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Neil deGrasse Tyson - Communicating Science
Posted: 06 March 2011 05:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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[16:34] The Apollo program created a zeitgeist in the country, where science was seen as the way to take us into the future.

[18:16] So I see it as three prong: the teachers, the actual agencies that fund curiosity driven research, and the vision statement.

I was impressed by Tyson’s call for a scientific zeitgeist.  One obstacle I see is that there are people who want NASA to pursue nothing but a distant human-occupied mission: despite the added danger, added cost, lower science for our tax dollar value, this during an economic crisis.  How can we get more people inspired by the great and fantastic achievements of today’s NASA.  I find the images from the Mars rovers, the images from Hubble, the discoveries of Kepler, and much of what NASA does to be wonderful and inspiring.  Doesn’t anyone else?

“Voyager 1 is escaping the solar system at a speed of about 3.6 AU per year, 35 degrees out of the ecliptic plane to the north, in the general direction of the Solar Apex (the direction of the Sun’s motion relative to nearby stars).”  Let’s see a human do that!  smile


Tyson & Dawkins clip


[38:11] If you look at the conduct of atheists in modern times, that conduct does not represent my conduct, pure and simple.  I just don’t behave that way, I don’t cross off the word God from every dollar bill that comes through my possession, the In God We Trust part.


I think that it’s refreshing to hear people take a stand for agnosticism, rather than the defacto acceptance of the word atheist that is so often in the air.  smile  I much prefer a word coined by one of us, such as Huxley, rather than a word with dubious origins probably from a religious person who could hardly imagine someone without religion, and so based their word on the word theist.  Good goin’ Dr. Tyson.  smile  I don’t understand the ire and hostility against someone who chooses not to use atheist, I see it so often.  Is it so hard to accept that there are better, more meaningful words than atheist?

Though agnostic is more meaningful than atheist, humanist is even more meaningful, and so I prefer the word humanist.  Humanist is a good word rich with monism, empiricism, naturalism, euproxaphy, and more!  grin

[44:33] However there is that little matter of a third of Western scientists claim a personal God, to whom they pray.”  “And until that number becomes zero… I don’t see how they can justify beating the public over the head saying they are stupid because they’re religious, when a third of the scientists among their professional ranks feel the same way.


Excellent point.  The agnostic community should make friends with the majority of the public and all the scientists and engineers.

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Posted: 06 March 2011 08:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Colbert did good  smile

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Posted: 07 March 2011 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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I want to thank Dr Tyson for coming onto the forums and giving such an extensive response. I’ve also chimed in on a few points here

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2011/03/07/tyson-responds-atheism-vs-agnosticism/

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Posted: 07 March 2011 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Excellent, thanks Chris.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Thank you Dr. Tyson, for the clarifications.  grin
Now…when are you coming back to San Francisco?

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Posted: 07 March 2011 07:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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neiltyson - 06 March 2011 09:22 AM

5) We need a word for Atheists who do not care what other people believe, and have hardly any energy or interest to engage the conversation.  That would be me.

Dispassionate atheist, perhaps. The term “atheist” really only serves to distinguish us from god-believers. We shouldn’t be legitimizing the stereotype of a particularly strident kind of atheism as representing everyone. Plus, as Carrier shows, to be rigorous about it, we have to accept there’s only one consistent definition for “atheism”, and all rational “agnostics” are atheists, and vice-versa… rendering the label “agnostic” epistemologically useless.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 09:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 06 March 2011 05:24 PM

Is it so hard to accept that there are better, more meaningful words than atheist?

In the particular instance of ‘agnostic’, yes (as Dr Tyson stealthily acknowledges in his post). The term ‘agnostic’ to mean uncertainty on the issue of god, or even “unknowability” (whatever that may mean) doesn’t rescue you from atheism; for starters, every rational agnostic is positively-atheistic with respect to some gods, once s/he’s thought about it long enough. Every rational atheist, likewise, is ‘agnostic’ (passively atheistic, or fence-sitting) with respect to some gods. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and their common ground is lack of god-belief. Therefore, lack of god-belief seems the sensible definition of ‘atheist’; and ‘agnostic’, however well intentioned, is - or ought to be - a social relic.

See Carrier.

jump_in_the_pit - 06 March 2011 05:24 PM

Though agnostic is more meaningful than atheist…

Strictly speaking, it’s almost meaningless. Or for practical purposes, almost useless. See Carrier, above.

jump_in_the_pit - 06 March 2011 05:24 PM

...humanist is even more meaningful, and so I prefer the word humanist.

Humanist is more meaningful, precisely because ‘atheist’ means one narrow thing, which is lack of god-belief. Ideally, ‘atheist’ ought to become obsolete… but as long as god-belief is such a big deal, and lack of god-belief consequently a big deal, then ‘atheist’ has social relevance.

jump_in_the_pit - 06 March 2011 05:24 PM

[44:33] However there is that little matter of a third of Western scientists claim a personal God, to whom they pray.”  “And until that number becomes zero… I don’t see how they can justify beating the public over the head saying they are stupid because they’re religious, when a third of the scientists among their professional ranks feel the same way.

 
Excellent point.  The agnostic community should make friends with the majority of the public and all the scientists and engineers.

That was by far Dr Tyson’s weakest point, I think. The number of scientists who believe in god, though interesting, should have no bearing on whether or not any of them (or any other intellectuals concerned with various aspects of knowledge) should criticize religious belief (or any other belief). It is telling that scientists generally express non-belief at higher rates than non-scientists. Dr Tyson swings the pendulum too far in one direction, however, by suggesting all or most scientists should express non-belief before it is safe to publicly criticize belief. For one thing, “scientist” does not automatically render someone a good thinker, let alone a good thinker with knowledge of the issues surrounding this particular topic (god belief).

[ Edited: 07 March 2011 09:26 PM by arugula ]
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Posted: 07 March 2011 09:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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arugula - 07 March 2011 07:35 PM
neiltyson - 06 March 2011 09:22 AM

5) We need a word for Atheists who do not care what other people believe, and have hardly any energy or interest to engage the conversation.  That would be me.

Dispassionate atheist, perhaps. The term “atheist” really only serves to distinguish us from god-believers. We shouldn’t be legitimizing the stereotype of a particularly strident kind of atheism as representing everyone. Plus, as Carrier shows, to be rigorous about it, we have to accept there’s only one consistent definition for “atheism”, and all rational “agnostics” are atheists, and vice-versa… rendering the label “agnostic” epistemologically useless.

That would be an apatheist.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 09:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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asanta - 07 March 2011 09:25 PM
arugula - 07 March 2011 07:35 PM
neiltyson - 06 March 2011 09:22 AM

5) We need a word for Atheists who do not care what other people believe, and have hardly any energy or interest to engage the conversation.  That would be me.

Dispassionate atheist, perhaps. The term “atheist” really only serves to distinguish us from god-believers. We shouldn’t be legitimizing the stereotype of a particularly strident kind of atheism as representing everyone. Plus, as Carrier shows, to be rigorous about it, we have to accept there’s only one consistent definition for “atheism”, and all rational “agnostics” are atheists, and vice-versa… rendering the label “agnostic” epistemologically useless.

That would be an apatheist.

Might be appropriate for his purposes, but it’s still a kind of deliberate fogging of one’s belief stance. Apatheists could be theists, is that correct?

On the general issue, I think we should all be matter-of-factly about our belief stances, if only because it reduces the taint of social bias.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 11:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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arugula - 07 March 2011 09:51 PM

Might be appropriate for his purposes, but it’s still a kind of deliberate fogging of one’s belief stance. Apatheists could be theists, is that correct?

true

On the general issue, I think we should all be matter-of-factly about our belief stances, if only because it reduces the taint of social bias.

Not if it affects your ability to be employed. I think it will be a little while before we get there.

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Posted: 08 March 2011 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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arugula - 07 March 2011 09:24 PM

The term ‘agnostic’ to mean uncertainty on the issue of god, or even “unknowability”
(whatever that may mean) doesn’t rescue you from atheism;

If there is no god, then what can be known about him?  Nothing.  This is such simple logic that the agnostics, although their opinions about god vary, use.

arugula - 07 March 2011 09:24 PM

for starters, every rational agnostic is positively-atheistic with respect to some gods, once s/he’s thought about it long enough. Every rational atheist, likewise, is ‘agnostic’ (passively atheistic, or fence-sitting) with respect to some gods.

Agnostics are rational, thinking, active, and committed, why must I continually have to defend agnostics against the accusations and ire from atheists?  Why can’t some people just accept that others are agnostic, and here to stay.  It is not an in-between step, it is a final conviction.  rolleyes

For me, the word atheist has no attractive qualities.  I’m sure that some will continue to try to rescue it from its negative connotations despite its negative construction (the ‘a’ means “not”).  I, and many others, prefer other words instead, with other good words why bother with atheist?

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Posted: 08 March 2011 01:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Network error - delete this duplicate, please.

[ Edited: 08 March 2011 02:00 PM by jump_in_the_pit ]
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Posted: 08 March 2011 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 08 March 2011 01:48 PM

[If there is no god, then what can be known about him?  Nothing.  This is such simple logic that the agnostics, although their opinions about god vary, use.

Maybe we can’t start with that assumption. Some gods are beyond rational denial: an FSM-like god who actively obfuscates all evidence of his own existence, for example, cannot be reasonably denied. Conversely, the existence of an all-powerful god who does everything within his power to make himself known in the clearest possible ways to all rational observers… can be reasonably denied. In both cases, we are in fact potentially inducing qualities of a god. So long as one of its properties is interaction with the knowable, real world, then a thinking mind has some access to it, even if indirectly and incompletely.

More reasons why ‘lack of god belief’ is sufficient, and is rigorous enough.

jump_in_the_pit - 08 March 2011 01:48 PM

Agnostics are rational, thinking, active, and committed, why must I continually have to defend agnostics against the accusations and ire from atheists?  Why can’t some people just accept that others are agnostic, and here to stay.  It is not an in-between step, it is a final conviction.  rolleyes

There’s no ire, really, just some logical oversight in the arguments (usually) - or at least a semantic inconsistency (usually not). As often as not, ‘agnostics’, like ‘atheists’ or ‘theists’, rational as they may be, overlook or mistaken some essential piece of information that might make their personal stance more rigorous.

As a rule of thumb, in any case, one should always be suspicious of a tendency to dismiss a topic because it is “unknowable” or “unreachable”. Or at least, one should follow through and defend the stance against reasonable criticism (as above).

jump_in_the_pit - 08 March 2011 01:48 PM

For me, the word atheist has no attractive qualities.  I’m sure that some will continue to try to rescue it from its negative connotations despite its negative construction (the ‘a’ means “not”).  I, and many others, prefer other words instead, with other good words why bother with atheist?

‘A’ more literally means ‘without’, or ‘absent of’ in the Greek. For example, apnea breaks down to mean “without breath”. If Theism means “belief in god(s)”, atheism literally means “without belief in god(s)” or “absent (of) belief in god(s)”.

This aside, and acknowledging that connotations change with the natural flow of language, the real issue should be consistency. If all rational agnostics must positively deny the existence of some gods (see top of post), and all rational atheists must be merely ‘agnostic’ re: the existence of other gods (see top), then we should try to make linguistic sense of it all: what’s the common ground?

The common ground is lack of god-belief. What’s the literal definition of atheism? Lack of god-belief.

Theists: believe in one or more gods.
Atheists: lack belief in god(s).

That pretty much covers everyone. Then the strict agnostic stance becomes a stance about knowledge in general: ie, it is impossible to really know anything. Looking closely, this seems too broad too be useful, since it covers all rational persons on all topics of knowledge.

[ Edited: 08 March 2011 05:39 PM by arugula ]
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Posted: 10 March 2011 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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asanta - 07 March 2011 01:54 PM

Thank you Dr. Tyson, for the clarifications.  grin
Now…when are you coming back to San Francisco?


Scratch that, could you come to Florida?

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Posted: 10 March 2011 04:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 08 March 2011 01:48 PM
arugula - 07 March 2011 09:24 PM

for starters, every rational agnostic is positively-atheistic with respect to some gods, once s/he’s thought about it long enough. Every rational atheist, likewise, is ‘agnostic’ (passively atheistic, or fence-sitting) with respect to some gods.

Agnostics are rational, thinking, active, and committed, why must I continually have to defend agnostics against the accusations and ire from atheists?  Why can’t some people just accept that others are agnostic, and here to stay.  It is not an in-between step, it is a final conviction.  rolleyes

For me, the word atheist has no attractive qualities.  I’m sure that some will continue to try to rescue it from its negative connotations despite its negative construction (the ‘a’ means “not”).  I, and many others, prefer other words instead, with other good words why bother with atheist?

Atheists are just delusional about being logical.  Just accept it as a cross you have to bear like a good Christian.  LOL

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