• 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
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

Study Suggests Atheists Suppress The Truth

There’s been a lot of hubbub over this “Atheists and Asperger’s” study that recently surfaced at the Scientific American blog. For me, this was the interesting line:

In a second experiment, Heywood and Bering compared 27 people with Asperger’s with 34 neurotypical people who are atheists. The atheists, as expected, often invoked anti-teleological responses such as “there is no reason why; things just happen.” The people with Asperger’s were significantly less likely to offer such anti-teleological explanations than the atheists, indicating they were not engaged in teleological thinking at all. (The atheists, in contrast, revealed themselves to be reasoning teleologically, but then they rejected those thoughts.)

Romans 1:18-20 reads,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (ESV)

Obviously, my title is loaded, in that I take it for granted that God is the truth. Though only a single study and by no means sufficient to justify broad conclusions, these preliminary findings seem to directly confirm Scripture. The study suggests what the Scriptures declare: that atheists have internal access to the truth of God’s existence just as much as anyone else—that they naturally reason teleologically—but that they “reject” or “suppress” it.

Who would have thought?

39 Responses

  1. I do believe that we all have a natural tendency to teleological thinking (to be clear: to attribute cause and purpose to natural processes). It seems to be an ingrained part of our cognition. This could (can) be explained evolutionarily: the man walking on African steppe who attributes the sound of a broken twig to a lion has a distinct survival advantage. Evolution may well have shaped our cognition to suspect intention in nature. There is no guarantee that they way we think should exactly reflect the true nature of reality.

    By discipline of scientific reasoning, one can sidestep teleological thinking to a certain extent, but it’s very easy to slip back into it. Even Dawkins will talk about purpose and design in nature, but when he’s more careful he’ll specify that evolution produces structures that “mimic” design and intentional purpose.

  2. By discipline of scientific reasoning, one can sidestep teleological thinking to a certain extent, but it’s very easy to slip back into it.

    What’s so scientific or even reasonable about sidestepping teleological thinking? And is there a difference between being design-agnostic, and denying design? As in…

    Even Dawkins will talk about purpose and design in nature, but when he’s more careful he’ll specify that evolution produces structures that “mimic” design and intentional purpose.

    Sure, but how does he know evolution “mimics” design, rather than “really is” design? It’s not enough to say, ‘Well, it was an evolutionary process.’ – That’s as subsumable under design as anything else.

  3. cl,

    The study suggests what the Scriptures declare: that atheists have internal access to the truth of God’s existence just as much as anyone else—that they naturally reason teleologically—but that they “reject” or “suppress” it.

    I’d agree that is suggested. One thing I wonder though: If the study ‘shows’ that atheists see teleology, but then offer up non-teleological responses when asked, would that qualify as lying by your sights?

  4. Is there any evidence that teleological thinking is beneficial? Or back up the implicit value judgement?
    If the kind of statements lead to, by teleogical thinking, are both beyond our ability to judge and has difficulty producing predictions, to what use can they be put.

    Frankly if I read a pharmaceutical research paper in which teleological language was being used non-metaphorically by guard would be up. But I shout at my keys if I can’t find them.

    I read in one of, he whose name we do not speak (dicky dawkins) books that children think in a more teleological fashion than adults, so he drew the opposite conclusion.

  5. Sure, but how does he know evolution “mimics” design, rather than “really is” design? It’s not enough to say, ‘Well, it was an evolutionary process.’ – That’s as subsumable under design as anything else.

    Because he has a credible theory to explain the non-intentional design, and he is going by the theory that he believes. Here I’m just dispensing with the slight weasel-wording of “appearance of design” because it really is a design (there is no “appearance” of design; there is either design or there isn’t), but according to evolution there is no intention or thought behind it. It is not designed by a thinking being. In short, it is not a demonstration of natural teleology. I think it can be assumed we all know what I mean. Unfortunately in many discussions like this, the mere mention of the word “design” is a gotcha moment for proponents of teleology.

    The question raised by this study is whether the intuitive appeal of design or purpose-oriented thinking has any ulterior bearing on the nature of reality. Well, yes, I would say that it does, because we all recognize design in nature, but the real question is what is the cause (etiology) of that design or purpose. How far are we able to expand the concept of design to natural material processes?

  6. Is there any evidence that teleological thinking is beneficial? Or back up the implicit value judgement?
    If the kind of statements lead to, by teleogical thinking, are both beyond our ability to judge and has difficulty producing predictions, to what use can they be put.

    Not sure if this was directed at me, but…

    The “lion” scenario is strictly hypothetical. I read it somewhere, I can’t recall. So, no, I have nothing to back it up. To what use, for instance, could the process of “paranoia” be put? Well, again, according to evolution, or natural selection, the “use” is survival. If paranoia has survival value, then we all become a bit more paranoid. Viewed in this light I guess it’s amazing that we’re generally as psychologically stable as we are.

    Teleological thinking could be beneficial as a general cognitive architecture. It’s possible that it was entirely arbitrary (IOW it just happened to work well enough) and that our minds might have worked in another manner, among a spectrum of possibilities. If it had been otherwise, perhaps we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  7. @Hunt

    Was to anyone really.
    My, perhaps incorrect, understanding of teleological thought, applied to the Lion example, would be our budding teleologists would say:

    “The twig made the sound in order to forewarn me of a lion”

    Opposed to:

    “A twig broke, chance of it being broken by a predator, safer to act as though that were the case…”

  8. I prefer “correct for cognitive bias.”

    But anyway, aren’t the condemned people in Romans 1 idolators who are engaging in teleological thinking, but are anthropomorphizing nature instead of realizing divinity lies beyond nature?

  9. @joseph

    Yes, I see your point. In terms of origins, though, “the twig made a sound to warn me…” presupposes quite a bit of back-story. There would have to already be a substantial theoretical structure supporting it. It’s possible that I’m mixing ideas here; the lion example may not be the best example of teleological thinking, but it’s an example of assuming intention in nature by default, as opposed to dismissing something as an insignificant event. If that is not exactly teleological thinking, it might serve as the primitive origin for it.

  10. “Yes, I see your point. In terms of origins, though, “the twig made a sound to warn me…” presupposes quite a bit of back-story.”

    I guess this is my problem with teleology, it seems to at least allow, at most encourage, complete arse-pulls.

    If you limit it to only allowing conscious minds causing purpose it’s a lottle better, but inventing concious minds (i.e. thunder therefore Chris Hemford) seems permissible.

    I will readily admit, I might have missed the point.

  11. lottle=little, not some weird chimera word

  12. Because he has a credible theory to explain the non-intentional design, and he is going by the theory that he believes.

    Right. I’m asking what makes evolutionary theory “non-intentional design”. See, the problem is when people say this…

    but according to evolution there is no intention or thought behind it. It is not designed by a thinking being. In short, it is not a demonstration of natural teleology.

    ..It’s not accurate. It’s not “according to evolution”, it’s “according to some guy’s belief about evolution”. Evolution is entirely compatible with there being intention or thought behind it, or with it being designed by a thinking being. We use evolutionary processes in our own designs – artificial selection, bounded variation, and combinations thereof.

    So it’s back to my question about how we know that the design we see is a mimic or imitation. “Because it evolved” won’t cut it.

  13. There are obviously reasons why things happen. People still have motivations and desires, even if those reduce to or supervene upon physical properties. You don’t have to assume intrinsic value, greater purpose, final causes, etc. to believe there are reasons why certain things happen. What you have here is 34 dumb atheists and/or just bad questions asked by the researchers.

    Aside from the Scripture you posted, there is no evidence demonstrating that atheists naturally reason teleologically. Notice how that was just sort of stuck in there:

    The atheists, in contrast, revealed themselves to be reasoning teleologically, but then they rejected those thoughts.

    Teleological reasoning would be beneficial even if its assumptions were untrue — that is, it would be useful to humans in a theistic or atheistic ontology. It helps us cope with unfortunate events and explain tragedies. It could just be a psychological mechanism. That doesn’t seem unlikely to me at all.

    Just saying.

  14. Also, if it is the case that it is a psychological mechanism, then it is a naturalistic fallacy to say that atheists are self-deluded/lying when asserting such things.

  15. You don’t have to assume intrinsic value, greater purpose, final causes, etc. to believe there are reasons why certain things happen.

    But it’s not an appeal to vague ‘reasons’ that was studied here, but teleological reasoning. Not all explanations are teleological, or even anti-teleological.

    Also, if it is the case that it is a psychological mechanism, then it is a naturalistic fallacy to say that atheists are self-deluded/lying when asserting such things.

    The “lie” portion is up in the air. If I ask you to tell me what you think of X, and your instinct is to give reply 1, but then you force yourself to give reply 2 which is at odds with reply 1, did you lie? Note I didn’t give an answer to that. I wanted to know cl’s thoughts.

    As for the naturalistic fallacy, that seems vastly more appropriate to note with the “evolution played a role in making people think that” response. I think that’s doubly the case given what I’m maintaining about evolution, which I see as a pervasive error.

  16. But it’s not an appeal to vague ‘reasons’ that was studied here, but teleological reasoning. Not all explanations are teleological, or even anti-teleological.

    No, most definitely not. That’s why I said certain things. You don’t have to believe in a grand purpose behind some events that may personally affect you to believe they have reasons for happening. I imagine that all atheists are capable of teleological reasoning, but they find it fallacious/ineffective/meaningless.

    If I ask you to tell me what you think of X, and your instinct is to give reply 1, but then you force yourself to give reply 2 which is at odds with reply 1, did you lie?

    Since when was instinct ever useful? Or do you mean instinct in this case as a spiritual impulse or some such thing? Our hindbrain, or reptilian brain, is the most instinctual part of our brain. It asks, “Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it?” The limbic system is also somewhat instinctual. The neocortex, or the rational brain, is generally what we champion nowadays due to its lack of reliance on pure instinct.

    Moving away for pure instinct is the very reason we have philosophy, art, science, etc.

  17. Hunt,

    I’m not sure that “Oh crap it’s a lion” qualifies as teleological reasoning, but I see what you’re getting at.

    It is not designed by a thinking being.

    That’s weasel-wording alright… :)

    Crude,

    One thing I wonder though: If the study ‘shows’ that atheists see teleology, but then offer up non-teleological responses when asked, would that qualify as lying by your sights?

    It seems more in line with delusion.

    joseph,

    Is there any evidence that teleological thinking is beneficial?

    Interesting question. Most atheists I’ve encountered will turn around and say that teleological thinking run amok, e.g. religion, is not beneficial. When and where they draw the line, and why, remains a mystery.

    garren,

    …aren’t the condemned people in Romans 1 idolators who are engaging in teleological thinking, but are anthropomorphizing nature instead of realizing divinity lies beyond nature?

    It seems to me they’re described as ungodly and unrighteous people who suppress the truth and worship the creation instead of the Creator. That doesn’t strike me as much different than the enchanted naturalist.

    TE,

    Aside from the Scripture you posted, there is no evidence demonstrating that atheists naturally reason teleologically.

    On what grounds do you deny the study?

    Teleological reasoning would be beneficial even if its assumptions were untrue

    Why do you say that? That seems to need some heavy-duty support.

    Also, if it is the case that it is a psychological mechanism, then it is a naturalistic fallacy to say that atheists are self-deluded/lying when asserting such things.

    From Wikipedia: “Moore stated that a naturalistic fallacy is committed whenever a philosopher attempts to prove a claim about ethics by appealing to a definition of the term “good” in terms of one or more natural properties (such as “pleasant”, “more evolved”, “desired”, etc.)”

    How would that be an example of the naturalist fallacy?

  18. You don’t have to believe in a grand purpose behind some events that may personally affect you to believe they have reasons for happening.

    But accepting the reality of teleology in the natural world does lead to some interesting consequences, or in the directions of them.

    Since when was instinct ever useful?

    Often, apparently.

    Or do you mean instinct in this case as a spiritual impulse or some such thing?

    Possibly, though it can merely be the awareness that there is an innate teleology and purpose in the universe and “natural” world generally. Call that spiritual if you like.

    Our hindbrain, or reptilian brain, is the most instinctual part of our brain. It asks, “Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it?”

    Two problems. First, the question isn’t about mere instincts, but about the appearance of teleology in the natural world. And apparently, even atheists tend to see the world teleologically – if the study is right, they’re actively trying not to, or at least trying to deny that they do.

    Second, describing physical systems in intentional terms is just another form of teleology. Like regarding parts of the brain as “asking” about things beyond itself.

    Moving away for pure instinct is the very reason we have philosophy, art, science, etc.

    Or maybe it’s developing different kinds of instincts. Or honing instincts that we already had.

  19. How would that be an example of the naturalist fallacy?

    To suggest it is lying/self-delusion to attempt to view the world in a sense that is not teleological because we naturally see the world teleologically. That fallacy* is dependent upon the second part of the previous sentence as Crude pointed out.

    * Woops, I meant the moralistic fallacy: what is good and right is inherent and natural. However, both could apply here. To say we ought to trust teleological POVs because they are natural would be naturalistic. To say denying teleological POVs is self-delusion because teleology is a part of our perception would be moralistic.

    First, the question isn’t about mere instincts, but about the appearance of teleology in the natural world.

    I don’t think there is any teleology in the natural world, per se, but I do think there may be a psychological inclination to view the world as such. A bias of perception, if you will. And of course atheists would try to avoid seeing the world in such a way, because they think it to be fallacious.

    To respond to Crude’s link, what does it prove in the midst of all this? We have been conditioned to look for patterns — we notice incongruence. This is also a psychological inclination. It may not take long to spot the odd one out, but when our rational brain tries to scan all possible options, we may vacillate. Also, I should have said: “Since when did instinct ever lead to any sort of true understanding?” Obviously instinct can be useful.

    On what grounds do you deny the study?

    I don’t deny the study. It is true that atheists disbelieve in teleology, but the notion of atheists denying these teleological answers internally is unsubstantiated.

    Why do you say that? That seems to need some heavy-duty support.

    I thought I threw in some general examples. It helps us reconcile misfortunes (e.g. why bad things happen to good people, natural disasters, accidents) and cope with tragedies (e.g. better things lay ahead, wrongdoers will be punished, this is all a deity’s plan).

  20. And of course atheists would try to avoid seeing the world in such a way, because they think it to be fallacious.

    What’s the fallacy in seeing teleology in nature?

    To say we ought to trust teleological POVs because they are natural would be naturalistic.

    Who said that? In cl’s post, all I see is him pointing out a study that seems to support the idea that atheists see/think teleologically after all, but consciously weed it out, and that this is in accord with a scriptural claim. I think that’s more at the level of data than argument. He said it’s suggestive, but he also said it doesn’t prove the claim.

    To respond to Crude’s link, what does it prove in the midst of all this?

    You asked when instinct has ever been useful, I answered. What more should there be?

    Also, I should have said: “Since when did instinct ever lead to any sort of true understanding?

    “The research, published online in the journal Current Biology, shows that, in some cases, instinctive snap decisions are more reliable than decisions taken using higher-level cognitive processes.”

    but the notion of atheists denying these teleological answers internally is unsubstantiated.

    “The atheists, in contrast, revealed themselves to be reasoning teleologically, but then they rejected those thoughts.”

  21. All teleological thinking means is that we are prone to assuming objects (or physical attributes) are for things. It’s mental shorthand, and from an evolutionary perspective could have been adaptive in early tool use (this doesn’t qualify as an explanation, just a hypothesis). The fact that atheists circumvent this shorthand in response to deeper philosophical questions is not “lying” or denying some platonic truth, it is reasonable and consistent with observation and reliable naturalistic explanations.

  22. All teleological thinking means is that we are prone to assuming objects (or physical attributes) are for things.

    That’s not the extent of teleology. There’s the idea that some things are “for” things. There’s also the idea that they are “about” things.

    It’s mental shorthand, and from an evolutionary perspective could have been adaptive in early tool use (this doesn’t qualify as an explanation, just a hypothesis).

    You know, as someone who’s entirely comfortable with theistic evolution, I wouldn’t mind such a perspective in principle. But let’s recognize something – imaging a loose ‘evolutionary explanation’ for just about anything is easy, since it amounts to “well, just suggest there was an evolutionary advantage”.

    Either way, in what way would it be shorthand? “That biological/natural thing has a purpose/is about something/has an intrinsic meaning/etc” is shorthand for..?

    is not “lying” or denying some platonic truth, it is reasonable and consistent with observation and reliable naturalistic explanations.

    I’m up in the air about whether or not it’s lying. My question was, if you ask someone what they think of object X, and their consistent instinct is to describe it in way 1, but they reject that and describe it in way 2, is that a lie? I didn’t give an answer to that, since I don’t think it’s very simple. But it’s definitely a question.

  23. Just because it lead to the right decision doesn’t mean there was true, conscious understanding taking place. I’m not calling cl out. I’m calling the study out. I think it’s vague and arbitrary. It’s an interesting find, and I want to see it retried, but I don’t think it could ever actually demonstrate what it says below.

    “The atheists, in contrast, revealed themselves to be reasoning teleologically, but then they rejected those thoughts.”

    This just smells funny to me. Why don’t they explain how this happened? How do they know what the atheists were thinking? How do they know they first thought teleologically, then suppressed that reasoning?

    What’s the fallacy in seeing teleology in nature?

    It’s basically a cognitive bias. It can cause you to interpret things incorrectly and misunderstand events. It can close you off to theories with evidence that are out of step with teleology or refute it. It could even distort rational decision making — if one thinks a divine being has placed them in a horrible position to build their faith, the person may simply stay put until the situation passes, putting himself in danger and anyone choosing to accompany him.

  24. It’s basically a cognitive bias. It can cause you to interpret things incorrectly and misunderstand events. It can close you off to theories with evidence that are out of step with teleology or refute it. It could even distort rational decision making — if one thinks a divine being has placed them in a horrible position to build their faith, the person may simply stay put until the situation passes, putting himself in danger and anyone choosing to accompany him.

    Alright, a few problems.

    First, just having a “cognitive bias” is not fallacious. In fact, saying something along the lines of ‘you think that because of evolution, therefore you shouldn’t think that’ would be a fallacy, if I recall right.

    Second, what if a person thinks “I am in this situation for a reason” – and they are? What if they think there is purpose and teleology in nature – and there is? Even granting that they may be wrong specifically (Teleological reading X was given, but teleological reading Y was correct), they may be correct generally (Teleology was present).

    I think the point of this post was simply to note that even atheists apparently instinctively see teleology in nature – the study as given suggests, for whatever reason, many are actively suppressing that reading. Likewise, a claim that evolution played a role in shaping the instinct doesn’t show or even necessarily suggest the instinct was wrong – evolution is just one more tool in a designer’s toolbox, in principle.

    This just smells funny to me. Why don’t they explain how this happened? How do they know what the atheists were thinking? How do they know they first thought teleologically, then suppressed that reasoning?

    Wanting to more directly follow the logic of cited research is entirely reasonable. I’d love to see the study itself.

  25. I think the point of this post was simply to note that even atheists apparently instinctively see teleology in nature – the study as given suggests, for whatever reason, many are actively suppressing that reading.

    I think you’re right. I wouldn’t dispute that people instinctively see teleology. I wouldn’t deny occasionally seeing things as teleological, but nowadays I tend to naturally see things as coincidental or simply meaningful to me. IMO, it is perfectly possible to stop seeing things teleologically.

    First, just having a “cognitive bias” is not fallacious. In fact, saying something along the lines of ‘you think that because of evolution, therefore you shouldn’t think that’ would be a fallacy, if I recall right.

    This is true, but I’m not saying we shouldn’t think that. There’s no moral connotation here, but a factual one. We really should try to be as unbiased as possible in our judgments and perceptions. Even though you’re correct in saying having a cognitive bias is not fallacious, it can still lead to fallacious beliefs and opinions.

  26. Let me get this straight. If I am playing poker and someone asks me why I just got the hand I got (which just happens to be say 8c-10d) and I respond “No reason, it was just random,” rather than condescendingly describing the actions of the dealer shuffling the cards and handing them to me of which the questioner is fully aware of, then I am actively suppressing an instinctive inclination to attribute a teleological nature to the way the cards were dealt? Or is this simply responding to the most reasonable interpretation of the question? After all, if they wanted a description, they would have asked “how” and not “why.” Can someone please explain exactly how this study supports the notion that atheists instinctively see teleology in nature?

  27. Let me get this straight. If I am playing poker and someone asks me why

    I don’t think that’s a good comparison to what the study suggests in the article. Closer would be “If someone asks you why you got the hand you got, and your first thought is to attribute it to some reason or purpose, but then you second-guess that and give a different response, what just happened?”

    Can someone please explain exactly how this study supports the notion that atheists instinctively see teleology in nature?

    “The atheists, in contrast, revealed themselves to be reasoning teleologically, but then they rejected those thoughts.”

    That’s the summary from the article. As for the specifics of how, as I said with TE, I’d like to see the research myself. But there you have it.

    TE,

    IMO, it is perfectly possible to stop seeing things teleologically.

    Perhaps, but I’m not sure that was in question anyway.

    Even though you’re correct in saying having a cognitive bias is not fallacious, it can still lead to fallacious beliefs and opinions.

    Maybe, but what can’t “lead to” that at least potentially? ‘Trying one’s damndest to be unbiased’ can inadvertently lead to that too.

  28. ““The atheists, in contrast, revealed themselves to be reasoning teleologically, but then they rejected those thoughts.”

    That’s the summary from the article. As for the specifics of how, as I said with TE, I’d like to see the research myself. But there you have it.”

    I was aware of that statement. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I interpret that as saying in contrast to the subjects with Asperger’s, the atheist subjects gave teleological responses, ergo they were reasoning teleologically, but after evaluating the reason, they rejected it, hence replying in the negative. This is the point, there is no suggestion that the atheists believed a teleological purpose and then suppressed it; it is a fabrication from misinterpreting one phrase that is not parsimonious with the stated data and then based on the assumption that some unpublished part of the study somehow accounts for it.

  29. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I interpret that as saying in contrast to the subjects with Asperger’s, the atheist subjects gave teleological responses, ergo they were reasoning teleologically, but after evaluating the reason, they rejected it, hence replying in the negative. This is the point, there is no suggestion that the atheists believed a teleological purpose and then suppressed it; it is a fabrication from misinterpreting one phrase that is not parsimonious with the stated data and then based on the assumption that some unpublished part of the study somehow accounts for it.

    What is the difference between viewing something, immediately seeing things in a teleological manner, then rejecting this and instead giving a non-teleological reply – versus – “believing a teleological purpose and then suppressing it”? It couldn’t be an accusation of lying, since no one here said the atheists were lying – I asked cl whether he thought they were, and admitted I thought it was tricky to evaluate.

    Also, you say it’s “not parsimonious with the stated data” and that an “unpublished part of the study accounts for it”. It’s entirely parsimonious with the stated data, if that’s the article itself. I checked around for a more direct claim, and here’s a related (if earlier) comment from Bering, one of the authors of the study:

    “Other atheists in the study confessed that they sometimes caught themselves thinking in such a fashion too, but immediately corrected
    this cognitive bias in line with their explicitly logical, irreligious beliefs. One such person was a middle-aged man who botched a job
    interview for a position that he very much wanted, failing to get an offer from his prospective employer: ‘‘And I found myself thinking, ’’he
    said, ‘‘maybe this is meant to happen so I can find a better job or move to a different county to work d something like that. But in reality I
    don’t believe in fate, so it’s strange to find oneself thinking like that.’’ This pattern of thinking strongly implies that atheism is more a verbal
    muzzling of God — a conscious, executively made decision to reject one’s own intuitions about a faceless uber-mind involved in our personal affairs — than it is a true cognitive exorcism. The thought might be smothered so quickly that we fail to even realize that it has happened, but the despondent atheist’s appeal to some reasonable mind seems a psychological reflex to misfortune nonetheless.”

    That’s from 2009 article “Atheism is only skin deep: Geertz and Markusson rely mistakenly on sociodemographic data as meaningful indicators of underlying cognition” by the way. CL, if you’re reading this, I suggest having a look. It’s pretty unique as far as perspectives on this question go.

  30. You Jesus nutters continue to make the case for Christian doctrine emanating directly from Balaam’s donkeys ass!

    And when they had finished the Last Supper, Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “Boys, I should have passed on the cabbage. I feel a major fart a ‘commin. Amen.”

    If I only had a brain!

  31. but according to evolution there is no intention or thought behind it. It is not designed by a thinking being. In short, it is not a demonstration of natural teleology.

    ..It’s not accurate. It’s not “according to evolution”, it’s “according to some guy’s belief about evolution”. Evolution is entirely compatible with there being intention or thought behind it, or with it being designed by a thinking being. We use evolutionary processes in our own designs – artificial selection, bounded variation, and combinations thereof.

    Catholics, Francis Collins, and many other religious evolutionists appear to agree with you, but by and large evolution is a materialist theory. Yes, it can be cast in the role of “guided evolution,” and there is no definitive proof against that. My response would probably be as Fourier’s to Napoleon, that I do not require that assumption (in a different context), and I think most evolutionists would agree. Doesn’t mean I’m right, but it does mean that I’m making one less assumption than you are.

  32. @Hunt,
    Furthermore if you interpreted evolution as “God’s process”, you bear the weight of explaining some odd “designs”, and explaining the origin of some of the cruelties of the natural world, though perhaps with reference to “the fall” and “the devil” an answer of sorts can be given.

  33. cl,

    I’d be interested to know your take on the 3rd round of debate between Vox and Dom.

  34. “Also, you say it’s “not parsimonious with the stated data” and that an “unpublished part of the study accounts for it”. It’s entirely parsimonious with the stated data, if that’s the article itself. “

    The stated data, the findings of the study, is that atheists respond to “why” questions in a negative teleological manner and that people with Aspergers respond with descriptions. This simply means that if someone asks an atheist why a certain event took place, the atheist will interpret that the questioner as asking for a teleological reason, for which they will answer in the negative if they think that the action did not have one.

    The anecdotes from the actual study are much more interesting although not much more insightful. I don’t put too much merit in first responses. People do this all the time, when, for example, first upon seeing a mathematical question give an incorrect answer and then a couple seconds later correct themselves. Specifically, this question has been in the news lately, “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” The initial, “intuitive,” response people give is usually incorrect, but some people who use “reflective thinking” change their initial response on second thought. Does this mean that they deeply believe the original to be correct, even after their correction or acknowledge that the original is true and then suppress it? I don’t think so. They acknowledged that they made an error and upon further thinking, revised their evaluation to make it correct.

    In fact, this should be troubling for theists. It showed that individuals who use reflective thinking tend to be atheistic. Taken in tandem with the findings from the study mentioned in the OP, it shows that atheists, while they may initially find a teleological reason, upon further reflection, they deem it to be false. Theists have stood behind their first answer; perhaps they should think about it more, and no, that does not mean to come up with rationalizations to support their first answer. While I doubt there is anyone who thinks that reflective thinkers
    “have internal access to the truth of the” math problem’s answer and then suppress it, I seem to have found someone who thinks the same applies for God.

  35. Hunt,

    Catholics, Francis Collins, and many other religious evolutionists appear to agree with you, but by and large evolution is a materialist theory.

    What does this mean? What could it mean? That many people, or at least many/most scientists, think evolution is entirely unguided? But that doesn’t make it “a materialist theory”. It would make it a theory that many self-described materialists accept, or put a particular gloss on. That doesn’t make the theory materialist, anymore than an abundance of theists seeing the Big Bang as an act of creation by God makes the Big Bang theory “a supernatural theory”.

    Yes, it can be cast in the role of “guided evolution,” and there is no definitive proof against that.

    It’s not just that there’s no proof against it, there’s also evidence for and against the proposition. None of it is conclusive, but none of it has to be.

    My response would probably be as Fourier’s to Napoleon, that I do not require that assumption (in a different context), and I think most evolutionists would agree. Doesn’t mean I’m right, but it does mean that I’m making one less assumption than you are.

    Well, no: The “theory”, as a theory, does not require any claim about guidance or teleology or the lack thereof. “It’s not guided” is extraneous to the theory. So is “it’s guided”. The only way to really settle it would, oddly enough, require something the Intelligent Design people are always going off about: A scientific way to detect design or its lack. But none is on offer.

    Either way, it goes back to what I said at the start: It’s not that science shows us that evolution is unguided or that there is no teleology. That’s a belief people have about evolution. Line up 99% or even 100% of all evolutionary biologists on your side if you want, but it’s not going to change that.

  36. Roffle,

    This simply means that if someone asks an atheist why a certain event took place, the atheist will interpret that the questioner as asking for a teleological reason, for which they will answer in the negative if they think that the action did not have one.

    The example I gave from the study author (though possibly from an earlier study) involved an atheist self-reporting about his own mental state, which apparently meant to serve as an illustration of a larger pattern – that atheists tend to innately incline towards teleological reasoning, then consciously correct themselves. It doesn’t seem related to ‘people asking them a question’.

    Either way, the study simply suggests that many atheists still have an intuitive, if reflexive belief in grand purpose and meaning in the world. One of the study author’s points seemed to be not that this establishes some truth of God’s existence or Biblical truth (Though I agree with cl that it does constitute some evidence, though not conclusive evidence), but that beliefs and attitudes about the universe are complicated – simply calling oneself or even thinking of oneself as an atheist doesn’t mean that all theistic thoughts, attitudes, and instincts have gone away.

    In fact, this should be troubling for theists. It showed that individuals who use reflective thinking tend to be atheistic.

    Where did it show this? Where did it even imply it? That atheists tend reason teleologically then, upon reflection, reject the teleological reasoning does not imply that theists aren’t reflective – they can reflect, and conclude the teleological reasoning is correct, or in line with their beliefs. I see nowhere where this study reports “theists aren’t reflective”.

    Further, the example of reflection given wasn’t “Well, I thought this event or thing had a grander purpose or meaning. But oh wait, here’s definitive proof that’s not the case, therefore I was wrong.” It was, “I thought this event or thing had a grander purpose or meaning. But wait, I’m an atheist, I don’t think things like that.”


  37. What does this mean? What could it mean? That many people, or at least many/most scientists, think evolution is entirely unguided?

    Maybe I should have said materialist possessive, “materialists’ theory,” in other words, I think we’re in agreement, evolution is supported by a lot of materialists.


    Either way, it goes back to what I said at the start: It’s not that science shows us that evolution is unguided or that there is no teleology.

    That’s a belief people have about evolution. Line up 99% or even 100% of all evolutionary biologists on your side if you want, but it’s not going to change that.

    I won’t go this far. I’ll just flip that around and say no matter how much or technically how correct you might be that guidance or a lack thereof is irrelevant to the theory, the study of evolution proceeds by way of methodological materialism. The ultimate intent is to explain things materialistically. Anyone is certainly welcome to study evolution while keeping an open mind about teleology, but the advancement of evolutionary sciences goes by way of non-teleological materialist method.

  38. Sorry about that, the “it” I was referring to this study: http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/09/thinking-god.aspx

  39. Hello, TWIM!
    Do you wanna return to the activities of this blog?

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