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Monday, December 15, 2014

Talking to a Dowsing Believer

I was talking to a co-worker today who expressed belief in dowsing. He said that he had personally experienced the force that caused dowsing rods to cross. He speculated this was caused by some kind of magnetism.

"From water?", I asked. "What would happen to dowsing rods if you walked next to a lake? Would they stick together really hard?"

He was puzzled by this. I then pointed out that some dowsers use a y-shaped branch instead of metal rods to dowse. Wood does not react to magnetic fields.

I got more puzzled looks from my co-worker. I told him to look up James Randi's dowsing tests and the ideomotor phenomenon. He said he would and also wanted to do his own test.

I told him if he wanted to make sure he wasn't unknowingly moving the dowsing rods, he should put them on a cart and then either push or pull it along. Bury some water in the ground, move the cart over it, and see if the rods move. If the rods only move when people are holding them, then it must be the people who are moving them.

I look forward to seeing a new skeptical outlook in my co-worker.  

Does atheism undermine morality?


Everyone's empathy fails from time to time. A small percent of people lack empathy entirely. They cannot understand why they should not do whatever they want if they can get away with it. So how can you promote good behavior given these imperfections?

All societies promote it with surveillance and punishment. People tend to behave when they feel they are being watched and will be punished if they break the rules. However, physical surveillance and punishment is expensive and has limits. It turns out that supernatural surveillance and punishment, which requires much less expense, can also promote good behavior.

A study found that college students who were told a classroom was haunted were far less likely to cheat on a test than those who did not hear the ghost story.  

So now we see the main reason why almost all societies have some kind of religion.

But there is a problem: people who voice skepticism of religion undermine its power to promote good. Skeptics counter that they also undermine its power to promote evil. Is religion the noble lie Plato spoke of?

It is true that skepticism undermines the good of religion, but all the good that comes from religion can be had without it. But there are kinds of evil that can only come from religion.

Steven Weinberg said it best: "'Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

Apologist David Wood throughout the ages

"But Marge- what if we picked the wrong religion? Each week we just make god madder and madder."

-Homer Simpson

Sumerian David Wood: Morality can only come from the Ea!

Babylonian David Wood: Morality can only come from Ishtar!

Akkadian David Wood: Morality can only come from Anu!

Ancient Egyptian David Wood: Morality can only come from Ra!

Ancient Greek David Wood: Morality can only come from Zeus!

Ancient Roman David Wood: Morality can only come from Jupiter!

Ancient Chinese David Wood: Morality can only come from Guan Yu!

Buddhist David Wood: Morality can only come from Buddha!

Hindu David Wood: Morality can only come from Krishna!

Muslim David Wood: Morality can only come from Allah!

Viking David Wood: Morality can only come from Odin!

Aztec David Wood: Morality can only come from Huitzilopochtli!

Hawaiian David Wood: Morality can only come from Kāne!

Japanese David Wood: Morality can only come from Amaterasu!

Scientologist David Wood: Morality can only come from L Ron Hubbard!

Sikh David Wood: Morality can only come from Waheguru!

Aborigine David Wood: Morality can only come from the Rainbow Serpent!

The god liars know the jig is up, and they are now in full panic mode. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A summary of theist arguments & counterarguments

C for Christian/theist; A for atheist

C: If you're right, I lose nothing by believing. If you're wrong, you lose everything by not believing.
A: That assumes there are only two alternatives. You have yet to discredit the many others.

C: The bible says it, I believe it, that's end of it.
A: So what? Why? No. 

C: If you have no objective moral standard, morality is just a useful fiction.
A: Morality IS a useful fiction. So are language and money. Should we stop speaking English until we can prove it is the One True Language?

C: Living things are very complex like machines and works of art. A design requires a designer.
A: Living things reproduce. Machines and works of art do not. 

C: The universe is finely-tuned. If it were slightly different, we wouldn't be here.
A: And if the guy who won the lottery had bought a different ticket, he wouldn't have won. It makes no sense to talk about the probability of something that has already happened. 

C: Jesus died for our sins.
A: He didn't really die if he came back to life. 

C: The founders of all other religions are dead, but Jesus is alive.
A: OK, what's his address then? Perhaps you can introduce me to him. 

C: If there is no objective morality, there are no consequences. I could do whatever I wanted.
A: Tell that to all the people sitting in prison. 

C: Christianity is the only religion where god sacrifices himself for us.
A: Nope, but even if that's true, so what? Other religions are unique in other ways.

C: How could [fill in the blank] exist without god?
A: Argument from ignorance. 

C: You believe in arbitrary standards, but I follow god's word.
A: You follow a book that was written, compiled, and interpreted by people. 

C: The laws of logic are transcendent and universal. They could only come from god.
A: Math is also transcendent and universal and it clearly the product of human thought. 

A: Why does god permit evil?
C: God works in mysterious ways.
A: Try using that excuse with the IRS.

A: Why do you accept the divinity of Christ? 
C: The accounts of Christ's resurrection are reliable.
A: So why is it that most of the people on earth don't believe them? 

C: You must have faith.
A: So why bother trying to prove it?

C: Why do you criticize if you don't believe anyway?
A: Because lies are harmful and offensive to me. 

C: Hitler was an atheist.
A: He wrote that he was doing the lord's work. The Holocaust was largely carried out by Christians and it was justified with antisemitic propaganda Christians had promoted for centuries. 

C: Stalin [or some other bad guy] killed people and was an atheist.
A: Your god supposedly killed millions of people and you worship him. 

A: Does everything need a creator?
C: Yes.
A: OK, what created god?
C: God by definition does not require a creator. 
A: That's special pleading. Saying the universe was not created is more plausible than saying an un-created god created the universe.

C: Believing in god has useful consequences.
A: That is irrelevant to whether the claims are true. 

C: My religion has a holy book, miracles, revelations, etc.
A: So does every other religion.

C: You must have been mistreated by a Christian.
A: Show me on the doll where the scientist touched you. 

David Wood makes poor arguments part 4

+Acts17Apologetics Yes, morality is a useful fiction. So is language. Should we stop using language because there is no perfect language? The English language is not objectively better than Chinese or Esperanto. People communicate just fine with them and many others. But just as languages have common elements, so do the various moral systems. There is no moral system where cowardice is a virtue and bravery is a vice. You can argue that some moral systems produce happier societies than others just you can argue that some languages are easier to learn or that metric units are easier to use than imperial units.  
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+Thomas Harty Thomas Harty said: "Yes, morality is a useful fiction." Thank you for admitting this! But that's precisely the point. Given atheism, morality is a useful fiction. Given theism, morality is more than a useful fiction. So, atheists who believe that morality is objective either need to give up their atheism or give up their belief that morality is objective. Perfect!
+Austin Archer Ugh. Odd that the guy who says he's interested in moral philosophy still can't understand the simplest of points.

Austin said: "You have some notion that if whatever you do does not matter on a cosmic scale, then it doesn't matter at all."

No, I don't. Your actions might matter to other people, but why should you care? Do you care that theists might be offended at what you're saying right now? No, you don't. So why should an axe-murderer care that people are offended at his actions?

Austin said: "If a god exists, there is NOT a right and wrong based on any objective standard, but rather it is based entirely on god's subjective and arbitrary nature. i.e. it is good if and only if god said it was good."

Oh my goodness. You don't even understand basic moral terminology. To say that morality is objective means that there are things that are right or wrong REGARDLESS OF WHAT WE THINK ABOUT THEM. If an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good being created us and issued commands, then there are things that are right or wrong regardless of what we think about them. Hence, there would be objective moral values.

You refer to God's nature as "subjective and arbitrary." Seriously? You believe that, according to theism, God's nature is subjective? Do you even know what "subjective" means? And do you believe it's the sort of term that can be applied to God's nature? I'd say I'm shocked that someone can be so sloppy regarding terminology, but I've dealt with too many atheists to be shocked by anything lately.

Austin said: "Moral philosophers, for centuries, have developed theories without appealing to god at all."

If you tried reading their works (as I have), you'd realize that, given naturalism, there are no objective moral values. If you can prove me wrong on this, why not do it instead of appealing to some unknown work on moral philosophy that you've never read and don't understand. (Blind faith at it's finest!)

Austin said: "You asserting that something is the case does not constitute it actually being the case."

And you complaining about it and displaying your ignorance doesn't show that it's not the case.

Austin said: "Also, what, on earth, does the existence of god have to do with morality? Even if he existed and did give us a moral code, you suffer from the is-ought problem. Why ought we even care what god said? Why ought we follow his commands?"

Are you really this clueless, or are you trying to make some point about atheism leading to absurdity? If you really don't see why showing some level of respect to the one who created you and sustains you for every moment that you exist is morally right, I'd hate to see how you treat others. If you have no obligation to honor or respect the one who has given you everything you have, surely you have no obligation to honor or respect ANYONE. Chilling.
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+Acts17Apologetics David said: "So, atheists who believe that morality is objective either need to give up their atheism or give up their belief that morality is objective. "

Yes, although I don't believe in objective morality and neither do most atheists. Sam Harris has argument for objective morality (his boook, "The Moral Landscape"), but it basically boils down to utilitarianism, which is subjective. I cannot prove objectively that pleasure is better than pain, life is better than death, or honor is better than shame. I can only say that I most others share similar preferences. 
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+Thomas Harty Thomas said: "Yes, although I don't believe in objective morality and neither do most atheists."

Bull. Atheists say that they don't believe in objective morality, but then they start condemning God, Christians, etc. So you're saying one thing, but doing another. Hypocrisy at its finest.

David Wood make poor arguments part 3

So David thinks morality must be objective- absolutely true in some kind of cosmic sense. Does he think that about anything else?  He speaks English when he could just as well use some other language. There is no objective proof that English is the One True Language. He wears normal clothes even though there is no proof that there is such a thing as the One True Clothing. He uses dollars even though there is no proof that it is the One True Money. He uses regular numbers even though he could just as well use Roman or Indic numerals. Well, David, I tell you what. Until you can prove that English, dollars, your clothes, and Arabic numerals are objectively better, you should stop using them. 
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Wow. Funny that you think you're refuting my point, when you're actually proving it. My claim in the video is NOT that "morality must be objective." It's that, in order to be objective, there must be a moral standard. You compare moral values to languages, clothing styles, etc. If atheism is true, YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. Choosing to murder rather than to help the poor is like choosing to wear odd clothing rather than the usual garb. Is English better than Japanese? Not in any objective sense. Are dollars better than yen? Not in any objective sense. Is helping people better than torturing them? According to your analogy, not in any objective sense. But that's precisely why I said in the video that, given atheism, "You might as well do whatever you feel like doing." Thanks for proving my point with your excellent comparisons!
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+Acts17Apologetics On this we agree. If there is no objective morality, then you cannot say that murder is wrong in the sense that 2 + 2 = 5 is wrong. I have never claimed that objective morality exists. I am pointing out that you are being inconsistent. You say morality must be objective to be worth following, but you accept all kinds of arbitrary things like language, clothes, and money without a second thought.

Just because morality is arbitrary does not mean it is useless. When drive, you follow traffic rules, right? Are US traffic rules true in some cosmic sense? No, they just make driving safer and more convenient. Same goes for morality.

Man is the measure of all things. There are commands in the Bible that Christians largely ignore. Why? Isn't that their moral standard? Here's a contradiction for you: Paul said divorce is forbidden. Jesus says it is allowed in some cases.
Who's telling the truth here? How can you use a contradictory set of teachings as a moral standard? 
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+Thomas Harty Thomas Harty said: "Man is the measure of all things." LOL! I really can't imagine how anyone can be this illogical and inconsistent. Which man is the measure of all things? Because men disagree on all kinds of things. And you're here arguing with people, as if there's some truth about these issues. Are you the measure? Why not Stalin? Why not me? And if I'm the measure of all things, why are you arguing with me? You're arguing with the measure!

David Wood makes poor arguments part 2

Since the incredibly learned and courageous Christian apologist David Wood appears to have blocked me, I hereby reproduce the following exchanges for posterity:

David says: "I obey God because God is my Creator and Sustainer, and we have a moral obligation to honor such a being."

And how do you know that? The only life-sustaining being I see is the sun. Should I start worshiping the sun? At least I can SEE the sun. 
This is already getting old, Thomas. I'm guessing you're a disgruntled fifteen year old who's been raised on a steady diet of Richard Dawkins videos. You asked if I'm a Christian because of a promise of the afterlife. I answered that I would be a Christian even if there were no afterlife, because I have a moral obligation to honor my Creator. And you change the subject to "How do you know?" As I've already said, Jesus rose from the dead, so I believe what he says about God. The sun didn't create you, and it only sustains you as an intermediate cause. (The sun is itself dependent on God.) You then suggest that you only believe in what you see. I guess you don't believe in logical laws, since you can't see them (or laws of nature, for that matter). This explains a lot of your silly comments. If you're going to keep going with the silly questions and insults, do it somewhere else. There are people who are interested in having meaningful conversations. I understand that you don't have much concern for them, since you don't believe in objective moral values. But do it somewhere else anyway.
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+Acts17Apologetics You know nothing about me. I'm 29, I'm an engineer and I have a degree in chemical engineering. I was raised a Mormon and made a slow slide into unbelief over several years after much study of religion and philosophy.

I acknowledge your point about still believing even if there was no promise of heaven. Will you acknowledge how rare that view is among Christians? Every gospel tract I've ever seen includes threats of hell. You say the sun is dependent on god. Really? I don't remember learning about that in astronomy class.

No, I cannot see laws of logic or nature, but there is still proof for them which I can see. I know they are true because they allow me to make accurate predictions about the world.

If you really believe Christianity is the one true religion, how do you explain the relative lack of Christians? When something is objectively true, people all over the world converge on the same answer. Doctors in Japan study the same anatomy as ones in Algeria. Consensus is not proof, but it gets hard to ignore after a while. 

David Wood makes poor arguments part 1


I have heard many people say morals can only come from religion. No, all you need is a smidgen reason and empathy.

1. I do not want to be harmed by other people.
2. Other people are similar to me.
3. People tend to reciprocate behavior.
4. If I am nice to other people, they will probably return the favor.
5. Therefore, if I want to avoid harm, I should follow the Golden Rule.
6. I should also support efforts to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior to provide the right incentives.

And there you go- no religion necessary, nothing but appeals to my own self-interest. Sure, some people lack either reason or empathy. But that is a problem whether you get morals from religion or not. A person who does not care about rewards or punishments in this life where they are immediate is unlikely to care about them in the afterlife.

Even when David did not fear punishment, he still tried to escape it. 
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LOL! Thomas tries to ground morality in selfishness. "If I want other people to treat me well, I should treat them well so they don't hurt me." But if selfishness is the ground of morality, another principle emerges. "If I can get away with doing X, I might as well do it." Just as selfish, and just as moral.

+Acts17Apologetics That "If" of yours is on a lot shakier ground than mine. Criminals tend not to get away with it for long, as you yourself found out.  If I could fart money, I could quit my job. Guess what? I can't fart money. 

+Thomas Harty Nonsense. People get away with it all the time. Some of the most notorious serial killers in history have never been caught. Following your moral reasoning, they did nothing wrong, since they acted from selfishness, which is the basis of your ethical system.


+Thomas Harty typos- I make them. Should be"quit" not "quite".

+Acts17Apologetics Yeah, and for every Zodiac Killer, there are a hundred who did get caught. They were being selfish, but they were doing it the hard way. If you take selfishness as the basis of morality, criminal behavior is "wrong" because it is stupid. The risks far outweigh the rewards. Even serial killers have to go along with society's rules most of the time just to stay alive and avoid being caught.