RE: virus: ((God Pi + Bad dogma) - Any pretense of reason) = Silly Graf

TheHermit (
Mon, 29 Mar 1999 17:22:34 -0600

Oops, KMO I apologize. As you know, I invested a fair amount of time into the phaith/faith discussion myself - because I really think that you have made a significant step in easing and improving communications. I am already using your system in other forums. I encourage you to continue and maybe expand your "language" to cover "belieph/belief" as well. I just was not thinking about it when I responded here, but replied to the 'ph' usage. I will plead that I have used 'ph' for 'f' for a variety of purposes (e.g. "phuque" for "fuck" and "phin" for "fin") for years in other forums (you'll recall my saying I had "personal reasons" for liking it). I will attempt to be more attentive and precise in future. It certainly is an innovation worth testing. Anything that reduces the confusion of debate (or discussion) is a good idea. Collapsing the progress you have made in distinguishing between the various usages of faith would be unhelpful and silly. They need to be added (with definitions) to the virus web site and extended at need. If there is concern at the completeness of the definitions, they could be added pro temp. I had not intended to confuse them, never mind collapse them. I agree completely with your perspective on the dichotomy between phaith and faith and with your suggestions on how to handle it.

You are correct as to my thought mode. I was actually thinking along the lines of "forum debate" - where there are a few active participants that we all get to know quite well, and a great many more faceless listeners whom we never really see unless asking the list-daemon. And the daemon seems to be hiding :-/ You are also correct when you suggest that I am passionate about these issues. Unlike Tim, I see assaults on "reason" from all directions, many of them apparently succeeding. Given the very small number of "rational" people in this world, I don't believe that it is advisable (no matter how phunny, clever, demulcent or even memetically correct it might seem :-) ) to appear to be supporting an irrational position. That platform has more than enough demagogues lurking behind it.

While reason (and her sister, science) has provided the bulk of the population of first world countries with more benefits than anyone could have imagined 100 years ago, it seems to me that reason and science have not had worse reputations since the dark ages. I don't know why this should be other than the ongoing assaults of religious figures on reason and the lack of interest in defending reason from "meaningless" attacks by the few people who might be competent to do so. I do not think that reasons ignominy is deserved; I certainly do not think it is either good or helpful to society. Let me share a few horrible facts from the UNESCO education survey last year; bear in mind as you read the following that this survey is based on people finishing high school. Fewer than 15% of Americans can identify that a molecule has something to do with biology or believe that the earth rotates about the sun. Fewer than 25% of Americans can point to America on a globe. More than 65% of Americans think that astrology is able to predict the future - reliably. More than 95% of Americans believe that the founders of the United States were Christians who fled from Europe to worship freely and believe that America is a Christian nation.

The United States Department of Education estimates that functional illiteracy, incompetence in such basic functions as reading, writing, and mathematics, plagues 24 million Americans. Thirteen percent of American seventeen-year-olds are illiterate, according to a recent issue of Time; the estimate for minority youth is an astonishing forty percent. Every year, at least a million of these functional illiterates graduate from America's high schools, the proud owners of meaningless diplomas.

According to Time Magazine, American Universities qualify more than 30% of the people applying to them as functionally illiterate and requiring remedial teaching in critical learning skills - think for a moment about the people who do not apply. Writing in the monthly Commentary, Chester E. Finn, Jr., a professor at Vanderbilt University, cites the dismal findings of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. "Just five percent of seventeen-year-old high school students can read well enough to understand and use information found in technical materials, literary essays, and historical documents." Imagine then how hopeless it is to get the other 95 percent to read Plato or Dante -- or even the Bible. "Barely six percent of them," Finn continues, "can solve multi-step math problems and use basic algebra." We're not talking “difficult” math here, but rather something as elementary as calculating simple interest on a loan.

Illiteracy this extensive is virtually unprecedented in America's history. Eighty years ago, in 1910, only 2.2 percent of American children between the ages of ten and fourteen could neither read nor write. It is important to remember that the illiteracy of 1910 reflected for the most part children who never had the advantage of schooling. The illiterates of today, however, are not people who never went to school; they are, for the most part, individuals who have spent eight to twelve years in public schools.

Of course, it is also probable that contrary to claims by the American Religious Right, America has become more, not less, besotten with religion, Today the USA is one of the most religious countries in the world, measured by professed atheists, agnostics and “unknown affiliation” per capita and also based on regular attendance of "church or other religious gatherings”. The last time the Christian Church ran things; we called it the dark ages. Coincidence? Not likely.

TheHermit <Donning sackcloth and ashes>

> -----Original Message-----
> From: KMO []
> Sent: Monday, March 29, 1999 2:36 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: virus: ((God Pi + Bad dogma) - Any pretense of reason) =
> Silly Graf
> TheHermit wrote:
> > Prof. Tim
> >
> > You seem to have completely missed or greatly
> underestimated the power of
> > reason. I know exactly where SnowLeopard is coming from,
> and do not care for
> > it one itsy teeny bit. I'd have kept my mouth shut, only he
> sat there
> > babbling nonsense, and nobody seemed to want to reply.
> Carl, I'm glad you are tireless in your repudiation of
> Christianity and mad dog
> faith. No sarcasm intended; I really am glad that your
> convictions lead you to
> play that role. You're right in that few people on this list
> have any enthusiasm
> for that project. I'm sure that most of us, certainly
> Professor Tim, have spent
> many hours on similar projects. I for one saw little return
> on my invested time
> and energy, so I don't bother with it any more. I do my best
> to serve up good
> ideas wrapped in a palatable tortilla of entertainment and
> titillation, but I
> feed only the hungry.
> I think you overestimate the number of "active" lurkers on
> the list, and
> therefore overestimate the potential damage Snow Leopard
> might have wrought on
> unguarded minds. Of course, I could be completely wrong about
> the kind of people
> who read CoV messages while never posting to the list, but I
> doubt that many of
> them are the kind who would have been swayed by the generic
> dogmatism the Snow
> Leopard has to offer.
> > Which might just have
> > given him the impression that he was "scoring points", or
> may have lead
> > somebody else on this list who was wavering between the
> reason which is
> > espoused on the website and the insane positions espoused
> by some of the
> > "gurus" here, to believe that there was no answer for Snowleopard's
> > particular challenges or brand of phaith - or any other
> brand no matter how
> > much less poisonous, for that matter.
> I'm sure you would agree that many of the propositions that
> SL holds as articles
> of faith are falsifiable. This being the case, hir (I thought
> SL was female, but
> since I'm not sure, I'll use neuter pronouns) beliefs better
> fit the traditional
> description of faith than they do phaith.
> > So while my response may have been addressed to him, it was
> in fact written
> > more for the benefit of others.
> You've mentioned that you are called upon to conduct public
> talks and debates on
> the topic of religion from time to time, and I suppose that
> is why you treat the
> CoV more like a radio show than like a conversation over
> drinks or dinner, i.e.
> focusing as much on how arguments are taken by a
> non-participating audience than
> by the active participants in the discussion.
> > All of the nervous wiggling seems to be on the side of the
> phaith holders.
> At one time, you and a few of the other partisans in the
> on-going faith war
> seemed to recognize a meaningful distinction between faith
> and phaith, but since
> then I have noticed that a many participants have started
> substituting "ph" for
> "f" in most any word and using "phaith" exclusively, even
> when they mean to
> refer to the dogmatic insistence on the truth of falsifiable
> propositions in the
> absence of supporting evidence or in spite of evidence to the
> contrary. Have you
> decided that there is no legitimate distinction to be made there?
> Should I go back to defending faith?
> I'm not a Christian. I don't believe that anyone has ever
> changed water into
> wine, or been killed, buried and resurrected; I don't believe
> that the Earth
> stopped rotating so that one group would have more time to
> slaughter another,
> and I don't believe that there was a flood that wiped out all
> human and animal
> life on the planet save for one small but densely packed
> floating managerie.
> Because I couldn't convince you and a few other participants
> that the holding of
> beliefs such as the ones I just listed is not the only way to
> conceive of faith
> and the role it can play in one's life, I coined a new term
> to refer to the kind
> of convictions that I have been attempting to defend and promote.
> Given your concern for the lurkers, do you really want to collapse the
> distinction between faith and phaith and have me go back to
> defending faith?
> Were I to do that, newcomers to the discussion may well think
> that my arguments
> are meant to lend support to SnowLeopard's position, which
> you know is not the
> case.
> I know that you are passionate about this issue, but I also
> know that you know
> how to think. So think. What are you hoping to achieve, and
> does collapsing the
> faith/phaith distinction advance your goals?
> -KMO