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    Burn the heretic witches at the stake?
    By Daid Kahl | April 19th 2011 05:02 AM | 61 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Daid

    PhD candidate, Center for Nuclear Study, the University of Tokyo, Japan BSc. Beloit College, Wisconsin, USA, 2005. MSc: McMaster University, Ontario...

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    In a recent email, my mother commented how I should help dissuade my younger sister from debating religious ethics on Facebook with our cousin.  I didn't seek out the conversation, but we can vividly imagine the sorts of debates between an atheist and a Catholic.   Instead of trying to limit my sister's free flow of ideas, I have instead reflected on both atheism itself, as well as the public presentation of one's ideology.

    The impetus for actually writing down my ideas to a potentially broader public, however, originated from reading a quote from Phil Fernandes's book The Atheist Delusion which states:
     The new atheists have made their choice—apparently, no amount of evidence for God will change their minds. They claim that the existence of God is as ridiculous as the existence of a flying spaghetti monster.
    I realized then that this is a great problem of our time.  Ultimately, reading the line really condensed the otherwise unrelated ideas I have about atheism, my family, and the public.  I claim that most atheism is fundamentally new, historically persecuted, and publicly unpopular.  And besides, a few jovial jests against my perceived opposition will hopefully make the writing a bit more colorful.  But it would be nice if we could all get along.

    The freedom of speech, assembly and religion are, interestingly, grouped together in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.  Certainly I do not want to give the impression much of what I have to say pertains only to US Citizens (I am one) or residents (I am not one).  But a fervor of anti-intellectualism and religious fanaticism is more strongly rooted there than any other industrialized democracy (apparently constituting a majority of voters).  My experiences also greatly shape my perspective, and form the basis of many of my examples.

    Atheism is not a religion and doesn't need to be.  (It is, however, a belief arising from assumptions which science also uses.) 
      But legal issues which protect religious beliefs often come to a clash with scientific beliefs, which while are allowed, are rarely protected in the same manner.   (I am not stipulating that all scientists are atheists or vice versa, and discuss it later.)  Scientists may believe there is good reason to excavate some area for discovery of new knowledge, where some religions may consider the same ground sacred, and in the United States, courts nearly always rule in favor of the religious beliefs, simply because there's not an obvious way to interpret existing laws to offer the same protection to a scientific belief, much less atheism.  In this sense, most of my beliefs are essentially unprotected by any laws, other than that I can say them and print them and assemble to discuss them.  What about using them to positive effect?

    Without a formal organization, one wonders who exactly are the "new atheists" to whom which Mr. Fernandes refers.  Can I be an "old atheist" who will change his mind when any falsifiable theory is presented or testable evidence begins to amount?  And for the converse, how much more evidence needs to amount before someone rejects a claim which cannot be falsified?  I heard a speaker in Canada, whose talk title posed, "Can a scientist believe in God?"  He then went on to "prove" that all scientists must believe in god!  Some discussion, huh?  (He was a Masters in Engineering falsely claiming a PhD as well.)  The proof simply assumed that if we accept big bang cosmology, then something must have caused the big bang from logical analysis of the timeline.  However, the big bang is the proposed origin of the space-time continuum, outside time there is no sense of cause or effect, and anything outside this is in fact forbidden from any interaction with our universe after its inception.  This sort of god cannot affect anything, and being outside the realm of what could ever be known, is futile to discuss, ponder, or worship.  As an atheist, I think to myself, "I do not believe god exists," where existence is implicitly in this universe; maybe god exists in another universe where physics are different, like the universe of the imagination, but not with our physics.  But ideas of god are rarely scientific, so it's best not to mix fuel with fire unless you want to get hurt.

    Even aside from such a fantastical confusion of fundamental physics, any idea of an omnipotent god automatically violates known ideas of causality merely by exceeding the speed of light; the only way around that is, in mock physics, if god has negative mass, moves backwards in time (actually it would be imaginary proper time), and is caused by the universe (or something?), probably forthcoming in a posthumous appendix to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  (You can check up on
    tachyons for actual ideas of this kind of theoretical particle that moves faster than light.)  After all, if god can move backwards in time, why can't Mr. Adams?  These problems emphasize why keeping 'creators' out of science are important.  (Edit: If I start seeing theories of god utilizing tachyon physics...well, at least it would start being like real science maybe?!  But it would either not be the god people want or violate causality, so pick your poison.  Maybe god can be an uber high dimensional field with oscillating constants...but wait, what about free will?  AaaaaaAaah!)

    It's also rather important that I am not an old atheist, because in many places in the world, new atheists have much more protection from persecution, and even death, than perhaps the old ones were afforded.  Scholars still debate on the religious views of René Descartes, many suggesting he was an atheist.  However, it's probably no accident that no one knows, even now, considering his contemporary, Galileo, was forced to recant some of his works, formally suspected of heresy, and condemned to house arrest.  At first glance, 17th century politics perhaps have little bearing in the 21st century, but in fact the Catholic Church was still working to complete its rehabilitation of Galileo as a man and also his works as recently as 2008.  And as someone considered one of the essential founders of scientific thinking, probably it makes sense that the two communities are still somewhat at odds with one another.  That doesn't mean Galileo was an atheist, but it's pretty clear at least one reason why he wasn't (or didn't claim to be).  Since atheism is not organized, and it's historically a taboo subject to consider seriously, it's no doubt many atheists appear to be new.  (I myself was taken to church as a child, and near the age of 12 or 13 decided for myself that God didn't seem to exist.)

    In the 20th century, there is no doubt about persecution of atheists, even in the self-proclaimed freedom-loving land of America.  My maternal grandfather was an executive at a Fortune 500 company, a socialist, and probably a closet atheist.  (Sadly, as he died before I was born, I never got the chance to cough it out of him.)  Whether it's the Church who will force you to recant your works, or McCarthyist neighbors who will rat you out and get you fired from your job, probably you do like the Manhattan Project:
    When They Said: "Keep Your Mouth Shut"...I Did

    There are some interesting relics reminding me of atheist persecution in my pocket.  While appearing on coins since the mid-19th century,  In God We Trust wasn't adopted as the United States official motto until 1956, when the Red Scare was in full swing.  In my opinion, the entire purpose of making such a national slogan was to pose the US in opposition to the communist Soviet Union, since the very notion of atheism was incorporated with Marx's communist framework.  It's no wonder my grandfather taught my mother not to tell other people her politics or religion, which she in turn attempted to pass on to me; clearly in my case, it didn't stick.

    Although I find it unlikely professing atheism will limit my job opportunities in physics research, contemporary courts continue to up hold the constitutionality of the word 'God' appearing in the the Pledge of Allegiance, the national motto, and on currency.  The argument that 'God' has lost its meaning, or doesn't suggest persecution, is to me just as absurd as if I asked instead for the phrase We ♥ Satan to be the national slogan.  Yeah, let's put Satan's name everywhere, because clearly 'God,' and thus also 'Satan,' have lost their meanings! 
    In fact, I have a t-shirt with nearly that exact phrase (replace 'we' with 'I') on the front, and I was banned from wearing it to my public high school some years ago.  When informed the reason I was not allowed to wear the shirt was because a student was offended, I retorted by asking a rather absurd question to expose the hypocrisy, "What if a gay student was offended by some Christian shirt?"  To my complete and utter amazement, the principal's rebuttal was, "If there was a gay person at this school, that would be a problem."  So some people have a right to be offended, and other people have the right not to exist or to shut their mouths.

    Edit:
    Homosexuals are perhaps the most cross-culturally persecuted group in history.  Edit: The native Japanese mother of an American friend of mine (born in Kansas), said there weren't any gays in Japan, but she had no problem with gays in the US.  Maybe gay people in Japan have been for years following a philosophy later instituted in the US Military in order to avoid persecution (although I know little about gay culture in Japan).  When in office, president Bill Clinton instituted a policy in the US Military which he called, "Don't ask, don't tell."  Sound familiar to you?  (Oddly, I don't think my mother would encourage me to be a closet homosexual if I was gay.)   I suppose a similar sort of policy is invoked by most secondary school biology teachers about atheism, at least in Kansas.  Well, if a creator can be part of science, why can disagreeing with the theory not be?  If creationism is science, can't atheism be too?  Now the question of what atheism is has been pushed from two sides. 

    The common perception in the public is atheism is not religion, and it isn't science.  It also doesn't seem clear what agnosticism is, either.  So let's hash this out.  The basic scientific method is the methodical testing of a falsifiable hypothesis.  If the test does not disprove the hypothesis, the scientist can choose to believe the hypothesis is correct or incorrect.  However, if the experimental results are inconsistent with the hypothesis, the scientist should believe that either the hypothesis is wrong, or the test results are in error.  But a scientist can't do anything with an untestable theory.  The problem with theories of religion and god(s) is they fall under the domain of part what Wolfgang Pauli supposedly said about an unclear physics paper:
    Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!
               (Not only is it not right, it's not even wrong!)

    Science is entirely agnostic, actually.  Maybe religion is right and there is a god, but it clearly can't be proven wrong.

    To the degree which atheism and agnosticism describe the same belief (it varies depending on one's definition), we can say science is also atheistic.  As most vocal atheists complain that the burden of proof is on believers in god, certainly they can't be saying, "I believe god does not exist," which is equally unable to be proven.  Functionally, atheists work from the notion that, "I do not believe that god exists," which is just a simpler way of pointing out, "An untestable theory does not convince me, and being unconvinced of something, I cannot truly believe it."  (Of course, some atheists may actually assert as a fact that god doesn't exist, but they aren't even wrong either, and seemed to have missed the point.)  There certainly is a grammatical difference between the two statements, but functionally they appear the same.  The typical difference between an atheist and an agnostic is not what they believe, but just a matter of hubris.  I call myself an atheist just because I'm arrogant in person.  But in fact, I am an existential nihilist, in the sense that I believe nothing at all can be really known, which includes my beliefs about god, so my beliefs are quite humble.  The way I see it, the human mind is probably too feeble to really grasp the cosmos, but it's fun to try anyway.  So whether I'm an atheist or an agnostic, I'm still agnostic anyway.

    Atheism is just horribly misunderstood, because the only people who are comfortable to talk about it are the arrogant pricks like me.  People who believe in god can't even understand why we want to be alive.  It basically comes from an entirely different take on life, perhaps.  Theists love to quote the more practical side of Richard Dawkins, and may be unfamiliar with my favorite quotation:
    After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with colour, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked — as I am surprisingly often — why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn’t it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?
    Some of us are just more curious about "How?" rather than "Why?"  And maybe we also I'd like the assurance of at least knowing when we are wrong.

    Clearly with the inappropriate entrance of creationism into scientific discussion in recent years, it makes sense to change the public perception of atheism by trying to change our understanding of the term.  Even though science itself is agnostic doesn't make all scientists agnostic.  Surely there are religious folk who don't believe in god, right?  One can find scientists, just like members of a given religion, who hold a whole myriad of personal philosophies and religious practices.  And atheists and agnostics are not without ethical codes.  We don't need to fear Dante's Inferno to feel something is morally wrong.  And I think there is to some degree also a growing persecution of religious beliefs within science, and these two problems just feed off each other.  One of my good friends is religious, but so far we have never even talked about our philosophies in this regard because he has been persecuted in the past by other scientists!  How about a deal?  I'll keep my relativity out of your religion if you keep your creator out of my science?  Then god can be with religion, agnosticism can be with science, and we can all just chill out.

    But because I cannot apply my ideas about science to religion, I am only left to believe that the existence of god is as ridiculous as the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, and Russell's teapot, because they aren't even wrong and they all afford me a ton of laughs.

    You can disagree with me, but please don't hate me.

    Comments

    I think you forgot exactly how bad the engineer posing as a scientist (as though they're the same thing) was. He didn't just say that a scientist had to believe in a god, he "logically" concluded that scientists had to believe in Jehovah. Which is sort of expected from a talk brought to you by the Campus (formerly Crusade) for Christ. They tend to be rather dishonest in their representation of their activities. Any time they have a "debate" you can bet that both people are Christians, one is just pretending to be an atheist.

    I'm also not sure that homosexuals are the most persecuted group across the board. At least not historically; there's some evidence that a lot of cultures liked and/or valued gay people. Right now, however, it varies from place to place.

    daid
    Well, I barely remembered the actual name of that talk, and first had said it was like "Scientific proof of God," since this was what the talk was about.  And it's totally true about his later ramblings.  I was busy taking notes on the problems of the physics and ignored a lot of the later stuff since his assumptions were flawed, invalidating necessarily other conclusions.  I didn't really want to turn this into my argument against this one guy, or how the big bang isn't related to the baby Jesus.  But yes, what you say is very true.

    My claim about homosexuals is very unsubstantiated.  So probably I should have been a little less fanatical.  Mainly I liked connecting the ideas of my upbringing, to the US official uses of 'god' and then back to atheism and what you can't say.  Anyway, my goal was to try to connect the ideas of censorship with persecution, and perhaps I was a bit over the top.  I wanted to tie in something from my time in Japan but failed there.  Maybe I should have quoted my ex-girlfriend's mother, who is a native Japanese, and said there weren't gay people in Japan.  But she's also an American citizen, and she's okay with there being gay people in the US!  Very strange.  Would have been much better flow with my ideas and trying to make the discussion not only give examples from the US.
    daid
    Okay, the unsubstantiated claim about the level of cross cultural persecution of gays has been edited out and replaced with another transitional phrase which is more properly suited.  Cheers!
    vongehr
    "However, the big bang is the proposed origin of the space-time continuum"
    No, the BB is the so called reheating after inflation. And there are other science mistakes here. Please stop arguing with science that you don't understand. This can only strengthen the religious bigots!

    Many other points rub the wrong way, for starters too much naively enthusiastic scientism, preaching that real true science is agnostic and so on. This totally forgets how religious science has become (Example: Templeton Foundation award 2011 - the multiverse is the new god!)

    There is no "new atheism" except that today's fashionably sciency atheists overestimate their own sophistication. The good arguments against the philosophically preposterous religions are probably more than 7000 years old and philosophical. The only new in atheism may come when science successfully re-expresses the philosophically obvious, like I for example introduced and actively work on, i.e. a proof against traditional deities via strictly scientific terms, showing that (1) all phenomenal consciousness is on principle about quantum universes and (2) quantum mechanics completely decouples the creator from its creation (i.e. there is not effect from there being an entity that fools herself to be a creator).

    So much to your repeated charge that atheists just believe that there is no god. No! Some of us know for sure there is no such nonsense! Science (at least your true science) is not just empirical, it is foremost about logic and self-consistency, without which nothing can be inferred from any experiment anyway.
    daid
    Sorry, there might be a double-post in here.  I was experiencing some server issues.

    Perhaps I am using the big bang in too colloquial of a manner.  I am not an expert on cosmology.  Is there a term for the origin of the universe itself that you suggest?  I think people who do not study physics associate the big bang with beginning of the universe, which is my essential interest for the point here.  If you don't feel there are too many mistakes, could you point them out to me?  I'm not sure it strengthens the argument of religious people, but it could perhaps confuse the point.

    The "new atheism" is referring to the quote at the top, hence being in quotes.  This is a fairly recurrent theme in what I wrote here and pertains directly to my thesis.  Perhaps you did not like much of what I had to say and did not read very carefully as a result, but I would appreciate such a note.  I was confused by who are the "new atheists" referred to in the quote by imagining some so-called "old atheists" and reach the conclusion that, if there were any difference at all in modern Western culture which could lead someone to deride "new atheists," it is just that people can say more these days.  Since I want to connect science and atheism, I cannot easily go back much earlier than the generally accepted founders of science, so I can't see the use of bringing up something from 7,000 years ago and staying on topic.

    From the philosophical side, I should probably concern myself more about the definition of god used, since this relates a lot to where some of your lack of satisfaction originates.  As it is generally taken, it isn't (or has not been) subject to falsification.  But if I get overly involved in definitions and extremely formal logic here, I think again, it's going to lose much appeal to a general readership. 

    I will gladly have a look at your own work, but if it is being actively developed I'm not sure if it's  really fair for you to say atheism is now proved, or that, for example, I should know about your work already.  Of course, as time increases, and hypotheses change, and new methods are developed, atheism or theism could become subject to scientific testing.  Not that I would be unhappy if you have proved it.

    In any case, I very much disagree with your philosophy of knowledge, as I mentioned above I don't think anything is knowable.  Of course you are free to hold that perspective, but I won't agree.  And in any case, what you claim to know can always be overturned in the future, with some genius theory of god which happens to be consistent with science.  Of course I'm extremely skeptical it would happen, but discounting all possibility (at least before having ever seen or heard of your own work) is a bit narrow minded.

    Logic and mathematics are to me foundations of science and not science itself.  For example, both of these existed long before what we accept today as science.  So perhaps they are necessary, but certainly not sufficient. 

    Anyway, I'm happy that you are on the side of atheism and science being part of the same thing and not unrelated topics.  Most people I've spoken to are rather against the notion.  I look forward to investigating your work.
    vongehr
    "Is there a term for the origin of the universe itself that you suggest?"
    Maybe "origin of the universe", but if that is supposed to be time-like, then it is not an interesting question and the answer would never, neither in case there is an absolute t=0, nor in case there is only an eternally inflating chaotic background, satisfy those who have a rather "religious" misunderstanding about what time is.
    "I'm not sure if it's really fair for you to say atheism is now proved"
    I stressed that it is exactly not "now" proved but that the scientific proof is at most a re-expression of what has been known for a long while: god does not make any sense; it is a totally ridiculous, inconsistent concept. One does not actually need for example physics to see that.
    "what you claim to know can always be overturned in the future, with some genius theory of god which happens to be consistent with science."
    Bang - you just fell for the desperate last argument of young earth creationists. Congratulations. Honestly, as long as you fall for this, maybe it is not time yet to stick your neck out for atheism or even just science. You give a soft target. Pseudo-postmodern extremist scepticism is a rhetorical tool, no more. Logic cannot be overturned in any future! Whatever your "genius theory of god" would be, it would be merely yet another redefinition of "god" so that the religious can justify promoting their poison.
    "Logic and mathematics are to me foundations of science ..."
    Well even better then. ;-)
    daid
    Thank you for the helpful insight.
    neither in case there is an absolute t=0
    Wow, I really totally forgot this!  I did know this once, and it was one of the early questions I asked years ago in physics that I couldn't remember.  Essentially what I want to say is "outside time there isn't time" and then try to bring this to non-physicists by causality.  I don't really think I've made serious physical errors on the point, but it's not explicit in scientific terms.  It's better in the future if I posit, "If I take your discussion about the causality outside of the big bang, this is where I arrive, and what you said is incomprehensible, because your meaning of time is fundamentally flawed."  Did you know there are undergraduate philosophy courses on Time?  And they don't mention physics?! 
    satisfy those who have a rather "religious" misunderstanding about what time is.
    Exactly (but not what I've written at all in the article).  But I am trying to write something my mother can read.  Do you have some other less rough examples than I used for how to show this idea that "outside time there isn't time" (ie: no t=0, and certainly no negative absolute time).  I don't think personally I'm misunderstanding much here, but I'm trying to think how other people think and show them the absurdity without mathematics.  We can bedazzle people with science, and probably even convince them of utterly false rubbish!  But it's nicer if we can make some descriptions, which are ideally perfectly physical.
    stressed that it is exactly not "now" proved but that the scientific proof is at most a re-expression of what has been known for a long while: god does not make any sense; it is a totally ridiculous, inconsistent concept. One does not actually need for example physics to see that.
    I'm very much on board here for the idea.  But many people believe in god.  And those people are a majority I think.  And at least a fair few of them are pretty unhappy about us.  So let's try to shift the discussion from the "Science" part to the "Culture" part of the category.  We can say all the scientific laws we want, but they won't get us back to culture any time soon.  I am interested here in trying to rectify cultural problems by explaining layman science.  Sure, one can take a nice, thick, undergraduate physics textbook and bludgeon people to death.  Doesn't make one any better than them, though.
    Bang - you just fell for the desperate last argument of young earth creationists. Congratulations. Honestly, as long as you fall for this, maybe it is not time yet to stick your neck out for atheism or even just science. You give a soft target. Pseudo-postmodern extremist scepticism is a rhetorical tool, no more. Logic cannot be overturned in any future! Whatever your "genius theory of god" would be, it would be merely yet another redefinition of "god" so that the religious can justify promoting their poison.
    Well, it could just be a philosophical problem I have to consider more deeply.  In a debate with someone, my goal is to agree on some fundamental point.  As you observe, I'm not generally the kind of person for winning a public debate; I do it because it's interesting for me, and hopefully I and other people can learn something as a result.  My goal is to get the other person to agree with at least one single idea I hold without ceding anything that wasn't novel to me.  In science, it's all about what seems right (or as you prefer, is right).  In politics, it's all about how to sway people into agreement.  If no one was convinced of anything (which, referring to other discussions, won't be if they fail to understand), it's a sheer waste of time.  It can even be me who is convinced.  But I didn't get the sense I was debating religious fundamentalists here, and I thought I and some other people might get some new ideas.  At least the former is already true!

    Please don't misunderstand me, though.  I'm not saying I am an existential nihilist in order to agree with anyone.  To me, being skeptical and open to new ideas are the most interesting parts of science, particularly when it comes to human culture.  Well, besides that you can prove when people are wrong!  Here of course you seem in full swing with me.  But it behooves one not to get too dogmatic I think, especially in the discussion of cultural views of atheism.  In science it's very easy to do, because the ideas are so well founded and considered.  But we have a real leg up on them over time: we actually are cool to admit we are wrong! 

    Being correct is well and great, but, as I too jovial put in my title, being burnt at the stake isn't.  If one can't even have the freedom and respect to propose real atheism, where can we get?  I mean, I've never been in a position where I had to decide if I preferred offering my ideas or offering my life.  It's a long stretch to that, but not that long ago. 

    I just wanted re-quote one point:

    Honestly, as long as you fall for this, maybe it is not time yet to stick your neck out for atheism or even just science. You give a soft target.
    That kind of depends a lot on my goals, don't you think?  I don't mind being wrong (or I try hard not to).  I want to better my own life.  And I'd hope there can be a positive result for at least a single other person.  This does happen to me my first article, and clearly not the initial article I was after (since it presses my knowledge and ideas much beyond my expertise).  But are you worrying for me that I should not stick my neck out, or for you because I'm making science look bad?

    I'm okay for myself.  And even if I haven't succeeded here, we have a lot of work in order to bring people to the Dark Side.  Try feeding your lines here to a bible thumper and see how far you can get!

    In any case, you are the only single person I ever met who took a more hardline atheistic stance than me.  So it's a pretty weird experience.
    vongehr
    "If I take your discussion about the causality outside of the big bang, this is where I arrive, ..."
    Being obsessed with the BB feeds the religious bigots! Forget the BB! In classical general relativity, it is an extrapolation leading outside of its domain of applicability. In modern astrophysics, it is the reheating after inflation. Why do you let the religious prescribe what you are thinking? It is them insisting on the BB (!) in order to ask their stupid nonsense questions about who made the BB. Don't fall for it!
    "Did you know there are undergraduate philosophy courses on Time?  And they don't mention physics?!"
    A lot better than half baked science, and I have yet to see a single person in a philosophy department who would get the science of pretty much anything right. So, indeed, philosophy of time does maybe better not mention physics.
    "to show this idea that "outside time there isn't time" (ie: no t=0, and certainly no negative absolute time)."
    Why no negative absolute time? Why no t=0? I said that whatever the most useful description, it would not satisfy the religious one way or the other. Forget time; it is nothing more than a way to compare changes. If you are hung up about "the flow of time", just become clear about that if time did anything, i.e. had any change, it would thus have another orthogonal time direction. I personally worked on quantum gravity with two times - it is consistent. HOWEVER, none of it has anything to do with that god is a nonsense concept. Ask yourself, if tomorrow science proved that time is whatever (t=0, infinite, two dimensional, anything), would it change your atheism in the slightest? No, so it is yet another trick question that the religious cleverly forced on you, and you fell for it hook, line, and sinker!
    "In science it's very easy to do, because the ideas are so well founded and considered."
    Are they? Previously they claimed the BB is the answer, thus feeding the religious, now they say it is not so, but instead of once slowing down and admitting that scientists did widely support a bad, totally naive argument, the next fad is shoved down our throats instead, now the misunderstood multiverse, quantum immortality, simulation hypothesis, and all that shit, feeding the religious even more.
    "But are you worrying for me that I should not stick my neck out, or for you because I'm making science look bad?"
    I am saying that your arguments are partially so weak and misleading that they can serve nothing but give fodder to the religious, and that is not what you want, is it? It is one of my main inspirations for having become a science blogger. Usual science blogging/atheism/skepticism shoots progress in the foot. It back-fires big time and has as yet done nothing but polarize the debate and thus strengthened the religious bigots. They can now conveniently as never before draw on naive misunderstandings under the label of science. You could not argue for god as much with Newton as you can now by drawing on the nauseatingly naive ramblings of Hawking and Tegmark.
    "Try feeding your lines here to a bible thumper and see how far you can get!"
    Why you care about them so much? Easy targets that one can feel superior to? New atheists/skeptics focus on them because they are just as religious and humans crave enemies and warfare; we are aggressive primates. Be worried about the rise of the new religiousness that comes under the label of science and skepticism.
    daid
    Being obsessed with the BB feeds the religious bigots! Forget the BB! In classical general relativity, it is an extrapolation leading outside of its domain of applicability.
    This is, in short what I wrote.  I brought up BB as being a religious person's argument, and I say that the argument is totally illogical from what we know about space-time.  And my end conclusion was the jest "and I'll keep my relativity out of your religion" and nothing about BB.  So we are going in circles here I think.

    Ask yourself, if tomorrow science proved that time is whatever (t=0, infinite, two dimensional, anything), would it change your atheism in the slightest? No, so it is yet another trick question that the religious cleverly forced on you, and you fell for it hook, line, and sinker!
    Well, if by fell for it you mean they said something absurd and I made any reply at all, sure.  For the talk in question, we got up and left and didn't say anything.  But how else can I use an example to show that these people have no clue or any place discussing science, let alone physics, which the do not understand?  We could pick other things that weren't time or BB and you'll probably tell me the same thing, right? 

    I am saying that your arguments are partially so weak and misleading that they can serve nothing but give fodder to the religious, and that is not what you want, is it?
    Even acknowledging what they said gives them the appearance of authority, which is misleading itself.  So fundamentally if you even respond, you're doomed straight away. 

    the next fad is shoved down our throats instead, now the misunderstood multiverse, quantum immortality, simulation hypothesis, and all that shit, feeding the religious even more.
    As long as they hold the position that never changing your mind ever and grasping on to nearly stone-age ideas makes you right, science itself will always appear fundamentally flawed I suppose.  Oh well.

    Why you care about [bigots] so much? Easy targets that one can feel superior to?
    I don't.  You brought them up and how I was going to fuel them with bad arguments, etc.  Unless my giving an anecdote in the article referencing one example suggests I am worried about what they think?  I continued on the point since I could see your displeasure with my approach, and wondered what alternative you suggest.  You prefer something more like never referencing them and just sticking to some nicer version of, "If you don't understand science, STFU"?

    vongehr
    "I brought up BB as being a religious person's argument"
    Well, that is quite a distorted interpretation of your original:
    "big bang is the proposed origin of the space-time continuum, outside time there is no sense of cause or effect, and anything outside this is in fact forbidden from any interaction with our universe after its inception.  This sort of god cannot affect anything ...  maybe god exists in another universe where physics are different, ... any idea of an omnipotent god automatically violates known ideas of causality merely by exceeding the speed of light"
    Seems this is you going off on BB and relativity theory and god, or are you now plainly admitting that you are a religious person?
    "and I say that the argument is totally illogical from what we know about space-time"
    No, it is not! We do not know space-time at small distances, so the guy was totally justified in doubting that BB is the true origin. Science proved him correct and you wrong: Indeed, BB is not the origin. And for all we know about space-time during inflation, the flying spaghetti monster could have come before.
    "how else can I use an example to show that these people have no clue or any place discussing science"
    Definitively no need for more examples about that you feel superior, I want you to understand that you two do the exact same under a different flag: Distorting science so it fits your belief because science is fashionable in a techno world.
    daid
    Please read the sentences prior to the one you quoted.  This is getting pretty silly.  You quoted the end half of a paragraph and suggest this is my own thesis?
    And you already complained my use of the term BB referring to the origin of the universe (which both he and I were at least using consistently), and we discussed the point.  Is it really necessary to discuss it again from the beginning?

    Definitively no need for more examples about that you feel superior, I want you to understand that you two do the exact same under a different flag: Distorting science so it fits your belief because science is fashionable in a techno world.
    I've been polite and given the perpetual arrogance of your own posts the benefit of the doubt so far.  This doesn't justify a response.
    vongehr
    "end half of a paragraph and suggest this is my own thesis?"
    This is your thesis, is it not(?):
    "any idea of an omnipotent god automatically violates known ideas of causality merely by exceeding the speed of light"
    You do not get it, do you? He was right (BB is not the origin, his definition of god may well fit what came before), and your sciency sounding arguments are all wrong (you neither understand SRT nor QM, both simple linear theories), but you seriously want us to support you in stopping him from talking about science? Sorry, but your plain feeling of being obviously a good boy while he is the bad one doesn't cut it. If you have nothing but another belief that you think is superior to all others, than you are the problem, YOU are the religious one! And what is this about polite? You have amassed so many outright insulting bits and pieces already (things up certain people's rears and so on), YOU are the arrogant one. It is just, in the usual fashion of religious self-righteousness, you feel insults against whoever you are cock-sure is obviously wrong is perfectly OK. It isn't, not as long as you want to honestly try to convince, and surely not as long as you have no idea about what is wrong and what not! Take your head out of your ass and face your own religiousness before preaching. This is a science site, not one of those "skeptics lets bash the republicans because atheists are cool and stuffs" feel good venues. You come with flawed arguments here, especially with bad science, you get to feel the heat!
    daid
    You have amassed so many outright insulting bits and pieces already
    As far as 0 is none and 1 is infinite, sure!






    ...your sciency sounding arguments are all wrong (you neither understand SRT nor QM, both simple linear theories)...

    In the words of physicists far more brilliant than those posting here:

    Anyone who says that they can contemplate quantum mechanics without becoming dizzy has not understood the concept in the least. - Niels Bohr

    I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics. - Richard Feynman

    To attempt to use a failure to understand quantum mechanics as an insult (and to claim that it is simple and linear) only demonstrates that you probably don't understand it fully yourself. It also makes you seem incredibly arrogant.

    New atheism is only us old atheists becoming more political and organized. There is a consciousness raising effort so as to show that we have a distinctly separate identity from the unreasonable religious cultures that we've grown up in. We don't follow unreasonable authority, we follow our own reason. Unfortunately, some atheists still identify with their old masters, and continue to promote the inequality and privilege that the religious majority have.

    daid
    This is exactly the kind of thing I want to promote, so thanks.
    Religion is often like mental illness in that it easily sidesteps contradictions or challenges to its perceived reality. While god may not be falsifiable, the holy books and/or teachings of almost every religion contain internal contradictions that to me would seem to serve as proof that they, at least, do not come from the divine. For me, that was an early deal breaker. If the demands of god appear nonsensical and not to the advantage of the human race then he either doesn't exist or doesn't seem to have humanity's best interest at heart ("all part of the divine plan" nonsense aside, that just doesn't hold water for me because if its true then God's a self-evident jerk and not worthy of worship).
    The concept that a divine/omnipotent being could conceivably have a specific and particular interest in the population of one small planet in our vast universe was just too much of a leap-of-faith for me.
    If the universe is as vast and complex as it appears then the concept that an all-powerful being would have any interest in one person, or even in every person, is just to unlikely for me to accept. Why would they bother? Its just egotism to believe one's life is so interesting that an omnipotent being would care to observe and judge it in detail. If the universe is NOT as vast and complex as it appears to be and Earth and its population are so dreadfully important then God is clearly working on some plan so complex that making it look like there's a whole universe full of complex physics out there is an important part of it. That kind of weird plan doesn't mesh well for me with the soul/life judging of most culture's god figures and if there is somehow a god and they are working on a plan that complex then clearly we are supposed to believe in the universe we see out there, otherwise why work it into the plan? If the Earth and its residents are so important and under the eye of god then the vast and beautiful universe exists for no reason and thats just stupid. If they are not under the direct eye of god, then the complexity of the universe suggests to me that even if there is a god he/she/it is not likely to be interested in one small planet.
    Now, the problem of course comes in that my arguments are as easily flipped the other way. The believer would, perhaps, say to me that the vast and beautiful universe just past the borders of our atmosphere is just a test, part of the test of faith given to mankind to measure their worthiness. It functions very much like mental illness in that a contradiction is just folded into the existing narrative. "But what about physics?" you ask. "Clearly a test of faith" says the believer. All those pesky electrons are just god's legos, life is a test of faith in god, and those who stop believing fail the test. Most people, in this day and age, seem to come to Pascal's conclusion that just keeping faith is the safe bet, and so they are afraid to stop participating in the "test", afraid to stop believing in case they are punished eternally for it.
    Likewise, the argument may be presented that the Universe was put there for us, all part of God's bounty for his chosen, etc... I guess, when you get right down to it, my lack of belief in god comes from a lack of a good motive. Why would God bother? Are human lives actually so interesting that some all powerful being would watch and judge them? If god gave us the earth and universe then why are we spending so much time mucking it up and groveling to say thank you for it and not spending the time living in it? Perhaps its an excess of humbleness (not a fault I am often accused of) but I just don't believe a mighty cosmos shaping being really gives a damn about my small, brief, life.
    While god may not be falsifiable the beliefs held by a religious group often can be falsified when you start to look at what the life of someone who followed every rule would look like and how often it would, in fact, be impossible. Where its not impossible it at least seems mind-twistingly difficult and God certainly starts to look like a jerk. A life spent in devotion of thanks for the life you have been given seems like a pretty blatant waste of an impressive gift. The opportunity to have consciousness, to exist, to observe, to learn, to experience. If these are a gift from god then you'll find me out in the world enjoying them in the brief span while I've got them, that seems like the respect due a divinely given gift. Or it could just be luck that we exist, in which case I'll be out there milking my good fortune at being a conscious being until it runs out.
    Sorry if I've diverged a bit from your scientific reasoning in regards to athiesim to discuss my own moral reasoning for a non-existence of god (or nullification as a relevant force to pray to, serve, etc... based on his/her/its own moral failings in my eyes. Yeah, yeah, who am I to judge the divine, etc... but if there is a god, this is the brain he gave me and those are the thoughts it has led me to) but figured I'd give the input for you to ponder as you like.

    daid
    Sorry if I've diverged a bit from your scientific reasoning
    This wasn't really about science for me.  You can read another comment to see my failures on that end.  I was more interested just to put together some various ideas that have been tumbling around in my head for a long time, and see what the reaction was.  Of course, it's related to science or I'd be off topic and at the wrong place.  But for this article I'm working at the far end of science, really being honest about the basic ideas I see perpetuated in our world, trying to keep the science basically sane in my hand waving, and hoping the read might interest anyone.

    Your response is kind of, for me, much better than the rest.  You don't start debating with me on small silly points that I might have done better about.  It's not like I have an editor,  or that I'm being paid for this.  It's just fun for me to exchange ideas.  And your response so far was the only one that had me laughing at all.  Although my sense of humor is often dry or based on some references, at least I feel you had the spirit of what I wanted to get at rather than picking apart a bunch of tiny details making up my broader picture.

    So, I don't entirely have the feeling you reached many new conclusions, but if I could get you to think about these ideas again, it's really something for me.

    As to the various silly points about god, actual religion, or humility, I'm with you.  But here I'm not interested to tell anyone my real opinion that from my perspective religion is about as useful as running around with a rattle and blowing smoke up everyone's ass.  Look, if that's your idea of a good time, and it makes you happy, all the power to you!  The religious oppression is what bothers me.  But if I start accusing people of time time-old problems or stirring the old pot, it's going to get me absolutely no where.  It's be tried and done, and clearly it didn't stick.  You know, all I want is just for people to be sane with each other.  I would really prefer that people don't mind Flying Spaghetti Monster jokes about god.  They can feel free to mock me all I want, and I won't turn around and tell them to fuck off and die in hell. 

    To me, the ultra fundamentalists of both ends have some object lodged in some kind of orifice that seems to make them fiesty.  They want a monopoly on knowledge, seemingly to punish the ones they didn't even bother honestly trying to convince, and so on.  For me, it's cool.  I think imagining some god cares about what I do is an extreme arrogance.  But I think the belief that logic or mathematics are somehow flawless and eternal is just about as much bullshit.  They were both invented by humans, and we know we aren't perfect, so what's with the act?  Is it that big a deal to just say that, hey we don't know but we are trying?

    For all these things, I think science just clearly does a better job.  It keeps you on your toes.  It encourages open mindedness.  It lusts for new ideas rather than wanting to stamp out anything different.  I don't advocate on science's behalf by accident.

    But hey, who can you convince of anything by walking up to them, looking them in the face, and telling them they are a moron?  No one.  So maybe you can play the slightly convex mirror so they can discover the inaccuracies for themselves.  Then we might get somewhere as a species.

    vongehr
    "You don't start debating with me on small silly points that I might have done better about. ... to get at rather than picking apart a bunch of tiny details making up my broader picture."
    This is eerily reminding of "Why the hell do they insist on the little details like whether it is Lorentz invariant; don't they get the big picture of my magnetic vortex bubble universe?" ;-)

    Maybe the "small silly points" appear so small because you refuse to give them the attention they deserve?
    "the ultra fundamentalists of both ends have some object lodged in some kind of orifice that seems to make them fiesty.  They want a monopoly on knowledge, seemingly to punish the ones they didn't even bother honestly trying to convince"
    Hmm, that is not just pretty fiesty right there, but I suspect that maybe you yourself have not got enough experience with honestly trying to convince. I am not sure who you mean, but I am afraid you just dissed a whole bunch of people who for many years and to great costs to their careers honestly tried to convince. It is not a monopoly on knowledge to at some point realize that humans do not actually tick that way at all.
    daid
    He and I are personal friends, so I wasn't so worried about making pinned-down claims, but just shooting the shit. 
    And yeah, I'm pretty sure you're a prototypical theorist, and I'm a prototypical experimentalist, and that puts us slightly at odds.  
    vongehr
    Clichees, polarizations, black and white again and again. I start to see your general difficulty with accepting a complex world with a whole lot of gray. Saw a little of me, bang in the "prototypical theorist" drawer. What is that even supposed to mean? You are writing this about somebody who got his PhD from experimental science done in a chemical physics lab that he build almost from scratch himself(!), with everything, plumbing, electricity, spewing oil pumps, exploding Lithium canisters, acid baths, LN2, Helium cylinders, optoelectronic detection devices, automatic data acquisition, all kinds of chemical/physical shit you can imagine. Bare knuckles straight experiment! What is it that makes you a "prototypical experimentalist" and me a what was that again?
    daid
    Well, basic discussions seems to have lead you to call this a "heated debate."  Since really responding to comments and their ideas themselves seemed like poor practice with you and me, I figured generalization and character judgment from small statements was more up your alley in this case.  Please feel to ask for quotes if this seems out of line.
    "But because I cannot apply my ideas about science to religion"

    Now is the very time to apply the scrutiny of scientific method and blow all hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo right out of history. To test of not to test that is the question and measure of all human value!

    For the first ever viable religious conception capable of leading reason, by faith, to observable consequences which can be tested and judged is now a reality. A teaching that delivers the first ever religious claim of insight into the human condition that meets all Enlightenment criteria of verifiable, direct cause and effect, evidence based truth embodied in experience. For the first time in history, however unexpected, the world must contend with a claim to new revealed truth, a moral wisdom not of human intellectual origin, offering access by faith, to absolute proof, an objective basis for moral principle and a fully rational and justifiable belief! 

    The tragedy for humanity will be if religion, theology, skepticism and atheism have all so discredited the very idea of God and revealed truth to re-imagine, discover and experience just how great this potential is?
    More info at http://www.energon.org.uk

    daid
    Sure it's a great time of discovery.  And there are historical problems of religion.  But let's stop verifying ourselves and try to get a real populous on board!  We know science works, and we love the results.

    Your basic conclusion is wonderful.  But I want to get there through a good political effort and real understanding.

    Sometimes it's weird for people like me too entrenched in science that there really are people that believe in creationism.  Think about it.  These are real people!  Whether or not you dislike their logic or conclusions, somehow they used the same kind of ape intelligence we have to get to faerie land!  It's really astounding in fact.  But we need to try to start from basics and convince people.

    Hopefully in 100 years no one will advocate religious truth over scientific truth.  But we don't need to force it down anyone's throat in the mean time.  Our work speaks for itself...unlike some other rubbish I might mention that isn't science...
    Gerhard Adam
    Unfortunately you will never convince people.  In one respect if someone isn't scientifically well-versed, it simply looks like they're trading one set of priests for another.  In the other, an individual can believe whatever they like because there are no consequences for their choices.

    An individual can choose to believe in miracles, but they will still be treated by doctors.  Many topics in science (i.e. evolution/creationism, etc.) simply don't have any bearing on daily life, so unless an individual is actively involved in these subjects, their belief is never going to be challenged.

    This is precisely why people can believe in everything from UFO's, psychics, and Bigfoot to all manner of religious viewpoints.  There is simply nothing that is materially going to affect how they live their lives with respect to the technology or science that actually makes it possible;  hence no consequences for their beliefs.

    While many scientists believe that their understanding makes the world more meaningful or inspiring, this view isn't shared by people that lack the same background.  In fact, often science is viewed as being too sterile to reflect the beauty or poetry of the world and unless people are appropriately educated, it isn't likely that they will see that distinction. 

    Like it or not, when it comes to the general public, science is viewed as much of a religion as religion is and that isn't a perception that is likely to change.
    Mundus vult decipi
    daid
    Unfortunately you will never convince people
    Unfortunately I'm doomed to try.  I have no illusions of grandeur.  If you want to teach anyone, one person is enough.  Even that I think is very far from easy.  But it depends on what you want to argue.  Right now, I'd settle for people just keeping to themselves when it's out of their league, and stop tromping around in science confusing everyone. 

    This is precisely why people can believe in everything from UFO's, psychics, and Bigfoot
    I love it.  And it's totally true.  As a perfect example which is much less exotic than Bigfoot, did you know most Chinese insist to drink boiled water?  I don't want to pick on any cultures, but I think I did enough against my own that my Chinese friends will forgive me.  The statistics I found in the Christian Science Monitor (don't laugh, it's an excellent periodical for news) nearly half of all Chinese drink water contaminated with human feces.  I'm talking like 700 million people (the statistic is from around 2008).  The odd thing?  They still continue this habit in the US, Canada, and Japan, where, hey, guess what, while we are still dumb enough to crap in our drinking water, we have good purification systems!  So it's all about the root cause of a reflex, whether it's physical or mental.  Maybe if you can find that, you can convince a handful of people.

    Like it or not, when it comes to the general public, science is viewed as much of a religion as religion is

    Sure is!  But if people in science forgo even trying to explain things simply because we write it off as hopeless, then for sure it is hopeless.

    Being an optimist in practice is okay if you are pessimist at heart, since at least you'll try, and when you fail, you won't be sad about it.
    daid
    The statistics I found in the Christian Science Monitor (don't laugh, it's an excellent periodical for news) nearly half of all Chinese drink water contaminated with human feces.  I'm talking like 700 million people (the statistic is from around 2008).  The odd thing?  They still continue this habit in the US, Canada, and Japan, where, hey, guess what, while we are still dumb enough to crap in our drinking water, we have good purification systems!

    Sorry, I meant to clarify that they don't know why they drink boiled water!  I honestly haven't had the heart to really press anyone about it yet.  But I did at least ask a friend why he did it (without suggesting my own theory), and he said because when he was a child, if he drank cold water from the tap, his dad would slap him in the face.

    So, let's find a way about teaching people where we don't have to cuff them into submission.  Especially when the obvious truth will speak for itself when you have all the pieces (and of course, as you are entirely pointing out, most people still won't listen).
    Gerhard Adam
    Part of my point in indicating that science doesn't have much impact on people's daily lives is to ask the question;  what is the compelling reason for them to change their belief?  Logic?  What do they gain in exchange (from their value perspective)?

    Certainly you can try and educate, which will be effective for those that choose to be educated, but for the majority of people it isn't going to make a bit of difference.  In addition, you can't expect tolerance, since anyone that takes their religion seriously will commit to it as rigorously as you would commit to the idea of mathematics and scientific evidence.

    These are fundamental aspects of belief systems and they aren't subject to simple arguments.  Consider it from the opposite perspective.  Right now there are religious people that truly believe that atheists are doomed and they also want to do their level best to convince you that you are wrong.  What would it take for them to convince you?  If your response is that there is nothing that they could say to change your mind, then why would you think the reverse wouldn't also hold true?

    The problem with the atheist perspective, is that it is viewed as being a simple matter of some logical arguments and somehow the individual will become enlightened to see the error of their ways.  That will never happen, except for those people that are already receptive to the idea.
    Mundus vult decipi
    daid
    Part of my point in indicating that science doesn't have much impact on people's daily lives is to ask the question;  what is the compelling reason for them to change their belief?  Logic?  What do they gain in exchange (from their value perspective)?
    Well, clearly I'm only going to offer lip service to this question.  It's easily worth a number of articles on its own, and while it's a natural question to ask based on my subject, it's straying away from it a little.  For me, I would hope evidence and a cohesive, internally consistent, logical framework is a good basis for someone to change their beliefs.  Experience shows that often it isn't, but that's the short answer (but I think you asked the question less for an answer and more to broaden the scope and indicate the challenges at hand).

    In addition, you can't expect tolerance, since anyone that takes their religion seriously will commit to it as rigorously as you would commit to the idea of mathematics and scientific evidence.

    That's true for literalist, fundamentalists, and just plain wackos, but I don't think it's that cut and dry.  For one thing, there are plenty of religious people who are scientists!  Eastern religions are also typically much less at odds with the ideas of science than the three big Western religions (and Judaism I rarely see picking trouble with science like the other two).  So these things are not inherently exclusive from one another.  And of course my point in the article is that people are not tolerant, and it needs to be fixed.  Certainly I have not expected it.

    Right now there are religious people that truly believe that atheists are doomed and they also want to do their level best to convince you that you are wrong.  What would it take for them to convince you?
    Having a good theory might be a place to start (seriously, not as a mockery).  For instance, if they are going to reject established claims of science, they need a scientific theory that's going to do better, which fits in with their case.  Just like I can't use the scientific method to disprove a lot of conceptions of god, they can't use religion to disprove science. 


    Gerhard Adam
    For me, I would hope evidence and a cohesive, internally consistent, logical framework is a good basis for someone to change their beliefs.
    People already have a framework that they believe is logically consistent.  That's why its part of their belief system.  Actually its the very nature of belief systems to be that way.  You'll never find anyone that will accept the notion that their worldview or belief system is illogical or irrational.  As I said before, if someone is dissatisfied with their existing belief system they may be receptive to a replacement, but otherwise, it's not likely to occur.
    For one thing, there are plenty of religious people who are scientists!
    In which case, there's no problem, because the issue isn't whether someone is religious as much as it is whether they are anti-science.  I would add psychics, and other pseudo-sciences to that lot just as readily.  Religion doesn't need to be tolerant of science, nor should science be tolerant of religion.  If you need a surgeon, you don't let a plumber come in to try his hand, so why should science be tolerant of religious individuals that want to use pseudo-scientific methods to advance their own beliefs?  They are separate and distinct areas, and if someone doesn't want to keep them apart, then they deserve whatever treatment they get.  Religious people that engage in topics they are unqualified to discuss deserve no special consideration because of their beliefs.  Their beliefs are irrelevant, so when they discuss science there's nothing wrong with pointing out their ignorance and asking them to leave or be quiet.  Science has no obligation to try and understand someone's belief systems.  Science is not a beggar that needs to ask for permission or forgiveness from those that fail to understand what it does.
    Just like I can't use the scientific method to disprove a lot of conceptions of god, they can't use religion to disprove science.
    Which raises a point made earlier ... then why engage in conversation at all?  You already know that these people don't want a good theory, because they are anti-science, so the last thing you can expect from them is adherence to the scientific method. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Which raises a point made earlier ... then why engage in conversation at all?  You already know that these people don't want a good theory, because they are anti-science, so the last thing you can expect from them is adherence to the scientific method.
    Gerhard, surely this must be the question that you ask yourself all of the time? Don't get me wrong though, personally I enjoy debating every subject I can with you.

    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    If I thought that the objective was simply anti-science, then I wouldn't engage the debate in a (presumably) civil fashion.  I'm much more apt to simply call someone an idiot or ignore them, if I feel that they aren't listening and simply want to advance an anti-science agenda.

    Conversations are relevant only if there's a sense that something can be learned by either side. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    daid
    There are plenty of people in science who say the same thing.  If you debate people who are clearly making absurd claims, to the public, it appears there is actually some matter of question.
    But I wasn't actually trying to debate anyone about how religion views science, or science views religion.  My point to that end was an example of when clearly these fields have really different ideas.  So I showed when it goes really very wrong when someone who doesn't know science tries to justify something.  I rather hoped my example was like so bottom-of-the-barrel that even someone who likes god creating the universe can see that these two subjects just aren't related, and maybe they can find a better way about things besides persecuting people that disagree with them and putting their feet in hot water.

    I didn't harp on it much, but many scientists are pretty intolerant of the religious as well.  Thinking they are crazy is fine.  Denying them the right to their insanity is rather another, which can only be solved by civility, or, you know, the old generation dying and no younger people believing the old ideas.
    daid
     Religion doesn't need to be tolerant of science, nor should science be tolerant of religion. 
    Sure, as fields of study, they have no ability to tolerate anyway.  But I advocate that people, in general, should tolerate each other.  I raise a case here were I believe atheists are not very well tolerated, and connect this as part of a general scientific framework.  

    If you need a surgeon, you don't let a plumber come in to try his hand,
    Now now, don't give any ideas to the Kansas State Medical Board.  "Your heart is clogged, drano will fix that straight away!"  But more seriously, I don't think plumbers and medical doctors hold much animosity towards one another, since, if nothing else, their field have zero overlap.  You might be better on analogies with Chinese herbal medicine or witch doctors and, say, the killing of albinos.  

    Which raises a point made earlier ... then why engage in conversation at all?
    You're pushing the point that I want religious people convinced science is right.  I just want them to leave us alone.  They can believe what they want, and so can we.  The two aren't related, but some people mistakenly believe so.  


    Gerhard Adam
     I just want them to leave us alone.

    There is the problem.  They are the bullies in this argument, and they will never leave you alone if you accept their premise that a conversation is possible.  They need to unequivocally understand that they are NOT your peers, and their non-scientific opinions do not count, nor will they be given credence or treated civilly if they insist on participating in discussions for which they are unqualified (i.e. not to learn but to push their own agenda).

    If you can't manage the bully, they will not go away.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    If you don't adopt this attitude you risk becoming dogmatic yourself.
    Mundus vult decipi
    daid
    Your post could be in a weird link order.  Can you refer what "this" is just so I can follow?  I think it would have made sense in the right place...
    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry, I just meant having a less tolerant attitude towards those that are anti-science (i.e. the bullying).
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
     But more seriously, I don't think plumbers and medical doctors hold much animosity towards one another, since, if nothing else, their field have zero overlap.
    It has nothing to do with animosity.  It has everything to do with whether the individual you're discussing a topic has something worth saying.  I have no animosity with religious people, my animosity is to those that want to pretend at science while advancing a non-scientific or anti-scientific agenda.  That's why I used the analogy I did.  A plumber has no qualifications for surgery, so why should I grant him any credence to perform it?  Similarly an anti-science individual that has no interest in pursuing factual information should be given no more opportunity to discuss their views than the plumber to perform surgery.

    Contrary to popular opinion, people may be entitled to their own opinions, but they do not need to be granted credence for those opinions.  There is no entitlement in that sense.  Therefore they are free to express themselves, but they are not free to receive special treatment, consideration, or exemption from getting their asses kicked if they're fools.
    Mundus vult decipi
    daid
    I like the points you make here.  I feel they are really relevant to my discussion, and are the kinds of things I wish I had said.
    But I still wonder what to do about general populations that are not very friendly towards science.  (My article does not address the solution of course, so this is just begging a difficult question.)

    Thanks.
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not sure the question is as simple as being "friendly" towards science.  For many, the biggest bulk of scientific activity is probably irrelevant in which case they'll likely be agnostic towards it. 

    In other cases, they will be drawn into it because of political forces that will impact their lives.  So if someone's job or livelihood is threatened, it is expected that they would likely be hostile to whatever group created the problem.  When this is coupled with how the media reports scientific findings, it isn't difficult to see how the general public comes to view scientists as living in the "ivory tower", changing their minds every other week, and making recommendations or pushing political agendas without regard for the impact on people.

    If you want to change the perception of the general public, then I think you had to address the media's incompetence in reporting science news and events.  It doesn't promote credibility to hear, "Eggs are bad for you" .... "Now eggs are good for you".... "Coffee is bad" ... "Coffee is good" .... 'Cholesterol is too high" ... "How high cholesterol can be good for you (if it's not bad cholesterol)"....

    You get the idea.  This kind of rubbish can't help but promote the idea that science is all over the board.  This is especially true when many of the social sciences are presented on the same footing as the "hard" sciences (which typically have deeper impacts on people's lives).  This goes on to create the general impression that science is often simply about opinions ... so when those collide with other belief systems, we suddenly find the general public feeling that they're entitled to their viewpoint just as much as the scientist is, because the overall perception is that there are no actual "facts" involved.

    The real difficulty occurs because, ultimately, science is hard.  I've had people make their creationist arguments where one can't help but look at all the errors, false assumptions, irrelevancies, and just made up stuff without realizing that there isn't nearly enough time or words to education someone on all those deficiencies.  While people may be offended by that attitude, it hearkens back to the point that you have to be willing to do the hard work of acquiring understanding .... it can not simply be provided by a one-line answer.

    Despite the education and work that goes into becoming a scientist, the general public's impression is often that it is a job that is on par with playing video games for a living.  It's somehow not a "real" job, kind of like acting or being a musician is not a "real" job.  After all, consider that the media representation of the "celebrity scientist" is often little more than presenting him/her as a kind of shaman.
    Mundus vult decipi
    daid
    I don't mind one bully.  But pack of bullies with authority, legal making decisions, and so on, it's a real problem.
    Particularly regarding atheism, do you have some ideas?  How about the legal grounds for scientific belief?  

    These are really hard questions, and you know, it's a problem.  It's much less of a problem right now some places than it was in the fairly recent past.  But it's still a contemporary problem.

    I kind of feel like this is exactly why the persecution exists, is because once we get equality, all bets are on us.

    Gerhard Adam
    I don't mind one bully.  But pack of bullies with authority, legal making decisions, and so on, it's a real problem.
    What do you mean it's a problem?  I can appreciate that it might be a problem for someone in research that is looking for funding, or even gaining recognition for work, but those seem to be more career oriented issues.  That doesn't minimize them, but it also doesn't mean much in terms of science (in the general sense).

    I still don't think it's worth engaging them, because you can never win against ignorance.  As a recent story discussed, what would you do if the legislature decided to pass a law that insisted that PI should be rounded to a value of 3 or even 3.14?  Does it actually change anything?  People that know better, would ignore the law and people that don't know better likely never will anyway.

    People can complain about how their kids might be taught incorrectly, but if you're seriously interested in your child's education do you not participate?  Do you let teachers determine solely what your child is exposed to?

    I think that most of these are irrelevant arguments and allow us to get upset and excited about things that don't actually have much effect.  Such a decision (as mentioned in the previous paragraph) would certainly be stupid, but its not like it would actually affect science.  Other than being embarrassed to live amongst such ignorance, what would it do?

    Any anti-science individual that wants to engage in this kind of "bullying" will never be satisfied until they can engage someone in a false argument about the issues.  They should not be acknowledged nor recognized as having any legitimacy.  They will argue that I'm arrogant for feeling that way and that I'm just being aloof, but my response is ... so what?  Is that any different than the schoolyard "bully" claiming that you're "chicken" just so you fight him?

    I refuse to engage with idiots and a$$holes, just because they haven't got the brains to know when to shut up.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Helio George
    Much of the consternation in the religion vs. science debate can be avoided once the two realms are recognized as distinctly separate, each with boundaries. Here is a metaphor that may help. Science is anchored deeply into the bedrock established by objective evidence, much like buildings are built upon foundations underground. Religion is subjective-based, much like philosophy, and most of these claims lack concrete, testable evidence supporting their religious claims. Thus, I like the analogy that science is like an island surrounded by a sea – the Sea of Subjectivity (religion & philosophy). The splashy efforts from those upon the cliffs of the Isle of Science, as they fire cannon balls into to the sea, often have little to no effect. It is the stormy shoreline, however, where the real action is and where the debate can be helpful to both sides. This is where objective evidence enters the picture that can falsify any religious claim, or scientific claim, that is contrary to it, albeit, such events are surprisingly rare. When objective evidence is in direct conflict with any interpretive religious claim, it is science that holds the trump card. This is why some scientists take such bold stands, though too often they slide quickly into other areas that are highly subjective. When science argues with subjective claims, then it is bark with almost no teeth— of course, reason and logic still have sway. Religion, on the other hand, has few if any trump cards since it must, for the sake of science, produce objective claims, but such objective evidence would require little to no faith in the claim itself, which is anathema to any god that would require it. Ultimately, in my view, it becomes a matter of how silly one looks by holding a view that clearly requires blind faith, which should never be a religious requirement, and probably isn't. Delineating and understanding the boundaries will always improve the quality of the debate.
    Lighten Up! You're made of stardust!
    Gerhard Adam
    I think the point could be reduced to two simple axioms.

    Science - the world is a completely understandable place and investigation/experimentation can help uncover its "secrets".

    Religion - the world is a fundamentally mysterious place in which complete understanding is not possible because it is subject to a divine will.

    In science, all questions are permissible in the pursuit of understanding, while in religion some areas are beyond questioning since they originate from a divine will.

    Note that this precludes putting philosophy into the same category as religion.  While there are certainly some areas in which these may overlap, they are not the same.  Philosophy derives from science in pursuing understanding even if many of its points are beyond scientific inquiry.
    Mundus vult decipi
    daid
    The basic division of science and religion is all what I'm after.
    daid
    Thank you for an important generalized discussion and analysis of the points I hoped to raise here.
    Helio George
    That is a relatively nice simplification. But as science, not always religion, says, "the devil is in the details". :) Many, perhaps most, physicists don't see science as completely understandable, especially those in the quantum physics world. They are model makers of what is observable and testable, even if in only in principle. There is nothing that alerts us that we have reached any absolute reality level, and probably never will. Religion can claim divine information does provide absolute values, and questioning is useful to gain understanding of it. It is those very questions that produce so many denominations for many faiths.
    Lighten Up! You're made of stardust!
    Gerhard Adam
    Many, perhaps most, physicists don't see science as completely understandable, especially those in the quantum physics world.
    That's not true, otherwise there would be no point in doing the science.  While you can certainly say that it isn't currently understood, or that there are gaps in the knowledge, but I can assure you that there is no scientist doing research that believes their efforts are wasted because the knowledge they're pursuing is unattainable.
    There is nothing that alerts us that we have reached any absolute reality level, and probably never will.
    I'm not sure what this has to do with anything.  Science isn't intended to answer all possible questions, nor is it determining what constitutes "reality".  Science answers questions about the world that can be tested and verified.  In other words, it pursues questions that have answers.  Anything else will forever remain speculative and isn't part of the province of science (despite people that want to stretch those boundaries).  The knowledge may even be subject to logical analysis, but if it cannot be tested, verified, and used to predict behavior then it simply isn't science.
    Religion can claim divine information does provide absolute values, and questioning is useful to gain understanding of it.
    Once again, not true, because no matter what conclusions religion reaches, they always reserve the position that everything is ultimately subject to God's will and is, by definition, unknowable.  This is why religion doesn't analyze God's word, they interpret it.  For example, they would never consider asking whether God is truly omnipotent, or whether he's actually expressed himself in the Bible, or whether he even might be joking.  These are all questions that will never be asked because they are accepted as axiomatic to religion.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Helio George
    That's not true, otherwise there would be no point in doing the science. While you can certainly say that it isn't currently understood, or that there are gaps in the knowledge, but I can assure you that there is no scientist doing research that believes their efforts are wasted because the knowledge they're pursuing is unattainable.
    I understand what you are saying, but on the religion side of the fence, when it is expressed that something within science is "completely understandable" they will infer it to mean that the claim being made is that there are no gaps that need resolved. Religion knows this to be false and will use it against those that made the claim.
    I'm not sure what this has to do with anything. Science isn't intended to answer all possible questions, nor is it determining what constitutes "reality".
    Agreed, but not all those who oppose religion are mindful of thise, which is why I mentioned raised the "absolute" reminder. It is too often that we've heard that "a theory is just a theory", but if they understood, as you do, that true efficacy of science, even without absolutes, then religion might refocus more on their interpretations rather than put dinosaurs on the Ark, or other nonsense.
    Science answers questions about the world that can be tested and verified. In other words, it pursues questions that have answers. Anything else will forever remain speculative and isn't part of the province of science (despite people that want to stretch those boundaries).
    This depends on the definitions for questions and answers.
    The knowledge may even be subject to logical analysis, but if it cannot be tested, verified, and used to predict behavior then it simply isn't science.
    Yes, this is key to the whole debate. Objective evidence is the foundation to science, though some elements of subjectivity are required for any theory. Once this is understood by those in religion, including a level of understanding of the merits behind the scientific claims, then religion will more likely make the change it should have already made. The Jesuits in the early 1600s did understand this point and were quick to dump their beloved and entreched Aristotle/Ptolemy/Thomist model, though they had Tycho's geocentric model awaiting them. We don't see much of the same response by the YEC group for a number of reasons, lack of understanding being the key reason, no doubt.
    Once again, not true, because no matter what conclusions religion reaches, they always reserve the position that everything is ultimately subject to God's will and is, by definition, unknowable.
    Yet religion does claim that some things from scripture are absolutes, right? Understanding a divine absolute does not require absolute understanding by the believer, only absolute understanding of their god. Faith is required on the part of the believer, of course, which is anathema to science. Faith is subjective and off the island -- beyond the purview of science. So, science won't accept this and can't.
    This is why religion doesn't analyze God's word, they interpret it. For example, they would never consider asking whether God is truly omnipotent, or whether he's actually expressed himself in the Bible, or whether he even might be joking. These are all questions that will never be asked because they are accepted as axiomatic to religion.
    Except for the point about how expressive God may or may not be in portions of the Bible, yes, but they often don't speak in the context of interpretations but in absolutes, and for obvious reasons, unfortunately. Galileo caused another scriptural review and their response was very definite against a heliocentric model, though the review was, of course, their interpretation.
    Lighten Up! You're made of stardust!
    Gerhard Adam
    We don't see much of the same response by the YEC group for a number of reasons, lack of understanding being the key reason, no doubt.
    I'm not actually convinced it's a lack of understanding as much as it is a subversion of science to "prove" the truth of their religious views.  In most cases, it seems that the intent is to take the tools of science and force scientific responses (and the "gaps") into a discussion where science is held to "facts" while the YEC can make up whatever they consider to be "scientific".  I had one guy posting that because he came across the phrase "primordial soup" in a biology textbook that this was somehow the definitive scientific view of life's origins.  Similarly, confusions regarding evolution versus origin of life, appear to be willful distortions of scientific knowledge to create arguments that would be obviously indefensible.

    I've mentioned elsewhere that most of these questions take on the "when did you stop beating your wife" appearance, and consequently there is no opportunity to educate since that isn't the reason for the questions.

    I'm coming around to the view that every time someone tries to legitimately respond to one of these challenges, they are counter-productive by giving temporary credence to the question and questioner.  In fairness to religion, most of these "believers" are anti-science and their religion simply serves as the weapon they use to that end.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Richard King
    Most atheists, materialists and those of scientism tend to define religion as exclusively theist, largely from a falsely assumed position of superiority.

    The definitions in major dictionaries include a theist connection in some cases but far from all, e.g. in Merriam Webster Online Dictionary:
    2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
    3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : CONSCIENTIOUSNESS
    4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    Science, materialism and atheism are all religions in that they depend on a belief system. Some atheists say they simply have no belief but tend to be materialist, or wedded to science, in the scientism sense, and the foundations of science rest on belief, they must do so as they cannot be proven.

    I am well aware that many scientists, materialists and atheists will disagree, along with self styled skeptics and Flatlanders in general on the usual “science is always right”.

    I almost became an atheist in my teens but rejected it as I understood that an atheist believed, knew (?), there was no God and that seemed to imply infinite knowledge, which I did not have, or I would be God, and neither of the latter was the case. (There is more to it than that but few scientists, or science types, would understand at that level.) Hence, I tended to rate matters in percentages and shades of grey, no 0%, 100%, black, or white.

    SarahM
    “I think you forgot exactly how bad the engineer posing as a scientist (as though they're the same thing) was.”

    There is a wide variety of opinions and abilities in most professions; engineering is no exception.

    As an engineer, at the professional level (a Chartered Engineer), I do not need to pose as a scientist, I am a scientist. Science is only a small part of what is required of an engineer but being competent at science is certainly included, at least these days as opposed to historically. On the other hand, in engineering, far more is required than just science, or even applied science. An engineer is considerably more than just a scientist. Another difference is that engineers do not have the arrogance of scientists, or at least the modern mainstream variety; we cannot afford such arrogance; disasters would ensue rather quickly if we did. On the other hand there are scientists who pose as engineers and technologists, including on this website, while, clearly, not understanding either engineering, or technology.

    I would not even bother to pose as a scientist; I exceeded that level over four decades ago, as well as exceeding the restrictions of the physical level two decades, or so, ago, in this lifetime anyway.

    Science is useful but it is not the “be all and end all”; there are other forms of knowledge and ways of knowing, and proceeding, appropriate to various applications and circumstances; that is normal in engineering, let alone life in general.

    The general theme of a BBC television “Horizon” programme on the Big Bang, several weeks ago, was that current thinking is moving, has moved, towards the view that there was a precursor to the Big Bang and, as I recall, a precursor to the precursor. That is a level of understanding which is closer to esoteric, higher, understandings; it is not there yet but somewhat closer. Also, it has been arrived at purely from a physical reality point of view, without the advantage that vast numbers of us have of being well aware of matters, realities, beyond the mere physical and all its limitations.

    Daid Kahl
    “I was busy taking notes on the problems of the physics and ignored a lot of the later stuff since his assumptions were flawed, invalidating necessarily other conclusions.”

    That is very common in many approaches scientists take to various areas. Many, such as Edzard Ernst, Simon Singh, Richard Wiseman, Chris French, Richard Dawkins, et al, base a lot of their writings and much of their research, on flawed assumptions and thus reach totally erroneous conclusions. Much the same goes for many writers, including on this website, when they move outside their specialisation, particularly when it is into areas where science, in general, struggles and they have not a clue. They also write a lot of rubbish about my profession but they are scientists, or of science, and are, therefore, “right”, they “know”.
    Gerhard Adam
    I almost became an atheist in my teens but rejected it as I understood that an atheist believed, knew (?), there was no God and that seemed to imply infinite knowledge, which I did not have, or I would be God, and neither of the latter was the case.
    How did you arrive at that kind of reasoning?  Do you always believe everything for which you don't have "infinite knowledge"?  More to the point, why would you presume to require "infinite knowledge" to discard something proposed as a tenet of a belief system?


    Mundus vult decipi
    Richard King
    “How did you arrive at that kind of reasoning?”

    I was explaining how I arrived at certain understandings as a teenager. I realised and accepted that there were limits to knowledge, especially in terms of certainty, and was agnostic for many years. Fairly obviously, my knowledge has grown in the intervening half century and my views not quite as they were. Other things have changed as well; the science of that time, the late 1950s and early 1960s, did not appear to have anything like the arrogance of the last few years, decade, or two. Some, or at least one, on this website have interpreted that to mean I am anti science; far from it, I am very pro science, though my standards are more of those times than of now; in my view they were better, higher.

    “Do you always believe everything for which you don't have "infinite knowledge"? More to the point, why would you presume to require "infinite knowledge" to discard something proposed as a tenet of a belief system?”

    I do not require infinite knowledge. I accept knowledge on a balance of a probabilities basis, which is the best that can be arrived at scientifically, or by any other means, bar one which is beyond the scope of the content of this blog. I also rate knowledge on its source and the way it is presented. Hence, I largely discount anything that comes from the above mentioned scientists as I am aware that they are out of their depth in the fields in which they have chosen to involve themselves; similarly for numerous others. There are many well qualified and experienced people in those fields who do make sense; I met many such at a conference last weekend.

    I think you have read something into my words that was not there, or not intended. I doubt if it is worth going very far in untangling it to determine which is which.

    Engineering is based on heuristics, methods and approaches which are useful in context, suitable circumstances, etc., but are ultimately unprovable; science is heuristic; everything is heuristic, which is very definitely not an infinite knowledge situation.

    As my higher senses opened up I had another route to knowledge and understanding; even so I cannot quite shake off the probabilities attitude and do not count even that as absolutely certain, though do rate it much more certain than physical world knowledge.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I accept knowledge on a balance of a probabilities basis, which is the best that can be arrived at scientifically...As my higher senses opened up I had another route to knowledge and understanding; even so I cannot quite shake off the probabilities attitude and do not count even that as absolutely certain, though do rate it much more certain than physical world knowledge.
    Many of us are exploring these other routes to knowledge and understanding through our 'higher senses' Richard, but they are probably nearly as hard to prove scientifically as the Higgs bosun and naturally there is much less money, resources and inclination for this sort of research. The balance of probabilities also plays an important role for my knowledge and understanding of the likelihood of events occurring in limited populations here on Earth but plays a very different role for my understanding of an infinite universe.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    This looks interesting. I'm a Christian, I was an atheist, I don't wish to discuss the personal side of this publicly (emails are ok) and I'm not out to preach. Feel safe yet? I hope not!

    I just don't get where all these rules for what God can do come from. There's a lot of discussion here to plough through and I will, but it's not a good start to read: 

    However, the big bang is the proposed origin of the space-time continuum, outside time there is no sense of cause or effect,

    How do you know? I'd say that inside time there is no sense of cause and effect except in regions which are grossly out of thermal equilibrium. If you define time's direction by the increase in entropy then near equilibrium, time keeps reversing chaotically, there is no cause and effect, only consistency. Causality can only be restored by having an external agent poke the system. There is then no ambiguity, the event as seen within the temporal system must be a cause. It is not in the least implausible to retain causality outside of the universe's time, once again only requiring consistency.

    and anything outside this is in fact forbidden from any interaction with our universe after its inception.

    Forbidden?

    Even allowing for anthropomorphic language, who or what forbids an omnipotent being? And who or what forbids Him from interacting any way he pleases up to and beyond interacting with actualized states, superposed states, virtual states, relative states, potential states, totally impossible states and the United States.  :)

    You can't just assert such things. Explain why your scientific viewpoint has overthrown was has been essentially settled for three hundred years.











    daid
    It's a long time coming back to comments on this entry.  To some sense, we may share a common feeling, as you say 
    I don't wish to discuss the personal side of this publicly (emails are ok) and I'm not out to preach. 
    Hopefully what I wrote doesn't sound too much like preaching (I don't say you asserted this, but it's not always clear in pure text).  

    From the science aspect, which you seem interested to publicly (and legitimately) question what I've said, perhaps I can sum it up more precisely by saying you question my essential notion for the direction of time.  Is my understanding correct?

    I happened to pick up a used copy of The Arrow of Time this summer, and I'm a fair way through it.  It's a quite nice text, despite being now dated for some details.  But some things I just can't get past.  I think I scrawled some details about "Noether's theorem" in the cover.  As I recall, time reversal is what gets us energy conservation.  Maybe I'm falsely recalling my basic physics on a late Friday night.  Anyway, so far in that text, such a subject is never once raised, and it kind of bothers me.  I worry about entropy as a definition for time simply because in certain weird kinds of systems, entropy doesn't increase.  And also as to the universe itself, is it an open system or a closed system?  This I don't know (maybe someone else demonstrated this long ago, but I didn't read the paper or can't recall the answer now).  Being a nuclear physicist, somehow I like to tie the direction of time to the nuclear weak force, which is pretty queer, and shows some preference in one direction where matter also gets preferred over antimatter.

    So, that's that on the arrow of time.  Not that I answered your question, but it's my take on the basic discussion of the arrow of time.  Weak interactions won't care about matter density generally, except electron captures, which is clear.

    and anything outside this is in fact forbidden from any interaction with our universe after its inception.
    Forbidden?
    Even allowing for anthropomorphic language, who or what forbids an omnipotent being? And who or what forbids Him from interacting any way he pleases up to and beyond interacting with actualized states, superposed states, virtual states, relative states, potential states, totally impossible states and the United States.  :)
    You can't just assert such things. Explain why your scientific viewpoint has overthrown was has been essentially settled for three hundred years.


    I surely can assert just that in a scientific discussion.  What forbids it is relativity and the speed of light.  If you forego that, most basic senses of causality is useless.  Perhaps some being can thwart this, but for science it ought to be a physical mechanism.  What is that mechanism?  Being totally unobserved in any scientific context I am aware of, I assume I may use known physics here.  If you forego causality, well, I can make absurd statments like "I created your God."  And why not, if cause and effect are nil?  

    I'm confused what was settled, or how three hundred years relate to it.  Relativity was put forth between 1905 and 1919, which we can roughly call 100 years.  I'm not aware of a theory I reference in this context which dates to some 300 years.

    Cheers!
    Sorry, the 300 year bit is pretty meaningless as it stands, isn't it? Even I had to scratch my head wondering what I'd meant. A bit of heavy handed editing, there, I think.

    Anyway I was referring to the fact that science imposes limitations on itself and the distinction between objective study and a religious claim has been pretty clear for 300 years. So I am always incredulous when anyone says that science has disproved God because as far as I know, God is not a legitimate field of scientific study and never was. If religion makes anti-scientific statements such as "God made the world 6000 years ago" then of course that's discussable and debunkable scientifically because the age of the universe is whatever it is regardless of who made it. It's just common-sense.

    Causality though is another subject and I'll get back to you on it some time soon.

    daid
    So I am always incredulous when anyone says that science has disproved God because as far as I know, God is not a legitimate field of scientific study and never was.
    We agree very much on this.  The discussion of causality referred to a talk where the speaker tried to use scientific reasoning to prove God.  This is just as equally inappropriate, and in that context, I am fully in my right to use scientific reasoning to question the physical mode employed (which is what you quoted me in your initial reply).  This finally leads to my quip:
     How about a deal?  I'll keep my relativity out of your religion if you keep your creator out of my science?
    In this sense, you should not feel obliged to attempt to rectify physical causality with the non-falsifiable theory of any god(s).  Otherwise I'm not keeping my end of the deal too well!  

    I wish the common sense you refer to felt more common to me.  Perhaps they are in the minority, but people are still trying to mix these incompatible methods together.  

    And I should also say, my note of the year 1919 was a clear mistake, and should be 1917 of course.
    How about a deal? I'll keep my relativity out of your religion if you keep your creator out of my science?

    Whose science? This is typical of the "them and us" attitude that gets up people's noses. It's my science too, dude. I'm probably a stronger defender of actual science than you are. What you were promulgating was a crazy theory that God would somehow be subject to Lorentz transformations. As someone not a million miles from here said "That's not even wrong!".

    So no, no deal. You keep nonsense out of your own arguments or leave it there as you wish. It's not something to negotiate.  :)  Let's move on.

    In this sense, you should not feel obliged to attempt to rectify physical causality with the non-falsifiable theory of any god(s).

    I wouldn't dream of trying. If you export causality to theology then you need to make sure that it sheds its physical baggage. I have no intention of re-exporting God to make up for the fact that you took too much physics with you.

    However, your assertion that God cannot influence His creation is a non-sequitur.  The principle of deleting irrelevant baggage applies here just as much. God would be manifest in the physical model as an uncaused event. That's something that doesn't occur in the evolution of the wavefunction, so it can be investigated and would, if confirmed, have to be attributed to a boundary condition known, but not explained, at that point. In less verbose times they'd say it was a miracle.

    What happens the other side of the boundary is a perfectly reasonable question. You used an argument from physical causality in an attempt to prove that the premise of God outside the physical realm entails non-causality and thus cannot be true.  Discussing it to see whether it makes sense is not the same thing as invoking a non-falsifiable theories of god(s).  God is irrelevant to the discussion of causality outside of time - it is your concept of causality that is at fault! Get that bit straight and you can then provisionally introduce God, either to see what happens or as an example to illustrate a point.

    Ok, enough said now.

    I shall return to the matter of causality and time shortly - I thought I had posted a preview but sometimes these things seem to tunnel into another world and not come back. 

    Cheers!





    I 'm afraid I'm not going to be able to talk about time and causality here after all, much as I would like to. I'm sure you will be heartbroken :) but never fear, I shall be dipping my toes into the murky waters of blogging very shortly and then everything will be revealed. I mean I could, but it would spoil the blog :)  Keep your eyes open.