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View Poll Results: You are a...
firm believer 167 28.89%
Deist 18 3.11%
Theist 23 3.98%
Agnostic 120 20.76%
Atheist 250 43.25%
Voters: 578. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 02-23-2009, 05:39 AM   #826
yonnieboy
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I don't understand the "rules" gig so many christians try to throw at the argument. Do they think that just because Atheists don't accept the existence of a god that they also do not accept right and wrong? Did they somehow overlook the fact that atheists have to blame themselves when things in life go wrong? Atheists in general have a strong respect for all forms of life and the planet because they also accept the fact that we are a fluke of the universe and have no right to be here. We don't have a god to go run to and beg for forgiveness for killing or raping or stealing or trashing the planet. But we can blame those who believe that nothing matters because their god is going to come and rebuild the planet, pave all the streets with gold (like that's going to be a good place in a lightening storm), bring the dead back, clean up the litter, etc...
 
Old 02-23-2009, 05:56 AM   #827
XavierP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jiml8 View Post
Logically identical.
Not really. Believing in an absence is an active thing. Not having a belief is a passive one. Maybe splitting hairs, but it saves the argument of "atheists really believe on gawd because they believe he doesn't exist" and so on.
 
Old 02-23-2009, 07:00 AM   #828
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Originally Posted by yonnieboy View Post
We don't have a god to go run to and beg for forgiveness for killing or raping or stealing or trashing the planet.
Yep, Christians have a blank check to "sin" as much as they want. All they need to do after the fact is yell: "JEEEZUZ pleeze forgives mehh!!" and then all is right with the world.
Their "rules" mean absolutely nothing because forgiveness is instantaneous.

Someone who doesnt believe in a personal god has to carry the weight of his actions on his conscience for the rest of his life. And that builds character because the only place we can find forgivess is from those who we have wronged; and if we cant get forgiveness from them, then tough shit, we just cant get forgiveness at all.
 
Old 02-23-2009, 07:24 AM   #829
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I don't understand the "rules" gig so many christians try to throw at the argument.
Maybe they don't know about law, morality and common sense.
 
Old 02-23-2009, 07:42 AM   #830
easuter
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Found this on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7YvhnPtMpA

Just for a Monday afternoon laugh
 
Old 02-23-2009, 08:30 AM   #831
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Believing in an absence is an active thing. Not having a belief is a passive one.
OMG, that makes it even worse. So now passive belief - pretty much the same as denial - is superior to active belief? And please define "thing" in those two statements - the word is so vague that it will serve to mask up anything.
 
Old 02-23-2009, 09:46 AM   #832
XavierP
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Do you believe I can fly unaided? How often do you have to assert that belief?
 
Old 02-23-2009, 12:07 PM   #833
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Do you believe I can fly unaided?
Well, you certainly sound like you are high. Come down, XP, the week-end is over!

Seriously, let's have a closer look at your claim.

(1) I believe that I can fly.
(2) I do not believe that I can fly.
(3) I believe that God exists.
(4) I do not believe that God exists.

What sets 1 and 2 apart from 3 and 4 is the nature of the proposition ("that ..."). The first pair is empirically verifiable while the second one is not. That the latter pair is not follows from the very first verse of the Old Testament ("In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth" - note that "Heavens" here has a broader sense than the customary one as ancient Hebrew did not have a word for "universe"), which implies that God exists outside time and space; how can one point to anything that is not physical? On the other hand, it would be a piece of cake to show that your chances of flying unaided are rather dim. Let's drive you to the nearest cliff and give you a bit of a shove; Q.E.D.
Certainly, you could then go on to argue that anything non-empirical is by definition nonsense. This would be a good idea in some cases but it really cannot be made into a golden rule. My latest posts contain quite a few examples of realities that exist only by virtue of social convention, not because they are grounded in the physical world (although these conventions can give them a physical basis - think of traffic lights: they are physical only because someone decided to put them up; and they are meaningful only because society has decreed that, in the context of traffic lights, "green" means "go" and "red" means stop - but why?).
Now for the confusion between 1 and 2 (or 3 and 4). Both make a claim, the only difference being that they do so with more or less force. Negative attitudes are not neutral and they do require justification. In many cases, such justification is simply less obvious because it is conventional, so deeply embedded in the subject's culture and upbringing that (s)he fails to notice it. If your employer gives you something to do and you say you "don't believe you can do it", the burden of proof will be on you. If your country levies taxes and you think you "don't believe that is a good idea", you will be asked for your arguments.

Last edited by jay73; 02-23-2009 at 12:12 PM.
 
Old 02-23-2009, 12:25 PM   #834
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Originally Posted by Quakeboy02 View Post
Sounds like the precursor to another pointless "god of the gaps" argument, to me.



Yep, there it is.



You should be careful with this particular argument. It fails pretty quickly when it faces the uphill battle against the infinite regression problem.



This is an interesting turn of phrase, Jim in that it presupposes that there was a god to remove in the first place.



There's that god of the gaps argument again.



Followed by the inevitable insistence that agnosticism must be the default position.

Oh well.
"God of the gaps"? What is this? yeah, yeah, I get it: "the fact that science explains this and that does not rule out a god because there are things that science doesn't explain."

And your logical, fundamental problem with that argument is...what, exactly?

Newton's laws were known to be right.. Until Einstein managed to show that they were only "laws" in a limited sense. An expansion in knowledge leads to a new understanding.

We can presume in pretty much all cases that an expansion of knowledge will lead to a new understanding. What that understanding will be...can't be stated in advance.

To this point, our science, as we understand it, takes us back to an apparent beginning. What is before that beginning? We don't know, though we have a few tantalizing clues.

But what if it can be shown that "the beginning" was in fact a set of generated initial conditions. And On the Seventh Day, God toppled the First Domino. And the Universe began, and God sat back to watch. Or God moved on to other things. Or God did some other incomprehensible god-like thing.

I have no idea if this is true or not. But it can't at this time be ruled out. The claim "there is no god" is just as much a statement of faith as any positive assertion of the existence and nature of god.

Actually, all things considered, I would not be at all surprised were we to learn that we are god. Again, there are a few, a very few, tantalizing hints that *might* lead in that direction. We will know more when and if we are able to formally define "life".
 
Old 02-23-2009, 01:10 PM   #835
XavierP
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Originally Posted by jay73 View Post
If your employer gives you something to do and you say you "don't believe you can do it", the burden of proof will be on you. If your country levies taxes and you think you "don't believe that is a good idea", you will be asked for your arguments.
This isn't quite right - if your employer sets you a task that you have never done before, why wouldn't you ask "why do you think I can do this?" However, in terms of religion (any religion) the believers have said "there is a deity even if you can't see, hear, touch or even measure it in any way", the atheist quite rightly says "prove it". Instead of making the atheist prove a negative, the believer(s) need to do the far easier task of proving the positive. In the same way that my claim to flight would need to be proven, rather than making you jump through the hoops of proving I can't.
 
Old 02-23-2009, 01:25 PM   #836
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Originally Posted by jiml8 View Post
"God of the gaps"? What is this? yeah, yeah, I get it: "the fact that science explains this and that does not rule out a god because there are things that science doesn't explain."
Science is incremental. There are no really big gaps left for the scientists to work on. To this point, there is no physical or logical evidence of a god, whether "one true" or otherwise. From what we know about the physical universe, and we know a LOT, there is simply no necessity for a god.

And, as I mentioned the problem of infinite regression makes it extremely difficult for any scientist to seriously postulate a god. Why? One of the arguments for a god is some serious misreading of the 2nd law of thermodynamics; where the arguer believes that since the universe tends toward disorder, it must have started with perfect order. Somehow this then gets perverted to imply (and then insist) that the perfect order would be god. However, we see that life works in the exact opposite fashion, and goes from the simple to the complex, disorder to order.

There's also the issue of the philosophical difference between god and science. With a firm belief in god, there is no science. As we saw in Behe's attempt to usurp science, when "god did it" is asserted (and believed) as the answer to any unknown, then the search for answers inevitably stops.

There's also the question of how to find god if he/she/it doesn't want to be found. In order to "bell the cat" you must be smarter and more powerful than the cat.

Further to the issue is the false dichotomy (I love that phrase) that is insistently pressed by the faithful. There are more choices than merely "there is a god" or "there is not a god". From a philosophical standpoint, this could all be a dream. All this could be a computer simulation. Or something else entirely. To the scientist, all these other potential answers are irrelevant. If there is a god and he is trying to fool us into believing there is not a god (strange, but OK) it doesn't matter. Our inspection of the known universe has shown it to be a consistent universe with consistent laws whether god is hiding his tracks, or there is a dreamer, or it's a computer simulation, or something else, entirely. In order to advance the cause of science, only the "not god" case is relevant.

Quote:
Newton's laws were known to be right.. Until Einstein managed to show that they were only "laws" in a limited sense. An expansion in knowledge leads to a new understanding.
I would suggest that you look into this a bit more. Einstein did not throw out Newton's laws. What he did was refine them and fill in the blanks. Science has come a long way since the dark ages. It has been a very long time since any major area of scientific knowledge has been shown to be wrong. What we continue to see is stepwise refinement, not major discovery.

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We can presume in pretty much all cases that an expansion of knowledge will lead to a new understanding. What that understanding will be...can't be stated in advance.
This is true, but at this point, as just stated, it's unlikely to the point of improbability that something as fundamental as evolution or general relativity will be shown to be wrong. The theories are simply too well supported by fact.

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To this point, our science, as we understand it, takes us back to an apparent beginning. What is before that beginning? We don't know, though we have a few tantalizing clues.

But what if it can be shown that "the beginning" was in fact a set of generated initial conditions. And On the Seventh Day, God toppled the First Domino. And the Universe began, and God sat back to watch. Or God moved on to other things. Or God did some other incomprehensible god-like thing.
No such answer will ever be contemplated by a scientist, because, as already stated, it is a dead end. If we discover the higgs (or not) and if that leads us to some point that we cannot cross (i.e. brane theory is falsified) then the point will be marked as "unknown at the moment", not as "here is god".

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I have no idea if this is true or not. But it can't at this time be ruled out. The claim "there is no god" is just as much a statement of faith as any positive assertion of the existence and nature of god.
As explained, the statement "there is no god" is the rejection of an answer that is a dead end. If there is some cryptic paranoid god/creator, then we will never know. Science won't be able to measure it, and thus it will never be put forward as "the answer".

Quote:
Actually, all things considered, I would not be at all surprised were we to learn that we are god. Again, there are a few, a very few, tantalizing hints that *might* lead in that direction. We will know more when and if we are able to formally define "life".
Apparent we've forgotten how to use our "super cow" powers, then.
 
Old 02-23-2009, 01:41 PM   #837
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This isn't quite right - if your employer sets you a task that you have never done before, why wouldn't you ask "why do you think I can do this?" However, in terms of religion (any religion) the believers have said "there is a deity even if you can't see, hear, touch or even measure it in any way", the atheist quite rightly says "prove it". Instead of making the atheist prove a negative, the believer(s) need to do the far easier task of proving the positive. In the same way that my claim to flight would need to be proven, rather than making you jump through the hoops of proving I can't.
Good point but I am not convinced. First of all, you seem to have introduced a couple of modifications to my example. I did not say that the task in question was one that you had never done before. This is important because you are thus circumventing the challenge I posed: if the negative is the default, as you are suggesting, then it is "categorical", that is, it would apply regardless of circumstances or conditions, and not just when such and such is the case.
Also, the second part of your argument is incompatible with my previous post. What the believer "needs to do" will depend on your point of view, it is not self-evident. If you were to approach the subject from a scientific point of view, then obviously, yes, you would be right because that is the way that science works; and this way is taught in school; if we abolished education, how many would end up producing anything like the modern scientific attitude? What is more, it would be an illusion to think that scientific methodology is sacrosanct outside its own province. By way of illustration, try and prove in a scientific way (and then, more particularly, taking the approach of the exact sciences) that a red light does not mean go, that a couple have been married, that the border between England and Scotland is not just conventional, that one and one really equal two, that English "dog" is the proper term and not "chien", "Hund", "hond", you name it, that these words cover the same reality, etc. etc.
More fundamentally, looking over so many scientific arguments against religion, I am beginning to wonder whether those people have really thought about their claims at all. Science describes and explains what is; at no time should it make any claims about what should be. Mind, if I am telling what science should do or not, then I am doing so not from my own convictions but from its own! Remember, in order to make any progress, science needs to be value-free? And how could one prove in a way that is even remotely scientific that man and woman are equal, that we are not to kill, that science is superior to religion, heck, that it makes any difference whether our species should continue at all? You simply cannot. Facts are not the same as values. How then about atheism that invokes evolution as its justification? Just because we may observe a decline of religion in the West does not mean this should be made a goal. You cannot jump from facts to values and neither can you generalize from one rather limited era or area to the rest of history or the world. This all sounds so familiar. As a linguist, I remember the days when my own discipline had the same sort of delusions. A good linguist was one who knew what constitutes proper usage of the language and who slapped others around the ears whenever they were caught making a mistake. At this time, however, linguistics has moved from a normative discipline to a purely descriptive one. We no longer have the illusion that we know better, now we limit ourselves to description and explanation. Linguists are still free to criticize others, of course, only that means that they implicitly give up their claim to speak with the authority of science.

Last edited by jay73; 02-23-2009 at 04:56 PM.
 
Old 02-23-2009, 01:53 PM   #838
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if the negative is the default, as you are suggesting, then it is "categorical", that is, it would apply regardless of circumstances or conditions, and not just when such and such is the case.
It is categorical. If you make an assertion in any endeavor, then it is up to you to prove it. It is nonsensical to make statements of the order "The earth is flat. Prove me wrong".

Quote:
Also, the second part of your argument is incompatible with my previous post. What the believer "needs to do" will depend on your point of view, it is not self-evident. If you were to approach the subject from a scientific point of view, then obviously, yes, you would be right because that is the way that science works; and this way is taught in school
And to my mind, that pretty much ties a pretty bow on it. A categorical rejection of the scientific method is pretty much a rejection of everything within reach. We see that the scientific method works; both as a way of life and a way of managing our environment. We have not seen the case where something is created out of thin air; i.e without using scientific principles.
 
Old 02-23-2009, 02:31 PM   #839
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nd to my mind, that pretty much ties a pretty bow on it. A categorical rejection of the scientific method is pretty much a rejection of everything within reach. We see that the scientific method works; both as a way of life and a way of managing our environment. We have not seen the case where something is created out of thin air; i.e without using scientific principles.
For the last ten posts or so, I have been citing examples of cultural realities that have no basis in science whatsoever, yet you not only ignore them, you go as far as to suggest that the world would still be inhabitable if we did away with all that cannot be explained in terms of THE (?) scientific method: law, language, art, culture, etiquette, nations, signs, religions, ... One may find some foundation in evolution but that is a far cry from explaining how they work, let alone explain why we should keep them going. Let's bear in mind that science is all about "how", never about "why".

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It is nonsensical to make statements of the order "The earth is flat. Prove me wrong".
What? That is exactly how it works. There are so many "facts" that a scientific theory can never be proved once and for all; it is a lot more efficient to try and prove that it is wrong; as long as such evidence is missing, the theory is at least potentially true. And again, this applies to scientific theories only. Or wait, that was Karl Popper in "The Logic of Scientific Discoveries", over half a century ago. Modern logic (Wittgenstein, Quine) and philosophy of science (Kuhn, Feyerabend) have gone a lot further and posit radical incommensurability, that is, the idea that it is totally impossible to make sense of one field of human knowledge in light of another one.

Last edited by jay73; 02-23-2009 at 02:41 PM.
 
Old 02-23-2009, 03:11 PM   #840
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For the last ten posts or so, I have been citing examples of cultural realities that have no basis in science whatsoever, yet you not only ignore them, you go as far as to suggest that the world would still be inhabitable if we did away with all that cannot be explained in terms of THE (?) scientific method: law, language, art, culture, etiquette, nations, signs, religions
Why do you insist that law, language, art, culture, etiquette, nations, signs, religions, (presumably ad nauseum) have no root in the scientific method?

Law (presumably "God's law" or at least the 10 commandments) is firmly rooted in the principles that provide for the common good.

Language allows us to communicate with each other. In fact we know the roots of all the major languages, and the rules that would be necessary to construct new ones.

Art: well, which art? The art that pleases (or disgusts) you, or that which has an effect on me? Distinguish it somehow, and we can discuss it.

Culture, please distinguish this a little better if you want to discuss.

Etiquette provides the formalised lubrication to ease our social interactions, and should really be classified up there with "law".

Nation allow us to group together for a common cause and to defend against common enemies, which may be man, animal, nature, or whatever.

Signs. What signs? "Signs from god?" or road signs or signs on a theater?

Religions provide much the same function as nations. They allow us to interact with others that have similar beliefs; usually with rituals that reassure us that all is OK.

Simplistic, yes. But you get the general idea. If you do find something that can have no basis in the scientific method, i.e. must have been imposed externally to man from "on high", please put it out there to discuss. But, do think on it carefully. What may clearly be a "sign from god" to you will probably be better explained as circumstance and chance.

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One may find some foundation in evolution but that is a far cry from explaining how they work, let alone explain why we should keep them going. Let's bear in mind that science is all about "how", never about "why".
Science provides a perfectly good answer to "why", or do you have a specific you'd like to discuss?


Quote:
What? That is exactly how it works. There are so many "facts" that a scientific theory can never be proved once and for all; it is a lot more efficient to try and prove that it is wrong; as long as such evidence is missing, the theory is at least potentially true. And again, this applies to scientific theories only.
So, pick a theory, any theory and offer a credible alternative. The problem with putting forth alternative theories arises from the nature of a scientific theory. Essentially, a scientific theory must not be contradicted by any known facts. If you have an alternative theory that is not the theory of evolution, but is not contradicted by any observation, then put it forward. Pointing to missing evidence is simply proposing a "god of the gaps" mentality, and each new discovery will add one more gap to criticise. Such a methodology accomplishes nothing, when you consider the sheer volume of evidence for any modern scientific theory.

Quote:
Or wait, that was Karl Popper in "The Logic of Scientific Discoveries", over half a century ago. Modern logic (Wittgenstein, Quine) and philosophy of science (Kuhn, Feyerabend) have gone a lot further and posit radical incommensurability, that is, the idea that it is totally impossible to make sense of one field of human knowledge in light of another one.
I have no way to address this. I don't have enough formal education in philosophy to even guess whether Kuhn is taken seriously or not. At a guess, I'd say not. If different branches of science had no way of reaching a consensus, we would not have the body of science that we have; science would fail. It would help if you would show two fields of human *knowledge* that are at odds.
 
  


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