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« Atheist Meme of the Day: Consciousness Is Not Supernatural | Main | Atheist Meme of the Day: Being Open Minded Means Acknowledging What Isn't True »


Jim H

Here's another reason why this matters: Remember the Bush admin person who told Suskind that they "create their own reality"? Most likely, he was just a "useful idiot" for those above him. They had power, and did in fact create their own reality, to great profit for themselves and their friends, leaving a mess for the rest of us.


You posted this on your blog June 21st -- why the repeat?

jane hay

I don't find it unexpected at all that the religious don't care what reality is. After all, if you listen in on their conversations, they think the Creator of the Universe took time out from his busy day to make sure they found a parking place right in front of the door at WalMart. Praise glod ! Talk about self-absorbed and egotistical. (I've got fundie in-laws, and a fundie son and daughter-in-law, so I hear this stuff a lot.) And they REALLY don't like to leave their comfort zone.

Greta Christina
You posted this on your blog June 21st -- why the repeat?

Gwen: I posted a link to the piece when it was originally published on AlterNet on June 21st. I am reprinting it in full here now. I like to have my work appear in full on my own blog, in order to have it all in one place. And many people prefer to comment on my blog rather than on AlterNet, since the AlterNet comment threads are, shall we say, challenging. Hence the reprint.

Bruce Gorton


Not so much challenging as challenged.

If someone could convert stupid into electricity Alternet's resident commenters would replace every power plant on Earth.


Bruce, but would that be moral? We'd then have to make sure they stayed stupid in order to keep our infrastructure running.


Greta, there is an epigram I like to quote (variously attributed to Artemus Ward, Mark Twain, and others) that seems tailor-made to go with this article: "It ain't the things we don't know that get us into trouble. It's the things we know that just ain't so."


Keyser Söze

The universe is about 13.73 billion years old, and it's about 93 billion light years across. I am 48 years old, and I'm five foot three.

Surely, you can rely on the second half of this, but the first half is just conjecture and just as much a matter of "faith." You shouldn't equate scientific understanding of the material world we can see with our own senses with guesses about the past or future. That sort of "science" is a quite different matter, and materialists are prone to confusing scientific conjecture with scientific fact.

Anyway, why get worked up about people who have "faith"? Pretty much by definition, "faith" pertains to people who can't prove what they believe. After all, no one needs "faith" in gravity. I used to argue with such people in my youth, but it's completely pointless, so why waste your breath?

And I should point out that this applies just as much to the vaguely "spiritual" and not just to "religious believers."


The age of the universe is not just based on conjecture. Direct observation can set a minimum age, and various other observations can be used to calculate a more precise value. No faith required. You could say that the theory of evolution is based on faith with as little justification.


Kaiser, all four parts involve similar amounts of trust. "I am 48 years old" actually means "the available evidence regarding the date of my birth overwhelmingly places it 48 years ago".

And when I say "overwhelming", it means "I can't be bothered to take seriously contrary claims unless they present substantial conflicting evidence". That's a personal judgment, but many people have thresholds close enough that we can consider a fact proved to everyone except the most die-hard conspiracy theorists,

Sure, there are no internal inconsistencies in the theory that the universe was created with the appearance of age last Thursday, but so could you.

Likewise, "I'm five foot three". How do you know? when did you last measure? Are you sure it hasn't changed since then? Are you sure of your measuring standard?

Now, I know you can easily provide a lot of evidence for each of those claims, but just because your height hasn't changed much in the last 30 years, and lots of other adults you know don't change height rapidly, how do you know that your height isn't changing right now?

Horrors, you're extrapolating from available evidence!

Joshua Zelinsky


when you say:

Pretty much by definition, "faith" pertains to people who can't prove what they believe.

You are utterly wrong. I can't prove pretty much anything in life. Proof is for mathematics and alchohol, nothing else. Science is concerned about evidence, and the evidence for the age of the earth is massive. There's no faith involved in accepting the hypothesis that has the most data.


Here's my answer to these kind of people:

The Patented Yahzi Baseball Bat Test (TM).

Step 1: Obtain a baseball bat.

Step 2: Fix your mind firmly on the notion that reality is what you want it to be.

Step 3: Strike yourself in the head with the bat until step 2 is no longer possible.

The best thing is that the test is foolproof. One way or another, the testee stops bothering you with their idiotic notions of unreality.



Hey, cool blog, never been here before. Hi.

I wanted to say that while I AM concerned with whether, say, leading researchers in a given field are able to successfully circumvent their biases and describe reality accurately, I am NOT very concerned with whether the lay person does. People's beliefs converge very much on practical things, like how to use an elevator, but converge less so as things get more abstract. Ideas about God are so irrelevant to our daily lives that people think all kinds of stupid things about that--but then, they can, because it doesn't stop them from successfully getting to work.

I'm much more concerned with whether people believe HARMFUL things than incorrect or unsupported things. And yes, I recognize that sometimes one leads to the other.

Still, I'm much more likely to befriend people who believe in God and oppose war than people who believe in war and oppose god.

Joey Fox

Thank you, Joshua Zelinksy! Science can't prove a damn thing. That's one of the first things they teach you in any college science class. You either disprove something, or support something to various extents. It'll adjust itself with new information... And that's why it's so beautiful :D


Greta, very thoughtful. It will cause me to closer examine my own beliefs. I know there are many things hanging out in my head that are unwarranted. I have noticed though, that there is often a disconnect between belief and action. We may for instance believe in global warming caused by human activities, but not actually do anything different. Laziness? Probably. But lately I have begun to suggest that it may be better to work within a belief structure and to find common action. Nevertheless it behooves all of us to strain toward reality. Thank you.

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