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How We Believe: Science, Skepticism and the Search for God - by Michael Shermer

Dr. Michael Shermer was our guest on Thursday, May 27, 2004 at 10:00pm ET. The discussion focused on his book, How We Believe, although members bounced around to a variety of topics. This was one of our more unusual chat sessions where the tone seemed rather chaotic. In addition, Dr. Shermer wasn't very involved in the discussion.

May 27, 2004 10:00pm ET

Transcript of live chat session


Zach: Hello, Dr. Shermer

JeremyNYC: As for those who haven't' noticed, our guest has arrived!

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - what would you like to be called tonight?

PsychedelicShroom: hello Dr. Shermer

KevinBBG: Hello Dr. Shermer

pctacitus: evening dr. Shermer

Agnosticus_Caesar: hello

JeremyNYC: He'd like to be called "Nobel prize winner", but ....

Chris_O_Connor: At least I think he has arrived.

Michael_Shermer: Hello team. Glad to be here. What's on the agenda tonight?

Chris_O_Connor: You type on the bar at the very bottom.

Agnosticus_Caesar: I have an idea for a topic

JeremyNYC: Discussing "how we believe"

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - shoot

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - just a very casual chat

Agnosticus_Caesar: I just read Dr. Shermer's latest Scientific American article

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - glad you could spend some time with us

Chris_O_Connor: And I wasn't aware of the SCAIM articles

KevinBBG: I'm especially intrigue by the idea that the smarter we are the more able we are to rationalize strange beliefs.

Michael_Shermer: Type in the bar? I don't know anything about that. I'm sending my messages telepathically. Everyone, turn on your psychic powers right now...

Agnosticus_Caesar: the topic "Attachment Therapy" reminds me very much of psychoanalysis for some reason

Chris_O_Connor: lol

Zach: Is it in the new issue? I think I gave that one away before I got to it... I'll have to buy another copy now

Chris_O_Connor: Thats good

Chris_O_Connor: lol

Hypatiasm: LOL

tarav: hello

JeremyNYC: Wait... I'm getting a message... something about water...

KevinBBG: My telepathy module is in the shop.

bernt: Randy took that capability away from me decades ago :)

Zach: I'm getting something from a man named there a Bob here?

Zach: Does anyone know a Bob?

PsychedelicShroom: I know a bob

Chris_O_Connor: I have a topic I would like to discuss.... when we have time. I'm not excited about allowing the theist world to define atheism, which is what happens in our dictionaries. As you have stated dictionaries go with "usage" and not actual definitions

PsychedelicShroom: oooh thats a topic that is close to my heart

PsychedelicShroom: definitions

naddia: Good topic, Chris.

Chris_O_Connor: I'm not much in support of the "Bright" movement as a result.

concretized: Where would we find actual definitions? In nature somewhere?

DissidentHeart: hello folks

Hypatiasm: Hi, Dis

Chris_O_Connor: No, not in nature. Words are manmade constructs. Atheisms etymology is simple.

Agnosticus_Caesar: yup

Chris_O_Connor: A = without, theism = belief.

JeremyNYC: Hmm. There's a name for words like that, in grammer; I don't remember it off hand... but words like "land line" for telephone,

Agnosticus_Caesar: its simple logic

Zach: And yet, what is a word except what people use it for?

bernt: I wanted to ask about your view on Brights too but thought it could be too sensitive you knowing them personally???

JeremyNYC: it was just a telephone without the invention of cell phones

Hypatiasm: I'd like to know what is it about us that makes us need evidence, why can't we just believe like other people?

Chris_O_Connor: We all know Brights

JeremyNYC: I mean, I guess, there really couldn't be atheism without theism. It implies a reaction, in a sense.

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - you can respond or reply to anyone about anything you see in here. No specific game plan.

KevinBBG: Good question Hypatia, I've wondered about that too.

concretized: Why should we expect any thoughts on a transcendent being, whether there is or isn't, to have any meaning anyway?

KevinBBG: And why do so few people see the need for real evidence?

Michael_Shermer: I'm delighted that the Bright movement is out there and someone is trying to make a go of it. They deserve credit for giving it a shot. The problem, however, is not whether the concept is a good one or not--it is a good idea--it's a branding issue, that's all, and "Bright" is not a good brand name. In marketing departments they invest a lot of time and money to determine the best brand.

bernt: If not about Brights, I would later want to ask you about the Vincent Sarich proposal about God within being more powerful than the God out there

JeremyNYC: It is a good question. Never occurred to me before.

Chris_O_Connor: Why can't we just believe? We can. I suggest you believe in immaterial penguins. Do you believe now? Why not?

Kru5h: "Bright" sounds too "Gay"

Chris_O_Connor: Kyle - I agree

Chris_O_Connor: Welcome Glowing

Kru5h: Sorry for the irony of my choice of words.

Glowing: Thanks chris

naddia: Jeremy, not necessarily a conscious reaction. It's the opposite of belief in a god, but there can be absence of belief in people who have never heard of a god concept.

Agnosticus_Caesar: I'm not aware what "bright" is

DissidentHeart: I dont think the Atheist or the Theist can escape belief...whether it involve history, present, and especially the future.... there is so much we don't know...and so many decisions we make based on so little.

KevinBBG: I agree with the idea of Brights but the name is terrible, I haven't seen a better one, though.

pctacitus: I know why I cant just believe, does anyone else?

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - I agree that the concept is respectable, but the brand name leaves much to be desired.

concretized: sorry, but I don't know what this 'Brights' is.

JeremyNYC: Well sure, Naddia, people who have never heard of a god concept would have an absence of belief... but it wouldn't be atheism, because they'd have no theism to a

bernt: Two persons came up with the Unifying Umbrella for all of us who are non religious and named us Brights and not all of us liked that name

KevinBBG: Some people tied to start the term Brights as a name for Atheists and others of similar mind.

Zach: And yet they would be atheist, that is, without god

Zach: or gods

Agnosticus_Caesar: I just looked it up

JeremyNYC: It's like, we don't have a word for people who don't' breathe water.

PsychedelicShroom: I think that "Marketing" is a horrible way to handle brilliant ideas... because of "marketing" an idea can be laughed out of existence without even serious consideration

Zach: but we do for those who don't breathe oxygen, Jeremy

tarav: there is a site for the Brights

Hypatiasm: I was raised a fundamentalist and I tried very hard to be a good little believer, I just couldn't do it. When I gave up on that, I searched through many belief systems from Ancient Egypt to New Age.

Agnosticus_Caesar: it seems that "Brights" is bad marketing, because its rather arrogant sounding

concretized: Isn't skepticism just a tool people use to support their own position? To knock someone else's beliefs?

DissidentHeart: I think the term "Brights" is unfortunate...I mean, what does Buddha mean after all?

tarav: someone tell them the site, because I forgot it

Chris_O_Connor: The spread of the word "Bright" would be enhanced with clever marketing gimmicks, but this meme has to catch on with the core audience first

bernt: It is the lack of marketing research that make it laughable I guess

Hypatiasm: I just couldn't find one my brain would accept.

Kru5h: What ever happened to "Freethinker"?

concretized: freethinker....a rather self-aggrandizing label isn't it?

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - any books in the oven?

PsychedelicShroom: but why should there have to be marketing research... wouldn't intelligent people be drawn to the idea rather than the packaging?

pctacitus: I think someone just came out with a book on freethinkers

naddia: Jeremy, sure it would. Belief in god exists objectively. Theism exists. A child who is born into a world of theistic belief has no subjective awareness of theism, yet it surrounds them. They lack belief in the gods of the world. They are without belief.

naddia: They are atheists.... until their parents start screwing with their minds.

JeremyNYC: I thought we were considering a hypothetical where it didn't

DissidentHeart: <-- thinks the labels should be used painters on a canvas, or a chef with a is is allegiance to a common cause and agenda.

JeremyNYC: Of course it does in the real world

Agnosticus_Caesar: we have no way to truly know what goes on in the mind of a child

Agnosticus_Caesar: we can only deal with what we observe and conclude

PsychedelicShroom: My children, on a long drive to Arizona, got into a theological discussion with me.

concretized: seem to be hypothesizing. How can you say no one has any subjective awareness of God?

Hypatiasm: Dr. Shermer, are you familiar with the Minnesota Twin studies and do you think they have any merit when they conclude that degree of religiosity is genetic?

Chris_O_Connor: Does anyone have any questions for Dr. Shermer?

bernt: We don't even know what goes on in our own grown up minds even

Agnosticus_Caesar: I do

concretized: I'm sure many people are aware of things I'm not.

Agnosticus_Caesar: but I'll wait

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - ask away

Agnosticus_Caesar: Bombarding the man isn't fair

pctacitus: as do I

bernt: I want to ask about the Vincent Sarich insight

PsychedelicShroom: I came to learn that my children, even though influenced by their Catholic relatives, didn't buy the belief

Chris_O_Connor: Bernt - go ahead and ask.

dark_penguin: Hypatiasm- Dr Shermer talks about twin studies in 'how we believe'

naddia: A newborn child has no conscious
awareness of his own existence. How could it conceive of a concept of god?

PsychedelicShroom: I have to say that I was proud of them. They are thinkers and that's what I have tried to impart to them

Hypatiasm: We are here to discuss the book aren't we?

bernt: Vince on page 11 came up with the God within being more powerful than the god out there tell us more

Agnosticus_Caesar: don't conclude that they have conscious awareness

DissidentHeart: <-- is not sure of anyone, anywhere, ever who has looked into the mind of a newborn child...except for each of us...when we were newborns.

Chris_O_Connor: Yes Hypatiasm

KevinBBG: I don't recall the twin study in the book but it's been a while since I read it.

naddia: Aggy:

Agnosticus_Caesar: there is a big rift between what we conclude, and absolute knowledge

JeremyNYC: Your premise, naddia, is untestable, and I'm' not sure about the relevance anyway. If nobody believed in any god, then the kids wouldn't be atheists, they'd just be kids.

Agnosticus_Caesar: I have one

bernt: My question is what kind of reactions to this insight have you got from audiences and emails?

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - shoot

Michael_Shermer: I've just submitted a ms. to my publisher, entitled "Science Friction," a collection of essays that have not appeared in my previous books but have been published in various journals and magazines. It includes my "Psychic for a Day," "The Big Bright Brouhaha," "Heresies of Science," "Virtues of Skepticism," "Spin-Doctoring Science" (about the Yanomamo), "Psyched Up, Psyched Out" (about sports psychology), Shadowlands (about the death of my mom), Exorcising Laplace's Demon (about chaos theory and history) What if? (about counterfactual history), The new New Creationism (about ID creationism), history's Heretics (who mattered most in history, The Hero on the Edge of Forever (about Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek), and This View of Science (about Stephen Jay Gould)

JeremyNYC: Just like we don't' define scientists as "those scientists who don't believe in phlogiston

DissidentHeart: <-- wanting to explore Dr. Shermer's thesis regarding the "Belief Engine" and its relation to Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences.

dark_penguin: hypa- based on the Minnesota twin studies Dr. Shermer related that about 50% of peoples religious attitudes is affected by genes

JeremyNYC: Wow, great range, Dr. S!

Chris_O_Connor: Yes, nice range. The Yanomamo are fascinating.

Agnosticus_Caesar: I have seen many arguments that go nowhere when speaking of the veracity of certain scientific theories (Evolutionary Theory being foremost)

KevinBBG: Sounds interesting, quite a lot of subjects to cover, I think I've read some of them in Skeptic.

Agnosticus_Caesar: I posit that the problem is that most people haven't a clue what science actually is

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - so true.

Michael_Shermer: Oh, and I wrote a 9000 word introduction entitled Why Not Knowing: Science and the Search for meaning.

naddia: Aggy, I'm not claiming absolute knowledge of anything. I'm claiming that newborn children are not self-aware based on neurological and psychological development of infants.

JeremyNYC: There's nothing to argue there, Agnosticus; the assertion that it is an argument with an "other side" is simply false

Agnosticus_Caesar: rather, than see it is a method that has products, they see it as an authority

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - you've got quite a bit on your plate

Agnosticus_Caesar: naddia...could you be wrong about that?

DissidentHeart: <-- is not sure of anyone, anywhere, ever who has looked into the mind of a newborn child...except for each of us...when we were newborns.

tarav: Dr. Shermer, you discussed religiosity in America and the idea of supply-side religion. Do you have any other theories on why Americans are so religious?

Agnosticus_Caesar: Some see "science" as an authority that gives them truth

Agnosticus_Caesar: some see it as an authority that lies

JeremyNYC: My recollection of being newborn does not include a lot of self awareness

JeremyNYC: In fact my "awareness" was very dispersed.

PsychedelicShroom: I see science as a tool that allows us to learn more about the universe around us

Agnosticus_Caesar: rather than seeing it as a method that can be used to derive non-absolute (inductive) answers

Michael_Shermer: The intro title comes from Omar Khayy‡m's poem: Into this Universe, and Why not knowing, / Nor Whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing; / And out of it, as Wind along the Waste, / I know not Whither, willy-nilly blowing.

Agnosticus_Caesar: I think the problem lies there

naddia: Aggy, potentially, but given that this has been tested and observed it's not really disputed. How much studying have you done on early childhood development? You'll be hard-pressed to find a child psychologist or neurologist who thinks newborns....

bernt: Sci-Fi could be a good thing to explore, I want to ask about Vince Sarich god insight at page 11 in How we Believe

JeremyNYC: Title of ... you lost me. I thought the title was "science fiction"?

Chris_O_Connor: Someday I'd like a well-designed statistical analysis done attempting to find a correlation between faith and intellect.

KevinBBG: We humans are rather ignorant, which is why I think it's so important to study how we know things.

naddia: have an awareness of their selves.

Michael_Shermer: Why are Americans so dang religious? Well, my favorite explanation is the supply-side one where religions have to compete for customers with other religions because we have separation of church and state, however there are other intervening variables

Agnosticus_Caesar: Chris...I have to agree with Gould in some ways

DissidentHeart: I think Aggie leaves out the essential element of Political Struggle, Economic Inequality, and Social Caste....all of these components fight against an informed not want Scientific minds, or Critical minds.

Agnosticus_Caesar: to paraphrase him

PsychedelicShroom: what are those variables, as you see them, Dr. Shermer?

JeremyNYC: Yes, when I read that in your book, Dr. Shermer, it struck me as one of those "ah hahs"

Agnosticus_Caesar: "Religion isn't the enemy of science, irrationality is"

tarav: Dr. Shermer, I liked that idea too. Do you have any others?

Chris_O_Connor: Jeremy - I was about to say that too

Michael_Shermer: Oh, I mean the title of the intro to Science Friction (not fiction), which is "why not knowing," after the poem.

KevinBBG: I think it's ironic that Europe has far less religion than we do.

JeremyNYC: Well, true, Agnosticus, but religion is inherently irrational

JeremyNYC: So it works out that way in the end

JeremyNYC: Oh, thanks, dr. S

pctacitus: Dr. Shermer, I saw you on Dennis Miller not that long ago, and from what I caught, your comments on human nature sounded rather like scientifically supported hobbesianism. Just how much has Hobbes influenced your view on the subject of human nature?

KevinBBG: We might have been better off if we didn't have that separation of church and state, less religious.

JeremyNYC: Perhaps, Kevin: Law of unintended consequences.

Agnosticus_Caesar: How could one not appreciate Hobbes?

DissidentHeart: Likewise, Americans are so 'Religious' because the Public is denied real political power, are constantly deluged with propaganda/advertisements, Religion provides solidarity.

Chris_O_Connor: Nicole - welcome. You're late, Please stand in the corner.

Nicole: Chris - thanks for the welcome and reprimand :p

Chris_O_Connor: lol

JeremyNYC: I'm also deeply fuzzy on why the American Revolution was such a good thing, what would be so bad about being British?

Chris_O_Connor: Welcome Luna

tarav: hey, Nicole

PsychedelicShroom: Chris is so dominating ;)

Nicole: hey Tara :)

concretized: Jeremy, because they wanted freedom OF religion of their choosing.

lunaseafroth: hi

pctacitus: Europeans remember state run churches, so its no wonder they are less religious

concretized: They were tired of the King or Queen telling them how to worship, or who to worship.

KevinBBG: Yes, jer, many didn't want the revolution, they wanted to be part of the empire.

JeremyNYC: I suppose. Doesn't do ME any good

Michael_Shermer: I was on Dennis Miller twice last week, and twice before that about two months ago. I don't get to say much; basically there are three panelists with two five-minute segments, so at best you get 1.5 minutes per segment, assuming Dennis says nothing... In any case, my view of human nature comes entirely from modern anthropology, psychology, and archaeology and not at all from Hobbes. I think Hobbes was right about us being nasty beasts, but he was too pessimistic by half. We do have a good side as well.

Chris_O_Connor: PC - I think you're right

JeremyNYC: And was it worth all those people dying?

concretized: And they were tired of working to pay taxes to someone across the pond.

dark_penguin: Michael Shermer- you got any favorite books that combine anthropology, psychology, and archaeology

DissidentHeart: The dominant, primary Religion in America is not Christianity, but Corporate Capitalism...which is a late step-child of an Imperial Church.

Hypatiasm: I bet Hobbes would be quite surprised at how much life in general has improved for most people, even the poor.

JeremyNYC: But only the rich people paid taxes in those days, concretized. A lot of poor farmers died for that

bernt: State church oppression made us less supportive of the institution but maybe still religious within but not shown on the outside

JeremyNYC: Maybe not, Susan. Depends on your perspective.... what percent of the world's population has a decent standard of living, even today?

Chris_O_Connor: I'm not sure how any American could miss the virtues of church & state separation. What religion should state endorse? How should they endorse it? It's far easier to let state worry about state affairs.

Michael_Shermer: Books combining these sciences: well, shucks, I just wrote one--The Science of Good and Evil--but that's a little uncool to say, so I do recommend The Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley and The Moral Animal by Robert Wright. Although I disagree with his fundamental premise, I also suggest Wright's Nonzero.

pctacitus: Jeremy - compared to England 350+ yrs ago, all of us

JeremyNYC: I'm fundamentally an optimist, but its easy to overestimate how good things are from the comfort of a heated western home

Hypatiasm: I've looked at stats recently and the average life expectancy has increased greatly, even in some of the worst places like Bangladesh it is higher than in Hobbes time.

bernt: God within the head of the believer being more powerful is what I want to ask you

Agnosticus_Caesar: Micheal...what do YOU want to discuss?

Chris_O_Connor: We'll have to add those books to our suggested reading thread

DissidentHeart: Chris...Americans fully endorse the State Religion of Corporate Capitalism and all of attending sacrifices.

JeremyNYC: I doubt it, pctacitus. I bet you could travel around Africa and Asia and find many people who would find England 350 years ago paradise compared to their lives.

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - Yes, any topic you would like to discuss or share?

pctacitus: not really, England was in the midst of a civil war

concretized: Jeremy...perhaps Ben Franklin's biography would help. He loved the British for many years. Something happened to turn him against the Empire completely.

concretized: And it happened while he was in England I think. I'm not sure of the details.

Hypatiasm: Perhaps we should all shut up and give Dr. Shermer the floor for a bit.

Nicole: I agree with that suggestion :)

JeremyNYC: What I'm saying, concretized, is not historical, but contemporary. I look around and see how England is, and how the U.S. is, and think, so what if we were a part of the empire NOW? Probably be way better off.

DissidentHeart: <-- rejects any and all Empires...thank you very much :)

Chris_O_Connor: I don't think there is anything wrong with everyone chatting and Dr. Shermer responding to questions as he sees fit

KevinBBG: Hello Wanda.

Hypatiasm: My ancestors were forced to leave Scotland by the British.

Hypatiasm: Wanda!

Wanda_Duck: Hey all!

JeremyNYC: Wanda!!

Chris_O_Connor: If this was an audible discussion we would all need to be quiet

Chris_O_Connor: Who the heck is Wanda?

bernt: we are all competing to get your attention it is a Tragedy of the commons just now :)

Wanda_Duck: It's been years since I've chatted on line

tarav: Dr. Shermer, I think of myth as being defined as a false belief(which is actually the 5th definition in my dictionary), from your discussion on myths, I understand that you feel that myths can't be untrue because "these evaluative terms are reserved for

Chris_O_Connor: lol

tarav: statements of fact

Agnosticus_Caesar: Myths can be many things

JeremyNYC: Yet another Happy Hour member, Chris.

tarav: Could you please explain this more?

Agnosticus_Caesar: the common usage of the term is the most boring

Chris_O_Connor: Ahh

Michael_Shermer: Purpose: Can you all suggest some things you do that give you purpose? This is in context of that book, The Purposeful Life (or something like that). What are the most important things we can do to bring purpose to our lives? (I'm assuming most people in this forum are nonbelievers and not religious.

JeremyNYC: It's a good thing you run a dictatorship here or we'd threaten your presidency

Agnosticus_Caesar: I would recommend Campbell's concept of myth

concretized: myth is a way of explaining origins by way of the supernatural.

lunaseafroth: I am still trying to figure out what gives purpose to my life lol

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - most are nonbelievers, but there are Christians and others that participate

JeremyNYC:I remember your e-zine did a survey on that topic, Dr. S.

tarav: I want to be able to say that the Genesis myth is untrue.

PsychedelicShroom: Myths are merely explanations for happenings or circumstances that people don't understand

JeremyNYC: I thought my answer was pretty creative but I don't' remember it now

DissidentHeart: <-- Christian, with distinct Anarchist tendencies :)

KevinBBG: I have little problem finding purpose, from the very small things to the big, but especially when I'm spending time with the grandkids.

PsychedelicShroom: they are based loosely on reality

Nicole: I think it's very difficult for people who are religious to be able to conceptualize how people without religion can find meaning, and I don't think explanations necessarily help them grasp this.

concretized: If my thoughts are just chemical reactions, why do I feel I need meaning? Electrical circuits don't need meaning.

JeremyNYC: My purpose... is to understand Life, as best I can;

Chris_O_Connor: Purpose? I see no inherent purpose to life, so I take it as my own responsibility to create my own purpose. My purpose is to touch people's lives in a positive way leaving more behind than I took.

dark_penguin: tarav-i think mythmaking is the act of relating the world to yourself

JeremyNYC: to integrate what I know about Life into life

bernt: don't meaning emerge out of the good practice, when I fail at good practice I find it less meaningful

DissidentHeart: <-- finds Love to be a fine that colors all my relationships...imperfect and flawed....but worthy of time, talent, effort and sacrifice.

concretized: I'm a Christian who finds skepticism to be a platform for debunking a certain view, not for finding truth.

KevinBBG: I think my main purpose is to live, my second is to know as much as i can.

Chris_O_Connor: Tough question Dr. Shermer. How dare you ask us to think!

Michael_Shermer: What do you think of these four roads to purpose: 1. Love and family commitment; 2. Meaningful work and career; 3. Political and Social activism; 4. Transcendency and spirituality.

Agnosticus_Caesar: purpose is a human concept

bernt: Life is a word I could relate to too. How to live a good life

JeremyNYC: You feel you need meaning, concretized, for the same reason that underlies all your innate perceptions; your ancestors were more successful for having a desire for purpose, than

JeremyNYC: the people would didn't get to be ancestors.

Agnosticus_Caesar: "inherent purpose" is an oxymoron

naddia: Mr. Shermer: I think that in figuring out where one places the most value in life, they can decide what will give their life the most purpose. For me, intellectual freedom, human life, and family are what I place the highest value upon.

Wanda_Duck: Can not relate to your fourth category.

Hypatiasm: I've fulfilled my biological purpose, I see the rest as gravy.

DissidentHeart: <-- thinks Dr. Shermer is on to something

bernt: What does spirituality refers to?

concretized: Jeremy...slugs were successful. Do they have a purpose? Or bacteria? Strength is what is necessary for survival, not meaning.

Agnosticus_Caesar: Michael....if that makes your life pleasant, its great

naddia: So I derive the greatest purpose in life from educating myself, raising, nurturing and educating my daughter, and working in a field where I can help to improve the quality of other's lives.

Agnosticus_Caesar: if not, its crap

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - That's interesting. I have 4 personal "purposes" written right in front of me taped to my monitor to remind me of what matters in life. Much the same as your 4.

DissidentHeart: Spirituality, as I see it, is the arduous task to honesty, truth-telling, and stepping out of ego-delusions and fantasies of punishment and revenge.

JeremyNYC: You are not a slug, concretized. You are not good at making external slime at all.

KevinBBG: Dr. S, I find purpose in everything, even playing games on my PDA, such a wonderful device.

JeremyNYC: Our strategies, as a species, are different from the strategies of other species.

concretized: Jeremy, but you made a claim that having a purpose gave my ancestors an advantage. I say it probably didn't.

PsychedelicShroom: Kevin, I find agreement with tha
JeremyNYC: I say, concretized, that the empirical evidence says it did. You started with the fact that we have a desire for purpose. If it is innate, it was

Agnosticus_Caesar: "meaning" is personal

DissidentHeart: I also see Spirituality as a type of Resistance...a courageous and hopeful action towards justice...requiring a great deal of faith and trust.

KevinBBG: Life is it's own purpose, the rest is just gravy.

JeremyNYC: selected for. If it was selected for, it had survival value.

JeremyNYC: We're going in quite opposite directions

Chris_O_Connor: One of my personal interests is the survival and longevity of the human species. While we have a violent and ugly side to us, we're also capable of amazing and beautiful things. I'd like to see us survive and prosper. I'm worried though.

concretized: The empirical evidence as you put it, is the evidence that you and I are here. You can't say what particular characteristics help my ancestors to survive.

bernt: Tom Flynn gave 95 alternatives to using spirit or spirituality :)

JeremyNYC: Sure I can. The characteristics that are common among us are the ones that were selected.

Wanda_Duck: "faith" seems like wasted effort -- a pointless activity...

Hypatiasm: Good points, Chris and I agree and am worried, too.

concretized: A 500 lb gorilla is a survivor, not an emotionally needy and fragile, not to mention physically weak species like a human.

DissidentHeart: Chris...I think the problems may be unfixable, beyond repair...even if we stopped all of the eco-damaging, justice-hating things we do.

Chris_O_Connor: I'd like to see Homo sapiens reach other worlds and colonize them.

Hypatiasm: But why are those of us in this room so different?

KevinBBG: Except we will all be dead and won't know what the future will bring, if we survive or not.

JeremyNYC: Yup.... and gorillas grow to 500 lbs because historically, 500 lb gorillas did better than 400 lb gorillas

concretized: Jeremy, you're presupposing much. That seems a bit circular to me.

concretized: Maybe I'm wrong.

DissidentHeart: Well, Wanda, obviously I disagree. :)

JeremyNYC: Because something works for us doesn't mean it works for anyone else.

KevinBBG: I agree with Wanda, faith seems to mislead us, to be wishful thinking.

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - a member that could not make this chat, Gino, emailed me with the following question....

bernt: Some people the apathists don't care about purpose or do they?

JeremyNYC: It would appear circular, concretized, if I were trying to prove that our nature is the product of natural selection. I am not. The fact that we are the product of natural selection is a given.

Wanda_Duck: Better to take action if you want something to happen.

JeremyNYC: Knowing that fact, the rest follows

Hypatiasm: I think I'm a mutant

DissidentHeart: Faith can mislead us, and it can move towards justice and liberation when the odds are not in your favor.... when the facts are not on your side.

KevinBBG: But not every characteristic is necessarily a survival advantage Jer,

Wanda_Duck: You probably are Hyp -- good thing you passed along those genes!

KevinBBG: I know what you mean Hypatia; I've long felt that way.

KevinBBG: We are certainly not the norm.

DissidentHeart: <-- handing Chris a brush

Kru5h: Helps if you don't use toothpaste

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - A member, Gino, would like to know: "When speaking about the number of religious people in the book, Shermer quotes a survey that suggests Christianity is the largest religion with several hundred million followers. My impression was that most of the population of China was Buddhist, which would make it the largest religion. Can he account for this discrepancy?

Hypatiasm: I think I understand the point of the book on Why People Believe, what I don't understand is why some of us don't.

KevinBBG: In my religious days I thought I understood the nature of the universe that I "knew."

KevinBBG: But in the back of my mind a little voice said "Just like those who know something different.

KevinBBG: I couldn't ignore that voice.

Chris_O_Connor: I think handles that one

KevinBBG: Most people don't seem to have that voice at all.

bernt: My Vincent Sarich question is on the line too :)

DissidentHeart: Chinese folk belong to multiple religions at once...their family's traditional religion, the religion of their community and village, as well as Maoism, and Taoism, and Confucianism...complex indeed.

JeremyNYC: Maybe we're a new evolutionary subspecies

JeremyNYC: Notice I carefully avoided using the word "step")

Hypatiasm: My stats here say that there are 323,894,000 Buddhist in the world.

KevinBBG: Most Chinese have been commie atheists for quite some time.

Chris_O_Connor: Hypatiasm - actually, 323,894,002.

JeremyNYC: Lol, Kevin, at least on paper

Hypatiasm: From the 1996 Britannica Book of the Year

Chris_O_Connor: ~o)

Kru5h: Chris, One more was just born.

Chris_O_Connor: damn

Hypatiasm: It's a little dated

JeremyNYC: I started to say the same thing, Kru5h, then realized that one is not born Buddhist

Hypatiasm: But it was here on the desk.

PsychedelicShroom: Who has asked the Chinese what they believe? All 2 billion of them?

Chris_O_Connor: Bernt - can you restate your question for Dr. Shermer?

DissidentHeart: A KEY problem in understanding Religions in Asia is the years of racist, euro centric, Christ centric projections thrown on onto billions of complex persons.

Chris_O_Connor: Is this room lagging?

JeremyNYC: Acting as though people are born into a religion really fries Dr. Dawkins, and I don't want to do that, even in absentia

bernt: Vincent Sarich gave his view on page 11 in your How we believe. Atheist dissing this is my question

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - are you getting these questions?

Chris_O_Connor: Hello Scrum

Chris_O_Connor: Bye Scrum

naddia: Jeremy: What do you mean?

bernt: Why would atheist dis that insight that Vincent Sarich took up on page 11 in "How we Believe?"

concretized: I'm wondering is someone has engaged the Dr. in private messaging...

pctacitus: I think the Chinese number approx 1.3 billion, not 2 billion

bernt: I found that insight very good and I am an atheist

Chris_O_Connor: I have no idea. He appears to not be here.

concretized: Bernt...what was it?

bernt: That the god with the head of the believer is what motivates them to act politically

KevinBBG: Bernt, it doesn't make any sense to me.

dark_penguin: how do I disable sound

bernt: It is socially powerful cause they act upon this inner motivator

Chris_O_Connor: I have sent him a private message.

Chris_O_Connor: Maybe there is a bug

JeremyNYC: In England, Naddia, children are classified by religion for schooling purposes; and Dr. Dawkins wrote a very, well, almost angry article about the practice. I've seen him question several times in print the tendency to call a person too young to know what it

KevinBBG: We all act on an inner motivator, we have no choice.

JeremyNYC: means, "Baptist": or "Anglican" or whatever.

JeremyNYC: I think this is way too deep for what was essentially a gag

Michael_Shermer: Sorry, just had a quick dinner.

bernt: Then atheist should not dis that insight then

concretized: welcome back Dr.

JeremyNYC: Lol Dr. Shermer, welcome back. And our apologies for making you rush your dinner

naddia: Mr. Shermer: No problem. We'd rather you not type with your mouth full.

KevinBBG: I'm munching a grilled cheese sandwich right now.

bernt: I like to ask you about the Vincent Sarich insight on God within being politically powerful

pctacitus: sorry folks, but I better call it a night, goodbye all

Chris_O_Connor: Naddia - No doubt.

Chris_O_Connor: Night PC

naddia: Bye PC

JeremyNYC: Night PC... too late

KevinBBG: Still early her on the west coast.

lunaseafroth: night

Michael_Shermer: Yeah, west coast, we're still watching the Lakers and eating beer and pizza!

JeremyNYC: Dr. Shermer, I got the impression from the book, I don't think you stated it explicitly, that you support Gould's "Magesteria" concept?

Chris_O_Connor: Who won this Stanley cup game?

Michael_Shermer: Okay, my 13-year old daughter says she's not eating beer. Oh, and she says she's 12 not 13. I must be raising a skeptic.

naddia: Jeremy: So what you're saying is that, whereas in the US we might refer to kids by the religion of the parents casually, in England they officially classify them that way? Is that why Dawkins is pissed about it?

Agnosticus_Caesar: eating beer requires certain tanning techniques

JeremyNYC: I think he's pissed because of the official classification, but I doubt he'd care for the other reference either.

JeremyNYC: But I could be wrong about that.

Agnosticus_Caesar: skeptical 13 year olds aren't privy to such techniques

Chris_O_Connor: I was never fond of Gould's NOMA

naddia: Jeremy: Ah, I see.

KevinBBG: I didn't like it either Chris.

Hypatiasm: lol

Agnosticus_Caesar: Gould isn't given the credit he's due

Chris_O_Connor: Any questions for Dr. Shermer?

Michael_Shermer: I generally support Gould's separate magesteria, but when one's posits the position that science and religion are completely separate, this would have to be a god who doesn't do anything. If god operates in our world in some manner, then it should be measurable. If it is measurable, then it is in the realm of science. Thus far, scientific tests of God's involvement in our world have proved elusive.

bernt: Sarich should have cred for his God within thing

Agnosticus_Caesar: Michael, I think you are being one-sided

Chris_O_Connor: Exactly. If there is a God that effects things....we should be able to measure these effects

JeremyNYC: Interesting methodological point, Dr. Shermer; but it worries me from another direction.

bernt: Why do atheists dis Sarich idea about god within?

Agnosticus_Caesar: Chris, not necessarily

KevinBBG: Simply claiming a god exists steps into the realm of science and requires proof.

Michael_Shermer: Kobe just had the best quarter of his career,

JeremyNYC: It seems to me that tuning morality over to religion grants it way , way too much power.

Agnosticus_Caesar: Chris...answer some questions, if you would

Michael_Shermer: Lakers by 15!

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - ok

Agnosticus_Caesar: are you familiar with Goedel?

concretized: Dr. Shermer, what is Skepticism? Isn't it just a technique for debunking views you don't agree with? A way of supporting your own views?

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - not really.

Agnosticus_Caesar: not intimately, just a tad

KevinBBG: That too, Jer, anything can be justified by faith.

Agnosticus_Caesar: have you heard of "The Incompleteness Theorem"?

naddia: Jeremy, yeah, and is more likely to provide a weaker moral framework for society.

Hypatiasm: No system can be both complete and consistent?

JeremyNYC: Not if it is done right, concretized.

Michael_Shermer: I don't think we should turn morality over to religion. Here I break with Gould. My new book, in fact, recaptures morality for science.

Chris_O_Connor: Skepticism is the process of using reason to analyze claims as opposed to acceptance based on authority.

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - I wish I had, but no.

KevinBBG: I think reason should be the basis of morality.

JeremyNYC: Great, Dr. S!

concretized: What is the basis of reason?

Agnosticus_Caesar: Michael...From a Evolutionary Psych standpoint, "science" easily explains morality

JeremyNYC: It explains the "Is", Agnosticus, but not the should be; should be is much more difficult.

KevinBBG: Logical thought, the adding up of facts.

Michael_Shermer: Skepticism is science; it's a way of thinking. It's not a position to take; it's an approach to claims. It's lance!

tarav: In your discussion of the millennium, you listed many secular conceptions of the end of the world (e.g. bombs, viruses). Were you surprised that the hysteria ended up being about computers?

concretized: Do wild badgers have a moral code? Did it help them to survive? Lions eat their young....

Agnosticus_Caesar: Chris...From a logical standpoint, something within a logical construct cannot define the logical construct itself

Nicole: good question, Tara.

Michael_Shermer: Sorry, Devin just typed Lance because Lance is on TV racing his bike against a train and other things

dark_penguin: Jeremy-if we should want to evolve, then science explains why we should be moral

Michael_Shermer: And I'm a big cycling fanatic, as you know.

Chris_O_Connor: lol

Michael_Shermer: Okay, back to skepticism. It's a verb, not a noun

Agnosticus_Caesar: I don't quite agree

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer is a pro cyclist too

Hypatiasm: Bernt, I don't see anything Sarich says on page 11 that's really inconsistent with atheism.

Chris_O_Connor: Yes, a verb

Agnosticus_Caesar: science is a method to draw nominal conclusions

JeremyNYC: Hmm, I didn't know that, Dr Shermer; my atheist son in law is a semi pro cyclist and he'll be thrilled when I tell him

tarav: Dr. Shermer, I thought computers fit in nicely with your discussion of patterns and zeros!

JeremyNYC: So thanks for sharing!

Hypatiasm: If it wasn't for the 'gods in other peoples heads' I doubt we'd care very much about the question at all.

Agnosticus_Caesar: conclusions that are always open to debate

bernt: My question was why do so many atheists dis it when it is consistent

Chris_O_Connor: Bernt - dis what?

Agnosticus_Caesar: skepticism is part of that

Hypatiasm: I can't answer that because I've never heard an atheist dis it.

Agnosticus_Caesar: but not all of it

Chris_O_Connor: I'm skeptical of skeptics.

KevinBBG: I've always thought of skepticism as an attitude.

dark_penguin: your so postmodern Chris

tarav: thanks, Nicole

dark_penguin: metaskeptic

Chris_O_Connor: Dark - No I'm not! I was kidding.

Nicole: I'm skeptical of people who are skeptical of skeptics :p

Chris_O_Connor: lol

concretized: Me too Chris.

KevinBBG: As any good skeptic would be Chris.

bernt: They see the Sarich proposal as nothing to care about they dis it as a truism

Michael_Shermer: Anyone who is skeptical of skeptics should get an honorary membership to the Skeptics Society!

Chris_O_Connor: Skeptic does not equal cynic.

Agnosticus_Caesar: science is one of the most misused words in any language

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - I accept.

Michael_Shermer: :D

Chris_O_Connor: lol

dark_penguin: i meant postmodern in the self-referential sense not the cynic sense

Hypatiasm: Every year at Halloween I make the Alien Cake from Skeptic Jr. for the kids.

Chris_O_Connor: I don't think there's any real meat to postmodernism

concretized: Dr. Shermer, could an argument be made that ID is just a skeptical response to naturalism?


JeremyNYC: That's a dangerous position, dark penguin. If you turn all the authority over to reason, to science, what happens if it turns out that morality ISNT" the best way?

Michael_Shermer: when pigs fly

JeremyNYC: I mean, you've pretty much assumed your conclusion

Chris_O_Connor: Oh no, Dr. Shermer has found the emoticons


dark_penguin: Bernt how so or are you just referring to the disillusioned youth

Agnosticus_Caesar: Chris...why?

Michael_Shermer: Ê[-o<

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - ever debated Duane Gish?

Michael_Shermer: [-o<

concretized: Dr. Shermer, what's your IQ?

Chris_O_Connor: OMG An IQ question

Chris_O_Connor: lol

JeremyNYC: I think Tanner explains ID best. It is a response to our cultural urge to turn every question into a two-sided debate: even when

Agnosticus_Caesar: JHQ, that's irrelevant

Michael_Shermer: What is that little guy doing I just typed in? Praying? Singing?

JeremyNYC: there is no "other side"

Chris_O_Connor: Praying

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - you have just prayed.

Agnosticus_Caesar: can we please discuss something?

JeremyNYC: Lol

Nicole: Time for me to get back to work...thank you for joining us, Dr Shermer, night all.


Michael_Shermer: I.Q. Which one? My emotional intelligence--age 15.

JeremyNYC: And you too also, Nicole!

Chris_O_Connor: Night Nicole

tarav: bye, Nicole

dark_penguin: Jeremy-then moral creatures may be weeded out via 'survival of the fittest' or in this case 'survival of the non-moral'. Either way evolution occurs

Agnosticus_Caesar: Michael, have you ever read "Darwin's Dangerous Idea"?

Zach: I'm also going to have to leave--I know I wasn't talkative (at all), but I enjoyed the discussion!

Chris_O_Connor: Night Zach

JeremyNYC: bye Zach

bernt: I'm obsessed with the dissing of Vince Sarich obviously :)

naddia: Goodnight Zach

Michael_Shermer: The one and only time I had my I.Q. tested it was two standard deviations above the mean--130. Okay, but not brilliant. Because of my job, I meet a lot of really smart people, so most of the time I feel dumb and dumber.

Zach: G'night everyone, and thanks for taking time to talk with us, Dr. Shermer

Michael_Shermer: X-(

JeremyNYC: Well, but penguin, if we are making decisions - should we decide to preserve morality? It is part of the position we find ourselves in,

Chris_O_Connor: I'm not sure how important IQ scores are

Michael_Shermer: B-)

concretized: Thanks Dr.

Agnosticus_Caesar: Michael...what test?

JeremyNYC: that we can influce our species beyond any other.

Michael_Shermer: W.A.I.S.

Agnosticus_Caesar: thank you

concretized: I'm not brilliant either, but I've found I can learn by rote and memorization.

JeremyNYC: James Watson mentions his IQ in his book; I think it's only like 107.

Agnosticus_Caesar: I am brilliant, and uneducated

concretized: Are you serious Jeremy?

dark_penguin: studies show each time you supplement emotions with an emoticon your IQ goes down a point

JeremyNYC: Yes

Michael_Shermer: Darwin's Dangerous Idea: yeah, I read it. Great book, but too long.

JeremyNYC: He made a point of how hard he had to work, because he wasn't as smart as the other scientists he was working with and competing against.

Michael_Shermer: And I think he was way way too hard on Gould

Agnosticus_Caesar: I wouldn't agree with that

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - why are you comfortable with theists having the freedom to define "atheism" in our dictionaries simply because they're in the minority?

concretized: Jeremy...I believe in the hard work theory.

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - as you stated, dictionaries go by usage

Agnosticus_Caesar: but, there was a point in the middle of the book that I found hard to muddle through

JeremyNYC: Cool! I knew if we kept at this we'd find an area of agreement

Agnosticus_Caesar: he was quite hard on Gould, but I thought it was rather fair

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - I've always had a problem with the world saying that atheism is a belief, when only strong atheism is an actual belief or affirmative claim.


concretized: In fact, I find that many smart people I know are inherently lazy. I can beat them with work!

Chris_O_Connor: We were all born as atheists...implicit atheists

Agnosticus_Caesar: Chris.... that seems likely

Hypatiasm: I go out and try to define atheist for people every day by who I am.

JeremyNYC: Actually they're being nice, Chris; everyone knows that atheists are REALLY Satan worshipping immoral scum

KevinBBG: I really hate it when someone calls atheism a religion.

Agnosticus_Caesar: but isn't true by necessity

bernt: implicit seems to be an important qualifier there :)

concretized: We are all born ignorant of math too.

scrumfish: that's scrum, not scum :)

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - people can be born with beliefs in deities?

concretized: We are born ignorant of good manners, and how to win a girls heart.

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - which deity? Or just some sort of God?

Agnosticus_Caesar: Chris...we don't have the capacity to say what is possible and what isn't

dark_penguin: concretized, I disagree

JeremyNYC: Perhaps, Chris; there is a consistent argument to be made that the baby's parents are "gods" to her

Agnosticus_Caesar: we have the capacity to say what is probable, and what isn't

Michael_Shermer: Born atheists?

concretized: Just because a belief isn't an intrinsic belief doesn't make it a false belief.

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - born "without" belief

JeremyNYC: and the god belief is parent transference; failure to grow up

dark_penguin: concretized, we are born with sexual organs - that's a good head start so far


Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - we are born without belief in gods, political positions, etc..

concretized: We're not born with language either. I didn't know my sister when I was born.

Agnosticus_Caesar: claiming to have absolute knowledge of anything is no better than being a fundamentalist religionist

concretized: and so forth. I don't think that's a valid criterion for assessing something's validity.

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - so how should I word my statement?

JeremyNYC: But we ARE born with the propensity for language, concretized; the thought that we may have a propensity for religion, culture fill in the details, is very scary.


Agnosticus_Caesar: Chris.... just because all evidence points to your claim, doesn't make it necessarily correct

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - I agree. How should I word it then?

JeremyNYC: In fact that's kind of what I thought Damasio was saying in his book

naddia: Aggy, how much interaction have you had with infants and small children? Babies don't even discover their own hands until they're around 6 months old. They don't recognize themselves in a mirror until nearly a year.

Agnosticus_Caesar: It seems as such

Agnosticus_Caesar: observation and reason points to "x"

Michael_Shermer: Yes, we learn about God, but our brains are wired in a way that makes the learning of god, like the learning of language, possible.

Agnosticus_Caesar: naddia

bernt: good arguing Naddia

dark_penguin: concretized, are you familiar with Mirror Neurons

Agnosticus_Caesar: care to answer some simple questions?

concretized: No dark

naddia: Aggy: They don't understand the concept of using a toilet. It takes months to teach them that. How could they possibly understand an abstract concept like god? I think we have a little better understanding of early childhood development than you care to

naddia: recognize.

KevinBBG: Are we wired to be atheists then?

Agnosticus_Caesar: Naddia, I asked you a question

JeremyNYC: In the case of language it is more than possible, though, it is pretty much inevitable.

Hypatiasm: Yes, why do atheists exist at all?

dark_penguin: we're born with these mirror neurons, which allow us to catch onto and mimic others, behavior pretty fast.

bernt: We are wired to first accept our parents and not reject them?

JeremyNYC: Very probably, Bernt

bernt: Mirror neurons is important indeed

Agnosticus_Caesar: Naddia, I am going to show how you are akin to a religionist

naddia: Aggy: You want to ask me some questions?

naddia: Please do, Aggy.

Agnosticus_Caesar: I said so twice

Agnosticus_Caesar: naddia

Agnosticus_Caesar: are you infallible?

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - did you get my question about theists defining atheism?

naddia: no

Agnosticus_Caesar: naddia, is any human infallible?

tarav: I must go

naddia: no

bernt: Aggy, we are chatting with Shermer here remember :)

JeremyNYC: bye tarav

naddia: By Tara

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - why are you comfortable with theists having the freedom to define "atheism" in our dictionaries simply because they're in the majority?

Michael_Shermer: Theists define atheism because we let them. That's what the bright movement is about: taking back our label

Agnosticus_Caesar: naddia...did you say that human infants are atheists?

dark_penguin: if we're born into a culture that speaks languages, mirror neurons lead us to speak the language

tarav: Dr. Shermer, thank you for chatting!

Chris_O_Connor: Night Tara

JeremyNYC: Well a provisional no would be more appropriate, given the first fact prevents us from knowing for sure

tarav: bye all!

Agnosticus_Caesar: Bernt...I am chatting

Agnosticus_Caesar: if Michael chooses to talk to me, he will

naddia: Aggy: I said that human infants are without belief in gods, which by definition, makes them atheists.

Agnosticus_Caesar: if he doesn't, he won't

bernt: Supporters of Brights in their forum behaved very much like religious fundies IMHO

Agnosticus_Caesar: Naddia, might you be wrong about that?

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - well, one day I would like to take back that ability by fighting with dictionaries and pushing them to define it properly.

Agnosticus_Caesar: atheism should be defined by basic logic

KevinBBG: The Catholic dictionary gives four definitions of atheism.

Agnosticus_Caesar: theism = belief in a god

concretized: Chris, do you think the definition in the dictionary causes people to dislike atheism?

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - they cause many problems with their poor definitions.

Michael_Shermer: What is your definition of atheism?

bernt: Brights managed to get one dictionary to take their definition

Agnosticus_Caesar: the logical opposite of that = not belief in god

Agnosticus_Caesar: it is NOT "belief in not god"

Chris_O_Connor: Concretized - I think the dictionaries create a false impression and erect a strawman we have to constantly knock down

Agnosticus_Caesar: the term which is modified is "belief"

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - I believe there is an umbrella definition. All atheists are at the very least lacking a belief in gods.

Agnosticus_Caesar: because that is the significant term

KevinBBG: I really doubt that many read the dictionary's definition of atheism.

Agnosticus_Caesar: Naddia, respond

Agnosticus_Caesar: don't be like a fundie

JeremyNYC: Well y'all, I really hate to leave an author chat before our guest; but I 'm under the weather and its past my bed time

naddia: Aggy, the possibility exists that I might be wrong about everything I know and believe, including that. However, just as it is highly probably that humans have evolved through natural selection based on logical evidence, it's also highly probable that...

Hypatiasm: Night, Jeremy

scrumfish: I would not have been able to differentiate between atheist and agnostic a few months ago

JeremyNYC: I really, really appreciate you spending this time with us, Dr. Shermer, and look forward to your upcoming books

Wanda_Duck: See ya round Jer

Chris_O_Connor: Michael - there are subgroups of atheists, one of which is "strong atheists," who actually make the claim to know that God doesn't exist. But most atheists are not in this narrow subgroup, yet we all have to deal with being labeled as such

Michael_Shermer: Atheism as simply a lack of belief in God is fine. Atheism as belief in communism, abortion, and sex, drugs, and rock and roll, is not fine.

Agnosticus_Caesar: thank you

KevinBBG: Brights was supposed to be that umbrella, a very good idea, just the wrong name, we need another one.

Hypatiasm: I call myself an agnostic atheist.

concretized: Chris, well, rest easy. I've never looked up atheism in the dictionary. :)

naddia: infants are incapable of abstract thought of the kind necessary for belief in a god. This is basic human development, Aggy.

Chris_O_Connor: Hypatiasm - Me too

Agnosticus_Caesar: the reasonable statement would be that is seems that humans are born atheists

Agnosticus_Caesar: no, infants SEEM incapable of said things

Wanda_Duck: <-- grew up godless in an Agnostic family. As a teenager I rebelled and turned atheist!

concretized: How about this: humans are born without knowledge of God. (Or anything else for that matter)

concretized: Why put a label on it?

Agnosticus_Caesar: that isn't reasonable

Agnosticus_Caesar: humans can only say how things seem to be

bernt: apathists don't even care about them being labeled?

concretized: Why change your entire worldview just to shock your elders? Seems silly.

Agnosticus_Caesar: when we claim "X is Y", we claim infallibility

Chris_O_Connor: Kevin - but I don't agree. A Bright is a person that adheres to a "naturalistic worldview." You can be an atheist and NOT adhere to a naturalistic worldview. There are atheists that believe in all sorts of paranormal things, but they don't believe in gods.

Wanda_Duck: That was supposed to be a funny line -- and true, nonetheless

Michael_Shermer: labels are a problem. Like "feminism" I'm a feminist by some definitions, but not by others. Or, I should say, by some usages

Hypatiasm: There are a few of those on my atheistmoms list.

TAgnosticus_Caesar: Michael, I agree with that

naddia: Aggy: And do you say that it SEEMS as though humans have evolved? It SEEMS as though there are many galaxies other than our own? It seems as though our earth revolves around the Sun?

bernt: Labels are maybe a tool for defining who is in and who is out

KevinBBG: Very few of them, Chris, but that was the point of the term Brights. It wasn't about atheists only but about those who take a scientific approach.

Agnosticus_Caesar: I am a feminist by way of being a humanist that has to focus on the feminine because women are not being treated as equals

Agnosticus_Caesar: Naddia...yes, I do

Agnosticus_Caesar: that's what science does

Agnosticus_Caesar: it helps us describe how things SEEM to be

Agnosticus_Caesar: science is incapable of providing absolute answers

naddia: Aggy: Are you saying, then, that are you are certain of nothing?

concretized: him Socrates :)

KevinBBG: He's extremely certain that he isn't certain.

Agnosticus_Caesar: Naddia...certainty and absolute knowledge are two different things

bernt: Aggy look like a PoMo to me :)

Agnosticus_Caesar: one can be certain, and be wrong

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - are you certain that science is not capable of providing absolutes?

Hypatiasm: PoMo?

Agnosticus_Caesar: Chris, I am certain of that

Chris_O_Connor: wtf is a PoMo? Sounds painful

bernt: Post Modern are Pomos

dark_penguin: pomo = postmodernists

Michael_Shermer: Agnosticus Caesar; I like your feminist usage

Agnosticus_Caesar: thank you

naddia: Aggy: I understand that science is incapable of providing absolute answers. However, certain theories have enough evidence to state them with an incredibly high level of probability.

Agnosticus_Caesar: naddia...agreed

Chris_O_Connor: Naddia - true

Agnosticus_Caesar: I have no issue with that

bernt: Naddia made my day

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - I'm not following your argument. You think we cannot say that babies are born as atheists with a high degree of certainty?

Agnosticus_Caesar: I take issue with treating pragmatism as if it were absolute

Agnosticus_Caesar: I didn't say that

Chris_O_Connor : Welcome Stephen

Agnosticus_Caesar: I said that we cannot know that absolutely

stephankrieg: Howdy Chris!

bernt: Oh Aggy a Pragmatist, sorry giving you wrong label then

Agnosticus_Caesar: it seems highly probable

stephankrieg: I joined as soon as I saw your BBT post


Agnosticus_Caesar: I am a pragmatist, and an agnostic

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - I think that's all we were saying

Agnosticus_Caesar: and I don't pretend one is the other

Agnosticus_Caesar: no

Chris_O_Connor: We don't know anything with absolute certainty

Agnosticus_Caesar: it has been said that babies ARE BORN ATHEISTS

bernt: Shermer what about my Vince Sarich question that I fail to communicate?

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - how should it be said?

Agnosticus_Caesar: that isn't a statement of probability

Hypatiasm: So, I still haven't figured out what makes nonbelievers different; why they don't have the same need to believe.

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - Again, how should it be said?

KevinBBG: Yes, Dr. S, you talk about how people believe, but how and why do people not believe?

naddia: Aggy: Will you answer a few questions for me?

Agnosticus_Caesar: by all collected data, the theory claiming that babies are born atheistic is the one most clearly supported

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - should we say (in day to day conversation) "I do hereby assign a high degree of probability to the assertion that most babies are born with what appears to be a lack of belief in God or gods?"

Michael_Shermer: Know what you get when you cross an atheist with a Jehovah Witness? Someone who knocks on your door for no reason at all

Chris_O_Connor: Shermer - haha Naddia is an X Witness

scrumfish: lol

Agnosticus_Caesar: Naddia...certainly

Chris_O_Connor: lol

naddia: Shermer: Damn, that hits a little too close to home. ;)

Michael_Shermer: How do people not believe? Well, they get the skeptic gene!

Chris_O_Connor: Sunsprite - welcome

KevinBBG: Is that a mutation?

Agnosticus_Caesar: Chris...the biggest problem with the arguments between theists and atheists is a lack of foundational knowledge

naddia: Aggy: Ok. Will you agree that a zygote is incapable of abstract thought?

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - any opinions on the Iraq war?

bernt: Shermer it could be the level of serotonin yes or no? :)

Agnosticus_Caesar: Naddia, I will say that is seems to not be

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - oh come on.

naddia: Aggy: What produces thought? Are rocks capable of thinking?

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - is a grain of sand capable of abstract thought?

Agnosticus_Caesar: Chris...I am an agnostic

Agnosticus_Caesar: period

Agnosticus_Caesar: and I accept things as they appear to be

scrumfish: that is something my sister and I talk about a lot. We can't figure out how we stopped believing in god with our upbringing...and our siblings haven't

Hypatiasm: I know a Presbyterian minister who's an agnostic.

Agnosticus_Caesar: I won't pretend that something is necessarily true just because it seems overwhelmingly obvious

Hypatiasm: We worked together with the ACLU

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - I'm an agnostic with regards to a deity, but not with regards to rocks thinking abstractly. Are you agnostic about everything?

Agnosticus_Caesar: I am agnostic

Agnosticus_Caesar : period

Chris_O_Connor: Dr. Shermer - Richard Dawkins was VERY against the just curious where you stand

Michael_Shermer: Okay, Gotta sign off now. Thanks a lot everyone. I had a great time. Best skeptical wishes

Agnosticus_Caesar: the god question is no more important than any other

bernt: Aggy is good at getting attention, help me ask Dr Shermer will you

Chris_O_Connor: Umm...goodnight Dr. Shermer

KevinBBG: I have to go, Dr. Shermer, thank you very much.

Chris_O_Connor: Oh well

bernt: too late to say good-bye then

Hypatiasm: Night, Kev.

Chris_O_Connor: That was an unusual chat session

naddia: Aggy: I kind of agree with your position, but partly disagree as well. I'll explain why...

Agnosticus_Caesar: I was absent from the room for over a half hour

Chris_O_Connor: he didn't chat much at all

bernt: Chris are you still there :)

concretized: Well, he didn't say much.

Chris_O_Connor: I am Bernt

dark_penguin: I felt that left a little more to be desired

Chris_O_Connor: No, he sure didn't.

concretized: Maybe he had a tough day.

Chris_O_Connor: Dark - me too. I was a bit disappointed

Chris_O_Connor: Oh well

bernt: it is not easy to be flooded with all of us

SunSprite86: did ya'll do a question/answer thing?

Agnosticus_Caesar: Try answering 15 people at once

Chris_O_Connor: Bernt - Yes, but he types fast and he was obviously not present in most of the chat

Agnosticus_Caesar: while trying to make a living

dark_penguin: Aggy-while eating dinner no less

Agnosticus_Caesar: the man has to sell books

Hypatiasm: And watching the basketball game.

TChris_O_Connor: yea

Agnosticus_Caesar: do you think he'd do this to please us?

Chris_O_Connor: Oh well

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - I'm not understanding your question

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - chat with us to please us?

bernt: Aggy your good at answering :) How could I have phrased my question so it worked?

Hypatiasm: Perhaps next time you should take some questions in advance Chris and have a part of the chat where you present the questions and the guest answers them

Agnosticus_Caesar: which?

Hypatiasm: and then have an open chat.

Chris_O_Connor: Aggy - I'm agnostic with respect to what motivated Dr. Shermer to chat with us

Agnosticus_Caesar: as am I

bernt: Aggy, my Vincent Sarich Question

naddia: Aggy: The way I see it is like this. We do not have absolute knowledge. None of us do. From a philosophical point of view, I'm certain of nothing, including my own existence. Reality may not be as we perceive it at all. We could be wrong about everything.

Chris_O_Connor: Hypatiasm - we have had many author chats with no format and most people love the freedom. Dr. Shermer was simply not talkative.

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