RationalWiki:Saloon bar/Archive206

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Re: Nate Silver going to ESPN[edit]

Who here thought FiveThiryEight was "disruptive" to the Times? Osaka Sun (talk) 00:45, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Oh absolutely, yes. This (posted the day after the U.S. election) explains why. Doctor Dark (talk) 01:12, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
Well, money was the real factor in the end. But if I was Jill Abramson I'd tell the reporters pissed that their page space was at risk to (at least) listen to what the guy was saying. Osaka Sun (talk) 01:39, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

In other news, Nate Silver predicted that he would be moving to ESPN within one day of the announcement. --Seth Peck (talk) 17:40, 23 July 2013 (UTC)


Thanks for people's comments above. Some of the on-wiki ideas can be done soon (volunteers who want to lead on those welcome), and we'll dicuss everything as the board when we have the next meeting. Sterilesig.svgtalk 02:30, 24 July 2013 (UTC)

Acceptable username?[edit]

What's the mob's opinion on someone calling themselves User:Assefdarapist?--ZooGuard (talk) 08:48, 24 July 2013 (UTC)

This mod's opinion is that it's going to change in a minute. SophieWilderModerator 09:23, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
Not acceptable, IMO. But I would prefer we ask them what they want it changed to in lieu of changing it for them without their knowledge. Reckless Noise Symphony (talk) 09:25, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
That option remains. SophieWilderModerator 09:32, 24 July 2013 (UTC)


User:ConservapediaMarkman Has been Cooped. --TheLateGatsby (The end of the dock ) 17:42, 25 July 2013 (UTC)

Compulsory organ donation[edit]

I've wondered about this. Too often, people end up dying because people didn't make the decision to become an organ donor or didn't tell their families, or because the doctors don't feel that they should burden the family with the question. Secondly, it's a clear example of harm by religion to let people die because someone doesn't want to part with body parts that they don't need because they're dead. It's morally wrong to let people die over an irrational superstition. Some people will say "but it's immoral not to respect their religion." It's far more ****ing immoral to let people die over an irrational superstition. Any legitimate argument for why someone who is suitable for donating organs should not be required to do so? –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 04:32, 21 July 2013 (UTC)

Not sure about forcing people, but it might be a reasonable idea to reverse the presumption of consent and make it opt out rather than opt in. If people have an ethical issue with donating one or more of their organs, they can sign up on the national organ donation register and make their preference clear. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 04:44, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
That's one of the things I've thought about too. Maybe as a step along the way or a compromise, but under such a system people would still die over irrational superstition. The only possible objection that I can come up with would be face transplants preventing open casket funerals. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 04:53, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
People still have the right to their own body, and trying to legislate against "irrational superstition" isn't going to be a popular move. WèàšèìòìďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 10:30, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
Opt-out systems are extremely effective. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 04:58, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
Assuming those statistics are accurate, that's really great. But even then, why would you give people the option of doing something that would lead to people dying? With this it's a direct cause and effect, not like saying that not going to war is pro death because a dictator might cause genocide. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 05:04, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
i would have concerns about being more valuable as bodyparts to a hospital where i am basically a charity patient Hamster (talk) 05:15, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
The places where they use out-out/required donation (ie, Spain and Israel) require that the person in question be medically dead or for next of kin to have given consent to pull the metaphorical plug. What you are implying would basically require the staff to kill you for the purpose of using your organs. --Token Conservative (talk) 06:24, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
I assume you're talking about Hamster's comment? Collection would be done after death by natural causes regardless. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 06:32, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
Well, i have a inherent distrust of the word "Compulsory" so... that. --MikallakiM 06:36, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
Requiring opt out instead of opt in would be much softer and be more likely to pass the libertarian types. If the statistics mentioned here were accurate, then that should be fine. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 07:08, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
"If only i was libertarian. --MikallakiM 06:21, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── You know what's even more effective? Providing organ donors a benefit. Israel, for instance, provides organ donors preference over non-donors for organ transplants. Seems like a basic minimum. I also don't know why we don't let informed individuals sell one of their kidneys. Hipocrite (talk) 07:23, 21 July 2013 (UTC)

Wales is switching to an opt-out system. The rest of the UK is likely to follow sooner or later. WéáśéĺóíďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 07:37, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
Larry Niven's short story "The Jigsaw Man" addresses one of the concerns about organ transplants. Niven wrote it when transplants were fairly new, and assumes that capital punishment remains legal past the point where transplants are routine and the shortage of donors is a pressing issue, which is true for Japan and the US today. He concludes that obviously you should "donate" the organs of the condemned. There are no longer to be poisoned or electrocuted but instead they'd be knocked unconscious and cut up for parts. And then having chosen that path obviously there is huge social pressure to get more organs, for example by making capital punishment the preferred or only tariff for more crimes. So not just murder but also rape and kidnapping, assault, driving uninsured, theft, littering...
Personally I support opt-out, although I do so from the realistic perspective that it effectively makes donation compulsory (nobody is really "consenting" in an opt-out system, life is too short). But Niven's story ought to be in the back of anybody's mind when making this decision. Tialaramex (talk) 08:28, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
I don't see why. It sounds like a pretty implausible slippery slope. Why would a society that cares enough about human life to make organ harvesting compulsory also be willing to execute people for fairly minor transgressions? WėąṣėḷőįďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 10:26, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
I think the key is "a society that cares enough about human life" there. An individual may care about something to a greater or lesser extent, and may rationalize behaviour that is inconsistent (dare I say dissonant?) with what logically follows on from that caring. Collective "caring" is a qualitatively different beast. Seeing how the US "pro-life" folks seem to limit their concern for life to the term prior to birth, it isn't too great a stretch to imagine a society able to rationalise the designation of involuntary donors, based on a "donor" having set foot on the wrong side of one arbitrary line or another.
BTW, I've put my giblets where my mouth is— my state driver's license has a little red heart in the corner, with the words "organ donor" there inscribed. I believe this has been held to be a valid "pocket will," confirming my wishes in the matter. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 12:11, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
Weaseloid, ultimately it's just a story. But most people care about their lives and to some extent those of loved ones, they find it very hard to care about lives in the abstract, people they've never met. Niven is suggesting that if people had something to gain personally (life extension due to ready availability of transplant organs) many of them would find themselves making excuses for why it's OK to execute gradually more and more people to keep the supply steady. Being written so long ago (almost 50 years) Niven guesses wrong about various technical considerations. We don't (presumably can't) preserve most organs for very extended periods, they must be used quickly or become worthless. Rejection turns out to be just as serious and more unavoidable than expected and artificial organs have improved significantly. Much of the civilised world has outlawed the death penalty, averting the temptation altogether. So I don't want to suggest that Niven's story is prophetic, just that it's something that you might want echoing about in the back of your head like Brave New World or 1984.
Like Sprocket my wallet contains a card which says my organs are to be used. Unfortunately Sprocket under the circumstances in which this comes into play you aren't alive to make the decision, and so despite that symbol there's a good chance medical staff will ask your relatives. If your relatives aren't sure there's a good chance they will try to err on the side of caution, and your giblets will be left to rot or burn. So please tell people who might get asked what you've done. Tialaramex (talk) 12:22, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
Left to rot or burn? That would be annoying, if there were any "I" left to be annoyed. Are there cases where that has happened? I'd like to think that, here in Taxachusetts at least, medical staff are aware that my having informed the Registry of Motor Vehicles is enough to establish my clear intent. (Mrs. Cogswell understands me well enough to know what I want.) Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 12:37, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
my state driver's license has a little red heart in the corner, with the words "organ donor" there inscribed. I believe this has been held to be a valid "pocket will," That doesn't actually do anything. The problem is people thinking it's all they have to do.

My question remains, for the moment, unanswered[edit]

Here in the People's Commonwealth of Taxachusetts, the little red heart on my state-issued driver's license means I am listed in the state's organ donor registry, with connection to the Federal database legally mandated. The FAQ at the Registry of Motor Vehicles site does not indicate I need to do anything else. I emphatically do not intend to start up in the stretcher and demand that my kishkas be harvested for the greater good. Ferfuxxake, I will be dead by then, not merely pining for the fjords. What other tap-dancing is needed on my part, while I yet draw breath? Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 23:26, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

Are you trying to donate yourself to medicine now, while still alive, or are you trying to make sure your organs get used when you're dead? If the former, you can always do regular donations of blood (especially if you have a rare blood type), you could donate bone marrow, organs that you have spares for or will grow back (ie, kidney, liver, skin). If the later, get a tag of some kind that says "do not resuscitate". I know a guy who has a tattoo on his chest that lists his allergies, that he has a pace maker, is an organ donor and says "do not resuscitate" and something about what to do if he's in a coma. He also has a living will that goes into a bit more depth, iirc.--Token Conservative (talk) 16:54, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
I am already a quasi-regular blood donor. That wasn't the question. Some editors have opined that getting onto the state's donor registry "isn't enough" to allow my organs to be harvested after death. I have seen what I consider reliable sources saying that the mark on the license is a valid pocket will, which makes my wishes clear in the case the medics get to my remains while they are still fresh enough to use. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 10:23, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
Perhaps I wasn't clear. In many places (I haven't checked Taxachusetts but I won't be surprised if that's on the list) your name being on an official registry is legally enough. But doctors aren't lawyers, or machines. There is an excellent chance that, although they could legally just check the register, go "He's on the list, let's get to work" and harvest whatever they want, they will instead go and talk to the crying people waiting for news. To have the best chance that your organs get used you want those people to be saying "Too bad, but nobody gets out of here alive, you'd better get to work to salvage any useful bits" or maybe "I never agreed with him, but I know he wanted be a donor, so that's fine". If they go "No! Leave him alone. Please just go away and let us grieve" then you're asking a medical professional (again, not a lawyer) to override the wishes of a living person. That's not really what they're trained for, and you shouldn't rely on it happening. So tell loved ones what you've done, so that this doesn't come as a surprise to them - that's really all I'm suggesting. Tialaramex (talk) 10:58, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for responding, Tia Lara. Both this and your earlier one carried enough supporting particulars to be worth reading. It was that other editor who came with a bare assertion (that registering "doesn't actually do anything") adding scant info, which is why I asked. Most Mondays, a couple of kids come visiting, whose mom is an MD in an elder care facility. When I've asked her about various things, I've gotten well-considered answers full of relevant detail based in current practice. I guess I've got another topic to ask her about. From EMT's to surgeons, I've usually gotten the sense that they are aware of the legal ramifications of the things they do.
I would hope that the "leave him alone and let us grieve" situations are outliers, and seldom seen. In my case, I'm pretty sure that me near and dear ones will stay consonant with me wishes in the matter. It would take unmitigated hubris to say that "he didn't know what he was doing when he put it in writing with the state," but hubris is commonly found among humans, so maybe it's to be expected, at least some of the time. Again, I would hope that kind of dissonance is a rarity. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 14:08, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

Reason to love the Guardian...[edit]

Want some real news, as opposed to hourly updates on some rich woman performing a basic biological function that's happened several billion times in human history? We have an app for that. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 04:09, 24 July 2013 (UTC)

I do feel sorry for Americans, though. They have to put up with significantly more retarded shit on this story than the British. Scarlet A.pngpathetic 11:39, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
For a country that fought so hard and laid down so many thousands of lives to be rid of the monarchy, we here in the United States seem to be especially infatuated with them. --OverworldTheme (talk) 13:45, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
Ignorance and romance. The American Revolution is long over, and the vast majority of Americans have never lived under a monarchy. I'm not aware of a European nation where the Monarchy wields any real power, so all we see is pageantry and people with good table manners -we'd feel differently if we had to pay for their carriages. --TheLateGatsby (The end of the dock ) 14:56, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
Allegedly Luxembourg and Lesotho are both functional monarchies. But that's from a guy I once met who wants to institute a Monarchy in the US (and this was on a forum populated by Neo-Nazis and Communists).--Token Conservative (talk) 17:48, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
A pity, really. We have so many promising place names to name peerages after. Lord Indianapolis. Lady Tampa. Duke of Idaho. Duchess of Cleveland.... - Smerdis of Tlön (talk) 17:04, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
Aye, not forgetting the Baron of Barstow, the Nabob of Needles, the Marquis of Sparks and his cousin the Fusilier of Flint, all swearing fealty to the Duke of Greater Tucson, Tehachapi, Tucumcari, and Tonopah. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 17:14, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
Isaac Hayes is the only true Duke of New York. --TheLateGatsby (The end of the dock ) 17:32, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
The Irish media are all over it too, which is grating. I don't have a nationalist bone in my body, am not 'anti-British' in any meaning of the word but it is really really annoying. Marcus Cicero SPQR100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 17:49, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
At least you don't have the royals on your money, boyo.. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 18:33, 24 July 2013 (UTC)

Well, I can't complain. Royal baby earned me 50 quid. I bet on the name being George. It was really fucking obvious, it's the royal name we haven't had in a while. What else were they going to call him after all? Dave? --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 02:36, 25 July 2013 (UTC)

Except that Charles is apparently taking the name "George" when/if he becomes king, so there's sort of one in the offing. Also, as an American, I've heard a lot more bitching about the coverage of the royal baby than I've heard actual coverage of the royal baby. (Oh, and we're way overdue for a Richard or Stephen.) DickTurpis (talk) 02:44, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
Is he? I hadn't heard that. Maybe he thinks we might have him beheaded. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 02:49, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
I've heard about Charles-->George too. Unfortunately though I heard it on HIGNFY so, um... SophieWilderModerator 09:03, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
*ponders potential of a Have I Got News For You article* SophieWilderModerator 09:06, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
It's not unheard of for a monarch to pick a 'new' name. George VI and Edward VII were both really 'Albert', and Victoria was really 'Alexandrina', which is just silly. Worm (talk) 13:00, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
Maybe it was William's way of getting his dad to keep the name Charles when he becomes king. After all, if there's a King George and his grandson Prince George in the public eye at the same time, it could confuse a stupid person. Spud (talk) 07:14, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
Plus, Charles is already nuts. There's historic precedent in that situation that he'll start ending every sentence with "penguin." --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 09:53, 26 July 2013 (UTC)


What's the harm? I read the Vitamin supplement article and come to a mixed conclusion. Not that I'm loading up on 1000% DV on something, I just ended up with a 500 pill bottle for a whole $7.00 at my grocer with 100% of lotsa stuff. I tend to take them in the morning before I run out for work (I skip breakfast regularly) and generally do not feel any different, except for the fiber seeming to be somewhat helpful. Zero (talk) 13:33, 24 July 2013 (UTC)

They're no substitute for eating properly, young man. Eat your vegetables like a good RWian. Also they don't work well, sometimes passing right through the digestive system intact. SophieWilderModerator 16:14, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
But of course. My diet is unbalanced insofar as I cannot ingest dairy (unless I feel like staying home for an entire) and meat is a little more occasional than it should be I think. I overload on fruits and vegetables with a healthy dose of grains for actual energy. Zero (talk) 16:26, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
One, there is no harm at all. Two, most Americans, all dieters, and anyone with special medical condition can benefit from some level of vitamins cause we have piss poor diets. I have a children's gummy bear vitiman every day. I don't eat much fruit or veg, and never exercise. it's not as good as real food, but you know... Also, living in colorado where we avoid the sun like the plague (some radiation thing, don'ca'know), docs are finding more and more vit D deficiency in women, so there's that. That said, one does not need expensive vits, nor does one need a lot of them, all the time. i think the joke is you end up with expensive urine. so it's not harmful, but costly!Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 16:34, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
At $.014/pill, I don't think it's all that expensive though.
If you have a deficiency, for whatever reason, then you need them. The clue is kinda in the name with that one. Scarlet A.pngpostate 19:04, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
If you have a medical deviciency then yes take the pill. Just make the buggers actually bioavailable. SophieWilderModerator 19:54, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
eat a big bowl of those fruity things with marshmallow shapes and you will have all the nutrients you need for the day ;-)
Relevant? Scream!! (talk) 17:41, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
Vitamins usually aren't packaged with the same rigor as pharmaceuticals, so there's a slight chance of poisoning or something. PalMD has written some stuff about it. Check his blog--"Shut up, Brx." 11:02, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

Debate Club?[edit]

I love a good debate. Should Rationalwiki introduce a debate club? We could come up with debate titles between ourselves, develop and codify rules etc. I frequently challenge AD to a debate but he is far too cowardly to partake. Any takers? Marcus Cicero SPQR100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 20:42, 25 July 2013 (UTC)

Rationalwiki:Debates Polite Timesplitter Cultural loneliness is a right pain 09:14, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
@MC: If you have a particular debate you want to do, I might be interested. Just list out a topic (or list of topics) you are interested in and I may jump right in. --ShadowofLords (talk) 18:51, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

OH. MY. SCIENCE.[edit]

The quantum babbling from the RationalWiki Diet actually exists. Truly, Poe's Law knows no bounds.--Кřěĵ (ṫåɬк) 04:37, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

I got to the word "toxins" before my interest was completely abandoned. --Seth Peck (talk) 17:23, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

A friday maths problem for you all[edit]

This kind of mathematics was never my strong suit, so maybe someone here could pitch in. Lets say you have a rectangle divided in to discrete blocks, x by y. Now, I want to tile the whole thing with semi-random tetrominoes. It's obvious to me that a totally random selection would not always tile the area, but I certainly want mostly random where I can get away with it. How would I go about proving the correctness of the algorithm I designed? I'm not sure really where to start. I feel like a solution would involve always filling the lowest space first, picking randomly until the end of a row and then picking a sensible block to fill the last, lowest space. Continue until the uppermost 4 rows and then enter an endgame protocol where the blocks are carefully chosen. But even if I coded it, I'd never be sure there wasn't some edge case out there waiting to bite me. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 22:36, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

I haven't done it, but this seems like an obvious case for a proof by (mathematical) induction. I don't know if it would work, but offhand... Step 1: Show that your algorithm works for 4 wide by 8 deep. Then show it will work for 4+1 wide by 8 deep, using the 4 by 8 case as part of the proof. This is the induction step, and it's the hard one. Once you got that done, generalize that to a proof for "if the algorithm works for N by 8 (where N >= 4), then prove that it works for N+1 by 8". Then using the standard axiom of induction, you just proved that it works for all N by 8 rectangles. ... Then you start a second induction proof. Now that you just proved it works for N x 8, for all N >= 4, then you have to prove it works for all N x (8+1) (where N >= 4). Again, you have to do the proof using the first as an integral part of it, and then generalize it to a proof for "for some P >= 8, for all N >= 4, if the algorithm works for N by P, then the algorithm works for N by (P+1)". Again from the axiom of induction, you can then conclude it works for all N >= 4, P >= 8. ... Of course, that's simply how I would first approach the problem. I don't know if such a proof is doable that way, or easy. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 00:29, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
I would try to do the parts I've omitted - ex: prove it works for 4 x (8+1) assuming it works for 4 x8 - with an exhaustive proof method. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 00:31, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Well, of course the proof would be inductive. An exhaustive search would be right up there with chess problems in terms of solubility. Technically possible, but I don't own a supercomputer. What you're describing doesn't really address the problem. What happens is that the your sub-rectangles have bits of them pre-tiled by tiles already laid, both horizontally and vertically, because tetrominoes aren't regular. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 00:59, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
You could probably try a genetic algorithm to come up with an optimal algorithm. Sterilesig.svgtalk 01:07, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
I think I roughly know the algorithm intuitively... I reckon it goes 1) Fill in the bottom left most space. 2) Avoid local occlusions (practically, don't drop a J vertically, upside down then select a T) 3) Continue until at least one block in the 5th most column from the top is filled 4) Select a (probably pre-computed) endgame at random. Actually I guess if I can assume infinite vertical space that makes by taking the endgame out of the equation it makes the proof a little easier... I still have trouble imagining the proof for the non-rectangular starting conditions... --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 01:16, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
I don't think that there's that many permutations for going from 4x8 to (4+1)x8. That seems doable by hand, though perhaps annoying. But again, maybe I don't see something. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 02:37, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Really? Because my calculator says there are something on the order of 10^10 different combinations to check for a 5x8 field. Even with most of them bailing out early, it's still something you need a computer for. And of course, I specified an arbitrary field size, not a tetris field. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 10:21, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

er of: perhaps this site http://www.cut-the-knot.org/blue/TetrominoFaultFree.shtml might give you some ideas Hamster (talk) 02:55, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

Ok. I'm probably underestimating this, but I also think that you wouldn't need to do every possible covering, but merely try to developer a proof for the n+1 case. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 23:56, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
You could try Tetris. --Blunt Force Drama (talk) 16:01, 27 July 2013 (UTC)


Our article on our reason for being is hopelessly out of date and full of lame in-jokes and second-rate snark. I've been poking at it the last couple of days; maybe other folks who can access CP for refs can help out. What's especially missing, remarkably, is a well-documented history of the site from founding as homeschooler resource to sysop playground to fringe website with a couple of regular editors. Go nuts. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 16:25, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

There's Conservapedia:Timeline - although not very well maintained these days, some of the earlier stuff could be used for building a decent history section for the mainspace article. ΨΣΔξΣΓΩΙÐWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 17:25, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Merging the two into a concise history that has a narrative, as opposed to a "timeline" of events might be a thing. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 17:32, 27 July 2013 (UTC)


Quick rebuttal for qualia refuting physicalism needed[edit]

My best and probably brainiest friend has been studying philosophy, and I'm annoyed that he now refuses to accept the brain is a physicalistic system.

Our argument's below – my points are the long ones. Apologies for the slightly lengthy text, it's actually shorter than it looks due to the linebreaks, I promise.

At what point does any non-physicalism of the brain emerge, given all the "ingredients" – gametes and cell division – are evidently physicalistic? To believe the brain is non-physicalistic is to believe non-physicalism can emerge from physicalism. The unlikelihood of that is far greater than the likelihood of qualia being a valid concept that disproves physicalism. Correct?

How can likelihood or probability have any bearing?

Because any statement that doesn't follow on logically from a set of axioms can only have its validity assessed by attempting to reconcile it with the aesthetic and harmony of all previous knowledge.
For example, we have the axioms of physicalism. We have a statement that because we experience qualia the brain cannot be a physicalistic system. There is no way to derive the statement from the axioms.
Similarly we again have the axioms of physicalism, and the statement that non-physicalistic systems can emerge from physicalistic systems. Again, there is no way to derive the statement from the axioms.
The only way to assess the two statements is to evaluate how well they reconcile with past knowledge of the universe.
The latter statement does not align with empirical data, and would significantly rewrite our current models in physics, chemistry and biology.
The former statement, in light of the latter being likely false, is also likely false.

Likelihood has an unemphasised but important role in knowledge. The likelihood of the christian god existing is undefinable but less than the probability of it not existing. Similarly, the likelihood of the brain being non-physicalistic is undefinable but less than the probability that it is physicalistic.

Invoking probability and aesthetics when we're talking about metaphysics is arbitrary.

Going from the axioms of physicalism to the statement that because we experience qualia the brain cannot be physicalistic requires a logical jump. That's irreconcilable. The only value that statement can have is if it's pragmatic to believe it, which is the case if it's likelihood is greater than the likelihood of its negated statement. It is not.
Probability and aesthetics are probably the wrong words. How well something accords with the apparently fundamental harmony of previous knowledge is a better way to express it.
Vast swathes of philosophy rely on strong arguments, but not logical deduction. Qualia is a strong argument, but without being derivable from the relevant set of axioms it is "not even wrong".

Find out about the problem of induction. Pragmatism is never a neat or good solution. You can't call that a logical jump if its metaphysics were talking

Pragmatism is a weak solution, but give an alternative. Without pragmatism you would be living in fear of a thousand bullshit gods. We can't prove or disprove the existence of the christian god, the only thing we can say is that its non-existence accords better with our previous knowledge than its existence, therefore its non-existence, while of unknown truthiness, is pragmatically true.
There exists no valid argument for not believing in the christian god that does not include this kind of pragmatism - evaluating which possibility accords better with previous knowledge and taking it as pragmatically true.
All good philosophers are agnostic. But they pragmatically take atheism to be true.
Why can't something be called a logical jump in metaphysics? Is it just assumed?

But pragmatism is giving up on philosophy and a science that isn't mindless. Because reality isn't governed by the sort of necessity that you see in logical deduction (unless you can confirm this somehow as an atheist)

Philosophy utterly relies on similarly weak solutions. The definability of qualia does not logically refute physicalism, it's the gut feeling of various notable philosophers that bridges the jump.
All of the best physicists in the world would beg to differ. Everything we have ever observed is aligned with the harmony that the universe is governed by the interactions of sub-atomic particles. A weak philosophical thought experiment is arbitrary orders of magnitude too weak to cause any reasonable doubt.

Philosophy tends to avoid weak solutions; how can you justify what you just said? Neither science nor philosophy is necessarily building towards explanatory harmony

I'd like to nip this argument in the metaphorical bud, but I feel like i'm flailing a little, and a bit out of my depth. Any help?! Thank you! I'll let you know how it concludes. Ak249 (talk) 09:31, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

When I take part in such conversations, I like to go like this: We both agree that we can make decisions and actualize them with speech or other body movement. At this point, the dualist is sunk. He can agree with me that the physics of human brains is the same as rocks and stars, or it's not. If it's the same physics, and we agree that every thought is actualizable in terms of the observable physical behavior of the human body, then "physicalism" necessarily follows. The other options are absurd. You have to say that you can have thoughts without affecting your behavior, or you have to say that the particles in your brain don't obey physics - an absurd statement given our knowledge of biology, chemistry, and physics. So again, I would have to ask the dualist(?), do you think that there are particles in the brain which sometimes don't obey physics, that respond to the "force" of "free will"? PS: Note that quantum indeterminacy does not save you. Either the behavior follows the true-random statistical model of quantum mechanics, or it doesn't. Any deviation is in principle detectable, and either you think that the particles in the brain do obey the model of physics (and nothing else), or you think the particles in the brain sometimes obey rules other than physics. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 09:43, 22 July 2013 (UTC)
In other words, I don't even talk about qualia. As soon as I can get the person to agree that all thoughts are actualizable in terms of behavior, and that the particles in the brain obey physics, then I win, and the dualist loses. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 09:45, 22 July 2013 (UTC)
What the fuck are you talking about? Rest assured that the mind-body debate rumbles on despite your declaration of victory. Modern dualist positions are pretty weird and unwieldy, but until the folks in the lab nail a complete biochemical account of consciousness, then those positions will always have a space in which to exist. Robledo (talk) 21:38, 22 July 2013 (UTC)
Can you address the substance of my argument instead of merely saying "oh, that's wrong", please? I have yet to hear anyone even give a marginally coherent reply to that point, except to suggest that sometimes physical particles in the brain sometimes don't obey physics, which of course is just wrong. Dualism has the same amount of space to exist as people who claim that telepathy is real, e.g. about none. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 00:40, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
To be honest, I've no real interest in this beyond a few cheap digs at your epic hubris. I share your dislike of dualism in general, and believe that it has nothing useful to tell us about the nature of the mind. However, I draw the line at pretending I can directly contradict someone arguing for a special category of mental objects or properties, when all I can actually say is:
  1. There's fuck all evidence to support such a position.
  2. It does considerable violence to our best theories of how the world functions.
  3. Modern neuroscience seems a much more promising line of enquiry.
I'm happy enough with that stalemate, not least because I reckon I'll end up on the "winning" side. If you have an ounce of sense, you'll reconcile yourself with it, too. Robledo (talk) 19:44, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
Does it? Dualism is a thoroughly discredited position, unless you're referring to David Chalmers-style property dualism. I find many of Chalmers' ideas problematic, but at least they don't violate physical law. Which is not to say that EL himself is not partially arguing for a discredited position, i.e. behaviorism. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 03:29, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
As little as I understand behaviorism, I am not promoting it. As little as I understand it, mostly from Dennett talking about his experiences with Skinner-people, is that Dennett holds that the mind is a useful model for reality, and Skinner-people refuse to use that model of reality, and refuse to use the language of free will and choice. I'm actually more with Dennett, and so I'm not promoting behaviorism per se. I'm just saying that there is no magic going on in the particles in the brain other than conventional physics, and all of your thoughts are describable in terms of the simple physical properties of those particles, e.g. the "behavior" of the particles, not behavior in behaviorism. Sorry, I think you were reading into what I was saying, which I was not saying. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 03:54, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
I was referring to this in particular: "...all thoughts are actualizable in terms of behavior...." If you meant "behavior of the particles" by this, then, yes, I misread you. But if all your thoughts are describable in terms of the physical properties of those particles, where is said description? I'm not holding my breath here. Funny aside: While Dennett has argued against Skinnerian radical behaviorism, he will sometimes admit to being behavioristic in some sense, and his concept of heterophenomenology has been accused of this as well. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 04:33, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
Well, either you think that 1- the particles in the brain are completely described by physics, and thus all of your behavior are completely described by physics, and thus all of your thoughts are described by physics, or 2- you think that particles in the brain sometimes do something other than physics, or 3- you think that you can have some thoughts which are not detectable by your behavior (but this is weak anyway - restricting the libertarian free will to not affecting your behavior). EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 05:02, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
1- This is a non-sequitur. Please show me where all psychological phenomena have been re-described in terms of physics. 2- No materialist or physicalist believes this, so I'll skip it. 3- So every thought induces behavior? And what does free will have anything to do with it? Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 16:32, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

Let's assume that there is a model of the human mind which is both accurate and not computationally reducible to the conventional model of particle physics of the human brain. Most, if not all, human thoughts "impact" or have a "causal" relationship to the behavior of the human body.

This argument seems to be more about epistemology than qualia. The problem with using qualia to refute physicalism lies in the slippery definition of "qualia." It often seems to be used interchangeably with "magic" or "mind stuff." There is an unfounded assumption that qualia is irreconcilable with physicalism. This is not necessarily the case -- I'd look into the work of Ned Block, who is a defender of qualia but believes it to be scientifically analyzable and possibly physical in nature. A good summary of his position on qualia can be found here. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 16:40, 22 July 2013 (UTC)
There's no knock-down argument against dualism. Talking probabilities / lack of evidence / poor logic doesn't help either, because modern dualists are (usually) deliberately arguing for a special case to be made for the mind. That might be infuriating for you, but as I said above, there's room for such positions.
If you want a bit of a laugh, force your mate into admitting that it all really hinges on his (undoubtedly very strong) intuition that consciousness must be something more than a complex collection of physical processes. Finish by asking him to give a coherent account of how this intuition is qualitatively different from a religious person's faith. Robledo (talk) 22:27, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

one more try[edit]

@Nebuchadnezzar: Let me try it like this. Tell me where you disagree please. Most, if not all, human thoughts have a causal relation to the behavior of the human body. In other words, most, if not all, human thoughts can be "expressed" through speech and other actions of the body. This includes even the "unconscious" ones which merely subtly change behavior without conscious awareness. (However, if a thought is so buried as to be completely unaccessible to the normal conscious mind, and does not impact the behavior of the human body in any way, is it even fair to call it a thought - is it even fair to say that it exists?) Thus, any accurate model of the human mind will necessarily entail an accurate model of the behavior of the material human brain and material body. Thus, if we have an accurate model of the human mind which is not computationally reducible to mere conventional physics of the human brain, then it necessarily follows that we can derive an accurate model of the behavior of the material brain and material body which is not computationally reducible to conventional physics, and this is an absurd conclusion. It is absurd on the known evidence to suggest that sometimes the electrons or other particles in the human brain or body sometimes do not obey the wave equation. Thus reductio ad absurdum. The only premise that we can throw out is the supposition that we could have an accurate model of the human mind which is not computationally reducible to the conventional physics of the human brain. If someone wants to call themselves a dualist while also accepting my argument, then this is me not caring. The argument establishes that you are computationally modelable as a mere physical machine, and libertarian free will is disproven. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 20:57, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

@Robledo: I fail to see how it is epic hubris to note that the available evidence is more than clear that libertarian free will is demonstrably false, and has been for quite a while. I fail to see how it is epic hubris to note that the human mind is necessarily modelable via a computational reduction to the conventional physics of the material human brain on the known evidence. Similarly, is it epic hubris to say that all religious people are deluded? They are. ... "It does considerable violence to our best theories of how the world functions." I have no clue what you're talking about here. ... "Modern neuroscience seems a much more promising line of enquiry." My views are based on modern neuroscience. ... Otherwise, I think I addressed your points already (including the latest reply to Nebuchadnezzar above), and I politely disagree. I just don't understand how a reasonable person can look at the evidence and say "yea, the human mind isn't computationally reducible to physics, but the human brain is just mere physics". It makes no sense. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 20:57, 23 July 2013 (UTC)

If you really mean "necessarily" in your second sentence, then you're beyond help, reason, and possibly even satire. If in fact you mean "probably (and many years hence)", then there might be a discussion to be had. Robledo (talk) 22:26, 23 July 2013 (UTC)
You haven't added anything to the argument, just evaded my basic objection. Where is this reduction of psychology to physics taking place? Or, more generously, what would the outline of such a research program even look like? Have psychologists missed the news that psychology is now physics? No, because no such thing is happening. This idea was, in fact, attempted in the 1930s with the logical positivists' partial publication of the International Encyclopedia of Unified ScienceWikipedia. However, the encyclopedia was never fully published and the philosophical enterprise was scuttled along with it. I'm not holding my breath on "Reducing Psychology to Physics for Dummies." Furthermore, you are conflating ontological reductionism with epistemological reductionism. Everything may reduce to physics ontologically speaking, but describing everything in terms of physics is as nonsensical as performing a chemical analysis of the war of 1812. One-to-many or many-to-many relationships between lower and higher levels also throw a monkey wrench into this explanatory endeavor. (Take gene-environment interactions as one example.) Even the hardline reductionists are only talking about reducing psychology to neuroscience right now, so you are on pretty shaky ground here. It's not simply a false dichotomy between believing everything can be described by physics and magic. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 21:04, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
What's happening nowadays at the borders of neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy is interesting, but I can't claim any depth of familiarity with it. I'm happy to lurk and learn here. Still, I think it's inaccurate to say "Most, if not all, human thoughts have a causal relation to the behavior of the human body."
I have direct experience that says otherwise: sitting in quiet contemplation, I can "watch" thoughts arise, lead to other thoughts, and dissipate. When things are really going quietly, the bodily stillness is so complete that the small eye muscles stop moving, enough that retinal fatigue makes surrounding objects seem to disappear momentarily, and appear again. Meanwhile, thoughts continue to come and go. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 22:28, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
Quoting Nebuchadnezzar: "Everything may reduce to physics ontologically speaking, but describing everything in terms of physics is as nonsensical as performing a chemical analysis of the war of 1812." - I have not claimed that such a model would be directly usable for anything. I have not claimed that such a computational reduction could even be described with the total amount of particles in the observable universe. All I have claimed is that such a computational reduction exists in principle. Whatever libertarian free will means, I think everyone can agree that it is something other than computationally reducible to physics. In fact, that's the only common theme. Which means that my earlier claim that the computational reduction exists in principle is alone sufficient to infer that libertarian free will is humbug, which is then sufficient IMHO to dispel most of the relevant and interesting kinds of dualism. The rest of your reply is simply a non-sequitir. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 22:39, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
@Robledo. Yes, sorry. I don't have absolute confidence, so "necessarily" is a wrong word in that sense. However, I'm as confident of this as I am that there are no ghosts, that humans do not have telepathy, and that there is no dragon in my garage. Furthermore, from a far less substantiated philosophical position, I would say that whatever else libertarian free will means, I think everyone can agree that it is something other than Laplace's Demon style determinism and quantum-style true random. IMHO such an idea is incoherent. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 22:39, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
@Robledo. About the "many years hence" comment. Again, I think the evidence is quite compelling that particles in the brain obey the same physics as particles in rocks, and that any action you take is those particles in the brain moving around. This clearly entails that libertarian free will is humbug. For libertarian free will to be true, it must necessarily (and I mean it absolutely this time, but please feel free to point out any errors I've made) - if libertarian free will is true, then necessarily sometimes particles in the brain don't obey physics. It follows immediately from the definition of libertarian free will. There is no "in many years we might demonstrate this". It's already quite conclusively demonstrated. It's like I'm talking to someone who thinks that bodily illness is caused by demons and not microbes. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 22:54, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
@ Sprocket J Cogswell, I grant your point, but IMO it does nothing to save libertarian free will from my argument. Proponents of libertarian free will cannot just drop actionable thoughts and say it applies only to unspeakable thoughts and honestly retain anything resembling their current position. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 22:45, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
I don't really have a horse in the race, but offer the following: There are some human actions that must be tailored to the present and projected dynamic situation, but whose complexity and necessary rapidity will not allow real-time self-monitoring in a closed feedback loop, given the limited signal propagation speed of the nervous system. The primordial example is throwing a stick or a stone at a moving game animal. Modern examples abound in sports, and even in the utterances of human speech, where all the components of the vocal tract must collaborate in time to articulate meaningful sound.
Such actions must be prepared in advance, and launched open-loop. There is a hypothesized mental mechanism, consistent with how people perform in the face of various deficits and stresses, for how the mind tries out various versions of the projected action. The mechanism's virtual topology seems to resemble a railroad marshalling yard, with multiple parallel lines converging to a single outlet. We unconsciously evaluate and prune the possibilities until the favored one emerges.
Given the oversimplification that synapses are not simply on/off, but shaded, and astronomically numerous, it makes about as much sense to say the mind may be analyzed in enough detail to predetermine its choices in any particular situation, as it does to say that the statics, mechanics, aerodynamics, etc., of a room and its occupants may be analyzed with enough precision and granularity to predetermine the outcome of any particular 2d6 roll. Maybe it does make sense. I do not know. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 23:30, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
Fully agreed. That's why I used the words "in principle", and otherwise very clearly specified my position. But "in principle" is all I need for my purposes. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 23:34, 24 July 2013 (UTC)
Most people do not appreciate the complexity of the principles involved. Mental activity, coherent enough to prompt appropriate effective behavior, depends on timing, or how well various jittery pulse trains manage to play together, sometimes by the skin of their metaphoric teeth, across the interstellar distances of a "meat universe." Nerve signals are slow enough, and the distances within a human nervous system are great enough, that synchronization across those distances is not a trivial matter.
Autonomic nerve signals propagate on the order of 1~10 millimeters per millisecond. Motor and sensory nerves can go a bit faster, maybe up to 100 millimeters per millisecond, or a bit more. I'm casting it in terms of milliseconds, so the cyber-geeks among us can gasp at how slow that is. Unless I've pulled out the wrong numbers (from the usual place) it can take on the order of ten milliseconds for a signal from my big toe to reach my spinal cord, or vice versa.
With all that going on, we don't need to invoke the dreaded Q-word associated with Herr Doktor Heisenberg, but it might make sense to consider such a complex and sensitive, perhaps emergent, system a bit chaotic. How does that square with determinism? Again, I don't know. Thanks for reading, Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 00:56, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
Sure. Still fully agreeing. Because it seems that I am somehow not clear enough, and because you mention determinism, let me emphasize that I am not claiming that the mind is deterministic ala Laplace's Demon, and I am not claiming the mind is true-random ala quantum mechanics. However, I am claiming that if the interactions of elementary particles is deterministic, then the whole system is deterministic. I am claiming that the mind is either deterministic or true-random, or a combination. I am claiming that a third option is demonstrably false according to the known evidence, and furthermore I am weakly claiming that a third option is incoherent "logically" and "philosophically". EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 01:02, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
OK, we agree that Laplace's demon is right out of it, if I understand that to mean a whole lot of tiny billiard balls and a whole lot of floating-point throughput— too simplistic. I think we agree that there is enough regularity in the whole business that it isn't totally random. Might be more than a few stochastic processes going on, prompted by I don't know what; that would cover "a combination" of those two, perhaps. I'm not sure I agree that the interaction of elementary particles is deterministic, but I'm also not sure that matters for the electro-chemical activity of the brain and the rest of the nervous system.
I said "if", specifically "if the interactions of elementary particles is deterministic". EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 02:13, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
I saw that. If they are not deterministic, but statistically predictable, or mostly so, then what follows on from that will come with some degree of fuzz, which must be accounted for. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 02:32, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
I do not understand what you mean by a third option. My working hypothesis is that the complex physical activity of the mind is enough to explain everything I need in order to carry on, but I don't see how "something else" can be ruled out in a bullet-proof fashion. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 01:36, 25 July 2013 (UTC)

another break, explanation of "in principle"[edit]

Maybe we're working with different definitions, which is why I've tried to be more than clear. I have said that whatever libertarian free will means, I think everyone can agree that everyone agrees that libertarian free will by definition contains the claim that there is no accurate model of the human mind which is computationally reducible to the mere physics of rocks and stars - no reduction even in principle.

When I say something is computable "in principle" or that it is computationally reducible "in principle", that particular phrase has a very specific technical meaning in the context of science and specifically computation theory. That is, something is computable or predictable "in principle" if there exists a Turing machine which can compute it (with the proper inputs), even if the Turing machine would have more moving parts than the number of particles in our (observable) universe, even if the Turing machine specification would require more parts than the number of particles in our (observable) universe.

For example, consider a fast growing (deterministic) function like the Ackermann function. Calculating anything but the most trivial of inputs will likely be forever impossible because of limitations on how big and powerful we can plausibly make computers, and because of pesky problems like the lifetime of the universe before heat death and the limitation of the speed of light for transmitting information. So, we'll almost certainly never calculate the exact value of A(100, 100). However, it is well-defined. It exists (in the mathematical sense). It is formally computable - in other words it is computable "in principle".

As another example, consider protein folding. Protein folding is just the application of basic particle physics. With the known initial configuration, we could - in principle - predict the eventual shape of any protein. Currently this is one of the popular "applications" or tests of modern supercomputers. It's pushing the boundary of what is currently possible to compute in practice. Let's take it up a notch, and consider the behavior of a whole single celled organism. It's nothing but protein folding, interactions of proteins and other chemicals, and all of that is just particle physics. Of course, like the A(100, 100) example, it may well be that we cannot have sufficient computing power in practice to actually run the model of particle physics on the single cell. However, again like the Ackermann function example, no one - well few people - will seriously doubt that the Turing machine does not exist. Few people will say that the thing is not formally computable.

This addresses Nebuchadnezzar's point raised earlier. No where above did I say that the study of the brain with the model of particle physics will ever produce useful results. He read that into me, and read far more than what I actually and very clearly said. I full-heartedly agree that this kind of reduction in principle is of quite limited use, and we need other models of the mind if we want something useful and tractable (e.g. plausibly computable in practice).

So, back to your point. What is this "third option" I was talking about? Again, as far as I can tell, everyone agrees that libertarian free will, whatever it means, at least includes the claim that there is no accurate model of the mind which is deterministic - even in principle. It also includes the claim that the mind is not what we might call a deterministic program except with some some true random number generators thrown in. I hope what I've said here is not controversial, otherwise this is what we need to focus on.

What I have done is tried to argue that the behavior of the brain on the known evidence is undeniably computationally reducible to particle physics, and particle physics is just determinism with possibly some true random number generators thrown in.

The third option is something other than the above. Libertarian free will definitionally is something other than determinism and true-random. I think the very idea of a third option is incoherent, but I say so only weakly. Maybe it is coherent, but physics is definitely not that third option. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 02:13, 25 July 2013 (UTC)

So, I think we are still disagreeing though, and I don't understand how someone can disagree given what we know of biology, chemistry, and physics. I do think that the brain, and consequently the mind, is just a bunch of billiard balls, to use your analogy. I think it is just deterministic billiard balls, with maybe some true-random events thrown in. I also happen to think that the amount of balls required to make this analogy good is staggering, trillions of trillions. Yes, the idea of clockwork or billiards is "too simplistic" to be a human mind. The number of moving parts is way too small in those analogies. The problem is that you are not taking seriously the possibility of trillions of trillions of moving parts. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 02:22, 25 July 2013 (UTC)

I was confused by your use of the words "described by." If you want to say that it is possible in principle, then I can't object wholesale. So we've been talking past each other on that. However, I don't know why you seem to think that substance dualism is of the "most relevant and interesting kinds." It's a dead horse. Your argument doesn't really touch property dualism, though. Finally, I'm not going to defend contra-causal free will, and I don't see how it's relevant here. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 02:57, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
[ec]The problem could be that you assume all those parts to be reliable, and that they never interfere with each other.
I am unconvinced that some imaginary Turing machine, even one of near-infinite capacity, could be proven to adequately simulate the mass of living tissue that it takes to host a mind. How do we know the bits on the tape are guaranteed to capture reality(TM) with fine enough granularity in time, space, and all other relevant parameters, to avoid something analogous to aliasing? Unless an end to the refinement of that granularity could be determined, starting the machine would be pointless.
There are some physical problems where numerical finite-element analysis helps optimize things. There are other situations where pouring on CPU cycles is ineffective and inelegant. I think Nebuchadnezzar's analogy of the chemical analysis of the War of 1812 is apt here. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 03:27, 25 July 2013 (UTC)
Meh. At least I think you understand my position correctly now. I fail at communication. I need to review how I can say this better next time. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 05:22, 25 July 2013 (UTC)


Computability is a very special property, and I'm not sure why EL thought it was relevant here, maybe I just didn't read the thread carefully enough. Anyway, things can be well defined without being computable. The Busy Beaver function Σ is perfectly well defined, and we know the results for some small parameters, but it's not computable (indeed it's the textbook example of a non-computable function). Busy Beaver illustrates an important property of non-computability that helps students get past a naive understanding of what's going on. A computer can show that Σ(4) is exactly 13, even though Σ is non-computable. What a computer can't do is Σ(n) but, neither can we. This might be because we're just computers too. But it doesn't prove that either. Tialaramex (talk) 11:17, 26 July 2013 (UTC)

Again, I think it's relevant because the only coherent common thread to definitions of libertarian free will I see is: Whatever else libertarian free will is, everyone can agree that it's not physics. Whether physics is deterministic ala Laplace Demons, or whether it's like a deterministic program with true random number generators, libertarian free will is not that. More formally, as far as I can tell, libertarian free will is the claim that the human mind, and by consequence the observable behavior of the human brain and body, cannot be accurately modeled by physics, and equivalently there is no accurate model which is computationally reducible to the predictive model of (conventional) physics. I then note that it's absurd to think that the human brain is not just a system of particle physics - demonstrably so - and thus libertarian free will is demonstrably false. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 16:36, 26 July 2013 (UTC)
I have a question. First, a Turing machine can model a brain, but it can't predict one, because it can't predict random events. Random events occur in the brain due to physics inside the brain (a particle decays at just the right instant to affect the behavior of a synapse), and also because the brain constantly receives stimuli from the environment through the senses, and the environment is subject to quantam randomness. The best you could do is calculate probabilities, the complexity of which would multiply exponentially. Second, a Turing machine can model a brain, but it can't model a particular brain due to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Therefore, a particular brain is both unpredictable and unmodelable. Third, a brain develops in an interactive environment and is in constant communication with that environment both consciously and unconsciously. You could not model one with perfect accuracy without modeling the environment, which could not be modeled perfectly without ultimately needing to model the observable universe. This doesn't mean there isn't a lot we can know about a brain (or anything else), even a particular one. My question is what do you mean by "accurately modeled by physics"? How accurately? Are you saying we could theoretically perfectly reproduce a particular brain? Or could we theoretically model a particular brain accurately enough to predict the behavior of the model with a statistically valid level of certainty? If the original and the model received identical stimuli, to what extent would they diverge in behavior due to randomness? Weorthe (talk) 14:20, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
I can't tell you what EL is thinking Weorthe, but I can tell you that most of today's neuroscientists do not think the brain's operation depends significantly upon quantum effects. For example an animal brain is definitely NOT a quantum computer, doing superposition tricks to run algorithms that can't be executed on a conventional (Turing-like) machine. If its operation does depend on quantum effects it will only be in the same way that your compact fluorescent tube energy saving lamp relies on quantum electrodynamics to turn electricity into light.
Now, the CFL will help us through the rest of my explanation. The people who make CFLs don't want to all be Physics PhDs. They don't need to know, fundamentally, why quantum electrodynamics makes it possible to put an electrical current across a glass tube filled with gas and get light out. Indeed the original inventors of these tubes had little idea why it works. CFL makers rely on a "cookbook" that says what will happen without worrying too much about why. It can't cover every possibility, but CFL makers aren't interested in every possibility. They do not propose to try gasses that aren't on the list, or miniaturise the lamp until only a dozen particles of gas are used - that sort of thing can be left to scientists who do understand quantum physics. The CFL makers just want to make lamps that work, cheaply and reliably.
Likewise then, a brain model for purposes of uploading (for example) doesn't need to worry itself with the momentum of a particular electron in your brain, because (we are fairly confident) your mind state is not fixated as the momentum of an electron, but instead in the much higher level and perfectly measurable mundane physics and chemistry of the brain cells. Not knowing the exact momentum of the electron will have less effect on "you" than if someone were to shine a narrow beam of light at the back of your head (where you can't see it). Any quantum effects that are present can be dealt with statistically, through a cookbook approach. So Heisenberg needn't ever come into the picture, to the surprise of a certain subset of Science Fiction nerds. This is possibly why uploading has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years among Hard SF writers. It's not easy, but it might well be possible, and that's exactly the sort of topic they like. Tialaramex (talk) 16:14, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
That makes sense. Guess I was being too pedantic about what a "model" is. And, even though I've read Robert J Sawyer I was never convinced we were quantum computers. Weorthe (talk) 19:21, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
"For example an animal brain is definitely NOT a quantum computer, doing superposition tricks to run algorithms that can't be executed on a conventional (Turing-like) machine." - One nit from a guy with a degree in theory of computation. This is maybe wrong. Specifically, anything that can be computed by a quantum computer, a Turing machine can also compute. More generally, anything that can be computed, a Turing machine can compute. This is the founding principle of computation theory. What was intended, I think, is that a quantum computer can solve a certain set of problems with much better big-O runtime and less memory/space requirements than a conventional silicon computer, and of course that's right. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 22:10, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
A Turing machine is a sequential digital computer with a single processor, unless I am badly mistaken. Would any sensible person use it to model parallel processing or networking? Could a Turing machine adequately model the signal processing going on in a human retina? There have been times when analog computers were better suited to some problems. The David Taylor Model Basin in Maryland used to brag that they had the largest hybrid computer in the free world, analog/digital hybrid, that is. As far as I know, it was used for control-theory applications. In those days, Moore's law was still climbing the shallow part of the curve, but still, brute force horsepower will only take you so far. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 22:44, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
"Would any sensible person use it to model parallel processing or networking?" - Would I use a Turing machine as a model for a real world quantum computer during commercial work? Probably not. Would I use a Turing machine as part of any commercial work in my daily life? Probably not. Would I use a Turing machine model for anything outside of academia and outside of basic theorycrafting? I haven't in my 6 years of professional work. Does this change the "definition" of computability? No. Does this change the fact that anything a quantum computer can compute, a Turing machine can also compute? No. Go read (again) my rant on "in principle". Someone (potentially(?)) made the claim that quantum computers can solve some problems which a Turing machine cannot compute, and I noted that it's simply ludicrous. Also, if true, that would throw the entire work of computation theory on its head. It would be like finding a fossilized rabbit in the pre-Cambrian to biology.
Also, forget just computation theory. You would throw all of modern mathematics into a stir if you showed that the Church-Turing thesis is "false". A lot of modern formalism of all of math is based on this notion. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 07:17, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 22:55, 29 July 2013 (UTC)

What does computation theory have to do with the workings of a human mind? Viewing the retina as a functional and anatomical subset of the mind, is even that one subset tractable in terms of digital modeling? What data structures and algorithms would you choose to model it? Without a believable way to deal with the specifics of that mechanism and a whole list of others, pronouncements about what is or isn't computationally possible in principle have little to say about the sensory, perceptual, cognitive, or intentional capabilities of physical organisms. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 02:23, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
I really want to know this one thing first, please. Did you read what I wrote here in full and read for comprehension before you made that post? Or are you jumping in somewhat recently? I ask, because I almost certainly will be repeating myself in my answers. I'm wondering if you did not read it, or if I'm somehow unclear. I do try my best to be clear, and it's a very frustrating situation when I think I'm being more than sufficiently verbose and precise when my point seems entirely lost. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 07:14, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
In short: I argued that on the known evidence, it is overwhelmingly clear that we will not find violations of conventional particle physics in a human brain which are unique to the human brain. I argued that libertarian free will, whatever else it means, contains the idea that the mind is not mere physics, e.g. "there is no accurate model of the human mind which is computationally reducible to physics". Finally, I noted that choices in the mind, the mind itself, is observable via the behavior of the human brain, and that it is not possible for the brain to be computationally reducible to physics - which it is - and for the mind to not be. ... From that argument, someone misunderstood my position as claiming that we will make mostly complete or even somewhat complete tractable (e.g. computable in practice) models in particle physics of the human brain. I then tried to very clearly explain what computable (in principle) means, and how I only advocate that very limited position. I only need that limited position, because that is sufficient to show that libertarian free will is false. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 07:14, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

For Sprocket[edit]

So you don't understand how a retina works. That's OK. How up to speed are you on synaptic plasticity? The brain may be the body's biggest wad of nervous tissue, but it is not the sole seat of the mind. You might be surprised at the extent of pre-processing that happens in the peripheral arrangements of nerve tissue.

I do not think you appreciate the complexity of "mere physics," particularly when considering elementary particles aggregated into macroscopic organs. Accepting an analogy involving billiard balls, and invoking an analogy of clockwork, implies a mental model limited to Newtonian mechanics. At any rate, it will be more fruitful to consider the mind in terms of statistics, electrochemistry, and topology. Neural plasticity and entrainment are also interesting parts of it. It is not sufficient to proclaim "a means of computing the particle physics of the brain exists!" without needing to do any of the actual work.

Qualia disappeared from this discussion early on. The thread didn't start out about libertarian free will, whatever that is. You were the one that brought that into the question. My claim is that until you understand the mental mechanisms that make it seem (to some people, at least) that we have free will, theoretical computability's relevance is not demonstrated, and so it cannot determine the dichotomy upon which your argument rests. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 13:35, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

I do in fact understand how that aspect of the retina works. Low blow. I did not talk about it because it's a non-sequitir. ... I do not need to comprehend and have written down a complete computational reduction of the behavior of the mind and brain to particle physics to know that it exists. I do not need to have a full account of the mind in order to conclude that there is no magic in the brain or mind. You are doing an unfair shifting of the burden of proof. You are doing a god of the gaps. ... Yes, I did not talk about qualia, and very specifically so. IMHO, I understand (perhaps wrongly) that if I can demonstrate that libertarian free will is false, then most if not all real dualists will have a contradiction in their beliefs. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 21:17, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
You seem to be seeing things I never said in what I wrote. God of the gaps? Where have I said anything like goddidit? If that's how we're playing, what I'm seeing from you is "some computer might be able to do it, but not just yet." Right. Next week I might catch a fish this big.
You say, "I do not need to comprehend ... the behavior of the mind..." OK, then, without making Sagan's pie by first creating the universe, how will anyone set the computation's initial conditions? Might as well put some energetic monkeys in a room with word processors until something reasonable comes out. That doesn't even come up to the standard of what folks in the UK call "suck it and see."
Unless we agree on a definition of free will, and until the mind is better understood, all I see happening here is hand-waving and talking in circles. I see the main circle as "I can prove the mind is physical by declaring the physics to be computable." Postulating such an omnipotent computer skates too close to theology for my comfort.
I agree we are unlikely to find any supernatural magic in the mind; here I am mostly concerned with the robustness of the logic involved. I believe a more worthwhile endeavor is understanding the mental processes which make it seem as if we have free will. No doubt they have a physical basis, and if it turns out that the seeming is indistinguishable from the being, then what's the difference? Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 23:26, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Goddamnit Sprocket. I know you have just been skimming what I wrote instead of honestly reading everyone I've written here. I'm going try and be polite while I respond one last time (barring a question where I'm not just repeating myself). Repeating myself ad nauseum one more time:
  • I never said that this approach will give useful results on a practical silicon Intel computer in practice. I full agree that it's ridiculous to think that it's computable in practice.
  • You said we need a working definition of free will? Great! I agree, and I have already given it, repeated many times. See up-page.
  • I used the term "computational reduction" to differentiate it from other kinds of reductions, like composition reduction. I have specifically avoided talking about composition reduction. Related: I have specifically avoided talking about qualia. I have not argued that qualia is made of physics, or whatever. Instead, when I say "computational reduction", I am specifically talking about equivalence of predictive models. That's more or less what a "reduction" is in the usual sense of theory of computation, the ability to transform problems in one domain to problems in another domain without losing data.
  • However, I still do say that the behavior of the brain is clockwork, and thus the mind is just clockwork. It is just particles obeying conventional physics. At no point is there a particle which does something other than conventional physics. At no point is there a third-person-observable quality or property of the brain which is not a mere description of the states of the individual particles, perhaps aggregated. In other words, there is no novel emergentism which is not computationally reducible. Billiard balls are a great analogy, and so is clockwork, although you need to emphasize that the number of moving parts amazingly big, more than trillions, maybe even trillions of trillions, but at the end of of the day it's just trillions of trillions of metaphorical gears and cogs and no more (and maybe with some true-random events thrown in).
  • In the hope that it will help, I'm trying to simplify but more formalize my argument right now. I'll post it when I get it.

EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 01:31, 31 July 2013 (UTC)


  • By the definition and near universal common understanding of the term, if libertarian free is true, then it necessarily follows that the so-called "free choices" made by human minds are not the result of the mere physical states and processes of the human brain and body. In other words, the so-called "free choices" made by human minds are not describable by the mere physical states and processes of the human brain and body. In other words, the so-called "free choices" made by human minds are not model-able by a specific and accurate model whose internal state is mappable to - or reducible to - the conventional particle physics of the material human brain and body.
  • We can restrict our focus to only choices which influence motor control. I sincerely doubt that there are libertarian free will proponents who would honestly defend the neutered position that you cannot use motor control to act on "free choices".
  • The result of using motor control to act on our choices is just a change in the configuration of our material brains and bodies. Speaking, raising a hand, and so on, are changes of configurations of our material brains and bodies. In other words, no novel emergentism.
  • Thus, libertarian free will entails that at least some of the times that we use motor control to act on our so-called "free choices", the specific body movements (and speech) cannot be reduced to the conventional physics of the body and brain. Implicit here is that motor control acting on the so-called "free choices" can allow an external observer to distinguish to some degree which choice was made.
  • The above can be rephrased as: "Sometimes particles in the material human body and brain do not obey conventional particle physics", and that is absurd. We have more than enough evidence to convincingly show that the behavior of particles in our brain and body obey physics and nothing else. Thus libertarian free will is false.

EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 02:02, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

One more analogy. I hope we can all agree that no one will take seriously the idea that the operation of a conventional semiconductor or transistor is something other than conventional particle physics. Similarly, we can talk about the operation of latches and registers in terms of transistors. Then we can say that the operation of a modern silicon processor is nothing more other than the application of the rules of semiconductors, transistors, latches, registers, etc. Similarly, the operation of a modern computer is nothing more than the simple aggregate of the processor, RAM, the bus, and so on. Each of those steps is a (computational) reduction from one predictive model to another. I should hope that no one disagrees with any of those steps. However, it seems that some people want to disagree when I say that the operation of the silicon computer in front of me is just conventional particle physics. I think that's absurd. We've shown intermediary reductions, and we can just compose (function composition) the reductions to make one big reduction. Of course it's unwieldy in practice, so much so as to be almost useless. But it's informative in some cases, like mine. And formally, it (the reduction) still exists. It's good to remember that the silicon computer is not magic, that none of its operations are "free", and every thing it does is "determined" by simple particle physics (or at least to the degree that particle physics itself is determined). EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 02:12, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

You may have talked about free will ad nauseam up above, but the only thing I see that even comes close to being a definition is "whatever it is, it is not physics." With that, it is hardly earth-shaking to say that it cannot occur in a mind hosted in a physical organism.
Never mind silicon, gallium arsenide, fluidic gates, stepping relays, or whatever the logic hardware du jour may be. I contend that the representation of mental mechanisms (in organisims much beyond the complexity of a flatworm) is an ill-conditionedWikipedia problem. Flapping butterfly wings and tropical storms and all that, casting computability into serious doubt.
I still think it is more interesting to explore the particulars of how that intricate physical mind is compatible with our perception of free will. Is that perception a delusion, or not? At the moment I have no sure way of saying. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 02:37, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
"Computable". You use that word, but you don't know what it means. I have been more than clear on its definition. You are one of those people who accept the reductions from transistors to particle physics, and from registers to transistors, and from processors to registers, and from conventional silicon computers to processors, but you deny the obviousness of the reduction from conventional silicon computers to particle physics. It makes no sense how you can honestly do that. Yes, the butterfly wing and hurricane example is great. In my professional career, I am never going to debug a computer program by considering the electric potential across the diode, but I am also never going to doubt that there exists in principle a formally computable model which does exactly that. Again, formally computable does not mean computable in practice, or computable on any hardware that could fit inside our universe and run before heat death. Formally computable means there exists a Turing machine (or equivalent), in exactly the same sense that Graham's number exists, is an integer, and is formally computable. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 02:43, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Also, apparently you've been on my side the whole time. You say my conclusion is not Earth-shaking. With respect, it very much is. I suspect a large majority of the religious population believe that their minds are not mere physics as I have put forth today, and that the soul somehow solves this problem (even though that's just an application of the homunculus fallacy). This is an important step is dispelling beliefs about magic, about souls, about "afterlifes". EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 02:48, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
An interesting discussion guys, although for much of it you seemed to be in vicious agreement. My personal feeling is that we tend to make the human mind out to be much more complicated than it really is. Personality can be broken down into 5 or 6 factors. Intelligence can be well measured. Quantifying a person's environment and experience is a little more complicated; however with these three things we can predict a whole hell of a lot of human behaviour. In fact, for a long period of time, psychologists thought that the first two were irrelevant to human behaviour and to a large extent they were/are right. We can already use fMRI to accurately guess when people are thinking about certain set objects despite the relative youth of that discipline. Certainly a unified psychological model of the brain may be a way off but I don't think EL's concessions of 'computable in theory but not practice' is a necessary one unless we aim for absurd levels of accuracy. Tielec01 (talk) 02:58, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Whew. Now we're talking.
Actually, when debugging electronic hardware, I have often found it useful to observe the voltage across a diode or base-emitter junction. Debugging hybrid circuits, when there was no other choice, I've lifted and reattached .003" gold wires with tweezers. Only about a 50% yield on the reconnection, so that was a last-resort kind of thing. In some situations, a simple wet-finger signal injection is enough for diagnostic signal-tracing purposes; I am a capacitor on the order of several picoFarads, susceptible to the ambient hum.
As I've said above, if you define free will to be non-physical, it is trivial to state that a physical organism won't have it. I happen to think that isn't a particularly interesting or useful way to view free will, no matter what philosophers or religious thinkers may have to say about it. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 03:00, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
About the "absurd levels of accuracy," I must respectfully disagree. I know a kid who did his doctorate with a lot of time in the lab probing individual neurons. I think it is entirely worthwhile to plumb the intricate, enervating, entirely tedious details of the nervous system in aid of understanding our cognitive being. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 03:04, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

Anti abortion misogynists get what they have coming[edit]

I don't really think using violence should be supported in this situation, but this is total win.

– Later edit- Note: I forgot what was in the beginning of this video and I do not agree with it


Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 20:16, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

"I don't support violence, but they had it coming anyway, and it was a total win." PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 20:22, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
It's sort of like when someone from the WBC gets attacked. You don't want to take the step of telling people to attack them, but when it happens, it's hilarious. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 20:28, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Okay. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 20:39, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
What aspect of that video is total win? The opening news story about two activists being murdered? The parts with women screaming in terror? The guy yelling abuse? €₳$£ΘĪÐWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 20:50, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
I forgot about part. No, that's not cool. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 21:24, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Sasha, I rollbacked your alteration of weaseloid's comment. Do not alter other people's talk page posts. SophieWilderModerator 21:29, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Sasha, please go sit down and quietly consider whether you really think it's "total win" when two people are murdered for expressing ideas you don't share. If it remains "total win," it's because you have a truly impoverished moral sense. What the fuck is wrong with this site. It's toxic. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 21:31, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
I don't think it's total win. I forgot what was at the beginning of the video. Just calm down.
Sophie, in rolling back my edit, you removed my comment. Do not use rollback in ways that indiscriminately removes productive edits. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 21:35, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
I readded it. I re-added it without being asked. It is there. You can see it. Stop whining. SophieWilderModerator 21:40, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Sorry. You said "rollback" and I thought you had been one of those inconsiderate people. Thank you for doing that. And I'm sorry about getting angry. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 21:45, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

How the hell did you "forget" murder of two people? PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 22:29, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

I forgot it was the same video. I watched several videos today. I didn't remember the video I was watching had that horrible story in the beginning. I hope that guy was charged as any other murderer. It hurts our cause also just as crazy anti abortion woman murderers hurt their cause. (talk) 22:34, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
A bit late, but once again I have to admire Sasha's worldview.
1) violence is wrong except when it's used against people who hold different views to me
2) the only reason why someone is against abortion is because they are anti-women. It has nothing to do with their beliefs on when life begins, it is because they want to oppress an entire gender
RyanC (talk) 04:09, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

As a civilized society, we need to ban The Wizard of Oz[edit]

This sort of racism is not acceptable. https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/308663_533880566653366_1237746409_n.png

Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 03:32, 28 July 2013 (UTC)

cool?--MikallakiM 03:41, 28 July 2013 (UTC)
Okay. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 04:03, 28 July 2013 (UTC)
You're testing my patience. Osaka Sun (talk) 04:03, 28 July 2013 (UTC)
Did you know this isn't Atheist-Facebook? Ochotona princepsnot a pokémon 04:17, 28 July 2013 (UTC)
Ever think of starting a social justice tumblr? You'd fit right in there. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 04:41, 28 July 2013 (UTC

Ok this shit stops now. Watch me start deleting any more of this nonsense and getting majorly up in your grills. Mikal, go to bed. Powder, take a Xanax. Ehrensten, you were doing a fair job of self reflecting. Sleep on this. It was a terrible day for you. RW has turned into a troll chit chat site. Fucking stop it. It's embarrassing. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 04:50, 28 July 2013 (UTC)

Splunge. Redchuck.gif ГенгисevolvingModerator 19:55, 28 July 2013 (UTC)

Foundation news[edit]

Dear RationalWiki editors,

It’s my pleasure to make a couple of announcements about the foundation:

  • The board is in the process of changing the name of the foundation from the RationalWiki Foundation to the RationalMedia Foundation. Since the wiki's inception, members have always had interest in other projects related to the original mission, and the blog project and the Facebook page are different forms of media, and EvoWiki is separate from RationalWiki. The name change reflects this broader scope. The request for ideas also reflects this mission. (Note, it will take some time for the wiki to reflect this change.)
  • Related to the name change, the board approved a simplified mission statement: “To promote science, critical thinking, and rational discourse through open and collaborative media.”
  • Trent has set up a website to serve as an umbrella for the foundation, http://rationalmedia.org/. The site has a blog to provide better communication.
  • The board will continue its current role for the wiki: provide software and hardware, but not intercede in any editorial affairs. In that respect, the role of the RationalMedia Foundation will not change, although we may encourage certain activities on the wiki (such as the content improvement project).

We look forward to your continued support and efforts. Sterilesig.svgtalk 23:17, 29 July 2013 (UTC)

Eh, not a fan of the new name. Osaka Sun (talk) 23:47, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Why not? Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 00:58, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

Looking for work in the central Michigan area?[edit]

Here's part of an application form for a thrift store not too far from my house. Is this even legal? (My guess at the short answer is yes, because it's run by a church. Correct me if I'm wrong.) PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 15:05, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, states that employers with 15 or more employees cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. Title VII states that it does not apply to "... a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities." Hipocrite (talk) 15:22, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Thanks. Does this extend to activities conducted in the private sphere, in this case, having homosexual relations? PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 15:44, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Right or wrong, in the US religious instutions can police your off job life. they can decide single mothers can't work there, or those with a "loose" reputation. and they needn't really have to do anything to prove it. Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 16:21, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Title VII religious exemptions are for Hire / No Hire decisions. They can use their exemption to decide not to hire you to work for them, and there's nothing you can do about it unless you think their exemption isn't valid and want to spend a lot of money in court. But if they hire you the game changes. Unless you lied (e.g. you said you were an evangelical Chrisitian in interview but you actually aren't, or said "No, of course not" when asked if you engage in extra-marital sex but actually you've had more one night stands than birthdays...) they're out of luck. Of course if you have At Will then it doesn't much help because they can immediately fire you, but at least they're prohibited from discriminating in any other way (e.g. lower pay). But all this assumes they're covered by Title VII at all, if they're smaller than 15 people then they can refuse to hire women, or blacks, or Texans so why not gays too? Tialaramex (talk) 16:41, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Not sure about specific state laws, but discriminating against homosexuals vis-a-vie jobs is legal in the US at a federal level - there are no federal laws prohibiting it. Wikipedia says that Michigan prohibits sexual orientation discrimination for public employment only. There are also local laws that might apply. Hipocrite (talk) 17:17, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
The exemption applies narrowly to discrimination on the basis of religion differences in hiring or firing decisions, nothing else. There's caselaw parsing out the scope of the exemption. The 7th Circuit held that the exemption doesn't apply where the employee is complaining about disciminatory conduct that has nothing to do with religion, such as discrimination on the basis of gender and national origin. Keep a few things in mind. The ministerial exemption isn't black and white. The exemption is an affirmative defense - it presumes coverage. Hipocrite right - state law may apply. The Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act doesn't appear to have an express ministerial exemption, but it wouldn't surprise me if it adopts federal exemptions somewhere. I didn't look at it that long. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 17:43, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Fixes at the Federal level to add sexual orientation to the list (along with race, gender, religion and a few others) all intend to make it subject to religious exemption. So both Google and Walmart would be forbidden from saying "No gays" or rejecting bisexual applicants, but if a weird Christian sect wants to hire only gold star lesbians, that would technically be cool with the Federal government even if such legislation passes. The US is a long way from reversing the presumption about freedom of religion in US society. Indeed Title VII as it exists today means Believers get almost the same leeway as the disabled do to force employers to accommodate their uh, needs, reflecting a widespread community belief that religion is important. Courts have interpreted this very broadly, so the good news is that it legally applies to an atheist's ethical principles just as well as to say observing religious fasts, but in practice most of the time the accommodations are things like variations in uniform, or tweaks to working hours that no atheist would feel strongly about. Also of course you'll have an easier time persuading a US court that your beliefs require you to go to church every Sunday than that you solemnly believe Bob Dobbs needs you to spend the last Thursday of every month playing Super Mario Brothers at home. Tialaramex (talk) 20:25, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

You ever wonder if Pat Robertson throws dice to decide his stance on an issue?[edit]

Apparently Pat Robertson doesn't have a problem with transgender people and is, in fact, somewhat sympathetic to them (unless the HuffPost is just selectively quoting him; I don't see a link to the original video they're quoting). Wasn't sure which WIGO it would go under (I'm guessing blogs?), so I'll just post it here for now. --OverworldTheme (talk) 19:06, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

I'd rather not have his support. SophieWilderModerator 19:53, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
I'm not all that surprised to be honest. Trans people tend to be a political wild card, as in, some of the most vitriolic transphobes are leftists and a lot of otherwise crazy conservatives don't have much of an issue with us. Blue (pester) 21:01, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
RadFems are a good example of that. They seem to be pretty heavily influenced by Marx and other communists, but they're still probably the worst and most aggressively offensive of the non-violent Trans*phobes.--Token Conservative (talk) 01:49, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

Nice sale[edit]

Hot tip for all undergrads who still have their .edu email accounts. FP is having a sale: https://www.cambeywest.com/subscribe2/?utm_source=Education&utm_medium=email&utm_content=July2013&utm_campaign=CambeyEdu&p=FRP&f=paidedu&s=I13EDUREG Heavy Metal Jesus (\m/ \m/) 21:44, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

Audio help needed[edit]

So I just got a new Toshiba Satellite laptop and the sound quality sounds like, well, shit. The sound is extremely tinny and quiet, like it's being played through a phone or headphones sitting 3 feet away. The quality is just as bad whether I'm using the external speakers (which I expect to sound like shit anyway) or a good pair of headphones. I tried reinstalling the sound drivers and it does nothing. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 21:36, 29 July 2013 (UTC)

Try fiddling with the equalizers--"Shut up, Brx." 22:07, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Sounds like it's just plain faulty. If it's brand new, get 'em to fix it. Also, if they give you crap about having to return it to base, just get a refund and buy from someone else. Life's too short for that. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 22:34, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Hey, Jeeves, you should also tell him to buy from Dell--"Shut up, Brx." 22:44, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Yes. Dude, you're getting a Dell. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 22:54, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
I have satelite l305d and run the headphones at 100 volume most of the time. The built in speakers are horrible. A set of amplified speakers sound good though. Its worth checking the levels in the mixer thing. Hamster (talk) 23:32, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Toshibas have shit speakers these days. Used to be a lot better - David Gerard (talk) 07:54, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the tips. I ended up downloading drivers for another model and fiddled with the EQ a bit. Works fine now. The speakers are still shit, but I don't really care about that -- that's what headphones are for. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 19:01, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

For anybody interested in Deep Silver games...[edit]

...there's another Steamy Humble Bundle going on, which includes Risen 2, Sacred 2 Gold, Saints Row 2, and Saints Row: The Third, with Dead Island GOTY and Saints Row: The Third as the bonus for +average donation, and a $25 donation nets you Dead Island: Riptide on top.--Stunteddwarf Jabba de Chops 10:09, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

From the reviews I've read of it, Riptide is a really shitty motivator to donate 25$. — (talk to) [æn əˈmɛɹɪkən ˈnaiːɪlɪst] 15:35, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

Does anybody know anything about Croatian history?[edit]

THIS is rapidly becoming perhaps the longest citation-free article on the wiki. If you know anything on the topic, can you please give it a look? PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 20:02, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

You will note my signature has changed[edit]

I'm still MDB here. The problem is: I have moved to Virginia to live with my partner. Thus, "MD" no longer stands for Maryland.

I'm taking suggestions as to what MD should now stand for. All I've come up with is "Mass Destruction". Any other bright or not-so-bright ideas? MDB (the MD used to be for Maryland, the B is still for Bear) 15:23, 29 July 2013 (UTC)

Do something new that's badass and just as descriptive! I doubt very many people know what MDB stands for - if Hurlbut did I can assure you you wouldn't be welcome on his blog :^) BAMFB? Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 15:43, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
if you want to keep mdb then theres moderately disturbing bear, mostly deranged bear, monotheistic deity bear, monoaccheride dessert bear , and many others like Massively dedicated bear or Masochistic Discipline Bear ;-) Hamster (talk) 23:44, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Perhaps you could train to be a doctor. SophieWilderModerator 10:34, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Ooooo! I like "Moderately Disturbing"! MDB (the MD used to be for Maryland, the B is still for Bear) 12:02, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

Monumentally debonaire bear. Massively dashing Brobdingnagian. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 12:15, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
I figured it out. MDB (the MD used to be for Maryland, but now means Magically Deliciousthe B is still for Bear) 15:33, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Oscar the Therapy Cat[edit]

Do you think there's anything we could do for Oscar, the cat who detects when people are about to die that Wikipedia doesn't already do? It seems like even if we just had a small article it would still be on-mission. Plus, it's about a cat. --Seth Peck (talk) 16:41, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

There's some nutter - I forget his name at the moment - who makes a big thing about dog's "knowing" that their owners are about to return home - hang on a sec, google, google, it's this guy who we already have an article on. They're part and parcel of the same thing. Maybe we could link the two together. Innocent Bystander (talk) 17:43, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Pet woo? — (talk to) [æn əˈmɛɹɪkən ˈnaiːɪlɪst] 18:15, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
do an article. You could include the dogs that help diabetics and epileptics which is not wooish, so maybe the cat detects subtle changes in scent that indicate looming death, or maybe the cat is psychic and sees the reapers. Hamster (talk) 19:50, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
I recall some reports that dogs are able to sniff out sufferers from certain diseases (maybe cancer, but I forget the details). Dogs are of course very sensitive to scent, and it's quite reasonable to suspect they could detect signals in breath or body odor due to metabolic changes induced by disease. Let's see... ah, here and here. tl;dr version is "Training was efficient and cancer identification was accurate; in a matter of weeks, ordinary household dogs with only basic behavioral 'puppy training' were trained to accurately distinguish breath samples of lung and breast cancer patients from those of controls." Doctor Dark (talk) 21:15, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
There's a big difference between animals using their superior senses - scent, hearing, vibration - to detect changes and saying that they have some supernatural sense such as ESP. Redchuck.gif ГенгисOur ignorance is God; what we know is science.Moderator 07:29, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Top 10 Evolution Myths[edit]

I wasn't sure where else to put it, but here it is: Top 10 Evolution Myths --TheLateGatsby (The end of the dock ) 13:36, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Add it as an external link at the bottom of the Evolution page. Nowhere Man (talk) 15:52, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Trampolining Goats![edit]


Your day is now made. You're welcome. --PsyGremlin講話 14:19, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Goatscape starring PsyGremlin, Christopher Plummer, and Max von Sydow. Nutty Roux100x100 anarchy symbol.svg 14:24, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
They could angle the trampoline and play Angry Goats. Is there a greenhouse full of jerboas nearby? SophieWilderModerator 17:12, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Poor jerboas. If anything, toss the goats at a pen of aye-ayes. Those things are just frightening. - GrantC (talk) 19:32, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Aww....--The Madman (talk) 19:18, 1 August 2013 (UTC)The Madman

Sterilesig.svgtalk 00:30, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

By the will of the Emperor, this website is placed under quarantine for investigation[edit]

Religitards upset about money from a Catholic charity going to "anti Catholic" organizations[edit]


According to them, the organizations promote homosexuality, birth control, abortion, and Marxism. Somehow I get the feeling that Jesus would have supported Communism. Also as a Jew, he would have not had any objection to abortion. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 18:49, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

cool?--MikallakiM 18:55, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
You seriously need to stop this shit. It's intended to be insulting, and you know it. You seriously need to fucking stop. I am not playing around. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 19:25, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Catholic group upset that Catholic money going to support causes that are in opposition to Catholic doctrine. If my union dues went to support the Koch brothers, I'd be upset. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 20:01, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
It's the fact that they're being totally bigoted about it, and I question wether any of those groups are anti Catholic. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 20:07, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
I don't see the bigotry in the link you posted. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 20:09, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
They're homophobic, misogynist, and anti Marxist. Anti Communism isn't bigoted in itself, but it's often based on ignorance and frequently a strong sign of closet Nazism or some other more open far right loony nonsense, such as the "Christian nation" people. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 20:18, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
Hark, the cry of secret nazi i hear! So im a closet nazi because i find marxism as wrong because it's too idealistic? --MikallakiM 20:52, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

Ant-marxist isn't bigotry, it's a political position. Anti-abortion isn't necessarily misogynist, in that if someone really believes that abortion means killing a baby, thry are bound to see the stakes of the debate as something other than hatred of women. And the fact that the Catholic church is homophobic is hardly worth a new section in the Bar. The rest of your post is just nonsense. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 20:45, 27 July 2013 (UTC)

No Mikal, you aren't. Opposing it because it doesn't work is one thing. Going off and projecting one's own totalitarian views on it is bigoted. But you probably understand. You think you can keep trolling me. You're wrong if you think you can do that. I very strongly recommend that you stop harassing me.Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 21:40, 27 July 2013 (UTC)
^ Not sure if trolling or stupid. Hipocrite (talk) 02:37, 28 July 2013 (UTC)
Not trolling, and probably not really stupid, just over-emotional and hyperbolic. It's pretty common in both the intertubes and real life. But I am fervently anti-communist (and anti-nazi, and anti most everything except secular democracy), so my opinion presumably doesn't count.
Moving on, I'll hijack this utterly fascinating thread by asking whether are there any communist countries left. Even the Chinese gave up on communism years ago, and North Korea seems more like a cross between oligarchy and a hereditary absolute monarchy. Any other candidates left? Doctor Dark (talk) 02:58, 28 July 2013 (UTC)
Lessee now... Eritrea perhaps? Belarus? Our list of communist states grows thin. SophieWilderModerator 07:47, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
You shouldn't be surprised if a Catholic group is "anti"-communist. During the Soviet era, their religion (among others) was suppressed, often brutally. You might think that people are only anti-communist due to ignorance. But communism has a deservedly bad rep because of history. It's not bigotry and most people understand the difference between what it could be and how it has a habit of not panning out that way. Perhaps you should look at context first rather than going almost directly to Godwin. Ajkgordon (talk) 08:32, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
And calling them religitards is playground stuff. Ajkgordon (talk) 08:36, 29 July 2013 (UTC)

"Religitards"? Really?[edit]

To make explicit what most people are thinking (I hope).--ZooGuard (talk) 08:35, 29 July 2013 (UTC)

Yep. Ajkgordon (talk) 08:37, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Consider the OP, sigh, move along--"Shut up, Brx." 08:49, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
"You disagree with me, therefore you are stupid" is never a good attitude. SophieWilderModerator 08:50, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
There's a certain segment of internet atheists who love their crappy, crappy derisive nicknames. I still remember when the atheist blogosphere coined the term "faithiest" because commenters felt that "accommodationist" wasn't a sufficiently belittling word for people who disagreed with them. (It's just as well that "betraytheist" didn't win that contest because the term is so redolent with pompous butthurt — what is even being betrayed in the first place?) Star of David.png Radioactive afikomen Please ignore all my awful pre-2014 comments. 09:19, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
Is the problem because the word is offensive to people with mental retardation or because it's an immature slap at people with religion? If it's the former, I get it; if it's the latter, well, that would hardly be unusual for RatWik. — Unsigned, by: PowderSmokeAndLeather / talk / contribs 2013-07-30T14:28:51‎
I find it amusing that the OP has no problem with jumping down peoples throat (and handing out blocks) for 'ableist' speech. AMassiveGay (talk) 14:46, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
It's not especially offensive. It's just a bit shit. Ajkgordon (talk) 15:01, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Indeed. It looks like someone was trying too hard to be clever, and made up a word whose chances of catching on are slim to nil. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 19:05, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
It's only ableist when it's about him. SophieWilderModerator 16:25, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=716505038378952&set=a.112632595432869.13081.111221945573934&type=1&theater Here. I also don't care/get offended by people saying retard, and I have enough experience to make that valid. –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 20:21, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

So it's only ableism when you get called out as an Aspie, or when it bothers you in some way? That's not hypocritical at all. Nope. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 20:27, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Do you think I was serious those times? –Александр(а) (Talk | Contribs | Ragebox) 20:52, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

And this turns into a pissing contest[edit]

My issue is the dismissiveness of it. Last I checked there were more people of faith than atheists in the world. You don't just casually dismiss their world view and expect anyone to take you seriously.--Token Conservative (talk) 01:45, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
lolwut? Truth is not a popularity contest. I will be as dismissive as I damn well please towards ludicrous positions like today's popular religions. Plenty of people will take me seriously, like the other non-deluded people. And finally, if we want to get rid of these particular delusions of other people, I think that just the right tone of dismissiveness is one of the practical ways to achieve this. Treat their beliefs with the same contempt that you might treat moon-landing-hoaxers or flat-earthers. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 02:16, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
if we want to get rid of these particular delusions of other people, I think that just the right tone of dismissiveness is one of the practical ways to achieve this
Just an FYI, psychologists have done the research, and it turns out that being dismissive of the views of others not only DOES NOT get those people to change their mind, it actually REINFORCES that view. So your dismissive and insulting view of the religious, is entirely counter-productive.--Token Conservative (talk) 03:46, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Yet, this is the RW Saloon Bar. Still, "religitards" is just OTT, IMHO. I personally don't like the playground insult "creatards" either. But at least that is targeting a specific group of the religious who openly attack reason and empirical evidence. I don't know a single religious person, personally at least, who could in any way be described as retarded. Listen to Rowan Williams or the Dalai Lama talking about their religious beliefs and then declare them to be ludicrous or retarded would be silly in the extreme and unconvincing. Ajkgordon (talk) 08:03, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Sorry Token. Links or I'm not believing it. If I can't be dismissive of silly ideas, that sounds very much like accommodationism, which I do know fails. I suspect we're using slightly different nuance. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 18:50, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Ever heard of the backfire effect? Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 18:59, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

It's also just fucking rude. Why do people need to act as bad as those they claim to be "better" than. Everytime you ridicule (not just point out faults, but insult, joke, or figuratively spit on) you look (at least to me) no better than some anti-choice spitting at women trying to access care. Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 19:33, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
As I said, dismissive. I did not include in that "insulting, joking, or figuratively spitting on". And frankly, no matter how I address the issue, I will be seen as rude. The only way to not be seen as rude is to not bring it up, and that's not an option, and thus I just don't worry about coming off as rude in those conversations. In fact, I would argue that just the right amount of rudeness is required to break down the idea of sacred. Sacred ideas are the ideas that cannot be questioned, and I want to break down that cultural taboo. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 21:18, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
"The only way to not be seen as rude is to not bring it up, and that's not an option." It's not an option to let people believe what they want to believe, if their holding those beliefs doesn't affect you or society at large in any way? PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 21:21, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
That idea is bullshit. It's a fiction. Beliefs are operative. If you believe something is true, and it is at all connected to reality or morality, then you are (likely) going to act on it. It is ridiculous to think that most people can keep their deeply held beliefs about what is a good life to themselves. In fact, it would be immoral for them to do so. Free speech. Marketplace of ideas. It requires putting your ideas out there and arguing for them. Ignorance and wickedness survive in silence, not in open honest discussion. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 21:50, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Okay. I've only come to religion over the past year or so, and I don't see any of those dynamics at play in my own life or in my church community -- I don't think I've ever tried to convince someone that they would be better off sharing my beliefs, nor have I ever tried to put them out there and argue for them. My belief system, at least as I'm working it out, as it is very much a work in progress, works for me, and that's as far as I am willing to take it. As far as being inclined to act on it, I don't see a moment where my doing so has infringed upon the rights or the space of anybody else. But YMMV. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 22:04, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
My classic response: Do you vote? How do you plan to keep your religious beliefs out of voting entirely? Suppose you think abortion is murder. Surely this will influence how you vote. Suppose you have a newfound interest in charity. Surely this will influence how you vote. Furthermore, are you not taking part in a public conversation right now, trying to defend your delusional beliefs as acceptable? How is that not affecting others? You do not live in a bubble, and even your speech has consequences. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 22:47, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
PS: That's about as dismissive and negative as I get, though I will rip into your beliefs as evil and noxious depending on what they are. For example, if you are a Roman catholic, I will ask you why you provide support to a criminal organization whose official policy is to protect child rapists from prosecution? And of course, if you're a christian in general, I will ask you if you believe in hell, annihilation, or some mere temporary purgatory, but regardless of which option you choose, I would have to ask the christian how is it that they can consider it just and desirable and acceptable that someone will receive some punishment, or equivalently someone will not receive some gift, simply on the basis of whether or not you accept some ridiculous claims on no evidence, and furthermore on the basis of whether you submit yourself as a slave to a celestial tyrant. It is an abhorrent world view which I want to die off. PPS: So that's about as offensive and dismissive as I get, plus or minus one or two other derogatory choice terms for people who openly and adamantly cling to that notion of justice and morality. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 22:54, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
The card I will never play in conversation is the "I'm offended so you should shut up" card. Frankly, I am terribly offended that anyone thinks that this is a just system, that I should go to hell because I am not a gullible person who wants to be a slave. However, I would never tell someone with the use of legal force that they should be quiet about it. I will though say that these beliefs are horrid, and that they should get some better beliefs. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 22:56, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
That is the kind of black/white thinking that doesn't help anyone. I've been watching and interacting with PS&L in his various guises here for a while now, and "delusional" is not what pops to mind in his case. My classic response is that anyone's spirituality or religion is none of my business, even if they choose to try sharing it. Likewise, my belief is none of anyone else's business; there are precious few I share it with, and only grownups. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 23:03, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
I'm sorry. That's the usual and technical definition of the word. A delusion is a belief held without sufficient evidence, and often in spite of contradictory evidence. That's generally what religious beliefs are. I do not have the time or patience to hear out every guy off the street with the new religious beliefs du-jour. I am strongly of the opinion that basically every non-trivial religious belief is unsupported by evidence, and often held in spite of contradictory evidence, which means that I think that basically every religious person is deluded. They are welcome to show that I am wrong by answering what they believe, and why they believe it, and providing compelling evidence and argument. I haven't had that happen yet, and I cannot count the number of times where people have tried to do that, but miserably failed. Thus, I feel pretty confident in my conclusions that there is no real magic, and anyone who thinks so is deluded. As for black and white - I am sorry that reality has a strong anti-religious bias. As for not helping anyone, there are plenty of people who have been converted by the books of the four horsemen and similar tactics. On the contrary, it does no one any good to put on the kid gloves for such obviously inane bullshit like conventional christianity. In fact, for example, it allows an international criminal organization to continue to provide material support to child rapists, to continue to lie about condoms and AIDS, and continue to do insufferable harm otherwise. And I do not plan to get into the game of deciding whether it does more harm than good. It is my firm belief that almost all if not all of the good that religion does can be done just as well by non-deluded e.g. secular organizations without the massive crimes against humanity that is the African AIDS condom fiasco of the roman catholic church, and the other crimes and evil by basically every religious flavor. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 23:14, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for the kind words, Sprocket. I've replied to EL on his talk page if you want to follow... PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 23:20, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

Cheers— I've seen that now. I was about to respond that I was pretty sure you hadn't bought into the RC bureaucracy, and that EL's response looked (to me) more like a passionate rant than a straw man with malice aforethought. You seem to be one of the grownups in the room; maybe I'll see you at coffee hour if I'm ever in your neck of the woods. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 23:29, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
I am honest, and I have integrity. I will not lie. I will not claim to know something is true without sufficient evidence and argument. I care about other people. I will pursue plans for the happiness, safety, freedom, and well-being of myself and other people, and the other values of humanism. Finally, I am rational. I know that in order to make good public policy and private policy, one must be grounded in reality. If you allow people to make up claims and beliefs out of thin air, then surely something is going to go amiss. I'm glad that your smug non-interventionist personal policy lets you feel superior to people who give a damn, who care about others, who care about things like truth, honesty, and integrity. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 23:35, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
Still a passionate rant, with some resemblance to a straw man. Nice of you to let me know how I feel. Not interested, thanks. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 23:48, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/atheists.png EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 03:39, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
"If you believe something is true, and it is at all connected to reality or morality, then you are (likely) going to act on it." That's not necessarily true. People act contrary to their stated beliefs, or don't act on them, all the time. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 01:50, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
For the purposes of argument, all I need is "more likely than not". You would really not accept that as rather obvious? I must fundamentally disagree. What examples do you have in mind? Where people have conflicting values and beliefs? Sure, they're going to choose one or the other (or some combination). That is not a refutation of my claim. Where someone acts contrary to their belief because of limited knowledge, false knowledge, or a mistake? That just plays into my argument - it supports my argument, not diminish it. Do you have any other examples in mind? Of course, there is a difference between what one professes to believe and what one actually believes. One might say that they're usually the same thing, but maybe they're not. Is that what you're getting at? Again, that doesn't really touch my argument. (If you want me to explain why, say so.) EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 03:39, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
I kinda find it bothersome that you think it's your duty to bash religion "because they vote". People vote for all kinds of reasons. some women vote only for women, regardless of their political positions. Some people vote cause they like how hot a politician is in his suit. Some people vote because they think that their religion tells them Global Warming is bad, adn we need to stop it to protect the Earth that God gave us. Some people vote because their god has told them that it is important to insure everyone has health care. saying "do you vote" assumes that your religion shouldn't matter, but your political economic values should? your religion is not something to put your choice of candidate onto, but your "reading" of the situation from Fox news. The point is, humans vote because of a myriad of things that effect their life. singling out religion as somehow "bad" not only is ridiculous in context, but it also denies all teh people who's religion gives them really f'ing good choices about life.
I want to say something that has been on my mind a lot. it guides most everything i write about religion around here and most of my edits. My father is a methodis minister. I grew up an atheist, in the home of a methodist minister. he didn't try to challenge me. He didn't push his religion on me. (he was shocked, given how young i was when he realized it, but that's that). He required I go to church with the family till I was 12, but that had as much to do with being a single dad and not having anyone to care for me on Sunday. Personally, he was as into science as you could get. He was my first taste of Carl Sagan and Jacques Cousteau. He encourged me to embrace science. He sent me not to bible camp, but biology camp. He has no issue with the world being 4.5 billion years old, he knows I have had two abortions, and supported me in each when he found out. He had one of the first gay couples I've ever met at his church. in the 70s! When i read "religitards", and read about how stupid people who believe in god are. and read generalized statements about religious people being child abusers cause they teach religion, i think to myself, "you are talking about my dad". You are talking about friends I've made over the years. You are talking about people I studied with.
This site has way too many generalized "religion is bad", "people who believe in god are bad" comments in our articles. It is sad. It is unnecessary. and i assure you, it drives away good people who might like our site. There is nothing wrong with challenging things like literalism, creationism, people who believe in only god as a healer, etc. But do we really need such anti religion screeds?Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 05:04, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
I feel like half the people in this argument are arguing about specific circumstances and the other half over general trends. Yes, as people increasingly rely on religion to make decisions about reality they will generally make poorer decisions. However, any specific religious person can have more correct beliefs than a non-religious person, and occasionally a religious conversion may lead to more correct beliefs than incorrect. There are also many other ways to make poor decisions; and we make fun of them too (think Randroids). I think both sides of the argument would agree with these assertions? The term 'religitards' is just a throwaway phrase - it's the equivalent of those high school arguments where the insipid insults left both sides looking pathetic. The worst thing I can say about it is that it is stupid and unoriginal. Tielec01 (talk) 05:48, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
I can wholeheartedly agree to that Tielec01.EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 07:02, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
In response to Godot, what you have written is a touching story but is obviously just an appeal to emotion. My dad was in jail for most of my youth despite being a loving father. Being a good man didn't make what he did right. Tielec01 (talk) 05:48, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
First, it's not really an appeal to emotion. it's saying simply, "when you put down religious people, you are putting down hosts of people who are not like you imagine the "religious" to be like." The fact is, when i say "my dad", i mean MILLIONS of religious people in this world who do not fit into the silly picture set up by anti-religious types. I mean the millions of people like Ken Miller, who not only are christian, they fight against creationism at a professional level. I mean people like joe blow science teacher in greeley colorado who was a christian but got us interested in studying about planets and stars, and the big bang. "appeal to emotions" are to get you to change a point of view, based on an emotional story. I'm simply giving counter examples to those who feel a need to put down all religious and relious people with mockery. At least those who do it at a site I participate in. Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 06:04, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Being delusional is not that bad. We're all delusional about something. (One difference is that I actively try to dispel the delusions I hold.) I'm sorry. All of the good that they do does not change the fact that it's unsupported by evidence and often contradicted by known evidence, ergo it's a delusion. There's no escaping that. It's nice that some of them are less deluded than others, such as Ken Miller. But he could be better. Ken Miller could not be a catholic. He could stop providing material and moral support to an international criminal organization whose official policy is to protect child rapists. If it was anything but a church, the people responsible would be rotting in jail. But because one of the ringleaders of this child rape group is "the pope", they all somehow get off. It's sickening. Calling yourself a Catholic is like calling yourself a member of the KKK or a Nazi. I'm sure both groups ran on the same platform of family values and helping out the community, and they probably did do significant help in the community as well. Do you give the same pass to Hezbollah? They have the same shtick, to provide social services. Are you going to let them off the hook for the shadier stuff they do because they run hospitals? Wake up. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 07:06, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Delusion. I don't think that word means what you think it means. I presume you define it as something like "a belief contradicted or unsupported by evidence". The problem, I think, is your narrow definition of evidence. It seems you count only scientific or authenticated evidence as real evidence. Evidence isn't only considered in a laboratory or a court of law. You're forgetting intuition, personal experience, perception, contemplation, cultural norms, circumstance and so on. While you might not like that type of evidence, it is evidence nonetheless, particularly in the realm of personal beliefs. Dismissing and mocking it, especially when arguing against the personal beliefs of intelligent educated cultured good people, can be counter-productive and doesn't advance the rationalists' case. Ajkgordon (talk) 08:34, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Just seen this. "Calling yourself a Catholic is like calling yourself a member of the KKK or a Nazi." Yeah, just like. That must be one of the most fallacious things I've ever seen on here. Try, just try, to see things from others' perspective a bit. It might temper your tendency to say such breathtakingly arrogant and ignorant things. Ajkgordon (talk) 12:04, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
When my kids were in grade school, I brought them to a Unitarian-Universalist church. Apparently this makes me a pedophile enabler, or one of the raving mujahedeen. Sweet! Where do I go sign up for the UU jihad school? Been a while since I had me some atheist veins hanging from my teeth... I don't want to sit and listen to some frothing maniac on YouTube; I want to get out into the world to feel and smell the real thing. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 12:24, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
EL - and PC for that matter - remind me of a Deep Green I used to know. She was so rabid, so dogmatic, about her understanding of green issues that she was embarrassing to be around and became part of the reason why I don't vote for the Green Party. The truth may not be a popularity contest but when you alienate those whose thinking is similar then your chances of persuading anyone to see your "truth" are small to the point of non-existant. Innocent Bystander (talk) 12:41, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
As for "narrow definition of evidence". I don't feel like arguing with another creationist or science-denier right now. "Faith is the excuse people give for believing something when they don’t have evidence." - Matt Dillahunty. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 17:33, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
You're the ones who have bought the cool-aid and bought into belief in belief. I don't understand how you can live in a world where you are not going to attack someone for providing material and moral support to an international child rape ring. I mean, it's not that they merely happen to have child rapist members. It's not that at one time or another they were helped out by other members. It's that the leader of this organization issued official memorandum that anyone who cooperates with the police shall be sent to hell, literally. Has this been retracted? Hell no. ... Also, your green party analogy fails for this reason. The other person thought that green issues were more important than any other issue, and that the full package was the best package. I'm not arguing that. I'm not saying you have to vote green, or democratic, or whatever. To continue the analogy, I'm saying that maybe you shouldn't vote for the party whose platform includes protecting child rapists when clearly almost any other party platform is better. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 17:33, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
I see no one took me up on my Hezbollah example. Would we be having the same conversation if I compared Hezbollah to the KKK or the Nazis? But we are with Catholics? Why is that? EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 17:36, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Apparently your reading comprehension skills are right there in a class with your logical thinking. You seem to conflate Roman Catholicism with all other religious activity, and you still haven't told me who to call to sign up for Unitarian jihadi training. I spent years of my childhood living in Moslem neighborhoods. We played in the same vacant lots and sometimes ate at the same table. Somehow I missed all the Hezbollah meetings. Oh, wait, there weren't any. If you think I tacitly support pedophilia because I went to a friend's wedding in a Catholic church a few months ago, and didn't scream abuse at them during the ceremony, think again. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 18:22, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
So all Catholics (and Muslims) are just like the Nazis or KKK? I think we need a new corollary to Godwin's Law -- as a thread on the subject of religion that EL participates in, likelihood of comparison to Nazis or the KKK approaches one. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 18:48, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Christ, it's like trying to have a conversation with Ken. Or even Karajou. Ignorance and anger - never a good combination. Your username is misleading. Ajkgordon (talk) 18:57, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
I've bowed out of talking to EL because I just don't see anything productive coming out of it. But I do want to say that I'm glad to see some of the best and brightest folks on the wiki showing that a reasonable and rational approach to religion doesn't mean discounting it in a wholesale manner, but trying to account for the complex ways in which real people "do" belief. As a former "angry atheist" who's found myself on a different path re: faith and religion since about a year now (I'm still trying to figure a lot of this stuff out...) it's good to know that people who's opinion I've come to respect are able to think about these sorts of questions in an open and broad way. Y'all are great. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 19:04, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
@Nebuchadnezzar. This is an organization responsible for the systematic protection of child rapists, for the misinformation and promotion of values responsible for the deaths of millions of people (condoms in Africa and elsewhere). This is an organization that - in their official capacity as a UN member - helped block a resolution calling for the legalization of homosexuality. The Vatican prefers that homosexuality remain illegal, including punishable by death, in various countries around the world, and worked to keep it that way. But no, I don't think all catholics hold to these positions. Some of them are just ignorant of what their organization actually does in their name and with their money. Ignorance is a pisspoor excuse, and what is worse is that the rest of you are providing cover for them. If this was anything but a religious organization, its leaders would be rotting in jail, and this web site would have a completely negative snarky page detailing its various criminal activities and horrendous values. But instead, we have to protect the religious sensibilities of the sometimes ignorant members "because they do good work". Well, so does Hezbollah. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 20:12, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Similarly, I don't think every member of Hezbollah supports terrorist acts against innocent civilians. Similarly, I don't think every member of the Nazi party (which was a lot of German society) was for the torture and extermination of Jews, or even knew about it. Similarly, I don't think that every member or supporter of the KKK was for gangland-esque assassinations of prominent blacks, or even knew about it. Am I going to excuse those organizations because they did good work for their members? Hell no. Am I going to excuse people for being members because they don't know? Only to a small degree. I am going to inform them about the vile acts done in their name, and if they don't choose to find a better organization, then they are knowingly providing support. It's not like voting where you cannot choose to not participate - you have to pay taxes. Being a member of the catholic church is an entirely voluntary thing. And there are plenty of alternative secular charities and social groups. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 20:17, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

I find it fascinating that you're going on about the Catholic Church and its crimes to a roomful of non-Catholics, none of whom have defended the Church for committing any of those crimes. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 20:22, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Do you have a reading comprehension problem? EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 20:30, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Yes. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 20:35, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
So some religious people do bad things. Some religious people do good things. So do some non-religious people. They may have different reasons for doing these things - but occasionally religious people will do bad things because of their religions.
I suppose you could argue that are not true Scotsmen in that but it wouldn't be convincing.--Weirdstuff (talk) 20:39, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

For PowderSmokeAndLeather[edit]

  • Example of someone defending the catholic church: Just seen this. "Calling yourself a Catholic is like calling yourself a member of the KKK or a Nazi." Yeah, just like. That must be one of the most fallacious things I've ever seen on here. Try, just try, to see things from others' perspective a bit. It might temper your tendency to say such breathtakingly arrogant and ignorant things. Ajkgordon (talk) 12:04, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Another example of someone defending the catholic church: EL - and PC for that matter - remind me of a Deep Green I used to know. She was so rabid, so dogmatic, about her understanding of green issues that she was embarrassing to be around and became part of the reason why I don't vote for the Green Party. The truth may not be a popularity contest but when you alienate those whose thinking is similar then your chances of persuading anyone to see your "truth" are small to the point of non-existant. Innocent Bystander (talk) 12:41, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Another example of someone defending the catholic church: So all Catholics (and Muslims) are just like the Nazis or KKK? I think we need a new corollary to Godwin's Law -- as a thread on the subject of religion that EL participates in, likelihood of comparison to Nazis or the KKK approaches one. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 18:48, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • And more: Christ, it's like trying to have a conversation with Ken. Or even Karajou. Ignorance and anger - never a good combination. Your username is misleading. Ajkgordon (talk) 18:57, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Example of a failure of reading comprehension, bordering IMO on purposeful strawman: When my kids were in grade school, I brought them to a Unitarian-Universalist church. Apparently this makes me a pedophile enabler, or one of the raving mujahedeen. Sweet! Where do I go sign up for the UU jihad school? Been a while since I had me some atheist veins hanging from my teeth... I don't want to sit and listen to some frothing maniac on YouTube; I want to get out into the world to feel and smell the real thing. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 12:24, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Same person without basic reading comprehension, bordering on purposeful strawman: Apparently your reading comprehension skills are right there in a class with your logical thinking. You seem to conflate Roman Catholicism with all other religious activity, and you still haven't told me who to call to sign up for Unitarian jihadi training. I spent years of my childhood living in Moslem neighborhoods. We played in the same vacant lots and sometimes ate at the same table. Somehow I missed all the Hezbollah meetings. Oh, wait, there weren't any. If you think I tacitly support pedophilia because I went to a friend's wedding in a Catholic church a few months ago, and didn't scream abuse at them during the ceremony, think again. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 18:22, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 20:43, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Look. I don't ask that you fight for every social issue. People need time for themselves. It's ok to be selfish sometimes, and not worry about other people every waking moment of every day. I don't much care if you don't want to fight against the catholic church. However, when I attack it, with well thought out examples and good argument, the replies here have been unacceptable. It's one thing to be a passive bystander. It's another thing to take up active defense of a completely horrible institution which is comparable to the Nazis, the KKK, and Hezbollah. Remember who made the first peace treaty with the Nazis? The Vatican. Remember who gave yearly prayers on Hitler's birthday? The Vatican. Just recently in Africa with condoms, the Vatican is rivaling the Nazi's kill count of innocent people for completely bullshit reasons. That's ignoring its stance on homosexuality laws, international child rape rings, the extortion of money from poor people. I can go on for days. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 20:43, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

Do you have a complete inability to see the world for what it really is rather than a load of shallow black and white ideological positions? Catholics (along with most other religious people) are born into it. It's not just a religion for them, it's part of their culture, their identity. That's not defending it, it's just pointing out the obvious. All the Catholics I know are absolutely horrified by the abuse carried out by some of their priests. In Ireland, people are leaving the Church in droves because of it - a very painful process for many. Others choose to stay, either because of ignorance (few) or because they hope the Church will change (many). They are capable of understanding the difference between the bureaucracy and their personal relationship with the religion, believe it or not. You seem determined to build up strawmen, make ridiculous Godwin comparisons, and piss off calmly rational people on this site who have repeatedly shown you that truth is not determined by your assertion that you know what it is, even though most of us agree with many of your opinions. Discovering truth is a long journey of considering evidence, all kinds of evidence, having awareness and empathy, listening to others who don't always share your views, understanding context and subtleties and culture and tradition, and resisting irrational ranting against people who have a more measured opinion. And above all accepting that our lives are too short and too busy to ever finish that journey. It's got nothing to do with "belief in belief" or any of the other cute catch phrases you parrot. If Dawkins and even the sadly missed Hitchens can manage it, then so can you. Ajkgordon (talk) 21:04, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
@EL: I think the potential for a productive discussion has been exhausted here, but I have to comment on how absurd your accusation is. The fact that I don't think Catholics are equivalent to Nazis somehow makes me a support of the RCC? I'll go on record as saying the world would likely be better off without the Church. That doesn't make the Nazi comparison valid. It's called nuance. Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 02:28, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
Nazi. Ajkgordon (talk) 14:38, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

Less pissing contest, more honest questioning[edit]

So where is the line that people are trying to draw here? I am open to it, but skeptical and confused. So if someone tries to engage me with an idea that I feel is ludicrous, suffering from either a complete lack of evidence, or so poorly formulated that "evidence" couldn't even be applied to it as a concept, how much "respect" am I to show towards? Where is the line crossed? Am I still golden if I point out all the problems? Have I gone to far if I use words like "baseless"? What about "silly" or "ludicrous"? If I am only dismissing the idea have I crossed the line? I am assuming most arguing here would say I have clearly gone to far when I apply faults to the person such as "not only is your beliefe system silly, but your stupid for believing it?" Tmtoulouse (talk) 20:48, 1 August 2013 (UTC)

To be frank, the line to me is about respect. Are they (whoever your target is) 1) treating you and other people with respect? 2) advocating for something actually dangrous? 3)Pushing their personal/religious agenda into the law. Those are my personal lines that i draw. I do not need to attack religion, in and of itself, as if there even were such a thing, to be a good and honest atheist. I do not need to attack the guy going to church, who loves his god, and thinks his god helps him in times of trouble. Cause that guy is not hurting me, or my world. (and by the way, VOTING is not hurting. people have a right to their views. putting money into trying to pass laws, then you are hurting people). But, if you try to take science out of school, or if your religion advocates praying instead of calling a doctor then we should be all over that. cause it's real harm. but even when we are "all over it", I'm personally not convinced we need to be name calling, and childish "hehe look at the stupid wierdo who thinks that the earth is flat". we can point things out, and leave the "point point, look at the retard" out of the place. but that last is just me. Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 20:54, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
EC Maybe it depends on the stakes of the idea? If it's "here's this thing I believe, it helps me make it through the night/make sense of questions that are beyond the grasp of rational inquiry/helps me to gives me a chance to engage with ideas that are central to many of my fellow human beings in a different way/works to explain something I can't find any other way to explain/gives me a toolbox to be a better person," that's different from "here's this thing I believe/you should believe it too/I'm having my daughter's clit cut off because of it/we should give it equal time in a science class/if you don't believe this thing you're not a true member of the nation," that's another. I believe what I believe; as long as that has zero effect on your life, why should you worry about it? PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 20:57, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
I think it only really matters when you are trying to convince people who don't share your views. Ranting about the Nazis or the KKK or whatever simply isn't going to change the mind of a practising Catholic. It isn't even necessarily about respect (although politeness and consideration are usually good things). If you want to castigate Catholics for their explicit or implicit support of their Church, which has done some pretty horrific things even in recent times which cannot be defended, then that's fine. But if you want to convince them that their faith is wrong, unsupported and deluded (which I happen to agree with), then pulling a Godwin isn't exactly the best way to go about it, is it? Ajkgordon (talk) 21:17, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
To start with, let's pull this back from big "society at large" pictures and address the day-to-day type interactions. Also, maybe, lets pull away a bit from the cliche "christian/church" type scenarios. In fact, personal anecdote time. I have a buddy thats being sucked into a lot of the new age quantum woo/pseudo-hindu philosophies. He is over with a couple other people I have just met and they come at me wit there quantum manifestation line. Telling me all about the "crazy" stuff in quantum physics and how it relates to their ideas about the soul and energy and material manifestations. This stuff is obviously very important to them, and its "how they get through the day" more often than not, they are someone I have never met and will likely have limited to no interactions with in the future. Their beliefes will have little to no baring on my life what-so-ever. But for the last hour I have listened to a very mangled version of quantum theory, and the rum is flowing freely so no one is going anywhere for the time being. Am I aloud to basicaly go "*ahem* actually that is not right at all...." explain what the state of quantum physics really is, demonstrate how none of that applies to their manifestation BS. So have I done something wrong at this point? I don't see how this would be any different than me correcting the "well if evolution is true why are there still monkies" creationist at a party? Or should I really just not bother sharing knowledge at all, cause it might be disrespectful to their beliefes?
For the sake of argument, let's say we agree that I am not totally in the wrong for actually addressing specific science claims and correcting errors in that department. Can I go one step further and challenge them on claims they are making that are testable? "So you say this energy manifestation thing really works, can you demontrate it now? Or can you explain why people in africa don't just manifest more food?" Now I am no longer merely correcting errors, but challenging the beliefe when testable claims are made? If we whittle it down to "godditit" or other untestable claims, can I call them out on the logical and philosphical errors about the "theory of everything"? Tmtoulouse (talk) 21:16, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
My wife has an aunt who's a member of the "woo of the month club." This month ot's macca powder, next month it's collodial (sp?) silver, then it will be oil pulling, whatever. There's nothing anyone can say to convince her that these substances aren't helping her at all, so smile and nod and say "that's interesting." If she were to try to argue with me that I should be taking more macca powder instead of getting chemotherapy, or that a kid in the family shouldn't get vaccinated, I would take a different stance. Human interactions are all about context and the various contingencies at play. She wants to waste her money on that stuff? Not my problem. She wants to try to convince someone to follow a dangerous course? I'll say something. I spend enough of my working hours trying to get people to learn "the truth." I'm not about to do it on my down time, unless there's something at stake. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 21:25, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Although I do agree that challenging those beliefs, even if they don't affect me directly, is a "good thing". They can be insidious and effect you in ways you might not foresee, either through society generally or because someone close to you is taken in. Ajkgordon (talk) 21:42, 1 August 2013 (UTC)
Bouncing off what Smokey said, these are your friends and acquaintances. You control your interaction with them, I think. If you are being forced to sit through a bunch of drivel, then of course you should say your mind. especially when you are scientifically right. but how far you push it? that probably depends on how much you value or don't, their friendship. You have to be true to yourself, first, but then decide how much honesty the relationsihp can or should take, I think.Green mowse.pngGodot The ablity to breath is such an overrated ability 00:18, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
The line is crossed when you go from attacking ideas to unnecessarily slandering an entire group of people. There's a difference, say, between criticizing Catholicism and spreading anti-Catholic conspiracy theories. (Or comparing them to the Nazis, as the case may be.) Nebuchadnezzar (talk) 02:46, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
But presumably there is no more problem in telling someone that their religion is silly than there is telling someone that ear candling is silly?--Weirdstuff (talk) 11:26, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
To a lot od people with religion, it;s pretty foundational to their culture, their sense of identity, their personal and family history, their sense of who they are in the world. Less so with ear candling. If you want to offer an uninvited negative comment on the former, and you're okay attacking another human being's sense of self, go right ahead, I guess. But I still don't see what is to be gained by it if they're asking nothing of you because of that religion.... PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 12:55, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
So it's OK to take a swing at homoeopathy but not Scientology?--Weirdstuff (talk) 14:10, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
I used to hang around with a vegan homeopath for reasons unrelated to his business as a "healer." After one road trip in which he belabored the word "sacred," I and my lady friend at the time agreed that it would be better if he replaced it with "fucking." For example, "we carried our fucking pipes into the fucking circle and played our fucking drums." Human social interactions being a rich tapestry of complexity, I stayed on a friendly footing with him without investing in the fringier parts of his world view.
Rising up on one's hind legs, at the drop of a chance word, to denounce irrationality is fatiguing. Dividing the whole world into true adherents to the cause of Truth, Justice, and Rationality(TM) versus all others being despicable enemies is a good way to enlarge the set of enemies, again a tiresome business.
A different buddy and I went to watch Scientology's introductory movie after getting "free tickets" to it from a nice young lady on a street in Boston. We then had a chat with someone who would have been happy to sign us up for the program. Body language at the venue made it obvious that it was ruled with an iron fist in a velvet glove, and we smiled, nodded, and made it our business to be elsewhere. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 14:31, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
There is nothing wrong with taking a swing at religion. Any and all religions. Nobody here is saying there is. Ajkgordon (talk) 14:38, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

EC "So it's OK to take a swing at homoeopathy but not Scientology?" Guy wants to be a Scientologist, that's not my problem, as long as he keeps it to himself. Hopefully he will read our no-doubt excellent article on it as well as any other critical studies and approach his choice with an informed and open mind: I did my homework before I picked a religion, and there are things about my religion that I have serious problems with. I'm not saying religion should never be criticized; it, like all other human endeavours, should. What I'm saying is that attacking people for privately-held and harmless beliefs in the way that some of our user base does is unproductive and sometimes rude and disrespectful.

I think there's a false equivalence at play in the way this discussion is framed. Oil-pulling and ear candling are not exactly the same thing as being a Catholic or a Muslim. Believing in oil-pulling is like being a YEC, in that both rely on bad science for their justification, but many people of faith aren't trying to provide "scientific" proof for the existence of God. There are some big differences at play. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 14:46, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

The formal positions of faith in respect of both Catholics and Muslims are equally as weird as ear candling and homoeopathy. No doubt you can find individuals within those religions who reject the wacky bits but the religions themselves include weird beliefs.--Weirdstuff (talk) 15:10, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
No doubt you can find individuals within those religions who reject the wacky bits - I'd say that was true of the vast bulk of practising Christians. I don't know enough Muslims to comment on them. Most UK Christians, for example, don't believe in Creationism. I'm pretty sure most don't believe in transubstantiation. Even senior CofE bishops have said that the virgin birth shouldn't be taken literally.
On the other hand, you can't even start on ear candling without believing in the wacky bits. Innocent Bystander (talk) 15:23, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
So how many christians don't believe in the resurrection? Or the divinity of Christ? Surely denying virgin birth, the divinity and resurrection of Christ doesn't leave you being very theologically Christian.
Of course what really happens is that people just get into some sort of doublethink and simply try not to think about the weird bits their religion foists on them.--Weirdstuff (talk) 19:43, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
OK, so you're at a party and you meet this really nice girl, and I mean really nice. Boy are you hitting it off. Turns out she's a massive football fan so you go to the match together and then back to her place where.... And then, come Sunday morning and she says "I'm off to church."
OMG! You've slept with a paedo enabling nazi!!!!!
Or rather you say, OK, do you mind if I don't join you. I'm an atheist. I hope we don't let this come between us.
That all goes without saying. Now, why can't we treat the rest of the world with the same respect, even when we don't want to get inside her knickers? Innocent Bystander (talk) 15:00, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

A couple random replies I wanted.

  • What I'm saying is that attacking people for privately-held and harmless beliefs in the way that some of our user base does is unproductive and sometimes rude and disrespectful. PowderSmokeAndLeather: Say something once, why say it again?.Moderator 14:46, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
Now, I mean this with the most respect for your person, intelligence, and reasoning skills, but fuck respect in this sense. When respect is used as a shield for bad ideas, that's when you need to drop respect. Respect is not something that people automatically get for their stupid ideas. Respect is earned. This is textbook belief in belief, which I believe is one of the biggest evils of this world. ... Second, no idea is obviously harmless. More specifically, no idea is obviously non-functional. Almost all ideas you hold will influence your behavior. Worse is this belief of belief in belief. It is amazingly dangerous to give a pass to to people to believe things without good reason. What is more damaging than allowing people to abandon reason? That's the worst part about it. It's almost impossible to say exactly what kind of damage can be done from beliefs that are completely detached from reality. Example: paraphrasing Hitchens IIRC: thousands of years ago, who would of thought of the problems today from the belief that life begins at conception? Could they have imagined the daily pill, the day after pill, stem cell research, in vitro fertilization? EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 21:54, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
  • That all goes without saying. Now, why can't we treat the rest of the world with the same respect, even when we don't want to get inside her knickers? Innocent Bystander (talk) 15:00, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
Offhand, I forget who said it, but they phrased it best. "I respect you too much to respect your stupid ideas." If you coddle me, hold back in conversation, because you are afraid of my feelings, because you are afraid of hurting me, then you are treating me as a child, and you are showing me the most amount of disrespect that you possibly could. It's patronizing. If you want to treat me like an adult, you will tell me when I'm wrong, and explain why you think that, as opposed to worrying that I might be hurt if you show that I'm wrong. EnlightenmentLiberal (talk) 21:54, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
By golly you do talk a load of bollocks. Your pathetic attempts to justify your dogmatism, your inflexibility and your plain bad manners shows a phenomenal lack of sociability. You and your sort is why I find the "atheist community" a total and complete embarrassment to reasonable people. Is that respectful enough? You may be right but you're right in the wrongest of ways. Innocent Bystander (talk) 23:29, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
Or, to put it another way, I recently found myself sat at a social event with one of those morons who thinks that a "Have Glock" tee shirt is appropriate wear over the breakfast table. The discussion started on which church group they had come with. Yep, they were classic midwestern good old boys. god, guts and guns type. Now, when they asked which church group I had come with should I have respected them by telling them what "religitards" they were, how their political, religious and social views were beyond the pale. Should I have pointed out that having handguns in the house increases the dangers to the occupants? Should I, in short, have told them how stupid they were. Should I have shown them them "respect" by not mollycoddling them?
Difficult one, that.
Admittedly, Mrs Bystander did comment later about how controlled I had been.
Maybe, just maybe, they went away thinking that this "godless commie" they had met was actually a pretty decent guy and that, maybe, I wasn't a threat to society. Maybe their prejudices were shaken a little bit. I certainly think I did more for the cause than had I shouted the odds. Innocent Bystander (talk) 00:07, 3 August 2013 (UTC)