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Agnostics are shy atheists.

If the answer is either yes or no, and you say "maybe", you say "no", substantially.

Why? Because every "no" is simply a refuted "yes" (philosophically speaking).

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biohacker42 1899 days ago | link

There's nothing shy about me, trust me.

Agnostics are mathematicians. Or at lest very close to being mathematicians.

There's the old joke of a biologist, a physicist and a mathematician on a train in Scotland.

They see a black sheep and the biologist says: Hey Scotland is full of black sheep!

The Physicist responds with we have evidence of one black sheep in Scotland.

And the mathematician concludes, there exists at least one sheep, at least one of whose sides is black, in Scotland.

So when agnostics say you can't disprove anything, we mean it. We mean it in the literal mathematical sense of negatives not being provable.

Oh but you don't live your life according to such extreme ideological purity, if somethings darn close to a duck you call it a duck.

That's great if it works for you, but my mind is much stricter then that.

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Herring 1899 days ago | link

So what happens when they don't see a black sheep?

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biohacker42 1899 days ago | link

As Dawkins puts it, if there were a teapot orbiting the sun, we'd have no way of detecting it.

It is too small for our telescopes, so we have absolutely no evidence for a teapot orbiting the sun.

You don't believe in that teapot, do you? That's silly.

But Dawkins is a biologist, and I'm a computer scientist, I don't believe in the teapot, but I also don't KNOW it's not there.

And that has nothing to do with shyness.

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olavk 1899 days ago | link

The shyness part is probably when people treat the question of belief in certain supernatural beeings as "special". Nobody is "agnostic" about their belief in the Tooth Fairy. They just plain don't believe in him (her?). Beeings from still living religions are treated differently since the issue is more sensitive.

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dfranke 1898 days ago | link

That argument originally came from Bertrand Russell, not Dawkins.

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gravitycop 1898 days ago | link

Wikipedia says "Yes": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot

Russell's teapot, sometimes called the Celestial Teapot, was an analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970)

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TrevorJ 1899 days ago | link

I'm a 3D animator for my day job, I definitely believe in the teapot, I saw it in the Cornell box so I know it exists. (apologies if this is way too much of an inside joke)

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Herring 1897 days ago | link

What would a proof of "not there" consist of?

What I mean is, how can you claim to know anything if you allow the possibility of supernatural things interfering with your experiments?

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lst 1899 days ago | link

Sorry to correct you, but you're actually kind of shy (that is, not really determined):

You simply confirm that if 3 persons of human species are exposed to the same reality (yes, reality, because the impressions may be different, but the reality is well defined and precisely one):

So, if 3 persons of the same species are all concluding more or less different things, then you have the definite answer that none of them is seeing absolutely everything, that is: the whole reality:

So: you can't be God, because:

If you were God, you would know it (together with the exact reality of all things...)

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biohacker42 1899 days ago | link

Either you're WAAAAAAAAAY smarter then me, or you're babbling.

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lhorie 1898 days ago | link

For whatever it's worth, I think your line of reasoning makes more sense. I see the difference between atheism and agnosticism as analogous to the difference between conclusiveness and inconclusiveness.

I don't agree with the "refuted yes" idea. In logic, "no" is not necessary equal to "not yes". For example, "not black" could be "white", but also "green". "God" does not have a well defined enough definition: it's very likely that God is not a bearded man on a cloud, but questions like whether omnipotence or omnipresence exist (and their correlations) are a whole new can of philosophical worms :)

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yters 1898 days ago | link

He seems to be saying your thought experiment only shows reality is too complex to be viewed the same way by multiple people, and your claim assumes too much.

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markup 1899 days ago | link

How about no? I don't say "maybe", I say it is impossible to prove or disprove. Frankly reducing it to a "yes or no" question is really reductive, and pretty much a christian way to put things, if you will. Q: "Do you believe in god?" A: "I cannot know whether a god exists or not."

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lst 1899 days ago | link

If you say: "I cannot know whether a god exists or not.", you already say that you are not cause of yourself (otherwise you would know), and, consequently, there must be another cause outside yourself:

And this is exactly the definition of "God".

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bendotc 1899 days ago | link

"another cause outside yourself" is not exactly the definition of "God." To believe that you did not bring yourself into being does not mean you believe in God, it means you're not a solipsist.

Also, would you please stop telling people what they believe? I don't think I'm the only person here who finds it to be rude. You can civilly argue a point without telling people that they're not really agnostics or whatever.

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gravitycop 1899 days ago | link

Also, would you please stop telling people what they believe?

Also known as negation: http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/profile.html#tendency_t...

Profile of a rapist [...]

3) Negating behavior or comments - [...] Does he try to tell you what you are feeling or thinking? Or worse, tell you what you are not? Comments like "you don’t really mean that" are serious indicators of someone trying to negate you. A person who negates others is trying to take away the other person’s thoughts, feelings and needs and attempting to project his wants onto that person.

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markup 1899 days ago | link

You are probably missing the point that agnosticism is about knowledge and not beliefs (sp?)... and frankly I am tired of keep on hearing people telling me I am an atheis, shy atheis or whatever -- so I am giving up.

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lst 1899 days ago | link

I only explained the basic principles of logic...

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markup 1899 days ago | link

I tried explained you it is about epistemology, instead.

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lst 1899 days ago | link

And you know what "logic" means?

You can't act against "logic" without hurting yourself. If you are a hacker (like me), you never ever can act against logic, otherwise your program won't work (and exactly the same happens with life itself).

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I have a (simple) question to all atheists:

If you didn't create yourself (and you didn't, otherwise you would know/remember/etc.), and (consequently) some other one did, how do you call it?

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gravitycop 1899 days ago | link

If you didn't create yourself [...] and (consequently) some other one did, how do you call it?

Natural selection. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection

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shawnyar217 1899 days ago | link

I have a (simple) question to all THEISTS:

If you believe god created you, what name do call that god by? Jesus? Allah? Yahweh? Buddha? Zeus?

Theists, talk amongst yourself. If you ever settle on one name for god, then maybe we atheists will start taking you more seriously.

Logically, if you didn't create yourself:

1) Maybe a god created you. 2) Maybe something else created you. 3) Maybe you weren't created at all. (Ex: Maybe the matter and energy in the universe have existed forever.)

As an atheist, I'm humble enough to admit I can't pick #1, #2, or #3 conclusively.

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TrevorJ 1899 days ago | link

By that logic, all theories would need to be proven down to the detailed fundamentals before deemed worthy of discussion. It's like saying you have to determine the make, model and age of a car in the parking lot before you are allowed to assert that (any) car may exist in the parking lot.

But, as I have said before, I agree with you in that I don't feel the real truth of the matter can be proven externally. I choose to believe in God, but I have no 'proof' scientifically speaking.

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lst 1899 days ago | link

I can only speak for myself, and this is the way I see it (but this is already Faith):

"God" is defined this way: the only one not caused by anything else.

So, if God is the only one not caused by anything, but simply cause of Himself, nobody can reach God, if He doesn't allow to be reached.

So, the only possibility for us to know something about God is that He deliberately decided to communicate Himself to us.

From this premises, it's clear that there can only be one real Religion, and that all the other ones are simply negations of some parts of the real one...

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lst 1899 days ago | link | parent | on: New Comment Features

BTW:

I really love the "0 karma" feature from sites like this one: It helps very, very much not to waste too much time here, given that I never learned anything substantial on places like this one. May I cite some better teachers:

    - books
    - real persons
    - live discussions
    - pubs
    - restaurants
    - (last not least) my family(!!)
or simply: anything that escapes virtuality...

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...and is it finally coming close to .00001 % of a human brain?

If someone is excited about that, what about the human brain itself? Just a simple information:

The human brain is the most complex thing in the whole universe, or: all of physical universe is less complex than a single human brain.

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kurtosis 1899 days ago | link

So the human brain has about 10^11 neurons and about 10^4 synapses per neuron. Naively representing the state of each synapse with one byte requires 10^15 bytes that's about 500,000 PCs.

But neurons aren't necessarily the optimal substrate for "neural" computation. They have a cycle time of about 100 Hz. Electronics are potentially a factor of 10^8 faster. Neurons also have a lot of noise which surely reduces their information transmission capacity. Also there are major constraints on the neural tissue involving power consumption and stability against siezures. Also there are vast sections of the brain e.g. the cerebellum which are apparently devoted to problems like stabilizing posture and making smooth movements which can be solved much easier with electronic controls.

It's very plausible that we could achieve a factor of 100 or even 1000 over the brain. The bottleneck is human imagination; we don't have a clue how the thing works.

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lst 1899 days ago | link

That's not the point.

The human brain is quite "infinitely" interconnected, and this is something which not only would be really, really hard to solve with a physical machine: it's simply impossible.

I understand the fascination of a real super computer, but it's simply nothing compared to a single human brain...

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anamax 1899 days ago | link

> The human brain is quite "infinitely" interconnected, and this is something which not only would be really, really hard to solve with a physical machine: it's simply impossible.

Hmm. How does this "infinitely interconnected" thing work if not by physical means? (In physical, I include electromagnetic waves without a dedicated conductor, not just "wires".)

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lst 1899 days ago | link

Yes, you are always free to misunderstand.

The interesting thing is: some do, some do not.

(We have physics, chemistry, and others, exactly to distinguish different levels...)

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anamax 1898 days ago | link

I understood you to say that parts in the brain communicate by something other than physical means. Is that where I went wrong?

If some of the communications are not by physical means, how does the "not physical means" communication work?

If all of the communications are by physical means, how does the brain have "infinite" interconnect? Am I wrong in believing that one can't have infinite connectivity with physical means?

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lst 1899 days ago | link

Let me explicitly repeat your statement:

You say that the human brain would (in theory) be able to create something more intelligent than itself?

(Are you aware of the irony?)

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nebula 1899 days ago | link

While it might be an irony, there is no reason why it is not possible.

If you follow evolution, that's how we came into being in the first place. Though there was no specific entity working with that explicit goal in the case of evolution.

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lallysingh 1898 days ago | link

Hmm, I can use my physical strength to build an engine stronger than myself...

Are you aware of the empty rhetoric?

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trominos 1898 days ago | link

Preface: I'm not particularly well schooled in either neuroscience or in the mechanics of microprocessors.

However, I'm very close to certain that your post is basically a lot of hand-waving that is ultimately not only poorly reasoned but also actually incorrect.

- - -

The question we're trying to answer is basically, "What's the computational capacity of the brain?"

But that's not really a good question to work with, because "computational capacity" isn't well-defined. [Actually, I'm not sure about that. I know that either it's not well-defined, or its definition is something that's clearly not what we want in this situation.]

So let's ask something that we can actually reason about, like, "Assuming infinite memory, roughly how many floating point operations per second would a computer need to be able to execute in order to direct a human body in a way that's indistinguishable from what a real person does -- in real time?"

And, okay, we really only want the brain's conscious thought and maybe some of its unconscious thought, but it's hard to make a well-defined question involving just those things, and I doubt that the answer to our question will be more than a few orders of magnitude off of what we're really after.

- - -

Anyway, your post does a really, really bad job of answering that question (or anything like it). Your worst offense: > "So the human brain has about 10^11 neurons and about 10^4 synapses per neuron. Naively representing the state of each synapse with one byte requires 10^15 bytes that's about 500,000 PCs."

Come on. Did the fact that you had to use the word "byte" not tip you off? YOU'RE DISCUSSING MEMORY. Nobody cares about memory, because the amount of memory needed to store the brain's state is vastly less than the number of operations needed to simulate its function in real time.

I seriously am not able to articulate how frustrated I am that at least 12 people felt justified in upvoting you without taking the time to process the first two sentences of your post.

Before I go, another treat: > "Electronics are potentially a factor of 10^8 faster."

No. Electronics are a factor of 10^8 "faster", when "faster" is taken to mean "more rapid in executing a cycle." Which is an absolutely pointless irrelevent piece of shit statistic.

What the fuck.

- - -

Anyway, let me wrap up this post by actually answering the above question as best we can, given the current state of scientific understanding (or, more precisely, my understanding of that state of understanding):

There are on the order of 10^10 neurons and on the order of 10^11 glial cells in the adult human brain. These cells are directed by untold numbers of chemoattractants. We have no good theoretical model for the behavior of these cells in huge numbers of situations.

Therefore, WE HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING IDEA how much processing power it would take to simulate the brain's macro function. We can put an upper bound on it: we know that if we could simulate every atom in the brain to a reasonable degree of accuracy, we'd get human behavior. Obviously the number of FLOPS it would take to do such a thing is unreachable. And beyond that, I don't think it's fair to say we know anything at all.

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kurtosis 1898 days ago | link

Oy man, I'm not used to people getting this fired up over a back of the envelope calculation! I'm sorry if my post sounded arrogant - I'm just trying to have some fun here.

I don't think I can really comprehend what any of your objections are, but I can certainly think of some major flaws in the toy argument I gave, and maybe these are what you were getting at even if you couldn't really articulate them.

first, just saying the state of a brain is the state of each synapse assumes a fixed topology of the brain. This is obviously false - there is a lot of evidence that the topology of the brain is changed by experience e.g. the occular dominance columns. Okay, so how much extra space would we need to deal with this - not that much actually: how much space do we need to store an arbitrary weighted directed graph with 10^11 nodes and 10^15 edges? Well for each edge we need to know the two vertices and the weight. Give each neuron a unique id and this requires about 10-12 bytes per synapse instead of 1. This is only one order of magnitude difference between a fixed and arbitrary topology! And this is probably a gross overestimate of the storage space required because the topology of the nervous system is far from arbitrary - after all the thing is generated by a genetic code of very modest size. See my posts on why the large search space doesn't kill attempts to solve protein folding.

Obviously I ignore the functioning of the glia - I know for a fact that these are very important for the growth and development of the brain but I'm not sure they are the critical part of its computational function. If you know otherwise please point me to some references, I would love to know!

The reason that I mentioned the speed difference of electronics and neurons is that this is what makes it possible to update the state of those 10^15 synapses in real time. Of course it would be wasteful to use the standard PC architechture for this process, but still.

Hope this helps clear things up.

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acro 1899 days ago | link

May I ask what is the basis of your estimate on the computational capacity of the human brain?

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timf 1899 days ago | link

Especially pointed question since the statement implies someone has crossed the chasm of the physical universe in order to measure this.

(since "all of physical universe is less complex than a single human brain" and the physical universe contains around 6.7 billion brains (that we know of))

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lst 1899 days ago | link

I said "physical" to exclude the misunderstanding.

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timf 1899 days ago | link

My point was that if you are restricting the comparison to the physical universe then logically you must be implying the brain extends beyond the physical universe somehow -- since there is more than one brain in the physical universe. Your subsequent statements in this thread confirmed you have this opinion.

If true, then it has an undefined and immeasurable complexity. You can't make all these statements about it, you can't measure it, and you have no context to even begin to talk about it. You can't even make assertions about what the measurement of complexity itself would be ("infinitely more" is just as nonsensical as a finite number more because we do not know what the units of a complexity measurement would be -- if "units" even makes sense in the "beyond").

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ryanwaggoner 1899 days ago | link

Pretty sure you failed.

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lst 1899 days ago | link

Intelligence can't be measured in huge numbers, and every single human brain is infinitely more intelligent than any possible computer.

It's not me saying this, but science.

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sgk284 1898 days ago | link

I think you may have a fundamental misunderstanding of life, the universe, and everything. Suppose we can simulate interactions between atoms nearly perfectly on a computer... then it's just a matter of making an atom-for-atom digital replication of the brain (understanding of course that this is all easier said than done, but all possible). Once that is achieved, we optimize and make it even better by thinking faster and more accurately than we ever could. What are you missing from this? Or is hacker news really starting to be trolled... because I might just cry.

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smanek 1898 days ago | link

infinity

You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

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lst 1900 days ago | link | parent | on: New Comment Features

Another really important feature is missing:

For people like me, who every now and then make completely unpopular comments (with some negative consequences, at least mathematically speaking), it would be nice if we could get more and more invisible (I mean the user name), because unpopular folks really deserve absolute invisibility! (Take that, lst!!)

Please down vote if you agree!

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Even if you succeed, you will not be happy. Peace and porn are not friends.

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This doesn't surprise me.

There is much much more wisdom (read: concentrated intelligence) in real religion (like Judaism or Christianity) than any modern/post-modern mind is willing to agree...

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trominos 1904 days ago | link

This isn't wisdom. It's just a weird (and in my opinion unfair) method of dividing contested assets.

Regardless, it's annoying that you're trying to turn a mildly interesting solution to an old puzzle into a statement about how close-minded atheists are.

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lst 1904 days ago | link

So you mean that I mean that atheists are close-minded?

What does 'atheist' really mean? It's the negation of God, OK?

Many of the best scientists out there initially were atheists, and have been convinced by science itself of the existence of some kind of 'God'.

So please don't try to convince me, try to back-convert them to atheism!

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lst 1903 days ago | link

(I'm simply too curious to listen to some convincing argument against my poor expositions... is there really no really convinced atheist out there willing to contrast my poor opinion? If it is really this way: poor poor poor atheism...)

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Retric 1903 days ago | link

While I am not an atheist the logical argument is simple.

If a god or gods wanted people to warship them then they could demonstrate their existence and define a single world religion. The wide range of religions around the world suggest that the god or gods don't care about warship. So either their is no god or there are gods but it its impossible to tell anything about them which means acting like there is no god is the most rational choice.

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lst 1903 days ago | link

Do you know the definition of (christian) faith?

Faith informs us: God himself talked to us (see the Bible), and even visited us (see Jesus Christ). But you need faith for that, and faith is not something that we can produce or create, it's something we only can accept or deny.

So, it's not that it's impossible (as you say) to tell anything about God. It would even be enough to observe Nature.

As I said in another comment, many of the best scientists converted to some kind of deism, because they saw the great Intelligence inside Nature, and they could not find any other explanation than the existence of a Supreme Intelligence.

2 examples? Albert Einstein; Antony Flew.

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gjm11 1903 days ago | link

Einstein did not convert to any kind of deism as a result of seeing the great Intelligence inside Nature and concluding that there must be a Supreme Intelligence. More specifically, (1) he did not believe in a Supreme Intelligence (he explicitly disclaimed belief in a personal God, and likened his view to that of Spinoza who more or less used "God" as a synonym for "Nature"), and (2) there was no "conversion".

Antony Flew is not one of "the best scientists" for the simple reason that he was never a scientist at all. He is a philosopher. Also, there is much reason (entirely independent of his conversion to deism) to believe that his mental faculties are in pretty bad shape. Which is fair enough for someone in his eighties, of course, but the argument "this must make sense if an eminent philosopher is convinced by it" -- which is a pretty hopeless argument in any case, considering some of the things eminent philosophers have been convinced by -- really doesn't work at all when the eminent philosopher no longer has the sharp mind that made him an eminent philosopher in the first place.

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lst 1903 days ago | link

Einstein explicitly stated to believe in God (but not in the christian or hebrew one), and he explicitly derived this from the supreme intelligence which he found in natural laws.

And philosophy is science, but it's no natural science. And Flews book "There is a God" seems written in a really intelligent way, no signs of "brain damage".

Many many good scientists convert from atheism to some kind of deism. Yes, they convert, because it's a radical change of the very base of our thinking.

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gravitycop 1903 days ago | link

Einstein explicitly stated to believe in God

Source? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein#Religious_views

In 1929, Einstein told Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein "I believe in Spinoza's God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind." In a 1950 letter to M. Berkowitz, Einstein stated that "My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment." Einstein also stated: "I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth." [...] Einstein clarified his religious views in a letter he wrote in response to those who claimed that he worshipped a Judeo-Christian god: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal god and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly.

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lst 1903 days ago | link

You cite from 1929? There are many many citations, and often contradictory ones.

He certainly changed his opinion during his lifetime.

My source is a book (here in Europe, from 2008, not english). If you google a bit, you can find any kind of contradictory stuff, so internet and truth are not always friends (and we all know this).

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gravitycop 1903 days ago | link

>> Source?

> My source is a book

What is the name? Who is the author?

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lst 1903 days ago | link

Do you know Italian? If yes, it's a book I'd recommend to everybody:

Author: Antonio Socci (a really good and meticulous italian journalist)

Name: "Indagine su Gesù"

It's a plain scientific research about the life of Jesus (with many many citations from every direction, including many atheists).

The book sells very well these days...

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gravitycop 1903 days ago | link

Here is, apparently, Antonio Socci's blog: http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.goo...

[Original Italian text sentences alternating with translated English sentences:]

Nel microscopico la grandezza della carica dell’elettrone ei rapporti col protone: “i valori di questi numeri” scrive Hawking “sembrano essere stati esattamente coordinati per rendere possibile lo sviluppo della vita”. In the microscopic size of the charge of electronics and proton relations with "the values of these numbers," Hawking writes, "seem to have been exactly coordinated to enable the development of life." E poi la velocità di espansione dell’universo: se un secondo dopo il Big Bang fosse stata un pochino superiore o appena inferiore sarebbe accaduta la catastrofe. And then the speed of expansion of the universe: if a second after the Big Bang had been slightly higher or lower would be just the disaster happened. Diceva Albert Einstein che nelle leggi della natura “si rivela una ragione così superiore che tutta la razionalità del pensiero e degli ordinamenti umani è al confronto un riflesso assolutamente insignificante”. Albert Einstein said that in the laws of nature "is one reason so superior that all rational thought and human systems is a reflection of a comparison is absolutely insignificant."

The rest of the blogpost is standard "the world is too perfect to be of natural origin" ID stuff. Are the quotes above what were in the book (Indagine su Gesù) regarding Einstein's and Hawking's alleged beliefs in God?

Apparently, the original Einstein quote in English was: http://www.google.com/search?q=einstein+%22utterly+insignifi...

But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.

This page http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/einstein_religion.html says the quote is from:

Albert Einstein, The World as I See It, Secaucus, New Jersey: The Citadel Press, 1999, pp. 24-29.

That page includes the book's preceding 11 paragraphs, in which Einstein states that belief in God is naive and childish.

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gravitycop 1903 days ago | link

Author: Antonio Socci

Name: "Indagine su Gesù"

Thank you.

Do you know Italian?

No. I know Google Translate. http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fpaparat...

Socci continues in this introductory chapter showing the positions of the greatest contemporary scientists, from Einstein to Hawking, by scholars of the Big Bang to those of DNA: all agree that the most reasonable answer to the mystery and the great dell'infinitamente 'infinitely small, as well as in front of the surprise at the amazing complexity of even the most minute living organism, is to admit a Creator. In short, something we call God But if science and reason - more and more, contrary to what one wants to believe - leads to the recognition of the existence of a God, the more dense is the enigma if we try to go down ' existence the essence.

Could you please provide the evidence (quotes, etc.) that Socci cites?

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lst 1902 days ago | link

OK, in the first chapter of the book (page 19), there is this paragraph (I'm not good in translating to English, but I'll try):

"Einstein said that the natural laws are revealing such a superior reason, that all of human thinking and ordering are only an insignificant reflection, compared to them."

The next paragraph explains that Flew has been influenced decisively by the opinion of Einstein. It informs that many people said Einstein to be atheist or spinozistic pantheist. Then it cites Einstein again:

"I'm no atheist, and I don't think that I could define myself as pantheist. We are in the situation of a child which enters a huge library, full of books written in many different languages. The child knows that someone must have written these books, but doesn't know how. And it doesn't know the languages the books are written in. The child suspects being a mysterious order in the disposition of the books, but doesn't know which. This seems to me the human position, even of the most intelligent ones, in front of God..."

(there follow some other sentences, but this should already be enough).

Happy now? The book is full of citations and annotations (they are counted, and the last one has the number 529). The author collected the material for the book in several years, and he's a really meticulous writer, I know him quite well.

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gravitycop 1902 days ago | link

Then it cites Einstein again:

"I'm no atheist, and I don't think that I could define myself as pantheist. We are in the situation of a child which enters a huge library, full of books written in many different languages. The child knows that someone must have written these books, but doesn't know how. And it doesn't know the languages the books are written in. The child suspects being a mysterious order in the disposition of the books, but doesn't know which. This seems to me the human position, even of the most intelligent ones, in front of God..."

Thank you. Here is the actual quote: http://www.google.com/search?q=einstein+child+library+books+...

http://www.deism.com/einstein.htm

(The following is from Einstein and Religion by Max Jammer, Princeton University Press)

"I'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations."

Here is the Google Books page for Einstein and Religion By Max Jammer: http://books.google.com/books?id=TnCc1f1C25IC&pg=PA48...

The previous page of Jammer's book states:

Unrestricted determinism, Einstein argued, does not admit a "God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation and whose purposes are modeled after our own."

Like Spinoza, Einstein denied the existence of a personal God, modeled after the ideal of a superman, as we would say today.*

On the next page, Jammer extends the above Einstein quote:

"[...] Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but admire even more his contribution to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, and not two separate things."

Jammer attributes the Einstein quote to:

G. S. Viereck, Glimpses of the Great (Macauley, New York, 1930), quoted by D. Brian, Einstein - a Life, p. 186.

This webpage advises: http://kirtimukha.com/Krishnaswamy/Einstein/on_atheism.htm

You might want to take this quotation with a grain of salt. According to Brian, the Americanized German Viereck became known as a "big-name hunter" after "capturing" Kaiser Wilhelm II; Premier Georges Clemenceau of France; Henry Ford; Sigmund Freud, the inventor of psychoanalysis; and the playwright George Bernard Shaw. Because of his desire to interview the great and because of his inordinate egotism, Freud accused him of having a "superman complex." Upton Sinclear referred to him as "a pompous liar and hypocrite," and George Bernard Shaw questioned his accuracy.

Is the quotation authentic? For what it's worth, here it is.

When asked whether he believes in the God of Spinoza, Einstein is supposed to have replied as follows:

  "I can't answer with a simple yes or no.
  I'm not an atheist and I don't think I
  can call myself a pantheist. We are in
  the position of a little child entering
  a huge library filled with books in many
  different languages. [...] Our limited
  minds cannot grasp the mysterious force
  that moves the constellations. I am
  fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but
  admire even more his contributions to
  modern thought because he is the first
  philosopher to deal with the soul and
  the body as one, not two separate
  things."
Did Einstein actually say this? The nonsense phrase "mysterious force that moves the constellations" troubles me. This seems much more likely to have been inserted by the scientifically ignorant Viereck than it does something that Einstein would say.

The Viereck interview with Einstein appeared first in the Saturday Evening Post (Oct. 26, 1929, p.17) under the title "What Life Means to Einstein."It is curious that Einstein's statement about Spinoza does not appear in that article. Did Viereck choose not include it? Did Einstein object to its inclusion in the article? Or was the Spinoza material removed by the editors? [...]

The quotation may not be completely inauthentic. It seems improbable that Viereck could have recorded Einstein's answer verbatim during an interview. Surely Viereck would have taken brief abbreviated notes that he expanded later. Or perhaps he jotted down the conversation at some time afterwards, putting down Einstein's answers from memory. In neither case would you expect 100% accuracy.

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lst 1902 days ago | link

Thanks, personally I never take any citation literally, both parts (agreeing and opposing) could have, even subconsciously, changed some parts.

As for the book I mentioned: it didn't influence or change my mind, it has only been a very, very interesting read (because there are opinions from a few christian people, but most are from non-religious people, who recognized the geniality of the New Testament, and the absolutely unique position of Jesus Christ in history (in both past and present).

Few people know how deeply the whole european history has been positively influenced by christianity. One of the best statements of the book is: christians don't ask people not to be rational, but to be it profoundly!

(If you only stay on the surface of the things, everything seems possible. Only a deep understanding shows the whole reality...)

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gravitycop 1902 days ago | link

in the first chapter of the book (page 19), there is this paragraph [...] "Einstein said that the natural laws are revealing such a superior reason, that all of human thinking and ordering are only an insignificant reflection, compared to them."

Thank you. I included the actual Einstein quote, which is taken from his book The World as I See It, in my other reply: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=462856

Here it is, again:

But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.

The quoted text appears in Einstein's book immediately after the paragraph in which Einstein states that belief in God is naive and childish. Einstein's book is online at Google Books. This link leads directly to the page with the quote: http://books.google.com/books?id=JFXWosy8ywYC&pg=PA38...

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lst 1903 days ago | link

...and sorry for this annotation:

The US certainly suffers 'superficiality' more than any other country. If you want to find really scientific stuff about religion, you often need to go back to good old Europe...

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gjm11 1902 days ago | link

Flew's book "There is a God" may or may not be written really intelligently, but it doesn't appear to have been written by Flew. His comment on this: "My name is on the book and it represents exactly my opinions. I would not have a book issued in my name that I do not 100 per cent agree with. I needed someone to do the actual writing because I’m 84 and that was Roy Varghese’s role. The idea that someone manipulated me because I’m old is exactly wrong. I may be old but it is hard to manipulate me. That is my book and it represents my thinking." I don't see any credible way to interpret that other than as admitting that he didn't actually write the book.

You may define "science" in such a way as to make every philosopher a "scientist" if you wish. For that matter, you may define it so as to make every banana a "scientist". However, if you want to communicate with other people then I recommend that you use words in something like the same sense as others do. Antony Flew is not a scientist.

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lst 1902 days ago | link

I seem to recognize the pattern:

Everybody seems to encourage (even in a contradictory way) the proper opinion, and refutes quite absolutely the proper change of it...

Poor humanity, if everybody thinks like this...

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Retric 1903 days ago | link

Your assuming a faith is correct, but christian faith is a splinter group of Judaism which has plenty of splinter groups within it. Without bias choosing any group over another without evidence is simply guessing. Is it the baptists or the born again, or some non denominational feel good blob of goo?

People don't need to make assumptions or guesses about anything, your first option is to have no opinion, but if you want to make a guess you have many many options:

The absolute simplest idea is the world is random there is zero cause / effect relationship. There seems to be fairly direct evidence that this is not the case but that could still be random chance.

The next option is everything will happen. This covers all bases and is impossible to disprove.

Albert Einstein like many scientists assumed there is some underlying causal relationship in the universe and there are some rules which define behavior so there are limits on what can happen. Which seems like an obvious assumption but it's in opposition to Quantum Mechanics which he never really accepted. That was an act of faith in spite of evidence. He basically said, I see this with my eyes but I don't accept that this can be possible.

So IMO, Einstein had some good ideas but he was a poor scientist.

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vitaminj 1903 days ago | link

I'm not entirely sure why a god (or gods) would ever want the people to have a warship. Unless it's used to fight off other warships from competing gods. In which case warship possession is a plausible want for a god.

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lst 1903 days ago | link

Atheism is getting older and older. I know that I'm offensive now, but atheists seem to me like people offending their own intelligence.

Let me cite Louis Pasteur: A little bit of science moves away from God, but much science makes return to him.

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lallysingh 1903 days ago | link

Yes yes, there are real religions, and the rest are imaginary, as theology is a complex field...

What, nobody else saw that one coming?

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sethg 1903 days ago | link

These kinds of arguments make me tensor.

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lst 1903 days ago | link

Religion is always referring to something that we can not reach with our own intelligence.

It's in the nature of this concept that it can be faked in infinite ways...

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iron_ball 1904 days ago | link

If Judaism and Christianity are real religions, what are the fake ones? Did you mean, say, Scientology and neopaganism? Or did you mean, say, other major world religions?

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lst 1904 days ago | link

A real religion is elevating the best part of yourself, without encouraging some too human inclination (I could make examples, but I don't want to).

All 'fake' religions are (in reality) some kind of auto-idolatry (let it be violence, egocentrism, and so on, it's a never-ending list...)

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yters 1903 days ago | link

That's an interesting division. But, how does elevating ourselves, even if the better part, not reduce to ego gratification too?

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lst 1903 days ago | link

Ego gratification is not bad: it's good and even necessary to grow.

But we can't always (by ourselves) distinguish between gratification (read: elevating growth) and egoism (destructive growth).

So we need some 'illumination', which is, in another term: Religion.

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yters 1897 days ago | link

I'm sorry you get downvoted so much for your views. They are interesting and you conduct yourself well. So, feel encouraged.

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ReverendBayes 1904 days ago | link

Allowing that both are real is incorrect, even as they define themselves. Christianity and Judaism, by identity, allow only one of them to be real, if real is defined by correspondence with existence.

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lst 1904 days ago | link

By 'real' I mean a religion which is elevating the human spirit, in contrast of being any kind of ideology.

P.S. Judaism and Christianity are the only 2 religions which can be defined really similar. They are much less in contrast as most people think.

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Yeah, please wake up everybody. (The generic and superficial american optimism doesn't help here and now, and is actually part of the problem.)

We had the year 1929. Sure, quite none of us lived it, but we don't seem to have learned the lesson, we did even worse with our new and sophisticated economic systems...

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I can't think of bad habits, only positive ones; plenty of them!

(Maybe it's because I don't use a poor language?)

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nihilocrat 1908 days ago | link

Is it garbage collected?

Apparently mine isn't, I've got to take it out every Monday...

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Is it really that natural to receive congrats from 99% of really unknown people?

[Internets, where are you taking us to? (And do we really want this?)]

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