Thanks to Sam Harris for today’s joke.

Discussion (36)¬

  1. Jantonaitis says:

    It never gets old…

    “did somebody mention bullshit?”

  2. Tyro says:

    Paternalism shall never die!

  3. fontor says:

    That’s about the size of it. Telling the truth is so strident.

  4. Cornelius T. Zen says:

    Good morrow, all!
    Evolution is simply God’s way of saying, “Hey, I like to take my time, you know, experiment a little now and then, you gotta problem with that?”
    She moves in mysterious ways – CTZen

  5. zep says:

    Surprisingly, bullshitting them actually works! Especially since they can’t tell the bullshit from the truth anyway. Just tell them it is bullshit beforehand though. The fun part comes later when they say to their friends: “Hey, listen to this bullshit! The Earth actually goes round the Sun! Can you BELIEVE that crap?! Ha ha! ……….. Why are you snickering?”

    Then again, you can also sell the same idjits major public bridges and uninhabitable swamps for housing sites in return for all their life-savings and promises of eternal bliss…

    Whoops, did I just give away Ken Ham’s modus operandi?? 😉

  6. Well, there goes your Templeton Prize… scientist you….

  7. Hamilton Jacobi says:

    Guest author Sam Harris?

    Mooney and Kirshenbaum seem to imagine that we can get people to value intellectual honesty by lying to them.

  8. John Cowan says:

    It’s not like all Christians, much less all Jews, are creationists. They’re a minority.

  9. steve oberski says:

    @John Cowan It’s not like all Christians, much less all Jews, are creationists. They’re a minority.

    That is simply not true. In the US, poll after poll after poll shows that this is not the case.

    And so what if they are not creationists, they still believe in an invisible sky fairy whose zombie son teleported to earth thru the vagina of a jewish virgin to forgive us for sins that we never committed. And let’s not get into the talking snake.

  10. Hamilton Jacobi Thanks for that link. I was unaware of Same Harris. Science and religion are not compatible. Obviously. They are opposites. Anybody who thinks that belief based on no evidence is identical to belief based on evidence… well, where can you start the discusssion with such a person.

  11. author says:

    @Hamilton – oops, you are right! I will credit.

  12. MrGronk says:

    “Accommodationist believers”, as I call them, do put themselves through some amazing theological gymnastics in order to reconcile their faith with scientific fact. Just as long as it’s them doing the accommodating and not us. Still, I have to concede that civilisation would be less endangered if there were more of them and less of the literalist cretins.

  13. tone-toni says:

    @ Darwin Harmless: I wouldn’t say that science and religion are opposites. that would be to adopt a too simplistic point of view. In the real world, it is possible to hold religious beliefs and yet be thoroughly scientific. If you want to call these beliefs “philosophical positions” well, that’s up to you. there is simply no one simple definition of religious belief, and we do ourselves a disservice by lumping it all into believing “in an invisible sky fairy whose zombie son teleported to earth thru the vagina of a jewish virgin to forgive us for sins that we never committed” (@ steve). We need to avoid falling into the same polemical trap as the fundamentalists do when describing us.

  14. Daoloth says:

    @TT. You have a point. However I think its legitimate to ask whether god still has a job to do.
    Religionists and accomodationsists (e.g. Gould, Tallis etc) think that science and religion are separate realms. Religion is about the stars in heaven, religion is about how to get to heaven kinda thing, but the Euthyphro argument fatally undermines a role for god and morality.
    Some religious apologists think that god explains the origin of the universe, but this is equally unconvincing (what made god? If nothing has to then why does anything have to make the universe?)
    And so on and so forth.
    God has retreated in the face of growing knowledge until she has become either
    1) An excuse to deny science (e.g. red neck dumbos)
    2) A tiny metaphyical Pimpernel (e.g. sophisticated religionists like McGrath or Plantinga). However, unlike the Pimpernel god’s function is now utterly unclear- except psychologically.

  15. nina says:

    it makes sense they would accept BS, since that’s what they spout

  16. Poor Richard says:

    “Verily, I continuously did attempt to counter their bullshit with my own, far more rational, but never did succeed in making the slightest penetration. Thus is the tough resistance of deep ignorance alloyed with fear. Even my modesty, so well pretended, did nothing to impress the staunch legions of the demons of stupidity and superstition.”

  17. Alex says:

    It doesn’t require BS. Just argue that they should interpret Genesis as a metaphor (even the most die-hard fundie is going to interpret some of their holy books’ passages as metaphors). Problem solved.

    The real issue at hand here, is whether or not an atheist would rather convince a theist to accept evolution in a theistic context (like, say, the catholic church does) or not try to convince them of evolution at all unless they accept atheism. If it’s the latter, then I’d argue that that atheist isn’t, first and foremost, interested in promoting evolution. They’d rather sacrifice acceptance of evolution in the name of spreading atheism.

    Now, I know that some will make the counterargument like DH made, that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. To which I would say, you’re doing the same thing that fundies do when they claim that no one can be moral without a belief in God. You’re imposing your personal beliefs as a universal truth. Science can’t be “incompatible” with religion because science fundamentally makes no statements towards the validity of God (which is not synonymous with young earth creationism), as it cannot be tested.

  18. Ford says:

    Young Earth… disproved.
    Separate creation… disproved.
    Common ancestry of humans, other apes, bacteria, etc…. as nearly proved as anything in science.
    Extreme rendition after death (so God can disavow torture)… not supported by any evidence, but not disproved.
    Some role for a superhuman intelligence in the origin or evolution of life, the universe, and everything… not supported by any evidence, but not disproved.

    Accepting that there are areas of uncertainty isn’t bullshitting.

  19. tone-toni says:

    @ Alex: I fully agree, and I might add that in the quest to inform and educate people in the scientific method, which I consider to be the only legitimate approach, we need to focus on providing easily digestible information for the uninformed, and on ensuring that we get our methodology right. While I understand the need to vent, and this is surely the right forum for it, when we are addressing our fundie family members or neighbours, adopting their approach is a waste of time. Those of us who know better, have a duty to inform others. How we do so, however, is important. We, too, must be able to distinguish our personal beliefs from the facts. For example, whether I am an atheist or a theist is irrelevant to the discussion.

  20. designsoda says:

    It doesn’t require BS. Just argue that they should interpret Genesis as a metaphor

    But that IS BS. Genesis isn’t a metaphor for anything. The Genesis story is pure fabrication and not a poetic approximation of something real.

  21. […] ‘n’ Mo(oney) This week’s Jesus and Mo has a hat tip to Sam […]

  22. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    If the earth is only a few thousand years old like the creationists pontificate, that would explain the lack of real progress in evolution. If the planet is billions, whats the problem? With that much time insects should have developed… oops, come to think of it, perhaps they have. Intelligent design can be ruled out due to lack of evidence. Does U of East Anglia have an evolutionary science department? Maybe they could help with settled science?

  23. nina says:

    I like to ask fundies what evidence they have that their myth is the real story and all the other religious creation stories aren’t.

    that usually freaks them a bit.

  24. truthspeaker says:

    It doesn’t require BS. Just argue that they should interpret Genesis as a metaphor

    As others have pointed out, that is BS. It also doesn’t work. Believe me, it’s been tried.

  25. MrGronk says:


    The garden of Eden /golden age trope is almost universal in mythologies, based on the universal human regret about having to grow up and leave childhood behind. It’s a metaphor all right, just not one the mythmakers consciously intended.

  26. truthspeaker says:

    I’m not saying it can’t be read as metaphor for loss of innocence, or even that it wasn’t intended as such (I think that was one of the authors’ intentions). But it’s BSing to say it’s a metaphor for evolution.

  27. A commenter at Jerry Coyne’s noted that that one little question – “how?” – got the barmaid permanently banned from The Intersection. snicker

  28. AchillesAndTortoise says:

    So Moses accepts evolution, then?

  29. daoloth: sorry, I missed your message to me, or I would have commented on it. Back on July 12, 2010 at 12:56 pm you wrote:
    “@Darwin Harmless. The most common thing I have heard in relation to evolution is “Doesn’t this undermine morality?” It’s not only the religious who assume this, but they are more up front about it.
    A lot of supposedly materialist individuals have the same worry- that what we think is important about being human cannot survive scientific inquiry.”

    I simply can’t understand this concern. It seems to me that the theory of evolution completely explains where morality comes from. We are moral because to be otherwise would reduce our survival fitness. The immoral tend to be hunted down and kicked out of the gene pool unless they are brilliant and lucky. Even then, they are liable to be done in eventually and their descendants scorned. Witness the recent short drop of Sadam Hussein.
    We have empathy, because if we didn’t we wouldn’t get the support of our fellow tribesmen, and without that support we are much more likely to die.
    So where is the puzzle? For me the puzzle is that religion can lay a claim to providing morality, given the slaughter and perversion that stains the history of religion like gallons of blood and puke on a shag carpet.

    One of my big problems Christianity is that it make it a sin to be simply human. They tell us that we must be moral or we will be punished, rather than telling us that we are moral because it’s basic to our nature. New congnitive research has discovered that virtually all serial killers have a specific kind of brain damage. They are not sinful. They are malfunctioning units. Religion has nothing to say about this, and no cure to provide.

  30. P.S. – Even if we don’t have morality without religion, which seems unlikely given the morality of my atheist friends, using this as a reason to believe in God is a classic logical fallacy, argumentum ad consequentiam, an argument that concludes a belief is true or false based on whether the premise leads to desirable or undesirable consequences.
    We hear this argument all the time. It’s the reason they try to blame Stalin’s purges on atheism.

  31. Daoloth says:

    @ DH. I agree with you.
    However, I suspect that it feels like we are making the wrongness of being a psychopath a frequency-dependent selection pressure. This does not feel like morality, you know the kind of thing “If it’s just about genes then blah..blah…it’s not real” etc.
    I think its a bit like a magic trick- people who don’t know anything about magic tricks are invariably disappointed when they learn “the secret”.
    “Oh, is that it? It was just up her sleeve? That was simple”
    People who actually know about conjuring know that the effect is more than just the maguffin (secret pocket in the top hat for the rabbit etc) that makes it work. Its about all the things done to create the effect so that something really simple (man hanging on string) looks like David Copperfield flying.
    It’s very easy to buy almost every trick you have ever seen on TV in a good magic shop- seriously- if its not actually for sale in a plastic pack it will be in one of the old books. But there are not that many good magicians out there. Its tougher than it looks to create effects.
    I think a similar scale problem happens with morality. If you know a bit about biology then you can see how the trick (altruism) could have evolved.
    “Oh, was that it? Its all about genes co-operating? That’s too simple” say the moralists- we want REAL magic- by which they mean, of course- magic that could not have happened.
    We want a magic sky fairy to underwrite our actions, a world yet to come that punishes the unbelievers, a platonic realm of THE GOOD, the noumenal, etc etc.
    The trick (evolution of moral sentiments because they aid survival) seems too simple.
    What do you think?

  32. nina says:


    I think you’re right – people want the magikal sky daddy because then they are special by the interest of said sky daddy over all the “other” animals on the planet.

    they don’t want to accept that we’re just another animal

  33. Unruly Simian says:

    I wonder just how screwed up things would be if people didn’t beleive that they would live on a cloud playing a harp, or slaving away trying to keep 72 virgins happy. I guess everyone would just run amok killing, drinking, swearing, fornicating etc. Wait that sounds like my high school prom!!!!!

  34. Skip says:

    Some people here do not understand scientific method. In science you make a conclusion AFTER you are able to prove something (for example, evidence, research, observation). You can’t make a conclusion first and then demand from the rest of the people to prove you wrong. Religious stuff therefore can’t be proven simply because you can’t prove fantasy stories made up in someones mind.

  35. dysamoria says:

    I find it’s more the fact that miracles & acts of god are just easier for people to accept as complete ideas than the decades of education (& hundreds of years of science) needed to encapsulate the real facts of what, how & why. Also, the culture is designed to indoctrinate from youth a belief in religion, not science, so the “necessary-reliance-on-others-for-answers road” already has a roadhog on it. I mean, it’s not where science lacks a definite answer to a thing that hurts belief; it’s the complexity of the many interrelated facts & levels of required abstraction that really kills it. How many of us actually sit down & calculate scientific matters on our own before we accept them? We’re not all “brains the size of planets” and we rely on the global species-history’s collection of knowledge for our understandings. Religious folks want simple answers & religion gives nothing but (unless you ask for detailed explanations, which become increasingly deeper self-contradicting mind warps till the religious person just hits their own intellectual/mental max gross load wherein they just spout out “it’s god’s will” or the like).

    It’s like answers on “what’s pi?” You don’t spout out the whole thing, nor even a fraction of the known number; you symbolize it with an abbreviated form & the rest is assumed.

    Someone said to me once, “That’s like asking why the sky is blue!” in anger at me asking for an explanation to something. Poor choice of symbolizing “the unknowable.” I went and explained why the sky is blue, best as I can as I’m not a walking Internet, and it just pissed them off. They offered another “unknowable” analogy & I offered another explanation… I love that. The person eventually just changed the subject to “science ruins the majesty of everything beautiful!” No, it doesn’t. It shows just how deep the universe goes in both directions (micro & macro). It blows people’s minds, even when they’re great minds.

  36. Anonymous says:

    @Darwin Harmless says:
    July 22, 2010 at 3:52 am
    They are not sinful. They are malfunctioning units. Religion has nothing to say about this, and no cure to provide.

    And what kind of manufacturer finds it desirable to torture her malfunctioning products?


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