render the same amount of horizontal space whether you have one or two space characters, so it’s often so much wasted physical effort. Of course, the mental effort to re-train yourself may not be worthwhile….

                Um. Shorter: Prefer a single space, but don’t worry about it unless you’re a typographer.



            1. Your knowledge of punctuation puts me shame & I hang my head in sorrow. I am glad that you were paying attention! – Oh sorry – space !

            2. Young Kind Sir, to paraphrase the captain of my navy ship, you are “pole vaulting a pismire.”

              The New York Times style book says to show possession of any word – including one ending in “s,” – by adding an apostrophe and “s.” Do you care to dispute that?

              Let’s find something we can agree on: 2 + 2 = 4.

            3. Hi basketballonmymind,

              When I was 11 years old, I got Wilt Chamberlain’s autograph, along with Jerry West and Pat Riley of the champion 1972 Los Angeles Lakers team — the team that won 33 games in a row. I was also a Catholic at that time. I’m now an atheist, and believe me it’s much better to be on the side of science.

              If atheists had a basketball team, and they played a real game against the religious team, the atheists would win by 50 points. Why? Because the religious side would be too busy praying for their shots to go in, while the atheists were filling the lanes and pushing the ball upcourt on the fast breaks — then SLAM-DUNKING it with the authority of science.

              Do you wanna see my Laker autographs? The Wilt Chamberlain autograph is pretty valuable… Okay, no problem. I’ll post them to your website if you do two things for me:

              1) Read Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne;

              2) Read Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins.

              Post a reply here and we’ll get this show on the road.

              1. By the way…

                That’s Jerry West on your NBA avatar.

                (You probably knew that already.)

                He is still my favorite player of all time.

              2. Aw, that’s a wonderful response, saintstephen! I do hope bomm is still reading here!

        1. That’s a shame, because there’s a wealth of knowledge in there.

          Shirley, you don’t wish to remain ignorant, do you?

          If nothing else, Know thy enemy. As you’re a Christian, I’m sure you know of the Great Commission. How can you expect to fulfill Jesus’s ultimate charge, his last earthly commandment to you if you can’t challenge us heathens on our own ground?



        2. It is really ignorant to claim that you hate a book that you have not read.

          You posted the original comment here, and your original comment was really mean. The people here who have answered you are a lot nicer than you are.

          I think you are rude.

        3. Yes? Then, Young Kind Sir, how will you ever think for yourself? Someone tells you something; it must be true because s/he simply said so?!?

          Are you like the religioso relative of mine who, in reply to my suggestion that he might find Martin Gardner’s book, “The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener,” interesting, replied (as he had apparently been coached by his fundamentalist minders), “That book has nothing to say to me”?

          There are two types of people:

          1) Those Who Know That They Don’t Know, and

          2) Those Who Don’t Know That They Don’t Know

          How old is the Earth? What is the basis for your answer?

          There is no one more self-assured in his opinions than the pre-pubescent/adolescent male.

        4. You claim to HATE the book but don’t claim to read it? You are young, but not too young to know some basic rules of human interaction. Don’t judge things you know nothing about. Don’t think you know everything about everything (in this case evolution) even though you obviously don’t. Learn. Think. Have an open mind instead of blindly following Dogmas you are taught. Only say things when you really have something to say.
          Don’t be a dick, in short.

  4. I have been extremely reluctant to post because quite frankly, I am not an expert in your field or in theology. I simply do not have any desire to have all of my comments picked apart or to be insulted. However, after reading your post above, I feel compelled to say a couple of things:

    1) Evolution is in fact part of the curriculum and is taught in the majority of public schools. I teach Biology at a high school in South Carolina. SC is by no means a progressive state, and the majority of residents are extremely conservative. However, evolution is part of our core science standards, and I am always proud of how my students tend to open their minds (albeit a tiny amount) as I cover this particular unit each year.

    2) I am a former Elder and am very active at my church (Presbyterian Church USA). Many religious folks such as me believe in evolution and our faith at the same time. I personally do not believe that you have to be on one side or the other. I believe in God, and confess each and every week through the Apostle’s Creed that we believe in God as creator of “all that is seen and unseen”. Faith, to me, means that you believe no matter what — even without the scientific proof that you are looking for someone to provide.

    I will probably never know how to reconcile these two ideas of evolution and theology. But, I have enough faith in both science and religion to admit my shortcomings and to be willing to learn as much as possible as I continue on my life’s jouney.

    1. I think this is a commendable position and reflects an honest epistemology albeit one that is not politically pleasing to either side in the culture war. Thanks for posting. And thanks for posting something which deflates my liberal-atheist fears that the South is gutting science with Reformed Theology.

      I would love to hear the new discoveries you make in your path to better understand how your religion might work in concert with your appreciation for evolution.

      1. Thank you for your reply. Some of what my students say would amaze you. Because like the young boy who made the comment which started this post/thread, most of them do not actually have opinions of their own — they are simply not capable. They merely mimic what they have heard from their parents or at church.

        1. One thing I am curious about, have you ever talked about evolution and nature in church? I’m sure your fellow parishioners would be just as interested in your students. My own experience as a Lutheran was that the church completely avoided saying word one about science, but people do have questions, and I think that we can certainly agree that evolution and natural science does inform somewhat on how one views Christianity.

          1. Sanjanas: I am fortunate to attend church with retired science teachers as well as current college professors. And, yes, we have discussed evolution quite a bit. Like I mentioned earlier, there are folks that are religious AND very interested in science.

            1. Oh, I understand that there are (and I used to be one of those)… I’m more surprised that people don’t have their trust in religion eroded somewhat by their understanding of science. The way life evolved, and the amount of deadly competition and chance, just doesn’t seem to imply the same sort of loving, interventionist father creator that I always was told about in church. People seem to be getting through it by claiming it to be part of God’s planning protocol, but it doesn’t exactly jive with what the Bible says, or even what Christians believed 200 years ago.

        2. “Teacher, educate thyself.”

          How certain are you that your own religious beliefs aren’t merely you mimicking what you heard from your own parents and at church?

          In particular, as a Christian, you probably believe in the literal truth of the Gospel story, or at least its basic outline. Maybe or maybe not the virgin birth, but certainly the ministry, trial, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

          And I’m sure you’d agree with my characterization of that as the most amazing story ever told.

          So amazing, in fact, that you’d expect everybody who was there to witness it to have at least noticed it. I mean, just the political side of things — the humiliation Jesus served unto the establishment — was pretty noteworthy all by itself.

          Yet…though the time and location is among the best-documented of the Classical period — after all, there’s the Dead Sea Scrolls, a huge cache of original documents penned in Jerusalem at the time, not to mention all the other philosophers and satirists and historians and what-not — though the extant contemporary documentation is superb, no mention of Jesus or these events can be found until decades — more than a generation — later.

          Have you ever gone to the primary sources of that period — the Scrolls, Philo, Pliny the Elder, and the rest — to learn what the people of the time were thinking? Have you read Saint Justin Martyr’s explanations for the similarities between Jesus and all the other pagan gods (“sons of Jupiter,” he called them) of the period? Have you read the second century Roman documents describing the outsider’s view of the early church?


          Curious that the most important event in history should only be analyzed through a small set of documents chosen by a committee from a not-much-larger set, all of them written by ancient religious fanatics, innit?



          1. Ben: I am in fact attempting to educate myself. That is why I have been reading this blog and participating in this particular discussion. As I mentioned in my original post, I do not claim to be an expert in theology or evolution. But, I appreciate your comments, and plan to continue to learn as much as possible.

            1. That’s all we can ask for.

              If you’ve got the time for research — and I know full well how busy a teachers’s schedule can get — I’ve planted lots of pointers in that note that, once investigated, will likely change your perspective on Christianity. Of course, there are Christians who study ancient history and who are quite familiar with all those sources who nevertheless draw different conclusions, so “your mileage may vary.”



        3. Because like the young boy who made the comment which started this post/thread, most of them do not actually have opinions of their own — they are simply not capable. They merely mimic what they have heard from their parents or at church.

          Something that is true for most children, fundamentalist background or not. We have to remember that kids go through pretty predictable stages, and that tearing themselves away from the dogmas they’ve been raised with can be an extremely difficult process. Evolution has programmed them to accept what they hear from trusted authority figures; growing out of that stage can be painful.

          (This is not aimed at you, randomashley, so much as it is at some of the commenters here who might be expecting a lot of maturity and abstract thinking ability from a 12 year old.)

          1. Diane: I agree with you. I should have also made it clear that my comment re: children’s mimicking their parents applies not only to religion, but to politics, ethics, current events, etc.

    2. Faith, to me, means that you believe no matter what — even without the scientific proof that you are looking for someone to provide.

      Why on Earth should you consider faith to be a virtue?

      If I asked you to have faith in me when I told you about my offer to sell you prime Arizona beachfront property, or about my friend the deposed Nigerian prince who needs help transferring funds out of the country, or that I’ve given up [vice of choice] for real this time, you’d know that I was trying to pull a fast one on you.

      In any human endeavor where I insisted that you had to “trust me” without evidence (and especially despite evidence to the contrary), you’d know you’re being scammed.

      So why is it suddenly a good thing to have faith in an establishment that exists solely on the donation of funds in exchange for weekly readings from one particular ancient anthology of folk tales? Especially when the evidence is stacked so overwhelmingly against the claims of said establishment?



    3. Many religious folks such as me believe in evolution and our faith at the same time. I personally do not believe that you have to be on one side or the other.

      There’s just so much wrong with this. The fact of evolution means there was no Adam and Eve, there was no original sin, and thus Jesus came for nothing. And even if there was original sin, punishing an entire race for what two people did wrong is sick, and torturing your son in order to forgive them is unnecessary.

      But the bigger picture is more important. Who cares if evolution and Christianity are compatible? The problem is that Christianity and rationality are not. Your religion flies in the face of evidence. You teach high schoolers to accept evolution because of the evidence, and yet you ignore it when it suits you. Honestly, why should they listen to you? Why should they abandon their indoctrinated prejudices and accept evolution based on evidence, when you won’t abandon yours?

    4. For starters, thanks for posting, and thanks for teaching evolution. My 9th grade high school bio teacher was too cowardly to do so in NC. Perhaps things have changed since the mid-90s too.

      In my teens I felt much the same way you did, I firmly accepted science and believed in Jesus and God, but I think even at a young age I learned to trust science more. Noah’s ark was clearly a myth, and Genesis was a myth. I’ve learned that pretty much all the old testament till parts of Kings is myth, or heavily, heavily distorted history, and there was no real evidence for any past miracles. And its quite clear that modern miracles are sad, easily debunked things, more akin to street magic or wishful thinking. And none of this stuff was ever talked about in Church, at least not to teenagers… all we ever got was Jesus is love, Jesus is magic, etc. It seemed really arrogant that my pastor dismissed other religions as being incorrect, when he really didn’t have any evidence that he was right in the first place.

      It became a human enterprise to me, and one that was filled with ignorance and arrogance, and I stopped being a part of it. And I feel much more intellectually satisfied, since while there are plenty of questions that are unknown and possibly unsolvable, at least they aren’t being dismissed as “its a mystery, you have to just *get* it”. Even the hardest science has ways of being explained… no religious person has ever managed to explain evil, or why a God would make a Bible, and then write the history of the world so fundamentally wrong.

    5. 1. If there were evidence for your religious position, all “faith” would be considered a sin.

      2. If there were evidence for your religious position, there would be only one religion. The matter of Christianity (and its 500-subsects) vs Buddhism vs Hinduism vs all the rest would be nonexistent.

      3. What you really demonstrate is not “faith” but credulity. You have swallowed evidence (the myths told in the bible) that rational people find un-compelling at best; ludicrous at worst. The reason I know this is true is that you can state what you believe, but not why you believe it.

      4. That people can believe in impossible, irrational things and still operate in the “real” world is self-evident. Lots of people believe in ghosts, reiki, homeopathy, astrology, and Bigfoot, yet “believe in” and rely on modern science and technology. It’s called bifurcation, and it’s dead common. Thank you for being able to separate superstition from science in your job. However, the largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptists, positively declare that evolution is a lie, that god created all animal “kinds” in an instant using magic words. So, the argument you should be having isn’t with US, it’s with THEM.

        1. Kevin: Your last point is perhaps why I finally felt compelled to comment. In the short time that I have been reading this blog, it seems that most folks who comment assume you are on one side or the other — in other words, that all “religious” folks are against evolution. Some, as you mentioned, are most certainly and vocally against it. But, that is not always the case.

    6. Thanks randomashley for your willingness to teach evolution in the heart (well maybe the right ventricle) of the bible belt. My Biology teacher was a Jehovah’s Witness! Guess what we got. Your faith vs. evolution conflict will undoubtedly be covered by others on this site in great detail, I trust. But I can only infer (perhaps incorrectly) that, due to your quite early posting here, you are an interested follower of this site and are in some conflict about the faith thing. If so I urge you to continue to stay tuned, ignore the various over-the-top comments, and you will be rewarded with fresh insights into a world of rational, clear thought.

      1. I concur…. you’re gonna get snark pretty much anywhere you go, but I feel that the discussions you can get in Jerry’s site are still probably some of the most polite and erudite you’re gonna get and the ones that aren’t are still doing it from a good place, I think.

        1. Kinda surprising. My recollection is that JWs quit secondary school early, lest they be exposed to real knowledge, often to be given jobs by fellow JWs. They therefore seldom ended up in jobs where a diploma or a degree is required.

          1. Actually his wife was also my Algebra I & II teacher in H.S. Both were college graduates. I admit that it was strange finding “Watchtower” pamphlets next to the homework assignments, but this was rural Ohio. The subtle indoctrination didn’t work on anyone as far as I recall.

      2. You seem to have a good grasp on the Bible Belt! Teaching evolution as part of my biology curriculum is interesting to say the least. When we start the unit, I get the inevitable comments like, “Are you an atheist?”, or “I didn’t come from no monkey!” The whole separation of church and state thing goes over their heads. But, I tell my students they must decide for themselves how they believe the earth was created. I start with Darwin, and they are genuinely fascinated and open to the standards that I cover with them.

        1. I spent some time in Greenville & have seen Bob Jones Univ. students practice preaching on downtown sidewalks, so I appreciate your angst. That your students seem to be willing to think on their own gives hope that rational education can trump indoctrination.

    7. Randomashley you should not be afraid of being pulled apart in a post. It makes you consider your position more carefully, no one can see you if you hang your head in shame or hear you if you shout at the screen, & there is always the possibility that you will have something to contribute. Just do not expect us to equate ‘belief that something is true’ aka religious faith, with ‘evidence that something is probably true’ aka science, cos they ain’t the same thing.

  5. Again, we are tearing down a strawman.

    I bought Feser’s book and will be blogging through it. I contacted Feser to let him know this and invited him to dialogue with me regarding my understanding of his summation of Aquinas in “Aquinas”. He wrote back and said he’d be glad to do that.

    It seems that one does not need to read multiple volumes to discuss the theology preferred by a theologian but, only needs to accept his reasonable challenge to engage with a preferred source of the theology he endorses.

    I’m struggling to see the epistemic difference between what Feser asks of someone like me who has no comprehension of the T-A theology and what I’d ask of a YEC in regards to doing the same with WEIT.

    Can someone please explain to me the difference without poisoning the well of theology by saying we have knowledge through evidence and theologians don’t?

    That does not seem to be the option presented. I’m no fan of theology but I’m less of a fan of group-think and confirmation bias and, it seems to me, the only proper ground for defeating an argument I find intuitively distasteful is to examine my intuition and bolster it with reason. The first step in this would seem to argue against what the other is actually arguing rather than what I imagine they are arguing.

    1. Can someone please explain to me the difference without poisoning the well of theology by saying we have knowledge through evidence and theologians don’t?

      How on Earth is it that insisting on evidence is “poisoning the well”?

      Or are you suggesting that theologians do have evidence? If so, what on Earth is it?

      No, really. I and everybody else here have been begging believers to offer actual evidence for ages, and the best they can come up with is tripartite waterfalls and biological structures whose developmental history they’re unaware of.



      1. You left out the gosh-darn warm and fuzzy feelings that emotions give us, which are impossible, doncha know, in a deterministic brain awash with various chemicals and stimuli.

        That and no contemporary eye-witness accounts to do with external manipulation of exposed digestive tracts… 😉

      2. Look Ben, stop changing the subject of the debate. Your comments indicate that you are smarter than that.

        Feser didn’t say one need accept his worldview. He simply stated that opening up a book at random and reading a section out of context as “evidence” to the “bafflegab” of theology is a poor argument as contretemps to the lack of value theology provides.

        He suggested (in a snarky tone yes) Dr. Coyne consider Thomist theology and suggested a book to investigate that.

        If you have studied that philosophy and the theological argument derived from it and found it wanting from its internal incoherence, not your preferred standard of knowing, then offered your preferred standard of knowing as an alternative, that is cool but, to dismiss it by association with all forms of consideration is culturally arrogant, and is poisoning the well.

        It stops dialogue and is authoritarian to your preferred epistemology. I think theological arguments can be defeated from their own premises with a more realistic and sustainable alternative in the epistemology derived from empiricism but, see the Jerry Maguire defense, “Show me the evidence!” as an intellectually lazy way of challenging theological conclusions.

        1. If you have studied that philosophy and the theological argument derived from it and found it wanting from its internal incoherence, not your preferred standard of knowing, then offered your preferred standard of knowing as an alternative, that is cool but, to dismiss it by association with all forms of consideration is culturally arrogant, and is poisoning the well.

          I’m sorry, but this is the Courtier’s Reply, and I have too much real work to do this morning to waste my time further.

          Call me an arrogant well-poisoining Western empiricist all you want, but, yes. Show me the evidence.

          Theology is bullshit.

          If you want to convince me otherwise, give me one of two pieces of evidence: a logically-coherent definition of the term, “god,” that doesn’t necessarily entail a blindingly-obvious contradiction or other fallacy; or some real-world physical evidence that can only be explained by resorting to “goddidit.”

          All else is bafflegab.



          1. I’ll point you to your own ideas in comment 11 of this thread as an example of something that has epistemic warrant in challenging the basis of a theological conclusion. You argued from Plato the incoherence of his premise towards ideal form based on what we know to be true in evolutionary theory.

            My reply to you wasn’t the Courtier’s Reply. I granted, for the sake of argument, that you HAVE studied the Thomist perspective and found it wanting but, HAVEN’T described why it is from its own internal incoherence.

            You are simply asking me to accept an argument from authority when you dismantle an opponent’s POV with your preferred way of knowing. I endorse your way of knowing but find your reply in defeating the opposition lazy, and by your reply in 11, beneath your intellect and not representative of your knowledge.

            An argument from authority is a logical fallacy and remains so whether we argue for the authority of Yahweh or, the authority of evidence. I’m an atheist evidentialist but won’t get anywhere with the those I know who are Divine Command moralists by simply arguing from authority. I do when I understand their argument and point out how their conclusions are incoherent to their premises.

            1. <sigh />

              I have ripped the First Cause argument to shreds, multiple times, over the past few days. It’s not merely bullshit, it’s an elementary-level proof-by-contradiction that Aquinas’s god doesn’t exist that Aquinas pretends to invert with pathetically juvenile special pleading.

              Sorry. I’m not gonna re-type all that now. Go catch up on the threads from the past few days first.


              1. I agree that you have but, you must concede those arguments weren’t composed of “show me the evidence” but rather, taking the Thomist’s premise and illustrating its non-conformity to reality. You understand their argument and provide an alternative that suggests more durable veracity.

                I’m just challenging us to not get lazy and make “show me the evidence” our atheist argument equivalent to the Fundamentalis’s “Trust Jesus”.

              2. What’s with this “preferred way of knowing” BS? Knowing isn’t a matter of preference, it’s a testable claim.

        2. “It stops dialogue and is authoritarian to your preferred epistemology.”

          I’m sorry, but this is a profoundly silly idea. To say that asking for evidence constitutes a “preferred epistemology” is a disqualifying move in this game. If you cannot provide relevant and reliable evidence for your claim, you have to leave the field.

          Would this excuse work in court? In a laboratory? In economics?

          You can cry about “cultural arrogance,” but you’re still disqualified.

          1. See Ben’s reply in post #11 as a way of arguing I endorse. Don’t tell me that a competing epistemology is wrong because it doesn’t conform to your epistemology. That is patently circular and therefore illogical. Point out how the premises supporting said epistemology is faulty based on their own incoherence. Asking for evidence to a given premise is fine but demanding an epistemology that doesn’t conform to your methods is invalid simply because it doesn’t conform to your standards, simply tells me you prefer your epistemology. I think there are valid arguments to knock down the theologians epistemology WITHIN their ideas and don’t need to appeal to my preferred authority to do so. Darwin argued this way in the Origin by admitting the Natural Theology towards design offered by Paley and then showing where the premise is flawed. That is one of the ways how his great idea became so convincing.

            1. Nope. Not buying it.

              That ship sailed ages ago.

              Anybody who rejects, in principle, the importance of evidence must be similarly rejected out of hand. On principle, of course.

              They should also be pointed to and laughed at for choosing to be clueless gobshites.



              1. And I would have pointed to you during my Calvinist phase as an equivalent gobshite (and one that lacked both emotional intelligence and imagination) for denying his subjective experience as evidential.

                What is your goal in all of this? Mine is to keep my son from being swayed by Reformed Theology in the same way I was. I don’t think that will be achieved in demanding “evidence” but only by understanding the argument for the inner witness and showing how it doesn’t conform to a useful form of evidence.

                I won’t do that by giving him answers to live cultural questions with an appeal to the authority of evidence because, superstitious folks provide deep rationalizations to why their presuppositions are evidential. Rather it will be to provide him with the critical thinking skills that will allow him to spot logical fallacies when they crop up.

                While I agree with your empirical premises, I find your way of defending them illogical. You appeal to emotion and consensus way too much for one unaware of your other posts here to really trust you a source. I have read and gained benefit from your other posts so, when you appeal to your preference, I trigger to the larger critical virtue but, for those that don’t know you, they will just tune you out.

                I don’t think guys advocating the New Atheist strategy of confronting religious claims argue in this way otherwise, a guy like Sam Harris or Hithchens in their debates would just take the podium and state, “Where’s the evidence?” and then smugly sit down.

              2. If you’re going to address subjective experience and the inner witness as reasons to believe in God, then you’re at least attempting to offer evidence. You’re not operating from an alternative epistemology so radical as to make a demand for evidence question-begging.

                The thing is though, subjective experience as evidence for God just isn’t good evidence. It leads different people, or the same people at different times even, to inconsistent conclusions, and the same sorts of scientific and common sense evidence we all do accept otherwise offer naturalistic accounts of those experiences which undermine their supposed evidential value. It’s too much – too obviously – wishful thinking, prompted and shaped by cultural expectations, an imaginary friend we get convinced to call God.

    2. Can someone please explain to me the difference without poisoning the well of theology by saying we have knowledge through evidence and theologians don’t?

      Nope, can’t help you without poisoning the well. Sorry. To illustrate the difference, I note that on your postings on Feser’s blog, (assuming you are Chuck) you have asked the other commenters there to comment here on WEIT, and the response has been of the lines of “but we can’t comment on Coyne’s website, as he does not allow dissent.” Followed by some discussion as to how Jerry does not allow dissenting points of view, or has strict moderation to avoid criticism. This seems typical of Theology; instead of debating amongst themselves as to if they can place dissenting comments here, why not actually experiment, try to comment, and see what happens?

      Perhaps to a philosopher it is too crass to actually go and have a look to see if what they are talking about is actually true 😉

      That last line was a bit snarky, but I likes me some snark now and then. Come to think of it, I can’t claim credit for the sentiment either, as I now recall a similar scene in the first Foundation book by Isaac Asimov.

      1. I can only recall two times when JAC even remotely even threatened the banhammer. In both cases the reader/poster was repeatedly asserting nonsense and/or being decidedly uncivil over the course of more than one day. JAC repeatedly requested evidence for their assertions, and comments more relevant to the subject. And I do not know if they were ever actually banned.

        I do know that JAC was more than fair, and does not seem to ban or censor based solely on disagreement with his views. So, instead of speculating how many commenters can dance on the head of WEIT, why don’t the Feser readers come over here and see?

      2. Again, you are rushing to a conclusion without examining the evidence.

        The poster who stated that as a fact HAS posted on the Feser thread and he provided a nice collection of the sarcastic responses to his replies.

        He also has admitted to me that he was wrong about his premise that Jerry banned people he didn’t like (a Thomist falsifying his hypothesis, noes!!!!!).

        I wish we’d step outside of our atheist-empiricist bubble and opt for intellectual dialogue rather than political invective.

        Are there religious people we should oppose and religious arguments we need to challenge? Yes!!! Is Feser one of them? Possibly, I find his Natural Law arguments nauseating in their inference that Homosexuals are sub-human.

        Do I have the epistemic warrant to lump Feser in with Ken Hamm because I don’t like his inference? No. That is my point.

        You prove too much by patting yourself on the back as being the investigative type while those bad old Thomists crouch together in the comfort of their in-group. You haven’t investigate the available data set in making your assertion and seem to resemble a presuppositional Calvinist rather than the empiricist you wish to be.

        1. Rushing to conclusion: I see, the comments cut out at 200, and I was not aware that there were more on a subsequent page. Sorry for the rush. Yes, you are right, the poster (Eric?) did say that he posted and was not banned. He did go onto state that it is not worth anyone’s time to post here at WEIT as we are all snarky, and refuse to understand the sophisticated reasoning behind Aquinas. So he did post, but didn’t like what the responses were.

          1. Yet “Ye Olde Statistician” continues to post on the thread and, based on my interactions with him, he is a committed Thomist.

            He asks a provocative question regarding the ontological nature of “memes”.

            As long as one theist continues to practice our preferred way of knowing then I can’t see how my prejudice against the religious towards experimental notions can be asserted.

    3. Heh. Sounds to me like someone with a fairly large ego who thinks that HIS book is the one that everyone should read.


      1. Not really. I chose his book because it is recommended for the popular, not scholarly, reader. I could have chosen the 7 other alternatives (not mandatory mind you) he suggested. I figure if I gain a footing for his arguments within his own work then I can be better equipped to debate their worth. I intuitively reject a Thomist view but don’t know why I do that.

        1. I do it deductively. Because the arguments don’t work, make HUGE leaps from known to unknown to certainty about the unknown, and because all of our science over the past 500+ years says those arguments are based on foundational and suppositional errors.

          The First Cause Argument, for example, starts with a falsehood. “Everything that exists has a cause”. No. That’s demonstrably and trivially wrong, and has been known to be wrong for the better part of a century.

          The “five ways” never get any better from there.

          And, of course, each one of the arguments makes the completely unsupported leap from “there’s mystery we don’t understand” to “that mystery’s name is God, and he and Jesus are totally real.”

          As any Pastafarian can tell that’s utter nonsense.

          1. Well according to those who study the Thomist position, based on there comments here, your articulation of the 1st premise is incorrect.

            I’d like to study this and engage the ideas, not to endorse them (I think they probably have many of the flaws you cite) but rather, to understand them and, challenge my ability to think.

            I think it is ignorant to dismiss something prior to investigating it. You may have already done that and found the argument wanting. I have yet to do it and would like to see for myself.

        2. Why not just read some of Aquinas for oneself? He makes a lot of errors straight away, which generally means that one need not bother with his conclusions.

          Granted, he probably had no way of knowing in the 13th century that he was spouting crap. Nearly 7 centuries later, there’s no such excuse.

          The fact that theologians still dredge up his crap arguments shows that they’ve got nothing better.

  6. The child needs to learn how to punctuate. Even at 12, failing to punctuate s unforgivable. What else do they not teach them in schools these days?

    1. What else do they not teach them in schools these days?

      How to check someone’s blog to see whether their punctuation-less comment was an isolated incident?

      1. I’m missing your point, Tim. His blog isn’t much better. He seems to have an aversion to using the space bar, capital letters and complete sentences. Check the “About Me” page for a good example. Of course, he’s only in 8th grade, so I really don’t want to beat him up over it.

        1. Of course, he’s only in 8th grade, so I really don’t want to beat him up over it.

          An 8th grader with that lack of basic writing mechanics is appalling. It shocks me how common it is for folks to think this is normal. It isn’t, except in the sense of “depressingly common.” I would never have passed the 3rd grade if my writing were that bad. No, that’s not snobbishness, and no, it wasn’t considered exceptional for children 25 years ago.

          Children haven’t gotten dumber, but our standards sure as hell have.

          1. I didn’t say that it was acceptable, or that it doesn’t need remediation; I meant that he needs to be educated, not trashed. And that is not going to be accomplished in this forum, at least as far as punctuation goes. I do hope that he learns something regarding evolutionary theory, though.

            1. A perfectly reasonable post. Being a kid, and only just learning to type, are extenuating circumstances.

              When you said “respectively”, I think you meant “respectfully”. “Respectively” means “in correspondent sequence”, as in “Pogo, Albert, and Churchy are, respectively, a possum, an alligator, and a turtle.”

        2. His blog is totally better – I thought that would be obvious to anyone who looked at it. Apparently it isn’t obvious, but that’s all the work I’m willing to put into this argument.

  7. OT, but awesomely amusing:

    Pastafarian “won the right to be shown on his driving-licence photo wearing a pasta strainer as “religious headgear”.” (link)

  8. Maybe if he reads your book, he might rethink his beliefs about evolution. I know when I read it as YEC, it finally woke me up to reality.

  9. Clark, If I may, permit me to point out a couple common misconceptions that I find lots of people often get hung up on.

    First, at its heart, the Theory of Evolution by Random Mutation and Natural Selection boils down to a pair of observations: individuals reproduce inexactly, and not all individuals reproduce. That’s it.

    Offspring closely (but not exactly) match their parents. Some of those offspring to on to have offspring of their own; others don’t.

    As a result, the average of all the individuals of the group winds up drifting over time. They get bigger or smaller, some limbs grow or shrink — but it’s always in the next generation. The individuals themselves never change. And it’s only minor changes from generation to generation — the exact same minor variations that let you tell one individual from another.

    The ancient Greek philosopher Plato thought that there existed on some ethereal plane idealized forms of everything — that there was an ideal rabbit, an ideal oak tree, an ideal man, and so on — and that the actual rabbits, trees, and people are imperfect expressions of those ideals. And, in Plato’s mind, there were unspecified limits on how much variation was possible from the ideal.

    We now know that Plato was worng. There are practical limits on how much change there can be between parent and offspring, yes, but very few limits on how much change there can be over billions of generations.

    The Theory of Evolution also doesn’t say anything about where life came from in the first place; for that, we need a Theory of Abiogenesis. The Theory of Evolution only works once you’ve already got individuals reproducing inexactly (but not all individuals reproduce). It’s true that we don’t yet have a Theory of Abiogenesis, but that’s okay; scientists are working hard on the problem. We also don’t have a Theory of Unified Gravity — one that works both at astronomical and submicroscopic scales — but scientists are working on that one, as well. In both cases, we have some pretty good ideas and we know what the general shape of the eventual theory will be like; we just don’t have all the details worked out yet.

    That should be enough to get you started. If you have questions — or, even better, if you think you can stump the experts — please do come back and ask them. Our host, Jerry, quite literally wrote (one of) the book(s) on the subject, and he makes his living by explaining it to others.

    But, I gotta warn you: many of the “gotchas” you’re likely to offer up actually do have easy-to-understand answers. Only ask your questions if you’re man enough to face up to some counter-challenges yourself.

    As an example: you claimed that Darwin had a deathbed conversion, but even Answers in Genesis knows it’s a lie and wants all Christians to know it’s a lie so they’ll stop spreading it. That’s one “gotcha” we’ve already got on you.

    So, how ’bout it? Are you up to a war of the “gotchas”? The only rule is that you have to admit when you’ve been gotten — and, I can assure you from personal experience, making that kind of admission (even if only to yourself) hurts like a motherfucker. But, you know what? Not making the admission hurts even worse.



    1. Well said.

      When I understood evolution the God Hypothesis was dented and when I understood arguments for objective morality that were atheistic, I came to accept, with comfort, the notion of “I don’t know” as an intellectually satisfying place-holder. The certainty that some religious commitments demand is very painful and dwarfs the pain that exists in the humble acceptance of probable and provisional “truth”.

  10. Ben, the quote by Hitch while a clever rhetorical technique is not the ethic he follows in debate. Nor is it his preferred way of delivering cultural criticism. Why is “God is Not Great” annotated and so long if, Hitchens simply feels that all arguments that are made without evidence can simply be defeated by appealing to the authority of empiricism? I recommend his successful debate win against Dembski and suggest that you show me where he defeated the arguments there for cries of “evidence!” I do think this rhetorical gendarme is well suited to the Evangelical apologetic that seeks to over-play a holy book as veridical but, don’t see how it challenges classical arguments at all.

    1. Do you really not understand the importance of evidence or how to convince people of its importance?

      No, of course you do. Everybody does, at least at some level.

      If I told you that a rock I held in my hand would give you the power to fly from coast to coast, if you’d only give me $10,000 in small unmarked bills, you’d insist on some damn good evidence before forking over the cash.

      All scams are based on the two words, “trust me,” followed by an insistence that evidence is unnecessary. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for, and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

      Religion is the most successful scam in all of human history, and it makes a virtue out of the vice it depends upon to flourish. It hates evidence with a passion, as is the case with all scams.

      The most effective way to combat those who think evidence is passé? Offer to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge. Either they’ll acknowledge that evidence is important, or you’ll have a tidy little profit.

      Or, you could do as I do: point and laugh.

      Ha, ha.



      1. None of this extends from what I proposed. I agree with all of these ideas but consider them strawman and a contradiction to the inspiring intellectual practice you showed within the short post located at number 11 on this string.

        For example, Harris’s argument to the extant efficacy of a “Holy Spirit” separate from cognitive equipment, within Letter to a Christian Nation, was one of the “Ah-ha!” moments for me in my Christianity which, in turn led me towards Atheism. It wasn’t a simple rejoinder of “show me the evidence of The Holy Spirit” but, an internal case made for the claims on The Holy Spirit within the theological conclusions derived from those claims with a proposition to the warrant of that epistemology.

        I want to become more intelligent in my atheism and hope to drive people to a rational space. That doesn’t seem to be possible if I practice logical fallacy in support of my preferred intellectual and epistemic commitments.

        1. So why are you insisting that I should be the one to argue your case for you the way you want it to be argued?

          If you think you can argue the case better, by all means: go ahead. Do so. Maybe you’ll even inspire me.


          1. Ben, this dialogue began with your comment that there was no way to address theological considerations, without what I considered “poisoning the well”, of that academy with question-begging cries of “evidence”.

            All I’ve asked is for you to provide a way forward in arguing from cries of evidence that doesn’t invite logical fallacies.

            I haven’t seen that.

            Feel free to argue anyway you like. I fail to see how these types of arguments are logical and, how they don’t demand special pleading, where our authority as empiricists needs no justification for it’s status when faced with competing appeals. I do think we have the authority with evidence over the theologians but not because we assert the claims of “evidence”.

            1. Once again, insisting upon evidence is in no way a logical fallacy or a cheap rhetorical trick.

              Any astrophysicist worth her salt could come up with a half-dozen cosmologies before lunchtime that are perfectly logically self-consistent that don’t contradict known facts.

              But, unless they’re both testable and supported by evidence they don’t mean dick.

              Yes, theology is a morass of logical absurdities. And that means that we don’t even need to bother looking for evidence in the first place. Evidence of what — married bachelors? Don’t be silly.

              But it’s also the case that we don’t need to bother with the logic of their arguments since they can’t point to any evidence that needs explanation.

              They have neither the facts nor the law on their side, so they’re pounding the pulpit.

              Ignoring that they have no facts on their side is exactly as silly as pretending that they do have evidence.



              1. And a Calvinist inerrantist who practices Reformed Theology would point to the “evidence” of The Holy Spirit and the historicity of the resurrection. Game, set, match (from his perspective). If you don’t understand his theological claims then best you can hope for is a stalemate. I think a logical argument can be waged as to the incoherence of these claims with a more pleasing, and reasonable, alternaitve in materialist-naturalistic atheism but, a call for evidence to the theology will simply inspire them to pull out their preferred evidence. The authority of our evidence needs to be substantiated by first dismantling their argument and, crying for evidence ain’t going to cut it.

              2. Anybody who comes to me blathering about the “historicity” of the Resurrection is going to get an earful about the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Pliny the Elder, the Roman Satirists, Justin Martyr, the Ophites, and lots more.

                You know…evidence.

                The only theology I’ll address is the absurdity of zombies wanting their intestines fondled.



              3. It’s not so much a matter of logic as a matter of rhetorical choice, to demand evidence for a position that’s offered without it on the one hand, or to point out the contradictions that the position implies internally or with undisputed facts.

                If you really don’t have evidence to offer for a position, you really aren’t doing the job a thinking person is supposed to when it comes to accepting claims. It’s just fine for people to call you on that. It’s frankly obligatory for you to call yourself on it.

                Maybe that’s not a demand that’s actually effective on some people. Maybe that’s because they’ve been convinced that, for this class of beliefs, evidence isn’t required, or that it’s rude to demand it, or that they have reasons that aren’t evidence. Whichever; any of those could be answered. But sometimes, for some people, they’ll shut down and quit thinking right at that point. For them, it could be that showing up the problems their position leads to will keep them in the discussion long enough to open them up to the possibility they’re wrong.

                But taking that tack isn’t about avoiding a fallacy or not “poisoning the well” – it’s just tailoring an argumentative approach to circumstances.

    1. Whether or not to honor your request is up to our host, of course.

      But I can’t help but ask: Why?

      Why would you want us to destroy all the intellectual effort that’s been put into these pages, and why should we agree to do so?

      In what way would the world be a better place by deleting this page than by leaving it be?



    2. The risk of posting on any website is that your post could be turned into a whole big discussion. But hey, you’re significantly more well known to some pretty important people now! Its not like just any post gets to end up on the front page of WEIT, even those of the caliber of your post.

      1. Or it’s his mom who asked him to be polite. I wonder if she saw/approved of the original comment.

    3. Actually, everyone, I think it’s enough. He is admittedly 12 years old, and not worthy of a lot of effort. I imagine he’s received no small number of e-mails from making a brief comment, replies to which were not limited to the forum where everyone else gets to be ripped apart.

      Public things can be taken up in public – private e-mails should remain private. The comments section exists for a reason, and BOMM’s own site has nothing to do with his comment or demonstrated attitude here, so there is no invitation to e-mail him. I’m not sure if a few hundred e-mails makes a positive impression about our points, but I imagine not. We’re not accomplishing anything here.

      Dr. Coyne, I suspect there are better topics of discussion for posts.

      1. I don’t take well to what is essentially a lecture about proper conduct, when the logical basis for that lecture is so flimsy.

        The comments here toward BOMM have not been particularly rough, and at least one comment sent directly to BOMM (sent by Dominic #4) was quite patient. Beyond that, you have no idea how many emails BOMM is getting, or what their content is.

        My personal feeling is that ideas are what’s important, not age. There are plenty of smart children, and plenty of dumb adults – therefore I do not discriminate based on age, but give credit where it is due, and also demerit where it is due. In this case, BOMM needs to hear that he was wrong, and why he was wrong. This is what it means to take someone seriously, as opposed to pulling rank and saying “oh he’s just a kid; who cares what he says?”

        1. “Pulling rank”? Drama much? I made a suggestion, with reasons why – let’s not take the martyr games away from the christians.

          Seriously, it’s a drive-by comment that has all the markings of being initiated by a church youth group. Do you really think that’s an adequate reason to start private e-mails? Maybe you’d like to know what his street address is so you can sermon him personally? Sheesh – get a life.

          There is such a thing as being more effective. While you might believe your special approach to saying the same damn thing as everyone else is what will set someone on the right path, I figure it’s far better to keep it public where the readership is much higher, and where it doesn’t smack of harassment. Perhaps I’m funny that way.

      2. See, I think he IS worth some effort, so we differ there.

        No one here is addressing a comment that the young person addressed to Dr. Coyne privately, but to a comment that he posted publicly here.

        It is, at the very least, unsportsmanlike, for the young person to post a rude comment first and then fuss when he is called on it.

        1. Agreed, but…he’s 12. His parents might well be keeping tabs on his internet activity. (I know I did on my children’s.) They might find it unsettling if their child is receiving a lot of email from adult strangers; just something to keep in mind. If we can assume some of their attitudes from what the kid believes, he’s not getting a lot of support at home for branching out and questioning.

          I’d like to think that there’s a chance to plant a grain of doubt here. He seems smart and computer literate, and thus he can’t be kept from the scientific truth if he’s at all interested in exploring matters, now that he’s online.

          I’m normally as opposed to tone trolling as most here are; but in this case I think we need to take certain exigencies into account.

    1. The Calvinists are beyond reason. They worship a monster worse than Cthulhu quite literally in the hopes that they’ll be the first ones eaten.

      The best approach to one is to observe that the Bible starts with a story about a magic garden with talking animals and an angry giant. It features a talking plant (a talking plant!) that gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero. It ends with an utterly bizarre zombie snuff porn fantasy, complete with the lead zombie ordering his thralls to fondle his intestines.

      Now, why on Earth should anybody take seriously somebody who wants to join them in cannibalizing said zombie so we might have the privilege in joining the gut groping?

      Will the Calvinist get all offended and leave in a huff? Probably.

      But I refuse to contribute to the promotion of such caustic nonsense by giving it the pretense of respect.

      Even if the Calvinists can’t be convinced to come back to reality, we can at least shame them into silence so they don’t spread the infection.



      1. I do love your illustrative analogies and actually have started reading “The Good Book” with the hope of doing a cover to cover reading as a possibility of refuting the “meta-narrative” claims promoted by Calvinists I know.

        While reading the Genesis story I thought of the talking snake and garden giant analogy and they fit. I muttered to my wife that anybody taking that stuff literally has some problems. So, emotionally, I’m with you but, I need to catch up on the arguments before I can enjoy your level of informed snark. I don’t want to replace Yahweh with Ben Goren, if you catch my drift.

        I think that many believers are of the NOMA mind-set anyway and being sarcastic can give them insight into the lack of weight there faith has, in real terms.

        1. Never misunderestimate the rhetorical power of emotions — especially when dealing with those who arrived at their positions through means other than logic.

          Re-read John 20 and tell me that it’s not the script for a bad zombie horror flick.

          Re-read Exodus 3 and tell me it’s not straight out of Monty Python.

          Now, recall that, in the culture where the story originated, girls lost their virginity when they married at the onset of puberty, and re-read Numbers 31 and tell me it’s not the most repulsive, vile disgusting piece of hate literature you’ve ever read.



          1. Oh I don’t and use it when faced with circumstances I think are appropriate for it. I don’t know if conversations on the classical existence of god is one of them UNTIL the apologist makes a move to name that potential entity Jesus.

            I thought the other night while reading Genesis that parts of it would be a kick-ass action/adventure movie if anyone had the guts to imagine it without the worship.

            And what’s the deal with Abraham pawning off Sarah as his sister all the time? Also, there is a huge continuity problem in the story when Abe and Sarah do that for the second time AFTER complaining that she’s too old to have a kid but still gets banged by a king. It can only be read as the fables of people sitting around campfires.

            1. Not to mention that it’s Abe who passes Sarah off as his sister (for purely selfish reasons, if I recall correctly), but it’s the king who gets in trouble for sleeping with/coveting another man’s wife.

  11. Dear basketballonmymind,

    If you are really 12 years old, then you should have learned proper grammar and puncuation by now. Your comment to Jerry shows that you either did not pay attention in class or were taught by some very bad teachers. Please seek remedial education before you embarrass yourself further.

    1. Sir, respectively, I am just making a comment. Does it really matter if I use proper grammar I am on summer vacation and I am a honor roll studen.Please, don’t dicredit me, my grammar, or my abilities.

      1. C+. Shows improvement!

        Some pointers: “respectfully” in place of “respectively”, add a question mark after grammar, “an” honor roll student, spell student with a “t”, a space after the period, and a “s” in discredit. I recently saw that the Oxford comma (a.k.a. the serial comma) is no longer recommended, but I still prefer to use it.

        I respect the correct use of “your” in the first post though. I’ve seen plenty of adults get that one wrong.

        1. I should have done “an “s”” above. Oh well. I’m not sure I needed the comma after “recommended” either. That’s enough grammar for today. Editing is so much easier than writing!

        2. BTW, I was in publishing for 20+ years. I left it in 2003. For all those years we used serial commas every place I worked. They make sense, and I won’t *not* use them in my own writing. I was in book and journal publishing. The imprecise system of comma usage you refer to is the tradition in newspaper publishing. If you think of the printing deadline and the need in the old days to hand-set type, a few hundred fewer pieces of type laid down makes sense for a daily newspaper. But in book publishing the serial comma was preferred, and it would be really slack for that to change.

  12. Diane G., your binary summation of “knowing” seems to smack of logical positivism and, I think any rational student of history, will see the failing of that project.

    Also, as a general note, the arguments for the existence of god do not transform themselves into the arguments for the existence of Jesus. The sarcasm here to that regard seems to invalidate its supposed humor by failing to grasp that one can be atheistic to the Christian God while finding the argument to a god compelling.

    1. I’m not sure what you’re getting at with that second bit. I’m not sure anybody here fails to grasp that point. That’s the point of the joke, isn’t it? That even were we to accept the cosmological argument, Christian theologians would be no closer to convincing any of us that their religion is true?

      I don’t hear many people bringing up the cosmological argument who don’t make immediate jump to prime mover = Jesus. It could be used outside that context, but I rarely if ever hear it as just “There must be an uncaused cause, but we don’t know much about it.”

      1. No one here presenting the veracity of The Cosmological Argument has brought up Jesus but the responses to it have. Sloppy thinking in my book.

        1. I have yet to even hear of a proponent of the Cosmological Argument who wasn’t a devoted adherent of one of the major religions. The only rare exceptions to the Christians who bring it up are the Muslims, Hindus, and Jews.

          In the other thread, the Statistician tried to argue that the Prime Mover must, of necessity, be a personal agent. There can be no doubt but that he would equally defend the proposition that said Agent can only be Jesus.

          Pretending that those arguing in favor of these incoherent and rarefied theological constructs aren’t paving the way for “…ergo, Jesus!” is quite naïve. Maybe you don’t have much experience in the matter, but you’ve got a number of people with experience assuring you it is so.

          So why hamstring yourself, deny yourself of your most potent rhetorical techniques and all but concede the game to the woo-ists?

          Richard Dawkins makes quite a point of refusing to formally debate Cretinists, because it grants them an undeserved respectability by placing them on the same stage as (I’ll call him this, though Richard would be too modest to claim it for himself) the world’s most influential evolutionary biologist alive today.

          When those of us in the trenches do engage the Cretinists, it does us well to not be afraid to apply shame when appropriate to those who deserve it.

          And, yes. Being a true-believing Christian really is and ought to be cause for great shame.



          1. I think the Statistician may be seeking out a Natural Law argument rather than a Jesus Saves one. I just think it is rash, and a little irrational, to argue against something that hasn’t been argued for. Yes, I am well aware of the Jesus apologists. I was an Evangelical with Reformed Theology who is now an atheist apostate. The appeals that tried to keep me in the fold were very silly.

            I endorse Dawkins stance and enjoy your creation of the creationist as a cretinist.

  13. Jeff, demanding “evidence” is poisoning the well of Theology if your definition of “evidence” is dependent on empirical models. The born-again could claim evidence of the inner-witness of the Holy Spirit and defeat your need for evidence. The Calvinist could invoke the evidence of her more refined “Sensus Divinitatus” and do the same. Demanding evidence is not enough and is not a knock-down objection. One must dismantle the theological assertion within its own epistemology if one is going to be effective. I think that was the original virtue of Eric suggesting Jerry read theology. A really good voice on all of this would be someone like Robert Price. An atheist who can thwart the arguments of the religious due to his advanced knowledge of the Bible. He is a leading thinker in the mythicist hypothesis of Jesus and is effective in his presentation because he works within the constructs offered by inerrantists.

    1. Jeff, demanding “evidence” is poisoning the well of Theology if your definition of “evidence” is dependent on empirical models.

      Sorry. As I wrote above, that ship sailed centuries ago.

      Empiricism needs no defense, and those who reject it outright deserve no respect.



      1. Maybe Chuck has something like this in mind:

        The Defeat of Flood Geology by Flood Geology
        Phil Senter

        Link here:

        “Several Flood geologists have presented geologically sound reasons why strata assigned to
        specific parts of the geologic column cannot have been deposited during the Flood year or
        at least during the part of it when the entire planet was under water, hereafter called the
        PWS (period of worldwide submergence). In fact, compilation of such studies shows that
        together Flood geologists have eliminated the entire geologic column as having any record
        of a PWS. Here, I review the evidence against a PWS record that has been presented by the
        Flood geologists themselves.”

        Though it must be said that at least all parties in this debate actually agree on the existence of Earth. I can see Ben’s point in wanting some proof of a god’s existence (let alone a definition) before debating about his/her/its eyecolour, favourite breakfast cereal and whom he/she/it is likely to invite to a blessed afterlife.

    1. Then why do you state that you “hate” the book?

      How can you “hate” something that you have never even encountered?

    1. @Basketballonmymind,

      If you don’t want to read Jerry’s book that’s fine, but I’m sure your public library has lots of other books for kids about evolution. Why not check one of those out just to see what all the fuss is about?

      I don’t know how you found Jerry’s website or what prompted you to comment here, but the end result is that you are now aware, if you weren’t already, that there are a whole lot of people out there with opinions very different from your own. That could be a really cool discovery if you let it. Why are we all so convinced about evolution? Why don’t we accept the biblical version that you have been taught?

      I have a son who’s about your age, and I try really hard to let him make up his own mind about stuff. The best advice I can give you is to learn more about things you ‘hate’. You may still hate them in the end, but at least you’ll understand more about where and how these different beliefs originate.

      Best of luck to you!

  14. Then don’t comment here on something about which you know nothing or evince a desire to learn. Bye.

  15. Yeah, I’ve never sent hate mail to an author whose book I have read, much less to one whose book I haven’t read. Generally that’s considered “sending weirdo hate mail on the internet for literally no reason”. There are millions of people on the internet with whom I disagree, and I don’t just go around sending hate mail to all of them.

    Although I did troll the internet at age 12 (or around then). A fair amount of trolling indeed. So I guess it is understandable to a degree.

  16. Now you have tangible reward for your efforts!!! Might make reading Aquinas more tolerable.
    Is there an Advanced Merit badge in the offing?

  17. Well, if you are like Denyse O’Leary, all you have to do is read the cover of a book on evolution to fully understand the theory. That’s how she knows all about “The Selfish Gene”.

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