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Philo
Skeptic Friend

66 Posts

Posted - 06/27/2011 :  11:45:58  Show Profile Send Philo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
There seems to be a reluctance among some skeptics to criticize religion. Examples include Daniel Loxton and, of course, Jeff Wagg.

Part of it seems to come from a rift within the skeptical movement. The Skeptics Society makes it pretty clear that they are a scientific organization, dealing with scientific matters, and conveniently declares many religious claims off limits. However, this does not seem to be the view of all "leading" skeptics, as The Skeptic's Dictionary and Penn and Teller gladly take on religion. And among "grassroot" skeptics, people seem very happy to criticize religion, unconstrained by the barriers that some wish to impose.

But it seems to me that to declare religion to be off limits because it is "not testable" doesn't hold. "You can't test God in a lab." Well, can you test Bigfoot in a lab, or ghosts in a lab?

But further, I bthink the refusal to without hesitation examine religious claims is a cop-out. In the view of Groethe, the skeptic movement is guided by humanist principles (Google his video "skepticism is a humanism"), and then the refusal is even more bizarre. Religion is much more widely believed, and does much more harm, than belief in Bigfoot does. It makes it a worthy goal, in the same way that skeptical examination of homeopathy is very good indeed.

Valiant Dancer
Forum Goalie

USA
4826 Posts

Posted - 06/27/2011 :  11:53:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Valiant Dancer's Homepage Send Valiant Dancer a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Philo

There seems to be a reluctance among some skeptics to criticize religion. Examples include Daniel Loxton and, of course, Jeff Wagg.

Part of it seems to come from a rift within the skeptical movement. The Skeptics Society makes it pretty clear that they are a scientific organization, dealing with scientific matters, and conveniently declares many religious claims off limits. However, this does not seem to be the view of all "leading" skeptics, as The Skeptic's Dictionary and Penn and Teller gladly take on religion. And among "grassroot" skeptics, people seem very happy to criticize religion, unconstrained by the barriers that some wish to impose.

But it seems to me that to declare religion to be off limits because it is "not testable" doesn't hold. "You can't test God in a lab." Well, can you test Bigfoot in a lab, or ghosts in a lab?

But further, I bthink the refusal to without hesitation examine religious claims is a cop-out. In the view of Groethe, the skeptic movement is guided by humanist principles (Google his video "skepticism is a humanism"), and then the refusal is even more bizarre. Religion is much more widely believed, and does much more harm, than belief in Bigfoot does. It makes it a worthy goal, in the same way that skeptical examination of homeopathy is very good indeed.


I think it boils down to What Miomoto Mushashi wrote.

"Do nothing which is of no use."

The religious will believe that religion and it's tenants. No amount of argument will change that for some followers.

Most people are actually sheeple. Those who want to be led.

How will critizing religion help the cause?

How will it do anything except distract from the argument?

Will it do so in a way where people will listen to it, or will it just make you look like a dick?

There are some constructs that cannot be tested. And, yes, you can test bigfoot in a lab.

While I realize there is no empirical proof for my faith, I don't inflict it on others.

Cthulhu/Asmodeus when you're tired of voting for the lesser of two evils

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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 06/27/2011 :  12:17:45   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I am morally opposed to supporting magical thinking, which includes religion, either overtly or tacitly through silence.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 06/27/2011 :  12:56:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Philo

There seems to be a reluctance among some skeptics to criticize religion. Examples include Daniel Loxton and, of course, Jeff Wagg.


Loxton is firmly rooted in the tradition of "scientific skepticism" that publications like Skeptical Inquirer has classically dealt with. In his view there are claims made by people of faith that are well within the realm of things that can be looked at and tested for. He probably feels that the "there is a god, there isn't a god" debate is best handled by humanists and philosophers. Free Inquiry was/is published by the same people who put out Skeptical Inquirer and focuses on things like religion. So what you had/have is a science publication that was/is very focused on science, and a philosophy publication that looks at those other areas that can't be handled by science. Most of us tend to lump the two together, but I'm not sure that Loxton is wrong about keeping what is explicitly science and what isn't, separate areas of inquiry.

As for Jeff Wagg, he is probably close to Loxton's thinking in that area. But then, technically, so is D.J. Grothe, who along with Randi, firmly a part of that old school as one of the founders of CSICOP, are both perfectly willing to show up at an atheist conventions. Likewise, Dawkins will be speaking at TAM this year.

Part of it seems to come from a rift within the skeptical movement.

True.

The Skeptics Society makes it pretty clear that they are a scientific organization, dealing with scientific matters, and conveniently declares many religious claims off limits. However, this does not seem to be the view of all "leading" skeptics, as The Skeptic's Dictionary and Penn and Teller gladly take on religion. And among "grassroot" skeptics, people seem very happy to criticize religion, unconstrained by the barriers that some wish to impose.


There is a problem with conflating atheism with skepticism. Not all atheists are skeptics and not all skeptics are atheists. Look at the chart you posted. Even PZ Myers has made that point and gets that "skepticism" as practiced by the old school was self limiting for a reason. And there is some concern that many "grassroot" skeptics are causing the skeptical movement to lose some of its focus. Few argue that religion shouldn't be looked at with some amount of skepticism. Part of the issue is what can skeptical organizations that deal mostly in matters of science do with religion that atheist and humanist organizations aren't already doing without being so all over the map that they lose their focus?

But it seems to me that to declare religion to be off limits because it is "not testable" doesn't hold. "You can't test God in a lab." Well, can you test Bigfoot in a lab, or ghosts in a lab?

But in most cases, you can test the methodology used to conclude that those things exist. It's true that skeptics cannot say there are no such things as ghosts. But so far, every method used to prove there are ghosts has failed. Same goes for those religious claims that can be investigated.

But further, I bthink the refusal to without hesitation examine religious claims is a cop-out.

Where religious claims can be examined, they are.

In the view of Groethe, the skeptic movement is guided by humanist principles (Google his video "skepticism is a humanism"), and then the refusal is even more bizarre. Religion is much more widely believed, and does much more harm, than belief in Bigfoot does. It makes it a worthy goal, in the same way that skeptical examination of homeopathy is very good indeed.

How would you go about demonstrating that no God exists as conclusively as you can demonstrate that there is no medicine in a homeopathic remedy?

Loxton and Wagg and Shermer are all atheists. Obviously they are skeptical of the idea that God exists. The debate is more about focus. Not a single one of them are condemning the existence of atheist and humanist organizations.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Hal
Skeptic Friend

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 06/27/2011 :  12:56:45   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Hal a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by H. Humbert

I am morally opposed to supporting magical thinking, which includes religion, either overtly or tacitly through silence.




Define "silence." Is it sufficient for me to simply go about my life and pursue my interests, or will others (say, my children) suffer because I choose not to overtly express my opinions on religion?


Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King Jr.

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 06/27/2011 :  20:18:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The taboo against criticizing religion within the skeptic and humanist communities has been fading for decades. This is evident in the types of articles published, talks at conferences, and recent billboard campaigns by a number of national organizations. There have been many rationalizations for the taboo, many of which sound quite sophisticated, but the reality is that large skeptic and humanist organizations and individual leaders have avoided criticizing religion because they are afraid of offending a huge portion of the public being demonized by the mainstream. As the status of religion has deteriorated and more people identify as "nonreligious" the taboo will continue to fade away.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 06/28/2011 :  06:46:37   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I might also point out that religious institutions have always engaged in many secular activities, many of which are very beneficial to the communities they serve. This doesn't give any credibility to their supernatural claims, but it is part of the explanation of why so many people would be protective of and have warm and fuzzy feelings about religion. Another is that religions have also serves as part of an overall group identity that is often connected with ethnicity. And while intellectually it might be easy to separate all these different aspects of religion and only go after the supernatural claims, emotionally, most people have great difficulty separating it all. I find that a lot of skeptics who are all gung ho about criticizing religion like to insist that "religion" is just about the supernatural claims, but historically that has never been the case. And, sure, we could just say that all the good secular activities that religion engages in could be replaced with purely secular institutions (and in some case that has already happened with government and private community organizations) but right now religious institutions all over the world continue to perform necessary services in communities, and those communities and anyone who recognizes and appreciates those services is likely to be resistant or even hostile to criticism of those religions.

In short, if you want the taboo against criticizing religion to completely fade away, help build and maintain secular institutions that will replace the good things religious institutions do for people.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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changingmyself
Skeptic Friend

USA
122 Posts

Posted - 06/28/2011 :  07:55:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send changingmyself a Private Message  Reply with Quote

How would you go about demonstrating that no God exists as conclusively as you can demonstrate that there is no medicine in a homeopathic remedy?


I don't know if you could demonstrate that no god exists but you can go about demonstrating that the Christian god doesn't exist by using one of their own little bible stories to do so. 1 Kings 18, the "Lord" has the Baal worshipers build alters to Baal and put a bull on an alter and then tells them to call on Baal to start a fire for the sacrifice. It didn't happen, so they killed the Baal worshipers.

Now, I do not condone killing them, but I do think they should be able to have their god start a simple fire. If they cannot, then we bust down their alters and their churches and tell them to stop worshiping false idols like the OT story goes.

None of this "but we weren't ready" crap either, they have one chance to start that fire.




"The gospels are not eyewitness accounts"

-Allen D. Callahan, Associate Professor of New Testament, Harvard Divinity School

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Philo
Skeptic Friend

66 Posts

Posted - 06/30/2011 :  10:47:52   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Philo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil
Loxton is firmly rooted in the tradition of "scientific skepticism" that publications like Skeptical Inquirer has classically dealt with. In his view there are claims made by people of faith that are well within the realm of things that can be looked at and tested for. He probably feels that the "there is a god, there isn't a god" debate is best handled by humanists and philosophers. Free Inquiry was/is published by the same people who put out Skeptical Inquirer and focuses on things like religion. So what you had/have is a science publication that was/is very focused on science, and a philosophy publication that looks at those other areas that can't be handled by science. Most of us tend to lump the two together, but I'm not sure that Loxton is wrong about keeping what is explicitly science and what isn't, separate areas of inquiry.


This line of division is very fuzzy though, and not clearly defined. There is no conceptual difference between paranormal and supernatural. It seems to me that the division between Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer is more about division of labor than anything else. Which is fine, of course. What upsets me is when people (like Wagg blatantly did) say that religious beliefs aren't skeptical issues.

Originally posted by Kil
As for Jeff Wagg, he is probably close to Loxton's thinking in that area. But then, technically, so is D.J. Grothe, who along with Randi, firmly a part of that old school as one of the founders of CSICOP, are both perfectly willing to show up at an atheist conventions. Likewise, Dawkins will be speaking at TAM this year.


Randi however is perfectly happy with mocking religions.

Originally posted by Kil
There is a problem with conflating atheism with skepticism. Not all atheists are skeptics and not all skeptics are atheists. Look at the chart you posted. Even PZ Myers has made that point and gets that "skepticism" as practiced by the old school was self limiting for a reason. And there is some concern that many "grassroot" skeptics are causing the skeptical movement to lose some of its focus. Few argue that religion shouldn't be looked at with some amount of skepticism. Part of the issue is what can skeptical organizations that deal mostly in matters of science do with religion that atheist and humanist organizations aren't already doing without being so all over the map that they lose their focus?


I absolutely agree that atheism and skepticism aren't the same. Most atheists are certainly not skeptics.

Originally posted by Kil
But in most cases, you can test the methodology used to conclude that those things exist. It's true that skeptics cannot say there are no such things as ghosts. But so far, every method used to prove there are ghosts has failed. Same goes for those religious claims that can be investigated.


I agree.

Originally posted by Kil
How would you go about demonstrating that no God exists as conclusively as you can demonstrate that there is no medicine in a homeopathic remedy?


Is that necessary though?
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13463 Posts

Posted - 06/30/2011 :  13:00:04   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote

Originally posted by Kil
Loxton is firmly rooted in the tradition of "scientific skepticism" that publications like Skeptical Inquirer has classically dealt with. In his view there are claims made by people of faith that are well within the realm of things that can be looked at and tested for. He probably feels that the "there is a god, there isn't a god" debate is best handled by humanists and philosophers. Free Inquiry was/is published by the same people who put out Skeptical Inquirer and focuses on things like religion. So what you had/have is a science publication that was/is very focused on science, and a philosophy publication that looks at those other areas that can't be handled by science. Most of us tend to lump the two together, but I'm not sure that Loxton is wrong about keeping what is explicitly science and what isn't, separate areas of inquiry.


Philo: This line of division is very fuzzy though, and not clearly defined. There is no conceptual difference between paranormal and supernatural. It seems to me that the division between Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer is more about division of labor than anything else. Which is fine, of course. What upsets me is when people (like Wagg blatantly did) say that religious beliefs aren't skeptical issues.


Again, scientific skeptics canít really say that psi is not possible. (And really, no one can.) Of course, claimed psi abilities are often tested. I have been to two of the tests, myself (along with a few hundred other people at TAM7 and 8.) One was a dowser and the other claimed that she could see inside bodies and, in a test she agreed to, tell out of six people, I think it was, which person was missing a kidney. Both she and the dowser failed. The best evidence we have so far is that psi doesnít exist. While Jeff might have said something like what you say he said, Iím sure he didnít mean that those claims made by religious people that are in the realm of what can be tested are outside of the purview of sci-skepticism. Weeping statues, claims of religious healings, intercessory prayer and other religious claims can be tested. Whether there is or isnít a god is what Jeff was refereeing to. (I'm pretty darn sure of that.) There is no test that can be formulated to prove that one, any more than ghosts can be ruled out with certainty. But when a claim is something that can be tested in this realm, like the efficacy of faith healing, for example, those kinds of claims are tested. Skeptics are not avoiding that sort of thing because it's a religious claim. They are not avoiding that sort of claim at all.

Originally posted by Kil
As for Jeff Wagg, he is probably close to Loxton's thinking in that area. But then, technically, so is D.J. Grothe, who along with Randi, firmly a part of that old school as one of the founders of CSICOP, are both perfectly willing to show up at an atheist conventions. Likewise, Dawkins will be speaking at TAM this year.


Philo:
Randi however is perfectly happy with mocking religions.
Randi wears more than one hat. Most of us do. Jeff included. (By the way, I doubt that Randi mocked religion in general. I wouldn't confuse his critical take on religion as mockery though it's possible that he has mocked some specific religious claim.) Randi is as aware as anyone that there is no scientific test that can prove the non-existence of god. And the JREF itself deals in sci-skepticism. The million-dollar challenge has to be something that can be tested, after all.

Originally posted by Kil
How would you go about demonstrating that no God exists as conclusively as you can demonstrate that there is no medicine in a homeopathic remedy?


Philo:
Is that necessary though?

Yeah. It is. We can examine the claims made by homeopaths and determine, scientifically, that they are not valid. But science can only take us so far. At that point itís through the application of logic and reason that many of us reject the idea that god/gods exist. But see, we arrive there by using different methods. Methods that are outside of what science can tell us.

To some, the word ďskepticĒ as used by those who promote modern skepticism is necessarily limited to those things that can be tested for. We can say with a somewhat higher degree of certainty that homeopathy is pseudo-science than we can say that god/gods donít exist, because the methods for arriving at those two conclusions are not the same. Empirical evidence rules out homeopathy. Logic, while a fine method, lacks the kind of evidence to completely rule out psi, ghosts or gods the way science can rule out homeopathy as something valid.

There is no reason to not be skeptical of the existence of god. I am. But there may be a very good reason to understand and separate the methods for arriving at that conclusion for the sake of keeping things in better focus. Let those who deal in science do science and let those who deal in other approaches also do their thing. And for the sake of keeping things straight, it might be best to make clear that different methods are being used. So again I ask, what can Skeptical Inquierer, the flagship of sci-skepticism do that isnít being done by atheist and humanist originations without being all over the map and losing focus?

And really, I donít see anyone in those other organizations making a stink because they arenít scientifically examining claims made by homeopathic practitioners. Thatís not their focus.

Edited for clarity. I doubt that I succeeded though.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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