Thursday, 6 August 2009

Reality


I've noticed a certain trend amongst many Xians that debate, and that is to simply disregard anything that contradicts their view and/or assert the opposite and claim that they are right by default. For instance, if one claims the Bible has contradictions, they simply claim it does not and nothing you do can counter that. If you show them the evidence for evolution, they simply claim that what they believe is true because it's true and your evidence doesn't count for anything.

I attribute this to a weird belief that one's beliefs are more important and more compelling than reality or real world data. If real world data conflicts with their beliefs, they simply discard the data. They hold their beliefs up to be the best data that there is. Their beliefs are incontrovertible, they are true no matter what, etc.

Yet, reality does not operate that way. It doesn't matter how hard you believe that you can breathe in space unaided, it ain't gonna happen. It doesn't matter how hard you believe you can fly unaided like a bird, it ain't gonna happen. I think most theists accept these two facts. So, why does the theist believe that this doesn't hold when it comes to their personal god beliefs? That, I don't know. I wish I did. Anyone have any hypotheses?

21 comments:

Compassionate Heathen said...

There may be evolutionary reasons for holding a belief despite contradictory evidence, which may still be in play today.

There are a number of instances in our daily lives when we override our rational minds and discard known evidence in order to function and survive.

An ancient example might be the primitive hunter. He knows that whenever a group of hunters leaves, there is a good chance that some of them won't survive the hunt to return. He knows this because he has seen other hunters killed with his own eyes. However, in order to overcome the fear that he will die in the hunt and provide for his tribe, he must believe that he won't be the one to die that day.

A modern example can be seen whenever you get into your car and drive on the freeway. You see horrible accidents frequently and know that hundreds, maybe thousands, of people die around you on the freeways every day. But when you get in your car, you believe, in fact have faith, that you will make it to your destination without dying. If you had faith in the opposite (that you would most certainly die today on the freeway), then you would never get in your car and drive on the freeway to do what you need to survive in today's society.

These are simplified examples, but you can see how it may be extrapolated to more esoteric beliefs.

Tiger said...

Except those beliefs are consistent with the data. The odds of me dying (or even being) in a car crash on any given trip are rather small, and the odds of being killed on a hunting trip would need to be similarly remote, else the tribe would either be rapidly depleted of men or starve to death.

Tigerboy said...

Three words:

Fear of death.

Actually, that's an umbrella term. It can be broken down into:

1. Fear of pain. (I really don't want my flesh ripped off by the lion's teeth. I will suffer greatly.)

2. Fear of loss of control. (I don't want to depend on the other members of the tribe to care for me. They might turn me out into the wilderness. I might suffer greatly.)

3. Fear of failure. (I must face the fact that I failed to make my mommy as proud of my accomplishments as I might have. I am out of time. I failed to live a better, more successful life. I disappointed mommy.)

4. Fear of the great unknown oblivion. (I have an intense, primal fear of those ominous, dark shadows swimming beneath me in the deep, black ocean. Naked terror. I might suffer in ways I cannot possibly imagine. Fear of the great unknown is fear of all the terrors that the mind is capable of conceiving.)

Wait a minute . . . . a reprieve! I can quell all my fears! All I have to do, like whistling a happy tune on a dark, deserted street, is convince myself that I can be born-again!

(No one can prove that it's not true.) It is true! I will live forever! (Fingers crossed.)

Fear of death.

For some folk, believing that which is absurd is preferable to facing all the fears that the human mind can conjure. (As I imagine the lion's teeth ripping the flesh from my body, I am really hoping for some magic assistance, even if it makes no sense.)

Anonymous said...

Once a person has been totally convinced the bible is the absolute truth by the actions and witness of other believers, this for some reason puts an impression in a persons mind that they have found universal truth, which for some personal inner reason, this impression leaves to the believer that the bible cannot be left open for scrutiny, therefore no attempt to dismantle or disprove the bible can be made, in spite or any objective evidence or common sense proof against it.

The bible itself has written safeguards to warn and condemn and threaten anyone who attempts to disbelieve and dismantle it's own ignorant bullshit.

The bible is a written mechanism for control of humans and control it does, almost with 100% accuracy.

The people who wrote the bible knew it would not be believable to everyone, so they had to instill certain warnings and threats of horror to the unbelievers and give a reward to the gullible believers.

Anonymous said...

@GCT and Compassionate Heathen: Wouldn't the same criticism apply to those who believe in evolution? Typically there are a few assumptions held by atheists which should be considered:

1. Evolution is proven. (did I miss the press release?)

2. Christianity depends upon evolution being false. (why?)

3. If a christian became an atheist they would automatically accept evolution as true. (why would they since it isn't proven?)

@Tigerboy:
For me it all depends on how you feel you'll fare on judgment day. Some people have MORE to fear (not less) because God exists than they would if He didn't and we simply stopped existing.

@Anonymous:
Control humans and get them to do what? What are the 'hidden' agendas you claim? To what end? How did the authors of scripture benefit from this or do you claim the benefits were only those who twisted the scriptures later? How did Paul benefit?

Why should your theory on the Bible be taken any more credibly than any other conspiracy theory?

ethinethin said...

The theory of evolution has never been proven because that's not how the scienctific method works ("Proof" is a mathematical concept).

The theory of gravity has never been "proven" either. Wanna go jump off a cliff and claim it's only a theory?

GCT said...

As Ethin said, evolution is not proven. It is a scientific theory, meaning that it is a well accepted explanation for a series of facts and evidence that have yet to be disproved. It is rather well accepted because of the sheer weight of evidence in its favor and lack of evidence against it.

Not all Xians deny evolution, although I think that the most consistent Xians do deny it and must deny it.

As for your appeal to Pascal's Wager, that's a rather poor argument to use for many, many obvious reasons.

Anonymous said...

@GCT:

I'm not sure I agree with you when you mention (regarding evolution) "It is rather well accepted because of the sheer weight of evidence in its favor and lack of evidence against it." The best I've ever seen in favor of evolution are observances which seem to fit the theory. As for the suppossed lack of evidence against it... well... I suppose you mean that no evidence has been presented with which you agree. If not, then it would seem you are ignorant to the vast number of biologists who have denied evolution and the 'problems' they have found in the theory, or you are arrogant enough to claim a monopoly on truth.

Yes, we all love the reference to the 'theory on gravity'... does that instantly give EVERY theory a pass?

If proof is not required for belief, as you have stated in the case of evolution, then please make no more demands for anyone to present proof of God's existence.

I made, or at least didn't mean to make, any appeal to Pascal's wager. My comment to tigerboy was simply that if the intent of Christianity or the Bible was to make people feel comfortable about the afterlife, then it has failed. The Bible gives people something real to fear, much more so than the thought of non-existence would I would think for most. If the reference was about heaven, then please note the Bible describes the way to heaven as straight and narrow and states that few find it. I guess you could argue this plays on a human's tendency to always consider themselves part of the 'in' group, but I find that argument weak and lacking practical application.

Anonymous said...

To clarify, certainly the Bible would comfort those who are saved in regards to their eternal state. So, when I said the Bible 'failed' as a comfort to us about the afterlife, I mean that the prospect of standing before God in judgment is unsettling. It is something that each one should work out with fear and trembling to know they are prepared to meet their Maker.

Less to think about would be... non-existence. But if there is an eternal state in which I will exist, then I best prepare for this. Thus adding, not relieving, concern.

GCT said...

Anon,
"I'm not sure I agree with you when you mention (regarding evolution) "It is rather well accepted because of the sheer weight of evidence in its favor and lack of evidence against it.""

Then you disagree with the vast majority of biologists who actually deal with the evidence.

"The best I've ever seen in favor of evolution are observances which seem to fit the theory."

Homology, the fossil record, geology, paleontology, etc. There's literally mountains of evidence for evolution and more stuff being published all the time.

"As for the suppossed lack of evidence against it... well... I suppose you mean that no evidence has been presented with which you agree."

No. I mean that we know of no evidence that contradicts evolution. Evolution has been attacked and tested for 150+ years now and no one has been able to defeat it. Sure, we've increased our knowledge and found issues with things we thought were true, but nothing has challenged the overall idea.

"If not, then it would seem you are ignorant to the vast number of biologists who have denied evolution and the 'problems' they have found in the theory, or you are arrogant enough to claim a monopoly on truth."

This is simply not true. The "biologists" that deny evolution are in the severe minority and motivated by religious dogma - i.e. they are not performing science when they pre-decide what the answers are based on their beliefs and then try to make reality fit their preconceptions.

"Yes, we all love the reference to the 'theory on gravity'... does that instantly give EVERY theory a pass?"

It certainly destroys the fallacious argument that evolution is "only a theory."

"If proof is not required for belief, as you have stated in the case of evolution, then please make no more demands for anyone to present proof of God's existence."

Where do I make those demands? I ask for proof or evidence. Provide some evidence for god if you wish, but alas you can't. So, instead you've simply tried to conflate evidence with proof.

"I made, or at least didn't mean to make, any appeal to Pascal's wager."

It's weird that you would say this and then turn around and continue to make appeals to it. I've already dealt with why it's a bad argument. I won't re-invent the wheel here.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous:
Control humans and get them to do what? What are the 'hidden' agendas you claim? To what end? How did the authors of scripture benefit from this or do you claim the benefits were only those who twisted the scriptures later? How did Paul benefit?

Why should your theory on the Bible be taken any more credibly than any other conspiracy theory?


Answer: To control people by a false fear of hell by the masses in a sly way to take their money.

Why are you so blind you and christians cannot see this?

Why can you not see that every religious service involves a take up of money?

Why do you refuse to see that jesus and money are connected?

Why would money ever come into play at a service of salvation?

Paul, which wasn't his real name anyway, was nothing more than a crook, he took up money for the poor, for which they never
received.

The bible is false doctrine written by ignorant humans, only believed by ignorant humans.

Anonymous said...

@GCT:

You said, "This is simply not true. The "biologists" that deny evolution are in the severe minority and motivated by religious dogma - i.e. they are not performing science when they pre-decide what the answers are based on their beliefs and then try to make reality fit their preconceptions."

Evidence for this statement?

GCT said...

Where's the evidence for your statement that the vast majority of biologists reject evolution?

Either way, the DI put together a list of biologists that would sign a statement saying they are skeptical of evolution. It was a rather innocuous statement, that most scientists probably should agree to, yet they got a couple hundred (I think the last count was around 600) and of those a very small percentage were biologists (I believe it was in the 20% range at best).

Project Steve was set up to show how silly the DI was. They only allowed those who are biologists or closely related and only those who have the name "Steve" or close variants (including Stephanie, Stephen, etc.) Their list has more signatories than the DI list.

So, let's look at this then. The DI list didn't even go so far as to talk about rejection of evolution, had a small percentage of biologists, and was outstripped badly by those biologists just named "Steve" that agree with evolution. (There were other problems with the DI list as well, prompting some to ask to have their names removed from the list only to have the DI ignore their requests and continue to pimp their names...)

In short, what you are saying is flat out false. If biologists rejected evolution in vast majorities, then evolution would not be accepted as the only working theory that we have. It would have been overturned and scientists would be working on something else. Your statement is akin to saying that scientists largely reject gravity, but continue to work on it even though they know it is wrong. It's non-sensical.

Tyler said...

Anon: Evidence for this statement?

http://pewresearch.org/databank/dailynumber/?NumberID=818

Bray on, Anon. Bray on.

ethinethin said...

The best I've ever seen in favor of evolution are observances which seem to fit the theory.

Congratulations, you've never taken a biology course.

The theory of evolution is known as the "GUT": the Grand Unifying Theory of biology. It is, beyond any reasonable doubt, a fact.

But, just like the theory of relativity, it isn't something you'd understand or perhaps even expect without observing the data.

I am a biologist and I can tell you: I see conclusive, unquestionable evidence of evolution every day of my life.

ethinethin said...

Yes, we all love the reference to the 'theory on gravity'... does that instantly give EVERY theory a pass?

No, perhaps not every theory, but how about theories that have been under intense scrutiny for 150 years or more and have yet to be disproven?

Sorry, Ken Ham is not a scientist. He does not use the scientific method.

Take a fucking class you ignorant savage.

ethinethin said...

Homology, the fossil record, geology, paleontology, etc. There's literally mountains of evidence for evolution and more stuff being published all the time.

Don't forget DNA and molecular genetics. If anything could have disproved evolution, it would have been the discovery of DNA.

However, observations were made to show exactly what one would predict if evolution was true.

If any biologist doesn't believe in evolution, then he doesn't believe in DNA and perhaps even cells. If someone claims to be a biologist but doesn't believe in biology, that would be like GCT claiming to be a christian.

ethinethin said...

And that's not a "no true scotsman" fallacy because I'm not redefining the term. It's more of a tautology: biologists study biology. Derp.

Anonymous said...

Let me approach this from a different tact.

Recently I read an article regarding supportive evidence for the evolution of whales and dolphins. The article can be found here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section2.html#atavisms_ex1

As I read I was pleased by the well-formed argument and supply of potential evidences which, if discovered, could falsify the author's current conclusions.

So, help me out here. There are really two main obstacles which impede my ability to believe in evolution. The first is that evolution is different from other established scientific theories in that its basic principles are not (or at least to me do not seem) observable or repeatable. IE: We see evidences in the fossil records which fit with evolutionary theory, however have not observed or devised an experiment to show the evolution of the species. Let's take another theory mentioned, gravity. You can clearly demonstrate the various principles which comprise the theory of gravity, and while you still cannot "prove" the reason the earth has gravity, you can build a case for the theory based upon provable principles. Am I missing something in ignorance as Ethinethin has accussed me of? Because I don't see the principles of evolution as validated by the same proofs.

Second, and you probably can't help me here, my established worldview depends upon the distinctness of mankind. Surely every animal could 'evolve' and fit into my worldview, however mankind would have to be the exception or the whole thing falls apart. While you may not be able to offer an argument to change my worldview, I put this out there only as an attempt so you might see the other side. Because science in and of itself is not the only affirmation of my worldview, and isn't even primary in its consideration. My lifetime of experience to this point has been the undergirdings of my worldview, and as it has been confirmed in various ways over the years, it would take a very convincing argument or supply of evidence to get me to a place where I would be willing to abandon it. You consider this unreasonable?

GCT said...

"There are really two main obstacles which impede my ability to believe in evolution. The first is that evolution is different from other established scientific theories in that its basic principles are not (or at least to me do not seem) observable or repeatable."

This is incorrect. They are observable, else we would not be able to find facts for evolution. By your reasoning, we can never do forensic work - yet I'm sure that you accept the evidence presented by forensic scientists when they can deconstruct a crime scene and present you with their findings.

The sheer volume of observed findings is ginormous in scope.

"...and while you still cannot "prove" the reason the earth has gravity, you can build a case for the theory based upon provable principles. Am I missing something in ignorance as Ethinethin has accussed me of? Because I don't see the principles of evolution as validated by the same proofs."

One of my favorite examples of this is the missing chromosomal pair in humans as compared to apes. If we did split off from a common ancestor with apes, why do we have one less chromosomal pair. In order to evolution to survive, this had to be dealt with. As we studied the chromosomes of apes and humans, we found that there was striking similarity, and except for one place. Sure enough, when we examined that chromosome, we found that it was a conglomeration of 2 of the ape chromosomes. We had found the missing pair.

Another great example is Tiktaalik. Scientists, using the principles of evolution figured out where to find the remains of a creature that was part aquatic but starting to develop the ability to live and move about on land. They went to the place they predicted, and sure enough found what they were looking for - Tiktaalik.

"Second, and you probably can't help me here, my established worldview depends upon the distinctness of mankind. Surely every animal could 'evolve' and fit into my worldview, however mankind would have to be the exception or the whole thing falls apart...You consider this unreasonable?"

I do indeed. You're saying that your beliefs are better indicators of what is real than reality itself. IOW, you are claiming that reality conforms to your beliefs, regardless of what the evidence shows.

"Because science in and of itself is not the only affirmation of my worldview, and isn't even primary in its consideration."

Science doesn't affirm your worldview at all to begin with. Secondly, why would you not use it? It is the best (and really only) tool we have. Science's track record is outstanding and there is no alternative anyway. What other method is there for determining reality?

"My lifetime of experience to this point has been the undergirdings of my worldview, and as it has been confirmed in various ways over the years, it would take a very convincing argument or supply of evidence to get me to a place where I would be willing to abandon it."

Confirmed how?

Tyler said...

Anon: ... evolution is different from other established scientific theories in that its basic principles are not... observable or repeatable.

This is a demonstrably false statement.


Anon: (or at least to me do not seem)

Facts do not rest on your (un)willingness to accept them.


Anon: ... my established worldview depends upon the distinctness of mankind.

Which is nothing more than human centric thinking in the context of a non-human centric process.