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Dave Hasbrouck
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@ Daf - Thank you for responding to the blog post itself. I actually really appreciate that you've helped bring the comments back on track. The point isn't that atheists that convert under duress 'don't count', it's that converting under duress doesn't actually give any particular credence to whether religion is actually true. Believing in something while under stress doesn't automatically make the thing that you believe in a reality.
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2010 on Atheists in Foxholes at Greta Christina's Blog
1 reply
I hate to make the argument about tone, since doing so tends to overshadow the actual arguments, but there was absolutely nothing in my comment that was in any way condescending, insulting or 'holier than thou', except for, arguably the last line of the MC Hawking quote. The fact is that we DO get the same arguments made over and over again, and we DO find ourselves addressing them repeatedly, and it WOULD be a whole lot easier to point people to an 'Theist Arguments Greatest Hits.' That's not an insult or condescension; it's the truth. Even Greta herself made a whole blog post about the frustration of having to make the same arguments repeatedly. There's nothing condescending about pointing that out. On the other hand, your comments have been incredibly snarky and condescending, calling us 'holier than thou', saying that we never admit that we're wrong, saying that we think we're the center of the universe, etc... Now, onto your responses; "The metamorphosis of one complete species into a different one (not finch sub-species and the like: I don't really see how a slightly shorter beak transforms a finch into a bat) is not completely understood or concrete -- but perhaps I'm too short-sighted?" Correct! You're short sighted in a very literal sense (and again, it's not condescension, you just chose surprisingly apt words) as what you fail to take into consideration is time. What you consider 'micro-evolution' doesn't just hit a brick wall after a certain point; it continues to make small incremental changes on and on until hundreds of thousands of years have passed and the end result isn't anywhere close to the animal you started with. It's like a genetic game of telephone. The error comes in when you expect one species to spontaneously erupt fully-formed from the offspring of another species. It doesn't work that way. The classification of species is a muddy and complicated thing; Species A is likely to be extraordinarily close to Species B (like your finch example). By the time you get to Species Z there's a remarkable difference, but in between you'll have Species C-Y, all of which look only very slightly different from our predecessor. We actually have a pretty good record of this. We have a very comprehensive fossil record of the evolution of the whale; an animal that started in the sea, became a land animal, was briefly a hoofed animal, then spent more and more time in water and became a marine animal again. As remarkable and unlikely as it sounds, we have fossil examples of virtually every single step of that amazing and bizarre evolutionary process. It's one of the more complete records we have. "However, being an atheist does mean that you are free to pick your moral code." Moral codes are established and ingrained into us by mutual agreement of society. This has always been the case, both with theists and atheists, and this moral code has historically changed with the tides of human progress. If you don't believe me, then why don't Christians still think it's okay to hold slaves, or stone their children for being disobedient, or offer their daughters up for rape to spare their house guests? These were all strict moral codes during Biblical times. Atheists hold moral codes for the same reason as anyone else; empathy. We understand that our actions affect society, affect our loved ones and, yes, even affect our own personal well being. This isn't unique to humans either. Many animals have highly developed social structures where they've realized that cooperation is more beneficial than selfishness. If it makes you happy, then yes, I will be the first to say to you that atheist do not know or claim to know exactly how the universe came to be. What we do propose, though, is that saying 'God did it' isn't really an answer. It's tantamount to saying 'Well, wizards did it!" There's an example that I always like to use: Say there was this really really amazing magic trick, and everyone's trying to figure out how it's done. It seems like some of it might be done with mirrors, we can kind of see how wires might fit in, but so far we're not really sure 100% about how the trick is completely done. Well, saying 'God did it' is basically like saying "We can't figure out how this trick is done - so it must be real magic!" It's not even trying to solve the trick, but just throwing your hands up in resignation.
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2010 on Atheists in Foxholes at Greta Christina's Blog
1 reply
@daf Hoo-boy. I’m presuming that you’re probably pretty new to the blog, since you seem to be dragging out so many ‘Theist Argument Greatest Hits’, all of which have been written about repeatedly in other posts. I may be digging myself into a quagmire by responding to them all but, weeeall, here we go: “My experience of the average atheist is one of being mocked for being "stupid" or "needing a crutch".” Well, if your drive-by post on the blog is a typical indication of how you address atheists, I can’t say I blame them for not being terribly receptive. You make a great deal of classic mistakes; from snarkily referring to atheism as ‘faith’, to saying that the original post ‘isn’t concrete’ while not offering any reasons (instead hopping onto completely different topics) and even dredging up the old chestnut about intelligent design with a side dish of mis-use of thermodynamics: “I just see too much complexity, too many things inter-connected and well-designed… I find more unbelievable the blind faith in order emerging out of chaos over some extended period of time (which totally flies in the face of thermodynamics, you know, that pesky science stuff, but again, I digress)” The facts behind evolution are way too vast to give appropriate time to in a blog comment, so I’ll paraphrase: 1) Evolution is a well-established natural phenomenon. We have fossil evidence (including transitional fossils), we have DNA evidence, we’ve observed slight variation between generations and evolution is the basis behind all of our medicine, agriculture and animal breeding. 2) We actually aren’t particularly well-designed. From our teeth to our hipbones to our limited eyesight to difficulty in child-birth, human anatomy pretty much looks like something cobbled together from things that were adapted from other things; basically what you’d expect from a species that was in a constant race to adapt over time. 3) Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics. To demonstrate why, I would like to quote from the esteemed MC Hawking, who states so eloquently: “Creationists always try to use the second law, to disprove evolution, but their theory has a flaw. The second law is quite precise about where it applies, only in a closed system must the entropy count rise. The earth's not a closed system' it's powered by the sun, so fuck the damn creationists, Doomsday get my gun!” Sing it, Hawking. Next topic; “My point is that the one point out of your argument (which, on a whole, didn't seem -- to me -- to be all that concrete)” Ssooo, why isn’t it concrete? You just kind of drop that in there and don’t come back to it. Are you saying that atheists DON’T ever face life-threatening situations without turning to faith? Are you saying that turning to faith in times of crisis IS somehow evidence of the faith’s truth? If so, then how does that follow? You just kind of stated ‘nuh-uh, that’s not a good argument’ and then left us all dangling. “which I find most despicable is the lumping together of all faith-based people as forceful, ignorant zealots "out to get the atheists" as it were.” Where exactly does the article do that? The article is about people who claim that there are ‘no atheists in foxholes.’ In no way does it say that all theists claim that, or even MOST of them. The post is a deconstruction of one specific phrase. Honestly, I’m a bit mystified; did you READ the blog post? “by definition, an atheist places himself or herself _above_ the rest of his/her existence by denying that something/someone more important could exist.” Nnnnooo… Don’t think I know a single atheist that would say that. Really, lack of a god means that all of us are just one more finite piece of a vast universe; that we’re no more special or chosen or entitled than anything else. We don’t think that a divine being created the cosmos just for us, or that the creator of the universe personally loves us and cares about our petty wishes or desires. We don’t believe that we have souls that are so incredibly important that surely they’ll live on after death. Atheism doesn’t put us above the rest of existence. Atheism means that our place in existence is transient and small; a tiny twinkle that’s here and gone in the blink of an eye. “And if someone else does preach at you, don't swing back -- just tell them you're not interested, thanks for the concern, and move along with your life.” Um… Nobody’s saying that theists don’t have the right to ‘preach’, and we certainly are going to ‘swing back.’ Saying that we shouldn’t is what we call a ‘Shut up, that’s why’ argument. While you may think that theists ‘don’t have anything to gain by converting us’ (and some other theists may try to argue with you on that point) the rest of us actually have a great deal to lose by not speaking up. Believers don’t just privately believe things without it affecting the outside world. The way that people believe affects how they act, how they vote, how they treat people who are different from them… it affects civil rights and government policies and education… what people believe affects all kinds of things in everybody’s day-to-day life, and we would be shooting ourselves in the foot not to put our arguments into the marketplace of ideas. :phew:: That was a long comment. Maybe one of these days, somebody should make a 'Theist Arguments Greatest Hits' site, so we can send folks over there rather than having to type the same responses over and over again.
Toggle Commented Feb 10, 2010 on Atheists in Foxholes at Greta Christina's Blog
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Feb 10, 2010