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Is Atheism a Dodge?
Posted: 05 April 2012 11:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 406 ]
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Write4U - 04 April 2012 10:17 PM

IMO, all religions are a form of sophistry. And the height of sophistry is to challenge someone to “disprove god”, then claim the answer as sophistry.

And what makes it such that I should listen to your opinion?

Some answers *are* sophistic, and it’s no good avoiding saying so if it is so.

In ‘inquiry’, ‘philosophizing’, the proper reply to an argument is a refutation or elaboration of it: either by pointing out flaws in its form, or by providing contradicting evidence, or by uncovering fatal flaws in its concepts. ‘Sophistic’ is not a mere term of abuse: it’s, technically, a move or tactic in debate that succeeds not in replying to the argument per se but in upending your opponent (in various ways). Maybe Meyers isn’t a good example, since he doesn’t seem to set himself up as (primarily) a debater, but as a blogger who records his honest reactions. Ex: Some wise man on this forum said ‘Stanley Fish, ugh.’ He would be embarrassed for me if I took that as a real reply to the arguments of Stanley Fish, rather than just an honest reaction. (Sadly, I can’t claim I’ve never made that mistake.)

Another ex: Suppose I have a not very bright atheist as my opponent - let’s say, oh, a Jesus Myther. Suppose I end up so turning him around that, as Aristotle says, he ends up repeating himself, or worse, just babbling. If I have not actually wrestled with his arguments, my tactics are merely sophistic. Worse, I haven’t really done it right *for that very person* if he is reduced to babbling, if I *really* want to join him in philosophizing.

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Posted: 05 April 2012 12:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 407 ]
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Howdy

I call myself an atheist because I do not “believe” in godgods.  I do not believe in the existence of supernatural being or beings.  One of the reasons I do not believe in the existence of such supernatural beings or being is because of the lack of convincing evidence that would lead me to believe.  I do not believe in the existence of such beings or beings as they are described in the Bible, Quran or other similar religious texts. 

I am not a religous Jew, Christian or Muslim because I do not believe the religous texts, the Torah, the Bible or the Quran are either divinely inpsired nor divinely revealed.  Such texts may have served their purpose as a source of eithical guidance when they were first written but I do not think they are useful now.  So far as I see it, religion is a primitive form of philosophy.  Both religion and philosophy deal with values and ethics.  The primary function of such religous is to define what is of value and to regulate behavior consistent with the promotion those values for the well being and security of socieity of human beings.  It is very clear to me that the Torah, Bible or Quran are reliable history or science texts.

What is clear to me is that modern science does try to aquire knowledge with respects to the natural-physical universe.  This knowledge is expressed as facts.  What is also clear to me is that modern science tends to be very wary of making absolutist claims about the physical universe.  Even facts can be proven not to be facts or at modified. 

Modern science also involes theories.  Like scientific facts, scientific theories are not absolute.  Scientific theories can also be either discarded or modified.  Scientific theories like scientific facts are provisional.  One excellent example of this Newtonian Theory and the Einstein’s Theory of Relitivity and the Theory of Quantum Mechanics.  It is my understanding that Newton’s Theories are still pretty good. Newton’s Laws are still useful for enabling us to land a rover on the planet Mars.  They are still pretty good for the Macro Univserse, but they do not seem to apply to the Quantum universe. 

I have less certainity with sciences like economics, sociology, psychology etc. 

One thing that I find interesting is the disagreements between some modern philosopher and some modern scientists with regards to values and ethics and there application to promote the well being of human beings.  Some scientists, especially neurobiolgist like Sam Harris and Micheal Schermer seem to be making the claim that science can inform us and be useful towards promoting the well being of human beings. 

Philosopher like Massim Piglicci disagree.  It is similar to but not identical with disagreements between some theologians and scientist. 

I do think that both Micheal Schermer and Sam Harris make a could arguement. 

I also think that Richard Dawkin’s makes a good arguement that ethics, morality and belief in the supernatural are rooted in scientific-natural evolution by natural selection. 

I can somewhat agree that the science vs. religion is perhaps a bit overplayed and subject to hyperbolic and polemical rhetoric. 

After all Galieo and Newtown were scientists and believers as well as the guy who developed the Big Bang theoru.  There are also scientist who were Muslims who made contributions to various sciences like astromony and medicine.  However I do not think that they did so because they were Muslim or Chrisitan or Religous Jews.  They did so because they were practicing science and not relligion.  In some cases they did so inspite of their religous beliefs.  In some case at least their religious beliefs inhibited their being scientist.

Thats it for now.  I’ve to go. 

Have A Thinking Day May Reason Guide You

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Posted: 05 April 2012 01:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 408 ]
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IDBC:

Sure, many of the guys you mention do seriously present arguments (although Dawkins has this odd habit of making a rather extreme remark and then backing off from it, most spectacularly his backing off from claiming atheism can be proved.)

See one of my professors, Quentin Smith, on infidel.org, who has several interesting and original arguments claiming to prove God’s existence impossible. There’s red meat and strong beer for you.)

IDBC - 05 April 2012 12:06 PM

Some scientists, especially neurobiologists like Sam Harris and Micheal Schermer seem to be making the claim that science can inform us and be useful towards promoting the well being of human beings. Philosophers like Massim Piglicci disagree.

Well, ‘help’ is a pretty marshmallowy word. I predict with a subjective 90% confidence level that Dr. Piglicci takes aspirin for his headaches and that the good professor finds that *helpful*. I predict with some confidence also that even if he were justifiably certain God would get rid of his headaches by divine intervention, he’d still take aspirin instead - because it’s rather importunate to pester the Almighty about something you and your neighbor can do perfectly well on your own initiative. You’d be stupefying lazy to make God take away your headaches when there’s a perfectly nice chemist up the street, eager to help you.

While little philosophy gets done when you have a migraine, being fat and happy is not of itself *essentially* human flourishing. But sure, it helps.

I also think that Richard Dawkin’s makes a good arguement that ethics, morality and belief in the supernatural are rooted in scientific-natural evolution by natural selection.

‘Rooted’, eh? Ex: Plants are rooted in soil, but they are not essentially just complicated soil. They are qualitatively different from soil samples. And no-one has a *clue* how dead soil became living things. (Evolution is about the origin of species, not living things themselves.) No philosophical IOU’s, please.

However, I do not think [religious natural philosophers and scientists] did so because they were Muslim or Chrisitan or religiously Jewish. They did so because they were practicing science and not religion.

Did you know that natural science in the European Middle Ages got a boost exactly because there was a religious debate about God’s powers - specifically, that a vacuum is not impossible? (Indeed, a little strangely to our minds, Bishop Tempier made it an anathema to claim otherwise!) Did you know that natural science in Muslim countries got choked off partly because religious thinkers preferred the thought of Al-Ghazali, who said that fire burns cotton not because there are natural causes - there aren’t, to Ghazali - but only and entirely because it’s God’s ‘habit’ to allow the one to follow the other? So there is some sense in which a person’s religion *is* important to scientific progress.

In the West, natural science advanced partly because medieval natural philosophers believed God created the World to run in some sense by its own laws (the World as a great Artefact), and that it was good to investigate it on its own terms, and that it was best to do this through the senses. This was novel: the ancient Greek philosophers rarely let evidence trump theory, because their gods wouldn’t dare get their hands dirty making a world; the Muslims became mired in ‘Inshallah’ (God wills it) as the only answer to everything, the Chinese treated astronomy as just a minor department in the Ministry of Rites, itself encased in a vast bureaucracy.  This is not to make some odious racialist argument: but how you think about your gods and your world *does* matter, and maybe a lot. And there is no guarantee that natural science as *understanding* the World will continue, although technological advance might well chug on ahead. We already see it in the Early Modern era, where Bacon is disgusted in those who would merely find contemplative pleasure in nature’s operations ‘as a mistress’ instead of *using* her as a ‘wife, for fruit.’ If anything, the Modern secularism contains the seeds of the end of science as understanding Nature, although sure, it loves to manipulate matter more and more subtly.

well, that’s an awful long reply. It’s relevant to ‘is atheism a dodge’ because too many otherwise intelligent people avoid doing some serious thinking about the history of science, and the history of how people conceived it. Tim O’Neill the atheist over at Armarium Magnum (‘The Big Bookcase’) should be required reading for all posters here. His posts on Hypatia should shiver a timber or two, for example.

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Posted: 05 April 2012 01:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 409 ]
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Sounds good, inthegobi, but I think you’re making most of it up. The West made a big progress because they simply got to a point where they accumulated enough knowledge to start making sense of things. Darwin didn’t come up with the idea of natural selection because he was thinking “How did God do it?,” but because there were others (and others before them) like Malthus, Lamarck, Linnaeus, Cuvier, Hutton, Lyell, Wallace, and probably many more, who were slowly adding the final pieces to the puzzle, and Darwin happened to be the right person at the right place in the right time. If Aristotle knew what Darwin knew, maybe he would have figured it out too.

You may as well say that Michelangelo created beautiful art because around those times it was being widely discussed how beautiful and good God’s creations were. But I see what you’re doing here: you take a few examples like Bishop Tempie and Al-Ghazali knowing that most people have no idea what you’re talking about, and expect nobody will be able to refute most of what you’re saying here, since most people have no idea who or what Bishop Tempie and Al-Ghazali were.

[ Edited: 05 April 2012 02:13 PM by George ]
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Posted: 05 April 2012 02:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 410 ]
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inthegobi - 05 April 2012 11:36 AM
Write4U - 04 April 2012 10:17 PM

IMO, all religions are a form of sophistry. And the height of sophistry is to challenge someone to “disprove god”, then claim the answer as sophistry.

And what makes it such that I should listen to your opinion?

Some answers *are* sophistic, and it’s no good avoiding saying so if it is so.

In ‘inquiry’, ‘philosophizing’, the proper reply to an argument is a refutation or elaboration of it: either by pointing out flaws in its form, or by providing contradicting evidence, or by uncovering fatal flaws in its concepts. ‘Sophistic’ is not a mere term of abuse: it’s, technically, a move or tactic in debate that succeeds not in replying to the argument per se but in upending your opponent (in various ways). Maybe Meyers isn’t a good example, since he doesn’t seem to set himself up as (primarily) a debater, but as a blogger who records his honest reactions. Ex: Some wise man on this forum said ‘Stanley Fish, ugh.’ He would be embarrassed for me if I took that as a real reply to the arguments of Stanley Fish, rather than just an honest reaction. (Sadly, I can’t claim I’ve never made that mistake.)

Another ex: Suppose I have a not very bright atheist as my opponent - let’s say, oh, a Jesus Myther. Suppose I end up so turning him around that, as Aristotle says, he ends up repeating himself, or worse, just babbling. If I have not actually wrestled with his arguments, my tactics are merely sophistic. Worse, I haven’t really done it right *for that very person* if he is reduced to babbling, if I *really* want to join him in philosophizing.

I agree with your analysis, if the question or the proposition is clear and devoid of sophistry and allows for a considered response.
But for theist to say “we are here, therefore god” is sophistry in its highest (lowest) form. When questioned on what evidence this conclusion is founded, the answer is “prove me wrong”, or “god is omnipotent and can change the laws of nature at will”, there is no room for philosophizing. How can one make a logical argument (regardless of sophistication) against a proposition which assigns an unknown and variable value, where everything we know about the universe and its workings can be dismissed with the waive of a hand?
All speculation of an uncaused causality is just that, speculation. To declare that a belief offers certainty is sophistry of the worst kind.

[ Edited: 05 April 2012 02:21 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 05 April 2012 06:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 411 ]
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Write4U - 05 April 2012 02:18 PM

I agree with your analysis . . .

(1) But for theist to say “we are here, therefore god” is sophistry in its highest (lowest) form.
(2) When questioned on what evidence this conclusion is founded, the answer is “prove me wrong”,
(3) or “god is omnipotent and can change the laws of nature at will”, there is no room for philosophizing.
(4) How can one make a logical argument (regardless of sophistication) against a proposition which (i) assigns an unknown and (ii) variable value, (iii) where everything we know about the universe and its workings can be dismissed with the waive of a hand?
(5) All speculation of an uncaused causality is just that, speculation.
(6) To declare that a belief offers certainty is sophistry of the worst kind.

A bad argument is still an argument. Now, you don’t have to be charitable about it, but a crappy argument has flaws too, and it’s no sophistry to point them out, carefully.

(1) No, that argument is not sophistry. It’s just a horribly *truncated* argument. If my opponent said this and no more, I would point out that he has not expressed any of the steps between the one premiss and his conclusion. I could be charitable and try to help him fill in the blanks in a plausible way [and then attack *that* argument - but beware making a mere straw man]; otherwise, point out it’s not obvious that our mere presence entails God.

(2) ‘Prove me wrong’? A good non-sophistic reply is ‘That is not evidence, that’s my job *after* you give me evidence.’ Maybe I could put it less bluntly. . . .

(3) The reply to this is ‘I think you’ve given me a fragment of some argument for miracles, not part of the argument that might connect our existence to proof for God’s existence. Which were we supposed to debate first?’

(4.a) I rarely make the ‘How Can You X’ rhetorical question, unless the audience is very sympathetic to my position: it’s useful if your opponent’s unprepared, but if he is he just might answer with ‘Well, I *can* X as a matter of fact, and I have a *sack* full of very good replies to that’, and then you’re sunk trying to sort through them. In fact ‘How can you X’ might be a sophistic refutation; instead reply with ‘you can’t X, *and* here’s why . . . .’
(4.b) If an atheist handed me this objection in a public debate, my reply would be something like ‘I have asserted none of those things, but Mr Jones seems to have shifted the debate - again! [a nice rhetorical touch; don’t forget to sigh just a little] - from arguments about God’s existence to arguments about miracles, or well, who knows. Please let’s stick to one topic at a time, Sir.’ (murmurs of approval from the crowd. ‘And he’s such a handsome debater too,’ an audience member sighs.)

(5) A reply to that might be ‘Speculation is not bad in itself, so i’m unclear why this is even a criticism. Fortunately, the traditional arguments for God’s existence are not mere speculations - of the sort that begin with ‘what if . . .’ - but in fact they are arguments, based on either obvious features of the Universe (for example, that all things within the Universe change) or plausible attributes of a God (for example, God is plausibly a necessary being).
  ‘I need to remind the audience that there are indeed sloppy versions of such arguments running around. Here’s one my opponent seems to enjoy, the one that he thinks begins ‘Everything has a cause’. Then he’ll pretend to give the answer as ‘God is the cause’ and then laugh and note that if *everything* has a cause, then so must God. Ahaha, dear me! [wipe a fake tear of laughter away], you don’t say! Truly, it’s sad [shake your head slowly here] that people argue so. If this argument is *so* obviously wrong, my estimable opponent might have noticed that maybe he or his teachers just made a mistake. For indeed, ‘Everything has a cause’ is *not* the traditional beginning of any argument for God’s exsistence! And worse, even educated atheists know better: the atheist Quentin Smith begins his criticsm with a more interesting premiss, that all that *begins to exist* has a cause, but God is plausibly a Being that exists eternally, and so never begins to exist. Well, that’s just one small example [here comes the rhetorical move] of my opponent’s fairly jumbled view of arguments. I won’t say the arguments for God’s existence are *impossible* to avoid - otherwise educated atheists don’t exist! [mild laughter], but sadly [shake head slowly again] you’ll never discover the real arguments from my opponent.’

(6) A non-sophistic reply to this might be ‘My worthy opponent seems confused, or what’s more tragic, confused by really badly presented arguments, either from poorly educated Christians or poorly educated atheists. True, belief as such produces no certainty, but almost no-one I know says it does, not even Christians. [engage a few Christians in the audience, just to bring the point home] Only certain kinds of arguments can produce that, or some obvious evidence of our sense like ‘everything in the Universe changes’. If my opponent however desires the kind of certainty brought by logically ‘safe’ statements like ‘2 and 2 are 4’ or ‘a pig is a pig’, then not just God’s existence but all of natural science lacks certainty. So what? A good argument doesn’t have to be a mathematical statement.’

Okay, maybe I inserted too many cutesy debater’s tricks. But my point: while it can be tedious, it’s possible to give non-sophistic replies even to really bad objections. And apologies for any roughness.

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Posted: 05 April 2012 06:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 412 ]
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George - 05 April 2012 01:58 PM

I see what you’re doing here: you take a few examples like Bishop Tempie and Al-Ghazali knowing that most people have no idea what you’re talking about, and expect nobody will be able to refute most of what you’re saying here, since most people have no idea who or what Bishop Tempie and Al-Ghazali were.

Because, of course, none of this is online. How devilish of me. Shall i write up a little handy brochure for you, and stick to the vocabulary of Dr Seuss? (“I Can Be an Atheist All By Myself!”) I *assume* that those people who care will stop looking at Icanhascheezburger.com long enough to look it up, although I should have guessed that at least one philistine would whine that this makes the boulders roll around in his head.

But try these two summarizing sites: Armarium Magnum (atheist) and The Renaissance Mathematicus (I forget). Some might whine that Mike O’Flynn at The TOF Spot is a Catholic (gasp) and so obviously can’t be trusted, but he has a good collection of sites and essays on ancient and medieval history of science. He’s a science fiction write, and for some reason those guys can summarize Big Pictures nicely. I hate them *all*. For Basement Cat’s sake, look up Bishop Tempier.

And get down off your cross - people need the wood.

[ Edited: 05 April 2012 06:52 PM by inthegobi ]
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Posted: 05 April 2012 07:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 413 ]
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I think it would be a little difficult for you to bamboozle people around you using the vocabulary of Dr. Seuss. Your knowledge may be impressive but the conclusions you draw from what you know are as admirable as your attempt to sound funny. And you better be nice to me; God is watching you…

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Posted: 05 April 2012 07:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 414 ]
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George - 05 April 2012 07:48 PM

Your knowledge may be impressive but the conclusions you draw from what you know are as admirable as your attempt to sound funny.

Oh, that’s what that was LOL

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Posted: 05 April 2012 09:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 415 ]
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inthegobi,
Okay, maybe I inserted too many cutesy debater’s tricks. But my point: while it can be tedious, it’s possible to give non-sophistic replies even to really bad objections. And apologies for any roughness.

As you will have noted, my observationsI cited specific theist arguments and debating tactics.  On the rare occasion that a thoughtful argument is presented, I have always tried to reciprocate in kind.
I have no quarrel with your observations. My previous comments were certainly not directed at you.  In fact I appreciate the time you devoted to indulge my impatience with poorly presented theist arguments by prostletizers.

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Posted: 11 April 2012 06:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 416 ]
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I always liked the line of the great Danish physicist, Niels Bohr, on this:  (Paraphrased) “The meaning of life is that it’s meaningless.”

It’s meaningless, so what.  Consider the universe:  what purpose could it possibly have? It just is; what’s the matter with that?  We are the stuff of stars, in that the heavier atoms of our bodies were created by stars. 

So I say, let’s appreciate our luck at being conscious entities capable of enjoying it all, if even for just a second of time.  We’re ephemerons.  So what?  Our lives don’t need a purpose to be a beautiful experience. 

These are lines from Mirror Reversal by Rich Goscicki

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Posted: 12 April 2012 09:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 417 ]
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I agree that there’s no meaning to the universe or even to our lives, however, I find that part of my “beautiful experience” is building my own meaning into my ephemeral life.  smile

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Posted: 12 April 2012 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 418 ]
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Occam. - 12 April 2012 09:27 AM

I agree that there’s no meaning to the universe or even to our lives, however, I find that part of my “beautiful experience” is building my own meaning into my ephemeral life.  smile

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And that’s the best we can do.

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Posted: 12 April 2012 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 419 ]
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traveler - 12 April 2012 10:20 AM
Occam. - 12 April 2012 09:27 AM

I agree that there’s no meaning to the universe or even to our lives, however, I find that part of my “beautiful experience” is building my own meaning into my ephemeral life.  smile

Occam

And that’s the best we can do.

And that’s good enough!

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Posted: 12 April 2012 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 420 ]
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And that’s the best we can do.

Right on!  I only wanted to make the point that even if life is meaningless it’s still worth living.  Of course, life isn’t for everybody:  take the 240 under 17-year-old kids that are serving life sentences with the possibility of parole in this country.  I think I’d prefer to not exist than lead such a life.  Whenever the pleasure and joy in life equal zero, it’s time to consider nonexistence.

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