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    Separates Water & Dry Land

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  1. Regarding the various comments about whether the world is getting better or worse, I highly recommend the book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steve Pinker. With wide open eyes, he looks at the state of the world from history. He argues, "Life before the Enlightenment was darkened by starvation, plagues, superstitions, maternal and infant mortality, marauding knight-warlords, sadistic torture-executions, slavery, witch hunts, and genocidal crusades, conquests, and wars of religion. Good riddance. The arcs in figures 5-1 through 18-4 show that as ingenuity and sympathy have been applied to the human condition, life has gotten longer, healthier, richer, safer, happier, freer, smarter, deeper, and more interesting. Problems remain, but problems are inevitable." Pinker, Steven. Enlightenment Now (p. 364). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  2. I'm not talking about whether or not it is "inspired" or not. In a sense, all literature is inspired, and many people find the Book of Mormon to be inspiring. The question is whether the Book of Mormon is an accurate translation of an authentic ancient Mesoamerican manuscript. Like in 1 Kings 10:19, for example? According to the 1828 dictionary, the second definition of the word "seat", when used as a verb, is "To place in a post of authority, in office or a place of distinction. He seated his son in the professor's chair." http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/seat Joseph Smith knew English, and I find the concept preposterous that by itself, Joseph using this English word correctly in the Book of Mormon constitutes 50:1 odds that the book is ancient and that it is incumbent upon skeptics to explain how Joseph Smith acquired this (or any other) word in his vocabulary.
  3. The methodology of the paper assumes one of two things happened: either the Book of Mormon is authentic, or Joseph Smith made a series of independent "guesses" about Mayan culture. When comparing the made-up odds of how likely Joseph Smith could "guess" details like "trading in a variety of goods" (Correspondence 6.10, score 0.10), they don't consider the possibility that this is very generic and might fit into the culture described in the Bible which the author would have been trying to emulate.
  4. I think it could be salvaged. I would suggest: 1- Include all of the evidence--not just things that are explicitly mentioned in both the Book of Mormon and in the Maya. 2- Rather than scoring the 131 (or whatever) pieces of evidence independently, group them into 10 or 20 categories that are closer to being truly statistically independent, and then score the groups. 3- Be more conscientious in the scoring--rather than asking whether a detail is specific and unique (or whatever they are doing) and asking "what are the chances Joseph guessed that right about the Maya?" ask, "how plausible is it that somebody writing 19th Century speculative fiction about mound builders based on the premise that they are of Israel origin would include the details in this group?" and compare that to "how plausible is it an authentic Mesoamerican document would contain the details in this group?" 4- Caveat the heck out of it--the probability of historicity that comes out the end isn't a real probability in any objective sense--it is merely a score that compiles the subjective judgments that were made in steps 2 and 3.
  5. Isn't Billy Shears the drummer in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?
  6. Is this paper an elaborate hoax? I'm reading it looking for signs that intelligent, sincere people wrote it, and I'm coming up short. I'm not trying to be snarky here--this is a sincere question. As an example of why I'm skeptical, consider their point number 6.3 "Multiple calendars kept." On this point, they compare the calendar system in the Book of Mormon to the calendar system the Mayans used. The Book of Mormon calendar is composed of days, weeks, months, and years. Sometimes they counted years from when Lehi left Jerusalem. Sometimes from when there was a change in government. We know from how the Bible syncs with the Book of Mormon that Book of Mormon years are the same thing as what we would think of as years. It's worth noting that the modern conception of calendars is different than the ancient Hebrew calendar, and there is no indication that the writers of the Book of Mormon were using a Hebrew calendar(see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_calendar). In contrast, the Mayans had a very elaborate calendar with 365-day Haabs, which overlapped another 260-day calendar called a "Tzolkin" that had 20 periods of 13 days. A specific date is set by the intersection of the Haab and the Tzolkin, which circles around on a cycle of about 52 years. And then it has "long counts" of 2,880,000 days, with the long count starting about 3,000 B.C. So, when you compare how the Book of Mormon tracks dates (i.e. exactly like us, except with years starting when there are different changes in rulers) to how the Mayans track dates with these overlapping cycles of 260 days, is this a hit or a miss in terms of the Book of Mormon fitting in a Mayan setting? I would call it a miss. But according to Dr. Dale and Dr. Dale, this is a spectacular hit that by itself proves that the Book of Mormon is Mayan in origin! In their exact words: Note: After the phrase "Likelihood = 0.02" these are my words, not Dr. Dale & Dr. Dale's--I'm struggling with the editor to remove that from the quote box.
  7. The old policy caused an incredible amount of hurt and resentment in a ton of families. Dividing up friends and families into the worthy and unworthy is a mean thing to do, and doing it under the name of eternal families was incredibly ironic. This change will do a lot to increase the good will felt by non-member family members.
  8. I think Hitchens understood perfectly well that "daemon" can be identified with the experience of personal revelation. Where he disagreed is whether or not it should be identified with personal revelation. In any case, basically all atheists agree with him on this point--the idea that humans have a conscience isn't a radical theistic proposition. A couple of points. The whole question of a "theory of truth" seems like the wrong question to me. I'd rather create models that do the best job possible of corresponding with reality. Note that what I'm advocating here isn't a theory of truth that competes with the deflationary theory. Rather, it is a belief in ontological naturalism. The point isn't to make statements of "truth." The point is to understand reality as well as possible. In any event, the deflationary theory of truth reminds me of the immortal words of John Lennon: Living is easy with eyes closed Misunderstanding all you see It's getting hard to be someone but it all works out It doesn't matter much to me No one I think is in my tree I mean it must be high or low That is the catch you know, tune in but it's all right That is I think it's not too bad Always know, sometimes think it's me But you know I know when it's a dream I think I know, I mean, oh yes, but it's all wrong That is I think I disagree Let me take you down 'Cause I going to Strawberry Fields Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about Strawberry Fields forever
  9. Sometimes it can't be proved. Sometimes it can. How depends upon the circumstances. As an example, a mission companion and I once got into a disagreement about the color of his tie. I thought it was purple. He thought it was gray. Our divergent internal perceptions notwithstanding, in principle we could have used a spectrometer to scientifically measure the color components of the tie and come to a objective conclusion about whether "gray" or "purple" better represented the spectrum of light that would emerge when white light is shined on the tie. But it turned out that one of us had in fact been diagnosed as being colorblind, so we agreed that the perception of the one who wasn't colorblind was most likely a "closer representation" of the truth than the other. What does any of this have to do with your assertion that Christopher Hitchens was "caught affirming spiritual experiences as valid?"
  10. My question is how do you tie this back to the points you made in the original post? When Christopher Hitchens says he is an atheist, he isn't denying that he has experiences that are similar (or even identical) to the experiences you have. Rather, he is saying he doesn't believe in God. Is there a pragmatic difference? Yes and no. The feeling is what it is, regardless of what we call it. But on the other hand, what the feeling implies about reality is something beyond our subjective, internal perceptions. Two people might have an identical vision of a bright light and a being that claims to be God. The experiences could be identical. However, one might start a religion while the other might see a psychiatrist. Regardless of whether the vision is God, the devil, an angel, an alien, a practical joke, or a symptom of frontal lobe epilepsy, there are competing explanations for what "really happened", and regardless of our own subjective experiences, some of those explanations are closer representations of the truth than others. We all see through a glass darkly. The question is, are we trying to clear off the glass so that the view is a little less dark?
  11. I'm open to the idea that "perceptions are the only reality we can know," but I'm not convinced that is the right question. I believe there is a real world out there beyond my perceptions that will keep on existing whether I'm perceiving it or not. I might not ever "know" it, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. I'm the kind of guy who believes that if a tree falls in a forest that it does in fact make a sound.
  12. It's weird that you think I was somehow making an "appeal to the stone" fallacy. My point is simply that practically all atheists believe that there are spiritual experiences, that people have a conscience, and so forth, You didn't catch Hitchens making some grand or inadvertent concession on this point. The difference between you and Hitchens is that you feel a spiritual something-or-another and say, "I just felt God! I know God exists!" Hitchens feels a spiritual something-or-another and says, "I felt something. Feelings exist." The question isn't whether or not people perceive things. And the question isn't whether or not these perceptions are internal, external, or a combination of both. The question is what do the perceptions imply about the nature of reality?
  13. As Example #2, say somebody had their finger amputated some time ago, but still feels a "ghost finger" from time to time. Somehow, some broken links in the nervous system cause the brain to receive some electrical signals that it interprets as "the fact and experience of your finger touching something." Out there in the real world (if you believe in such a place), the finger didn't really touch anything. As a matter of fact (if you believe in such things), there is no finger. Yet, you experience the finger touching something. So here are some questions (and forgive me if these are pedestrian--I'm not a philosopher): 1- Is "feeling your finger touching something" when your finger is in fact touching something a categorically different experience than "feeling your finger touching something" when you don't have a finger and it really isn't touching something? Are those two different types of events, or if they feel identical to each other, are they the same thing? 2- If we agree that feeling something that is there with a real finger is different than feeling something with a ghost finger that isn't there, does it matter whether feeling God is more like one or more like the other?
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