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    Fundamentalist Physicists and Religious Atheists

    Okay, I’ve had enough.

    I’m all for a good argument. And good is the operative word in that sentence. And by “good” I mean a conversation where the two parties are not merely harping on their particular point of view, but where each party has the skill to highlight the underlying beliefs as well as the errors in reasoning of the other party, and where each party has the willingness, ability and, again, skill, to recognize when a hole has been poked in the fabric of their own position.

    I remember an argument with a potential business partner over a pricing strategy… suddenly, he went from defending his position and lept into self-righteous indignation. “Who do you think you are to accuse me? Do you know what I’ve done with other companies?”

    “Well,” I replied, “regardless of what you’ve done, I know that self-righteous indignation is usually the last resort of someone who is guilty.”

    There was a long pause, then he laughed, “Nobody has ever accused me of being self-righteously indignant before.”

    “Was I right?”

    “I hate to admit it, but, yes. I haven’t actually done the research on this and am not sure what would work,” he replied.

    I left the call, optimistic that this newfound honesty would be the foundation of a great business relationship.

    To cut to the chase: another incident revealed that I was dealing with a pathological liar.

    But back to good and bad arguments.

    Lately, there have been quite a few arguments between religious and non-religious parties.

    The two favorites are: atheism vs. theism (or, sometimes, deism) and evolution vs. creationism (or it’s identical twin, intelligent design… BTW, there’s no grammatically correct way to insert the proper number of quotes to highlight the absurdity of those two words used together: “intelligent design,” “intelligent” design, intelligent “design,” “”intelligent” design,” “intelligent “design,”” or “”intelligent” “design””, none of them quite work… anyway…).

    And there’s one particular style of bad argument that I’ve just had enough of, that makes me as nutty as people saying “very unique” (it’s either unique — one of a kind — or not. It can’t be VERY one-of-a-kind), or making a declarative statement sound like a question by raising the tone of voice at the end (so, “It’s two o’clock” sounds like “It’s two o’clock?” Well, IS IT OR ISN’T IT? Are you ASKING ME or TELLING ME?!), or confusing a thought with a feeling (“I’m feeling like you’re not in touch with your feelings” … translation: Based on a theory I have about awareness of what I’ll call “feelings” and based on a self-diagnosed ability to know what another person is and should be feeling and how they would then react to those feelings, I have come to the conclusion — that is, I THINK — that you’re not “in touch with your feelings” which, by the way, I think will cause me imagined problems in the future and, rather than attend to my own discomfort over this presumed state of affairs, I’ll state my case in such a way that you understand, without me having to explicitly tell you, that I believe — that is, I THINK — there is something wrong with you and that you should change and that, if you did, my life would be better”).

    The bad argument technique in question — did you remember that’s what we were talking about after that “feelings” tirade? — is misappropriating a word from the language of one position and using it, inaccurately, inappropriately, and mistakenly, to criticize the other position.

    For example: Atheists are religious about their atheism. Or, physicists are fundamentalists when it comes to their beliefs. Evolutionists are dogmatic about Darwinism.

    Okay, once and for all. NO THEY ARE NOT.

    The people who accuse, say, atheists for being “religious,” are just re-translating “religious” to mean “passionate” or “committed” or “steadfast in opinion.” But “RELIGIOUS” is an adjective that can only apply to actual beliefs in supernatural theories of the creation and functioning of the universe.

    Same thing with “fundamentalist.” Rather than the standard meaning — “one who believes in the infallibility of the Bible” — it’s twisted in a way that would make Roget spin in his grave to mean “holding strongly to an idea.”

    “Dogmatic” is morphed from “pertaining to dogma” to “arrogantly opinionated.”

    Now, you may have noticed that the only people who call atheists religious are those who believe in their own religion. Those who call physicists fundamentalists also hold steadfastly to their own spiritual notions. Those who say Darwinists are dogmatic are, you guessed it, strong believers in a description of how things work which comes from religious texts.

    While it may sound like an intelligent criticism to call a physicist a fundamentalist, it’s just a collegiate level version of the childhood taunt, “I know you are, but what am I?” Or, “I’m rubber and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!”

    It’s not a real criticism, it’s not a real argument, it’s just a “thought stopper.” It’s a tactic used to end an argument rather than risk having your own position examined (and, possibly, found lacking in merit).

    It may not be lost on you that these faux-attacks are only dished out when the horrible atheists, physicists, scientists, Darwinists or any other -ists are arguing an opposing point.

    That is, you never hear a creationist screaming about “That mathematician is fundamentalist about his belief that 2+2 = 4 and refuses to consider that 2+2 might equal aardvark!” or “That physicist is so religious in his belief in gravity, he actually lets his cup of tea rest on the table rather than strap it down, just in case!” or “Those round-earth people are so dogmatic about the spherical nature of our planet, that they’ve destroyed all the dodecahedron molds that more open-minded globe makers have proposed!”

    And this is too bad, because the argument that 2+2=aardvark is actually WAY more interesting.

    48 Responses to “Fundamentalist Physicists and Religious Atheists”

    1. C. David Parsons Says:


      The reason is elementary: the Discovery Institute and other ID proponents leave out the Triune God, Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Hence, Richard Dawkins can make the case for “aliens” seeding the earth.

      There is a better, far superior way.

      The Quest for Right, a series of 7 textbooks created for the public schools, represents the ultimate marriage between an in-depth knowledge of biblical phenomena and natural and physical sciences. The several volumes have accomplished that which, heretofore, was deemed impossible: to level the playing field between those who desire a return to physical science in the classroom and those who embrace the theory of evolution. The Quest for Right turns the tide by providing an authoritative and enlightening scientific explanation of natural phenomena which will ultimately dethrone the unprofitable Darwinian view.

      A review:

      “I am amazed at the breadth of the investigation – scientific history, biblical studies, geology, biology, geography, astronomy, chemistry, paleontology, and so forth – and find the style of writing to be quite lucid and aimed clearly at a general, lay audience.” ― Mark Roberts, former Editor of Biblical Reference Books, Thomas Nelson Publishers.


      The Quest for Right represents the ultimate marriage between an in-depth knowledge of biblical phenomena and natural and physical sciences. The several volumes have accomplished that which, heretofore, was deemed impossible: to level the playing field between those who desire a return to physical science in the classroom and those who embrace the theory of evolution. The Quest for Right turns the tide by providing an authoritative and enlightening scientific explanation of natural phenomena which will ultimately dethrone the unprofitable Darwinian view.

    2. island Says:

      You’re right, I’d call physicists, “dogmatic”. – Brandon Carter

      Neodarwinians, ideologically warped “bullies”. – Lynn Margulis

      And atheists… depends on how fanatical they are about fighting their culture war, because I am one.

    3. SoD Says:

      A Thing that has not yet been disproved … can hold it’s reasonable assumption that it do exist; And as long as a Thing remain unproven, it can maintain it’s greatest possibility of being so. Indeed in this world, Intelligent Design has faltered, but because the beautiful and shinning crystal glass was shattered when it fell to the floor, doesn’t mean it’s Superior Design didn’t exist before it’s fragments were disarranged.

      Here are 2 given statements of information on this inquisitive concern;
      1… How would an Individual Envision Their inner Mind Soul …

      Most people asked this question … would be lost for and answer … many would finally say after much thought …. ‘like a ghost’ … some would probably say there is no such thing …

      Concerning this question …. it has been given me to tell the people associated with this one tiny rock orbiting within this one specific galaxy … ‘We’ of an Intelligent Mind Soul, are Beings of a Complex ‘Designed Circuitry of Intelligent Energy’ …. no larger than the palm of an adult hand, and thinner than a sheet of paper …. A living web-like fiber of translucent energy … It is this complex Circuitry of Energy which in takes and process thoughts in many ways similar to a computer chip, but an organic Plasma Chip …

      Most people of this planet are celestials fallen from place rather they remember this or not … but there are the few who were nurtured by celestial during their course of a Neanderthal Evolution ….

      The mystery to a celestial Mind Cell, is that work which the Master Creator in Her greatness had first designed, then spun the Mind Cell into existence ….

      There in a translucent Field of High Frequency Energy … the Mind Soul first appears wrapped in a woven cocoon as the finest work of silk … such works would resemble the spinning of white cotton candy as the spinning silk-like candy then appears on it’s paper stick.

      In time …. Mystic Cocoons are delivered of a specific generation count, into a different specific Fields of Plasma Energy which is sustained of a frequency acceleration similar to the process known as cold fusion … these such First Fields of Plasma Energy could be seen as free floating balls of sparkling Energy … some larger than four of earth’s suns combined in one mass ….. Then in time some were as small as a jack ball ….

      First in Creation there are the Mystic accelerated Fields of Plasma Energy generating shades of a Black-like Neon Light which generates shades of a royal blue aura … then there are Fields of Plasma Energy generating shades of a near Blacken Red Neon Light which generates shades of an apple red aura … then there are Fields generating shades of a Blacken Green Neon Light which generates shades of an apple green aura … and finally there are Fields generating degrees of a Mystic intensified neon White Light which generates degrees of an alluring white aura …

      Later in time …these such Fields of Plasma Energy which were contained in a mirrored glass sphere similar in size to Earth’s moon …. have often been referred to as the Bosom of GOD … one such field of accelerated energy has also been referred to as Abraham’s Bosom …

      Once Mind Cells emerged from their Silk Woven Cocoon, in Chambers of their God Head … each then appears engulfed with an accumulated quantity of inert energy referred to as a Soul … in this manner each Mind Soul have developed of a shape shifting Ghost-like appearance …. each yielding that same Mystic Pigmentation of their God Head‘s Field of accelerated Plasma Energy …. Such a Pigmented ‘Ghost of a Soul’, is that which engulfs the Mind Cell at all times …. It is this Ghost of an energy state, when it become quickened, is also referred to as a Spirit …. For the Spirit is but an accelerated state of any energy:

      In time …. many Mind Souls began to possess or incarnate of many different designs of physical forms …. All developed physical forms followed pigmentation of their Plasma kind ….

      But much has changed in the character of a Mind Cell’s ‘Ghost like Energy’ since the falling from place … and since many eons of reincarnations ….

      2 … How do a Believer Envision GOD …

      Most every one asked, envision God as a Being of light or lightening, or energy … and each would be partially right … it has been given me to tell the people this… the Master Creator is far more than any humanity has imagined

      The Master Creator is ‘One’ who’s Massive Intelligence of a Complex Circuitry of ‘Charged Plasma Energy’ is Adorned in the immeasurable Gown of Inert and Shiny Blackness of Dark Matter … a Being of the greatest intelligence known and unknown …. One who did create and do hold firm the very Designed Foundation of all Worlds created … that same One who sit in Highest position of all Her Creations of 9 Universal Planes, and who in doing so established 4 Inner Dimensional Levels there in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th, Universal Planes and 3 Inner Dimensional Levels there in the and 8th Universal Plane; as Earth now sets in open view here in the 7th Universal Plane of endless darkness. All Planes and their Inner Dimensional levels are held in placed by the stabilizing accomplishments of Quantum Frequencies.

      Of such A Creator is said; if Her Shiny Gown of Dark Matter was to transform into a Voltage Being of Lightening, and were to step down from Her hidden Place there in the First Dimensional Level of the First Universal Plane; and were to take journey through our known universe of expanded darkness. Her appearance would stand as a Five Figurative Form of Blue Lightening. Taller than any known Nebula. And that spiraling galaxies would be as tiny lily pads coupling each Her every gigantic Footsteps; and that each lily pad of a galaxy, would buckle to fall in scattered debris at Her passing.

      I’m just an Old Soul passing through, given something important to say …

    4. island Says:

      Whoa!… I would have kept my fingers quiet had I known that I was going to be surrounded by cranks.

    5. sashen Says:

      Island, your post is an island in a sea of beliefs.

    6. Ron Grubaugh Says:

      It seems you have pushed a button Steve.

    7. Stacy Clark Says:

      The blog is excellent.

      There were places where I had the thought, “How many people do I know who would read, understand or care about this?” Frankly, those are some of the people I would prefer to continue spending time with.

      Thank you, Steven.


    8. island Says:

      “It seems you have pushed a button Steve.”

      Not “a” button. It is “THE” button that activates the culture war.

    9. sashen Says:

      And the joke is that I’m not talking about the hot button issues!

      This post is, really, about semantics and rhetoric!

    10. Ron Grubaugh Says:

      I have no trouble with your position regarding ‘fundamentalism,’ and I’ll concede the point on ‘religion’ (my dictionary calls “system of beliefs” a “loose” usage), but I must take issue with the constraint that you want to put on ‘dogmatism.’ You may want to look it up again. How shall we refer to their behavior when athiests or physicists or evolutionists or academicians are…well, uh…dogmatic? Notwithstanding, given the usage you are concerned about it is undeniably absurd for a group of people who are intentionally and explicitely dogmatic to criticise people who might be dogmatic as a function of contingent human nature, even more absurd if ‘dogmatism’ is thought to refer to any strongly held position and utterly preposterous if they think that they can level the playing field by calling their opponent “dogmatic.” Stick and stones…

    11. sashen Says:

      Hi Ron,

      I’ll take 2 out of 3.


      And having the pot call make a cell phone call to the kettle to inform it of its color is not a way of leveling the playing field, but it is a way of ending all possibility of useful discussion and protecting one’s self-image (not unlike the righteous feeling one gets when the touch football game is going badly, so you storm off the field with the ball).

    12. island Says:

      “And the joke is that I’m not talking about the hot button issues!”

      That’s no joke. This place would likely be crawling with neodarwinians and creationists throwing semantics and rhetoric at each other if you had actually taken a stand. THEN… you would be both, on topic AND on point… 😉

      “This post is, really, about semantics and rhetoric!”

      I just came to learn about yogi… 😉

    13. circa1954 Says:

      Loved your post.

      Loved the responses even more because they made me laugh!

      Just goes to show you how eager people are to jump on what “seems” like an attack of their “views.” I have often been at the receiving end of wrongful verbal abuse because he/she didn’t comprehend, or wrongly interpreted my statement. Nice to know I’m not alone.

    14. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      Just a few thoughts:

      2 + 2 = 4 is a belief statement.
      What is worse than self-righteous indignation? Ahhh, self-righteous ridicule?
      How do you “feel” about “ignorant chaos”?

      In the love of Christ,


    15. sashen Says:

      Mel, Mel, Mel, Mel, Mel…

      Putting QED at the end of a series of mathematical statements does not, in fact, demonstrate a proof.

      Similarly, while what you’ve written *sounds* like an argument, it’s not.

      2+2=4 has no belief anywhere in it. There are representational agreements in the equation, e.g. a curvy-looking squiggle will be used to represent a set of 2 items. And there are observational conclusions, e.g. combining 2 sets of 2 items results in 1 set of 4 items.

      But there’s nothing in that simple equation that is beyond observation + representative notation. There is nothing that, given a agreed upon set of rules of representation, everyone would not agree to.

      Oh, let’s not leave out that, African Gray parrots have demonstrated that they have a concept for 2+2 equaling 4. (Google it and enjoy)

      Now, as to your other “points,” thank you for demonstrating exactly what this post was about.

      You make an ad-hominem attack by accusing me of “self-righteous ridicule” and of engaging in “ignorant chaos.” This technique is merely designed to end the argument, to stop all meaningful thinking, by diverting the direction of the discussion to meaningless and arbitrary personal defense.

      If I take on your point and defend myself, I’ve left the conversation. And if I ignore them, then I’ve “proven” that your assessment is accurate.

      In fact, even my discussing the nature of your debating style will probably be taken as proof that I am what you think, rather than as an opportunity to back up a giant step and address the actual premise of the post.

      Or, maybe I’m wrong 😉

    16. sashen Says:

      Oh, actually, I *was* wrong… ish.

      Those were not ad-hominem attacks, but they were divergent and, perhaps, non-sequiturs (note to self: don’t blog when falling asleep or just waking up)

    17. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      I had an African Gray parrot once. I allowed it to arrange my whole portfolio; big mistake. My point about arithmetic was that its basic properties are axiomatic (taken without proof). Some would classify the acceptance without proof as “faith”. Some would classify reliance on faith as mere belief. I was just having some fun. Sorry if I got us off on the wrong wing.

      My point with respect to “ignorant chaos” was that I agree; “intelligent design” is an awful and uninspiring synonym for Creationism. Just so you know; I am a creationist.

      Now I could tell you were making fun in the opening post; but, I was not sure for whom the lampoon was meant. I am a little slow sometimes. Only if you set yourself apart from the makers of these mistakes should I have rendered the third assertion.

      In the love of Christ,


    18. sashen Says:

      No harm, no foul.

      But, basic math isn’t axiomatic; it’s a notation for observable physical facts. That’s why you can teach it by taking 2 cookies, adding 2 more cookies and revealing that you now have 0 cookies… since everyone knows you can’t add cookies, but only eat them.

      Joking aside, you teach math not with any belief. You teach math by explaining the linguistic and symbolic “shorthand”… e.g. “putting some of something with more of something and counting how much you now have” is called “addition” and rather than using that unwieldy sentence, above, you can use thy symbol “+”

      Yes, ID is an awful and uninspiring synonym… I would contend, though, that “creationism” is also an awful and uninspiring replacement (not a synonym) for something mysterious, amazing, awe-some and, probably, beyond comprehension by a human mind.

    19. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      When I teach math, and I do (arithmetic to the calculus), my hope is that I do more than explain the shorthand. Further, it is in the counting that the abstract barges into the world of “physical fact” never again to be expelled. Rather, the abstract is relied upon to navigate this sea of observation.

      Agreed, Creation is far beyond comprehension by a human mind. And, if you have a better term, then let me be the first to accept it. But, I would, at the risk of sounding the fanatic, assert that the fact the universe was intentionally created by a supreme being is manifest in the consistency and mystery of its structure.

      In the love of Christ,


    20. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      “No harm, no foul!”

      I am so dense. I did not get that at first.


    21. sashen Says:


      What’s an example in math, from algebra to calculus, of something that’s not based on an observation? What’s “abstract” in the components of those two aspects of mathematics?

      As far as I can tell, the only thing even arguably abstract, in calculus but not algebra, is knowing that we can asymptotically approach an answer to, say, the area under a curve, but not necessarily get AN answer. But, again, this doesn’t mean that a derivative requires any sort of belief.

      (I’ll refrain from getting into equations related to density 😉 )

    22. Jocelyn Says:

      Ah yes, I love it when someone asks my opinion then lectures me for being wrong.

      New to the site, and I am sure I am now enlightened.


      -Jocelyn in Sedona

    23. sashen Says:

      Welcome, Jocelyn…

      The only thing I like more than the “oh, you thought I actually wanted to HEAR the answer to my question” phenomenon is the “I’m going to ask what seems to be a question, but it’s really a statement… and your answer is the test that I didn’t tell you I was administering” technique.


    24. Melvin_H_Fox Says:


      That is a fair question. One of our first investigations in my calculus class is called Bead Ball. In the experiment we take a ball of some sort and toss it high into the air. The venue is the gym foyer (clearance some 40 feet). There is a staircase leading up to a balcony that has a landing halfway up. We position two students on the balcony, two students on the landing, and one student on the ground floor. Each of these students has a stop watch. A sixth student holds the ball. On command the ball is tossed into the air and at the same moment all watches are started. As the ball moves up one of the students on the landing (predetermined) stops her watch as the ball passes her position. Later but still on the way up one of the students on the balcony stops her watch as the ball passes her position. The ball then reaches its apex and starts to fall. On the way down the other student on the balcony stops his watch as the ball passes his position. Later, the other student on the landing stops his watch as the ball passes his position. Lastly, the student on the ground stops his watch when the ball hits the ground and the experiment ends.

      You may say that whatever we do next will be “based” on our observations. I can’t argue against that yet. Please have patience as I develop the situation more completely before we decide what the maths used are based on.

      The next step is to analyze our observations. What have we observed? We observed the elapsed time between events and the vertical position of the ball relative to the ground for each recorded time. To do this we were required to apply a measure onto the dimension that is time. Where did the measure come from? It was invented. How? Someone set up a one-to-one correspondence between the periodicity of events and some sort of number line. The correspondence is the abstraction. The correspondence did not exist before it was invented in the mind. The events existed apart from the mind of the inventor (I think we agree on that). You could even argue that a number line of sorts existed (the inventor’s fingers) apart from the mind of the inventor. However, the abstraction of a correspondence was completely made up with no observation required. A correspondence can be thought of apart from any particular instances or material objects; it is abstract.

      You may say: but birds can do it and bees can do it. And it appears that they can, all be it in a limited capacity. It is also possible it is done for them by God. I do not think it is done for us by God.

      I pause now to allow you to chime in if will and interest persist along these lines.

      In the love of Christ,

    25. sashen Says:

      But, Mel, I think you just disproved your own argument.

      You started with “2=2=4 is a belief.” I countered with “math isn’t about beliefs,” so then you changed “belief” to “abstraction.” And then you suggest that measuring time is something that occurs without any link to observation… which isn’t accurate: you agree with the obvious observation that time passes, events occur, we experience things sequentially (otherwise your experiment wouldn’t work as each kid would hit the stop watch at the same moment).

      That we create a method of “measuring” time may be called an abstraction, but it does not mean that the agreement among users of this measurement is a belief. It’s a representational agreement with a specific shorthand, or notation.

      In the same way we can’t un-break a broken glass, while you can take the journey from “belief” to “abstraction,” you can’t make the journey back from “abstraction” to “belief” once you recognize that the related observation is the passage of events.

      There are places in the world that don’t use Cartesian time (but nowhere to my knowledge that claims to not experience the passage of events sequentially)… if we went to those places and met the people there and found that they measured time in, say, “purples”, and a purple of time equaled the duration between the rising of the new moon and moment when fish lay their eggs in the lagoon, we would not say that they have a BELIEF about time, we would say they’ve developed an unusual agreement for how to mark time.

      So the “abstraction” of linking the passage of time to a man-made “unit” is not an observation-free belief. It’s an agreement based specifically on observation (and, recently, on the observation of the decay of cesium atoms).

      To paraphrase an earlier point, once we agree on the terminology to be used and the observations the terminology represents, then we can get a bunch of school kids to throw balls in the air and have their parents agree to pay your salary.

      Oh, and let me check your cosmology: So “God” created and is in everything, but the arising of the idea to mark the passage of time came from us, not God? Where is the line between “God’s activity” and “ours?”

      Check and see if you can predict your next thought, to know IN ADVANCE what your next ideation will be… if you cannot, doesn’t it seem more likely that even the idea to mark time, and your EVERY thought, is “God-given?”

      (I hope it goes without saying that I’m not trying to prove the existence of an omnipotent creator being but, instead, trying to examine the arguments made with relation to the existence of one… which brings me full circle, in a way.)

    26. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      It would not be the first time I disproved my own argument but I don’t see that as happening here, yet anyway.

      I want to be clear. The correspondence is the something that may occur without any link to observation. A correspondence may be linked to observations (applied maths); but, a link is not necessary (pure maths). I was asked what is abstract in the disciplines of algebra and calculus. My answer is a correspondence.

      Now, before I address the rest of your well thought out response, I would like to know if you agree that a correspondence need not be linked to observation.

      Incidentally, I do not get paid very much (Catholic high school teacher) to have my class toss balls in the air. I did notice in a recent magazine where I make more than the average circus clown and they have to toss their own balls around. I am a silver lining kind of guy.

      In the love of Christ,

    27. sashen Says:

      Hey Mel,

      Well, part of why you may not find disproof of your argument is that you seem to be changing the argument rather than responding head-on to my counter-argument. This is a phenomenon that often happens (especially in the creationism debate). Though in this case, I’d contend, the diversions are a bit easier to see and the remedy — getting back to the original point — is also simpler.

      So, sure, you can make a correspondence/association/link between two thoughts or internal states (I can’t think of what else would be non-observable). But that’s not what we’re discussing. To branch off into that line of thinking would be to lose the object of our discussion.

      We’re specifically discussing your assertion that “2+2=4 is a belief statement.”

      My counter-assertion is that 2+2=4 is a notation for an observable phenomenon and does not require, let alone demonstrate, belief.

      The example you selected to back up your position wasn’t about mathematics (so it’s a bit of a non-sequitur), and rather than proving anything about 2+2=4 being a belief statement, demonstrated that time notations are based on observable phenomenon.

      Now, to get into math beyond calculus, it could be argued — and no doubt we would — that we’re getting closer to, if not in to, beliefs. But again, that would be a diversion from the original point about 2’s and 4’s (and anything up until calculus).

      So, perhaps you haven’t disproved your argument, but at the very least you haven’t supported it.

      BTW, I’ll try not to take out of context your statement that circus clowns “toss their own balls around,” but I can’t make any promises 😉

    28. sashen Says:

      And, p.s. thanks for continuing to dive into this with me. I have a faint hope that both the conversation *and* the conversation ABOUT the conversation will be useful in some way (or, even better, enjoyable/interesting to some people).

    29. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      I understand that I have not as of yet supported my original assertion. I am enjoying this discussion as well. If I put the whole thing on the table at once, then it would be more difficult for us to keep me from going off on tangents. I went to the trouble of explaining the Bead Ball experiment so that we would have a physical example to bounce our ideas off of. If, in the end, this example proves the demise of my original contention, then so be it.

      The need for belief starts way before we get beyond calculus. It starts in the beginning. We would like to know, more and more, about our physical surroundings. We frantically make sensory observations; as many as we can; as quickly as we can; as precisely as we can. Much is unknown. The basic constitutes, at least at present, can’t be known. What is the structure of spacetime? Is it granular or is it a continuum? If you Know, then please tell me. We do experience things sequentially but from different perspectives. Is the sequence of time the same for everyone? We have measured the rate at which time flows to be a variable.

      Why is this important to 2 + 2? I mean, what are we trying to say by the expression 2 + 2 = 4? Are we saying two objects added together with two other objects has produced a sum of four objects every single time that it has ever been attempted; and, until someone gets a different sum we will take it as absolute observed truth? How does one Know the sum will never be five? I think, from an observational standpoint, we are saying: We believe 2 + 2 = 4 now and until this accepted fact has been falsified. Popper would be content with this statement; I believe.

      Observations, while useful, can be complicated. Take the 2000 US presidential election. The statement 2 + 2 = 4 faced a big challenge here. Have you ever counted a relatively large number of objects when the exact total was important to you? Did you count it again and get a different number? Did you have someone else count it only to have them get yet a third number? Why do we not accept the validity of all three numbers? It is because we believe 2 + 2 = 4. Perhaps what has been discovered through observation is a counter example which falsifies the doctrine?

      Thankfully, after a few more counts, we settle on a number we believe represents the total. The election was different. The margin of error was larger than the margin of victory. Therefore, no observational power possessed by man could have determined the winner. But, since we believe 2 + 2 = 4, we believe there was a winner. So, what did we do? We reduced the number of votes that would be counted from millions to seven. This reduced the margin of error in counting and determined a winner. It was still very close.

      If we take 2 + 2 = 4 to imply given two real numbers on the continuum which is the real line that pair will always add to get the same sum; another number on the line, then we are really taking a leap of faith. First, you can’t observe the numbers pi or ‘e’ let alone take pi apples and add them to ‘e’ oranges and get pi + e pieces of fruit. The statement 2 + 2 = 4 is then based on a belief which is supported by observation; mostly.

      As Bead Ball is performed the students and I take for granted that spacetime is continuous. We accept without proof that the abstraction of the real line can be applied to each of our variables and thus do not question that the time it takes between hand and first watch plus the time it takes from first watch to second watch is equal to the time on the second watch. Again, this could have been that one counter example that would have falsified the doctrine. Oh well.
      It is past time to stop and let you have a go. I am sorry I have not so far address many of your good points. I hope that I have addressed some of them and that you find my missive more on task.

      In the love of Christ,

      P.S. I appreciate your restraint where the clowns are concerned.

    30. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      Sorry, there are nine members of the Supreme Court. I must have miscounted.

    31. sashen Says:

      FWIW, Mel, you seem to be making some rather Olympic-caliber contortions (though contortionism is not an Olympic event) to back up your “2+2=4 is a belief statement” statement.

      Bringing in irrational numbers is a non-sequitur.

      Suggesting that human error changes the nature of addition is inaccurate (just because complications in the process can make it difficult, does not nullify the fundamental premise of the process). And, again, it’s a straw man argument — we’re not talking about 1+1+1…=203,233,934 +/- 2%. We’re talking about 2+2=4. The margin of error has to do with skill, not the validity of the equation.

      Even with the idea that humans experience the same phenomenon differently, that doesn’t change that, given an agreed-upon notational system for counting physical objects, addition doesn’t require beliefs. That someone may have the ability, or lack thereof, to perceive objects only changes the nature of what is being observed in order to be counted, not the nature of the counting/summation process itself. The process of counting/addition remains the same, regardless of the objects or the ability to perceive them. Still, no belief is required.

      When you say “IF WE TAKE 2+2=4 to IMPLY…” you’ve once again cut off your own argument at the knees… because the entire point is that “2+2=4” requires a community AGREEMENT, but no belief.

      You could get all Quantum and suggest, “Given how objects can be coerced to be in 2 locations simultaneously, then the ‘2’ in our equation is really ‘1’ and, therefore, 2+2=2!” But that’s just changing the rules for what the notations (in this case “2”) can represent. Still no belief, just a change in the rules.

      I think Popper would disagree, actually, because we don’t BELIEVE 2+2=4, we agree upon the rules in which that equation is true. Your statement “We believe… this accepted fact.” We don’t “believe” facts. We AGREE to things being factual based on observation and testing (and these agreements can change). Beliefs on the other hand, don’t require any observable evidence and can remain intact in the face of glaring evidence to their contrary.

      Anyway, you may want to lay it all out and see if you can find a simple example that backs up “2+2=4 is a belief statement” rather than a convoluted one that doesn’t… or, maybe we’re getting asymptotically close to the end 😉

    32. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      If all you desire is my agreement that 2 + 2 = 4, then you have it. But you will not get me to accept it as true based on observation. My observations are seriously flawed. I attain to a higher Reason, the “Intellectus” which is independent of sensible experience (observation) and is capable of comprehending pure and absolute being in an act of simple intuition [“Progress and Religion”; Christopher Dawson, page 32].

      Your understanding of arithmetic is superficial computation. You can only make rudimentary use of arithmetic with this understanding. 2 + 2 = 4. Who cares if that is all we are saying. If the computation is all that is important, then let’s stop wasting all this time teaching kids how to perform it. Let’s just give them all calculators and use the time to teach them things more profound. If (+, R) is non-sequitur from 2 + 2 = 4, than 2 + 2 = 4 is less important than what happens on the soup opera “Days of Our Lives”.

      You wrote: “Suggesting that human error changes the nature of addition is inaccurate (just because complications in the process can make it difficult, does not nullify the fundamental premise of the process)”

      But, this is exactly my point. Why is it inaccurate? It is inaccurate because the nature of addition is not based on our observation. It is based on fundamental intuition. I accept it as true (believe) based on simple intuition. It is only supported by, not based on, the bulk of our observations. This support makes it applicable in the physical realm. The true contortionist is the one who takes a body of conflicting observations and then divines which of these is correct based only on the set of observations.

      And we are talking about counting. That is the fundamental intuitive building block that 2 + 2 = 4 is based on. How does a first grader come to trust the statement? He counts the objects being added. He sets up a one-to-one correspondence between his fingers and the objects. He will not accept it as true (believe) unless the process is based on his intuition (counting). Now he might agree to say it is correct and memorize a whole chart of similar statements because his teacher told him to.

      You wrote: “The margin of error has to do with skill, not the validity of the equation.”

      True. And that is why I will not base my acceptance of the equation on the skill level of the collective to observe. I accept it as true based on my fundamental intuition. If 2 + 2 = 4 is true, then it does not require a community AGREEMENT. Likewise, if rule changes are the truth, then 2 + 2 = 4 is rubbish despite any agreement of men to the contrary. Truth is not a democracy.

      So, you are telling me that you don’t accept 2 + 2 = 4 as true?

      In the love of Christ,

    33. Andi Says:


      Inspiring discussion. I stumpled over this document:
      Better Than Conscious? The Brain, the Psyche, Behavior, and Institutions:
      Maybe you’ll find this interesting.

    34. sashen Says:

      Hi Mel,

      Addition is not inaccurate. The method of accumulating the data to add can be inaccurate. That has no bearing on the validity of the process summation. Given accurate and complete data, one always arrives at the same answer. And the only way one can say there is an ERROR in addition (if it’s done correctly) is by COMPARING results to the observable data.

      In your election example, nobody came up with new results until they had RECOUNTED the data. There wasn’t someone who said, “I see that you’ve added 15,000 votes from Miami and 10,000 votes from Ft. Lauderdale and come up with 25,000 votes. But when I do that same math I get 15,000+10,000=6!”

      Your first-grader example, once again disproves your point. The initial observation is what starts the process. In fact, your example has TWO initial observations: the objects being counted and fingers being counted. There’s still no belief required. There is a *recognition* of a correlation (between the observed number of objects and fingers).

      And the correlation and the act of counting are not “intuition,” which the dictionary defines as “instinctive knowing (without the use of rational processes).” Both counting and finding correlation are clearly rational processes.

      Then you bring in “truth.” To discuss truth, rather than give an example to support your point, is actually a red herring… a diversion (and, btw, I’m not simply trying to get you to agree that 2+2=4, I’m asking you to support your initial assertion, that this equation is a belief statement).

      The REASON we can say 2+2=4 is true is ONLY because we have people who agree on what 2, +, =, and 4 represent. Given agreement on those notations and what they represent, we say the equation is “true.”

      It can’t be “true” independent of agreement on the representational notation. If you go to a country where they use a different notational system for representing two items, or for the process of summation, or for the result of that process, then they would not have a frame of reference for 2+2=4, though if you showed them the observation this notation represents, they would be able to translate this to their representational form.

      Similarly, we can’t say that it’s “true” that a white bird that is turned into nuggets IS a chicken. We can only say that a group of us agree to call it a chicken. Calling it a flank steak doesn’t change what it is, only what we call it.

      If you didn’t know that the word Jesus was pronounced “Hey-Zeus” in the Spanish-speaking world, you might come to the conclusion that Christians below the border were actually neo-Greeks. A different word does not make a different “truth” and only by observing what the word or symbol represents can you come to agreement/disagreement.

      Saying 2+2=4 is a belief does not MAKE it one unless you demonstrate it.

      Asking if I “accept 2+2=4 as true” is a non-sequitur. What I accept is the agreed upon rules for notating objects (where 2 is equivalent to two objects), and the “+” means the summation of things on either side of it, and “=” represents equivalence, and “4” represents a collection of four observable items. Once I accept those notations, my acceptance has nothing to do with the fact of the equation being based on and matching observable facts.

      And it would be more accurate to say the equation is valid than to confuse the issue with a word that has semi-religious or metaphysical overtones like “true.”

      “Truth” may not be a democracy, but the creation and use of mathematical formulas and measuring devices is… or, rather, it’s a consensus-based agreement. “2+2=4” didn’t appear out of nowhere. Each part of that equation were INVENTED and then agreed to… if you check archaeologically, you’ll find forms of mathematical notation that went out of favor.

      And, like I mention in my original post, you’ve subtly changed or avoided the meanings of words like belief and intuition, and then you introduced and argued about truth, which is besides the point.

      Perhaps it’s worth noting (to make the circle again), that if we can have THIS MUCH debate about “2+2=4 is a belief statement” (and discussion ABOUT the debate itself), then it’s no surprise that arguments using words like “religious” and “fundamentalist” can get so confused.

    35. sashen Says:


      That’s a great addition to this conversation, thanks.

      Nothing about belief… and something interesting about monkeys 😉

    36. sashen Says:

      Pardon my “Duh!” moment, but I just realized something, Mel.

      We’ve been, in part, engaged in a classic argumentative problem:

      a) You made an assertion
      b) I asked you to prove it
      c) The conversation turned to the COUNTER-ASSERTIONS (whether 2+2 does equal 4, or whether the equation as a whole is “true”), with the unspoken assumption being that if I can’t validate the counter-assertions, then the original assertion is somehow elevated, or even deemed true.

      But, from the standpoint of rhetoric, the only meaningful thing is the proof of the original assertion. Attention to the irrelevant counter-argument is a red-herring.

      I’ve tried to stick to the original, or continually return the conversation to that point, but I’ve distracted even myself at times and gone a bit astray in the counter-arguments.

      I think you’ve conflated the word “belief” with “concept,” and “true” with “valid” (again, similar to my first point about the misappropriation of words like “fundamentalism”) and, to the extent that we use the same word to mean dramatically different things, there’s no end to the “argument.”

    37. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      Red herring? Ok, but if I can’t talk about what is true then I can’t talk about a belief statement (statement accepted as true).

      You wrote: “The REASON we can say 2+2=4 is true is ONLY because we have people who agree on what 2, +, =, and 4 represent. Given agreement on those notations and what they represent, we say the equation is “true.””

      Assertion: 2 + 2 = 4 is a belief statement.

      The statement, call it S, 2 + 2 = 4 has meaning, M, as follows: It is always the case that when a set of objects (real or abstract) with cardinality two is combined (union formed) with another set of objects (real or abstract) with cardinality two, the cardinality of the resulting set will be four. Note: The term equals is an absolute condition.

      Assuming you AGREE on the meaning of the statement, you can’t accept the possibility 2 + 2 will take on any other form that is not equivalent to four. This would be a contradiction of S. Therefore, S is a statement of what you have accepted as true.

      If you do NOT agree that S means M, then form a statement – S`- that has meaning M. As with S, your statement S` is then a belief statement. In any case, you can’t make a statement with meaning M and not commit to its adherence with fact.

      In the love of Christ,

    38. Melvin_H_Fox Says:


      I found the article very interesting. And I admit it contains support for Sashen’s way of thinking. I would just point out that axiom plays its role in both of the proposed “proofs”. Obvious in the first; in the second the individual must believe that the counting routine will give an accurate result in order to accept it as the answer.

      In the love of Christ,

    39. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      I will confess to arguing against the counter assertion; mostly subconsciously but with some intent also. You are well disciplined to continue to point it out. I can tell you this is due in large part to my training; not at school but at home. My father was very intellectually and emotionally aggressive; always on the attack. I appreciate the correction. Hopefully, my previous post was more to the point.

      It is less clear to me where I have conflated definitions. I start with the foundational acceptance of a perfect state of being I will call “Is”. I understand this is not a formal definition but one can’t make a formal definition of all terms.

      True – adhering to what “Is”
      Belief – accepted as true
      Valid – logically consistent
      Contradiction – logically inconsistent
      Concept – internalization of an observation
      Observation – perception of what “Is”

      Now, if I have or if I do conflate these in any way, then you are welcome to point it out.
      You have twice hinted to an end of the discussion. It is your blog. Simply make clear to me your desire to end and I will allow you the last word.
      In the love of Christ,

    40. Andi Says:


      But, but…an individual don’t have to believe in the counting routine. It can check if it worked. My guess is, that the thing that you want to point out is a very fundamental epistemological one. Of course an individual has to ‘believe’ or ‘trust’ that perceptions and the fundamental mental processes (thinking in entities, putting ‘things’ in order) aren’t totaly misleading when it comes to making conclusions and building up an practical(!) ‘model of the world’. If we start to mistrust our basic observerations, we’ve created a huge problem: We simply can’t make any conclusions! Because how should we able to say whats true or not if we dont agree that what we ‘observe’ is ‘True’, or at least take it for that?
      Because english is not my native language it’s very hard for me to express such things ;-). But I hope you can understand what i mean.

    41. sashen Says:

      I’m off to teach for the weekend so I’m not likely to come up with a cogent reply, Mel.

      I’ll let Andi and/or anyone else take on the challenge.

      Or, we could point out that if it’s THIS HARD to come to a conclusion on “Is 2+2=4 a belief statement?” then it’s probably no shock that people have trouble with “Atheists are fundamentalist about their lack of belief!”

    42. Ron Grubaugh Says:

      I am confused. There seem to be a couple of ambiguities that make it very difficult for me to understand what is even at issue here. Mel introduced a definition of ‘belief,’ implicitly, as having to do with “taken without proof” or “reliance on faith.” Steven seemed to accept this definition and responded accordingly. The synonym section in my dictionary states, “belief, the term of broadest application in this comparison, implies mental acceptance of something as true, whether based on reasoning, prejudice, or the authority of the source.” That is what I have always understood. The discussion, if I understand it, has to do with “methodology,” how one arrives at belief. If that is truly the case, it might be better if we were explicit about the methods being discussed rather than relying upon a single word (in my view used incorrectly anyway) to carry the meat of the conversation. I wouldn’t even bring it up except that Mel has now switched definitions, explicitly this time, reverting to what I hold as the standard, “accept as true,” independent of methodological considerations. This allows him to ask the intended-to-be-embarrassing question, “So, you are telling me that you don’t accept 2 + 2 = 4 as true?” I am quite sure that Steve “believes” that 2 + 2 = 4 and that he would never say that he does not believe that 2 + 2 = 4.
      Additionally, there is a fundamental categorical division of propositions themselves that is made universally within western philosophy. I do not mean to imply that it is never challenged, but those challenges have not had much effect on the fact. I also do not mean to imply that I am particularly enamored with western philosophy. I am not. But I do happen to agree with this and I don’t want anyone thinking this is my bright idea. Valid mathematical equations along with valid logical arguments are tautologies. Such statements are “true by definition” or true by virtue of reason. They require neither faith nor empirical verification (observation). They also tell us absolutely nothing about states of affairs in the world, matters of fact. As such, the example, a simple equation, does not properly represent the kind of propositions that are contained within the discussion that is the subject of the discussion. How there come to be different species is a matter of facts of the world. Intentionally or unintentionally, Mel has stacked the deck in his favor by focusing the discussion upon an example that has nothing to do with the methodological issue that Steve is concerned about.
      Perhaps some further examples may be helpful. It is absolutely true (I’m only saying that to tease any relativists that may be “observing”), absolutely true that if pigs have wings, and all winged creatures fly, then pigs fly. The fact that both premises and the conclusion are false does not prevent the statement from being true, as the statement only expresses a logical relationship. Likewise, if pigs have wings, and winged creatures never fly, then pigs do not fly. Here not only is the statement true but, inadvertently, so is the conclusion, in spite of the premises being false. This is why tautologies tell us nothing about the world. Do you insist that ‘2 + 2 = 4’ tells us something about the world? It does so only because we already know it. Knowing that ‘4’ means exactly the same thing as (“=”) ‘2 + 2’ we don’t have to count two sets of things all over again. That comes in very handy when the numbers are much larger. But that usefulness does not prevent the conclusion from being utterly false. Assuming that I have two horns and Steven has two horns then between us we have four horns. You’ve just observed this “eternal verity” producing a false conclusion. That makes it false, right? Premises, what premises?
      Of course, having the conversation make sense to me is not a necessity. I hope the above is helpful in some way. Now I’m going to enter this discussion of a discussion (as opposed to discussing the discussion of a discussion). I do not think that Mel escapes the necessity of observation regarding matters of fact that Steve is concerned about, even within his own (Mel’s) beliefs. It is possible that he has a purely rational reason for believing in a sentient creator and a conception of the properties of that Creator which directly contradicts any possible theory of evolution (including a divinely guided evolution), but I do not think that is the case. I’m not even sure that it is possible. It is more likely the case that he believes that God (whatever the basis of that belief) has chosen to give him (Mel) certain information (about how species came about) through a series of agents such as the authors of the bible, preachers, teachers, churches, whatever. That is for Mel to say not me. Another way of saying this is that he has accepted this information and chosen to believe it based upon an authority that he trusts to deliver communication from God and then, in turn, upon the authority of God. But how does God know this? I assume that, having been the one to create these life forms, God was in a very good position to OBSERVE what happened. You know, been there, done that! I suppose someone might claim that God is so powerful he did not need to watch what he was doing. Although that might explain a lot of things, it would require the postulation of some additional capacity. Although I am sure that God suffers from no shortage of capacities, it would be rather convoluted and inefficient to invent some alternative to awareness when awareness was already working so well. Since it would have to serve the same function as awareness it would be indistinguishable for our purposes. My points are:

      All knowledge of the facts of the world depends upon observation.

      The assumption that observation has taken place is present in everyone’s version of things, although you may have to look for it. They may not even realize it’s there.

      We can and must depend upon observations that others have made, which means taking something upon their authority.

      Faith is not just randomly believing in things without cause (it is odd that Mel would be the one to implicitly suggest that it is) but is a relationship with an authority.

      That does not prevent faith from being a mistake.

    43. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      Thank you for pointing out a source of confusion. And, I admit the fault is partly mine.

      F.Y.I. I asked several of my students: Do you believe 2 + 2 = 4? Most of them said they did and it was because of a “fundamental” about numbers. A few of them said they did not believe it. I asked the ones who did not believe it: Do you agree with it? They said; “yea, I am forced to.”

      I accept 2 + 2 = 4 as true. I accept that it is in adherence to what “Is” based on intuition (the existence of the abstract correspondence) and not on my ability to perform the correct mapping (observation). This belief is supported by the bulk of observations made by collective humanity and a few birds, monkeys, and bees. However, some of the observations made contradict the statement. If my belief was based on observation, then I would be forced to reject the statement because it is not always true for every observation. You can’t base (base – a thing from which a start is made) your reasoning on an unreliable foundation. If all knowledge of facts (facts – individual manifestations of what “Is”) depends upon observations, then we can’t have a clear and certain perception (knowledge) of what “Is”.

      I would agree that observations shape everyone’s versions of things. I would also agree that many people base their beliefs on observations. Those persons would then, in all honesty, admit they do not believe 2 + 2 = 4; but rather, they agree with it.

      Does this clear up my position?

      In the love of Christ,

    44. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      You are correct. A person does not have to believe in the counting routine to use it. Again, I would classify them in the camp of those who merely agree with it. These people do not have a clear and certain understanding of what “Is”. They have an understanding tossed in the wind. They have an understanding based on observation. They have an understanding full of contradiction.

      You wrote: “If we start to mistrust our basic observations, we’ve created a huge problem: We simply can’t make any conclusions! Because how should we able to say what is true or not if we don’t agree that what we ‘observe’ is ‘True’, or at least take it for that?”

      Of course I disagree. We MUST, to a degree, mistrust our observations. It is when we place too much trust in them that we create a huge problem. Why would you trust something completely that you knew for certain was in error? No, the only way we can make conclusions about what is True is to accept the revelation of God through intuition.

      In the love of Christ,

    45. Ron Grubaugh Says:

      I hope you don’t wait for a revelation from God in order to find the men’s room.

    46. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      No, I do not. I don’t analyze the situation either.

      F.Y.I. – Many women in labor, mostly first time pregnancies, are convinced they have to defecate. They do so even as the nurses explain, very compassionately, that it is just the baby coming. “But it feels like I have to take a crap!” they protest and insist on a trip to the toilet; so much for basing things on observation.

      In the love of Christ,

    47. Andi Says:


      I realy come to think that we mean different things when we use the word or concept of ‘Truth’. To me this seems to be more an ‘Absolute Truth’ vs, let me call it, ‘Practial Truth’ discussion. Of course we have learned to label things (assosiate words, thoughts, emotions with it), think and even experience in a particular way. And to question this ‘cultural impacts’ can lead to some great insights…..or sometimes to great confusion ;-).
      But, you see, scientists are much more pracmatic. As far as I can see it, they use ‘Truth’ in another way, in a more conceptional sense. They want to build practical, ‘as simple as possible’, ‘thinkable’, falsifiable models, from which conclusions can be made. And of course this models should not be in conflict with observations and measurements. And bringing in some ‘undefined entity’ is not helpful at all. I can’t see where they want someone insult with something like ‘absolute truth’ (whatever this may be) anyway.

    48. Melvin_H_Fox Says:

      I understand that to the scientist “truth” is a statistical guess at what “Is”. The mean of observations(regression curve), first taken as a model for reality, becomes the practical reality. I agree this can be useful but it can also become a false reality as it has in the case of evolutionary theory.

      In the love of Christ,





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