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Putting Faith In Its Place

tip to Pedantsareus


 

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Man, it's good to have doug back.

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But, but, but ... Jeremy Brett IS the definitive Sherlock Holmes!!!!!

I've liked a lot of the other vids posted regarding logic and rationality, but this one had something in it that bothered me.

At around 1:59, it notes that "Logic alone CAN refute impossible beings," which doesn't make sense when you consider that the vast amount of things we don't know about reality makes ruling out the existence of a higher power impossible.

Better would be the label "improbable beings," as the evidence (or rather the lack of evidence to support the existence of a higher power) creates a best-working theory that there are no gods. But without definitive proof to refute the claim that they do exist, to make the claim that there is no god requires as much faith as claiming that one does exist.

But this is a no-win debate. Neither side can prove they're right, and so nothing useful is achieved until both sides realize that the agnostics have the best answer to the question of whether or not a higher power exists: "I don't know." It's also usually followed by, "... and I don't care."

It requires just as much faith to be a theist or an atheist.

I think you mistook his comment. He wasn't saying that God is necessarily impossible, but only that logic CAN refute impossible beings such as a God invoked which has supposed attributes that are impossible. For examples of these see his list of "countless impossible beings" at 1:40.

But that's based on the notion that we have all the facts we need to make the conclusive determination of what is and is not impossible.

Fella, we haven't even left our solar system. We don't know nearly enough about how the universe works to conclusively determine what is and is not within the realm of possibility.

We only have enough data to form theories - some better than others. So while logic can call a being "highly improbable," it cannot call it "impossible." To do so requires, ironically, an 'impossible' degree of awareness about how the universe works.

But that's based on the notion that we have all the facts we need to make the conclusive determination of what is and is not impossible.

Fella, we haven't even left our solar system. We don't know nearly enough about how the universe works to conclusively determine what is and is not within the realm of possibility.

We only have enough data to form theories - some better than others. So while logic can call a being "highly improbable," it cannot call it "impossible." To do so requires, ironically, an 'impossible' degree of awareness about how the universe works.

It requires just as much faith to be a theist or an atheist.

It does take a leap to say one knows there is no God, but it certainly doesn't take as large a leap to believe the highly improbably doesn't exist rather than believeing the highly improbable does exist. Studying the origin of religion and viewing the diversity of human belief is significant evidence that all that exists is human beliefs based on emotion and tradition.

I would tend to agree with your point that oxymoronic concepts in alternate dimensions are not necessarily an impossibility because we ca't possibly know the natural laws of such a place.

Rather we do know the laws of our own words, so a "cat made of happy" can't exist because it wouldn't be a cat even is happy was a solid thing. Similarly conceptions of God that self contradict are really self defeating ideas. A god that cares about our sex lives isn't really a god so much as a peeping tom.

I would agree with your statement about a "cat made of happy," but must also point out that it's like saying an lemon is a different colored lime. It's not true because the two items are distinct and identifiable and have been noted as such already - a lemon is a lemon and a lime is a lime. A cat is a cat (a thing) and happy is happy (a feeling).

What I wonder, though, is why you say "It does take a leap to say one knows there is no God, but it certainly doesn't take as large a leap to believe the highly improbable doesn't exist rather than believing the highly improbable does exist." I was unaware we had discovered a way to quantify faith.

The problem is that, without ourselves being omniscient, any statement made definitively is unprovable ... which is why science deals principally with theories of how things work. It's rather presumptuous to say that there is no higher power if you can't prove that there isn't - you're making an assertion based on a best-working theory. But without having the fullest understanding of the universe (which, to my mind is one of the few things I would consider to be truly impossible), one can merely label most things improbable.

My larger point is that any debate over the issue is useless - what needs to be debated less than "is there/isn't there" is "how can we be respectful and tolerant of other peoples' beliefs without allowing any one set of subjective opinions to dominate our society?"

I was unaware we had discovered a way to quantify faith

Three cats worth.

All beliefs take some small acts of faith in the consistently the universe and the accuracy of human perception. I was just responding to the suppostion that it took equal faith to believe in god and to believe such a thing to not exist.

Faith is belief without evidence. There is evidence that many of the proposed gods do not exist.

Believing the improbably doesn't exist until evidence arises seems fairly reasonable.

"how can we be respectful and tolerant of other peoples' beliefs without allowing any one set of subjective opinions to dominate our society?"

Edit hell out of the bible?

I think Non-theists have done a great job of this, by inserting reason into the discussion. Particularly in regards to science, education, and government. We have had one point of view dominating our society for quite some time. A point of view that has at times been rather ruthless. Demanding that the public debate be governed by reason is the best strategy I have seen to change that.

Interesting! What you're saying, RedSeven, sounds to me like:

  • Agnostics think the existence of God has a "fifty-fifty" likelihood. Maybe, maybe not.

  • Atheists think it is one in a billion billion billion, given what we do understand about the universe and the infinite concepts that can be created to explain what we don't. Probably not by a long shot.

And going by RewritingDavid's comments, one thing both sides do have in common is the: and I don't care.

And aye, there's the rub: The real issue is convincing the religious zealots to adopt the same philosophy, and worry about something less pointless than the "Celestial Teapot du jour".

Two comments that aren't correct about that.

  1. That agnostics believe it's 50/50. No, that's not true. We're defined by our lack of concern for the existence or non-existence of God ... which leads me to

  2. That both atheists and agnostics "don't care." Atheists seem to care very greatly about the non-existence of God. Enough to argue vehemently against the existence of one.

But caring isn't necessarily the problem - it's the knowing that's the problem. There are so many things we are incapable of knowing that it bugs the shit out of me when someone says they "know" something that they can't possibly know; they can believe it, but they cannot know it.

"I know God exists" cannot be proven. It is possible if highly improbable.

"I know God does not exist" cannot be proven. It is possible, and highly probable (based on the best available evidence).

And the attacks on agnostics by atheists and theists alike reminds me of how many bisexual people face discrimination from both heterosexuals and homosexuals. We're not fence sitters who want to be able to jump to the "winning" side. We simply don't want to be forced to choose one arrogant assumption or the other.

"Demanding" that the public debate be governed by reason

snicker

No One has to listen obviously.

that sounds reasonable

It requires just as much faith to be a theist or an atheist.

Your argument about faith being required by both believers and non believers alike doesn't hold if you don't define theist and atheist. Referring to your argument, it is assumed an atheist believes there is no god. This is unreasonable, because a person can reasonably use the atheist label to mean without religion. This would be like saying it requires faith to disbelieve in the existence of unicorns, but it doesn't take faith, just an aversion to accepting every notion one is exposed to.

The argument also confuses two ways in which the term faith is used. A person that has faith in the existence of their supernatural entity uses the term completely differently that the person that uses the term to justify the prediction that a dropped object will fall to the floor.

It requires just as much faith to be a theist or an atheist.

The Atheist Experience on "It requires just as much faith to be a theist or an atheist." (Youtube)

Of course it doesn't require as much faith to be a theist and an atheist. RedSeven and others already explained it, but I will go further in saying that it's perfectly reasonable to say there is no God.

If by "God" you mean what 99.9999% of actual religious people mean, that there's a super-powerful being that meddles with the world supernaturally.

There is evidence AGAINST that/

The atheist=believer gambit is just a tired old cheap shot that disingenuous wishy washy agnostics and religious people trying to find an excuse to derail the argument use.

The Atheist Experience

I love that video. The end is superb, because not only is it a perfect demonstration of a theist reaction to the atheist statement, but also demonstrates the fundamental trigger. Any statement contrary to a theist's claims is seen as an attack on their beliefs, which is justified by reason and therefore impossible to contradict without resorting to such unreasonable statements or actions.

Reading through the comments since yesterday, I notice there's one thing that every respondent has in common: they're asserting that they can make a definitive statement that God does not exist solely on the basis of a lack of evidence of the existence of one.

My argument was that the conclusion that God does not exist is merely the best-working theory - it cannot be definitively proven, but the data seems to support it strongly.

What this means is that any person making such a claim with absolute certainty is making a statement of faith - that they believe, without evidence that fully supports their claim, that a God does not exist. Which, to my mind, is as unreasonable as claiming, without evidence to fully support you, that God DOES exist.

Also, agnostics aren't "wishy washy." Agnostics don't know, and don't care. If there's a God, great. If there isn't a God, that's just fine. I simply can't be bothered to waste my time arguing for or against one's existence.

But when we spend all this time trying to one-up the other side, we lose out on the opportunities we have to debate the larger relevance of our beliefs - their impact on how we live our lives.

The militant atheism called for by Richard Dawkins bothers me because it sounds a lot like the Christian soldiers being raised in close-minded environments to fight for their faith. It's not a different way of thinking - it's merely the same way of thinking on the other side of the spectrum. A spectrum of faith.

I'd really rather not associate with either side because both seem to be fundamentally combative about their beliefs - like how Andyo made several very broad generalizations about "religious people" and agnostics.

Faith is belief without evidence. If it's the best working theory that all verifiable evidence supports, than it really isn't faith.

I suppose all occasions of absolute certainty involve a certain about of belief beyond evidence but believing with absolute certainty that my desk is a solid object does not involve the same leap as believing Unicorns missed their ride on the Ark.

So this...

is as unreasonable as claiming, without evidence to fully support you, that God DOES exist.

Simply isn't true.

Part of the problem with your argument is that you don't clarify a god.

Lets replace god with Zeus. Very quickly we can all agree that it doesn't take much faith at all to not believe and the level it would take to believe would likely be certifiable. Particularly after a fly-over of Mount Olympus.

All God claims face similar challenge both in the origin of their beliefs and in the evidence that rejects particular definitions of God.

Would it take an act of faith to reject a God that no one knows anything about? I think it stretches the definition of faith to say so, but luckily no religious peoples really are actually posing that question.

There is no church that worships a god about which nothing is known.

I didn't say all agnostics were wishy-washy. I said that that argument is made by agnostics who are wishy washy... the "wishy-washy agnostics". Maybe they aren't aware of the "true" meaning of being an agnostic, but they call themselves so, so who am I to disagree... I don't even consider myself a true agnostic, whatever that is.

And most atheists that are reason-based (like the angry and evil "New Atheists") don't ABSOLUTELY say there is NO God. You can always say that his thing is to hide and not help, or that he's not omnipotent, whatever.

We don't deal with absolutes in the real world. BUT, if you take these two statements: "An omnipotent God who meddles and listens to us exists", and "No, it doesn't". Only one of those is perfectly reasonable to say. You know which one. In what sense, then, are atheists on any even remotely similar terms than theists?

The militant atheism called for by Richard Dawkins bothers me because it sounds a lot like the Christian soldiers being raised in close-minded environments to fight for their faith.

This is simply bullshit. The harshest critic of theism I've heard coming from the so called New Atheists is Hitchens, and he comes nowhere near rabble rousing theists. There are many examples of preachers and evangelists using words like war, battle and fight in reference to their supposed struggle.

You imply that there are just as many atheists calling the masses to arms as there are religious nuts that do so. This simply is not true.

Agreed. Dawkins and others are simply moving the Atheist voice from silent to outspoken. That certainly isn't coming within spitting distance of religious groups that along side calm discussion also advocate intolerance and sometimes violence. Not that we shouldn't be careful but Its no different in tone than the GLBT community saying intolerance of them is itself intolerable.

1: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/richarddawkinsonmilitantatheism.html

2: "You imply that there are just as many atheists calling the masses to arms as there are religious nuts that do so. This simply is not true." That's not what I was implying. I was saying that militant atheism bothers me as much as Christian soldiers. I made no claim to their strength of numbers or force.

  1. "If it's the best working theory that all verifiable evidence supports, than it really isn't faith." Here's what seems to be tripping this discussion up. I'm not arguing in favor of the existence of God. And I'm not trying to steal second without taking my foot off first. The key to understanding our source of disagreement is the phrase "all verifiable evidence." That phrase needs to be modified to "all evidence that we can currently verify." Again, my concession is that there is a plausibly infinite amount of knowledge about the universe that we do not have access to; and contained within it are things that could potentially change our understanding of the universe (including, perhaps, God).

Therefore, the simplest and most truthful answer any person can give when asked whether or not God exists is "I don't know." And if you need to assert your belief that there is or isn't, state it as such: "I don't believe so," or "I do believe so."

More to the point, asking whether or not God exists is entirely different than asking if Zeus resides on Mount Olympus. You're asking a question that cannot be answered definitively as opposed to one that can. It's theoretical physics versus biological science: best evidence versus observable evidence.

Richard Dawkins on militant atheism

Just listening to this again.

You do realize that churches to have big budgets with full time staff who have the mission of conversion and word spreading and the like. Many insist all non believers (atheists and other faiths) are going to hell. Not to mention organizations designed to fight science. Folks that advocate violence. Organize soldiers in the US military and educate them to fight our middle eastern conflicts as a holy war. To build the army of Jesus.

What is Dawkins suggesting that comes with a million miles of any of that? His attack does not mean, shoot in the same way it does in a religious Madrasah or born again Jesus camp.

The idea that we might compete with them in terms of rudeness is a concern I don't really share. Being polite will not lead to the reasoned public policy discussions that we need to have as a people.

More to the point, asking whether or not God exists is entirely different than asking if Zeus resides on Mount Olympus. You're asking a question that cannot be answered definitively as opposed to one that can. It's theoretical physics versus biological science: best evidence versus observable evidence.

I think you have the the questions completely reversed.

You see, no one is asking if god exists. I don't care or have any certainty on that issue.

The question is, does Jesus, Yahweh or Mohamed exist? These are the modern brothers of Zeus, Saturn, Thor, and the many great spirits worshiped around the world over the course of history. Do any of them have any real advantages over any other? Not in my view. Can we trace their histories and origins to human failiings rather than divine interventions, yes. Those that fell away did so not because they were disproved or evidence amassed for a new god. Politics, power plays and imperial rule dictate the spread of beliefs.

Can one be certain these religions are false without knowing with certainty that there is no divine multi-dimensional super-being watching us?

Yes.

Is it rude to tell the emperor about his outfit? Probably. Should you say something before it becomes the national uniform. Hells yes!

And the message of "militant atheists" is not "Convert now and save your mind from eternal stupidity". It it, "It's ok not to believe."

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