Is Any Form Of Atheism Rationally Justifiable?

Definition of God:   First cause, prime mover, objective source of human purpose (final cause) and resulting morality, source of free will; omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent inasmuch as principles of logic allow. I am not talking in particular about any specifically defined religious interpretation of god, such as the christian or islamic god.

Definition: Intellectual dishonesty occurs when (1)one deliberately mischaracterizes their position or view in order to avoid having to logically defend their actual views; and/or (2) when someone is arguing, or making statements against a position while remaining willfully ignorant about that position, and/or (3) when someone categorically and/or pejoratively dismisses all existent and/or potential evidence in favor of a conclusion they claim to be neutral about, whether they are familiar with that evidence or not.

The argument against weak atheism:

Weak, or negative atheism is the lack of any belief that a god exists, and the lack of belief that god probably exists, and is not the positive belief that gods do not exist.

The following is a brief summary of the evidence for a general finding that a god of some kind exists, even if variantly interpreted or culturally contextualized (one can generally look up these arguments and evidences using google or bing):

1) Anecdotal evidence for the apparently intelligently ordered anomalous, miraculous (defying expected natural processes and probabilities) events attributed to god, such as signs or answers to prayers to god, or the ability to manifest or positively affirm such events through free will intention;

2) Testimonial evidence (first-hand accounts) of experience of such phenomena

3) The various Cosmological Arguments for the existence of god

4) The Strong Anthropic (or Fine Tuning) argument

5) The empirical, scientific evidence assembled in the strong anthropic argument in #4;

6) The Moral Arguments for the existence of god.

7) Empirical and testimonial evidence of phenomena closely correlated to the existence of a god of some sort, such as the survival of consciousness after death, and the existence of an afterlife realm, and the apparent agreement of afterlife entities that a god and human purpose exist; the evidence for interactions with correlated entities such as angels and demons (which seem to act to influence our free will towards or away from our human purpose), etc.

While the various arguments listed (all of which, to some degree, begin with empirical evidence) have been subject to counter-arguments and rebuttals of varying strengths and weaknesses, one must not lose sight that while there is much evidence (as listed above) in favor of the existence of god; there is zero evidence (to my knowledge) or rational argument (to my knowledge) that no such god (as defined above) exists.

[Note: One may argue that the Christian god doesn’t exist because of certain contradictions contained in the expressed nature and actions of that entity (or of the Islamic god); and there are such arguments – but this thread is not about such gods, so please adhere to the stated premise.]

The rebuttals to these argument are simply attempting to show weaknesses or alternatives to the arguments themselves so that such arguments cannot be taken as convincing (that god exists); such counter-arguments do not make the case that god (as described above) in fact does not exist.

Also, the testimony of religious adherents of various specific gods can be counted as evidence of the god premised in this argument in the manner that various various cultures can vary widely in their description of certain phenomena or experiences, and come up with widely variant “explanations”; what is interesting as evidence here, though, is the widespread crediting of similar kinds of phenomena and experience to a “god” of some sort (which might be the case of blind or ignorant people touching different parts of an elephant and thus describing “what the elephant is” in various ways). Such testimonial evidence can be counted in favor of the premise here, but cannot be held against it where it varies, because it is not testimony that such a god doesn’t exist.

If a “weak atheist” claims to “lack of belief” because there is “no” evidence for god, they are necessarily being intellectually dishonest, because they certainly aren’t privy to all potential or available evidence. They cannot claim to not know of the evidence for god after having perused the above evidence.

If the “weak atheist” is not aware of any compelling evidence, then any categorical claim they make about the available evidence they are not privy to – that it is not credible or convincing – is again intellectually dishonest because they are making a categorical claim about something they have no knowledge of.

If we have a weak atheist who is aware of the existence of the above evidence and agrees that there might be more evidence they are not privy to; and who does not categorically assert problems with the evidence they have not yet seen; and who does not categorically dismiss the available evidence as “non-evidence” (such as: hypocritically accepting testimonial evidence as evidence when it supports what they already believe, but dismissing it when it supports the existence of god) but rather states that the available evidence they have seen is not compelling towards a conclusion that god exists; then one must ask the following:

In the face of such huge amounts of evidence – thousands of years of testimony and anecdotal stories; many sound arguments based on empirical evidence and apparently necessary logical premises and inferences; and the complete lack of any attempt to make a sound argument that god (as described above) in fact does not exist – one must ask: how can any intellectually honest person come to any conclusion other than that god probably exists, even if god is poorly and diversely defined, and even if the experience of god is open to interpretation and misunderstanding?

As an analogy: even if one has never personally experienced “love”; in the face of thousands of years of testimony and anecdotal stories that love exists, and empirical evidence supporting that certain physical states correspond to assertions of experiences of love, would it be intellectually honest to “lack belief” that love exists, or would it be intellectually honest to hold the view that even though one doesn’t experience love (or using the same argument, color, joy, dreams, etc.), that love probably exists – even if people are widely disparate in their explanation, description, or presentation of what love is?

That I am aware of, there is zero evidence, no argument, and no anecdotal or testimonial evidence that god does not exist (because lack of experience of a thing isn’t evidence the thing doesn’t exist), and there is a vast array of logical, anecdotal, testimonial and empirical evidence that god does exist.

Even if one doesn’t find that evidence compelling for for a final conclusion that god exists, it is at least, if one is intellectually honest, compelling to the point that when one weighs the balance of the evidence for and against, that one must admit that it is more probable that god exists that that god does not exist, which cannot be said to be an atheistic point of view at all.

The argument against strong atheism:

Strong atheism is defined as the assertion that no god or gods exist whatsoever.

First, it is obvious that strong atheism cannot be logically supported, simply because it is impossible to prove (not in the absolute sense, but in the “sufficient evidence” sense). There may be evidence that certain gods, or kinds of gods, do not exist; but there is certainly no evidence or argument (that I’m aware of, anyway) that no significant, meaningful god or gods whatsoever exist.

Instead, strong atheists usually attempt to shift the burden onto theist by essentially asking the theists to prove the atheist position wrong. However, that is not the theists’ burden.

Strong atheism is a sweeping, categorical, negative assertion that something does not exist at all, anywhere. However unlikely one fineds it, it might be true that a god of some sort exists, so the strong atheist position would be excluding a potentially true explanation from consideration unnecessarily.

What is the useful point of a metaphysical position that excludes a potentially true explanation from consideration? What does strong atheism bring to the table of debate other than the potential for intractable error and denial of potential truth for the sake of a sweeping, unsupportable, universally negative assertion?

Conclusion: atheism of any sort is an untenable position for any intellectually honest, rational, and informed person. The belief that god does not exist, or that it isn’t more likely that god exists than not, can only be a valid position based on ignorance of the available evidence and argument for god, or a pseudoskeptical, a priori dismissal of all of the evidence for god based on ideological bias.

 

(Reposted here from a post I previously made under another name, in another forum, with a few minor edits and additions.)

501 thoughts on “Is Any Form Of Atheism Rationally Justifiable?

  1. Also, science requires a lot more deliberate, precise repeatability than I do.  I don’t hold reality to necessarily be quite so linear and repeatable in nature.  After all, my perspective is one that includes the scientific epistemology as a subset of useful tools to apply, so I don’t limit my investigation and research to all of the protocols modern science requires.

    I consider that which can be examined via consensual-empiricism as a methodology to be very useful, but that it can only be applied to real things that can be experienced by all (or most) observers).  I don’t hold as true that all real things can be experienced by all observers. I don’t hold as true that all of us are in exactly the same experience-set. I think that groups of us are in overlapping subsets.

  2. I think we got that. Good luck with that.

    I don’t require luck; I’ve employed it for the past 15-20 years.  So far, it’s the only epistemology that has worked as far as generating an enjoyable, productive life for me.

    I don’t expect that it would work for most people, though.

  3. From where I sit you enjoy the fruits of centuries of “consensual empiricism.” 

  4. From where I sit you enjoy the fruits of centuries of “consensual empiricism.”

    Of course I do.  I never claimed to exclude it or consider it erroneous as a methodology It’s very good at what it does. 

    You say the above as if someone like I, who uses it as he sees fit and not as an exclusive, religious-like ideology that defines all of reality and anyone who disagrees is a nutcase or heretical, is using that methodology incorrectly.

    If I find (and I did) consensual-empiricism incomplete in my experience and employ other epistemologies or views as I see fit, why should that bother you or anyone else?  There are also centuries of non-consensus epistemologies that I benefit from. So? Should I refuse an epistemology that I find useful simply because some people think you should only use one?

  5. Has anyone tried to tell you how to run your life?

    I think the place where most of us draw the line in when groups — not necessarily you — try to legislate what gets taught in biology class. 

  6. Consensual-materialism as a methodology doesn’t claim that it can describe or examine all that is real; it’s just a tool. Only fanatical materialists imply such by how they react to those that do not employ it exclusively as their reality-epistemology.

    It’s like telling a guy who is into fitness that using the elevator instead of the stairs doesn’t increase fitness, and acting like he is a hypocrite for using the elevator.  His current goal may not be fitness, but rather just to get to an appointment on time.

    If I do X and get Y as a result, and it is pretty reliable, I don’t care if the consensual view is that X causes Y or not. If it apparently works in my experience, I go with it until it stops working to my satisfaction.

    Science has no significant capacity to deliver to me the two things I most desire; to be a good person, and to enjoy life. Science is great at a lot of the mechanisms I employ in my life, but figuring those two out and experiencing them is not a matter for consensual-empiricism to solve.

  7. I think the place where most of us draw the line in when groups — not necessarily you — try to legislate what gets taught in biology class.

    You mean, like when they legislated creationism out of biology class?

  8. When was that? Was it the same year they legislated flat earth cosmology out of the science class?

    Schools are free to teach religion as an academic subject. Just not as science.

  9. I’d appreciate a yes or no answer to whether creationism should be taught in science class from something other than a historical perspective.

    A simple yes or no to the proposition that creationism is  a reasonable alternative.

  10. No, it shouldn’t be taught in science class, and no, it shouldn’t be legislated either way.

    I guess you only care about “groups legislating what gets taught in biology class” when it suits you.

  11. Here’s some legislation attempting to outlaw teaching evolution or to give creationism equal time. Can you come up with any legislation forbidding the teaching of religion as an academic subject?

     

    2001, US Senate, SB1, AMENDMENT This amendment was drafted by Discovery Institute Advisor Phillip E. Johnson for Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum offered it as an amendment to Senate Bill 1, which is known as the “No Child Left Behind” bill. It was removed from the bill in the conference committee, and thus is notpart of the law, but the language was put into the conference report. The important point to remember is that the amendment was specifically considered and rejected.

    Further information:

    2001, Louisiana, House Bill 1286, BILL

    This bill directs that the state shall not print or distribute any material containing claims known to be false or fraudulent. It also specifically provides for any citizen to be able to sue the state using the provisions of this bill.

    Text of LA HB1286

    [Personal note — Does the state of Louisiana ever print either a transcript of their legislative sessions or Environmental Impact Statements for government projects? I wonder how they expect to do either without being hit by multiple civil suits per document… — WRE]

    2001, Michigan, House Bill 4382, BILL

    A bill proposed by Rep. Gosselin (House Bill 4382) seeks to amend 1976 PA 451, “The revised school code”. The bill directs that all references to “evolution” or “how species change through time” should have additional words added that students should be informed that evolution is an unproven theory and that students should explain the “competing theories” of evolution and “THE THEORY THAT LIFE IS THE RESULT OF THE PURPOSEFUL, INTELLIGENT DESIGN OF A CREATOR.”

    Text of HB4382

    Further information is available at this page.

    2001, Washington, Senate Bill 6058, BILL The Washington State Senate considers a bill to require the same “disclaimer” that Alabama required for their textbooks.

    Text of SB5068

    Web page critical of SB6058

    2001, Georgia, House Bill 391, BILL This bill directs teachers to distinguish between “philosophical materialism” and “authentic science”, and extends to teachers the “right” to present and critique any scientific theory of the origins or life or species. Not expected to be considered in 2001.

    Text of HB391

    2001, West Virginia, House Bill 2554, BILL

    An “equal-time” style anti-evolution bill.

    Text of HB2554

    2001, Arkansas, House Bill 2548, BILL

    A bill proposed by Rep. Jim Holt of Arkansas would make it illegal for public funds to be used to purchase materials containing known false or fraudulent claims. A list of putative false or fraudulent items was included in the text of the bill. These items were apparently produced by Holt going over the anti-evolutionary literature in a series of short skips and hops. Certain items in the text of the bill were exact quotes of the Jack Chick cartoon tract, “Big Daddy?” Holt enlisted the assistance of Kent Hovind, who testified before the Arkansas State House as an “expert”. Holt also claimed to have been influenced by Jonathan Wells’ book, “Icons of Evolution”. A critique of HB2548 documents likely anti-evolutionary sources for much of the text of the bill, points out conceptual and factual problems, and provides links to further information.

    HB2548 failed in a House vote on 2001/03/23, with 45 yes votes, 36 no votes, and the rest either absent or not voting. 51 votes were required for passage.

    A vote to expunge the earlier failing vote occurred on 2001/04/03. 67 yes votes were needed to expunge the vote; 62 yes votes were cast, 22 no votes, and the remainder were absent or not voting.

    It seems likely that Holt will re-introduce HB2548 or similar legislation at his next next opportunity.

    2001, Montana, House Bill 588, BILL

    House Bill 588 by Rep. Joe Balyeat, R-Bozeman, was presented as an “objectivity in science education” measure, and would have directed the approval of evolution and creationism materials by an appointed six-member committee. Failed in committee, 14-4 vote, 2001/02/20.

    1981, Louisiana, “Equal-Time” Legislation, LAW TBD 1981, Arkansas, Act 590 “Equal-Time” legislation, LAW

    Wendell Bird, a graduate of Yale Law School, penned a draft resolution for the Institute for Creation Research. The ICR printed and distributed thousands of copies, with the advice that the resolution was intended to be used at the level of local school boards. Paul Ellwanger modified this draft resolution and distributed it, but with the intent of having it passed as law by states. Although Ellwanger’s draft bill was proposed in many states, it only passed in one: Arkansas. There, it followed a path from Ellwanger to a minister, A.A. Blount, to an Arkansas state legisltor, James L. Holsted. Introduced late in the legislative session, Act 590 was quickly moved through the Senate and then the House with little discussion. Act 590 was signed into law by Governor Frank White about a week after its introduction in the Senate ([TAE]).

    1976, Kentucky, LAW

    Kentucky passed, as a non-controversial law, legislation that allowed teachers to instruct students already believing in biblical creation the tenets of biblical creationism, and allowed such students to earn credit for correctly learning the material ([TAE]).

    1973, Tennessee, Senate Bill, LAW

    This bill mandated both the labelling of evolution as “a theory” and the devotion of equal space in textbooks to “other theories”, explicitly citing the Genesis account of creation as one of these. The bill, with a number of amendments, became law without the governor’s signature ([TAE]).

    1928, Arkansas, LAW Arkansas voters approved the anti-evolutionary Initiative Act 1 on the November ballot ([TAE]).1926, Mississippi, LAW Mississippi was the first state to adopt an anti-evolutionary law following the Scopes Trial ([TAE]).1925, Tennessee, The Butler Act, LAW

    This law outlawed the teaching of evolution as the descent of man from lower animals. As the most famous example of early anti-evolution legislation, it also provides us with information about what really bothered the anti-evolutionists: the teaching of the continuity of descent of man from non-human primates. This is the real issue that all later legislation would like to address, but does so only obliquely.

    The Butler Act was the statute under which John T. Scopes of Dayton, Tennessee was charged, leading to the famous Scopes Monkey Trial.

    The Butler Act was upheld on the legal issues raised in Scopes’ appeal, but the court reversed Scopes’ conviction on the technical issue (not raised by the defense) that the fine had been set by the judge and not the jury. The appeals court further requested dismissal of the case by the prosecution, which complied. With no grounds to move the case to a higher court, the Butler Act remained the law of Tennessee until 1968.

    1923, Tennessee, BILLSAnti-evolutionary bills were introduced in both the house and senate, but neither passed ([TAE]).1923, Florida, LAWAn anti-evolution resolution based upon William Jennings Bryan’s views was adopted as law on May 25th, 1923. This marked the second anti-evolution law enacted within the USA ([TAE]).1923, Oklahoma, LAWAn anti-evolution amendment attached to a free textbook bill passed, marking the first enacted anti-evolution legislation in the USA ([TAE]). The free textbook law and its anti-evolutionary sucker were repealed shortly after 1925.1922, Kentucky, BILLAn anti-evolution bill was introduced by Rep. George W. Ellis. Ref: [TAE], which notes that 45 more anti-evolution measures were introduced in the next ten years acroos the USA.
    Anti-Evolution Court Cases

    Where there are laws, there are court cases. Some of these have been notorious, and others more low-profile.

    1981, Arkansas, McLean v. Arkansas

    A test of the “equal-time” legislation passed by the legislature of Arkansas in 1981, this court trial featured a long list of plaintiffs, including ministers, rabbis, bishops, and theologians, who opposed the attempt to have a narrow sectarian anti-evolution account taught as science. A variety of experts testified on the issues, and the “equal-time” legislation was struck down by the trial judge, William R. Overton, in a much-admired decision. The McLean v. Arkansas Trial Documentation Project has taken up the challenge of preserving the actual trial records from this historic case.

    1981, California, Segraves v. California

    Kelly Segraves challenged the teaching of evolution in schools on the grounds that it infringed upon religious freedom, in that he asserted the teaching of evolution as fact meant that children were told with the authority of the state that their parents’ beliefs were wrong. The court ordered that the California State Board of Education must disseminate its 1972 “anti-dogmatism” policy to educators ([TAE]).

    1977, Indiana, Hendren v. Campbell

    The ACLU, on behalf of Jon Hendren, sued the West Clark school board for solely adopting a creationist textbook. The trial court found for the plaintiff, finding the textbook to be sectarian in content and entangling the state with religion ([TAE]).

    1974-75, Tennessee, Steele v. Tennessee and Daniel v. Tennessee

    These two suits separately questioned the constitutionality of the “equal space” anti-evolution statute passed in 1973. A federal court of appeals for the Daniel case ruled the measure unconstitutional on Establishment Clause violations (explicit mention of “Genesis” and prohibition of “satanic” theories in the text). The Tennessee Supreme Court cited the Daniel decision in finding for the plaintiff in Steele ([TAE]).

    1974, Washington, D.C., Willoughby v. National Science Foundation and Crowley v. Smithsonian Institution

    These suits challenged the constitutionality of federal support for evolutionry education, in preparing the BSCS textbooks in Willoughby, and in preparing exhibits in Crowley. Both cases were dismissed, and in both cases the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.

    The courts in these cases deferred to scientific opinion on the facts. Successful anti-evolutionary challenges would have to dispute the status of evolution and promulgate as scientific their own alternative view ([TAE]).

    1970-72, Texas, Wright v. ?

    Referred to by Larson simply as the “Wright case”, the mother of Rita Wright brought suit to contest the constitutionality of teaching evolution as a fact without giving time to alternative explanations ([TAE]).

    Wright’s case was dismissed on procedural grounds. Various appeals affirmed the original decision to dismiss, and the US Supreme Court eventually (1974) refused to hear an appeal of the lower court’s ruling.

    1969-70, Mississippi, Smith v. Mississippi

    The Mississippi Supreme Court cited Epperson v. Arkansas as its basis for striking down the Mississippi anti-evolution law ([TAE]).

    1967-68, Arkansas

    The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the decision in Epperson v. Arkansas, reinstating the Arkansas anti-evolution law as a valid exercise of state power.

    In 1968, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear Epperson’s appeal of the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling. The state’s defense was weak, due to a change in Arkansas politics between 1965 and 1968. The US Supreme Court overturned the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling and held the Arkansas anti-evolution law unconstitutional ([TAE]).

    1967, Tennessee

    A challenge to the 1925 Butler Act was deferred by the trial judge pending relevant legislative action to repeal the act. During this process, a teacher, Gary L. Scott, was fired from his position under the Butler Act, and brought suit. The Senate defeated the repeal measure. Scott’s case brought support from the ACLU, the National Science Teachers Association, the NEA, and the AAAS. Scott was reinstated with full back pay, but Scott at this point filed a federal class action lawsuit attacking the Butler Act. The Tennessee Senate re-considered the repeal measure that had earlier been defeated, and this time passed it.

    1965-66, Arkansas, Epperson v. Arkansas

    Susan Epperson, a native Arkansan first-year science teacher due to soon leave the state, became the plaintiff in a test case on the constitutionality of the Arkansas anti-evolution law from 1928. The trial judge struck down the law as unconstitutional ([TAE]).

    1925, Tennessee, The Scopes Trial

    Arguably the most famous court trial concerning anti-evolution, the Scopes Trial has passed into the cultural consciousness as an almost mythic event. Unfortunately, there are a number of assertions commonly raised about the Scopes trial whose mythic content really is fictitious. See the Scopes Trial Frequently Rebutted Assertions page.

    Anti-Evolution Political Action
    2001, West Virginia, Kanawha County Board of EducationA group of 30 parents signed a complaint presented to the Kanawha County Board of Education that biology textbooks were using “false and fraudulent’ information aobut evolution.1999, Kansas Board of EducationTBD1974, Texas, State Board of Education

    Under continuing complaints from Mel and Norma Gabler, the Texas State Board of Education formally decreed that textbooks should explicitly teach evolution as “a theory” uproven by scientific fact, and that texbooks should not limit what young people might conclude about the meaning of human existence ([TAE]). All BSCS biology texts were rejected under this ruling.

    1969-70, Texas, State Board of EducationBased upon complaints by Mel and Norma Gabler, the Texas State Board of Education removed two BSCS textbooks which mentioned evolution from its approved list.

    In 1970, the board directed that all textbooks must identify evolution as “a theory”.

    1969, California, State Board of Education

    The Science Framework for California Public Schools asserted the equal scientific standing of evolution and “creation theory”, mandating that both be taught.

    1963, California, Superintendent of Public InstructionIn response to the petition of Segraves and Sumrall, ordered that textbooks identify evolution as “a theory” ([TAE]).1963, California, State Board of EducationNell Segraves and Jean Sumrall petitioned the California Board of Education to have a curriculum balanced between evolution and creationism for the purpose of neutrality ([TAE]).1926, Louisiana, Superintendent of EducationThe Louisiana Superintendent of Education ordered the deletion of evolution from textbooks ([TAE]).1925-26, Texas, State Textbook CommissionThe Texas State Textbook Commission directed that all mention of evolution would be deleted from textbooks ([TAE]).1924, North Carolina, State Board of EducationThe North Carolina State Board of Education directed that no textbook giving a statement of human origins other than that of the Bible would be used ([TAE]).1924, California, State Board of EducationThe California State Board of Education issued a directive that teachers should present Darwinism “as a theory only” ([TAE]).

  12. I’m kind of curious why you assumed evilutionists use legislation to enforce science curricula. Freudian projection, maybe?

    Following the Scopes trial, there was no mention of evolution in American Biology textbooks until the late 60s. The word evolution doesn’t appear in my high school biology textbook.

    All the legislation has been aimed at reintroducing or continuing this ban. As far as I know, evolution is the only scientific concept having lobbyists dedicated to its eradication.

    I suspect, however, that geology has met a similar fate, because geology isn’t taught in most high schools, despite having immediate practical applications.

  13. What should we call an objective, independent source of truth that is not of the material world?

    That you automatically an intrinsically hold natural to equal material demonstrates the depth of your a priori materialism – probably one of the fundamental reasons you have such difficulty understanding what I say in the way I mean it.

    WJM,

    My use of supernatural is not controversial nor dependent upon a materialist world view, as Thomas Aquinas explains:

    IT has already been shown (Chapp. CXI–CXIII) that divine providence disposes of rational creatures otherwise than of other things, inasmuch as their nature stands on a different footing from that of others. It remains to be shown that also in view of the dignity of their end divine providence employs a higher method of government in their regard. Their nature clearly fits them for a higher end. As being intelligent, they can attain to intelligible truth, which other creatures cannot. So far as they attain this truth by their own natural activity, God provides for them otherwise than for other creatures, giving them understanding and reason, and further the gift of speech, whereby they can aid one another in the knowledge of truth. But beyond this, the last end of man is fixed in a certain knowledge of truth which exceeds his natural faculties, so that it is given to him to see the First Truth in itself. To creatures lower than man it is not given to arrive at an end exceeding the capacities of their natures. In view of this end, a method of government must be found for man, different from that which suffices for the lower creation. For the means must be proportionate to the end: if then man is ordained to an end transcending his natural capacities, he must be furnished with some supernatural assistance from heaven, enabling him to tend to that end.

    It must be inferred that you believe Aquinas, and by extension the Catholic Church, to be equally committed to a priori materialism since they understand the supernatural in the same way (or more accurately, they are the source of my understanding of the supernatural).

  14. Here’s some legislation attempting to outlaw teaching evolution or to give creationism equal time. Can you come up with any legislation forbidding the teaching of religion as an academic subject?

    I never made any claim about the teaching of religion as an academic subject, so why should I do so?

  15. It must be inferred that you believe Aquinas, and by extension the Catholic Church, to be equally committed to a priori materialism since they understand the supernatural in the same way (or more accurately, they are the source of my understanding of the supernatural).

    Because Aquinas and I disagree on what constitutes “supernatural” doesn’t mean Aquinas is committed to materialism.

  16. But you have posted twice implying that evolutionists try to force their views into science classrooms through legislation. I’d like to see an example.

    What you said was:

    “I guess you only care about “groups legislating what gets taught in biology class” when it suits you.”

    I’m not aware of anyone other than creationists trying to legislate what is taught in Biology classes.

  17. I’m kind of curious why you assumed evilutionists use legislation to enforce science curricula. Freudian projection, maybe?

    Not a Freudian slip. I was just wrong. The anti-creationists work via litigation, not legislation.

  18. Courts are where legal disputes are settled. Do you have a problem with that?

     

  19. There is simply no way to categorize information acquired by any investigatory process – even raw sensory input – without some primordial truth-discernment capacity that we believe applies to the world…

    My ideology supports the concept of formal, objective truths, and thus serves as proper warrant for my behavior when I act and debate as if such formal, objective truths exist. Atheistic materialism provides no such warrant.

    To which I have already answered:

    whereas the theist assumes that the self-consistently true supernatural source to faithfully render a true reality, the atheist-materialist assumes material reality can be assumed to be self-consistently true.

    But you don’t need to take my word for it, provided you put forth the effort to research various philosophical approaches to understanding Truth):

    Versions of the Coherence Theory of Truth
    The second point on which coherence theorists (coherentists, for short) differ is the constitution of the specified set of propositions. Coherentists generally agree that the specified set consists of propositions believed or held to be true. They differ on the questions of who believes the propositions and when. At one extreme, coherence theorists can hold that the specified set of propositions is the largest consistent set of propositions currently believed by actual people. For such a version of the theory, see Young (1995). According to a moderate position, the specified set consists of those propositions which will be believed when people like us (with finite cognitive capacities) have reached some limit of inquiry. For such a coherence theory, see Putnam (1981). At the other extreme, coherence theorists can maintain that the specified set contains the propositions which would be believed by an omniscient being. Some idealists seem to accept this account of the specified set.

    If the specified set is a set actually believed, or even a set which would be believed by people like us at some limit of inquiry, coherentism involves the rejection of realism about truth. Realism about truth involves acceptance of the principle of bivalence (according to which every proposition is either true or false) and the principle of transcendence (which says that a proposition may be true even though it cannot be known to be true). Coherentists who do not believe that the specified set is the set of propositions believed by an omniscient being are committed to rejection of the principle of bivalence since it is not the case that for every proposition either it or a contrary proposition coheres with the specified set. They reject the principle of transcendence since, if a proposition coheres with a set of beliefs, it can be known to cohere with the set.

    IOW, yes WJM, there really are philosophies that support formal, objective truths for Atheisism-materialism.

  20. WJM: I’m only pointing out the philosophical a prioris that are required for the application of any epistemology, whether they are admitted or not.

    I don’t think my own epistemology depends on any a priori assumptions.

  21. WJM: Science is based on consensual-empiricism

    I’m not convinced that there is such a thing as consensual empiricism.

    Sure, there is consensus building in persuading the scientific community to embrace the results of your work.  But I doubt that any scientist believes that consensus will contribute anything at all to the validity of his/her work.

  22. Because Aquinas and I disagree on what constitutes “supernatural” doesn’t mean Aquinas is committed to materialism.

    No, it doesn’t. Yet when I applied Aquinas’s defintion in my question to you; “What should we call an objective, independent source of truth that is not of the material world?” that you were more than willing to use it as proof that I am a committed materialist who can not understanding your argument.

    That you automatically an intrinsically hold natural to equal material demonstrates the depth of your a priori materialism – probably one of the fundamental reasons you have such difficulty understanding what I say in the way I mean it.

  23. WJM: There is simply no way to categorize information acquired by any investigatory process – even raw sensory input – without some primordial truth-discernment capacity that we believe applies to the world.

    This is surely wrong, though it might be widely believed.  Categorization is prior to any possibility of their being information.  What we take to be information is typically a relation between categories.

    Categorization is prior to information, and information is prior to truth (since truth is a quality of information).

  24. WJM: I’m not a solipsist at all. 

    Yes, you are [from Wikipedia]:  “Solipsism as an epistemological position holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure. The external world and other minds cannot be known, and might not exist outside the mind.

     Unless you are claiming that you can directly experience the physical world without a sensory intermediary and mental interpretations thereof, you are as much a solipsist as I. 

    Bullshit. I never claimed that I experience the physical world without the use of my senses. What would that even mean? Recognizing that my experience of the world is limited by my senses and my knowledge of it therefore limited and provisional is a far cry from claiming that therefore I can have no knowledge of the physical world. The latter is a solipsist position: exactly the position that you expressed (to repeat your words: “you have no idea what – if anything – actually exists outside of your mind”)!

  25. madbat: I am denying that this means that all the things I experience are therefore generated by me. I have given an argument how I can know this. You have not engaged this argument.

     

    WJM: I haven’t claimed that everything you experience is generated by you. Why would I “engage” such an argument?

    Facepalm. Read the entire argument, will you? I didn’t say that you claimed that everything I experience is generated by me. What you do claim is that I cannot know whether everything I experience may be, contrary to my experience, actually internal to my mind, i.e. generated by me. I have disagreed with this. I have given an argument how I can know that not all the things I experience are generated by me, that an external physical world does exist and what kind of knowledge I can gather about this world. You have not engaged this argument. But it is now clear that you can’t. You are stuck in a indefensible solipsist bubble!

  26. It’s curious that he didn’t recognize solipsism even with all the hints.  It is a rather sorry performance on WJM’s part.  One can find middle school and high school students who have a much greater sophistication in their understanding of philosophical concepts than he does.  Advanced Placement Philosophy in high school is a better introduction to philosophy than whatever WJM has had; in fact, I don’t get the impression that WJM has had any exposure to philosophical concepts.  He is just making stuff up as he goes.

     

    The more he pontficates on this soapbox provided for him by Elizabeth’s generosity, the more naive he reveals himself to be.  His understanding of philosophy appears to be no better than his understanding of science.

     

    I get the impression that this is some kind of highfalutin sounding rationalization for his ignorance of science that allows him to “refute” science without ever having to understand science.  Its that trendy “philosophical thing” that the “scientific” creationists started doing after their creation “science” and intelligent design went nowhere.

  27. Don’t know much about history
    Don’t know much biology
    Don’t know much about a science book
    Don’t know much about the french I took

    But I do know that Jesus loves you
    And if you knew that Jesus loves you too
    What a wonderful world this would be

    –With apologies to Sam Cooke 

  28. Madbat is cherry-picking parts of a definition. Let’s look at the wider Wikipedia entry, including madbat’s convenient excerpt:

    Solipsism/ˈsɒlɨpsɪzəm/) is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist. The term comes from the Latinsolus (alone) and ipse (self). Solipsism as an epistemological position holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure. The external world and other minds cannot be known, and might not exist outside the mind. As a metaphysical position, solipsism goes further to the conclusion that the world and other minds do not exist.

    I certainly do not believe other minds do not exist.

    By Madbat’s excerpt, Plato was a solipsist, and so is everyone who understands and accepts the necessary limitations of human experience and knowledge.

    However, I don’t find Wiki a very good source anyway. Merriam Webster defines solipsism as:

    a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing;

    I certainly don’t claim that the self is the only existent thing.

    Encyclopedia Britannica says:

    solipsism,in philosophy, an extreme form of subjective idealism that denies that the human mind has any valid ground for believing in the existence of anything but itself. The British idealist F.H. Bradley, in Appearance and Reality (1897), characterized the solipsistic view as follows:

    “I cannot transcend experience, and experience is my experience. From this it follows that nothing beyond myself exists; for what is experience is its [the self ’s] states.”

    This is a much more accurate explanation of “solipsism”.  Wikipedia conflates “knowing” with “belief” Since I certainly belief things outside myself exist, and I believe there are valid grounds for holding that belief, I’m certainly not a solipsist.

    It appears that Madbat and others here are confusing my acceptance of  the limitations of the experienital and interpretive root of knowledge – personal, subjective experience, even when it is of others agreeing with me, and even when it is of scientific, repeataable experiments – for “solipsism”.   From the internet encyclopedia of philosophy:

    ———————————————————————————-

    “First, while no great philosopher has explicitly espoused solipsism, this can be attributed to the inconsistency of much philosophical reasoning. Many philosophers have failed to accept the logical consequences of their own most fundamental commitments and preconceptions. The foundations of solipsism lie at the heart of the view that the individual gets his own psychological concepts (thinking, willing, perceiving, and so forth.) from “his own cases,” that is by abstraction from “inner experience.”

    This view, or some variant of it, has been held by a great many, if not the majority of philosophers since Descartes made the egocentric search for truth the primary goal of the critical study of the nature and limits of knowledge.

    In this sense, solipsism is implicit in many philosophies of knowledge and mind since Descartes and any theory of knowledge that adopts the Cartesian egocentric approach as its basic frame of reference is inherently solipsistic.

    Second, solipsism merits close examination because it is based upon three widely entertained philosophical presuppositions, which are themselves of fundamental and wide-ranging importance. These are: (a) What I know most certainly are the contents of my own mind – my thoughts, experiences, affective states, and so forth.; (b) There is no conceptual or logically necessary link between the mental and the physical. For example, there is no necessary link between the occurrence of certain conscious experiences or mental states and the “possession” and behavioral dispositions of a body of a particular kind; and (c) The experiences of a given person are necessarily private to that person.

    These presuppositions are of unmistakable Cartesian origin, and are widely accepted by philosophers and non-philosophers alike.” 
    —————————————————————————-

    Which is exactly the argument I’ve made here, which Madbat and others have erroneously translated into “solipsism”.

    It continues:

    ——————————————————————————-
    “A modern philosopher cannot evade solipsism under the Cartesian picture of consciousness without accepting the function attributed to God by Descartes (something few modern philosophers are willing to do). In view of this it is scarcely surprising that we should find the specter of solipsism looming ever more threateningly in the works of Descartes’ successors in the modern world, particularly in those of the British empiricist tradition.
    ———————————————————————————-

    Since I have been asserting throughout this thread that one must assume an objective arbiter of true statements (about self and world), and I have argued here and elsewhere that said arbiter can only be attributed to “god” (as defined), then we can easily see that I have of course avoided solipsism the same way Descartes did – with a premise that true statements about existence and the world can be deliberately discerned.

    What I have been pointing out, though, is the problem the consensual-empiricists face, even though they would like to deny it; since they are necessarily trapped in the same bubble of sensory interpretation via mind as anyone else, but have no presumed objective arbiter of true statements, then there is nothing to save them from solipsism.

    Unless one has an objective arbiter of true statements sufficient to the necessary task, solipsism is unavoidable (even though it is still deniable).  Atheistic materialists have no such objective arbiter of true statements up to the task of saving them from the solipsistic consequences of their atheistic materialism.

     

     

  29. Also, when we examine the second condition of solipsism:

    “(b) There is no conceptual or logically necessary link between the mental and the physical. For example, there is no necessary link between the occurrence of certain conscious experiences or mental states and the “possession” and behavioral dispositions of a body of a particular kind;”

    But, as my pschoplasmic view of matter demonstrates, I hold that there is a necessary and logical link between the mental and the physical – so I certainly cannot be a solipsist.

  30. WJM asserts: It appears that Madbat and others here are confusing my acceptance of the limitations of the experienital and interpretive root of knowledge … for solipsism.

    You seem to be implying here that you have some special insight into “the limitations of the experiential and interpretive root of knowledge.” Your “acceptance of the limitations of the experiential and interpretive root of knowledge” is simply a highfalutin, pseudo-philosophical euphemism for rejecting anything that doesn’t agree with your sectarian preconceptions.

    Are you suggesting that others don’t know anything about such limitations; that the entire science community is somehow so stupid that they overlook the obvious? This kind of innuendo reveals much about your lack of understanding of how science is actually conducted. It tells us why you ID/creationists get so miffed when you fail to pass – or even submit to – any rigorous peer review while whining that you are being expelled and persecuted.
    Systematic effects, random effects, experimental groups versus control groups, cross-checking and confirmation by other experimental groups, simultaneous confirmation by independent lines of evidence, and literally hundreds of other experimental techniques used in the conduct of research are completely meaningless to you aren’t they. You don’t even know they exist because your solipsistic mind hasn’t created any such knowledge.

    You think science is done by syllogisms and “logical argumentation;” that it is a closed, air-tight set of “philosophical arguments” that supports a preconceived “world view,” and all you have to do is call it science (or a “philosophical world view”) and it should therefore compete on a level playing field with the big boys.

    You have never discovered that science has often revealed that our naive intuitions and ingrained sectarian beliefs about the real world have been wrong; the processes of science work very well, and they have vastly extended the ranges of our senses. Yet you always want some kind of “science” to confirm what you have already assumed. You do this by word-gaming.

    But this is really all about you, isn’t it. It’s really quite boring, you know.

    But, as my pschoplasmic view of matter demonstrates, I hold that there is a necessary and logical link between the mental and the physical – so I certainly cannot be a solipsist.

    Crackpot comes to mind. Crackpots like to make up pretentious words to push their pseudo-science; or in your case, pseudo-philosophy.

    But since you live completely inside your head and reject all the findings of science that don’t fit with your whimsical pseudo-philosophy, solipsist works also. You don’t really believe in an external world that disagrees with your sectarian preconceptions. And you project your attitudes onto the figments of your imagination that you label as scientists.

    You live in a made-up world inside your own head. You don’t crosscheck with reality; you make up and believe whatever makes you happy. You have admitted this several times; and then you rationalize it with your pseudo-philosophy.

    Yeah, solipsist works just fine. But so does crackpot.

  31. Once again, the discussion could be short circuited by William simply demonstrating a novel insight that produces knowledge otherwise unobtainable. 

    William, you can talk all you like but only results actually matter.  

     

    Atheistic materialists have no such objective arbiter of true statements up to the task of saving them from the solipsistic consequences of their atheistic materialism.

    So once that is fixed, what then? What revelations will flow that currently cannot flow? Don’t be shy. If you have a more productive worldview then everybody else simply demonstrate that by producing novel information. Otherwise it’s no better then anybody else’s is it?

  32. Once again, the discussion could be short circuited by William simply demonstrating a novel insight that produces knowledge otherwise unobtainable.

    An implicit assumption that William might have any interest whatsoever in short-circuiting the discussion. 🙂

    WJM: Atheistic materialists have no such objective arbiter of true statements up to the task of saving them from the solipsistic consequences of their atheistic materialism.

    And black is the new white. Belief that minds are solely the result of their physical substrate leads to the conclusion that each individual possessing that belief must also believe (without even realising it) that theirs is the only one! I wonder if there is an independent arbiter of bullshit?

    Ho hum. C’est l’internet. Off to look for some pretty girls.

  33. Sez the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy as quoted by WJM: 

    A modern philosopher cannot evade solipsism under the Cartesian picture of consciousness without accepting the function attributed to God by Descartes (something few modern philosophers are willing to do).

    Presumably they, unlike WJM, disdain inventing imaginary dei ex machina.

  34. Neil: This is surely wrong, though it might be widely believed.  Categorization is prior to any possibility of their being information.  What we take to be information is typically a relation between categories.

    Categorization is prior to information, and information is prior to truth (since truth is a quality of information).

    This is precisely the point I attempted to make up thread as well in my example of states. Babies  don’t categorize information based upon some “primordial truth” – they merely “recognize” (and even that is pushing it a bit) the category (or state) of discomfort and through experience begin to associate certain activities with a change in that state. They don’t adopt or care about any of William’s supposed philosophies and don’t even care if they themselves – or anything else for that matter – “exist”. They merely react to discomfort and over time categorize activities that lead to a reduction in discomfort.

  35. You guys are way over my head. I’m still wondering, if theists say that invisible pink unicorns exist, why it is not their burden to demonstrate it.

  36. So once that is fixed, what then? What revelations will flow that currently cannot flow? Don’t be shy. If you have a more productive worldview then everybody else simply demonstrate that by producing novel information. Otherwise it’s no better then anybody else’s is it?

    Silly boys and girls, William isn’t saying (anything really, but I digress) that his worldview is “better” or “more productive” than anyone else’s worldview. He’s merely asserting (several times now I might add) that his worldview is philosophically internally consistent, while ours, (*sob*…alas!!), is not. That William can’t demonstrate in what specific ways ours is inconsistent or why we should care is of course the kicker.

    It’s really not unlike the discussion Harry has with Sally about having a “dark side” and not being “one of those cheerful people who dots their “I”s with little hearts”. To wit:

    Harry: When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.
    Sally: That doesn’t mean you’re deep or anything. I mean, yes, basically I’m a happy person…
    Harry: So am I.
    Sally: …and I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with that.
    Harry: Of course not. You’re too busy being happy. Do you ever think about death?
    Sally: Yes.
    Harry: Sure you do. A fleeting thought that drifts in and out of the transom of your mind. I spend hours, I spend days…
    Sally: – and you think this makes you a better person?
    Harry: Look, when the s–t comes down, I’m gonna be prepared and you’re not, that’s all I’m saying.
    Sally: And in the meantime, you’re gonna ruin your whole life waiting for it.

    Hell, we’ve basically rehashed the entire movie in the last 8 pages of this thread – except that no one here has slept with William. Personally I find Billy Crystal more entertaining than William, but then I guess he had better writers.

     

  37. This whole discussion from WJM is nothing more than the “Reformed Epistemology” of Alvin Plantinga. It has been around for centuries but Plantinga’s is the most recent version. Apologists have run with it ever since and piled on the word salad variations to incredible heights.

    It is usually used, as in WJMs case, as some sort of one-ups-man-ship claim on the superiority of the theists worldview. As if “atheist materialists” have no philosophical way out of being merely a brain in a vat. The irony, of course, is that the theists then posit that there is a God (lab tech) external to the universe (vat) that may (or may not) tell them about the “reality of their vat.”

    For the “atheist materialist”, we may indeed be a brains in a vats but we find no evidence of a lab tech or anything external to the vat. Instead we find that the universe is a very interesting place even if it is nothing but a vat.

    Perhaps the universe is what it appears to be and is, at least partially, discoverable by the methods of science.

     

  38. The universe/vat is indeed a very interesting place.

    Would it be any the worse for having no philosophers?

  39. I think we all layer our personal experience on top of what we learn from culture and social interaction. 

    So we make personal decisions — everything from medical care to cooking — based on the accumulated wisdom of our culture, plus our personal wants and personal experience.

    I guess what confuses me about WMJ’s “philosophy” is why he packages it as something new or  interesting, and why he thinks it’s relevant to the issues faced by science.

    Every successful person seems to think there is some  magical formula that would work for everyone. Magical thinking at its finest.

  40. Every successful person seems to think there is some magical formula that would work for everyone.

    In what way are you suggesting William has been successful? 😛

  41. He claims to be happy and successful.

    Personally I’ve done nothing remarkable with my life except produce two children who still like me as adults.  I wouldn’t trade that for all of Bill Gates’ wealth and fame.

    We all have our personal standards for success. 

  42. petrushka: I’m still wondering, if theists say that invisible pink unicorns exist, why it is not their burden to demonstrate it.

    As far as I am concerned, it is okay for theists to say that invisible pink unicorns exist.  It is only when they try to persuade me to believe them, that I expect them to provide good evidence.

  43. Just for the record, I’m trying to separate WJM’s “philosophy” of living, which is not uncommon, from his attempt at formal philosophy. Lots of people believe an optimistic approach to life results in success. Or at least more success than a cautious and pessimistic approach.

    What William seems to be doing with philosophy, however, is  demonizing people who have certain beliefs about how the world works. I’m sure he will object to this characterization, but it’s nonetheless a correct characterization.

    He assumes, as do most of the posters at UD, that people who don’t have an external moral anchor, will be bad people. At one point in this forum he mentioned that the opposing sides consider each other’s ideas as dangerous. I don’t know what the danger would be unless he assumes that atheists have no inhibitions against raping an pillaging.

    I can’t see why there would be so much emotional attachment to an idea unless you believe it has major social consequences. I mean, how many state legislators have introduced bills taking sides on Fermat’s last theorem? 

    I have to admit that I find advocating faith healing morally repugnant. That’s a bias I acquired growing up in a household with three generations of MDs. So I accept William’s assertion that each side thinks the other is “dangerous.” To some extent. 

    I also accept the characterization of ID advocates as people trying to substitute axiomatic thinking for research. It really is a cultural divide that is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

    My own position is that science gets to define itself and its methods. Let any “alternative” approaches be know by their fruit. 

  44. I find the title of this thread to be offensive. It’s as if I started a thread by asking if anyone who is not retarded can believe in God.

    It seems fashionable for evolution deniers to post like the computer program ELIZA. That the opponent’s post and turn it around.

    Thus we have an entire website  dedicated to the proposition that Darwinism is a religion, the implication being that “religion” is intellectually equivalent to dog poop. If Darwinism is religion, it is automatically false. the irony is thick.

    Our unlamented adversary here used this technique in nearly every post. It’s a cute propaganda technique, but intellectually vacuous.

    So I object to people who assert the existence of invisible pink unicorns and assert is is the responsibility of others to prove the negative.

    I might point out that theists never stop at asserting a first cause. But some wonderful coincidence, their first cause always has exactly the attributes they desire in their personal deity. I haven’t seen a theist who asserts the first cause is also a genocidal maniac who spends His spare time tweaking the genomes of parasites.

    Well, only one of those. 

  45. What William seems to be doing with philosophy, however, is  demonizing people who have certain beliefs about how the world works.

    Well, I certainly get the feeling he considers himself morally superior in some way, hence why I asked him if he thought other people’s freedom of thought and expression were important to him. Whilst he replied to my comment, he didn’t answer.

    Non sequitur for William:

     If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.
     
    The Dalai Lama

    If I were tempted to consider adopting some religion, Buddhism would be a lot higher on my list of choices than US Christian fundamentalism 🙂 

  46. I don’t see that Buddhism has any theology in the Western sense. There is no revealed history of the universe to conflict with the findings of science.

  47. WJM: Madbat is cherry-picking parts of a definition…. 

    Nice try. I picked exactly the relevant part of the definition. According to this definition, WJM’s epistemological position is solipsist. That’s what this discussion is about: epistemology.

    Then he hilariously shows in a very long-winded way that any philosophies that adopt this same view that WJM has adopted (that we can’t know anything about the world outside of our mind) indeed implicate solipsism!

    But here comes the best part:

     Since I have been asserting throughout this thread that one must assume an objective arbiter of true statements (about self and world), and I have argued here and elsewhere that said arbiter can only be attributed to “god” (as defined), then we can easily see that I have of course avoided solipsism the same way Descartes did – with a premise that true statements about existence and the world can be deliberately discerned.

    Yup. That’s all you’ve been doing: asserting stuff. And assertions are just as worthless as guides for truth as assumptions. The most spectacularly useless, self-contradictory assertion is encapsulated in your above statement. Your epistemology states that you cannot know anything about the world outside of your mind. But you imagine that something does exist outside of your mind. You call this the “objective arbiter of truth”. Of course, this arbiter is useless to you, since, after all, you cannot know anything about it, including whether it exists. And then, you just do a 180 backflip, and claim the exact opposite of what you have been claiming just mere sentences before, namely that you can know true stuff about the world outside of your mind (“true statements about existence and the world can be deliberately discerned”)! It’s magic! And it makes no sense whatsoever! But WJM must believe that it makes sense!
     

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