27th November 2011

“I stand with millions of unbelievers everywhere who demand something a little more, who expect that the ideas that we will use to guide our lives will also be true. Theologians seem to have decided that truth is optional and irrelevant.”

P. Z. Myers

18 Responses to “27th November 2011”

  1. Xhim Says:

    Now, this one surprises me. I thought one of the major contentions atheists have with people of faith is that they are too convinced that they have the truth. But Myers claims the opposite!

  2. captainzero Says:

    I don’t think that’s what Myers is saying at all. He’s using ‘truth’ as a stand in for fact. And yes, theologians do seem to consider factual evidence to be irrelevant. What else can one conclude when one of them discards entire bodies of hard-won scientific knowledge if that knowledge disagrees with some nonsensical biblical position?

    Clearly, in that all-to-frequent case, the theologian cares more about dogma than truth. It’s about then that they play the “you have to have faith” trump card. There’s no way out of that logical mobius strip!

  3. Xhim Says:

    That makes more sense. Pity, though, that the proponent of “fact” doesn’t say what he means. Because a real theologian will most definitely “expect that the ideas that we will use to guide our lives will also be true,” but they don’t agree with the “unbelievers” (Myers’ word) as to the source of truth.

  4. Dan Says:

    Myers doesn’t say what he means? Of course he does – in casual use fact and true are synonymous, and he knows this. Instead it’s the theologians who distort the issue, dissociating these two words.

  5. electrabotanical Says:

    PZ Myers is plenty clear on what he considers valid fact and fantastical BS. It just can’t be captured in a four-line quote.

    I’m an avid follower of his blog. http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/

  6. lusitanus Says:

    “Theologians seem to have decided that truth is optional and irrelevant.” But, in fact, what is truth? Read the books by Paul Watzlawick ‘How Real is Real?’ and ‘The Invented Reality: How Do We Know What We Believe We Know?’ to grasp the subtleties about the perception we have on the so-called reality.

  7. Dan Says:

    If that is the topic for Watzlawick’s book, then it doesn’t sound like much more than a rehash of Descartes famous analysis. Kant took it a bit further though, and although Kant was himself an affirmed Christian, his contemporaries recognized that his philosophical response to Descartes actually made it impossible to believe in all but the most abstract (and therefore pointless) concepts of “God.” That is, after Kant the logical conclusion that most philosophers reached was that “God” was all in the mind.

    “The Rationalists believed that we could possess metaphysical knowledge about God, souls, substance, and so forth; they believed such knowledge was transcendentally real. Kant argues, however, that we cannot have knowledge of the realm beyond the empirical. That is, transcendental knowledge is ideal, not real, for minds like ours.”


    Or, put another way, if you accept the possibility that nothing is real, then what is the point of anything? If however you go on the assumption that some things are real, then all you have is your empirical knowledge. Other “knowledge” is not knowledge at all. Round and round this logic takes you, until the thinker recognizes that the “God” is only in his or her mind.

  8. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    Logic is obvious. Maybe not at first, maybe it takes some time to see, but eventually, when it is realized, we are left wondering why we didn’t get it right away.

    xhim it isn’t that atheists alone are walking around thinking they have the truth, atheists think we are all walking around knowing the truth.

    lusitanus ask yourself if you really think the truth is all that big a question.

    You know you exist because it is obvious. Likewise you know supernatural things like witches, ghosts, goblins, and the like don’t exist because it is obvious.

    Sure atheism is very common among academics/intellectuals, we hear the surveys of scientists and geniuses groups that have very few or no members that are believers, but while atheism is extraordinarily common among the intelligent you don’t have to be a genius to be an atheist.

    The realization is really quite simple, it is really just a recognition of the obvious. Many have been programmed from birth to deny the obvious but doubt still festers in the heads of the faithful like a boil.

    We know that god or gods don’t exist because it is obvious. In every time a head has bowed and a tortured soul has called out in that frightened inner voice for god’s mercy, help, love to no reply.

    Imagine the courtroom where a man says god told him to do it. Imagine the believers judge, bailiff, jury, lawyers: Why don’t they just chalk up the man’s crime to divine intervention?

    It is because we all know that god didn’t tell anyone to kill anyone. God didn’t tell Saul to kill the Amalekites, god didn’t tell Herman Cain to run for president, god didn’t tell the Texas mother to kill her children, god doesn’t tell anyone anything. We all know this, it is obvious.

    Why then is it that after we have left the courtroom, that the very same people who would swear outside the courtroom that god is present in the lives of people, that god speaks to people, that in some instances they have a personal relationship with god, that we would not take the accused at his word?

    Is it because god doesn’t talk to people? No we know from the bible that god has spoken to a great many people. Is it because in some of the god conversations with people that god doesn’t instruct people to kill each other? No the bible tells us god actively instructs believers to kill.

    Why then when in the courtroom we don’t believe the man when he says god told him to kill. Who are we to penalize someone for following gods instructions?

    Well you see it is obvious isn’t it. God doesn’t exist, that is how we all know the man is lying. There is no god to tell anyone to kill anyone else. When it gets down to brass tacks we all will admit that there is no god.

    This is an admission. Blaspheming god by convicting a man is the ultimate sin. Why would a faithful child of god convict a man for following god’s will?

    No you don’t have to come right out an say it. Actions very often speak for themselves. The truth always reveals itself. It is obvious.

  9. captainzero Says:

    Great posts Dan and Double-S!

  10. Xhim Says:

    Thanks, guys, for stimulating response. But what is obvious to one is not obvious to another. There are still phenomenon out there that are not addressed by either science or religion – like my identical twin brother-in-law who gets sick, but it is his twin brother who has the symptoms. You can say that science will find an explanation (and I think that is probably true), but that is a statement of faith, not of the obvious.

  11. Dan Says:

    You’re right in that there is still phenomena that science hasn’t addressed. But surely you have to admit that science has in fact addressed some very useful phenomena and provided a wealth of knowledge about our world. Religion, however, has only addressed phenomena that exist only in the bewildered and superstitious mind.

    I.e., while science remains useful, religion does not.

  12. Xhim Says:

    That’s where I have apparently had some different experiences, than you, Dan, in the area of “useful.” While religion – all religions – have been abused for evil purposes, I’ve been on the receiving end (and have known others) of great good that has come out of religion: people who were in the gutter and transformed by God. I haven’t some some of this, I’ve seen LOTS of it! Even if you could convince me that it is not objectively true, I would still conclude that it has been “useful” for the betterment of individuals and societies.

  13. captainzero Says:

    Or they may simply both be sick at the same time? You really gotta watch out for that confirmation bias which to my mind explains a whole hell of a lot. Unexplained does not mean supernatural. People are pretty impressed by crying statues until a skeptical person catches the vicar refilling the statue or they test the “blood” and find out it’s food coloring or paint.

    Thinking about ‘the supernatural’ is enticing because it titillates parts of our animal brains that don’t see much daylight in a cold and rational world. That does not mean that there has ever been an instance of some miracle that violates the natural laws which dictate the way things really are.

    Lots of things are mysterious but that does NOT concede that they are in any sense inexplicable. Moreover, science gives us a powerful tool to discover not only what they are but also what they are not.

  14. Xhim Says:

    Where you addressing the area of “useful”? Because if you were, sorry, I missed the connection. Come again?

  15. Dan Says:


    I’ve been on the receiving end (and have known others) of great good that has come out of religion: people who were in the gutter and transformed by God.

    Psychologically. Yes: that’s my point!

    I’m not arguing that religion hasn’t influenced human behavior or our human sensations. On the contrary, I’m arguing that that is all that it does. It’s all in your head and thus it’s not real.

  16. Dan Says:

    Sorry, I forgot to add the last aspect of what it is that I’m arguing, to that last comment:

    … and if it’s not real, what good is it really? (Even if it feels good)

  17. Xhim Says:

    thanks, Dan. Good point. Which is why I don’t want to adhere to something that isn’t objectively true. Still, the word “useful”: placebos are useful. Even if religion is no more than a placebo, it is still useful.

  18. Dan Says:

    Okay, I think that we’re using slightly different meanings of “useful.” And I see your point. But one only prescribes placebos to hypochondriacs.