Wednesday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Wrecked ships.
  2. The Chicago machine and what it means w.r.t. our current President.
  3. Data and the CBO.
  4. A modest suggestion.
  5. Jokes in the Chavez regime.
  6. Go left.
  7. Laptops in lectures.
  8. On the Toyota recall.
  9. A sign you might be wrong.
  10. Free market and correction.
  11. On Greece.
  12. Google maps and the bike route.
  13. Heh.
  14. On fear and terrorism.

38 responses to “Wednesday Highlights

  1. A modest suggestion.

    Apathy is not the main reason voters make bad decisions. They make bad decisions because they lack critical thinking skills and are easily manipulated. The manipulation starts early with religious indoctrination and television ads and never lets up. (I suspect religious indoctrination is more harmful — it teaches children than some beliefs must never be questioned and that strength of conviction is what’s important, essentially crippling the capacity for critical thinking, while television ads mostly bypass the thinking parts of the brain altogether.)

    One has to be unusually intelligent and stubborn to develop skepticism on his/her own.

    In 2008, I was of the opinion that easy monetary policy cannot explain much of the housing boom. When Professors Krugman and Delong came to agree with me, I immediately realized that I was likely wrong!

    LOL, that about sums up what passes for intellectualism on the right. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a right-winger say he doesn’t believe in global warming because of Al Gore…

    On fear and terrorism.

    WTF? Americans are on average more afraid of terrorism than is justified by reality. (Insert comparison to disease and car accidents.) It seems to me that many conservatives just really want an Enemy worthy of the old USSR. Sorry kids, these stateless religious nutjobs aren’t it.

  2. JA,
    Often it has been said, and likely paraphrased or repeated by me that the God in which the atheists don’t believe not any God which the faithful do believe. Now we discover that the religion in which the atheists condemn is a strange thing as well.

    I suspect religious indoctrination is more harmful — it teaches children than some beliefs must never be questioned and that strength of conviction is what’s important.

    You have a fairy tale impression of religious practice. Perhaps its your poor critical thinking that led to that. ;)

    LOL right back. If this is what passes for intellectualism on the left, using an appeal to authority to bypass any actual argument made by the other side.

  3. Often it has been said, and likely paraphrased or repeated by me that the God in which the atheists don’t believe not any God which the faithful do believe

    Do you or do you not believe that a man named Jesus who was also God was killed and then came back to life three days later?

    You have a fairy tale impression of religious practice. Perhaps its your poor critical thinking that led to that. ;)

    Right, it’s not like I personally spent twenty years of my life deeply involved (as a student) with religious instruction. Granted, Orthodox Jews are more guilty of walling off some beliefs from critical examination than are, say, Reform Jews or some liberal Christians, but then again, I’m not really talking about Reform Jews or liberal Christians here. I’m talking about the indoctrinated, (small- as well as big-o) orthodox faiths — Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam, etc.

    LOL right back. If this is what passes for intellectualism on the left, using an appeal to authority to bypass any actual argument made by the other side.

    Where in this thread did I make an appeal to authority??

  4. Monetary policy & the housing boom-

    Looking at the link I sort of understand the chaps argument. Basically he is saying that interest rates being one or two points ‘too low’ by itself only would cause a modest bump in house prices. What happened, though, was that ‘technical changes’ were going on.

    In other words, the demand for houses was increasing because of ‘innovation’. The innovation was the ability of the financial markets to slice, dice, and package mortgages into complex securities that could be sold to big money on Wall Street. Contrary to popular belief, these innovations are in fact good things but too much was expected from them.

    Innovations add to the risk of bubbles. People may overjudge just how great the ‘great new thing’ really is and let prices shoot far too high. In this sense, an interest rate being one point ‘too low’ (compared to some Platonic ideal I suppose) may help to fuel the fire.

    The problem I have with this view is that it actually sets the gov’t up with too much micromanagement. Monetary policy has traditionally been centered on maintaining stable prices with stable employment, nothing more. It’s not easy for monetary policy to not only seek stable overall prices but to zero in on prices of individual items like houses, tulips, or dot-com stocks that are deemed ‘too high’. On top of that, if interest rates were too low before the bust then why are rates even lower now?

  5. JA,

    Right, it’s not like I personally spent twenty years of my life deeply involved (as a student) with religious instruction. Granted, Orthodox Jews are more guilty of walling off some beliefs from critical examination than are, say, Reform Jews or some liberal Christians, but then again, I’m not really talking about Reform Jews or liberal Christians here. I’m talking about the indoctrinated, (small- as well as big-o) orthodox faiths — Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam, etc.

    Look, you had said directly, “They make bad decisions because they lack critical thinking skills and are easily manipulated. The manipulation starts early with religious indoctrination and television ads and never lets up” and it to this I was responding. I’ve never ever seen or heard in Christian religious education on the adult or child level of any discouragement of questioning and critical examination. Those things are indeed very much the point. Now perhaps, Orthodox Jewish education was different … and if so, that might explain your attitude.

    “Appeal to authority”, it seemed like it to me, but perhaps it was a different fallacy. Look, the poster started out by noting that his notion, shared by people he normally disagreed with, was shared. Which gave him pause to reconsider that his position was in error … and he decided it might be in fact so. You’d do the same thing I’d offer if you found that something you promoted was an idea shared by individuals you disagree strongly with on almost every issue. You might not necessarily decide that idea was wrong, but the notion that reconsideration and a critical re-examination is called for would likely be natural. You however took the view that this was the entire argument, i.e., that the position was argued as wrong on account of the people who support it, which was not the argument but just the cue for re-examination. Thus your argument was based entirely on the titular position of the entities not on the substance of their argument, which I called an appeal to authority. Do you have a better nomenclature for the logical fallacy which you employed? :D

  6. JA,

    How Orthodox was your upbringing? My impression of the Orthodox is that they are very intellectual, very questioning. The difference is that they take a set of starting assumptions and see them through to their logical conclusion no matter what that is. While you may not go for the assumptions they make, to reason them out all the way would seem to require a well trained mind.

  7. The difference is that they take a set of starting assumptions and see them through to their logical conclusion no matter what that is

    Exactly. And not only that, but their “starting assumptions” are what other people would consider conclusions.

    To me, that’s a failure of critical thinking. And that’s exactly what religion teaches — that you can just rule certain concepts as off-limits and sort of reason around them. Even if you encounter new information that would imply those off-limit concepts might be wrong, you can just reason around it. That’s exactly the problem.

  8. Religious thinking is clever, self-serving thinking.
    Skeptical thinking is critical thinking. Question everything, starting with your basic assumptions, and never be afraid to change your mind.

  9. JA,

    Religious thinking is clever, self-serving thinking.
    Skeptical thinking is critical thinking. Question everything, starting with your basic assumptions, and never be afraid to change your mind.

    This statement is a fine example of “religious thinking.” Your basic assumption is that (all?) religious though is “clever, self serving thinking” which from your point of view is very clever and self-serving. After all, it allows you to look down your nose and feel very superior about the poor stupid religious schmendricks. You need to question your assumptions about religious thinking. Remember, Fr. Polkinghorn who was leading theoretical physicist noted that noetically doing theology was, for him, the same as doing physics. Your axiomatic claim that religious people do not examine their assumptions is not true, nor is your claim that self-proclaimed “skeptics” do not resort to “clever self-serving” thinking as much or more than those they wish to deride.

  10. JA,
    If I didn’t make it clear enough your assumption on the nature of religious thinking is also your conclusion, which is alas the very thing you point to as the character of religious thinking.

  11. My “assumption” on the nature of religious thinking is a conclusion based on personal experience and a lot of reading. For a fleshed-out version, see my post Intellectual Cowardice in Orthodox Judaism.

    Chaim Potok:

    Yet what do you do with the truths that seem to come to us from the discipline we call Scientific Text Criticism? What do you do with the windows that it opens up for us on the development of species?. Do you throw out truths in order to maintain your uniqueness, your allegiance to your particular core? Is that the price that is being exacted from us? That’s the tension that an individual like Reuven Malter is caught up in in The Promise. A tension felt by many of the people with whom I grew up, that of a core-core confrontation of ideas…

    The Chosen and The Promise, although dealing with how people feel on a daily basis when locked in this kind of confrontation, are essentially exercises in intellectual confrontation. Individuals caught up in that kind of confrontation compartmentalize rather than fuse reality. They section off their life and apply this methodology only to parts of it, but not to their faith system, or its core. The problem is thus by and large intellectually resolved.

    Mark, I’m not sure you personally use this method, which could be why you’re skeptical of it. I think you use a different method — that of vague beliefs. Smearing meanings of words, you know you believe in “X” in the core of your soul, but to the outside observer, your definition of “X” changes every day.

    People you look up to believe in “Intelligent Design” and therefore you redefine “Intelligent Design” to mean “Darwinian evolution isn’t 100% correct in every detail.” You want to believe in Reagan, so you redefine “trickle-down economics” as “any economic system that promotes growth.” Any attempts to get you to nail down a belief are fruitless, as when you just tried to pull the “atheists don’t disbelieve in the God I believe in card” and I called you on it by asking if you believe in a man named Jesus who was also God who was tortured to death and came back to life three days later? You couldn’t say no, obviously, but if you said yes then that would prove that I disbelieve in exactly the same God that you believe in, invalidating your previous argument. I’m still waiting on an answer.

  12. JA,
    I let the remark on the “God” that atheists don’t believe in as being different from the God in which I believe pass because I thought it was off topic, not because I “couldn’t” answer it. However another reason I didn’t answer it because you didn’t give enough to go on. For example, what do you mean when you say a man Jesus was also God, or by coming to life three days later?

    I’m unclear on how your post and remarks connect with my objection. You’ve claimed that

    Religious thinking is clever, self-serving thinking.
    Skeptical thinking is critical thinking. Question everything, starting with your basic assumptions, and never be afraid to change your mind.

    And further that religious logic works by assuming the conclusion then performing logical manipulations to arrive back at the same conclusion. I’m unclear on how your example refutes that.

    I’ve pointed out that in religious instruction I’ve seen and in their ways of thinking some who do not do that, this is a direct counter example. I’m not claiming that no religious writer has made that error. You however are claiming that all do, which is what I’m disagreeing with. If you’re going to say most Orthodox Jews do this, I won’t argue with that, I have no data or experience with that community. What am arguing is that religious individuals can and often are just as intellectually honest as ‘atheist skeptics’ such as yourself in other communities. It seems to me that to make such a broad claim you have to address the counter examples.

    The post and quoted excerpt indicate that “religious” thought compartmentalizes different facets of peoples life. So what? Everybody does that. You don’t apply your knowledge of electrical circuitry in when cooking, dating, or thinking about the aesthetics.

    I’m not “vague” in my beliefs, its just that they aren’t legalistic and strictly confessional. Furthermore I have a habit of mind of being more flexible with “category” than you are. Perhaps its from the little mathematical training in things like group and category that I underwent where moving ideas and methods from one regime to one to which it was not associated or used is a common practice. A side effect of this is that one tends not to be very strict with category.

    But your examples, ID and trickle-down are, well, horrible. I don’t consider myself an ID adherent, so I’m unclear on why you think I feel it necessary or required to redefine based on “people I look up to” who might. Who do you imagine I “look up to” who is an ID proponent? Consider as well trickle down, which fell into the category description noted above. Narrowly speaking it is a specific tax policy that entails reduced taxes on the wealthy with a notion that will provide incentives which promote growth. In discussing in a post entitled that, I was referring not just to a specific tax policy but a larger categorical notion that reducing burdens and regulations in general (which will by and large will affect those more wealthy) will be those policies which engender growth, to distinguish it from those policies which attempt to achieve equality by regulation, i.e., such as employment opportunity measures.

  13. JA,

    I think you’re neglecting a weakness in more ‘liberal’ thinking. If your starting assumptions are always in play, always subject to doubt, then that tends to undercut following through rigerously on all the implications of those ‘assumptions’. After all, if the assumptions lead you to an uncomfortable place, well maybe those assumptions are wrong. But that’s a bit too easy. What if the assumptions are right and the truth is just uncomfortable?

  14. Boonton:

    Can you give an example of that happening? I’m having trouble imagining it…

  15. Mark,

    For example, what do you mean when you say a man Jesus was also God, or by coming to life three days later?

    This is an exactly what I’m talking about, by the way. It’s a simple question, but you can’t answer it without first muddying it up to add some weasel room.

    Let’s make it easier by taking out the God part, since people do admittedly mean different things when they say God.

    Do you believe that a man named Jesus was tortured to death and then came back to life three days later?

    Simple question, plain English. No room to hide. No more word games. The man was dead, heart stopped, no brain function, dead. Three days later, he was alive. True or false?

  16. Can you give an example of that happening? I’m having trouble imagining it

    Actually I have the reverse problem. It’s easy for me to imagine it happening but hard to find an example off the top of my head. I think, though, you can at least admit its a risk we face on the left side of things. Insisting that our ‘assumptions’ not be nailed down we are kind of making an assumption in itself (that all assumptions are free floating petals on a vast ocean of skepticism).

    But let’s also keep in mind here that the normal left-right line here gets a bit blurry. Take an assumption like there are no differences between different races of people. Many on the left would insist that this assumption be followed to all its logical conclusions and would cling to it come hell or high water and abide by it even in the face of contrary evidence with a tenacity that would make an ID advocate or global warming skeptic blush. Likewise many on the right are willing to let their ‘assumptions’ float around a bit if it allows a more desirable result to be produced.

  17. Pingback: Polyamory is wrong » Cyclelicious

  18. Boonton:

    I wasn’t making a right/left distinction but a religious/skeptical one. To go with your example of race, I don’t know how well you follow it, but I keep up with Steve Sailer, etc. Gladwell is something of a religious thinker on the left and suffers from it while Pinker (the actual scientist) is more of a skeptic and comes off much better (in my mind, at least.)

    Obviously, there are vast parts of the left that suffer from “religious” thinking. And there are some on the right who are skeptics, although it’s becoming harder and harder for them to stay with the American right, who have sold their soul to both the religious right and the “religious” Austrians.

  19. (Just to be clear, I think Sailer is a “religious” thinker on the subject as well, masquerading as a skeptic. He clearly has conclusions that he starts from and consistently goes way beyond the data that he pretends to be driven by.)

  20. JA

    Simple question, plain English. No room to hide. No more word games. The man was dead, heart stopped, no brain function, dead. Three days later, he was alive. True or false?

    As stated. False, I think.

    The man (Jesus) was dead. Heart stopped. No brain function. Three days later. His body was gone and he was resurrected, not revived or resuscitated. He was now very different from anyone else. Many people witnessed him, but are inconsistent and confused as to what they saw. He is solid but passes through locked doors. People have difficulty recognising him, yet he is solid (e.g., Thomas and “touch my side”). Hundreds saw him, this witnessing is what began the Christian faith per se.

  21. Interesting distinction between resurrected and revived/resuscitated. I guess I hadn’t really thought about it like that. Still, I think we can both agree that I do not believe in the God that you do believe in. Right? So we can put that little piece of sophistry to rest?

  22. JA,
    That’s not the point of “that bit of sophistry,” which is that the descriptions of religion/God which atheists typically bring out as that thing which they do not believe is typically has little if anything to do with what is believed by the faith he is rejecting. That is whether or not you believe in the God and the faith in which I believe, you also don’t know what it really is that I do believe in.

    This arises when atheists complain about how it is impossible to believe in X and X is not a thing to which the theist ascribes either. This is not uncommon.

  23. JA,
    So … you suggest that there are large swaths of religious (by your definition) thinkers on the left (and right). Your problem I think is that there is also a significant community of faithful (religious -> standard definition) who you would also categorise as sceptics, i.e., regularly question their “assumptions.” And no, these sceptics are not all found in liberal theological traditions.

  24. Mark,

    That’s not the point of “that bit of sophistry,” which is that the descriptions of religion/God which atheists typically bring out as that thing which they do not believe is typically has little if anything to do with what is believed by the faith he is rejecting.

    Look, religious people are always changing what they say they mean when they say God, because they believe in believing in God more than they believe in God, if you know what I mean. But any time they do settle on one definition, it’s either a definition that atheists don’t believe in, or it’s one that’s so ridiculous that everybody believes in it. (God is the universe or God is love or God is community, etc.)

    You like to pretend that atheists disbelieve in some straw man God, but no, we disbelieve in *your* God Mark, as well as all the others. I disbelieve the claim that Jesus was God or that he was resurrected. I also disbelieve in Zeus, etc.

    Your problem I think is that there is also a significant community of faithful (religious -> standard definition) who you would also categorise as sceptics, i.e., regularly question their “assumptions.” And no, these sceptics are not all found in liberal theological traditions.

    I agree with sentence 1 but not sentence 2. The assumptions in non-liberal theological traditions (at least Christianity, Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc.) are so absurd that no skeptic could believe in them. What kind of man can question his assumptions yet still believe that Mary was a virgin or that millions of Jews fled ancient Egypt in one day?

    Plenty of religious people will either 1) not question these things or 2) wave them away as metaphorical or something, but #1 is not skeptical and #2 is not non-liberal.

  25. JA,

    The assumptions in non-liberal theological traditions (at least Christianity, Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc.) are so absurd that no skeptic could believe in them. What kind of man can question his assumptions yet still believe that Mary was a virgin or that millions of Jews fled ancient Egypt in one day?

    Plenty of religious people will either 1) not question these things or 2) wave them away as metaphorical or something, but #1 is not skeptical and #2 is not non-liberal.

    I see, you’ve redefined “liberal” to mean … well, something other than what it means. It seems you think you equivocate non-liberal theology (that is conservative) as implying that one must be a textual literalist. All conservative theologians do not ascribe to a literal textual hermeneutic. The word “conservative” can also (or one might say more normally) means agreeing with conclusions and arguments that have been used in the past, i.e., not willy nilly just for kicks discarding what was learned in the past. Finding, for example, that agree with Origen is not a liberal theological stance, after all Origen was a 2nd century scholar/theologian. I’m taking classes right now in a what is a conservative theological tradition, i.e., Eastern Orthodoxy. We are reading modern texts on social anthropology and textual analysis. Your notion of what makes a theological/religious liberal vs conservative needs to have its assumptions examined.

    This literal textual hermeneutic is one is most commonly found in, as you note, certain rigid non-questioning religious groups. It is also most often found amongst atheists as it is trivial and easy to confront.

    Fr. Polkinghorn is a problem for your hard assumptions and religious (by your lights) assumptions and conclusions about religion and scepticism.

  26. Mark,

    I’ll admit I’m not intimately familiar with your denomination of your religion, but I wasn’t speaking only of textual literalism. Or are you saying that if you’re not a literalist, you can believe Mary wasn’t a virgin?

  27. I think we should note that in terms of intellectual weakness, what I’d term the ‘fundamentalists’ are at the bottom. These would be the people who not only take the virgin birth as fact but also take the age of the earth by computing the generations provided in the Bible.

    I think Mark has a point that his more sophisticated tradition takes a much smaller set of facts as literal truth (i.e. death and ressurection of Jesus, probably the virgin birth) but is quite comfortable not accepting many others (no there is no giant ark waiting to be discovered on top of some mountain in Turkey).

  28. Well that’s really my whole point, Boonton. Even the “more sophisticated” non-liberal traditions take ridiculous untruths as unquestionable truths. If you believe in the resurrection or the virgin birth, I’m sorry, you are not a skeptic. It’s not a situation where reasonable people can disagree. You can only believe those claims if you (1) wall them off from reason in your brain or (2) rationalize.

  29. JA,
    So … when you say the word “sceptic” what you mean is something somewhat different … sceptic means one must necessarily be a strict materialist. Scepticism about the completeness of materialism is what then, impossible?

    One cannot have ever been sceptical of Jesus death/resurrection and other things … but have been convinced through your investigation. That is not in your definition, how scepticism works because … why?

  30. Mark,

    It’s my opinion that nobody truly skeptical can believe in that stuff simply because the evidence is so lacking and the claims so extraordinary. A skeptic could perhaps be skeptical about the “completeness of materialism” or something vague like that, but to believe a specific extraordinary claim (virgin birth, resurrection, etc.) one would need a substantial amount of evidence. As far as I know, no such evidence exists.

    If you found out tomorrow that there are books that claim that 2,000 years ago a few thousand Hindus witnessed a Hindu god-man being resurrected in India, I’d bet a thousand dollars you’d suddenly find a bunch of reasons to be more skeptical about that claim than you are about the one of Jesus. A true skeptic would approach both claims in the same way. You wouldn’t. Right?

  31. Well a strict materialist would actually be quite orthodox. They take their ‘assumptions’ serously and follow them through to their logical conclusion. That would not be a ‘liberal’ approach. JA rules out a virgin birth because it violates the implications of said assumptions and he will not overturn those assumptions without really serious evidence to do so.

    But then if one out of ten billion conceptions happen in a virginal state having only one report (leave aside whether you trust the report) in human history isn’t exactly unexpected.

  32. Boonton:

    The big difference between skeptics and “religious” thinkers is that skeptics are empiricists. Empirically, materialism is really the only game in town. Now if Jesus came back tomorrow and started turning water into wine and healing the sick and it could all be measured and verified, then the skeptics/empiricists would be supernaturalists.

    My point is materialism isn’t an arbitrary bias. Materialism is so consistent with every experiment ever run on anything it’s not even close. “Supernaturalism” appears to have no more evidence than “Superheroism.”

  33. In other words, skeptics/empiricists aren’t starting from any assumptions at all, just observations.

  34. But Christianity is built upon an emperical framework. The claim is that Jesus did do those things, people really saw them and wrote them down. Let’s just say he did do those things but choose not to stick around 2,000 years and do them on command for our modern day scientists to observe. We’d be left with the oral and written reports of people untrained in scientific observation and have to evaluate from there.

    In itself I’m not sure this is any different than ancient reports of ‘exploding stars’ which might have been dismissed as fantasies decades ago but today we can link to supernovas. Should one not also be skeptical of skepticism? :)

  35. Boonton,

    I think from your smiley you realize that you’re just being cute now. :-)

    Skeptics always leave room for the possibility that we are wrong. It’s just that we don’t believe extraordinary claims without a lot of evidence. Before we discovered supernovas, it was probably reasonable to believe that the stories were fantasies. (Similarly, before Darwin, it might have been reasonable to believe that there was some kind of intelligent Creator.)

    Even if Jesus really was resurrected, based on the evidence available today, no empiricist should believe in it. Obviously, as I said before, if new evidence shows up, we should evaluate it. But based on what we have now, believing cannot be described as empirical or reasonable.

  36. JA,
    So what sorts of things do you read that challenge your assumptions? Have you read Polanyi? Is he on the list? Polkinghorn? What … !? Why do you think you’re a skeptic as opposed to a “religious” thinker?

  37. Mark,

    I try not to have assumptions, only observations. I’m happy — thrilled, honestly — to read authors who might correct my observations and I frequently seek them out. Why do you think I spend so much time on conservative blogs? :-) My observations have changed drastically throughout my life as I encounter new ideas and discover (usually second-hand) new facts. That’s how I came to leave Orthodox Judaism, of course, and it’s how I changed my mind on any number of issues.

    I go out of my way to seek issues where I’m emotionally attached to my beliefs and I attempt to compensate for biases whenever possible. If you’re not doing those things, I don’t see how it’s possible to get closer to the truth.

    I have not read Polanyi or Polkinghorn, but I’ll give them a look. Looking at wikipedia, Polanyi’s Life’s Irreducible Structure would seem like a good place to start, and it’s online. (I love the internet!)

    I try not to waste too much time with cranks and I’ve observed that most conservative-religious writers writing on religious subjects (as opposed to unrelated subjects) are cranks, so I tend to stay away. However, if there is a good indication that they have something worth saying, I’m happy to listen. I read plenty of liberal-religious writers and have long discussions with those I know in person, and while their work in my opinion often suffers from an unwillingness to be completely honest*, I can often pull something useful from them. And I make sure to read people with extremely different perspectives, like you or a Steve Sailer or an Andrew Sullivan (on some issues) and follow up with their sources if possible.

    Anyway, my point to you wasn’t even this deep. It’s just like, click one more link. Don’t stop at the propaganda. It’s okay to start there — blogs are great for pointers to primary sources — but go to the sources. This isn’t the first or the worst example of you linking to a blog post which misrepresents its own source. On climate science in particular, I’d recommend something like RealClimate over “Planet Gore.” I mean, seriously: Planet Gore?? How juvenile. I sometimes think they really do disbelieve in GW solely because of Al Gore’s advocacy.

    You also seem to gravitate towards writers and thinkers who start from assumptions and reason their way to somewhere they’d like to be, rather than people who start with data and try to figure out what they say about reality. I think that’s an easy way to deceive yourself.

    * I.e. they obviously don’t really believe in God, but claim to, by redefining God as community or love or the universe, or by saying well nobody can know for sure, etc.

  38. JA

    I try not to waste too much time with cranks and I’ve observed that most conservative-religious writers writing on religious subjects (as opposed to unrelated subjects) are cranks, so I tend to stay away.

    Mark

    So what sorts of things do you read that challenge your assumptions? Have you read Polanyi? Is he on the list? Polkinghorn?

    I think these two quotes are interesting and should give both sides a lot to consider. Cranks are preaching to choir! They get applause from fellow believers for making them more comfortable (“hey, yet someone else agrees with me!”) but they do a disservice to their side. When a skeptic approaches and finds cranks he begins to suspect the whole school is nothing more than a con. People have a duty to develop their arguments well. The person reading them might be a skeptic to your way of thinking looking to see if the other side has any valid points worth listening too.

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