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Robert Price & Chris Mooney - Must Atheists Also Be Liberals?
Posted: 02 July 2010 05:24 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Recently in Amherst, New York, two of Point of Inquiry’s hosts sat down for a special in-studio episode of the show. One was a conservative (Robert Price), one a liberal (Chris Mooney)—and both were atheists.

The topic they tackled: Is there any necessary correlation between one’s disbelief in God and one’s place on the political spectrum?

The result was a fascinating—and notably civil, and frequently entertaining—conversation ranging across foreign policy, abortion, stem cell research, animal rights, and many other topics. In the end, the discussants actually found not only much disagreement, but also some common ground.

Robert M. Price is Professor of Biblical Criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute as well as the editor of The Journal of Higher Criticism and a host of Point of Inquiry. His books include Beyond Born Again, The Widow Traditions in Luke-Acts: A Feminist-Critical Scrutiny, Deconstructing Jesus, and The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man.

Chris Mooney is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write “The Intersection” blog together for Discover blogs. In the past, Chris has also been visiting associate in the Center for Collaborative History at Princeton University and a 2009-2010 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. He is also a host of Point of Inquiry.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/robert_price_chris_mooney_must_atheists_also_be_liberals/

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Posted: 03 July 2010 04:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’m an atheist and a conservative, not a half or ¾ conservative like Mr. Price, a real old fashioned social conservative. I’m surprised and appalled at the link between skepticism and political liberalism because liberalism is so conspicuously irrational, illogical, dishonest, authoritarian, and exploitative. Liberalism has hijacked the skeptical movement and is prostituting it – same thing it does to everything it touches.
  Mr. Price can rest assured conservative economics is strictly evidence based and rational right down the line. I commend him also for his apparent realism in foreign affairs.
  I also agree abortion is murder. The only truly innocent people on earth are butchered because they are powerless and inconvenient. Nothing about human history or behavior and certainly nothing about liberals gives me any confidence I wouldn’t meet the same fate if I became similarly powerless and inconvenient.
  Price and liberals are completely wrong about homosexuality. I have the same attitude most of us have toward all the other sexual perversions, you know, the ones that are not as beneficial to the Democratic Party, just as we all did until the day before yesterday when the totally irrational propaganda campaign on their behalf was started.
  I’m a reluctant atheist who recognizes the immense benefit Christianity has been to mankind. I practice religious tolerance. But I have done public debates against Creationists and maintain a standing offer against all comers. And I wouldn’t be afraid to debate liberals, but they are too powerful and have nothing to gain by even recognizing any questioning of their dogmas.

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Posted: 03 July 2010 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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You actually come across sounding closed minded, dogmatic and frankly not very rational. I’m surprised you would think this was a good way to approach “rationality” and an “evidence based” approach to life. Although I don’t agree with many conservative economic or political positions I am willing to acknowledge that there are intelligent and rational people who come out at different places on such issues. The same goes for abortion. (It does not go for creationsim—no one interested in and informed about the scientific facts could possibly be a creationist).

But when it comes to homosexuality you clearly have not done any of your homework. A rational person must be aware that very few (if any) people have the luxury of choosing their sexual orientation. A true atheist who is interested in facts would recognize this and also recognize that there is no scientific or rational argument that would make homosexuality “immoral”. The lines of argument making it immoral are religious-based ones. Homosexuality arises in nature—for whatever reason—like redheadedness or lefthandedness. It is just as immoral as being a redhead is. If the circles you’ve moved in have not made you aware of this you need to expand your social circles. Your position here sounds ill-informed and ignorant. It doesn’t inspire confidence that any of your other positions are as rationally based as you want to believe they are either.

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Posted: 03 July 2010 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Nice discussion; it gave me a much better idea of where both of these P.O.I. interviewers are coming from. (Bob Price has been a real mystery man to me. No longer!) One thing marred this show though -call me picky- it was Chris Mooney repeatedly mispronouncing the word etcetera. Chris: it’s pronounced just the way it’s spelled, not “eck-cetera”.

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Posted: 03 July 2010 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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New member here.  Just listened to the above podcast.  While I don’t consider myself an atheist but a pantheist (maybe a fine distinction), I, too, am a political conservative a la Bob Price.  Chris offered some points about conservatives being anti scientific, but he is apparently unaware of some of the anti science stands of liberals in the name of science.  In my view the mainstream scientific community as represented at universities and government agencies (NASA, EPA, etc.) are akin to the Christian Church of the Middle Ages battling Galileo. 

In my study I have become convinced that the universe is not ruled by gravity: there was no Big Bang 13 Billion years ago; there is no such thing as a Black Hole, and Dark Matter and Dark Energy, the darlings of modern astronomy, are similarly non existent.  The Black Hole is science’s substitute for God—wondrous, magical and totally impossible things happen there.  One example will suffice.  The concept of the Big Bang rests upon the slender reed of one assumption.  That assumption is that the red shift of the light spectrum emitted by a celestial body is proportional to its distance from earth.  Astronomer Halton Arp showed in his book “Seeing Red” that many high red shifted objects were between earth and some low red shifted objects.  He also showed that some low red shifted objects were physically connected to some high red shifted objects.  His findings falsified the assumption upon which the theory of the Big Bang rests.  What did the university based scientific community do in light of those revelations?  Did they decide that there must be something wrong with the theory and go back to the drawing board? No.  They denied Dr. Arp any telescope time so that he could not do further research.

Now all things are connected, and the same reason that there are no Black Holes is the reason that any global warming that may be occurring is not anthropologically caused by CO2 emissions, but is the result of the nature of the energy which powers the sun. And it’s not a sustained nuclear fusion reaction for which there is no experimental evidence of being able to occur.  The Climategate correspondence shows that mainstream climate “scientists” are of the same ilk as mainstream astronomers.  The Bush Administration was right to question climate conclusions coming out of the EPA and government funded university research.

Interesting discussion between Bob and Chris.

David

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Posted: 03 July 2010 11:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I never said homosexual proclivity is voluntary any more than any other perverse sexual proclivity is voluntary. (Behavior, however, is voluntary.) It is immoral because it is loathsome, filthy, degrading, and unhealthy, and elicits instinctive repugnance, just like the other perversions. Society has every right, in fact an obligation, to draw the line between approved and taboo. Whether society’s ostensible rationale comes from religion, manners, or political correctness is secondary. But I will take tradition as justification over liberal conceit or self serving nine times out of ten.

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Posted: 03 July 2010 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Of your four adjectives, the first three are purely your subjective opinions (loathsome, filthy, degrading). Only the fourth one even attempts to sound objective (unhealthy), so that’s the one I will address. Sex between two consenting adults is as healthy or an unhealthy as they make it. There are safe sexual practices and unsafe ones in hetero and homosexual relations alike. Furthermore, sexualities are not just—or even most importantly—about the physical acts. They are also about who you can fall in love with and develop intimate romantic emotional bonds with.

But I have no doubt that you have a set of bigoted adjectives to trot out about that as well. I don’t know what you’re doing in a forum about inquiry. You are so dogmatic and closed minded that it doesn’t appear you’re interested in any inquiry at all. You have a closed set of black and white views on things and that’s all you’re about. So much for critical inquiry.

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Posted: 03 July 2010 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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And on tradition…it’s always amusing when people object to gay marriage because it would supposedly constitute a “redefinition” of marriage. Well, exactly which set of marriage traditions do they have in mind? History offers us many permutations—-polygamy, polyandry, marriages of convenience, arranged marriages, marriages of children with each other or of a child with an adult… Speaking of “marriage” as a “tradition” as though it were and had always been a single monolithic thing is naive and uninformed.

“Approved” and “taboo” vary widely from culture to culture and across time periods. If we’re simply going to appeal to tradition, then women should never have gotten the right to vote and we should still have slavery and believe that the earth is flat.

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Posted: 03 July 2010 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Homosexual advocates (something about that word advocate ought to tell us something in itself) are as closed minded as anyone can be. But, yes, I’m closed minded about this subject. Are you contending that it is subjective and thereby dismissible to characterize other perversions as loathsome, filthy, and degrading also?

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Posted: 03 July 2010 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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If it’s closed minded to want to be able to marry the person that you’re in love with, then so be it. How arrogant of you to decide who an adult should be able to have a romantic emotional bond with or to thrust upon others your own notions of what is or isn’t an appropriate union.

I really have not spent much time trying to decide what human behaviors count as perversions, and I’m not sure which ones you have in mind. But there are certainly some things I would be comfortable calling perversions. Sex with children is a perversion. Sex with animals is a perversion. These are very different from what two consenting adults do together.

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Posted: 03 July 2010 01:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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davido - 03 July 2010 09:49 AM

New member here.  Just listened to the above podcast.  While I don’t consider myself an atheist but a pantheist (maybe a fine distinction), I, too, am a political conservative a la Bob Price.  Chris offered some points about conservatives being anti scientific, but he is apparently unaware of some of the anti science stands of liberals in the name of science.  In my view the mainstream scientific community as represented at universities and government agencies (NASA, EPA, etc.) are akin to the Christian Church of the Middle Ages battling Galileo. 

In my study I have become convinced that the universe is not ruled by gravity: there was no Big Bang 13 Billion years ago; there is no such thing as a Black Hole, and Dark Matter and Dark Energy, the darlings of modern astronomy, are similarly non existent.  The Black Hole is science’s substitute for God—wondrous, magical and totally impossible things happen there.  One example will suffice.  The concept of the Big Bang rests upon the slender reed of one assumption.  That assumption is that the red shift of the light spectrum emitted by a celestial body is proportional to its distance from earth.  Astronomer Halton Arp showed in his book “Seeing Red” that many high red shifted objects were between earth and some low red shifted objects.  He also showed that some low red shifted objects were physically connected to some high red shifted objects.  His findings falsified the assumption upon which the theory of the Big Bang rests.  What did the university based scientific community do in light of those revelations?  Did they decide that there must be something wrong with the theory and go back to the drawing board? No.  They denied Dr. Arp any telescope time so that he could not do further research.

Now all things are connected, and the same reason that there are no Black Holes is the reason that any global warming that may be occurring is not anthropologically caused by CO2 emissions, but is the result of the nature of the energy which powers the sun. And it’s not a sustained nuclear fusion reaction for which there is no experimental evidence of being able to occur.  The Climategate correspondence shows that mainstream climate “scientists” are of the same ilk as mainstream astronomers.  The Bush Administration was right to question climate conclusions coming out of the EPA and government funded university research.

Interesting discussion between Bob and Chris.

David

That was one of the weirdest off-topic rants that I’ve seen on these forums.

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Skeptics’ Guide Podcast

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Posted: 03 July 2010 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Interesting talk.  Personally, I’m a social liberal and moderate/slightly conservative on fiscal issues.  (No, I’m not a libertarian because I think libertarians views about laws and human nature are entirely wrong.)

One thing that bothered me about the discussion is Robert Price’ tendency to exaggerate the liberal position while moderating the conservative position.  His apparent motive was to make himself look reasonable and the liberal position unreasonable.  For example, saying that liberals are never willing to go to war.  This is simply not true.  It’s true that liberals are less willing to go to war than conservatives, but they’re just closer to the “peace” end of the continuum than many conservatives (which is different than saying that they’re on the very end of the “peace/war” continuum). 

To illustrate my point, here’s an excerpt from an article in October 7, 2001 describing support for airstrikes in Afghanistan:
“While public support for the air strikes is nearly unanimous, there are some differences in its intensity. Men are 10 points more likely than women to strongly support the action, although it’s high in both groups — 88 percent among men, 78 percent among women. Similarly, 94 percent of Republicans support the airstrikes strongly, compared to 75 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of independents.”
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/DailyNews/STRIKE_poll011007.html

So, 75% of democrats support airstrikes, but liberals are “always against war”.  Is Price going to argue that only 25% of the Democratic party voters are “liberals” (and perhaps 6% of Republicans are liberals, as well)?  I think this illustrates my point about Price turning Democrats and liberals into an extreme version of themselves, knocking down that strawman, and then feeling superior in his own superior position.

I’ve been noticing this a lot on the internet lately - the tendency of people to defend their own position by twisting the other guy’s position into some extreme version of itself so that everyone has to agree with them.  It usually takes the form of “I just don’t agree that [insert extreme version of other guys position]” - but the statement is setup to be so extreme that 95% everyone has to agree with that statement.  (I usually just roll my eyes and think, “This guy isn’t willing to make an attack on the other position unless he can turn it into a strawman first.  What sloppy thinking.”)

Regarding abortion, I’m also pro-choice.  (Personally, I look down on late-term abortions and think people should’ve made that choice earlier.)  It struck me as odd that Price would defend the idea that abortion is essentially the same as infanticide.  Does Price want to defend the notion that aborting sperm and an egg which have just joined together (making one single cell or a small mass of cells) is the same as infanticide?  That just seems like an odd notion to me.  There’s plenty of thought-experiments that show that even pro-lifers don’t see a blastocyst as the same thing as a living, breathing baby.  For example, if you’re in a fertility clinic and there’s a fire, and you have the option of grabbing a few fertilized human eggs and running out the door, or grabbing a baby and running out the door, everyone chooses the baby - even though you could save dozens of fertilized eggs.  Why do pro-lifers choose one baby over dozens of “human beings” in blastocyst form?  How many blastocysts does the thought-experiment have to involve before a pro-lifer chooses the blastocysts over the living baby?  If it takes 100 blastocysts, then aren’t pro-lifers saying that one baby is worth 100 times more than one blastocyst?

[ Edited: 03 July 2010 01:46 PM by tinyfrog ]
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Posted: 03 July 2010 04:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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All these cultural relativist objections to opposing the legitimizing of homosexuality illustrate my point about liberals. OUR culture defined homosexuality as a perversion, did so for generations time out of mind. The vast majority of the human race still does. And I grant you, these are subjective, not scientific positions. My point is why do liberals have such enormous conceit that that they set their preference not only equal, but superior, not only superior, but in a place to invoke enforcement and repression of dissent over traditional and established mores?
    And, by the way, the revulsion is not something idiosyncratic with me. It is natural and normal. Tolerance of homosexuality has to be learned (or feigned).

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Posted: 03 July 2010 05:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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rg21 - 03 July 2010 11:21 AM

I never said homosexual proclivity is voluntary any more than any other perverse sexual proclivity is voluntary. (Behavior, however, is voluntary.) It is immoral because it is loathsome, filthy, degrading, and unhealthy, and elicits instinctive repugnance, just like the other perversions. Society has every right, in fact an obligation, to draw the line between approved and taboo. Whether society’s ostensible rationale comes from religion, manners, or political correctness is secondary. But I will take tradition as justification over liberal conceit or self serving nine times out of ten.

You sound like a Fundie.  How do you feel about women’s health issues, such as abortion?  Pro-choice or Pro-life?

Personally, I don’t think atheism has anything to do with being conservative or liberal.  Now humanism…  Personally, I would question any professed humanist who stated anything like you are stating.  They would have to come up with a very good scientific AND RATIONAL reason for what you are saying.  See, what you are stating has nothing to do with reason and compassion or even rationality.  Your statements are all based purely on emotion.  Might I add that sex between a man and a woman isn’t exactly hygienic either.

[ Edited: 03 July 2010 05:05 PM by Mriana ]
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Posted: 03 July 2010 05:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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rg21 seems to think that only liberals accept gay people as people.  Shockingly, the Conservative Party in England seems to not have a problem either.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/20/now-put-away-diamante-fairy-wands

I prefer discussions to include facts and to live in reality.  I don’t care if you have an “opinion.” To get me to think your opinion is worthy of consideration, you need to give me facts, too.

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Posted: 03 July 2010 06:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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No, they are based on tradition, experience, established order, and consensus, as opposed to conceit, pathologically malcontented personality, partisan agenda, a desire for attention or for regaining the youthful delusion of importance and destiny, self serving perverted desires, or the unresolved impulse to “get back at” your father. And I don’t need either a liberal or an Englishman to tell me how to be a conservative. You have conservative and Conservative confused.

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