Sunday, September 30, 2007

Crucifolks, "Reason is the enemy of faith"

From the Adult Swim series "Moral Orel," a song by the Crucifolks, "Reason is the Enemy of Faith":
Reason is the enemy of faith, my friend
A head that's filled with knowledge
soon is too bloated with its own weight
to fit through heaven's gate
So think with your heart
it's the only organ for salvation
think with your heart
don't deduce yourself to eternal damnation
think with your heart
'cause you know that the almighty sees us
think only with your heart
whoever heard of the bleeding brain of Jesus?
think only with your heart
More on Moral Orel here.

UPDATE (October 4, 2007): The comments on this post got way off track from what this song is saying, with olvlzl riding his own hobbyhorses to the extent that I think he completely missed the point. When he says to me, "If you don't agree with the song lyrics, I'm glad to hear it," I can only wonder if he bothered to read them. The lyrics are parody, expressing an extreme Christian anti-intellectualism that sees not only education but reason itself as something evil and in opposition to faith that must be avoided at all costs. Of course I disagree with that, as does anyone who values reason. What makes it funny is the extreme to which it takes the view--but what makes it disturbing is that there are anti-intellectual Christians who see knowledge and attempting to seek it as evil practices. They are the sort who say that all the knowledge they need is in the Bible (and these are often the King James Version only sorts, as well), so there is no need to read anything else.

olvlzl, by contrast, is looking at the reverse position, that there is no need for faith. But that's not what the song is about, or what "Moral Orel" is about.

44 comments:

olvlzl said...

Ok, I expect everyone here who holds this belief, and it is a belief, but more about that in a minute - anyway, I expect that all of you rigorous rationalists will hold absolutely no ideas which you have not entirely proven or demonstrated with sufficient rigor so as to be the product of reason. If you do you are guilty of the intellectual crime of faith.
No idea of which you have not mastered the proof can be held without it being to a greater or lesser extent the product of faith. That include the faith that scientists, who even as a group have demonstrated their fallibility, have gotten those particular ideas right. And, most of all, I expect you will hold no ideas about which no physical evidence exists since literally any idea you accept about them will be the product of some kind of faith.

Atheism is a statement of faith about something which can't be known, at least it is when it asserts as a fact that there not a God or anything supernatural instead of the entirely, rock solid and honest statement "I don't believe there is a God". There is no assertion that can be made for or against the idea of a supernatural God which is not the product of reliance on that which can't be known, faith.

Every single person who has an active mind relies on ideas held on the basis of faith. If this ditty is correct, then reason doesn't exist, at least not in human beings.

Einzige said...

[[GROAN]] ...

Jesus.

I lack the patience for this one, Jim.

olvlzl said...

It's really just an extension of the "how can anyone know something unless they know it" discussion about the airport.

It's not a particularly difficult concept to grasp that anything you think you know on the basis of less than conclusive proof isn't known, it's merely believed to a greater or lesser extent. It's an entirely reasonable position to face that basic fact of life, though it requires some humility, which can be uncomfortable.

Einzige said...

Don't know what we'd do without you and your spiritual guidance and epistemological expertise, olvlzl.

Since you've taken it upon yourself to enlighten us, I have some questions for you:

Is it "faith" to believe in something for which there is evidence, experience, and argument?

Is it a faith position to believe that 1 + 1 = 2?

Is it a faith position to believe that the sun is going to rise tomorrow?

Is it a faith position to believe that when I let go of something heavy it will fall to the ground?

Is it a faith position to believe that playing in traffic is a bad idea?

If all of the above beliefs are "faith based", then can you provide an example of a belief that is not based on faith?

If the answer to the above question is "No", then: If all positions are faith positions then what criteria should one use to choose between any two beliefs? How do you know, for example, to believe that Jesus is Lord, and not Vishnu--or neither?

Does a lack of definitive and conclusive evidence for or against a particular belief about the world preclude a defeasible acceptance of that belief? Does such a conditional acceptance require "faith" as a component?

Are there "degrees" of faith? Does it perhaps take more faith to believe that there's a heaven than it does to believe that if I drop an egg onto my kitchen floor it's going to break?

In other words, do beliefs that are in accord with a wealth of evidence, experience, and logic require as much faith as beliefs for which there is no evidence, contrary evidence, little experience, and/or faulty logic?

To put it yet another way, do atheists require just as much faith for their beliefs as the religious folks do for theirs? Explain your answer.

If that is what faith is, then what is it that distinguishes matters of faith from other types of belief? If everything is a matter of faith, then isn't "faith" a mere triviality? Why is faith so important to Jesus (and Mohammed)?

What is the meaning behind, for example, John 20:29: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."?

olvlzl said...

Einzige, since I wasn't the one who advocated the song asserting that reason and faith are incompatible, which is the subject of this post, I don't know why you're asking me those questions. If that assertion is made then it's only reasonable to really look at what it means and what consequences that pretentious position reasonable requires of those holding it. I've always found that the rude kind of atheist fundamentalists, just about to a person, are unwilling to really consider the logical results of their assertions. As the tone of your responses indicates, it's generally a matter of emotion than reason that governs their consideration of these kinds of questions.

But I don't have any problem with the idea that people know some things and that the very same people also hold ideas on the basis of faith. I also realize that what is held to be known and the results of reason in most of life have as much to do with experience as they do with strict empirical evidence, quantification and analysis. I don't pretend that they are strictly a matter of science or that just about all of science, exempting math, is contingent to a greater or lesser degree.

I've never pretended to absolute knowledge and haven't made any statements of religious faith here. Can't you argue the points on their merits?

olvlzl said...

Just looked at that comment with greater magnification, I've got my last resort pair of spare glasses on today. Sorry for the lapses.

Einzige said...

You asserted "Atheism is a statement of faith..."

That is what I am responding to. Is that a particularly difficult concept to grasp?

What exactly is the "tone" of my response to you? How do you know that your interpretation of its tone is correct? Does this interpretation of tone involve the use of some humility, which might be uncomfortable?

Why is it that you never seem to directly address my questions for you?

Are my questions not substantive? Not on point?

Einzige said...

By the way, my own intended tone can be characterized as "good-natured ribbing."

If it comes across as something else then the fault lies with me.

Jim Lippard said...

olvlzl: My posting of these lyrics was not to advocate them, but to point out the MP3 and the show "Moral Orel" because it's *funny*. The categories of the posting are religion and *parody*.

That said, we all have beliefs held on the basis of insufficient evidence. But I disagree that atheism is "a statement of faith about something which can't be known." Your claim that the nonexistence of God cannot be known is agnosticism, which I think is false for the most commonly used meanings of the term "God." (It is possible to construct definitions of God which are impervious to refutation by evidence and logic--I think the notion of God developed in Richard M. Gale's _On the Nature and Existence of God_ is a candidate.)

I've written at some length on the claim that it's impossible to prove a negative, and Jeff Lowder and Richard Carrier have applied similar reasoning to specifically address the question of whether a disproof of the existence of God is possible (I have links to their articles from mine).

Jim Lippard said...

Please insert the word "necessarily" into my sentence that begins "I disagree that atheism is 'a statement of faith ...'", after "atheism is." It can be, but needn't be.

olvlzl said...

Einzige, my statement about atheism being a statement of faith was conditioned in two ways. First, that the atheist was asserting that it was a fact that there was no god or supernatural and that if the atheist wasn't making that leap beyond what can be known. Asserting that something that can't be known is a fact is the essence of the kind of faith that is practiced by fundamentalists. Many people who are religious aren't so presumptuous, though the current fashion is to lump them into the same bin with the fundamentalists. You can hardly fault me for pointing out that this kind of fundamentalism isn't limited to religious believers but is the essence of the current neo-atheist fad.

A second group of atheists, who are out of style these days and often called insulting names by atheist fundamentalists, merely state that they didn't believe that they don't believe in a god, etc. are expressing something they can know beyond a doubt, that they, themselves, don't believe something. I call those atheists "liberal atheists" just in the same way that most informed people distinguish between liberal religion and fundamentalism.

As to your questions. Those were serious and intended to refute my point?

I'll take the most interesting one 1+1=2. The "proof" of that statement took Russell and Whitehead pages and pages of rather difficult formal logic to come up with the logical demonstration of that idea, and there are those who hold that it isn't proved even with that. If I could find my old copy of the Principia, the easy stuff not the entire thing I'd tell you which page to look at but it seems to be missing. So, your example backs up my point that the proof of even relatively everyday "facts" are taken on experience and faith in that experience instead of reason, logic and formal or scientific proof. Russell was, of course, an atheist, Whitehead was a rather unorthodox religious believer. Odd that Russell would trust a faith head with reasoning that was so important in his career.

olvlzl said...

Jim Lippard, any assertion that there is a god whois "invisible, unknowable, indescribable, without beginning and without end, omnipotent, etc." effectively puts that god outside of the realm of what can be dealt with by science or logic. Just "unknowable and indescribable" would make any statement about such a god entirely unreliable.

Given that the majority of religious believers hold that a god is responsible for the entire physical universe it's hardly reasonable to assume that such a god could be comprehended by any or even the entire body of human beings. We do tend to be rather limited in our capacity to understand and perceive things.

Belief in such a god can take different forms, some more prone to dispute than others. As in my assertion about the absolute unassailable nature of the "liberal atheist's" statement, any religious believer who relies on their experience and persona belief puts themselves beyond dispute. I believe this might be why Harris and Dawkins resort to vicarious blame of religious liberals for the sins of others instead of trying to take them on through discourse. Religious fundamentalists, the targets of opportunity of neo-atheism, make easily refuted assertions not based in their experience.

If you don't agree with the song lyrics, I'm glad to hear it.

olvlzl said...

Boy, I do wish we could re-edit these things after they're posted.

Einzige said...

olvlzl,

It seems that all you're really saying is "certain knowledge is denied us."

Who would argue against such a statement? Definitely not a pair of skeptics, like Jim and myself.

I object, however, to your conclusion that, therefore "all belief is faith".

And, yes, my questions were serious. And, no, they were not intended to "refute" anything. How can a series of questions accomplish a refutation of anything?

I was trying to get a clearer picture of your thought processes. I notice you still haven't answered them (except the first one - and your answer doesn't surprise me, actually).

And, btw, defining God as "unknowable" and then concluding that we can't claim certain knowledge about God is--aside from being an absurd description for God--just winning the argument by definition.

olvlzl said...

Starting with your last point. You can consider knowing that an "unkowable god" is unknowable as a pardox or you could consider it as a known statement about your own, experienced limitations. Though, in that case asserting that you know that such a god is unknowable to other people (or possible beings) is an assumption.

Belief and faith are listed as synonyms in the several dictionaries I've checked just now. While a lot of atheists don't seem to like that it is the way the words are defined. Though I'd never claim to "know" that as an absolute fact, though I intend to rely on it.

My thought processes, I just try to stick to the facts in as much detail as I can manage hopefully without prejudice and with a sense of fairness and the experience of human limitations.

"Skepticism" is where I got into all of this because of a dishonest attack made against me by one of Paul Kurtz' post-adolescent goons. Seems I'd written something too critical of CSICOP and it's associated groupies and frauds. It was in researching my post that I first came across Mr. Lippard's writings, which I respect. I am, however, extremely skeptical about organized skepticism, even of the non-Kurtzian kind. I've met religious believers who are more skeptical than a lot of "skeptics". You could nutshell my feelings about "skepticism" by saying that I think people are the best judge of their own experience and too many "skeptics" arrogantly think they are the best judge of what other people think about it.B

Einzige said...

"People are the best judge of their own experience"

In reference to what?

Are paranoid schizophrenics their own best judges?

I'm with you as far as my knowledge about whether I like ice cream better than donuts at a particular time. But I'd not trust my personal experience when it comes to an uncontrolled situation in which someone appears to be bending spoons with their will alone. Same goes for things like meeting Jesus.

olvlzl said...

In reference to what?
- Are paranoid schizophrenics their own best judges?
* No. Did you think I meant that the severely irrational were? Though I'd think that what they have to say about their own experiences are worth listening to and seeing if some of it is accurate.

- But I'd not trust my personal experience when it comes to an uncontrolled situation in which someone appears to be bending spoons with their will alone.

* I've never gotten what it is about the spoon bending stuff that has "skeptics" all bent out of shape. How many people are being bilked out of large amounts of money by spoon benders, or their neighborhood fortune tellers, for that matter. Now compare that number to lending, insurance and other financial institutions that "skeptics" seem to generally take in stride. And don't get me started on evolutionary psychology, Pinker-style congnative "science", psychology (with some exceptions) and other forms of serious fraud in the name of science.

- Same goes for things like meeting Jesus.
* Well, it depends on what they're claiming about meeting Jesus. If it's Oral Roberts and a multi-story Jesus was telling him to build a useless hospital in a city that didn't need it, or that he should shake down the dupes, well, I'd have a problem with that too. If it's some harmless, fairly apolitical Pentecostalist who finds their experience meaningful but doesn't use it to impinge on anyone else's rights, that's entirely their and Jesus' business.

You guys need to learn that other people don't need your permission to believe what they believe.

Einzige said...

Now compare that number to lending, insurance and other financial institutions that "skeptics" seem to generally take in stride.

Perhaps you should read my blog before you say that.

:-)

If it's some harmless, fairly apolitical Pentecostalist who finds their experience meaningful but doesn't use it to impinge on anyone else's rights, that's entirely their and Jesus' business.

Indeed. And I wouldn't argue otherwise. However, I would argue that their subjective experience shouldn't be used, even by them, as a guide to knowledge about God.

olvlzl said...

- Indeed. And I wouldn't argue otherwise. However, I would argue that their subjective experience shouldn't be used, even by them, as a guide to knowledge about God.

* This is another thing I've never understood about the folly of attempting to use what is mistaken for science to prove or disprove the existence of God. Why would a god who created the entire population, indeed the entire universe, and who regulates its progress through time need anything objective to demonstrate something to anyone? I'd expect that something much more intimate, which would be deemed "subjective" would be much more compelling to the individual and so much more meaningful.

The "objective" is an ideal invented by people who were interested in a specific type of very reliable knowledge, such as in science. That such reliable knowledge is possible only under very specific and often unavailable conditions forces us to deal with most of the universe of experience without such "objectivity". It's the folly of scientism that it claims that such special circumstances are available for the entire universe, both of experience and that which can't be experienced, observed, measured, analyzed and reviewed, that catches up so many materialists.

If there is a god, one thing that it makes no sense to assume is that the author of the universe is a mere 'object' that can be dealt with on the basis of "objectivity". It is both bad science and bad reasoning to expect to use the tools of science, developed BY THE HUMAN IMAGINATION solely to gain "objective" knowledge of the physical universe for things defined as being either partially or entirely apart from the physical universe and its limits which make scientific observation possible in some limited circumstances.

Einzige said...

It is both bad science and bad reasoning to expect to use the tools of science...for things defined as being either partially or entirely apart from the physical universe...

There you go, winning by definition again.

Who would make such an absurd statement?

In effect you're claiming that skeptics, scientists, and rationalists are saying something akin to:

"We're going to use the tools of science to study something that, by definition, can't be studied by science."

No one says that!

Various people have made various claims about the nature of God, and most of the time these claims have extended beyond "that thing which is unknowable."

Certain types of claims about the world are testable - meaning they can be verified or falsified.

Now we're in the realm of science.

Even you've defined God as something other than "unknowable". You said God is "entirely apart from the physical universe." A fair question for the scientist and skeptic, then, is "How do you know this?"

olvlzl said...

"We're going to use the tools of science to study something that, by definition, can't be studied by science.

No one says that!"

Well, what do you call it when Dawkins starts gassing on about using probability (math) to determine that God almost certainly doesn't exist. Oddly, the mirror assertion of the Bayesians he has slammed for their attempts. How about his entirely bizarre attempts to fit the non-physical God into a weird faux-evolutionary concept(he's good at coming up with junk science)? How about his faithful side-kick Dennett and his bizarre assertions about religious belief being the byproduct of natural selection and genetics (an idiotic assertion that is guaranteed to please fundamentalists and, especially Calvinists to no end for reasons I'll explain on request.)

What do you call it when countless would be scientific atheists have used any number of observations about the physical universe to "prove" that God doesn't exist? Einzige, atheist fundamentalism consists of little more than countless assertions that science refutes the existence of the supernatural all on the basis of the misapplication of science to the supernatural? I didn't define God as supernatural, that was done well before I was born and the supernatural definition of God is given as "proof" by materialists that God can't exist.

Well, these days they've added that vicarious blame so in style these days. And here I'd thought that vicarious guilt was finally put to rest by the late Jewish prophetic tradition, only to have it resurrected by "rationalists".

Jim Lippard said...

We're going WAY far afield of "Moral Orel" here, but I'd just like to say that I see nothing whatsoever wrong with looking for natural explanations (including evolutionary) for religious beliefs and practices. The work that has been done in that area has been quite productive and fruitful, such as Pascal Boyer's _Religion Explained_.

olvlzl said...

Jim Lippard, I'll take that as a non-invitation to explain what I meant re Dennett.

I don't have any problem with taking a scientific look at anything about which real science can be done but it has to be real science and not junk science. Science is actually rather limited in what it can be used for since for a lot of things the necessary accuracy in observation, measurement, etc. can't be achieved. It's a growing practice, especially in so-called sciences such as evolutionary psychology to simply ignore the fact that there isn't any physical evidence and go with self-serving theories and entirely made up stories about the Pleistocene period equally based in nothing but the self-interests of those pretending to do science. While they might hold jobs in universities that allow them to be considered scientists, their work is not science and it does no good in the long run to pretend that it is.

Any claims made by religion that can be investigated by science can and should be, those which can't, can't and no one should pretend they can be. There is a mountain of this kind of pretense on both sides.

Einzige said...

Isn't it nice, though, that the tools of science (reason... experiment... criticism... argument...) make it self-correcting over the long term?

Faith, on the other hand, has no such tools.

olvlzl said...

Faith, on the other hand, has no such tools. Einzige

Well, that's a charge that is often made but, well, how about reflection, examination of conscience, shame, guilt, a sense of personal responsibility. You see, faith has its tools of correction too. Just as with the tools that are supposed to get science right, they are only used by people who are honest and conscientious. I know that some, if not all, of these tools of morality are out of fashion and scorned by many they work pretty well when they are used the right way.

Now, how about applying the tools of science to that list to those Just-so Stories of evolutionary psychology. That's been going on for decades now and it's getting worse as time goes on.

Jim Lippard said...

olvlzl: I've updated the post with some commentary about where this discussion has gone. I think you completely missed the point of the song lyrics.

Einzige said...

olvlzl,

Are you arguing just to argue?

Your statements are either patently absurd or else not germane to the topic at hand (neither I nor Jim are advocates of evolutionary psychology, and I daresay we, and very likely much of the scientific community, agree with your assessment of it).

Frankly I found you tiresome about 5 comments ago.

olvlzl said...

Jim Lippard, since most of my comments were in response to one of the bloggers here I don't think you can blame me for the progress of the discussion, well, not entirely. As for the unwise use of disciplines to look into questions and assertions they can't, I don't think that exactly constitutes a hobby horse, it's rather important. Or I'd have thought anyone with an interest in honesty in thought would think so. I re-read my first comment and think it exactly answers the assertions of the lyrics you posted.

Einzige, I know lots of scientists agree that ep is pseudo-science, though there are many who don't. So, why aren't Dawkins and Dennett considered to be discredited when they have based large parts of their intellectual careers on it? Why aren't "skeptics" disavowing them for their intellectual sins? Dawkins is the chief star in the Kurtz empire these days.

If I've said anything absurd, please list. I'm always interested in where I'm wrong, believing that it's better to change an idea than it is to continue in error.

olvlzl said...

I've decided that I'd like to post this entire exchange on my blog, without alteration. Considering the embarrassing consequences of my having lost my glasses before it started that's a pretty big concession on my part. If you don't object I'll take that as permission.

Jim Lippard said...

olvlzl: Granted, everyone who participated in the discussion contributed to its direction. Your original comment, if actually tied in to what the song lyrics say, could have been written something like this: "While this song goes too far in arguing that faith is a replacement for reason, we all have at least some beliefs which are not based on reason." And I don't think anybody would have disagreed.

"I know lots of scientists agree that ep is pseudo-science, though there are many who don't. So, why aren't Dawkins and Dennett considered to be discredited when they have based large parts of their intellectual careers on it? Why aren't "skeptics" disavowing them for their intellectual sins? Dawkins is the chief star in the Kurtz empire these days."

I often see arguments that Dawkins is mistaken to argue that evolution discredits religion coming from scientists, skeptics, and bloggers. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the NCSE, makes that argument. It's a very common dispute in the ScienceBlogs arena between people like P.Z. Myers on one side, and John Lynch, Ed Brayton, Rob Knop, Matt Nisbet (former PR Director for CSICOP!), Chris Mooney (regular writer for Skeptical Inquirer), and many others on the other side. A recent Skeptics Society conference I attended at Caltech had several presentations critical of evolutionary psychology (such as one by Roger Bingham), and none in favor.

I'm not sure on what basis you say that "Dawkins is the chief star in the Kurtz empire these days," or of what significance that is. From your postings elsewhere, I think you grossly overestimate Kurtz's influence among skeptics.

Jim Lippard said...

olvlzl: I just noticed that you asked to post this entire exchange on your blog. The Creative Commons license of this blog permits you to do so with attribution--I'd appreciate it if you include a link back here when you do it.

Hume's Ghost said...

I'm not sure on what basis you say that "Dawkins is the chief star in the Kurtz empire these days," or of what significance that is.

He thinks that Paul Kurtz is the atheist version of Pat Robertson and believes he runs his "empire" for personal profit and to promote "atheist fundamentalism." In this picture, Dawkins plays a role kind of like Malcom X did for Elijah Muhammed.

Or at least that's my understanding of Olvzl.

olvlzl said...

Jim Lippard. My problems with Dawkins go back to his “Selfish Genes” days, being an extension of the problems I had with sociobiology before it made its strategic retreat even further from the realms of reification, conflation and wild jumps clear across into the taxonomy into the realms of historical fiction. Those difficulties were entirely scientific and logical, I had no idea that he would turn out to be the figure in atheist fundamentalism he has turned out to be. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed with his last few books, the last one was a scholarly abomination. Dennett’s career as his budget brand Thomas Huxley is, if anything, even more of a logical and scientific disaster. If neo-atheists are content to put their fait... oh, ok, eggs in those baskets they can’t complain when someone points out they’re cracked.
If Dawkins and Dennett had never addressed religion, I’d probably still be talking about them. The only interest I’ve got in the religious-atheist strife is in the effect it has on leftist politics here. If it had no demonstrated impact on elections, I’d never touch the stuff. Not even as tempting as the entertaining arguments can be. I had every last one of those that could be had with my brilliant and feisty atheist-Latin teacher.

I base my contention that Dawkins is the current holder of the St. Carl Sagan seat of prominence in the Kurtz empire based on the lurid propaganda that they will insist on sending me. I suppose that is the fate of any long-term subscriber to leftie magazines. Kurtz’ position in the neo-atheist manifestation is demonstrated by how many bloggers in the atheist blogosphere list direct ties to groups that have him as their “chairman for life”, on risk of quoting an atheist who is much too colorful for some. I’ve taken Rawlins advice and googled him. He’s all over the place, though for some reason atheist fundamentalists don’t like it when you bring his name up.

I will, of course, not reprint without attribution or a link so people can check to make sure I’m not distorting the record. I will, however give a brief explanation of what it is I’m posting.

As for the lyrics, I represented them with complete accuracy. They aren’t at all complex and their connotation is far clearer than their rather muddled and cliched denotation.

olvlzl said...

Dawkins plays a role kind of like Malcom X did for Elijah Muhammed. Humes Ghost

Well, I seem to recall Dawkins saying something about Randi having to pay up on his phony challenge, though I don't think that exactly constitutes speaking truth to power.

You do realize how ironic it is to associate Dawkins with a minister of religion like Malcom X, don't you?

Yes, Humes Ghost is one of those who didn't like me bringing up Kurtz elsewhere. Accusing me of being a neo-astrology cultist in the process.

Hume's Ghost said...

"Accusing me of being a neo-astrology cultist in the process."

My god. You are possibly the most obnoxious individual I've encountered on the internet.

The sum of my "accusation" consisted of me writing something to the effect of "neoastrology ... are you kidding me?" which was in regards to the Starbaby deal. I was in amazement that that was what Olvlzl based his SCI are atheist fundamentalists assertion on.

When he retorted that the author was not a neoastrologist I answered taht I never thought he was, although I had briefly considered Olvzl was one before realizing he was just someone who has kook beliefs about "neo-atheists."

I knew I should have continued ignoring him.

Einzige said...

The stuff olvlzl says is so out there that, after I've picked my jaw up off the floor, I find it difficult not to respond.

Then again, I've noticed in my romantic life a tendency to be attracted to crazy women, so...

Jim Lippard said...

"Kurtz’ position in the neo-atheist manifestation is demonstrated by how many bloggers in the atheist blogosphere list direct ties to groups that have him as their 'chairman for life', on risk of quoting an atheist who is much too colorful for some. I’ve taken Rawlins advice and googled him. He’s all over the place, though for some reason atheist fundamentalists don’t like it when you bring his name up."

I suspect most atheists don't even know who Paul Kurtz is. More skeptics are likely to have heard of him via CSI/CSICOP/Skeptical Inquirer/Center for Inquiry, and many humanists are likely to have heard of him through CSH/Free Inquiry/Center for Inquiry. But there are a lot of independent skeptical groups out there these days--especially with the growth of online forums like the sci.skeptic Usenet newsgroup, the SKEPTIC mailing list, and countless blogs--and most of their participants don't even read Skeptical Inquirer.

If you look at connections that derive back to Paul Kurtz, there are clearly a lot. He's been influential in that groups he started have had a lot of impact and involved a lot of people, but I don't think he's directly all that influential.

As for the claim that he's gotten rich off skepticism--I don't think he's received any direct compensation for his work for his 501(c)(3)s--last time I looked at the Form 990s, I'm pretty sure his compensation was $0 across the board. I'm sure he gets money from Prometheus Books, and I know he's got a nice home in Amherst, NY (which I've visited--but it's in Amherst, NY, where property is cheap).

olvlzl said...

Jim Lippard, I was aware of Kurtz back in the 60s, well before "skepticism". And he goes back much farther than that. I don't recall making an accusation of him getting rich off of his activities, though I'd really like to know more about the financial side of his and organized "Humanism's" history. It's not easy to trace with the resources I've got available but I suspect there's something interesting there. If some atheists aren't more interested in the history of their movement or the still living links they have to it, their lack of curiosity isn't my fault. Perhaps that's what comes of thinking only science can enlighten. I've never been convinced that Kurtz or most of the "skeptics" are skeptical about much of anything. I'm more inclined to agree with the late Marcello Truzzi on that count.

Hume's Ghost, so you do remember that exchange, though not exactly as I do. Have I committed a breach of etiquette here? If you can't deal with the informal kind of investigation I've done, why should anyone think atheist fundamentalism could stand up to a really rigorous and complete treatment?

Einzige, please, I await correction. Isn't a blog supposed to be an educational experience? What other reason is there to write or read one?

Einzige said...

olvlzl,

It's very boring to argue with you, because you resort to ad hominem, attacks upon straw men, and a copious amount of red herring tossing.

In the current context (or almost any other, actually), I really couldn't care less about what Kurtz does or doesn't do with his time and money, what Dawkins and Dennet do or do not say, or any history of any atheist "movement".

Unless you're willing to start being intellectually honest, and argue about errors and/or ommissions of facts and/or logic on the current topic, without bringing up irrelevancies or throwing around meaningless labels like "neo-atheist", then I'm not interested in any more discussions with you.

Out of respect for Jim and his wish to keep blog comments at least somewhat relevant to the original post, this is the last comment I'm going to make in this thread.

olvlzl said...

It's very boring to argue with you, because you resort to ad hominem, attacks upon straw men, and a copious amount of red herring tossing. Einzige

Examples in my own words, please. If you hadn't mentioned "skepticism" I'd never have mentioned Kurtz' little goon in explanation. Other than that I don't think the "ad hominem" charge could possibly be entertained. And telling the relevant truth is always a defense in the charge of ad homiem.

If there are any fair minded people following this, please notice who has been making personal comments from just about the beginning.

As to red herrings, I've only answered things you've said. You are free to refute any errors I make at any time as I've requested. If you don't like that I can keep answering you, why you keep it up?

Erin said...

Thanks! I've been looking for that mp3!! Can't get that song out of my head!

Jim Lippard said...

It is catchy, isn't it?

Hanson said...

Faith is the belief in the impossibility of reason. Which for proof believers use their belief in such for evidence.
Atheism is not a statement of "faith" Atheism is a lack of the belief in the Supernatural. Logic puts the burden of proof on the assertion of the positive i.e. "God exists." We do not simply deny God exists. We do not even acknowledge the belief. It is the believers assertion. It is their burden to prove. And it is impossible.

Jim Lippard said...

Hanson: For an argument against the "lack of belief" definition of atheism, see this blog post.