“I Don’t Know” is a Real Answer

One thing that often crops up with Creationists talking about the Big Bang is the straw man that atheism requires a belief that “something came from nothing.” I’m not a cosmologist. I’m not an astrophysicist. I am merely an interested layman who tries to pay attention to what the scientists are speculating about the origin of the universe as we know it. Where did the universe come from? What caused the Big Bang? My honest answer is “I don’t know.”

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The Outsider Test of Faith

John Loftus, one of the bloggers I started following in recent months is thinking about quitting or semi-quitting, handing the Debunking Christianity blog over to other writers, maybe dropping in for the occasional post. I’m familiar with this sort of “skeptical burnout,” so I understand the frustration. Writing as a skeptic is often a thankless job, and when we do end up having a result, it’s probably more often in the form of planting the seed of doubt, rather than an abrupt deconversion. I hope to keep fighting the good intellectual fight, but there’s nothing wrong with a skeptic who wants to move on with his life.

I can especially understand John Loftus wanting to move on from his criticism of Christianity. He was once educated to be an apologist before becoming an atheist, which means he wasted a lot of his life on Christianity on one level, and emotionally speaking, it can feel like dwelling on the past. On another level, it does help him to quickly and more thoroughly refute the apologia he once used and educate new skeptics about lesser known arguments. Whatever he decides to do with his life, I wish him luck.

In the mean time, I’m going to pay a little tribute to one of his favorite topics, the Outsider Test of Faith.

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Quotes of the Time Being: Exceptionalism

From a post at Debunking Christianity:


Plantinga’s “exclusivism” might better be called religious exceptionalism — the silly idea that, of the class of abstractions purporting to describe reality, the ones described as “religious” should be exempted from common standards of evidence and consistency.

What Plantinga calls “withholding belief” is better known as “admitting ignorance,” and it’s the beginning of knowledge, not the end of it.

But what annoys me most about this kind of philosophical apologetics is the transparent effort to to fix one variable (the truth of Christianity) while bending every other concern (consistency, logic) to fit.  Sure, you can put together a jigsaw puzzle by whittling the pieces until they go where you want them to.  But the result isn’t pretty, and it doesn’t make much sense.

Followed by cipher:

“You pays your money and you takes your choice, realizing that you, like anyone else, can be desperately wrong.”

And it would never, ever occur to him that it is unreasonable and lacking in compassion for his Invisible Friend to place us in such a position in the first place – especially as the stakes are supposedly so high.

Doggerel #6: “Impossible”

Welcome back to “Doggerel,” where I discuss words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

To me, “impossible” isn’t really a word for skeptics, despite what you may have heard. It’s only really supposed to be used for some relatively narrow circumstances. Even when it’s used, there’s typically an understanding that it’s conditional or just very unlikely. Let’s look at those extremes:

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One issue that’s been bothering me for a long time is the use of torture. It disturbs me that it’s an issue at all. Not only is it obviously evil, it’s worthless.

There’s one popular scenario a lot of pro-torture people will bring up, often called the Ticking Time Bomb scenario: There’s a bomb about to go off, you have a suspect in custody, and allegedly the only way to stop the bomb is to torture the suspect for information. It’s never as simple as they think it is.

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Quote of the Time Being: Politeness

Provided by Perry Bulwar:

An obsession with polite or correct public language is a sign that communication is in decline. It means that the process and exercise of power have replaced debate as a public value.

The citizen’s job is to be rude — to pierce the comfort of professional intercourse by boorish expressions of DOUBT. Politics, philosophy, writing, the arts — none of these, and certainly not science and economics, can serve the common weal if they are swathed in politeness. In everything which affects public affairs, breeding is for fools.

—John Ralston Saul, The Doubters Companion, p. 237