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Chris Hedges - I Don’t Believe in Atheists (merged)
Posted: 05 May 2008 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 76 ]
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As one example, DJ several times returned to asking: ‘So anyone who disagrees with you is a fundamentalist?’ as if Hedges had not already answered it.

As a listener, I don’t think that Hedge gave a clear definition of fudamentalist and how that applies to “new atheists”.  Unless, of course, you lob them all together and force their views into a fundamentalist mold.  Maybe he is more clear in this book, but when asked for clarification, it looks like he doesn’t have a solid argument for atheist fundamentalism.

Keep in mind, this is a Secular Humanist podcast.  As I understand it, DJ is asking questions and interviewing on behalf of that community.

On memetics, it could be bunk.  Maybe it has less substance than string theory, but I don’t think it has been a big enough deal for anyone to pay attention to it.

[ Edited: 05 May 2008 10:48 AM by Geodesic ]
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Posted: 05 May 2008 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 77 ]
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It’s almost impossible to keep up with the sheer volume of unsubstantiated claims and accusations that spews forth out of Hedges mouth… one after another after another. It’s too bad D.J couldn’t slow down the interview to address each.

Nearly right off the bat Hedges accuses the “New Atheists” of: “a complete corruption and misuse of science”. How so!?! That accusation needs to be defended with specific examples.

Here’s the basic claim: Hedges claims that the “New Atheists” entails a “fundamentalists mindset”, based on his below definition of “fundamentalism”:
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1) A binary world-view of “us” and “them”.
Not only is edges wrong on this point, but just the opposite is true. “Atheism” is a term that has no more meaning than the term: “a-astrologer”. There is no “us” and “them”. There are just varying degrees of credulity across all of humanity.

2) Elevating ourselves to higher moral plane and others to moral inferiority.
Nowhere in the writings and speeches of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennet have I ever read anything that would suggest that the see themselves as morally superior. In fact they’re more likely to be accused of moral relativism.

-3) Embracing catastrophic, if not apocalyptic violence to remove human impediments to a more perfect world.
No where is this claim born out in any way by the writings of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennet.

4) The externalization of evil. The belief that evil is not something within us that we must battle against.
This is *exactly* the opposite of what the “New Atheists” argue in fact.

Later Hedges later claims:
————————————————————————————————————————
The “New Atheists” replicate the belief systems of the radical Islamists ... they believe in the language of violence, they believe that the way to solve the problem is through violence.
What basis does he have for making this claim? nothing by Dawkins, Dennett or Harris that I have ever read or listened to ever promotes violence as a viable solution to the problems caused by radical religion. If Hedges misunderstood the end of Sam Harris’s book, he has plenty of examples from Harris himself, speaking for himself, correcting any confusion. In fact, Harris has responded directly to Hedges to clarify the confusion ... so we can only assume that Hedges in this regard is being willfully dishonest in his misrepresentation of Harris’s opinion.

Hedges frequently talks about “their belief” ...  but never bothers to define what he thinks that “New Atheist” belief is.
How can you be critical of another claim, without accurately representing what that claim is? Hedges doesn’t seem to care. So for his sake, I’ll make an attempt. If I had to boil down the thrust of the “New Atheists”  message/belief it would be this:

- “Belief in things on insufficient evidence is dangerous”
- “institutionalizing beliefs that are based on insufficient evidence is especially dangerous.”

[ Edited: 05 May 2008 10:53 AM by Riley ]
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Posted: 05 May 2008 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 78 ]
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I’m not seeing my error, I’m afraid. Christian dogma, at least, posits a god who exists outside of nature but who acts in time and space without inhabiting that time-space.

Yup uh huh sure. A god who exists outside of nature but can meddle with it any old which way but it still exists outside of nature because that way believers always get to say (and say and say and say) that science can’t inquire into this god because this god (so conveniently) exists outside of nature. That’s called having it both ways. Or in the vernacular, cheating. God is magic and special and Outside so science can’t investigate it, no no, go away; but on the other hand god answers prayers, sends hurricanes to punish the wicked, loves us all, hates the sin (but not the sinner), etc etc etc.

If (BIG if!) that’s true, then

a. how is this god at direct odds with science?...and
b. how would we ever use the tools for probing the physical world to investigate this mysterious god?

Big if indeed. Why should anyone think that is true? And notice how very convenient ‘b’ is. Doesn’t that convenience make you a little suspicious? If not it ought to.

Every time I hear one of the Big Atheists railing that God is antithetical to science, I scratch my head. I’m not arguing FOR a god—just that there can be no possibility of disproving something that exists outside of the only system we have. Not only can we neither prove nor disprove such a god’s existence, science itself has nothing to say on this subject.

Well there’s no possibility of disproving anything; disproof is much too high a standard - and the ‘Big Atheists’ of course know that perfectly well. ‘Antithetical to science’ doesn’t mean ‘capable of being disproven.’ Of course we can neither prove nor disprove such a god’s existence (and, again, the ‘Big Atheists’ know that). But as for science having nothing to say on the subject - well that depends on your acceptance of the bizarre and (as I said) suspiciously convenient idea that god is outside nature but active inside it. I would say that that’s just plain impossible, frankly. Either you are outside nature or you’re not; you can’t be both. If god is outside nature we know absolutely nothing about ‘it’ - whatever it is. We certainly don’t know that it’s called ‘god’ or whether or not it created the universe. We know nothing, so there’s little point in talking about it. There’s especially little point in talking about it in a dogmatic way. Christian ‘dogma’ about an inside-outside god that disappears when science is in the room and comes back when it’s time to frighten sinners - is a pathetic evasive joke.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 79 ]
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Yup uh huh sure. A god who exists outside of nature but can meddle with it any old which way but it still exists outside of nature because that way believers always get to say (and say and say and say) that science can’t inquire into this god because this god (so conveniently) exists outside of nature. That’s called having it both ways. Or in the vernacular, cheating. God is magic and special and Outside so science can’t investigate it, no no, go away; but on the other hand god answers prayers, sends hurricanes to punish the wicked, loves us all, hates the sin (but not the sinner), etc etc etc.

Big if indeed. Why should anyone think that is true? And notice how very convenient ‘b’ is. Doesn’t that convenience make you a little suspicious? If not it ought to.

Suspicious? Absolutely. I’m not saying that because something is possible, it is therefore true. The claim is and should be met with the greatest skepticism. But Dawkins, particularly, seems far too sure of his atheism than can be justified. If his is a rational argument, then it has to meet certain standards—whether or not his opponents do. (That’s their problem, I’m afraid.) And here, it seems to me, it fails. Because that is exactly what Christians do say about god and it’s no use disparaging it on the basis that it’s highly unlikely. Of course it’s highly unlikely! But using the conclusion as your argument (“It’s highly unlikely because it’s highly unlikely”) just isn’t permitted in logic.

That’s my problem with Dawkins: he just isn’t logical. If he wants to say, “Look this whole thing strikes me as so much whistling in the dark”, well, that’s fine. But if you’re going to claim that a correct understanding of science leads you to reject religion (as he does), then you must provide more of a bulwark for that claim. Otherwise, you’re arguing just as the Christian fundamentalists do: Believe it because I say it.

Wittgenstein once wrote something to the effect that “Whereof we are ignorant, therein must we remain quiet.” If Dawkins is going to use science to argue against a belief in a god, he needs to explain how, exactly, science traverses from the realm of the created to that of the creator. I fail to see how it can do so. And that inability leads to name-calling: “pathetic”, “foolish”, “delusional”, etc. Now, all those MAY be true, but that’s not an argument.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 80 ]
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Hal Helms - 05 May 2008 10:25 AM

I’m not seeing my error, I’m afraid. Christian dogma, at least, posits a god who exists outside of nature but who acts in time and space without inhabiting that time-space. If (BIG if!) that’s true, then

a. how is this god at direct odds with science?...and
b. how would we ever use the tools for probing the physical world to investigate this mysterious god?

Every time I hear one of the Big Atheists railing that God is antithetical to science, I scratch my head. I’m not arguing FOR a god—just that there can be no possibility of disproving something that exists outside of the only system we have. Not only can we neither prove nor disprove such a god’s existence, science itself has nothing to say on this subject.


If you are talking about a god that truly exists outside “creation” and never interacts within the “creation” then you are right, but that’s not the god described in the Bible.

The “God of the Bible” takes actions that alter “nature” (e.g. answers prayers, sends floods upon the earth, etc.). So.for example, if the “God of the Bible” flooded the earth with water, this impact upon nature should be measurable (geological record, fossil record, etc). We have technology sufficient enough to detect the remnants had such a flood occurred, but there are no remnants. So this is one bit of positive scientific evidence against the existence of the “god of the bible”. Many such pieces of positive scientific evidence exist. The fact that there is no evidence to support *any* of the deeds of the “God of the Bible” is itself enormous evidence suggesting that the “God of the Bible” does not exist.

——————————————————
——————————————————
Also, there is logical evidence that we can use to determine what types of gods might exist, for example:

If there existed a god that:
1) cares about the welfare of humanity
2) has a message vitally important to the welfare of humanity, and
3) is capability of delivering that message unambiguously to all of humanity
we should have received that message. The fact that we haven’t received such a message is positive evidence (logical evidence) that such a god does not exists.

EXPLANATION: in a world full of incompatible claims, false-prophets and deceit, a message purporting to be of “God” that exists in form susceptible to counterfeit and mimicry (e.g. a “holy book”, an “experience”, and any other form where the <u>mere possibility</u> exists of other explanation), provides reason enough to know that the message is not of “God”. The ability to reliably authenticate the source of a message is as important as the message itself.

[ Edited: 05 May 2008 11:49 AM by Riley ]
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Posted: 05 May 2008 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 81 ]
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I have finally got round to listening to this episode.

I simply cannot relate how Chris Hedges speaks about (new) atheists to my experience of (new) atheists.  He makes all sorts of claims which are completely unfounded, misrepresenting what atheists have said. He calls new atheists extremists but i suggest he takes a look at his own language toward atheists.

Ski.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 82 ]
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The “God of the Bible” takes actions that alter “nature” (e.g. answers prayers, sends floods upon the earth, etc.). So, for example, if the “God of the Bible” flooded the earth with water, this impact upon nature should be measurable (geological record, fossil record, etc). We have technology sufficient enough to detect the remnants had such a flood occurred, but there are no remnants. So this is one bit of positive scientific evidence against the existence of the “god of the bible”. Many such pieces of positive scientific evidence exist.

Absolutely agree with you. Science can validate specific predictions. And a world-wide flood is a specific prediction. Since there is no evidence (where there absolutely would be), one is left with two possibilities:

a. such a flood never existed.
b. this god decided to make it appear as though there never were a flood

The lack of scientific evidence isn’t, perhaps, absolute proof no such flood existed, but it’s good enough for me and, I suspect, many others.

If there existed a god that:
1) cares about the welfare of humanity
2) has a message vitally important to the welfare of humanity, and
3) is capability of delivering that message unambiguously to all of humanity
we should have received that message. The fact that we haven’t received such a message is positive evidence (logical evidence) that such a god does not exists.

First, I’m sure a lot of Christian believers hold to all of these, but I suspect that’s coincident to their belief in a god and not a necessary outcome. One could posit, for example, a deity who cares about human beings but sees them as desperately wicked. In that case, no message may be able to help them: they may be too wicked to receive it or so wicked they would pervert it. It may be that such a deity would take other measures to persuade humans to repent.

This is just one plausible scenario for faith that doesn’t fall to the syllogism above. So, the critique you’ve constructed may well be valid against such a naive theology, but doesn’t say much to the existence of a god. That’s to be understood if, as I argue, science has nothing to say about such a question. Why Dawkins insists that it does is a mystery to me.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 83 ]
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I don’t think that Hedge gave a clear definition of fudamentalist and how that applies to “new atheists”.  Unless, of course, you lob them all together and force their views into a fundamentalist mold.

You don’t have to agree with Hedges to see how disingenuous it was for the interviewer to repeat the question: “So anyone who disagrees with you is a fundamentalist?”  What is ‘fundamentalist’ is not, as Hedges pointed out, having a different opinion, but excluding, dehumanizing and demonizing the ‘other’ (in this case Islamic cultures about which Harris, Hitchens & Co. flaunt their ignorance), in a way that justifies in advance criminal violence against them.

In this way the neocons and other Western imperialists (liberal, secular, evangelical or zionist) are the perfect mutually reenforcing counterpart to the Islamic reactionaries. Both base their criminal acts on the essential doctrine of ‘collective guilt’ and ‘collective punishment’ that does not distinguish between the rulers and the ruled, the guilty and the innocent of the ‘enemy’ population.

The racist neo-cons rely upon and feed a widespread fear and ignorance of the Islamic world as a whole in order to create a scenario in which the ‘obliteration’ of one or another Islamic country by the West might be an ‘unfortunate necessity’.

Let’s be clear: the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran would be a very wise thing for its rulers to pursue, considering the nuclear armed powers who surround (Pakistan, Israel, Russia, U.S.) and actively threaten them (U.S., Israel).  The Iranians claim that nuclear weapons are contrary to Islamic law and deny they have any intention of building them. But if they are serious about forswearing their self-defense on religious grounds,... well, there’s unarguable proof for the claim that religious dogma lowers your IQ!

For Iran to acquire such weapons would not (except in the fevered imagination of racists) in any way justify the genocidal slaughter of its population by the U.S. and Israel. Yet this is exactly the rationale, repeated by Clinton this week, which Harris provides in his ‘hypothetical’ scenario. 

The racism here (for those who still claim not to get it) is the depiction of the ‘enemy’ country’s rulers as uniquely fanatical, irrational, evil, and unconcerned with human suffering, when there is no empirical evidence whatsoever that this is the case. In fact, Iran - in stark contrast to the U.S. and Israel - has not waged a single offensive war against a neighbor over the last milennium or more (at least).

[ Edited: 05 May 2008 12:37 PM by Balak ]
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Posted: 05 May 2008 12:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 84 ]
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Hal Helms - 05 May 2008 11:52 AM

[quote author=“Riley”]
If there existed a god that:
1) cares about the welfare of humanity
2) has a message vitally important to the welfare of humanity, and
3) is capability of delivering that message unambiguously to all of humanity
we should have received that message. The fact that we haven’t received such a message is positive evidence (logical evidence) that such a god does not exists.

First, I’m sure a lot of Christian believers hold to all of these, but I suspect that’s coincident to their belief in a god and not a necessary outcome.

The Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths are defined by messages and messengers purported to be of “God”;  the specifics of those messages define the differences among those faiths—- they completely rely on a concept of a god that sends messages for them to follow. Regardless of whether you accept this or not,  the distinction you make here is not particularly significant to the point that I’m making with my examples. I’m simply demonstrating here that science provides positive evidence that “God”, as I defined here (and as commonly believed to exist), does not exist. As such, science, is relevant to the debate about the existence of “God”.
. .

Hal Helms - 05 May 2008 11:52 AM

One could posit, for example, a deity who cares about human beings but sees them as desperately wicked.

...  and science has something to say about the process used to posit that theory of god too, of course.
. .

Hal Helms - 05 May 2008 11:52 AM

the critique you’ve constructed may well be valid against such a naive theology, but doesn’t say much to the existence of a god.

One person’s “naive theology” is another persons faith. But that’s not the point.

At a very minimum the examples I’ve constructed here serve to demonstrate that religious claims are not outside the realm of science. In my examples, I have demonstrated how science could be used both to reduce the possible types of gods that might exist and also to test for the existence of specific claims about the existence of gods of the type that take action in the natural world.

If a god never interacts or interferes with “creation”, does it really deserve the term “god” ... I don’t think so.


[ Edited: 05 May 2008 01:07 PM by Riley ]
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Posted: 05 May 2008 01:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 85 ]
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The racism here (for those who still claim not to get it) is the depiction of the ‘enemy’ country’s rulers as uniquely fanatical, irrational, evil, and unconcerned with human suffering, when there is no empirical evidence whatsoever that this is the case. In fact, Iran - in stark contrast to the U.S. and Israel - has not waged a single offensive war against a neighbor over the last milennium or more (at least).

I think there is probably a better word for it than racism.

I don’t think that racism is accurate here.  I’d have to see some specific quote or example for these claims, because I have not made note of them. 
I’ve read criticism that relates scriptural interpretations to acts of violence.  I see nothing racist with asserting that there are scriptures that lead to acts of violence when they become dogma.  I don’t see any blanket statements against “all Arabs” or “all Muslims”.  I don’t even see the ‘new atheists’ advocating much violence.  Dawkins, for example, promotes education as a solution to the problem.

I haven’t read any calls for genocide from the authors discussed.

By the way, the ‘new atheists’ don’t make excuses for religion in America either.

[ Edited: 05 May 2008 01:26 PM by Geodesic ]
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Posted: 05 May 2008 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 86 ]
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HARRIS: “What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime - as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day - but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.”

“Racist garbage” is exactly right.

The key for the racist is to make “the other” not simply different but “given what they believe” inherently subhuman - less rational, thoughtful, concerned for human welfare than “us” (who are magically exempt from similar scrutiny), in order to justify their extermination.

The evidence for this uniquely evil Islamist government (which apparently operates outside the framework of all other human governments and ruling classes in history) is not offered (because it is non-existent); Harris and his ilk simply reiterate the orientalist stereotype with the expectation that their fellow racists will not find it questionable.

Sad and even “unthinkable” as it surely is, killing tens of millions of innocent civilians “may be the only course of action available [?!!] to us”.

Poisonous neocon “master-race” filth.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 87 ]
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Regardless of whether you accept this or not,  the distinction you make here is not particularly significant to the point that I’m making with my examples. I’m simply demonstrating here that science provides positive evidence that “God”, as I defined here (and as commonly believed to exist), does not exist. As such, science, is relevant to the debate about the existence of “God”.

I agree with you about science being able to inform questions about the universe, including those posed by religious claims such as…

1. Was there a world-wide flood?
2. Did dinosaurs co-exist with humans?
3. About how old is the earth?
4. Did an “exodus” occur?

But it seems reckless to say that science provides positive evidence that “God” does not exist. It’s just this illegitimate use of science that provides fodder to the fundamentalists who want to tell their flock that science is evil. We don’t need to do this. We don’t need our own version of televangelists willing to shade the truth and slip pseudo-arguments into the mix. At least, I don’t.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 88 ]
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Hi! First time poster here!

I just listened to the Hedges interview and I MUST comment.

First, I have to commend DJ Grothe for keeping the interview civil. IMO Hedges was a difficult guest. He wasn’t very specific as to what a fundamentalist was, and he seemed to be a “yeah, but” -er. He couldn’t seem to agree w/ anything DJ said; not that DJ was so wrong, but that Hedges didn’t want to concede anything. He kept saying “well what muslim society are you talking about?”, or “what is secularism?”; it seemed like he was just trying to be a smarta*s and not adding anything to the conversation.

I was open to hearing what Hedges had to say but the way he presented himself turned me off. I agreed w/ some of what he was trying to say but he had such an attitude! And with all that arguing he did he didn’t say much of substance.

Plus, I don’t want to get into what’s wrong with that title “I don’t believe in Atheists.” He could’ve chosen something a lot more accurate and a lot less…fundamentalist.

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Posted: 05 May 2008 02:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 89 ]
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is not offered (because it is non-existent)

I’d have to read the whole book or chapter to get the premise.  To me, it reads like a hypothetical scenario.

There was an “us” and “them” during WWII.  I still think it is a stretch. 

Harris’ closing is sloppy there.  But it does look like he is making a generalization.

[ Edited: 05 May 2008 02:28 PM by Geodesic ]
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Posted: 05 May 2008 03:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 90 ]
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Hal Helms - 05 May 2008 01:45 PM

it seems reckless to say that science provides positive evidence that “God” does not exist.

It’s not reckless if you are actually being scientific.

If someone makes the claim that “God” sent a flood upon the earth and you can use science to show that there was no flood, then that is positive proof that “God” (as defined) does not exist. It’s not certain proof (science doesn’t provide 100% certainty about anything), but it is scientific evidence. And you’re right, one could argue that “God” makes things to happen, tells messengers to record their occurrance, but then decides to make it impossible for anyone else to verify for themselves that such an occurance did in fact happen. Sure. That’s possible. But that doesn’t mean that science has nothing to say about the likelihood of that alternate scenario. That’s exactly how science works ... by assigning probabilities and error-bars.

You seem to be arguing that science should be silent about such matters, and that seems to me very narrow minded.

[ Edited: 05 May 2008 03:29 PM by Riley ]
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