This isn’t satire, it’s reportage. Thanks to guest script writer Giuseppe Ferrari.

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Discussion (70)¬

  1. Abhijeet says:

    No one’s yet explained to me the difference between superstitions and religious rites – other than by the number of adherents.

  2. Necessary Evil says:

    Superstition is any belief system involving the supernatural that is outside the mainstream belief system. Thus so a scientist (or Bright), any belief involving anything supernatural is deemed superstitious but to a Christian something like e.g. Voodoo is deemed superstitious while the belief that e.g. communion wine turns into Christ’s blood when you drink it is not. This kind of doublethink is promoted by those of a religious persuasion in an effort to convince people that their religion is real whereas no one else’s beliefs are.

  3. Necessary Evil says:

    It’s interesting that the level of aggression is greatest between those who hold similar but slightly different superstitions, e.g. Protestant Christians vs Catholic Christians or Shia Moslems vs Sunni Moslems. For good reason such internecine warfare doesn’t seem to occur between scientists of different disciplines and that’s because science grows as synergies arise between different areas of research whereas obviously religion isn’t promoted very brilliantly when its adherents attack and kill each other.

  4. NSPike says:

    You’ve really got to wonder how they manage such huge leaps in logic haven’t you?

    To continue from the previous thread…

    AoS: Finally, I can’t believe that nobody’s called me a philistine over my Star Wars admission.

    I was going to, since I am a huge fan, but I’ve recently been making a conscious effort not to dismiss anyone for having different tastes, since I’ve been accused by more than one person of being a music/film/TV snob, and I can’t stand snobbery or hypocrisy, despite being consistently guilty of both. That plus the fact that I’m very much aware that there is more to life than Star Wars, so what does it matter really? 🙂

    @ShallowEnder: “Wee Ally-akbar”

    If I may be totally candid, you already reminded me of the person who invented that phrase: your manner of speech is similar, you also use multiple sequential posts and tend to opt for a long, rambling style. But above all, he was the only person who used that phrase, and used it repeatedly. No one else picked it up as far as I noticed, but eventually his posts were too numerous and lengthy for everyone to bother with and he was asked to tone it down. Without wanting to be deliberately rude, you’ve not just picked a new alias to avoid any embarrassment and repercussions have you? If I could speak for the majority for a moment (and apologies if I’m wrong) you were welcome to stay, just to tone down the frequency of posts.

    Of course if this is wrong then sorry to all involved! Particularly you, of course, ShallowEnder.

  5. IanB says:

    There really is no longer a need to satirise religion, it’s doing just fine all on its own.

  6. J Ascher says:

    There’s no irony meter in existence to measure the high level of irony in this strip!

  7. Pete says:

    Sam Harris says it well with the “belief that pancakes turn to body of Elvis” quote.

  8. xanadu says:

    My one laugh for the day. Priceless!

  9. Ron Millam says:

    Abhijeet — IMO, the “faith vs insanity” comparison also holds true when comparing superstition and religion:

    “Faith is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence, whereas insanity is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with the evidence.”

    Do you now see the difference? You’re welcome.

  10. ShallowEnder says:

    Re. NSPike : So what you’re saying is that I talk too much?
    Also true.
    And I won’t use the contemptuous nomenclature for the Christian deity if it brings up bad memories. Sorry about that, too.
    {see, even I can be brief … -ish}.

  11. I am honored to be a Patron Saint and so glad that you will be able to stay free and online, unfettered…indefinitely. Also, thanks to each and every one who visits Ruthless, Furious and Comfortable, where we too pull no punches about religion or pop culture. While I am shamelessly promoting, let me say that this week marks the 45th anniversary of the groundbreaking and Academy Award winning movie Midnight Cowboy. Thanks again for the love, Regards Goat from Ruthless.

  12. @ShallowEnder The quote ex-Pfc Wintergreen in the greatest novel ever written, NSPike finds your writing style “too prolix”. I don’t. Carry on.

  13. NSPike says:

    @ShallowEnder – that’s not what I meant on either count, I am sorry. I’m re-reading it now and see why it would come across like that. Feel free to use whatever nomenclature you want, and speak away, it was a very interesting thread on the last strip. I was just attempting some novice detective work and explaining how I’d come to that conclusion. Sorry if it’s wrong! 🙂

  14. Nassar+Ben+Houdja says:

    Secular is best of all possible worlds
    Not one manipulated by dogmatic squirrels
    Irrational to one
    Is another’s fun
    Take your pick, give something a whirl.

  15. ShallowEnder, I think the question was: Are you a sock puppet for a poster who was asked to tone it down? The talks too much thing was just one of the clues. Are you avoiding the question?

    Continuing OT: For me, Star Wars was just one more bubble gum for the brain block buster full of nonsense and rather badly made. For example, there’s a medium shot in the original where one of the characters is repairing a robot and closes the chest case. Cut to wide shot and the chest is open again with the wiring exposed. I found all the cute references to other pop culture, like the Wizard of Oz tin man, and the general derivative quality of the fantasy rather a bore. And the woo level, with “Use the force, Luke.” was just repulsive. Could never understand why geeks got so enamoured with that movie. Sorry if I’m being offensive here. I’ve kept my mouth shut for about thirty seven years. The most admirable thing about SW was the first royalty check to George Lucas made out to him personally – 52 million smackers. Now that’s an achievement.

    “Midnight Cowboy” on the other hand, was truly ground breaking and very real. Great flick.

    Oh, and Author, you’ve done it again. Succinctly summarized the crazy that is the Catholic religion. Bravo.

  16. WalterWalcarpit says:

    NBH that has to be your best yet. Welcome back.

    Author, another great strip. I had read the news with incredulity a few days ago and almost anticipated the fodder. One really couldn’t make this stuff up any better than they do.
    I was reminded of some words of wisdom from a previous life teaching television production: It is not easy to parody a parody. I now need to revise that position.

  17. Author says:

    Thanks again for the suggestion, Ophelia.

  18. Ephphatha says:

    “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52

    All that anyone I have accused of being a sleeping fundamentalist atheist has to do to acquit themselves is pass the Quantum Randi Challenge referenced in the above video. Otherwise, you have the right to remain silent…

    Since fundamentalist atheists seem to believe in the ‘power of testimony’ just as much as fundamentalist Christians do (or perhaps AoS just asked me personal questions because he and others needed ammo to launch the ad hominem attacks that followed), I have a new chapter to add to my testimony:

    Believing that I was getting away with some harmless mischief when I was a student in grades seven and eight, I used to play an instrumental-only version of the following rock n roll song in church, using a guitar to play the guitar portion and a harmonica to play the melody of the lyrics. As it turns out, the inside joke was on me because this particular rock n roll song, which I’m sure you’ve all heard countless many times before, also without realizing what it’s really about, is about the mother of Christ, also known as the “Queen of May” . Appropriate choice for today not only because of the theme of today’s comic, and not only because this is the month of May, but also because I think it goes to show that everyone who thinks they are so well versed in scripture that it’s like a crime for me to quote from the bible here should consider reading scripture again for the first time, just as I am suggesting with sufficiently good reason that you should listen to the following rock n roll song again for the first time:

  19. Johanan Raatz is listed in the Encyclopedia of American Loons, but is listed as being fairly harmless. I am not a Quantum Physicist but this video does not move gods any further down the line to evidenced reality than does Genesis 1:1. Specious is a word that comes to mind, the second thing is something like McDowell’s overwhelming use of footnotes. Proving nothing.

  20. Chiefy says:

    Ephy, your Corinthians reference fits perfectly with this week’s theme.

    If we follow Raatz’s reasoning all the way, without his handwaving at the end, there is only one logical conclusion. I am God, and I am all that exists. You only exist at my pleasure, as a mental construct. You’re welcome.

  21. Yes, Chiefy, wasn’t it convenient that the “thing” at the end of the infinite series was a good ole fashioned white-bearded god? Just a scientifically souped up bit of special pleading, personal incredulity and defining god into existence.

  22. floridakitesurfer says:

    What is a fundamentalist atheist? That seems like an oxymoron to me.

  23. IanB says:

    Ephphatha says:

    This is only a proof if you make the leap to accept that a collapsing wave function has a real existence rather than being a tool to model quantum probability. While Johanan Raatz makes that assumption it is far from proven and many other scientists disagree with that leap.

  24. floridakitesurfer says:

    Never mind. I looked it up. It is designed to be intentionally insulting. Your lack of a religion is a religion just like my actual religion. Just another reminder that Xians can’t seem to think.

  25. two cents' worth says:

    Um, sorry to be dense, but what do Stairway to Heaven and Mary the mother of Jesus have to do with countering irrational thinking or with training more exorcists?

    By the way, honoring Mary as the Queen of the May is apparently another example of a Christian overlay on an existing pagan tradition–in this case, celebrating the Queen of the May as the embodiment of “the fructifying spirit of vegetation.” Instead of choosing a girl each year to be Queen of the May, Catholics gave Mary that job permanently. (For more on the pagan tradition of honoring the Queen of the May, see )

    I haven’t seen Raatz’s video yet, but I get the impression that his arguments for the existence of god(s) may apply only at the subatomic level (if there). Chiefy, I don’t know about you, but my “godhood” apparently does not include the kind of omniscience or omnipotence that I thought was included in the “godhood” package. I know about the Lego on the floor only when it’s too late–after I’ve stepped on it with my bare foot in the dark. (Based on what I learned about object permanence in my early childhood, I know that the Lego did not suddenly materialize just as I was stepping on it; I have only myself–or my son–to blame for its being there.) Exerting my will is not enough to make the floor Lego-free; I have to turn on the light and pick up the Lego. (I need the light because, after hopping about on one foot, I lose track of where the Lego is.) Of course, if I’d exercised my “omnipotence” the way my mother taught me to, I would never have turned out the light before making sure the floor was free of Legos and other hazards.

    Oh, well. Time for me to stop my idle Googling/woolgathering/indulging in free association and get back to work.

  26. That was a pretty awesome two cents worth. I had forgotten about the leggo analogy.

  27. Mary2 says:

    ShallowEnder, you are welcome under any name and using whatever name for the gods you wish. I’m pleased you’ve ‘come out’ because I was doing the same sort of wondering as NSPike but was too lazy to trawl through old comments sections to compare speaking style. Makes me wonder how recognisable the rest of us would be if we attempted to go incognito. (I think we might recognise Nassar 😉 )

    As for those committing the heresy (or is it blasphemy) of knocking Star Wars – a soap opera with fabulous aliens – what could be better than that!

    FKS, a ‘fundamentalist atheist’ would seem to me to be, by definition, someone who has strong belief in the fundamentals (only) of atheism – i.e. strong belief that none of the god claims stack up. If so, guilty as charged. (I am quite certain the neither Ephphatha nor anyone else who actually uses the term means it literally. I think they mean a nasty atheist who publicly challenges religious claims rather than a nice quiet agnostic/atheist who keeps their doubts to themselves – if so, also guilty as charged.)

    Ephphatha, we have no problem with you quoting scripture but we have been trying to explain that the way you use it as some kind of proof in its own right cannot work with people who do not accept that it is the unequivocal word of god. It’s the same as me quoting Charles Darwin to a ‘Young Earth Creationist’. I can quote all the writings of the man himself but if the person I am talking with doesn’t accept the underlying premise I may as well be trying to prove my point using Sponge Bob Squarepants. If I want to show evidence of evolution I need to show the fossil record, the dna, the differing beaks of Gallapagos sparrows etc. If you want to ‘prove’ Christianity, reading from a book that we believe is a book written in exactly the same way as the myths of Gilgamesh, is not going to cut it. Otherwise, quote away. I (obviously) enjoy playing with the internal inconsistencies and logic, moral and historical flaws in the book.

  28. Macha says:


    I had dipped into this video before, which I have now done so again. However, both times I found the presenter’s dialogue so fast and furious without any substantive content that I haven’t yet managed to extract anything significant from it. It contains a facade of “science” presented in a cartoony manner together with quotes from scientists taken out of context.

    Of course, Young’s slit experiment is a classic. In fact – as Feynman said, but not in your video – it embodies all that is strange about Quantum Mechanics. If you wish to study the experiment – and indeed QM – in more detail, Feynman’s Lectures on Physics, Vol III (even though it’s a bit outdated) gives a good overview and will help you towards a better understanding than a Youtube video presented in a rather frantic manner.

    Nowadays we are able to fine-tune the experiment, because the use of a laser as the coherent light source allows us to fire individual photons and this gives, at least intuitively, a better insight into the notion of wave-particle duality. This makes the results even stranger, because wave-particle duality is much more difficult to understand in this single photon context.

    The story now gets even more peculiar, because experiments have been done related to entanglement, which show that the outcome of one event can instantaneously determine the outcome of another. Also, Bell having proved Einstein’s posit of “hidden variables” to be wrong, the seemingly logical escape route of some kind of hidden information is cut off.

    This is true of events separated by space and, even more remarkably, by time. Look at the experiment of the delayed quantum eraser to have your credibility stretched – the outcome of an event appears to effect the outcome of a previously occurring event!

    So QM is strange – again, Feynman, “if someone says they understand Quantum Mechanics, they have immediately demonstrated that they don’t”.

    But – and this is a massively big “but” with capitals and flashing lights- none of this is, in any way shape or form, proof of a supernatural deity. Physics, as a science, will consider all options, examine all hypotheses and look at the mathematics to come up with the most plausible answer to any specific question. Of course, this doesn’t rule out “God” as the “answer”, but, over centuries of having done Physics, God hasn’t even got a look in.

    There never has been and I doubt there is now, any need for a God Theory to explain anything.

    I’m reminded at this point about Chemistry a couple of hundred years ago. At that time, there was a big mystery about how Organic Chemistry (you know, those substances involving CH3) “worked”. At the time, none of these compounds could be produced in the lab from non-organic constituents, and scientists came up with the notion of “life force”. For example, yeast (a living thing – containing a “life force”) reacted with sugar to produce alcohol (an organic compound). Consequently, it was thought that this “life force” was necessary to produce organic compounds. The church loved all this stuff – here was God at work!

    Unfortunately for God, a German chemist synthesised Urea (an organic compound) from non organic material – and, as you may or may not know, once you’ve produced a particular organic compound, you can easily produce the rest – and the whole “life force” theory was forgotten, buried.

    So at the moment we don’t understand Quantum Mechanics too well and there are lots of unanswered questions, but that doesn’t mean a “God Theory” has any credibility. Let alone over the “fairy theory”, the “Vishnu theory” or any other of humankind’s mythical explanations. If you, Ephphatha, can come up with a mathematically consistent, complete, predictive and verifiable explanation of QM using your God Theory, then go ahead. I await the results with interest. However, given the track record of the God Theory, I expect the actual answer ultimately to come from, yes you guessed it, Physics.

  29. Macha, very well stated. Very nice and thorough explanation. God of the gaps, and science is removing god’s hiding places one by one.

  30. steve oberski says:

    Ah, I see Ephphatha is back to grace us with random youtube clips and sundry gibberish.

    Proverbs 26:11

    11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.

  31. Mord_Sith says:

    Colour me hyper-paranoid, but I do not like this latest trend in ‘Patreon’age… whenever I got a buck or fifty to spare generally I donate, but to have comics helping themselves to my bank account… I don’t even let regular bill collectors do that.

    Not to say you shouldn’t do the Patreon thing, but frankly, could you leave the one-shot donation system there as well for the irregulars like yours truly?

  32. David+Amies says:

    I would be saddened to see Jesus and Mo driven off line by attacks from believers. It is certainly worth something to me to keep it going. It would be helpful if the author could indicate how much it costs him to keep it up and running each month.
    Meanwhile, keep up the good work.
    David Amies

  33. I’ve decided that Aphphatha is not worth another minute of my time. In fact, Ephphatha wasn’t worth the time it took me to write this, which makes me wonder why I wrote it. She seems to be a troll with nothing original to say.

    Mary2: finches. 🙂

  34. Nicoboyo says:

    I choose not to walk under a Welsh ladder, not as a superstition but because it’s logical that something could fall on me.
    I find that the biggest hypocrite or intolerant bigot is often a religious zealot. Could one of them explain, for example, the use of incense or the burka please?

  35. Macha says:


    Another thing …

    Your execrable video also rattles on about “fine tuning”. First of all, it has to be pointed out that “fine tuning” isn’t necessarily as “fine” as the god squad would like to make out. Nonetheless, it isn’t understood properly and is unlikely to be a one-off coincidence.

    Let’s look at some possible explanations

    1. There are a large number – infinite number even – of parallel universes and we are in the one where the fine tuning works out for us in a serendipitous manner

    2. There is an infinite series of expanding, then collapsing universes, and we are in that universe in the sequence where the fine tuning works out for us.

    3. There’s an underlying, as yet not understood, connection between the constants which constrain them to have the values they actually have.

    4. Before the Big Bang, God (for she exists outside of space and time don’t ya know – whatever that means) was twiddling the knobs on her bigbangometer to set those pesky values before pressing the Fire! button so she could create an unimaginably large universe consisting of billions of galaxies, each galaxy holding billions of stars surrounded by an untold number of planets so that, on a small blue rock orbiting an insignificant star on the edge of an unremarkable galaxy and billions of years later, she could create a beautiful garden populated by a male and female human form and a talking snake ….

    5. Another rational reason which we haven’t yet stumbled upon.

    Now I’m conscious of having over-posted on this particular discussion, so I will apologise to the Author and everyone else. However, I’m not sure whether to feel anger or sadness about Ephphatha (and his/her ilk), because I can’t understand how anyone, who seems otherwise eloquent and intelligent, can waste so much of their valuable intellect on something so crass as religion when there are far more interesting and non-parochial things to study and be amazed about.

    But yes, you’re correct DH, it’s time to put this fellow on “ignore”, because these discussions were much more fun when simply taking the p!ss out of religion and not spent arguing with nitwits who think that videos of pseudo-scientific drivel constitute a rational and convincing argument.

  36. hotrats says:


    All that anyone I have accused of being a sleeping fundamentalist atheist has to do to acquit themselves is pass the Quantum Randi Challenge referenced in the above video. Otherwise, you have the right to remain silent…

    Well, at last we have a working definition for ‘fundamentalist atheist’ – it means anyone who disagrees with you.
    I’m with Mary2 here, in your case I’m happy to accept the label.
    No-one cares about ‘acquitting’ themselves of your puerile accusations.

    Please exercise your own right to remain silent.

  37. Mary2 says:

    DH, Finches! Damn. I knew sparrows sounded stupid when I typed it!!!!!! Serves me right for deluding myself that I had time to have a quick look at J & M before leaving for work (I was late anyway)!

  38. author says:

    @Mord_Sith I take your point. It is in fact possible to make a one off donation via Patreon by pledging an amount, then cancelling the recurrence after the 1st payment. Not perfect, but apparently they’re working on making it easy. In the meantime, I’ve put back the hosting-donation form in the r/h sidebar. I removed it because I didn’t want to give anyone donation fatigue. Plus there’s currently enough in the hosting account to keep us online for a couple of years.

    @David Amies – I will put up a permanent page following your suggestion. Thanks for the idea. Hosting currently costs around $250 per month. That includes high-level DDoS protection from Cloudflare @$200pcm, which became necessary at the start of this year.

  39. Mary2 says:

    Macha, Thanks for your lovely explanations. I have never understood people who use the fine-tuning or Goldilocks argument as proof of God. We exist therefore God. If the universe wasn’t suitable for us to exist it is quite possible that something else would exist (i.e. be conscious) and, if not, no one would be any the wiser. The idea that we exist therefore the whole universe must have been created for us is bizarre. What if us existing is either a complete lucky chance or if it is an inevitable consequence of certain chains of chemical reactions following physics stuff resulting from the big bang?

  40. IanB says:

    I recall a theory (not sure how serious) that life may have been spread by the excreta of ancient space travellers. As a species we’ve certainly put quantities of shit into orbit since the early 1960s and it contains lots of the tiny things that share our bodies, virus and bacteria have been shown to have survived long periods in space. Recently some bacteria were reactivated after 250 million years in quiescent state, that’s long enough to go interstellar.

  41. UncoBob says:

    What a classic strip and discussion!

    There are some really interesting comments: if of the right frame of mind, we could make a doctrine and found a sect out of some of them. Mr Ferrari’s statement in the article that inspired the author: “The abandonment of religion inevitably leads people to ask questions about the existence of evil and its origins” is rich in irony. I’d expect that victims of the auto da fe or indeed Boko Haram could reasonably think they’d found the source of the existence of evil, and it was religion.

    And turning to ‘atheist fundamentalists’ – I suppose there might be a point. E.g. if one of those powerful telescopes looking farther away in space and back in time, could look behind the big bang (yes, I accept the impossibility, but for arguments sake…) and videoed a being lighting the blue touch paper and tip-toeing away, then perhaps anyone who didn’t accept some sort of supernatural being at the beginning of the universe could fairly be called a fundie. It would still beg the question of how the existence of a creator leads to all the bizarre minutiae of religious doctrine. The issue is what (as someone else has said) it would take to abandon belief that there is no supernatural. If the answer was ‘Nothing’, then fundie is probably a fair label.

  42. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Having read the piece Author linked to I’m pleased to see that it confirms the final line of my last post on the previous strip; You don’t have to be insane to worship God, but it helps.

    Mary2 says:

    May 22, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Macha, Thanks for your lovely explanations. I have never understood people who use the fine-tuning or Goldilocks argument as proof of God.

    I believe it’s called ‘clutching at straws’, Mary. It was so much easier for the poor dears before science came along, but they do make the best of a bad job, and if God has to start where scientific knowledge currently ends then so be it, even if their once-omnipotent, omniscient God is now relegated to the periphery of things, become no more than a desperate mis-interpretation of theoretical physics.
    The real question is why they are so desperate to cling to their superstitions.

  43. Martin_z says:

    Mary2 – indeed. Imagine a situation where you start with, say, 4,294,967,296 people. Pair them all up, and toss a coin to select one of each pair. Leaves you with 2,147,483,648 people. Keep going like that a further 30 times and you’ll have one person left. Do you then think “Blimey – the odds against that person being the last one left are over four billion to one. That couldn’t possibly happen by luck – it must prove the existence of God.”?

  44. floridakitesurfer says:

    I think there are millions or billions of planets out there with life and your explanation is a perfectly valid explanation of why my concept of the universe is not fine tuned. Fundamentalists frequently tell us that they believe Earth to be the only life bearing planet in the universe. In that case the universe barely supports life at all.

    Imagine I tell you that I have built an engine that will turn the mass of the earth into kinetic energy and wasted light so that the earth will be completely consumed but I will have transported one ant to the moon. Now imagine further that I claim my earth to ant space craft is finely tuned in the intended purpose as a vehicle to deliver one ant to the moon. You would tell me that is the most wasteful design ever and not at all finely tuned. The ratio of the mass of the universe to the mass of earth is the same as the ration of the mass of the earth to the mass of one ant.

    If there were a god and he had made the universe and he had done so for the express purpose of making life on earth, then he would qualify as the dumbest engineer ever.


  45. WalterWalcarpit says:

    Hey Floridakitesurfer, welcome back.
    I’m not surprised to find that ‘fundamental atheist’ is designed to be intentionally insulting. Certainly that is precisely how it has been thrown around the C&B recently by someone who stumbled in a few weeks ago. Rather akin to posting faeces through the letterbox.
    Some of the regulars are feeding it, some are debating and others are just baiting.
    My advice would be to skip the lot – I read Ephphatha’s earlier posts but have long since realised there is nothing to see there and moved along.

  46. floridakitesurfer says:

    I hear you buddy. AOS thinks he can train it to communicate like a human. And maybe he can. But why bother when the joy of coming to the C&B is there is already a crowd of posters skilled in the art?

  47. Pliny the in Between says:

    Author, DDoS attacks unfortunately are a potential hazard for a site of your reach and quality – I myself suffer from another type of Internet peril – The DDoE – Distributed Denial of Existence 😉

    Thanks again for pointing out so clearly that at the core of all that church pomp and circumstance is total absurdity.

  48. Mary2 says:

    Martin Z, beautifully put. I would even take it one step further. Not only does the one person left think that the non-existance of all the other people (or death or ceasing of existance) proves the existance of God, but they are quite positive that god must have set up the whole thing – the initial 4,294,967,296 people, the process of disappearing the others etc. etc. – all for that one person. Very teleological! “the belief that natural phenomena have a predetermined purpose and are not determined by mechanical laws”

    FKS, Nice description of the almost empty universe. I like ‘Omnistupid’ – yours?

    Walter, FKS, et al. Don’t you meanies take my fun away! Walter, I’m not sure whether I count as one who is ‘debating’ or ‘just baiting’ or a bit of both but, as one of the old-hands here puts it, “chew toy”!! 😉

  49. Sceptic Sarah says:

    Macha- I loved the idea (can’t remember where I read it) of evolution of universes- that the constants that support the development of stars, galaxies etc and therefore the eventual evolution of life as we know it also support the formation of daughter universes (via black holes) with similar constants. I only have physics to A level and that was a while ago, so I know I couldn’t argue the case, but the idea has an elegance to it that I like.

  50. white+squirrel says:

    The decline of religious belief in the West and the growth of secularism has “opened the window” to black magic, Satanism and belief in the occult
    surely Satanism and belief in the occult
    ARE religions [certianly not secular]
    so how is religion declining if satanism is increasing
    a failure of logic on the part of the catholic church somewhere

  51. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    floridakitesurfer says:
    May 22, 2014 at 3:14 pm
    I think there are millions or billions of planets out there with life…….

    This is something I was thinking about earlier. Although estimates vary, there are approximately 200 billion galaxies in the known Universe, each containing an average of 200 billion stars. Although not all stars are certain to have planets, it is reckoned that the average star system has eight or so planets, with maybe two of them orbiting withing the habitable (to our kind of life) zone.
    A quick calculation shows, therefore, that the Universe could easily contain as many as 80,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets capable of supporting the kind of life we know about, and Carl knows how many more there are on which might live life of forms beyond our wildest imaginations*. Of course, that number reduces drastically if we’re just talking about intelligent life either on a par with or in advance of us, but even if we reduce that total to reflect the possibility that only one in ten billion panets harbours intelligent life, that still leaves 8,000,000,000,000 inhabited planets, and even that may be wildly under-estimated.
    Yet the believers are happy to imagine that we inhabit an otherwise sterile Universe, and that we are the pinnacle of their gods’ creation, to the point of believing that we are the reason it was created in the first place, that the sole purpose of this unimaginably large Universe is to house us.
    Very small-minded, the religious.
    It has to be said that if the Universe really was created, the designer took profligacy beyond the extreme. I seem to recall reading somewhere that – large numbers above notwithstanding – a ridiculously small amount of the Cosmos, only about one trillionth of one trillionth of one trillionth of one percent is suitable for our kind of life, and we actually inhabit about one trillionth of one trillionth of one trillionth of one percent of that.
    Not even government departments trying to spend all of their budgets before the end of the fiscal year waste resources on such a vast scale.

    *Weirdly, when somebody declares a belief in an invisible, undetectable, unevidenced being, nobody bats an eyelid, yet if somebody declares a belief in extra-terrestrial life, open ridicule will almost certainly be the response. Yet the rules of physics as we know them pretty much forbid the existence of gods whilst making the existence of E.T’s all-but certain.

  52. Acolyte, I would never bat an eyelid at a belief in extra terrestrials. I’d only laugh at the claim that they come light years to earth just to create crop circles and anal probe a redneck.

  53. Mary2 says:

    White Squirrel, it only counts as religion if ‘we’ like it. Therefore Satanism, even though it is an offshoot of Christianity, is NOT a religion, Wicca is NOT a religion even though it is (sort-of) older than the Abrahamic religions but Hinduism IS a religion – no, hold on, that doesn’t make sense. Maybe its the number of adherents? So Hinduism IS and Islam IS, but Judaism and Bahai’ism … F*ck. Maybe it’s just completely random.

    AOS, “Weirdly, when somebody declares a belief in an invisible, undetectable, unevidenced being, nobody bats an eyelid, yet if somebody declares a belief in extra-terrestrial life, open ridicule will almost certainly be the response. Yet the rules of physics as we know them pretty much forbid the existence of gods whilst making the existence of E.T’s all-but certain.”

    Nice point! But, I’m with Darwin Harmless. If advanced intelligence of the type capable of designing inter-stellar space travel leads to a desire to find alien life forms, visit them only randomly and very discreetly and having some weird fixation with anal probing them – I prefer life among the dullards.

  54. NSPike says:

    Aos_ Not even government departments trying to spend all of their budgets before the end of the fiscal year waste resources on such a vast scale.


    I love reading physics theories on this kind of level, unfortunately anything more in depth (where maths becomes involved) makes my brain switch off and I’m reduced to a dribbling wreck going “duuuuuuuuhhhh”. Which might make me susceptible to picking up incorrect information, but I’ve found this thread fascinating (Macha’s posts in particular I’ve enjoyed). The idea that we just don’t know enough yet to leave no room for God/god/gods etc is certain in my eyes. One day we will though, I’m sure of that (so long as we don’t destroy ourselves before that point).

  55. Mary2 says:

    I’m with you NSP, I love trying to understand how the universe is put together but don’t have the maths or science background to fully get my head around the deep stuff. If you folks who do understand it can keep up the explanations suitable for us humanities types it would be greatly appreciated!

  56. floridakitesurfer says:

    I am glad you liked omnistupid. When I thought of it I thought, “Awesome”. I was just thinking how incredibly stupid this whole god as creator meme is and then thought how Xians like to say that god is omni-everything and pow.


  57. Mary2 and NSPike: Got news for you, folks. NOBODY understands it. Some scientist said that reality is not only stranger than we know, it is stranger than we CAN know. Math might help with higher level physics, but it only moves the mysteries a step further away. The folks who have an inkling, like Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow and their ilk, are left wondering whether the mathematical models actually indicate what reality is all about, or whether they are just one more construct of rationality that may work in theory but have little to do with the whole ball of wax.
    Not saying we mere mortals should give up trying to understand it all, but we need to recognize that there are limits to what anybody knows. And maybe we should get comfortable with the idea that humans will never figure it out because we did not evolve the equipment to figure it out. We can, however, move a step beyond making up stupid anthropomorphic first causes. As Feynman said, not knowing is okay.
    I think this has been posted before on one of these threads, but the important part for me starts at 3:20.

  58. FKS, omnistupid is definitely omniclever or maybe even omnibrilliant. Thanks for that. I shall use it.

  59. @Darwin, absolutely right. One of the big thrusts of the Religiously Impaired is that they THINK they know all the ultimate answers and use this false confidence to try to turn the tables on skeptics. It’s like when the inevitable proselytizer knocks on my door, is told that I am an atheist, and then they cluck and coo and say something like, “Oh, you don’t have any hope”. It is NOT scary to NOT KNOW. “It’s in the Bible, I believe it, and that settles it” is the mindset of those individuals who have abdicated their curiosity because THEY are scared and THEY have no hope, so they invent it and embrace it. Just like you and Mr. Feynman, I’m fine without knowing all the ultimate answers. Humans may never know, but like he so eloquently pointed out, to project god’s visit and revelation on a tiny part of a tiny speck of a planet is the height of arrogance and folly. Describes religion, I think.

  60. Mark S. says:

    cosmicstargoat: The Jehova’s Witnesses come around my neighborhood every 2 or 3 months. On occasion, I’ve spoken to them about religion, but they just were not ready to hear the Good News. I tried to tell them that they can just live their lives instead of worrying about what Jesus wants, but they could not hear. 🙂

    I never really could grasp what exactly “having hope” has to do with reality. I don’t have a lot of hope at the moment because I just this week discovered that my cancer is starting to advance to a new stage and I will die in a few years. I would rather know that and make the best of my time than waste that time on false hope.

    Try that on your proselytizer: Whatever hope I do or do not have is real, not imaginary.

  61. WalterWalcarpit says:

    I’d like to second Mary2’s mention of folks who do understand it keeping up the explanations suitable for us humanities types. It is greatly appreciated.

    I presume that that there ‘it’ is sciences and then wonder if it is indeed a dichotomy.
    What if it is a trinity; then what would the third type be? Would it be Law?
    And as law was what the clergy study and laws seem to their favourite excuse … so yes, also to you folk who have studied within the breadth of creation to evolution please keep it up too.
    [ Ever hear the one about the fundamentalist evolutionist? Get down! Ehphph! ]
    And to those of all types, keep on posting how to do the HTML formatting; it too is greatly appreciated. There are plenty of morsels in this lot that could have been augmented with some practiced font styling, if that’s the generic term for a bold strike-through.

  62. two cents' worth says:

    Mark S, I’m sorry about your prognosis. I hope that you are still able to enjoy at least some of the things that make life worth living, and that you’ll continue to join us here at the C&B when you can.

    I’m no Pollyanna, but it seems to me that what “having hope” has to do with reality is that hope is one of the things that can motivate people to make reality better. By “having hope, ” I don’t mean something along the lines of hope for eternal life, but hope that one’s actions can make a difference for the better. Over the long arc of history, violence has declined, and women and members of minority groups face less oppression and discrimination. In my lifetime, gay marriages have started to have legal standing. People with disabilities, who used to (at best) spend their lives vegetating in institutions, can now get the therapy and support they need to live and work in the community. I have seen how science has subdued AIDS, which used to be a death sentence, to the point where it is now a chronic disease. I have hope that science will continue to find ways to extend our lives and to make our lives richer. If I understand you correctly, Mark S., this is what you mean when you say that the hope that you have is real, not imaginary.

    Of course, some people who had hope in the religious sense have also been among those who have made reality better. (After all, not everyone who has acted from religious motives has made things worse.) For example, Bach left us glorious music, Michelangelo left us splendid art, and the Quakers helped abolish slavery.

    If only there were an easy way to get proselytizers to stop seeking converts and thinking that their idea of making things better is the only one, that would really give me hope!

  63. fenchurch says:

    Is the fundraising initiative related to help out with the increased costs of the care and feeding of trolls?

  64. Mark S, I’m sorry about your illness. I hope you can enjoy life to its fullest. I have a few different tactics depending on how annoyed I am and how annoying the bell-ringers are. I also have a sign, but it’s not out now. One tactic is to politely ask them for their name and address. They will register surprise and ask “Why”. You then tell them that you wish to come to THEIR house unannounced and talk to their children about Wicca/Islam/Satanism or whatever. They will flee in a hurry. If they come during FOOTBALL, I ask them if they talk to their god. When they reply in the affirmative, I yell “TELL YOUR GOD I’M WATCHING FOOTBALL!”. Again, effective. If I really want to mess with them I have a well-worn King James Bible in my stand by the front door. Isaiah 45:7 is usually sufficient to take care of most, who have no idea it is even in the Bible.

  65. Markus River says:

    For anyone interested in the arguments against “fine tuning”, may I recommend The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning by Victor Stenger.

  66. Mary2 says:

    Mark S, that sucks! I agree with you that false hope in something that is not real is not going to make your prognosis any better and may stop you doing what you need to do while you can.

    Cosmicstargoat, I like your thinking. If I want to get rid of prothlytisers I tell them I’m a lesbian. It works better on Mormons who are always clean-cut young men – who can run very fast when confronted with unrepentant homosexuals. JWs are more ‘it’s not up to us to judge’ types so I invite them in for coffee and torture them with pointless theological questions such as why does Leviticus ban the eating of rabbits?

  67. Macha says:


    Yes, I love that bit of Feynman’s spiel. It’s also pretty good between 1:40 and 3:20

    @Markus R

    I once tried to make it through that book, but it’s pretty heavy going! I think it makes an argument for fine tuning being a lot less fine that we’d been led to believe.

  68. Mark S – as my late wife said when given a similar diagnosis, “Oh, bugger!” We then went on to enjoy four fantastic years of living life to the full together, and just about completed the bucket list. I truly feel for you, and hope that you have someone close to be with you and enjoy life together. As you say, it’s better to know, and be able to make the most of the time left, than waste that time in false hope.
    Much love,

  69. HaggisForBrains, I salute you and I honour your late wife. Courage is a wonderful attribute in a life partner.

    I just watched a video lecture with Douglas Adams, filmed just a few days before his death from a heart attack. He looks so alive, sounds so intelligent. So great to have this record of the man. But the point is, we are all dying. None of us know when the time is up. So recognizing this as a fact and living life to the full is the only answer.

    Totally OT but well worth watching, BTW.


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