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Chris Mooney — Valiant defender of scientific truth

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Yes, this is the same Chris Mooney who attacks ID and has written THE REPUBLICAN WAR ON SCIENCE:

Chris Mooney ’99 recently spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Campus Freethought Alliance (CFA). Mooney, who is copresident and a founding member of the Yale College Society for Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics, addressed the issue of discrimination against those who don’t believe in God. Mooney interned with the CFA over the summer, where he helped draft the organization’s “Bill of Rights for Unbelievers.”

Source: http://www.yale.edu/opa/ybc/campusnotes.html.

42 Replies to “Chris Mooney — Valiant defender of scientific truth

  1. 1
    jwrennie says:

    Why are atheists such whiny babies ? Do they even know what real discrimination is ?

  2. 2
    Jehu says:

    A bigger question is why do atheists bother with anything other than perhaps eating, sleeping, defefacting, and “continuing their genetic matter.”

    What I mean is, if life has no meaning, if there is no right or wrong, no good or evil, how can they possibly complain about a violation of their rights? On what basis do they make the complaint? How do they posit that any such rights exists and if they do exist why should anybody care if they are violated?

  3. 3
    Sladjo says:

    And, to continue Jehu’s idea, how do they know what is RIGHT and what is WRONG ?…

  4. 4
    Mats says:

    Sladjo,
    Bertrand Russel, if I am not mistaken, would say “By my feelings”. We all know where that ends.

  5. 5
    austinite says:

    What does being an atheist have to do with being an critic of Intelligent Design? I thought that one’s religious beliefs was supposed to have little bearing on the validity of the ID theory.

    Since you claim that ID does not posit the nature of the designer, it is perfectly feasible to be an ID supporter and an atheist. For all we know, we could all be part of some grand experiment being run from a science lab on a planet orbiting Betelgeuse. How are we supposed to tell the difference other than “feelings”?

    Jehu, regarding ” right from wrong” (BTW, Sladjo, simply typing them in capital letters does not imbue those words with some extra cosmic significance). I find it strange that you think that atheists believe that life has no meaning. Have you ever met one? They may not believe in God, but they have just as much a sense of right and wrong, good and evil as any religious person, and perhaps more in some cases.

    For example, when a religious person sacrifices their life for their child, they do so with the belief that they will continue to exist beyond death and have faith that they will be rewarded for their sacrifice. When an atheist does the same, they have no such comfort. They believe they will just cease to exist. Who’s is the more selfless act?

    ID proponents often get upset when they are characterized as just being motivated by their religious beliefs. So using the same tactics in return would seem to undermine any high ground ID might have in that regard.

  6. 6

    By the criteria listed in most of these comments, all Buddhists would qualify as having no morals, ethics, or meaning in their lives. Odd, don’t you think, that a way of life chosen by hundreds of millions of people worldwide would have those characteristics? They must be the ones who are deluded, right? And therefore, they should be excluded from any moral consideration, intellectual discussion, etc.

    The arrogance of some Christians is beyond comprehension…

  7. 7

    Also, when was it decided (and by whom) that to do good science, a person must be a Christian believer? Seems a little odd, doesn’t it, that the majority of the members of the National Academies of Science of all of the major nations on the planet are either atheists or agnostics (I know, you don’t believe it, so check out Graffin, G. (2004) Evolution, monism, atheism, and the naturalist world-view. Polypterus Press, Ithaca, NY, 252 pp.)

    In fact, there is no correlation between the quality of a person’s work in science and their personal religious beliefs. None whatsoever.

  8. 8
    Ekstasis says:

    Allen MacNeill,

    I am having a tough time finding any references to a requirement that, “to do good science, a person must be a Christian believer”. Is anyone positing that position? Who and where?

    I am also a bit confused by your statement “By the criteria listed in most of these comments, all Buddhists would qualify as having no morals, ethics, or meaning in their lives.” What comments above would lead to such a conclusion? Correct me if I am wrong, but Buddhists believe in the immaterial soul, right and wrong (good or bad karma), good and evil, and certainly a purpose to live that is real, as opposed to a purpose we create for ourselves.

    From Wiki: “According to Gautama Buddha, any person can follow his example and become enlightened through the study of his words “Dharma” and putting them into practice, by leading a virtuous, moral life, and purifying the mind.”

    Note the “virtuous, moral life” reference.

    In fact, I cannot think of any inconsistencies between Buddhism and ID. The very concept of universal design and purpose fits perfectly, best I can tell.

    Now, Buddhism vs. Darwinian evolution. Darwinian evolution would have us believe that our worldly desires are good because they are programmed into us so that, by following them, we will survive and our genes will pass to the next generation. Buddhism instructs just the opposite. It holds that suffering is caused by desires and their pursuit (Noble Truth 1 and 2), so we must be freed by the fading away and cessation of such desires (Noble Truth 3). Are these two worldviews not diametrically opposed?

    Besides, whether speaking of Christianity or Buddhism, the idea of being transformed and rising to a higher level, and separating oneself from the distractions of this world, simply do not and cannot make any sense to a true materialist.

  9. 9
    JasonTheGreek says:

    MacNeill calling someone arrogant. That is hilarious!

    So, professor- I guess from your comment, we CAN conclude that Darwinism leads to atheism, right? Since so many in the NAS are atheists and agnostics, TRUE science must lead to atheism.

    You seem to always want to have it both ways. After your comment attacking Denyse and Bill as not having any moral fiber at all, I’m surprised they still allow you to post your arrogant tripe.

    You’re one of the arrogant professors they speak of when people talk about the elitist attitude on modern college campuses, Al.

    For the rest of you- I’d ignore anything this blowhard has to say. His vile attacks on Dr. Dembski disqualifies him from civil discourse in itself.

  10. 10
    JasonTheGreek says:

    By the way. To see MacNeill’s attacks on Dembski, google the two names. Also- you can see his attacks on Denyse and Bill here in his comment on the thread about Dennett and his move to try to bring Christians into the NDE camp. He said neither of them had any morals at all, that no one took them seriously, and much more. Personal attacks from a college professor are great. Too bad he is shaping young minds. Let’s not deny MacNeill’s complete incivility, no matter if he held that summer ID/NDE course or not. His comments here and elsewhere show his true colors.

  11. 11
    franky172 says:

    Darwinian evolution would have us believe that our worldly desires are good b…

    Darwinian evolution does not attempt to tell us what is morally “good” or “bad”.

  12. 12
    Jehu says:

    Austinite:

    Jehu, regarding ” right from wrong” (BTW, Sladjo, simply typing them in capital letters does not imbue those words with some extra cosmic significance). I find it strange that you think that atheists believe that life has no meaning. Have you ever met one? They may not believe in God, but they have just as much a sense of right and wrong, good and evil as any religious person, and perhaps more in some cases.

    That is completely false. According to athiesm life has no meaning and is the result of purely random chance. Therefore, wrong and right, good and evil, are merely social constructs with no objective reality.

    If you are an athiest and believe in good and evil and think you know the difference between right and wrong, you are merely borrowing values from the Christian society in which you were raised. You are living on the memory of Christianity.

    If want an idea of an athiestic society that makes the logical leap from Chrisitan values to athiestic values, observe Stalin’s USSR, China’s cultural revolution, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

  13. 13
    Ekstasis says:

    franky172,

    You said “Darwinian evolution does not attempt to tell us what is morally “good” or “bad”.

    Perhaps I should have used the term “preferred”, as in the only objective guidance that Darwinian evolution would communicate is that one follow one’s desires in order to succeed. Of course, even the goal of succeeding is not truly real, only one more desire imposed upon us. So, where is that solid ground to stand on? It does not exist, apparently, in the world of NDE.

  14. 14
    franky172 says:

    as in the only objective guidance that Darwinian evolution would communicate is that one follow one’s desires in order to succeed.

    I don’t understand. Darwinian evolution tells us nothing about how to lead a moral life, just as theories of gravity and electromagnetism have nothing to tell us about how to lead a moral life.

  15. 15
    Ekstasis says:

    Austinite,

    Just to add to Jehu’s comments, of course atheists in the real world undoubtedly live for a purpose, or purposes. How else could you get out of bed in the morning?

    However, would they not agree that they have created these purposes for themselves? You know, create your own purpose or borrow it from someone else, it is all arbitrary.

    The problem is, ultimately, one is living a contradiction. In the end it is fade to black, and all means nothing, all “sound and fury signifying nothing”. And, ultimately that contradiction sinks into one’s psyche, bit by bit. The end result is not pretty.

  16. 16
    Jehu says:

    Allen McNeil,

    By the criteria listed in most of these comments, all Buddhists would qualify as having no morals, ethics, or meaning in their lives. Odd, don’t you think, that a way of life chosen by hundreds of millions of people worldwide would have those characteristics? They must be the ones who are deluded, right? And therefore, they should be excluded from any moral consideration, intellectual discussion, etc.

    The arrogance of some Christians is beyond comprehension…

    The only thing beyond comprehension is your comment that Buddhist somehow have been excluded from having a code or moral ethics. Buddhism depends upon a cosmology that assumes a meaningful universe in which moral good and moral evil are part of the nature of existence and not merely social constructs.

    For example, Rev. Tri Ratna Priya Karuna explains some of the Buddhist cosmology:

    Even though it is generally agreed that enlightenment can occur only to a human being, there exist higher and happier planes of existence, endowed with beings of greater beauty, happiness and power than humans are blessed with. Rebirth in these realms is reserved for those beings who performed meritorious deeds and led virtuous lives. However, these heavenly states are not permanent, and when the good karma has been exhausted, these spirits will have to be reborn on the human plane again.

    Below the human plane there are several levels of painful existence, including terrible hell realms, where those beings who have committed evil deeds are punished until they have been rehabilitated and have developed the desire to progress back to the human realm, which is the only one where enlightenment and Nirvana can be reached.

    Many people have a niave westernized view of Buddhism as a feel good metaphysical view with no good or evil. I remember being very amused at the shock amongst westerners when the Dali Lhama forbid the worship of the “evil spirit” Dorje Shugden. The Dali Lhama explained how he too once used to worhisp the “evil spirit” Dorje Shugden but then realized it was evil and he should stop. The Dalai Lama said:

    “Since the fifth Dalai Lama considered this an evil force, evil spirit, and he once tried to destroy that. So therefore, me as the Dalai Lama, the 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama, I am among the lineage of the Dalai Lama, so I have to follow. It is logical. It is better to follow the fifth Dalai Lama and also the 13th Dalai Lama. The 13th Dalai Lama also placed restrictions on this evil spirit. So then I realised my mistake and then I stopped completely worshipping this.”

  17. 17
    David vun Kannon says:

    Ekstasis:
    You know, create your own purpose or borrow it from someone else, it is all arbitrary.

    Not that I want to put words in the mouth of any atheist, but yeah that is it. But you have to be able to say arbitrary without any negative connotations.

    What do you feel is the contradiction? I don’t see a contradiction between knowing your choice is personal and knowing you life is finite. I’m interested in hearing your view.

  18. 18
    Larry Fafarman says:

    Ed Brayton calls the post “weird” and “completely substanceless” — see
    http://scienceblogs.com/dispat.....post_1.php

    However, I think that the post raises some interesting issues for discussion. For example, why should there be a “Bill of Rights for Unbelievers”? The courts have ruled that atheism is a religion for purposes of constitutional interpretation, so why should atheists have their own special “Bill of Rights”? See http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/court36.htm

    — and —

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/n.....E_ID=45874

  19. 19
    bebbo says:

    Jehu, you need to get out more. I’m an atheist and don’t refrain from punching my neighbour if he annoys me because I’ve borrowed values from the supposed Christian society I live in. I refrain from doing it because I think that except in certain circumstances it’s wrong. I don’t need a supposed objective reality to be a good person. And surely we don’t have to present you with examples of Christians doing bad things? Why, wasn’t it on this blog that William Dembski himself seemed to be advocating or condoning the murder of looters?

  20. 20
    Jehu says:

    bebbo,

    I’m an atheist and don’t refrain from punching my neighbour if he annoys me because I’ve borrowed values from the supposed Christian society I live in. I refrain from doing it because I think that except in certain circumstances it’s wrong. I don’t need a supposed objective reality to be a good person.

    Why, in your random meaningless universe, do you believe there is such a thing as good ?

  21. 21
    Nick says:

    Jehu wrote:
    “Why, in your random meaningless universe, do you believe there is such a thing as good ?”

    Because we’re sentient beings living in a Universe with other sentient beings. Why do you need to invent a meta-sentient being to explain a subjective value, such as goodness?

  22. 22
    jerry says:

    bebbo,

    You used the word “wrong” and the word “good.” How do you define what is wrong and what is good?

  23. 23

    I shall address the foregoing items point by point:

    It is true that I attacked Dr. Dembski as having grossly misrepresented the actual state of affairs in a post he made concerning the proliferation of IDEA clubs at colleges and universities in the United States following the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision. He referred to such IDEA clubs as “research centers” and strongly implied that such proliferation indicated a burgeoning program of scientific investigation into ID.

    At the time this was patently untrue; at present, it still is. To my knowledge, there are two (2) tenured faculty at two (2) institutions in the United States who have published peer-reviewed scientific works on subjects related to ID, totalling one (1 ) book (Dembski, 1998) and one (1) research article (Behe and Snoke, 2004), neither of which report empirical findings. There are no independent research centers anywhere doing empirical research into ID; if there were, you can bet we would hear about their work via refereed publications in peer-reviewed journals. I stand by my characterization of Dr. Dembski’s post at that time: it amounted to a calculated attempt to mislead (i.e. a bald-faced lie).

    Now, as to the subject(s) of this thread:

    As a long-time member of the Ithaca Molnthly Meeting of Friends (Quakers) who has also been a practicing Zen Buddhist (rinzai tradition, for those who are interested) for almost 30 years, I feel that I can comment on the subjects enumerated with some experience. Buddhism has three pillars: ahimsa, annica, and anatma (sanskrit). The first, ahimsa, means “non-injuring” – that is, not hurting others. The second, annica, means “impermanence” – that is, everything is in a state of constant flux. The third, anatma, means “no soul” – that is, there is no such thing as an immortal soul that can exist outside of a physical body.

    Therefore, by any criterion one would want to reference, Buddhism is a non-theistic “world view” (zen buddhists resolutely refuse to call it a “religion” at all). However, it has a comprehensive code of morals and ethics, based upon the “eight-fold way” first ennunciated by Gautama Buddha.

    So, in a nutshell, the assertion that an atheist cannot live a moral life is, once again, a bald-faced lie.

    Finally, I greatly appreciated the comments above that point out that none of this applies to science whatsoever. One’s personal moral beliefs, the moral beliefs of one’s religious community, etc. are completely irrelevent to the findings of science, which are quite literally value-free. Indeed, every attempt to base morals or ethics on science, from “social darwinism” to Marxism to “scientific creationism” have been mistaken from the start and led to monstrous perversions of the human spirit.

    And I addressed all of the foregoing without attacking anyone’s person, only their ideas and assertions. That’s what a gentleman and a scholar does. Perhaps that is also why I have not (yet) been exiled into outer darkness…

  24. 24
    Nick says:

    Jehu wrote:
    “A bigger question is why do atheists bother with anything other than perhaps eating, sleeping, defefacting, and ‘continuing their genetic matter.'”

    Why does anyone bother to play baseball?

  25. 25
    JasonTheGreek says:

    Professor. You have got to be kidding me? Dembski told a bald faced lie? So, the man is a liar, because you distort what he said in that post and use is as a strawman to attack him? He didn’t use the proper terms for you? You seem to have no respect for IDEA centers, as you deningrate them oh-so-often, while claiming to give them a fair shake out of the other side of your mouth.

    I see you make no mention of your comment where you stated neither Denyse nor Bill have any morals whatsoever.

    IDEA clubs ARE growing, that was his point. And no research? No empirical findings? Come on now, Al, we all know you’ve heard of Sternberg. I guess there’s no bias out there that has caused possibly thousands of good men and women to come out with work, out of fear they will be attacked by the NCSE and folks like yourself…locked out of their labs, or worse!

    Bill’s post merely said that IDEA centers are researching the issue. And they are? Why so quick to talk out of both sides of your mouth with the clubs? You had the ID course and claimed to give them a fair deal, but then you insult them! Rich!

    For the others- I’m sorry, it wasn’t the post about Dennett where Al here attacked the hosts of this blog, it was a post on EO Wilson where he said:

    “This is precisely the reason why I find people like you folks on this website so utterly without moral or intellectual fiber of any kind…in particular William Demski. You assume a priori that Wilson is disingenuous and cynical in his call for cooperation between evangelicals and scientists to save the creation, and therefore ignore (and even heap abuse on) his message. This kind of behavior is what one expects from bigots…so I’m not surprised to find it here.

    There is a reason why people like Dembski and yourselves are reviled by members of the “community of scholars”, and it doesn’t have to do with ID. It has to do with basic human decency, a trait which he and you have repeatedly shown that you entirely lack. A true scholar attacks the argument, but never the person. Shame on you…shame on you all.”

    Now, let’s talk about bald-faced lies. Everyone read the comment Al made above and tell me if he’s acted as a gentleman.

    Further, DI has said it IS doing active research into ID, so you’re not calling that entire organization a bunch of liars? Behe’s paper had no empirical evidence in it? I think it’s time to look up the word “empirical”!

    I look forward to the day Dr. Bill shows you the door. All you can do is post that everyone is a bald-faced liar, no one has any morals but you, we’re all bigots, blah blah blah. It gets old, and NEWSFLASH- your hateful, arrogant, bullying act is why you can’t win the argument with the American people.

  26. 26
    DaveScot says:

    Allen

    I find it humorous that you opened saying you attacked Professor Dembski (not his ideas) and then at the end claimed it was only ideas you attacked. Freudian slip?

    As far as research, there are many kinds of research. I note you carefully qualify your claim as peer reviewed research from tenured faculty with empirical results. You inferred a certain kind of research from “research centers” in effect creating a straw man which you then proceeded to attack. Rather poor form.

    Regarding Buddhism I note you again snuck in a qualifier “Zen”. Buddhism is regarded as a major world religion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_world_religions

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism

    Your protestations to the contrary are hardly definitive.

  27. 27
    Ekstasis says:

    Allen MacNeill,

    Not to beat the Buddhism topic into the ground, but to say that they believe there is no soul is carrying things a bit far. Zen Buddhism is just one variant that, as mentioned by others, has been repackaged for our Western proclivity.

    Best if the readers can decide for themselves:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism#Nirvana

    Excerpt: “Nirvana is the extinguishment of all desire, delusion and ignorance. It has been likened to the snuffing out of a candle, where the spirit is freed from all worldly passions; it is the realization that the Self does not exist, and that human desires are empty. An enlightened Buddhist is able to act in this world with complete detachment (without desire), and their actions have no karma. A Buddhist who has attained Nirvana has escaped the world of cause-and-effect (they are free from the cycle of birth and rebirth). The realisation of Nirvana is a happy experience (but not the sensation of joy). Nirvana is fully realized at death, but can be experienced before death.”

    So, you note the escape from cause and effect, and the fact that Nirvana is fully realized at death? If the latter is not speaking of soul, and the former inconsistent with Darwinian evolution, I do not know what else to say.

  28. 28
    Ekstasis says:

    Allen MacNeill,

    Your statement “So, in a nutshell, the assertion that an atheist cannot live a moral life is, once again, a bald-faced lie.”

    Who and where was that assertion made? I looked and could not find it. The point that was made was that, from the perspective of an atheist, no objective reason exists for living a moral life, nor is there any way to objectively define what a moral life is. So, ultimately it is all arbitrary.

  29. 29
    jerry says:

    I have always maintained that ethics, right vs. wrong, good vs. evil are only relevant versus a standard. We judge an act against a standard and then make claims about the act relative to the standard.

    If the standard is arbitrarily chosen such as when Dr. McNeill says someone professes a form of Buddhism then they can say their actions are moral, good, etc. because they have chosen an arbitrary standard to judge their actions.

    When a religious person chooses a standard it is because they believe that the standard has been handed down from their creator and is thus not necessarily arbitrary. They didn’t choose it but it came from God. A religious persons acts in a certain way because of this standard set down from above. But as we have seen a person can choose which standard from above he likes by what religion he chooses to adhere to, so this too is often fairly arbitrary.

    You can argue that no such standard from above exists but there is a difference between Dr. McNeill’s standards and a religious person’s standards. Dr. McNeill is choosing some other person’s or group of person’s standards as opposed to a creator’s standards.

    There is all sorts of ways to set standards and one of the common ones in history was to use the ruler’s standards. One of the problems with current society’s standards that are not religious based is that they are frequently shifting and come from one’s political motives and we use the term political correctness to express this. This is similar to using as a standard what the person in power decrees is appropriate at the moment.

    So when an atheist says they have ethics and are acting morally they are just using some arbitrary standard set by someone. Often in today’s society these standards have flowed from Judeo-Christian beliefs but because they have no firm standard are morphing away from these standards. We could say they are evolving.

  30. 30
    Ekstasis says:

    Jerry,

    Good point, we end up adrift, with no absolute standards. So, what happens in such a scenario? Simple, it is all about power and slick marketing. Just take the daytime talk shows as an example. Whatever idea gets presented in an emotive and appealing manner wins the day. It is memes run amok!!

    Is this any way to establish standards or behaviour for society?? Over time this turns into a total nightmare. We have seen the results in history when the discontentment of one group is whipped up into hatred for another group — normal modus operandi for Nazis and Marxists. It isn’t pretty.

  31. 31
    Nick says:

    Look at the ethical treatment of women in Muslim societies. Can you see why it might not always be a good idea for a group to believe their ethics have come from the creator? I’m not sure moral and ethical certainties are necessarily desirable.

  32. 32
    David vun Kannon says:

    Ekstasis,

    The Crusades weren’t pretty, either. It is difficult to make the leap from discontentment to the religious/areligious basis of society. There are lots of people who blame atrocity on religion who are making the same mistake in the opposite direction.

    Don’t forget that America is a big experiment in atheistic society also. We have the laws we do purely by social consensus, not by divine decree. The antidote to drift is democracy. The law of large numbers says we should be able to revert to the mean, the consensus, over time – even if there are temporary aberrations.

  33. 33
    jerry says:

    Nick,

    If there are lot of versions of God’s decree out there it does not mean that all of them are right and it certainly does not mean that all of them are wrong either.

    So we have two decisions, one to decide whether there is a decree from God and second to sort out which is the truthful one. Of course if one does not believe in God, this decision is easy.

    However, design has implications for whether there might be a God or not but has nothing to do with which decrees, if any, are correct or even if there is a decree.

  34. 34
    jmcd says:

    Jehu said:

    “That is completely false. According to athiesm life has no meaning and is the result of purely random chance. Therefore, wrong and right, good and evil, are merely social constructs with no objective reality.

    If you are an athiest and believe in good and evil and think you know the difference between right and wrong, you are merely borrowing values from the Christian society in which you were raised. You are living on the memory of Christianity.

    If want an idea of an athiestic society that makes the logical leap from Chrisitan values to athiestic values, observe Stalin’s USSR, China’s cultural revolution, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia.”

    A few points:

    I would ask what objective standards exist in religious morals. There are all sorts of Christian moral standards. Expressing ideas in words is a subjective exercise. Translating words into different languages is a somewhat subjective exercise. Interpretting words is also a somewhat subjective exercise. Obviously there are profound differences within Islam and Judaism as well. Religious morals also change over time. Not the big ones of course but as societites change so do their interpretations of their sacred texts.

    My adult morals are condierably more complex from those of my childhood. I draw on several religions, ideological and philosphical frameworks, and plain old scoial experience to formulate my moral worldview. I borrow lots of ideas but make my own decisions. The complexity and uncertainty are not easy to deal with but I would have it no other way having gone through the most painful parts of the process.

    I keep hearing that Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot are the necessary logical extension of atheism. This seems to me to be a gross oversimplification of the idelogical underpinnings of those movements. There was a good article in the Weekly Standard recently that gives a small taste of of the complexity involved of the evolution of thought that came to the radical revolutionary ideologies of the 20th century. Certainly atheism was involved but it was not logically necessary.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....38;r=hlmvk

  35. 35
    Monimonika says:

    David vun Kannon,

    About democracy, yes it seems like a very great concept, but it has this flip side called “mob rule”. It’s where the minority (needlessly) suffers because the majority (the consensus) is unreasonably intolerant to the minority’s view point.

    Take what’s happening in Indian River, Delaware. The majority of the population there is Christian and thus the school district’s endorsement of Christian prayer there had gone largely unchallenged until a Jewish family (who had lived in the area for at least two generations) had called them upon it.

    The result after negotiations: school district refused to concede (might be due to some of the demands of the Jewish family being unreasonable, I don’t know), and some (most?) of the Christians who had been taking their religion’s endorsement for granted say they are puzzled by the Jewish family’s reaction since, in their view, the family should either 1) leave the area, 2) accept Jesus into their lives and become part of the righteous majority, or 3) shut up and be tolerant of the Christian community’s “right” to “represent”(read: school inviting a Christian priest to talk to the graduating class and the priest singling out the one Jewish girl in that class to pray for her salvation via Jesus) themselves in a public school.

    If you’re in the majority, pure democracy is great, but if you’re in the minority, you suffer greatly. The thing that keeps the democracy of the US from becoming “mob rule” is the Constitution and the checks and balances set up between the three branches of the government.

    “The law of large numbers says we should be able to revert to the mean, the consensus, over time – even if there are temporary aberrations. ”

    Can you explain how this “law of large numbers” works in a pure democracy in which the majority is of the belief that their religion is the one and only Truth, must be proselytized, and any other beliefs (no matter how minor) are evil incarnate? Does the “revert to the consensus/mean” mean that the minority gets wiped out (or moves out), thus the “mean” matches the majority consensus completely?

    I admit I oversimplified some things here, but I am serious about the situation in Delaware being a form of mob rule.

  36. 36
    jerry says:

    David vun Kannon,

    By the way most people’s knowledge of the Crusades is ill-informed. Denouncing the Crusades is a way to be pc these days and admit we were not nice to the Muslims at one point in time and to say that western religion has its bad points. It kills two birds with one stone.

    After the initial sack of Jerusalem which was grim there was very little blood shed except in the typical battles to retain or expand the basic area of conquest. The Crusaders ruled over a mostly Muslim population for nearly 200 years until bit by bit their area of conquest got nibbled away.

    The Crusaders were initially invited by the Greeks because of the Seljuk Turks invasion of Anatolia and their disruption of the pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

    Western Christiandom has been hated by the Greeks because the 4th Crusade sacked Constantinople in 1204 and this spelled the acceleration of the end of the Byzantine Roman Empire which had been declining for a few centuries. The reason for the sack of Constantinople has to do with money and nothing to do with religion.

    Christians and Muslims fought each other in various battles for centuries and the Crusades was just one aspect of it. One of the few instances where Christiandom was on the offense. Most of the battles were defending against Muslim invasions.

  37. 37
    David vun Kannon says:

    Jerry,

    I’m not really speaking about the territorial warfare. I’m thinking about the “ethnic cleansing” aspects of the progress of Crusader groups across Europe, wiping out Jewish populations as entertainment and a warm up exercise.

    That the 4th Crusade sacked Constantinople for monetary gain is in line with the larger point I was trying to make – it is difficult to lay blame for atrocity at the feet of religiosity or areligiosity.

  38. 38

    One more fairly obvious point:

    If atheism in general, and belief in evolution in particular, is somehow linked to immorality, then it should be fairly easy to show such a linkage: prisons should house a disproportionate number of atheists, and a disproportionate number of them should be adherents of evolutionary theory.

    This is, however, not supported by the data. In fact, the level of intense religious belief is higher among the prison population than in the general population, not lower. This may be due to more intense proselytizing among the prison population (both by “external missionaries” such as the Quakers, who are trying to “reform” such prisoners, and by “internal missionaries” such as the Nation of Islam, who are trying to “convert” such prisoners to their political ideology). However, an alternative hypothesis is that the kind of psychological and emotional states that result in intense religious belief may also be correlated with a higher tendency toward “risky” behavior, with the result being that a certain fraction of “believers” wind up doing things that get them incarcerated.

    Bottom line: unless the world’s prisons are stuffed with atheist evolutionists, the entire thesis being pushed in this thread is stuffed with male bovine fecal material.

  39. 39
    DaveScot says:

    Allen

    The only time in my adult life I attended church for something other than weddings and funerals was the 13 weeks I spent in Marine Corps boot camp. I was in church every single one of those Sundays. I had the choice of sitting in a nice comfortable church listening to a sermon or spending an hour at the barracks with a drill instructor breathing down my neck. I suspect the options are similar in prison.

    Unless you can show that prison inmates were regularly attending members of a church before going to prison then you’re just blowing more hot air. Cornell needs all the hot air it can get right now so I hope you’re doing your civic duty by blowing it around campus like you blow it here.

  40. 40
    DaveScot says:

    UAB Study Finds Religion Helps Reduce Negative Prison Behaviors

    http://main.uab.edu/show.asp?durki=87547

    There ya go, Allen. Proof positive that religious inmates are better behaved than irreligious inmates by a wide margin. Please don’t hit me for pointing out how wrong you were.

  41. 41
    DaveScot says:

    Allen

    Buddhism in general is non-violent and abhors the killing of any living thing. I’m wondering how a self-proclaimed Buddhist such as yourself reconciles his love of the art of fencing with a Buddhist way of life. Fencing after all is a martial art, the simulated practice of killing people with a steel blade. Maybe you should give it up for feng shui. 😛

  42. 42
    jerry says:

    Allen,

    I would guess that a high percentage of people in prision come from low economical and low educational backgrounds. There are a lot of factors that have to be factored in when considering what is evil, not just the fact that someone is in prision.

    Sometimes evil gets codified into the law such as slavery and abortion and the practice of such is not punishable by the state.

    The Great Society’s war on poverty created a lot of the prisoners in today’s society so who is evil, those in prision or those who set up the system that led the underclass to commit crime and end up in prision. But I bet that a high percentage of those who set us the welfare system and ran it are more likely to be atheist than those in prision.

    “Build me a tower 90 ft high so I can be safe when the male bovine fecal material starts to fly.” And it really flies from academia.

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