A Rationalist's Argument for God 

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"Re: STRAW QUESTION": E-mail correspondence with Atheist Experience host, Matt Dillahunty, after the episode, #826 in which I couldn't think up quickly enough a good example of a strawman argument.

August 12, 2013
From ME:


Hi, I was the third caller from yesterday: Andrew from Allentown. It was a good discussion, and I admit I 'lost' the debate. I was trying to use a script, but couldn't get passed the first question. But here's where your show can improve. You have to be more open to the idea of 'evidence.' As I said, I used to be an atheist -- an activist atheist, in fact. But I had a personal experience with God, and as even you would say, I suspect: Experience trumps reason. You further claim that theists are delusional until they learn to break free from their theism, which is what I meant by 'doomed to be delusional.' I believe that's the wrong attitude. Any purely rational belief should be judged by others to be delusional, if that was the case.

BTW, here's a variation of Pascal's wager I came with as an atheist, you may enjoy:

 
With the world a smaller place than it was formerly during the time of Pascal's earlier wager, we now have more exposure to different points of view on faith. As a result, a new wager seems to be in order a la Pascal:
 With the revelation of so many different ideas of what may or may not consist as an afterlife (if any), it's more or less anything goes as far as any after life is concerned.
 Those who profess to be hardcore Christians, however, limit themselves on exploring truth, they're instructed to do so at any early age, in fact, deny themselves natural pleasures, always feel as though being watched, spend way too much condemning others who don't agree with them, etc., that they already live in a kind of Hell, which they hope to expose and expand onto others.

So, which is better?:
To live in a manner that's open minded, and free to explore life's treasures in a world we know to exist -- untroubled about an afterlife which is given many interpretations by different religions (all of which condemn transgressors for different reasons) and may not even exist.
OR
to put yourself through a kind of hell of deprivation in a world we know to exist, with an eager anticipation for an afterlife which typically defies logic, yet may exist (though unlikely).

The best bet.
Choose to live happily in the world known to exist.

 
P.S.: I used to believe that until I tried to defend atheistic beliefs, rather than just say 'I have no burden of proof.' It eventually occurred to me that actively defending atheism always leads to contradiction. I then defended a deist sort of God influenced by Taoism, but when I had my illness (the first bad illness I ever had in my life) at the time I just completed writing an atheistic book, and I gradually became worse until I opened the Bible that night I described on the show, which resulted in my getting a new doctor and got me on the road to recovery, I've since seen the light. It was the timing that communicated to me, and it's typically events like these that believers claim: God spoke to them. No, these events cannot be physically proven to others. So limiting callers to that expectation will convince no theist to change their ways. That expectation is comparable to asking an expressionless person to physically prove to others their enjoyment of your show, or lack thereof.

Thanks for listening. I used to enjoy your show more, though, when I expected more from it than 'physically demonstrable' evidence only. I agree religion is bad at times, but not necessarily so.

 

 

 

August 12, 2013
From M. DILLAHUNTY:


"It was a good discussion, and I admit I 'lost' the debate."


That's pretty big of you, though perhaps you shouldn't immediately assume that you still know better...while demonstrating that you don't...


"I was trying to use a script, but couldn't get passed the first question."


Yup, that's a common problem with theists and preachers.


"But here's where your show can improve. You have to be more open to the idea of 'evidence.'"


You're about to look very, very silly - again.

 
"As I said, I used to be an atheist -- an activist atheist, in fact."


Really? When? Who did you work with?

As I said, that doesn't matter...there are lots of atheists who don't have good reasons for being atheists. There are lots of atheists who aren't skeptics, aren't critical thinkers and who couldn't argue their way out of a paper bag. Saying that you used to be an atheist means absolutely nothing - and any decent former atheist should already know that. But you don't seem to know even the simplest responses to the common theistic claims.


"But I had a personal experience with God, and as even you would say, I suspect: Experience trumps reason."


Funny, when I asked you why you believe, you didn't mention any personal experience - you talked about finding an irrelevant passage in the Bible.

Second, personal experience doesn't trump reason and evidence - in any simple sense. Are schizophrenics correct? Are hallucinations then real? Does being convinced that you saw a ghost mean you actually did? Your oversimplification about experience demonstrates that you're not very clear on evidence and reason and willing to just presume that you could not be mistaken.


"You further claim that theists are delusional until they learn to break free from their theism."


When/where did I claim this?

 
"which is what I meant by 'doomed to be delusional.' I believe that's the wrong attitude. Any purely rational belief should be judged by others to be delusional, if that was the case."


That makes no sense, at all.


"BTW, here's a variation of Pascal's wager I came with as an atheist, you may enjoy:"


I've seen better, but you're basically saying, "absent any demonstration of a method for determining which hell to avoid and which heaven to aspire to, the rational decision is to live life without concern for that unanswerable question" - if that is what you were saying, it's reasonable.

 
"P.S.: I used to believe that until I tried to defend atheistic beliefs."


What atheistic beliefs? Atheism means you don't believe a god exists...everything else that you believe may be consistent with atheism, but it isn't necessarily part of atheism. I'd expect a former atheist activist to understand that.

 
"rather than just say 'I have no burden of proof.' It eventually occurred to me that actively defending atheism always leads to contradiction."


Please demonstrate the contradiction.

 
"I then defended a deist sort of God influenced by Taoism"


Which speaks volumes about how confused you are.

 
"but when I had my illness (the first bad illness I ever had in my life) at the time I just completed an atheistic book, and I gradually became worse until I opened the Bible that night I described on the show, which resulted in my getting a new doctor and got me on the road to recovery, I've since seen the light."


When you were an atheist and someone had told you that this was their reason, what would you have said?

 
"So limiting callers to that expectation will convince no theist to change their ways."


I'm not limiting them...and literally hundreds of people have changed their ways (if not much more).

Care to make any other unsupported and flatly incorrect assertions?

 
"Religion is bad at times, but not necessarily so."


And the question remains, bad or not: is it true?

Truth is something you don't seem very concerned about.

 

 

 
August 13, 2013
From ME:


Hey, Matt. Thanks for the reply. I lost the debate because I didn't explain myself well or thoroughly. I apologize for that. I didn't make any real attempts to clarify my claims. So, here goes (sorry for the length, feel free to skip the middle paragraphs if you're interested, yet haven't much time):
 
There's a physical processor for everything we empirically test. So, if you go by science alone to support ALL evidence, we can't expect much 'evidence' of the non-physical. As I say during the call, it's a CATEGORY MISTAKE to expect that, in fact. It's the physical sciences, after all. We can only base non-physical claims on theory.

According to Jeff, there's no theory of how a non-physical mind could happen: Wrong: Leibniz's monadology, and he was the first theorist to advance kinetic energy and the conservation laws.

According to you, there's no evidence of how a memory can be transplanted from donor to recipient: Look up the testimonials on the documentary MINDSHOCK, for instance -- it's a legitimate documentary mirrored on YouTube.

Also, the findings that plants have mental capabilities were recently reported by MSN.

--- Plants communicate: http://inhabitat.com/plants-talk-to-each-other-through-a-messenger-in-the-soil/
--- Plants do highly advanced mathematics: http://news.msn.com/science-technology/square-roots-plants-are-good-at-math?ocid=ansnews11 - AND - http://news.discovery.com/earth/plants/plants-do-math-to-survive-the-night-130624.htm.
--- Also our genes may carry over our ancestors personal traumas (BBC Horizon's Ghost in Your Genes), and lobsters feel pain, even though their nerve centers for feeling pain aren't identical with ours: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29915025/?GT1=43001

According to Jeff, these are still physical processes. I say: Sure, but they're not brains. This is relevant because we may be conclude from these that there's no STRICT identify between mentality and something physical, specifically.

Leibniz's idea of monadology leads to God, especially concerning his idea of hierarchies. Leibniz, by the way, is the classical philosopher most consistent with current theories in regards to physics.

Furthermore, my point of the default position being "we first experience consciousness in our lives, and then adapt to the physical world" is that consciousness need not be learned, but the concrete reality of the physical world does. Yet abstractness need not comply with the limits of space-time. It's only after we identify with the physical world, does the notion of "I"  occur, despite our always having had that pictorial representation of the physical world, which makes consciousness unique.
 
As for my claim: "Jesus taught in parables, Jesus is God, so the Bible teaches in parables," you may find it circular. But we have it from historians that Jesus existed (Tacitus, Josephus), whose life is discussed in a historic book: the Bible. In that narrative (if you like to call it that), he speaks in parables. In that same book, it speaks as though the reader should accept Jesus as the son of the main character of the first half: God. That first half has some odd passages in it, so one may conclude in order to be consistent: those too are metaphorical. How can one tell the difference between a passage that isn't supposed to be metaphorical from one that isn't? Contextually, for one thing (the 10 commandments, and the Sermon on the Mount, seem to contextually stand-out). Also, one may ask: is the passage consistent with how God has been defined since the time of Epicurus, and most likely even prior to that: all-knowing, all-good, and all-powerful? It's not too difficult a measure to derive. Yet, according to the narrative, we'll be judged by what of it we choose to focus on, if any. It's called free-will.

Likewise, my belief of being communicated to by God is comparable, and possibly just as delusional, if that's the case, as my belief that I have a purpose for participating in debates, and so forth. Can I physically prove such introspective ideas and thereby distinguish them from a delusion? No. Can I distinguish these from a hallucination in which my thoughts don't correctly correspond with what others can easily verify? Sure, the distinction is that my religious experiences are subjective and involve no objects. As such, they aren't objective enough to comply with such physical scrutiny. Can I be suffering from schizophrenia? I believe that can be determined by a trained psychiatric doctor, but so far, no such need for observation has been necessitated, and I predict no such need will ever occur. This is because, at worst, whatever God-claim I may promote, I confess they need to be consistent with God by definition, as any evidence whatsoever (circumstantial, modal, or physical, if any) suggests God must consist of all three of those attributes to be God-like. Nothing bad can be consistent with all-good, for instance.

Also, you both suggest that those who believe in God are doomed to be delusional, UNTIL they no longer believe in God. You don't outright say it, but you imply it. In other words, believers are doomed to be delusional, according to you, until they "see the light" of the error of their ways. Sounds fundamentalist to me.

FEEL FREE TO SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH: I saved this for last because it's lengthy, and as it's not so much rational, as personal. But I didn't explain myself well with my personal born-again experience. As I said in my reply, I just finished writing a book at the time that supported my atheistic beliefs, but reached a consensus with theism as well. It was that God subsisted, but God was 'nothing," so irrelevant. I also proved morality could exist just as well without a God,  which I still believe. I was relieved to complete it because it took me years to write, but as I've since developed a friendship with a Christian in which God is a powerful force in her life, I was happy the book didn't alienate anyone. I figured even if God existed, He would be pleased by such a book. Then, when I became really sick for the first time in my life, I thought: maybe God does exist, and is not so pleased, after all. I still had atheistic doubts, of course. But when that friend of mine told me to open the Bible for advice, I didn't expect much but an embarrassingly irrelevant passage. When I opened it to the "walking in the valley of death" psalm, which I was familiar with, it surprised me. Perhaps influenced by that, I went back to the ER that night, and found out they missed something that would have cost me my life. That night also gave me a new doctor who brought me back into good health. During the recovery phrase, I understood God revealed Himself to me: God was personal, after all. I've since decided to notice such miracles, rather than brush them off as coincidence. I've also noticed that my proof only needed minor adjustments to support ideas consistent with God claims. So I dedicated myself to making those adjustments, and found that for every atheistic rebuttal, a just as consistent, if not better, theistic response existed.

BUT, OVERALL, MY POINT IS THIS: My belief is only as delusional as any past personal account would be with another conscious entity. Consistencies in regards to naturalism (a common belief that influences a lack of belief in God), for instance, occur with the notion that you say my born-again experience is delusional, yet you accept other people's personal accounts on other matters as being true. If you're to be consistent, and you reject my claim because it can't be physically verified (e.g., how a brain lights up says nothing of content unless it involves a motor skill), you should reject all personal belief claims. If you apply a slippery slope to it, then no abstract, subjective thoughts can be directly physically verified. So are we all just robots for having non-verifiable thoughts except for motor skills? But if you believe everyone but yourself is a robot (taking your rejection of non-verifiable things to its logical conclusion), that would be delusional by defintion. So there's the contradiction.
 
Thanks again.

 

 


August 13, 2013
From M. DILLAHUNTY:


"Hey, Matt. Thanks for the reply. I lost the debate because I didn't explain myself well or thoroughly."


And here I was thinking that it was because you made bad arguments or none at all.
 

"There's a physical processor for everything we empirically test. So, if you go by science alone to support ALL evidence, we can't expect much 'evidence' of the non-physical."


Then we don't have sufficient reason to believe it.
 

"As I say during the call, it's a CATEGORY MISTAKE to expect that, in fact."


No, it's not a category mistake - because I'm not asking for evidence for the supernatural, I'm asking for evidence for your claim - which has to do with manifestations of the supernatural.

Either a god exists, or it doesn't. Period.

If it does, then that god either manifests in reality in some detectable way, or it doesn't. Period.

If it doesn't...then that god is logically identical, from our perspective, to a god that does not exist.

So, we must be talking about a god that manifests in reality - otherwise we're wasting our time. We are, most commonly, talking about exactly that sort of god. Believers are running around, claiming to be little god detectors and making claims about God interacting with reality.

It's not the fault of science or reason that your claims aren't supported by science and reason ... that's the fault of your claims.
 

"It's the physical sciences, after all. We can only base non-physical claims on theory."


Clearly you don't know what the word 'theory' means. You're also confusing 'supernatural' with 'non-physical'. They're not identical.

 
"According to Jeff, there's no theory of how a non-physical mind could happen: Wrong: Leibniz's monadology, and he was the first theorist to advance kinetic energy and the conservation laws."


No, according to Jeff we do not have evidence for a non-physical mind - all available evidence points toward minds being the product of physical processes. You can cite philosophical thoughts about any position. I'm interested in reality.
 

"According to you, there's no evidence of how a memory can be transplanted from donor to recipient: Look up the testimonials on the documentary MINDSHOCK, for instance -- it's a legitimate documentary mirrored on YouTube."


I've already seen it. You seem to be willing to believe almost anything you're told...unless someone is telling you that you're wrong. There are all sorts of reports of things we can't explain. The reports may be accurate or not. But you're claiming to have an explanation, and it's a particularly stupid one, when you think about it in terms of both science and theology.

Someone dies and their soul goes on to an afterlife...unless you transplant their heart, in which case part of their soul remains?

Meanwhile, as Jeff pointed out, you're still only talking about physical things. You haven't demonstrated a soul or even the possibility of a soul. And you haven't come close to demonstrating a mind that exists absent the physical world.


"Also, the findings that plants have mental capabilities were recently reported by MSN.
--- Plants communicate: http://inhabitat.com/plants-talk-to-each-other-through-a-messenger-in-the-soil/
--- Plants do highly advanced mathematics: http://news.msn.com/science-technology/square-roots-plants-are-good-at-math?ocid=ansnews11 - AND - http://news.discovery.com/earth/plants/plants-do-math-to-survive-the-night-130624.htm."


No offense intended, but I'm going to stop here....because you're either a prank caller or you're just too ill-informed to continue wasting my time on. That's a horrible article that does not, in any way, prove that plants are "doing math" in the sense of consciously performing calculations.

Why not just point to how the golden ratio and spiral appear all throughout the natural world and claim that they "did math" to arrive at that arrangement.

You are simply too gullible and too ill-informed for me to keep responding to. In this email, alone, you've demonstrated that you don't understand the relevant subjects, you're willing to point to anything that seems to support your confused view and you're not at all interested in truth or a pathway to truth. Instead of relying on science, you try to put your  views outside the realm of science...while simultaneously cherry-picking articles that seem to support your confusion.

I'm done here.

 

 


August 13, 2013
From ME:


Hey Matt. No offense intended. You have a lot riding on 'atheism' so I wouldn't want to break your stride. But my views aren't that unusual. It's called panpsychism, which philosophers (which I'm sure you believe is a dishonest profession) such as David Chalmers and Galen Strawson accept, as well as Peter Russell, who is connected with the field of neuroscience. As for confirmation bias, which is what you're implying, I don't have it, but perhaps you do. In fact, you might be familiar with the electrode-controlled robotic arm study done by the University of Pitt, which resulted in a paraplegic getting back control of some motor skills through her thoughts alone. I willingly read the article and noticed one of the doctors, Andrew Schwartz, stated they can now read her intention to move. Since "intention" was one of those abstract thoughts I know for a fact science cannot replicate first-hand, and likely never will (albeit I fully support their effort to try), I was surprised to read this claim. Since no news articles described in detail how this was done. I contacted the doctor myself via email, because I believed people will read more into this claim than 'truth' would have it. I was correct: The experiment hadn't much ado with reading thoughts, but rather, deciphering mathematically which object she intended, through determining vectors and the like. The correspondence is offered on a recent video of mine. Those plant articles, which you call naïve, came up on the basic MSN home page so I read them as I would read any front-page scientific article. I wasn't surprised that science is now further leaning toward the panpsychist viewpoint, so I offered them here.
 
Too bad you couldn't read my whole correspondence, because in the last paragraph I demonstrate (via a written argument) how your limitation on theists leads to a contradiction, but so be it. Be happy with your lackadaisical lack of belief and continue to profit by it, by all means.
 
Take care.

P.S.: By the way, this is the last time I'll respond to you or call the show because it's an unmoderated debate show. But, you've asked this question before, and I thought it deserved an answer:
 

"Either a god exists, or it doesn't. Period.
 If it does, then that god either manifests in reality in some detectable way, or it doesn't. Period.
 If it doesn't...then that god is logically identical, from our perspective, to a god that does not exist."

 
The difference is simple: the God that exists (or more to the point, subsists) will have to be possible, whereas the God that doesn't exist does not.

 

 

 

August 13, 2013
From M. DILLAHUNTY:


"Hey Matt. No offense intended. You have a lot riding on 'atheism' "


No, I don't. Atheism isn't a worldview and if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. I'm an atheist because theistic claims haven't met their burden of proof. I didn't set out to BE an atheist, I was a Christian for 25+ years studying to be a minister.

Your implied accusation that I'm dishonest about this is beyond ridiculous.
 

"But my views aren't that unusual. It's called panpsychism, which philosophers (which I'm sure you believe is a dishonest profession) such as David Chalmers and Galen Strawson accept, as well as Peter Russell, who is connected with the field of neuroscience."


And lots of other people don't. So what?
 

"As for confirmation bias, which is what you're implying, I don't have it, but perhaps you do.... Too bad you couldn't read my whole correspondence, because in the last paragraph I demonstrate (via a written argument) how your limitation on theists leads to a contradiction, but so be it. Be happy with your lackadaisical lack of belief and continue to profit by it, by all means."


Fine. Let's take a look...


"- BUT, OVERALL, MY POINT IS THIS: My belief is only as delusional as any past personal account would be with another conscious entity."


Not if you're talking about a universal, persistent claim.


"Consistencies in regards to naturalism (a common belief that influences a lack of belief in God), for instance, occur with the notion that you say my born-again experience is delusional"


No, I didn't and I don't. And the fact that you're unable to respond to what I've actually said without inventing fictional accounts is demonstration that you're more interested in protecting your beliefs than discovering the truth.

At no time did I claim that your experience was delusional. I just said that it wasn't evidence for the beliefs you're using it to support.


"yet you accept other people's personal accounts on other matters as being true."


I accept some claims and reject others - because not all claims are equivalent. The evidence needed to rationally support the claim "I have a pet dog" is different from that required to rationally support the claim "I have a pet leprechaun". Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

This confusion and claim of yours is confirmation of what I said: you're position is equivalent to gullibility and you'll believe almost anything anyone tells you. You see no difference between claims and you're willing to accept them all at face value - which is a horribly stupid thing to do, as it forces you to accept mutually exclusive propositions.

Meanwhile, you don't ACTUALLY do that, or you'd accept the claims that you're mistaken - which means that what you're really doing is engaging in confirmation bias.


" If you're to be consistent, and you reject my claim because it can't be physically verified (e.g., how a brain lights up says nothing of content unless it involves a motor skill), you should reject all personal belief claims."


As I just said ... not all claims are equal. Though most of them apparently seem that way to you.


"If you apply a slippery slope to it, then no abstract, subjective thoughts can be directly physically verified. So are we all just robots for having non-verifiable thoughts except for motor skills? But if you believe everyone but yourself is a robot (taking your rejection of non-verifiable things to its logical conclusion), that would be delusional by definition. So there's the contradiction."


The fact that you think that you just demonstrated a contradiction in my position, while misrepresenting my position and arguing that one can have no discernment based on the nature of claims....is probably the biggest confirmation of how ridiculous your position is.

Good bye. I hope you eventually see your way through to skepticism and critical thinking, but your dishonest and ignorance are seemingly beyond my ability to correct.

 

 

 

August 14, 2013
From ME:

Well, since you were kind enough to reply to me again, let me add:
 
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
 
Sure, but as I've said: Mind being abstract is the default position. Rather, it's your absolute claim that ALL evidence must be physical that is an extraordinary claim. Where's your evidence to support it? Your presupposition of naturalism is exactly that: a presup. But if you can't physically verify whether that limiting demand is true, then according to your own standard of evidence, your presupposition is merely an OPINION.
 
As for the rest of your reply, sure there are unequivalent claims. But where should one draw the line? Lemme guess: you accept only that which can be supported by physical evidence. In other words, it has to fulfill your criteria. Other people must have the same types of experience you're familiar with, otherwise they're not equivalent to your expectations. But that's kind of solipsistic, which is delusional in itself: and we're back to the implication that everyone can be robots, after all -- you have no direct physical evidence to suggest otherwise.
 
Also:
 
"It's not a category mistake - because I'm not asking for evidence for the supernatural, I'm asking for evidence for your claim - which has to do with manifestations of the supernatural."
 
It is a CATEGORY MISTAKE. Your distinction between a supernatural entity from a non-physical entity is negligible. You probably make the distinction because a supernatural entity supposedly does something, whereas the non-physical wouldn't necessarily do so. Essentially, though, you're asking for physical evidence of a metaphysical claim 'manifesting' into this world. The common theist perspective of how God interacts with the world, though, is through the opposition of transcendence/immanence -- both of which are as physically elusive as are our own abstract thoughts in the scientific world. So it's still a category mistake to ask for a physical demonstration of it.
 
Demanding physical evidence strictly from your callers, without specifying that beforehand, is what's not honest. You really need to add a disclosure at the beginning of the show, and save yourself some time with what you claim to be uncooperative, or what you ironically call dishonest callers. Definitions of 'evidence' don't necessarily imply a physical demonstration: for instance, 'that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.' 2. 'something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign,' etc.  On one of the transcripts of your show, just add the word PHYSICAL prior to the any use of the terms EVIDENCE and/or PROOF, and you'll seen how rationally circular your show is.
 
Furthermore, you say you viewed MINDSHOCK: TRANSFERRING MEMORIES, but you don't really have any valid objection against it. You just didn't like it. Well, good for you -- what can I say?
 
Adios.

P.S.: Another form of evidence may be a rational argument, at least to ascertain what's possible. This is relevant because many atheists lack belief in God simply because God doesn't seem possible. If you reject purely rational arguments, then it would be consistent of you to likewise reject the Principle of Non-Contradiction, as that was derived purely rationally:
 
From its author, Aristotle:
 
"There are some who both themselves assert that it is possible for the same thing to be and not to be, and say that people can judge this to be the case. But we have now posited that it is impossible for anything at the same time to be and not to be, and by this means have shown that this, the law of non-contradiction, is the most indisputable of all principles.-Some indeed demand that even this shall be demonstrated, but this they do through want of education, for not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education. For it is impossible that there should be demonstration of absolutely everything (there would be an infinite regress, so that there would still be no demonstration); but if there are things of which one should not demand demonstration, these persons could not say what principle they maintain to be more self-evident than the present one." (Metaphysics)
 
A purely rational claim may be tested charitably. For instance:
 
Out of a principle of charity, I would hear out what a person thinks. Rather than ask for personal reasons for their belief, as you do,  I would ask: Do you believe your belief has any rational basis:

At any rate, if their answers lead to a greater possibility their position is true, I would give them more charity to hear them out. If their answers lead to a lesser possibility, I would be less interested to hear further. If they provide a pamphlet-sized document that shows their position is entirely possible and consistent, as I do [under my youtube username: namesameasu], and will be providing an even better sequel for, I would be greatly interested.
 
That's basically how a charitable show testing metaphysical claims should work.
 
Thanks for your time.

 

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