In America fewer people than ever believe the Bible to be the literal word of their God. Way more Americans than we thought may be atheists but what would Mr. Wolfe have to say about that or should we start calling him Mr. Sheep?

After generations of not being concerned with religion China finds itself having to learn about atheism.

A look at the secularisation of Britain.

I often enjoy the comments more than the article itself.

Televangelist Jim Bakker claims that criticism of The Tremendous One is a sign of the End Times.

This weeks’ Woo: Bad ideas are not that easy to kill off.

Climate Change: Lawyers are helping climate scientists to fight back.

Science is a good antidote against subjective bias but scientific truths should be considered provisional and something that we should always strive to get closer to. We must also be aware of the illusion of knowledge.

Ancestors of the “Hobbits” may have been part of the first migration out of Africa.

Chemists may be zeroing in on the reactions that sparked first life on Earth while physicists may be closer to seeing the Universe’s first light.

Would an A.I. machine invent its own form of philosophy if it came to understand the limits of Information?

The Age of Lies: How politicians hide behind statistics.

Ten things we did not know last week. Some photographs taken last week.

While you are waiting for the kettle to boil.…..

Coffee Break Video:  Lawrence Krauss on Science VS Religion. Michael Nugent on religion and blasphemy in Ireland. Scouting for knowledge with Julia Galef.

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Replies to This Discussion

Have a great week everyone!!

How many priests have died at the hands of philosophers?

- Me.

Thanks, Reg!

LMFAO that kettle to boil article made me fall off my chair laughing. 

You can make Holy Water at home too. Fill a saucepan or pot with regular tap water and then just boil the hell out of it. (Ouch!).

Hahahaha!!!! That just made my weekend lmfao

"I often enjoy the comments more than the article itself.

- this links to a really interesting article and paper on theories about why religious people tend to be less intelligent than atheists.  The most dogmatic and fundamentalist believers are the least intelligent.  There appears to be a lot of hard evidence for this.  There's a "weak" correlation, which suggests that any link is just one among many. 

The paper favours a theory that  1) intelligence involves overcoming instincts in order to be able to solve novel problems;  2) religion is itself an evolved instinct;  3) therefore, intelligent people can overcome the instinct of religion. 

I think this is dubious, since I'm not convinced that we possess an actual separate instinct to be religious.  We definitely have an instinct to cooperate, and an instinct to follow the culture: what everyone else is doing around us.  I'd say those are two of the driving instincts behind being religious. 

Intelligence involves an instinct to sniff out bullshit: to ask questions.  If it also involves rising above other instincts, then it can mean rising above the instinct to follow everyone else, because what they're doing smells like bullshit.  More dogmatic people are less likely to ask questions. 

I know some people with high IQ’s that are religious, including some members of Mensa. I also know people with below average IQ’s that are atheists. IMO, it is not level of intelligence that should be considered in these studies but rather their ability to think critically. Critical Thinking is a skill that is improved by use but it must first be taught as a life skill.

Nobody reasons themselves into their faith. When they first come to have any doubts about it they deal with it on an emotional level. It is only when they start to think though what they actually profess to believe that they can get to view it clearly (or critically) and reason themselves out of it. It is only when we understand the benefits of being a “Freethinker” that we can learn to be skeptical about other things and try not to get fooled again.

When I hear someone say “I am an atheist” I am happy on two fronts. Firstly because I won’t have to listen to any religious nonsense and secondly because I know I will be able to have an intelligent conversation with them. Not because of their IQ but rather because they can think critically about the topic under discussion.

I agree, a curious person is always more interesting than a complacent one, whatever they might believe in.  I feel a bit sorry for those very intelligent theologians who spend their lives screwing themselves up into knots trying to get their religion to make perfect sense.  It seems like a good example of Gödel's incompleteness theorem, where you can't prove every statement within a system of knowledge by appealing only to that system of knowledge.  In other words, they don't realise it all makes sense when you move up into the evolutionary dimension. 

I think that intelligent people are more likely to "buck the trend" because for them, it's normal to have more of a clue about certain things than the people around them, so it makes sense for them to rely on asking questions and thinking for themselves than by following others too much. 

"Religious instinct"

An instinct is something you can't just think out of existence in a one-time decision.  If there was an evolved biological instinct to be religious, then as a life-long atheist, I would have to have always been pushing down and suppressing this instinct - which I presume means a biological instinct to believe in a God. 

Well, guess what, I haven't!  Therefore, there is no special instinct to be religious.  QED. 

There is undoubtedly an instinct to chase the things that religion offers, but not actually to be religious.  I think they're expecting evolution to be a bit too specific. 

Religion is simply mans attempt to control the god(s) he invented.

I have very little time for theology and even less for theologians. Anytime I debate with one of them I end up thinking I want to grab them by the neck and shake them while asking “What are you talking about man???” Now I just ask them to respond to the quote below by Thomas Paine from his book, The Age of Reason. I take bets with myself that their first response with be to ask me a question, their second reply with be to ask “”what do I mean exactly” and everything that follows will be obfuscation and so vague as to be rendered meaningless, almost as “undecidable” as anything Gödel’s theorem could produce. They have degrees and doctorates in the study of nothing and have invested their lives in trying to make it sound intelligent.

 “The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion. Not anything can be studied as a science, without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing.”

"the principles upon which it is founded;

- I need to be corrected if I'm wrong, as maybe I don't understand the subject, but I would have thought that the idea of theology, like any other -ology, should be to reduce the subject (Biblical religion) to its simplest elements, and then see how these elements relate together. 

In the book I read, D A Carson makes a valiant and accomplished effort to do this; but he fails as far as I can see.  He's reduced it to well-defined elements, or principles, but they don't fit together very well, and the thorniest part is "God".  So I still disagree with Thomas Paine: in most aspects, it's a bona fide science of sorts, but what they are studying is incoherent if one is aiming to be strictly rational. 

The same charge could be levelled at atheist moral philosophy, which also appears to be a mess, but only because it's incomplete, ill-defined, and vague.  The fragments that we do have seem to agree with each other. 


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