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ANNOUNCING The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom

AVAILABLE IN STORES NOW!

In Dr. Michael Shermer’s latest book, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, he claims that we are living in the most moral period of our species’ history. It is a book about moral progress that demonstrates through extensive data and heroic stories that the arc of the moral universe bends toward truth, justice, and freedom. Of the many factors that have come together over the centuries to bend the arc in a more moral direction, science and reason are foremost.

The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom (book over)

The Scientific Revolution led by Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton was so world-changing that thinkers in other fields consciously aimed at revolutionizing the social, political, and economic worlds using the same methods of science. This led to the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, which in turn created the modern secular world of liberal democracies, civil rights and civil liberties, equal justice under the law, open political and economic borders, and the expansion of the moral sphere to include more people—and now even animals—as worthy of moral consideration. Epic in scope, The Moral Arc is the Cosmos of human history.

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INTRODUCING the Moral Arc Blog

We are pleased and proud to announce, in conjunction with the publication of The Moral Arc, the Moral Arc Blog, where we can report on all the good things that are happening in the world as a reminder, among a litany of bad news reported by the media every day, that there is hope for humanity. In this blog Dr. Shermer will have an opportunity to write on topics that are not well suited for his monthly Scientific American column or the INSIGHT at Skeptic.com blog, topics related to: Animal Rights, Capitalism, Civil Rights, Crime, Evil, Gay Rights, Genocide, Justice, Morality, Reason, Religion, Slavery, Terrorism, Torture, Violence, War, and Women’s Rights.

We look forward to your comments, and will be inviting readers to submit their own stories in a new section we plan to introduce soon, called “A Million Acts of Kindness.”

Naturally we will not be ignoring all the areas of moral progress yet to be realized, but always when possible and appropriate putting them into a proper historical context.

NEW on the Moral Arc Blog
Was Martin Luther King, Jr. Right About
the Arc of the Moral Universe?

On Sunday, March 21st, 1965, about 8,000 people gathered at Brown Chapel in Selma, Alabama and began a march to the capitol building in Montgomery. At the front of the crowd was the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and they were marching for one reason. Justice. They wanted simply to be given the right to vote.

They had tried to march twice before, but were met with tear gas, billy clubs, and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire. And both times they were forced to turn back. But not this time. This time President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered 2,000 National Guard troops to protect the marchers. And so for five days, over a span of 53 miles, through biting cold and frequent rain, they marched. Word spread, the number of demonstrators grew, and by the time they reached the capitol building on March 25, their numbers had swelled to at least 25,000…

Continue Reading


Tickets Still Available for BILL NYE, this Sunday, at Caltech

We will have copies of Undeniable available for purchase. A book signing will follow the lecture. Read about this event.

Tickets are $15 for Skeptics Society members/Caltech/JPL community; $20 for general public; $5 for Caltech students. Tickets may be purchased in advance through the Caltech ticket office in 101 Winnett, at the door, by calling at 626-395-4652 between 9am–4pm Monday through Friday (Do not leave a message.), or online using the link below. Ordering tickets ahead of time is strongly recommended.

Order tickets in advance


May 29–31, 2015 / Save the Dates!

See the 2015 conference web page for more details and registration information to come, and stay tuned to eSkeptic.


Let Your Soul Go
SKEPTICALITY EPISODE 246

In this episode of Skepticality, Derek has a conversation with Julien Musolino. Julien is an associate professor of cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics and Rutgers University and the author of the book The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Gain from Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs. In this interview, Julien describes why he argues that the existence of the soul is a testable hypothesis—one that’s failed time and time again to hold up against the weight of scientific evidence. And, despite these findings, why he, and everyone else, should not be sad, or depressed by this fact, but embrace it and lead happier and more productive lives.

Skepticality (the Official Podcast App of Skeptic Magazine) is available on the App Store
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Get the Skepticality App — the Official Podcast App of Skeptic Magazine and the Skeptics Society, so you can enjoy your science fix and engaging interviews on the go! Available for iOS, Android, and Windows 8 devices.


About this week’s eSkeptic

In this week’s eSkeptic, Gary Whittenberger examines Miklos Jako’s “Soft Theism” God postulated in Jako’s article “In Defense of Soft Theism,” which appeared in Skeptic Magazine 19.2 (2014). Whittenberger argues that, when considering the origins of existence, we don’t need to step outside the boundaries of science.

Gary J. Whittenberger is a free-lance writer and retired psychologist, living in Tallahassee, Florida. He received his doctoral degree from Florida State University after which he worked for 23 years as a psychologist in prisons. He has published many articles on science, philosophy, psychology, and religion, and their intersection, and he is a member of several freethought organizations.

Skeptical of Soft Theism

by Gary J. Whittenberger

The central belief of Soft Theism, introduced and advocated by Miklos Jako in a recent issue of Skeptic (Vol. 19, No.2, 2014), argues that there exists “a great Intelligence that created and sustains the world…[that] does not concern Itself with human affairs at all…[that] wants us to behave well,” and that “transcends space, time, nature, and logic.” To begin, I’m skeptical of the term “great Intelligence.” Making the same mistake as many New Agers, Jako reifies one property of humanity—intelligence —and implies that it can exist by itself separate from a living person. This is no more reasonable than belief in a great Reproduction separate from a reproducing person.

Jako claims that his Soft Theism has “none of the superstitious baggage of traditional religion,” but unfortunately it does. The central belief meets the essential criteria for “superstition” defined in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary: It is based on faith or trust in magic, it results from ignorance and a false conception of causation, and it is maintained despite evidence to the contrary.

Thousands of gods have been hypothesized to exist. I will call the god of Soft Theism according to Miklos Jako the “ST.1 god.” (There may be other versions of Soft Theism whose gods could be labeled differently.) Clearly, the ST.1 god is different from the god of most Jews, Christians, and Muslims, who is often called “God” (with a capital “G”), but to avoid confusion I will call this god the “JCM god.” Whereas the JCM god is thought to intervene in earthly and human affairs moderately or very often and a Deist god is thought to intervene not at all, the ST.1 god is thought to intervene rarely. Believers in the JCM and ST.1 gods would need to specify when, why, and how their gods have intervened in order to properly fill out their worldviews. Jako admits that there is no “hard evidence” for the ST.1 god. Although it is reasonable to believe that ST.1 god possibly exists, without hard evidence it is not reasonable to believe that it probably exists, as Jako seems to do.

Jako thinks about the possibility of an intentionally unverifiable god, but if such a god existed, this fact could not be distinguished from the existence of no god, and so there would be no good reason to believe in such a god. Despite Jako’s claim, this god would not “make more sense than not.” If the ST.1 god rarely intervenes in earthly and human affairs, then he would not be unverifiable—there should be detectable signs of his rare interventions. Jako cannot have it both ways.

If the problem of evil is a powerful argument against a good god and a perhaps a clincher for atheism— as Jako admits—then it would not be reasonable for him to believe that any good and powerful god exists. At best his ST.1 god would have to be amoral, and at worst immoral or evil. For example, if the ST.1 god did exist, then he should be considered responsible for natural disasters since he would be the creator and sustainer of the world. Natural disasters would occur only because this god wanted them to occur. Does Jako admire or worship this ST.1 god? If this god did exist, I would abhor him.

If a god who transcends space, time, nature, and logic is the only kind of god which makes sense to Jako, then that is fine for him, but that kind of god will make no sense at all to nearly all human persons, especially skeptics. A god who transcended time couldn’t do anything at all, including create and sustain our universe, so the definition of the ST.1 god actually becomes self-contradictory. If the ST.1 god transcends logic and is intentionally unverifiable (leaves no evidence of his existence), as Jako apparently believes, then Jako has no tools of skepticism or reason to convince the rest of us skeptics to accept his claim. He is relying totally on faith or wishful thinking.

With regard to a first cause, Jako claims that there are three possibilities: “1. The universe has always existed. 2. The universe came into existence out of nothing. 3. The universe was created by an entity.” This is a false trichotomy since these three possibilities are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. If the universe always existed, then it may have undergone a great transformation (beginning with the Big Bang) and this change may have had no cause at all, an unintelligent physical cause, an intelligent physical one, an unintelligent nonphysical cause, or an intelligent nonphysical one. If the universe came into existence out of nothing (#2), then, likewise, this may have had no cause at all, an unintelligent physical cause, an intelligent physical one, an unintelligent nonphysical cause, or an intelligent nonphysical one. So, there seem to be at least ten possibilities instead of just three.

Jako seems to think that the most likely of these alternatives is that the universe came into existence from nothing and this event had an intelligent nonphysical cause. I think he has embraced the least likely of the ten alternatives. Arguably, the most likely scenario is that the universe has always existed and underwent a great transformation (beginning with the Big Bang) for which there was an unintelligent physical cause. This is supported best by the evidence and Occam’s Razor. The Law of Conservation of Matter-Energy supports the hypothesis of an eternal universe. There have been millions of demonstrations of the transformation of matterenergy, but no demonstrations of the creation or destruction of it. We have no evidence of nonphysical causes. There have been billions of demonstrations of the connection of intelligence to complex physical structures, brains in particular, and no demonstrations of the connection of intelligence to anything else. Brains appear to be a very recent development in the 13.8-billion-year history of our universe since the Big Bang. This explanation is also based on the least number of assumptions.

Jako says that a spiritual thing, like the ST.1 god, would not need a cause. But how does he know this? He doesn’t. It makes more sense to me that there was an infinite regress of physical causes rather than that a nonphysical intelligence was the first cause of our universe. We know that there have been multiple series of physical causes extending all the way back to the Big Bang. It is more probable that these series extended backwards before the Big Bang than that they simply stopped at that moment. Also, there is no evidence of nonphysical causes.

When considering the origins of existence we don’t need to step outside the boundaries of science, as Jako insists. Instead we should use science, our best tool for investigating reality, to hypothesize about what we don’t already know. Dispensing with evidence and logic does not have a proven track record of success.

When Jako suggests that we need the ST.1 god to fill “the ultimate gap,” i.e. “how the whole thing started,” then by “whole thing” he could mean the universe itself or he could mean merely the Big Bang. But if the universe always existed, then that “whole thing” never started, and Jako is begging the question. On the other hand, we don’t have a good explanation of the Big Bang, but we should not assume that this constitutes a gap that will never be filled. If that gap is filled, then will Jako come up with a new “ultimate gap?”

Jako says that it makes more sense to him that life came from life than that life came from nonlife, but this should not make more sense to him since the evidence does not support that hypothesis. There is evidence of nonliving things existing on the Earth prior to 3.5 billion years ago, but there is no evidence of living things existing on the Earth prior to that time. Although there are other possible explanations, the best explanation for now is that some nonliving things changed into living things through a process not yet fully understood. Scientists specializing in biochemistry and related fields are working on the problem and there are good reasons to think they will eventually solve it. Contrary to there being a “gap,” there are in fact at least half a dozen testable hypotheses to explain the origin of life. Just because there is little agreement on which one is likeliest to be true does not mean the problem is an insoluble one.

Jako also says that it makes more sense to him that intelligence came from intelligence than that intelligence came from nonintelligence. However, intelligence is always associated with brains (robots may become an exception), and there is no evidence for the existence of brains prior to the advent of multicellular organisms on the Earth. Contrary to what Jako believes, most scientists, atheists and theists alike, think that life came from nonlife and intelligence came from nonintelligence during the course of Earth’s history.

Jako finds it miraculous that when he scratches his arm during yard work the wound is healed a few days later. But there is no miracle here. The natural physical healing process is well understood. He says “I think there is an indefinable life force.” If something is indefinable, then what observations could be made to support or undermine its existence? How could it be distinguished from nothing? Before the 1850s, belief in vitalism was still widespread, but it is an idea now rejected by the overwhelming consensus of biologists. Jako says “I do not believe in miracles, but I think life itself is a miracle.” This is equivalent to saying “I do not believe in any miracles, but I believe in at least one miracle,” which is an internal contradiction.

Jako says “Science may tell us the details of how something happens, but not why it should happen. I think this sustaining force can reasonably be interpreted as God caring about us.” Jako does not tell us what would be the difference between the questions “Why did it happen?” vs. “Why should it have happened?” By using “should” did he mean to bring in a moral consideration? I don’t know. At any rate, “why” questions usually refer to motives of persons. Science can sometimes tell us why persons have engaged in some acts, but it cannot tell us why water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, why life exists, or why there is gravity. These types of questions are meaningless, unless there exists some super person responsible for these facts whose motives can be examined. So, asking “why” questions begs the question of god’s existence. In addition, if the ST.1 god did exist and cared about us, as Jako suggests, then there shouldn’t be any of those pesky natural disasters. So the ST.1 god very probably doesn’t exist.

Jako believes that the argument that “life on Earth can be explained only by God’s design, not by sheer luck” is a “half decent argument.” It is not. First, design by God or ST.1 god is not the only explanation for life on Earth. Secondly, “sheer luck” is not the only alternative to some god’s design. A combination of natural orderly processes and sheer luck is probably the best explanation. The claim presented by Jako is not nearly “half decent.”

Applying skepticism, reason, and critical thinking skills to Soft Theism I can confidently conclude that this hypothesis is very probably false. Like the minority of scientists who believe in one god or another, e.g. Francis Collins, Hugh Ross, etc., Miklos Jako is the victim of “compartmentalization of the mind.” Although he is adept at being skeptical with respect to some questions (“Do mediums communicate with the dead?), he fails to generalize his critical thinking skills to other questions (“Does a god exist?). I certainly accept Miklos Jako into the family of skeptics, but I encourage him to extend his skepticism even further. END

39 Comments »

39 Comments

  1. Roy Niles says:

    If the universe came into being from nothing, explain where whatever of the listed alternatives that could have caused it had possibly been waiting there to cause it at the time, since it would seem nothing is not a something that either some causative physical or intelligent entity could have come from either.
    And further, as to the entrance on the scene of intelligence, this statement that “intelligence is always associated with brains” is just as silly, unless the author still believes that bacteria and such have no intelligence.

    • Ruth Walker says:

      How is believing a god existed first any easier than believing that the universe(s) always existed or that nothing (as described by Lawrence Krauss) existed before the universe(s)? http://www.youtube.com/user/LawrenceKrauss

      • Roy Niles says:

        Believing in a God that has always been there would be sensible = it’s the belief in a God as a universal determinator that makes no logical sense. And if this God determined that we had a modicum of free will to make our behavioral choices, why do we always come up with gods that punish us for doing what they essentially have made us do.
        And Krauss of course has later conceded that wave systems of energy would have to have existed or there would have been no pre-existing laws of physics.

        • Bob Pease says:

          The omly amswer to questions of this type is
          “Hmmmm… That sounds interesting !!! Tell me more about THAT!! ”

          Otherwise you come Up with absolute gigglestoned statements like “Waiting around for time to begin…”

          The problem with a positivist rebuttal is that nobody likes to be told that stuff they consider profound doesn’t even make sense.

          The usual reaction is to treat you as a snob or a moron and lose emotional control of the proceedings..

          Dr. S

  2. Jeffrey W. Tenney says:

    I encourage the skeptical mindset to try re-framing the concept of what the author calls “soft theism.” The concept of a “god” or “greater intelligence” as a universe creator becomes much more plausible (I would say probable) when the universe, and intelligent life within it, are seen as a game. Human life is structured upon 16 characteristics that are familiar to us in games. Once viewed in this way, it is difficult to make sense out of life any other way. Furthermore, there IS scientific evidence supporting this view–it need not be “based in faith or trust in magic.” For more on this, see http://jeffreywtenney.hubpages.com/hub/The-Universe-Game-and-Immortality.

    • Jay says:

      I would still say that even if it is a game, that only begs the question where the player(s) came from in the first place. If you want to explain apparent design by invoking a pre-existing entity powerful and complex enough to create the apparent design you are trying to explain, you are not solving the question. You’re making it more difficult, more vexing, and declare it solved because you want it to be so. Does that really make sense?

      • Jeffrey W. Tenney says:

        The article I referred to provides evidence of design, then explores who the “designer” might be. I don’t know how you would go about explaining design without including a designer in that explanation. I don’t think that is “presupposing.” My suggestion is that the players are the designer.

        • Trish says:

          In the case of evolution the “designer” is not an individual, eternal intelligence, but the cumulative effects of billions of decisions made by billions of individual creatures about what characteristics are most attractive in a mate, and the success of the subsequent offspring.

          • Roy Niles says:

            The question that remains to ask again is that if all these apparently biological entities were choosing ways to creatively evolve themselves, and obviously must have used some form of an intelligent choice making process in order to continuously, regularly, and predictively succeed as they have, could that really (as Shermer and many others who have commented here in kind would have it) have been a process that came late to the world’s evolving species? An intelligence for that has magically and accidentally spontaneously emerged from a world and a universe that had never, ever, had the luck to come upon that accidentally magical process since the also unexplainable emergence of time itself?

          • Trish says:

            I do not categorize the majority of the decisions that have driven evolution over time to be “creative “. Most were more along lines of “Is this the best opportunity I have to get to mate?” And before sexual reproduction developed as an option, the decisions were probably of the immediate, binary sort.

  3. A.L. Zinn says:

    My best recent read is “Why Does the World Exist?” by Jim Holt. In it he looks at classical and contemporary philosophies and asks “Why is there something instead of nothing?” No matter who ponders the eternal “Why?” question their answer when logic fails always comes down to a blunt-force, all powerful god-ish entity. As we see with Jaco, instead of using the “G-word” for his blunt force skip-across of causality and logic he employs a magical entity – the biggest animistic whopper of all – an “intelligence” as vast as our ever expanding universe. It provides a rhetorical juju mask for those who can’t face-up to atheism.

  4. Joe Crowson says:

    I say who cares. It is a moot argument which will not be answered any time soon. I have better things to worry about besides if there is a god or not or why we are here. I don’t need answers to these types of questions to sleep at night and I think we should be more concerned with other religious type debates such as social and political issues.

    • Trish says:

      Well, it would be a moot question if it weren’t for people who are willing to shrink our constitutional rights, and some who are willing to kill people in the name of their conception of god.

      • Joe Crowson says:

        I don’t think you understood my point. Yes, we should debate issues that involve people trying to kill in the name of their religion, or abortion, or trying to push religion into science classes. You can tackle those issues without dealing with the “God created the universe! Then who created the creator?” argument, which is just an annoying vicious circle. I tend to end a debate when it gets to this point….because I’m not going to beat my head against a brick wall.

        • Joe Crowson says:

          And when I say “to this point”, I mean to where a religious debate gets to the “who created the universe” point. Not speaking of our discussion now.

          • Trish says:

            Hi Joe Crowson,

            Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond, but have been giving thought to your response. It’s true that in conversation, and certain political situations, leaving the question of the existence of god out of the equation leads to more peaceful and constructive interactions. But it’s question that can’t go forever unexamined.

            And I have to say, that the comments section of an article about someone’s supposed workaround to the problem of the complete lack of existence for god, is a totally appropriate place to discuss nonbelief, and the complete lack of existence in god/s.

  5. Kenn Kirby says:

    I never heard this term before, `soft theism’; I like it! I find this article brilliant!

    The reason this article had to be written is that god-propounders will try anything to convince others that there is a god the rest of us just can’t see.

    The basis of ‘proof’ for any God just doesn’t exist. The problem is always this: There is no tangible person, thing, substance, or repetitive phenomena (the last being the most important) that indicates a God, or first cause.

    Someone recently proposed the old argument that if there is a universe and things in it that are `made’, then there must be a `maker’. It’s the old watch-watchmaker argument. However, with the watch, we can always, given enough resources (time, maps, etc.) find the watchmaker. With the universe, there is no maker to be found.

    The confusion in looking for any type of god is relatively easy to pinpoint. There is a need to source out an analogous source that relates to something we want to be, i.e., a kind benefactor like a Santa Clause that gets rid of evil, or in the case of the universe’s first cause, a simple explanation for a complex problem. Who really wants to spend half a lifetime tackling difficult concepts like string theory? Science is tough on the brain. It’s much easier to let a god-concept explain everything for us, assuage our fears, offer us comfort, make us feel better.

    We do know that enzymes combine to form proteins, proteins combine to form cellular material (along with other substance). What precisely combines to form god? Easy enough … tingles in the skin, good feelings, a sweeping of ghosts out from under our bed so that we can sleep at night, and finally, a simple answer to stop making our heads hurt when we have to tackle the difficult questions like `why do stars exist.’

    No matter in what form god is represented, he/she is just a vague summation of how a person projects his/her desired explanation on phenomena that must be explained in a simple and comforting manner.

    I’m all for people believing in a god if they need comfort. It’s just that they scare me when the forcefully try to influence others with the old proverbial `argumentum ad baculum’, where the big stick or the loud voice tries to win the argument when there’s just not enough substance to prevail.

    • Trish says:

      I absolutely love your description of what elements “god” is made of.

      I would possibly add that god can be used to shut up someone gives you a headache with their questions about what holds up the stars – not to mention shutting up anyone who wants to know why the members of society do the most onerous tasks get the fuzzy end of the lollypop, while those whose jobs include muttering prayers in temples/churches or plotting with/against other descendants of rich people deserve the majority of the goodies life has to offer, and justify whatever force is required to shut those people up.

  6. Trish says:

    Several times in recent years, I have told a believer I’m an atheist and gotten a response along the lines of, “But what about those experiences you can’t explain?” I haven ‘t had any experience that can’t be explained by material functions. This has left believers speechless.

    To me, belief in a deity requires taking another human’s word for it, since nothing is happening in the known universe that shows any fingerprints of a nonhuman, omnipotent being. And since humans are known to have the capacity to lie- including to ourselves – how can so many people so easily accept the word of any human that claims to have received info from a nonhuman omnipotent being? Why, if that being wants me to have the message would that being not tell me directly?

    And why is it easier for some people to believe in a secondhand message from a deity than it is to believe that I have never had an exlerience that can’t be explained by the laws of nature &/0r the workings of my own human brain?

    • Jay says:

      Your last question is easy: we are genetically predisposed to accept, even seek out, authority. It has a lot to do with kids just, on average, living longer if they did what they were told, such as not swimming in the crocodile-infested river. Sometimes, such as with those kids, it makes sense. Sometimes it doesn’t, such as when the instructions given are stupid, or when that genetic predisposition bunches up with another, the tendency to see agents where there are none. That, too, makes sense -inferring intentions works with sentient beings, and it can be a useful shortcut with inanimate objects such as thunderclouds and precariously-balanced half-stormthrown trees about to fall.

      The downside is that we tend to be naturally gullible, and tend to make connections, infer agents, believe in authorities, where there are none. There’s nothing more frightening than freedom, and many people will go to great lengths so they won’t have to face up to it. Theism provides you with a caring parent-figure and the reassurance that everything somehow makes sense, or at least with someone to complain to.

      It’s one more instant of neoteny in us juvenile apes. We can take the step away from it, those predispositions do not determine our fates and minds. But it takes an effort.

      Those people with their “inexplicable experiences” haven’t made that effort, and they feel so comfy in their imaginings that they want more and more “inexplicable experiences”. That’s not a good condition for trying to explain things such as the altered mental state known to artists as “flow” and similar things common in, among others, evangelical Christians during service. That kind of stuff is addictive. And an addict finds it hard to imagine a life without their drug. As a smoker, I know what I’m talking about there.

      Now if either you’re right, or you have to admit that you’re a slave to mental neoteny and an addict to self-induced altered states of mind, which one do you pick? “Retard” or “possessed of the truth”?

      • Trish says:

        Hi Jay,

        I don’t know that children are so innately inclined to listen & obey – watch some episodes of Supernanny for evidence to the contrary. Also, even if it were true for toddlers living in crocodile-infested regions, there’s still the matter of human adolescence, when rebellion is a natural part of development.

        As an artist, I don’t rely so much on an “altered mental state” so much as I rely on getting off my butt to actually produce work.

        I am an ex-smoker. As a skeptic, I don’t believe in “addiction”. I think what contemporary American society calls “addiction” is a collection of bad behaviors plus strong incentives provided by society & the criminal justice system (and some employers) to claim this form of “powerlessness”. (Did you know that AA for decades specifically excluded cigarets from the potential “triggers” for drinking relapse?). There is no evidence-based way to diagnose “addiction”. All it is is self-diagnosis &/or accusation. If the accusation is refuted, that is “denial” which is counted as a symptom. It’s an unfalsifiable claim. (I also don’t believe in the ineviability of quitting one bad habit predisposing a person to acquire another)

        I do agree with you that many people are attached to “inexplicable experiences”. But I also suspect that those folks associate those experiences with being “blessed” or special.

        • Trish says:

          P.S. Even more baffling to me is that when I report to such people a lack of such experiences they seem so surprised. If such experiences are such special & rare events, why are they assumed to be universal?

  7. Miklos Jako says:

    Jako’s Response to Whittenberger

    It’s good to get a reasonable critique of my position. Let me respond, keeping in mind that I think it’s extremely tricky, if not impossible, to get a decent resolution to most of these issues. We have such different starting points, and come at ideas so differently. A theist/philosophical worldview, and an atheist/scientific one, usually mix like oil and water.

    First, one correction: I think you accidentally included a deistic type God (a God who does not concern Itself with human affairs) as part of my position. Rather, I believe in a theistic God, who does care, but, not in any tangible, verifiable way. In effect, a theistic God who acts for the most part like a deistic God.

    I agree that intelligence cannot exist by itself separate from a living person. There are no such things as ghosts. Any intelligence needs a physical substratum to exist. Yet I think God, a great disembodied intelligence, does exist and does not need a physical substratum. Special pleading? Well, yes, but in considering the God question, we’re now dealing with a different category or level of reality – no longer biology and physics, but philosophy and metaphysics.

    Looking at life from the broadest cosmic perspective, I think intelligence developing out of molecules requires a greater intelligence outside of those molecules, to make that happen.

    I categorically deny that my position involves superstition or belief in magic. I can’t think of any example. It seems to me you are preemptively simply defining belief in any God as a necessary subset of superstition.

    The only “magic” I believe in is magic of a different kind – the magic between two people in love, or the beauty of a nature scene, or a great sports play. I find science does not really explain that kind of magic. I think it’s reasonable to posit a reality beyond the scope of science.

    I don’t say the God I believe in – the “Soft Theist” God – intervenes rarely. I say He probably doesn’t intervene at all. At the same time I don’t see God as a disinterested deist God. Creating a universe and not caring about the most interesting part of that creation, the human drama, doesn’t make sense to me. Rather than specific interventions by God (prayer, miracles), I see certain aspects of life that can be reasonably interpreted as His general care for us:

    1. The fact that the human species is largely thriving on the planet. 2. The fact that our bodies generally heal. 3. The fact that the world is intelligible and navigable, rather than a total crapshoot. 4. The fact that we have many deep meaningful experiences.

    Granted, all those facts, can be also interpreted as indicating nothing other than that’s just the way the world is. Hence the label “Soft Theism.” There’s no hard evidence, like verified answered prayers. Only this “soft” evidence.

    You say such a God would be indistinguishable from no God. OK. But then you say there would then be no good reason to believe in such a God. But I think the logic that life must have come ultimately from life, intelligence ultimately from intelligence, constitutes such a good reason.

    You say I can’t have it both ways, an occasionally intervening God that is at the same time unverifiable, with no detectable signs of His intervention. I don’t claim He intervenes occasionally. I think He probably never intervenes. But even if He did, I don’t agree that that intervention has to be necessarily detectable.

    You asked if I should admire this God who causes natural disasters. Shouldn’t I abhor such a God? Answer: Yes! I hate the bastard. I have mixed feelings, for this mixed God. I love Him for the good stuff, hate Him for the bad stuff. And the problem of evil is the main reason I think atheism is a valid position. If you think a putative God should be benevolent, and verifiable by science, then atheism makes perfect sense.

    Dan Barker is right. We humans are better than God. We wouldn’t create such a brutal world. It’s a no-brainer: Make all animals herbivores, for crying out loud.

    But, for me, the concept of a universe that came into existence from nothing, or from an infinite regress of physical causes, or a world of meaningful experiences without a context of ultimate meaning, makes less sense than positing this very mixed God.

    You say a God who transcends time and space couldn’t do anything in time or space, because He transcends it. Michael Shermer has expressed that concept as well. That if God exists then there would have to be some detectable physical mechanism by which He intervenes in our world. There isn’t, and therefore God does not exist. From a scientific worldview, yes, that makes sense. But that’s where I think science falls short. God transcending the physical world does not mean that He is some completely separate entity, but that He is an entity that surpasses the laws of nature, and the necessity of being detectable.

    Sure, I’m just speculating, but as I’m fond of saying, I think it’s warranted speculation, if one wants to figure out life, beyond scientific principles.

    Yes, belief in God has all the earmarks of wishful thinking, but I insist that is not the case for me. Granted, I do want there to be a God, but I claim I have come to my conclusions through rational, objective thought. If one starts with the worldview that science is the measure of ultimate reality, then I do seem to have gone off the rails in my thinking. But, my worldview, my starting point, is that there is a greater reality than science. There there’s not just the laws of nature, but an intelligence behind the laws of nature.

    Does the scientist who understands the Higgs boson particle necessarily understand life better than the person who has good relationships? There’s more to life than science.

    I’m not really a fideist who believes because of emotional rather than logical reasons. It’s that, intellectually, I find the idea of no ultimate meaning to life, an irrational state of affairs. Partial meaning does not compute for me. I think meaning must come from greater meaning. Like a branch can’t exist by itself, but must come from a greater source, a tree.

    Emotionally I don’t get that much out of belief in God, since He is so non-intervening. I’m mostly stoic, and feel I must be satisfied with the four indications of His care I listed above. And be satisfied with the natural joys of life.

    You say we have no evidence of non-physical causes. I disagree. I think the cause of
    my raising my arm is non-physical. If you say that the cause of my arm going up is the contraction of certain muscles, then you have to consider the antecedent cause, what made those muscles contract, and so on. You run out of physical causes pretty quickly. I think the real cause of my arm going up is my own free will, a non-physical cause. And I view the universe analogously; the ultimate cause of the universe is non-physical – God’s will.

    Agreed, I don’t know that God Himself does not need a cause, but it seems logical to me. Maybe the universe IS an endless regression of physical causes, something before the Big Bang, and on and on. But that scenario seems less likely to me than a great intelligence as a first cause.

    If science discovers what came before the Big Bang, will I then come up with a new gap? Yep, exactly. I would then ask how did that before-the-Big-Bang state of affairs come about? I think there will always be that ultimate gap, which can only be resolved by positing a non-material origin. Now, that is not at all to say science shouldn’t explore the new gap; it absolutely should. But it seems to me that that final gap will always, as science progresses, keep receding. I don’t know, maybe positing God not as the first cause, but as the overall cause, makes some sense.

    Life coming from non-life? Your claim that historically there was non-life, and then there was life, and therefore life CAN come from non-life, strikes me as question-begging. Whatever scientific theory one has (these 1,000 chemicals under these particular conditions, over time, cause life), I don’t find that to be an ultimately satisfying explanation. It explains how it came about, the ingredients or conditions for its coming about. But it doesn’t explain that it should come about. That’s a subtle but crucial difference that I find atheists consistently dismiss rather than ponder.

    Having a scratch on my arm heal? You say science well understands the natural healing process. OK, yes, all the ingredients, chemicals, and conditions for it. But to a theistic mind that is not a satisfactory explanation. It explains how it happens; it says this is what happens under these conditions, but it doesn’t say why it should happen, it doesn’t say what makes the whole thing happen. Again, the difference in perspective. To an atheist, saying God made it happen, explains nothing. To a theist, explaining the physical process doesn’t ultimately explain it.

    Why is there gravity? I think, so life can exist. I see intention, a motive if you will, behind the universe. God meant for life and consciousness to flourish. I think human life and the attendant drama of making moral decisions is the purpose of life. Though I reject the Christian version of the purpose of life, I do see human life as a morality play. We’re here, not by accident, but to see if we can be good people within a challenging environment. I don’t know that, but that’s what makes sense to me.

    Don’t forget, I AM skeptical of God’s existence. Soft Theism doesn’t mean believing in God, but believing in the probability of God.

    When I was in college I conducted an experiment for myself very deliberately: I decided to live two weeks as an atheist, to see where it went. After two weeks, I realized there’s not much difference; I was being the same person, doing the same things I usually do. By your thinking, I should conclude that there is therefore no compelling reason to believe in God, whereas by my thinking I concluded there is therefore no compelling reason not to believe in God.

    Of course in later years I came to the firm conclusion that the Christian God does not exist. And that’s where we are on the same page. Traditional religion should be dumped, or at least the bad parts. And people, if they love parts of their religion, should continue not as religious Christians, Jews, and Muslims, but as CULTURAL Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Keep some of the good teachings and treasured customs, but drop the theology, drop the religion as a belief system.

    I know I probably have not convinced you at all of the reasonableness of my position. Like I said, a speculative / philosophical mindset and a scientific mindset do not mix well. It’s like people speaking different languages. As much as I disagree with Dinesh D’Souza on most points, I think he makes an excellent point about the difference between atheist thinking and theist thinking: Why is that pot of water boiling? To a scientist, because it has reached a certain temperature. To a theist, because I am making some tea for myself. Theists see things in a world of intentions.

    At any rate, I appreciate your thoughts, and that your criticism was offered strongly but without rancor or animosity. Of course, I get it from all sides. Some Christians think I’m contemptible and dim-witted; some atheists think that of me, and some New Agers for sure. Hah. I must be doing something right. MJ

    • Trish says:

      Miklos Jako,

      You say you understand that intelligence does not exist without a physical structure but in the next paragraph declare belief in a deity that has no physical structure – with absolutely no evidence to support this belief outside of declaring it to be so. Just because we don’t yet know about what happened before the Big Bang or how & when life emerged from inanimate matter does not mean belief in a non- physical being is justified – or that it’s even even logical to posit to such a potential being, or that science will never find out what was before the Big Bang or how life emerged on our inanimate planet. There was a time when humans didn’t know that stars are suns, many larger than our Sol, or that microbes cause illness, and the intellectual efforts of humans got us that information.

      You say that humans are largely thriving on this planet. Yet so many are not – people die too young of awful diseases, in war or accidents; many live in horrific poverty – and a lot of what makes the many people who are thriving is the use of science and technology by humans to change elements of nature that don’t work so well for us. The fact that prehistoric human populations counted in the tens or hundreds of thousands, with lifespans of 2-3 decades, while living in the conditions nature (and if a god existed god would be part of those conditions) while postindustrial humans are now in the billions, and in many nations have life expectancies approaching 80, demonstrates that it is the efforts of humans who accept the fact that the physical universe is all we have to work with that improved conditions for many, but not all, contemporary humans.

      You say a scientific mindset and a speculative philosophical mindset don’t mix well as if that justifies belief in the existence of a nonphysical intelligence. Just because it would be lovely to have an ancient intelligence looking out for you &/0r your species isn’t evidence in favor of the existence of such a nonphysical intelligence.

      As an atheist, I find your 2-weeks-living-as-an-atheist experiment slightly insulting. It sorta sounds like you think of atheism as a superficial stance, that can be put on or taken off like Amish clothing. Atheism is facing the fact that there is no evidence for god/s, accepting the conclusion that we live in a universe without god/s and living with that state of affairs. Atheism isn’t just skipping your usual prayers & rituals. The fact that you came out of your two-week-atheist experiment saying you didn’t find a reason to believe god does not exist shows that you are ignoring a very basic element of the scientific worldview: it’s up to the person making the claim to supply the evidence (and Carl Sagan’s uber-important message – extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof). Yet you are trying to support your claim by pointing to the very lack of evidence that is at the heart of an atheist’s nonbelief in god/s.

      I think you “soft theism” boils down to this: you find atheists that you’ve met to be interesting & delightful people (i know I have) and you want to fit in with the atheists but you don’t want to give up the comfort of having an imaginary friend who, even if that being doesn’t communicate with you directly at least creates conditions that make it possible for you to thrive, and you want to believe that you can share your “workaround” for the problem that there is no evidence for, and I would argue substantial evidence against, any form of god.

      • Miklos Jako says:

        Trish,

        Agreed, there is “absolutely no evidence” (scientific evidence), but I am not going by evidence, but by logic. And I think it IS logical to posit a God, because otherwise the regress of physical causes is infinite. No matter what science discovers about before the big bang, or how life started, it still does not really explain it, because you can always ask the next question of how that cause came about. I think it makes more sense to posit an ultimate non-physical being or intelligence behind the whole thing. And this in no way denies the value of science, but rather claims science cannot be the ultimate answer.

        I agree that science has done much more for humanity than religion. I had a detached retina several years ago. Who saved my sight? Wonderful doctors. Science. Not God. God gave me the problem in the first place (near-sighted people sometimes get a detached retina as they get older and the shape of the eye changes). But, I also recognize that our bodies have this healing ability. My eye didn’t just stay a mess after the operation; it healed. I don’t dismiss that ability as simply part of nature. I attribute it to a life force that comes from God.

        I don’t believe in the probability of God because it would be nice. I believe it because it makes more sense to me.

        I thought my 2 week atheist experiment was legit. Had nothing to do with prayers or rituals. I got into a deep mindset of there being no great intelligence behind the world. You say “The fact that you came out of your two-week-atheist experiment saying you didn’t find a reason to believe god does not exist shows that you are ignoring a very basic element of the scientific worldview…” That statement shows you are presupposing a scientific worldview, and that ultimate reality is determined by science. Yes, science demands evidence. But I keep saying I am not doing science, but philosophy. Science (evidence) shows me there is no traditional intervening God (the 2006 STEP study on prayer, for example), so I’m trying to reason out whether a non-intervening general God makes sense. And to me, it does.

        That’s a reasonable assessment of my motives – my wanting to fit in. (A.L. Zinn below makes the same assessment.) But it really doesn’t apply to me. I’m not motivated by wanting to fit in; I don’t have family or friends that influence me one way or the other. I’m something of a lone wolf personality. And my concept of God does not give me much comfort. I’m pretty stoic when it comes to God.

        However, when I see a beautiful tree, I see (non-scientific) “evidence” of God. When an atheist sees a beautiful tree, he or she just sees a beautiful tree. The atheist sees no need to speculate about anything beyond science. I do.

        • Trish says:

          Miklos Jako,

          If you think that it “makes sense” to claim there’s a god in absence of scientific evidence, then you don’t understand logic or science or what constitutes support of a claim.

          What you’re doing isn’t science, but isn’t philosophy, either. The pursuit of wisdom that is Philosophy is not an alternative to the rules, rigor and transparency of logic and the scientific method. A pursuit that treats logic, evidence and the scientific method as only part of reality is mere fantasy.

          Of course you believe your 2-weeks-an-atheist experiment “is legit”. What doesn’t matter is particular religious practices you did before/after 2-weeks-as-if-atheist. What matters is that belief-in-god continued to exist in your mind. The entire enterprise was to designate a finite time period of acting as-if, but with belief-in-god intact before, during and after.

          Atheists don’t live “as if” there’s no god. We live in the knowledge that there is not a shred of evidence to support the existence of a god.

          A ‘beautiful tree” is “nonscientific evidence” of god? There is no such a thing as “nonscientific evidence”, and no such a thing as a claim that does not require evidence to be accepted as part of material reality.

          You seem to be convinced that the experience of an atheist, or person of a scientific mindset, of that “beautiful tree” is less-than your experience (“just a beautiful tree”). But that atheist might see something in the way the light hits that tree that inspires a painting. Or another atheist might see the hydraulics that cause water to go up to he highest leaves, or the ant colony that uses the tree as a city – or might watch an apple fall from that tree and develop a grasp of how gravity works.

          That you see the minds of atheists and science-minded people as a limited phenomenon compared to yours; that you believe you have everything atheists/scientists have, but you also have an unproven something somehow more valuable, is exactly why I think your 2-weeks-an-atheist “experiment” is illegitimate.

          • Miklos Jako says:

            You keep saying I don’t understand science, and I keep insisting I am not doing science. But then you also claim I am not doing philosophy either. I think I am. I think it is very illogical to discard the idea of a God because there is no scientific evidence for God. I think scientism, the idea that science is the ultimate arbiter of everything, is unnecessarily limiting.

            It’s interesting how you are convinced you know what was in my mind better than I do. I was not acting “as if” there were no God during that two week period. I lived for two weeks not believing in a God. I didn’t swim out still tethered to the dock. I jumped all the way in and swam out. Otherwise, it would have been a pointless, inauthentic experiment.

            Every time an atheist uses the phrase “not a shred of evidence,” I know they are thinking only scientifically and refuse to think outside the scientific box. You say there is no such thing as “nonscientific evidence.” I disagree. John might love Mary, and science cannot determine which it is. Only lines of logic can. (He always responds to her needs, etc.)

            I’ve used this example before, of the dual physical/spiritual nature of reality: Say a good friend is killed by a falling boulder. Which is the greater reality? The boulder or your friendship? Obviously, in one sense, the physical boulder, because it killed your friend. But obviously, in another sense, your friendship and what that person meant to you, because a boulder is just boulder with little meaning. There are things beyond science, and often those things are the very ones that define us as human beings.

            You keep talking about logic, but you never address or ponder the illogic of how life came from non-life, or intelligence from non-intelligence.

            I would not say an atheist’s experience of a beautiful tree is less than mine. It could easily be more, and you suggest some examples. But, I would say his or her philosophical grounding for experiencing that beauty is weaker than mine. For the atheist, that tree is ultimately just molecules, beautifully arranged molecules, but still just molecules. Whereas I see immaterial beauty as something real. I say beauty exists. Don’t you, as an atheist, a scientific reductionist, have to admit there is really no such thing as beauty, because it cannot be scientifically measured?

            Yes, I do think science-only minded people are limiting their life experience. Like the atheist who prayed for one row of radishes and not the other, and they both grew the same, and he concluded there is therefore no God. So that’s it? You’re not going to go further? Now, I agree that an intervening God (prayer, miracles, etc.) has for all intents and purposes been disproven. But Soft Theism is speculating about a God who is non-intervening, some great unverifiable intelligence behind the world.

            Yes, I do think I have “an unproven something somehow more valuable” than just science. I’m not saying I’m a better person than an atheist. As a soft theist I entertain the possibility of an ultimate meaning to life, an ultimate resolution, a purpose to the universe, beyond science.

            It’s interesting to note that I grant you the possibility that you are right, that no God exists. I could be wrong. But you seem to think you can’t be wrong.

          • Trish says:

            Miklos Jaco,

            I said in paragraph #2, of my above post, what you are doing is not science.

            Science continues to be an issue because you keep saying you have evidence. But that which cannot be put to scientific testing is not not evidence, it’s a claim, nothing but hot air. If you want to not hear about how you aren’t understanding science you should use to describe what makes you think there’s this undetectable, noninteractive god a word other than “evidence” since that word is already in use in the context of science (as well as in our justice system – it’s been 300 yrs since a court in N America accepted spectral evidence)

            I pointed out twice that the limited duration makes your 2-week-atheist thing entirely unlike actual atheism. Knowing you’re going to believe in god at the turn of a calendar page is in no way Not Believing In God. For actual, real life atheists, it is taking as a given there’s no god and fully expecting this to be permanent (absent new evidence that survives scientific evidence and peer review).

            I continue to find it insulting that you cannot recognize a distinction between you declaring that you can turn off and on a belief in god for a brief period of time and actually being an atheist. It’s not from any assumption about what is in your mind but from reading your description of your procedure, combined with your apparent inability to distinguish between your non-evidentiary “proof” of god and what the word “evidence” means that convinces me that what you did is an entirely different from what any atheist I know, including myself, would describe as atheism.

            You say that you “accept” that the atheist’s experience of a tree may not be less-than that of a god-believer, but then you describe science-minded people “limiting” experience. Do you think atheists are incapable of fantasizing, dreaming or imagining beyond what is in front of our faces? The difference is that I would not try to convince you that you can breathe in space without a space suit just because I dreamed I was sunbathing in a bikini on the moon, and Kekule didn’t announce the ring structure of benzene the morning after he had his dream about the uroboros – he tested the idea in his lab and then announced his evidence.

            I get the impression you think the more words you write the more effectively you have defended you point. Just so you know, as a reader, I come away no more convinced, no closer to entertaining the possibility of a god existing, than when I first read the above comments.

            You seem to think yourself magnamous for accepting the possibility of there not being a god compared to the conviction of never being wrong that you assume I have. But it’s not that I think I can’t be wrong – I think it is all too easy for me, as any human, to be wrong- which is why I trust science. The scientific method is the one thing that humans have come up with that seperates what actually exists from what any or even all humans would like to have be true.

            Since I feel this exchange has gotten into territory that consists more and more of re-wording the same points, i’m done.

            Have a nice weekend.

          • Trish says:

            Miklos Jako
            Please excuse the above misspelling of your last name. It was unintentional.

      • Miklos Jako says:

        Trish,

        I do not “keep saying” I have evidence. I keep saying I do NOT have evidence!! I don’t know what you are reading.

        Regarding my experiment, I did not know whether I would I would come out of it as an atheist, or a theist. My roommate at the time was an atheist, still one of my best friends today. Why you are so sure I don’t know what atheism is, I don’t know. Maybe check out my discussion with Dan Barker on YouTube. Not that anything there will change your mind, but maybe you’ll stop associating traditional religion with my position.

        The fact that you would even bring up the word “lab” shows me you are not getting what I keep trying to communicate, namely, that I am expressing a philosophical viewpoint; I am NOT doing science.

        You’ve been clear that any God must pass scientific evidence and peer review. I’ve been clear that “Soft Theism” is a concept of God based on reasonable speculation, not scientific evidence.

        We agree to disagree.

  8. A.L. Zinn says:

    Children are naturally skeptical but we as adults are not regressing – neotinicks.
    We tell kids absurd things to keep them in line and so that they continue with the habits of whatever cultural mythology prevails.

    Separation of faith and reason requires both intellectual and emotional effort. “Soft Theism” seems to make them a squishy and permeable dichotomy. Why bother? It is simple and safer in much of the world to declare yourself something or other. The first thing children learn is that deviance is never rewarded.

    You should hold on to a familiar spiritual environment. Thoughts and feelings that make you a moral and happy person at ease with others is more important. I am guessing that silent non-believers are probably the majority in developed countries. Secularism is rising!

    Breaking filthy habits is not akin to becoming a critical thinker. I would like to think acquiring any habit, good or bad, requires similar, learnable behavior. Am I hearing libertarianism here? Culturally imposed habits of thought are far more complex.

    Mr. Jako brought up the G word, swears he does not believe in it really, but sees in our entropic universe orderly patterns that may or may not suggest some kind of moral constancy – kind of an aggregation of disinterested forces trying to effectively be a god that he is willing to believe in yet at the same time believe in free will. For what, I don’t know. The Soft Way? I’m not seeing that he is proposing a Way so much. Although it reminds me of other practices that have a veneer of spirituality to make them fit in – All religions seem to have sectarian, not-quite science versions. I would say Buddhism (I know, NOT a religion at root) covers the full spirit/reason, soft/hard gamut people seek. Pillsbury Doughboy v. grizzly Christ/Devil. No contest!

    AZ

    • Trish says:

      AZ,

      In your 2nd-to-last paragraph, you say, “Quitting a filthy habit is not akin to becoming a critical thinker.” Since I had a paragraph that began by mentioning having quit smoking, I’m guessing that the comment about the filthy habit refers to what I wrote. But the thing is, I didn’t make that leap (quit cigs = learning critical thinking). I was responding to the post where Jay claimed that being a smoker gave him insight into belief in god as analogous to drug addiction. As a skeptic I don’t think “addiction” is a disease but a collection of bad behaviors & incentives from society to claim to be out-of-control and helpless. I also don’t believe that quitting one bad habit means that the person is vulnerable to taking up another bad habit.

      Quitting a bad habit may not be akin to developing critical thinking skills. But having developed my critical thinking skills, I find the concept of “addiction” to lack evidence. My critical thinking apparatus goes on alert because when someone who is characterized by someone as being addicted replying that they’re not being met with “you’re in denial, that’s a proof you’re addicted” – basically creating an unfalsfiable “diagnosis”.

      I don’t think it’s very useful to use an imaginary “disease” to model how or why people claim to believe in god.

      • Trish says:

        I think i need to add to the last thought. It might be useful to compare an imaginary disease to belief in god, as long as the imaginary disease is recognized as imaginary by the person doing the comparing. But if the collection of bad behaviors and responses to social/ judicial incentives that constitute “addiction” are assumed to be a disease ( one where self-diagnosis is the standard diagnosis method, where refuting the label is taken as proof the label is correct “you’re in denial & denial is proof you have what you deny you have, where there’s no objective way to distinguish who is/isn’t “addicted”) that seems less helpful to the discussion.

  9. A.L. Zinn says:

    Trish,

    I agree that which bad habits are addictive behaviors is a political issue.
    People with deviant views can’t just suck it up and quit the dominant society cold-turkey. Looking for a way out of rationality is easy. Society is composed of “received wisdoms” that make it easy. We go along to get along.

    You may have a reflexive nose for baloney and were fortunate to retain a childlike “but, WHY?” curiosity.

    Suggestions that faith and reason somehow correspond only muddies the waters. Periodically some otherwise brilliant person raises the g-word and it gets the whole science and religion thing started again. Scientists cringe at the mention of “God Particles” and the like.

    AZ

    • Trish says:

      Hi AZ,

      Wow! The idea that reason and faith are somehow equivalent is not the way I would ever look at the world, but it certainly explains things other people say/do that baffles me.

      I’m glad that you also see the not-a-disease that is “addiction” as a political phenomenon. I am concerned about it because I fear that including it under mental health parity might bankrupt our health care system, that the concept and the allowances made for it -as well as its evil sibling the war-on-drugs is perverting our justice system, and that people who suffer pain – especially kids who are viewed as particularly vulnerable to this not-a-disease and those in chronic pain, whose access to medication is restricted to accomodate the ideology of “addiction” and is at the mercy of politicians who want an east way to look “tough on crime” &/0r drug-war compliant.

      This is somewhat a tangent from soft theism, but maybe not so much. It definitely has cult qualities if not actual theism.

  10. daniel gautreau says:

    Jako doesn’t have anything new to say. It’s the same old fairy tales, pseudo-science, pseudo-logic, as a million others. It’s been analyzed and refuted before.

    • Trish says:

      He’s also not the first person to pretend this same-old same-old is something new.

    • Miklos Jako says:

      Same old fairy tales? What are you talking about? I never claimed any fairy tales. Just a philosophical, general God.

      Pseudo-science? The fact that you would accuse me of pseudo-science shows you are completely missing the point. I keep saying – I am not doing science! I’m engaged in philosophy. I’m speculating about how a general God might make some sense, versus the illogical (to me) atheist position that life and intelligence has somehow developed out of mere matter and physical forces.

      I’m not claiming that I am offering something especially new, but I am claiming “soft theism” is far superior to traditional religion. I think God, if God exists, wants us to behave well and that’s it. There’s no male chauvinism, homophobia, superstitions, prayer, miracles. No tangible intervention by God. What you should say is that you strongly disagree with me, but it’s an improvement over traditional religion. Eh?

      When you say it’s the same old same old, I can’t help but think you are assuming all kinds of concomitant ideas that come with traditional religion. My position is NOT like a million others. I deplore traditional religion as much as you do.

      Come on, you’ve got to give me some credit; I just used the word “concomitant”!

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Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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