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Brenda Von Ahsen
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Jen R "What is your proposed remedy for this problem" I like Zizek's solution of a third way. "Atheism in no way implies privileged access to the truth." Nonetheless many atheists explicitly make the claim that truth is objective. It is not. "And seriously, is it even possible for you to stop making casual references to the Nazis to try to win an argument?" When hiking the World Mountain it is wise to keep the abyss always in mind.
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Greta "The whole point of our argument is that this selectivism is not the right thing to do." My point is that it is next to impossible NOT to. That is the dilemma I propose, that everyone passes "facts" through their own set of ideological filters. Following that the belief that "we alone can know the truth" is extremely dangerous. Political movements that believe they have privileged access to truth sooner or later end up chucking babies into the ovens. Some atheists today are dangerously close to Naziesque levels of hubris. Sam Harris when he advocate torture, a nuclear first strike on Iran or argues (badly) that science can give us our values come very close to that. In my opinion many of today's New Atheist leaders are right wing neocon fascists. Atheism per se has nothing to say about one's politics and there are many atheists on both political extremes. I think that there is a general failure within the atheist community to acknowledge the extremists among them.
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"You're just jerking off, and I do not recall having consented to being your figurative sex-toy, so kindly leave us alone, pick up a crappy romance novel and go relieve yourself in private, like the decent people do." That's a pretty clear ad hom and in violation of Greta's comment policy. Unable to argue or to engage in discussion you instead resort to sexual attack. Pathetic.
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Greta "You think calling people fundamentalists, accusing them of willful misunderstanding, and comparing them to Nazis isn't ad hominem?" I've always been careful to say 'some' or 'many' or restrict myself to 'New Atheists'. Fundamentalism is synonymous with absolutism or scientism or black and white thinking and yes, many atheists today are guilty of Fundamentalism so understood. There is often a considerable amount of strawmaning that goes on among New Atheists today when they try to argue that religious fundamentalists are the only true members of their respective religion (Christian, Muslim or Judaism). And no, I never compared anyone to the Nazis. I said that is where any ethical theory ends up that sees facts as determining values. "Please read my comment policy, and respect it." I believe I am.
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DSimon "So, don't call me a Nazi" I didn't call you a Nazi, I'm sorry if you thought I did. I merely pointed in their direction as an example of what can happen when one allows "evidence and empiricism" to determine one's values. The best evidence of the time really did suggest that their program of eugenics was scientifically valid. They were not idiots, they had powerful arguments that convinced a lot of people. Even here in the US. All the evidence in the universe will never turn a value into a fact. "But, if they had been working from the facts instead of their own biases and prejudices and fears, they would've realized that they weren't accomplishing that value at all." But that's just it, they were working from the facts as they understood them. That is all anyone ever has. Let's try another example, communist USSR. They also derived their values from a set of facts that they knew were correct. Their social and political economy was based directly on the atheistic materialism of Marx and Engels and backed up with rational arguments that a great many people, even today, believe correctly describe how societies and economies work. And 50 million people died as a result. Hardening one's heart = shutting oneself off from a part of oneself = disaster.
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"if you're going to keep making the same arguments over and over again in every comment thread" I'm sorry. I'm just trying to explain myself. There do seem to be genuine misunderstandings going on so I just naturally try to restate my position in a way that can hopefully be understood. I would think you'd enjoy a lively discussion. Which is all I see happening. No one getting upset, no ad homs that I can see. Just genuine differences of opinion.
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"The God hypothesis is the claim that the universe is the way it is because a supernatural entity or force created it" Well yeah that's what the fundamentalists say. I'm agnostic and am taking a third (or forth) position between you and your favorite punching bag. Most of the time atheists are so unrelentingly dogmatic that they are incapable of thinking there could even be more than two positions. Is that your world? Is it purely black or white, this or that, Either/Or? If so that is what we call stinkin' thinkin'. It is this absolutist mentality that I am most opposed to. Who told you God was a noun?
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DSimon "And it's because we're very interested in actually accomplishing our goals that we put such a big emphasis on evidence and empiricism." I agree completely. Once you've decided that Jews should be exterminated, Science comes to the rescue in working out the most efficient means. Thanks zyklon b! Greta "Tell me that you're not really arguing for values that are divorced from reality." I don't know what "divorced from reality" is supposed to mean. Values are real, facts are real, but they are both different things are they not? Synthetic statements should not be confused with analytic statements. That is what it seems to me that some atheists do. Some atheists are quite explicit in their denial of the Is/Ought distinction. Others, I think, like to play games and try to have it both ways. Sometimes affirming, other times denying. "What you're arguing for is the exact opposite of that: rejecting reality in favor of what you want to believe. How is that sort of solipsism any sort of a positive value?" Again, I suspect that what you claim as "reality" is really just your own set of prejudices. And yet again, no, I am not arguing that reality is subjective. Quite the contrary, but I do think that you are misunderstanding me. Perhaps even willfully so. Which would be "hardening one's heart". Or more accurately, passing everything through one's own ideological filter. That would be my main criticism of the New Atheism, that it functions as an ideology in which one can truly believe.
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God is not a hypothesis.
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Eclectic, there are no rules for life. Facts exist, there is no doubt of that but they are not what people are really interested in. We want to know what values should inform our lives but we can never never derive those values from the facts of the world. Religious fundamentalists want their values to dictate the facts. Secular fundamentalists want facts to dictate their values. Both are mistaken. Both are like insects pined to a board. Stop struggling.
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There is a division, some would say a wound, that cuts through reality. Some people, atheist and theist alike, seek to deny this division exists. They dream and in their dream they fantasize of being whole and unbroken again. This cannot be so they construct their philosophy or theology around denial. We call such people Fundamentalists. It's a kind of grief really. A desire to return to or to recover what was lost. Valhar, there are no rules for what you ask.
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"Do you use a different definition of falsifiability?" Let's not lose sight here. I object to your use of falsifiability because that is scientism or naïve falsificationism. Logical Positivism has been roundly discredited yet New Atheists continue to use it as a club to beat their opponents with? Why? I believe that most of today's New Atheists are just lost Fundamentalists who have replaced God with Science. The dogmatic assertion of the failed philosophy of Logical Positivism only strengthens my case. "If anything at all can happen "because God moves in mysterious ways" and no outcome is precluded, even statistically, then you have a statement which is vacuous, meaningless, and unfalsifiable." Or a good working definition of quantum mechanics. Wherein "no outcome is precluded, even statistically". You see, I think you want things both ways. I think you want absolute certainty only when it suits you. And that, of course, is against the rules.
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"As far as I know, falsifiability is a prerequisite for discussing the truth of a statement." Yes, you are indeed very confused. Falsifiability has nothing to do with the truth of propositions. The question of what is it that makes any proposition true is pretty involved but here is the condensed version: 'Snow is white' is true if and only if snow is white. Simple!
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" if you're sincerely asking me to ignore evidence when deciding what is and is not true about, you know, reality" You haven't been listening. Of course you should consider evidence when deciding the truth value of propositions. Nothing I've said contradicts that.
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I sincerely doubt that any religious person has ever said "My faith is nothing more than wishful thinking." That's just what you think they said because you already passed whatever was actually stated through your atheist ideology. You heard what you wanted to hear. "it's basically telling atheists that what we have to do to believe is not to look at this piece or that piece of evidence, but to try really, really hard to believe." No, what you have to give up is the very idea that your life should revolve around evidence. Evidence is a hard Master isn't he?
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(cont) "With all due respect, you can't be serious. There is a massive body of evidence pointing to the theory that, at the very least, a significant amount of human behavior is wired into us from birth." I don't accept Cognitivism and I don't accept that any human behaviors are "hard wired". The latter is an unscientific term that has no real meaning. "We are wired to learn language" I have no idea what "wired" is supposed to mean. Should I look for wires in my head? We are not wired to learn languages, we have a capacity to learn but if a narrow window of opportunity for learning a language is missed that the child will never learn. "We're using and adapting the machinery we already have in our brains," said study coauthor Aaron Newman, from the University of Rochester. "Obviously we're doing something different [from other animals], because we're able to learn language unlike any other species. But it's not because some little black box evolved specially in our brain that does only language, and nothing else." "That doesn't mean every aspect of our behavior is predetermined, or that we can't make choices." Well that's exactly what "hard wired" means. It means that the behavior is predetermined. Animal mating rituals are "hard wired". They are fixed behaviors that cannot be changed by the individual animal's free will. "But I fail to see how a refusal to let go of a belief regardless of the evidence is a positive good we should strive for." I don't either, so why do you do that? Fundamentalists and Atheists think that faith has something to do with belief. Again, having faith means acting in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Fundamentalists and Atheists think it means believing contrary to all evidence. "when it comes to deciding what probably is or is not really true about the universe, we want our understanding to be compatible with the best available evidence. Why is that a bad thing?" No, it's not a bad thing. But religion is not about determining true facts about the world, that's what science does. Religion attempts to answer the question of how we should live. If current theologies are insufficient then we need better ones. "You're missing the point. The question isn't, "Why isn't God reaching out to me?" The question is, "Why isn't God reaching out to everybody?" For the same reason, because it isn't about you (plural). Religious institutions are examples of collective intentionality. They demand that we set aside our ego, our Will to Power, and submit to something greater than ourselves. You know a little about submission don't you? But, you don't really submit, you top from the bottom. Hence your "frustration" in other posts. "Having accurate information makes us more free to make the right choices, not less." Living ones life to the fullest means NOT making the right choices.
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"How does denying me pertinent information make me more free to make an informed decision?" If you are making an informed decision then you are not acting on faith. "Why does God deprive some people of this supposed direct experience of him, but not others?" People who believe they have direct experience of god are delusional. "Both evolutionary theory and global climate change are falsifiable hypotheses." No, they are not. If it were true that falling global mean temps refute climate change then it would have been refuted long ago. Global temps have not gone up steadily every year. The fact that global temps go up and down is why it was renamed to climate change from global warming. Misplaced fossils have been found and, just as cool years do not refute climate change, they do not refute evolution either. I am not arguing against evolution or climate change but please notice the form of the argument: Evolution and climate change are not non-falsifiable because discovery X would falsify them. X has been discovered. Nonetheless, Evolution and climate change have not been falsified. Therefore Evolution and climate change are non-falsifiable.
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"But if "open your heart" means "engage in wishful thinking," we're not willing for that to be the basis of our beliefs." This demonstrates that you have indeed hardened your heart. Why? Because the move that you make here, that of stereotyping and mocking your opponent, is one way of closing oneself off from any possibility of dialog. Let's use substitution to make it more clear: "We are not a racists, but if not being a racist means treating blacks as if they were our equals then I'm not willing for that to be the basis of our belief." See how that works?
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(cont) "If there's no possible way to show that your hypothesis is false, there's no way to know whether it's true." This is false. Complex non-falsifiable systems such as evolutionary theory or climate change can be subject to scientific analysis. Scientism is a common error of the New Atheists of today. "No matter how many times we gave God the old college try... we clearly haven't tried hard enough. I mean -- we don't believe!" Au contraire. Today, it is the atheist who truly believes! Theists are today's unbelievers. That is why they are so reviled. "Rationalization is a deeply hard-wired part of how the human mind works" Yes, I know that is one of the dogmas of your faith but humans are not machines Sebastian, we're organic. We are not "hard wired" to do anything because we are not wired at all. We can choose, we can act freely. If you truly believe in determinism... well, that is a very bleak outlook indeed. If all your actions are hard wired then how do you explain this blog? Why even attempt any kind of rational discussion at all? "I am open to my mind being changed." How is this even possible? If, as you claim, beliefs are hard wired then it is impossible for you to change your mind at all. You might think you are in charge but that is an illusion. You no more run things than the froth on a wave brings in the tide. You are an epiphenomenon and have no material effect on the world whatsoever. You're just going along for the ride but it isn't like you actually matter. "If God exists... then why isn't he reaching out to me?" Because it isn't all about you. "I have yet to see a good answer for why God is all-powerful and all-knowing and all-good [...] and still isn't perceived by everybody." So that you may have faith.
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FYI I'm agnostic, neither atheist nor theist, but I can argue either side. I'll take a crack at answering the questions posed here. "Why did God create atheists?" God didn't create anybody. God set the universe in motion with all it's characteristics in place. Evolution is a natural process no more inconsistent with a deity than gravity. "If God is real, and religious believers are perceiving a real entity..." God isn't real. God is not a part of the natural order and therefore is not "real", sensible or perceivable. Nevertheless god exists. "why is anyone an atheist?" Free will, duhhh... Objection: "This idea is totally unfalsifiable." So are climate change and evolution. Falsifiability was a dogma of the now discredited philosophy of Logical Positivism. Though it is understandable why arrogant and dogmatic atheists might wish to pretend it is still a viable position. The principle of falsifiability has been replaced by that of testability. Which makes it much harder to bully ignorant creationists with. "We can point out the pain and distress many of us went through when we let go of our beliefs -- pain and distress that this "You've just closed your heart to God" trope seriously trivializes." Religion isn't really about belief, that is what science is about. Religion is about faith. Which refers to the willingness to act in spite of or in the absence of any evidence that the choice one is making is the right choice. Thus, "opening one's heart to god" means that one acts, takes a leap of faith, without any assurance that act will payoff. To make such a leap requires that one be open to the infinity of possible worlds that you are "leaping into". By closing their hearts and demanding all action by rigidly and rationally justified atheists actually narrow and limit their horizon to only that which can be known. The theists horizon of experience is infinite and therefore superior. (cont)
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Jun 28, 2010