Back in July, I wrote about a Facebook debate I had with TruthSeeker, a guy from our church. This was such an unrewarding, face palmingly awful debate, that it really turned me off from having religious discussions at all anymore. But that wasn’t the last encounter with TruthSeeker.
About a month later, I posted a link on Facebook to an Eliezer Yudkowsky blog post titled Conservation of Expected Evidence.
Therefore, for every expectation of evidence, there is an equal and opposite expectation of counterevidence.
If you expect a strong probability of seeing weak evidence in one direction, it must be balanced by a weak expectation of seeing strong evidence in the other direction. If you’re very confident in your theory, and therefore anticipate seeing an outcome that matches your hypothesis, this can only provide a very small increment to your belief (it is already close to 1); but the unexpected failure of your prediction would (and must) deal your confidence a huge blow. On average, you must expect to be exactly as confident as when you started out.
So if you claim that “no sabotage” is evidence for the existence of a Japanese-American Fifth Column, you must conversely hold that seeing sabotage would argue against a Fifth Column. If you claim that “a good and proper life” is evidence that a woman is a witch, then an evil and improper life must be evidence that she is not a witch. If you argue that God, to test humanity’s faith, refuses to reveal His existence, then the miracles described in the Bible must argue against the existence of God.
It’s actually a pretty simple concept. Two opposite observations can’t both be used to argue for a claim being true.
To his credit, it seemed like TruthSeeker actually reads the links I post… reads them at least enough to comment on them. In this case, whe whole God revealing his existence bit probably inspired him to post this:
“Conservation of Expected Evidence does not mean Ignorance of Observed Evidence.”
Where’d that come from!?!?! That wasn’t in the main article. I panicked for a bit, wondering if he found something I overlooked. As it turns out, he did. The part he quoted was in the comments section. Admittedly, I don’t take the time to follow the discussion that happens in the post comments, so I completely skipped over this part.
Generally speaking, when I post links to Facebook, I try to be careful to make sure that I understand what the link is about. In the event that someone calls me out on it, I wanna know what I’m talking about. TruthSeeker called my bluff. So I went back and poured over the comments section to try and figure out why he posted that quote.
So after doing some background research to understand what the discussion was about, I get to the context of the quote.
In the article, Yudkowsky writes:
For a true Bayesian, it is impossible to seek evidence that confirms a theory. There is no possible plan you can devise, no clever strategy, no cunning device, by which you can legitimately expect your confidence in a fixed proposition to be higher (on average) than before. You can only ever seek evidence to test a theory, not to confirm it.
The reason is impossible is that you’re always taking in new evidence. If it’s a strong theory, you should expect evidence to be common. As such, the more common the evidence, the less and less it strengthens your theory. Kinda like Law of Diminishing Returns. Disconfirming evidence then, would be rare. But when you encounter it, it should really impact your theory. Knock it over!
But you’re always taking in evidence. As rare as it may be, you still may find something that dis-confirms your theory (even in small amounts). You’re constantly taking in evidence and can never ever be 100% certain that no dis-confirming evidence will crop up.
Commenter Cyan2, attempting to refute this, replies:
Here’s an example which doesn’t bear on Conservation of Expected Evidence as math, but does bear on the statement,
“There is no possible plan you can devise, no clever strategy, no cunning device, by which you can legitimately expect your confidence in a fixed proposition to be higher (on average) than before.”
taken at face value.
It’s called the Cable Guy Paradox; it was created by Alan Hรกjek, a philosopher the Australian National University. (I personally think the term Paradox is a little strong for this scenario.)
Here it is: the cable guy is coming tomorrow, but cannot say exactly when. He may arrive any time between 8 am and 4 pm. You and a friend agree that the probability density for his arrival should be uniform over that interval. Your friend challenges you to a bet: even money for the event that the cable guy arrives before noon. You get to pick which side of the bet you want to take — by expected utility, you should be indifferent. Here’s the curious thing: if you pick the morning bet, then almost surely there will be times in the morning when you would prefer to switch to the afternoon bet.
This would seem to be a situation in which “you can legitimately expect your confidence in a fixed proposition to be higher (on average) than before,” even though the equation P(H) = P(H|E)*P(E) + P(H|~E)*P(~E) is not violated. I’m not sure, but I think it’s due to multiple possible interpretations of the word “before”.
Cyan2′s response sounds familiar. It’s the Monty Hall Problem, when you make a guess on probability, if you get new information, you’ll probably want to change your guess. But it seems like he’s misunderstanding Yudkowsky’s point, as well as Bayes Theorem. Commenter bigjeff5 responds:
“Here’s the curious thing: if you pick the morning bet, then almost surely there will be times in the morning when you would prefer to switch to the afternoon bet.”
You either have a new interval, or new information suggesting the probability density for the interval has changed.
Conservation of Expected Evidence does not mean Ignorance of Observed Evidence.
This is just a restatement of the black swan problem, and it’s a non-issue. If evidence does not exist yet it does not exist yet. It doesn’t cast doubt on your methods of reasoning, nor does it allow you make a baseless guess of what might come in the future.
There it is. That’s the bit that that TruthSeeker quoted.
Others can correct me if I’m wrong, but what bigjeff5 is saying that when you observe new evidence (like the discovery of a black swan when you thought only white swans existed), good reasoning means that you use that new evidence to update your beliefs. Here, I’ll let him say it:
You cannot predict a black swan. That’s why it can screw up your expectation.
However, once you have a black swan you’d be an irrational fool not to include it in your expectation.
That’s the point. That’s why theories get updated – new data that nobody was aware of before does not match expectations. This new evidence adjusts the probability that the theory was correct, and it gets thrown out if a different theory now has a higher probability in light of the new evidence.
This is not a shortcoming of Bayes Theorem, it’s a shortcoming of observation. That you should certainly be aware of. I.e. “I might not have all the facts.”
In essence, bigjeff5 is supporting the argument of the blog post.
And that really confused me. After all this research and scrutiny, I still had no idea why TruthSeeker posted that quote. With no recourse but to ask him directly, I did:
Okay, I’ll bite. Why that quote?
Because such philosophical circling achieves very little, the argument against evidence that is plainly visible is pointless. The question is why do you post articles like this?
Um… what? Five minutes later he adds:
The problem remains that I see everything as evidence of Gods existence, whereas you see everything as evidence that there is no God!
Huh? I’m totally confused.
I notice that I am confused…
Lets see, I’m working on the premise that TruthSeeker found some slam dunk argument one liner that refutes everything. I’m trying to unravel the context to see what he discovered that I missed. But the quote he posted seems to work against him. Or at least, be completely irrelevant and unrelated to what he’s trying to accomplish. What if…
What if he just posted that quote because it sounds kinda cool and that he actually doesn’t understand any of it? Maybe he posted it because it sounds like it could work as a jab at me for ignoring what he feels is mountains of evidence for the 100% truth of Christianity.
Maybe he thinks the quote “Conservation of Expected Evidence does not mean Ignorance of Observed Evidence” means “YourSillyBlogPost doesn’t mean YouAreJustifiedInIgnoringAllCreation”.
Maybe he has no clue what any of this is about and it’s all way over his head, but that when he sees a jab at faith, he has to strike back.
If that is the case, is it even worth it to get into a debate with him? He’s essentially demonstrated that he doesn’t get it, and he got me spinning and freaking trying to figure him out. All that extra research for nothing.
At that point I concluded that this was a lost cause and replied:
For the sake of my stress level, I’ll just say that this stuff interests me and Facebook is a great place to share your interests with friends. You may not care for it, but others might.
That seemed fair ya? No potty mouth. No cheap shots. Just an honest admission of who I am and what my purpose is. He gets the final word:
Fair enough, but when I read these articles (and I do) I get a different take. Often they come across as an attack on faith, either overtly or covertly.
Well yeah. I can totally see how rationality and proper thinking can be an attack on faith, no matter how you slice it. Reality always is.
One last thing I want to mention is a psychological phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect:
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to recognize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority.
Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. As Kruger and Dunning conclude, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others” (p. 1127). The effect is about paradoxical defects in cognitive ability, both in oneself and as one compares oneself to others.
The thing that frustrates me most about religious debates and discussions is that I spent a lot of time learning. Learning everything and anything I can. I’m an information junkie. And during my infodump sessions, I think I’ve amassed a pretty nice knowledge base. Lot of that knowledge lends to the belief that the likelihood of any god or anything supernatural actually existing being laughably low. It took a long time to get to that point, and a lot of these concepts are complex.
I try to stay humble in my learning. There’s a boat load I still have to learn. But I have learned a lot. So its frustrating having a religious discussion with people who dismiss what I’ve learned completely out of hand. It’s like reveling in their own ignorance with being boastfully confident about their errors.
As he said, “I see everything as evidence of Gods existence, whereas you see everything as evidence that there is no God!” That’s a big freaking problem in observation and reasoning then. For precisely the reasons the article said, this universe that we both observe cannot be both evidence for and against the existence of God. The difference is my view is a conclusion after reviewing the evidence, and his view is a conclusion that shapes the evidence.
I can’t have a conversation with that gross level of incoherent thinking and dishonesty. It’s just too emotionally draining and ultimately not worth the effort.
A few weeks ago, a friend from our local Atheist Meetup, posted a pic on Facebook about Noah’s Ark. Another friend, let’s call her BiologyLas, made this comment:
I am still wondering how they had enough room for the vials of the billions of species of bacteria that inhabit this planet
Now these two people are my science minded, atheist friends. I’m not an expert at sarcasm, but I figured that I’d join in the fun and poke at the Creationists a bit. I wrote:
“Bacteria” count as 1 “kind” so you only need 2 microbes. Easy peas.
I thought it was funny. I also thought that, knowing me as a science minded atheist too, they’d get that I was making a joke.
NO there are at least 100l million species of bacteria that we know of… and given that bacteria are STILL from the earliest days of evolution, the most common life form on planet earth, I am guessing that there are a few more 100 million species unknown to our human science. Bite it Bubka!
And then she replied.
The diverstiy of bacteria is greater than the diversithy of all other species of life on earth. If you were a Bilogist you would have learned this in your studies. But alas since you are possibly (since you are Jamaican at some poiint you may have had a better ecucation than Americans..) a victim of American education you know almost nothing about Science much less Biology.
Uh…. what the hell just happened?
One minute I’m joking with two of my friends and the next I’m an ignorant American??!?!
So I wrote back:
totally kidding btw lol
But that didn’t quite do it for me. I walked away from the iPad, but something still nagged at me. Something that said I really shouldn’t leave it there.
So I added:
Or more clarification, I was making a really bad joke about how creationists have really fuzzy definitions about “species” and “kind” that focus more on phenotype rather than genotype. But since there was know knowledge of microbiology back then… they probably would have missed that opportunity.
I felt that I kinda had stand up for my American education. You know, demonstrate that I did know a bit about biology. I wasn’t an expert, but I wasn’t dumb either. But for some reason, I still felt bad. The display of intelligence didn’t seem to address the real issue.
It wasn’t just that she called me stupid. It was that she was so quick to go for really hurtful responses. It was so effortless for her to jump to the ad hominem.
So I concluded:
By the way BiologyLas, your response is actually quite rude for missing my joke. Very excessive.
That got her:
very sorry no offense meant Shawn!!!
nex’ time mek yuh joke dem moh obvious!
No offense meant? That’s like walking up to someone, telling them that their mother is a whore, and when they get offended saying “Oh no offense meant”.
The whole encounter really… I dunno… it did a number on me. I mean, I get that we atheists will argue about anything. But this wasn’t a debate. This was just plain mean. And if she’s this quick to move for the kill with someone who (by all accounts) is “on her side”… jeez… how is she with Christians?
Am I like this?
This past Sunday’s sermon had a few words about doubt, and how it was okay for Christians to doubt. I thought this was a rather hollow sentiment because usually doubters are only allowed to have one resolution to their doubt: more faith. When doubt emerges, the common response from the Church is to encourage the doubter to pray more, or go to small groups, or read some apologetic books. The admonition is to do anything that will make the doubt go away. Everyone doubts, you just can’t doubt successfully.
So on Facebook, I posted this:
“It ain’t a true crisis of faith unless things could just as easily go either way.” – Thor Shenkel. It’s okay for you to doubt. But is it okay for you to doubt successfully?
I didn’t expect anyone to take the bait, but surprisingly, a guy from our Church did. Lets call him TruthSeeker.
TruthSeeker responded that God is, so doubt and faithlessness were meaningless. It seemed like there was some confusion over the point I was trying to make, so I clarified:
Here’s what I’d expect to see if a Church community was okay with someone successfully doubting (Scenario 1): Doubter expresses doubt to Pastor. Pastor encourages Doubter to seek out best arguments and evide…nce from all sides, as many religions as possible, and even atheist/skeptic groups; weigh the evidence; and go with the best conclusion.
Here’s what I’d expect to see if a Church community was not okay with someone successfully doubting (Scenario 2): Doubter expresses doubt to Pastor. Pastor recommends small groups, apologetic books, one on one counseling, more prayer, so that their doubt can be resolved.
In Scenario 1, doubt is a process by which the best arguments are evaluated and (hopefully) the best one wins.
In Scenario 2, there is an expected conclusion and all efforts to resolve the doubt are done in a way as to always arrive at the expected conclusion.
What I see most often is Scenario 2.
If you’re talking about doubting the existence of God, and what the Truth is then that’s a different argument. In your Scenario’s, the Pastor’s role is to direct the person to the truth. There is only 1 truth, so to encourage you to examine all the versions of the untruth is pointless.
From there, I kinda realized where this was going. It’s the same issue I’ve been running into over presuppositions. I then wrote:
I guess the next question would be, how can one be sure that their “Truth” is the actual truth? You’re just as convinced that your God exists as I am convinced that your God doesn’t exist. I think your beliefs are untruths just as you think my beliefs are untruths. I can assert my beliefs as fact, just as you can.
I think my way of discerning truth is more effective than yours, and you think your way of discerning truth is more effective than mine. You think your evidence is more valid than mine, and vice versa.
So, how do we tell who’s right?
Partly rhetorical, part earnest. The conversation then went into what my beliefs are and how exactly I thought we differed in our standards of evidence and our ways to find truth. Somewhere along the way, I mentioned that while I had some reservations over whether Jesus was an actual historical figure, the research and debate behind it was kind boring to me. I’d tried to review the literature and the opposing sides, but just didn’t find it interesting. TruthSeeker jumped on this:
So you aren’t seeking truth are you?
You’re looking for proofs to sustain your preconceived understanding.
You’re closed to the truth.
That didn’t go over well with me at all:
Yes, Peter. By your definition, I suppose I am closed to the truth.
I thought he was just using a very narrow definition of the word truth, one that made truth the exclusive province of Christianity. He clarified:
Well if you claim to seek the truth, it simply isn’t genuine if you automatically reject exploring the evidence as presented. If all mainstream religions are void based upon your own premise, then you’re only seeking that which confirms your belief. I believe in Christ both as a tangible relationship and as a logical explanation in light of no better explanation.
He was actually referring to my beliefs that there was nothing supernatural. No ghosts or spirits or demons or souls. Nada. In my opinion, until it can be demonstrated (or even observed) that mental conciousness can exist outside of machinery, there’s no sense to assume that spiritualism is a better explanation to naturalism. And yes, I think the existance of the supernatural is a fundamental aspect of most mainstream religions. Take away supernaturalism and most religions are moot right out of the gate. It’s like quibbling about what color roof you want when the whole other 2/3rds of the house was swept away.
I completely failed to discuss this because by then I was too upset. I took his bait.
At the time, I also thought he was referring to my boredom with historicity discussions:
If you say… you’re not interested in the historical accuracy or authorship of the Bible, then how can you say you are seeking truth?
I tried explaining that boredom doesn’t equal a priori dismissal, that I actually tried reading it. It was just hard to get through so I haven’t made up my mind on the issue.
By then it spiraled out of control. TruthSeeker then switched to what he though were flaws in “Darwins Evolution religion”, but were simply strawmen that demonstrated that he didn’t know what evolution was.
The problem with Darwinism is modern science has undermined the basis for his theory.
Firstly if FROG wants to turn into a DOG it must shed the dna that makes it a frog and then acquire dna to become a dog. That’s impossible. No observed law of nature demonstrates this. In fact a frog’s cells only contain frog dna so aga…in where does the new information come from?Secondly, genetic mutations always involve the loss of data or corruption of data. Never has a genetic mutation been a positive thing.Thirdly, a species is wired to mate with its own kind. If a frog is looking for a mate, it would reject a dog as a potential mate. So how much ‘dog-ness’ would a mate accept before the new version dies out?Fourthly, Darwin said that by necessity every layer of the earth would have to be chock full of intermediate transitional fossils that clearly show the transformation from one kind into another. He was confident that the future would reveal that. 150 years later & no such evidence has been found.
In fact if every species that has ever… existed is the result of such evolutionary changes there should be trillions of fossils. As yet, not one single species can be demonstrated to have evolved.
Fifthly, irreducible complexity rules out the incremental forming of complex organs. Components that require all the parts in order to function cannot function when incomplete. The species would die out. If arms become wings there has to be a point at which the apendage is no longer useful as an arm or wing & that would cause detriment to the species.
Electron microscopes have revealed the complexity of cells, & they are also irreducibly complex.
And by then I was so pissed off that I got snarkier and ended up offending him.
You have “Darwinism” and evolution all wrong. It’s true that a frog going to a dog by shedding dna is impossible. No modern animal can change into drastically differ…ent modern animal. That’s not what evolution says. That was never what evolution said. Pokemon maybe, not evolution.
Evolution says that frogs and dogs share a very distant common ancestor that diverged in development millions of years ago. Some of that ancestors descendants eventually became frogs and some of those ancestors eventually became wolves (which we then domesticated into dogs). And some of those ancestors ended up becoming other modern day animals. That’s what evolution states.
Second, here’s an example of a genetic mutation being a positive thing: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14094-bacteria-make-major-evolutionary-shift-in-the-lab.html Natural selection displayed in the lab, where bacteria mutate to be able to metabolize citrate.
Third, yeah that’s what the definition of a species is. Again, Darwin never said that one species mates with a second species to make a third species. I have no clue where you got that, but that’s not evolution. Natural selection (a mechanism by which evolution works) creates variations in offspring through the passing of genes. Each successive generation is a little bit different. So drastic changes take millions of years.
Fourth, show me where Darwin said that. Not only that, but part of the implications of evolution is that every fossil is a transitional fossil, just as every animal is a transitional animal. Us humans, we’re transitioning too! Millions of y…ears from now (if we’re still here) we’ll probably be very different. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what transitional means in the scope of evolution.
Fossils are actually quite rare and we’re lucky to have them. The funny thing is, if we had more fossils, it would have been harder to discover evolution because all the species would have blended with each other and we wouldn’t be able to tell the subtle differences!
Fifth, irreducible complexity is also quite ridiculous. Think Voltron. Combined all the lions produce and awesome force, but separate the lions are still functional, just with job duties different from Voltron itself. Not only that, but Darwin himself described the possible evolution of the “irreducibly complex” eye: a patch of cells that are light sensitive increasing in sensitivity, forming a pit, hardening mucus, etc. It’s actually pretty easy stuff to an unbiased mind.
So we concluded the conversation in a whimper.
Like I said. No argument here. I’m just a deluded christian who is really an ignorant simpleton which is where these discussions always end up. Atheists are so much smarter & way intellectually superior.
I ended up not feeling very good about the convo, particularly how I let myself get baited and lose my cool. It was a really frustrating discussion since he used a kinda scattershot approach: ask a whole bunch of questions in succession and simply move on if I got him in a corner.
He made reference to two things that he claimed Darwin said that would show that evolution was wrong, and yet he didn’t provide quotes when asked. He just moved on.
I talked about how I viewed beliefs as “anticipation controllers” dictating what I should expect and shouldn’t expect to see, followed by a long list of specific things that I would expect to see that would make my beliefs false. I asked him if there was anything that would convince him that Christianity was false. No response.
He hammers me on my boredom with the historicity argument, saying that if I don’t follow it through I’m not really seeking truth and yet I can tell he’s probably never read anything about evolution. Or if he did, it doesn’t seem like never read anything from the opposing side.
Clearly his definition of truth is different from my definition of truth. Here’s what I go by:
1. the true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.2. conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement.3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.
In your Scenario’s, the Pastor’s role is to direct the person to the Christ (truth). There is only 1 Christ (truth), so to encourage you to examine all the versions of the unChrist (truth) is pointless.How about this…most Atheists I have encountered have no desire to seek the Christ (truth).I wonder where we disagree on standards of evidence & appropriate methods of discerning Christ (truth).So you aren’t seeking Christ (truth) are you?
You’re looking for proofs to sustain your preconceived understanding.
You’re closed to the Christ (truth).
Everyone starts as a doubter until an event, a revelation or aquired knowledge brings assurance that Christ is the Truth.
You are, by occupation, a campaign manager, and you’ve just been hired by Mortimer Q. Snodgrass, the Green candidate for Mayor of Hadleyburg. As a campaign manager reading a blog on rationality, one question lies foremost on your mind: “How can I construct an impeccable rational argument that Mortimer Q. Snodgrass is the best candidate for Mayor of Hadleyburg?”Sorry. It can’t be done.“What?” you cry. “But what if I use only valid support to construct my structure of reason? What if every fact I cite is true to the best of my knowledge, and relevant evidence under Bayes’s Rule?”Sorry. It still can’t be done. You defeated yourself the instant you specified your argument’s conclusion in advance.
…because Hell doesn’t exist.
Despite this, my Facebook feed was quite active with comments of shock and dismay at the breaking news that Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her daughter. A lot of the comments were religious in nature. Here are som e examples:
There is a special place in hell for unpunished murderers. Your justice will be a fiery one, bitch!
bitch will BURN IN HELL FOR WHAT SHE DID TO THAT BABY!! Sooo sick and sad and PISSED…WTF was the jury thinking?? If she didn’t do it then how the hell did that baby get in the swamp with duct tape on her face while her mama was in the “hot body contest” and partying it up?? UGH!!
Don’t worry Casey, God knows the truth and that’s all that really matters.
all i can hope is that there is such a thing as karma.
God has a much better plan than jail for the murderer, whoever that might be!
To all Floridians currently discussing the big court case: We are all depraved, sinful people and in need of salvation; both love and justice that we perceive through our flesh lenses in this place are not ultimate and Christ is still on the throne because he has already defeated sin and death.
That last one just seemed opportunistic. There were some milder comments as well:
Remember: Not Guilty does not mean Innocent.
The thing I love out our justice system is that the burden is put on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crimes committed before the court based on lawfully obtained evidence. The media loves to inject their opinions and verdicts for sensationalism (Richard Jewell case) without concern. Speculation is not evidence. Testimony and tangible clues are.
too much anger and idiocy on my feed this past hour. why not take a look at all these people who were wrongly convicted and spent years in prison based on circumstantial evidence and FEELINGS?
I hadn’t really followed the case, but I did notice the visceral reactions people had with their feelings of injustice. Life isn’t a story that wraps up nice and neat, or has some overarching narrative where the bad guy gets it in the end. Often times there is no justice or fairness. The god comments seemed to reflect that vibe the most… at least if man’s court can’t provide justice, god will.
But no, it won’t. Because there is no god. There is no storyteller who has some big plan. There’s just… this. So I wrote this:
A lot of talk about “hell” and “justice” on the FB. So I take it that forgiveness is out of the question?
And I got some pretty interesting responses. Some of my atheist friends were clearly just as angry as my Christian friends. They didn’t invoke god as some final arbiter, so they may have felt even more cheated of justice. Some thought forgiveness was nonsense. So I replied:
Yeah, why not? This kinda reminded me about the Amish school shooting back in 2007. Everyone thought the Amish were nuts to forgive the murder. They had largely faith based reasons for it, but I really do think the psychological benefits pan out. Haven’t we grown out of “eye for an eye”? And if not, isn’t it about time that we do.
And one of my Christian friends added some really great feedback.
“Forgiveness” and “justice” are 2 separate issues. I think people wanted to see justice and they are improperly expressing their anger with hate. … that’s my 2 cents anyway :)
I am as sick as you are… really. But I do think that justice and forgiveness can co-exist. Also-I do not think that she will ever be free… when she is released, where will she go? She will be in danger of being attacked in Orlando. She …has shredded her family into pieces, to save her own skin. In a way, she has completely administered justice unto herself. It may not be what we wanted to see, but she will not be “free”.P.S…. I think that we might be confusing “forgiveness” with “grace”. Grace is choosing to withhold justice. Forgiveness is choosing to give up retribution , anger, and revenge. Forgiveness is choosing to Love and respect someone despite what they have done to you, and justice may or may not have been served. (Okay okay…. that’s my 50 cents! Hahaha. Im done.)
Close to her bedtime Sunday evening, LadyBug asked me what liquid was made of.
And while this is a fantastic question to ask, it took me a while to figure out the best way to answer it. There was so much that needed to be explained, so much that relied on pretty complex and counterintuitive concepts. And it all had to be broken down so that a 6-year-old could understand it.
I went to Wikipedia and looked up the article for the states of matter. She knew about the 3 classical states of matter from school (solid, liquid, gas). And she knew about plasma from a They Might Be Giants song called “Why Does the Sun Really Shine”. She also knew what elements were from the song “Meet the Elements”.
So we spoke about how all matter, all stuff, can be in different states. Water for example is mostly found as a liquid. If we cool it down enough it becomes a solid (ice). And if we heat water up enough it become a gas (steam). Almost anything can be a liquid.
But then she started talking about if paper could be a liquid. We didn’t quite get into suspensions and we briefly talked about combustion, but she wanted to know other states of matter. I’m a little fuzzy on what happened next, but we started talking about quarks, atoms, and building blocks of stuff. While I tried to explain that atoms were like Legos, the building blocks of everything we see, I couldn’t just stop there. So I started talking about protons and electrons, and how protons were made of even smaller stuff called quarks. But by then it was way too confusing for both of us.
This stuff was just too small to grasp. In her mind, germs were the smallest things around and it took a while to explain that germs were animals that were made up of even smaller things (cells), which were made up of even smaller things (proteins), which were made up of even smaller things (molecules), etc.
So we went on YouTube and found a video that showed pictures of small scale things (dust mites, bacteria, viruses, water molecules, protons). That was actually really helpful for her because she could see the pictures and follow along with how much smaller things were getting. It was a little confusing when we started getting into the electron microscope pictures and images that were artificially colored, but she trudged along.
And then we got to molecules and atoms. She caught on really quickly that the pictures for molecules and atoms were drawings instead of photos. So she asked the most obvious question, “why can’t we see them?’
I explained to her that (as far as I know) we couldn’t see them because we didn’t have anything that can take a picture of anything that small yet.
And then she asked the next most obvious question, “well how do you know it’s there?” (I love this kid)
I was less prepared for this than I thought, but I basically explained that even though we can’t physically see it, we can guess what they look like.
We can hypothesize what it looks like, what it is, and what it will do. (She learned about hypotheses from Dinosaur Train) And we can test out our hypotheses to see if they’re true. And as it turns out… all this great stuff we do with buildings, with chemistry, with electronics, are all things we can do because our guess about what atoms look like is correct.
That seemed to work as a tentative explanation for now. I plan on following it up by talking with her about what it means to be able to detect something. I mean, you can’t see wind, but you can see the effects wind has on the world. You can detect it.
She went to bed as a happy scientist. This was my Facebook status update that night:
Trying to explain subatomic particles to a 6 year old is pretty challenging. Trying to explain how we know that things, which are practically impossible to see, are there is just as challenging.
And sure enough, someone replied with this:
Now you know how it feels when I tell people about Jesus!
No dude, you think it’s the same but it really isn’t. How exactly is Jesus detectable? And be careful not to make this a Dragon in Your Garage.
The computer he was using to type about Jesus was based on our ability to detect the same subatomic particles that we can’t see.
I decided not to take the bait, and instead vent about it here.
By the way. I just found out that LadyBug aced her gifted placement test. Win.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been spreading my proverbial wings a bit, being more open about my atheism to my friends and family. Some of this has taken the form posting atheist-themed status updates on my Facebook account. Every now and then I repost one of Greta Christina’s Atheist Memes of the Day. Recently I decided to post the following:
To say that God or the spiritual realm exist outside our ordinary plane of existence, and can’t be understood by reason or evidence, makes no sense. If God or the spiritual realm exist and have an effect on this world, we should be able to observe that effect. If they don’t have any effect on this world, their existence is a moot point. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.
I was amazingly surprised, excited, and invigorated that the discussion that ensued. Because I’ve been neglecting the blog with original posts, I’m reposing the discussion here. All of the names have been changed to protect the identities of the people involved.