75 thoughts on “Basement cat analogies

  1. I sometimes think a common mistake of theologians is rubbing up against the leopard-skin pillow on the sofa in the dark room and then thinking they have found the black cat.

  2. Apologetics is like using complicated arguments to prove there must be a black cat in the dark room because you cannot imagine a room without one.

  3. Until about 20 years ago, people who believed in the existence of exoplanets might as well have looked for black cats in dark rooms, when they had no evidence in the first place that black cats even existed. Yet secular skeptics at the time, for example Carl Sagan, assumed the reality of exoplanets because science fiction propagandized the idea in our culture based on zero evidence, even though according to skeptics’ own criteria (“The Dragon in My Garage”), exoplanet beliefs resembled woo.

    For some reason skeptics don’t like it when I bring up this bit of recent history, because the older ones can remember believing in exoplanets as a faith position.

    1. Well, there might not have been any proof but it was at least logical that those existed. Our own star has many planets orbiting it. We don’t see anything special in the materials or laws governing our solar system and we gradually learned that what was once thought to be unique to us/our planet/our solar system/our galaxy was, in fact, very common. It would be weird if the other billions of stars were without any planet at all. Therefore I’ll choose as a default position that exoplanets might very well exist.
      AND, furthermore, I’ll say that I know exoplanets exist when we have some proof.

      I’m just sayin’ of course as I am too young to remember believing in exoplanets on faith.

    2. That’s a pretty wild misrepresentation. In the first place you are, in your own terms, sitting on a black cat.

      Astronomers thought exoplanets were likely because they did have a solar system to study, and the best-fitting model for its formation made it likely that other solar systems existed.

    3. Nonsense. There is a big difference between accepting that it was likely that exoplanets existed in accordance with known cosmology and ‘faith in the unseen’.

      We had a perfectly good example of a solar system containing of planets around us, with some of the planets visible to the naked eye.

    4. Mark Plus, science fiction writers have the evidence of their own eyes — they can see the sun and moon and stars and planets (with telescopes) and comets and the earth.

      Often, science fiction writers had some passing training in science, so they weren’t just making everything up completely out of nothing.

      As has been pointed out above, we exist, therefore it is probable (no one agrees on exactly how probable) that some others exist.

    5. Mark Plus #3 wrote:

      …exoplanet beliefs resembled woo.

      No, exoplanet beliefs did not resemble “woo.” The term “woo” is generally used to indicate that something has a supernatural or paranormal component — and that “believing in” it requires special sensitivity, insight, mystical abilities, humility, or other innate characteristics of an exceptional individual.

      Carl Sagan did not claim that he just knew that there must be other planets out there and that he could be sure because he trusted the deep instincts of his heart — they called to him. He did not insist he had a personal experience. He did not constantly come up with immunizing strategies to explain away tests which did not give the results he wanted and expected. As eloquent as he was, he always kept his argument for the probability (not “reality”) of other planets grounded in reasonable extrapolations from what is known.

      You aren’t getting what makes woo, woo. I don’t like your analogy because it’s a very bad one, not because it “hits home” or whatever you like to flatter yourself with.

    6. It really would be better for you to come to a better understanding of the subjects you wish to comment on before committing yourself to such an embarrassing argument. I feel bad for you. I hope you find the courage and patience to learn your way out of the ignorance you have displayed here.

    7. In fact there was considerable indirect evidence for exoplanets prior to 20 years ago.

      IRAS discovered a debris disk around Vega in the early 1980s. (Sagan incorporated this finding into his novel Contact, published in 1985.)

      Even before that, it was known that stars of about the Sun’s mass or smaller have much less angular momentum than the gas clouds from which they form. The most plausible explanation was that the missing angular momentum ended up in debris disks or planetary systems — and now we can see that that explanation was correct.

      So no, not a “faith position” by any stretch.

    8. …macroevolution/microevolution… …exoplanet/planet…

      Is it simply a built in trait of some people to adopt words and use them to highlight a superficial dichotomy that, in reality, has no bearing whatsoever on the over all point being discussed? The Obtuse is strong in this one!

    9. For some reason skeptics don’t like it when I bring up this bit of recent history,…

      They don’t like it because it is wrong and you are just making stuff up.

      The current models of how our solar system formed predicted that there should be other solar systems. Because they all form in the same way. This is the condensing dust and gas cloud model.

      Why do you think we spend billions of dollars looking for exoplanets anyway? Hint. It’s not because we thought they didn’t exist.

    10. I’m afraid we’ll have to give Mark Plus a minus — unless, of course, he reads the comments and sees where his argument went wrong.

      I’d like to think that people can learn — after all, it’s been known to happen.

    11. ..and of course, secular skeptics also MUST believe in Infinite Improbability Drive and Babel fish, UFOs, Vulcans who are separately evolved but interfertile with humans, monoliths on the moon, aliens with psi, flying dragons, wizardry… we’ve all read about these things.

      Exoplanets, like the Higgs boson, make a more reasonable universe..

    12. That’s bunkum. Even with the ideas from over 80 years ago about how our solar system formed, the existence of the exoplanets was expected. People were looking for them because if they weren’t there then there’s something seriously wrong with the scientific models. It was never a matter of faith, it was a matter of evidence. The SETI story is different; although nothing precludes intelligent life on another planet (however you define intelligent), we have no idea what that might be like and the current attempts to detect alien radio signals is utterly futile. With SETI it’s a case of “there might be something out there but we’ll probably never know”.

    13. Your logic seems to be upside down and backward. At that time, the only stellar system we knew anything about in detail was our very own. And look how many planets and satellites and minor planets we have! Given that Sol is a perfectly average star, the most reasonable conclusion is that other stars, particularly those resembling Sol, have similar congeries of planets and satellites whirling about them.

      While science fiction can generally be dismissed as a fruitful source of bright ideas regarding science, once in a while an SF author gets it right via that exotic form of logical reasoning “common sense”.

  4. Sophisticated Theology argues that because we cannot see a white cat the cat must be black.

    Apologetic philosophers argue that a black cat might still exist even though we can’t detect it.

    The ordinary believer doesn’t often think about the cat but enjoys meeting other Catlolics in the dark room.

    1. +1

      The ordinary Catlolic believer also argues that a black cat must be there — why else would there be so many good people in the room?

      And flashlights are arrogant and ruin the “mystery.” The whole point is embracing the humility of the darkness. Can you see Love with a flashlight? That’s scientism.

      1. For some reason your comment caused Parliament to immediately pop into my head.


        Most of all he needs the funk(love)
        Help him find the funk(love)

        Flashlight, flashlight
        Spot light, neon light

        Shake your rump, I think I found the funk(love)”

        George Clinton a purveyor of scientism? Who knew?

    2. “The ordinary believer doesn’t often think about the cat but enjoys meeting other Catlolics in the dark room.”

      Mmm. Reminds me (again) of the Prrresbyterian minister who finished off his sermon (on Matt 23:1-13), “So I ask ye, faithful brethren, where would ye rather be, in the light with the Five Wise Virrrgins, or OUT IN THE DARK with the FIVE FOOLISH VIRRRGINS!?”

      (but I did like “Catlolics” – a triple-banger.)

  5. Quantum mechanics (pre-Everett) is knowing there is a cat in the room, but asserting it is neither alive nor dead.

    Quantum mechanics (post-Everett) is knowing that there are actually infinitely many cats in “there”.

  6. The Discovery Institute says there’s a black cat in the black room on a privileged planet and if you can’t see it then buy Behe’s book, “Darwin’s Black Box,” and a bunch of DVD’s that explain everything, available in the DI Gift Shop.

  7. A little of topic but this is making the news today According to an Auction Cause translation, the letter says:

    The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change this.
    For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

    As Reuters notes, the letter — which Einstein wrote to Jewish philosopher Erik Gutkind — “offers insights into the private thoughts…of one of the world’s most brilliant minds.”

      1. I suspect power is political power and the cancers are the evils that the politically powerful do. Thats my reading from the limited context given anyway.

  8. Sorry my post should have said that Einstein’s letter is up for auction expected to bring clost to 3 million

  9. Statistics is like measuring the room, weighing the cat, and calculating
    an average feline density of 0.11 kilograms per cubic meter.

    Mathematics: $\exists C \exists R (C \in R)$.

  10. Genetics is like looking for a black cat in a dark room by walking around without a flashlight, and deducing the properties of the putative cat by the number of times you trip over.

  11. Sophisticated Theology is like being in a Dark Room and looking for a Black Cat and realizing you want some tea, and claiming that this desire strongly suggests that there must be a cat of nightly hues in there somewhere. Probably with a name sounding like Cheesus.

  12. I think I’ve actually posted this here before, but….

    A famous rabbi is granted an audience with the Pope. As you would expect, the conversation turns to the differences separating them. The rabbi observes, Your Eminence, we are both like blind men searching in a dark room for an invisible black cat that isn’t there. The only difference is that you’ve found him.

  13. Scientology is like spending $11,000 learning how to see black cats in the dark. By the time you realize there is no cat, you’ve invested way too much to admit you were suckered. And if you do admit it, lots and lots of people who still think there is a cat will make your life a living hell.

      1. Scientology is like billions of kittys were blown up and now those dead kitty souls are in your head causing all your problems but if you pay lots of money a k-meter will make them go away

    1. Well done indeed, but for many of their victims, you would need to add at least another zero to that amount. Ask Larry Anderson, for instance.

      They will take everything you’ve got and can get besides. They’ll browbeat you to max your credit cards, mortgage your house to the hilt and make you hit up relatives for anything you can get from them as well.

      They have sales people constantly working to sell their ‘courses’ to the people on their sucker lists. They actively poke through your life to ‘help’ identify ways you can raise
      more money to give them.

      How else can you free your body thetans and claim your superhuman powers if you don’t take their expensive courses?

  14. Actually, the black cat exists outside the spacetime dark room continuum altogether, so we have no way of ever detecting it, with or without a flashlight.

    1. No, the cat’s there all right, meddling about in the corners of the room where you’re not looking, pushing dust bunnies around in ways indistinguishable from random air currents.

  15. Solipsism is the hypothesis that no dark room and no black cat exist.

    If a dark room existed, it could not be entered.
    If it could be entered, it would not contain a black cat.
    If it contained a black cat, the latter would not be detectable.
    If a black cat could be detected, you couldn’t communicate with anybody about your findings.

    Occam’s addendum: Even if you could communicate, nobody would care.

    Kodak’s coda: “Dark room? We just discontinued the last one!”

  16. Neuropsychiatry:
    Sitting in a dark room holding a black cat who is having a seizure, wondering how many other black cats are in the room and where they are, because I don’t want to step on anyone when I get up to put iodine on my scratches, and my neuropathy-numbed feet can’t tell the difference between a floor tile and somebody’s tail.

    That was me with Beluga last night. Mr. Spazztastic was unusually violent. But afterwards he quickly snuggled in and drifted back to the Underworld or wherever he goes when he’s asleep.

  17. I have no idea how this will appear but anyway:

    public function findWithScience($what, $where)
    {
    $facts = Tools::collectFacts(Reality::getInstance());

    if (KnownReality::subjectIsNotInPlace($what, $where))
    {
    ++$this->answer_given[$what][$where];

    if ($this->answer_given[$what][$where] >= 100)
    {

    return I18n::tryToBeNice(‘You moron’);
    }

    return “$what is not in $where”;
    }

    if ($facts->getPlaceParams($where)->getLuminosity() == 0)
    {
    $this->use_flashlight = true;
    }

    return $this->doLook($this->use_flashlight);
    }

    protected function findWithReligion($what, $where)
    {
    while ($this->findWithScience($what, $where) == “$what is not in $where”)
    {
    $this->do_actually_look = false;

    return MyAss::getBSReasonWhyScienceCannotSee($what, $where);
    }

    if ($this->findWithScience($what, $where) == ‘You moron’)
    {
    $this->do_actually_look = false;

    return “Science has not a mind open enough to find $what in $where”;
    }

    $this->do_actually_look = false;

    return “Please call this function with enough conviction, $what definitely is in $where”;
    }

  18. Templeton cash is like an excuse to repress the gag reflex while telling others that the clearly visible white cat in the room was created by an invisible unknowable indefinable deity who loves that cat very much.

  19. 1. We understand that Basement Cat is the greatest, blackest black cat in the room
    2. Basement cat exists in our minds
    3. An actual cat in the room is greater than an imaginary cat
    4. If Basement cat exists in the mind (2), then we can conceive of a greater cat Basement Cat in the room
    5. But nothing can be greater blacker than Basement Cat
    6. Therefore, Basement Cat exists in the room! I have found Him!

  20. Credit where credit is due. This is a tag line I use on some of the forums I visit and is originally written by Robert Heinlein:

    Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn’t there. -Robert Heinlein

  21. I’m surprised no one has gone here yet.

    Deepak Chopra says,

    “Spirituality is like being in a room looking for a black cat, and questions answer themselves if you are aware enough. Flowing with the current of being is the simplest way to find a black cat. Resistance never really succeeds. Controlling the flow of life is impossible. However, as soon as you put words around the “black” or enclose it in thought or say, “I know cats”, something wonderful and invisible has flown away. This means that the mind is left open to Being,the simplest state of quantum awareness.”

  22. Atheism is like being in a dark room trying to clean up the cat shit that someone placed there to convince you that the cat was real.

  23. Some references seem to be to ‘black hats’ not ‘black cats’

    “as a learned judge is said to have defined the metaphysician, namely, as a blind man looking for a black hat in a dark room, the hat in question not being there”
    Edinburgh medical journal, Volume 3 (1898)

    The learned judge may be Charles Bowen who has a similar phrase about equity attributed to him.

  24. Theology is the female black cat who is there getting knocked up by the male black cat who isn’t there and giving birth to a black cat who is there but thinks he isn’t there.

  25. Shaft is like this really good movie about a black cat looking for a mobster’s missing daughter in Harlem.

  26. There’s also quietly sitting still and listening until kitty-cat comes over to you and brushes up against you and purrs. Hello kitty 🙂

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