Bully for Ben Carson

by on November 6, 2015 at 7:48 am in Current Affairs, Food and Drink, History, Political Science, Religion, Uncategorized | Permalink

If you pulled over one hundred people on the street, and asked them to state a religious belief they hold, I’m not sure you would get any answer more plausible than “the pyramids were built for the storage of grain.”  Would you now?

Yet we mock Ben Carson for this, but we do not make fun of those who believe openly in the Trinity, Virgin Birth, ex cathedra, and many other beliefs which are to my mind slightly less plausible claims.  It’s not so different from the old prejudice that Mormon beliefs are somehow “weirder” than those of traditional Christians, except now it is secularists picking and choosing their religious targets on the supposed basis of sophistication.  The Seventh Day Adventists, Carson’s church, are of course weirder yet.

I doubt the storage claim is true as a dominant explanation, but should there not be some storage — of something — in a profit-maximizing or rent-maximizing model of pyramid supply and inventory management?  Maybe Ben’s economic intuition confirmed what he had heard in church.  And what about Coase’s durable goods monopoly model?  In that treatment the monopolist stores grain, admittedly for the pyramids variable Coase was hermetic in his exposition, perhaps properly so given how much is at stake here.  And “remains of storage pests have been found in grain recovered from pyramid tombs.”  Further argumentation along these lines can be found in F. Zacher’s classic 1937 article “Vorratsschädlinge und Vorratsschutz, ihre Bedeutung für Volksernährung und Weltwirtschaft” (Cowen’s Second Law), which by now has been cited over nineteen times (twenty in fact).

The Quran notes that the pyramids were made of baked clay, when instead according to many standard accounts much of the pyramids are made of quarried limestone (yet even that question is murky and I would not entirely count out the Quranic exposition).  Presumably many Muslims, who ascribe a holy status to the Quran, would defend the baked clay proposition in some manner.  How often is that thrown in their faces?

Might Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, possibly hold some views about Joseph which are not literally true?  After all, those stories do come from the Torah.

Besides, our Founding Fathers had some pretty strange notions about pyramids.  Most of them did a pretty good job in office.

What Ben Carson has done is to commit the unpardonable sin of talking about his religion as if he actually takes it seriously.

Loyal MR readers will know that I am myself a non-believer.  But what I find strangest of all is not Ben Carson’s pyramids beliefs, but rather the notion that we should selectively pick on some religious claims rather than others.  The notion that it is fine to believe something about a deity or deities, or a divine book, as long as you do not take that said belief very seriously and treat it only as a social affiliation or an ornamental badge of honor.

Bully for Ben Carson for reminding us that a religion actually consists of beliefs about the world.  And if you’re trying to understand his continuing popularity, maybe that is the place to start.

1 Patrick L November 6, 2015 at 7:54 am

you’re trying too hard.

2 Arthas Menethil November 6, 2015 at 8:24 am

“you’re trying too hard”

That’s sort of Tyler’s MO.

3 meets November 6, 2015 at 8:41 am

Bring back Thomas.

Or Ray Lopez.

4 Ray Lopez November 6, 2015 at 8:29 pm

This thread has 341+ comments. Given TC makes about (estimated) $20k/yr from this blog,I’d say he quite succeeded. And he’s right about this topic.

5 jorgensen November 6, 2015 at 11:26 am

Right. Tyler is going too far.

The difference is that we can go and look at the physical pyramids and decide pretty clearly that it was not built for grain storage.

On the other hand, we have no test whereby we could go and look and determine whether or not God exists – he is either going to reveal himself or not. So far he has not revealed himself to me.

6 Curious George November 6, 2015 at 11:44 am

I don’t think Tyler is comparing storing sand in pyramids to whether God exists. He’s noting that storing sand in the pyramids is a weird belief, just like other religious beliefs (e.g., virgin birth). But it’s interesting because one gets ridiculed as weird because it’s not mainstream but there’s very little questioning of Christians or Jews with equally weird beliefs.

7 EqualTime November 9, 2015 at 1:48 pm

I think there is ample questioning in 2015 of Christian and Jewish beliefs (not with respect to a moral code, but with respect to the unproven mythology of their respective holy books.) I understand that +/- 50% of Jews are secular, even atheist, in nature, but continue to ascribe to Judaism because of the cultural community to which they choose to belong. I doubt many Scientologists really believe in Xenu, or all Mormons really buy the “seer stone”, or even all Christians in the Virgin Birth and Resurrection – but that they believe because this dogma is the price of admission to the community to which they want to belong.

The question is far more relevant in terms of someone who wants to be President. The President obviously doesn’t know everything about everything, and so must demonstrate a discriminating ability to quickly learn from others. Ascribing to the grain story, because it supports biblical mythology, is a concern for me. And it’s disingenuous, IMHO, to claim that Obama didn’t go through the same scrutiny. No recollection of the discussion of Jeremiah Wright or Bill Ayers? His birth certificate an Columbia records are still a focus of many. Ask Hillary about Whitewater, Vince Foster and Benghazi.

8 mulp November 6, 2015 at 12:01 pm

If climate change science is a religion, then the god of liberalism is revealing itself to all in the fire, drought, flood, and pestilence visited on Texas and conservatives in California and conservatives in the South.

Clearly god is very angry at the anti-Obama factions.

And Rick Perry proved he did not have the ear of god when he led conservatives in prayer for rain – that’s why his campaign failed.

Of course, progressives are doing badly for failing to believe in liberalism in tax and spend and sacrificing for the greater good, as well as their godless belief in the free lunch of taking from the food truck catering to the 1% at the rally without paying; Bernie, is not, nor believes in Jesus.

But they are only competing with the tax cut religion: why half the population getting the benefit of tax cuts putting money in their pockets yet getting poorer and poorer still believe in the religion of tax cuts is what baffles me.

Maybe Ben Carson laying out taxes as a tithe is his way to rejecting the tax cut religion: isn’t Carson promising hiking taxes on the half of the population who pay no taxes?

But does that mean Carson wants to create a welfare state where he gives out food and medicine to the needy by missionary work, bringing back either patronage or pork, to convert the people to his faith?

9 anon November 6, 2015 at 5:11 pm

> On the other hand, we have no test whereby we could go and look and determine whether or not God exists – he is either going to reveal himself or not. So far he has not revealed himself to me. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/11/bully-for-ben-carson.html#comments

However, there are a lot of statements of fact in the Bible that modern archaeological knowledge soundly refutes. Many sects of Christians have had a sense to claim that there can be errors in the Bible, so long as they don’t concern the primary message, but not all of them do. Many people who believe in the inerrancy of Bible are in elected office. Should be throw all the little things wrong in the Bible at them every time we see them?

10 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 11:35 am

@pkedrosky called this “Peak self-parodying Tyler Cowen compulsive contrarianism “

11 CD November 6, 2015 at 11:36 am

TC also ignores:

1. Carson’s pyramids theory may be informed by a particular religious view, but it has no scriptural foundation and hardly counts as a “religious belief” unless you admit that Carson has its own private religion. To call random crankery “religious” is a slur on religion.

2. His statement of his pyramids theory is combined with ludicrous assertions that scientists believe “aliens” made the pyramids, and with an obvious ignorance of archaeological work on multiple sites in Egypt.

3. Which aligns with multiple other examples – denial of evolution, denial of basic cosmology, denial of global warming, shilling for fake drugs, ludicrous budget proposals – in which Carson feels free to make up his own reality, and dismiss well-founded scientific work. We’re dealing with a charlatan, and a base that likes charlatans.

12 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 11:50 am

Agree, Carson’s detailed plan to move all United States grain storage to pyramids is clearly no more well-founded than his plan to burn all textbooks teaching evolution. As for his claim on global warming that we have “a responsibility to protect our environment” — well, let’s have the straitjackets ready at the next GOP debate, just in case.

The reasonable people are going with the woman who told grieving families that the Benghazi attack was because of a video, that unsecured personal email is perfectly acceptable means of avoiding FOIA requests and transferring classified material, that she was under sniper fire in Bosnia, and that she was named for Edmund Hillary before he climbed Everest. Easy choice.

13 mulp November 6, 2015 at 12:30 pm

The leader of the Benghazi initial attack sitting in prison in Virginia reportedly said he acted in response to the video. As I’m a night owl, I listened to the BBC reports on Benghazi during the 7 hours of the fighting, and all the reports at the time connected it to the video and the ongoing invasion of the US embassy in Egypt by protesters of the video. You can find early BBC reports compiled from its stringers on the ground that night and morning.

The Atlantic reporter Mary Fitzgerald interviewed Ahmed Abu Khattala and wrote on June 17, 2014:
“He also maintained that the violence in Benghazi that night grew out of a protest against a movie produced in the United States that lampooned Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, rather than being a planned action by militants.”

In Sep 2014 he was indicted by a grand jury on 18 counts and is held in Alexandria Virginia. So far, this al qaeda terrorist has failed to chew his way through steel bars to lead a terrorist uprising in Virginia as conservatives claim Muslim terrorists can.

14 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 12:36 pm

The CIA had already told her heavy weapons were used at Benghazi.

It’s a lot easier to figure out that people don’t carry artillery around in their everyday life than whether the pyramids might have stored grain.

15 Mike November 6, 2015 at 4:46 pm

1. Religion itself is random crankery. Are you arguing it’s ok to believe in virgin childbirth but not grain storage in the pyramids?

2. Similarly ok to believe Moses parted the seas despite no evidence in geology?

3. Agree he’s a total charlatan. His campaign is a well planned book tour with lots of free network airtime.

I think Tyler’s piece is useful. A huge part of the American public would not elect a non-Christian and totally rejects an atheist. The non-sense on can believe is arbitrary.

16 Sub Specie Æternitatis November 6, 2015 at 7:55 am

Thinking of something to add, but can’t. So: This!

17 Rich Berger November 6, 2015 at 8:53 am

I will. It is really astounding how many believe in random Darwinian evolution despite its utter improbability. Of course, most of whom believe only do so because they were told to, with no real understanding of what is involved.

18 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 8:57 am

Whereas you fully comprehend “a billion years” and all that might happen within it?

19 Brian November 6, 2015 at 9:04 am

Mmm… gochujang, sauce of the future.

20 jorgensen November 6, 2015 at 11:22 am

A billion years of trillions of simultaneous parallel evolutionary threads, some with generations measured in hours or days, leaves a lot of room for evolution.

21 Rich Berger November 6, 2015 at 12:58 pm

The number of possible proteins is 20 ^n where n is the number of amino acids. The age of the universe is in the order of 10 ^ 18 seconds. Even with a trillion simultaneous threads, that only gets you to 10^30 simulations. As of 2008, the largest protein has 27,000 amino acids, so that is 20 ^ 27000. Good luck.

22 JG November 6, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Darwinian evolution makes useful predictions about the future and what we should expect to see. It has been significantly improved upon based on where reality doesn’t work with the model.

Those that reject it however believe something that makes no useful predictions about the future and is therefore uninteresting to anybody who cares about science. Even built into your assumptions are questions about the density of useful amino acids and their comparative locality of valid amino acid chains. The fact that very large proteins have repeated patterns of amino acids.

23 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 5:47 pm

It isn’t about possible proteins, it is about energies and rates of reactions, given predecessor molecules. And guess what? There are amino acids in space.

24 Aaron Luchko November 6, 2015 at 11:53 pm

You’re talking about a random process that has nothing to do with evolution.

25 John Kulp November 7, 2015 at 12:22 pm

This is an argument that has been refuted over 20 years ago. Random gene mutations is not the full explanation of biological evolution. Read up on EvoDevo if interested. Years ago the development of eyes seemed impossible and was put forward as evidence that evolution can’t possibly be right. Now, there is a complete description of the mechanisms by which this happened, and there are over 1,000 researchers who go to annual conferences to discuss this one niche topic. Next straw man?

26 stalin November 8, 2015 at 7:13 pm

So, is there some n below which your formula does not hold? Otherwise I am intrigued as to how we get 20 proteins with one amino acid.

27 karl November 6, 2015 at 9:14 am

Isn’t pretty much any possible belief (non-empirical, of course) utterly improbable?

28 Religion in Practice November 6, 2015 at 9:48 am
29 Ricardo November 6, 2015 at 9:53 am

Throwing around the word “improbable” doesn’t make an argument. Your existence (even conditional on the existence of humans and modern civilization) is highly improbable. Yet, here you are. So?

30 Brian Donohue November 6, 2015 at 10:12 am

What Darwinian evolution claims to explain is much narrower and less ambitious than what any religion of which I’m aware claims to explain.

31 Jordan S. November 6, 2015 at 11:23 am

Somebody tell Daniel Dennett.

32 Just Saying November 6, 2015 at 10:15 am

On a long-enough timeline, any improbable event becomes inevitable.

The Universe exists on a VERY long timeline.

33 datroof jackson November 6, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Ah, cool, so God will exist at some point even he doesn’t now.

34 djw November 7, 2015 at 12:34 am

Yes, we will create him eventually.

35 jim jones November 6, 2015 at 10:48 am

Evolution is a consequence of the Laws of Physics.

Religion is based on mysticism.

36 Urstoff November 6, 2015 at 10:49 am

You making that post was very improbable given all the possible things that could have happened, yet here it is.

37 Ronald Brak November 6, 2015 at 11:16 am

I don’t think there would be many people who believe in random Darwinian evolution, Rich, on account of how the phrase makes no sense. Darwin came up with a mechanism for selection called natural selection that does not operate randomly. It’s called natural selection and was popularised with the expression, survival of the fittest. Of course in the 156 years since the puplicaton of Origin Of The Species, Darwin’s work has been improved on considerably and we now have the modern evolutionary synthesis in which natural selection plays a part as does genetic drift and many other developments. Darwinian evolution is more part of history than part of biology these days.

38 Rich Berger November 6, 2015 at 12:53 pm

I don’t think you really understand what is involved. Besides selection acting on existing forms, there must be a process to generate new forms. Even the task of finding new proteins is daunting. The number of proteins is 20 ^ n, where n is the number of amino acids contained. I found this blog post describing the number of proteins -http://blogs.nature.com/thescepticalchymist/2008/04/chemiotics_how_many_proteins_c.html. According to the article, there is a muscle protein with 27,000 amino acids – imagine how long to to reach that by a random process. The proteins involved in living organism appear to be well suited to the task and the possibility of finding them by a random process appear to be vanishingly small. Even the age of the universe is small relative to the number of proteins – roughly 15 billion years, or something less than 10 ^ 18 seconds.

For this reason, atheists such as Fred Hoyle and Thomas Nagel rejected evolution through random processes and instead embraced extraterrestrial origins (Hoyle) and a fundamental teleology of matter (Nagel). There are more problems with the explanation of the origin of life (where natural selection cannot work) and the sudden arrival of many novel life forms during the Cambrian period. I think Darwinian theory survives because its adherents (a) do not look at the odds very closely and (b) have too much invested in it.

39 MaxUtil November 6, 2015 at 1:21 pm

I haven’t looked into this line of thought, so forgive me if I misunderstand. But just pointing out that some structure in living creatures has hugely complex proteins isn’t much of an argument against evolution. Muscle fibers don’t have to randomly evolve from nothing. Pointing out the probabilities of muscle fiber just randomly appearing from scratch shows more of an ignorance about evolution and how probability works than anything else I would think.

40 Adam November 6, 2015 at 1:37 pm

I don’t think you understand how bad this argument is. You can make the exact same claim regarding the brain sitting in your head. The number of possible neuronal connections is staggering, implying a complexity that is impossible to encode. And yet, brains exist.

The muscle protein you keep harping on is not as irreducibly complex as you seem to think it is, because evolution didn’t discover it by randomly flipping through 27,000^20 possibilities.

You disagree with expert opinion on this topic, and the conclusion that you have come to is that the disagreement stems from a lack of understanding on the part of everyone else. You may want to re-assess your priors.

41 Rich Berger November 6, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Well, why don’t you enlighten me?

42 Mr. Econotarian November 6, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I think you are missing the fact that evolution is not a random search through the entire potential space of solutions for a best solution (which, as you point out, is huge), it is a directed walk through solution space towards the best solution made possible through short-distance random trials.

In mathematical terms, evolution is a form of stochastic function optimization, similar to stochastic gradient descent. If I want to know how to go downhill, I can drop a bunch of pebbles randomly on the ground around me, and choose the one which is lowest to move to, and then iterate. Evolution does this, but with a population of pebbles. The ones “most downhill” pebbles reproduce more and throw out more pebbles, the ones “least downhill” throw out fewer pebbles.

Computer science already uses “evolutionary algorithms” to solve hard problems in a similar fashion to how real evolution works, using simulated reproduction, mutation, recombination, and selection. For example, an X-band radio antenna was optimized with artificial evolution for a 2006 NASA mission STS5.

43 Rich Berger November 6, 2015 at 3:53 pm

It seems almost futile to point this out, but the “evolutionary algorithms” were crafted by an intelligence – scientists. Likewise, Darwin expends a great number of pages detailing the products of animal breeding, as if that would support an undirected approach, when it actually is the product of an intelligence.

44 Urstoff November 6, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Darwin uses animal breeding as an analogy. Natural selection via differential reproduction is the analogous mechanism.

45 ttt November 6, 2015 at 12:05 pm

you can see it in a petri dish.
put in high copper, eventually you get strains with copper resistance

46 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 1:00 pm

But they don’t grow eyes or start composing deathbed sonnets on the evils of copper.

I suspect the real problem with evolution isn’t religious, but cosmological — the evolution of intelligent might be very, very unlikely, but since humans can only perceive a lightcone in which they evolved (and really we can only see much in a few hundred LY of that), we must see it in our pasts. I suspect the ratio to those causally unconnected lightcones where nothing humanlike has evolved may be very very high.

47 ttt November 6, 2015 at 5:10 pm

give them a million years

48 mulp November 6, 2015 at 12:38 pm

“Of course, most of whom believe only do so because they were told to, with no real understanding of what is involved.”

If you do not understand semiconductor science, does that make your computer or cell phone a religious instrument of god or simply magic?

Belief in the evidence of evolution is demonstrated every time you get yet another flu vaccination. You never got an annual smallpox or annual polio vaccination, so why would you need an annual flu vaccination other than evolution?

49 Pithlord November 6, 2015 at 1:44 pm

How much misunderstanding is packed into “random Darwinian evolution”?

Mutation is random. Evolution is not, because it is guided by natural selection.

50 Rich Berger November 6, 2015 at 1:46 pm

I have been reading through some of the comments and I think it confirms that belief in random Darwin evolution is not well thought out.

51 mavery November 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Yeah. Everyone’s telling you that it’s a nonsense phrase. Probably one you invented. Google returns only 565 results for a search of “random Darwinian evolution”.

52 Rich Berger November 6, 2015 at 3:27 pm

If I said “undirected” instead of random, would you be happy?

53 Rich Berger November 6, 2015 at 3:51 pm

You gotta lie better than that – try “darwinian evolution random”. My google says 8,480,000 results.

54 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Bad search pattern (“random mutation “)

55 datroof jackson November 6, 2015 at 7:19 pm

He limited his search to the specific phraseology of “random Darwinian evolution,” which indeed seems limited to you and some other science-denying whackadoodles.

Shorter Rich Berger: Life is impressive therefore MAGIC!!!1!!!

56 Doug November 6, 2015 at 7:56 am

>Yet we mock Ben Carson for this, but we do not make fun of those who believe openly in the Trinity, Virgin Birth, ex cathedra, and many other beliefs which are to my mind slightly less plausible claims.

You don’t even have to go that far. The entire Book of Exodus completely defies all archaeological and historical evidence. Even many reformed, secular people actually believe that the Ancient Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt (well before any historical evidence of the Hebrew language or culture existing). I’ve seriously debated this point with avowed atheists, who still insist that Passover is based on a true historical event.

57 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 8:20 am

“we do not make fun of those who believe openly in the Trinity, Virgin Birth, …”: speak for yourself, chum.

58 westinm November 6, 2015 at 8:59 am

…the referenced “we” here is, of course, the American media (MSM) who enthusiastically promoted this Carson tidbit

basic problem is standard old political liberal-media-bias, not bias against overt personal expressions of religious belief

Democrats expressing personal religious superstitions are not news worthy

luv those government National Prayer Breakfasts, begging invisible spirits for worldly favors

59 Chris November 6, 2015 at 9:55 am

Does this whole “everyone is against us” nonsense ever get old?

60 Adrian Ratnapala November 7, 2015 at 7:57 am

Not everyone, just the wrong’uns.

61 bob November 6, 2015 at 10:07 am

This.

62 Art Deco November 6, 2015 at 10:13 am

This is America, not your s****y little island beset with labor problems, bad newspapers, and perverted toffs.

63 an_internet_dickhead November 6, 2015 at 3:56 pm

don’t you have some gay bashing to do?

64 Bruce Cleaver November 6, 2015 at 8:22 am

Two words: Barbara Sivertsen

65 Michael November 6, 2015 at 11:01 am

http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2015/03/was-there-an-exodus/

While there is no conclusive evidence that there was, in fact, an Exodus, you are committing a great fallacy to make the opposite claim that the evidence proves there was no Exodus. The historical evidence is pretty quiet on the matter, and the circumstantial evidence suggests that it was certainly within the realm of possibility.

66 Matthew November 6, 2015 at 11:33 am

Pretty clear there were no mass migrations–those should leave tons of archaeological evidence–but the idea of a small band of Israelites being captured & taken to Egypt (though they clearly didn’t use slaves to build the pyramids) and eventually returning to Israel is quite plausible. If it happened at all, quite possible that this story of a band who returned home got magnified into a kind of national epic.

67 Roy L November 9, 2015 at 1:47 am

There is a lot of gaps in the archaeological record, there are entire Roman Provinces that existed for centuries that we lack all evidence of the period between conquest and abandonment. The Rhaeto Romansch in Switzerland don’t even have a literary record of existence between the Roman abandonment of Rhatia and Noricum, which is only attested in a single hagiography of a Saint which only survived because he returned to Naples and some toponyms that are only evidence because we have the hagiography. The Romanian people leave no evidence of their entire existence or language until the very latest middle ages and the only historical possible proto Romanian people were the Vlachs who lived far to the South, yet when they enter the historic record they have armies and are involved with high level politics and seem to have a vast population of settled peasants. Of course some ultra nationalist Hungarians claim there is no Romanian nationality and it and the Romanian language were invented out of whole cloth in the last three hundred years, but it seems far more likely they just didn’t get mentioned.

And these are settled groups in important and well documented parts of Europe. What is the archaeological evidence of the migrations of the Germans in the 4th and early fifth centuries? It is really pretty much non existent. Yet you are saying a one off proto historic late Bronze Age migration should either be obvious in the archaeological record or it didn’t happen? The Jews were in Egypt for more than a century and their own document claims that they adopted Egyptian customs and strongly implies they adopted Egyptian technology, crafts, etc… And the Sinai is littered with New Kingdom Egyptian artifacts, so what are you looking for?

There is not a single surviving literary or epigraphic account, or even mention of Alexander the Great written in his lifetime or that of anyone who knew him. We have even less direct evidence than for Jesus. All we have are secondary sources who don’t even, unusually for the period, provide any identifiable quotations of earlier material, yet you would have to be a lunatic to claim there was no Alexander.

68 MikeP November 7, 2015 at 11:19 am

There was the Hyksos expulsion from Egypt (for which we do have clear evidence) and the Hyksos were a Semitic people.

69 Art Deco November 6, 2015 at 6:33 pm

The entire Book of Exodus completely defies all archaeological and historical evidence.

You have a touching faith in the comprehensiveness of collections of artifacts.

70 edeast November 6, 2015 at 7:56 am

Do you attend services though?

71 Just an Australian November 6, 2015 at 8:01 am

I think you’ve made a category confusion here – it’s ibe thing to believe in a miraculous story that makes sense in spite of the evidence, and to just make stuff up that makes no sense at all.

72 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 8:44 am

I think Tyler is arguing against the cognitive dissonance which many use to survive, if that isn’t too strong a word. Most people can go to church, hear about the earth being created in 6 days, square it one way or another, and then read happily about million year old fossils.

If Tyler is saying bully for young earth creationists, I’d say no, he and they are doing it wrong.

It would be nice if everyone could develop a coherent natural philosophy, but short of that it is actually better that they have a dissonance that lets them render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s

73 asdf November 6, 2015 at 10:46 am

If it were possible to come up with a “coherent natural philosophy” it probably would have been done already. Most people just continue to make a priori assumptions on faith but remove reference to God from that faith.

74 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 10:51 am

A lot of people assume that since man is “intelligent” he is intelligent enough for all his problems.

75 Rock Lobster November 6, 2015 at 11:11 am

I agree with this. I think there’s a large slice of America that is effectively secular for most practical purposes but still feels a very strong need to identify to oneself as Christian. So they would never, for example, claim that non-Christians are all going to Hell when they die (much less Christians of a different denomination), because that’s really a barbaric thing to believe in a modern pluralistic society, but at the same time they never really grapple with what it means to believe in Christianity as a matter of actual factual beliefs about the world rather than a fuzzy good feeling about church hymns and grandma. If pressed they’ll reach for a cop-out about spirituality or different paths to the top of the mountain or some such thing.

The point being, I’d rather not rock that boat, because between the two alternatives of people becoming openly non-religious and people starting to take their religion seriously, the former seems unlikely, so why invite the latter?

76 mulp November 6, 2015 at 12:46 pm

“Most people can go to church, hear about the earth being created in 6 days, square it one way or another, and then read happily about million year old fossils.”

Just like going to a Star Wars or Avatar movies, or watching Star Trek TV episode, embracing the story, and finding messages to apply to your daily life.

77 JWatts November 6, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Good point, mulp.

78 bernard Yomtov November 7, 2015 at 2:01 pm

I think Tyler is arguing against the cognitive dissonance which many use to survive,

Whatever. If taht’s what he’s trying to do let him do it without the attempts at cleverness.

79 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 8:45 am

And I’d say that when we look at Presidential candidates we are looking for the right kind of split between politico-religious “belief” and policy choice.

80 Kevin- November 6, 2015 at 12:51 pm

I think this gets at the real issue. I care little about a potential leader’s religious beliefs, since virtually all of them believe things that I’m pretty certain are kooky. But I do care if those kooky beliefs will guide them as leaders. For Carson, the question isn’t if he has beliefs that are weirder than the rest, it’s will his belief in things like creationism lead him to support policies that further impede and degrade our already degrading educational system and our national system of scientific research?

81 Agra Brum November 6, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Tyler here fails to acknowledge that Carson is being mocked in the context of a wide range of other foolish and implausible things that represent crankery that he has espoused. Had he not already established himself as a devout believer in wild and outlandish notions, this would be more of a peculiarity. Also highly salient – he’s running for President. Were he still Dr. Ben Carson and saying this, no one would care a fig.
It is insulting to say that crankery for something both easily observable and well known today should be lauded in someone auditioning for president while comparing it to a divinity that, while rather implausible, is based on things that happened 2,000 years ago and cannot be verified.
If a Muslim president of Egypt said the pyramids are made of clay, he would be roundly mocked as well.

82 Chip November 6, 2015 at 8:01 am

Atheist here but appreciate the sometimes profound influence of Christian beliefs on modern society. Altruism, hate the sin love the sinner, the Good Samaritan, forgiveness, the principal of equality under God and its use against slavery.

I also wonder if the American experiment with fierce individualism and suspicion of government can exist without people having faith to sustain them through the often uncertain times.

As religion wanes, people seem to embrace the state.

83 Anon. November 6, 2015 at 8:17 am

>Atheist here but appreciate the sometimes profound influence of Christian beliefs on modern society. Altruism, hate the sin love the sinner, the Good Samaritan, forgiveness, the principal of equality under God and its use against slavery.

In England, in response to every little emancipation from theology one has to reassert one’s position in a fear-inspiring manner as a moral fanatic. That is the penance one pays there. – With us it is different. When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is absolutely not self-evident: one must make this point clear again and again, in spite of English shallowpates. Christianity is a system, a consistently thought out and complete view of things. If one breaks out of it a fundamental idea, the belief in God, one thereby breaks the whole thing to pieces: one has nothing of any consequence left in one’s hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know what is good for him and what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows. Christian morality is a command: its origin is transcendental; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticize; it possesses truth only if God is truth – it stands or falls with the belief in God. – If the English really do believe they will know, of their own accord, ‘intuitively’, what is good and evil; if they consequently think they no longer have need of Christianity as a guarantee of morality; that is merely the consequence of the ascendancy of Christian evaluation and an expression of the strength and depth of this ascendancy: so that the origin of English morality has been forgotten, so that the highly conditional nature of its right to exist is no longer felt.

(from Götzen-Dämmerung)

84 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 8:25 am

“Christianity is a system, a consistently thought out and complete view of things.” Or it’s an absurd lash-up, bodged together over the years in response to various political and intellectual currents, and the usual incentives to become rich, powerful or whatever – and conspicuously, to enjoy the ability to deny others their enjoyment. Now I’m just going to pop out and burn some heretics.

85 Freeraw November 6, 2015 at 9:45 am

Are you curious (even a little bit?) about how it is that Religionists like Carson have accomplished so much more, and helped so many more, than the likes of you and Gochuchang?

86 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 9:56 am

How do you know he has? Did God whisper in your ear?

87 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 10:45 am

For what it’s worth, I’m one of those people who thinks agnosticism is fairly rational and very compassionate. While not particularly religious myself, I can endorse any religion that is good for a member, his family, his community, his society. Of course, religions tend to fall in and out of that “good” category throughout history, when they fall to snake handling or worse.

88 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 10:46 am

I am kind of down on “everybody but is is going to hell” religions because they lack both self-awareness and compassion

89 chuck martel November 6, 2015 at 6:42 pm

What’s the point of an afterlife if the politicians and other evil people aren’t subjected to an eternity of imps poking them with red hot needles?

90 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 8:38 am

Not to endorse the atheists too strongly, but Religious upbringing associated with less altruism, study finds

91 Baphomet November 6, 2015 at 10:00 am

What is startling to me is that that study was funded by the Templeton Foundation (an organization the purpose of which is to blur the distinction between science and religious belief).

92 Bob November 6, 2015 at 10:11 am

Hayek, The Fatal Conceit:

In any case, the religious view that morals were determined by processes incomprehensible to us may at any rate be truer (even if not exactly in the way intended) than the rationalist delusion that man, by exercising his intelligence, invented morals that gave him the power to achieve more than he could ever foresee. If we bear these things in mind, we can better understand and appreciate those clerics who are said to have become somewhat skeptical of the validity of some of their teachings and who yet continued to teach them because they feared that a loss of faith would lead to a decline of morals. No doubt they were right; and even an agnostic ought to concede that we owe our morals, and the tradition that has provided not only our civilization but our very lives, to the acceptance of such scientifically unacceptable factual claims.

93 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 10:14 am

Needs more biology.

94 Thor November 6, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Just wondering. Can we not say “add Hume, or Smith, where the biology is implicit” and accomplish that?

95 nigel November 6, 2015 at 2:09 pm

1. Great quote.

2. People should read Newman, Grammar of Assent. I’m surprised a crowd like this (MR readers), who should be so familiar with the British Enlightenment, espousing such blatantly rationalistic positions. Every logical conclusion rests on assumptions and by far most of them are the result of trust in another’s sensory experience. Life is really about trust and doubt and who to trust and doubt. Which is to say life is about faith. Much of this agnosticism and atheism is nothing more than mood affiliation, to use a MR term. It’s the “hermeneutics of doubt.”

3. Tyler posted the other day an outraged response to his comments on the Chinese one-child policy. It has some good philosophy in it, actually, along the lines of the above.

4. It is a point worth making that religions are about beliefs (I would add that beliefs are about actions and practices) and it is nice to see someone take religion seriously. In the same vein, however, it is odd to see how atheists tend to seize on irrelevant and usually unprovable points about religion and say “See! It’s all a fraud!” When actual believers don’t seem to place a whole lot of value on whether Job was real or fictional. Anyone who spends even a little time looking at how ancient authors wrote realizes that this doesn’t matter all that much, but more importantly, the question of whether or not the religion is true is actually prior to these nitpicks anyway.

5. That Templeton foundation link is about the dumbest thing I think I’ve ever seen. Holding this up as “science” says much more about the speaker than about the world. To tie in to my other points, what reason have I to trust the Templeton foundation and the authors of this study? Should I automatically trust them because they have Ph.D.s and call themselves scientists? Is that reasonable belief? Seems to me it’s a pathetic excuse for a religion, and without any of the aesthetics. On the other hand, should I trust the most selfless and holy people I have met? Humans are acting, not thinking, creatures. If it works in practice, your theory’s probably better than the alternatives, even though gnosis eludes us. Nassim Taleb would be having a fit at this comment board.

6. As a wise man once said, “You’ve gotta serve somebody.”

96 Brian Donohue November 6, 2015 at 10:22 am

@Chip,

Speaking of the state taking the place of religion:

http://sweettalkconversation.com/2015/07/09/the-politics-of-truth/

I think some go this route. Marxism fills this void for many of its adherents.

Most people try to fill this void somehow though, right?

97 chuck martel November 6, 2015 at 7:51 pm

The reality is that “Democracy” is the new deity. Maybe that’s why instead of liturgical music we hear “The Star-Spangled Banner” before hockey games and rodeos.

98 msgkings November 7, 2015 at 1:10 am

Instead of liturgical music? WTF? That’s the alternative?

99 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 8:02 am

You are making an important point here, but overanalysing it. Mass media will search for anything to mock someone, and especially so if they don’t like you.

I still recall a warning I got before my first press conference: in an hour long speech, the media will report the stupidest thing you say.

We risk, and probably have achieved, politicians who speak without really saying anything. Or if they do make a claim, they steal what someone else said so they can blame that person.

Does anyone really believe that Obama, Clintons, Gore, et al, actually know anything about global warming? They repeat what they’ve heard or what speechwriters craft for them. Most politicians have razor thin resumes of actual knowledge that benefits policy making. Even as lawyers, they often lack serious litigation experience. The emperors have no clothes.

Ben Carson is a professional in his field, a trait that makes him admirable. What I don’t know about him is his ability to coordinate activities of a staff. Trump, to his credit, has decades of experience doing this although I find his personal characteristics less than charming.

Even “nonbelievers” believe in a lot of hokum.

100 Chris November 6, 2015 at 8:06 am

Who cares if Clinton or Obama have direct scientific knowledge of global warming as long as they defer to the expertise of people who actually do have that expertise?

101 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 8:27 am

But they don’t: quite the opposite.

102 Bob November 6, 2015 at 10:14 am

Which seems to deeply confuse the science and the public policy. It is interesting they are sold a single bundle despite the fact that one, despite being informed by science, involves value judgments and normative ideology.

103 Dain November 6, 2015 at 11:16 am

The science is distinct from media-driven public policy. And it’s the left, not the right, getting so embarrassingly emotional and hysterical about it all.

http://spectator.org/articles/62339/hype-and-change

104 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 9:26 am

The thing that shocks me about global warming in 2015 is how easy a question it really was. Once you know that CO2 captures heat, you know that more CO2 captures more heat, and you can’t “deny” at that level. All you can rationally ask is about impact and cost.

Now, before any legacy deniers get started, slow down an really try to internalize how much you were played.

105 John Mansfield November 6, 2015 at 9:47 am

There’s only one piece of information needed to understand global climate? You can’t ask about stable or unstable feedback, or about carbon cycles? All you have to know is that carbon dioxide absorbs infrared radiation? It sounds like the planetary science departments have been doing a lot of pointless wheel spinning.

106 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 9:55 am

It sounds like you know the answer, but you dissemble. If you know that CO2 absorbs infrared radiation and retains heat, you know its impact on the system. You know the direction of the forcing. As I say “you can rationally ask is about impact and cost” and yes that is why you model all the other complexity

107 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 10:19 am

I know that pissing into a reservoir contaminates the water, but that doesn’t mean we should spend billions of dollars preventing people from pissing into reservoirs and admonishing people from drinking the water.

Most things absorb heat. Some things dissipate heat. Knowing CO2 absorbs heat does not lead inexorably to the conclusion the planet is warming because of it, nor the conclusion that we should scale back global production to stop it. That fact doesn’t lead to the conclusion that humans are the main source of atmospheric CO2. Water vapor is the most abundant of the greenhoax gasses, and methane far more potent than CO2.

108 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 10:26 am

Let’s note that what I was arguing against was essentially years and years of people saying “piss is fine” or “we don’t know what piss does.” There were congressmen who said “everybody exhales CO2 so it must be natural, so by the same measure piss in your cereal would be natural.

My point is that all that denial was aimed at stopping discussion before any calculation of impact was done.

Now that denial is almost over, it in one last fit becomes a contradiction: we must calculate, but we can’t believe any calculations!

109 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 10:28 am

Willitts do you actually believe any calculated impacts of piss in reservoirs?

Of CO2 in atmospheres?

110 Alain November 6, 2015 at 10:48 am

They strategy of denial was, and is, used since this is politics and politics against regilious wack jobs.

You never hear those who argue the pro-choice position say : sure, abortion is murder, but I believe that the will of the mother is of greater importance than the still developing will of the fetus.

111 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 10:56 am

I think Alain you should look into the history of ensoulment.

When you choose life/ensoulment begins at conception you are asking people to accept a framework that justifies your conclusion. That’s not actually fair of you, if you want a real discussion.

112 Alain November 6, 2015 at 11:37 am

You make it sound like this is (a) a well posed question and (b) is knowable.

I hold that the ‘this’ in the sentence above holds for both the abortion debate and the climate debate.

Further, I would hold that my positions on both are logically consistent. Since they are both ill posed, and almost unknowable, in both cases we should go with the lower cost solution: pro-choice and continuing to burn fossil fuels.

113 Alain November 6, 2015 at 11:42 am

Oh, my positions above can be stated as : reflexively go against the position of the religious wack jobs, they almost certainly do not have a model, that holds up to scrutiny, to justify their position/certainty.

114 ttt November 6, 2015 at 12:11 pm

“I know that pissing into a reservoir contaminates the water, but that doesn’t mean we should spend billions of dollars preventing people from pissing into reservoirs ”

but, we do spend billions preventing people from pissing in the water supply.

115 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Alain — that is the thing that is really strange about AGW policy recommendations: even if the models and the impact estimates were right, G7 emissions reductions would have very little impact at this point anyway and no one thinks we’re going to get them from anyone else. It would be reasonable to advocate spending a few billion on something like the space mirror concept, where effort could be scaled up if needed and the solution has a build time on a similar scale to the problem (and of course it could have a lot of other uses, space is one place where solar power really has some compelling economics), but instead we spend tens of billions making energy more expensive, which just leads to excess death right now.

116 TMC November 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm

“My point is that all that denial was aimed at stopping discussion before any calculation of impact was done. Now that denial is almost over, it in one last fit becomes a contradiction: we must calculate, but we can’t believe any calculations!”

These are the exact tactics of the alarmists. Anyone who questions the faith is a denialist!

Adhere to normal statistical approaches? No way, we’ll make up our own to PROVE there is CAGW

117 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 12:56 pm

If only we could get thousands of climate scientists from around the world to come together and agree, then we could move beyond the political debate!

No, that didn’t work. The trolls and useful fools just adopted a new position that no scientists can be trusted, and that’s where they live to this day.

118 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 1:03 pm

A 2008 international survey of climate scientists conducted by German scientists Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch revealed deep disagreement concerning two-thirds of the 54 questions asked about their professional views, with responses to about half of those areas skewing on the “skeptic” side and no consensus to support any alarm. The majority did not believe that atmospheric models can deal with important influences of clouds, precipitation, atmospheric convention, ocean convection, or turbulence. Most also did not believe that climate models can predict precipitation, sea level rise, extreme weather events, or temperature values for the next 50 years.

119 Jeff R. November 6, 2015 at 11:14 am

“Once you know that CO2 captures heat, you know that more CO2 captures more heat, and you can’t “deny” at that level.”

It’s not that simple. The warming effect is logarithmic: adding C02 to the atmosphere past some inflection point results in warming at a decreasing rate. See here (scroll down to the first graph):

http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2014/12/the_moral_case_3.html#

120 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 11:24 am

This too is a point of contention after rank “denial.” I mean, you just acknowledged a “warming effect” that was decades being accepted.

I guess we have to wait a few decades more for it to be warming model vs warming model?

Because to get to that point, people have to accept modeling as something done by non-evil non-lying non-conspiracists.

121 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 11:55 am

NOAA statement on models in 2008: “The simulations rule out (at the 95% level) zero trends for intervals of15 yr or more, suggesting that an observed absence of warming of this duration is needed to create a discrepancy with the expected present-day warming rate.” There have now been 18 years without warming.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/10/15/noaas-15-year-statement-from-2008-puts-a-kibosh-on-the-current-met-office-insignificance-claims-that-global-warming-flatlined-for-16-years/

122 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 12:06 pm

See, that is a different kind of subterfuge. Even if it were true, which it is not, all the logic would be bad. You are actually saying that since some models are wrong, all models are wrong.

And for those interested, be careful to distinguish between atmospheric temperatures and ocean + atmospheric temperatures. link

123 Jeff R. November 6, 2015 at 12:07 pm

“This too is a point of contention after rank “denial.” I mean, you just acknowledged a “warming effect” that was decades being accepted. ”

My point is you’ve completely oversimplified the situation, probably due to your own ignorance, but that doesn’t in the least stop you from complaining about how irrational everyone who disagrees with you is.

124 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 12:08 pm

So you got nuthin’ Jeff?

125 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 12:11 pm

All in all, in 2015, we aren’t left with very smart or honest “skeptics.”

Probably most are trolls who really know better.

126 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 12:14 pm

“A leaked copy of the world’s most authoritative climate study reveals scientific forecasts of imminent doom were drastically wrong…. the leaked report makes the extraordinary concession that over the past 15 years, recorded world temperatures have increased at only a quarter of the rate of IPCC claimed when it published its last assessment in 2007…the new report says the observed warming over the more recent 15 years to 2012 was just 0.05C per decade – below almost all computer predictions. ” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2420783/Worlds-climate-scientists-confess-Global-warming-just-QUARTER-thought–computers-got-effects-greenhouse-gases-wrong.html#ixzz3JYOpacoV

The publication of the Lewis and Curry paper, along with another by Ragnhild Skeie and colleagues, brings the number of recent low-sensitivity climate publications to 14, by 42 authors from around the world (this doesn’t count our 2002 paper on the topic, “Revised 21st Century Temperature Projections”). Most of these sensitivities are a good 40% below the average climate sensitivity of the models used by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) http://www.cato.org/blog/collection-evidence-low-climate-sensitivity-continues-grow

As we have been reporting, the research now dominating the scientific literature indicates that the equilibrium climate sensitivity is around 2.0°C. This value is about 40% lower than the average climate sensitivity value of the climate models used by the IPCC to make their future projections of climate change, including among other projections, those for temperature and sea level rise. http://www.cato.org/blog/ipcc-chooses-option-no-3

“All 73 models’ predictions were on average three to four times what occurred in the real world,” Christy pointed out. “The closest was a Russian model that predicted a one-degree increase… “I am baffled that the confidence increases when the performance of your models is conclusively failing. I cannot understand that methodology”
http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/barbara-hollingsworth/climate-scientist-73-un-climate-models-wrong-no-global-warming-17

Hansen 1988 prediction vs UAH satellite temperature readings
http://i90.photobucket.com/albums/k247/dhm1353/Climate%20Change/HansenvUAH.png

Santer said the model would have failed if we got to 17 years with no warming. We did. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/04/rss-reaches-santers-17-years/

Climate models do no better than random walks. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/06/14/climate-models-outperformed-by-random-walks/

127 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 12:14 pm

“A leaked copy of the world’s most authoritative climate study reveals scientific forecasts of imminent doom were drastically wrong…. the leaked report makes the extraordinary concession that over the past 15 years, recorded world temperatures have increased at only a quarter of the rate of IPCC claimed when it published its last assessment in 2007…the new report says the observed warming over the more recent 15 years to 2012 was just 0.05C per decade – below almost all computer predictions. ” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2420783/Worlds-climate-scientists-confess-Global-warming-just-QUARTER-thought–computers-got-effects-greenhouse-gases-wrong.html#ixzz3JYOpacoV

The publication of the Lewis and Curry paper, along with another by Ragnhild Skeie and colleagues, brings the number of recent low-sensitivity climate publications to 14, by 42 authors from around the world (this doesn’t count our 2002 paper on the topic, “Revised 21st Century Temperature Projections”). Most of these sensitivities are a good 40% below the average climate sensitivity of the models used by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) http://www.cato.org/blog/collection-evidence-low-climate-sensitivity-continues-grow

As we have been reporting, the research now dominating the scientific literature indicates that the equilibrium climate sensitivity is around 2.0°C. This value is about 40% lower than the average climate sensitivity value of the climate models used by the IPCC to make their future projections of climate change, including among other projections, those for temperature and sea level rise. http://www.cato.org/blog/ipcc-chooses-option-no-3

128 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 12:15 pm

“All 73 models’ predictions were on average three to four times what occurred in the real world,” Christy pointed out. “The closest was a Russian model that predicted a one-degree increase… “I am baffled that the confidence increases when the performance of your models is conclusively failing. I cannot understand that methodology”
http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/barbara-hollingsworth/climate-scientist-73-un-climate-models-wrong-no-global-warming-17

Hansen 1988 prediction vs UAH satellite temperature readings
http://i90.photobucket.com/albums/k247/dhm1353/Climate%20Change/HansenvUAH.png

Santer said the model would have failed if we got to 17 years with no warming. We did. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/11/04/rss-reaches-santers-17-years/

Climate models do no better than random walks. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/06/14/climate-models-outperformed-by-random-walks/

129 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 12:24 pm

Well gosh TallDave, since “models are bad” there is no warming! Everyone relax.

130 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 12:31 pm

“Lord Monckton closed the [NIPCC] conference with a clever poll of the 600+ member audience that revealed a 100% “consensus” that climate does indeed change (there were no “climate change deniers” there), and that humans probably contribute to that change.”

http://www.drroyspencer.com/2014/07/heartlands-9th-international-conference-on-climate-change-a-skepticism-tipping-point/

Weak AGW is a perfectly respectable theory that says mankind is probably having some positive impact on global temperatures. The temperature record and CO2 physics support this theory. Virtually all prominent AGW “skeptics” support this version of AGW.

Strong AGW or CAGW is a highly speculative theory that says mankind is definitely having a large positive impact on global temperatures that will have catastrophic consequences. It is supported by feedback multiplier models that have been repeatedly falsified, tendentious impact studies that ignore millennia of evidence that warmer temps are a net boon to humankind, and some wild guesswork about what future sea levels will do. It is generally not supported by large proportions of scientists/engineers, and claims we need to spend trillions of dollars on this issue.

Yes, relaxing is often, even usually a good idea — there is a long history of failed environmental scares. Personally, I prefer to reduce current spending in favor of a flexible geoengineering solution like space mirrors that might not only keep us in our current odd little interglacial, but also have enormous ancillary benefits.

131 Tom November 6, 2015 at 5:02 pm

“Well gosh TallDave, since “models are bad” there is no warming! Everyone relax.”

At this point, referee stopped contest.

132 Thor November 6, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Just out of curiosity — and I’m a historian, not a scientist — I am wondering why you accuse TallDave of trolling. Isn’t he arguing?

133 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 12:01 pm

This is a great demonstration of how little AGW enthusiasts actually understand about the AGW theory and its implications, and how credulous they are.

Do you know the actual amount of warming directly attributable to CO2? (Hint: the models assume strong feedbacks.)

The Exxon conspiracy theory is just beyond ridiculous. Even as late as 1995, most IPCC drafters were saying human influence was undetectable, but Exxon had it all figured out in 1977 and was just hiding the truth from us? Companies entertain all kinds of batty notions, some bear fruit, the vast majority don’t. Exxon concluded there was no way to know for sure what future temperatures would do — which is what most climate scientists still believe about the models today (Storch 2008).

134 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Dude, your claim is self-refuting, if you believe it.

“the models assume strong feedback”

Of course, damn it.

135 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 12:14 pm

So, of course, it is not as simple as CO2 “traps heat,” in fact it involves vastly complicated models that most climate scientists do not believe can accurately predict temperatures ove the next 50 years.

136 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm

That’s a funny insight to your trolling TallDave.

You suddenly accept that CO2 traps heat, just that since you can’t “accurately predict” that heat, it is no problem.

You really are a useful stooge for Exxon

137 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Nearly all skeptics accept that CO2 traps heat, although some question whether in practical terms, in Earth’s atmosphere, the relevant infrared wavelengths may already be saturated.

It may or may not be a problem, but those are the questions one should be able to answer before branching into mult-trillion-dollar global policy consulting.

Exxon barely notices another tax.

138 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 12:37 pm

I think anyone reading you can see that you are all over the map TallDave, saying anything. Trolls do that.

139 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 12:41 pm

I think you not modelling MR readers very well. I keep telling Tyler he needs a rating system.

Come on Tyler, Megan did it!

140 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Let me guess, TallDave. You’d like a system where trolls in comments threads have higher status than the National Academy of Sciences?

141 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Other than your interesting theory that everyone who disagrees with you is a troll, you don’t seem have any coherent arguments that haven’t been soundly refuted (such as the one about AGW being as simple as CO2 trapping heat). I am not sure why you would consider that praiseworthy, but we can ask the NAS I suppose.

142 carlolspln November 6, 2015 at 2:01 pm

“Lord” Monckton?

You’ve just soiled yourself with faecal matter.

Your own.

Thanks for playing!

143 Ricardo November 6, 2015 at 11:55 am

“Even as lawyers, they often lack serious litigation experience. The emperors have no clothes.
Ben Carson is a professional in his field, a trait that makes him admirable. What I don’t know about him is his ability to coordinate activities of a staff. Trump, to his credit, has decades of experience doing this although I find his personal characteristics less than charming.”

You just undermined your own argument. Who cares if someone is an expert litigator, brain surgeon or real estate tycoon if they have poor judgment, weak management skills or other serious flaws? Success in one area says very little if anything about whether a person is fit to hold political power and one of the reasons we have elections is vet people for their suitability for the job. Bernie Madoff helped create NASDAQ — why shouldn’t he run for office?

144 Chris November 6, 2015 at 8:04 am

I think it’s fair to think of religious literalism as problematic when it blindly and wilfully refuses to accept contradictory evidence or even concede that there IS contradictory evidence. The examples you cited of more implausible beliefs (the Trinity, the Virgin Birth) have no directly verifiable contradictory evidence, whereas it’s observable, e.g., that the pyramids are mostly solid or that some things on Earth are millions of years old.

145 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 9:43 am

I’m not acquainted with many Bible literalists despite being devout. Any I’ve met have not been taken too seriously. I’m comfortable with the Bible as a metaphor.

The Book of Genesis as a metaphor is remarkably close to scientific history. Creation from the void. Spontaneous explosion of light. Gradual forming. Birth of life before humans. Birth of humans. Dominion over the world. Struggle with the formation of ethics. Mass extinction.

If you think the stories are too general, like horoscopes, provide examples.

146 Chris November 6, 2015 at 9:58 am

Young Earth Creationism is very much a thing that is taken seriously in the evangelical world.

147 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 10:20 am

What percentage of the population?

“very much a thing” isn’t very scientific.

148 Chris November 6, 2015 at 10:26 am

I’m not making a scientific claim.

149 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 10:33 am

42 percent purport to be young earth creationists

I don’t believe them though, I think that when asked that question they are forced to answer on “faith” and that the next day they can read about the age of the dinosaurs with no (apparent) conflict.

Human beings are screwy, and cognitive dissonance is not a bug it is a feature.

150 dan1111 November 6, 2015 at 10:53 am

That 42% figure was when people were asked to choose which of three different statements on creation was closest to their beliefs. The options were: natural processes, God-directed evolution, and young earth creation. These three options don’t cover the space of actual beliefs on creation very well.

See this criticism of the poll, with some different survey results: http://www.rawstory.com/2013/11/how-many-americans-actually-believe-the-earth-is-only-6000-years-old/

151 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 11:02 am

I think this supports cognitive dissonance better than it does the idea that people have a different, integrated, belief:

But Josh Rosenau, with the National Center for Science Education, wrote this week that very different results emerge when slight changes are made to the questions that Gallup asks, and the actual number of “young-earth creationists” in the U.S. is probably much lower than Gallup claims.

Rosenau points out that the Gallup poll specifically asks about human origins, and does so in a religious context. But if Americans are asked if they believe whether plants and animals have evolved over millions of years (regardless of the reason why), a substantially higher number say yes — 60 percent did in a 2009 Pew poll, for example.

Removing religious context and human origins, people are much less likely to say that we’re living on a young earth. In another 2009 survey, only 18 percent agreed with the statement that “the earth is less than 10,000 years old,” for example.

152 dan1111 November 6, 2015 at 11:12 am

None of the different polls mentioned are asking about statements that directly conflict with one another.

153 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 11:18 am

This article keeps repeating “religious context.” They know it matters, and that it is what changes answers. You can call that modes of thinking, or cognitive dissonance.

154 Dan November 6, 2015 at 1:34 pm

I sort of doubt that any 42% of people even know what young earth creationism is.

155 Aymeric Mallie (bondvillain) November 6, 2015 at 8:05 am

Poor effort in defending him Tyler.

The point is that he is letting his personal ideology (priors etc.. ) get in the way of a well established historical fact (Pyramids are tombs/mausoleums). Same with his ridiculous belief regarding creation. It is even less forgivable for him who has a scientific training. Why shouldn’t we be able to bully him for that ?

156 MP November 6, 2015 at 8:32 am
157 derek November 6, 2015 at 9:07 am

Oof, this was not a well-thought out post. Carson’s claims about the pyramids and creationist claims about the age of the Earth or dinosaurs are mocked because they are in direct contradiction of scientific and historical evidence (carbon dating, documents, etc). This is about as close as we can get to actually being provably wrong.

Other religious claims that seem equally or even more outlandish, such as the Virgin birth (fyi, this is not really a belief held by politically moderate Christians anymore), are not mocked because their accuracy, or lack thereof, cannot be demonstrated due to their focus on the intangible (the Trinity, etc) or their extreme specificity (Virgin birth, Jesus turning water into wine, etc).

158 Bob from Ohio November 6, 2015 at 9:42 am

Gallup has polled US beliefs on creation for decades. The largest group every year believes that God created humans as they exist now within the last 10,000 years. 44% in 1982 and 42% in 2014.

Carson is not going to be mocked by these folks.

159 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 9:44 am

I think these polls are the strongest evidence for cognitive dissonance, that people know how to answer religious question and science questions, as long as they are asked a little bit apart. #behavioraleconomics

160 dan1111 November 6, 2015 at 10:54 am
161 Todd Kreider November 6, 2015 at 9:15 am

What scientific training? memorizing selected facts in chemistry and biology and forgetting them as soon as not needed to pass a test?

162 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 9:36 am

You don’t know what you’re talking about. Brain surgery might be as routine as rebuilding a carburetor, but both tasks require a great deal of fundamental knowledge of physics and chemistry, far beyond mere memorization of facts. If your assertion were true, we could just train brain surgeons in a couple of years rather than educate them.

I’ll let you get your brain surgery from a repurposed chiropractor. I’ll go to Dr. Carson.

163 John November 6, 2015 at 8:07 am

I think we’re picking on the grain storage claim because it’s easily falsifiable (unlike, say, the virgin birth). But yes, his primary “sin” is that this view is sort of batty and unconventional rather than within the realm of traditional falsifiable religious beliefs like creationism.

164 Chris November 6, 2015 at 8:10 am

To be fair, some variants of creationism are not falsifiable.

165 Sub Specie Æternitatis November 6, 2015 at 8:48 am

True. If I believed that God created the entire world, including all of us and our “memories,” 15 minutes ago, you cannot disprove me. Occam-razor me, yes, but not disprove me.

166 Matthew November 6, 2015 at 8:10 am

Couple thoughts:
1)the pyramids are all solid, without chambers, so no they don’t store *anything.* The Great Pyramid is the only one with any significant internal chambers, and even it is still almost entirely solid. In all of the other pyramid tombs, the burial chambers are actually cut into the bedrock below the pyramid. The idea that the three largest pyramids at Giza were granaries used to be commonplace, but that was before we found the entrances to any of them. In fact there simply isn’t much storage space in the chambers of any of them.

2)Many of the pyramids were baked brick. They were mud-brick, not exactly “clay” but still earthen so given language issues I’d say we can count this Quaran claim as true. Not the three big ones at Giza which are solid stone, but lots of others. Frequently, they had brick cores with only limestone coverings on the outside.

3)many tombs did have little granaries in them. Less wealthy Egyptians had little wooden models of granaries, still stocked with grain. Like the rest of the funerary goods, these were intended for use by the dead person’s spirit in the afterlife. These funerary offerings tell us what actual Egyptian granaries actually looked like. They looked like this: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/p/painted_wooden_model_of_a_gran.aspx

167 JJ November 6, 2015 at 8:12 am

Believing in something in the face of lack of evidence or suggestive evidence exists in the other direction isn’t the same thing as believing in something where the overwhelming weight of the evidence making the belief impossible.

The dates are wrong, for Joseph. By a millennium, if you believe the biblical dating.

168 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 8:29 am

And if you believe the Joseph fairytale.

169 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 9:31 am

I’m quite skeptical of all oral histories, but why can’t we believe that there is at least some kernel of truth in these stories. It’s not at all implausible that various Semitic peoples were enslaved by Egypt, grew in numbers, had some favored house slaves, and became uncontrollable. We have that in our own history.

Some people still believe Rosa Parks was just a tired old woman who wanted to sit. The truth is more courageous. Or perhaps the new ‘truth’ that she was a deliberate activist is the lie. Who can tell?

170 Brian Donohue November 6, 2015 at 10:37 am

“Are we in the barber shop?”

171 Joël November 6, 2015 at 12:01 pm

This is indeed very plausible. The problems with the biblical story are in the details. Hebrew are a western semitic people: their language is extremely close, almost identical, to Phoenician, for instance. This is in contradiction with Joseph being the great grand son of Abraham from Ur, in Mesopotamia, where eastern semitic language were spoken. Another, related problem is that archeology found no trace of the conquest and destructions in Canaan at the time the hebrews are supposed to flee from Egypt and invade Canaan, led by Moses and Josue. The most likely hypothesis at this time (but new discoveries may change it) is that at first the hebrews and Phoenicians were the same people living in a tight band near the Mediterrean coast of the semitic domain, and that at some times the southern part of that people changed religion, perhaps under influence of some Egyptians reformers fleeing from Egypt.

172 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 9:32 am

Troy was lost to history and the Iliad was likely off by several centuries. This doesn’t mean there wasn’t a Trojan War. There may or may not have been a horse involved.

173 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 1:05 pm

If Troy was a prosperous trading city you can bet your bottom dollar that there was more than one Trojan war. There’s no reason (is there?) to believe that any of them had anything much to do with Homer’s tale.

174 edeast November 6, 2015 at 8:18 am

Not a trap. I’ve started going, because those who attend a religious service 4 times a month, increase life expectancy by 4 to 14yrs. Also it brings out my best. Similar to biden’s answer to colbert.

175 P November 6, 2015 at 8:22 am

increase life expectancy by 4 to 14yrs

Umm, no.

176 edeast November 6, 2015 at 8:46 am

Sorry, I can’t provide a proper cite. But I got it from Dan Buettner, and he’s been summarizing research on longevity. So I trust it enough, to state it anonymously online. https://twitter.com/BlueZones/status/625274407838089216

177 derek November 6, 2015 at 10:09 am

So for Carson, who is by any description an anomaly, a black kid growing up in Baltimore, single mom, who has made by any measure a success of his life.

How many here believed that Obama’s policies would improve the lives of black people in the US? After watching Democrat administration of cities for two generations you actually still believe that fairy tale?

Carson’s religious belief is part of who he is. It belies the stupid claim that religious people cannot deal with science. It has grounded him personally. It is part of the whole which made the man into who he was.

Some quirky half thought through thing about pyramids, or men using the women’s shower facilities backed by the force of the US Federal Government. Who is barking mad here.

178 Millian November 6, 2015 at 9:28 am

So, to be clear, they took a group of atheists, made half go to church, and they outlived the others by 9 years on average? Or is there an omitted variable.

179 edeast November 24, 2015 at 10:59 am

I think I’ve found a mechanism, that may explain it; less white blood cells in lonely people.

http://www.medicaldaily.com/health-risks-loneliness-include-cellular-changes-what-eleanor-rigby-didnt-know-about-362728.

180 RK November 6, 2015 at 8:23 am

Yeah, this argument wasn’t any more convincing when Noah Feldman was making it about Mormonism. A lot of my fellow non-religious people seem to enjoy suggesting that all religious beliefs are equally incredible, but that’s evidently not the case. Most major religions require their adherents to believe that physical laws can be temporarily suspended from time to time, but only a few religions — like Mormonism, or Carson’s brand of Seventh Day Adventist beliefs — require their adherents to disbelieve mainstream history. (At least, major aspects of mainstream history, not trivialities like when the census of Quirinius took place.) Statements like Carson’s are rightly regarded as crazy precisely because most successful religions are good at shielding their central tenets from easy refutation. Proving that the pope isn’t infallible when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals is quite a bit harder than proving that the pyramids weren’t used to store grain.

181 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 8:31 am

“Mainstream” religion, though, does ask you to believe the ludicrous story that the Romans would run a census by asking everyone to return to their place of birth.

182 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 9:24 am

Typically lies are built on a foundation of truth. Why would the Gospel writers simply invent a census story that contemporaries would know is false? Doesn’t obvious falsehood undermine faith? Wouldn’t people in Ephesus and Corinth and Rome KNOW that the Romans didn’t have such a census? Or perhaps the Romans did have draconian measures of control for Judea because of all the trouble they had in the region.

The alternative is that the Gospel was not at all written by contemporaries. What evidence do we have of that?

183 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 9:55 am

“Why would the Gospel writers simply invent a census story that contemporaries would know is false?” Indeed, I’ve asked myself that. It’s very odd, especially since everything in Mark (for instance) is, as far as I know, faithful to the times. I suppose that the compilers of the other gospels were stumped for a motive for the claim that Joseph’s family trekked off to Bethlehem, but that they wanted Jesus to have been born there to fulfil a prophecy in the OT. I looked at the synoptic gospels last year: the birth nonsense sticks out like a sore thumb against the rest, which read (to me) as understandable blends of a bit of history, a good dose of theology, and a fair old dose of the contemporary equivalent of urban myths and popular delusions. In particular, there was no large-scale invention to fill in the life of Jesus before he became a public figure in Galilee, which I think does their compilers some credit.

Anyway, I’m prepared to believe, on balance, that Jesus existed; I see no reason at all to believe that he was born in Bethlehem. Perhaps someone familiar with scholarly writing on the subject might be able to suggest why the nonsense about the census was included?

184 Brian Donohue November 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

Haven’t read ’em in a while, but I thought two Gospels had no birth story, and two others placed it in Bethlehem, but by different means (one was for census.) Luke has the famous Christmas story.

The point of fixing a Nazarene’s birth in Bethlehem was that it was the city of David’s birth, and the prophecy said the Messiah was coming from Bethlehem.

185 lemmy caution November 6, 2015 at 12:05 pm

brian seems right.

A census was a reasonable narrative answer to the question “why was Jesus born in Bethlehem?”

186 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 1:09 pm

But Willitts’ point is that, on the contrary, it’s an unreasonable answer, since the readers of the gospel would know perfectly well how Romans ran censuses.

187 Salem November 6, 2015 at 9:55 am

Earliest possible dates for the Gospels put them around 60AD, but most likely a decade or two later. By this stage, events of 1 AD and thereabouts would no longer be contemporary.

188 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 10:02 am

In 60 AD there would still be plenty of people who could say that their parents were eye-witnesses to this or that, and that what they saw was …..

After another generation, evidence would be more tenuous; after that, hearsay would perhaps be getting close to worthless.

There’s also the possibility that the gospel compilers had access to written evidence of some sort, now long lost.

189 Brian Donohue November 6, 2015 at 11:10 am

But Jesus, at the time of his death, was a NOBODY. (In a way, this is the miracle of Christianity. Abraham, Socrates, Buddha, Mohammad– these guys were all widely known to their contemporaries, even Abraham was probably a big deal in his day, if people are taking the trouble hundreds of years later to write about him.)

Jewish historian Josephus makes a passing reference to Jesus and his movement. That’s about it for this historical record. John the Baptist was definitely a real person and made a bigger mark among contemporaries than Jesus did.

So, there’s a lot of play there, 50 years later, around the circumstances of the guy’s birth. What contemporaries did know and had to be reconciled is that Jesus haled from Nazareth.

190 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 1:13 pm

He was a nobody in Jerusalem; he would seem to have had some celebrity in Galilee.

There’s little chance that Abraham ever existed.

191 Grant Gould November 6, 2015 at 8:30 am

I assume that the reason that secular people let more widespread religious false factual claims go is that we suspect in our hearts that the believers don’t actually believe them, or at least don’t think about them much. By contrast a unique religious false factual claim suggests that the believer has some active and ongoing intellectual engagement with the idea.

Both of these notions of course are fallacious. Many religious believers actually believe their religions’ false claims (I was _astonished_ to discover this in my youth, and it was a large part of why I eventually left the church), and many people believe unique false things out of laziness and with no real reflection or intellectual engagement with them. But they present an appealing model — the sort of false thing that one could believe out of unreflective intellectual laziness.

192 Cassiodorus November 6, 2015 at 11:25 am

This was my first thought when reading the post as well. Also that we’ve been socialized to see the outrageous claims of mainstream faiths as normal.

193 Bryan Atkins November 6, 2015 at 8:31 am

TC, think your perspective suffers from serious myopia. And hence is dangerous, so off it’s non-selectable.
“We need scarcely add that the contemplation in natural science of a wider domain than the actual leads to a far better understanding of the actual.” Sir Arthur Eddington, “The Nature of the Physical World”
From an evolutionary / physics perspective: code is infrastructure for complex information-in-relationship in bio, cultural & tech networks: genetic, moral, religious, legal, language, etiquette, math, software code.
Or “The story of human intelligence starts with a universe that is capable of encoding information.” Ray Kurzweil – “How to Create A Mind”
In the grand and profound transition from simple hunter-gatherer social structures of say 50 people, to the exponentially more complex information-in-relationship architecture of city-states stocked with 100,00 people, creative information processors invented alphabet, legal, etiquette, and monetary coding structures. These coding structures were added to the primitive cultural genome of hunter-gatherers. The newly invented coding additions (innovative culture tech) augmented our ability to navigate, to process the increased informational content of culture.
Accruing complexity erodes the efficacy of code. One can see consistent declines (of varying percentages) in the efficacy of: religious code; 1898 legal code; 1998 software code; 1298 English language and etiquette codes; etc.
Carson wielding such archaic code in the face of exponentially accelerating complexity is non-selectable for culture’s reality interface. His denial of climate change, partly a function of our cultural genome being overrun by said complexity, essentially renders him as an unwitting, nice-guy bio-terrorist. We face myriad other problems generated by complexity that god and monetary code ain’t gonna resolve.
Hint: Software code is to monetary code as alphabet code was to pictograph code.
Survival is a function of processing complex network relationship information with sufficient speed accuracy and power. Carson’s religious code is neither accurate nor powerful in the quantity it processes. It is, again, non-selectable.

194 Dan in Euroland November 6, 2015 at 9:15 am

Paragraphs dude

195 Bryan Atkins November 6, 2015 at 9:29 am

yeah, my bad, usually do. apologies.

196 TH November 6, 2015 at 8:31 am

Your ideological preferences really shine through in a lot of your posts. Not all beliefs are equally mockable.
If you believe God or the Devil buried dinosaur bones 5-6,000 years ago when the earth was created to test people’s faith … you will be mocked.
If you believe that there is a God that is the ultimate creator, that Jesus Christ is his son (or a great prophet), and that there is an after-life you will be not.
The former is clearly falsifiable and not compatible with a sane view (for which you don’t need a PhD) of the world. While the latter is not falsifiable it doesn’t (yet) conflict with an explanation of the world around us.
Of course, all of this is made worse by the fact that he not only holds ridiculous views of our actual reality, he adds more ridiculousness to it. This lack of acceptance of basic science is leading us dumb down our schools, and ignore global problems that are leading to massive dislocations that will make our future even more uncertain.
You know this, and yet you choose to write this “defense.” Pathetic. You are part of the problem.

197 8 November 6, 2015 at 8:56 am

Except the dinosaur bone people aren’t anti-science and aren’t responsible for dumbing down the schools, a lot of them homeschool. It’s the people mocking them who run the schools into the ground and believe all manner of absurd ideas, and then implement them as public policy, because their religion is their ideology. America was far more pro-science and rational when most people believed the Earth was 6,000 years old.

198 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 9:14 am

I dispute that. Most people were agrarian for most of America’s history, and had only rudimentary knowledge of science. Our politics has always been dominated by lawyers. Our founders were extraordinarily educated men compared to the populace, and thus had the greatest exposure to science, albeit most of it highly flawed.

I do agree that a lot of the “War on Science” banner wavers know a lot less about science than they think they do.

199 A Definite Beta Guy November 6, 2015 at 10:22 am

“The former is clearly falsifiable”
No it isn’t.

200 ttt November 6, 2015 at 12:20 pm

yes it is

201 asdfG November 6, 2015 at 2:09 pm

We are all very impressed with your your ability stamp your feet and claim that no one can disprove solipsism.

202 A November 6, 2015 at 8:31 am

the bible doesn’t even mention pyramids

So the belief that they stored grain is not a religious belief

203 PD Shaw November 6, 2015 at 8:46 am

True. I’ve not followed this, but is the underlying claim made by Carson based on the passage “And they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses.” (Exodus 1:11)? The King James Version mistranslates “store-cities” as “treasure cities.”

So a popular interpretation arose that these cities were pyramids, because that is what Egypt is associated with and/or to add glamour to the Israelites?

204 louis November 6, 2015 at 9:10 am

Yup… and even by the biblical story, the slaves built those “store-cities” generations after the Joseph story. Carson is willing to disregard the clear archaelogical evidence about the pyramids pretty quickly without so much as a good understanding of the text he purports to follow.

205 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 11:38 am

He didn’t present a major academic paper claiming the Egyptians were storing grain, he just made an offhand comment during a speech in the 1990s about a pet theory he probably spent all of twenty minutes on.

People are acting like Carson is running on a policy of replacing all grain silos with pyramids, hosts http://www.pyramidsforgrain.com, and has been hosting weekly PBS specials on the topic.

206 ttt November 6, 2015 at 12:21 pm

he re-stated it wednesday

207 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 12:47 pm

You mean, when asked about it repeatedly by the press, he said it was plausible.

208 ttt November 6, 2015 at 5:16 pm

yes. its not plausible. you can go there and see for yourself

209 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Again, so what?

210 ttt November 6, 2015 at 7:48 pm

i didn’t even know about it till this posting, so ask TC “so what?”

211 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 9:18 am

Isnt that interesting? There were massive structures in hidden valleys, close by today’s standards but remote by contemporaneous standards, and an entire people were unaware of their existence or, at least, failed to remark about them in their oral history.

Not surprising though. How long do you suppose it was until Americans became largely aware of the Grand Canyon?

212 jewish atheist November 6, 2015 at 8:32 am

Tyler, why do object to ‘the notion that it is fine to believe something about a deity or deities, or a divine book, as long as you do not take that said belief very seriously and treat it only as a social affiliation or an ornamental badge of honor’?

This detached attitude to religion strikes me as the only possible one for a rational, scientific-minded person, other that having no religious affiliation at all (with the caveat that one can adhere to some religious values without taking utterly absurd beliefs seriously).

213 Moreno Klaus November 6, 2015 at 8:44 am

It depends what do you mean by very seriously. I think a religious person should take his beliefs in God and morality seriously, though not by following what a book or a random priest. Otherwise there is no point in following a religion/belief. However, these beliefs should not be IMPOSED on other people.

214 Axa November 6, 2015 at 8:33 am

It’s socially acceptable to bully anyone who says pyramids are for grain storage. However, it’s not socially acceptable to bully anyone who says GMOs are death in spite of what scientists say.

That’s how humans work, your beliefs are crap but what I believe is right and completely backed by “science”.

215 Moreno Klaus November 6, 2015 at 8:47 am

Hmmm, Axa these are different things. There is probably not yet conclusive evidence about (non)safety of GMOs, so there is room for speculation. About the pyramids thing, i guess, it was already observed, that this belief is false.

216 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 9:10 am

Maybe Carson was performing brain surgery when archeologists reported this.

The fact is that we probably all believe something that has been thoroughly debunked a long time ago, and if we had our speeches recorded and perused, we could be embarrassed by it.

The news reported today that Mars lost its atmosphere from solar storms and a lack of a strong, encompassing magnetic field. I “learned” this theory decades ago. To some people, it is novel. Or perhaps there is new evidence that supports an old theory. And next year someone might find evidence it is completely false, I will miss it, and someone will call me stupid when I proffer my magnetic field theory.

We can’t know everything about everything, especially when we specialize. The trouble with most politicians is that they are experts in nothing other than advancing their own interests. The field of presidential candidates for the past several decades has been quite disappointing. Being a governor is now an extraordinary resume bullet for a candidate.

217 liza November 6, 2015 at 9:20 am

Believing something that was once reported and has been debunked, or had it’s theory updated, is completely different than just making up random stories on your own and presenting them as credible theories to gullible audiences.

218 Chris November 6, 2015 at 9:27 am

Perhaps the lesson is that people should not make bold claims founded on ignorance.

219 Dain November 6, 2015 at 11:42 am

A statement about the pyramids holding grain isn’t exactly a bold claim.

220 Axa November 6, 2015 at 10:23 am

@MK, your judgement comes from your knowledge. On pyramids you are in the group that laughs. On GMOs, if you were specifically a researcher/plant scientist, would your opinion be the same? How can you be so sure that people are not laughing at your “there’s room for speculation” belief?

221 mavery November 6, 2015 at 9:30 am

I mock people who buy into the GMO fear-mongering all the time. Haven’t faced social repercussions yet!

222 Chris November 6, 2015 at 10:09 am

Same.

223 CD November 6, 2015 at 1:17 pm

Ditto

224 Millian November 6, 2015 at 9:30 am

It’s not bullying to not consider someone worthy of being President of the United States. After all, fewer than four dozen of the 600-1,000 million or so U.S. Americans in history have done that job.

225 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 10:09 am

However daft Carson’s belief is (and I think it very daft) I am quite prepared to believe that he’d be a better President than Hitlery. In fact I suspect that my uncle Luis would be a better President than Hitlery. And he’s dead.

226 TMC November 6, 2015 at 12:49 pm

It would be interest to elect no one, and see how it goes.

227 operations November 6, 2015 at 2:54 pm

+1

228 Dulimbai November 6, 2015 at 8:38 am

The lengths such people will go to stop Trump from being elected! You really don’t like the guy do you.

I wouldn’t think the GMU people like Hillary either, but now we know.

229 Moreno Klaus November 6, 2015 at 8:39 am

Ben Carson, Donald Trump… can’t the republicans find a candidate that is not a complete joke?

230 meets November 6, 2015 at 8:43 am

Is there a candidate who the Democrats won’t claim is a compete joke?

Heck they still think Reagan was a joke. Crazy.

231 Moreno Klaus November 6, 2015 at 8:50 am

No. Mitt Romney looked very reasonable compared to the current cohort…But, for example Dubya was a complete joke and a disaster. About Reagan i cant comment.

232 angus November 6, 2015 at 9:04 am

So the Dems beat the “reasonable” Repub candidates and lose to the jokes and disasters?

233 mavery November 6, 2015 at 9:31 am

I mean, sorta. They haven’t lost to Trump et al. yet, and Gore did manage to win the popular vote. But I mean, that was Al Gore. Not exactly the most charismatic guy for the Dems, either.

234 Dan in Euroland November 6, 2015 at 9:19 am

Yes because a successful businessman and skilled negotiator is not competent. But a dude who affirmative actioned his way thru Harvard Law and was a professional community organizer and part time law professor is ideal. The latter promised hope and change, the former promises a wall. Ex ante which has more realistic political goals?

235 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 11:28 am

Trust me, Republicans ask the same thing about your candidates, including the one currently in the WH.

236 Art Deco November 6, 2015 at 1:06 pm

They most certainly can and do, but since you’ve decided a priori that all of their candidate’s are ‘jokes’, your question is stupid.

Now, who have the Democrats given serious consideration to in recent decades:

1. A sometime lawyer who spent (prorating part-time and seasonal work) about five years as a teacher (while undertaking no university service and publishing no scholarly work), spent (again pro-rating) about three years practicing law, wrote two memoirs, and sat in the Illinois legislature for 8 years and Congress for two years and change. Executive experience limited to running the Chicago Annenberg Challenge into the ground. Recognized as a maven in the following areas of public policy: …….

2. A skeezy corporate and commercial lawyer whose career benefited from her husband’s status as a public official, who has a history of shady and incredible business dealings, who was implicated in severely damaging the Legal Services Corporation, and who was dismissed from her first law job and cited for misconduct before the ink on her diploma was dry. Executive experience in 2007: nil. Executive experience in 2015: she’d rather not answer questions. What difference does it make?

3. An ambulance. chaser who made millions off of junk science (before taking up as an avocation cheating on his wife with one of Jay McInerney’s old pals).

4. A legacy pol with no executive experience whose career as a national figure has been notable for manifestations of secular characterologial decay, idiosyncratic fixations, and gross opportunism. Prior to entering politics, he followed the demanding trade of newspaper reporter for six years (which he took up after failing at one graduate program and abandoning another).

5. A sociopath whose entire life story might be described as a quest for the perfect fellatio. He’s a buddy of the 1st Baron Pedo Island, natch. Not four decades ago, people like this man were fictions of sketch comedy, not public officials. His wife did a jim-dandy job of laundering the bribes.

6. A lapsed air force officer (and sometime lawyer, practicing for < 2 years) who though his career and our public life might be enhanced by his use of barnyard epithets.

7. Another attorney who'd been in Congress for 10 years but, again, had never held an executive position (and, no, his years in the Peace Corps do not count for that; they just absorbed the time he might have spent in the military). At least he was a decent man.

8. Another attorney bereft of executive experience who campaigned in Iowa with a clanking collection of Capitol Hill gamesmen he'd cultivated. Michael Kinsley's remark on this man was that he was so phony and opportunistic he seemed like a character out of a scifi horror film: soon he'll peel away his skin and reveal the lizard underneath.

9. A clergyman whose executive experience consisted of financial mismanagement of the non-profit he founded. (The non-profit in question's principal line of business bore a remarkable resemblance to a protection racket). Give him this, though: he was a very capable extemporaneous speaker, though the half-finished limericks he favored could be disconcerting, as were his gross red-haze and arab-nationalist associations.

10. Another lawyer in Congress bereft of executive experience or a history of law practice measured in something more extensive than weeks (but very experienced in the ways of heavy drinking, adultery, and vehicular manslaughter). His most notable cause was national health insurance. It never made it out of subcommittee and he was chairman of the subcommittee.

Not to mention the capable man (physician, state governor) who thought his career would be advanced by behaving like an off-his-meds mental patient, the long-married Ivy League educated policy wonk whose free time was spent on the good ship Monkey Business with a blonde on his lap, and the small-town newspaper publisher with the bow tie and the you-got-a-problem-we-got-a-program portfolio of position papers along with the self-help books he'd written. Decent man, though. We've gotten to miss that among Democratic pols.

237 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 1:21 pm

“vehicular manslaughter”: it’s always seemed to me that the so-and-so probably murdered the girl.

238 John November 6, 2015 at 8:43 am

No religion on earth preaches that the pyramids were used as grain silos. Carson took his vast knowledge of the universe and came up with that all on his own. That is rightly more troubling than espousing received faith.

239 Whatever November 6, 2015 at 10:00 am

In Civ2 building the Great Pyramids earns you a granary in every city. That isn’t because Carson came up with the idea.

240 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 11:33 am

It’s troubling that he came up with a pet theory about ancient architecture that is probably wrong but is totally irrelevant to policy?

If he proposed spending billions building new pyramids to store grain, that would be troubling.

A little gadfly theorizing never hurt anyone, unlike, say, Marxism.

241 Dain November 6, 2015 at 11:43 am

+1

242 John November 6, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Yes, it’s troubling, not because he got a particular fact wrong which is a universal human flaw, but because his thought process took him from ignorance of a subject to a firm belief about the subject. That mental process is very dangerous. See Iraq War.

243 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 5:42 pm

He didn’t say it was a “firm belief,” in fact he pretty much said the opposite, that it was just his pet theory.

244 PD Shaw November 6, 2015 at 8:45 am

True. I’ve not followed this, but is the underlying claim made by Carson based on the passage “And they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses.” (Exodus 1:11)? The King James Version mistranslates “store-cities” as “treasure cities.”

So a popular interpretation arose that these cities were pyramids, because that is what Egypt is associated with and/or to add glamour to the Israelites?

245 PD Shaw November 6, 2015 at 8:45 am

Reply fail. Meant to respond to A (“the bible doesn’t even mention pyramids
So the belief that they stored grain is not a religious belief”)

246 François Godard November 6, 2015 at 8:45 am

Many regions are not about beliefs but about following rituals — like, for instance, the Roman religion (see John Scheid and Paul Veyne).

247 Moreno Klaus November 6, 2015 at 8:54 am

IMO this is the wrong way of being religious… just following a ritual does not help mankind that much…

248 8 November 6, 2015 at 8:48 am

On the one hand, we have a highly successful man with scientific training who believes some weird religious things. He sees no conflict with religion and science.

On the other hand, we have people with no scientific training who “@#$*-ing love science!” and think religion and science cannot mix. They also believe evolution stopped 50,000 years ago from the neck up in humans; believe a man with the DNA of a man is woman, if he decides to say he is a woman; believe that religion is anti-science even when the historical record is littered with falsification.

249 Willitts November 6, 2015 at 9:01 am

Cancer clusters, vaccination causes autism, minimum wage increases labor supply, GMOs are harmful, red meat causes cancer, Hurricane Patricia was caused by global warming, racism/sexism causes poor economic outcomes for minorities and women, peak oil…..et cetera

250 Freeraw November 6, 2015 at 9:43 am

Right, just because you stopped invoking a deity doesn’t mean you’ve lost faith, creed, and denominational fanaticism.

251 Thiago Ribeiro November 6, 2015 at 9:47 pm

“vaccination causes autism”
Many people on the right, from the Lewrockwell.com guys to the Newsmax crowd, not to mention Trump (you may have heard of him, he is kinda famous), have linked vaccines with autism and other disorders and diseases. . And apparently Carson has issues with how children have been immunizated that are not shared by most pediatrists. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/experts-call-republican-candidates-vaccine-claims-false-dangerous/story?id=33829987

252 Anonymous November 6, 2015 at 10:00 am

Maybe you should work on a straw house for all of those straw men.

253 rayward November 6, 2015 at 8:48 am

I can’t get out of my mind the Gnosticism exchange (of looks) between Cowen and Thiel in their dialogue. I suspect that Cowen’s and Thiel’s affinity for Gnosticism is the idea that there is secret knowledge that only a few people know, smart people like Cowen and Thiel. [By the way, Gnosticism is a rapidly growing movement in California (where else).]

254 Millian November 6, 2015 at 9:32 am

Well, Thiel is a very poor gnostic. We know the secret truth he carries in his brain is that an elite of people like him ought to run the world.

255 KevinH November 6, 2015 at 8:55 am

my tl;dr “On a scale of silly to ridiculous, Ben Carson might only be silly”

256 KevinH November 6, 2015 at 9:04 am

on a more serious note, I do really enjoy your final paragraph. I thin it nails something down quite well. I think we have gotten to a level of secularization where we are perfectly find with differing beliefs about the metaphysical or non-verifiable world. You can believe in deities, and the way in which those deities might demand that you spend your time. Even the abortion debate is mostly about definitions that we don’t have good objective criteria for. But the level of tolerance becomes much lower for beliefs that can be shown to be false by relatively simple examination.

Also, I believe this is completely rational behavior for an electorate. It has to do with your ability to update your beliefs given evidence to the contrary.

257 bellisaurius November 6, 2015 at 9:20 am

Also, another take on the tl;dr

“He has a belief that conflicts with the evidence that has been gathered to date. He’s rationalized it by saying ‘hey these things are big and sealed’, what else could they be for?”

Occasionally, this sort of thought works in archaeology and/or real life. He’s definitely taking a Not Very Serious Person position. I see the appeal to Tyler and others. He’s not hurting anyone, and I doubt what he’s saying is convincing anyone, so no big deal.

258 liza November 6, 2015 at 8:58 am

The problem isn’t that religious people sometimes believe in mystical, impossible to prove theories about God, such as the Trinity. The problem is that someone like Ben Carson simply makes claims based on nothing more than an idea they had and presents it as fact. I was an evangelical christian for over 20 years. Never heard this before, ever. He’s literally just making up this story. He hasn’t gotten it from anywhere. He isn’t repeating a well-established traditional story that is central to his faith.

The idea that someone is so comfortable just making shit up and then using it as proof that God does this or does that, and is going to replicate that in people’s lives and therefore they don’t need to worry about those things called “facts”, “science”, or “evidence”….well, it’s just annoying as hell.

I used to see this all the time in churches. And when people who are perceived to be trustworthy and authoritative say these kinds of things, people take them seriously.

259 Flannery Bro'Connor November 6, 2015 at 9:16 am

Science has fulfilled all of its promises, and it would seem that the current plateau of electric lights, automobiles on asphalt roads, jet travel, and freedom from disease is going to be with us for a very very long time. It is no wonder that people are reverting to an evangelical fervor, and no amount of synthetic meat is going to change that.

260 Justin November 6, 2015 at 9:20 am

Corollary to the Second Law: “Said literature will be behind a paywall, rendering it useless for public discussions.”

261 Bob from Ohio November 6, 2015 at 9:26 am

The media and liberals [but I repeat myself] do not mock basic tenets of religion because they are afraid of the backlash from believers. Minor eccentric beliefs are fair game. No one is going to get alarmed over mocking of a silly throwaway theory expressed in the 1990s.

{As an aside, amazing the fact checking that goes on when a black is a republican and not a democrat.}

The only people mocking Carson are secular liberals who believe religion is something you do Saturday at Temple or Sunday at a Catholic or (mainline) Protestant church and which otherwise has nothing to do with your life.

They cannot fathom someone applying religious beliefs to his or her life outside of worship.

262 liza November 6, 2015 at 9:33 am

{As an aside, amazing the fact checking that goes on when a black is a republican and not a democrat.} – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/11/bully-for-ben-carson.html#comment-158769826

You’re joking, right? Did the whole Birther movement and fact-checking of Obama’s birth certificate and the related stories about Obama’s education and ties with Indonesia simply not occur in your reality?

Do you live in a parallel universe?

263 Bob from Ohio November 6, 2015 at 9:48 am

“Did the whole Birther movement and fact-checking of Obama’s birth certificate and the related stories about Obama’s education and ties with Indonesia simply not occur in your reality?”

The media ran serious stories on any of these things? Every single story was about the silly hillbillies who believe these stupid things.

[The “Birther movement” was of course started by Clinton’s campaign but you would not know that.]

CNN just ran a big story “fact checking” Carson’s teenage years. Please direct me to a similar investigation by a media organization about Obama.

264 Art Deco November 6, 2015 at 11:36 am

The media ran serious stories on any of these things? Every single story was about the silly hillbillies who believe these stupid things.

In my experience, the residual birthers are pretty impervious to evidence and common sense, and given to generating a slew of rococo reasons to continue to adhere to the viewpoint to which they committed themselves a priori. During the controversy over the President’s long form certificate, Ann Coulter said it would not make much difference if he released it because the people complaining would just generate a new and improved set of complaints. That’s not altogether what happened, but you do encounter residual birthers who do just that.

The notion that two impecunious college students would undertake expensive and time-consuming international travel at a time (1961) when international travel was unusual in this country bar during military service, that they would do so given that BO Sr.’s wife back in Kenya would hardly relish meeting Ann Dunham, that Stanley Dunham would put a simulacrum of a hospital birth announcement in the Honolulu papers that week claiming a grandson born a Kapiolani Hospital when the birth was thousands of miles away, that someone would painstakingly forge a period long-form certificate; that the surviving members of the Dunham/Obama social circle from the University of Hawaii would like through their teeth about their whereabouts in 1961; that the Hawaii Commissioner of Health, two Hawaii governors etc. would lie through their teeth and pretend there was authentic documentation when there was not; that Barack Obama or the Democratic National Committee would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (or ‘millions’ in the mind of some enthusiasts) defending against suits when there are no plaintiffs with standing amounts collectively to a tower of implausibilities that topple over in the view of anyone who is not irredeemably pig-headed. No, the media were not fact-checking this, because Obama’s birth in Honolulu is as well-established as that of anyone in this country in 1961 and they do not have the manpower to spin their wheels like that.

265 Thiago Ribeiro November 6, 2015 at 11:07 pm

“No, the media were not fact-checking this, because Obama’s birth in Honolulu is as well-established as that of anyone in this country in 1961 and they do not have the manpower to spin their wheels like that.”
In your opinion, maybe.

266 Cassiodorus November 6, 2015 at 12:11 pm

1. Birtherism had its origins on the fringe right (serial candidate Andy Martin).
2. It’s not Carson’s teenage years that are being fact checked, it’s a series of claims he made about stabbing someone that have taken different forms over the years.

267 Bob from Ohio November 6, 2015 at 12:45 pm

1. Frrom that right wing rag Politico:

” Then, as Obama marched toward the presidency, a new suggestion emerged: That he was not eligible to serve. (See: Birther debate alive across U.S.)

That theory first emerged in the spring of 2008, as Clinton supporters circulated an anonymous email questioning Obama’s citizenship.

“Barack Obama’s mother was living in Kenya with his Arab-African father late in her pregnancy. She was not allowed to travel by plane then, so Barack Obama was born there and his mother then took him to Hawaii to register his birth,” asserted one chain email that surfaced on the urban legend site Snopes.com in April 2008.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2011/04/birtherism-where-it-all-began-053563#ixzz3qjb5G4pp

2. Which happened in his teen years.

268 freethinker November 6, 2015 at 9:29 am

I am an atheist but I think it is absolutely ridiculous to go into a politician’s theological beliefs as long as he or she does not seek to impose them on the rest of us.

269 Chris November 6, 2015 at 10:03 am

I think it’s fair to question how purportedly religious beliefs inform a politician’s worldview. We can learn from this that Carson doesn’t engage with overwhelming contradictory evidence, for example.

270 libert November 6, 2015 at 10:40 am

Ben Carson’s whole shtick is “fighting against secular society.”

271 internet_dickhead November 6, 2015 at 2:40 pm

in my experience, people who label themselves “freethinker” on an anonymous internet forum aren’t, and don’t know what it means, though they like the the self-image the label helps them promote because it massages their ego in just the right ways.

sincerely yours,

a dickhead on the internet

272 It's Over November 6, 2015 at 9:31 am

The funniest part of this “story” is that oh so clever lefties see no irony in calling a f***ing neurosurgeon too stupid to take seriously as a human being, much less the president. You’re right Twitter, the neurosurgeon is the guy too dumb to be president. Obviously.

273 Sub Specie Æternitatis November 6, 2015 at 9:38 am

No, obviously he is not too dumb. And he may have the most admirable life story of any candidate in a long time. But he is too ignorant of policy and politics and, strangely, appears disinclined to learn which surely ought to be easy for him.

274 Bob from Ohio November 6, 2015 at 9:49 am

What does his beliefs about ancient Egypt have to do with “policy”?

275 Sub Specie Æternitatis November 6, 2015 at 9:50 am

Nothing?

276 John L. November 6, 2015 at 10:03 am

He isn’t, but mutatis mutandis (NB: it means it is not exactly the same thing, I am not saying he is a Nazi) neither were, as a rule, the doctors who believed in Hitler’s racial theories. Do some crazy beliefs disqualify someone for the presidency? Which ones?

277 CD November 6, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Who exactly is calling Carson stupid?

Yes indeed, he was a successful neurosurgeon. He is now a successful grifter. Both require intelligence and application. On the narrow criterion of “smart enough to be president” he qualifies. So do many people.

There are plenty of really smart cranks.

Carson is being mocked for the pyramids theory because he has a long history of making stuff up. There’s more out just this morning on false claims re being offered a scholarship to West Point.

His shtick is saying crazy-uncle stuff with an air of authority.

278 anon November 7, 2015 at 12:19 pm

The surgeons know nothing and do everything, the physicians know everything but do nothing, and the pathologists known nothing and do nothing.

279 Ryan November 6, 2015 at 9:33 am

Nice post Tyler. Of course, it is my mood affiliation that underlies my appreciation. My own personal take or, ahem, what I believe is that the believers (e.g. my religion is better or more founded than yours) and non-believers who dwell in these meddling are missing the forest for the trees.

280 Millian November 6, 2015 at 9:36 am

Cowen is mood affiliating. Cowen has decided that world-weary pessimism about progress is the correct mood and raises status of the correct bloggers, politicians etc. accordingly even if they were say iRacist.

281 Ryan November 6, 2015 at 10:13 am
282 Lee A. Arnold November 6, 2015 at 9:39 am

Consider all the nuts who believe that “rational self-interest” is a condition of human “nature”.

283 Gene Callahan November 6, 2015 at 9:50 am

Bully for Cowen for openly displaying his ugly, anti-religious bigotry!

284 Sam Haysom November 6, 2015 at 2:36 pm

Says the guy that licks up every bit of bull shit Putin spews out.

285 Nick November 6, 2015 at 9:52 am

>Yet we mock Ben Carson for this, but we do not make fun of those who believe openly in the Trinity, Virgin Birth, ex cathedra, and many other beliefs which are to my mind slightly less plausible claims.
>But what I find strangest of all is not Ben Carson’s pyramids beliefs, but rather the notion that we should selectively pick on some religious claims rather than others.

I find this a bit unusual for Tyler; he of all people should recognize that interest groups are at work not just in politics, but also in religion.

That is to say, the reason we do not make fun of those who believe openly in the Trinity, Virgin Birth, etc is that they are an established and dominant interest group, whereas the number of people who believe that the Pyramids held grain is presumably in the low single digits, with the only notable person being Ben Carson.

286 John L. November 6, 2015 at 10:06 am

I am not sure most people know or care much about the Pyramids. In fact, having beliefs regarding them may be the excentric thing about Carson.

287 Minderbinder November 6, 2015 at 9:56 am

I wonder if Carson every played the game Civilization. If you build the Great Pyramid wonder in the game, all your cities get granaries.

288 Tom Warner November 6, 2015 at 9:57 am

No no no no. Completely disagree. History and historicity are important. Mainstream society has established standards where faith-based beliefs are okay (surely the virgin miracle birth, maybe parting the Red Sea) and where they’re not. A presidential candidate who attempts to roll back scientific progress by pushing anti-scientific beliefs about history clearly outside the accepted standard fully deserves all the mockery and ridicule he gets.

289 libert November 6, 2015 at 10:35 am

Simple: it is politically incorrect to go after Carson for his crazy-but-common Christian beliefs.

290 Chris D November 6, 2015 at 10:47 am

It seems like our idea of “plausible” should include whether or not something is trivially disproved. We know the pyramids weren’t built for grain storage because they’re mostly solid, their few interior spaces are not exactly accessible, and (the kicker) we have Egyptian writing saying they were built as tombs.

By contrast, I’m unaware of any archeological evidence for (or against, to be fair) things like the Trinity or the Virgin Birth. Sure, they defy all common sense and experience of the world, but they’re not provably true or false.

291 Richard Harper November 6, 2015 at 10:52 am

Religious behaviors and beliefs as costly signals has been a discussion in academic circles for about a decade now. The idea here might be that to mobilize the religious base to get out and vote Carson sends a costly signal (so it has some credibility) that he is ‘one of them’. One can imagine campaign managers tallying up their estimates for how many votes lost against how many more votes gained in terms of voter turnout. For whatever it’s worth – here’s a Sept 2015 abstract, Costly Signaling Increases Trust, Even Across Religious Affiliations, http://pss.sagepub.com/content/26/9/1368 .. And for flavor and more detail here’s a chapter from awhile back by J. Schloss, http://www.jeffschloss.com/Writing/Writing_files/My%20Chapter.pdf ..

292 Emily November 6, 2015 at 10:52 am

If you believe something common and stupid, that communicates something different about you than if you believe something uncommon and stupid. If you are raised with a stupid belief and are around people who also hold that stupid belief, continuing to hold that stupid belief just makes you a normal person. If you break with it, you are probably unusual in some way. Whereas if you decided all on your own that a stupid belief is correct, in spite of everyone around you thinking it’s stupid, that’s very different. Holding that belief means you are probably unusual in some way. Not holding that belief would just make you a normal person.

293 Harun November 6, 2015 at 11:14 am

Common and stupid like socialism?

294 Emily November 6, 2015 at 11:46 am

Why? Is whether you think this is a good argument contingent on whether I agree with that?

295 Phil November 6, 2015 at 3:54 pm

SOCIALISM IS IN THE BIBLE…

296 babar November 6, 2015 at 11:08 am

why does it matter what anyone believes about what happened before any of us were born?

297 Glenn Mercer November 6, 2015 at 11:15 am

I am going to make a very small point, and it will sound like I am mocking or being sarcastic, but I am not. I think one small factor in the broader American tendency to make fun of Mormon beliefs is that of geography and chronology. It is so much easier to believe something incredible about far-away exotic lands and the distant past. But when the foundational relics, the golden plates (I guess an analogue to the Ten Commandment tablets) date back only about a couple of centuries, and were found not far from an exit on the New York Thruway, it is harder to endow them with magical qualities. Again, I am NOT being snarky here, just hypothesizing on this topic.

298 dr November 6, 2015 at 11:15 am

No. Some leaps of faith are integral to holding religious beliefs and others are not. The indulgence of scientifically absurd beliefs that have no importance or significance to core tenets of a religion is absolutely an indicator of lack of judgment, whereas indulgence of scientifically absurd beliefs that are essential to participating in a religion in its historical context is a lesser indicator.

299 Andre November 6, 2015 at 11:19 am

You guys have it all wrong. Ben Carson is just a Civ II playing gaming nerd:

http://civilization.wikia.com/wiki/Pyramids_%28Civ2%29

The Pyramids require Masonry. It will put a Granary in each of your cities.

I dare say he’s also seen the Stargate movie a few times as well.

300 PD Shaw November 6, 2015 at 1:01 pm

+1

301 carlolspln November 6, 2015 at 2:13 pm
302 TallDave November 6, 2015 at 11:24 am

It was an offhand comment in 1998 about a speculative “personal theory” of his that has no conceivable policy implications.

This story is mainly interesting as an illustration of what happens when the press is overwhelmingly Democratic.

303 Tim November 6, 2015 at 11:28 am

A colleague and friend whose judgment I admire the most (and have sought in nearly every important decision) speaks in tongues at her Evangelical church and thinks that Jesus is sitting next to her 24/7.

Mitt Romney, who (legend at least has it) got perfect SATs, entered Stanford (later transferring), graduated at or near the top of his Harvard Law and his Harvard MBA class simultaneously, believes that the angel Moroni delivered a bunch of gold plates containing a new New Testament to a 19th century grifter, who would translate the message on them for the benefit of the world. He might even wear goofy underwear.

Thinking about all that a few years ago led to a lot of fun reading – Schermer’s “The Believing Brain” the most fun (and now I brace for vitriol here for some apostasy of Schermer’s of which I am ignorant and which renders everything in that book worthless).

The Founding Fathers had some kooky beliefs *and* many of them owned, sold and traded human beings as chattel.

As the late Mario Cuomo used to say at press conferences, “We go from stone to stone, across the morass.” I think he was quoting a theologian, but I don’t remember which.

304 Gochujang November 6, 2015 at 11:33 am

Cool, Shermer’s book is at my local library

305 dearieme November 6, 2015 at 1:26 pm

I thought that Romney was by far the most impressive Presidential candidate since Bush the Elder. I thought you lot were loonies to prefer a second term of O.

306 msgkings November 6, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Obama over McCain was an easy choice. Obama vs Romney was about equal for me.

307 Philip November 6, 2015 at 11:33 am

What I find interesting is that Ben Carson was a brain surgeon, presumably was a science major and then spent a decade or more is higher ed. Then, being affluent, as most brain surgeons are, spent decades in the company of people who traveled to Egypt. (Affluent people tend to be world travelers.) How in 40 years more or less of affluent adult life in modern United States did he not hear that the pyramids are solid? This isn’t about facts that can be disputed or are hard to find. (When did the dinosaurs live?) Or are obscure: the pyramids are probably one of the most familiar human structures in the world.
So either he is remarkably unobservant (blinkered even) or lying.

While Tyler Cowan’s observation that many religious beliefs are about the world and are sincere is true: this one is a hard stretch.

308 Chris November 6, 2015 at 11:33 am

People hold all sorts of historical beliefs that aren’t true. Doing so probably doesn’t disqualify them for being President.

Chances are if you ask people whether Europeans believed the world was flat before Columbus (they didn’t), whether more people believed in magic in the middle ages than the renaissance (they didn’t, the medieval church rejected magic, but the renaissance brought back ancient and faked magical texts of the ancients so intelligent people started believing in it), that people in the middle ages didn’t bathe (they did, not bathing was something that began after the Black Death), if woman had inferior legal rights in the feudal era or renaissance (women lost rights in the renaissance which they had in the feudal period), specific facts about the trial of Galileo or the Scopes Monkey Trial (utterly propagandized and best known through plays and fictional novels), and lots of other things, they will get them wrong because the popular knowledge of what we “know” doesn’t match the historical record – it matches popular propaganda even though they are now utterly discredited by historians.

Confusing the granaries built by Joseph in the Old Testament with the pyramids is of the same ilk.

I wonder how many liberals know that the guilt of Sacco and Vanzetti is now conclusively proven which probably has a lot more relevance than ignorance about the pyramids.

309 Bob from Ohio November 6, 2015 at 12:49 pm

“I wonder how many liberals know that the guilt of Sacco and Vanzetti is now conclusively proven which probably has a lot more relevance than ignorance about the pyramids.”

Alger Hiss and Julius Rosenberg have been proven to be Communist agents too despite liberal myths. Those cases happened in living memory.

310 JonFraz November 6, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Re: they did, not bathing was something that began after the Black Death

Long after the Black Death. Bathing remained an occasional practice well into the early modern era. It may have been the climatic downturn in the 1600s that made it less popular. Hot running water after all was very rare; everyone not addressed as “Your Majesty” had to bathe in ambient temperature water .

Re: f woman had inferior legal rights in the feudal era or renaissance (women lost rights in the renaissance which they had in the feudal period)

Can you cite specifics there? I know women were not wholly disadvantaged in the Middle Ages, but I am scratching my head as to how they became less advantaged in the following years.

311 JohnnyA November 6, 2015 at 11:38 am

GK Chesterton, in the form of Father Brown, had the right response here. “I can believe the impossible more readily than the improbable.”

Storing grain in the pyramids is improbable but not impossible. But it is clearly wrong here and Ben Carson is wrong to maintain it. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God and that believing in Him will guarantee eternal life falls into the “impossible but I believe it” category.

312 Ed November 6, 2015 at 11:40 am

“It’s not so different from the old prejudice that Mormon beliefs are somehow “weirder” than those of traditional Christians, except now it is secularists picking and choosing their religious targets on the supposed basis of sophistication.”

It is nice to see that the other commentators are onto this, but this is not correct. By the way, its a common argument among atheist that all tenets of all religions are equally ridiculous. I have have had more atheist friends than believer friends and I’ve heard this like a million times before. And its not true.

Of the three great world religions, with Christianity the central claim of the resurrection of Jesus is backed by eyewitness accounts, which the Gospels are at pains to point out. The central claim of Islam is that there is one God and Mohamed is his prophet, the requirement being to believe in one God and that an angel communicated with Mohamed (and the latter claim is credible given his life story, he first thought he was going crazy). Islam claims to be cleansed of the various myths and complications that crept into all the other religions. I don’t think Buddhism features any incredible or historical claims at all in its central tenets.

I emphasize the core claims, because in all three religions their believers hold lots of folk beliefs, many traceable to earlier pagan myths, that are not central to the core tenets of the religion and in some cases actually heretical. Christianity in particular is prone to this. The most disturbing thing about Carson’s claims is that Christian doctrine teaches nothing about the Pyramids at all. I’m not worried about his views of science or history, I’m worried about his tendency towards heresy.

Sikhism also doesn’t have many claims about history that would sound strange to secular ears. Mormonism is somewhat unique in encouraging a good way for its believers to live, while requiring more beliefs about historical events that are fantastic.

313 The Original D November 6, 2015 at 2:38 pm

backed by eyewitness accounts

Written more than 30 years later with no corroborating evidence, and which other historical documents of the era make no mention of.

Imagine writing a history of the Reagan era based solely on the testimony of Ted Cruz.

314 Sam Haysom November 6, 2015 at 2:43 pm

This is a really stupid analogy. If Ted Cruz just made stuff up then you and your fellow Soros-paid hacks would show and caterwaul.

But the response to the Gospels wasn’t look at these fabricators it was hahah look at those stupid poor people.

315 wd40 November 6, 2015 at 11:40 am

Not all Catholics, Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, and so forth, believe that their holy book is literally true beyond the existence of a higher being. Those that do have limited their knowledge and may undertake actions that are based on a clearly false understanding of the world.

316 Steve J November 6, 2015 at 11:44 am

a religion actually consists of beliefs about the world… It just seems strange to me that people would rather make stuff up than try to figure it out. And people like Tyler congratulate them for doing this? Maybe we have different definitions for knowledge? Hard to comprehend.

317 Los Ranchos November 6, 2015 at 12:10 pm

The part of organized religion that is socially acceptable is the universal recognition that there are many things we don’t understand, and in the face of that humility is the best posture. This humility leads to a leveling of human status and to the positive aspects of organized religion: community efforts, poverty outreach, ministries,etc.

Historically this ignorance expressed itself in stories and fables about superhuman entities which were used for both explanatory and behavior controlling purposes. This is not a benign part of the story of organized religion, as these stories and fables have been out in competition both with each other (Islam vs Christianity) and with science. These non-updated or non-falsifiable religious beliefs are the opposite of humility, and have led to as much carnage as any other dysfunctional societal structure like communism or fascism.

318 Ethan Bernard November 6, 2015 at 12:12 pm

I keep waiting for Carson to reveal that his whole candidacy is a big joke on the republicans and he was just saying crazy things to see what he could get away with.

319 ezra abram November 6, 2015 at 1:03 pm

The “left” spends a lot of time mocking the “right”
The right spends time organizing
results the democrats have lost *900 * state legislature seats !!!!!!!!

http://www.vox.com/2015/11/4/9669918/democrats-elections-crisis
http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/jan/25/cokie-roberts/have-democrats-lost-900-seats-state-legislatures-o/
Under President Obama, Democrats have lost 900+ state legislature seats, 12 governors, 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats. That’s some legacy.

I’d say the right is smarter then the left (and I am way to the left of B Sanders)

320 Millian November 6, 2015 at 1:55 pm

They lost because their man is in the White House. When the other guys’ man is in the White House, they will win. That is the iron law of U.S. politics.

321 Art Deco November 8, 2015 at 12:38 pm

The Democrats are in the worst position they’ve been in in the state legislatures since 1928. They’ve had the worst back-to-back-to-back performance in elections to the House of Representatives since … 1928. That’s not ordinary cyclical variation.

322 JonFraz November 6, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Re: Yet we mock Ben Carson for this, but we do not make fun of those who believe openly in the Trinity, Virgin Birth, ex cathedra, and many other beliefs which are to my mind slightly less plausible claims.

The difference is that for the Pyramids we have solid evidence that Carson’s claim is false. There’s no empirical evidence once way or the other on the other things you mention: they are metaphysical or theological claims, not the sort of things you that physical evidence can determine.

323 ruhkukah November 6, 2015 at 1:53 pm

New story:

It turns out, not only did Ben Carson lie about his “violent youth”, it seems he was never even a neurosurgeon:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/report-carson-lied-about-west-point-acceptance/ar-CC2hJO?li=BBgzzfc&ocid=mailsignout

324 Millian November 6, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Bully for a systematically mendacious candidate?

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/11/ben-carson-west-point-215598

The truth’s strained relationship with Dr. Carson continues.

325 GeoffBr November 6, 2015 at 1:58 pm

It’s fascinating to me that, of all these responses, only three point out that Carson’s claim is troubling because it’s not a religious belief. No religious tenet of Christianity, as far as I know, claims that pyramids were for grain storage, nor does the Bible make such a claim anywhere. (As other commenters point out, the Pithom and Raamses references are to “store-cities,” not pyramids.)

I have no problem with someone holding religious beliefs, even those that are enormously unlikely, at least to the extent that they don’t negatively impact me. I have a bigger problem with someone holding a provably incorrect belief and attributing it to their religion. It implies they understand neither faith nor logic.

326 Dr. Stephen J. Krune III November 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Believing that grain was stored in great pyramids isn’t a religious belief, it’s something Carson thinks because he’s a low-IQ moron.

Also, I don’t expect the spergs here to understand this, but the value of religion is in socially binding people through ritual and belief, not because it demonstrates that people have faith in supernatural ideas.

327 ruhkukah November 6, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Uh oh. The My Posting Career crowd.

328 The Original D November 6, 2015 at 2:33 pm

tl;dr – We notice differences more than similarities.

329 suite 201 November 6, 2015 at 3:05 pm

I think the post is a lot more about Tyler working out his reaction to the death of the great René Girard than it is about Carson or pyramids. As his earlier post noting Girard’s passing indicated, Tyler read and appreciated Girard and almost certainly has pondered the former self-declared agnostic’s Dostoyevsky-fueled conversion to Catholicism. Something of a double-bind listening seriously to someone on the other side of the faith/non-faith divide.

330 efim polenov November 6, 2015 at 11:36 pm

rem acu tetigisti

331 tomrus November 6, 2015 at 3:12 pm

“If you pulled over one hundred people on the street, and asked them how they got into college, I’m not sure you would get any answer more plausible than “General Westmoreland offered me a scholarship”. Would you now?

332 CJColucci November 6, 2015 at 3:27 pm

The notion that it is fine to believe something about a deity or deities, or a divine book, as long as you do not take that said belief very seriously and treat it only as a social affiliation or an ornamental badge of honor

Makes sense to me.

333 Gbaji November 6, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Starting a graf with “Might Joe Lieberman,” really wrong-footed me.

334 Sigivald November 6, 2015 at 4:46 pm

in a profit-maximizing or rent-maximizing model of pyramid supply and inventory management?

On the assumption that this is very dry humor, well played.

(On the off chance that it somehow isn’t and you were suffering from transient brain trauma, let me remind you that the pyramids were not, in fact, build on a profit-or-rent-maximizing free market model.)

335 Paul November 6, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Good news if you think this disqualifies Carson: you won’t find Hillary saying anything but anodyne platitudes about religion.

Because her focus group experts told her so.

336 bernard Yomtov November 6, 2015 at 7:48 pm

The trouble is tat Carson’s theory is not a religious belief but rather a statement of a historical fact that he believes to be true. But it’s not.

As the first commenter said, Tyler really is trying too hard. I guess he know Carson is a BS artist, but thinks, “Hey. He’s one of our BS artists, so it’s OK.”

If I were Tyler I’d talk about mood affiliation in this post, but I’m not.

337 John Hamilton November 6, 2015 at 8:52 pm

As a Christian Republican primary voter, the main thing to keep in mind about his comments about the pyramids: is he right? He is not, so minus 1 for Carson.

338 Mather Yowler November 7, 2015 at 12:44 am

The media seems to have forgotten all the pyramid new age stuff from the 70’s and 80’s that was a big part of the left back then.

339 Steve November 7, 2015 at 7:16 am

I’ve seen the Giza pyramids. The surfaces are very rough, being made of stacked cubic stone. This staggered surface was originally covered by a relatively thin white polished casing limestone. These were largely removed for other construction in Cairo, but if you look carefully at photos of the current pyramids you can see where they still remain at the top.

My point is that these covered gaps would have made an excellent grain elevator. Grain put in the top, flowing down through the seams, to be drawn from the bottom.

340 Yancey Ward November 7, 2015 at 10:37 am

I think we now know who among the Republican candidates Democrats fear most.

341 Bill Reeves November 7, 2015 at 11:31 am

It’s not just religious people that hold silly views. Take for example your run of the mill liberal who believes that minimum wages help the poor and urban choo choo trains are a viable transit strategy for widely distributed sunbelt cities. Everybody has religion, only some people admit it.

342 John Kulp November 7, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Isn’t is scary to imagine a President of the United States that makes judgments about critical issues (e.g. bombing Iran) based on beliefs that he/she invents based on personal fantasies? Image an aggressive guy like Dick Cheney (to pick just one) trying to influence him with biased, agenda-laden, distorted information, and demonstrating no abilities at critical or consistent thinking. Yeow. Will the majority of Americans decide this is the right candidate? Would a doctor prescribe a drug because he saw it work once and feels it is right for the patient even if clinical research shows it is ineffective? Hmm, has a President been elected before that fits this pattern?

343 Barkley Rosser November 7, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Going back to the original issue, apparently there are written records from the time that the Giza pyramids were built talking about them and those writings unequivocally make it clear that they were built to be royal tombs, not storage facilities for grain. This is a matter regarding which we have clear factual information about, and Carson seems to be unaware of this factual information, preferring to make up his own version of the facts.

344 Egypt Steve November 7, 2015 at 5:30 pm

There’s just one problem with your argument: the idea that the pyramids are grain silos is not a religious claim. It’s not in the Bible. It’s not taught by any church or sect.

345 entirelyuseless November 7, 2015 at 6:41 pm

If you recognize that religious beliefs are beliefs about the world, you should acknowledge that some religious beliefs are more plausible than others.

If you then think a bit more, you should realize that some claims that are impossible according to the laws of physics are more plausible than others which are possible according to those laws — e.g. Richard Dawkins once suggested that if he saw a statue move on its own, he would think it more likely that it was moved by random quantum fluctuations than that it was moved by an angel or by a saint. Very possibly both beliefs are insane, but Dawkins’s suggestion is surely more so.

346 THIS November 8, 2015 at 8:51 am
347 Barry November 8, 2015 at 11:46 am

Tyler: “Besides, our Founding Fathers had some pretty strange notions about pyramids. Most of them did a pretty good job in office. ”

I’ll bet that none of them:

1) Had their children immunized against measles, mumps, diptheria, tetanus and polio.
2) Were familiar with the Germ Theory of Dissease, even the doctors.
3) Knew the test of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments.
4) Had ever flown.
5) Were Internet savvy.

And so on.

348 stalin November 8, 2015 at 7:47 pm

we do not make fun of those who believe openly in the Trinity, Virgin Birth, ex cathedra, and many other beliefs which are to my mind slightly less plausible claims.
No, I do.
You left out golden tablets, magic glasses, and maybe best of all, the belief of the Armenian Nestorian church that after his Baptism Jesus’ body was composed not of flesh but of ethereal fire. The Roman soldiers who crucified him must have been burnt.

349 T Rogers November 9, 2015 at 11:08 am

Ridiculous article comparing Carson with Jefferson, Washington & others. Those presidents could not make decisions that would affect billions of people in almost every country. To put someone in the presidency that has nonsensical ideas is courting disaster. Look at the beliefs of other prominent names today-some criminal- and decide if you want their finger on the nuclear button-The leader of ISIS, the ayatollahs in Iran, el Chapo, the leader of the westboro baptist church. Do you want any of those individuals having that much power? I want someone that is realistic, not wedded to a rigid ideology or religious dogma, and knows the value of compromise.

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