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Stonyground: just to expand on what Greta said, above, one additional complicating factor is that when the US constitution was ratified, the federal government had less influence and the individual states had more autonomy. It was only after the Civil War in the 1860s that the 14th amendment was passed, which guaranteed every citizen the rights given in the national constitution, trumping any lower laws and constitutions. So the Texas and other constitutions may have been legal when they were ratified, but that changed.
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I don't hang out with the woo-woo crowd much, so I may be wrong, but isn't there a similar "ecumenicalism" among people who believe in alternative "medicine", astral travel, and so on? I don't remember any practitioners of Feng Shui pointing out what twaddle reiki is, or dowsers citing the scientific evidence that astrology is Taurus-shit. I guess they all see Big Science as a common enemy, but beyond that, I think there might be a tacit agreement, as between moderate theists, that it's best not to attack anyone's beliefs. And for the same reason: when both your and your enemy's position is indefensible, the best thing to do is to stop attacking each other and coexist.
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Since you mentioned how scientists deal with being the six blind men and the elephant, there was a lovely example of that some time ago, when PZ Myers and Abigail "ERV" Smith appeared on Bloggingheads (this episode, I think). They got to talking about epigenetics. ERV defined it as a mechanism that evolved to help prevent retroviral infections. PZ got a confused look and said that as far as he was concerned, it was an embryonic development mechanism. They went back and forth a bit, and within five minutes concluded that yes, they were talking about the same thing, and understood why the other saw it the way they did.
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arensb.livejournal.com is now following Greta Christina
Feb 17, 2011
@Eclectic: I wonder when they're going to put the Mass back in Christmas. Excellent point. I'd also like to mention that there are 35 churches between my house and my parents', and of the four times I drove that route on Christmas eve and Christmas day, I saw three churches with their lights on, one of which had an empty parking lot. So anyone who argues that Christmas is a religious holiday should be prepared to explain why good Christians aren't spending Christmas in church.
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I hope that this post means that Ingrid is feeling better.
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*Gasp*! I am shocked! Shocked! that you, of all people, would dress so immodestly! How dare you lead men astray like this?
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Mandrellian: The comparison to HIV deniers may not have been the best one I could have drawn. My apologies if I caused offense. In my first paragraph, I was thinking from the perspective of Joe Average Theist, who has what appears, to them, to be a reasonable amount of evidence for believing in God: transcendent religious experiences, the complexity of the world, the fact that most respected people believe in God, and so on. From that perspective, an atheist looks like someone who's been presented with a pile of evidence and still says no, that's not enough. In my second paragraph, I shifted to the perspective of an outsider. If you look at something like the Apollo moon landing hoax claim, or climate change, both sides of each argument have movies and books and slick web sites and FAQs and YouTube videos and whatnot. So how does the average person, who's new to the argument, figure out which side is right? By examining the claims and evidence provided by each side, of course. But if you don't have a good baloney detection kit, or can't tell good evidence from bad, or well-supported arguments from bogus one, it's easy to be fooled. Basically, all I was trying to do was to get inside of the head of someone claiming that atheists are close-minded. What sort of mindset would cause someone to say that? And that's what I came up with.
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So why are atheists seen as narrow-minded? If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that the theist sees someone who denies the self-evident existence of God (because God is obvious); who sees the marvelous complexity of the universe but refused to take the next step and admit that it was all created by a god; who has never had a religious experience because they refuse to open their heart; or who has had a religious experience, but is trying to rationalize it away because "God exists" is an unacceptable conclusion. Atheists say that there's insufficient evidence for believing in gods. But HIV-deniers also claim that there's insufficient evidence for believing that HIV causes AIDS. And birthers claim that there's insufficient evidence that Obama is an American (they even claim that once they see the birth certificate, they'll change their minds).
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I've also run into the opposite version of that: Theist: <some argument for God> Atheist: But the same argument works for the Invisible Pink Unicorn and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Theist: Yes, but nobody seriously thinks that those exist.
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Chicago Dyke: Color me skeptical. In Wii Fit, there's a game where you have to sit as still as possible for as long as possible. I figured my cat would be a natural at this, since she's old enough to be in the "warm-blooded furniture" stage. And yet I consistently beat her at this game. Yes, further experimentation is still required. But so far, my data points to "cats are yoga" being false. Sorry.
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<JohnCleese> Here, ve see a cat engaged in a liff or death struggle viz ze yoga mat.
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One could argue that I make a leap of faith when, say, I trust my doctor or mechanic, or when I believe what I read in Science, rather than educating myself to the point where I can confirm for myself that what they say is true. The difference between this sort of faith and religious faith is that that religions consider faith to be a good thing in and of itself. Whereas for a skeptic, faith is something that you settle for, or resort to, when no better alternatives are available. In a perfect world, I'd be able to go to med school and learn how to read an EKG or a blood analysis report. I'd also learn quantum physics and cosmology and evolutionary biology and economics and all the stuff I need to really understand science news. But I don't have the time. And so I settle for putting faith in experts. (Just as my customers trust me to know stuff so they don't have to.)
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If you'll forgive me for pimping myself, I wrote just last night about how I didn't choose to be an atheist.
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My argument-against-gods of choice is the simple fact that there are no good apologetics, no arguments for any gods that stand up to scrutiny. Which is another way of saying that theists have been assiduously looking for the dragon in their garage for thousands of years, without success, which leads me to believe that there's no dragon there.
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[For some reason I wasn't able to leave this comment at Blowfish, so I'll post it here.] I've argued elsewhere that "what is this thing for?" is not as interesting a question as "what can I do with this thing?". A sparrow's wing is excellent at flying, so it's tempting to say that it's "for" flight. But that doesn't make it somehow unnatural or wrong to use it for showing off mating colors, or protecting eggs. I often wonder about the people who make the "that's not what those body parts are for" argument. That seems to be a sign of a mind that wants a lot of structure and organization, and is uncomfortable when rules and conventions are broken. A lot of the dietary and sexual rules in the Bible fit this pattern: animals have four legs and walk on land; fish have fins and scales; creatures that don't fit this pattern, like shrimp, are abhorrent. Men fight wars, wear tunics, and are the active participant in sex; women take care of children, wear dresses, and are the recipients of sex. A man who wears a dress or raises the kids doesn't fit that pattern, and is therefore abhorrent.
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I've starting to suspect that you, like Daniel Dennett, are constitutionally incapable of being boring. I do have a slightly different perspective on pornography in the last question, perhaps because most mainstream porn is aimed at people like me. Yes, there's a lot of sexism in hetero male video porn. But there's a lot of other bad or unrealistic stuff in there as well (starting with unprotected sex with random strangers and going from there). But IMHO this can be compared to the way just about every action movie violates the laws of physics. And yet we know that you can't jump out of a fourth-floor window on fire and land on a mattress; you can't solve all of life's problems by kneecapping The Bad Guy, and you can't go traipsing in search of the Ark of the covenant an hour after drinking Tibetan yak herders under the table. So it seems that we need to figure out as a society that porn is entertainment, and as such is vastly different from the way things are in real life, and also the way things ought to be.
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Argh! How true. I recently listened to a debate between Daniel Dennett and respected theologian Alvin Plantinga. At one point, Dennett showed that if you replace "God" in Plantinga's argument with "Superman", it remains just as valid as before. Plantinga's answer, as I understood it, boiled down to "Yes, but everyone knows that Superman doesn't exist."
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Quinalapus: So if you're trying to puzzle out why you enjoy self-gratification of a certain type, is that meta-masturbation?
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Or, as They Might Be Giants put it in Science Is Real: I like the stories About angels, unicorns and elves Now I like those stories As much as anybody else But when I'm seeking knowledge Either simple or abstract The facts are with science The facts are with science
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If we scorn them, we get called Scroogy killjoys... but if we embrace them, we get called hypocrites. I don't care what I get called, as long as I get egg nog. The human need for tradition and ritual seems to be deeply ingrained. It's comforting to do things at the same time every day or every year I suspect that there may be an evolutionary component to this: if you're doing things the way you did yesterday, and last year, and the year before, then you're doing things that haven't killed you, and probably won't. Experimentation can be deadly. So presumably natural selection would have selected for conservative behavior.
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I want to take off the Cranky Pants, and put on the Incurable Optimist hat Metaphor love.
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To say nothing of the fact that "In desperate times, you'll turn to God" is a stupid argument anyway. In desperate times, I'd have my leg amputated to stave off gangrene, or let the EMTs send 10,000 volts of electricity through my chest to restart my heart. That doesn't mean that one should go around lopping off limbs or sticking forks into outlets.
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I haven't read the article yet, but I already smell a lot of "Shut up, that's why".
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Funny, I was thinking earlier about making the same request, but anticipated your objection, and so didn't say anything.
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