Darktremor believes...

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  • [Note: I'm tracking the changes now for my own interest]
  • Nothing at all. Believing in anything is silly and childish. Only empirical evidence and raw data should be agreed with, and only conditionally (only until better data and evidence comes along that doesn't support it). Creating theories and models is logical, but they can't be agreed with until they have made predictions.
  • My opinions, however, on hotly debated and evidence-lacking subjects (which are subject to change based upon changes in empirical evidence), are:

  • [Note: I'm going to leave my old opinions as I update, because I'm curious to see how I'll change over the years] My opinions now:
  • [Feb. 2009]:

  • It is extremely unlikely that there is a God. This concept, even in its most abstract sense, simply adds an extra step in explaining the origin of the universe.

  • There is no such thing as good and evil. Acts of so called evil are simply things that go against socially sanctioned norms and rules. What we consider deeply evil in western society, is normal and acceptable in other places, and other times, and vice versa. Even "indisputable evil" (ie genocide) is simply the result of mental processes that are hard to understand, diffusion of responsibility, having to choose between two poor outcomes, mental illness, and other such social and psychological factors.

  • There is no such thing as altruism. All acts of good are selfishly motivated in some abstract way or another (such things as "feeling good about yourself" and "liking yourself" are inherently very rewarding. If doing good caused self-hate, no one would do it).

  • An afterlife of any sort is extremely unlikely, as there is no evidence for the idea whatsoever, or anything empirical or rational to suggest that there is such a thing. Death should not, however, be feared, as if death is annihilation (which is very likely is), we won't be aware of our state of non-existence, as we won't exist.

  • Maximizing your own happiness is the purpose of life, for every person. This means both maximizing both pleasure and gratification. Not hedonism: simple pleasures do not bring sustainable happiness. Only through doing something useful and interesting on a long-term basis (aiming for goals) can we maximize our happiness, as gratification is the only completely sustainable enjoyment in life.

  • All recreational drugs should be legal and regulated. Firstly, almost all of the illicit drugs are safer than alcohol and tobacco, and the ones that are not are made far worse simply by the fact that they are illegal (higher potency forms of drugs take up less space - it happened when alcohol was illegal: moonshine is to alcohol what heroin is to opiates). Some safe, harmless drugs are even made dangerous by the mere fact that they are illegal (mainly ecstasy, which on the street often contains meth: which really is pretty dangerous). Secondly, treating addictions (which result in a very tiny minority of all users of anything) as a medical problem is far more productive towards making/keeping dependents productive members of society, more successful in preventing drug-related crimes, and exponentially cheaper (IE methadone maintenance therapy costs, on average, 330 Canadian dollars/month, incarceration costs 3600/month). With them legalized, kids could be given real information on this subject, which would prevent most of the problems that result today (IE: if you want to try ecstasy, ensure that you take these precautions. [This is done with sex in reasonable schools today]).

  • Abortion should be legal until the third trimester. While it is almost impossible to know exactly when consciousness really begins, it is almost certainly a property of the brain. Since the brain is highly immature and primarily just a ball of cells with little interaction amongst themselves until approximately this point (in other words, there isn't much of a neural network yet at this point, just cells sitting there, starting to attempt to organize themselves), it should be indisputably legal to abort up to then.

  • As all spiritual ideas are unknowable, and all unparsimonious, atheism is the only realistic "religion."

  • Atheism is not a religion, it is the absence of one (I use the word above in quotes to signify that atheism occupies the category in which one would put religion). Atheism is a religion in the same way that being healthy is a disease.

  • The theory of evolution is indisputably correct. More evidence has been found for this concept than virtually any other scientific idea.

  • All consensual sexual acts, lifestyles, and behaviours are completely acceptable. Even sex with animals (often disputed due to the question of consent) is also acceptable, since humans do far worse things to animals than have sex with them, and the trauma and pain of being a rape victim is not present with an animal as it is for a human. Plus, as unpopular as this opinion is, many animals really are willing - IE your pet dog that won't stop humping your leg. One interesting thing to note, however, is that having a sexual affair is usually not acceptable, as it is not consensual.

  • Hurting anyone intentionally, with the exception of self-defense, is something I do not condone. However, there are extreme circumstances in which it is necessary to hurt others intentionally to prevent the suffering of yourself and others close to you. IE if I had a son and he was dying, and killing a stranger and taking their organs was the only way to save his life, I would do it. Most of us would.

  • Pop culture is a marketing tool.

  • Hypnosis is probably real, it has been shown through brain imaging to be a unique state of neural activation.

  • The form of government I would most prefer is a form of socialist "talentocracy," in which all humans are born precisely equal, but gain greatness through actions. Those without great talent are still taken care of (this would involve such changes as having completely free university in which admission is based solely on grades and portfolios, affirmative action being only for the poor regardless of race or gender, very basic food, water, and shelter provided to all people, etc.).

  • Free will does not exist. All of our behaviour is simply the result of highly complex biological processes and environmental influences. There is some very nice research that suggests this (IE: move your arm. Did you know that your conscious awareness of making the decision to move your arm came after your body sent the signals out to move it? Thanks to a series of very clever neuroimaging studies, we are fairly certain that all "decisions" are made after we begin performing the behaviour. This is, of course, only one of many examples of research that suggests that there is no free will).
  • Religions are simply large corporations that exploit the infuriating unknowability of our universe. It's service is a quick, easy answer to impossible questions, and the price is money, being forced to spread the religion, and a series of behavioural restrictions.

  • Genetics and environment are entirely responsible for who we are. If a soul exists (which is an idea entirely without evidence, and therefore highly unlikely), it exists as a passive observer. Physics and chemistry do not and cannot account for any way that something besides matter and energy can physically interact with matter and energy (which our body is made of). If a "soul" were made of matter or energy, it would be easy to detect, and would certainly follow the same rules that the rest of matter and energy do, and therefore, still not give us free will (we call the "matter and energy soul" a brain, [obviously] but this doesn't give us free will - just a lot highly complex processes that make it appear as if we have free will since most of them are unconscious). Of course, none of this answers the question of consciousness, (why do we experience, when a computer - made up of the same kind of if-then statement based computation that the brain is - does not?) but mind-body dualism is probably not the answer. I don't think we'll ever know the answer. I've tried to research this, and there is no way to do so, because consciousness is a constant: there is no independent variable to manipulate when one tries to "study consciousness." All we can control is the content of consciousness, not whether it's there or not. Even if we could modify consciousness, there'd be no evidence that we did so, because "removing consciousness" would look precisely the same as "giving consciousness no content or memory" - which is very easy to do (ie sleep). Research in this field is the closest we will ever have to consciousness research, but it's still not - it's just cognitive psychology.

  • If no human is hurt by something, it should be unquestionable that it be acceptable, and should have no stigma attached to it (IE anal sex between two gay men). Note that this simple black-and-white rule is made more complex when we involve abstract entities, because this begins to involve potential hurt to others (ie harming the environment).

  • There is no universal "morality" or "ethics." When we get into ethical gray areas, there is literally no "right" answer (IE: let's say my fiancee is a donor match for 5 different dying children who neither of us know - and each match is on a different organ - so if she dies, they can live, and this is the only way the children will live. The children's mother comes to kill her and take her organs. I stop the mother, so my fiancee lives, and the children die. Was I inethical? You'd be pretty hard pressed to call me so. What about their mother? How was she being inethical?). There is no universal right or wrong in any situation that involves one person having a better outcome than another. To be less extreme, are you being inethical sitting on your computer now? You could sell it and all of your luxuries and use the money to give food to starving children in other countries. But you're not doing it. Why not? Probably because you'd be immediately less happy doing so, and any increase in happiness you got would be short-lived. Your long-term happiness would decline. The fact is, we're creatures that evolved through natural selection, in societies that developed through natural selection**, and our behaviour and feelings towards things is entirely determined by what made our ancestors more likely to survive. If you want rational ethics, look to utilitarianism, and some of the things it requires are utterly repulsive to the way we think (IE the classic: would you push a severely depressed fat man onto a train-track if would mean that the happy person on the train would live? Utilitarianism says you should - and this makes sense - but it seems horrible to us nonetheless, because of how we've evolved.)

  • Societies as they are today developed through evolutionary processes. For a nice example of this, think about common beliefs in our society. Christianity is a really good example. Why would an ancient death cult wind up being an major part of modern society? It makes more sense when you look at certain aspects of Christianity:
  • 1)"Be fruitful and multiply" - ensures that those who are part of the religion have lots of kids, who will, of course, become members of the religion, thus making the religion more likely to survive.
  • 2)Convert others - this helps the ranks of the religion grow, making it more likely to survive.
  • 3)In ancient times, it was required that Christians kill any who are not christian. This helps lower the population of other religions, which helps prevent Christians from converting to other religions, and protects them from physical violence from other religions, thus helping Christianity survive. In other words, it prevents competition, which helps it to survive.
  • 4)A nuclear family is the only acceptable family. This is logical: it is the most likely form to ensure the religion gets passed on to the next generation.
  • 5) Birth control is bad - also makes sense: it ensure more multiplication, and thus more members.
  • If we're talking about the survival of an religion, you really can't design a better one. Few other religions have such effective ideas in them to ensure their own survival - the only one I can think of that is more self-propagating is Islam (IE men owning women in polygamous marriages: this ensures loads and loads of children - all of whom will be Islamic, of course), and the only reason it hasn't taken over to the extent of Christianity is simply because it's newer.
  • The point is, every part of our society is there through natural selection, and societies themselves are subject to it as well. Got a society against sex under any circumstances? It won't be able to compete with one where sex is celebrated, and it probably won't survive. Taking it further, one where sex is celebrated won't do nearly as well as one that highly values children and is uncomfortable with birth control. Everything you were taught by society is there because it makes it more likely to survive.

  • Everything is evolution, and everything is natural selection. Subatomic particles of certain types were more likely to remain in existence (were more stable), and so these became common. Those subatomic particles that joined together into atoms were more stable (and thus more likely to survive), and thus atoms became common. A property of this bond made it such that the atoms would join together to make molecules (the same forces that made them form to begin with, actually...). Molecules that were more stable were more likely to survive, and so these remained in existence. And so on, up the line until we're at the level of cells, then multicellular organisms, then groups of these organisms. There's probably a higher level than that even that one would have to be an economist to be aware of (multisocieties of some sort, in the vein of multicellular organisms?). Everything is governed by natural selection. I'd like someone to try to give me an example of something that isn't (if anyone reads this, of course - since that isn't really the point of it).

  • I would prefer to be bisexual, although I'm straight (I attempted a few things with men, and found them very dull, nothing ecstatic like with women). If I had a biological attraction to both men and women, I would have a larger realm of possible experience open to me. While I would face some societal stigma, it's becoming fairly well-accepted in this generation, and I wouldn't have to mention it unless it came up.


  • late 2007-early 2008:
  • There is absolutely no way that humans can ever know if there is or isn't a god. It is best to live life without taking such a fact into consideration, as it is unknowable.
  • Humans are not basically evil, we are simply easily influenced. With the possible exception of sociopaths, who suffer from a mental disorder, no one wakes up in the morning and thinks "How can I do great evil today?" We simply do the best we can, but can very easily lose sight of ourselves.
  • There is no such thing as altruism. All acts of good are selfishly motivated in some abstract way or another (such things as "feeling good about yourself" and "liking yourself" are inherently very rewarding. If doing good caused self-hate, no one would do it).
  • An afterlife is an uncertainty. Life should be lived with this in consideration. Death should not, however, be feared, as if death is annihilation, we won't be aware of our state of non-existence, as we won't exist. The most plausible possibility of a true afterlife per se seems to be a form of reincarnation. This is scientifically logical, as we could simply live another life as someone else born with the same genes for a certain form of consciousness (something it seems very likely exists) that we had. We would never be aware of this, and our lives would never be connected.
  • Openness to experience is the key to life: without experiencing new things, there is no purpose to living. If each day is the same, then there is no purpose to each day: we already have the days before it that were just like it. Trying to live each day the same way is like trying to buy as many copies of a DVD as possible.
  • Human suggestibility is the source of all evil in the world. This usually manifests itself in the form of religions, corporations, and governments.
  • Marijuana, ecstasy, and the hallucinogens are needlessly illegal. These drugs are less powerful, less addictive, and have fewer side effects than alcohol and cigarettes, both of which are legal. Excepting ecstasy, they are also impossible drugs to overdose on. All three also have tangible medical uses, which are being suppressed for stupid political reasons. (Note that much of ecstasy's danger comes from the tendency for it be cut it with other things on the street, and the lack of consistent potency across pills. I don't recommend using it to anyone - unless it's legalized - and I never have myself. While street marijuana and hallucinogens have this same issue, one can't overdose on them, and they're so cheap and ubiquitous that they are rarely laced, and usually in the rare cases where they are, the mixtures are harmless - such as a bit of magic mushrooms in the marijuana. Remember, dealers don't want to kill or hurt their clients - they want repeat business.).
  • Abortion should be legal until the third trimester. While it is almost impossible to know exactly when consciousness really begins, it has been shown to do with the maturation of the brain. Since the brain is highly immature and primarily just a ball of cells with little interaction amongst themselves until approximately this point, it should be indisputably legal to abort up to then.
  • As all spiritual ideas are unknowable, agnosticism and atheism (the difference is rather semantic) are the only realistic "religions".
  • The theory of evolution is indisputably correct. More evidence has been found for this concept than virtually any other scientific idea.
  • Sex before marriage is acceptable. Sex outside a relationship when you're in one is, however, not, with certain exceptions (such as swinging and open relationships, which are mutually consensual, and certain complex situations - perhaps involving abusive relationships).
  • Hurting anyone intentionally, with the exception of self-defense, is entirely wrong.
  • Pop culture is a marketing tool.
  • Hypnosis is not real, it's simply powerful suggestion.
  • The best form of government is a form of socialist "talentocracy," in which all humans are born precisely equal, but gain greatness through actions. Those without great talent are still taken care of (this would invlove such changes as having completely free university in which admission is based solely on grades and portfolios, affirmative action being for the poor only regardless of race or gender, etc.)
  • Free will is uncertain, but also unlikely.
  • Religions exist solely as social engineering that exploits the infuriating unknowability of our universe that most humans are unable to reconcile (it provides a quick, easy answer to impossible questions). It's a very complex and powerful way to tell people what to do.
  • Genetics and environment are entirely responsible for who we are. If a soul exists, it exists as a passive observer. Physics and chemistry do not and cannot account for any way that something besides matter and energy can physically interact with matter and energy (which our body is made of). If a "soul" were made of matter or energy, it would be easy to detect, and would certainly follow the same rules that the rest of matter and energy do, and therefore, still not give us free will (we call the "matter and energy soul" a brain, [obviously] but this doesn't give free will - just unfathomably complex calculations that are so tangled that for all intents and purposes we appear to have free will - when in fact we don't). Of course, none of this answers the question of consciousness, (why do we experience, when a computer - made up of the same kind of if-then statement based computation that the brain is - does not?) but I'm not sure mind-body dualism is the answer. I don't think we'll ever know the answer. I've tried to research this, and there is no way to do so, because consciousness is a constant: there is no independent variable to manipulate when one tries to "study consciousness." All we can control is the content of consciousness, not whether it's there or not. Even if we could modify consciousness, there'd be no evidence that we did so, because "removing consciousness" would look precisely the same as "giving consciousness no content or memory" - which is very easy to do (sleep research, disassociative anaesthetic drugs). Research in this field is the closest we will ever have to consciousness research, but it's still not - it's just cognitive psychology.


  • Mid-childhood (like 9-ish):
  • There is a god, and we have to what he tells us to do.
  • If we're good, we go to heaven, and if we're bad, we go to hell.
  • All people in jail are in jail because they're bad guys and we need to protect the good guys from them. Sometimes good guys go to jail by accident, but most of them are bad guys.
  • People who do any drugs are stupid and bad and all of them end up on the street or die, and they deserve it because they chose to do drugs. Even marijuana is really bad, even though it's not as bad as the others.
  • Alcohol is fun and OK, and there's nothing really bad about it.
  • People get what they deserve. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, but they'll go to heaven anyway, so it's still fair.
  • Some countries are full of mostly bad guys, and countries full of mostly good guys (like Canada and the US) should attack them because they're bad guys.
  • Men should be manly, and girls should be girly. It's just wrong to be girly if you're a boy.
  • Gay people should be allowed to be gay. Being gay doesn't make you a bad guy, but gay people are sort of losers. If I was gay it'd be really bad.
  • Death penalty is OK, because they only kill really really bad guys, and they deserve it, and they'll kill good guys if we don't kill them, plus it makes some bad guys not be bad guys because they don't want to get killed.
  • Racism is bad.
  • Good guys don't always necessarily go to church, but more people at church are good guys than other places. Sometimes bad guys go to church to make the good guys think that they're not bad guys, but this is really rare, and most people at church are good guys. Not all good guys go to church, but definitely way more of them do than bad guys, and the good guys that don't go to church think the same things they tell you at church anyway, and are basically christians too.
  • Other churches aren't as good as christianity, and I was pretty lucky to be born christian. People in other churches don't go to hell for being in other churches though, it's only people are bad they go to hell.
  • God made the big bang happen, and made evolution happen too.
  • Science and engineering and math is what really smart people do, and that's why it's almost always right (damn lucky I had this one, IMO - not that I think this is necessarily true, but it certainly paved the way to better things). Sometimes smart people write books too.
  • Anybody can do anything if they try.
  • If you make good choices and work hard, you'll almost always have a good life, unless you get cancer or something.
  • You shouldn't do anything that has to do with Satan because bad stuff might happen.
  • There are as many religions in the world as there are people.
  • I'm smarter than most people around, but I can't get along with people because I have no social skills. But that doesn't matter very much because people only care if you're smart when you're older.
  • If my mommy or daddy said it, it's true.
  • People who listen to weird music are freaks and you should only listen to rock if you're a boy, and pop if you're a girl. If you're a grown-up you have to listen to oldies, and if you're an old person you have to listen to classical.
  • Watching movies without lots of blowing stuff is for girls.
Cloned From: 

In reference to "humans are not basically evil...."

Where does the line between being a sociopath and being a 'normal' person begin and end? I believe it IS possible to be intentionally evil and if all of up tried to be at our best, the world would not be suffering under the extreme apathy it is. Since it is, some of us are being intentionally evil. There are many ways to do that and much of it is done on the border of being aware of it. The easiest way to be 'evil' would be to underperform. That would consequently damage the entire machinery of the society. Underperformers frequently are aware of their actions and their consequences, but do NOT change their ways. Is that not being intentionally 'evil'?
Also I don't see how 'human suggestibility' is the source of all evil. What does it mean?

Human suggestibility as the source of all evil:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment
Also see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion

The line between being a sociopath and being normal is orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala malformation and disfunction, versus normal brain development:
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0902/is_6_29/ai_80897774

And lazy people aren't maliciously trying to hurt anybody, they're just unmotivated. That simply means that their bodies have abnormally low norepinephrine production, among other things. To feel this effect personally, drink a pile of coffee, then work. When the coffee wears off after 6-7 hours, you'll know what it feels like to be an unmotivated person. What do you mean by "under-performing" anyway? I work 90 hours a week between running my business and university, and I'm officially "underperforming" because my job bookings are 5% lower than they should be at for this time of year. Does that make me evil? I really don't know what you mean.

My definition of evil is maliciously and non-consentually hurting others and deriving pleasure from the act, without suffering from a mental disorder. Or knowingly hurting others for personal gain. So really, there's no such thing as evil, since the above acts fall under the diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder in the DSM-IV.

Plus, most acts of senseless "evil" are done in the name of religion or by sociopaths. Name 10 historical atrocities. You'll be hard-pressed to find one that isn't either religious or idealogical (but especially religious) in nature or executed by a sociopath. (Nazi-ism, Pot Pot's Cambodian exterminations, the Spanish Inquisition, 9/11, for example). I don't think you'll find one. Most great "evil-doers" don't even see themselves as doing evil.

So really, evil doesn't even exist. You're either healthy and rational, and therefore good, or you're brainwashed by religion, or suffering from some sort of (often-treatable) disorder. I think evil is a concept invented by religions to describe anything that goes against their outdated and dogmatic scriptures. Besides that, the concept of right and wrong changes so drastically over time and situation that it's just about impossible to define. I think there are some universal ethical standards that are certainly good, but it's hard to define those who break them as "evil" when usually there's an underlying cause for their actions: they're generally troubled or deluded. The only use for "good" and "evil" as terms is probably in describing actions themselves, but it's very hard to say that a person performing them is "good" or "evil" in nature. For further evidence: does doing something nice for someone make you feel good? Well, it's not really altruistic then, is it?

Your definition of evil is quite different than (but not antagonistic) to mine. It is pretty much pointless to further the discussion on that line. This is pretty much a subjective and personal topic anyways.

On underperforming : Again, your perception is different than mine. Not trying your level best is underperforming. If you are striving to attain the maximum of your potential and extract all of it, you are hardly underperforming. Results (what you refer to as job bookings in this case) are a consequence of many a factors. Not delivering them is no way linked to underperforming. To give an example of what I mean as underperforming, look at the incompetent sales clerk at any mall. Eating money and not doing your job, fully aware of how much you can ACTUALLY do, is evil. Such parasites eventually drain the society of all it's life.

On the experiment : Do you really see suggestibility here as the source of evil? Or is it obidience to authority? Or is it abuse of authority? Suggestions come in plenty; it is the act of accepting them by the virtue of the fact that they come from a higher authority that is dangerous. Why should anyone accept authority without one's consent? And if they do, what is the psychology behind that? I am inclined to blame religion solely for that. The whole concept of God as a punisher for disobedience and the stories of rewards for obedience are retained through the childhood into adulthood by most of the people. I am not countering your any point btw...Just thinking out loud..

Doing something good for somebody and feeling good about it is NOT altruistic, yes. So, is that bad? Every human is an end in himself. Everything you do is SOLELY for yourself, even if involves so-called altruistic activities. If I help somebody, I derive happiness not from his happiness but from the fact that it was I who made him happy (I personally would not choose such a way to be happy.This is just an example). That is hardly altruistic, though may appear to be so. And this is the motive behind altruism...the fulfilment of ones need of feeling power. Whether it's good or bad is subjective (personally, I couldn't care less; whatever it is). To summarize: happiness is always gained by selfishness.

I understand that this might be out of date, but I wanted to comment anyways, as it is something I think about constantly.

I had views similar to yours, until I saw a presentation by Cal Smith(he's on youtube if you're curious) and it gave me a new perspective. Here's one of the points that he brought up:

Even the simplest of lifeforms is more complex than a modern house. To put it simply, you are more likely to have an isolated bundle of wood and steel turn into a house than you are to have organic matter randomly turn into a living organism.

You also make a point that religion is based on what you heard from others, and anyone who believes it is basing their thoughts purely on ideals that somebody forced into their head. The hypocrisy in this statement (no offense to you at all, as I greatly respect your views and opinions) is that many atheists based their evolution ideas on what they have been told. They seem to put unrelenting trust in scientists, although no evolutionist has actually witnessed the occurence of evolution(so evolution can't really be considered a science, as the scientific method is based on observing results, but that's another argument altogether).

*Note* I apologize if I'm repeating things that have already been said your 'complete evidence for evolution' article. I haven't taken the time to read all of the posts, but I will eventually. Perhaps it will give me more insight.

Hey blindsider, no offense taken at all from any of this - like I've said before, I genuinely enjoy debating. This is going to be a long response, though.

OK, several points:
1) Evolution absolutely has been observed, numerous times. It's even been produced in a lab. There are dozens of examples of direct observations of evolution occurring, and I could list a number of them for you if you'd like (I really will if you request it). For one particularly easy to explain example (and you may have heard this one - not the best example, but easy to explain), peppered moths were initially a white insect, pervasive in the forests around London in the late 1700s - this allowed them to blend in with the white birch trees and evade predators. When the industrial revolution came around, the birch trees became blanketed in soot, so being white was no longer a survival advantage, and the peppered moth population took a nosedive. However, on re-examining the forest many years later, the peppered moths were found to still exist - however, all those that remained were a blackish-brown colour. Genetic testing found a common mutation in all surviving peppered moths causing the change in colour - it was a huge survival advantage to be this colour rather than white, so while white peppered moths died out, the brownish-black ones flourished, and eventually were all that remained. All had a common ancestor, so the mutation appeared once, then survived due to the strong advantage it gave. I have more examples if you'd like, some even more compelling (IE a completely new species of fruitfly that was considerably different and unable to reproduce with its ancestral species was produced in a lab under a reproduction of natural conditions. In other words, no genetic engineering was done - natural selection was just allowed to occur). Hell, evolution occurs whenever we breed dogs or plants. I don't understand why people keep saying it hasn't been observed, it's one of the most observed phenomena in the entire history of science. (Check out my still very incomplete "complete evidence for evolution" list - the evidence for it is compelling to the point of being almost undeniable).

2) Evolution has nothing to do with the beginning of life - that's a field called abiogenesis, and it's beyond the scope of evolution to explain. However, while we're on the subject, no biologist would tell you that life at any point just randomly assembled itself. Even the simplest forms of life in existence had ancestors in complex chemical reactions, who had ancestors in simpler reactions, and so on. We even know quite a number of the pre-life steps - for example, some of the more complex building blocks of life spontaneously appear in labs that reproduce the earth's conditions around the time life appeared. Other research is suggesting that DNA based life was preceded by considerably simpler (and now extinct) RNA-based life. Other steps have been discovered, hinted at, or theorized, but those are particularly poignant examples. More pre-life steps are being discovered all the time. The "isolated bundle of wood and steel turning into a house" is analogous is no way to the formation of life - the formation of life is governed by the natural laws of chemistry (and physics to a lesser extent), it's not random in any way.

3)If people just accept things at face value, whether it's the bible, or the theory of evolution, they're not doing science. One should examine the arguments made by scientists before simply accepting a theory as absolutely true (which is never really done anyway). Still, I'd argue that even scientists who just accept evolution because they're told it (and I am not one of them - nor is anyone in biology, as it's completely impossible to do any research in biology without a highly detailed and advanced understanding of evolution, since it's the basis of the entire field) are displaying a very different sort of faith than someone following the bible. I mean, science has obviously been right many times before (all modern technology that everyone takes for granted is based on science - we see these principles at work every day), and we know the scientific method was used to come to the conclusions made, so it's an act of earned trust rather than of faith. I know people are quick to point out times when science was "wrong" - but even then it wasn't wrong in the way creationists like to present it - most of the ideas science supposedly changed its mind about were not, in fact, scientifically derived, but dogma (IE flat earth, matter being "fluid" rather than made of atoms). Even things science was actually incorrect about were still much more correct than any alternatives around at the time - IE Newton's laws, while inaccurate, work almost perfectly unless you approach the speed of light or examine the subatomic world.

I can't find this youtube video you've mentioned, could you post a link to it?

Hehe, when I tried to edit the link above, I apparently triggered a spam filter.
Please ignore the link above btw
**You might have better luck google-ing 'Calvin Smith Creation Ministries Youtube'. Try to find his discussions on evolution, not the preaching videos.

Also(I do like to stir the pot) I do agree with natural selection, but it differs from evolution. The idea of evolution is the addition of genetic material(i.e. chimps turning into the modern homo sapien), not the subtraction of genetic material. All the mutation I've ever studied in Biology involved deletion of material. Therefore, I would consider it de-volution, if not anything else.

Let's think logically. In math, 2+2=4. If you want 5, you need to add one on the left side of the eq'n(I'm not trying to be condescending, I'm attempting to prove a point). If you don't add 1, you can't get 5. So the concept of chimps evolving into men is inconceivable(for me at least, but I'll keep an open mind regardless) if no external influence can add the genetic material to the chimps.

Also, you said 'Evolution has nothing to do with the beginning of life/existence'. However, through atheistic eyes(correct me if I'm wrong), no genetic progress would have been made if not for evolution. Earth world be nothing but assorted gases.

*Do note that I post on topics like these in order to better my own understanding. Don't get the wrong idea-I'm not trying to sound pretentious.

I'll break it into points again, and touch on the video last. I apologize for the length of my post, but you wanted me to comment on the video, and it was fairly long.

1)"The idea of evolution is the addition of genetic material" - there are numerous ways genetic material can be added to DNA, so many, actually, that I can't even begin to scratch the surface. I learned them in labs and in physical books, so (as much as I hate doing this, for numerous reasons) since I don't have unlimited time and space to locate good sources online or re-write it myself, I'll just point you to the wikipedia pages of some examples of a few general ones. These pages seem fairly accurate, from a cursory glance:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insertion_(genetics)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_duplication
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muller%27s_morphs#Gain_of_function
Also note that most of our DNA is made up of transposons and other nonfunctional elements, so mutations that act to fuse together disparate parts of our genetic code, or rearrange them, are usually additive as well:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromosomal_translocation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromosomal_inversion
I can also send you links for the causes of these mutations if you'd like, but I think you get the idea. I'm really not sure where this "no addition of genetic material" thing comes from, there's plenty of very observable evidence that this is the case (IE: fruitfly experiments involving the breeding of hundreds of generations of flies - they breed fast - in which the DNA of members of the initial generation is compared to those of the final. These mutations are easily observed in such codes - plus phenotypic changes can be made to occur - some of them very drastic, such as additional functional limbs, etc.). Also, evolution involves both the addition and removal of genetic material. Anyway, due to dormant genetic phrases, removing genetic material can actually add physical traits to an animal. For example, if a stop codon is removed before a dormant phrase [a stop codon is a tiny piece of DNA that tells a cell's transcription factors to stop transcribing DNA to be transported to a ribosome for protein synthesis. Removing such a codon would cause the cell to keep transcribing until the next stop codon, and if there were no start codon before the next section, it would add a trait that was not there before. There's honestly no such thing as de-volution, it all falls under evolution.

2)You're right, no genetic progress would have been made without it, and life would still be in it's most simple, pre-evolutionary form. However, the study of where life actually came from to begin with is the field of abiogenesis, not evolution. Evolution only applies after life exists. Abiogenesis studies what came before evolution. This is irrelevant anyway, this is just a semantic argument. Abiogenesis theories have a lot of evidence for them, I was hoping you'd have something to say on them instead.

Video:
1) Supernova argument. They're omitting a lot of facts. Firstly, supernova remnants last only around a million years, at which point they have cool and dispersed enough that they are no longer distinguishable from the interstellar medium. Second, not all supernovae become supernova remnants - many become black holes or neutron stars. On top of this, not all stars eventually become supernovae. Also, where are they getting "we don't see a single one?" Where are their pictures of them coming from, then? I don't know exactly how many we've found, but there are a fair number of them, and in fact, we've even seen a good number of supernovae occur since observing the sky.

2)"If we're just re-arranged pond scum, why is it wrong to kill humans?" There is so much wrong with this, I don't know where to begin. For starters, having no religion doesn't mean having no life philosophy or values. IE Look up secular humanism. There are a massive load of reasons why it's wrong to kill humans if we're just "re-arranged pond scum" (which isn't really an accurate phrase, but whatever), but it depends on your philosophy. My own, for example, is that it would cause suffering to the person I kill, to that person's family and friends, and even to myself, and of which are undesirable. Anyway, this isn't an argument against evolution, it's an irrelevant point. Whether evolution is a socially desirable theory or not has no bearing on whether it's true or false. The same goes for their abortion "argument."

3)"The bible is the final authority on all statements of faith and practice." and
"It is the final say on all matters of ethics and morality..." "...final say in all matters it touches on..." etc..
I think you'll find this website interesting:
http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/
Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is a particularly nice example (God declares that a raped woman must marry her rapist). There are tons more, actually, just read Deuteronomy in general, most of it is either evil or nonsensical. Same goes for the 10 commandments, there are like 4, that actually make sense as rules (the first 3: don't be part of another religion, 4: don't work on Sunday, 5: honor your mother and father. This means NO MATTER WHAT, as other sections of the bible make clear. 6, 7, 8, 9: makes sense, in most circumstances; 10: don't ever be envious. Oh, and the punishment for breaking any of them is death by stoning, and as the New Testament makes clear, also an eternity of being tortured). Great source, which also contradicts the host's implication that this book is required for someone to be moral. Anyway, what about the two entirely separate creation stories in genesis?

4)(*sarcasm*)"...like a lizard could gain the genetic information to turn into something like a bird."
Evolution doesn't claim anything of the sort. Over millions of years, through very tiny, incremental changes, yes, but it really doesn't work the way that statement implies.

5) Statements on how evolution and science affect church-going behaviours: irrelevant to the truth or falsity of the theory of evolution. Same reason as in point 2.

6)"Not a question of science versus faith, but faith versus faith."
Except one is based on observing the world, the other on a 2000 year old book.

7)"I don't want to believe in God. There I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible - spontaneous generation leading to evolution."
Urban legend:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/part1-4.html
If you want you can dig up the article, but Creationists pull this sort of trick all the time. IE, constantly quoted out context from Charles Darwin's Origin of Species:
http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/Popular_quote_mines#The_Eye_and_Natural_Sel...
Except George Wald didn't say anything like it at all. Anyway, even if he had said it, one scientist's beliefs are irrelevant to whether something is true or false.

8)"Nobody's ever observed something spontaneously coming to life out of nowhere"
I explained this in my last post. In summary, we've seen many steps of this process occur spontaneously out of physical simulations (as in, in labs, not computer simulations) of the conditions that existed at the beginning of the early (which is actually not out of nowhere).

9)First Richard Dawkins quote: Irrelevant. Second: "We don't need evidence, we know it to be true." Here's the text he references: http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/...
This is deliberately con artistry. The original phrase is:
"The evolution of the vertebrate eye must have been progressive. Ancient ancestors had a very simple eye, containing only a few features good for seeing. We don’t need evidence for this (although it is nice that it is there). It has to be true because the alternative – an initially complex eye, well-endowed with features good for seeing – pitches us right back to Hoyle country and the sheer cliff of improbability. There must be a ramp of step-by-step progress towards the modern, multifeatured descendant of that optical prototype."

I'm going to stop. I can keep going if you'd like, but so far, it's been exactly the same arguments I've seen dozens of times before from other creationists, and the same deliberate manipulation and trickery, as you saw very clearly in the last example.

On a different note, what business are you in? And hopefully you are still not 18 as your profile claims. That would be till October sometime last year, if I'm not wrong..?

Running a painting business to work my way through university. It's really hard. I have 14 employees right now, and I have to deal with 100,000 dollars (revenue, not profit, which essentially means a massive ton of accounting).

I don't think you're giving people enough credit. Religion is not brainwashing. Any good Christian (or Buddhist, or Jew, or whatever) will tell you that free will is a gift and should be used accordingly. I've had my doubts about religion and went to a few priests to talk about it, and they all said to me that if I wanted answers I would have to find them for myself. I think that hiding scientific findings, or trying to deliberatly mis-inform people is evil. I think that religous people who use their religion as a form of moral superiority are evil. Many religious people aren't like that.

And pop culture only a means of marketing? It can be sometimes, but if people weren't genuinely interested in the stuff it wouldn't sell.

Having a belief is childish? What? If nobody believed anything, how could any scientific work ever get done?

Being a fourteen year old, I do not understand much of what you guys were discussing. But having thought about and studied a lot of these things, I too would like to comment. I'll start with this:

"The theory of evolution is indisputably correct." Here's a chapter of a book that I've read: The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel(it's the shortened version). I can't find a pdf on google so I'll have to type it. I know it's long, but it's here for anyone who wants to read it.

"'Charles Darwin didn't want to murder God, as he once put it. But he did.' -Time Magazine

If you'd asked me about Darwin when I was 14 years old, I would have agreed with Time magazine-God was dead, and Darwin's theory of evolution had killed him-at least for me.
I was sitting in biology class at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect, Illinois, when I first learned about evolution. My teacher explained that life originated millions of years ago when chemicals randomly reacted with each other in a warm ocean on the primordial earth. Then, through a process of survival of the fittest and natural selection, life forms gained in complexity. Eventually, human beings emerged from the same family tree as apes.
Although the teacher didn't address this aspect of evolution, its biggest implication was obvious to me: If evolution explains the origin and development of life, then God was out of a job! What did we need God for? Life was just the natural result of the random interaction of chemicals.

But is Darwinism true? I walked away from my formal education convinced it was. As my spiritual journey began taking me deeper into science, though, I started to have an increasingly uneasy feeling. The more I investigated the issue, the more I saw that I might have overlooked some important information. I began to question whether the conclusions of Darwinism are really justified by the hard scientific facts.
This is not, I soon discovered, a case of religion vs. science. Instead, this is an issue of science vs. science. More and more biologists, biochemists, and other researchers-not just Christians-have raised serious objections to the theory of evolution in recent years. They claim that its assumptions are sometimes based on flimsy, incomplete, or flawed data.
I had been more than happy, as a teenager, to latch on to Darwinism as an excuse to abandon the idea of God. But someone who knows me well once described me as being "a sucker for truth." My training in journalism and law compels me to dig beneath opinion and theories, all the way down until I hit the bedrock of solid facts.
In this chapter, you'll find some of the information I uncovered in my investigation. I'm not going to try to make up your mind for you. I went that route in biology class years ago, and I'm not going to blindly accept anyone else's conclusions again-or force my own conclusions on anyone either. But at the end of this chapter I'll tell you what I think as a result of my exploration of these issues; by then you may have come to some conclusions of your own.

Everyone agrees that evolution is true to some extent. Undeniably, there are variations within species of animals and plants, which explains why there are more than 200 different varieties of dogs, why cows can be bred for improved milk production, and why bacteria can adapt and develop immunity to antibiotics. This is called "micro-evolution."
But Darwin's theory goes much further than that, claiming that life began with simple, single-cell creatures and then developed through mutation (accidental changes) and natural selection (changes that helped the species survive) into the huge variety of plant and animal life now in existence. Human beings came on the scene from the same common ancestor as the ape. Scientists call this more controversial theory "macro-evolution."
Based on observations of changes within species (for example, the fact that bacteria can develop into drug-resistant forms), Darwin theorized that evolution occured across species (in other words, that over time an amoeba would evolve into a complex sea creature into a land creature, and so on). Darwin himself said that the lack of fossil evidence showing animals evolving from one species into another "is perhaps the most obvious and serious objection" to his theory, but he confidently predicted that such fossil evidence would be discovered in the future.
Fast-forward to 1979. David M. Raup, curator of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, said, "We are now about one hundred and twenty years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species, but the situation hasn't changed much.... We have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time."
What the fossil evidence does show is that in rocks dated back some 575 million years, there is a sudden appearance of nearly all the animal phyla currently known, and they appear fully formed, not in various evolutionary stages.

A bigger question than how different species developed is how life itself began. Macro-evolution theorizes that single-cell organisms developed into all the life forms that we now know. But where did those single-cell organisms come from? How did life begin in the first place?
Darwin speculated that nonliving chemicals, given the right amount of time and the right environment, could develop by themselves into living matter. In Darwin's day, scientific observation was less precise than it is now, and the idea of life developing on its own seemed natural enough. People once thought that maggots developed spontaneously from rotting meat, and that view of how life developed fit with Darwin's speculation.
When Francesco Redi showed that meat developed maggots only when it was exposed to flies who could lay the eggs from which maggots hatch, the idea of life developing on its own seemed less likely. But in the 1920s the idea became popular again. And in 1953 two scientists, Stanley Miller and Harold Urey, conducted an experiment at the University of Chicago that seemed to confirm the theory of life developing from nonliving chemicals.

Miller and Urey re-created what they considered to be the atmosphere of the primitive earth (methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water) in a laboratory and shot electricity through it to stimulate the effects of lightning.
Before long, they found that some amino acids-the building blocks of life-had been created.
This experiment created a stir within the science community. Scientists became optimistic that the questions about the origin of life would be solved within a few decades. But this has not been the case.

More recent scientific thought suggests that natural theories of life arising on its own no longer appear valid. For instance, since 1980, NASA scientists have shown that primitive earth did not have methane, ammonia, or hydrogen (the components of the Miller-Urey experiment) in any significant amounts. Without those gases, the experiment does not work.
In fact, British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle compares the likelihood of life appearing on Earth by chemical reactions as "equivalent to the possibility that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein," and Nobel Prize-winner Sir Francis Crick says, "The origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going."
Scientists face this dead end in different ways: Some say there are natural laws and explanations yet to be discovered;others say that when no natural explanation is apparent and none is on the horizon, it's valid to at least consider supernatural explanations.

For some time, many scientists held the theory that life developed on its own by chance. But as science reveals increasing complexity in even the most primitive forms of life, this theory has lost much of its credibility.
In 1905, for example, before scientists had ways of seeing the complexity inside the membrane of cells, Ernst Haeckel described cells as "homogenous globules of plasma." In other words, blobs that are the same all the way through.
Recently one scientist very creatively-but quite accurately-described a single-cell organism as a high-tech factory, complete with artificial languages and decoding systems; central memory banks that store and retrieve impressive amounts of information; precision control systems that regulate the automatic seembly of components; proofreading and quality control mechanisms and safeguard against errors; assembly systems that use principles of refabrication and modular construction; and a complete replication system that allows the organism to duplicate itself at bewildering speeds.
The statistical odds of developing even the most basic living cell by chance are astronomical. I talked about this with origin-of-life scientist Walter Bradley, who pointed out that it takes about 100 of the right amino acids lined up in the right manner to make one protein molecule. And that's just the first step. Creating one protein molecule doesn't mean you've created life. Now you have to bring together a collection of protein molecules-maybe 200 of them-with just the right functions to get one typical living cell.
"The mathematical odds of assembling a living organism are so astronomical that nobody still believes that random chance accounts for the origin of life," Dr. Bradley told me. "Even if you optimized the conditions, it wouldn't work. If you took all the carbon in the universe and put it on the face of the earth, allowed it to chemically react at the most rapid rate possible, and left it for a billion years, the odds of creating just one functional protein molecule would be one chance in a 10 with 60 zeroes after it."
Even if amino acids could have been naturally produced, as the Miller-Urey experiment claimed, there's no explanation for how they could have become assembled into a living cell by themselves. That's the real challenge-and one that scientists have been unable to explain. No hypothesis, such as there must be some kind of natural attraction between amino acids, has stood up to scrutiny.
That's why some scientists-both Christian and non-Christian-are concluding that the orderliness and complexity of life points not to random chance but to an intelligent design in both the origin and development of life.

The obvious question-for me at least-is, Where does this intelligent design come from? Does the evidence for an intelligent design imply that there is an Intelligent Designer?
I think of it this way. Every time I've come across written communication-whether it's a painting on a cave wall or a novel from Amazon.com or the words "I love you" inscribed in the sand on the beach-there has always been someone who did the writing. Even if I can't see the couple who wrote "I love you," I don't assume that the words randomly appeared by chance by the movement of the waves. Someone of intelligence made that written communication.
And what is encoded on the DNA inside every cell of every living creature is purely and simply written information. (I'm not saying this because I'm a writer; scientists will tell you this.) We use a 26-letter alphabet in English; in DNA, there is a four-letter chemical alphabet, whose letters combine in various sequences to form all the instructions needed to guide the functioning of the cell.
Each cell in the human body contains more information than in all 30 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. For me, that's reason enough to believe this isn't the random product of unguided nature, but it's the unmistakable sign of an Intelligent Designer.

Do you have to give up science to believe in God? Here's what James Tour, a nanoscientist on the cutting edge of molecular theory, says about that: "I stand in awe of God because of what he has done through his creation. Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God."
How ironic, I thought. Once, a limited understanding of evolutionary science had pushed me toward atheism. Now, an increasing grasp of molecular science was cementing my confidence in God.
Time magazine was wrong: Darwin didn't murder God. He just couldn't read God's writing.

Other Resources on This Topic:
If you're interested in a more detailed discussion of this topic, you'll find an extended interview with Dr. Bradley in the longer edition of this book. You may also find these books interesting:

1. Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, and Roger L. Olsen. The Mystery of Life'e Origin. Dallas: Lewis and Stanley, 1984.
2. Phillip E. Johnson. Darwin on Trial, 2d ed. Downers Grove, Ill.:InterVarsity Press, 1993."

There were more than two resources, but my hands are pretty tired and I doubt you will need all of them so...moving on.

"More evidence has been found for this concept than virtually any other scientific idea." More evidence? Please take a look at this, under the "HAS EVOLUTION BEEN PROVEN?" part.

"Humans are not basically evil, we are simply easily influenced. With the possible exception of sociopaths, who suffer from a mental disorder, no one wakes up in the morning and thinks "How can I do great evil today?" We simply do the best we can, but can very easily lose sight of ourselves." By your definition of evil, I would say that humans can be evil and good, depending on their genetics and environment. It is possible for someone to develop sadism. Therefore, it is also possible that some people wake up in the morning and think, "How can I do great evil today?" because they derive pleasure from maliciously and non-consentually hurting others. I actually have read about the Milgram experiment and the Stanford prison experiment, but they're about obedience to authority, not suggestibility. Humans are mostly selfish, and these experiments show that most people fear the consequences of disobeying authority more than they value their personal ethics.

"There is no such thing as altruism. All acts of good are selfishly motivated in some abstract way or another (such things as "feeling good about yourself" and "liking yourself" are inherently very rewarding. If doing good caused self-hate, no one would do it)." I'm not very sure about this one. While I do agree that humans are mostly selfish, a possible exception would be acts of good through love.

"An afterlife is an uncertainy. Life should be lived with this in consideration. Death should not, however, be feared, as if death is annihilation, we won't be aware of our state of non-existence, as we won't exist. The most plausible possibility of a true afterlife per se seems to be a form of reincarnation. This is scientifically logical, as we could simply live another life as someone else born with the same genes for a certain form of consciousness (something it seems very likely exists) that we had. We would never be aware of this, and our lives would never be connected." Disagree, because I'm Christian. I'm also curious as to why you say this is scientifically logical? You're implying that the genes someone gets from their parents has to do with people who have died. Also, if souls really do reincarnate, where will they go if the earth becomes uninhabitable for life? I think reincarnation was made up by people with false memory syndrome. I'm serious about that - there are people who do hypnosis to remember their "past life," but they get false memories.

"Marijuana is needlessly illegal. The drug is less powerful, less addictive, and has fewer side effects than alcohol and cigarettes, both of which are legal. It is also an impossible drug to overdose on." I agree with you. :) If you are interested at all, I found a website that talks about why marajuana is illegal. I didn't take the time to read it all but here it is: Why is marajuana illegal?. Just shows how useful google is. XP

"Free will is uncertain." I'm not sure what you mean by uncertain. In my opinion, as long as a person is allowed to make any decision (even if there is only one possible decision that the person will chose), it is free will.

"Religions exist solely as social engineering that exploits the infuriating unknowability of our universe, that most humans are unable to reconcile (it provdes a quick, easy answer to impossible question). It's a very complex and powerful way to tell people what to do." Some religions are probably like that, but I seek the truth.

"Genetics and environment are entirely responsible for who we are. If a soul exists, it exists as a passive observer." Agreed.

I made a list recently giving all of the evidences for evolution. Read it in full, and I think you might have a change of heart on your skepticism of evolution. Many of your ideas on evolution are based on popular misconceptions (it's understandable that one wouldn't agree with evolution if one only knew what is known by most in the general population). I'm not even listing all of them at this point...about half of the big ones.

I should also point out that saying "I disagree, because I'm a Christian" will lose you all of your credibility in almost any debate outside of the religious world, and will certainly lose it when you get to higher eduction: you're making a number of logical fallacies (argument ad populum, argument ad logicam, argument ad antiquitatem, appeal to authority, etc. - look up "logical fallicies" on google and you'll find their full definitions) when you do that.

Evolution doesn't kill God. It just kills the (absurd, self-contradictory, socially engineering, and generally detrimental) Christian god.

How can we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than in Darwin's time? I'm just wondering how this statement makes any logical sense on any level. If we had the evidence then, we still have it now. It's all filed away, and if the evidence ever existed, it's still evidence.

The origin of life question is a difficult one, but not unanswerable. You're right, the original view of the origin of life is nearly impossible: the odds of a DNA-based cell coming into existence is astronomical to the point of being ridiculous. However, other theories have emerged in recent years that provide evidence that early life was much simpler, that it was based on amino acids themselves, then RNA, then DNA; others point to a chemical evolution. These models are still under construction (as they're recent - within the last 5 years), but they're showing much better probabilities for life to spontaneously form than the outdated DNA-based models. These theories and their data have not been widely publicized (mainly because the public just isn't interested), so your skepticism on that front is also understandable. Read up online on these theories a bit, and you'll agree, it has far greater potential than intelligent design (which has no actual evidence for it. Trust me, I've really looked, the only evidence that exists is based on popular misconceptions of how evolution works - for example, that silly "irreducible complexity" theory, which has long been discounted by science (it's easily explained by the well-observed phenomenon by which biological structures change in function.). Why this question is popping up again is beyond me).

You say you seek the truth, but you constantly say you're Christian. Explain all of the contradictions in the Bible to me, and I'll believe that you're actually seeking the truth and not locked into your dogma (for example: explain to me why there are two entirely different creation stories in the book of Genesis. In one, god created woman. In the other, god made woman from Adam's rib. There are more important ones as well. Explain to me why it is that, although god is a being of love who loves everyone equally and infinitely, why people who are born into the wrong religion, born before Jesus came, do something god doesn't like, or who died during their births have to burn in a unbearable torment for all eternity in a pit of misery? If that so-called god exists, he's the deity equivalent of a wife beater. You hit her because you love her? You burn and torture us forever because you love us? Why does mosaic law contradict much of what Jesus says? Did the omnipotent, omniscient creator of everything who is always right and always knows everything change his mind? Well then he isn't always right, is he? That means he was wrong the first time, doesn't it, which means he isn't always right. Explain those things to me.).

I haven't read through your entire post, but evolution fits so well with what your observe that its just wayyy ahead of any other theory.

As for the point of how life developed, well I look at problems which science has not explained this way. A thousand years ago, any normal person would attribute lightning and thunder to the wrath of the gods, today anyone who did that would be stupid. Why? Because science has progressed since its state a 1000 years ago and can now explain the phenomena. The same way, sciene will progress to explain stuff like the beginning of life. Just because science has not explained something till now, doesn't mean it can't explain it.

Agreed. You're referring to what's called argument to ignorance, which is a favorite of anyone who doesn't believe in evolution - because, like all good theories everywhere, it obviously isn't 100% complete - it hasn't come up with a mechanism for how every single structure and creature evolved: only because that would take far too long. Science has explained connected evolution with every biological event it has tried to so far, so it's very silly for groups like the intelligent designers to try to fill the gaps in again with religion (where there has yet to have been any reason to try to fill gaps this way - evolution is doing a perfectly good job with it, and that's scientific and based on empirical research).

"There is absolutely no way that humans can ever know if there is or isn't a god. It is best to live life without taking such a fact into consideration, as it is unknowable." "As all spiritual ideas are unknowable, agnosticism is the only realistic religion."

Why is the existence of gods unknowable? Because it cannot be empirically proved one way or the other?

By that standard, it is also "unknowable" whether or not Santa Claus exists, whether or not invisible pink unicorns live on Pluto, whether or not the universe was created by a math student in a higher dimension, etc.

And how is agnosticism a religion?

"Abortion should be legal until the third trimester. While it is almost impossible to know exactly when consciousness really begins, it has been shown to do with the maturation of the brain. Since the brain is highly immature and primarily just a ball of cells with little interaction amongst themselves until approximately this point, it should be indisputably legal to abort up to then."

So, consciousness is the deciding factor on when we confer the rights of personhood? Then do you believe adults who have lost consciousness do not have the rights of personhood? Do you confer such rights upon conscious non-humans? Would you confer such rights on the first conscious computer?

"Sex before mariage is acceptable. Sex outside a relationship (when you're in one, that is) is, however, not, with the exception of abusive relationships (and perhaps others)."

What about open relationships? What about swinging? And why would it be morally responsible to be adulterous due to abuse; why not leave because of abuse and then sleep with whomever you like?

Bertrand Russell made the point with his Teapot analogy that we cannot prove (although sadly, not definitively disprove) the exitence of a god(s). It's just that most of the evidence suggests that there isn't one.

If we are to look at everything and say what we actually known for certain, we come back to Cogito Ergo Sum, but we can't be skeptical about everything, so to an extent we just have to make assumptions. I don't know for certain, but I'm pretty much sure there's no higher being.

I have an argument for the lack of a higher being below that you might like, and it's a good summary as to why science doesn't support the existence of god.

You're right, we KNOW nothing. All we have is a huge number of reasonably well-evidenced theories (some of which have always predicted future events), which we hold as extremely likely to be true.

Ockham's Razor :)

Yep, that's right. But I don't like that phrase because people misunderstand it so often. Most think it means that the truth is always the simplest-sounding possible explanation one can think of, period. That's, of course, not the case: it means we should make the least unnecessary assumptions possible when interpreting information. People always use that stupid first misinterpretation to argue for archaic ideas like creationism ("Occam's razor, so evolution is fake, dumbass: what's simpler? God made everything? Or that we slowly evolved over billions of years from amoebas and dinosaurs that slightly modified their DNA in increments until they turned into us?").

I totally agree with you, I meant it in the way you just specified. I too am sick of people misinterpreting it (when I have brought it up in discussions people have used it in a completely invalid way to try and prove their point). Also, the creationism thing is crap, it's an apalling basis for an argument, Ockham's Razor is about shaving off that which is unnecessary or very unlikely, but he have proof for evolution, I fail to see any discernable fact from creationists.

To Lukeprog:

1) The existence of god(s) is unknowable for exactly that reason: because it can't be empirically proven. I know many religious people like to counter with "But my personal experience tells me that there is a God, no matter what anyone says!" To me, this is silly: there are plenty of partially empirically backed theories that account for these experiences, none of which involve the actual existence of God (partially empirically backed, meaning eventually one theory will probably be fully backed, as the problems our current theories are having are merely technical: we need more data, which we're gathering). For example, read Michael Persinger's work: he's a neuroscientist who is able to create powerful spiritual experiences in his subjects by activating a particular part of the temporal lobe. His work is disputed, like all cutting-edge theorists, and there are other current possible views, but it is a good example of a better-evidenced theory for religious phenomena. We don't have a shred of empirical evidence for a real god. [Even I've had a spiritual experience. In retrospect, it was obviously biologically induced (unless the universe is ruled by a giant teddy graham that resides in the candy dimension with his gumdrop minions) - but it felt no less real, and had it come on spontaneously (as is well-evidenced to occur - IE: DMT resides in a wide variety of plants, which could easily be ingested accidentally), and were I not able to think critically, I certainly would have believed it].

2)Parsimony is absolutely essential to logically understanding the universe. For example, one can say "The Earth orbits the sun because it is pulled in such a pattern by gravity - a phenomenon that has been well-demonstrated by multiple empirically valid experiments." Or, we can say "The Earth orbits the sun because it is pulled by invisible pink elephants attached to the back of a giant happy face, which exist in another dimension that humans can never detect." There is no evidence whatsoever that the second is true, so we go with the first, and it is certainly the more likely theory to be true. There are nearly infinite interpretations of phenomena once we leave what can be empirically shown behind. While we can think about these other possibilities, one should not believe them until they are evidenced. Maybe there's a god, maybe there's a infinitely large telephone wire with giant hands that shoots panda bears out of its pinkies that coalesce into our existence. Both concepts are equally speculative and silly until one has acquired evidence for either. In the lack of evidence for a given phenomena, one shouldn't believe in it. Speculation is one thing, belief is another. Speculating about God's existence isn't irrational: having absolute belief in it certainly is, from the standpoint of logic and empiricism, and I don't think there's another rational view of the universe (note that I view the idea of a God as no more or less likely than any of the other infinite other possibilities of what caused existence). I don't think we're going to be able to answer that question (the origins of existence), and I'm of the opinion that it can't be. Show me otherwise (empirically), and I'll change that opinion.

3) Of the phenomena you listed as unprovable, you're right, but technically nothing is provable. The best we have is to find strong evidence, base theories on it, and consider the theory "extremely likely to be true" if it predicts future events. By this standard, we can call invisible unicorns on Pluto (which breaks a lot of currently known rules of biology, chemistry, and physics), Santa's existence (the lack of evidence for which makes it very doubtful, since (for example) many people have been to the North Pole and seen nothing), and the existence of god (questionably logical [see note **1** at the bottom]) not disproven, but extremely unlikely to be true.

4) I agree, agnosticism is not a religion. It is a refusal to believe in what is not proven (as what we have proven shows that irrational beliefs are hardwired into our programming: we've created religions in pigeons, after all - read up on the old behaviourist studies on entrainment of superstitious behaviours - I can explain them here if you'd like, but it'd be long, so I'll only do so if you request it). However, if someone asked me to fill out a box with my religion, I'd write agnostic (actually, I'd write atheist, since atheism is simply no belief in god, not the popular opinion that atheism means belief that there is no god - knowledge I gained since making the list).

5)Yes, consciousness is the deciding factor in personhood. And if we were able to show evidence that a computer were conscious, I would be against shutting it down. When it comes to unconscious humans, note that they generally have been conscious in the past, so there is already a personhood established by consciousness. If there is any chance that they will be conscious again, I am against destroying them (as you'll destroy this personhood that already exists - just locked away) - if not, euthanasia is best (or usually in those situations, "pulling the plug"). As for conscious non-humans, I am against their destruction. Higher apes, parrots, dolphins, and elephants have all been empirically shown to have conscious thought in the same way that humans do (which is a standard that we must keep otherwise we would be unable to destroy rocks, plants, etc.), and I think these beings should have basic humans rights. However, without empirical evidence that something is conscious, I think we must assume it is unconscious, for that reason, or we would die (again, unable to eat plants, etc.).
Also note that in the abortion example, when abortion is illegal, it does little to stop it (and never has), it just puts it in the hands of illicit organizations and makes it a much more dangerous procedure (or imprisons practicing doctors with strong pro-choice beliefs who are willing to go against the law for what they see as beneficial to the patients: which it often is). From a harm reduction standpoint, it should be legal.

6)Relationships: yes, I jumped to conclusions here: I've gained new knowledge on the subject, and my opinion has changed. I wrote "and perhaps others" to display my lack of knowledge on certain relationship types. I'm going to amend that to be more specific, to specify my more complete opinion that accepts "consensual" extra-relationship sexual behaviours. As for adultery in the case of abuse, I think abusive relationships are too complex for such a judgment. Perhaps relationships are as well - the opinion I have reflects my belief (actual belief) in maximizing the happiness (or minimizing the misery) of all people in all situations - since every situation has a net outcome, I think that the one that results in the most positive emotional result for the most people is the best (though finding it is usually very difficult). However, I think that "cheating" is usually either thoughtless or at worst outright malicious, and I think it rarely results in the always desired outcome or the most positive result. But only if it's "cheating" (in otherwords involving relationship sexual deception), of course. This is a shaky opinion that I would easily change.
Note that the main focus of that opinion wasn't to show contempt for alternative lifestyles, but to show contempt for sexually oppressive religious ideas (the terrible pre-marital sex restrictions).

**1**: God is an unnecessary construct to understanding the beginning of existence. If God exists, something would have had to have created god. If god created the universe, god would have to be more complex than the universe, in order to produce it. By that same logic, whatever created god would have to be more complex than god. Therefore, this doesn't solve the problem of the source of existence, it merely adds an unnecessary and unevidenced step to the causal chain that makes things more complicated and harder to explain than they are without these empirically unsupported leaps of faith. Rather than having: "unknown - universe", we have "unknown - God - universe", the middle step of which simply makes our attempts to explain "unknown" more difficult if we accept it (which I personally don't think we'll ever understand).

Interesting, thanks. I still think it's weird that you consider the existence of invisible unicorns on Pluto "unknowable." I think we're just using slightly different definitions for "know." That's fine.

These are my definitions:
Unknowable: impossible to give an absolute 100% confirmation.
Extremely well-evidenced beyond reasonable doubt: we're 99.99999% sure it's the case (no invisible unicorns on Pluto, no Santa Claus, no God [at least in any religious sense], etc.).

You must be a fan of this story.

I loved that, thanks.

I used to be an Atheist but now I believe in a divine power (which is not necessarily a creator). I also believe in the afterlife, because people have had near death experiences that confirm that there is one. I can't really philosophically conceive of life ending; I believe that life is cyclic and that death is the end of the cycle.

Basically I'll believe something if I experience it or someone I trust experiences it. Therefore I believe in things like Reiki Energy and Magick (both of which I practice and have helped me) as people have had geniune experiences of these things.

I agree that evil is subjective. I think evil is a concept created by human society and that all concepts are created by individuals in reaction to their environment. Basically you are not born as who you are but you become who you are and this is determined by a combination free will (which is the choices you make) and environment.

Why do near death experiences convince you of divinity? There are perfectly rational scientific explanations for them, and they can in fact be induced by certain experimental conditions. If there's one thing for you to take away from the scientific study of the human mind, it's not to trust experience. In fact, all psychological research has to account for our inability to trust human experience: this is why double-blind control groups need to be built into studies.

Our brains are not wired to be able to conceive of their non-existence. Our "eternity" is essentially a psychological illusion (and it shouldn't be hard to believe this, considering how many such illusions can be easily demonstrated - IE the famous optical illusions).

And why Reiki Energy and Magick, and not any of the other tens of thousands of religious ideas that have existed throughout history and today? I mean, the concept of Reiki Energy was created by someone in (essentially) a delirious state - after 3 weeks of fasting and meditating. Why is that more trustworthy than empirical science, which has found no evidence of the concept? A meta-analysis on it:

http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119418316/abstract?CRETRY=1&S...

I don't doubt that Reiki Energy and Magick have helped you, but I think you need to ask yourself: do they work better than placebo? If I give you a pill with a filler in it - no medicine - and tell you it's a treatment for something, you'll actually get better just thinking you're being treated than if I'd given you nothing. this is called the placebo effect. Most "spiritual" and "religious" treatments show the same efficacy as placebos show - which means that they ARE simply placebos. And what exactly are your experiences of these things?

And what's "energy" anyway?

I agree with you on evil, except that I can't find any evidence that we make "choices" at all. What is the mechanism behind these choices? How do they occur? How does free will work? What sets it in motion? And why WOULD we have it anyway? What is the evolved purpose behind "free will?"

I choose to use Reiki Energy and Magick because these methods are essentially based on the will and reaching a state of gnosis. The theory says that you can cause change in reality during the state of gnosis. External reality is created by processes in our brains and can be changed by ourself. A well known example is the miracles performed by Jesus and Mikao Usui.

"The gnostic state is achieved when a person's mind is focused on only one point, thought, or goal and all other thoughts are thrust out. Users of chaos magic each develop their own ways of reaching this state. All such methods hinge on the belief that a simple thought or direction experienced during the gnostic state and then forgotten quickly afterwards is sent to the subconscious, rather than the conscious mind, where it can be enacted through means unknown to the conscious mind." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_magic

Also there's plenty of stories on Magick here- http://www.mysticalwonders.org/group/viewforum.php?f=5

"Heart Healed

I sort of bumped into Reiki. In 2000 I wasn't feeling well, and after a lot of tests I was told that I had had a silent heart attack. I have diabetes. I was told that I needed a heart catheterization, so one was scheduled. I live in a rural area and traveling to Syracuse, New York, was necessary. There was also a two-week wait. During this time I went with my partner to a college graduation party. There I met a woman who asked me if I was feeling OK. We discussed a few things, and then she asked me to come to her house during the week. Our schedules were pretty full and the only night I could go was the night before I traveled four hours to Syracuse for the test. I went, not knowing what I was invited for. She asked me if I had ever heard of Reiki, and I had not. She asked if she could do a treatment—what did I have to lose? The treatment was wonderful and lasted about an hour. I became very calm, then very emotional—such a release. When she was done she let me talk about anything I needed to talk about. I felt so loved, protected, and different. I had the procedure the next day. I was scared; I won't deny that. During the treatment I began to cry; fear was taking over. The doctor told me to look at the monitors. There must have been ten of them against the wall. He then told me what he saw, and didn't really understand. He said there was a very healthy heart on the screens, very healthy. There was no evidence of a heart attack, just a small valve problem. After the procedure he came to my room to talk with me. He said that he was sure I had had a heart attack—the echo, ultrasound, etc., had all indicated that I had, but there was no evidence of a heart attack. He didn't understand it, he said. I said I did. After I got home the next day I called my friend, my Reiki teacher, and told her the story. At that point my desire to know and use Reiki began. She was a Reiki Master, and from her I too have learned. Do I believe the Reiki made the difference? Yes, with all my heart and spirit. I tell this story when I teach Reiki, and always become emotional, as I am now.

—Kay"

http://www.reiki.org/ReikiStories/ReikiStories.html

So many people have had experiences like this, including myself that I think it is undoubtable that something is occuring. Even placebos are shown to work- by science and if all these methods are only placebos this proves the healing powers of the human mind.

I believe one day there will be a scientific explanation of these phenomenon. Its already happening with string theory and evidence of Tachyon Energy and Zero Point Energy existing. According to string theory (M-Theory) there are 11 dimensions to the universe and everything is made of vibrating subatomic particles of energy.

To understand "free will" we need to look at what this concept means. I believe it means we make choices and that our choices aren't wholly determined by some factor. I don't believe that science is perfect and that's why when I see research that we become aware of a choice after its made, I'm skeptical. Isn't science based on human rationality and and created by human societies? Wrong conclusions can be made in reaction to empirical evidence when rationality is discarded and that is what I think is happening here.

p.s. I'd like to read that article on Reiki but the link doesn't work.

You're missing the point: EVERY pseudoscience produces stories of absolute wonders that don't hold up empirically. Testimonials are useless as scientific evidence, because the placebo effect is truly powerful. Also note that if 1000 people use a treatment, and 20 get better, that's a really poor treatment, but that's also 20 testimonials of people who will swear by it curing them (even though similar numbers of people would have just spontaneously recovered anyway: which happens fairly often). These 20 stories will sound really impressive...until you compare them to stories of people cured by known placebos, and look at the actual percentage of people who were helped by something compared to people who would have remitted anyway. The healing power of the human mind (and body) really is amazing, you're quite correct. And that is all these testimonials show.

When one of these alternative ideas holds up empirically, it is usually adopted by the mainstream medical community. IE: a large percentage of the medicines we use today are just plants or parts of plants, acupuncture is used as a second-line treatment for a variety of ailments (mainly pain), meditation is going through serious examination by psychology researchers as a possible treatment for certain disorders, and so on.

Here's the Reiki study again:
http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119418316/abstract?CRETRY=1&S...

If that doesn't work again, just punch this into Google:
"Effects of reiki in clinical practice: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials" and click the first page that appears.

BTW, there is a lot of research being done on the placebo effect, and I think we're getting fairly close to a consensus explanation - there are a number of fairly good theories out there right now, which you can easily find on google. It really is quite amazing - one doesn't need to invoke ideas like magick and reiki energy to explain those testimonials.

What do string theory, M-theory, zero point energy, and tachyon energy have to do with this anyway? These ideas are completely unrelated to psychology and medicine.

I don't see any evidence that rationality was being discarded in any of that research. I suggest performing a literature review on the subject if you're unconvinced. "The fallibility of science in general" is not a reasonable argument against a finding. Instead, look at some of the studies, and tell me methodological problems with them and alternative interpretations of the data - in other words, point the fallacy out to me, don't just tell me you think there is one (because you don't like the conclusion). I personally don't see any major ones, but if you find any, that would convince me that there is a problem here, and that further research is needed before any conclusions can be made. Perhaps in such a case, those conclusions would not be the ones that the research is currently leaning towards, but I don't see nothing unreasonable about them right now.

Also, please explain to me how free will could possibly work? I know you think it's "decisions that can't be accounted for by some factor", but a)that isn't an explanation, that's literally just stating that there is no explanation; and b)that's just throwing your hands up and saying human behaviour can't be explained rationally (which psychology, biology, and neuroscience have shown us time and time again to by anything but the case). I don't see how free will is anything but another "god of the gaps."* We can't explain a behaviour, therefore it must be free will causing it - never mind the multitude of behaviours we've already explained rationally that we used to pin on free will. Because there's no evidence for free will: people just seem to automatically invoke it any time they can't explain a behaviour, much like "God" is (sadly "is", not "was") invoked any time we can't explain some natural phenomenon. (I'm obviously not referring to scientists doing this: this is generally only done by people outside the scientific community).

The study about being aware of our decision after it's made is most likely correct and I actually heard about it a few months ago on another forum. But I don't think this means we don't have free will. Free will is a human concept and this concept comes from our brain. I don't think this concept necessarily exists out in "reality" but I think it is valid.

I read another study on the Reiki and two of nine groups saw an improvement with depression. I didn't read the full text of the study, but they might not of tested whether the patient believed to study worked (the placebo affect). Maybe you could tell me if scientists test this in their studies?

Placebo effect is tested for in any well-designed study. Most decent peer-reviewed journals won't publish a paper that doesn't account for placebo effect. It's the entire reason for a control group.

As for free will, if you agree that it doesn't necessarily exist out in "reality" than you probably agree with me: that it is an illusion produced by our brains, and we operate on a daily basis as if we do, in fact, have free will. This illusion has an obvious evolutionary advantage - it allows us to punish and reward the behaviour of others (since we infer that they too have "free will"), which is essentially required for societies to exist.

if I had a son and he was dying, and killing a stranger and taking their organs was the only way to save his life, I would do it. Most of us would.

Really? Wouldn't the guilt crush you? Yes your son would live, but at what cost?

The guilt would crush me either way, I think. The way I conceived the situation was more one where someone told me: "Kill this stranger, or your son will be killed." The organ donation scenario isn't quite the best example of this idea, admittedly.

Moral reasoning gives me a headache, I can never come up with a consistent rational basis for any moral conviction I've ever held. There seem to be no general rules behind how "morality" should work. Just what's hardwired into our brains, I guess - which is admittedly irrational. I'm a victim of this too.

I think you're confusing your second point (about good and evil) with that of moral and immoral (ie. right and wrong). I totally agree that there is no universal morality but I think that it is different for good and evil. I think you should apply the same logic to this point by saying there is no universal good and evil; however, good and evil always exist in the present.

But what is the difference between "morality" and "immorality", and "good" and "evil"? (and what are any of those things, anyway?)

And what do you mean by existing in the present? If a set of rules are not universal, how can they exist in the present beyond the social/locally determined definitions?

Wow. we have some very similar ideals, though I don't agree with your socialist idea. In fact, I'm basically the exact opposite when it comes to the matter. Though I am not fully read in politics (I literally just started to get into them about 3 weeks ago, and I just learned what "party" I would consider myself a part of 1 month ago), I generally agree with your opposite (libertarianism). I believe the government should have very little to do with the people, and that everyone should be able to do what they want to do as long as it does not infringe on someone else's liberties/freedoms. In my words, live and let live. But I do basically agree with all drugs being legalized (as most libertarians do) (though I still have some homework to do on the subject before I feel comfortable enough to make a firm stand on the issue). In my opinion if there is a market for something, then why the hell should it be illegal (for the MOST part, I don't think we should be selling nuclear weapons just because people want them etc.)?! Check out this video. I totally agree with what he says 100%.

Everything else I agree with you on though.

I agree with a lot of libertarianism (individual liberty, entirely, actually), but my main problem with it is the lack of a government safety net. Welfare of some sort benefits everyone, even the rich. If the poor are too desperate (something government social support mostly prevents), they are forced to turn to crime, and with drugs, prostitution, and gambling legal (I agree with legalizing these, BTW), the only illicit businesses to turn to are extortion and violence. This would lower the safety of everyone in the country - in countries without safety nets, the rich almost always have to live in gated communities, and large, dangerous ghettos spring up all over the place.

Also, what about the lack of free education? This would make it impossible to gain any measure of success if you're not born into a family that can afford to send you to school. Someone of, say, Albert Einstein's level of ability would never be able to use their gift if they were born into a ghetto - everyone would lose in this case.

My second issue is the lack of restrictions on business. Without it, massive monopolies and cartels would come to dominate almost every sector of business, and prices would skyrocket in all sectors. Since there would be no minimum wage or laws on how much various workers should be paid, the amount each person who is not high up in a company would make would plummet (if there are more desperate people willing to do a job for less, the company would hire them instead - wages would continuously drop). People would have to borrow huge amounts of money just to survive, and the economy would eventually crash when spending reached a standstill thanks to the debt - in fact, this already happened. It started in the US, which is perhaps the most economically unregulated of all first-world countries - a nice indicator of how important business restriction is. Another good example is Microsoft, which came to fruition in a time when computers were too new for governments to know how to deal with them by exploiting yet unregulated loopholes in the law that allowed for the formation of a monopoly (with its Windows operating system).

I myself have asked several (if not all) of those questions, and I am as of today still a libertarian. Check out this video and the other four in the series (you can find them easily on the sidebar, and it's all from the same person). I also think this will answer many of your other questions. I refer to the experts on this, since I am not an expert myself on the matter.

Oh, and Re: How To Lose A TRILLION $$$

I'll get back to you on this. My political views regarding economic policies are not quite as well formed as those touching on other topics - I have comparatively little knowledge on economics, so I'd like to read more about it first.

Hey Darktremor, let me start out by saying I really enjoy a lot of your work on here, especially your lists on Electronic music. You have very good taste. I would also like to say that when it comes down to scientific/moral beliefs, we are pointed the same way. Like spinmedown16, I am a libertarian, and I believe in a private law society as the best "governmental" type. Like you said, consenting is something fundamental we have (if we are able), and a Government, which is just an organization with a monopoly on force, does nothing but hold that back. I dont see how socialism would ever work in the way you want it to, especially for a talentocracy. A free market IS a talentocracy, the market is simply the desire of the people. Welfare, Education for the poor, and help with health care would all be provided by the market. Remember, if their are enough people willing to vote for it to be forced on others, could they not just voluntarily give themselves? Also, massive monopolies would not EXIST without governmental interaction with the market nor would corporate powers ever be able to exist.

One more thing, you say there is not a universal ethical code, but you then say that the use of violence is wrong and that consentuality is basically a right. Are these things not true to all human beings?

Also, for all your economic needs, http://mises.org/.

I agree there isn't a universal ethics code, but I think that there are things that could be considered universal ethics. I should have phrased it as "there is no universal ethics code for everything." IE, I think everyone would agree that unprovoked, random murder is always wrong, but something like euthanasia could be debated.

My issue with free market (in the way you describe it) is that it tends to slide towards oligarchy - a rich few manipulating the government and the market with their considerable wealth. A truly free market allows such things as cartels and enormous, competition-free monopolies that actually annihilate capitalism as it's intended (this frequently occurs in new markets that the government has not yet caught up with regulating - IE Microsoft's monopoly on computer operating systems). I think government intervention is required to keep these sorts of practices in check.

Also, without some social democracy (I won't say socialism, because that I don't agree with), who exactly is going to take care of something like welfare? To whose advantage is it to give money out to the disadvantaged who are unable to make money for whatever reason? I mean, in the American health care system, which essentially follows the model you describe, the poor who can't afford insurance, and anyone with pre-existing conditions are hung out to dry and often end up needlessly dying or racking up insurmountable debt. Universal health care almost universally results in better quality health care (read the World Health Organization's yearly rankings of various countries' health care systems - the vast majority near the top have universal health care (if not all, I can't remember), and the US is actually fairly far down the list, below most of Europe, Canada, and even some relatively poor/third world countries like the Dominican Republic. If that isn't evidence for social democracy, I'm not sure what is.

In what way would the free market provide for education for the poor, health care, and welfare? What advantage is gained by a company that provides those things? In other words, how could those things possibly produce profit?

Great, sobering points. I agree with almost everything and one of the best 'beliefs' list I've read. Couple things. Maximizing happiness can have ironic setbacks when dealing with pedophiles or sociopaths. If eating someones face and raping their ass is the highest expression of a person's happiness I'd think it better they not be allowed to maximize that. Nor should a pedophile be allowed to engage in any of his goals. Nor do I think taking the life of a stranger to save your son is the 'proper' thing to do. Ideally one should sacrifice themselves and accept their situation (the poets call it fate). Altho I could totally understand someone doing that and wouldn't judge them. One last thing, I don't think people are rational beings. Love isn't rational and it's one of the most powerful and motivating things one can feel (not to mention destructive). In light of this, irrational beliefs almost start to make sense and seem to have their place.

You're correct. I no longer 100% agree with simply "maximizing personal happiness" - I think the happiness of those around you is equally important, and should be considered when making decisions. However, I think that (for the most part) all human beings are going to act on what maximizes their personal happiness anyway - whether it's giving all their possessions and time to the poor, or torturing and raping small children.

The only point I disagree with you on is in sacrificing a stranger to save their son. If it were the choice between you and a stranger, I would agree that it would be most moral to save the stranger. However, when it's your son versus a stranger, someone is going to die anyway, and the person you save may as well be the one you love and care about. I mean, why the person you don't even know?

I agree with you that humans are not rational beings. However, I do think love is rational, depending on from what angle you look at it. From an evolutionary perspective, it helps keep your genes in the gene pool. Those who can experience love are more likely to pass their genes down to the next generation. From a personal perspective, it's one of our greatest sources of happiness. It can certainly become completely irrational - like any emotion - but for the most part, it serves a logical purpose, for the individual, the society, and the species. Not that that matters - for the individual is all we really consider in our daily life.

Irrational beliefs certainly don't make sense, but I can see how they would develop and why. Why they exist makes sense, not the beliefs themselves.

I'm glad you liked the list.

This is an interesting point. The sensible thing is, I think, to save the son. But doesn't this lead to a rather cruel, unfair world? It's a sort extreme individualism, every man for himself. It's like bursting into a hospital, kicking a doctor in the face and tossing someone off the life machine because your son is dying. I admit, it's true to human nature but probably not tenable for a functional society.

I think monogamy is rational and extremely important for raising children. Love on the other hand is madness. It has to be tamed and guided into reasonable boundaries. If I fell in love with a married woman for instance, it could spell disaster. Or if a teacher falls for a student (however hot it may be). I think love is like any bodily function and should be emptied into the proper receptacle.

For sure - but that can be said of any emotion. Emotions are (mostly) inherently irrational. In fact, I'd argue that emotion is the opposite of reason. Some are inherently useless, but I think love serves its purpose, and is the glue that holds monogamy together. Of course, I also agree with polyamory - I think love, like all positive emotions, is something to be enjoyed under the condition that it hurts no one. This is obviously easier said than done.

As for the saving your son or the stranger: one of them has to die. That's the condition of the hypothetical situation. It's not exactly akin to kicking the doctor's face in to save your son, it's more like...having both your son and a stranger dying of an illness that can be easily cured with a particular medicine. However, you only have one needle, and you can't access any more within the timeframe you need to, so you can only inject one of them with the medication. I think the rational - and moral - choice is to choose your son, and I don't think it's callous, cold, or extreme individualism. The situation requires you to choose one of them. One could argue that you know your son is a certain type of person - probably good (most of us are) - but you don't know what the stranger is like. He could be a sociopath for all you know. Even from the standpoint of what's best for society based on the knowledge you have, saving your son is (usually) the right choice, unless he's a psychopath or something of the sort. Still, you can never know that the stranger wouldn't be worse.

Ah, that makes sense. I had misunderstood the premise! I thought the son was dying and the only way to save him was by stealing someone elses life, but if they are both dying and you have to choose, then I completely agree with you! Kicking the doctor in the face was a bit excessive, and I admit merely a stylistic touch on my part.

If everything is governed by natural selection, then how is it possible that homosexual people still exist? (I don´t have anything against them, but in the evolutionary sense their sexual preferences would make them less likely to survive than straight people, because they won´t have children, right?)