Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Comic 718: Oops! I forgot to tell a joke!

Note: any time Person #1 compliments you he is wrong. -Ed.

Hello smart, intelligent and attractive people of the xkcdsucks blog and Carl (OH SNAP!). Person #1 here once again to guest post about that one webcomic that causes wikipedia editors so much work.

I love including other people in my blog posts, as you may have noticed, and today I have a story too. A friend of mine, who is a legitimate friend of xkcd told me about how incredibly unentertaining today's xkcd is. Once again, this gave me an incentive to check it out. (See? People keep making me read it)

flakes

Well, my first thought was "Again? Didn't we already do this?". Well, we did. Back then, the comic had an actual joke, though. What is this supposed to tell us? Ha ha, I changed the equation to see how many different alien encounter stories are out there. Ha. Hilarious. The bottom text (which you read last) describes what's going on. The problem here is, there IS a lot of alien encounter stories. This is not fascinating or unexpected or anything. It's like telling a story about what the best route to the supermarket is, and then expecting people to laugh at it. it's a lot of buildup for nothing surprising.

This is something which could be seen as satire, maybe showing how anyone can make up bullshit equations to prove a point, which doesn't make them true. However, this does not make them funny. This is something I could accept in a newspaper or as part of a blog post, but on it's own it's just lame. He could have done pretty much anything to make it funnier.

yes yes
Anything?

This strikes me as one of those comics where Randall was not really looking to be funny, but rather to make up some interesting bullshit, which I do like to do with my friends too. But it doesn't make good material for a webcomic.

Alt text: "Statistics suggest that there should be tons of alien encounter stories, and in pracitce [sic] there are tons of alien encounter stories. This is known as Fermi's Lack-of-a-Paradox."
Well, that's lame. I don't even know what else to say about that. It's just so incredibly mediocre. Ha ha, my crazy result is actually not crazy and totally normal and I am pointing this out. Why didn't he just write "Hey guys this comic totally isn't funny, so fuck you"

Forumites, do your thing:
Why is it called the Flake Equation?

Perhaps it's a flaky equation?


There's a ton of stuff on Google about alien abductions in Snow Flake, Arizona... Maybe that has something to do with it? I don't know.

I guess I am not the only non-native speaker. Flake is a crazy person.

blah blah blah - forumites are boring. I have a more important issue to tackle with the forums anyway:

Is echochamber.me turning into a socialist dictatorship?
Yes. Yes it is
I have been informed, through the comments on this blog (where everyone is free to complain about how I totally suck and Carl is better, or how Carl totally sucks and I am better) that the xkcd forums are having this mod frenzy bullshit which is basically a series of hilarious wordfilters. From observing and what I'm told, they look something like this:

God -> Jehova
Mod -> God
edit: -> OOPS
also: -> ALSO YOU GUYS:

The last two may be inaccurate, but that's besides the point anyways. The point is that they are replacing a bunch of shit potentially offending a bunch of religious people. Their justification? The mods wants to have fun for a week. They have a pretty boring definition of fun, but that's besides the point. This whole bullshit I can accept, but here's the thing: Anyone who dares to complain about it will be banned without any warning. That's right. They are actively looking to offend a bunch of people and then killing off those who complain. I guess it's sort of a witch hunt for religious people who aren't willing to be some internet forum moderator's bitch and take whatever they say as granted and justified.
I am going to quote a post which was quoted in the comments of the previous post:
"OK, that's three. Complainers, whingers and absurdly indignant killjoy assclowns are now subject to bannination for the duration of Mod Madness without further warning at my discretion. My whim, actually. Especially if the complaint appears in this thread where I am really really likely to see it. I don't care about annoying people with word filters this week. I understand and accept that some of you find it annoying. And I don't care. Shut up and let the mod staff have some fun for a few days."

Dear Randall, your forum moderators are profoundly unstable douchebags.

201 comments:

  1. I, for one, never tire of atheists making snarky points about how facile you would have to be to believe in god. Trotting out comparisons between God and Santa Clause or half-heartedly recapitulating Russell's Teapot just makes me want to stop wallowing in my sheepley nature and mature fast enough to join the legion of disaffected atheists.

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  2. SECOND

    Also- Was dissapointed with todays comic, it's been done in more or less the EXACT SAME WAY before, by RANDALL.

    He is now plagurising ... himself?

    This is like If I went to a resteraunt and got fed a mediocre meal, and that was okay, and then the second time I arrived at the resteraunt to eat again he offered me a steaming plate of my own fecal matter, "since I liked it so much the first time".

    I'm not really angry at the fact randall is repeating himself (more or less verbatim- the previous joke was an equation comic too) I'm just extremely bemused.

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  3. On Monday I made the decision to stop reading xkcd for good. Seeing the comic second-hand here today has only reinforced my decision.

    oh xkcd
    you used to be so awesome
    what happened to you?

    CAPTCHA: Monsai - it's what you get when you grow a tiny little randall munroe in a pot

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  4. Uh? How are they offending religious people by replacing God with the word Jehovah? You guys know what it means, right? I'm just genuinely baffled by this...

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  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_commandments

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  6. Mr K - what about replacing "Mod" with "God" if the other one doesn't do the trick for you?

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  7. on the off chance that there are any observant Jews on the forum it would probably piss them off

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  8. For some reason the word "sense" filters to "babies" which I can't for the life of me understand unless it's because people usually use the word sense when they say "make sense" and then it turns to "make babies" and HEY HA HA YOU GUYS MAKING BABIES IS HAVING SEX AND SEX IS HILARIOUS.

    I'm reading the thread on this comic and it seems there's a crapload of word filters and it would be boring for me to list them all so I won't.

    I dunno maybe the current xkcd mods used to mod at SA or something.

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  9. I self-identify as Christian and don't feel particularly strongly one way or the other about whether you refer to the deity as God, LORD, Jehovah, or whatever. My understanding is vaguely along the lines of "It's not His true name, anyway, just a convenient human nickname/title/whatever."

    But I can see why it would tick off people who have a different view of divine nomenclature conventions. And it's not like this is particularly amusing to anyone. The "mod -> god" filter in particular has two effects: Aggrandizing the moderators and ticking off people who care about how the word "god" is used. It's just simple clean fun!

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  10. Yeah really anyone who is religiously offended is probably a fuckwit.
    The mods are, of course, also fuckwits, but did anyone expect different?

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  11. why does everyone have to be so stupid when it comes to religion

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  12. I'm not sure what makes the retarded mods' dictatorship a *socialist* dictatorship. I guess since McCarthyism it's a reflex to add that to whatever we don't like?

    Maletoth, the beliefs of most theists are not very difficult to argue against. For instance, most of them subscribe to versions of "...and whoever has different beliefs is wrong". Even ecumenically-inclined christians still believe that Jesus was the son of god and that whoever believes differently is wrong.

    Now, it is patently obvious that everyone has the same degree of evidence for their beliefs. From hard facts to psychological "I prayed and saw the truth", the same evidence.

    This fact is irreconcilable with the previous attitude.

    This is a pretty simple argument and it catches the majority of theists. Whether or not it applies to you is not so important, since you are not the sole target of such comments.

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  13. @maleroth 2:46

    Why do you feel the need to troll this forum with your God=Santa comparison? As a "self-identifying" Christian, I would think that this comparison would offend you (unless you are actually a troll). Comparing Our LORD to Santa is not only immature, it is heretical.

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  14. Because it has state owned machinery.

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  15. "Maletoth, the beliefs of most theists are not very difficult to argue against."

    The exact same thing can be said of the beliefs of most atheists. Indeed, the exact same thing can be said of basically anything which people believe to be true.

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  16. Btw, I wonder what possible meaning could be assigned to the phrase "god's true name" that would distinguish it from "the word used by humans to refer to him". What the hell is a name if not something used to refer to you?

    In what other circumstances would god be referred to? Before creating stuff, did he talk to himself?

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  17. Rob: I don't think that (in this case, anyway) it's a matter of people on the xkcd forums being dumb and there being religious people on the xkcd forums, causing the two groups to overlap.

    In general, I think that people get too worked up about religion. I am a Christian, but I don't tend to get offended by much...

    ScottMcTony: Religion is a belief like any other, and people get offended when their beliefs are not respected. I think that people who get really, really offended by religious stuff are a loud minority, though.

    The real point is, though, that the moderators should not be taking actions that are almost guaranteed to offend people. There are better ways of having fun...

    What I'd like to know is what Randall's stance on all of this is. I imagine that he'd just support the mods.

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  18. My post was directed at Rob's 3:13 post, by the way.

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  19. By the way, someone is spoofing my user name. I didn't post this comment.

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  20. Imposter... I'll find you. Then maybe I'll register.

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  21. Rob and Maletoth, the line about the beliefs of most theists not being difficult to argue against was meant as an explanation for the "snarkiness" of some comments. After all, one gives lengthy and detalied arguments only if the subject matter does not admit of short ones. (Then again, this is the internet, so I guess long and detailed arguments are going to be rare anyway.)

    Rob, I'm not sure what argument you're trying to make. If your point is, "people shouldn't be snarky to theists because then they would have to be snarky to everyone all the time", then I kind of agree with you. I don't think snarkiness helps any discussion.

    On the other hand, I don't agree with your line about most beliefs. It's true that very complex issues can be the object of ferociously held beliefs, especially because it's easier to counter arguments. If I think communism is a good idea, I can dismiss the flaws of its historical manifestations by appealing to various cultural or economic factors. Similarly if I like capitalism.

    This phenomenon is maximized with religion, where not only is it supremely easy to come up with rationalizations (there's nothing limiting you), but where strength of belief is actively encouraged.

    I think this puts it in a realm quite separate from that of the everyday belief.

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  22. One thing that always struck me about the XKCD forums is how fitting the URL is. Echochamber because the only thing you will hear there, repeated until infinity, is how great Randall/the bullshit Randall comes up with is, until it's taken as Gospel, and secondly the .me TLD. Me. It's not about the comic. It's about Randall. echochamber.me. Keep repeating how great I am.

    Oh also that Belial is a powermad sycophant.

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  23. The whole thing bewilders me. I can understand how you'd like to have some fun on "your" site, but this guy seems to be actively searching for opportunities to use his powers of banning people. His self confidence must be really tiny if this is that important to him. It's kind of like he's building himself a utopia where everyone agrees with him and loves everything he does, and the misfits are welcome and encouraged to leave.

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  24. I don't really get it either. Why put so many wordfilters on that posts stop making sense? (There's at least 7 or 8, in addition to the ones the forums have always had)

    Although from the sound of it, it's probably more along the lines of "lol we're mods, fuck you" rather than actually trying to be funny or anything.

    Kinda makes me wonder what brought this on. Possibly more forumites complaining of suckage?

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  25. I couldn't care less about religious people getting offended. Unless they start to blow stuff up. Actually, if theists start suicide bombing echochamber.me, that would be a net positive after all.

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  26. It's less about the fact that they might be offending anyone, it's about the fact that they're simultaneously also shutting off complaints

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  27. "It's less about the fact that they might be offending anyone, it's about the fact that they're simultaneously also shutting off complaints"

    I'd say that they are two very related issues. Both are essentially issues of free speech on their forum. Being offended could be seen as a specific kind of complaint, sort of (though that's pretty much just semantics). It is their right to censor their forum, but as they say, just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

    I definitely agree that the censorship is worse that anything offensive.

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  28. xkcd: a webcomic of sex, arrogance, intolerance, and memes.

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  29. Tom - agreed. It's also a matter of how you choose to limit free speech. Forums usually do in some way (often discussions about politics or religion are forbidden for the trouble they cause). That said, I've never seen a more self-important, pointless and arrogant use of that power to limit what is allowed to be said.

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  30. The mods at echochamber.me are, to bastardize a quote from Patton Oswalt, a retarded trust fund baby with nuclear weapons. "THIS PLACE IS NICE CAN WE HAVE DISNEYLAND HERE?" "No... this is Paris." "DISNEYLAND!" "Okay! Please don't bomb us!"

    On the topic of the comic: I actually kind of enjoyed this comic and thought it was rather clever until I browsed my way on over to xkcdsucks and had you lot inform me that Randall copied himself.
    I figured a decent comic was too good to be true.

    EDIT: Captcha: nonsta. Deah ah nonstas undah mah bead?

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  31. @ El Duderino:

    Btw, I wonder what possible meaning could be assigned to the phrase "god's true name" that would distinguish it from "the word used by humans to refer to him".

    It's a difference of title vs. name. For example, people call Barack Obama "President" but his name is not President. That is just his title.

    Similarly I would guess "God" is a title, just like "President" and thus not God's actual name. Makes as much sense as anything else I guess.

    With regards to the word filter, I'd suspect that Winged is right. Probably the mods were tired of people blaspheming their god Randall, and decided to put in stupid word filters so that when the people who didn't like xkcd complained, they could just go "lol banned for not appreciating the funny word filters." It looks (slightly?) better than "banned for not liking xkcd" I guess.

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  32. The Rake equation is brilliant Person#1!!! The added bonus that it is completely wrong makes it even more funny! Have you though about taking over XKCD? Then you can leave the insulting to Carl.

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  33. What the important issue is here is that surely you are Christian, not you self-identify as Christian. Or, rather, they're the same thing.

    Actually just saying that I realised that someone who believed Jesus was a junction on the A42 could self-identify as a Christian but no-one else would think they were a Christian but I guess this keyboard doesn't have a backspace key WHOOPS

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  34. this is not the important issue

    the important issue is that the XKCD mods are self-centered fuckasses what is wrong with you people

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  35. i haven't seen such rampant mod fascism since i last visited #xkcd-sucks

    is joe an echochamber mod too??

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  36. so it's come to this.

    randall plagiarizing himself.

    i am surprised it took so long.

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  37. ^
    http://xkcd.com/209/
    http://xkcd.com/630/

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  38. I wish I was a mod on the xkcd forum.

    I would wordfilter all vowels to the letter o.

    TOKO THOT, ROODOBOLOTY.

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  39. For instance, most of them subscribe to versions of "...and whoever has different beliefs is wrong". Even ecumenically-inclined christians still believe that Jesus was the son of god and that whoever believes differently is wrong.

    See, atheists are so much more mature. Because they believe that even if people disagree with them, those people aren't wrong! I know tons of atheists who are like "Yeah, I know you believe totally different things. But you're right about that, just like I'm right about this contradictory body of beliefs!"

    Or were you pointing out something stunningly obviously tautological and making it out to be some sort of negative trait particular to religious people?

    Anyway seriously though continue snarking it up and being pithy jackasses and simultaneously acting like religious people are vastly less mature than you. Because clearly anyone of sufficient intellectual and emotional maturity wouldn't rely on feeble crutches like religion.

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  40. yeah my only problem is with atheists who think that they have summarily dismissed the entirety of theism.

    keeping in mind that I'm a godless heathen who finds most theist arguments pretty indefensible, atheists are so incredibly stupid I've been forced to switch to calling myself a nontheist.

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  41. I enjoyed today's comic? Initially anyway.

    I think it was because I didn't read the caption until the end, so I had a moment of "what is this oh i get it ha that is humourous" just from figuring out the graph.

    My involvement made it funny to me. I had sent out serious investigative brain thoughts and they had returned with the result of "this is a bit of whimsy".

    If I was a fan of or apathetic towards xkcd, I would've smiled and left it at that.

    But then I came here, which caused me to read it again, this time a tad more closely, and guys what help me out guys guys,
    THE HELL IS P?



    Also Person#1: nice work again, keep it up.

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  42. It's a friggin' text wall of an equation--an equationwall. I guess that would make #715 a graphwall.

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  43. You totally suck and Carl is better

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  44. @keep:

    P= number of people who want to tell you about their alien adventures.

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  45. Wow. I couldn't even stand to read that comic. I literally just said "Oh my god." at the screen. Rehashing old material? XKCD cannot get any worse.

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  46. Hey, at least he rehashed a comic that was halfway decent. Imagine if he rehashed 631.

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  47. @Winged:

    That would probably be more clear if W subscript P was P subscript W, so the P variables are People, and People in the World. Or something. Makes sense in my head.

    Or he could have just labeled the P for god's sake.

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  48. Something's been bothering me for a long time. I mean, obviously, there's a lot by which to be bothered, but it's been even more persistently bothersome as of late.

    In comic #16, the alt-text is "I went to a dinner where there was a full 10 minutes of Holy Grail quotes exchanged, with no context, in lieu of conversation. It depressed me badly."

    I realize it's been said many, many, times before on here, but he's become everything he used to hate. Or, perhaps, everything he used to claim to hate before he realized how much money he could make from so little. What a shame. What a waste.

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  49. Yeah, it took me awhile to figure that out as I was typing it.

    The other one used N for "number of civilizations"; N for "number of people" probably would've been alot clearer.

    And yeah, it doesn't seem quite so bad when everyone's laughing at YOUR repeated jokes. The Garfield parody (78) is pretty funny these days too.

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  50. I've actually wondered what he meant by "no context", did he mean someone spontaneously shouted "We are the knights who saaaaaayy... NI" and everyone else just joined in and renacted 10 full minutes of Holy Grail or something, or did he mean that as they were talking about something else and it still came up spontaneously?

    I ask because I went to Scotland and we visited Doune Castle (which is one of the castles used for filming Holy Grail, more specifically it was the French knight's caslte) and one of the cool things in their bookstore was the official Holy Grail screenplay. Now my sister and I are nerds and we love our Python, so we bought it and we went immediately to the specific scene and started acting it out because we thought it would be fun. Before the charm wore off later (as in the next day) that night after heavy drinking, the whole family started conversing and someone brought up Monty Python and I pulled out the screenplay and started taking out specific passages and then we would laugh and discuss and look for other passages.

    Now tell me, is this depressing that we had fun, despite that Monty Python is known "for their mastery of shock, the unexpected and defiance of convention" or is it ok because everyone was mutually accepting of referencing specific things that we knew were funny and we would laugh because we remembered how funny it was?

    Incidentally, I don't know where Randall got the impression that his "shocking dialogue" was supposed to be surreal in any form (or funny), unless he thinks Dane Cook is funny

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  51. Outrage out the possibility of people being offended that god is being replaced with Jehova? You're scraping the bottom of the barrel there #1. For anyone to be offended by that they would first have to be engaging in a serious religious discussion on the xkcd forums because that's the only way the filter could screw up a serious mention of "god" and turn it into a joke. Anyone popping into the xkcd forums to tell people about god is a religion-pushing asshat so even if this were true we shouldn't be standing up for them. But seriously, there are no religion-pushing asshats on the xkcd forums which means no one is being offended which means that anyone getting upset about these nonexistent people being offended by the slighting of the (also nonexistent, ZING!) god's name that isn't actually even happening are morons. You're a moron #1.

    Rest of the post was pretty good though. Keep it up.

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  52. Nate, that sort of makes sense I guess, though I was under the impression that someone had said "Jehovah is only a title". This is what threw me.

    I can't shake the feeling that the whole name thing is very odd though. We distinguish between "Obama" and "president" because there have been other presidents, and Obama needs his names in order for his family to call him. I don't really see why god would need a name.

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  53. Femaletoth, I don't follow you at all. I don't think I mentioned maturity at any point, and I'm aware that it is possible to be an atheist for reasons quite opposite to maturity. It's also possible to be a socialist, a liberal, a democrat and a republican for reasons unrelated to maturity.

    Further, I never praised indiscriminate respect for other points of view. I don't think it praiseworthy to not disagree with people on principle. The point was that several different religions make very analogous (though conflicting) claims based on the exact same evidence and justification. To take one
    example, a christian favorite is to argue for the existence of god based on personal revelation. Now, a number of other religions use personal revelation to support analogous but contradictory claims. A christian cannot hold them wrong, because their mechanism for justification is the same as his; but hold them wrong is precisely what he does.

    An atheist, on the other hand, entirely rejects the mechanism of personal revelation, and discards the conclusions drawn from it. It is a perfectly coherent attitude, and phrasing it as "but atheists also say we're wrong!" only obscures matters.

    This is merely one example; if you think you've got examples of atheism engaging in cognitive behavior analogous to religion, I will be happy to listen.

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  54. Duderino, isn't it obvious that I'm making crude and transparent strawman attacks?

    Anyway, I'm glad you clarified your position re: indiscriminate respect. Here's the thing, though: Just presenting "Christians believe that anyone who disagrees with them is wrong" as a bad thing is the sort of thing only an utter fuckwit would do, because everyone believes that anyone who disagrees with them is wrong.

    ====

    On what grounds to atheists reject the mechanism of personal revelation?

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  55. see: everything richard dawkins has ever written

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  56. What do you mean, on what grounds? You mean, why do atheists not believe theists who claim to have had personal experience with divinity?

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  57. no, he's saying "how do atheists not rely on their personal experience to justify their belief?"

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  58. It's a stronger claim than that. There's a difference between "every actual alleged personal revelation is, in fact, false", a claim whose defense I would be interested to hear, and the MUCH stronger claim "it is impossible for any experienced of personal revelation to be legitimate." I was asking about the latter.

    Or, "on what epistemological grounds do atheists reject the epistemological grounds for theism?"

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  59. The atheist postulates just two possible causes for an event, physics and randomness, while the theist adds a third - some 'supernatural' agent. Physics and randomness explain most events, so the atheist gets along fine; the events not covered are the ones in his head. The physical causes of his thoughts are fixed, so he would be bound to think as he does, true or false; the random causes are, well, random. Unfortunately, thoughts are the basis of the philosophy; denying them is not internally consistent. Thus the supernatural agent is required.

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  60. is that, like, a satire of the cosmological argument for the existence of god?

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  61. I prefer to call it an improved version - note that the 'first cause' in this argument has to cause human thoughts, so you can't get away with saying it's irrational (eg, the big bang as a refutation of the cosmological argument).

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  62. tl;dr - penis, penis penis penis, penis penis penis penis penis.

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  63. Ridiculous nonsense. If there IS something supercausal about human consciousness and the mechanism of thought isn't ultimately reducible to physical law and heuristics, it must be something so irrelevant that the universe is indistinguishable from a reducible one. As far as I can tell, the main reason people suppose that human consciousness is supercausal is because it flatters them to do so; there's certainly no reason to believe that consciousness is fundamentally inexplicable, and I haven't heard any attempts to present such a reason, only bald assertion.

    note that the 'first cause' in this argument has to cause human thoughts, so you can't get away with saying it's irrational

    This isn't quite the fallacy of composition, but it's damn close. It's...this is Descartes. This is you saying that the only way you could have the idea of in-finite perfection is if an in-finite perfect being planted the idea in you.

    It relies on believing, for no adequately explained reason, that human thought is something magical and inexplicable.


    Also, Jesus, "physics and randomness", man, that's...argh.

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  64. Oh, I forgot you're smarter than Descartes. Sorry.

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  65. Okay, about thought being supercausal. Forget randomness, we're using the Copenhagen interpretation - physics is deterministic, randomness is our limited perspective.

    So your thoughts are deterministic? Then calling them 'thoughts' is as spurious as asserting 'first cause = Jesus'. They're just events; rain on the roof is an event and I don't call it a dissertation. You, too, are asserting thoughts to be 'magic'; the difference is that you claim no magic exists.

    If you think thought is deterministic, I would love to hear how it's rational, too. Please explain it (although given your philosophy, you really don't have a choice).

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  66. Uhm, your claim that any supercausal entity must be so irrelvant that... etc. is kinda false. All that supercausal entity has to do is not do anything and then the universe proceeds on as it would without it, but that says nothing about the entity's strength.

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  67. Anonymous 11:25, what are you talking about?

    Whether thoughts are deterministic is a huge debate, and you're oversimplifying it. Even if Femalethoth believes that they are, his position isn't invalid just because he refers to them as thoughts.

    What, exactly, are you trying to say?

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  68. I've got one main issue with this 'improved' cosmological argument: It doesn't solve anything. If the supernatural cause is a god who knows what a persons future decisions are going to be then we're back to issues of determinism, if not, then in what sense is it different from randomness?

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  69. Not that its really worth arguing here, but the reason the mods do this is to let off steam- they deal with a very large and popular forum all year round, and have to deal with a lot of shit. The forums, for all the mockery of xkcd, are a pretty impressive place, and are generally well run.

    Once per year the mods like to lets off steam and mess around a bit. Its not for the users, its for the mods. They're usually relatively tolerant of complaints, but people who post in the thread with no awareness of having read the warning to issue a useless complaint get a week long ban. Or long enough for the mod madness to end.

    I'd be astonished to find a religious person who would be offended by changing mods to Gods. They are clearly not claiming to be God, they're just mucking around with the notion of authority. Its a pretty extreme interpretation to take that as breaking any particular commandment.

    Honestly now, I'm married to a christian who goes to a fairly envangalist church, and even from my experiences of some of them, I can't imagine one being offended by this...

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  70. Person number 1 says:

    This is something I could accept in a newspaper or as part of a blog post, but on it's own it's just lame.

    But why? What else is needed? Who made the rule that XKCD always has to be funny, and can't just be something that Randal found interesting?

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  71. @ Mister K-

    "The reason we have police brutality is because the police have to deal with criminals the yest of the year, the city is a big place and it's usually well run, so police brutality week is a way for them to let off steam.
    It's not for the citezens, it's for the mods, all they're doing is assaulting and injuring people for no reason or based on their skin colour.
    Anyone complaining is put in hospital for long enough for it to end"

    Also, @ anon 2:06. xkcd is a comic, it is written at the top of the website- "comic" implies that it's comedic, or funny.

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  72. @Amazing Person

    its an internet forum, and in this case its not police brutality, its police putting a silly hat and wig on for a week.

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  73. Mr K- it's willful abuse of power, it's the same thing

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  74. Mr. K it would be all well and good if it were just what you described but you seem to be ignoring the fact that they're banning anyone who doesn't find the mods' silliness to be the paragon of hilarity.

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  75. Lexa Fuckwit -

    Here's the thing, they also replaced Mod with God. It's mocking religion. Personally I'm not really offended by that, but some might. Religion is a very intimate topic and should be handled accordingly delicate. The big problem here is why did they do it? It seems to be making no point whatsoever, it just seems like something retarded they deemed as funny. And the real problem is that they are banning the complainers.

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  76. Apparently the comic is so uneventful that the hot topic now is religion and mod madness. Grrreat...

    I'll be out until tomorrow, frankly I'm not fond in the least of discussing the topic. Has no big impact on my life. Please go on, and have a nice day.

    Mole. Out!

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  77. this is the best thing ever. "Thoughts can't be deterministic because that's an undesirable outcome for me!"

    Hate to break it to you, dude, but sometimes things don't work out the way you'd like.

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  78. i refuse to believe in anything except that which cannot be attacked

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  79. If the supernatural cause is a god who knows what a persons future decisions are going to be then we're back to issues of determinism

    That issue only arises for a god who is subject to time, which isn't applicable to a theist god who made time.

    Hate to break it to you, dude, but sometimes things don't work out the way you'd like.

    My opinion of Rob plummets. You see that if thoughts aren't rational, then philosophy is false, no? Then a philosophy which claims thoughts are irrational is self-contradictory. This isn't my taste in ice cream here.

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  80. "Amazing person"

    No a comic doesn't have to be funny. The word comes from "comic strip", but it has changed in meaning and can now be anything that uses pictures to make its point. For example, Batman and X-Men are comic books.

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  81. "My opinion of Rob plummets. You see that if thoughts aren't rational, then philosophy is false, no? Then a philosophy which claims thoughts are irrational is self-contradictory. This isn't my taste in ice cream here."

    But it is. You're saying that it somehow matters if you want philosophy to be "true" or "false." Maybe thoughts are completely irrational and have no source outside of external physical causes. All that means is you're wrong.

    Humans believe all sorts of irrational, self-contradictory things. Being wrong all the time about everything is part of the human condition. Even philosophy.

    No, especially philosophy. People are fucking stupid.

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  82. Are you using "rational" to mean "supercausal"? Because that is one hell of a circular argument. You can't just assert "Thoughts are rational, and things which are rational are nondeterministic."

    Fuuuuuuck.

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  83. Anon 6:59: The reason XKCD should be funny is that Mr. Monroe already has a blog (oh excuse me, I meant "blag"). This is where he should post anything he finds interesting. That is what a blog is for. That is what Twitter is for. Since he has a blog already for the things that interest him, then his comic should be for either storytelling or punchlines.

    Also, I think Rob has a rant for you about XCKD intentionally not being funny.

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  84. The fun thing is, I actually thought the last 2 wordfilters were serious and went "Oh, that explains why so many of the forumites speak that way" but then read futher down and well, nicely played Person!

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  85. The last part about the moderators almost made me want to say Carl is no longer better than Rob.

    ALMOST

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  86. I'm left with this nihilistic feeling.

    Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, churning out a new comic. Many of them aren't really true anymore. I just have to get 'em out, keep churning them out. Honestly, none of them are true to me anymore. I know this. But what can I do? Quit? Where do I go. I draw stick figures guys. I can't function in the real world. I can't get a job. In fact, to be honest, you know that comic about the 11th grade chart?I honestly have never even used Perl in my life. Every day I have to be something I'm not. The amount of chardonnay I have to drink every night keeps increasing, and it's not working. I keep trying to stay true to myself, but I can't. There's nothing to be true to. I am hollowed-out, hollowed out by the forumites, by this blog, and myself. I can't keep up with it.

    - Summer Glau

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  87. Dear Rob, Femaletoth, and anonymous.

    Although I may disagree with some of your arguments and the conclusions drawn from them, I would like to thank you for actually having enough respect for the complexity of the issue that you put forth some effort in arguing the point.

    These... fools who chuckle to themselves as they smugly assume that as atheists (I suppose there are blind bible-thumpers as well but my experience in more with the atheists) they are superior are clearly several levels below your intellect and character.

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  88. I have a theory: Munroe is ramping up his output of truly poor comics to slow his increase of new readers to a trickle while driving away fans.

    Next he makes his forums an unbearable den of retarded moderators to kill off the drooling fanboys by destroying their prime community gathering site.

    Finally with XKCD in flames he can pursue his true dream of a senior gas station attendant with a rad mohawk hairdo.

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  89. Geust: I've seen it from both sides. I try to get people to actually understand the whole theology thing regardless of their status as a theist or non-theist. I spent far too much time studying theology to just let other atheists make it sound like all atheists are just smug assholes who think that formulating an unsound strawman proof is the same as disproving the existence of God.

    And far too much time studying theology to let theists assume that just because I don't believe I'm some ignorant person who worships at the altar of Science despite the fact that Science has nothing to do with theology.

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  90. #1 - Because people might get offended you shouldn't do it? Check the url at the top of this page. Not only is that a completely stupid argument it's a completely stupid argument that you, and many other posters around here, have attacked in the past.

    Why did they do it? Prolly a Monty Python reference. I dunno. I don't see how it really makes much of a difference since it's not hurting anything. "Jehovah Jehovah Jehovah"

    How is replacing mod with God significantly mocking religion? Don't be dense it's mocking megalomania they aren't seriously suggesting that mods have supernatural. Mock outrage on behalf of hypothetical third parties is sooooo lame.

    The *actual* megalomania of banning people for complaining about it is pretty odious though, yes. But "Oh my god the mods here are lame." = Oh my Jehovah the Gods here are lame." is not some kind of fundamental abuse of human rights. xkcdsucks trashes on Randal for being a white knight feminist and then you turn around and crusade on behalf of downtrodden christians being bullied by the xkcd mods? Check the mirror.

    I would complain more about how people are STILL debating the potential offense of an event that didn't actually happen (someone had their sincere statements about religion vandalized by the thoughtless and/or cruel xkcd mods) but it looks like a few people around here are actually having halfway decent tangent discussions. Femalethoth in particular appears to be a bastion of logic in a sea of random assertions and bizarre posturing. If only such calm, rational people could be convinced to express their ideas to a wider audience instead of hiding in closets fearful of offending the faithful (and spending half their time telling morons that aren't afraid of offending anyone to stop trumpeting nonsense).

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  91. "xkcdsucks trashes on Randal for being a white knight feminist and then you turn around and crusade on behalf of downtrodden christians being bullied by the xkcd mods?"

    Not a feminist. There is nothing feminist about white knighting. White knighting is, in fact, some of the most sexist behavior it's possible to have, objectifying women and taking away their ability to defend themselves, making them into objects to be rescued and defended against the horrors of the rest of the world. It's all the more reprehensible because it's so insidious--every white knight out there thinks he's a feminist and thinks that he's doing women a favor by treating them like they are incapable of doing anything on their own.

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  92. A Softer World on white knighting:
    Of course men can be feminists! Anything you can do we can do better.

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  93. not gonna lie, I want Joey Comeau inside me

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  94. Lexa - you are profoundly retarded. I'm going to tell you one last time what is already stated in my post. I don't give a shit that they were offending or not offending anyone. The fact that they are banning the complainers. You can't pick the one thing about my post you feel you have the ability to discredit and try to make everything void, it doesn't work that way.

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  95. um person1 I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be able to calculate Lexa's actual IQ so you have no way of knowing whether he's profoundly retarded or not. Sorry man everything you say is just WRONG.

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  96. Femaletoth, the argument against personal revelation is logically quite simple, and I already gave it implicitly. Of course, the psychological and social reasons for its popularity are very complex.

    Logically: accepting p.r. means you should accept all sorts of contradictory assertions.

    In all manifestations of p.r. to date, there has not been anything in the real world to which we can point, that corresponds to the content of the p.r., and which might be used to settle disputes about it. If you had it personally revealed to you that Jesus was born of a virgin (as the Pope did), and I had it personally revealed to me that he wasn't, there is no way to determine which of us is right.

    Witness to this are the wildly contradictory revelations experienced by people all over the world and across history.

    Of course, this is different from saying that whatever comes from p.r. is *false*. You may have it personally revealed that 1+1=2. That's fine. The point is that the p.r. *alone* is not enough basis to support your belief on, because there are people who had p.r. to the effect that 1+1=3.

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  97. I present the following argument against rationality.

    Logically: Accepting rationality as an epistemology means you should accept all sorts of contradictory assertions. Kant, Descartes, and Spinoza all use nothing but pure reason, and come up with wildly differing content that is in some cases mutually exclusive. There is no way to determine which is right!

    Therefore we should disregard rationality, because there are people who have used rationality to derive conclusions that are inconsistent with the conclusions other rational people have derived.

    Thankfully, Descartes was able to successfully prove that there is a fundamental basis for epistemology and knowledge that everyone ever will agree on! Oh, wait, no he wasn't.

    I suppose you might be pushing for extreme uncertainty and the belief that it truly is impossible to know anything, but then why single out personal revelation in particular?

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  98. it is not logical to accept a passport as evidence that you hold citizenship, because it is possible to forge passports

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  99. It is not logical to accept your own experience as evidence that you possess consciousness, because it is possible that you are insane.

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  100. As to the question of "Why call it the Flake Equation?"

    I believe it is a play on the Drake Equation:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation

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  101. Femalethoth and the others discussing God are really blurring lines.

    The atheists don't really deny personal revelations on the basis that they are personal revelations. They deny them based on the fact that they are unproven or inherently unprovable, which really makes them agnostic.

    Saying that you 'know' that God exists based on personal revelations really irks some people, and this is where a lot of agnostics/atheists take offense so they can deny your 'knowledge' of God.

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  102. anyone claiming any knowledge of anything is pretty much wrong.

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  103. Rob, I don't think that conflating "personal experience" with "personal revelation" clarifies anything. Our everyday experiences form a vast, mutually-corroborating body, which other people largely agree with. The phrase "personal revelation", of course, refers to the purely subjective kind which led the Pope to declare that Mary ascended bodily into heaven upon her death. By definition, no one can corroborate his p.r.

    If I may add to the above, this business of p.r. was not always the bedrock of religion. According to christian tradition, back in the day, god thought it perfectly necessary to show up, talk to people, burn stuff, and perform miracles. Even until relatively recently, one could point to the seeming perfection of nature and, with intellectual honesty, consider that as evidence for some higher power.

    The importance of p.r. grew as the viability of other evidence diminished, from our better understanding the world to the lack of god's personal intervention.

    Thus, historically, p.r. has not been a canonical mechanism for justification of beliefs, and it is a modern oddity that one has to spend a lot of energy arguing against it. In a way, it should be obvious -- and it had been obvious for a good while, even inside religion -- that you cannot simply claim to know stuff out of the blue. This is not what "knowing" means.

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  104. Except, of course, that plenty of people will use axioms as the basis for their philosophical system. Any system that is remotely thoughtfully based on deduction, for example, will have axioms "out of the blue".

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  105. Rob, I know 1+1=2 because the axioms of math say so.

    If, somehow, the axioms of math are disproven obviously my knowledge must change.

    This is something science accepts as a caveat to all knowledge.

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  106. I know, axiomatically, that God exists.

    It's not that people are skeptical of theism and theistic epistemology that bugs me, it's that people are uniquely skeptical of theism and theistic epistemology when the exact same suspicions apply exactly as well to everything else.

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  107. "If everything is real... then nothing is real as well"

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  108. I don't believe in the axioms that create your knowledge of God, so I can be skeptical of your knowledge.

    I can say my belief in my axioms is correct because they make tangible objects. I am typing on a machine that uses the physical facts of electronics/physics/the universe to operate.

    I have yet to see any proof of God other than a feeling. So I have no problem when people come together in celebration of God. It is when they start making claims about the origin of the universe, Earth, humans and animals that I start to feel skeptical.

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  109. "Either those curtains go or I do!"
    -Rene Descartes

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  110. puto me cogitare ergo puto me esse

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  111. Femaletoth: for someone who gets so upset about snarkiness, I don't find that your arguments so far consisted of much more than that.

    Obviously, your parody argument breaks down at "and there is no way to tell which one is right". If you provide an example of contradictory assertions that some of these philosophers reached through reason, and about which it is impossible to decide, in the same way that the business about the virgin Mary is impossible to decide, maybe the discussion can progress in an interesting way, over and above generalities.

    Rob, I don't see what argument you're trying to make with the passports. Do you know how passports work? We take them seriously because they are very hard to forge, given what we know about the capabilities of the ordinary person. (Special paper, unique barcode etc.) In the vast majority of cases, someone holding a passport is a citizen. And (crucial point) the discussion makes sense because there is a network of supporting facts around it, not only about how one could forge a passport, but about what it means to be a citizen. (Being concretely born in a certain place etc.) Passports make sense because it is often possible to find out if someone is or is not a citizen.

    For the conventional uses of p.r. there is no such body of supporting facts, and one is free to say whatever one wants. Witness the virgin birth. How could this possibly be checked?

    Worse still, one can even have p.r. about assertions without any readily apparent meaning, such as "god is three and one", or even about assertions which one cannot imagine being the proper subject of mental activity, such as "god is omnipotent". (How do you see this in your head? Just as a sentence? Or some pictures of god doing impressive things?)

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  112. Femaletoth: for someone who gets so upset about snarkiness, I don't find that your arguments so far consisted of much more than that.

    A twist worthy of M. Night, I'm sure.

    Anyway, fine. Tell me: How are you able to tell who is the least incorrect among Spinoza, Descartes, and Kant? Specifically, comparing Ethics, Meditations on First Philosophy, and Critique of Pure Reason.

    ====

    Format, I don't find your circular reasoning at all convincing! Sure, you can say that your machine is using the physical facts of the universe to work...but you only believe in the causal relationship between physical facts and your machine because of your prior belief in the physicality of the universe! Your evidence in favor of evidentiary epistemology is ludicrous.

    Besides, everyone knows that the REAL reason your machine works isn't electronics or the physical laws of the universe, it's due to God's will. Keep acting like that's somehow golden evidence in favor of the universe working the way you think it does.

    I have yet to see any proof of naturalistic determinism other than circular reasoning.

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  113. p.r is penis reduction rite
    i r smart

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  114. 'The atheists don't really deny personal revelations on the basis that they are personal revelations. They deny them based on the fact that they are unproven or inherently unprovable, which really makes them agnostic.'

    You don't understand this subject.

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  115. I don't think those units work out.

    = (people)*((-)*(-))*(-)*(people)*(people)*(-)*(-) = people^3

    Is this right or are am I simply crazy?

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  116. I worked in PR for a while. it was kind of fun.

    listen. there are lots of things that I "know" (and I use the term here loosely because knowledge is impossible and you are fat) about, for instance, myself, that are pretty much impossible to corroborate. of course, I could very well be wrong, but nevertheless, I am definitely more of an expert on my own experiences than, say, you. I know my thoughts and my activities and the inner workings of my brain a lot better than you do.

    people regularly assume that I am lying or mistaken, of course, but there is no way for them to really prove that. indeed, any speculation as to my intentions and motives is more or less fruitless. at best you can provide some circumstantial evidence that points to your theory being correct, but it can't prove anything.

    ultimately, my intentions and motives are utterly beyond logic and reason. at best you can come up with a 'proof' that satisfies you, but it's not an actual proof--primarily because actual proofs of anything are impossible, but also because in this particular instance it's relying on assumptions that are demonstrably false--like the idea that I'm a rational actor, or that my behavior will actually be consistent with my intentions or that my motivations aren't self-contradictory or that there isn't some piece of evidence that you're missing that would better explain it.

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  117. A Softer world is a fat sack of smug depression, mixed with smugly ambiguous photography, and smug swearing.

    You know, now that I think about it. IT'S REALLY KIND OF A SMUG COMIC, DON'T YOU THINK?

    P.S. White Ninja comics are on the decline I DEDICATE THIS SAD ROFLECOPTER TO THE OCCASION ;(

    Oh! And I dedicate this roflecopter to A Softer World: >:-\

    thank you.

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  118. Rob, I don't think you've ever said anything about your own beliefs, and I'm curious now: What are your beliefs on this subject? You said somewhere up there that you don't believe in God (or words to that effect), but I don't think you've ever said why, other than "knowledge of anything is impossible". Can you say anything more than that?

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  119. Are you really arguing that personal revelation is good evidence for anyone outside of that person?

    While its true that everything we know could be wrong, we could be trapped in the matrix, excetera... but its hardly useful for a reasonable discussion- theres still no reason to accept the evidence for God in that situation because no evidence is useful. If we allow us to trust our senses, and allow for some inductive reasoning, then we can start having a conversation.

    Actually, I don't even know what you are trying to say? Are you genuinely trying to claim that a Christian has an equal claim as an atheist? Because the latters burden of proof is a lot lower.

    I'm happy for an individual to have a personal revelation, and believe because of that, but its hardly evidence for anyone else.

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  120. well basically:

    the problem of evil is why I stopped believing, because there has yet to be a theodicy that seems even remotely compelling.

    from there I worked backwards and found that all of the arguments for the existence of God that I used to buy into didn't seem to hold water--all of them relied on either huge assumptions or clever wordplay, but none of them seemed to be in any way satisfying. they seemed like they were just ways for believers to feel like they were being very logical.

    ultimately it came down to the fact that there was just no reason for me to believe--that ultimately even if there was a compelling argument for the existence of god, that would only point to the idea of some entity which meets some arbitrary definitions (eg. the first cause argument, even if it works, only proves that there had to be an uncaused cause; it does not tell us anything about that uncaused cause, which may very well have been the gravy I ate last night), and doesn't point to the existence of any specific religion's god.

    so I was basically forced to conclude that evidence is impossible. you could probably call me an agnostic with perfect accuracy, but I also don't believe there is a god by the definitions humans use the word.

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  121. "Are you really arguing that personal revelation is good evidence for anyone outside of that person?"

    it appears to have worked for the entirety of Christian history.

    "While its true that everything we know could be wrong, we could be trapped in the matrix, excetera... but its hardly useful for a reasonable discussion- theres still no reason to accept the evidence for God in that situation because no evidence is useful."

    how is that hardly useful for reasonable discussion? it is vitally important for any understanding of epistemology. if you're going to talk about knowledge and certainty you need to accept the basic fact that it's entirely possible, if not, indeed, highly probable, that everything you know is wrong, or at best only coincidentally correlates with reality.

    "Actually, I don't even know what you are trying to say? Are you genuinely trying to claim that a Christian has an equal claim as an atheist? Because the latters burden of proof is a lot lower."

    I've never found the "burden of proof" thing to be remotely compelling. it's just as easy to imagine that someone would default to assuming that there is a higher power that we don't understand out there. it's just as easy to argue that the existence of an uncaused cause is simpler, by Occam's razor, than the existence of an infinite chain of causes.

    burden of proof isn't some actual logical creature. the presumption of guilt is just as logically valid as the presumption of innocence.

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  122. Socrates would be so proud, Rob.

    I think we all have to admit, regardless of personal belief, that a universe/reality/existence that doesn't permit everything to be tied up in a neat bow, instead fostering interesting and intellectual debate such as we have here, is quite satisfying.

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  123. " 'Are you really arguing that personal revelation is good evidence for anyone outside of that person?'

    it appears to have worked for the entirety of Christian history."

    Rob. you are quite a buffoon. There is a library as fat as you full of literature about the logical proof for Christianity.

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  124. and yet the vast majority of conversions happen not because of logical proof, but because someone convinced them they personally knew it to be true.

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  125. someone could easily say the vast majority of conversions (away from religion) happen not because of logical proof, but because of a desire to rebel against their parents and Richard Dawkins

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  126. "someone could easily say the vast majority of conversions (away from religion) happen not because of logical proof, but because of a desire to rebel against their parents and Richard Dawkins"

    well, yes. though I think it's not so much rebellion, but the vast majority of conversions away from religion are usually because of something that happened that the person found inconsistent with a religious worldview--tragedies that made them feel like there's no God, or seeing religious people being hypocritical. many childhood conversions seem to be mostly because they don't understand some of the finer points, and their questions were answered inadequately.

    very few people believe what they do because of logic. that's kind of my whole point.

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  127. You can say that but you are only being a suckling cuddlefish, basing your conclusions on generalizations.

    You do not know how the "vast majority of conversions" happen. eh? Eh?

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  128. yeah, because I definitely haven't encountered hundreds of conversion stories in my time at the church.

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  129. You're basing these conclusions off of your experience at ONLY YOUR CHURCH?

    bad sampling, eh?

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  130. Pretty much every topic of conversation in this blog train-wrecks into religion, or something like that.

    Go to any post, and scroll to the bottom comments, an you'll see it's completely unrelated.

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  131. no, my experience in the church. as in, in Christianity. as in, from all over. no Catholics, though. it's possible all the people who convert to the faith because of logic turn into Catholics, but it seems unlikely.

    please let the grown-ups talk, Landon. you're just embarrassing yourself.

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  132. You're still basing it off of only your experiences. Let's look at what you said again SHALL WE?!

    " 'Are you really arguing that personal revelation is good evidence for anyone outside of that person?'

    it appears to have worked for the entirety of Christian history."

    You think that you're experiences speak for the ENTIRETY OF CHRISTIAN HISTORY?

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  133. yes. I believe that, based on historical and Biblical accounts and my experience, humanity has not changed much in the past two thousand years, and that religions have always perpetuated based primarily on personal revelation and that the person who bases their beliefs on logic has always been an aberration. and I believe that you have missed an entire conversation about epistemology and the certainty of knowledge and are just now interjecting 'NUH-UH THERE'S TONS OF PROOF CHRISTIANITY IS RIGHT,' which makes you very ignorant indeed.

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  134. "NUH-UH THERE'S TONS OF PROOF CHRISTIANITY IS WRONG"

    -Rob

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  135. yeah, show me the point where I said there was any proof for anything, at all.

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  136. hey Landon you should basically just stop now

    it can only go downhill from here

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  137. Show me a religion that bases its beliefs on logic, and I'll show you a balloon and a tack. That's just asking for trouble. In my personal experience, pretty much anyone has to take a leap of faith somewhere in their belief system; what that leap is depends largely on each individual's presuppositions on how the world works. For instance, Rob, as near as I can tell, has presupposed that the universe works logically, and most of the religions he has encountered don't work logically; therefore, they don't provide an accurate picture of how the universe works. (If I mistranslated any of that, please let me know.)

    Conversely, I believe in God because I have presupposed that the world is too complex to have been made by chance, and that the best way to explain the existence of the universe is that an omnipotent (or at least extremely powerful) higher being created it. That explanation makes the most sense to me; it isn't necessarily logical.

    Since Rob and I have (presumeably) had different experiences in life, we can look at the same earth and sky, and come to radically different conclusions about how it was made.


    (As an addendum, I'd like to thank Rob for pointing out that science and religion aren't mutually exclusive.)

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  138. Stupid, pointless, petty, arbitary, capricious and overzealous is how I would describe xkcd forum mods.

    The Rake equation is excellent, props to Person #1.

    The 'P' is for probability in the Drake equation, ie. a value between 0 and 1. Nice maths, Randy.

    Interesting atheism discussion all, but whether it is offensive or not is obviously debatable. Stifling that debate is stupid, pointless, petty etc. My position is that it isn't offensive, but if someone felt it was they should be able to express that. I wish my beliefs to be respected so I will respect theirs. Anyone who disagrees watch this.

    As to why the mods are acting that way, well just think a minute about 'Mod Madness'. It's like there's a bunch of jocks who are excited and loving their March Madness and having a great time, but we can't have fun like that in our dark basements so we'll do something even better. Those stupid jocks just have agility, physical strength and dashing good looks but we get to abuse our GODLIKE SUPERPOWERS over the very thoughts and utterances of our puny underlings in order to inflate our egos because that's so much fun, way better than those nasty smelly jocks and their boring sports.

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  139. Of course you need to have a leap of faith somewhere to believe something! That goes for being an atheist to! In fact wouldn't the bigger leap of faith be to be an atheist, because you are risking more as an atheist (i.e. Pascal's wager)?

    And I would also like to thank Rob for pointing out that science does not have bearing on religion.

    And to respond to you Rob, you asked me to "show [you] the point where [you] said there was any proof for anything, at all."

    Wasn't it cute how I switched you "me" and "I" with "you?" I think it's totally cute!

    So to respond to that, you cited "the entirety of Christian history" as proof that personal revelation has been used for evidence for others to believe. Did you do no such thing?

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  140. Late to the party: Rob, r.e. problem of evil - Hegel's got an answer.

    To sum it up in a way that does not do him justice: The world is the ongoing process by which God comes to know himself. Absolute being - the ultimate end of existence and rationality - is (in this moment in history) not yet attained.
    Therefore evil still exists.


    Hegel's the only writer I know of who has a solid theodicy. I don't agree with him, but I gotta admit...pretty damn solid.

    Anywayz

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  141. Well I see you all care more about Christianity than units in a math equation. *harumphs*

    Good day to you all.

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  142. "For instance, Rob, as near as I can tell, has presupposed that the universe works logically, and most of the religions he has encountered don't work logically; therefore, they don't provide an accurate picture of how the universe works. (If I mistranslated any of that, please let me know.)"

    close enough.

    "Of course you need to have a leap of faith somewhere to believe something! That goes for being an atheist to!"

    and I said as much. people do not believe what they believe based on logic. which is why I'm an agnostic. but yes; you need your leap of faith, which means you can't, in fact, prove it, which means there is no proof (since proof implies that it is possible to prove something with it).

    "In fact wouldn't the bigger leap of faith be to be an atheist, because you are risking more as an atheist (i.e. Pascal's wager)?"

    not at all. apart from the fact that Pascal's wager is a vile, loathsome, self-serving idea that discounts the possibility that there exists a God who will damn anyone who believes in Christianity to hell, or that there is a God who doesn't care. it asks that someone give up their personal integrity--the only thing in the universe we can be remotely sure of--for the sake of their own personal safety. that has nothing to do with a leap of faith. it takes no effort at all to say "no" to an idea.

    this is a common misconception among Christians. it's not hard to be an atheist. it doesn't require "more faith." to the atheist, not believing is the equivalent of not believing in the intangible invisible purple unicorn in your living room. it entails not believing in something for which you have seen no evidence. there is no faith involved at all here.

    you seem to be making the common mistake that atheists think they have proof god does not exist. to make that claim with epistemological certainty requires faith. I have done no such thing.

    "So to respond to that, you cited "the entirety of Christian history" as proof that personal revelation has been used for evidence for others to believe. Did you do no such thing?"

    no, I offered it as evidence that personal revelation has been accepted as valid. I have never made any claims to proof.

    Keep: I'll have to look that up, but it doesn't sound too much more impressive than your garden variety theodicy. The problem is all of them basically deny either that God is good, that God is capable of stopping evil, or that evil exists.

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  143. Rob, I actually did become a Christian through reason. Can't help you with the problem of evil, though. I believe some things are unknowable, and that's one of them. The best I can do is have faith.

    I'm way late to this discussion, but to respond to the commenter above who was asking about the name of God: the modern perspective on names isn't the same as the ancient Hebrews'. Back then, names were very important. The various occasions in the Bible when people change their names aren't just fun symbolism - that was a real and deep change. The most obvious example is when Abram and Sarai became Abraham and Sarah. The addition of the 'heh' to their names signified that they now belonged to God. Another obvious example is when Jesus renamed Simon: "You are Peter (Greek petrus), and on this rock (Greek petra) I shall build my church."

    You've probably run across fictional cultures that placed a high premium on names, especially knowing the "true" name of someone or something. That's the kind of attitude we're talking about here, and that's what the commandment is all about - if you call God by His true name, you are invoking Him, and you better be dead serious.

    Hope that helps...

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  144. The problem is all of them basically deny either that God is good, that God is capable of stopping evil, or that evil exists.

    I don't deny any of those things. That's where the "unknowableness" comes in - I don't, and can't, know why God chooses not to stop evil. The best explanation I have is that God wants free men to serve Him, not automatons, and giving us the freedom to choose Him also means giving us the freedom to choose evil. Which leads to the suffering of others, which I guess leads back to the question of why that suffering isn't palliated. That's the point at which I have to say that I don't and can't know.

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  145. Anon 5:35 was right, Landon - you certainly went downhill. Pascal's wager? Really? Really?

    You ever heard that popular science quote about how if your theory would disprove X, so much for X, but if it clashes with the 2nd law of thermodynamics, there is nothing you can do but collapse in deepest humiliation?

    Pascal's wager is that same level of stupid. Try coming back when you've calculated your risk management on all the OTHER religions' afterlife outcomes too, instead of just one.

    Or if you're going to insist on it all being about Christianity, at least account for different varieties and interpretations of it. Sure, some of those more obscure laws from the Old Testament sound dumb and no one does them anymore, surely you think God doesn't really expect you to keep up stuff like that anymore... BUT WHAT IF YOU'RE WRONG? Is it worth risking paradise just for the benefit of being able to wear cotton/poly blends?!

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  146. Femaletoth, your question makes no sense. All three philosophers talk about many different things, and what does "least incorrect" mean in this context? Should I assign points to each issue and add up the total for each philosopher? Anyway, I haven't touched Ethics by Spinoza and I've read only about a third of the Critique of Pure Reason.

    In any case, the point of my question was to make our discussion go further than uninteresting generalities. You seemed to believe that there were instances where reason got itself into an epistemological situation analogous to that of p.r. and I wanted to understand that. This could be accomplished by your naming a concrete issue where it was "impossible to decide". Your question, as it stands, doesn't help mutual understanding at all.

    Rob, I thought that this went without saying, but perhaps we should have clarified at the beginning that we must have some common ground on which to start arguing. OK, none of us can fully prove anything from scratch, but that is neither here nor there, because that is not what anyone tries to do. Maybe you're right and any discussion of epistemology must be built on an understanding that complete proof of anything is impossible, but presumably everyone went through this in 7th grade and we can take it from there without having to spell it out every time.

    Both atheists and christians (usually) start from some common ground, which is given by the senses and the preprocessing done by the brain. The christian worldview doesn't even make sense if we don't take most of our sensory information as true.

    Furthermore, atheists and religious people share the vast majority of their truth-discovering protocols in everyday life, and are in complete agreement in applying these truth-protocols to other people's claims, including their religious claims. Indeed, a christian is likely to disbelieve in hinduism for much the same reason as an atheist.

    However, christians carve out an exception for themselves in the very truth-protocols that they usually accept. *You* may go on about how there is no full certainty of anything, but a usual christian cannot use this argument, since he/she embraces and uses the truth-protocol routinely.

    This is where the usual atheist "snarky" arguments come in, since, in the context at hand -- where everyone accepts sensory information and the truth-protocols -- there is **no logical difference** between god and Santa Claus. There is no reason, in this context, to carve out the exception for god, but not for Santa Claus.

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  147. If I may be so bold, I would add that there is no no reason to carve out exceptions in agnosticism either. At one point I had a point of view very similar to yours, but I realized how silly it all sounds when you replace god with Santa, and how there is no logical reason not to do so.

    A very important and thoroughly non-logical factor for this kind of judgement is the constant presence of the god idea everywhere in society. We may flatter ourselves that it doesn't affect us very much, but upon introspection I (at least) came to realize how I instinctively treated with great seriousness the god-concept, how I made myself jump through hoops to justify agnosticism in this respect. Much the same hoops you've set up for us on this thread, and which do not get set up for Santa.

    The god-concept does not warrant this. Not one bit. Its seriousness derives only from its historical and societal importance, not from its merit as a hypothesis.

    I find this realization to be the psychological nail in god's logical coffin, and a good illustration of the liberating power of reason.

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  148. OH GOD THE NEW COMIC IS SO DUMB

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  149. I have to admit, I have always been a tentative fan of XKCD. I enjoy your guys posts for a laugh, but I've always been a bit of an XKCD apologist myself... until now. These past few comics have been so terrible I am about to admit something I thought I never would.

    XKCD is starting to suck repeatedly... The lack of a joke this entire week really drove the point home. A word of wisdom to Randal: People want to laugh when they read a webcomic not... whatever the hell you think those comics were going to inspire.

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  150. I'm guessing the new comic's funny if you have a GOOMH moment and think people are really gullible.

    That hobby can't last long, though. It'd take the girl about two seconds online to figure out it's not true.

    (Speaking of which, has the dream section of the Wiki been Randallised yet?)

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  151. I was quite disappointed by the dream comic, since the premise did have some promise, but Randall - in his oh so reliable way - failed to deliver an actual punchline.

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  152. WET SOGGY TURD.

    There's your next blog entry, free of charge.

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  153. "Maybe you're right and any discussion of epistemology must be built on an understanding that complete proof of anything is impossible, but presumably everyone went through this in 7th grade and we can take it from there without having to spell it out every time."

    apparently you didn't, because you seem to be operating from the principle that it's possible for the human brain--the incredibly badly wired human brain with all of its little cognitive biases--can have something that even remotely resembles epistemological certainty regarding anything, much less something which, by pretty much any definition, is defined as something which is infinitely bigger than humanity. as if somehow atheists have discovered being Right, despite the fact that they can't agree on reasons for being atheists, despite the fact that their arguments are just as fallacious and incomplete as those of the religious--somehow you have discovered being Correct. you hold this belief with the absolute fervor of the religious, and yet you mock the religious for their fervor.

    ironically, it's this very fervor, this very faulty thinking behavior of your badly wired brain (and all our brains are badly wired) that illustrates precisely why you should not, in fact, believe anything with that level of fervor. probably you'll grow out of it, though. most atheists do.

    "Both atheists and christians (usually) start from some common ground, which is given by the senses and the preprocessing done by the brain. The christian worldview doesn't even make sense if we don't take most of our sensory information as true."

    see, here's where you place faith in something that you really shouldn't. first: the preprocessing done by the brain is unreliable. the human brain does not work logically. it is vastly imperfect at a vast number of tasks. assuming that your understanding of the world is somehow correct and accurate, and that the assumptions you make to base your "logical beliefs" on happen to be the ones which are correct, is nothing short of arrogant. second: if you really think the existence of god somehow relies on "the senses" you should probably go read a fucking theology text.

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  154. "Furthermore, atheists and religious people share the vast majority of their truth-discovering protocols in everyday life, and are in complete agreement in applying these truth-protocols to other people's claims, including their religious claims. Indeed, a christian is likely to disbelieve in hinduism for much the same reason as an atheist."

    first: there is no single reason an atheist disbelieves any more than there is a single reason a religious person agrees. some christians believe that other religions are lies spread by Satan in order to keep humanity from believing. some believe that there is a universal principle behind all religions, and that those who serve faithfully as a Hindu will get to Heaven just as those who serve faithfully as a Christian do. some disbelieve other religions because they were raised in a highly Christian environment, or at least a highly Christian culture, and never had any chance to interact with the others and never gave them a thought. maybe some have weighed the evidence for all of them and decided Christianity is the one that makes sense. some saw "in hoc signo vinces" blazing across the sky.

    "However, christians carve out an exception for themselves in the very truth-protocols that they usually accept. *You* may go on about how there is no full certainty of anything, but a usual christian cannot use this argument, since he/she embraces and uses the truth-protocol routinely."

    yes, and I make the exact same argument I am making to you right now to Christians. in fact I have done it in this very thread. it is just as irresponsible for a religious person to act as if they have epistemological certainty as it is for an atheist to do so. the problem is most Christians are more than willing to acknowledge that there is Faith involved, which, and correct me if I am wrong here, Christians, means that there is a level of belief without evidence. sure, they're still very Certain, and I think that's irresponsible, but at least they're not pretending that theirs is the only reasonable belief to have.

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  155. "This is where the usual atheist "snarky" arguments come in, since, in the context at hand -- where everyone accepts sensory information and the truth-protocols -- there is **no logical difference** between god and Santa Claus."

    this is really inaccurate. Santa Claus is a character who flies around on Christmas delivering presents to children, which is widely known to be a ruse perpetuated by parents. there is no reason that such a creature is necessary to exist.

    god, on the other hand, is generally defined as the omnipotent being upon whose existence the universe relies--without him there would be nothing at all. he set the laws of the universe in motion and made it as orderly as it is. he is the uncaused cause, the unseen watchmaker, the greatest possible being, the lawgiver. there are innumerable logical arguments which, if you accept them as valid, would make such a being necessary. (my personal favorite is the cosmological argument, since it actually makes sense; the teleological argument lacks finesse; the ontological argument is offensive on every level; the argument from morality is arrogant and relies on lots of Christocentric assumptions to begin with)

    the alternative, the "so what did create the universe?" question, is basically answered with a shrug or with hand-waving.

    what you're doing equating God with Santa is not only saying that none of these arguments hold water--that's perfectly valid of someone to say so long as you actually have a reason to do so--but that none of them are valid at all, that it is impossible for any reasonable person to accept them as valid, and that they are so invalid that they under no circumstances would require the existence of the divine.

    I'm not "jumping through hoops" to justify agnosticism. I'm starting with the basic tenet of my beliefs: that epistemological certainty about anything is impossible, that everyone is always wrong about everything and that their beliefs, if they do somehow correlate with reality, do so largely by coincidence. I apply this filter to everything I encounter and insist that people in religious discussions hold the same standards. otherwise your precious common ground is actually pretty much impossible, since you've already decided that you alone hold Truth and that other people are wrong. which, if your dismissive little comment about people who insist on
    epistemological certainty is correct, we all learned in seventh grade. I just wish it stuck for you.

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  156. hey all you atheist ausfags check out Negus vs. Dorkins.

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  157. "Russell's Teapot"
    "invisible purple unicorn"
    "Santa Claus"

    Now all I need is the Flying Spaghetti Monster and BINGO!

    this is much easier on youtube...

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  158. Literally the only thing Randall would have to do for the "My Hobby" comics to make them funny or at least bearable to me is to use a randomly-chosen name instead of "my".

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  159. I think the comic is funnier if you ignore the caption, and you take Megan's "Oh God" as kind of an exasperated thought, like "Oh God, Randall's talking again, he thinks he's being funny, just shut up" type of thing. Or if you pretend that she's thinking "Oh God" because she just realized that the guy's head just fell off.

    Just sayin'.

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  160. "god, on the other hand, is generally defined as the omnipotent being upon whose existence the universe relies--without him there would be nothing at all. he set the laws of the universe in motion and made it as orderly as it is. he is the uncaused cause, the unseen watchmaker, the greatest possible being, the lawgiver. there are innumerable logical arguments which, if you accept them as valid, would make such a being necessary. (my personal favorite is the cosmological argument, since it actually makes sense; the teleological argument lacks finesse; the ontological argument is offensive on every level; the argument from morality is arrogant and relies on lots of Christocentric assumptions to begin with)"

    I take issue with this. First, these are generally arguments for a first cause, not a "god" (that is, a conscious or super-conscious being) that most people think that they implicate. Second, it presumes that nonexistence must take place before existence - we have no observable evidence that this should be the case, as nothing has never been observed to produce something out of nothing.

    Vis-a-vis the "atheism vs. agnosticism" debate, it's basically just a semantic quagmire. Very few people with a basic background in epistemological philosophy will assert that the nonexistence of God is a cogito ergo sum, but the same is true of, say, astronomy. It's not a logical necessity that Jupir\ter orbits the sun. And yet, you don't find many scientists who will say, "Oh, I'm not a - scientist - ; I'm not going to make a positive assertion as to whether my field is sensical because I can't deduce it a priori".

    In my opinion, a system of understanding the universe that does not include a god is the most reasonable, so I consider myself an atheist. Most agnostics I've met say basically the same thing (except the last part, natch).

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  161. Femaletoth, your question makes no sense. All three philosophers talk about many different things, and what does "least incorrect" mean in this context? Should I assign points to each issue and add up the total for each philosopher? Anyway, I haven't touched Ethics by Spinoza and I've read only about a third of the Critique of Pure Reason.

    All three philosophers talk, specifically, about God and morality and the fundamental basis of morality. Spinoza wrote things in direct response to Kant.

    If you haven't even read them, there's no point in asking you to discuss them. However, you must agree that there are cases where reason in combination with evidentialism lead people to different, contradictory conclusions. This means that the grounds on which you reject personal revelation--other than the ones which explicitly axiomatically privilege evidentialism--apply exactly as well, in a qualitative sense, to evidentialism.

    You could say "Oh, well, there are some people who are using reason INCORRECTLY!" but why not extend that to say that there are people who are receiving personal revelations incorrectly? Well, because you're axiomatically privileging evidentialism, but that's not going to convince anyone.

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  162. not that any of this is relevant, but @femalethoth

    I don't believe circular arguments aren't inherently wrong, any experiment starts with a hypothesis, my axioms, an experiment, let's say we build a computer, do the results of the experiment support the hypothesis? its standard logic.

    Add the axiom that God exists to my hypothesis. Is there any experiment that proves or disproves this existence? Until you can give me one I can deny your knowledge. I will be waiting.

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  163. Format please re-post that when you're not intoxicated. None of that made sense.

    Also notable: Trying to position what you already believe as "standard logic" so you don't have to defend it.

    I have never argued that the hypothesis "God exists" is defensible within the framework of naturalistic determinism. You're stupid if you think I have. This isn't an argument over any specific truth-claim, but over the validity of epistemological systems.

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  164. "I take issue with this. First, these are generally arguments for a first cause, not a "god" (that is, a conscious or super-conscious being) that most people think that they implicate. Second, it presumes that nonexistence must take place before existence - we have no observable evidence that this should be the case, as nothing has never been observed to produce something out of nothing."

    which is mostly a matter of your perspective. some people find it easy to believe the universe has simply existed for eternity. other people think that's implausible.

    and yes, as I have said, none of the arguments for the existence of god say anything about the proposed entity they say exists. this isn't a very good reason to dismiss them out of hand. especially since the point, since I do not believe in god, was not to "prove" that the Christian concept of god is real, but to demonstrate that believing in god is not analogous to believing in Santa Claus, ie there are many completely valid perspectives which believe that the existence of a god (a first cause, a lawmaker, an unseen watchmaker, a greatest possible being) is absolutely necessary to a logical understanding of the universe.

    "Vis-a-vis the "atheism vs. agnosticism" debate, it's basically just a semantic quagmire. Very few people with a basic background in epistemological philosophy will assert that the nonexistence of God is a cogito ergo sum, but the same is true of, say, astronomy. It's not a logical necessity that Jupir\ter orbits the sun. And yet, you don't find many scientists who will say, "Oh, I'm not a - scientist - ; I'm not going to make a positive assertion as to whether my field is sensical because I can't deduce it a priori"."

    thanks for telling me what I believe! and atheists think they aren't like religious people.

    your analogy fails on two fronts here. first: Jupiter is directly observable. pretty much by his very nature, God is not. even when believers claim to have seen or interacted with God atheists believe they are either lying or insane, so please don't do yourself the disfavor of saying "well he was plenty observable in the Bible!" there are lots of believers who claim to have literally heard or seen God still.

    second, Jupiter is, again, not the sort of cosmic principle which, if it existed, would be by its very nature beyond human comprehension, nor is Jupiter the sort of thing upon which the entirety of existence relies.

    I have not been given any compelling evidence that god exists, but if god does exist I don't think compelling evidence is likely to (otherwise some would exist), for whatever reason. so I default to the negative assumption.

    whatever else is true, atheists certainly spend massive amounts of their time thinking about the existence of god or the lack thereof. they argue about it and prove it and use their epistemological certainty to make fun of those silly religious people. the idea of God is central to their belief systems.

    is this just because of the cultural stigma atheists bear in a predominantly religious society? possibly. especially if you're in America the influence of religion is unescapable even if, like me, you never interact with religious people at all anymore.

    but for a belief which is analogous to Santa Claus you sure spend a lot of time talking about it and trying to refute it. it seems irresponsible to act like the nonexistence of God is a foregone conclusion, given how much atheist energy is spent on trying to prove it.

    also, the only reason I don't identify as an atheist is because atheists are pretty generally dicks. I'm a nontheist. I don't think "agnostic" and "nontheist" are in any way mutually exclusive terms--you can be a theist agnostic as well. the difference between an agnostic and a non-agnostic is that the non-agnostic thinks they are capable of Knowing.

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  165. Rob, I would say I'm an agnostic theist. I believe that it's fundamentally undeterminable whether or not God exists, so I might as well choose to believe that God does since an uncaused cause is a cooler idea than an infinite regression of causality, and I think Spinoza had nice style.

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  166. Who cares? There's a new comic to complain about.
    Speaking of which, I keep hearing people talk about these common dreams, but I've never had one.

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  167. yeah, most dreams I have these days is just my subconcious mocking me for being jealous or scared of things that I shouldn't be, when I was younger it was just my fear of rats and me being in really awesome medieval locales :)

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  168. Anon 11:55, just because it's common doesn't mean everyone's experienced it. Just because root beer is a common part of life across parts of America doesn't mean my neighbor has ever tasted it, but it's a reasonable assumption that they have. And I quite recently had a variant on the dream where all of my teeth fell out.

    Obligatory "omg randall get out of my head lol" aside, this comic was... decent. I mean, it was better than the Flake equation, and MILES better than whatever that Inspector Gadget crap was. It was framed in the "My Hobby" format, which has produced good comics and bad ones. The caption at the bottom was kind of convoluted, and probably could have been shortened, but hey, it was a punchline, which XKCD has been severely lacking lately. Overall, not Randall at his peak, but still far from the #631 nadir.

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  169. Hebrews 11:1
    Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

    Captcha: capedgin - the superman variety.

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  170. Anon 1:30 - could you possibly elaborate on what you think that is saying?

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  171. If we were talking about one common dream then maybe, but there is more than one dream that is claimed to be common. This would be more analogous to your neighbor not only having never tasted root beer, but also never having tasted mountain dew, cherry pepsi, and shirley temples. Also I've never had root beer because it smells weird.
    I'm not sure what to make of this new comic though in terms of the way Randall generally treats women. In one panel it manages to have hovering people and a disconnected head.

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  172. @Rob

    It's interesting, and perhaps sadly predictable, but for someone like me who lives in a predominantly atheist/irreligious environment, the pressure felt from the stigma of leaning towards theist thinking similarly evokes a desire to viciously attack opposing views, a desire which must be restrained.

    What is intolerable is when people are so self-assured as to assume that the issue is beneath them, unworthy of contemplation or discussion.

    For my own part I know very well the thinking that you, and to an extent, femaletoth ascribe to. Luckily, (or unluckily depending on your viewpoint) I am able to permit myself more leeway in what I can allow to be bridged by faith or raw belief.

    I wonder if there is a universal truth out there, independant of an observer... I'll just google 'universal truth' and see what wikipedia has to say.

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  173. "It's interesting, and perhaps sadly predictable, but for someone like me who lives in a predominantly atheist/irreligious environment, the pressure felt from the stigma of leaning towards theist thinking similarly evokes a desire to viciously attack opposing views, a desire which must be restrained."

    being the only theist can't be very fun. I'm lucky enough to have an environment where most of the people I talk to are irreligious, so we just don't talk about it much. it's gotten to the point that I just default to assuming that people have similar beliefs to me. the tendency humans have to self-select is remarkable.

    "What is intolerable is when people are so self-assured as to assume that the issue is beneath them, unworthy of contemplation or discussion."

    that absolute certainty is such a weird thing. I've stopped being actually confused by it since I've come to realize that it's not a tendency of atheists or theists but just something that humans do, but it's still weird. it would probably be nice to be so certain of myself though.

    "Luckily, (or unluckily depending on your viewpoint) I am able to permit myself more leeway in what I can allow to be bridged by faith or raw belief."

    I think this is the bit atheists have a hard time with. the idea of taking something on faith seems, to them, to be akin to saying "I don't care about logic or the real world."

    "I wonder if there is a universal truth out there, independant of an observer... I'll just google 'universal truth' and see what wikipedia has to say."

    even if there is a universal truth independent of the observer, you'd have to observe it to know it, which means it's stopped being independent.

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  174. Wow, christians are dumber than shit.

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  175. Wow, "Wow, christians are dumber than shit" is dumber than shit.

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  176. "your analogy fails on two fronts here. first: Jupiter is directly observable. pretty much by his very nature, God is not. even when believers claim to have seen or interacted with God atheists believe they are either lying or insane, so please don't do yourself the disfavor of saying "well he was plenty observable in the Bible!" there are lots of believers who claim to have literally heard or seen God still."

    Except that, in a purely Cartesian epistemological sense, the "observable evidence" is exactly as useful as "not observable evidence". Jupiter is not "directly observable" because it relies on many different things (photons traveling from Jupiter to Earth, neurons firing in a precise route and sequence, brain chemistry), all of which are fallible.

    My point in this analogy was not to create a Russell's Teacup, but to point out that most people don't use hyper-rigorous epistemological criteria when identifying what they believe.

    "second, Jupiter is, again, not the sort of cosmic principle which, if it existed, would be by its very nature beyond human comprehension, nor is Jupiter the sort of thing upon which the entirety of existence relies."

    As you like it, but the idea and usage of the word "proof" is basically founded upon logic, which is not a particularly kind system to that which is "beyond human comprehension". I can understand and respect people who feel that something divine exists, but I don't really like it when they say that logic is insufficient when it's simply inapplicable.

    "whatever else is true, atheists certainly spend massive amounts of their time thinking about the existence of god or the lack thereof. they argue about it and prove it and use their epistemological certainty to make fun of those silly religious people. the idea of God is central to their belief systems."

    Most of the atheists I know don't give two shits about philosophy one way or the other, but I guess we must just have very different experiences.

    "also, the only reason I don't identify as an atheist is because atheists are pretty generally dicks."

    I really don't think that that's a fair assessment. Most Japanese people I've known, for example, are very polite, and that nation is mostly atheistic. Ditto for Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, who are supposed to be pretty pleasant and inoffensive.

    Besides, how can you "identify" as an atheist, anyway? It's not something you elect to be a member of, it's a label applied to your beliefs - if you believe in many gods, you are a "polytheist" whether you say you are or not, aren't you?

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  177. "Except that, in a purely Cartesian epistemological sense, the "observable evidence" is exactly as useful as "not observable evidence". Jupiter is not "directly observable" because it relies on many different things (photons traveling from Jupiter to Earth, neurons firing in a precise route and sequence, brain chemistry), all of which are fallible."

    hahaha. a list of things which are red herrings: THAT.

    "My point in this analogy was not to create a Russell's Teacup, but to point out that most people don't use hyper-rigorous epistemological criteria when identifying what they believe."

    right, of course. the reason you said that disbelieving in god is the same as believing in jupiter, despite the fact that you are comparing a lack of belief to a positive belief and a belief in a directly observable phenomenon (except that apparently because the eye is not directly inside of jupiter it's not direct because you've read Descartes--IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR THAT NAME YOU JUST DROPPED, I FOUND IT) to a belief in a cosmic principle that is pretty much by its very nature impossible to observe and is also, according to many if not most definitions, required for the existence of the universe. you were definitely not just saying that disbelieving in god is the same thing as believing in jupiter! that would make you a complete and utter fuckwit, so of course you just meant something which does not actually follow from your original claim.

    "As you like it, but the idea and usage of the word "proof" is basically founded upon logic, which is not a particularly kind system to that which is "beyond human comprehension". I can understand and respect people who feel that something divine exists, but I don't really like it when they say that logic is insufficient when it's simply inapplicable."

    BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

    "Most of the atheists I know don't give two shits about philosophy one way or the other, but I guess we must just have very different experiences."

    more like I guess you're just full of shit.

    "I really don't think that that's a fair assessment. Most Japanese people I've known, for example, are very polite, and that nation is mostly atheistic. Ditto for Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, who are supposed to be pretty pleasant and inoffensive."

    most people are not Japanese, Swedish, Danish, or Norwegian.

    "Besides, how can you "identify" as an atheist, anyway? It's not something you elect to be a member of, it's a label applied to your beliefs - if you believe in many gods, you are a "polytheist" whether you say you are or not, aren't you?"

    what are you, stupid?

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  178. "Anon 1:30 - could you possibly elaborate on what you think that is saying?"
    Yeah, sorry, I like to give people time to think before I say what I think, haha.

    What I get out of it is that we are sure, and certain. What kind of evidence are you looking for? Like, Solomon's mines, or like, oh look, here's God?

    Verse 6 says "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." That He rewards those who earnestly seek Him is where I think it takes actual faith.

    Where does this conversation start above? Haha.

    "The problem of evil is why I stopped believing, because there has yet to be a theodicy that seems even remotely compelling." "The problem is all of them basically deny either that God is good, that God is capable of stopping evil, or that evil exists."

    I don't know what theodicies you've been hearing then, haha. I'll try to explain my understanding, but probably won't do a great job, so sorry. Basically, if "God is good," then anything that's not God is not good. Man's nature is to disobey, and with the commandment not to eat the fruit they naturally had to disobey. Here, God could have just destroyed them, so He's capable of "stopping evil," but the "evil exists," as He chose mercy instead. The point of the fall as I understand it was to bring us closer to God. We couldn't know the same depravity without having gone through it, and so couldn't know the same love. We'd know something more akin to the angels.

    Buut, surely you're thinking "Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!" Well, there are two ways of looking at good. There's the normal way: evil is evil, good is good, and then there's: everything is good, as it serves the purpose that God created it for. Satan, and all. What we intend for evil, He intends for good.

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  179. No, just saying that everything works out for the good.

    Evil's there, trying to work against God, but in the end He uses it for His purpose.

    A bad example I just made up: someone murdering someone is, in itself, evil. If, in prison, they "become a Christian," or someone sees that they're wrong based on the killing for some reason, that is good. Just apply that to, whatever happens, Jesus comes back.

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  180. Oh no I had tried to tell myself religion didn't actually make real people this apathetic to suffering oh god you are shattering my innocence fuck fuck fuck.

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  181. "right, of course. the reason you said that disbelieving in god is the same as believing in jupiter, despite the fact that you are comparing a lack of belief to a positive belief and a belief in a directly observable phenomenon (except that apparently because the eye is not directly inside of jupiter it's not direct because you've read Descartes--IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR THAT NAME YOU JUST DROPPED, I FOUND IT) to a belief in a cosmic principle that is pretty much by its very nature impossible to observe and is also, according to many if not most definitions, required for the existence of the universe. you were definitely not just saying that disbelieving in god is the same thing as believing in jupiter! that would make you a complete and utter fuckwit, so of course you just meant something which does not actually follow from your original claim."

    I never said that disbelieving in god was the same as believing in Jupiter, nor did I intentionally imply it. If I did so unintentionally, I'm sorry. I'm very sorry. I am so terribly sorry. Is your mordant pen sated, oh ye of the broken shift key? I hope so; I fear that one more of your 'clever barbs' would have irreparably shattered my entire worldview.

    "BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW"

    I think that you're overestimating my emotional investment in this little dialogue. My tears amount to no more than some light sobs - it will take a few more rounds of tilting before I reach bawling status.

    "more like I guess you're just full of shit."

    Well, I suppose you would know more about my experiences than I would.

    Literally every agnostic I had ever met had always been very civil in religious discussion. Thank you for providing a counterexample!

    "most people are not Japanese, Swedish, Danish, or Norwegian."

    Of course not. That does not alter the fact that you called the majority of the populations of those countries "dicks". I find this sentiment offensive and, frankly, racist.

    "what are you, stupid?"

    My continued presence in this debate leads me to no other conclusion.

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  182. Wow. Impressive discussion, this. In fact, I think I need to thank Femalethoth, El Duderino and Rob for providing me by far the most civil and - not coincidentally - interesting debate about religion and knowledge that I have ever seen on the internet. Having never studied much philosophy at all, and especially no epistemology, I found this to be far more informative than I generally expect from xkcdsucks comment sections.

    That said, I must admit myself to be one of those same hateful atheists who acts as if anyone even slightly religious or spiritual is an imbecile. I will admit so somewhat ashamedly, because I know that it is irresponsible and - deep down - I'm actually very much inclined to agree with everything Rob has said above (minus a few obscenities). But to say that that kind of close-mindedness makes atheists as bad as religious people ignores, I think, one major fact: atheists are (obviously) a lot less likely to blow things up for their religious beliefs.

    Of course, terrorism is likely a flawed example - it seems plausible that anyone messed up enough to hurt large numbers of innocent people for their religion would be just as willing to use another justification - but what of the myriad other ways in which people's religious beliefs can hurt those around them? While I accept that my occasionally acting superior makes me a bit of an ass, I feel justified in that at least my beliefs don't encourage the death by stoning of rape victims.

    For me, at least - and I think likely for a lot of the angry, asshole anti-theists - the problem is not the leap of faith that religious people make. The question of whether it is possible to know, and whether either side is more logically justifiable, is irrelevant. The problem is when people start taking their beliefs, which Rob has repeatedly pointed out no one can be certain about, and applying them in ways that hurt others. If it really is impossible to know, then I feel that we should default to the side that doesn't deprive others of their rights, or worse. Or, at the very least, we should more strictly enforce the separation between church and state.

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  183. "Having never studied much philosophy at all, and especially no epistemology, I found this to be far more informative than I generally expect from xkcdsucks comment sections."

    a very good anthology on philosophy of religion is called God, by Timothy A Robinson. most people are not quite so hung up on the fact that the whole epistemological certainty thing is really dumb.

    "But to say that that kind of close-mindedness makes atheists as bad as religious people ignores, I think, one major fact: atheists are (obviously) a lot less likely to blow things up for their religious beliefs."

    Dan Savage has this feature on The Stranger called "there is no morality without religion," which you would probably enjoy.

    so, the problem I have with saying that atheism doesn't cause death is basically this: there's not enough atheists in history to have enough examples. and it's hard to say to what degree something is caused by religion or on what level.

    of course, I agree that you should never apply your beliefs in ways that hurt others, but I don't think that's the exclusive provender of the religious. atheists just don't have the cultural dominance to pull it off (and also are usually from developed nations where there isn't a culture of violence and so on).

    "I don't know what theodicies you've been hearing then, haha. I'll try to explain my understanding, but probably won't do a great job, so sorry. Basically, if "God is good," then anything that's not God is not good. Man's nature is to disobey, and with the commandment not to eat the fruit they naturally had to disobey. Here, God could have just destroyed them, so He's capable of "stopping evil," but the "evil exists," as He chose mercy instead. The point of the fall as I understand it was to bring us closer to God. We couldn't know the same depravity without having gone through it, and so couldn't know the same love. We'd know something more akin to the angels."

    that one's a form of denying either that evil exists (ie, evil is necessary in order for us to achieve the fullest form of good, therefore it's not really evil) or that God is fully good (he could stop evil, he just doesn't choose to because it's part of his design), depending on the slant you take.

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  184. You know, my beliefs don't encourage the death by stoning of rape victims either. Have fun with your chronological snobbery.

    Well, okay, not necessarily. Maybe there are still some religious people today who do encourage that kind of behavior. Thanks for associating me with them.

    I'm gonna go ahead and say that I feel justified in that at least my beliefs don't encourage shooting up high schools and reciting half-baked Nietzsche essays.

    I feel that we should default to the side that doesn't deprive others of their rights, or worse

    There is no such side. There is nothing about religion that makes it any more likely to cause rights deprivation, except perhaps the chronological coincidence that most religion was developed before the Enlightenment and so there's a correlation.

    I'm also interested in how you think we should be enforcing the separation between church and state. Currently, we're pretty much where John Locke thinks we ought to be. There's no state-sponsored religion, and every religious choice that isn't otherwise illegal is protected under the Constitution.

    Admittedly, there are a few cosmetic things that you might object to: The word "God" appears a few times in official things like the Pledge and the dollar bill. This is hardly equivalent to the state mandating that everyone believe one religion, or privileging one religion over another, or even giving privileged legal status to religions over non-religions.

    But I suppose it's reasonable to say that it's inappropriate for that to be in there anyway. All right.

    More seriously, it's probably inappropriate for religious groups to qualify for tax-exempt status, and I don't know enough about what that status is and why religious groups get it to be able to offer a more thorough critique of the idea. Even so, that's not the state privileging any particular religion over the other, though the state does seem to privilege religions over non-religions, which is problematic.

    Beyond that, what would you even want to change? Objecting to things like "Well tons of Christians make and influence laws!" is ridiculous, it's like saying that because tons of white people make and influence laws the government is institutionally racist. Tons of Christians make and influence laws because there are tons of them, and they're organized, and we live in a democracy where organized groups of people can influence laws.

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  185. "that one's a form of denying either that evil exists (ie, evil is necessary in order for us to achieve the fullest form of good, therefore it's not really evil) or that God is fully good (he could stop evil, he just doesn't choose to because it's part of his design), depending on the slant you take."

    I don't understand. Just because it's necessary doesn't make it magically not evil. And how does that say God's not fully good? It doesn't take evil for Him to become fully good.

    Also, if "it's not really evil," what would that imply?

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  186. @Mal
    Except that those tons of white people don't make laws on the basis of their whiteness, because there isn't any ideology attached to being white. On the other hand, you could look at things like the recent revisions made by the Texas State Board of Education*, and while you can say that most people aren't that sort of deeply religious folk that directly made that happen, the commonality of Christianity was necessary for those sort of people to gain even wide social acceptance, let alone political power.

    *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQx_2j5nXuc

    Similar applies to the current Islamic situation in England, which while currently being fairly self contained and passive, shows a risk of exploding into something far more dangerous than education revisions.

    Captcha: Pratfu. It feels a tad appropriate.

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  187. Also, when I say self contained and passive, I really mean "They're only talking about becoming the majority, and then killing nonbelievers and homosexuals. They're not actually shooting anyone yet!"

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  188. Jacques "The Ox" TiramisuMarch 29, 2010 at 12:24 AM

    Scott McTony:

    "Similar applies to the current Islamic situation in England, which while currently being fairly self contained and passive, shows a risk of exploding into something far more dangerous than education revisions."

    You know, Scotty, old pal, old chum of mine, that's a pretty scummy, racist thing to say. There's no "Islamic situation" --the extremists you're talking about are a distinct minority of Muslims who are marginalized within their own religion, let alone within England at large, and it's pretty damned offensive to see you characterizing the majority of English Muslims as people who want to "kill homosexuals and nonbelievers". The first bit of your argument wasn't awful, but it would be nice if you could back up your anti-theism with something a little more substantive and a little less stupid than "Oooh! Look at the spooky brown men!"

    Anon 1:30:

    "I don't understand. Just because it's necessary doesn't make it magically not evil. And how does that say God's not fully good? It doesn't take evil for Him to become fully good."

    Man's nature is to disobey, and with the commandment not to eat the fruit they naturally had to disobey. Here, God could have just destroyed them, so He's capable of "stopping evil," but the "evil exists," as He chose mercy instead. The point of the fall as I understand it was to bring us closer to God. We couldn't know the same depravity without having gone through it, and so couldn't know the same love. We'd know something more akin to the angels.
    The essential problem I have with this explanation is that, in most of the theologies I’ve heard, God is, um, omnipotent. He can do anything, with any result and any consequence, on his own terms. He is all powerful.

    What this means is that a holy, true, or righteous purpose simply does not excuse the existence of evil, because whatever God can do WITH evil, he can do WITHOUT evil. Evil may be a part of some grand cosmic process, but it doesn’t have to be—God could be achieving whatever he’s set out to achieve without making use of evil or suffering or anything like that. If God exists, and if he’s omnipotent, then he could bring us to whatever self-actualization He has in mind without putting the rest of us through poverty and AIDS and genocide—so why do they exist?

    If God is omnipotent, then he can do whatever the hell he’s doing without employing/tolerating evil (because, well, he can do anything). And, if God can do whatever the hell he’s doing without employing/tolerating evil, then…why is he employing/tolerating evil? Likewise, if God ISN’T employing or tolerating evil, then why does it still exist? The only possible answers here are pretty much what Rob listed—either God can’t stop evil (meaning he, at the very least, isn’t omnipotent, and depending on how you see things might not exist), he won’t stop evil (meaning he’s pretty much a mass-murdering dick), or there isn’t such a thing as evil (which has so many fucked-up moral implications that I don’t even want to talk about them because it would take all night—besides, I won’t be able to put it any better than Candide, anyway.) But, the point is, no matter how you slice it, something has to give.

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  189. Jacques "The Ox" TiramisuMarch 29, 2010 at 12:25 AM

    Anon 1:30, Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

    “Evil's there, trying to work against God, but in the end He uses it for His purpose.

    A bad example I just made up: someone murdering someone is, in itself, evil. If, in prison, they "become a Christian," or someone sees that they're wrong based on the killing for some reason, that is good. Just apply that to, whatever happens, Jesus comes back.”
    The problem here, again, is that Jesus could come back and save our souls or lead us into the Kingdom of Heaven or whatever the heck he wants to do WITHOUT EVIL. Evil is fully and totally superfluous to an omnipotent God, because an omnipotent God CAN DO ANYTHING, so he DOESN’T NEED EVIL. He is all-powerful, and so he can enact whatever plan he has in mind without putting us through war or rape or murder. Yet, if God exists, he is putting us through exactly that. The point here is that God is hypothetically powerful enough to make everything work out according to his designs without there being evil, and yet evil still exists.

    To use your own smaller scale example: sure, somebody realizing that killing other people is wrong is a good thing. But God is powerful enough to make it happen without there being a murder in the first place. God doesn’t need to resort to murders in order to achieve that end or teach that lesson—so why do they exist?

    Now, the problem of evil doesn’t necessarily mean that God doesn’t exist. It could mean that he simply doesn’t have the power to stop evil (or that there’s some purpose that he needs to use evil to achieve), meaning that he isn’t omnipotent. It could mean that he’s just a dick and doesn’t care enough to spare the world from misery, which would mean that God isn’t good. Or, it could mean that what we understand as “evil” isn’t, in the grand scheme of things, a bad, worthless, or wicked thing—which would mean that there’s no such thing as “evil” as we understand it, since we understand as evil to be something inherently valueless and negative.

    That’s why Rob and Co. keep characterizing your argument as either “there’s no such thing as evil”—if what we understand as “evil” is necessary for a full understanding of God (“The point of the fall as I understand it was to bring us closer to God”), then it’s not really that horrible in the grand scheme of things, is it?

    Of course, there’s something else inherent in this argument—the idea that God somehow needs to use evil in order to shape us in some way (“We couldn't know the same depravity without having gone through it, and so couldn't know the same love”) contains the assumption that God is not omnipotent. An omnipotent God could shape humanity any way he pleased without having to resort to brutality—with a snap his ephemeral fingers, he could teach us everything we could ever want to know about the depravity you talk about, all without hurting a single innocent person. A God who needs to resort to evil in order to save our souls isn’t all powerful, because a truly all powerful God, a God who could do anything, wouldn’t have to mess around with rape and murder and genocide.

    Anon 1:30, Pt. 3:

    "I don't understand. Just because it's necessary doesn't make it magically not evil. And how does that say God's not fully good? It doesn't take evil for Him to become fully good."

    The idea you seem to have put forward is that what we know as “evil” is necessary to achieve some genuine, transcendent good. If you believe that this transcendent good outweighs everything ugly about human suffering and depravity, then that suffering isn’t really for the worst, so it isn’t genuinely heinous or horrific or bad (thus the “denying that evil exists”—or, more specifically, denying that it’s all that bad when measured against the good it’s meant to cause). If you believe that this transcendent good doesn’t outweigh everything ugly about human suffering and depravity, then God is kind of a douchebag for putting us through all this stuff without sufficient cause—and, thus, he isn’t fully good.

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  190. Short answer to problem of evil: free will. God gave us Free Will and made it an intrinsic part of our Humanity. To deprive us of Free Will would be to deprive us of a large part of that which makes us fundamentally Human and fundamentally different from creatures that lack agency, i.e. all non-sapient animals. For God to do so would be for God to contradict His own will in giving humanity Free Will in the first place. As a direct consequence of this, Humanity was allowed to fall from its intended place in the natural order because of the first sin of Eve and Adam (Pride, obstinacy, disobedience).

    It is within God's capability to eliminate evil within Creation (see Great Flood, Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) or to counter particular incidences of evil via direct supernatural intervention (see various miracles of Jesus, up to his resurrection), but except for these exceptional circumstances, God chooses not to do so. This is because it is our responsibility, as creatures made in Gods own image, to deal with the evil wrought by our own actions and the actions of others, or that which results from humanly unavoidable disasters. As someone - I believe Mrs. Peel - said above, we were not made to be automatons; for some inscrutable reason, it is important to God that we have the choice of accepting or rejecting Him, and that our choice will be eternally honored either by union with God (Sainthood, Heaven) or separation from God (Damnation, Hell). For this reason, evil is allowed to exist.

    If that seems unsatisfactory or unconvincing to you, do keep in mind that this is not meant to convince the unbeliever (also, I am no scholar and don't purport to authoritatively convey the doctrines of the Church). This is what the believer already believes (at least within orthodox Christian culture). Obviously if you choose not to believe in God in the first place, none of this would be persuasive. It presupposes belief in God, the revelations of the Jewish prophets, Jesus Christ and his apostles, and the traditions of the Church which include the doctrines of Free Will and Original Sin. I don't know how "heterodox"/protestant/"non-denominational" groups account for the problem of evil. I only write this to address the implication that religions (specifically orthodox Christianity) have no meaningful answer to the Problem of Evil. This is how the Church traditionally answers that question; your mileage may vary.

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  191. (Imperfect) analogy: You are a parent with a child of school-age. He receives a homework assignment - we can assume the assignment is reasonably structured and relevant to the current topic of study, or in short, not a crappy timewaster. You, as parent, do not enforce a strict study schedule for your child: he is effectively free to do his homework as soon as he gets settled after school (or at any reasonable time during the day), or he could blow off the assignment and play videogames all night. If the former, there are numerous benefits which are obvious to you but which may not be immediately obvious to the child; if the latter, there are obvious negative consequences. If the child chooses the latter, and you do nothing to stop him, the immediate consequences are negative - he fails to understand his lessons and consequently fails his next test as well. However, he may grow and develop from the experience, and learn to discern the difference between good and bad choices; he would have the choice of learning from his mistake or compounding it. He could become a better student, eventually going to college, getting a decent job, and by any account having a successful life; or he could give up, not go to college or otherwise fail to continue his education/training, and ultimately get stuck doing dead-end jobs for the rest of his life.

    For most mature adults, the good choices in this case are obvious, and they would actively push their children to pursue them. While doing so ostensibly encourages a more positive long-term outcome, it may also deprive the child of his ability to grow in his discernment of the world, fixing him in rigid behavior patterns that lack deeper intellectual and moral consideration. The end result might end up being co-dependency, where the person lacks the strength of personality and convictions to get along in life without somebody to make important decisions for him. God is uniquely strong-willed to know the good and evil consequences of our actions and allow us to make such choices for ourselves - even if we end up being evil and depraved, we will be complete in our evil and depravity. It would be our choice.

    Do keep in mind that the two choices need not have diametrically opposed moral values - in other words, this does not imply that duty and pleasure are strictly separated by a sharp line dividing good from evil. In this analogy the videogames are not an absolute evil, nor the homework an absolute good; if the child diligently chose to tend to his homework first he would probably have time later to relax and have fun. "Good" does not equate to "dull" or "boring;" pleasure has its proper relation and proportion to duty, and when it is observed a person is capable of leading a virtuous, meaningful life. To take another example, chastity and sex - chastity is appropriate outside of marriage, but typically not within it, and vice-versa. Neither is more good or more evil than the other, both are good in proper proportion to the other, and both can become evil when divorced from such an understanding.

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