Link blog: religion, funny, science, atheism

The Punchtape Letters

"My Dear Malware,

Thank you for your latest news. I agree that your bombarding of on-line programming sites with questions about “cascading style sheets” (whatever they may be) and “rounded corners” (as if anyone cared) will irritate and annoy a certain number (possibly even a large number) of programmers, but it seems a lot of effort to go to."
(tags: funny programming computers c.s.-lewis parody screwtape c++)

Creating God in one’s own image

Research in the psychology of religion shows that people tend to think God thinks what they think: "People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want. The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God's beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing."
(tags: religion psychology science politics god morality)

Atheism: Proving The Negative: Encyclopedia Entry: Atheism

Matt McCormick's draft of an encyclopedia entry on various arguments for and against atheism.
(tags: atheism religion matt-mccormick theodicy design kalam)

In the Pipeline: Things I Won’t Work With

Derek Lowe, a medicinal chemist, has a section of his blog on the subject of really nasty chemicals. Light hearted yet terrifying.
(tags: science funny humour smell chemistry dangerous explosives)

Troy Jollimore on Karen Armstrong’s ‘The Case for God’ – Book Review

"Armstrong may perhaps make a plausible claim in asserting that faith, as understood by mainstream religious traditions before the advent of modernity, involved more than “mere” belief in the modern sense; but if the problem with religious life is that it encourages false, absurd, unjustified beliefs, showing that it does other things as well is not sufficient."
(tags: religion philosophy atheism karen-armstrong apophatic christianity)

4 thoughts on “Link blog: religion, funny, science, atheism”

  1. I don’t really see what’s either surprising (to anyone) or worrying (for theists) about the “discovery” that religious people tend to think that God thinks what they think. If God is omniscient or nearly so, then “God thinks X” is pretty much the same as “X”, which in general a person will assent to iff they assent to “I think X”. (Which, of course, is not the same as saying that they believe “X if and only if I think X” or “God thinks X if and only if I think X”.)

    So if you ask someone “What does God think about such-and-such?”, they try to work out what the correct answer is and then say that that’s God’s opinion. Or, if it happens that they already think they know God’s opinion for whatever reason, that’s how they decide what they think the correct answer is too.

    I can’t see why anyone would think there’s anything wrong with any of that.

    What would be more interesting would be research that somehow showed that when religious believers try to work out what God thinks about something, they never use any information they believe they have about what God thinks but simply decide *in just the same way as nonreligious people do* what they think the truth is and attribute it to God. That would be evidence for something like Dennett’s “belief in belief” position. But it seems to me that it would be very hard to get very good evidence for this even if it were true; and that, in fact, there are likely many religious people for whom it isn’t at all true.

    1. Well spotted. On looking at the comments in that blog post, I find David Killoren agrees with you: to get the study’s result, it’s sufficient that your subjects believe God is omniscient. Apparently the authors mention it too and attempt to show show their conclusions are still valid, but not, I think very successfully. As Killoren says, the fMRI stuff is still evidence, thought I’m not sure how reliable fMRIs are.

      Killoren also suggests a couple of other things they could try, one of which is working out whether people think all their moral beliefs are aligned with what God thinks.

  2. The odd thing about the “Things I Won’t Work With” blog is that the one that scared me most out of all of them was dimethylmercury – and yet it only got a mention in passing rather than meriting a whole post of its own!

    1. FWIW, my reaction was the same. As one commenter on the TIWWW blog said: “Things that go boom with a ball of flame are sissy stuff compared to things that destroy your brain months later.”

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