Saturday, July 31, 2010

Comic 773: Not the Info You're Looking For

it looks like you are stalking your professors
[alt: People go to the website because they can't wait for the next alumni magazine, right? What do you mean, you want a campus map? One of our students made one as a CS class project back in '01! You can click to zoom and everything!]

I think no word describes this comic better than "boring." Or, if you allow me three words, "Really, really boring." Not only is it a graph joke - the last refuge of the crappy comic author - but a Venn diagram comic, a place which I think deserves a special place in graph-comic hell. Not only because they take little to no thought, but also because they are boring to look at, especially the two-circles-and-one-overlapping-area ones. That's not to say that all Venn diagram comics are bad, just that nearly all of them are.

This is, of course, no exception. The joke is about the relative usefulness of college websites. What Randall is doing with this, having been out of school for several years, is beyond me. Actually, no, it's not - given that most visitors to the main page of a school's site are prospective students, I know exactly what he's doing: Appealing to high school students, as usual.

But in this case I'll ignore that, because there are bigger problem with this comic. First off, the joke. The punchline comes in the overlapping segment, as is usual with Venn Diagram jokes (for example.) I don't think anyone would disagree that the punchline to this comic is "the one thing that university websites have that people are actually looking for is the full name of the University." Now, step back a bit and read that again. I basically did a double take with this punchline where I read it, shrugged, thought it was dumb, and then had this realization that it is not merely "dumb," it is in fact mind-blowingly shitty. What college has so complicated a name that you need to get the entire thing written out for you? I mean I am sure there are a few where you don't know the exact phrase (like "ohio state university" vs "the ohio state university") but a) that happens in only a tiny fraction of colleges and b) it doesn't matter. If you all made a list of the 25 reasons you go to university websites, would this be on there? Of course not. So why is it on this list? Alas, humor is generally about using unusual means to get at the core truth of a topic, and in this case, there is no truth there. It's based on random stuff he made up that no one can relate to.

Now, it could be said that one might be able to relate to the general concept of not being able to find what one needs on a college website. That's a terrible joke for a few reasons (including the fact that colleges generally spend a lot of effort to make fancy, well designed sites, so this is just wrong, and the fact that if you want to mock crappy websites a venn diagram with an out-of-nowhere punchline is a crappy way to do it) but let's pretend he has a point. Are University websites poorly designed?

Of course, there's no clear answer to that, because they vary. So I just picked two completely at random and looked at whether it was hard to find the information Randall claims people are looking for but cannot find. The first randomly chosen school was Christopher Newport University, where Randall went to college (click for actual size):
You'll note that I've highlighted a few relevant links from - gasp! - the front page. Let's take another example though, say, i don't know, MIT, the place Randall wanted to go to college and likes to pretend he is currently attending:
Again, a few relevant links are highlighted.

Now it's true that there are some things Randall says people are looking for when they go to a University website, like campus police phone numbers, that are not on these sites. Well, to be accurate, they are on the sites, just not on the front pages. Now we get to another central problem here: Randall is comparing "what people want" with "what is on the front page." But there's no good reason for him to do that. People want any of a thousand things when they go to a University website, but you can't put them all on the front page. It would be impossible to find your way around and it would look like shit.

Luckily, most web designers have learned that you can created other web pages, and merely link to them from the front page. So if you have a long list of course names and numbers, rather than put all the names and all the numbers on the front page, you can have an "Academics" link that takes you there! Astounding. Likewise, a visitor to xkcd.com may be looking for a certain comic. Say (to take one actually at random this time), the one about accidentally hearing the power rangers song whilst sexin' it up. But HOLY FUCKING MOTHER OF GOD, it is not there on the front page of xkcd! Someone might be looking to purchase xkcd merchandise, yet to do so, they would have to click to another page, oh my god. This is what I would call "web design for complete idiots" and yet it seems to be confusing Randall Munroe for some reason.

It's almost like Colleges have an image of themselves they want to present - usually something along the lines of, "our students are happy, our faculty make amazing discoveries, and our alumni do great things." They're presenting a brand, basically, and - sweet jesus! - their websites reflect this. stop the mother fucking presses. Not everyone wants to see the campus police phone number prominently displayed on the main site? Well glory hallelujah. If only there were a simple 3 digit number that you could use in case of emergencies! Something that started with 9 and ended with 1 and had, I dunno, a 1 in the middle. No, that's silly, in an emergency most people will have time to visit exactly one website and won't have time to click on a single link, so yeah, the best option is to put it on the front page.

You've also got some dishonesty in the left-hand circle. "virtual tour" is totally something an applicant might want. Maybe not 100% of them, but some would. "Campus events" ? Why is that so bad? Does Randall really think no one wants to read about those? It certainly seems more likely than "Academic Calendar." or "parking information."

In short, there is nothing about this comic that isn't neuron-crushingly stupid and it's all in the service of an illogical, made up joke that just bored the loving crap out of me. GOOD JOB.


update: It gets better - I looked up Christopher Newport University on Wikipedia and guess what? Apparently it isn't the tech/engineering school I thought it was. It is, in fact, a liberal arts college. So the next time Randall mocks the liberal arts - which includes a lot of math, keep in mind - think about the fact that he went to a liberal arts school.
=======================
Assorted and sundry other thoughts:
--I've finally, FINALLY, gotten around to reading Dr. McNinja. I really enjoy it! I just finished the second part of Dare To Resist Ninja Drugs and Ninja Violence. I don't tend to read comics that have long story arcs, because they tend to be boring (not their fault, it's really hard to tell a long story that has a lot of regular laugh points throughout the whole thing) but Dr. McNinja stays funny and entertaining. I hope it stays this good.

--That said, I don't like the Dr. McNinja / Axe Cop crossover that's going on now. The joy of Axe Cop is that it's all told through the crazy imagination of an actual six year old. Giving him characters made by adults doesn't work, and just feels super gimmicky (which it is). I can see why people would compare the two comics, because they do have a lot in common, and I can see why someone would even think of doing a crossover like this. But that doesn't mean it is a good idea.

--Penny Arcade TV finally reached the point of running out of new topics and doing an episode of the show about the show itself. Quite frankly, I'm impressed the made it as long as they did without resorting to that. And it's understandable that they'd do it; as Robert Khoo mentions, you just plain run out of things to make episodes about if you want them to be interesting and new. So I guess that means it's a good time for the first season to wrap up, and I'm intrigued by the idea of new folks coming on to make the next season. But that said, I think the Two Player Productions people did an absolutely fantastic job with this series and I really enjoyed watching it. I hope the next crew is as good.

293 comments:

  1. "It's almost like Colleges have an image of themselves they want to present - usually something along the lines of, "our students are happy, our faculty make amazing discoveries, and our alumni do great things." They're presenting a brand, basically, and - sweet jesus! - their websites reflect this. stop the mother fucking presses. Not everyone wants to see the campus police phone number prominently displayed on the main site? Well glory hallelujah. If only there were a simple 3 digit number that you could use in case of emergencies! Something that started with 9 and ended with 1 and had, I dunno, a 1 in the middle. No, that's silly, in an emergency most people will have time to visit exactly one website and won't have time to click on a single link, so yeah, the best option is to put it on the front page."

    one of the things they said a lot at orientation at Northeastern was actually that you should call campus police over 911, because they will probably be able to get there faster. they suggested programming it into your phone. this is a thing that people can do now!

    the web page Randall wants for the front page of a university is basically a student portal. he wants all this information either on the front page or linked directly--you'll notice it's all information that you would only really need if you had already decided that you are going to be going to or interacting with this school in some way, either by applying there, or visiting there, or contacting someone there.

    Randy has no interest in campus culture or in prospective students trying to figure out if this college is right for them--or maybe he thinks the only worthwhile students are the ones who judge based solely on the course listing?

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  2. Like many of his comics, this one seems to depend on the person reading it assuming it will be funny and then accepting the alternate reality that would allow such humor.

    Anyone who reads the lists--that is, reads them and actually attempts to MAKE THE CONNECTIONS beyond the "oh look, these lists are highly disparate!" that Randall is hoping you'll implicitly accept--is deeply disappointed.

    ESPECIALLY the "full name of school" part. That is spectacularly fucktarded. He had a chance to at least partially redeem the joke, and chose the most mundane punchline possible.

    He could've at least complained about a lack of information that actually exists, i.e.: the incredible amount of money this is going to cost you.

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  3. UndercoverCuddlefishJuly 31, 2010 at 11:11 PM

    it occurred to me that the comic might have had some semblance of a punchline if randall merely left the overlapping portion of the circles empty

    the comic still would not have been any good but there would have at least been a subversion of reader expectations which is better than whatever the fuck you want to call the current fare

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  4. god damn joystiq your weekly webcomic wrapup is so lame
    fucking xkcd's frogger joke is one of the seven or so comics that people can vote on
    hurrrrrrrkh

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  5. Carl, do you have too much time? Why don't you go clean some gulf coast beaches or something?

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  6. It happens all the time that you find someone with a .edu e-mail or you get linked to a .edu site. Often the abbreviation for the school is really tough to figure out. You googled it.

    This just happened to me again this week. That part of the joke, while not funny, is completely legit.

    The rest of the comic is bizarre, though. If you don't know the school's abbreviation, you might be on the front page looking for the name. The other stuff is purely college-student stuff, and even more than that, college-FRESHMAN stuff. Once you've been at the school for a while, you figure out where all this info it. This is a problem limited basically to people in orientation and the following weeks. Why is Randall thinking like this? Does he hang out with freshmen all the time, or is he still stuck in that mindset?

    Normal people not in college don't think things like this.

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  7. From that joystiq vote:

    "XKCD is automatic vote for me if its on here. Thats just how it is other comics, sorry. But really it was good."

    Arrgghhh...

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  8. MIT, the place Randall wanted to go to college and likes to pretend he is currently attending

    Hahaha, that's probably the saddest thing I've ever read.

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  9. @ Fred

    I know, right?

    It's pretty sad that Randall lacks the intallectual capacity to contribute in any way to the feild of science and technology and is forced to live his fantasies through an extremely shitty stick figure comic.

    It is almost the saddest thing.

    Capchca- Duptin.

    I was almost duptin to going to xkcd.com to look at the new comic, but it's still sunday.

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  10. Personally, I'm just amused that apparently Carlton from Fresh Prince is attending Christopher Newport University.

    Captcha: fices - what one excretes after digesting a meal from Chipotle

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  11. i don't clean oil off beaches because it would not be fun. is that not enough for you?

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  12. What the fuck is a Christopher Newport?

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  13. So, since i finally have a chance to be an authoritative position on something...

    I have been both a college student and a worker in that college's IT department. Through relatives, I have seen the college from provost and faculty angles.

    The front page of a college's website does not exist for the students. Our student portal does, though. The front page of the main website is an ad, to get prospective students and their parents interested. Students are aware of this and not bothered by it, both because of the portal page and how easy it is to navigate to other information. This is both necessary and obvious. Randall is astoundingly dumb if he doesn't know this, but I assume he is faking ignorance for the sake of his shitty joke, hoping that his audience is fooled.

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  14. I think it's telling that the critique of this (supposedly) comic strip is made up of largely a discussion of web design. For one, "really, really boring". You said it Carl.

    There's one other aspect to it: this is a joke about bad websites. You know, how back in the day, say a dozen years ago, when the internet was new and nobody knew what to make of it, and web design was almost exclusively the domain of self-taught reclusive geeks? How there were no classes or guides or books on it, or even many examples of how to do it properly, and how the tools available were laughably inadequate, so a lot of sites sucked horribly? Randall does.

    I mean, all this comic is missing is a jab at guestbooks and rotating flaming skulls.

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  15. A Christopher Newport is a man from the Newport family who is named Christopher.

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  16. Wouldn't it be pretty sketchy if one of the obvious things on the front page is a Campus Police number? "Thinking of checking out our school? Well, here's something you'll want to know!"

    Maybe I'm misreading that, but it seems sort of like a landlord handing you a gun when you come to check out a possible room. "Just in case," he assures you without elaboration.

    I'm not saying it's not useful, but as has been pointed out... why is it on the front page?? Is Randall such a technological crackhead that as the murderer is chasing him down, he is furiously pounding on his smartphone, loading the college website to find the campus police number? Maybe I'm misreading that, but it doesn't sound right.

    Oh, and otherwise the comic is pretty dull. I went back to my uni website, clicked one button and found the portal with all the relevant junk. ...Well, except for my password.

    Captcha: undyedi. Undead yeti.

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  17. Forgive me for being too damn lazy to look up any other University websites other than my own but aren't these usually broken up into pages for New Students, Current Students, Faculty & Staff, Alumni, and Events? And further, don't the areas for new and current students have all of the information in the "omg ur so stupid why don't you have this on the front page?" circle?

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  18. Ravenzomg, it is common knowledge that any life threatening situation is best addressed by making an excited thread on your favorite discussion board.

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  19. or sometimes just leave a comment on your favorite blog.

    like

    'dear internet,
    Rob from XKCD Sucks just broke into my house. I don't think he knows I can see him but he is standing in the doorway to my bedroom breathing heavily. What should I do???'

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  20. @Rob

    It's my understanding that you were working on a blog post about whether or not art has to be (or even can be) original. It was then discovered that you had already written such a post. Question: Is the new version you had in mind substantially different from the old one? Or does the old one pretty much sum up what you were going to say anyway?

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  21. there are some bits that I'd add. my thoughts are more or less the same, but I was thinking from a slightly different angle, since this particular comic served as such a good focus for it. probably not enough to justify an additional post on it.

    for the record, I am of the opinion that true originality is possible, but a waste of time and will probably not be very good. there is probably a reason nobody has thought of it before (viz, it sucks). my contrast is usually originality vs creativity--the latter is important, the former less so. Randy has neither.

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  22. " 'MIT, the place Randall wanted to go to college and likes to pretend he is currently attending'

    Hahaha, that's probably the saddest thing I've ever read. "

    I laughed when I read that. I'm a terrible person.

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  23. Checking out my university website I see a link to "current students" that contains everything that Randall is complaining about and then some. Of course, clicking a big button on the homepage is quite difficult for some people so I can imagine why Randall complained.

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  24. Is it just me, or should the fact that Christopher Newport University is a liberal arts college be clear from the front page of its website?

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  25. Re: Campus police phone number

    Guys, remember that we're talking about a guy that would call a radio talk show if he drove a car off a cliff, so imagining him trying to load his university's website when faced with a dire emergency is not entirely far-fetched...

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  26. On a subject vaguely related to PATV: am I the only one who thinks the last few Blamimations have been awful? Before number six or so, there were a few ideas which, if not hilarious, were at least smile-worthy, like Monster Nash or Night Driver, but the new ones seem to have a single idea—usually an idea which is halfway funny at best—and then attempt to milk it until it is entirely devoid of anything humorous. Or at least, that's what I've thought.

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  27. blamimations still make me laugh but they are so stupid, too. I dunno, I think the sound of their voices makes it seem like they are having so much fun that I can't help but enjoy it. It's just so weird and unlike anything else I am reading/watching.

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  28. I'm not sure if it's "funny", exactly, but between reading the comic and reading the mouseover text, I actually had pretty much the exact same thought expressed in the alt-text, and so I was surprised to see it there.

    Since I'm actually quite inclined to agree with the dude, I don't really know how I'm even supposed to react to 774. Strident Dawkins-esque atheists are, in fact, quite annoying. It's probably pointless to try to figure exactly which subset of atheists are more or less annoying than a particular subset of religious believers.

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  29. Holy shit did Carl do away with the CAPTCHA verification

    Holy shit holy shit what is going on
    first 4chan implements CAPTCHA, then carl takes it away
    insanity!

    oh wait it's back

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  30. I can spot the annoying ones at a hundred paces

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  31. Most recent: "The important thing"? That's just superfluous and nonsensical. Cut it out.

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  32. "The front page of the main website is an ad, to get prospective students and their parents interested."

    Um, this IS what the joke is about. I don't think anyone's saying "Gosh, all this crap on the front page has NO point and it's just here to get in my way!" I think everyone realizes its to attract visitors/potential students.

    The joke is that with that said, NO ONE CARES about any of that crap. Let's take my old university, UCSD, and find some choice bits off the front page:

    "August 22 - 17th Annual Moores UCSD Cancer Center Luau and Longboard Invitational"

    "Implanted Glucose Sensor Works for More than One Year"

    Yeah, some high school student/parent is going to see that and go "Ooooh wow! This is the school for me!" I'm sorry to inform you, that neither recent Alumni news nor a slide show of smiling students has ANY effect on attendance to the university.

    I can safely tell you after several years as a Resident Advisor, Orientation Leader and student council member, that I've talked to hundreds of potential students and incoming freshmen. I'd say 95% of them base their decision on: overall academic rankings, the ranking of their field's department, school location, reviews from their friends who attend, cost of tuition. The other 5% also base their decision on those factors, but will wait until they've had the chance to go on a tour of the campus to make up their mind.

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  33. lol people who think that what people report is actually what they base their decisions on

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  34. Oh, my, God! At first I was doubting this comic's crappiness, but Anonymous is right! The "Current Students" link has everything a current student could possibly want, including EVERYTHING this comic complained about.

    I've always used the search feature to get to things I need, so I guess I've learned something from this, ha!

    CURRENT STUDENTS, BITCHES:

    http://uwaterloo.ca/students/

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  35. New comic is boring. That's really all I have to say about it. I guess it's interesting to note that the "smarter" person is either female or Justin Bieber.

    I look forward to seeing Carl struggle to write more than a paragraph on this one.

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  36. OK, I gotta say, I like the new one. It's short, it's sweet, it makes a quick point without hitting you over the head with it (though the alt-text comes dangerously close to doing this), and that's it. That damn alt-text, though. Randall is so obviously covering his ass there.

    I'm sure you could start overthinking it and question what makes a particular group more or less annoyingly superior than another, but you know, I'm not gonna do that. I liked it and I'm done with it.

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  37. at first i thought i was going to get angry at the comic comparing atheists to fundamental christians.

    but it's so indescribably shitty that i really just don't care. it's just Randall being Randall again. to quote someone who's funnier on his off-days than xkcd at it's finest, getting angry at this comic would be like bregudging a dog for licking its own balls.

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  38. why do atheists get so knee-jerky about being compared to fundamentalist christians anyway?

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  39. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 1, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    randall personally finds liberal arts majors just as annoying as fundamentalist christians

    the important thing is that his webcomic allows him to feel superior to both

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  40. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 1, 2010 at 10:32 PM

    @rob i think its just the fundamentalist atheists that care

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  41. oh, it is. the reasonable ones are totally like 'yeah, those other assholes are pretty fundie-like.' but the fundamentalist ones are like

    'NO WE ARE IN NO WAY LIKE FUNDAMENTALISTS HOW COULD YOU EVER INSIST SUCH A THING FUNDAMENTALISTS ARE EVIL HORRIBLE MONSTERS AND WE ARE FREETHINKERS WHO ARE SMART AND INTELLIGENT AND RIGHT AND THEY ARE DUMB AND STUPID AND EVIL AND WRONG AND YOU ARE AN IDIOT FOR EVEN THINKING THAT WE ARE IN ANY WAY SIMILAR TO RELIGIOUS PEOPLE DESPITE THE FACT THAT WE EVANGELIZE AND DO THE SAME SHIT RELIGIOUS PEOPLE DO JUST WITHOUT AN OFFICIAL SET OF DOGMA AND ALSO WITH FEWER RITUALS'

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  42. People who are militant about their beliefs(or lack of) are annoying. - guy with floating head

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  43. 774: I smell more GOOMHBAH bait. The comic doesn't really say anything since the alt-text essentially invalidates the use of "you're just saying that to be superior" as an argument.

    It's just another "xkcd topic of the day: people who talk about theists and atheists. Discuss."

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  44. Yeah, the kind of atheist that is actively pissed off at Christians is the kind of atheist that's a giant douchenozzle.

    "Religion is just a mechanism for controlling stupid people! Why can't more people be as intelligent and free-thinking as me? Wake up!"

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  45. @Rob

    Atheists hate being compared to fundy christians because it's the favorite target of the more hardcore (and more High School kid who's secretly Catholic) Atheist crowd. If they're like them, then THEY'VE BECOME THAT WHICH THEY HATE MORE THAN ANYTHING.

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  46. I feel like there's a term for that.

    the irony is, of course, that it's exactly in so vitriolically attacking the fundies and the knee-jerk reactions that they are really so very similar to them. their denials only make them more fundie-like.

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  47. Well, maybe the world needs more people to scream and rant common sense at delusional people. You'd think you would appreciate that, Rob.

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  48. are you kidding? I'm fucking insane. mental stability is something that happens to other people. I scream and rant absolute nonsense at people because they say something that vaguely bothers me for no reason other than I find it absolutely hilarious.

    why would I appreciate common sense? I don't even believe it exists.

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  49. and I missed a comma there. how embarrassing.

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  50. the new comic is the first xkcd i have liked in a while. but the alt text totally ruined it.

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  51. Now, it's been a long time since I applied to college, but let me defend this comic in one way: he's right about what I was and was not looking for. (This is also true when looking at grad schools.) No one, I mean no one, wants the virtual tour or the letter from the president. Some sites make it ridiculously hard to get to the academic calendar and the course descriptions/curriculum, which you care way more about as a perspective student than any campus snapshots.

    Not that this comic is hilarious as a result. Just sayin'.

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  52. The way I see it, 774 is just another "looking down on people who look down on other people" 'joke', which is actually quite common with xkcd. One strip that comes to mind is the 'Idiocracy' one. Just thought I'd point it out...

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  53. I haven't read the alt text because I don't want to give randall a hit on his shit, but-

    is randall decrying feeling superior about people?

    I'm onfus. This is the same randall that relishes feeling superior to liberal arts majors?

    I guess it must because LIBERAL ARTS MAJORS ARE STUPID AND DUMB AND DESERVE IT.

    rob stop being such an angry atheist.

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  54. what
    i was just making fun of atheists

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  55. Carl, your dilligence at writing paragraph after paragraph about that Venn diagram "comic" is impressive. Those three words of yours, "soul crushingly boring", would have done it.

    In fact, I sense conspiracy. Surely Randall knows this blog exists. Surely he knows people get enjoyment out of his creations by mocking them a-la Plan 9. So he resolved to remove even that from us.

    Latest comic: I haven't seen it yet, but I sense another conspiracy there.

    I'd conjecture that foaming atheists comprise a sizeable chunk of XKCD's audience. From comments here, I gather the comic would antagonize them. Simply put, love and hate are different things, but both of them can sustain page view counts; the latter may even be easier to get, because the former always requires some kind of quality.

    How these anatagonistic conspiracies can mix, I leave as an exercise to the reader. Now if you'll excuse me I have an Illuminati meeting to attend to.

    Captcha: hinge.

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  56. The new comic is just incredibly muddled all the way through. The male stick has made no coherent statement of any arguable opinion, so Randall can't claim that he is satirizing any particular variety of agnosticism. The female sticks response is just a blatant ad hominem attack, which means that even if there was an opinion to satirize, Randall would have failed. Finally, the alt-text points out the logical fallacy in the comic itself, robbing it of whatever force it might have had for the reason-impaired. The (very) generous reading would be that Randall is making fun of the female stick's logical fallacy, which is far from obvious (if true) and clumsily executed, considering that even the title "Atheists" places the focus on the male stick's statement, not the female's.

    @Anon 1:06 Two dialogues, for your benefit.
    #1
    Person A- "Yes, but how do you KNOW God exists?"
    Person B- "I have faith, duh. Anyone who thinks differently must be delusional"
    #2
    Person C- "Yes, but how do you KNOW God doesn't exist?"
    Person D- "It's just common sense, duh. Anyone who thinks differently must be delusional."

    A fallacy is a fallacy is a fallacy

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  57. A flaw in your blog post: The "faculty" link circled in the picture does not at all lead to a list of faculty emails. XKCD has correctly identified a common problem with university websites that you have now been mislead by yourself. The comic is factually correct, though not funny or worthwhile.

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  58. Well, I couldn't agree more with the guy on 774.
    But, as always, the comic, the punchline and Randall suck ass.

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  59. 774 has a promising idea. I appreciate the thought of calling out apatheist types who just want a way to be all judgmental about people who aren't as non-judgmental as they are. (this is not limited to the realm of religion, of course)

    It just seems pretty boring as another one-panel xkcd with two stick figures standing around.

    At least the xkcdexplained for it is hilarious.

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  60. Oh wow. The forums are just as hilarious. Surprisingly, Randall appears to be overestimating his audience for once.

    The snark on the stick-guy seems to have been far too subtle for some of the people on the first page of 774's forum thread:

    "Fantastic comic, well played.
    There's a personality type that is obsessed with finding some "truth" and then banging everybody else over the head with it - and both New Atheists and Fundamental Christians tend to have that personality type."

    or this one, from someone who's new and has made this their first post:

    "But thank you - I am frequently confronted on a forum by someone I have deemed a "fundamentalist atheist" and I appreciate that I'm not the only one annoyed by this. I might be an atheist as well...or I might not...but I cannot abide fundamentalism of any sort. So...thanks!"

    Jesus man, this is the internet, you have anonymity, and besides you only just registered to the forums to make this one post, so it's not like you're even risking the ephemeral e-cred on your existing forum reputation. You can DARE to reveal what your opinion on the matter is, the Thought Police won't barge down your door for taking the irresponsible risk of arrogantly influencing someone's thoughts on the matter FOR FUCK'S SAKE.

    It's like an apathetic dick-measuring contest. "Yeah, well... I care even less about how big mine is!"

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  61. "i'm not even an atheist "

    So what are you?

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  62. The important thing is that Randall found a way to feel superior to all three.

    Though he's actually a jackass any way.

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  63. Okay- so randall's making fun of people who don't flip their shit when the issue of religion is brought up.

    Maybe randall's mad that somone interrupted him in the middle of his forty minutes "god is for morons (and liberal arts majors)" speech.

    The one rob wrote for him.

    But yeah- I'm not sure what he's trying to say here. Unless Randall's a secret fundamentalist christian.

    We have, after all, never seen a comic on evolution. And the cuttlefish comic did imply that living things are designed.

    OH
    MY
    GOD itmakessomuchsense!

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  64. @ Gray, I added a third dialogue for your convenience.

    #3
    Person E- "Yes, but how do you KNOW an 'Invisible Pink Unicorn' doesn't exist?"
    Person D- "It's just common sense, duh. Anyone who thinks differently must be delusional."

    Oh wait, this actually makes sense. Ha.

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  65. Psht, Rob using a capital letter? Nice try, anon. That said, everyone knows only science majors are atheists. Or something. I dunno. As a polytheist I'm inclined to believe that all atheists are idiots or willfully delusional. Any kind of theist or animist/whatever the fuck is fine or even agnostics. But Atheists? Psssht. *rolls eyes and act superior*. Atheists. Morons. Amirite?

    Although no, this is a serious matter. Did you know that atheists face oppression literally every day in America? Those are my favourite kinds of Atheists, on par with the Witches who feel like they are still be hunted by everyone around them.

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  66. Well we recently had in punditry an argument over whether or not it was a bad thing that there were no protestants on the supreme court.

    Exactly how many atheists are there on the supreme court? According to the internet 12% of americans are either atheist or agnostic.

    But the plot thickens! We all know there are nine supreme court justices. 1/9 is approximately 12%. AND YET THERE ARE NO ATHEIST SUPREME COURT JUSTICES? WHEN WILL THE SHEEPLE WAKE UP? OPPRESSION! SECESSION! -froths at the mouth and falls over backwards a la Monty Python-

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  67. I find it funny that you said "He's appealing to highschool students. As usual."

    The funny thing is, authors usually make things that appeal to people who read them. Highschool students make up a great deal of xkcd reader's population. Stop making stupid criticisms.

    The rest of your criticisms were okay, though.

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  68. 774 is... to lame for words to describe.

    And of course, Randall's character refers to all Atheists in his condescending remark, rather than the few who are insane. That would be like comparing the insane Atheists to all Christians - which I'm sure they'd call bullshit on.
    I mean, it's not like there are any Atheists who actually put some thought into their decision and don't really care about anyone else's religious choices because it's none of their business... amirite? /sarcasm

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  69. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 2, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    @rioghasarig the complaint is not "oh randall is making his comic for high schoolers" so much as "over the course of five years xkcd has become less mature and abandoned its original target audience"

    nothing is wrong with having teenagers as your main demographic (plenty of respected authors write for "young adults" or children) but xkcd clearly wants to be judged as an adult comic (see number 631) so the frequent throwbacks to high school life come across less as "writing to an audience" and more as randall simply not being mature enough to tackle any actual adult topics

    the fact that this has become the case more and more often after five years seems entirely backwards

    or maybe i am overestimating carl

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  70. 12% heathenry is pretty low for a developed nation- well done guys- see if you can push it lower by introducing laws enforcing religious conformity.

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  71. @ Ravenzomg

    When has our republic of a government represented us accurately? There are currently only eleven women in the U.S. Senate; apparently 11% is an all time high.

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  72. *edit* sorry, its 17 women

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  73. a big fat metrosexual

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  74. Well yeah, Randall's good at making comics that appeal to the people who read them. It's just that as a nerdy 30-something scientist I'd expect a comic that bills itself as being kind of high brow, to be something I'd find appealing. But it's not high brow at all and I'm clearly not in it's target audience (anymore).

    Speaking of internet sites that should appeal to me, there's Pharyngula, which used to be a biology blog but is now an atheism blog. If you need to read a blog on atheism on a daily basis, you're probably a fundamentalist atheist. And again, PZ is very good at appealing to his current readership, but I'm not interested in what he's peddling.

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  75. @Gray: Except both religious and atheist actually do have arguments other than "assertion + ad hominem". A strawman is a strawman is a strawman, and do you see how I cleverly turned your words against you. It is like Judo, but with words.

    And, argh, I'm gonna make precious little progress here, but precisely which fundamentalist atheists are we talking about? Rob, I'm looking at you. I'm lighting your strawman on fire in a gesture of particularly murky symbolism.

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  76. @ Sepia: I mean, if that's your definition of fundamentalist, I guess. Thing is, I read Pharyngula, and PZ is consistently reasonable and thoughtful in his approach to things.* He's hardcore atheist, but as the result of following a line of reasoning. Maybe that's not typical of fundamentalist atheists? I don't know.

    *Except xkcd. He's got the current strip on his front page. That annoys me. And to pedant a bit, it's still a biology blog - there keep being really long articles about genetics posted and so forth.

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  77. PZ really needs to keep politics and random xkcd comics out of his blog. Then maybe I would read it.

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  78. IPU damn it, neither xkcdexplained nor Pharyngula include the alt-text.

    irt. SprachgefuhlThis:

    Ya know, I haven't really followed every word that the famous atheists of our time have uttered (about atheism), but they seem, for the most part, to be reasonable people. Maybe a bit deficient in sense of humour (Dawkins, who nonetheless is an awesome popularizer of science) but hey.

    OTOH, the discussion threads at richarddawkins.net ... there are reasonable people there too, but if you want to see the atheist caricatures made flesh, that's a real good place to spot them.

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  79. PS: after actually reading the xkcd, it's clear that RM is not after trolling his (alleged by me) atheist audience. Oh well, pity. That would have been more interesting.

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  80. Man, godsucks.blogspot.com is lame. Only one post from 2004?

    Also, it makes it really hard for me to troll, I mean make a totally legitimate analogy.

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  81. on 'pharangula' (typo?)he has the XKCD posted with "best XKCD ever" and the caption
    "Yeah, those annoyingly shrill fundamentalist militant agnostics annoy me too."

    What the hell? I don't understand- is he being sarcastic?
    Or am I just so sheltered that I've managed to miss the roving hordes of self proclaimed militant agnostics, spouting their uncertainty on the nature and existance of deities, and demanding you also be uncertain?

    If he's being serious, I find some irony in that his latest post is
    "Wherein ‘jerk’ is defined as anyone who vigorously opposes creationism"

    It seems that his xckd post suggests anyone who is even wavering against his personal (non)religious affiliation is a shrill fundamentalist, no?

    I have never heard of the blog before this or read any of his posts- but I am now less inclined to.

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  82. ok fuck randall

    the stickman's dialogue? i have probably actually typed that exact sentence many, many times (at least once on #xkcd-sucks !)

    and now when i reply that to some militant atheist (probably the same type of people to love xkcd and their god supplicant, randall munroe) is going to post this and think they've completely destroyed my argument.
    it is so fucking stupid. is randall trolling or does he not know how people work at all? does he have no sense of self-awareness?

    so yeah, fuck randall

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  83. You know how there are some self-proclaimed "agnostics" or "atheists" that blather how much good religion has done to people and how we should respect and accomodate all religions and try to not offend them, and allow them to teach their own unscientific worldview in public schools. I think these people even more annoying that fundamentalist religious people because they actually try to speak for non-religious people like me.

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  84. this comic needs a second panel with the stickman congratulating megan for also feeling superior to two types of people (people pissed off at their evangelism and christians.)

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  85. "why do atheists get so knee-jerky about being compared to fundamentalist christians anyway?"~Rob

    Why do christians get so knee-jerky about being compared to fundamentalist muslims anyway?

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  86. i knew this comic was going to be horri-uh, worse than usual when i saw the title

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  87. oh wait that's basically the alt-text

    so either the alt-text is supposed to be the final punchline or randall realised how stupid he was being but decided not to change it anyway

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  88. "Why do christians get so knee-jerky about being compared to fundamentalist muslims anyway?"

    is that supposed to be like a clever turnaround of my post? because it is a perfectly valid question and one that doesn't have a very good answer outside of 'pathological hatred'

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  89. @Anon 7:17- No, that doesn't "make sense". Whether or not a claim is true or false has nothing whatsoever to do with the validity of the arguments used to justify that claim. An appeal to common sense is always nonsense, being nothing more than saying "everyone knows that".

    @SprachgefuhlThis- It is not my fault if the anon to whom I was responding made a seeming straw man of him/herself. What I said could only be a straw man if their weren't real people that actually make those arguments, and they do exist. I'm well aware that there are other arguments and many of those don't piss me off quite so much as people who think that their world view is self evident, without ever have examined their own underlying assumptions.

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  90. Rob how can you not be an atheist when the very fact of your hideous existence disproves the existence of an omnipotent omnibenevolent God?

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  91. just because if god exists she is a horrible monster doesn't mean she doesn't exist

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  92. 2/10

    make it not so obvious next time, rob

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  93. that bloated carcass you call your body

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  94. @ Ravenzomg

    When has our republic of a government represented us accurately? There are currently only eleven women in the U.S. Senate; apparently 11% is an all time high.


    I don't know why this is directed at me. My Head of State spends about 1 day in 400 in the country, and no one voted for her. The elected government has a 30% Separatist component which received 10% of the Vote. 45% Leftist votes leads to 37% Leftist seats because of a four-party system. So uh... I don't know why Americans think their government is weird and "unrepresentative".

    Captcha: Karks. The sounds a crow makes in former Soviet countries.

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  95. apparently they think you are arthur, ravenz. literacy runs high among cuddlefish! also, the ability to grasp irony.

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  96. @Gray - uh I don't think that's what the anon was saying. Calling people delusional is different from saying that people are wrong because they are delusional. But okay yes there are people who are stupid who make those arguments.

    @cuntlefish - yeah, that's irony. Don't jump to conclusions based on two sentences.

    Ugh okay everyone. Why do atheists get knee-jerky when compared to fundamentalist Christians, I think the question is? Because it's not a very good comparison. I mean, yes, some - some! - atheists could be described as evangelical, and that may be a perfectly legitimate thing to be when you think that people are wasting their lives on God. Ditto Christian evangelism, which, if you think people who don't believe in Jesus are going to hell, you should be doing. That doesn't change the fact that evangelism can be, and often is, more annoying than fiberglass in your eyes, but I think that my annoyance with Christian evangelism is at the usual lack of reasoned argument. I suppose the same can be true of atheist evangelism, but in my experience, it's not.

    Which may or may not boil down to the fact that I think Christianity is false and atheism is not. Which I think is a pretty legitimate reason for thinking they're different.

    Oh also fundamentalist Christians really hate science. So that's another difference.

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  97. except the fundamentalist atheists are also not basing their positions on reasoned argument. they just kind of think they are. very similar to fundies, actually!

    and they are just as annoying. I would argue moreso, because while evangelical religious folks think they are saving your soul, evangelical atheists just think they are bringing you to the light of reason.

    which is to say: it's possible to imagine an evangelical Christian acting out of love even when they're being a dick about it. evangelical atheists are just being dick-ass know-it-alls.

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  98. okay, how are you defining fundamentalist atheists? because if you mean militant, then even the most militant ones I know are still basing it on reasoned argument.

    also, wanting people to not waste the one life they have for an imaginary one can only be dick-ass know-it-all-ism? really?

    I think I will save the obligatory Rob-insults for a later date, but don't think I've forgotten, you fat fuck.

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  99. Late response (and possibly bland), but: great post, Carl. I read it out loud to a friend of mine who expressed interest in this site, and she and I laughed our heads off for a good five minutes. Keep up the good work.

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  100. yeah, see, their arguments aren't actually reasoned. they just think they are. (protip: if you think your beliefs are based on reasoned arguments and think this is what separates you from people who believe differently than you, you're a fucking moron.) they require the same leaps of logic as the fundies make, just in the other direction. fundie atheists are, by and large, even more epistemologically irresponsible than fundie Christians--Christians at least aren't in denial about the fact that their position requires a leap of logic.

    and yes. see, most religious people are perfectly happy with their lives. it provides them joy, comfort, and community. and atheists aren't driven by any sense of altruism, but by a frustration that these religious people are wrong (also, that they are evil monsters who are 'wasting their lives'.) it's nerdrage (it is no coincidence that most fundie atheists are also hardcore nerds). imagine if there were a huge majority of American population whose entire belief system was based around getting some nerds' favorite comic books/movies wrong. the reaction would be more or less identical to fundamentalist atheism. they aren't trying to help people, they're trying to stop people from getting it wrong. it's dick-ass know-it-all-ism.

    this, of course, based on years of experience with religious fundamentalists and atheist fundamentalists--generally, in either case, the fundamentalist in question has no sense of perspective to speak of, but feels (and this is the part which makes them so very similar) that they are the eminently reasonable and correct position and that their opponents are all anti-reason people who base their beliefs entirely on emotion or lifestyle.

    when compared to their counterparts, they always insist that the difference is, basically, that they are right and their counterparts are wrong.

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  101. yeah, see, that's just wrong. like, very wrong. in a lot of places. what's the leap atheists make, rob? where is it?

    and okay, I get that religion can provide a valid existential framework for people. I think it's better to make your own, but not everyone can or will do that, and I'm okay with that. also you had to add "evil monsters" to make "wasting their lives" invalid as a motivation. so that's a strawman. I'll accept that there are plenty of folks who are as you describe, but if by "fundie atheist" you mean "atheists who insist that everyone be atheist, without a shred of altruism, motivated only by the desire to have everyone acknowledge them as right", then I guess I agree, but you are using an awfully idiosyncratic and not very useful definition of "fundie" in that case.

    and ditto re: years of experience with both. and, again, unless you're using a stupid definition of fundamentalist, you're wrong.

    rob, you're making randall munroe right. you're letting him win.

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  102. Randall should be a political advisor. What better way to distract people from a crappy comic then making an inflammatory comment then distancing yourself from it by using the superior line. Then by reading the alt text we realize that all criticism is actually only superficial arguments made by smug assholes. So now we know that criticizing things like, webcomics, is really just a thing we do to feel superior.

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  103. you already agreed with Randy, so even if "you're making Randy right" was compelling, it wouldn't be in this case, since you're the one who's been defending his premise for the duration of the thread.

    I'm assuming, based on your horrible horrible argumentation, you're a fundie atheist, which is why you find it so hard to accept the characterization that you are basically just as crazed, illogical, and epistemologically irresponsible as your religious counterparts. also just as insistent that everyone you encounter agree with you, apparently!

    and this is another point of identicalness fundie atheists have with fundie religious people: both of them are very, very insistent that anyone who slights them agree that their position is perfectly valid and reasonable and acceptable and desirable, and implicitly accepting that their pathological hatred of anyone who disagrees with them is therefore acceptable. there is, at no point, a conversation which is intended to understand their opponent's position--it's all about "proving" that they are "right" (ignoring the vital maxim that everyone is always wrong about everything.)

    but yeah, keep arguing by saying "that's just wrong in a lot of ways." that's super compelling! "I'm not even going to bother refuting your individual points because they are all wrong." maybe you could try saying why they are wrong? it will be funny watching you pull out the garden-variety Horribly Contrived Fundie Atheist Talking Points and act as if they are clever or valid or helpful to any conversation, ever (except for the conversation 'why are fundie atheists so incredibly stupid?')

    (PS: the logical leap fundie atheists make is identical to the one fundies make, except in the opposite direction. I already explained this. try to keep up.)

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  104. @SprachgefuhlThis: Macroevolution is a theory. Microevolution is more or less solved, but if you think Macro is you're taking somebody's word for it. You know, taking a "leap of faith". Luckily Theism makes Macroevolution a piece of cake, but it doesn't work particularly well in an atheistic framework without species forming as inbred hicks. Also the motherfucking platypus, bitches.

    Regarding adverts on the site: Why is that rich woman dressed like she cannot afford clothes? And where did my Canadian men get to?? Carl, fix the adverts!

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  105. Rob, what is the leap of logic that "fundie atheists" make?

    And Ravenzomg, make an effort, come on.

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  106. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 2, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    @slow randall has been ignoring criticism for a long time now without giving any reason at all for doing so

    this comic does not change a thing

    for what it is worth i would probably be labeled an "apatheist" but the thread of conversation here is fun to follow anyhow

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  107. nice scare quotes! but you aren't getting me to explain it a third time. use those brain cells!

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  108. One leap comes when you go from "I do not believe there is a god" to "I know there is no god and if you think otherwise you are an idiot", just as theists can go from "I believe there is a god" to "I know there is a god and if you think otherwise you are damned to hell". Neither is particularly appealing.

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  109. Okay, Rob, I'll just take a guess at what you are trying to argue, since you obviously aren't going to spell it out.

    There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of atheists: strong atheists, and weak atheists. Strong atheists assert that the statement "there are no gods" is true, weak atheists do not. However, weak atheists still do not believe that a god exists.

    Declaring that "there are no gods" is as much of a leap of faith as is delcaring "a god exists", it is true. If strong atheism is the same as the "fundie atheism" you rail against, then fine. But strong atheists are few and far between.

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  110. see here's the thing: I thought that the xkcd was terrible, cause making fun of someone who'd think that is like making fun of homeopathists: fish. barrel. shotgun. but then you came along.

    okay, well, I don't know if I'm a fundie atheist or not cause you still haven't said what you mean by fundie. near as I can tell, you're using it to mean "stupid", but that's a terrible definition. DEFINE YOUR TERMS SIR.

    also, ugh. the reason I keep asking you to define your terms is precisely so we can have a conversation where we can understand each other's position. also asking you to point out the logical leap fundies - either kind, really - make.

    also I find it really ironic that you are trying to take me to task for just asserting things. "their arguments aren't actually reasoned. they just think they are." "atheists aren't driven by any sense of altruism." This is you, saying things, without evidence. Care to explain why I'm epistemologically irresponsible? Cause once you actually make substantial points, then I can explain why they are wrong. and as clever as your PS is, an answer to my question it ain't.

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  111. guys guys guys guys guys

    What if "Fundamentalist Atheist" came into usage to mean "Atheist who acts like a Fundamentalist Christian"? Problem partially solved!

    Plus it means that the newest xkcd is saying "It's wrong to dislike annoying people". EVERYBODY WINS

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  112. @палочка: "Make an effort" does not sit well with your 18-word counter-point.

    Anyone else like that these threads usually just end up in petty, barely related arguments?

    That said, Creationists' strawmen are pretty entertaining. Oh wait, a better one -- Jack Chick, everybody!

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  113. Make an effort as in "make an effort to not completely mangle evolutionary science". What's the "inbred hicks" statement supposed to mean? And the platypus, really?

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  114. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  115. ooh, "strong versus weak atheists!" I haven't heard that one in a while. I thought it died out when the new wave of asshole fundie atheists came in. it was never very compelling at the best of times (though, to its credit, it avoids the pink unicorn mentioned in the next paragraph). nowadays it just rings false. no strident, evangelical atheist (of which there are far too many) is going to say "oh yes, I'm a weak atheist--I don't claim to actually have any knowledge that there is no god, I just don't believe it."

    don't get me wrong--I like the atheists who aren't assholes about it. the ones who maybe take an interest in religion because theology is fun and because it's interesting as a cultural phenomenon, and who are willing to argue it from a perspective other than "RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ARE WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING." but those people, if they are still a majority, are a silent majority now. the evangelical atheists are growing in number. they are strident and shrill. they cannot be described as "weak atheists."

    (try it on for size: describe for me a scenario in which someone would advocate for a position when they don't actually believe they are right and the people who don't hold it are wrong. that is, if an atheist says "I just don't believe in a god, that doesn't mean I actively believe there is no god," why would he be actively preaching that there is, in fact, no god? these people aren't just nonreligious, they are antireligious. it's no more compelling than a vegetarian who claims that not eating meat is just a personal choice, but who also is really strident and obnoxious about people eating meat in their presence. their claims about it just being a personal conviction ring false.)

    fundie atheists frequently claim they don't believe in gods the same way they don't believe in intangible pink unicorns in their living room. they will gladly say things like "I believe with 99.5% certainty that there is no god." they pay lip service to the idea that they may be wrong, but really they have at no point considered the possibility, and they consider it no more likely than the invisible pink unicorn.

    the fundie atheist is, as such, a master of self-delusion--though they have learned to do this from the fundie atheist culture. they all delude themselves with the exact same examples, and act equally smug when they make them. (fundie Christians do the same, but there are, to their credit, generally no unicorns involved.)

    sprachy: let's go with "an atheist who acts exactly like a fundamentalist from any other religion" as a definition, if you really haven't pieced together a definition already. (I am here accusing you of intellectual dishonesty, if that isn't clear enough from the subtext.) which encompasses you, Dawkins, et al.

    I have provided evidence, you just ignored it, like a good fundie--if something disagrees with your perspective, act like it never happened. don't even dignify it with a response. that's rule number one of Fundie Arguing: an opponent's point is wasted if you never acknowledge it.

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  116. Oh well I guess google's insistence that I want to be posting less anonymously is irreversible. SprachgefuhlThis no longer. Anyway.

    Ravenzomg: Macroevolution is a theory. So's gravity. The word "theory" does not mean what you think it means. And we don't know how macroevolution happened every step of the way. That it happened is uncontroversial in the scientific community, and we have a large amount of data for how it happened in specific instances.

    And since I'm not a biologist, I have to trust that the experts know what they're doing anyway. Call that a "leap of faith" if you must, but equating it to the one fundie Christians make is either disingenuous or stupid.

    Back to you Rob. God, is there no end to your fuckwittery?

    Okay let's do it this way: if a fundie atheist is an atheist who acts like a fundie from a religion (wait did you just imply that atheism is a religion? I'm going to charitably assume you mistyped.) then obviously I agree with you. Fundie in that sense is basically equivalent to "stupid" so it's not a useful definition, which is why I was having trouble figuring out that's what you meant. Also you've defined yourself to be right. Okay, whatever.

    So: if the fundamental logical leap we're talking about is the one where you get to absolute certainty that there is no God, then that's one we don't make. I think there's no reason to believe in a God. That is epistemologically distinct.

    Also, I don't know if you've noticed the concessions I've made to religion, but here's a few more: the Bible is fascinating. I will talk with you or anyone at length about Job or Ecclesiastes or Abraham and Isaac. There is legitimately good literature in there. So, yeah.

    And then you just made shit up. Please point out a bit of evidence that is not just you asserting things. Also, you were the one complaining about people wanting to win rather than engage in conversation, and that's real noble until you refuse to engage in conversation and just try to win.

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  117. @palochka: The idea of macro-evolution hinges on multiple individuals developing the same random [and different] mutation. Not keeping the trait, or passing it on, but actually randomly generating it in multiple instances. If it occurs only in one creature randomly, then the only way to propagate this trait [I'll assume it's something useful] is to breed with those without the gene. However, a member of a species can't produce random creatures that predate it, so eventually you need two sets of the genes -- which occurs from multiples Sources, or by repeatedly breeding back into your own line which would lead to inbred hicks. The obvious reply is, "Well, it obviously occurs in multiple individuals. The odds are so slim, that's why it takes millions of years!" This is a personal opinion. You can't observe that, you can infer that. I infer that there is some god(s) who are picking animals and mutating them to fit their plan. Both are choices. I'm not arguing the "what" here, just the "how". The idea of the above happening on its own repeatedly at every speciation point in history is ridiculous. Maybe it's true, I don't know, and more importantly why would it really matter what happens over a period that is greater than the entirety of my [human] bloodline?

    And yes, the platypus. Not as evidence against evolution, but evidence for a Creator that thinks Creation is a joke. Also lobsters --- chitinous tubes of meat. Mmm....

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  118. First off, there is no conflict between being anti-theist and being a weak atheist. Plenty of your "atheist evangelicals" are in such a position, Dawkins, for example. Don't conflate anti-theism with strong atheism, they are seperate things.

    try it on for size: describe for me a scenario in which someone would advocate for a position when they don't actually believe they are right and the people who don't hold it are wrong.

    I can argue that belief in a god is irrational without arguing that there necessarily is no god, sure.

    If you treat the existance of god as a hypothesis, it is unfalsifiable: at no point will there ever be proof that there is no god (hence the strong atheist position is, as you say, not logical). Evidence that god exists could conceivably arise. But it has not. Believing in something for which there is no evidence is not rational, which is not to say that it is necessarily incorrect.

    There, see?

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  119. "(wait did you just imply that atheism is a religion? I'm going to charitably assume you mistyped.)"

    yes, yes I did. atheism is a religion. it tells worlds about your fundie character that you think this is a false characterization. here, let me paste the first three definitions of the word "religion" from the dictionary:

    "1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

    2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.

    3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions."

    "And then you just made shit up. Please point out a bit of evidence that is not just you asserting things. Also, you were the one complaining about people wanting to win rather than engage in conversation, and that's real noble until you refuse to engage in conversation and just try to win."

    well, you have no interest in understanding other positions. you have interest in proving that your fundamentalist atheism is not, in fact, fundamentalist atheism. I don't engage in one-sided conversations. that would be fruitless. if you are interested in actually understanding the position of people who are not you, I'd be happy to. until then I will continue to mock you for being a dumbass.

    "I think there's no reason to believe in a God, and that anyone who does believe in one is wrong."

    ftfy

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  120. @ravenzomg

    I'm not entirely sure what you mean about a given gene needing to arise simulanteously in more than one organism in order for it to propagate itself. Keep in mind that asexual reproduction is much, much older than sexual reproduction.

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  121. "
    I can argue that belief in a god is irrational without arguing that there necessarily is no god, sure."

    so, the distinction is that you've deluded yourself into thinking that you hold the only rational position, but you do it while wearing a t-shirt that says '...but I can't actually know!' while doing it so it's totally okay?

    seriously, paying lip service to epistemological responsibility is not the same as being epistemologically responsible. you are not passively disbelieving in a god, you are actively disbelieving one. you think you are right and the people against whom you are preaching is wrong. it doesn't matter if you claim only 99% certainty rather than 100% certainty, or if you are only entertaining the possibility of wrong if it turns out the universe is actually completely ridiculous, or if you are only entertaining the possibility of being wrong if the god is not one of the various gods of the religions of the world or whatever--you still think that you have discovered truth and that people who disagree with you are wrong.

    this is antithetical to the idea that "I just happen to not believe in a God." you are not a "weak atheist". you believe that there is no God. you are arguing for a position that, by your own statements, you do not assert to be true (to wit, "there are no gods"). it doesn't matter if you rephrase that to "believing in gods is irrational." that is not just not believing in any gods, that is actively believing there are none. that is asserting that the statement "there are no gods" is true.

    thanks for clarifying, though. for a minute I thought maybe you were just a confused epistemologically responsible atheist who somehow missed that we were talking about the strident evangelicals. I will not make that mistake again.

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  122. @Ravenzomg:

    Have you heard of punctuated equilibrium?

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  123. "I think there's no reason to believe in a God, and that anyone who does believe in one is wrong."

    Note that this is still distinct from "I think there's no reason to believe in a God, and that anyone who does believe in one is wrong to believe in a God.", which is closer to what priestwarrior was saying.

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  124. So basically this whole thread can be summed up like this:

    It is impossible to know anything to be 100% true or false.

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  125. Dan, I think that this thread could more adequately be summed up with, "Faith is the antithesis of proof."

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  126. "Note that this is still distinct from "I think there's no reason to believe in a God, and that anyone who does believe in one is wrong to believe in a God.", which is closer to what priestwarrior was saying."

    it's only distinct in that your version is syntactically redundant.

    "So basically this whole thread can be summed up like this:

    It is impossible to know anything to be 100% true or false. "

    basically! it's amazing how often atheists seem to think that claiming mere 99% certainty excuses them from having to be epistemologically responsible. or, even better, claiming that they're only stating that their beliefs are rational and other beliefs irrational.

    or perhaps I should say "it's amazing how intellectually dishonest atheists will be when they are trying to make themselves appear as if they wield a perfect worldview."

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  127. that is asserting that the statement "there are no gods" is true.

    Eh? No it isn't. You really can't understand that? I can explain it again if you want, but somehow I still don't think you'll get it.

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  128. well, you are arguing that defending it is the correct position and that anyone who disagrees with it is wrong--which is to say, that anyone who argues against it is adopting the false position and anyone who argues for it is adopting the true position. I am impressed at your capacity for self-deception, though! really. it takes a hardcore fundamentalist to perform that level of mental gymnastics.

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  129. palochka: Asexual reproduction is more or less microevolution. Change, then your lineage expands because that change is good [or at least not a change that makes you suck]. The problem is with sexual reproduction and the creation of species from sexually reproducing ancestors.

    Imagine a horse which randomly mutates. It gets a horn [or whatever, not really important]. "Unicorn". Say it's the only one, so it breeds with horse -- makes children with one set of unicorn genes, one set of horse genes. This then breeds with different horse. 50% of children have one set of unicorn genes, 50% have just horse genes. So until you breed back into your bloodline you will only have one "set" ever. Species cannot form unless you are consistently producing the same offspring. So either you breed into the family repeatedly [re: hicks], or else there is some other horse that also developped the gene at the start to give a new "bloodline" to avoid genetic weakness. This is one small step, several times are necessary to breed a whole new species. And this is just ONE species.

    As I understand it, Science replies, "yes, that is why it takes millions of years."

    I'm not denying this, but I'm saying it's highly unlikely that this happens repeatedly time and time again to allow this much biodiversity without some random guiding hand. Impossible? No.But terrible unreasonable. I think it's foolish, but that is me. So I'm not saying Atheistic Evolutionism is impossible, just silly. Strict Atheists ["there is NO gods whatsoever"] I call fools. If possibility is acknowledged, like in Agnosticism, fine. But again, that is all just my bias =P

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  130. "Note that this is still distinct from "I think there's no reason to believe in a God, and that anyone who does believe in one is wrong to believe in a God.", which is closer to what priestwarrior was saying."

    it's only distinct in that your version is syntactically redundant.


    Oh for fuck's sake. Your rephrasing was ambiguous, mine wasn't. As for the rest of it, if you want to keep beating on a strawman, you can beat it by yourself.

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  131. hurray! I like when atheists shut the fuck up.

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  132. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 2, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    @raven hahahaha what is up with those comics i laughed until i cried

    "(gulp) hes destroying me" hahahahahaha

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  133. "Beating the strawman" is a sexual innuendo, I think. Well, it ought to be if it isn't.

    @UC: I ordered a box of them because I enjoyed them. I know I'm now "supporting him", but it was worth the entertainment. I think my favourite part of the aforelinked comic is that retort here. "it is not vestigial!" haha... Read how Catholicism is the Devil. Or from one of my favourites, advice on how best to handle Harry Potter Literature.

    Captcha: Suloxy. Legally sexy [bit of a stretch].

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  134. Hey everyone, the problem here is that Rob once met some super annoying atheists and they called him fat or something and he hasn't been able to imagine any other sort since.

    Meanwhile, Sprachwhatever is merely trying to point out that this is an oversimplification, and some people can be atheists and try to share their beliefs, even argue with more religious people with the intent of changing their minds, with good intentions and without being crazy fucking douchebags.

    I think Rob might concede the point, but who knows, that kid is insane.

    I thought the comic was lame because it's obvious that the stick figure's statement is just really superficial and unintelligent. Oh, look, that girl outsmarted him, whatever, time to fall asleep now.

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  135. This then breeds with different horse. 50% of children have one set of unicorn genes, 50% have just horse genes. So until you breed back into your bloodline you will only have one "set" ever. Species cannot form unless you are consistently producing the same offspring.

    Alright, I understand what you mean now. And you're sort of right when you say that this hypothetical unicorn would "breed into the family repeatedly". This is no huge problem in a reasonably large population, though. Take humans, for example. Every human alive today shares a great-great-(etc)-grandparent who lived between 2,000-5,000 years ago (the most recent common ancestor). Every human alive today shares exactly the same ancestors beyond about 15,000 years ago (the identical ancestors point). The whole phenomenon is known as pedigree collapse.

    …basically my point is than an individual whose great-great-grandfather and great-great-uncle are the same is not really "inbred" as such, that's just how populations work.

    (captcha is "dednerse", someone has been playing too much Silent Hill.)

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  136. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 2, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    man now i really want to read the harry potter book with the tarot cards ouija boards and crystal balls

    does anybody know the title

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  137. You know what 774 means? Carl's gonna have to get all political in his post. The trolls will emerge from their dens like a pack of starving wolves,and Atheism and Creationism fanboys will wage flame wars on whatever he says for.

    It will so beautiful.

    And the best part is Carl will have to tell us more about himself, and it's always nice to find out more about how other people think and why they think that way. Personally, I hoping that Carl is actually Emma Watson who is actually Dawkins' transsexual son. and because of that's why he's a super atheist that can convert people to rationality by swearing at them until they are hypnotized into obeying his every whim.

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  138. @палочка: Glad we [seem to] understand each other. I can appreciate that over hundreds of generations the "unicorns" could either supplant the "horses" [if they are truly quite better], or else split off into their own family with enough generic horse DNA to support them. But then there's the messy business of getting rid of ALL of the horse DNA in their population such that their offsprings are universally unicorns. It can happen, sure, but this is one step on the evolutionary ladder and we're already at many years to create the random mutation, many years to propogate it, many years to "purify" it... and this assumes that this random mutant does not die by natural causes, eaten by lions or something in which case it's back to square one.

    Again, this all seems very, very, very unlikely. To steal someone's quote, "I have seen too many random things happen for it to be just plain chance."

    @UC: I think there are crystal balls? Oo, and in the third Harry takes divination classes. Although, this whole "vampire-lust --> hell" argument is a lot more convincing than "reading about magic --> perfoming magic" thing, especially with the barely hidden undertones of suicide thrown in. This is one of many, many reason that vampires aren't taken seriously anymore. That and the homosexual undertones to that other vampire film. With Tom Cruise? You know?

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  139. How can atheism be a religion when there are religions that have atheism as a tenet?

    It's a philosophical position, not a religion.

    The definitions you posted, Rob, all refer to a "set of beliefs," while atheism itself is one, singular belief.

    As far as the "You say X so you can be superior etc" are sort of silly. Do you want to critique an argument? Do so on its merits. Do you want to attack a pompous douchebag? Do so on their own personal merits. Don't conflate the two.

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  140. Um, Rob? Atheism is not a religion. It can't be because there are multiple atheist religions, some purely material (secular humanism, Raelianism), others with important spiritual aspects (Buddhism, branches of Hinduism).

    So atheists can be religious, but atheism isn't a religion itself. Trying to boil it down to one makes as much sense as declaring theism to be a religion - Christians, Jews and Muslims don't think that they have the same religion, they just share one particular belief.

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  141. Wow, my point was ninja'd by 6:59. Working on something else at the same time, guess I took too long

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  142. @Ravenzomg

    "...but I'm saying it's highly unlikely that this happens repeatedly time and time again to allow this much biodiversity without some random guiding hand. Impossible? No.But terrible unreasonable."

    Let me start by saying that I do not study evolution. I'm a physicist. But let me pull a Randall here, and pretend that I know something about fields outside of my area of expertise. The point of my rant is not to give the details of how to test macro biology, but rather to give a simple model of the kinds of scientific tests of macro-evolution that one might use.

    You claim that if an event has low probability, then it must mean that it is "terribly unreasonable" that these events do occur repeatedly.

    Actually low probability events are completely reasonable given the proper time. If you roll your six sided die enough times you'll eventually get a string of five 6s. Now the odds of this are P = (1/6)^5. And if you roll the die once a second (t = 1s) then it is perfectly reasonable to expect the five 6s event to occur after two hours of rolling (since t/P = 6^5 seconds = 2.16 hours). Now with probability you shouldn't read too much into the 2 hour number. The point is that you can expect the event to happen after a few hours. You don't have to wait weeks, nor do I expect to roll five sixes a row within a few minutes. But here's the critical point for this discussion: I don't need to invoke God in order to make it terribly reasonable once every few hours. In fact it's absolutely reasonable given standard probability theory!

    By analogy the challenge for proponents of macro-evolution is to independently determine two numbers: the odds that two independent species become compatible (P), and the time it takes for a single mutation to occur (t).

    If we take divide the two numbers, we get t/P, the total time it takes for two species to independently become compatible.

    If t/P is on the order of millions of years then we have strong evidence for macro evolution. It would not be "terribly unreasonable" to expect it to happen over and over every few million years. It would be perfectly reasonable.

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  143. Mm, Art, I'm sorry -- you've misread my intent with "terribly unreasonable". I'm not saying it's purely untenable, I'm just saying it is one of the least likely possibilities. It's ON the list, but it has one crappy spot.

    Second, the proof rests on the idea that t/P is indeed millions of years, and not billions. Nobody has proven it either way, therefor it is no more plausible than "If it is false, then there must be a Higher Power guiding it". Neither position can be proven without knowing this "t/P", which we don't.

    Even finding "t/P" to be the desired factor doesn't actually prove anything, since that could just be the aforementioned Guiding Hand making the value what it needs to be to get the job done. Fundamentally, proving things doesn't have an impact on the possibility of Theism. As long as things make sense, both players are in the game.

    And THAT is the issue that makes militant atheists/evolutionists as irritating as creationists/theists. Trying to disprove something that is inherently without proof by USING proof is just as asinine as trying to prove it with "evidence". Both are damned to fail.

    The irony is, of course, that should the "t/P" prove too high, your proof's failure will lead to Theism "winning". But until we reach a nonsense conclusion that is actually true, ambiguity will continue on proof after proof after proof.

    And that's how I like it, because the only resolution involves the world ceasing to make sense, and that would seriously be inconvenient.

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  144. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 2, 2010 at 9:31 PM

    did you know there are billions of people who believe we evolved from monkeys

    seriously reading these comics is like playing pin the tail on the strawman without a blindfold i love it

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  145. If someone doesn't believe in God, that's one thing, that's fine. But if they regularly post comments on blogs about how they don't believe in God and people who do are wrong, then they're anti-religious and they are militant about it and just as bad as the people they criticize.

    And if these atheists are so sure there's no God, why don't they make their own web comic?


    Arthur: You sure as hell wouldn't be the first to pull a Randall, that's basically what creation science is; people who don't actually know that much about it thinking they've found some crucial hole in the theory.

    So here's one more, liberal arts majors that get pissed off at Randall for insulting their entire field of study, are just as irritating as Randall.

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  146. Okay, Rob, let's have a conversation. My thesis will essentially be that the comparison of atheists to fundamentalist Christians is a poor comparison for the following reasons:

    1) There is more reason to think atheism is true than there is to think fundamentalist Christianity is true.

    2) Fundamentalist Christianity, as an organized system of belief, harms society and individuals in a way that atheism does not.

    3) The epistemological grounds for believing one or the other are very different.

    That is the outline of my argument. If you present yours in kind, we might yet be able to get somewhere with this. Failing that, we shall resort to the time-honored tradition of settling our differences by hyperbolically insulting each other's mothers on an internet forum.

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  147. @Ravenzomg

    You are coming perilously close to endorsing the "God of the gaps" argument, which runs something along the lines of "If we don't know how it happened, God did it". "What caused the Big Bang?" "We don't know yet" "Then God did it". "What makes matter bend spacetime", "We don't know yet", "Then God did it". It's one of the most arbitrary and petulant of theistic arguments.

    On the other hand, Chick tracts are endlessly entertaining, and I thank you for reminding me about them.

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  148. I really don't think "they just can't consider that they're wrong" is the most common motivation for fundy atheists. More likely, they're pissed off about how wrong they see themselves as having been before. Back when they still were theists. And then finally considered that they could be wrong.

    Remember when we were all sharing our xkcdsucks origin stories a few posts ago? And how a common theme was people who used to like xkcd and defended it and now look back with shame? And they see the cuddlefish coming here trying to trot out the same tired arguments that they remember making before, and now see how much of a failure they were? Something like that.

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  149. Priestwarrior: Does Rob want a conversation?

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  150. Ryan: Well, he did say "if you are interested in actually understanding the position of people who are not you, I'd be happy to [have a conversation]," so I think so? That's my best interpretation of that sentence.

    Ex-ambivalent: that's a good point, and I certainly have that bias. I work around it as best I can.

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  151. Hey guys, I have an idea. Let's get into one of these atheism vs. religion debates that you see hundreds of on every fucking forum you've ever been to, and pretend to be all civilised about it even though it's going to devolve into a total clusterfuck!

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  152. This last xkcd comic has managed to make the comments on this blog rather ... annoying.

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  153. "if you are interested in actually understanding the position of people who are not you, I'd be happy to [punch you in the mouth until you get it]"

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  154. I think we should get back to something that we can all hate together. XKCD

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  155. Fundamentalist Christian who loves scienceAugust 2, 2010 at 11:39 PM

    SprachgefuhlThis said...
    "Oh also fundamentalist Christians really hate science. So that's another difference."
    I'm hoping that's meant to be sarcasm since it simply isn't true.

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  156. UndercoverCuddlefishAugust 2, 2010 at 11:52 PM

    i love science so much i would take it on a motherfucking date and shit and even buy it some fucking flowers

    hell if i were randall i would perform cunnilingus on science because randall knows what real love is

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  157. @FCwls It's an overstatement. There tends to be a distrust of certain inconvenient aspects of science in the more extreme bits of Christianity - for young-earth creationists, that includes biology, cosmology/astronomy, geology, and so forth.

    Anon 11:08 - No, it started out as a clusterfuck and then failed to devolve into something civilized.

    Also, guys? I - I have a confession to make. This is my very first flame war. And I'd like to thank you all for making it special for me.

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  158. I'll just say that the idea of God makes no fucking sense, and since none of theists/agnostics can actually define what God is, I'll keep believing that it does not exist. To entertain the possibility of such thing existing is simply a waste of braincells.

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  159. Socrates is credited to have said 'The only thing I know is that I know nothing.' Then his student plato started ranting about an overcomplicated metaphor which involved shadows, caves, sunlight and then caves with shadows again.

    I think that greatly applies here. You could all learn something.

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  160. @Timofei: That's pretty much my take on it. If they can't even define what it is I'm supposed to believe in, there's no point talking. Cause even if I wanted to agree with them, I couldn't say what it is I'm agreeing with.

    Now as for people who can be specific enough to define their idea of God clearly, I can go ahead and point to it and say, "yeah, don't believe in that one either."

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  161. Raven- I don't think you quite understand how evolution works-

    In particular, dominant and reccesive genes play a part, and chaotic bifurcation gets thrown into the mix.
    Speciation can be caused by geography, (isolated populations)and I get the impression your concept of how DNA works is a little off the mark. (think junk dna, hybrids and mules).

    Anyway- I strongly suggest you read over a textbook on the matter

    http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Second-Douglas-Futuyma/dp/0878932232/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1280826969&sr=1-1

    comes highly reccomended- though other academic texts of a similar level should be fine too.

    I'm not asking that you belive instantly in evolution- but this comprehensive text gives you the reasoning and a thourogh explanation of the ideas behind the theory. It also answers a few questions that you raise.

    I'd advise against popular science books on the matter, as most are either off-kilter in how they explain things or politically motivated (and 'biased').

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  162. Recently, I was of the opinion that someone's religion was their own business, and no one had any right, etc.

    But after prop 8, I honestly think there's a danger involved in letting them vote. Religious people have a fundamentally disordered view of reality that can actually end up hurting everyone.

    I don't think atheists care too much what anyone else does, as long as they keep out of our lives. Which they never do.

    Shit. Prop 8. That was the turning point for me.

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  163. I don't think atheists care too much what anyone else does

    Then why do they keep bitching about it?

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  164. irt. Anonymous 2:21:

    What's your take on the Dawkins biology books? I've read Blind Watchmaker, Selfish Gene, River from Eden and (partially) The Ancestors' Tale; they seemed to me to do a very good job at explaining evolution, and rather well written as a matter of style. But then I'm not a specialist in Biology (or writing style :-P).

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  165. Oh god... this entire discussion...
    Maybe if I close my eyes I can pretend that it isn't full of people who sprout nonsense like "religious belief dictates personality" or "atheism is a part of science" and get back to talking about the damn comic!
    Especially you, Rob! Nobody wants to hear about how you think obnoxious people are, shockingly, obnoxious!


    ...which I am really un-decided for. The new one, I mean. I know it's bad, but I don't know if either:
    A: The guy is a strawman. He said "atheists" and not "overzealous atheists" or "fundamentalist atheists", just "atheists". The girl is Randall, who made the comic just to act superior. The alt-text is him foreseeing public response, and trying to come up with a (rubbish) excuse as to why he shouldn't be seen as arrogant.
    B: It's a catch-all. Intended so that you either want to think Randall was rooting for either the guy or the girl, depending on your own opinion. Comments in the forum do support this. The thing is that it's very counter-intuitive to the Randall we know and does require some actual thinking on his part, but then again I have a theory:

    Randall doesn't care about the comic and just sees it as an easy source of income!
    Think about it: when the comic was getting gradually worse, it was also getting much, much more general and GOOMH-bait. He draws it with the same quality now as he did when he was making it while doing his thesis and a job at the same time. The jokes look like they're something he came up with in 5 minutes because they actually are. Instead, he buffs it up with huge amounts of shameless pandering and sells stuff at obscene prices!
    Plus, have you ever seen him respond to criticism? Not only is he just not accepting it, but he's not even commenting that they're unfair or anything! Even those immature 12-year-olds will get in a huffy fut if you make just one criticism on the stuff they care about!

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  166. going to ignore the hilarious "atheism isn't a religion because of some bullshit nitpick I have with the definition" arguments because people who are stupid enough to argue that atheism isn't a religion is really not worth my time. sorry, dude who thinks that because a religion has sects, it's not a religion.

    "Hey everyone, the problem here is that Rob once met some super annoying atheists and they called him fat or something and he hasn't been able to imagine any other sort since."

    ugh. no, I am very specifically talking about the fundamentalist atheists. I have been pretty careful to make sure to say "fundie atheists" every time, though maybe I missed a few.

    "Meanwhile, Sprachwhatever is merely trying to point out that this is an oversimplification, and some people can be atheists and try to share their beliefs, even argue with more religious people with the intent of changing their minds, with good intentions and without being crazy fucking douchebags."

    and I am saying that the militant "I must convert all religious people to atheism" atheists are obnoxious fundie atheists and need to be stamped out like the vermin they are.

    "1) There is more reason to think atheism is true than there is to think fundamentalist Christianity is true."

    your thesis is already pretty biased. I am not comparing atheism to fundamentalist Christianity; I am comparing fundamentalist atheism (eg Dawkins et al) to fundamentalist Christianity. one for one, shall we? either argue that there are more reasons to be an atheist than a Christian, or that being a fundamentalist atheist is better than being a fundamentalist Christian.

    "2) Fundamentalist Christianity, as an organized system of belief, harms society and individuals in a way that atheism does not."

    funamentalist atheism does not have a position of power or authority in society, so there's no real grounds by which to compare whether it would cause similar harm in society. it is easy to argue that religion has at times been a force for good in society and individuals, just as it has at times been a force for evil in society and individuals.

    similarly, it's just as easy to envision an atheist utopia as it is to envision a society where atheists ruthlessly murder anyone who acknowledges a god, or even a particular sect of atheism. people will find ways to be evil and people will find ways to be good, regardless of their religious beliefs.

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  167. irt. Ravenzomg, about horses, unicorns and species:

    I'll try to explain what I think Anonymous 2:21 refers to. Because "go read about it", though wise, never seemed enough to me.

    To what I understand, based on reading those Dawkins books, is that a new "species" will arise if several individuals, horses in our case, are separated from all other horses for a sufficiently long time.

    Sufficiently long, for enough genetic differences from other populations to appear, and spread among the, let's call them, unicorns. Though the unicorn mutation doesn't have to be the only one going around.

    Separation can be achieved by geography, or maybe rather lifestyle. One of the basic ideas of evolution is simple- if it is possible to make a living (and ensure a future generation) in some way, some things will eventually discover it. They may not be very good at it at first, and not for the same reasons. I'm talking organisms from the same species here- they are still varied genetically and physiologically to some extent. But if it's possible to get better at that way of life somehow (shuffling genes in some way, or mutations), then some of those organisms will get better, and tend to encounter one another more often than those which "chose" a different path. It's a gradual process, and it has its quirks, for example ring species, where you have, say, populations A, B and C, such that members of A can breed with members of B, and B with C, but not C with A.

    Captcha: appes. We evolved from appes out of Eden.

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  168. BLANDcorporatio-

    I've never read any of dawkin's pop science books, but from what I gather he is well versed in his feild.

    I tend to prefer textbooks for a few reasons-

    Firstly- they're (usually) peer reviwed, a number of people have checked over them to make sure the science is kosher, and corrected any mistakes the authour has made. This is not gauranteed for popular science novels- which is why you can end up with a lot of dubious stuff creeping into them (sometimes- dembski is bad for this).

    Secondly- I just fund them more suited to the process of learning- popular science books tend to be aimed to entartain and inform, whereas textbooks are just concerned with learning (and hence are boring as fuck sometimes).
    As a result, they're more easily referenced- if I want to look up bragg scattering or brilloin zones in crystalline materials, it's easier for me to do so in a well structured and indexed textbook (usually).

    Thirdly- undergraduate level textbooks are great in that they act as a springboard into the field- it allows you to 'ask the right questions' and familiarises you with the state-of-the-art and jargon; you can from these make a good stab at reading and understanding research papers in that area (that have been peer reviewed) and get further learning directly from the horse's mouth.

    Of course- textbooks are expensive, and if you're not in that particular field it can be difficult to guess what book to go for-
    If you have generous colledge buddies ask them what textbooks their professors reccomend or even to borrow them.

    This became much more of an essay than I really expected it to. sorry for the wallotext

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  169. "I really don't think "they just can't consider that they're wrong" is the most common motivation for fundy atheists. More likely, they're pissed off about how wrong they see themselves as having been before. Back when they still were theists. And then finally considered that they could be wrong."

    in my experience (and I don't often ask origin stories so I may be off, but I am talking literally 100% of the ones I do know), the most fundie of the fundie atheists are the ones who stopped being religious before they were old enough to understand it--people for whom it just didn't stick for some reason. people who were only religious before they reached what they usually call "the age of reason."

    which is to say, if they are strident because of their former beliefs, it is because they do not understand them and feel as if they were brainwashed when they were children--not because they suddenly realized how wrong they were. many of them don't have the faintest understanding of theology.

    "Remember when we were all sharing our xkcdsucks origin stories a few posts ago? And how a common theme was people who used to like xkcd and defended it and now look back with shame? And they see the cuddlefish coming here trying to trot out the same tired arguments that they remember making before, and now see how much of a failure they were? Something like that. "

    yes, I think I started that thread, and then went off on a tangent about how I used to be a hardcore Christian before study of theology and a lot of debate made me come to the conclusion my position was untenable.

    rather than seeking out a sect of atheists to join, though, I kept hanging out with religious people, not so much to try to convert them, but because I believed that the most important thing is that people actually think about and question their beliefs.

    this is probably the single most dominant trait fundie atheists and fundie Christians have in common: neither of them question their beliefs. fundie atheists see no reason to, and fundie Christians think that questioning is the Devil's work, but they don't generally question any of it.

    ...

    I lied a little bit earlier about ignoring the "atheism isn't a religion" people. if it is not a religion, and the only thing atheists have in common is the fact that they don't believe in God, why do they all use the exact same terrible arguments, invoke the same memes, and generally act identically when accused of fundamentalism etc? why, in other words, are atheists as a culture so predictable if they are united only by a lack of belief in the divine?

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  170. fuck all that shit, i just wonder how randy will respond to the news that there was no such thing as the triceratops.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727713.500-morphosaurs-how-shapeshifting-dinosaurs-deceived-us.html

    also, who cares if someone is an atheist or not? what's it got to do with people if they believe in a god or not.

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  171. "But after prop 8, I honestly think there's a danger involved in letting them vote. Religious people have a fundamentally disordered view of reality that can actually end up hurting everyone."

    thank you for nicely illustrating the potential dangers of an atheist society. "religious people are dangerously unbalanced and need to be silenced and deprived of their rights!"

    "Does Rob want a conversation?"

    I like conversations, I just pepper the interim time with insane ranting and verbal abuse to amuse myself.

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  172. irt. Anonymous 3:50

    First off, good points. Most of pop-sci is pernicious garbage (90% of everything is shit), and it seems to me that a lot of it is merely aimed to blow one's mind, rather than provide some information about the sciences. Which is why I'd rate Leonard Susskind's courses waaay above any pop-physics books that I've read (and were not written by Feynmann; or Penrose, but that one ain't pop). Even if you just want to know basic stuff and not contribute to the field or anything, Susskind's lectures are just better.

    However when it came to biology, well ... I spent a lot of time reading Dawkins books, they just were easily available and as I said, look well made.

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  173. Danny: And maybe that'll lead to the other older bombshell that there is no brontosaurus

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  174. irt Rob:

    I was going to ask why you were harsh on a poster here that said something like "it is not reasonable to believe in God [there's no evidence or whatever]".

    But you're right- when someone says "it's reasonable that X", they also mean "so you should believe X". Or, disbelieve X if it's unreasonable.

    I've got some trouble questioning this approach however (reasonable->should be believed). Reason is not the only thing going on of value in our minds, but it seems pretty good at managing factual knowledge. Can't we trust it?

    I could imagine that some powerful being is playing an elaborate hoax on me, tricking me into such obvious falsities like 2+2=4 and systematically giving me evidence for all the wrong conclusions. But if I believed that ... there's nothing to do. So I chose to believe that "the game" is fair, and reason is reliable.

    And sometimes ignore it.

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  175. Dawkins never learned, apparently, that science makes no comment on the supernatural.

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  176. irt. Gryffilion:

    True, and true- well, okay, science makes some rather metaphysical assumptions that allow it to be possible and worthwhile.

    The universe must have some coherence, even though we may not fully understand it, to make looking for patterns in it meaningful.

    No scientist believes, and neither do I, that the world popped into existence a second ago at the command of something, all evidence to a previous history being an illusion.

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  177. Einstein once said the most amazing thing about the universe is that it's comprehensible.

    I think

    somone else said (irt rob's discussion) that the braying of morons and idiots is a sound indicator of a democratic society

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  178. "I've got some trouble questioning this approach however (reasonable->should be believed). Reason is not the only thing going on of value in our minds, but it seems pretty good at managing factual knowledge. Can't we trust it?"

    short answer: no, we can't.

    slightly longer answer: Christian and atheist alike believe that their position is reasonable and that their opponents are unreasonable. I've seen compelling arguments going either way. either reason is possessed exclusively by one side and not the other, or both side possesses it in equal measure (which is to say, both either have it or lack it altogether). I find the former improbable (as I have met very reasonable and unreasonable people on both sides); if the latter is true, then apparently reason doesn't have a whole lot to do with either belief.

    long answer: happily I just read this today, which is relevant, though obviously doesn't really prove anything.

    humans aren't very bright, on the whole. mostly we mean well, but we get terrible ideas and are easily distracted and misled. as I always say, everyone is always wrong about everything. people spend their entire lives advocating positions that simply aren't true, and they do it with fervor and conviction.

    it is nice to think that we can rely on our reason, but everything relies on an assumption first. some assumptions are probably more reasonable than others (an assumption in itself, of course)--like assuming that the apparent laws of the universe will remain stable--even if they could very well prove to be entirely false. (in that particular instance, we likely won't ever know that we were wrong, of course, on account of being dead as a can of spam.)

    other assumptions--like the atheist's assumption that the reasonable default assumption is "there is no god"--are pretty big assumptions. and they are just that: assumptions. they are necessary in order for that belief system to work. maybe everything after that assumption follows perfectly. but if the entire assumption is flawed, then what's the point?

    in my experience, atheist and theist alike start with the assumption "God doesn't exist" or "God does exist" and build their proofs and theories and beliefs around that. it is possible to convince an atheist or a theist that this assumption is flawed, but it is usually very much integral to their beliefs, ideas, and personalities. there is no breaking that core assumption for them. the atheist, presented with evidence of a god, will come up with a non-theistic explanation. the theist, presented with evidence that there is no god, will come up with an explanation that requires god.

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  179. this is assuming our reason is working perfectly. it is right to discard something which violates our original assumption if reason is working perfectly, otherwise you get a contradiction, and according to our reason, a contradiction cannot possibly be true.

    but our reason does not always work perfectly. especially in fuzzy areas like this, people make unjustified leaps of logic. people derive false conclusions. the number of cognitive biases to which the human brain is susceptible is often astounding. people who have strong opinions about something do not change those opinions when presented with contradictory facts--in many cases, their original opinion is strengthened by contradictory facts. even experts are not immune to this effect.

    what this tells me is this: there is no escaping the fact that the human brain is a flawed machine with regard to reason and information gathering. there are plenty of good reasons to doubt your reason's ability to derive truth--and this doesn't even rely on the "game" being rigged, so much as the fact that your brain just isn't very good at playing it.

    so is our reason good enough for most everyday purposes? sure, probably. but we can't rely on it to provide us with meaningful truth. the best we can hope for is to realize that our reason is faulty--to know enough to know that we know nothing.

    (fun fact: when I try to lecture atheists about this they are all 'yeah I remember 7th grade too.' apparently the capacity for self-doubt and the realization that we are perceiving the world through an incredibly faulty lens is a middle school trait! I always thought middle schoolers just thought about sex jokes a lot.)

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  180. To ask something completely unrelated: Rob, have you heard Arcade Fire's new album yet? It's pretty awesome.

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  181. I haven't but I think I will have to check it out

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  182. You can download it here if you want to test it out before you buy it or whatever.

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  183. rob you are wrong about everything you just said i think your fat atheist evolution denying brain has collapses in on it's own inveritable bulk and produced a singularity in your skull.

    fatty.

    Also- wasn't laplace's demon dealt with some time ago with the advent of quantum physics and the three body problem?
    Basically, we can't some some important equations without using computers and/or making approximations.

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  184. irt. Rob:

    Oh drat, you wrote a different reply which makes my original text useless.

    In my original response, I said Descartes' demon is a disturbing thought experiment that leaves us no option but to ignore it. Because the alternative is never committing to any thought or deed, which seems untenable.

    Your post number two answers my concerns. Reason may well be fine in the abstract (which is what I believe), but we practice it faultily because of cognitive biases (which is what you said).

    Dare I say that is reasonable?

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  185. Atheism is scientific because it is falsifiable. If you ask an atheist what can change his view, he will no doubt list many different scenarios that will cause him to believe the god exists. If you ask a theist what can change his mind, the answer will be "nothing". If they believe god created the earth 6000 years ago, no amount of contrary evidence will prove to him that it didn't happen. If they believe in the power of prayer, no amount of double-blind scientific tests will cause them to stop praying. This is why atheism is fundamentally different from any other religion.

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  186. Here's some more attempts at conversation for you, Rob:

    neither of them question their beliefs. fundie atheists see no reason to, and fundie Christians think that questioning is the Devil's work, but they don't generally question any of it.

    I wasn't a fundie Christian, so I didn't see questioning as the Devil's work or anything. I was really more in your fundie atheist category of "seeing no reason to" while being a seriously slack-ass Christian.

    While I was thinking back on that, I think I finally got what you were getting at here:

    which is to say, if they are strident because of their former beliefs, it is because they do not understand them and feel as if they were brainwashed when they were children--not because they suddenly realized how wrong they were. many of them don't have the faintest understanding of theology.

    It sounds like you're saying they use the brainwashing excuse to dodge responsibility for having any wrong beliefs before jumping into what they feel are the correct ones?

    I can see that, because I certainly understood nothing of theology while I was growing up Christian. Church was just where you go and sing some songs and wait for all the talking to be over so you can go get some cookies. It was just the reality of what you did, how could you question that? ...well, obviously you still can, it just took me way too embarrassingly long.

    I never held many of my Christian beliefs truly strongly enough to think "how wrong I was" about that so much as... how wrong I was for just mindlessly going along with something I didn't even care about all that much.

    I do look back feeling a bit of that "brainwash regret", but as much as I'd love to be able to write off all my younger gullibility that way, I did have times when I started to question or got a peek at something else, but just didn't follow through. I wish I had earlier, and I suspect if the internet had been invented earlier, I'd have had my wish.

    Incidentally, that's why I get annoyed when people start ranting about fundy atheists (especially Dawkins, but must... resist... tangent). Because in internet years, the whole "New Atheist" movement probably seems old and tired now that it's been around a while. But as someone who grew up not knowing atheism was even an option until I started hashing this shit out on the internet and actually thinking about it seriously, I see it as a luxury to be able to take the New Atheist movement for granted so much.

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  187. timofei I feel like you're comparing bland athiesm to fundamental christianity/religiousism.

    Many people of a religious affiliation cease to be religious- if rob's quivering blubbery mass is to belived, even he was once one.

    That being said, I also know people on the opposite end of the spectrum- who will adamantly declare that every situation has a scientific resolution- sometimes inventing embarresing 'scientific laws' to do so.

    They act very much like the cliché "doubting tom" scientist in horror or supernatural films- who blinkers themselves to their surroundings and refuses to belive all the things happening around them.

    (incidentally, a real scientist in this situation would take account of the events around him and assess them- adjusting their woildview and models, or abandoning them entirely- such upheavals move science forward and generate nobel prizes)

    ANYWAY- I take exception to the notion that all athiests are scientifically minded- some are simply jaded and cannot reconcile a benevolent god with the world they see.

    so yeah- food for thought I guess?

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  188. I can't wait for tomorrow so we can start laughing at the latest comic again instead of all this atheism vs. religion bullshit.

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  189. Rob, you're awesome! The 'importance of questioning' bit a few posts up just solidified it.
    /e-high five

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  190. @Ravenzomg

    "The irony is, of course, that should the "t/P" prove too high, your proof's failure will lead to Theism "winning". But until we reach a nonsense conclusion that is actually true, ambiguity will continue on proof after proof after proof."

    I think that sums things up nicely. This is what makes science so much more interesting than religion. With science we can test a theory, and that puts constraints on the kinds of theories we're allowed to have. With religion there's really no idea too stupid to be considered. That's irksome. It means that atheists and religious folks are just guessing.

    @Ryan

    My comments were about the nature of science and probability, not about evolution. I feel like I'm reasonably qualified to talk about that.

    @Rob

    "...Everyone is wrong about everything..."

    To this statement I recommend http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/RelativityofWrong.htm

    Maybe you've already read it, but Asmiov discusses the notion of "right and wrong" much better than I ever could.

    "...like assuming that the apparent laws of the universe will remain stable..."

    Oh boy is there a lot to unpack here. While the laws may or may not be perfectly stable, the laws are almost certainly approximately stable. I mean that I can reasonably expect, based on what we know today, that the rate at which the laws change is very close to zero. (For greater context to the above paragraph see the Asimov article.)

    Aside: While "the laws are stable" may be an assumption in an atheist's argument, it is not an assumption of science.

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  191. @Arthur: Oh yeah, trust me -- Religion has no place trying to argue by "reason" simply because it has nothing to lose. "Well, who ever said it was within the realm of reason anyway?" haha... Religion is not to be argued because it's nearly pointless to do so. Either you've had an "Experience", or you're making stuff up, or you're taking someone's word for it. Science... science is fundamentally communal because we can all look over each other's shoulders and say how we'd do it without sounding like [too much of] an ass.

    @Gray: Don't worry, I'm not telling you "can't explain it --> all you fuckers need to believe", but rather "prove something to be irrefutably non-sense scientifically --> all you fuckers need to believe [something?]". Having Science be unable to explain something just means we're not there yet; but if Science starts giving us deliberate anwers that CANNOT stand alone [ie: the only way Macroevolution is tenable is for it to take billions of years to create relatively small evolutionary leaps], then some sort of Supernatural element has to come in. But, I don't think that should ever happen because most everyone, including the majority of the religious extremists, believe in a world that makes sense. If anything, they're praying for it to STOP making sense [to show all you crazy folk what's right, somehow].

    @ Anonymous: I don't disbelieve in Evolution. I'm a Theistic Evolutionist. I know "Theistic" came first and set off a lot of whistles and bells, but keep reading!

    @Bland Corporatio: I agree with what you say, but you make it all sound so simple and quick -- we're talking about rolling dice until we get a combination that's useful, and only rolling dice when something GOES WRONG -- gene mutation is carcinogenic, cell fuck-ups, or viral. It's [pardon the word] miraculous that good things come about because of this. Most times it just causes the cell/creature to die or be misborne. Genes don't change to be useful; genes change, and useful ones continue [because they're useful and help the critter to survive, or at the very least don't HINDER survival]. And we're talking about doing this hundreds of millions of times. I think it's quite possible, but the time-frame seems far too short. Taking a quote, "The probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of the Unabridged Dictionary resulting from an explosion in a printing shop."

    Reiterating: Not impossible, but hella unlikely. This is not "proof", this is my "reason". Neither actually explain why I believe what I believe, so don't take too much time trying to tell me how my reasons don't stand on their own. Because no; no, they don't.

    @that guy [might be a couple of you]: These debates arise when the comic is just so utterly bland and uninspiring that we create some other thing to be angry about. We're parasites that feed off of each other's vitriol and anger. Rob is empowered by spewing his lies and "credibility" on attackers, sort of like the brown recluse. This community has long since outlived its purpose [forumites are acknowledging several XKCD comics as "teh suckz"] and we're just passing the time. Everyone: your mother.

    Oh, and words on the internet never converted anyone who wasn't an empty shell. I'm arguing these points because it's entertaining, not to truly convince anyone. Religious experience trumps the religious attempts at "reason", and if you WOULD convert to some religion based upon what someone one the internet says, I sincerely worry for you.

    Blogger sucks ass.

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  192. Rob @4.55 - I'm afraid you read a blog called "Slog" and therefore you automatically lose every argument you have ever been involved in.

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  193. @ raven-

    "gene mutation is carcinogenic, cell fuck-ups, or viral. It's [pardon the word] miraculous that good things come about because of this. Most times it just causes the cell/creature to die or be misborne."

    I'm sorry raven, but this is just plain outright wrong.

    "Most mutations are neutral. Nachman and Crowell estimate around 3 deleterious mutations out of 175 per generation in humans (2000). Of those that have significant effect, most are harmful, but the fraction which are beneficial is higher than usually though. An experiment with E. coli found that about 1 in 150 newly arising mutations and 1 in 10 functional mutations are beneficial (Perfeito et al. 2007).

    The harmful mutations do not survive long, and the beneficial mutations survive much longer, so when you consider only surviving mutations, most are beneficial.
    "

    nabbed from http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB101.html

    I'm sympathetic raven- but it looks a lot like you're basing your reasoning on misinformation- which isn't cool.

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  194. at least it isn't called 'Slag.' That's... Something.

    "I can't wait for tomorrow so we can start not laughing at the latest comic again instead of all this atheism vs. religion bullshit."

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  195. (Rob says)
    "going to ignore the hilarious "atheism isn't a religion because of some bullshit nitpick I have with the definition" arguments because people who are stupid enough to argue that atheism isn't a religion is really not worth my time. sorry, dude who thinks that because a religion has sects, it's not a religion."

    I don't even understand what you're trying to say. How can it be "bullshit nitpicking" vis-a-vis a definition when the entirety of the thing you're arguing over is, funamentally, a definition, and one that you yourself provided?

    You posted three definitions of religion, none of which apply to atheism, then moved on, and when people called you on it you're just going to say "I'm ignoring you because you're stupid"? I realize that you're not actually obligated to participate in an internet debate in any real sense, but could you try to elaborate on your point instead of just being a condescending douchebag?

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