• About TWIM


    The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer's Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.



    TWIM is the first and only theist blog listed on the Atheist Blogroll, which currently contains over 1,000 blogs. It goes without saying that I don't endorse hardly any of the views of any of them. Contact Mojoey for more information.



    Ironically, TWIM won an award for "Best Atheist / Skeptic Site" from this site. Much obliged.



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    You and your commenters are a feast of thinking — great stuff.

    -C.L. Dyck
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I have no need to engage with racists, so will ignore cl’s further diatribes.

    -faithlessgod,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations. It’s a shame since it seems like cl has some brain power that could be applied to the topics at hand.

    -Hermes,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [faithlessgod and Hermes] fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls.

    -JS Allen,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] is, as many have noticed, a master of this warfare. I’ve been following him for quite some time and he’s one of the most effective Christian trolls out there. No one can completely destroy a conversation as effectively as he does, and with such masterful grace and subtly that he rarely gets banned. This isn’t a blunt-force “U R Hitler!” troll, this is the Yoda of trolling.

    -Eneasz,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This seems to imply that cl is, at least in part, disingenuous in terms of how he responds/what he claims. Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

    -al friedlander,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...I wanted to get a message to you outside of the context of specific discussions on CSA. You make good, insightful contributions to that site, and since I often agree with you I'm glad there is someone else there defending my positions better than I sometimes can. However I don't think anything of value would be lost if you stopped engaging in personal combat with juvenile snipers.

    -Zeb,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thank you for your wonderful response - so reasoned in the race of [Waldvogel's] blustering.

    -Annie Laurie Gaylor
     Freedom From Religion Foundation
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thanks for a great Op-Ed.

    -Marianne Ratcliff
     VC Star
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...as atheists we need to make sure that someone like cl and any Christian readers of [An Apostate's Chapel] don’t come away with the perception that the atheists caved in or were incapable of responding. I’m sure that a lot of Christians who find cl incomprehensible at times and don’t even bother reading him themselves will come away with an assumption that cl is that sort of rare intellectual theist who can prove that gods exist. And that’s how those inane rumors about the feared xian intellectuals start…

    -bbk
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are in so over your head here, you are embarrassing yourself...
    I am well versed in many aspects of evolution biology, through my academic background, and my professional life. Unless your academic degrees and background match mine, cease and desist. Return to philosophy and rhetoric, or whatever it is you perceive your strengths to be. They are definitely not science, even at the high school level.

    -R.C. Moore
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You're doing a fine job.

    -Prof. Larry Moran
     Dept. of Biochemistry
     University of Toronto
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Phyletic change and vicariance (or, drift and selection versus population isolation), as cl points out, are much better ways of describing what are unfortunately more commonly known as micro- and macro- evolution, respectively.

    -Dan
     Biology postdoc
     Univ. of Cyprus
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl says, “The minute you call yourself a Christian or an Atheist or whatever the heck else, you automatically get painted by other people’s interpretations of those words, which are almost always different and almost always distorted.” cl’s point couldn’t be more on. As cl points out there is an important reason for not claiming any real religious (or lack thereof) belief. It puts logical constraints on one's arguments due directly to the bias of the individual that is translating the English to mind ideas of what it means to be religious.

    -Bobaloo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Just who in the bloody hell do you think you are, you Christian piece of garbage, to come here barking out orders? You're an arrogant, condescending piece of shit. You seem to think you're an intellectual of sorts, when all you are is a Christian who's read a few books. John, everyone, this really is the limit. BR, I'm more than a little annoyed that you continue to engage him. I'm out of here. I have better things to do than to waste my time with these cretins.

    -Cipher
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    How old are you CL? I'd guess you have not yet experienced much life. I'd say you were under the age of 21, too young to be here. I don't give a damn what you think of me or my deconversion at all. You're too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. They are leading people away from you [sic] faith. I'm seriously considering banning you cl, as I've heard you were banned on other sites. You are much too ignorant for us to have a reasonable discussion.

    -John Loftus
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I admired the way you handled yourself in the discussion on John's blog. I'm not patient enough to keep my sarcasm in check with some of them blokes, but appreciate those who are.

    -David Marshall
     re: Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl, I have to say, while I fundamentally disagree with you, you are an individual which I highly respect. I think your responses are always well thought out and your insights always well thought out and pertinently derived.
    [Y]ou have made me a stronger atheist in my regards to critical thinking and debating. I really can’t wait to hear more from you. Hell, I’d even buy you a drink, good sir. Cheers!

    -Parker
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Bottom line? Sometimes I think he's right about certain arguments, and I don't have a problem admitting that. Other times, however, I think he's wrong, and I've called him on that. But I have found he can be pretty reasonable if you (1) don't overstate your case, (2) make concessions when you have, and (3) insist he do the same.

    -Lifeguard
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I like it when [cl] makes me stop, think and question if I am making unfounded assertions or if I am being sloppy. What has been annoying me about cl of late is that he is being excruciatingly anal...

    -seantheblogonaut
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I really can't thank you enough for catching me on my error in rhetoric. I always love a good debate! And I always enjoy your posts, as well! Keep up the great writing and the excellent eye for detail!

    -BZ
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You make me smarter...

    -Mike G.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ..thank you, cl. I discovered your blog on a random web search and saw it as an oasis amidst a vast desert of seemingly intractable theist-atheist debate.

    -Sung Jun
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    It's good to be able to discuss with people who are open and respectful, and know that disagreement does not mean disrespect... You are to be congratulated, not only for your patience, but also your ability to hold an ever-growing debate together with an impressive degree of structure.

    -Ritchie
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    My tone is derogatory... [cl is] ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked... In the time he's been here, he's shown a consistent pattern of antagonizing everyone he comes in contact with, monopolizing threads, derailing discussions with perpetual complaints, quibbles and demands for attention, and generally making arguments that display a lack of good faith and responsiveness... it's become intolerable. I'm not banning him, but I'm putting in place some restrictions on how often he can comment.

    -Ebonmuse
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This is no defense of the annoying cl, but what a self-righteous, prissy atheist you turned out to be, Ebonmuse. I'm disappointed in you, stealing a strategem from the theists.

    -The Exterminator
     to Ebonmuse
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I certainly didn't get any bad impression about cl, and I can't relate his comments with any of the things (Ebonmuse) said above. I actually thought it was quite interesting to have him around.

    -Juan Felipe
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Please continue to allow
    cl to post his views and make it clear that he is still welcome. And let me be clear, cl is not a lunatic.

    -Curtis
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    With one exception, you are the most coherent and intelligent theist I've seen on this site...

    -Steve Bowen
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I'm rooting for cl. I hope he perpetually manages to skirt the rules enough to do his damage, forcing rule revision after rule revision, ad nauseum. Awesome! Let's watch as Ebon, ever more frustrated, continues to struggle to figure out how to keep his precious private blog neat and tidy as cl keeps messing up his papers while one by one, readers leave due to an every increasing administrative presence. Outstanding! Well I won't go. The thought of this sounds like the most entertaining thing that probably would have ever happened on Daylight Atheism. Hot damn!

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Your visit has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses. I also want to remark that your presence here has considerably moved me to try being a more careful and understanding debater...

    -Brad
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I do have a lot of respect for you too. You seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful individual with a knack for getting to the bottom of a problem, cutting through all the bullshit rhetoric on the way down. The fact that many other atheists seem to unreasonably despise you bothers me a lot, because I think that maybe they aren’t acting in good faith.

    -Peter Hurford
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am not going to waste any more time parsing your comments to decide if they've crossed the line or not... So I banned you.

    -Greta Christina
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Be rude... cl invites rudeness. Would you want an incontinent little puppy coming into your house?

    -(((Billy))) the Atheist
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Note to all my regular readers: Since An Apostate’s Chapel is a free-speech zone, I don’t censor conversations.
    As it appears that cl is a troll, please note that I will not be responding to him any longer. I ask that you refrain from doing so, as well. Please don’t feed the troll!

    -The Chaplain
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    …I can’t reconcile being a "freethinker" with banning speech. [cl's] comments are not offensive in the normal understanding of that term, and he poses absolutely no threat except perhaps to some imagined decorum. Why can’t atheists lighten up, for no-Christ’s sake?

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Is it going to distract from my meal when crazy uncle cl starts blathering out nonsense, pick his ears with a carrot or start taking his pants off? No. In fact, it might actually heighten the experience in some amusing way. So no, I don't see cl's work as damage.

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am beginning to suspect that you are a troll cl. Albeit an evolved troll, but a troll nonetheless. Perhaps we should all stop feeding the troll?

    -GaySolomon
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl is] is either a sophist or an incompetent when it comes to the english language... (sic)

    -ThatOtherGuy
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I’d say cl is pretty sharp... it may be tempting at times to think that “the other guy” is arguing out of some personal character flaw rather than a sincere desire to acknowledge the truth, I still think it’s better to debate respectfully... It is disrespectful to make unsupported accusations against people, e.g. by suggesting that their views are caused by an intrinsically corrupt and immoral nature.

    -Deacon Duncan, 3-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] cannot refute my facts, so he needs must find (sic) some scapegoat in order to claim that he has confronted the enemy and proven them wrong... cl, sadly, has proven himself to be the sort of guest who comes into your living room and sneaks behind your couch to take a crap on the floor, just so he can tell all your neighbors how bad your house smells and what an unsanitary housekeeper you are... an interesting case study in the negative effects a Christian worldview has on a reasonably intellectual mind.

    -Deacon Duncan, 6-17-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I strongly discourage discussion of the character, abilities, motives, or personal ancestry of individual commenters, as tempting as such comments may be at times. I discourage the posting of comments that make frequent use of the pronoun “you,” as in “you always…” or “you never…” or “you are just so…”, when directed at a specific individual.

    -Deacon Duncan, 4-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I won’t be publishing your most recent comment because it’s a return to the same sort of schtick you’ve pulled here before: re-writing other people’s arguments to make yourself look misunderstood and/or unfairly accused, taking “polyvalent” positions so that when people address your points you can claim to have said something else, distorting other people’s arguments, trolling for negative reactions, and so on.

    -Deacon Duncan, 10-8-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [E]gomaniacal troll.
    You win... You’re a disingenuous sophist through and through, cl. And a friggin’ narcissist to boot! Since I’ve thoroughly and purposefully broken the Deacon’s rules of engagement, I shall consider my right to post henceforth annulled, and move on - dramatic pause, lights out.

    -jim
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He either thinks in a very weird way or he's quite the con artist.

    -mikespeir
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I will gladly admit that I have a boner for cl. Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

    -Eneasz
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Long time reader first time poster... I like reading what you
    have to say over at Daylight Atheism so I figured I'd pop in here.

    -Pine
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He's just a jerk
    that likes to argue.

    -KShep
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You’re not a reasonable thinker in my book. You’re simply an arguer, for better or worse. I’m Michael Palin, you’re John Cleese. You’re just a disputation-ist, bringing everything into question...

    -jim
     Reason vs. Apologetics
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Motherfucker, this is an interesting blog... Quite the group of commenters.

    -John Evo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are very articulate, and I can only assume that it's a result of high intelligence; an intelligence that's interested in, and can understand, healthy debate. However, at every turn, that's not what I or others seem to get.

    -ex machina
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a troll, a liar, and a useless sack of shit. Not only that, but you're still wrong even after moving the goal posts and trying to re-write history. So, you can stop cyber stalking me now and trying to provoke me. I know what you are doing, and you are doing it so that you can whine about how I'm being irrational and mean to you and stroke your pathetic martyr complex. You're a pathetic attention whore and I've already given you too much attention. So, back the fuck off, stop following me around the intarwebs and trying to provoke me, and fuck off.

    -OMGF
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I would just like to say that, OMGF, having read the debate as a neutral observer, some of the things cl says about your style of argument are true, IMO. It is quite hasty, which means you occasionally haven't got the central point cl is trying to make...

    -John D.
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...this is a difficult question that deserves more than a kneejerk reaction, not to imply that you're kneejerking. You're the least kneejerking person I've met.

    -Quixote
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    If you’re here playing devil’s advocate, then, hey, you do a great job at it, it’s a service, keep us sharp... You’re a smart guy, but those are exactly the ones who give the worst headaches!

    -Lifeguard
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a waste of time, cl. A big fat black hole of bullshit sucking in everyone who comes into contact with you.

    -Spanish Inquisitor
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    As for all that harsh invective that's come your way, umm... I gotta say, I've seen some of the invective, but I haven't seen the behavior on your part that called for it. Maybe I've just not seen enough? I don't know... from what I've read, I can tell that you're a smart person, and whether you deserved any of that treatment or not is quite frankly immaterial to me; I just want to deal with the smart person at the eye of that storm.

    -D
     She Who Chatters
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I now think that you’re an atheist, just having fun at other atheists’ expense. If that’s the case, kudos.

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

Isn’t Richard Carrier Putting The Cart Before The Horse?

So you might have heard that the Loftus put out a new book pompously titled, The End of Christianity, which includes a chapter from self-proclaimed infidel Richard Carrier, titled, Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them). Can we agree that this is an empirical claim? If so, can you imagine the consternation that might ensue if a reputable physics journal published a paper titled: The Higgs Boson Exists, And Science Could Find It?

Shouldn’t we demonstrate something before we bastardize science to say it exists? Granted, Carrier might be using “exists” abstractly, as in moral facts “exist” in a logical or philosophical sense. But, if that’s the case, he’s incorrect to say science can find them. And no, I haven’t read the chapter; that’s besides the point. I’m focusing exclusively on the misleading nature of the title here, so don’t try to flank me.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe moral facts exist, and though I think it would require some degree of revelation, I’m even open to the idea that science could find them. Or, more accurately, that science could demonstrate them. To find them implies to discover them via controlled, replicated experimentation, and that is precisely what I think science cannot do. To demonstrate them implies something more like a “proof” that any given moral proclamation is a fact.

I’m not disagreeing with Carrier in that moral facts exist. Rather, I’m suspicious as to why Carrier, Loftus and the rest of Team Scarlet A demand rigorous proof whenever a believer so much as claims to have wiped their bum in the morning, yet apparently feel free to publish and sell fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants arguments to the masses proclaiming that things exist before science finds them.

And Loftus says Victor Reppert is a science-basher!

35 Responses

  1. I’ve had trouble taking Loftus seriously for a while – really, he strikes me as being to atheism what Jim Bakker was to Christianity – but seeing how Jesse Parrish dealt with the OTF, and Loftus’ increasingly desperate responses to those criticisms… I’m having trouble picturing him as anything other than a living caricature.

    As for Carrier, I think that would be a great title for an ID inspired book. “God exists, and science can find Him.”

  2. Time to read the chapter in the bookstore. Not paying for another Loftus anthology after the last one. Dude chewed me out for offering the friendly criticism that starting The Christian Delusion with flagrant question begging is only helpful in making sure open minded Christians stop reading.

  3. I love the Loftus on that picture. Just about captures his entire essence.

  4. I’m suspicious as to why Carrier, Loftus and the rest of Team Scarlet A demand rigorous proof whenever a believer so much as claims to have wiped their bum in the morning, yet apparently feel free to publish and sell fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants arguments to the masses proclaiming that things exist before science finds them.

    I don’t think Carrier’s moral theory is actually fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants; or at least you definitely haven’t shown that.

    That being said, it isn’t shocking to find people being inconsistent, especially when they get into debate and are bad at debating. Though I suspect that Carrier isn’t actually saying “Guys, I’ve found double-blinded experimental proof of moral facts”.

  5. This is not the first time the pot’s called the kettle black in this department. Guys like Carrier and Sam Harris are essentially career counter-apologists. They came to their belief and now train and get qualifications in order to justify it and argue against people who disagree with them. Then they criticize apologists for being people who have come to their conclusions and do research to confirm them. I could not help but notice that both of these men were vocal atheists BEFORE they got their degrees. I guess we’re all just bias rationalization machines.

  6. I could not help but notice that both of these men were vocal atheists BEFORE they got their degrees. I guess we’re all just bias rationalization machines.

    Your conclusion doesn’t follow validly from your premises there, for two reasons.

    First, yeah, it’s interesting that some Christians get degrees and stay Christians and some atheists get degrees and stay atheists. But this doesn’t mean that *everyone* is a bias rationalization machine, because some people get degrees and then switch positions.

    Second, let’s assume for the sake of argument that Christianity is true. This means that every Christian who gets a degree and stays Christian is not necessarily a bias rationalization machine, they just got lucky choosing the right position and then found out reasons why they were right and stuck to it. The same is true for the atheists if atheism is true.

  7. Started reading the morality chapter in Barnes & Noble and decided to pick the thing up anyway so I can properly blog about it.

    Ah well.

  8. “Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)”

    So, they acknowledge that there are truths (e.g. the truth that moral facts exist) which can be known wholly apart from science.

    I wonder if they include a chapter on what “scientific evidence” can be provided to believe that the human mind processes information that’s in correspondence to the ongoings of external reality …

    Oh right, to try to provide any would be circular! (Any attempt to appeal to a fellow human being’s mind for corrobortation, and argue that ” I see a table in front of me, Bob sees a table in front of me, Kate sees a table in front of me, therefore there is a table in front of me”, presupposes that the mind corresponds to external reality, i.e. that Bob and Kate really exist, and they really see a table in front of you, etc.)

    … If they don’t have a chapter on this, shouldn’t this be the first order of business?

  9. @Ana:

    So, they acknowledge that there are truths (e.g. the truth that moral facts exist) which can be known wholly apart from science.

    Richard’s moral theory says that moral facts are scientific facts, so I don’t know where you’re getting the “wholly apart” thing from.

    I wonder if they include a chapter on what “scientific evidence” can be provided to believe that the human mind processes information that’s in correspondence to the ongoings of external reality …

    Richard Carrier actually writes a lot about this in his Epistemology chapters in Sense and Goodness Without God.

    That being said, I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

  10. Crude,

    I’m having trouble picturing him as anything other than a living caricature.

    Funny you should say that. Lately I’ve been thinking that it might be effective to start visually caricaturizing the New Atheists. I got on that same kick when I thought I was going to start a YouTube channel — actually, wait — I still am starting a YouTube channel! Anyways, either ways, the idea was, hit ’em with a little of their own schtick, only, with tact. So, instead of outright namecalling and libel, I’ll just post coy little pictures. Even if they don’t influence anybody, boy, what a way to get an uproarious laugh with only a few minutes of work…

    Garren,

    Not paying for another Loftus anthology after the last one.

    I won’t buy any of his books unless they’re used. The reasoning: 1) I don’t want to support anti-religious bigotry; 2) I don’t want to support atheist apologetics; 3) I don’t want to support people who silence dissenting opinions. I could go on for days but you get the point…

    Peter,

    I don’t think Carrier’s moral theory is actually fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants; or at least you definitely haven’t shown that.

    I know, that’s why I said I was focusing on the implications of the title. I’ll comment on the chapter when I get a copy of the book. Although, it’s not hard to envision where he’ll try to go; I mean, how many options do you have when trying to sell someone on the idea that chance atomic interaction can produce abstract truth?

    Though I suspect that Carrier isn’t actually saying “Guys, I’ve found double-blinded experimental proof of moral facts”.

    Like I said, it’s lose-lose either way. If that is what he meant, it’s obvious buffoonery. OTOH, if he simply meant to say that one can demonstrate the existence of empirical facts via sound deductive argument, well… no more whining about how science must be the measure of all things.

    First, yeah, it’s interesting that some Christians get degrees and stay Christians and some atheists get degrees and stay atheists. But this doesn’t mean that *everyone* is a bias rationalization machine…

    True, but Matt might not have intended that conclusion to be drawn exclusively from the sentence in question. One could read him as speaking sarcastically, in a “thumbing the nose” manner; or, one could read him matter of factly, in a “we really all are bias rationalization machines.” Personally, I think it’s true to one extent or another. I’m not gonna lie; I’m not immune. However, I don’t think it follows that because some people get degrees and then switch positions, that they still can’t be bias rationalizing machines. Changing positions does not necessarily affect bias; for, as we’ve seen with Luke Muehlhauser and countless other deconverts, the bias simply takes on a new expression.

    Matt,

    Well said.

    Ana,

    Science is but one tool in the shed.

  11. @cl:

    I know, that’s why I said I was focusing on the implications of the title.

    But you asked in your post “Shouldn’t we demonstrate something before we bastardize science to say it exists?”. This makes it sound like you wish Carrier put his entire moral theory into his title.

    What did you want him to title his work?

    Although, it’s not hard to envision where he’ll try to go; I mean, how many options do you have when trying to sell someone on the idea that chance atomic interaction can produce abstract truth?

    A surprisingly large amount of options actually, there’s tons of secular moral theories out there as you know.

    Also proofs that chance atomic interaction is capable of producing abstract truth is not in the realm of a moral theory, so don’t expect Carrier to address it. Though I wonder why you have this doubt; I certainly hope it isn’t an argument from intuition.

    Frankly, I enjoy a lot of your other posts, but this one was needlessly picky. Ironically, I think you were the one putting the cart before the horse, critiquing the guy’s title before critiquing his work.

    It’s like saying “You’re calling your book Kite Runner? Please, since when do you expect me to think reading about a guy playing with kites is going to be interesting.”

  12. True, but Matt might not have intended that conclusion to be drawn exclusively from the sentence in question. One could read him as speaking sarcastically, in a “thumbing the nose” manner; or, one could read him matter of factly, in a “we really all are bias rationalization machines.” Personally, I think it’s true to one extent or another. I’m not gonna lie; I’m not immune.

    Sure, we’ll have to see what Matt says about it. But it sounds a lot like “no one is ever going to find truth in this religion issue; we’re all kidding ourselves; let’s just go back to bed”.

    However, I don’t think it follows that because some people get degrees and then switch positions, that they still can’t be bias rationalizing machines.

    You’re right.

  13. Peter,

    Frankly, I enjoy a lot of your other posts, but this one was needlessly picky. Ironically, I think you were the one putting the cart before the horse, critiquing the guy’s title before critiquing his work.

    Well then I guess you don’t get it. No worries.

  14. Well then I guess you don’t get it. No worries.

    Very well. I’ll look forward to your critique of the actual chapter then.

  15. Peter,

    Richard’s moral theory says that moral facts are scientific facts, so I don’t know where you’re getting the “wholly apart” thing from.

    There is a difference between the existence and characteristic(s) of a ‘thing’ and the method by which the ‘thing’ is discovered. Whether or not moral truths are components of the natural world was not my point.

    My point, based strictly on analyzing the title “Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)”, was that the statement “moral facts naturally exist”, or more broadly “more facts exist”, has not — *on scientific grounds* —
    been shown to be a true statement. Yet it is believed to be a true statement (which implies aknowledgement that the scientific method is
    not the sole reliable means of discovering truth), and then it is asserted that “science could find [the moral facts]” which of course
    implies it hasn’t yet found them. Which is why cl pointed out the cart coming before the horse.

    That being said, I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

    In retrospect, I don’t think I should have made my comment about the human mind, simply because it wasn’t directly germane
    to cl’s post. But for the purpose of clarification, my point was that if a book is aimed at undermining Christianity (or at least,
    evangelical Christianity) and (implicitly or explicity) suggesting naturalism and/or science-is-the-sole-arbiter-of-truth-ism as
    the rational alternative, then it is fitting (in terms of consistency, i.e. applying the science standard across the board) for the authors to address what scientific grounds exist for believing the human mind comport with reality.

  16. @Ana:

    My point, based strictly on analyzing the title “Moral Facts Naturally Exist (and Science Could Find Them)”

    And I think this is a really silly thing to do; make points based strictly on analyzing titles.

    was that the statement “moral facts naturally exist”, or more broadly “more facts exist”, has not — *on scientific grounds* –
    been shown to be a true statement.

    Of course not, because the title is not going to contain the entire moral theory. You’d have to read the chapter for that.

    The chapter also doesn’t just assume moral facts exist, but actually is focused all about demonstrating the existence of moral facts.

    Yet it is believed to be a true statement (which implies aknowledgement that the scientific method is
    not the sole reliable means of discovering truth)

    Right. And of course the scientific method is not the sole reliable means of discovering truth, as Carrier does acknowledge in at least some of his works — this is why we have a historical method, for instance.

    and then it is asserted that “science could find [the moral facts]” which of course implies it hasn’t yet found them. Which is why cl pointed out the cart coming before the horse.

    This makes sense now; thank you for explaining it. But if you read the actual chapter, what Carrier is proving is that moral facts are a type of scientific fact, discoverable by the scientific method.

    It’s very similar to saying “Geological facts exist, and science could find them”.

    But for the purpose of clarification, my point was that if a book is aimed at undermining Christianity (or at least,
    evangelical Christianity) and (implicitly or explicity) suggesting naturalism and/or science-is-the-sole-arbiter-of-truth-ism as
    the rational alternative, then it is fitting (in terms of consistency, i.e. applying the science standard across the board) for the authors to address what scientific grounds exist for believing the human mind comport with reality.

    Sure; that’s one of my complaints too — these are books that knock down Christianity, when I think they should make books that knock down Christianity *and* establish naturalism as a legitimate worldview.

    This is why I like Sense and Goodness Without God better, because Carrier actually does spend time arguing how naturalism (which is *not* science-is-the-sole-arbiter-of-truth-ism) says the human mind comports with reality. If you don’t want to buy his book but are still curious, you can see my theory based on his theory and a few others in my essay “The Origin of Truth”.

  17. Hi Peter,

    I wasn’t trying to form an argument that theism is ultimately unknowable. While I do think that our brains are good at rationalizing our biases I think it is possible (but really freaking challenging) to form reasonable beliefs based on evidence, even on the God question. My comment was about how the methods of the infidels crowd (not atheists in general) look like that of apologists.

    I was also thinking about this post I once read on Debunking Christianity:
    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/04/apologists-are-experts.html

    ” If 90% of the scholars agree with the position that favors Christianity, I would feel extremely confident that about 90% of the scholars came into the field as Christians. The opinion of such authorities, who began with the conclusion before considering the evidence, cannot be trusted simply because they are authorities. One simply cannot trust those with huge emotional investments to be objective on critical issues. ”

    By this logic we should be very skeptical of what Richard Carrier and Sam Harris say because they came into their field as atheists with an axe to grind against Christianity.

  18. Matt,

    You’re right that I misunderstood you and perhaps even overreacted to what you said.

    I agree with your position, but I don’t agree that “If 90% of the scholars agree with the position that favors Christianity, I would feel extremely confident that about 90% of the scholars came into the field as Christians” is true or even a good argument.

    I do think that you can be skeptical of people with huge emotional investments, but you still shouldn’t dismiss them out of hand. I don’t think you do, however.

    Richard Carrier and Sam Harris, despite being career and lifelong atheists, still do make good points now and then. On the flipside, so does Ed Feiser.

  19. Peter,

    I think we actually agree on this. I was not trying to say that Loftus’ quote was correct. I guess I didn’t make it clear enough that it was a quote taken from the link. I wish I knew how to do quotes in yellow blocks like cl does.

    I also agree that Richard Carrier has some good points, I would love to see what Bayes Theorem does for history and I have not read enough of Sam Harris to form a good opinion on him. My only point was that the infidel group’s (or at least Loftus’) view that apologists are untrustworthy because they started out as Christians, if applied fairly, makes Carrier and Harris untrustworthy. I disagree with the Loftus quote to begin with.

  20. Matt,

    Sounds like we agree perfectly on this issue.

    Use the

    tags to make yellow quotes; they work wonders.
    Tags work like this: text.

  21. text

    without the spaces makes for yellow quotes. I botched that above.

  22. Thanks Peter!

  23. Ana,

    Nice explanation.

    Peter,

    Of course not, because the title is not going to contain the entire moral theory. You’d have to read the chapter for that.

    That’s just it: I don’t give a rat’s ass about the theory, at least, not in this post. This post is not about Carrier’s theory, or morality. It’s about consistency across epistemological standards. I am mocking Carrier because, like the Loftus, there is no consistency across their epistemological standards.

    It’s very similar to saying “Geological facts exist, and science could find them”.

    I disagree. It’s actually very similar to saying, “God exists, and science could find God,” and you know that statement would get no love from Carrier, Loftus, or the rest of Team Scarlet A. Hence, my criticism that there is no consistency across epistemological standards. Further, no arbitrary proclamations are required to establish a geologic fact. On the other hand, without even reading Carrier’s chapter, I can tell you — for sure — that at some point, he had to make an arbitrary proclamation concerning moral facts. Have you read the chapter? At some point, I can guarantee you Richard defines a moral fact as X, where “X” = some arbitrary pronouncement ala the criticisms of Julia Galef and a long list of others. I’m guessing it’s another wishy-washy “whatever advances the well-being of sentient creatures” type of proclamation like Sam Harris’, but even that is to get off track: this post was about consistency across epistemological standards, and folks like Loftus and Carrier are utterly lacking in that regard. Especially Loftus.

    Richard Carrier and Sam Harris, despite being career and lifelong atheists, still do make good points now and then. On the flipside, so does Ed [Feser].

    Yeah, but the difference is that Feser entered into his journey as an atheist. He was not a lifelong believer. So, do you give Feser’s arguments more “baseline credit” than Loftus’ and Carrier’s? If not, why not? Might it be because Loftus’ claim can’t hold a raindrop?

    Matt,

    I wish I knew how to do quotes in yellow blocks like cl does.

    Like this. Give it a few test runs if you want; I can delete them.

    My only point was that the infidel group’s (or at least Loftus’) view that apologists are untrustworthy because they started out as Christians, if applied fairly, makes Carrier and Harris untrustworthy.

    And, by implication, this makes Ed Feser more trustworthy — if Loftus’ logic held water, which, of course, it doesn’t. Remember, this is the same joker who tells his congregation “we should accept positive evidence for that which we accept as true,” then turns around and declares without positive evidence that the Exodus never happened — all while ignoring the positive evidence consistent with the Exodus. And supposedly intellectual, “rational” atheists swallow this crap hook, line, and sinker. I lament.

  24. Peter,

    Re: w3c links: excepting (a)theism, programmers tend to think alike, eh? ;)

  25. I’m working on a post about this chapter. Meanwhile, Carrier isn’t claiming what it sounds like he’s claiming from the title.

    He uses philosophy to reduce moral facts to things everyone already agrees are in science’s domain. He even has formal deductive arguments to prove his metaethics are necessarily true! (I will be disagreeing anyway.)

  26. Ok, I’ve posted my summary of Carrier’s moral philosophy in this chapter (while ignoring his attack on Christianity). Tried for an accurate representation in this post, with all of my criticism to come later.

  27. I remember some others going over Carrier’s chapter. I gotta admit, I’m not impressed at all now, and I wasn’t impressed then. But thanks for the summary.

  28. And Jesus said “Praise me, praise me, praise my holy name. The rest is total bullshit. Amen”

  29. Crude said “I’m not impressed at all”.

    I’m sure Carrier is home crying over not getting Crude’s endorsement!

  30. You think you’re kidding? “Richard Carrier crying his eyes out over flippant criticism from a relative nobody” is not exactly unheard of. He goes spastic at fellow atheists now and then for less.

    But I love what’s implied there: That Richard Carrier is a man of fame and fortune, too high to care about what mere internet plebes think. Not, you know… basically a low-rent Loftus, who himself is a budget version of PZ Myers without the science degree, the following or the skill with theatrics.

    Still, I’m sure he’s gratified you’re a fan. Throw some more money his way. ;)

  31. Thanks Garren. I went ahead and linked directly to your post, I hope you don’t mind. If you do let me know and I’ll disable it. I also added your blog to the blogroll, just so you know… it’d been a while since I updated that. I’m trying to give a shout out to all the blogs I frequent, atheist or not.

    As I suspected, it seems Carrier simply parrots Sam Harris. I’m looking forward to your critique. I also intend to get this book, but I’m holding out for a used copy so I don’t support this irrational gaggle of self-proclaimed infidels.

  32. @cl:

    That’s just it: I don’t give a rat’s ass about the theory, at least, not in this post. This post is not about Carrier’s theory, or morality. It’s about consistency across epistemological standards. I am mocking Carrier because, like the Loftus, there is no consistency across their epistemological standards.

    And I think that the actual theory resolves your complaint about consistency.

    In your post, you said “Shouldn’t we demonstrate something before we bastardize science to say it exists? Granted, Carrier might be using ‘exists’ abstractly, as in moral facts ‘exist’ in a logical or philosophical sense. But, if that’s the case, he’s incorrect to say science can find them.”

    Here’s what Carrier is doing: first, demonstrating that moral statements have a propositional meaning, as in they are statements capable of being true or false. Then, demonstrating that these moral statements are statements that are specifically testable scientifically; that we can find the truth-value with the scientific method.

    I disagree. It’s actually very similar to saying, “God exists, and science could find God,” and you know that statement would get no love from Carrier, Loftus, or the rest of Team Scarlet A. Hence, my criticism that there is no consistency across epistemological standards.

    Then I’ll continue to confess I don’t understand your criticism. There is nothing about the title “God exists, and science could find God” that is wrong, as long as the paper demonstrates that God exists and his existence is testable with the scientific method.

    I imagine “Team Scarlet A” as you call them would definitely take offense at the paper as a whole because of an accusation of bad arguments (whether or not they are baseless is beside the point right now). But I can’t imagine anyone taking complaint at the title alone.

    Further, no arbitrary proclamations are required to establish a geologic fact. On the other hand, without even reading Carrier’s chapter, I can tell you — for sure — that at some point, he had to make an arbitrary proclamation concerning moral facts. […] At some point, I can guarantee you Richard defines a moral fact as X, where “X” = some arbitrary pronouncement ala the criticisms of Julia Galef and a long list of others.

    This is interesting because it plays right into the idea of morality I currently endorse: pluralistic moral reductionism. It starts with the idea that all words are essentially arbitrary, so we do need arbitrary proclamations to establish even a geologic fact: we need to define a certain process as “sedimentation” and certain things as “rocks”.

    The word “good” is just like this. It can’t be a word with no definition, so it must refer to something. But what could it refer to? Just like asking “what could fuzzibuhwah refer to?”, the answer is anything; it’s arbitrary.

    This means moral statements are handled like this: when Alice asks “is torture good?”, we must ask “what do you mean by good?” (and also, perhaps, “what do you mean by torture?”). Then Alice says “Oh, by good, I mean whatever advances the well-being of sentient creatures”. Then you can reply “I’m fairly certain that torture, in most to nearly all instances, does not advance the well-being of sentient creatures and therefore is not good”.

    Of course, Johnny might also say “Oh, by good, I mean whatever is good for me; as in what I personally enjoy. And I definitely enjoy torture”. Then you would reply “Well, then, torture is definitely something you personally enjoy”. But just because it’s good under Johnny’s definition of good does not make it good under Alice’s definition of good, because they aren’t using the same definition.

    That being said, Richard Carrier’s specific choice for “what do you mean by good?” is a lot more interesting; it isn’t the run-of-the-mill choices I’ve heard before, but actually what seems to be a reformulation of Virtue Ethics. Garren’s summary is a good one.

    Have you read the chapter?

    No, but I have read the paper he based his chapter on, which is in his book “Sense and Goodness Without God”.

    Me: Richard Carrier and Sam Harris, despite being career and lifelong atheists, still do make good points now and then. On the flipside, so does Ed [Feser].

    Cl: Yeah, but the difference is that Feser entered into his journey as an atheist. He was not a lifelong believer. So, do you give Feser’s arguments more “baseline credit” than Loftus’ and Carrier’s? If not, why not? Might it be because Loftus’ claim can’t hold a raindrop?

    I don’t give Feser’s arguments more baseline credit because he started as an atheist, and I don’t give Loftus more credit because he started as a Christian — I try my best to weigh the arguments they say alone.

    It just so happens that quite a lot of Loftus’s claims hold no raindrops and a fair amount of Feser’s claims do. I suppose I can’t think of any career Christians that I like, however, whereas I do like Carrier and Harris. (As well as some “flippers” like LukeProg.)

  33. Have any of you nutters ever thought about actually writing Carrier personally to allow him to respond to your juvenile questions?

  34. Now I’ve posted some actual criticism.

    @Insults

    Already covered.

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