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Old 05-15-2010, 08:12 AM   #1
Mista Kool
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Exclamation Alice, Atheists, and the Ability to Believe Impossible Things

Let the butt-hurting commence!

Alice, Atheists, and the Ability to Believe Impossible Things First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

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Alice, Atheists, and the Ability to Believe Impossible Things

Thursday, May 13, 2010, 9:00 AM

Joe Carter
“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” — Alice in Wonderland
Like Alice I am woefully unskilled in the art of believing impossible things. Even if I were to spend an entire hour a day I doubt I could develop the proficiency to believe even one impossible thing before breakfast, much less six. This lack of imagination is one of the primary reasons I could never be an atheist. (I figure since I’m already on this rant . . . )

I’m not sure how they do it, how they aquire the skill, but modern atheists have an incomparable ability to believe impossible things. Take, for example, the following list of beliefs. Not all of them are shared by every atheist, but all who claim the label believe at least one of these items:
1. Emergent properties “arise” out of more fundamental entities (i.e., matter) and yet are novel or irreducible with respect to them. Consciousness, for example, is an emergent property of the brain, arising—like magic—from a specific arrangement of molecules. This magical property which is created by the physical can also turn around and affect the physical matter from which it came.

2. Everything that is real is, in some sense, really physical. Therefore, mental states such as beliefs, desires, and sensations do not exist. Mental states—even ones like the belief that mental states do not exist—do not actually exist but are merely physical states in the brain.

3. Our cognitive faculties are the result of from blind mechanisms like natural selection working on sources of genetic variation, such as random genetic mutation, yet are reliable for distinguishing between truth and false aspects of reality, such as the claim that our cognitive faculties have resulted from blind mechanisms.

4. Evolution is a blind process that has no teleology; whatever behavior works is the behavior that survives. Yet ethical norms of behavior should not be based on what works or what will lead to survival but should be based on concepts not found in nature (even though nature is all that exists).

5. The brain is nothing more than a physical system whose operation is governed solely by the laws of chemistry and physics. Nevertheless, a person’s beliefs (i.e., about the existence of God) are not determined by random fluctuations in the natural chemical and physical laws but are chosen by the individual and should be considered rational, reasonable, and respectable.

6. A human being has a finite ability to know, yet human beings should be taken seriously when making claims that no infinite beings can or do exist.
While I’m fairly certain that all Western atheists believe at least one of these items, I am completely baffled at how they do it. Admittedly, I’ve never been much of one for magic or mysticism, and since such alien and exotic concepts are required to maintain a belief in atheism, I am at a distinct disadvantage.

Still, I wonder how they are able to maintain such supple reasoning abilities. I wonder sometimes if, like the Queen of Hearts, they have to practice the skill of believing the impossible.
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Old 05-15-2010, 08:25 AM   #2
Knuck the Ficks
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Default Re: Alice, Atheists, and the Ability to Believe Impossible Things



Religion. Fuck yeah.
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Old 05-15-2010, 08:32 AM   #3
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Default Re: Alice, Atheists, and the Ability to Believe Impossible Things




Religion. Fuck yeah.





(That's Omagh just in case some left wing douche or that fundamentalist forgiving cunt big-baller whines about me singling out Islam)
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Old 05-15-2010, 08:54 AM   #4
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Default Re: Alice, Atheists, and the Ability to Believe Impossible Things

Truth. You have to respect people's religions. I'm currently trying to bomb anybody who does not believe in Mother Goose and does not respect our goal to have all women lay eggs from now on.
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Old 05-15-2010, 09:06 AM   #5
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Default Re: Alice, Atheists, and the Ability to Believe Impossible Things

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Originally Posted by dough
Truth. You have to respect people's religions. I'm currently trying to bomb anybody who does not believe in Mother Goose and does not respect our goal to have all women lay eggs from now on.
Preach on my brotha. Once you have accomplished your goal you will be entitled to 72 virgins in the eternal paradise. You are truly an hero.
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Old 05-15-2010, 09:53 AM   #7
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Default Re: Alice, Atheists, and the Ability to Believe Impossible Things

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Originally Posted by RainierBeachPoet
perhaps albert einstein can enlighten this conversation:

"I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings."
-- Albert Einstein, following his wife's advice in responding to Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of the International Synagogue in New York, who had sent Einstein a cablegram bluntly demanding "Do you believe in God?" Quoted from and citation notes derived from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), chapter 3.

"The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."
-- Albert Einstein, in a letter responding to philosopher Eric Gutkind, who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt; quoted from James Randerson, "Childish Superstition: Einstein's Letter Makes View of Religion Relatively Clear: Scientist's Reply to Sell for up to 8,000, and Stoke Debate over His Beliefs" The Guardian, (13 May 2008)

"I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms."
-- Albert Einstein, obituary in New York Times, 19 April 1955, quoted from James A Haught, "Breaking the Last Taboo" (1996)

"I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it."
-- Albert Einstein, 1954, from Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press

"It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere.... Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."
-- Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930

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Old 05-15-2010, 11:44 AM   #8
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Default Re: Alice, Atheists, and the Ability to Believe Impossible Things

Get 'Er Done
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Old 05-15-2010, 01:54 PM   #9
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Default Re: Alice, Atheists, and the Ability to Believe Impossible Things

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Originally Posted by Take Your Lumps
"I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists

I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it."
-- Albert Einstein, 1954, from Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press

Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."
-- Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930


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