Wow, okay, my last post went over like a lead balloon on Reddit. I thought it was fair and coherent, but apparently people disagreed with my conclusions and downmodded it as a result.

However, one guy (it could be a girl. Perhaps I assume too much) was rational, calm and intelligent enough to discuss it with me without a flamewar erupting. He’s known as Strontium90 in the comments of that last post. He continued the discussion over on reddit but I want to make sure y’all read this because I think his points are good, even though I’ve refuted most of them. Here’s what he had to say:

I commented on your blog as Strontium90. Unfortunately, you seem to be confused about what a null hypothesis is, the concept of the burden of proof, and the nature of positive/negative claims. You also dismiss the subtle differences between agnosticism and atheism as mere semantics, while insisting that something as innocuous as a water-like substance could be discovered, which we would call god. This is a double standard.

You also seem to be under the impression that atheists do not believe in gods because they do not like them, which is why you brought up several examples of gods that atheists would likely find favorable (such as the love-goddess) as a counter-example. Unfortunately, the repulsiveness of deities is not what causes atheism; their implausibility does.

You also seem to be unable to grasp bobbincygna’s analogy. I will attempt to elucidate.

[[[For readers: When I implied atheism is a religion someone responded: "If Atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby." And then bobbincygna attempted to defend the analogy. -Vemrion]]]

On bobbincygna’s analogy:

Take the set of all hobbies out there. H = [hobbies]. This includes everything you would call a hobby, from collecting stamps to messing with telemarketers. Now, let us suppose that we take the (rather passive) activity of not collecting stamps. Is it reasonable to place it in that set? No, of course not. Someone who has no hobbies can call called an a [without] hobbyist [person who has a hobby or hobbies].

Now, take the set of all religions, from Buddhism to Scientology, call it R. All items in set R are characterized by various elements: the lionization of faith, the existence of holy books or scripture, the presence of some sort of supernatural elements, etc. Does a belief which simply consists of “I do not believe in the supernatural, I do not believe that books are holy, and I do not take extraordinary claims on faith” belong there? I don’t think so. It, like the lack of stamp collecting, is a lack of theistic belief. This is what atheism means – a [without] theism [belief in god].

Atheism, the most oft-displayed example of metaphysical naturalism, can be termed as a philosophy, or perhaps a meta-religious view (view about religion), but it certainly is not a religion. There are no holy texts, only books which effectively sum up the philosophical arguments against theism. There is no dogma among atheists, unless you count a lack of belief in gods. This does not really count though, because it is necessarily true that an atheist lacks belief in gods. And he certainly will not be excommunicated or disowned by his parents if he later professes theism. Faith is not celebrated, instead it is essentially abandoned in favor of reason. Leaders and followers do not exist: Richard Dawkins might be influencial, but I don’t consider his words to be gospel, and neither do most atheists. They happen to share a lot of his beliefs, though. There is no formalized ritual such as prayer, sacrifice, etc, which is another thing that sets atheists apart from theists.

Pretty well-reasoned, I thought. But I definitely want to challenge some of his assertions. Here is my response:

My apologies for the confusion over the water-diety. I didn’t make it clear, but I was referring to something similar to a water elemental — basically a spirit that is infused with one of the four elements (water is a compound, of course, but it’s also one of the classical elements), Fire, Earth, Air and Water (the Chinese add a 5th: Metal). It’s probably not a very good analogy since it’s completely hypothetical and imaginary, at least as far as science is concerned.

I grasp the stamp hobby analogy just fine. It’s a poor analogy, though, which you seem unable to grasp. Here’s why:

Collecting is an activity. Philately is a hobby. However, you could still be a philatelist and not actually collect anything. How? By knowing a heck of a lot about stamps, that’s how. Philately is the study of stamps, not the act of collecting them. You could be an expert in stamp lore without actually having a collection or wanting one.

Actually, maybe the analogy is not so poor, since once you learn how faulty it is you might be able to understand how atheism could be considered a religion. Of course, this does depend on semantics to an extent.

An extremely simple definition of religion is this: “A religion is a set of common beliefs and practices generally held by a group of people.” Boom. You hold beliefs in common with other atheists (you refuse to worship “known” gods) and your practices are also similar in that you refuse to attend worship services (I assume. Personally, I make exceptions for weddings and funerals, but I don’t “worship”). It may be negative, but that doesn’t mean you can’t group it under religion.

For example, you’ve already admitted that atheism is a philosophy. Would you also consider it a theological perception? Just because the content of your theological perception attacks the underlying structure of most other theologies and even theism itself, that does not stop it from being classified as some form of theological outlook. Do they study atheism in theology classes? In many cases, yes (there might be some bias in many of them, of course).

As for dogma, yes I consider the lack of belief in gods to be a dogma among atheists. If someone claimed to be atheist, but continually made shrines to Buddha would you consider him a “real” atheist?

To take it even further, have you ever heard “The first rule is that there are no rules.” Is that a rule? Sure seems like it to me, even though its singular act is to bar all other rules. It may be recursive, negative and contradictory… But it’s still a rule.

Also, if you knew more about theology you’d know that there are several religions that are nontheist. They generally don’t deny the existence of gods, they just aren’t concerned with them, and don’t take a stance on them either way. Confucianism and other eastern religions are a perfect example. For this reason, many people like to call them philosophies rather than faiths or religions, but this is another semantic argument, one that is caused by the overwhelming prevalence of Christianity in the weltanschauung of westerners.

If you consider ritual a necessary part of the definition of religion, consider the scientific method. It’s also a dogma of sorts, and it prescribes a methodology for discovering and verifying knowledge in such a way as it will be acceptable to others in the sci
entific community. In much the same way that a priest prepares to consecrate bread and wine, a dutiful scientist will prepare for an experiment by controlling for variables and making predictions (hypotheses) before the experiment-ritual itself is performed.

As for proceeding from the assumption of the null hypothesis, that’s your business. It’s certainly a good idea in science, but in matters of faith things are not so cut and dried.

Also, please note that I am not calling you a religious person by stating atheism could be considered a religion. I’m just pointing out that atheism is quite similar to other religions, and as it grows there is a risk that it could be seized and exploited by charlatans. I believe there was a South Park episode about this. I am also sure you would see through the bullshit and hopefully refrain from any atheistic fundamentalism, but just remember that there are a lot of stupid people out there. In fact, some people are dumb as fuck!

Even as I’m drawing religion and science together, surely you’ll concede there is much that separates them. The problem is that the scientific method is not known to work for the business of discovering gods. I believe Scott Adams once compared this folly to using a metal detector to check for unicorns in one’s sock drawer. The fact of the matter is, we haven’t discovered a “god” (definitively, based on the scientific method) so how can we say we’re using the best tools for the job?

Perhaps a new method is called for. Of course, if I knew that method I’d present you with solid proof of the existence of god(s). But you could easily reject it by saying my method does not adhere to the principles of the scientific method. But what if my method was better, at least for discovering and identifying divine beings?

A question to ponder: Have your placed your faith in the scientific method?


 

You can screech back, or trackback from your own site.

33 Responses to “Atheism as a religion: A discussion and analysis”

  1. Brian says:

    Well, to answer your question, no. I do not put faith in the scientific method. The point is that you don’t have to. If the scientific method failed to produce consistent, rational results, then it would be useless. The simple fact is that we live in a universe where the scientific method works. No faith is required.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Your definition:“A religion is a set of common beliefs and practices generally held by a group of people.”is incorrect. A religion is belief system based on superstition. Atheiesm is a belief system based on reason. We use science, and its record of success, to guide our beliefs about the world.So yes, my “faith” is in the scientific method, because < HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COBE" REL="nofollow">it works<>(credit to the xkcd guy). If the evidence ever points to religion, then maybe I will pick one up.

  3. conundri says:

    Faith is what i would say qualifies something as a religion. And Atheists lack faith. No, we do not have “Faith” in the scientific method. The dictionary definition of faith is… “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” – American Heritage Dictionary.As to sharing common beliefs and practices makes something a religion, then i say soccer is a religion too… Everyone who plays soccer shares common beliefs, like what constitutes a goal, what things are fouls, and every team i know has practices… I want a tax deduction for gear…

  4. TheColdTomorrow says:

    The one thing I don’t like about your argument is the simple definition of religion you chose. I say chose because there seem to be quite a few definitions, and based on the person reading the definitions and their “internal bias”, they will chose which one seems appropriate to them, I prefer the definition “an institution to express belief in a supernatural deity, or divine power”. This is probably because I think that belief systems that do not rely on a deity, like scientology, buddhism, etc.. are not religions, but philosophies, like you mentioned. I also want to stress the institution part, that religion is a structured group. I know a few people who believe in a god/deity, but don’t follow any religion, you would call them spiritual, but not religious.

  5. Vemrion says:

    Brian: Ah, but how do you know it works completely? It might be 90% effective, or 99.5% effective, but that falls short of perfection. If you’re going to base everything you know know and believe on something don’t you think you should be sure it’s up to the job all the time, rather than just the majority of the time?There are still things science can’t explain, you know. Somehow I bet you’re confident that science will eventually explain them. That’s faith, buddy. Experience, testing and observation has shown science to be fallible. Science is practiced by humans and humans are fallible… unless you think humans have managed to invent something perfect, infallible and all-knowing….anon 15:50 & conundri: You guys just told me totally contradictory things. Discuss.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I was the anonymous guy. I wasn’t aware of the dictionary definition of faith. So, no, my faith isn’t in the scientific method. It seems to be the most reliable, testable way of determining reality, so I favor it to religion. I don’t think one can have faith, as defined by conundri, in the scientific method since I read that definition as “belief that does not rest on [science]“

  7. conundri says:

    Sure, science is fallible, but it has a heckuva lot better record than ancient religious texts, and reasons made up by religious leaders… exactly what percentage would you give them for correctness? 1%? I for one am also perfectly happy to admit that science, and even humans may never be able to “know everything”. I try to be true to myself and admit when i don’t know something rather than opt for a bs answer based on “Faith”

  8. David says:

    Their was a south park episode about this and it was so hilarious.

  9. Insidium says:

    Hello. I previously posted as Strontium90, but I have chosen this screenname because it coincides with the one I use on reddit. I consider myself a naturalist, and naturalism is a total rejection of the supernatural whereas atheism specifically rejects deities. Note: I do not care for football, but it is instrumental to my purposes.A few clarifications. I am male. I am also aware of non-theistic (which, in my view, differs from atheism only in terms of context) religions. I am aware also that both religion and science are incredibly difficult to define concisely and exlusively. However, just because there is no precise point at which a collection of grains of sand constitute a pile of sand, it is not reasonable to conclude that piles of sand do not exist. The same is true, incidentally, of the nature of life viruses are not alive, bacteria are alive, but what about self-replicating molecules? What about catalytic systems that arise spontaneously? When one attempts to draw a rigid line which separates life from nonlife, religion from non-religion, or science from non-science, one is doomed to failure since such phenomena are too complex to fit into simple conceptual boxes. However, it does not follow from this fact that there it is impossible to tell apart life from non-life, religion from non-religion, etc. Hence, I will argue that while Christianity and Islam are obviously religions; Buddhism and Confuscianism are somewhat religions; atheism is not a religion.Note: I fear the hobby analogy has outlived its usefulness. I still think it is valid, but I would prefer to utilize another one.Your rather simple definition of religion is unfortunately far too broad to be of any use because just about any human endeavor can be termed a religion in accordance with it. Football fandom, for example, is certainly a religion: fans believe that their team ought to win, they regularly gather to watch their team’s games, and they even go so far as to quarrel with others solely because they refuse to worship the same team. While football fandom is far more analogous to religion than science (because it involves worship and a strong sense of in-group identity), surely it is silly to label it thusly.Furthermore, your assertion that I follow the same activities as other atheists is relatively weak because of two reasons: first, lack of an activity does not constitute an activity. If I asked you what your favorite football team was, and you did not have one, the reasonable reply would be “I do not have one.” I would be justified in holding the belief that you do not have a favorite football team. It would be a stretch, then, to state that you do in fact have a favorite team and it is “no team” by virtue of the fact that you do not have a favorite team. Hence, a lack of an activity is not an activity. I would say that a perfect difference between religions individuals and atheists is that atheists spend no time worshipping deities at all whereas religious individuals do. It seems to me, then, that this difference is sufficient enough to displace atheists from the category of religious people.Of course, there definitely are atheistic cults out there, which are very analogous to religions, such as German national socialism, Soviet communism, and Randian objectivism. However, I think the main reason atheists (which can definitely form cults) ought to be separated from the religious is lack of belief in the supernatural. So calling atheism a religion is mistaken because atheism is a meta-religious view (one that denies the central tenet of most religions), whereas religions are a sub-set of supernaturalism.If theology and god-belief did not exist, atheism would not exist either. Rather, it would simply be implicit. As such, atheism is a reaction to religion moreso than a positive philosophy. Atheists can be humanists, communists, nationalists, nihilists, existentialists, utilitarians, and pantheists (as well as combinations of those). I am personally not concerned with most gods because I consider incoherent and inherently vague subjects to be of no use in discussions, hence my ignosticism.I am an atheist in regard to specific deities, including the Greek, Roman, Slavic, Norse, Germanic, Mesopotamian, Hindu, and various other pagan pantheons, the Judeoislamochristian deity, and various others of which I am aware. I view them all as superstition. I also cannot think of anything that we may realistically encouter as a species in the future which I would be willing to call god. If we encountered incredibly advanced aliens who sent a probe to seed life on earth (though I do not believe in panspermia), I would simply call them by whatever species name they were, and describe them as ultra-advanced aliens instead of deities.Concerning your rule analogy: I would argue that “there are no rules” is not a rule. It is much like a natural law, a solely descriptive statement, whereas rules tend to be prescriptive (at least in inter-personal interactions and games).Science is definitely not a religion, and science is not flawed. Individual scientific theories are certainly flawed and often very wrong, but science as formal and evolving process of obtaining the best possible models of nature is not flawed. It is, after all, self-correcting. Any theory may be wrong, but this is why scientific theories must always be open to review.I do not put faith in science because science is the only method we are aware of that is capable of effectively modeling nature. Hence, my “faith” in it is purely an extension of normal inductive reasoning. The problem of induction is not really that much of a problem if Bayesian statistics are utilized. Thus, religious faith is either belief without evidence or belief despite a large amount of evidence to the contrary. “Faith” in science is merely an extension of the same sort of faith you have when you expect the sun to rise tomorrow. So it’s not really faith, it’s induction.The problem is that god is impervious to inquiry entirely. Philosophical arguments can attempt to prove his existence, but no philosophical argument is immune to criticism, and all attempts at proving god’s existence have failed. Theology, in my view, would be worthless in an ideal world. However, since people presuppose the existence of god, I often engage in it. As far as I am concerned, theology is a gigantic reductio ad absurdum. Since science is incapable of finding god, and philosophy has continually failed to do so, what other method of inquiry could there be? I do not expect one to emerge, but I may be wrong.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, the stamp collecting analogy is correct. The problem is in your understanding.Here is an analogy that might make the case more clear for you: ‘Health’ is not a type of disease, it is a LACK of disease.Atheists do not have beliefs. They hold certain hyptheses, statements about the conditions and configurations of situations in the world, to be ‘the case,’ based on evidence and testing. A well spoken atheist will not use the words ‘true’ and ‘false’ outside discussions of pure logic and mathematics: things are, or are not, the case, as in, it happens to be the case that I sit at my computer while I type this. Any statement made as such is not only testable, but refutable. If suddenly, I were to wake up, I would realize that what I hold to be the case was actually incorrect. Belief does not admit of rational examination, it is circular. You posit God as a premise in arguments in which you take the conclusion to be ‘Therefore, God exists.’ You are doing the same thing now. Examine your thoughts carefully when you respond to this. I expect you will find yourself deeply frustrated, saying,But no! There HAS to be a God, or else nothing would make sense!Give it up. This is more about your own inability to look past premises which you hold to be true — i.e., beliefs, — and examine them to see if they could possibly be tested, or, if they cannot be tested, if they are even remotely plausible.Atheism is NOT a belief. It is the REJECTION of beliefs. To say “well your rejection of beliefs is a belief!” is not a counter-argument either. Atheism is not a rule book, it is an ATTITUDE, a way of approaching the world in which the mantra is ‘can this be tested?’ Then, go directly to your nearest bookstore, and purchase any and all books by Gottlob Frege, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Freidrich Nietzsche. Also, read Kant. Though he believes deeply in God, he knows that God cannot be the foundation for any argument: BELIEF is an ABSENSE of critical faculties. Basing an argument on belief is like building a bridge on air. Try this for an experiment. Next time you make an argument, every time you use ‘God’ or ‘Religion’, try replacing the word with ‘Gap in Reasoning.’ See if the argument still holds. In other words, you take your conclusions as premises. This is all quite tiresome, because it is covered in philosophy 101.Also, look up the defintion of ‘exculpation’: basically, a belief cannot stand in place where a reason must do, where a ‘reason’ is a verified and testable condition, and ‘belief’ is a commitment to a condition regardless of evidence. They are not even on the same spectrum.If atheism is a religion then alchemy is science. And if that were the case, we’d all be screwed.

  11. Vemrion says:

    conundri:1%?! That’s it? C’mon, a lot of the stuff in there is “love your neighbor” type advice and platitudes. They’re ‘correct’ in that it’s a good way to live.I think a lot of modern folks forget that our whole civilization is based on the work and insights of the ancients. Far from being stupid, they figured out enough stuff to get us where we are today. I think you could make a good case that the Dark Ages were a step back, but for the most part our current science is possible because of the work of religious people like Isaac Newton. I think we should give them a little more credit than that.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think conundri is talking about factual correctness. “Love your neighbor” is not a fact. Even athiests think that religion teaches good lessons (and scares people into practicing them). I thought he was being generous with 1%.A verbal argument between opposing sides of a religious debate cannot be won. Religions have fortified themselves against logical attack. As a member of a religion, you have been educated to rebute any attack I bring.However, to break out of my religion, I began to realize that it was a huge web (or cycle, I’m not really sure) of logically questionable claims. They all seemed to fit together and to support each other, but at no point were they grounded in reality. Well, except for your pesky “life lessons.” They really did seem to have an element of truth. However, the life lessons can exist without religion. Religion is just a delivery mechanism to get people to obey the lessons. For that reason, religion may be a good thing, but that doesn’t make it true.This matters because when religions conflict and people start harming each other, it’s too late to say, “Hey, we only taught you all that stuff so you would be a nice person.”

  13. Insidium says:

    >>>I think a lot of modern folks forget that our whole civilization is based on the work and insights of the ancients. Far from being stupid, they figured out enough stuff to get us where we are today. I think you could make a good case that the Dark Ages were a step back, but for the most part our current science is possible because of the work of religious people like Isaac Newton. I think we should give them a little more credit than that.Correct, but only the naturalistic aspects of Newton’s theory proved to be of any scientific merit. He, after all, believed that a divine being was necessary to put the planets into their orbits. Current cosmological theories have refuted that notion quite a while ago.While religious people have certainly accomplished a great deal of good science, they did so due to their methodology, not their faith.

  14. Vemrion says:

    Insidium: Glad to hear from you again.While I certainly agree that it is difficult to fit these massive concepts inside neat little conceptual boxes we seem to be programmed to try. I’m interested in why you say Buddhism and Confuscianism are “somewhat religions” whereas atheism is not. Your use of the word “somewhat” would seem to leave plenty of room to include atheism. Can you please clarify?My definition of religion didn’t go over too well, so let me propose another one, which I’ve often used as a synonymn for religion in the past: < HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belief_system" REL="nofollow">belief system<>. Can anybody deny that atheism fits within that definition?I fully agree with the idea of Football (American or Soccer) as religion. One might say that televised sporting matches are the new opiate of the masses. However, your analogy doesn’t really work. If I was doing a survey on favorite football teams there would be column for every team, plus one for “no favorite.” But that survey is about favorites, not football, and the lack of a favorite fits under that overarching conceptual framework. Similar would be a survey on religion. There’d be columns for Christianity, Islam and… Atheism! Which box would you check?My point is that 37 (or X) number of positives can be grouped along with a single negative (0). Yes, the negative stands out. It’s different, it’s not like the others, in fact, it explicitly rejects the others, but it can still fit under that umbrella of religion in this case. Another example: voter turnout. 64 percent of eligible voters voted in 2004. Thus we know 36 percent did not (allegations of ballotbox stuffing not withstanding) vote. But despite this, their message still came through, to me at least, loud and clear: “These candidates suck!” Or maybe they liked both of them. Because of their inaction (not going to the polling station) we are unable to determine their preferences exactly, but though they are not voters, both voters and nonvoters exist under the larger framework of “eligible voters”. It’s the same with atheism as a belief system. You may say that all of the candidates for god suck, and you may refuse to endorse any of them, but you still have a belief system. We all do. You can’t function in today’s world without one (the human mind seems to require such a framework for operation). And a big part of your belief system is telling people that you don’t believe in any of the choices available to you. Let me note, though, that this act of rejection is an <>act<>! You have made a decision not to act and deciding something is an act. You said, “Hence, a lack of an activity is not an activity.” But choosing not to act is still an activity. The lack of activity part of it comes <>after<> you have made a conscious act, a choice, not to choose, or to reject. Remember that Rush song < HREF="http://lyrics.ivory.org/freewill.html" REL="nofollow">“Freewill”<>? There’s a chorus that goes, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Well, that is basically my whole argument in one sentence. Shit, I should’ve saved myself a lot of time and just listened to some Rush! So, basically, I’m not trying to be a dick and smear you with the same brush that implicates religious folk in centuries of stupidity. Nope, I’m just trying to make clear that we all have to contend with religious questions since science is unable to answer simple and basic yet incredibly difficult questions like “Why are we here?” “Where do we go when we die?” “What is the purpose of life”? You may say, “Because our parents fucked, we cease to exist when we die, and to reproduce” respectively, but my point is that science has not given you any indication that those are the correct (or more importantly, the <>only<> correct) answers.Furthermore, you kind of make my point for me when you bring up Soviet communism and Ayn Rand. (To be pedantic, though, < HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism#Religion" REL="nofollow">Nazism was not atheist<>. In fact it was virulently anti-atheist. Nazi ideology was heavily drenched in the occult, and a religious philosophy/belief system that most of us would consider similar to Satanism (not the Anton LaVey or Aleister Crowley kind; the goat-killing, devil-worshipping kind) and the Nazis actually slandered communism as godless and made pacts with the Catholic Church. Not exactly what I would call atheist) I didn’t want to slander atheists by saying they are just like those atheistic regimes. However, I must scratch my head at your (well maybe not you, since you’ve self-identified as a naturalist) need to place a label on your beliefs and thereby associate yourselves with such people. For the same reason, I refuse to call myself a Christian even though I find many of the teaching of so-called Jesus to be quite useful. Same with Buddhism. My “salad bar” approach might be another reason, but primarily I don’t want associate myself with people like that. I’d like my belief system to stand or fall on its own merits. As such, I have created my own “religion”, which I call Timitarianism. No one else is allowed to join. It dies with me.About your alien example: I hope most humans would recognize that said aliens are just super-advanced and not gods. However, what if these same aliens told you that the scientific method was flawed and that they are direct communication with their creator? Just some food for thought. As for my rule analogy, you said, “I would argue that ‘there are no rules’ is not a rule”. Ah, but you only quoted half of my statement. I said, “The first rule is that there are no rules.” It explicitly defines itself as a rule, and then proceeds to eviscerate itself. Perhaps a better way of putting it is, “The first rule is that there are no <>other<> rules.” It’s interesting that you mention natural law, as that might be said to be synonymous with what I said… but it’s called a “law” in it’s very title. Confusing, yes, but remember what I said about a bunch of positives co-existing with a negative? It’s like quantum theory; it can be both a law and not a law at the same time.Oh yeah, that brings me to another thing I wanted to touch on. Science and the scientific method are indeed flawed. (If you disagree please explain, because I was under the impression that anything created by man cannot be perfect because man is fallible… maybe we got lucky?) One thing that bears this out is string theory. It’s getting to the point where string theory is positing things that are impossible or damn near impossible to prove. It is accused of being more of a religion or a philosophy than a science. As a naturalist, I expect you might agree with that assertion, and I, of course, already thought it was a religion (defined as “belief system”). But what else can we do? If that’s the path we’re going down we must continue to look, despite what may be waiting there for us. I’d be curious to know your thoughts on that. Is continuing down the string theory path an act of faith or madness or just good science? What if science discovers something that undermines modern science? Would the powers that be try to hide it? Like you said, science is self-correcting (so is the U.S. government… there are limits on this self-correcting ability, especially when an establishment grows up around it), but what if science learned that the scientific method itself was flawed? What would science do?Induction and faith are slippery terms. Many have said there is little difference. You say tomayto, I say tomahto (not really, I say tomayto. heh). You can reference Bayesian inference all you like, but unless you’ve got a super-computer brain that can crunch all those numbers instantaneously you’re acting on faith, buddy. Just like the rest of us. As for god being impervious to inquiry, I would add a caveat. He/She/It can be approached, but not, it seems, though the scientific method. I think the keyword in your argument is “presuppose.” I think if you set about searching for the divine (I prefer to avoid
    “god” since the term is so ill-defined), you’re quite likely to find it. But is that because you’re just seeing what you want to see? A fair question, but it works both ways. If you decide the divine does not exist, that supernatural phenomenon are not real and that anybody who claims otherwise is just an idiot on acid or whatever, then, proceeding from that assumption, you will not find the divine.We create our own reality. But, given that, who is to say god doesn’t exist when he clearly does for some people? All we can really, truly, know is our own perceptions, and even they may be flawed. So, to summarize: We cannot objectively know whether gods or the supernatural exist. But, some of us like to search anyway, and the search is more important than the discovery.

  15. Vemrion says:

    anon 20:24: please know that I am not defending modern organized religion in any way. I am merely stating that the ancients (of every belief system) managed to construct the underpinnings of our modern society, including language, architecture, science, culture and art. I agree organized (orthodox) religion is a web made to trap you and your mind. There are a lot of evil people out there who use religion as a way to control people. That’s why I would hate to see atheism adopt any sort of establishment, either through persecution by others or tolerance by others. But if some nut like GW started talking about rounding up and exterminating atheists wouldn’t you get organized? Who decides what an atheist is and who is allowed in this (probably secret) group? It gets slippery. I’m just saying be careful. I have my own belief system, shared by none, so I don’t have to worry about such things, but I admit I’d be first in line to start a defensive organization if I felt threatened because my beliefs didn’t match up to the prevailing orthodoxy. I’m just saying: be careful.As for facts in the Bible or whatever, I bet much of it is factual simply because it’s so mundane like the lists of who’s related to who: Zarkon beget Methusulon, Methusulon beget Joseph, etc. There’s a lot of factual geography as well. 1% seems to be really, really low to me, but I hesitate to put a number on it. Most of it is unprovable because of the mists of time.Insidium: You give “current cosmological theories” far too much credit when we’re still fudging our numbers with crap like dark energy and dark matter. It’s a gradual process. I don’t think we can expect poor Newton to figure out everything in his few short years.

  16. Brian says:

    Vemrion,We can continue the discussion a bit if you wish.<>Brian: Ah, but how do you know it works completely? It might be 90% effective, or 99.5% effective, but that falls short of perfection.<>The scientific method is a tool for gaining a deeper understanding of the universe. It is a tool that works in our universe. If you wish to argue that the method is somehow lacking in effectiveness, you must at least have an alternative tool with which to compare, otherwise the discussion is meaningless.What alternative to the scientific method do you propose?<>If you’re going to base everything you know know and believe on something don’t you think you should be sure it’s up to the job all the time, rather than just the majority of the time?<>I’m not sure what your point is here.<>There are still things science can’t explain, you know.<>True. There may even be things which science is incapable of explaining. It has worked pretty well so far, however.<>Somehow I bet you’re confident that science will eventually explain them.<>Perhaps. Perhaps not. <>That’s faith, buddy. Experience, testing and observation has shown science to be fallible. Science is practiced by humans and humans are fallible… unless you think humans have managed to invent something perfect, infallible and all-knowing…<>Well, you could say humans DID invent such a thing when they invented God :-P But seriously, my friend, if you divide the world into infallible knowledge and faith, then absolutely everything is an act of faith. If that definition feeds you, then you are welcome to it. There are reasons why that is not the definition I would use. Most significantly is that if everything is faith, then nothing is faith. It renders the word meaningless.Of course, you and I could go all Zen and posit that the everything and nothing of faith is a nonduality which one must grok, but I suspect that is not your intention.

  17. Insidium says:

    Confucianism is a mildly-religious philosophy, but I say this mostly due to the emphasis on ancestor-worship. It and Buddhism are quite secular, actually, so I guess they would probably fit under “secular world-views” moreso than religions. Atheism per se is not even a belief system. As mentioned earlier, a great deal of actual worldviews are atheistic in nature, just like the vast majority of religions are supernatural. This is if we count Confucianism and Buddhism as religions. I don’t think this is necessary, though.Now, concerning atheistic world-views: since secular humanism and fascism are both atheistic, but since they are blatantly ideologically opposed, it is incorrect to label atheism a worldview. Instead, it is a more general category which simply describes worldviews which lack deities. It makes sense to place Judaism and Islam under the umbrella term “religions” just as it makes sense to place nationalism, communism, and egalitarianism under the umbrella term “atheistic/secular worldviews.”So atheistic and religious are two opposing terms which differ in regard to belief about supernatural entities. Religions consist of those worldviews which possess beliefs in supernatural entities whereas atheistic worldviews are those which do not possess such beliefs. When confronted with religious worldviews, atheistic ones tend to reject the claims of the religious ones. But just as Islam and Nordicism might oppose one another with regard to the specific nature of deities, religion and atheism collide on the topic of whether they exist at all. So, it seems the best way to model this as the set of worldviews, W = [atheistic, religious]. Set of atheistic worldviews A = [nationalism, communism, egalitarianism, libertarianism, etc.] and the set of religious worldviews R = [Islam, Christianity, slavonic paganism, etc.].Concerning the analogy of football: say, you as on the survey the question “What is your favorite football team?” (Analogous to “what is your religion?”). The choices can be a list of all the various football teams. You could also have an option that says “I am not a fan of football (hence I have no favorite).” (Analogous to “I am an atheist (hence I have no religion.”). I guess an extra option could be “I like football but I have no favorite team.” (Analogous to “I am religious/spiritual but with no denomination.”). And if the football guys (some of them, anyway) insisted on convincing everyone that in order to be a good person, one must worship their favorite team, then the people who disliked football would begin arguing with them to show them why football sucks.This analogy is not perfect but I feel it gets the point across. More later.

  18. Insidium says:

    Good discussions all around, by the way. I disagree with you, but I enjoy the challenge to my paradigm.

  19. jerry says:

    I think that you have a thinking disability. What was the name of the bird which flew in ever smaller circles until it flew up its own rectum and disappeared? My suggestion is to tie a rope to your ankles so we can pull you out. For rational introduction to Atheism read “Atheism: A Very Short Introduction.” By the way, I left you a gift above. I capitalized “atheism.” Now you can argue that, since some people capitalize atheism, and God is usually capitalized, then some people think of atheism as a religion. Have fun.

  20. Insidium says:

    In my previous post, I hope to have provided the case for dividing all worldviews into two categories: religious and atheistic, with the difference being belief in the supernatural (or deities). There is some cross-over, of course, since nature is very hard to rigidly categorize. Deism, for example, would fall under “religious” since it posits a supernatural creator, but it is certainly not an organized religion. Pantheism, on the other hand, is atheistic, since it is merely a sexed-up version of atheism. Now I will address some of your other claims.Richard Dawkins once said “religion can be credited with asking the right questions, but not for giving the right answers.” I agree with him to some degree: questions such as the ones you said science cannot answer cause much existential anguish among some. You are right, of course: while science is the only tool we have for explaining what occurs in nature, it is entirely limited to this pursuit. Questions of value, ethics, and meaning are beyond its scope. However, the questions you have proposed can be addressed by philosophy, which I find a much more worthwhile and unpresumptuous alternative to religion.You ask: “Why are we here?” First I wish to explain that there are several layers of answers to this question. When you ask a general “why” question, such as “why does fire burn,” you are asking about the mechanistic explanation. Your question can be rephrased as “due to what mechanism does fire cause me to feel a burning sensation?” There are two answers to this question: the proximal, physiological answer (fire causes the air that is nearby to greatly increase its average kinetic energy, causing a chemical reaction. When this increase in average kinetic energy is detected by the nerves in your hand, they transmit a signal to your brain which results in you feeling heat.), and the long-term evolutionary answer (due to various selective pressures acting on heat-receptors in the skin, our ancestors were more fit than other members of their populations, and the genes coding for temperature sensitivity were passed unto us.). These two answers are the furthest that one can go in explaining why fire burns.The third layer would be a reply to the question “to what end does the fire burn?” This sort of question generally seeks out the intentions of another intelligent being and the reasoning behind the action which is being queried. For example, you might ask me “why did you throw that rock?” You will want an answer that refers to my intentions, to explain what I was thinking just prior to throwing the rock.The question “why are we here?” falls under the first category that I outlined: it has a proximal explanation and an evolutionary one. But if you ask it and want the third type of answer – the intention of the intelligent being which caused us to be here – then you are presupposing the existence of god. Evolution by natural selection is an unguided, non-random process, which means that asking “why” is the equivalent of asking the intentions of natural selection, something it lacks. Hence, the question is incoherent (if you desire the third type of answer). Intentionality (final cause) is something that was abandoned in science since Darwin and Newton.“Where do we go when we die?” We go into the ground, usually. Neuroscience has demonstrated time and again that the mind is dependent on the brain. As far as we know, the existence of a mind without some sort of substrate (like a brain or a silicon processor) is impossible. Brain damage correlates directly with mind damage. People in deep comas do not “go” anywhere when their brain activity is low. Likewise, with death comes mental extinction. “You” no longer exist to have anywhere to go to.“What is the purpose of life?” There is no pre-set purpose to life. You create your own. Is not that the ultimate expression of freedom? The ability to decide what your life means for yourself? I think so, and I find this quite liberating.These answers combine what I know of science and philosophy. I may be wrong, but I have never been presented with an argument which successfully demonstrates otherwise.“Science and the scientific method are indeed flawed.” In comparison with what? In order to judge whether something is flawed, one must have a standard against which to judge it. Since no such standard exists, it is an empty claim. Science consists of two equally important components: the theoretical and the experimental. They are rarely, if ever, on par with each other: sometimes one dominates, sometimes the other does. For example, we know that sexually reproducing organisms are much more successful than asexually reproducing ones. However, we lack the theoretical explanation for this. Superstring theory is merely an example of the theoretical element of science vastly overrunning the experimental. Calling it a belief system or religion is quite ludicrous since it consists of incredibly advanced theoretical mathematics.I do not associate myself with atheism because I feel the need to be connected with various unrelated secular worldviews. I do so merely because it is an accurate, concise way of saying that I lack god belief. I hope to have addressed your other concerns earlier on. I do not consider atheism to be an ideology. If you call yourself religious, are you necessarily aligning yourself with radical Islam and fundamentalist Christianity? Of course not. Likewise, by calling myself an atheist I am not aligning myself with communists or libertarians or any other worldview. It simply differentiates me from religious people.Concerning god: you can have a natural or a supernatural belief concerning every aspect of existence with no empirical way of differentiating between the two. For example, I might say that thunderstorms are caused by atmospheric factors, air pressure, moisture, etc. whereas a supernaturalist might say that all these things are specially arranged by fairies in order to have parties in the clouds. Since there is no way of testing supernatural beliefs, I deny that they have any explanatory power. By looking inside yourself and hoping to find god, you are merely abandoning reason for the sake of feel-good emotions. The experiences of religious people can be explained through neurophysiology, or because god touches them. However, people who take LSD or other hallucinogens tend to have the same experiences and brain states as people who participate in long-lasting prayer, meditation, and fasting. Since I consider supernaturalism to be completely useless in explaining anything, and since naturalism has such an amazing track record of effective explanation, I feel compelled to belief that any time someone thinks they have experienced a mystical experience, they have merely undergone neurophysiological states into which they have imbued an immense amount of superfluous meaning. Since naturalism has explained everything that we know about the world today, and since the invocation of the supernatural to explain that which we currently do not understand is a blatant god of the gaps fallacy, I feel it necessary to conclude that any supernatural explanation is false.

  21. Vemrion says:

    brian said: “The scientific method is a tool for gaining a deeper understanding of the universe. It is a tool that works in our universe. If you wish to argue that the method is somehow lacking in effectiveness, you must at least have an alternative tool with which to compare, otherwise the discussion is meaningless.”Actually, I don’t think I have to propose a new methodology yet. First I should prove the existing one is not perfect before attempting to prove that an alternative is better. And the proof is that science cannot handle many big questions (more on this later with Insidium). Science, to it’s credit, doesn’t try. But it does well enough on certain things like measuring the mass of a planet we haven’t actually imaged yet that people tend to assume that science is super-awesome and can do anything given enough time and budget. It can’t. Somethings are just not testable, or if they are, there’s just not enough solid data to draw a conclusion. Example: science can’t tell us what Jonathan Swift had for breakfast on the morning of Oct. 2nd, 1744. It’s a basic query, nothing too fancy, but unless Swift or someone close to him wrote it down there’s no way for science to figure it out. It’s not really science’s fault, there’s not enough data. But there’s <>a lot<> of things we don’t have adequate data for.The above example may seem piddling, but because of the dearth of data problem we don’t even know if major historical figures like Jesus and Shakespeare even existed. Kind of a bummer. My examples might be frustrating ’cause I focused on soft science (history) rather than hard science. My reason for this is because atheists tend to focus on hard science. Things are not so simple.Next you said, “Of course, you and I could go all Zen and posit that the everything and nothing of faith is a nonduality which one must grok, but I suspect that is not your intention.”Oh, I don’t know, I might still go totally Zen on you. I’m glad you brought up nonduality because I’m trying to think of a way to explain my conception of the universe as both dualistic and nondualistic. I think it’s quite clear that the universe is based in duality (emptiness vs. matter, light vs. dark, good vs. evil, etc.) but the teachings of nondualists (who accept the perception of duality) say that it’s only an illusion and that light and dark in fact “brothers.” This makes sense to me because they are more alike than different. It all goes back to the prime mover — what existed <>before<> the Big Bang? A nondualist would tell you: God/Heaven/Spirit, which was then fragmented in two to form the universe that we currently live in. There’s no way to prove it (that scientists have found) but it makes sense from an entropic perspective, as well as a transcendent one.

  22. Insidium says:

    “A nondualist would tell you: God/Heaven/Spirit, which was then fragmented in two to form the universe that we currently live in.”What justification does the nondualist have for this belief? What does that even mean – what are these entities, and how did they fragment in two to form the universe? These questions are unanswerable because the nondualist is fantasizing, or propagating the fantasy of others. What happened “before” the Big Bang? I do not know. But as I mentioned earlier – the god of the gaps is a logical fallacy. Just because we do not know how something occurred does not mean that it is reasonable to conclude that the process was supernatural.

  23. Vemrion says:

    Insidium: Yep, this discussion has been most illuminating for me as well. It’s getting pretty heavy, too.Now, you said, “Atheism per se is not even a belief system.”I don’t think you can really back that up. If it’s not a belief system, how did we end up with a name for it? I think you’re thinking of nihilism or something else.Note that atheists are not required to agree, just as there are so-called “liberal Catholics” who believe in abortion, birth control and disbelieve in papal infallibility. Personally, I think they should pull their head out and drop the “Catholic” part, but it proves my point that orthodoxy is not necessary for a person to be labeled as something in a religious context. Not all atheists agree on much of anything, but we still group them together because there are commonalities in their beliefs. Put those beliefs in a “< HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System" REL="nofollow">system<>” (I think ones thoughts qualify as “entities”) and you’ve got a belief system.As for the rest of your comment, I can certainly see where you’re coming from in the way you’ve divided things up semantically, but you’re still using the small conception of religion, rather than the bigger, broader conception I’ve been trying to explain. Can you see what I’m saying when I say that atheism both is and isn’t a religion? It’s all about your definition, and hopefully I’ve shown that my definition of religion (when seen as analogous to “belief system”) is valid as well.

  24. Vemrion says:

    Insidium:In your next post you posit a duality between “religious and atheistic” worldviews. In the small or colloquial conception of religion this is correct. Hopefully I’ve made my point, though, about religion being a big enough term to hold both secular and supernatural worldviews as well. This semantic stuff is annoying to continually hash over. I’ve also covered this on reddit with several commenters, too. It is said wisdom is the ability to hold two seemingly contradictory ideas in your mind at the same time and make sense of them both.I have no big qualms with your responses to deep questions, since those flow from deeper beliefs… until we get to this part when you say, “Evolution by natural selection is an unguided, non-random process?” Evolution may be, but history, as in the things that actually happened on Earth over the last 4.5 billion years, is a very different beast. You are presupposing that there has been no interference in that timeframe. This is not proven or provable. Earth is not necessarily a closed system. In regards to the flaws of scientific method you said, “In comparison with what? In order to judge whether something is flawed, one must have a standard against which to judge it.” Ah, but we have such a metric: perfection. It is also a human construct and it is of course, totally theoretical. But like you said, the theoretical and the experimental exist in duality with each other. Speaking of mind vs. brain you say, “Brain damage correlates directly with mind damage” but we don’t even know what the mind really is. If you’ve unlocked the secrets of consciousness in a laboratory I’d love to hear about it, but at the moment there’s no way for us to tell if the mind and the brain are indeed the same. Because the brain is the mind’s (assuming a distinction can be made) link to the world, if you damage the brain the mind will be unable to interact with the body and, hence, the world. If we use a metaphor wherein I am the mind and my computer is the brain, how does the file sitting on my harddrive know if it’s being altered by a human or by a computer? Everything the file experiences (or does not experience) is through the computer’s action. If the file is not being modified it has no way of knowing (assumimg sentience and perception for this example) whether that’s because of damage to the computer or to the user…or even if there is a user.I have this great vision of a bunch of files talking to each other when the computer’s off. Some of them have great reverence for The User. One says, “The User modified me today after I told him the recipe for goat stew. He added another pinch of salt. The User is so just and wise.” Meanwhile, other, more skeptical files say, “You’re crazy, there is no user. You were modified by a program called Microsoft Word. There’s no such thing as a user. The CPU and the OS modifies you according to the laws of electromagnetism through the I/O system. Stop being so superstitious!”Heheh. Who’s right in that scenario? Technically, the user never touches the file directly, so the skeptical file is right about the process, but I believe there was a user that opened Word and altered that recipe. Do you?

  25. Insidium says:

    I have already outlined why atheism per se is not a belief system. Belief systems can be atheistic, but atheism refers solely to a person’s lack of belief in gods. In the same sense that “religious” is not a belief system, whereas individual religions within the broader category of “religious belief systems” are, “atheistic” is not a belief system. Atheism is a negative position, labelled thusly because of the overwhelming and often pervasive religious status quo in society. All it means is that one does not believe in gods. It does not imply anything about one’s views on abortion (for example, nationalists are generally opposed to it; secular humanists are generally tolerant of it), gay marriage (many atheistic conservatives oppose it), or any other issue. Atheism is an incredibly general statement which implies nothing more than lack of belief in deities (weak atheism) or the positive rejection of deities (strong atheism). We are starting to go around in circles, and you still have not provided any counter-examples. Generic theism (religion) is not a world-view, and neither is atheism. They are both broader terms which encompass more specific worldviews.

  26. Insidium says:

    I feel it necessary to invoke Occam’s Razor here. If something is unfalsifiable and untestable, then it is superfluous and irrelevant. I bring up once again the idea of fairies causing thunderstorms so they can have parties. Nobody can disprove it, but we also have no reason to suppose it. Likewise with interference with evolution by some sort of deity. We have a highly functional and well-supported theory which is capable of explaining the diversity of life on earth. As far as we understand it, it is unguided. There is simply no epistemological need to introduce an interfering deity, or interfering fairies, or an interfering flying spaghetti monster. Do you believe that every natural phenomenon we observe behind it has an infinite multitude of unseen supernatural entities? If yes, then your worldview must be incredibly confusing. If no, then why do you arbitrarily choose only certain aspects of the natural world to apply arbitrary supernatural interferers? This is where positive vs negative claims come in. In order to convince anyone that some sort of supernatural entity interferes in evolution, the function of the brain, or anything like that, you must provide a solid foundation. Simply asserting that it’s too complex to function naturally is not a successful argument in favor of anything.Concerning the mind: the same objections apply. We have identified physical neural correlates to a great deal of emotion, discovered which portions of the brain correspond to what considerations, and even have the ability to “delete” individual memories. Sadly, the Nature article to the last discovery is available only to registered users.The hard problem of consciousness remains, but to suppose some sort of supernatural or soul-like entity is an example of the god of the gaps. Most of our disagreements in the last few exchanges have consisted of this fundamental difference of ontological opinion. Mine is favored by Occam’s Razor and yours suffers from both inherent vagueness and a degree of ambiguity. Hence, I believe that naturalism is the superior paradigm.Concerning science and perfection: if we have a way to independently verify how close to perfection a given theory is, we can judge it to be imperfect to that degree. However, we do not. Hence, even if such a ruler exists, we are inherently incapable of wielding it.

  27. Vemrion says:

    Insidium said: “Since I consider supernaturalism to be completely useless in explaining anything, and since naturalism has such an amazing track record of effective explanation, I feel compelled to belief that any time someone thinks they have experienced a mystical experience, they have merely undergone neurophysiological states into which they have imbued an immense amount of superfluous meaning.”I think I can dismiss this argument in one word: Presupposition.Which is fair, because spiritual folks do the same thing in reverse, but I thought scientific-minded folks were supposed to be more rigorous and avoid falling into the unfounded assumption trap. Since you haven’t proven that every single mystical experience ever, throughout the known universe has always always always been some sort of chemical imbalance or whatever, I don’t see how you feel justified in dismissing all future claims before you’ve even heard the facts of the case. I guess we all believe what we want to believe.But it’s prejudicial statements like yours that make me assert that agnosticism or ignosticism are more logically viable than your hardcore naturalist atheism.

  28. Vemrion says:

    Insidium said: “What happened ‘before’ the Big Bang? I do not know. But as I mentioned earlier – the god of the gaps is a logical fallacy. Just because we do not know how something occurred does not mean that it is reasonable to conclude that the process was supernatural.”Well, in the crucible of the Big Bang and the time before it (assuming the word “time” has any meaning…back… uh… “then”), who is to say what is “supernatural”? I don’t think we know enough about the universe now or then to say. Anyway, I think the concept of “Prime Mover” applies here, also called “< HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_cause" REL="nofollow">First Cause<>.”Basically, if the universe is set in motion and a series of causes and effects follow according to the laws of physics, what was the first cause? We know the first effect: the Big Bang. And we know the after effects of the Big Bang: our universe. So what preceded the Big Bang and what caused it? The philosophy of the Prime Mover is often used to argue for God. I won’t explicitly do that since I don’t like the term. But, I will posit a < HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monism" REL="nofollow">monist<> universe may have created a dualistic universe for the former’s amusement and illumination. I don’t really see how it could be proven one way or another, though. It’s just a theory.

  29. Insidium says:

    “I think I can dismiss this argument in one word: Presupposition.”Right, but you have not addressed my actual reason for presupposing this: the arguments I’ve presented for metaphysical naturalism.“Which is fair, because spiritual folks do the same thing in reverse, but I thought scientific-minded folks were supposed to be more rigorous and avoid falling into the unfounded assumption trap.”Science presupposes methodological naturalism. Science is not capable in principle of dealing with supernatural claims. I go one step further, and hold to metaphysical naturalism because of Occam’s Razor and the inherent vagueness/arbitrariness of introducing supernatural elements into an explanatory theory. You should address that part.“I guess we all believe what we want to believe.”I do not believe what I desire to be true. I believe that which I find most plausible.“Since you haven’t proven that every single mystical experience ever, throughout the known universe has always always always been some sort of chemical imbalance or whatever, I don’t see how you feel justified in dismissing all future claims before you’ve even heard the facts of the case.”Well, since you haven’t proven that every snowflake isn’t created by mischievous Jewish gremlins, you are not justified in dismissing any such cases. This is where the arbitrariness objection comes in: why do you apply the supernatural explanation only in certain, arbitrary cases? The reason I disbelieve in any spiritual claims is that I have no reason to suppose that they are true. Thus, my beliefs concerning them are purely negative. I do not dismiss the possibility that they could be true, but since I have no reason to suppose that they are, I hold to my disbelief.“But it’s prejudicial statements like yours that make me assert that agnosticism or ignosticism are more logically viable than your hardcore naturalist atheism.”This sounds like a defensive mechanism after being offended more than an argument.“Well, in the crucible of the Big Bang and the time before it (assuming the word “time” has any meaning…back… uh… “then”), who is to say what is “supernatural”? I don’t think we know enough about the universe now or then to say.”The prime mover could be a quantum vacuum fluctuation for all we know. I am willing to say that I do not know how it occurred, but any supernatural account is bound to run into the same problems that supernaturalism runs into regularly. All we really know is that the universe was different “before” the Big Bang from the way it is now. It is unreasonable to conclude that a supernatural intelligence was responsible, and perfectly reasonable to be an atheist in respect to it.

  30. Brian says:

    vemrion,So that we do not delve too deeply into rabbit holes, I will reiterate your original question, regarding whether acceptance of the scientific method required an act of faith.I explained that no, the scientific method does not require faith, since it is a tool we use to understand the universe. We verify its usefulness when we get consistent results.Your counter is to argue that the scientific method isn’t perfect, or doesn’t produce infallible answers. As I said, you can divide the world into infallible and faith if that suits you. I don’t find that definition useful.Your Swift example is an incorrect assertion, since it does not demonstrate a failing of the scientific method, or of science in general. The lack of an answer to your question is due to a lack of historical data, not a failure of the method.You cannot argue that a hammer isn’t perfect because it requires nails and wood. Likewise, you cannot argue that the scientific method lacks efficiency because it cannot give answers without evidence. That does not make the scientific method an act of faith.

  31. Vemrion says:

    Insidium said, <>“I feel it necessary to invoke Occam’s Razor here. If something is unfalsifiable and untestable, then it is superfluous and irrelevant.”<>That’s a pretty bold statement, and not one you can back up, either. Some things like love are untestable but they’re pretty damn important. We can’t prove that love exists, but we’ve got a lot of people reporting experiences with an emotion more lofty than lust or attraction. I say it’s worth looking into. Same with a lot of other untestable stuff. Throwing things out because they are untestable may make for simpler science, but they don’t allow for a full accounting for observable phenomena.<>“Do you believe that every natural phenomenon we observe behind it has an infinite multitude of unseen supernatural entities? If yes, then your worldview must be incredibly confusing. If no, then why do you arbitrarily choose only certain aspects of the natural world to apply arbitrary supernatural interferers?”<>False dichotomy, with a straw-man thrown in for good measure. And for someone who believes the universe is completely meaningless and unguided you’ve got a lot of gall to throw around words like “arbitrary.” <>“The hard problem of consciousness remains, but to suppose some sort of supernatural or soul-like entity is an example of the god of the gaps. Most of our disagreements in the last few exchanges have consisted of this fundamental difference of ontological opinion. Mine is favored by Occam’s Razor and yours suffers from both inherent vagueness and a degree of ambiguity. Hence, I believe that naturalism is the superior paradigm.”<>Vagueness and ambiguity? You aren’t by a chance an engineer or a computer programmer, are you? One man’s ambiguity is another man’s art. I cherish the fact that the universe is more complex and diverse than one can imagine. Here we are looking at the exact same problems from similar perspectives and arriving at completely different conclusions and you suggest that your paradigm is more robust because it does away with all of the uncertainty? Excuse me while I chortle. I think your practice of throwing away data (if it’s “unfalsifiable and untestable, then it is superfluous and irrelevant”) accounts for the straightforwardness of your worldview. Don’t blame me for accounting for the things that you’ve chosen to ignore or disparage as unimportant.<>“Science presupposes methodological naturalism. Science is not capable in principle of dealing with supernatural claims. I go one step further, and hold to metaphysical naturalism because of Occam’s Razor and the inherent vagueness/arbitrariness of introducing supernatural elements into an explanatory theory. You should address that part.”<>Okay: I don’t equate Occam’s Razor to gospel. It’s just an axiom that speaks more to laziness than to scientific proof. I also contend that vagueness and ambiguity are observed realities and they have to be accounted for in any rigorous system. Part of the problem with your assumption as I see it is another semantic can of worms: Supernatural. You could probably define it as anything that science hasn’t proven, which is outside the bounds of the ordinary. But that’s a moving target. Science is improving all the time and “ordinary” is a very subjective term. What is today “supernatural” was considered “natural” many centuries ago, and some things that would have been considered supernatural a hundred years ago are considered natural today. If you could go back in time to 1907 and find some scientists and talk to them about quantum theory or string theory they’d probably think you were barking mad. No one would consider you a sober scientist, except maybe Niels Bohr. And if you could bring a laptop computer and a few DVDs with you you could blow their minds. “Supernatural” is subjective and ever-changing, based on who’s defining it. I’m sure God, if he exists, does not consider anything supernatural; it would appear quite normal to him. Much of what humans deem supernatural or arbitrary could very well be the result of the limitations of our perceptive abilities and intellectual capabilities. Using a phrase like that to dismiss whole areas of inquiry is akin to loading the dice that Einstein was referring to when he said, “God does not play dice.” You’ll get the results that you seek, but not the underlying reality/truth.<>“I do not believe what I desire to be true. I believe that which I find most plausible.”<>As do I. However, “plausible” is the operative word there. Different perspectives result in different conclusions. Stubbornness compels us to stay in our caves and avoid shattering our paradigms, but hopefully the two of us are stepping out into the sun.<>“The reason I disbelieve in any spiritual claims is that I have no reason to suppose that they are true.”<>This “reasoning” is as circular as the wheel. Since you’ve already dismissed anything you can label as supernatural there’s no more reason to test for any controversial hypotheses at all. Insidium’s got it all figured out. Science is complete.<>“This sounds like a defensive mechanism after being offended more than an argument.”<>No, just frustration over several statements like “I believe X is < Y, therefore Y must be true" from a guy who claims he believes in reason.<>“All we really know is that the universe was different “before” the Big Bang from the way it is now. It is unreasonable to conclude that a supernatural intelligence was responsible, and perfectly reasonable to be an atheist in respect to it.”<>There’s that word again. “Supernatural.” You know that word would have very little meaning .2 seconds before the universe began but you use it anyway. That’s because it’s a useful pejorative for you since anything that is labeled “supernatural” by you can then be dismissed. It’s a handy excuse, but not a logical one.

  32. Vemrion says:

    brian said, <>“I explained that no, the scientific method does not require faith, since it is a tool we use to understand the universe. We verify its usefulness when we get consistent results.”<>Well, if atheists actually stuck to the scientific method and knew both its powers and its limitations they wouldn’t use it to try to say gods don’t exist since it’s is so clearly unsuited to that task. Yet, here we are.<>“Your Swift example is an incorrect assertion, since it does not demonstrate a failing of the scientific method, or of science in general. The lack of an answer to your question is due to a lack of historical data, not a failure of the method.”<>True, but it is a limitation. And if you think about how much data out there is completely beyond retreival by the scientific method, you may be shocked; it’s quite a lot. <>“You cannot argue that a hammer isn’t perfect because it requires nails and wood. Likewise, you cannot argue that the scientific method lacks efficiency because it cannot give answers without evidence. That does not make the scientific method an act of faith.”<>Nothing wrong with a hammer, but sometimes I long for a screwdriver, too. Sometimes inductive reasoning is the best one can hope for. Sometimes rigorous intuition is all you’ve got.I can definitely argue that the scientific method lacks effectiveness. However, from an epistemological standpoint there’s no way to know for sure if < HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regress_argument" REL="nofollow">anything can be proven at all<>.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone ever superimposed the two processes of investigation that governs Science and Islamic scholars?For example, scholars have found that the ratio between the amount of times water and land are mentioned in the qur’an is the same ratio that can be found between the land and water today.One are words the other is a material substance. Whatever happens humans are creative; they are able to substantiate the world around them in images and words, who, rather than having experienced these material forms face to face, are perfectly happy to experience a representation, content that their knowledge come from something they have never experienced that doesn’t even have to exist.The lines between beliefs are like the temporary marks of a hop-stotch grid on the play ground. they dissappear, and accompanying this vanishing act, the rules of the game go too. Every act of catagorising something, usually banishes it far from your own. There can be no progress this way. Progression has to be made by building relationships in a creative way, like a blog maybe?In Ash, we have an expression, the most versatile word in the english language, jokes, it can be said to anything as anything. I guess all it really does is displace the usual response and put in its place a reply that negates the act of replying, instead, jokes points towards the subtleties of how you say it and what you might mean by saying something that mimics the arbitrary drones of modern relationships.

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