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Posted: 10 March 2006 01:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Atheism, agnosticism

My cousin says that an agnostic is just an atheist that is afraid to say so. I usually put the emphasis on the first syllable so it is like apolitical or asexual—unless I am in a group of fellow humanists/atheists/freethinkers, and then the sting is pretty much out of the word “atheist”, without any special emphasis.
In our local independent investigations group
http://www.iigwest.org
it was once pointed out to me that skeptics just have a certain kind of curiosity—we are not CERTAIN that there are no UFOs, not CERTAIN that there are no ghosts; we’re curious as hell, but we just want a certain level of, or kind of, proof—and sometimes that seems to be under debate, too. (I can’t speak for the whole group, I’m just citing a conversation that took place.) Anyway, I was surprised when one person said he’d personally be thrilled to pieces if it could be proven that there were aliens among us, or that someone could reliably demonstrate psychic power—but to his satisfaction that hasn’t happened yet. I thought about that for WEEKS!  :?
I’m not sure I’d be thrilled to find out that there IS some kind of supernatural being who answers prayers and runs things, but in my humble estimation, such a creature just can’t BE. At least not in the omniscient, omnipotent Big G Up In The Sky form as is the usual definition in this culture. Maybe that’s saying THAT KIND OF GOD is not what I believe; is this where your philosophical arguments with tiny minutae begin? You have doctorates, but except for independent reading and some college, my education is very disorganized. But I’m tough.  smile

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Posted: 10 March 2006 02:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Re: Atheism, agnosticism

[quote author=“Elizabeth K”]My cousin says that an agnostic is just an atheist that is afraid to say so.

smile Yes, it does sometimes seem like that.

[quote author=“Elizabeth K”]it was once pointed out to me that skeptics just have a certain kind of curiosity—we are not CERTAIN that there are no UFOs, not CERTAIN that there are no ghosts; we’re curious as hell, but we just want a certain level of, or kind of, proof—and sometimes that seems to be under debate, too. (I can’t speak for the whole group, I’m just citing a conversation that took place.) Anyway, I was surprised when one person said he’d personally be thrilled to pieces if it could be proven that there were aliens among us, or that someone could reliably demonstrate psychic power—but to his satisfaction that hasn’t happened yet. I thought about that for WEEKS!  :?

Yeah, there are several topics here. First is the issue of “certainty”—just as with atheism/agnosticism there are some skeptics that persist in saying “we don’t know if these things do or don’t exist”. They are sort of agnostic-skeptics. I agree with them methodologically, that is, we always have to be open to the possibility that there are ghosts, that ESP is true, that aliens might have visited Earth in the past, et cetera. We can’t be closed to the potential evidence.

But on the other hand, SO much crappy evidence has been gone through for SO long that we can really discount these as likely possibilities ... just as strongly as we can discount someone who claims that Lincoln was an alien. I mean, it’s certainly possible that Lincoln was from another planet. I can conceive of evidence that might convince people of that fact. (Maybe finding some alien structure on the moon with all this Lincoln-parapernalia, finding alien remains in Lincoln’s tomb, and so on). But in daily life we discount that possibility ... we are “Alien-Lincoln-atheists”.

That’s how I am with this paranormal nonsense. Now, as to God there are different problems. Hume went through a number of arguments about belief in miracles—basically if you saw some miraculous event, would you really believe it? Or just believe something more prosaic, like that you had a mental breakdown, or that someone was playing a trick on you, or whatever. When you reeeeally think about it, it’s hard to come up with evidence that would prove God’s existence ... maybe the existence of a very powerful creature, but something perfectly good, ALL powerful, ALL knowing? I don’t see how that could be done.

So I think I agree with you here—-

[quote author=“Elizabeth K”]I’m not sure I’d be thrilled to find out that there IS some kind of supernatural being who answers prayers and runs things, but in my humble estimation, such a creature just can’t BE. At least not in the omniscient, omnipotent Big G Up In The Sky form as is the usual definition in this culture. Maybe that’s saying THAT KIND OF GOD is not what I believe; is this where your philosophical arguments with tiny minutae begin? You have doctorates, but except for independent reading and some college, my education is very disorganized. But I’m tough.  smile

smile The degrees don’t matter. They just help me put all this together.

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Posted: 10 March 2006 02:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Degrees

It matters. I never know what I don’t know. The university education unifies—the organized, uniform course of study guarantees that graduates all have the same information about certain topics in their heads. I was pointing out on another forum earlier this a.m. that not having that uniform education is not always a disadvantage. I don’t have some beliefs about why things are the way they are set in stone in my thought processes—so it’s easier for me to be flexible when approaching matters that are accepted wisdom.
Usually, however, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. I sometimes don’t know what the references are in these posts, when the other writers are glibly mentioning the philosophies of authors they’ve all read in their college courses. That doesn’t mean I can’t go out and buy a book and read it—but so many books, so little time.  rolleyes
That’s one of the reasons it’s convenient to read this message board; I get to read the thoughts of people who’ve had the education. But I’m not afraid to write when I disagree, or have another aspect to consider.

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Posted: 19 March 2006 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Asian Philosophy

This is my first post.

I like Doug’s style. Socially, being picky about terminology often leads to acrimony. But in this virtual community, when we are claiming that we do not accept things without investigation, we should be careful about definitions and sloppy logic.

Words are so full of meaning that highly educated individuals often have differing usage. That is why we should be internally clear on our personal definitions and try to make these correspond to the common scholarly definitions for the sake of clarity and conciseness. When we say that we are a member of a particular group, this claim becomes meaningless if our definition of what membership requirements are is different from the common understanding. Hopefully, we will all be open minded and swallow our pride when corrected on sloppy logic.

As for your specialty, Asian Philosophy and religion, I spent almost 10 years in the Philippines as a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), a christian sect indigenous to that country (ever heard of it?). I was a minister there until I could no longer fight my doubt. I returned to the US in November and now I am working in my real field - comp sci.

[quote author=“dougsmith”]

Doug,
I don’t feel it’s necessary to define words when conversing with an educated person.
As far as “most people” are concerned I doubt that they that they ever heard of the word “agnostic”.
I am not using these words any differently than any other educated person would use them. I’m not implying that you are not educated but apparently you have not studied “The Problem of God” as much as I have. You may not be aware that it’s an area of philosophy.
Bob

smile

Actually when I did my Ph.D. we had to pick a minor, mine was in Asian Philosophy with an emphasis on Philosophy of Religion. My professor (for whom I TAed) was Christian and we did a lot of theology. Also as an undergrad I did a pile of religion courses ...

So yes, I am quite familiar with the problem of God ...

That’s what leads me to realize that you’re not using the words the way they usually are used. But if you’re OK with that, hey, do your own thing!

8)

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Posted: 04 April 2006 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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Re: Asian Philosophy

[quote author=“dmoreau”]As for your specialty, Asian Philosophy and religion, I spent almost 10 years in the Philippines as a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), a christian sect indigenous to that country (ever heard of it?). I was a minister there until I could no longer fight my doubt. I returned to the US in November and now I am working in my real field - comp sci.

Hi dmoreau,

To be clear, when doing my Ph.D., my focus and dissertation was on philosophy of mind, with related fields of philosophy of biology, metaphysics, and some phil. science. But I did have a side interest (and did a “minor”) in Asian Philosophy, in particular Buddhism, although the guy in our department who taught phil. religion was himself a strong Protestant Christian. I also took other courses in South Asian Studies, Tibetan Buddhism, Sanskrit, Religion, History of Science, et cetera.

(This all isn’t really important, but just to clarify, Asian Philosophy wasn’t really my “specialty”).

I am not familiar with the particular Christian sect you mention, but OTOH there are so many ... the most “woo-woo” sort of sect I dealt with was the Japanese sect Nichiren Soka Gakkai . Ostensibly they are a form of Buddhism, but to my eyes they really in practice had more in common with some forms of Evangelical Christianity. I actually (without knowing any better) was invited to one of their get-togethers while at University, and endured a pretty hard-sell from their acolytes.

Zen is something I’m much more comfortable with, but that’s a whole other story ...

:wink:

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Posted: 08 April 2006 05:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Hi, new here…a little background: I have a B.S. in Psychology and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology.  I pretty much been an atheist for the last 8 years, give or take.  I think my science education moved me from a Christian to an agnostic to atheist and here I am. Looking forward to chattin’ with all.

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Christianity makes life easier.  Existentialism makes life better.

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Posted: 08 April 2006 06:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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[quote author=“ArsenicJunkie”]Hi, new here…a little background I have a B.S. in Psychology and a Master’s in Counseling Psychology.  I pretty much been an atheist for the last 8 years, give or take.  I think my science education moved me from a Christian to an agnostic to atheist and here I am. Looking forward to chattin’ with all.

ArsenicJunkie,
Welcome!
Bob

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Posted: 09 April 2006 04:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Yes indeed, welcome! You may want to start up a separate thread introducing yourself ... at any rate how did you find that studying science changed your outlook? What made the difference?

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