There's a fourth reaction box labelled "Read it". That's there for people who don't have an opinion one way or the other, but still want to let me know that they read the piece and appreciated the effort that went into writing it. Comments, and the tallies on those reaction boxes, are the only compensation I get for writing this blog, and it's enough. This blog is a hobby, and just knowing that someone is reading it and finds it worthwhile is enough to keep me going. Not everything I post garners comments, but it has been a very long time since I've posted something that absolutely no one responded to, not even by clicking on "read it".
Well, the last two entries I posted, the ones about my adventures in YEC-land, have gotten zero reactions, and the only substantive comment they garnered was from Don Geddis, who went out of his way to tell me that he didn't really care. Apparently, he wasn't the only one, and that's kind of depressing. Writing those posts took a lot of effort, and I have a hard time believing that they are really the most uninteresting thing I've posted since I added reaction boxes to the site.
Anyway, that's one reason it is taking me a long time to post a response to Jimmy Weiss's latest posts. The lack of encouragement on the first installment has been a little deflating. (I'm also dealing with some personal matters and private correspondence.) If you really don't care, well, so be it (though in that case I would appreciate some feedback on what you would like me to write about. There are 122 of you who have subscribed to this blog, surely there's something you're interested in seeing here?) But if you do, a simple click can provide a lot of encouragement.
I have not yet read your last two entries. It's probably 60% chance I do so in the future. I most enjoy your posts on current events, programming, and - although I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it - "drama" in your personal life (the neighbor's dog or Vegas property).
Hm, my life is pretty undramatic at the moment, sorry. My interactions with Jimmy have been as dramatic as it gets lately. (Actually this is a good thing. Drama isn't fun.)
Hah, well I'm glad to hear that news personally. :)
the last two entries I posted, the ones about my adventures in YEC-land, have gotten zero reactions
I see one check beside "Thought-provoking" on the second one, which I assume is me since I'm pretty sure I checked it.
I just checked the same box on the first one (the introductory post) as well.
I have not actually commented on either one because I think you covered the ground pretty well in both posts. In particular, the first response you gave in the second post (that you agreed with none of the three "axioms" proposed) was exactly my initial reaction when I read the article you were responding to.
I wonder if there is a technical problem with those boxes. I generally read all of your posts, and always at least click the "read it" box. But right this moment, the two YEC posts appear (to me) to show four zeros across all boxes -- even though other posts have numbers on those boxes.
I suspect the numbers being reported are not accurate.
(FWIW: I just went and clicked "read it" one more time again, on those two posts.)
I just looked again after reading @Don Geddis' last post, and I see 1 thought-provoking and 1 read it for the "common ground" post, and one thought-provoking and zero read it for the "walk into a bar" post. So I think there is indeed some technical problem with those boxes.
Not so mysterious
>One of the things that atheists often ask about religious people, and particularly about YEC's is, "How can they possibly believe that crazy shit?"
It could be as simple as they choose to believe.
> It could be as simple as they choose to believe.
Yes, that's possible. But the problem with that theory is that to adhere to it you have to give up on the idea that your beliefs have any relationship with actual truth. You might be able to choose your beliefs (though I doubt even that) but you can't choose the truth. The truth is what it is.
the problem with that theory is that to adhere to it you have to give up on the idea that your beliefs have any relationship with actual truth
If the beliefs are about things that can't be tested, then they don't have to have any relationship with truth.
A "belief" that, say, the communion bread and wine is the body and blood of Christ doesn't work the same, pragmatically speaking, as a belief that if you press the gas pedal on your car, it will speed up. The latter belief has observational consequences that you can test. The former belief does not. So the former belief could be adopted for reasons that have nothing to do with whether it's true--such as wanting to get along with the other members of your church. It's much harder to adopt a wrong belief about how your car works for such reasons.
In fact, it's not even clear that the word "belief" means the same thing in the two cases. If I say I believe that pushing the gas pedal on my car will make it speed up, you can easily test whether I really mean it by watching me drive. But if I say I believe that the communion bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ, how are you going to test whether I really mean it? Watching me take communion won't do, because I could do that without really believing the church doctrine. Nor is there any other test you could make besides looking at what I say I believe. So my "belief" in this case simply equates to what I say I believe, whereas my beliefs about cars don't.
> If the beliefs are about things that can't be tested, then they don't have to have any relationship with truth.
Oh, sure. You can, for example, choose to believe that Batman could beat Superman. (You'd be wrong, but you could choose to believe it ;-)
But religious beliefs are usually not like that. The statement "the communion bread and wine is the body and blood of Christ", combined with the usual claims about Christ being "fully human" actually has testable consequences. For example, if this were actually true, we could extract Jesus's DNA from communion bread. YEC in particular is chock-full of claims about actual physical reality with testable consequences (or at least that's what YECs believe AFAICT -- Jimmy, correct me if I'm wrong here if you're following this thread).
I have no quarrel at all with a God whose ontological status is that of a myth or a fictional character, and I have argued extensively in the past that such a God can actually have physical effects in the world (via the placebo effect) and that because of that believing in such a God can be not only a choice but a *rational* one. I have yet to meet even a single religious person who accepts this. Without exception they deny this and insist that God is *real* in point of actual metaphysical fact, and that if you don't believe in Him then you are *wrong* in point of actual metaphysical fact. So it's *them* who remove belief in God from the realm of choice. I am perfectly happy to leave Him there.
To be fair, this point of view gets very little love from atheists as well. I had the opportunity to present it to Richard Dawkins once and his response was, "But it isn't *true*." Well, yeah, fiction isn't *true*, but that doesn't mean it's not *valuable*.
Sigh. Some days trying to save humanity from itself just seems hopeless.
The statement "the communion bread and wine is the body and blood of Christ", combined with the usual claims about Christ being "fully human" actually has testable consequences. For example, if this were actually true, we could extract Jesus's DNA from communion bread.
Hm, yes, good point. Although it's easy enough to just alter the claim when the DNA is not found, to something that can't be tested.
this point of view gets very little love from atheists as well
I actually have no problem with it either. Plenty of myths and fictional characters have had positive effects in the world, not just via the placebo effect but through the ways they inspire people to do positive things. But of course that aspect is a double-edged sword.
I read every post on your blog and I click the little checkboxes but I have tested them and after I click and reload the page the count returns to zero.
I read the whole reddit thread between you and Jimmy and I found it really interesting.
I have also spent a lot of time reading the discussions in the comments section you have with the regular cast of commenters.
I rarely have something to say and often if I do have a comment it's in response to something halfway through a hundred comment thread and so it makes more sense for me to just keep reading and see how the conversation unfolds.
I enjoy reading your blog because I agree with your views and so reading your arguments I'm usually rooting for you. Commenting is usually reserved for disagreement or a request for clarification so this platform usually generates more negative feedback than encouragement but I want you to know that multiple times during the thread on reddit I literally cheered you on, I exclaimed out loud "yes!"
Consider this an emphatic "right on!" from me.
I don't think we've met, but we have a former employer in common (and a related mailing was how I learned about your blog in the first place), and I've been reading and enjoying your blog regularly for several years now. Until this post, I had never realized those buttons you mentioned even existed because I read everything in Feedly and they apparently don't show up there. And I'm guessing that I and anyone else that uses a third-party RSS reader aren't counted in the list of 122 subscribers you mention either.
Anyway, I felt compelled to respond here now because I found those posts in question to be some of my favorite ones you've ever posted and would hate to see you avoid posting stuff like that in the future. I find myself agreeing with most of what you say on most topics which is reason enough to read regularly, but in this case I feel like you gave me a better understanding and respect for some viewpoints that I have struggled to make sense of and relate to in the past. Recently it has been somewhat of a struggle for me as I've realized more and more that I have little in common with my siblings and parents both politically and religiously, and I feel like this helped me to see things from their perspective more than just about anything else I've read on the topic.
Anyway, hope you keep it up.
The Bible is Not a Physics Textbook
>Yes, that's possible. But the problem with that theory is that to adhere to it you have to give up on the idea that your beliefs have any relationship with actual truth. You might be able to choose your beliefs (though I doubt even that) but you can't choose the truth. The truth is what it is.
You place too much importance on truth.
Remember, I counselled you -- Truth is overrated.
> The statement "the communion bread and wine is the body and blood of Christ", combined with the usual claims about Christ being "fully human" actually has testable consequences. For example, if this were actually true, we could extract Jesus's DNA from communion bread.
You do not understand the Eucharistic Sacrifice and transubstantiation within it. For this, you need to understand substance theory:
The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."
Therefore, you will not be finding any DNA within a blessed communion host.
Oh, and it's "actually true."
> you will not be finding any DNA within a blessed communion host
What a surprise.
Thank you very much for those kind words. That's the sort of thing that keeps me going.
Ron, we've had our issues in the past and I have no idea if and how the passage of time has changed anything. Do you even want me to comment on your blog posts anymore? Having been a YEC and having been argued to ID and then evolution via online discussion, I do have some things to say. I just don't want to waste your time. I'm happy to wipe the past clean such that we are careful about whatever we re-introduce from it.
As to "Read it", for some reason I interpreted that as "You should read it" instead of "I read it". But maybe I'm just weird.
> Do you even want me to comment on your blog posts anymore?
Yes, of course. Why would you doubt it? I have always welcomed dissenting views, and always will. Even Publius, tiresome as he can sometimes be, is welcome here.
The only rule I have ever had is that you have to be civil. But that's never really been a problem.
> I do have some things to say. I just don't want to waste your time.
I can always choose not to read what you write. And even if I decide to do that, I'm not the only one here. There are others who might be interested in what you have to say. So go for it.
P.S.: I once invited you to write a guest post for this blog. That invitation is still open.
Ok, thanks. Writing up a full "Why I believe?" is quite a daunting task; this has been rendered exceedingly difficult by the fact that presenting incomplete subsets of "Why I believe?" often meets with substantial misunderstanding by almost all atheists I've tried it with. Compact presentations of the whole yield accusations of vagueness. I'm making some progress by considering that hypocrisy/self-righteousness is humanity's superpower and that any tool which would pierce such façades can be used to build better façades. Cherry-picking from use of such a tool will let you tell an interesting variety of stories!
To your other question, bringing up my doubts would bring up history which might be better left decayed if not forgotten. Suffice it to say that I go through phases very well-described by Max Planck:
>> A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
Very understandably, this irritates others. I haven't found a better balance though, as a scientist who too quickly abandons a hypothesis cannot do good science. The balance-point I pick is often different than the one my interlocutors do. :-/
Publius, I am new to reading this blog, but I am enjoying the blog post itself and finding the discussion enlightening as well. Thanks for your comments, especially about truth. My sense is that truth and meaning are complementary properties (such as physicist Neil’s Bohr described them), where the greater detail you have about one, the less you can rely on your knowledge about the other being accurate.
In the spirit of the Adversarial Collaboration Contest, it might be interesting if you wrote a post on "Why You Should Be A Christian".
@Publius: collaboration, whether adversarial or not, requires someone to collaborate with. Who would write the corresponding "Why you should be an atheist?"
I would be willing to write that.
We should have an editor who would read both pieces and provide us feedback before the articles are published. I’m thinking Luke, or Luke and Don.
So I took another look at the link you sent and you got it backwards. The site does not recommend that the adversaries switch sides and advocate for the position they disagree with. And that makes sense. I doubt I could write "Why you should be a Christian" without being snarky.
But since you've been commenting here for so long I'll make you the same offer I've make Luke: if *you* want to write "Why you should be a Christian" (or any other long-form statement of your position) I'll publish it.
Hold on a second; "Why you should be a Christian" ≠ "Why I am a Christian". You realize those are very, very different claims, right? A blog post you pointed to as an exemplar for my own guest blog post was Why I believe in the Michelson-Morley experiment. I want to be clear on the kind of guest blog post I should be making.
Yes, Luke, you have it right. "Why you should be a Christian" was Publius's idea, not mine.
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