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New Iraqi death tally flies under media radar

Last Friday, the Associated Press released probably the most accurate, non-biased tabulation of civilian deaths due to violent acts in the nation of Iraq since March 2003:

Combined with tallies based on hospital sources and media reports since the beginning of the war and an in-depth review of available evidence by the AP, the figures show that more than 110,600 Iraqis have died in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The number is a minimum count of violent deaths. The official who provided the data to the AP, on condition of anonymity because of its sensitivity, estimated the actual number of deaths at 10 to 20 percent higher because of thousands who are still missing and civilians who were buried in the chaos of war without official records.

The Health Ministry has tallied death certificates since 2005, and late that year the United Nations began using them - along with hospital and morgue figures - to release casualty counts. But by early 2007, when sectarian violence was putting political pressure on the U.S. and Iraqi governments, the Iraqi numbers disappeared. The United Nations "repeatedly asked for that cooperation" to resume but never received a response, U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said Thursday.

The data obtained by the AP measure only violent deaths - people killed in attacks such as the shootings, bombings, mortar attacks and beheadings that have ravaged Iraq. It excluded indirect factors such as damage to infrastructure, health care and stress that caused thousands more to die.

So why wasn't this more widely reported? Perhaps the reason is quite simple -- the AP numbers are a long way from the hysterical estimates of 600,000 to over a million deaths touted by anti-war groups and heavily publicized by the US news media during the past four years.

Michael Medved also notes some facts that should have been included in the AP's official news story that reported the tally:

1) More than 90% of the deaths counted by the AP occurred at the hands of Al Qaeda and other violent sectarian terrorist forces

2) Nearly all US combat deaths were the result of efforts by the US military to stop those various terrorist forces, and thus save as many Iraqi civilian lives as possible

3) The Iran/Iraq war of 1980-1988 claimed well over 200,000 Iraqi lives, and over 1,000,000 Iranian lives

4) Other regional conflicts have also had much higher death tolls: Algerian civil war (1991-present) -- 150,000 - 200,000 dead; Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) -- 250,000 dead

When it is presented in its proper context, there is no way to honestly claim that US military operations in Iraq represented an unusual, catastrophic, or ultra-violent use of force against a helpless civilian population. The same thing cannot be said of Al Qaeda, Saddam loyalists, or other regional insurgent groups who perpetrated numerous acts of terror and mass-murder against the Iraqi people. That's the story the press should be reporting.
____________________________

I originally neglected to mention the humanitarian disaster resulting from the UN sanctions against Iraq, during the period of 1991-2003. An estimated half-million children died both as a direct result of those policies, and Saddam Hussein's responses to them.


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Comments (38)

Oh good, another "why aren'... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Oh good, another "why aren't the media covering this story that I only know about because of its widespread media coverage" post from Michael. Don't you get tired to writing the same bullshit time after time, only to be called on it?

USA Today, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, and on and on and on. I'm sure you'll find an outlet that didn't cover it and claim this supports your contention that the story wasn't widely reported, but the facts ain't on your side, once again.

But let's look at the numbers, shall we?

First of all, the AP Iraqi death count only deals with civilians, not soldiers and police.

Medved seems to have simply invented the 90% figure.

Medved is an idiot who doesn't know the difference between deaths and casualties. His numbers for the Iran-Iraq war reflect casualties, not deaths (and it includes soldiers).

When given a range of deaths estimate, Medved chooses the high number and omits the range entirely, both with the Iran-Iraq war and the Lebanese civil war.

The Iraq war has gone on for six years. Iran-Iraq lasted 8, Algeria 11, and Lebanon 15.

Two other notes from the AP piece:

The number is a minimum count of violent deaths.

Authoritative statistics for 2003 and 2004 do not exist.

Seem important notes to make regarding the reliability of the estimate, donchathink?

When it is presented in its proper context, there is no way to honestly claim that US military operations in Iraq represented an unusual, catastrophic, or ultra-violent use of force against a helpless civilian population.

Tell that to the bare minimum of 110,000 dead Iraqis and their families (and counting). I'm sure they will agree with you that it wasn't catastrophic.

And by the way, is the argument that the Iraq War has been more catastrophic than other wars really very common? Is this really what you're hanging your hat on? "The Iraq War killed less civilians than some other, longer wars, so far." I doubt you'll convince many people it was a good idea with that reasoning. And by the way, the Iraq War is far from over. The violence may have subsided temporarily, but the underlying conflicts haven't gone anywhere.

Tell it to Saddam mantis. t... (Below threshold)
914:

Tell it to Saddam mantis. this was all caused by him.

I don't think you understan... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

I don't think you understand the concept of causation, 914.

Anyway, anybody who votes mantis down rather than disputing what he has to say is a big fat idiot.

First of all, the ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
First of all, the AP Iraqi death count only deals with civilians, not soldiers and police.

The AP report says "Iraq's government has recorded 87,215 of its citizens killed since 2005". That number would include soldiers and police who are Iraqi citizens.

The AP's total of 110,600 comes from three sources. The Iraqi government, the UN, and the private British group Iraq Body Count.

So here's where the UN got it's numbers. "The Health Ministry has tallied death certificates since 2005, and late that year the United Nations began using them - along with hospital and morgue figures - to release casualty counts." The problem is that a single death could have been counted by the Iraq's government, and then again by the UN.

The AP report also says "Authoritative statistics for 2003 and 2004 do not exist. But Iraq Body Count, a private British group, has tallied civilian deaths from media reports and other sources since the war's start."

So here it does say civilian, but media reports were inflating civilian deaths at the time because Iraqis were giving the media inflated numbers. Also, after the Iraqi military was disbanded in 2003, any of those deaths would have been recorded as civilian as would those of terrorists. If anything I would say the 110,600 number is an overestimate, but there's no means of getting a really accurate count, so 110,600 will have to suffice.

As for the Iran-Iraq war, Iran acknowledged that nearly 300,000 people died in the war; estimates of the Iraqi dead range from 160,000 to 240,000.

World War I German losses were over 1,700,000 killed and over 4,200,000 wounded. France suffered over 1,300,000 deaths and over 4,200,000 wounded. In World War II there were about 25,000,000 total military deaths from all nations. When it comes to senseless killing Islamic nations are a bunch of amateurs.

mantis - "And by the wa... (Below threshold)
marc:

mantis - "And by the way, the Iraq War is far from over. The violence may have subsided temporarily, but the underlying conflicts haven't gone anywhere.

Maybe, maybe not, it remains to be seen.

That said I find it interesting you spent a bit of time taking apart the post but didn't offer any published data to support your side of the issue.

Who has better data that you accept?

Why is this new number from... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

Why is this new number from AP (about as main stream as it gets) "probably the most accurate, non-biased tabulation" you've come across?

Is it because "shut up that's why" or something else?


Maybe, maybe not, it rem... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Maybe, maybe not, it remains to be seen.

The underlying conflicts are still there. This is indisputable. How they will get resolved, if at all, remains to be seen.

That said I find it interesting you spent a bit of time taking apart the post but didn't offer any published data to support your side of the issue.

Most of my criticisms stem from a) Michael's complaint about the media not covering something he read in the media, and b) the faulty comparisons to other wars and statistics. As for accurate estimates, I for one would not be confidant of anyone's estimate of civilian casualties in an active war zone. So I'm not going to present any.

I dont think you understand... (Below threshold)
914:

I dont think you understand the concept of Dictators, hyperbolist.

Anyway, anyone who votes up mantis by agreeing unquestioningly is a big fat idiot.

Mac Lorry, Iraqi "terrorist... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Mac Lorry, Iraqi "terrorists" were often Iraqi civilians. Yelling "Death to America!" is not a renunciation of one's citizenship. Nor does it automatically make someone a bad person.

And as for the Iraqis inflating their own casualty figures, yeah, that's a shame. A sovereign Islamic country should be more than happy to a) let Christian invaders smear freedom all over them, and then b) refuse to accept their own casualty figures. "Shut up, Iraqis--you don't know anything about counting dead Iraqis!"

A good example of moral relativism: seeking to ameliorate the moral import of hundreds of thousands of dead people by pointing out examples of even more people being killed. Or, to rephrase:

Q: What's worse--killing two puppies, or three puppies?
A: That's a sick f*cking question.

914: Oh, do explain to me t... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

914: Oh, do explain to me this "dictator" concept for me. Kim Jong Il, Hu Jintao, Pervez Musharraf, Hosni Mubarrak--these people obviously aren't dictators, because the United States hasn't invaded their countries and stood idly by while they were summarily executed by an angry mob.

So what, pray tell, is a "dictator"?

Yes hyperbolist, the christ... (Below threshold)
914:

Yes hyperbolist, the christian invaders stood idly by and refused to smear there freedom all over the Iraqis execution of their beloved Dictator.

What "flies under the media... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

What "flies under the media radar" is the 35,000 US casualties in a pre-emptive war waged under false pretenses, which has upset the balance of power to favor IRAN which is SUPPOSED to be the gravest threat to the US according to the authors of the IRAQ war.

(And then twits the nerds and tubs tweeting "We're Winning!/We've Won!")

No, M.L., both political sides of the Military-Industrial Complex Public Relations Front wish it all to KEEP flying under the radar.

The short war (light footprint meme) backfired, costing the Republicans the government.

My guess will be that the Iraq PR build-up and the manipulation of intelligence will be the strongest evidence condemning the presidency of GW Bush, not for being wrong-headed so much as for being weak-minded, i.e. Cheney & the Neocons' Puppet. Far worse than James Buchanan in 1860 (who at least LISTENED).
Bush the Younger seemed to be far too enamored of himself, counting chickens before hatching, imagining tickertape parades, watching movies upstairs.

The Iraq War has been a strategic disaster, replacing the de-fanged secular rump Ba'athist state with a ecumenical Muslim confederation including Iran and the shadow government of a nuclear-armed Pakistan (which has a defense treaty with China).

Golly, the left has joyfull... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Golly, the left has joyfully reported the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraq civilians. Now we find that isn't true? Go figure.

Oh yeah! Hyper can have his opinion but not his own facts. Saddam broke the cease fire agreement many times 19 seperate warnings later by the UN then we went in. And the war went very well. Great as a matter of fact. Then the insurgency started, mostly by outside agitators. So, moan, whine, and condemn all you want, but those that know the facts just think you are idiotic. ww

<a href="http://www.nytimes... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

The war went well? I guess if you ignore the impact it's had on the lives of Iraqis... and the cost to your country and others in blood and treasure... and how it emboldened Iran, and rendered the United States incapable of dealing with actualy threats to its security... then sure, it went swimmingly.

hyperbolist,<blockquo... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

hyperbolist,

Mac Lorry, Iraqi "terrorists" were often Iraqi civilians. Yelling "Death to America!" is not a renunciation of one's citizenship. Nor does it automatically make someone a bad person.

I take it then that you agree that the Iraqi government's number of 87,215 citizens killed includes Iraqi non-combatants, terrorists, police and soldiers as they are all Iraqi citizens.

And as for the Iraqis inflating their own casualty figures, yeah, that's a shame. A sovereign Islamic country should be more than happy to a) let Christian invaders smear freedom all over them, and then b) refuse to accept their own casualty figures. "Shut up, Iraqis--you don't know anything about counting dead Iraqis!"

You're injecting politics into an effort to get accurate numbers. Can't you ever deal with just the facts?

A good example of moral relativism: seeking to ameliorate the moral import of hundreds of thousands of dead people by pointing out examples of even more people being killed. Or, to rephrase:

Q: What's worse--killing two puppies, or three puppies?
A: That's a sick f*cking question.

First it's not moral relativism, it's moral absolutism in that two lives are worth more than one life, and the numbers do have meaning.

Q: What's worse--killing 17 on 10/12/2000 or nearly 3,000 on 9/11/2001?

A: That's a f*cking obvious answer, well at least to sane people.

Nice spin Hyper. What does ... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Nice spin Hyper. What does war mean to you? Making nice and cultivating friendship? What world do you live in? Does everyone you know have to like you? Are you that insecure?

In the histories of wars, this one went very well. Soldiers got killed, and they knew they might but went ahead to serve his or her country. That is citizenship. Not standing on the side lines and throwing stones at those that disagree with you. ww

Two lives are worth more th... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Two lives are worth more than one life? Really? Doesn't that mean you're quantifying the value of human life like some utilitarian simpleton? Your moral calculus is fucked, Mac. When presented with the choice of a) killing one person, or b) killing two people, what does the just and righteous person consider to be the right thing to do?

Neither, insofar as he/she is just and righteous.

And you were being relativistic by downplaying casualties in the invasion and occupation of Iraq by comparing it to previous conflicts. The utilitarian crassness notwithstanding, it fails to take into account significant advancements in military medical technology, and definitive progress in the way people perceive violence (namely, that its use ought to be far more measured than what people believed 100 or even 50 years ago--blame Vietnam, the evolution of our morals, or whatever, but it's undeniably the case).

What "flies under ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
What "flies under the media radar" is the 35,000 US casualties in a pre-emptive war waged under false pretenses, which has upset the balance of power to favor IRAN which is SUPPOSED to be the gravest threat to the US according to the authors of the IRAQ war.

Where did you dig up that 35,000 US casualties number? WMD was not the only one reason to take out Saddam, and least you forget, nearly all the democrats in office at the time are on record agreeing that Saddam had WMD.

As for the balance of power, Saddam had nearly bribed his way clear of UN sanctions and likely would have sought revenge against the U.S. for his humiliating defeat in the first gulf war. With our invasion of Afganistan Saddam could have joined forces with Iran against the US and we would be under a far more serious threat than we are today.

The short war (light footprint meme) backfired, costing the Republicans the government.

Yes, sometimes we have a President who will put the welfare of the nation above the welfare of his party. He's retired to Texas now and you don't need to worry about Obama doing that.

My guess will be that the Iraq PR build-up and the manipulation of intelligence will be the strongest evidence condemning the presidency of GW Bush, not for being wrong-headed so much as for being weak-minded,

And my guess is that historians who are not infected with BDS will weigh the likely consequences of leaving Saddam and his sadistic sons in power against the cost of creating a democratic government in Iraq. If that government succeeds future historians will give Bush high marks for his foresight, decisiveness, and his unshakable determination to win. Guess we'll have to wait about 20 or 30 years to find out.

The Iraq War has been a strategic disaster, replacing the de-fanged secular rump Ba'athist state with a ecumenical Muslim confederation including Iran and the shadow government of a nuclear-armed Pakistan (which has a defense treaty with China).

Like I said Saddam had nearly bribed himself clear of UN sanctions and once clear he would have used his billions of petrol dollars to rebuild his military. Wanting revenge Saddam would likely have joined forces with Iran and taken the fight to the US in Afghanistan where the terrain would have made them far more difficult to root out. With the support of both Iraq and Iran the Taliban would have quickly taken over Pakistan and the Iraq/Iran/Taliban coalition would have nuclear weapons by now. Good thing Bush realized the danger of letting Saddam stay in power and took him out.

I apologize for all the nam... (Below threshold)
Hyperapologist:

I apologize for all the name-calling. I just get upset when you bad-mouth my jihadi buddies.

hyperbolist,<blockquo... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

hyperbolist,

Two lives are worth more than one life? Really? Doesn't that mean you're quantifying the value of human life like some utilitarian simpleton? Your moral calculus is fucked, Mac.

Well as an atheist you don't even have a bases for "morals" nor the framework to even evaluate them. Talk about a simpleton.

When presented with the choice of a) killing one person, or b) killing two people, what does the just and righteous person consider to be the right thing to do?

If it's an either or choice than killing the one person, so that two could live. What would you do, kill the two people? Oh, I see, let all three die so you could absolve yourself of any guilt; coward.

And you were being relativistic by downplaying casualties in the invasion and occupation of Iraq by comparing it to previous conflicts.

Placing something in context doesn't mean the same as being relativistic. Without context no judgment can be made about value of any enterprise. For example, I see several people died on the roads in Canada today. How do you live with yourselves knowing your defective transportation system costs lives. Funny, right? What if 200 died every day, would that be funny? Are you being relativistic or are you using context to make a distinction between a few killed every day and 200 killed every day? Are 200 lives worth more than a few? If you can't answer that then your simulated moral calculus is fucked, hyperbolist.

The utilitarian crassness notwithstanding, it fails to take into account significant advancements in military medical technology, and definitive progress in the way people perceive violence (namely, that its use ought to be far more measured than what people believed 100 or even 50 years ago--blame Vietnam, the evolution of our morals, or whatever, but it's undeniably the case).

You're obviously unqualified to make an such distinction, and if morals evolve they are 1) relativistic, and 2) not really morals at all. The politics of war have changed, not the morals. First world nations are fine with people dying in third world nations just as long as it's not by the hand of another first world nation. The on-going atrocities in Dafur show your "definitive progress in the way people perceive violence" is but a thin veil for politics rather than some genuine concern for innocent lives.

"Well as an atheist you don... (Below threshold)
max:

"Well as an atheist you don't even have a bases [sic] for "morals" nor the framework to even evaluate them."

Really? Tell me, in the history of human civilization, how much pain and death has been caused in the name of theism, and how much has been caused in the name of atheism?

I love it when a Christian ... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

I love it when a Christian tells me that as an atheist, I have no basis for right or wrong. You're so right! I'm going to burn down an orphanage.

Do you know why religious-based morals have evolved, Mac? It's because they're playing catch up with what we know to be right--subconsciously or consciously--independent of what our external belief systems tell us. That's why there are Catholics that don't hate the gays; Muslims that don't hate non-Muslims; Jews that marry non-Jews; etc. etc. etc. Morality transcends religion. It's the providence of rationality, not faith. Theists can make good moral arguments, but only insofar as they line up with better moral arguments based on the fundamental value of human life. Human lives would be valuable whether or not God exists, and whether or not God has any opinion of anything.

And no, I wouldn't kill all three, or let them die; I would simply state that the only people who gleefully rush to conclusions with hypotheticals such as the one I presented you with are crass utilitarian freaks. Other people with functioning moral values would, for example, point out that these situations do not typically occur, and when they do, there is almost always a third option; and when there is no third option, then when forced to choose, a person cannot choose rightly. "Thou shalt not kill"--there's no ceteris paribus clause in the Ten Commandments, Mac, though presumably you're aware of that.

I'm well aware of the role that context plays in morality: morality is an objective enterprise, though context-dependent. Read Joseph Raz's Engaging Reason for a full accounting of how this works. We're social beings with historical perspectives, so of course all of our values are socially and historically contingent. That is not to say that they are relative. But the context from which you ought to view the invasion and occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2009 is not all wars of the 20th century. You know damn well that it makes as much sense to compare it to WWII, as it does to compare Saddam's gassing of Kurds to the Holocaust.

And for you to assume that I'm fine with violence in Darfur is far more insulting than for me to point out that, say, anyone who relieves himself of the burden of tough moral decisions by hiding behind a prescribed set of religious values is more of a coward than an atheist who thinks about things for him/herself in light of the intrinsic value within human beings and the obligations that that entails for all of us.

Hyper, long winded as usual... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

Hyper, long winded as usual with no point. The Iraq war started in 1991. Historically. Get it. ww

Really? Tell me, i... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Really? Tell me, in the history of human civilization, how much pain and death has been caused in the name of theism, and how much has been caused in the name of atheism?

Of course the existance and definition of moral values is a different question, but since you asked, communism, which is officially atheist, has killed more people in war and piece than all the "religious' wars combined. Consider Stalin's many purges. Just the 1937 - 1939 purge resulted in 950,00 to 1.2 million deaths. Then there's Pol Pot's genocide of his own people that cost the lives of estimates 850,000 to 2.5 million people. That's just the highlights for atheisum.

hyperbolist,<blockquo... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

hyperbolist,

I love it when a Christian tells me that as an atheist, I have no basis for right or wrong. You're so right! I'm going to burn down an orphanage.

For an atheist right and wrong is whatever humans decided it is, and as a human, you get to decide for yourself what's right or wrong outside what the group imposes through laws. True Moral values are not subject to human judgment, and thus, must come from a higher source.

Do you know why religious-based morals have evolved, Mac?

Morals values are religious-based and they don't evolve, hyperbolist.

That's why there are Catholics that don't hate the gays; Muslims that don't hate non-Muslims; Jews that marry non-Jews; etc. etc. etc.

First, Catholics don't hate the gays, they hate the homosexual act, not the person. Same with any sinner. Of course someone who teaches that sin is not sin must be opposed by the Church.

As usual you are confusing two different things. In this case moral values with people's adherence to moral values. It may be hard for you to believe, but they are not the same thing. People like those you cite abandon their moral values because those moral values won't change, and their desire for the things of the world is stronger than their will to follow moral values. If humans can change it, it's not a moral value.

And no, I wouldn't kill all three, or let them die; I would simply state that the only people who gleefully rush to conclusions with hypotheticals such as the one I presented you with are crass utilitarian freaks.

Well it's you who postulated a dishonest question because you didn't say there was a way to save all three lives. Also it's apparent that "utilitarian" doesn't mean what you think it means as utilitarian ethical theory describes the only type of "morals" an atheist can ascribe to apart from just making them up as they go.

"Thou shalt not kill"--there's no ceteris paribus clause in the Ten Commandments,

But of course you're wrong again. The correct translation is "Thou shalt not murder", and thus, a person can kill in self-defense and in the defense of others. Without the hidden trapdoor in your prior question, killing one to save two wouldn't be murder, but an act of defense of others.

But the context from which you ought to view the invasion and occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2009 is not all wars of the 20th century.

Nor is it correct to view the invasion and liberation of Iraq from 2003 to 2009 without any context. The only direct context would be what would have happened had Bush not removed Saddam from power. Unfortunately, my magic wand is in the shop, so the best we can do is compare it to other wars, particularly those that involved Iraq. In the Iran-Iraq war at least 460,000 people lost their lives and for nothing. By comparison less than 115,000 people (US and Iraqi) lost their lives to bring about a democratic government in Iraq.

And for you to assume that I'm fine with violence in Darfur is far more insulting than for me to point out that, say, anyone who relieves himself of the burden of tough moral decisions by hiding behind a prescribed set of religious values is more of a coward than an atheist who thinks about things for him/herself in light of the intrinsic value within human beings and the obligations that that entails for all of us.

Spare me the spurious outrage and the laughable nonsense about hiding behind religious values. It does the people in Darfur no good for you to think about things for yourself in light of the intrinsic value within human beings and the obligations that that entails for all of us.

If not for the anti-war politics that sapped the will of the American people Iraq would have been won years earlier and Bush would have had support to turn American might lose on the murderers in Darfur. The blood of the murdered in Darfur is on the hands of all who opposed Bush for political gain.

Really? Tell me, i... (Below threshold)
LaMedusa:
Really? Tell me, in the history of human civilization, how much pain and death has been caused in the name of theism, and how much has been caused in the name of atheism?

More than we can measure, I imagine. It's not really about theism, however, it's about which God you serve. The bloodlines that worship Satan are behind all the discourse and division. What mankind should really be doing is focusing on common ground and similarities, and the luciferians have managed to all but destroy that notion by the infiltration of religion and the pushing of hatred between faiths. It always has been the illusion of money, power and control, and to this day, the money changers in the shadows worship their God with the shedding of blood and rituals.

What kills me is the moral ... (Below threshold)
Chad:

What kills me is the moral outrage about 110,000 dead 6 years after the US invaded when Saddam was killing (on Average) 75,000 a year. 450,000 vs. 110,000. Looks to me like we are trying to do the Iraqis a favor. Does this figure also count the "insurgents"? They are violent terrorists in open rebellion against the legally elected government of their country. None of them wear uniforms, so they are all getting counted as civilians by the Iraqi government. As to the underlying causes of violence in Iraq, well, that sits squarely on Islam's shoulders. Most of the violence isn't based on tribal feuds, it's about shia vs. sunni. If the religious leaders of the two sects would issue fatwahs about peace between the two groups (it'll never happen) things would settle down a lot.

Mac, communism--especially ... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Mac, communism--especially Soviet Communism--is the worshipping of the state. It's another version of religion, in that individuals cede their personal responsibility for making tough decisions to a higher authority.

[I'm doing this because God says I should, and I don't want to go to Hell!] is morally equivalent to [I'm doing this because Comrade Stalin says I should, and I don't want to go to the Gulag!]

Secular atheist democracies--the sort of society that Kantian atheist political theorists constantly clamor for--are not totalitarian. Examples would include Canada, Sweden, and the Netherlands; and, once Christianity is expunged from your government, possibly even America.

Atheists do not think that we simply choose what is right and wrong--we learn it through our shared social experience. I know that it's wrong to kill, because I project certain properties of myself onto other sentient persons (including some animals), and I can internalize what it would be like to inflict harm on them. And that's why I don't do it--not because "God" told me not to! You would literally have to be a sociopath or possibly even a psychopath to fail to comphrehend certain moral truths; and you definitely don't need religion to get a rough, functional understanding of what these truths are. (As for a precise understanding, that's the providence of moral philosophy. You really want to get to the bottom of rightness and wrongness? Well, you've got a lifetime of studying ahead of you.)

And as for those who thought Bush was an awful, dishonest leader, whose humanitarianism was a cheap disguise for economic imperialism, being responsible for the ongoing violence in Darfur? If you believe that, Mac, then I'm disappointed.

Chad: yeah, great. Kill a hundred thousand to save three hundred thousand. If that's the best solution to the problems in Saddam's Iraq, then obviously we should just kill every single fucking human being on the planet and let evolution start over because it clearly didn't work this time around.

LaMedusa: what do the Luciferians look like? How will I know one when I see one? Do I shoot them with silver bullets, or chant a magic spell in a long-lost language? Zoiks! Where's Indiana Jones when you need him?!

hyperbolist,<blockquo... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

hyperbolist,

Mac, communism--especially Soviet Communism--is the worshipping of the state. It's another version of religion, in that individuals cede their personal responsibility for making tough decisions to a higher authority.

Atheism is a religion in that it's based on faith, but acknowledging the existence of a state, communist or otherwise, is not based on faith. Thus, following the laws of the state makes one law abiding, not religious.

I assume you are a vegetarian because as an atheist you must believe that humans are just another animal. "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They're all animals." -- Ingrid Newkirk, August 1, 1986 Washingtonian magazine

Ingrid Newkirk has examined the issue and unless you can counter her rational I expect you to stop eating meat (other than road kill). So maybe you already ascribe to Newkirk's teaching, well then why be concerned over just 115,000 dead in the Iraq conflict? After all "Six million people died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughterhouses." -- Ingrid Newkirk, November 13, 1983 The Washington Post If, like Newkirk, you believe that "Humans have grown like a cancer. We're the biggest blight on the face of the earth." then Bush did the world a favor by killing so many.

Yes, there is one rational Atheist argument to counter fruitcakes like Ingrid Newkirk, that argument boils down to the phrase "might makes right". It's the evolutionist's "survival of the fittest" or "natural selection", which is the law of nature Atheists credit for their existence. If you have the power to do something, and no greater natural power opposes you, then it's your right to do that thing. That's how Atheists justify eating meat, murdering the unborn, purging political opponents, imposing their will on others, and even genocide.

Under Atheism there can be no rational basis for concern over 155,000 anonymous dead in the Iraq conflict apart from using those deaths as a tool for political gain. If you have some personal concern for the anonymous people killed in the Iraq conflict or for the people in Darfur it's because there's still some remnant of Christian morals you haven't yet purged from you're soul, but of course, you don't even think you have a soul.

BTW, if you really want to stop being religious you'll have to convert to being Agnostic. It's the only "rational" (faithless) position.

Sigh... no.Dolphin... (Below threshold)
hyperbolist:

Sigh... no.

Dolphins, apes, and I would argue dogs and cats exhibit behaviour that is sufficiently complex to suggest to me that maybe they're sentient, at the very least; and anyway I don't eat thinks that have aesthetic value, like endangered species (pandas, or the hypothetical Last Chicken on Earth).

As for atheism being based on faith, the only way that sentence could be interpreted as true is if you mean that atheism involves putting faith in human rationality. It's not a faith-based claim for me to say "There is insufficient evidence for me to believe in God, particularly an omniscient, omnibenevolent God." I would be quite pleased if I were shown to be wrong; but, like all atheists who have considered the alternatives, my belief system fits best with the evidence before me.

Natural selection works as species evolve, but it's morally abhorrent as a social doctrine and the two are completely separate from one another. Pointing out that we evolved from apes does not commit me to the view that homeless people should be allowed to freeze to death. Caring about other people is something that we should all do; I happen to do it for reasons that are totally separate from a prescribed set of beliefs that I adhere to for questionable reason. I care about people because I am one, and I'm familiar with the concepts of suffering and injustice.

As for atheism being bas... (Below threshold)
mantis:

As for atheism being based on faith, the only way that sentence could be interpreted as true is if you mean that atheism involves putting faith in human rationality.

You don't understand Mac, hyper. See, from his perspective, the lack of belief in god (i.e. "I don't believe in a god") is the same thing as faith in a particular god. He actually thinks that not believing in something you see no evidence of is a leap of faith. Of course, he never responds when I ask if my lack of belief in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy constitutes "faith," likely because that blows his whole idea of atheism=faith out of the water, so he must ignore it.

It's a tired and stupid argument, common among theists, and they will never abandon it.

Atheism is not faith in anything, Mac. It's a recognition that there is no reason to believe in something for which there is no evidence. It is the opposite of faith. It is lack of belief. If some supernatural being descended tomorrow, declaring Earth his dominion and smiting people he was angry at, us atheists would have some evidence that would cause us to believe in gods. Until then, no belief. And that requires faith in nothing.

Hyperbolist,<blockquo... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Hyperbolist,

As for atheism being based on faith, the only way that sentence could be interpreted as true is if you mean that atheism involves putting faith in human rationality.

It's not faith you're putting in human rationality, but pride. To be an atheist is to claim to know something that can't be known by human rationality, which means the claim is based on faith, which means atheism is a religion.

It's not a faith-based claim for me to say "There is insufficient evidence for me to believe in God, particularly an omniscient, omnibenevolent God."

Such reasoning supports the claim of being Agnostic, but the lack of evidence doesn't support the conclusion that there is no God, particularly an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent God. You can't discover such a being like you would a law of nature, especially since that being has said He won't allow men to find him through their own wisdom. What experiment could you or anyone perform that such a being couldn't frustrate?

Natural selection works as species evolve, but it's morally abhorrent as a social doctrine and the two are completely separate from one another.

Who says so and by what authority do they claim the right to bind the rationality of others? For it to be a "moral" someone must give a satisfactory answer to that question. If it's the "state" then ok, it's might makes right. Of course, if it's a democratic government then the majority decides what the morals are.

I care about people because I am one, and I'm familiar with the concepts of suffering and injustice.

And you have the right to hold that opinion, but that's all it is unless you can impose it on others by might. I submit that you have such an opinion because of your contact with Christian morals, but in a generation or two that will change.

Atheist morals lack the authority to bind other humans except by threat of force by the state. When an atheist believes there's no means of being caught breaking such morals, they do whatever their human nature desires and with no remorse. The state evolves so that there's less and less opportunity to escape notice. Soon, not even political dissent goes unnoticed nor unpunished.

The laws of the United States were written to govern a Christian people, and as we are seeing, they are wholly inadequate to govern a godless people.

Mantis.wh... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Mantis.

when I ask if my lack of belief in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy constitutes "faith," likely because that blows his whole idea of atheism=faith out of the water, so he must ignore it.

I've had this discussion many time before with others and you usually bug out before your belief systems is challenged. Stick around this time, it could be fun.

Your lack of belief in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy DOES NOT constitute "faith". The lack of faith is the agnostic position. If you are going to make the claim that a "Santa Claus" or the "Tooth Fairy" can't exist, then that would be the atheist position. The difference between "Santa Claus" or the "Tooth Fairy", and an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent God is one of ability. Unlike "Santa Claus" or the "Tooth Fairy", an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent God can frustrate any experiment you can perform to discover Him, if that's His will. Do you dispute that? If not, then even if you prove by scientific evidence that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy can't exist, you've proven nothing about the existence of God. If you had given such things any thought you would have figured that out on your own. Obviously then, you've arrived at your atheism casually.

You're some kind of science writer if I remember right. Not counting machines built by intelligent beings, is it only biological processes that can manifest intelligence? I await your answer.

The lack of faith is the... (Below threshold)
mantis:

The lack of faith is the agnostic position.

Incorrect. Agnosticism is declaring the existence of god or the supernatural as unknown. Atheism is simply the absence of belief in gods, and the rejection of theism. Atheists need not claim that it is impossible for gods to exist to be atheists, they merely need not believe they do.

The difference between "Santa Claus" or the "Tooth Fairy", and an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent God is one of ability.

No, it isn't. Since they are all human constructions, their abilities are only limited by our imagination. Santa and the Tooth Fairy can be omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent, and in fact that pretty much describes the legend of Santa Claus, except his powers, while impressive, are not necessarily limitless.

an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent God can frustrate any experiment you can perform to discover Him, if that's His will. Do you dispute that?

No, but it's an absurd demand. Why would I need to dispute something so silly? The idea that the God of the bible, who was quite happy to reveal himself physically and otherwise to people for centuries, now thwarts all efforts to find evidence of his existence, is an idea too ridiculous to bother considering.

If not, then even if you prove by scientific evidence that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy can't exist, you've proven nothing about the existence of God.

In an undefined universe (i.e. one in which gods or supernatural beings can exist), one cannot prove a negative. That goes for bedtime stories and religions (but I repeat myself).

If you had given such things any thought you would have figured that out on your own. Obviously then, you've arrived at your atheism casually.

Quite the contrary, but I can see why it's comforting for you to believe that.

You're some kind of science writer if I remember right. Not counting machines built by intelligent beings, is it only biological processes that can manifest intelligence? I await your answer.

Define process and intelligence and maybe I'll give you one.

Btw, I don't believe I said I am a science writer, but rather that I write about science (sometimes). A fine distinction, but an important one, I believe. My vocation is broader than such a title would suggest.

Incorrect. Agnosti... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Incorrect. Agnosticism is declaring the existence of god or the supernatural as unknown.

And here's the real definition:

Agnostic
n.
1.
   a. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
   b. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.
2. One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something.
adj.
1. Relating to or being an agnostic.
2. Doubtful or noncommittal:

Atheism is simply the absence of belief in gods, and the rejection of theism. Atheists need not claim that it is impossible for gods to exist to be atheists, they merely need not believe they do.

And here's the real definition:

Atheism
n.
1.
   a. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
   b. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
2. Godlessness; immorality

No, it isn't. Since they are all human constructions, their abilities are only limited by our imagination.

You deny God exists by claiming "they are all human constructions" and from that basis you proceed to prove God doesn't exist. That's circular logic, and thus, invalid. Next time try to start your argument with something other than your conclusion.

No, but it's an absurd demand. Why would I need to dispute something so silly? The idea that the God of the bible, who was quite happy to reveal himself physically and otherwise to people for centuries, now thwarts all efforts to find evidence of his existence, is an idea too ridiculous to bother considering.

You claim it's silly because it's beyond your ability to answer it. You reference the Bible, but it's in the Bible where we learn from the Apostle Paul that God thwarts any attempt of man to find Him through their own wisdom. It also explains why, but I'm sure that seem like foolishness to you, just as the Apostle Paul said it would nearly 2,000 years ago.

In an undefined universe (i.e. one in which gods or supernatural beings can exist), one cannot prove a negative. That goes for bedtime stories and religions (but I repeat myself).

Like I said "even if you [do] prove by scientific evidence that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy can't exist, you've proven nothing about the existence of God."

Define process and intelligence and maybe I'll give you one.

Process as in some means of manifesting intelligence, which of course means something that could pass the Turing test.

And here's the real defi... (Below threshold)
mantis:

And here's the real definition:

Agnostic
How does "a. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God" differ from "declaring the existence of god or the supernatural as unknown" in any substantive way?

Atheism
And it also says atheism is defined as immorality, but that don't make it so. Do you really refer to the dictionary to understand philosophy and spirituality?

See, the idea that an atheist must categorically declare the impossibility of gods insists that the atheist believe he knows everything. I know of absolutely no atheists who believe they know everything that can be known. It's an unrealistic requirement you employ so that you can imply, dishonestly, that no one can even be a true atheist. In reality, it's just refusing to believe in the existence of something for which there is no evidence. An atheist does not believe in any theism. An agnostic doesn't know what to believe.

You deny God exists by claiming "they are all human constructions" and from that basis you proceed to prove God doesn't exist.

Ok, fine, I'll patronize you. Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy could be just as omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent as a God is, if he existed, and could equally frustrate our efforts to discover them. Why not?

You claim it's silly because it's beyond your ability to answer it.

No, because it's obviously a construction of theists designed to explain away the reason why God doesn't make personal appearances anymore. I'm sorry that Paul is not very convincing to me when he explains that God's just crafty and likes playing games with the mortals, but it's just such a easy cop out.

Like I said "even if you [do] prove by scientific evidence that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy can't exist, you've proven nothing about the existence of God."

You obviously don't understand. I couldn't prove by scientific evidence that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy can't exist. Your conditional starts with an impossible cause.

Process as in some means of manifesting intelligence, which of course means something that could pass the Turing test.

Speaking of circular. How do you define "biological process?" "Some means" is not sufficient.

Also, the Turing test has many weaknesses.

In any case, I can answer your question without the definitions. I was just wondering what your answer would be. I can't declare that intelligence cannot emerge from something other than organic beings, but I have never seen evidence of such.

How does "a. One w... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
How does "a. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God" differ from "declaring the existence of god or the supernatural as unknown" in any substantive way?

The difference is as between the unknowable and the unknown. Unknowable is a permanent state, but unknown is subject to change. Someone how holds either definition does not emphatically state "Since they are all human constructions" in reference to "Santa Claus" or the "Tooth Fairy", and an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent God.

And it also says atheism is defined as immorality, but that don't make it so.

By 4th grade most kids are taught that some words have more than one meaning and to use context to deterring which meaning to use. In the context of this discussion you should use definition 1a or 1b.

Do you really refer to the dictionary to understand philosophy and spirituality?

Only when it's apparent the person I'm conversing with doesn't understand the meaning of the words.

See, the idea that an atheist must categorically declare the impossibility of gods insists that the atheist believe he knows everything. I know of absolutely no atheists who believe they know everything that can be known. It's an unrealistic requirement you employ so that you can imply, dishonestly, that no one can even be a true atheist. In reality, it's just refusing to believe in the existence of something for which there is no evidence. An atheist does not believe in any theism. An agnostic doesn't know what to believe.

What you define as an Atheist is in fact an Agnostic unless you want to make up your own meaning of words.

Ok, fine, I'll patronize you. Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy could be just as omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omnipresent as a God is, if he existed, and could equally frustrate our efforts to discover them. Why not?

Ok, fine, I accept that you can't determine if Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy exist or not, and thus, there's no rational basis to believe either that they do exist or that they don't exist. Either belief must then rely on faith.

Of course, he never responds when I ask if my lack of belief in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy constitutes "faith," likely because that blows his whole idea of atheism=faith out of the water, so he must ignore it.

Being that we have just established that either belief must rely on faith, your belief that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy don't exist is based on faith. To hold no belief as in "lack of belief " is the agnostic position, which you disclaim.

No, because it's obviously a construction of theists designed to explain away the reason why God doesn't make personal appearances anymore. I'm sorry that Paul is not very convincing to me when he explains that God's just crafty and likes playing games with the mortals, but it's just such a easy cop out.

You deciding that "it's just such a easy cop out" doesn't in anyway refute the argument that an omnipotent being can hide from humans. Someone who professes to be an Atheist according to definition 1a or 1b is confronted with the fact that they are professing that they know something that they can't really know, and thus, what they are professing flows either from ignorant pride, or by faith. In your case it's just ignorance of the meaning of the word atheist.

You obviously don't understand. I couldn't prove by scientific evidence that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy can't exist. Your conditional starts with an impossible cause.

And I have already said that "I accept that you can't determine if Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy exist or not." So if science is powerless to prove that even Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are myths, it's the height of hubris to claim God doesn't exist, that the universe in unintelligent, or that evolution is fact, right?

In any case, I can answer your question without the definitions. I was just wondering what your answer would be. I can't declare that intelligence cannot emerge from something other than organic beings, but I have never seen evidence of such.

Some scientists are thinking about quantum intelligence and that maybe it could arise by natural processes. If that can be demonstrated, then the doctrine that biological life evolved without intelligent intervention will come into question from within the scientific community. It's some "down the rabbit hole" stuff. Links here and here.

So where have all the Athei... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

So where have all the Atheists gone? Could it be that they bugged out again rather than have their belief system challenged? I know, I know, they'll make some excuse that my arguments are beneath their contempt or that it's my fault, somehow.

Well, at least I answered the question mantis claimed I must ignore and it seems I sustained my argument, at least for anyone who accepts the formal definition of what an Atheist is. I guess that's progress, but dang, I was just getting started.




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