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March 24, 2010

Comments

I actually do a talk where I point out why Atheism is a crutch. I even have t-shirts with that slogan. Ha. Funny to read that here.

I just listened to the podcast from 03/21/2010. I wish that Greg would write a book called: "Trains, Planes, and Restaurants" where he just writes down conversations that he has with people that he meets. I think that just might be the most vauluable and useful part of what STR does. Thanks.

Or better yet, keep a recording device on his person that he can sneakily turn on when he has these encounters, and then somebody can transcribe them later. That would be cool.

I suspect Greg is right about some people rejecting a religion out of woundedness, whether Christian, Mormon, Muslim, whatever.

But suppose you heard of someone who left Mormonism because, as he says, he came to believe that Mormon beliefs were absurd.

Would you take him at his word (and maybe even agree with him)? Or would you suspect he had Daddy issues?

[I imagine most of the Mormons he left behind will attribute his departure to carnality, hard-heartedness, or the devil.

And they'll say that the intellectual reasons he gave were just a smokescreen.]

I just finished reading "The Making of an Atheist" by James Speigel and he proposes this very thing! It's a quick read (120 or so pages) from Moody Press and I highly recommend it!

Jared it's James Spiegel not Speigel.

In this interview Luke Muehlhauser calmly takes Spiegel apart and walks away leaving pieces on the floor. I recommend it!

RonH

So, you're saying he's a litter bug.

...and what "intellectual reasons" are you referring to, outside? Just curious.

Don't get me wrong. Anyone, christian or non is asking for big hammer to be dropped when they try to justify thier own morality....based upon thier own performance. Can atheists be more moral than believers? Of course. So what? However...coming up with a basis for ANY morality whatsoever for their actions is where the atheist runs aground.

vic,

I take it you'd say the basis for morality under your theory is the character of God.

By what standard do you judge his character to be moral?

RonH

"...Luke Muehlhauser calmly takes Spiegel apart..."

Ron, I've not heard of either of these men before, but I decided to give the interview a listen. What I heard were two men having a thoughtful, genial conversation. I would hardly declare either one a "winner". I thought both were articulate and tried to back up their ideas with sound reasons. To say that Spiegel was torn to pieces I think is pretty reaching, if not absurd. I'm not surprised you weren't persuaded by his thesis, but I did not come away with your assessment. And I was even listening with the bias you inserted. Perhaps you heard something I did not.

Hi thomas,

Glad you took a listen.

I agree with the thoughtful, genial part. As I recall, Luke took a list of claims in the book one by one and they discussed them. In the end, it seemed this was a book that claimed little and showed less. If Luke challenged a point strongly Spiegel minimized the strength of the claim he was making in that regard. He may as well have quoted Romans 3:11 and left it at that for all his book accomplished.

If you want to hear a really friendly treatment of Spiegel's ideas this one.

RonH

Ron...yes, you are correct. The one and ONLY basis for objective morality comes from the One who caused it all to be in the first place. How could it be any other way??

By what standard do i judge His character to be moral? See above statement.

You will no doubt chide me for not being able to explain every last reason for any particular thing God has ordained to come to pass.. But i ask you to think about it. It stands to reason that if God is really the One who He says He is...His "goodness" can never be dependent on our having to agree that it is so. Truth is never dependent upon what WE prefer to think of as good. As an example...It is obvious...we'd "prefer" a God who thought and acted a lot like we do...but He even warns us that His thoughts are far above ours. He has never been obligated in any way to any of us. AS created, finite, and dependent (upon Him) beings who neither asked to be here...nor really want to leave the same...the best we can do is learn to love our Creator and attempt to keep His commandments as best we can...and just appreciate the awesome reality we get to inhabit for a little while.

Outsider: leaving the Mormon religion is not the same thing as adopting atheism. One might leave a worldview because of logical inconsistencies, but the one he chooses next is entirely open to psychological examination. I don't know of any total worldview that is compelled by natural reason itself, though natural reason might require that one abandon some certain worldview.

In saying this, I'm treating "atheist" to mean people who affirmatively say there is no god, rather than simply pleading ignorance. If someone opts for atheism, it is reasonable to ask why he/she does so. It's unfair to assume that everyone does so for the same specific reason, but there may be common reasons.

Vic,

No, I won't chide you for knowing everything.

I'll chide you for offering God's character as an explanation for the existence of objective moral values.

First, maybe it's unnecessary to explain the existence of 'objective' moral values. Maybe they don't exist. I don't think they do. Not in the sense y'all talk about.

Second, if they do exist, perhaps they are a brute fact of the universe. Claiming also that they are part of something in that universe (God) explains no more.

What's that you say? God is not part of the universe? Why not? Says who? God exists doesn't he. Isn't the universe everything that exists? Well then, God is part of the Universe. Simple set theory.

Consider yourself chided. :)

NL (and Outsider),

I think that besides reasoning and Daddy issues there is a third way to come by beliefs. Suppose I successfully walk through a doorway rather than into the door frame. I didn't reason my way through consciously. Nor was my motion controlled by external forces. I think a similar third factor - besides conscious reason and psychological causes like Daddy issues - plays a role in forming beliefs.

RonH

Ron...

Perhaps you are right about absolute morals not existing. However...do you live your life as if they do not? Of course not.

Morals come from somewhere...they are not "just is". Could carbon and silicon somehow decide to produce morality in people? Just saying people know right from wrong does not mean they are prone to DO right. There is more involved than that desire or wishful thinking here.

Brute facts?...where? Got a few hanging out you'd like to share? If you do...please share where they came from...or are they more of the ole "just is" stuff that we don't need to explain?

You mention reasoning and rightfully so. Stands to reason we should use reason since it is just one more item that could not have come from thin air either. It almost seems reasonable to assume that a reasonable God would like His creation to also use reason to acknowledge him...think maybe?

Vic,

Again: I say perhaps morals (and the laws of logic) are brute facts of the universe. Y'all say they are brute facts. You just tweak it by adding that they are bundled into that Person as part of His Nature.

Brute facts of the universe have problems. It's hard to come by evidence that something is a brute fact for example. But how does having bundling a brute fact of the universe into God's nature solve those problems?

Do you think 'energy' is real? I'm not talking about anything New Age - just the physics stuff we need to run our computers and what not.

RonH

I read a book, "Ten prayers God Always Answers." One of those is sincerely praying for God to reveal Himself to you. When I mention this to atheists they refuse to attempt this prayer. "God if You exist please reveal yourself to me!"
Bill

Ron...you are mistaken when you say we think morals are "brute" facts. In the first place, there is no such thing as a brute fact. All facts are tied to a real cause...some more easily identified than others. However...nothing "just "is".

I've told you MY basis for morals..and you have yet to identify yours.

Ron...


concerning the possiblity of the existence of "brute facts" you ask if energy is real and by implication you are asking...how can we KNOW that energy is real?

We know without a doubt that energy is real because we work with the physical results it prduces...electron movement, hydraulic pressure, osmotic pressures, heat etc. However....
the true "isness" of energy is still a bonefide mystery as far as I know. The mental thought process is also in the same mystery catagory. That is...just what IS a mental thought? But none of these things "just are". There is a cause for all of them. Of that we can be sure.
Even if mental processes do have a physical basis...that physical basis is driven by more than carbon and silicon...and chance.

Bill....

Asking God to reveal Himself is one of those things that ought not be flippantly suggested. If you are speaking of Jesus or the Holy Spirit revealing themselves through His word, then ok. But... I see a few in scripture that asked for the same thing of the Father and the results weren't as enthusiasticly recieved as we might think....

Vic,

Well, thanks. I guess I know where you stand on energy! I wonder, though, if you first googled 'is energy real' before answering and read what can be said on either side. There is no way to tell from your answer. Myself, I think there's not enough information to say one way or the other.

For mental processes, besides chance, there's also necessity.

RonH

Ron...you are most welcome. Hmmmmm..where DO I stand on energy? No need to google anything, Ron. No one and I mean NO ONE knows what energy actually is. WE can certainly speak of amounts of it and give mathematical equations for what it can DO....but all turns to gibberish when anyone attempts to describe what it...IS. But...you are welcome to try...and i will certanly listen..:-))

So you think chance plays any part for causing mental processes?
Don't suppose you'd care to elaborate on what "chance" has to do with anything??

...and necessity? You may be on to something. It certainly SEEMS like my craving for a big juicy heart attack Mac causes me to turn my steering wheel away from the soup and salad bar and head in a more reasonable direction toward the nearest Mac Donalds.

Vic- You asked what intellectual reasons my hypothetical former Mormon had for leaving the church. (I intentionally chose Mormonism because I thought STR folks would also believe it to be untrue... dang.) Anyway, let's say the reasons had to do with infallibility of the President, lack of archeological support, and the "New Egyptian" hieroglyphics that were mis-used.

Vic,
The equations aren't meant to tell you if energy is real. They are meant to tell you the results of experiments you might do. They live and die on that procedure.

Please explain how you can say that nobody can say what energy IS and yet we can be sure that it exists.

You know, your decision (so-called) to have that Big Mac might happen before you consciously notice it.

RonH

Ron..What is it you want me to explain?? I'm saying no one knows what energy actually is...if you think differently..please enlighten us especially me. I'm not asking for the mathematical equivalency nor what some kinds of energy can do. I am asking What is "it?". Moving electrons provide potential for work...so does elevated water levels.....so does sunlight...so does gravity...so does wind..so does..on ad infinitum. Is energy...partly space,matter, time? Where does it come from...ultimately? What color is it? Where does it live? I am looking for an ontological description of "Isness"..not what it can do.

If you can't do it...don't feel bad. Minds far greater than ours have tried.

Are you still convinced chance can cause anything?

"What's that you say? God is not part of the universe? Why not? Says who? God exists doesn't he. Isn't the universe everything that exists? Well then, God is part of the Universe. Simple set theory."

Is a composer a part of his symphony?
Is an author a part of her book? Or do they stand outside of their creation and look in upon it?

Ed...

You are not thinking...at all. How do we know that God is not part of the universe?

You ask "is a composer part of his symphony?". Of course not. The symphony could never "be" without the composer...It (the symphony) is created, finte and dependent while being completely at the whim of the composer.

Yes Ed, composers, painters, builders, creators of anything always and forever stand outside of what they create.

You may well say that the creation expresses who the creator is (and we DO say that about God) and that he has put a lot of Himself into His creation...but we only mean by that that again, the created things tell us a little about the One who brought them into being.

On a side note...I am amazed at the number of people who find it difficult to distiguish between CreaTOR and creaTION these days.

What utter tosh and nonsense.

For a start we don't all need a crutch, all my limbs are in fine working order, as is my mind. Hence I have no need of any crutches. You may consider yourself 'broken', but I don't and neither do millions of others, perhaps it's not a crutch you need but a good psychologist?

Secondly atheists don't "reject god" they reject the notion of god. A subtle but important difference.

Thirdly your statement "atheists are rejecting God because they've had a bad relationship with their father", apart from the problem of incorrectly defining what an atheist is (see above), is absurd and one I defy you to come up with any evidence for.

If an atheist has confidence that god(s) do not exists, or confidence that the likelihood of god(s) existing is so remote as to make them non-existent, then how is it possible for an atheist to be worried about "the frightening implications of God's existence"?

@OzAtheist

One red chip. One green chip. One blue chip. None of which have an inscribed value. The poker players in Game A decide to assign $1 to the red, $2 to the green, and $5 to the blue. The poker players in Game B decide to assign $10 to the red, $20 to the green, and $50 to the blue. Which group of poker players has assigned the correct value to the poker chips? The question is non-sensical because it assumes a "correct" value exists when none, in fact, does. What matters is that when the poker players of Game A and Game B decide play together that they come to a common agreement on what the value of each color chip will be. Likewise with the word "atheist."

There exists no innate or "correct" meaning to the token "atheist." There only exists the meanings which groups of people have assigned to the word. Hence, it makes no sense to speak of atheist as having a "correct" or "incorrect" meaning.

To go a step further, because Koukl's definition of atheist as being one who rejects god(s) is indeed the common usage, it stands to reason that the popular definition of atheism being propagated by atheists on the Internet stands outside the norm. Thus, for practical reasons, it makes more sense to employ the common definition rather than some convenient definition created and defended with a horrendous etymological argument to avoid the responsibility assigned to all participants of a conversation via the Cooperative Principle.

OzAtheist,

I'm glad to see that you are posting on a blog where most readers will disagree with you. Hopefully, this means that you are open-minded enough to consider positions which disagree with yours.

You stated: If an atheist has confidence that god(s) do not exists, or confidence that the likelihood of god(s) existing is so remote as to make them non-existent...

Most people are confident in their beliefs. But, the key question is do they have adequate reasons for this confidence? So, would you mind sharing why you are so confident that the likelihood of god(s) existing is so remote?

interesting, I've bee trying to post a response to @MrSprinkleFingers but this site isn't accepting my comments... or is it?

Ok that worked, no idea what was happening earlier - it may be my reply was too long and the other reply had a link in it?
Please check my blog for an answer to @MrSprinkleFingers (click on my user name) it's called "I don't reject your god."

@Eric

Yes I do have an open mind (though not so open my brains fall out. LOL) but I require good evidence to change my position.

A very big question Eric which I suspect would require a lot of explanation from me for you to accept.

For a short and simple answer - I just see no evidence for a gods existence.

Nothing in the universe requires a god to exist for the universe to function as it does.

If there is only one god then you would expect all humans to be intrinsically aware of 'him'. This is not the case.

The Christian Bible is so full of inconsistencies, contradictions and errors that it is highly unlikely that it was written as the 'inerrant word of god' as some claim. Therefore it is highly unlikely that god exists.

There are many more reasons but I'm not about to write a book on them. People more educated than me all ready have anyway. I refer you to the reading list in the sidebar of my blog, particularly:

God - The Failed Hypothesis by
Victor J. Stenger

(via. reading a post on OzAtheist's blog)

I'll make this as simple as possible.

I'm an atheist because I'm not a theist.

I have found after decades of talking with theists that most theists, maybe not the ones here specifically but in general, have a fuzzy or encumbered understanding of what a theist is and what theism is.

Much of that misunderstanding of theism is becasue narrow sectarian presumptions are used when talking about theism, or theism is ignored and only the sectarian presumptions are discussed.

Note that theism applies to a wide variety of believers and is not limited to monotheism, or specific religions. There are people who are religious yet not theistic, while there are theists that have no religion.

    This lack of clarity about what theism is causes quite a bit of confusion when discussing atheism.

So, what is a theist?

A theist is generally defined as 'someone with belief(s) in a god or gods'.

What is an atheist?

It's very simple, so I'm not going to give an answer. I'm going to ask you to give it a try.

Your answer to that question should be simple and unencumbered.

For example, if your immediate description of an atheist uses more than a dozen words, you're probably adding in extra layers of meaning that aren't there in the basic defintition.

Any questions? Feel free to ask.

I'll monitor this thread for a couple days, but I want to make sure that we are talking about the same basic issues before getting into a more detailed discussion that is based on an understanding of those basics.

@Hermes,

My generally accepted definition of an atheist is "one who believes no god(s) exist."

@MrSprinkleFingers

Why didn't you just say that [quote] My generally accepted definition of an atheist is "one who believes no god(s) exist." [endquote] at the start?

It would have saved me hours of typing. :)

Also, that's not exactly what you did say the first time. I'm getting confused.

@OzAtheist

Actually, I did not intend to define atheist with my initial post. I was making two separate arguments, and failed to clearly communicate my points. I apologize for such. (I have attempted to clarify the arguments on your blog.)

That said, it is my contention that both myself and Koukl subscribe to the same definition. Though, he could surely feel free to correct me.

@MrSprinkleFingers

If Koukl's definition is materially different from the brief one you posted early today, do you have a reference where Koukl specifies that definition so that I understand any contextual parts that may explain those differences clearly?

Additionally, if Koukl provides a definition for theism that is also materially different, a link to that would be appreciated as well.

@Hermes

Watch the video "Atheists' Non-Belief" (via the blog or on YouTube). Koukl clearly employs a definition of atheist/atheism which views atheism as a "belief that no God/god(s) exist." I would be quite surprised if we intended "rejecting God" to mean anything differently.

@MrSprinkleFingers

I'm reading some more comments from Oz's blog now, but I haven't caught up yet.

If you have covered my questions below already, please do not waste time with a detailed reply.

* * *

Just to be clear. Are you (and Koukl) saying that the two quotes you give are equivelent?

If so, then would the same apply to other definitions?

For example, would you say that someone who eats fish -- say, a traditional eskimo on the ice or a south sea islander -- is explicitly rejecting vegitarianism as opposed to just not being a vegitarian? If not, at what stage would a fish eating non-vegitarian actually cross over the line to rejecting vegitarianism? What about egg eating vegitarians -- do they explicitly reject veganism? If someone were put on an all vegtable diet by their doctor to avoid a specific health problem, would that mean they are rejecting meat or simply do not eat it?

@Hermes

I am not equating belief/disbelief atheism ('strong' atheism) with "lack of belief" atheism ('weak' atheism). I see the latter definition as one born out of a desire to avoid a burden of proof and defended by the misapplication of English morphology and a poor understanding of the etymology of the word.

Does that answer your question?

@MrSprinkleFingers

Probably ... I'll read your detailed comments on Oz's blog to fill in the details before giving a more fleshed out response.

FWIW: I don't use either 'strong'/'weak' myself and am also keenly interested in the proper use of words. Some deities are disprovable, some are not, others are not coherently described and thus can not even be properly addressed.

@OzAtheist

I will attempt to answer a few of the assertions which you raised:

"Nothing in the universe requires a god to exist for the universe to function as it does."
The very existence of the universe, especially one with a definite beginning as shown by the Big Bang, requires a cause. You have probably heard of the Kalam Cosmological argument which goes like this:
Anything that has a beginning must have a cause.
The universe had a beginning.
Therefore, the universe needs a cause.
The type of cause needed to cause the universe gets you pretty close to God i.e. a personal agent with immense power and knowledge.

"If there is only one god then you would expect all humans to be intrinsically aware of 'him'. This is not the case."
Actually the vast majority of humans are religious, and we all have a conscience which causes us guilt, and virtually everyone holds to concepts of morality which are largely similar. So, I think the evidence goes strongly against your assertion.

"The Christian Bible is so full of inconsistencies, contradictions and errors that it is highly unlikely that it was written as the 'inerrant word of god' as some claim."
Virtually every inconsistency or contradiction people think they see in the Bible has an reasonable answer. If you want to talk specifics, please name an inconsistency or error and we can discuss it.

I will get your book, but could I also suggest a book for you.
The Case for the Creator by Lee Strobel

Eric, I won't offer comments on each of your replies to Oz as that's between you two. As for the book recomendation, since you are familiar with it already, consider one of the following commentaries;

Paul Doland: Another Case Not Made: A Critique of Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator (2005)
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/paul_doland/creator.html

Ebon muse: The Case for a Creator
http://www.daylightatheism.org/series/the-case-for-a-creator

@MrSprinkleFingers

At this point, while I would not use the exact examples or words or that Oz did to arrive at his conclusion, and disagree with specific narrow points, I would still agree with his general conclusion;

'Believes there are none' does not equal 'rejects there are any'/'rejects all'.

In addition, while there are some people who insist on the 'strong'/'weak' distinction, that distinction causes as many problems as it solves, so I don't use it.

Instead, I acknowledge that there is a distinction between knowledge claims and statements of belief, and handle knowledge and beliefs as two separate characteristics that can be combined as a set to offer a more complete description of someone's point of view.

In combination, a knowledge claim (gnostic/agnostic/...plus many more) plus a statement of belief (theist/atheist/...with many more from dividing general theism into subsets) can yield a consistent and much more accurate result.

A limited example combining knowledge with belief is shown in this diagram; http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/atheism-agnosticism.png

That limited example is fleshed out in the following videos;

* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIKeC9k2-Jg (don't let the cuteness fool you)

* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIKeC9k2-Jg

Note that because the gnostic/agnostic axis is based on knowledge, and the theist/atheist axis is based on belief, someone can be a gnostic atheist, an agnostic theist, a gnostic theist, or an agnostic atheist. They can even be a gnostic theist for one deity, and an agnostic atheist for another deity.

(As the videos point out, it makes no sense to have a belief without a knowledge claim or a knowledge claim without a belief. )

The gnostics -- atheist or theist -- are making claims about knowledge, and thus must provide support for those claims or the claims they make can be rejected as valid knowledge claims.

The agnostics -- also atheist or theist -- are not making knowledge claims but stating their beliefs, and as such are not required to provide support.

For the most part, I am an agnostic atheist; I say that I do not know for certain that there are no deities at all (agnosticism), but I believe there are none (atheism).

Are there deities that I claim for a fact do not exist? Yes. I like anyone must support any knowledge claims that are claimed to be certain. (A sliding scale of this is also in effect as the knowledge claim does not have to be based on absolute certainty but to make a gnostic (knowledge) claim, there must be knowledge to share and avoidable for investigation or the gnostic is not being properly responsible.)

On the other hand, there are even deities that I have to admit exist but as they do not fit what I would call a deity, I do not consider them to be deities.

For example, someone could bring me to their deity as manifest in or as a totem, point to it and say "see!" I would have to agree that their deity is real. Yet, if I am not shown a connection between their totem manifested deity and something that would merit the title 'deity', I would probably not believe that their totem is a deity even though I have knowledge of the totem.

Are there deities that are not refutable and could exist? Yes. The general beliefs of pantheists and deists are consistent with reality and are logical, yet I am not a pantheist or a deist because I see no positive support -- no knowledge claims -- for them.

As a final point, the varieties of knowledge and beliefs combinations cover quite a bit of ground. A sample; ignostic monotheists, or gnostic pantheists, or apnostic polytheist henotheists, or gnostic monotheist henotheists.

None of the above limits the inclusion of other factors beyond knowledge claims and belief statements. Those other factors are not mentioned because this conversation is already detailed enough, and those other factors can be brought up on a case-by-case basis as is appropriate.

I misused the spell checker and introduced an error in the last post.

The parenthetical segment ...

(A sliding scale of this is also in effect as the knowledge claim does not have to be based on absolute certainty but to make a gnostic (knowledge) claim, there must be knowledge to share and avoidable for investigation or the gnostic is not being properly responsible.)

... should have used the word "available" not "avoidable".

==========================

As for Koukl's video, I've tried 3 different browsers and the audio is mangled in each. If you have a transcript or an alternate site where the video or audio is available, let me know.

For what it's worth, this is the link I'm going to;

http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2010/03/atheists-nonbelief-video.html

@Hermes

You seem to misunderstood the issue at hand. We are not discussing what "rejecting God" means, as though prescriptivist semantics were somehow acceptable, but rather what Koukl means by it. I have pointed you to the video, which can also be watched on YouTube (as already noted above), and additionally you can go back through Koukl's numerous podcasts, books, and videos covering the subject. It's clear that Koukl, like myself, accepts atheism as "the belief that no God exists." Hence, I can see no good reason why we should interpret "rejecting God" to mean anything else. The only response provided so far, as I have already noted, is prescriptivist semantics which are not even defensible once one has taken a careful look at how the term "reject" is used across contexts.

Sorry, but it boils down to the fact that you guys have smuggled in ideas about what Koukl means by "rejecting God." I am willing to grant it might be the wording which Koukl chose to use in the post that generated the confusion, but if you review his history on the topic then all confusion can be cleared.

Also, like you, I employed the knowledge/belief model to describe perspectives on the god-question. However, as I continued to study religion and philosophy, I realize the model was over simplified and insufficient to handle the complexity which exists. It simply cannot account for some perspectives, such as those held by some Christian atheists and/or some logical positivists. Thus, I have abandoned the model.

@MrSprinkleFingers

I spent quite a bit of effort writing a reply to you, and I provided references. While doing so, I also attempted to keep things as simple as possible, focusing on a few narrow details confined to a specific scope as opposed to a complex tangle of interdependencies.

I did that so that we can step through each part and come to a mutual understanding, as opposed to jumping directly to the conclusion dragging quite a few assumptions in tow.

I get the impression that you read the first couple paragraphs, noted the section with this text in it ...

'Believes there are none' does not equal 'rejects there are any'/'rejects all'.

... then decided at most to skim the rest since that one part did not meet your preconceptions.

I say that because you specifically mention something that I intentionally did not cover, identified that omission (that was intentional) as an error, and then ignored what I mentioned about adding other factors and why they were not covered.

As I have done my work here, and have vetted it elsewhere over the span of a few years and a few thousand eyes, I leave it to you to reassess what I provided before I feel obliged to dig through additional information.

I will keep an eye out for your reply, yet if I detect a tape loop in this conversation, I will likely silently bow out and leave you to talk amongst yourselves.

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