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atheism versus agnosticism

For topics that are more about faith, religion and religious organisations than anything else.
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Dan
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#41 Post by Dan » August 12th, 2010, 3:20 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

Nick wrote:
Dan wrote:I'm not so sure you've got to the nub of this NOMA business.
That is quite possible. To comment further, I'd need to study the subject in more detail, and tbh, it seems to me to be about as useful as theology. Maybe I'm just tired, maybe it seserves more attention, but it will have to wait.
What about morals and science? Clearly science can study morals, and clearly scientists can develop moral codes governing their work, so to that extent morality is not "outside science". But would you say that science discovers morals?
Er... not sure what you mean by that. But I do believe that a huge amount of morality comes from our human condition, and can therefore be studied through evolutionary biology, which is a science. I think most of our morality can be explained scientifically, even though some of it has changed quite markedly, even in the space of my lifetime.
I mean that science doesn't offer us a way of discovering how we ought to behave. It can, as I said, study the origins and development of moral behaviour, and that may be of ethical relevance. And it can tell us what the likely outcomes of particular courses of action are likely to be. But we have to decide for ourselves how we want to live, what our values are.

Dan

david house
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#42 Post by david house » August 12th, 2010, 3:48 pm

I have considered myself to be both at various times. I certainly don't see that there is any possibility that a "God" exists in any religious sense and see the development of most religions as responses to historical events by people who did not possess the knowledege we now have.
I do see the possibility of the existance of remote lifeforms with societies and technologies well advanced to our own, who have taken a benign interest in seeing that we develop successfully, and have found ways to try to influence and guide us. I can see how primitive humans might come to regard such as "Gods" and build up a whole worship based lifestyle upon such beliefs. I don't neccessarily think that has happened but accept that it might have. It would be a neat way of explaining a star in the east (spaceship) and an ascension to heaven (being beamed back up again).

Nick
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#43 Post by Nick » August 12th, 2010, 3:55 pm

Dan wrote:I mean that science doesn't offer us a way of discovering how we ought to behave. It can, as I said, study the origins and development of moral behaviour, and that may be of ethical relevance. And it can tell us what the likely outcomes of particular courses of action are likely to be. But we have to decide for ourselves how we want to live, what our values are.
Yes, I see now, and would broadly agree. However, we do decide that certain actions are moral or otherwise just because we are human and have evolved that way. A praying mantis may find it morally acceptable to bite off the head of a successful mate, but I don't! To some extent, that goes towards my definition of being a humanist, ie I accept my human condition and do not feel the need to derive a morality from some set of absolute principles, which I don't think exists, but from a human interpretation of the world about us, complete with our human emotional baggage.

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jaywhat
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#44 Post by jaywhat » August 13th, 2010, 8:52 am

a praying mantis is unlikely to be an atheist or an agnostic!

Gottard
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#45 Post by Gottard » August 13th, 2010, 9:47 pm

Nick wrote: A praying mantis may find it morally acceptable to bite off the head of a successful mate, but I don't! To some extent, ie I accept my human condition complete with our human emotional baggage.
Nick, would you mind specifying the above phrase pls.?
The only thing I fear of death is regret if I couldn’t complete my learning experience

Nick
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#46 Post by Nick » August 13th, 2010, 11:56 pm

I'm not sure precisely what you want me to explain, Peneasy, so I'll make a general response. Maybe you just didn't know about the mating habits of praying mantisis.... Feel free to question further.

Let's give another example. Many species abandon their young at birth, in the unconscious knowledge that out of several thousand, a few will make it to maturity. We, as humans, in evolutionary terms, cannot do this. As a consequence, we, as humans have evolved morals to reflect this. As a humanist, I'm happy to treat such an evolutionary result, buttressed as it is by our evolved power of reason and intelligence, as a moral stance to be defended. Likewise, our reason has, I think, allowed us to reach a level where we can defend something of no immediately obvious evolutionary advantage, eg homosexuality, perhaps. Again, I am happy with this. What is clear to me is that there is no such thing as intrinsic morality. It varies throughout nature. But it doesn't mean that we shouldn't, as humans, seek to judge things with a moral eye.

Gottard
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#47 Post by Gottard » August 14th, 2010, 9:35 pm

Nick, you haven't read your (reconstructed) phrase properly ...and you have spoiled my artwork of sarcasm :hilarity:
The only thing I fear of death is regret if I couldn’t complete my learning experience

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animist
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#48 Post by animist » August 15th, 2010, 8:56 pm

Dan wrote:
animist wrote: Agree in principle. But then God has the unfortunate characteristic of being everywhere and nowhere, so is impossible to disprove in practice, not just difficult.
You don't think that there are fundamental conceptual - logical - problems with the notion of "being everywhere and nowhere" that ought to be clarified first? We don't need to spend long on something that seems like nonsense.
I suppose, really, we are neglecting the relevant difference between supernatural beings like God and angels, which are sort of mystically floating around rather than IN a physical space, and say, aliens amongst us, or the planet Nibiru, which (and I have an atheist friend who believes this) is due to meet the Earth in 2012 - so where is it?
Someone has to articulate clearly what that difference consists in, though, and this has rather blatently failed to be done. You describe it as "mystically floating around rather than IN a physical space", but it's not clear that any sense can be made of this.

Dan
I do think it is nonsense in fact, but I suppose we both think so because we are
materialists who also find it hard to seriously entertain the possibility of, say, ghosts or
reincarnation - these topics are "fringe" religion (New Age etc) rather than "core"
religion like gods or angels. I think in fact there is a fairly clear difference in conceiving
of such things compared with aliens, as the latter would have to be ultimately biological
organisms who are, like us, living in space and time. By the way, my friend believes in
both aliens and the "fringe" religious stuff, and you start wondering what the definition
of "religious" really is; as I said, he is an atheist who loathes orthodox religion. But
whatever it may be - biological aliens or intrinsically more unlikely beings who don't obey
the normal laws of physical life - my main point is that it is up to the believer to prove
their existence. Unfortunately, there are still philosophers who don't accept this.

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Paolo
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#49 Post by Paolo » August 20th, 2010, 8:15 am

animist wrote: ... my main point is that it is up to the believer to prove their existence. Unfortunately, there are still philosophers who don't accept this.
Ah, but with proof there is no need for Faith. I think the PIPO (Prove It or Piss Off) response is very satisfying, but it is weakened by our reliance on unproven theoretical models for much of what we do. The gap between fact and our interpretation of what a fact may provide evidence for is theory - some theories are better supported than others, but absolute proof is a very difficult thing to find, as there are so many possible interpretations of facts.

Dan
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#50 Post by Dan » August 23rd, 2010, 3:15 pm

animist wrote: I do think it is nonsense in fact, but I suppose we both think so because we are
materialists who also find it hard to seriously entertain the possibility of, say, ghosts or
reincarnation - these topics are "fringe" religion (New Age etc) rather than "core"
religion like gods or angels. I think in fact there is a fairly clear difference in conceiving
of such things compared with aliens, as the latter would have to be ultimately biological
organisms who are, like us, living in space and time. By the way, my friend believes in
both aliens and the "fringe" religious stuff, and you start wondering what the definition
of "religious" really is; as I said, he is an atheist who loathes orthodox religion. But
whatever it may be - biological aliens or intrinsically more unlikely beings who don't obey
the normal laws of physical life - my main point is that it is up to the believer to prove
their existence. Unfortunately, there are still philosophers who don't accept this.
I'm not sure I'm willing to say I think some of this stuff is nonsense because I'm a materialist. It's nonsense independent of my particular stance. I mean, I don't think everything I disagree with is nonsense. Only the things that are nonsense. Aliens aren't nonsense. Not all concepts of God are nonsense.

Dan

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animist
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#51 Post by animist » August 25th, 2010, 5:27 pm

Dan wrote:
animist wrote: I do think it is nonsense in fact, but I suppose we both think so because we are
materialists who also find it hard to seriously entertain the possibility of, say, ghosts or
reincarnation - these topics are "fringe" religion (New Age etc) rather than "core"
religion like gods or angels. I think in fact there is a fairly clear difference in conceiving
of such things compared with aliens, as the latter would have to be ultimately biological
organisms who are, like us, living in space and time. By the way, my friend believes in
both aliens and the "fringe" religious stuff, and you start wondering what the definition
of "religious" really is; as I said, he is an atheist who loathes orthodox religion. But
whatever it may be - biological aliens or intrinsically more unlikely beings who don't obey
the normal laws of physical life - my main point is that it is up to the believer to prove
their existence. Unfortunately, there are still philosophers who don't accept this.
I'm not sure I'm willing to say I think some of this stuff is nonsense because I'm a materialist. It's nonsense independent of my particular stance. I mean, I don't think everything I disagree with is nonsense. Only the things that are nonsense. Aliens aren't nonsense. Not all concepts of God are nonsense.

Dan
You are sort of just saying "A is A", which would not get you very far if you argued with a spiritualist, since these things would NOT be nonsense to them; with respect, you have to get outside your own position and see your views on specific topics in the context of your general outlook. Aliens are indeed not nonsense - I did not say that they were, and in fact I was trying to distinguish between naturalistic beings (like aliens) whose existence we do not actually know, from spiritual entities. I agree that not all concepts of God are nonsense. I am not certain I would say that ghosts are nonsense anyway - I just meant that as a materialist, I and maybe you (I included you, which probably I should not have) incline to think that way. To put it more simply, I would need a lot more convincing about the existence of ghosts, say, than about that of ETs.

philbo
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#52 Post by philbo » August 26th, 2010, 9:58 am

Dan wrote:Aliens aren't nonsense. Not all concepts of God are nonsense.
ISTM that what makes a lot of alien stories and a lot of God stories nonsensical is the way people seem to think aliens/gods will behave - generally as powerful (or all-powerful) humans with staggering pettiness and prurient interest in sex.

Nirvanam
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#53 Post by Nirvanam » August 26th, 2010, 8:44 pm

Nick wrote:I agree wholeheartedly with TTD's beautifully succinct summary of the atheist/agnostic question.
animist wrote:So, atheists need to be humble and accept that the only certainty about big G is uncertainty - hey, is that not agnosticism?
It seems to me that you are interpreting the ultimate uncertainty as a 50/50 position. It is not. Though I acknowledge the possibility of there being a god, the probability of his existence is vanishingly small.
Why? and more importantly How?

In fact, is there any logically justifiable basis for that phrase/// "probability of his existence is vanishingly small"

edit: added the last sentence

Nirvanam
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#54 Post by Nirvanam » August 26th, 2010, 8:55 pm

tubataxidriver wrote:Agnosticism is my "scientifically correct" position, but atheism is my working hypothesis.
Please help me understand what does "scientifically correct" mean.

The way I understand, something is correct or not when it is compared to an original expectation/requirement/specification. Example - The correctness of the statement 30 euros = 38.2 USD as at <date-time> as per <institution> can be validated by comparing the claim made in the statement with a standard which, in this case is, <date-time> and <institution> exchange rate.

Therefore, when you say scientifically correct, is there a standard somewhere which tells us what is scientific correctness?

The question may sound pedantic, but believe me, this is a very very fundamental question that has not been answered and careers and lives of thousands of people have either been unjustifiably destroyed or unjustifiably made to prosper.

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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#55 Post by Nick » August 26th, 2010, 9:35 pm

Nirvanam wrote:
Nick wrote:Though I acknowl edge the possibility of there being a god, the probability of his existence is vanishingly small.
Why?
Because of the total absense of evidence for such a hypothosis, as well as philisophical problems too.
and more importantly How?
How what? It may be more important but I don't understand what you are driving at.

In fact, is there any logically justifiable basis for that phrase/// "probability of his existence is vanishingly small"[/quote]
If there is a total absence of evidence, what other nonsense should we take into account, for which there is also no evidence? It is more logically justifiable, by a huge margin, that a god does not exist.

Nirvanam
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#56 Post by Nirvanam » August 27th, 2010, 12:20 am

Nick wrote:
Nirvanam wrote:Why?
Because of the total absense of evidence for such a hypothosis, as well as philisophical problems too.
I'd imagine that some kind of objectivity is introduced when a statement about probability of the existence of something is made. It becomes even more important to do so when we introduce a hypothesis. Essentially how are you calculating probability here?
Nick wrote:
Nirvanam wrote:and more importantly How?
How what? It may be more important but I don't understand what you are driving at.
How are you calculating the probability
Nick wrote:
Nirvanam wrote:In fact, is there any logically justifiable basis for that phrase/// "probability of his existence is vanishingly small"
If there is a total absence of evidence, what other nonsense should we take into account, for which there is also no evidence? It is more logically justifiable, by a huge margin, that a god does not exist.
Do you know what you are looking for, to say it is absent?

For you to claim something does not exist you should at least know what you are looking for. I understand that the claim of the absence of something may help you to negate the requirement of knowing what you are looking for, in a physical sense. However, at least you should know its influence on the environment (physical things) based on which you can claim that it is absent. For ex, none of us have "seen" energy in the physical sense but we can test its existence because we hold that it influences things around us - existence of heat energy boils the tea, existence of magnetism can be proved when you bring a magnet in contact with another magnet or iron, etc

Here is another simple example of 'total absence of evidence for such a hypothesis' -
Astronomers used to theorize that other stars in our galaxy also had planets. Now, modern science works on experimentation and verification. Unless a planet revolving around another star is discovered the concept of other stars having planets remains non-fact no matter how sophisticated the theory may be(Black holes remained a theory until event horizons were seen).

So, what did Astronomers do? They started looking through their telescopes, pointing them around the stars they felt could possibly have planets revolving around them. For about a couple of decades they found nothing. Then it hit them that given the distance, they will not be able to see planets of other star systems because the light of the stars themselves would be so bright. They realized that they had to find a different way to accomplish their objectives. After a few more years it hit them that they can 'detect' the existence of a planet by its effect on the star! (I dunno the details but it had something to do with color of light and existence of certain gases/elements, gravitational forces in the star that gave away its planets - if there were planets then the star's light would be so and so color or the star would have so and so elements, etc). Once they realized this, they detected the first planet and it became a big news item. This wasn't until the 90's. Now they have improved their techniques of detecting planets (although they theorize that it'll be possible only to detect planets that orbit closer to its star, not like our Neptune/Uranus types). And now that they know what to look for, the detection of a new planet in another star is no longer a big news item; they find almost 2 planets a month these days (as told by this Astronomer on Nat Geo/Fox History channel's series on Stephen Hawking recently).

So, do you know what you are looking for? Or is it convenient to choose a Null Hypothesis = there is no god...let's leave it for them to show me the evidence? Luckily many of our top scientists did not wait for the planets themselves to come and tell us that they exist...they figured what constitutes evidence and went about looking for it

Nick
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#57 Post by Nick » August 27th, 2010, 11:11 am

Nirvanam wrote:
Nick wrote:
Nirvanam wrote:Why?
Because of the total absense of evidence for such a hypothosis, as well as philisophical problems too.
I'd imagine that some kind of objectivity is introduced when a statement about probability of the existence of something is made. It becomes even more important to do so when we introduce a hypothesis. Essentially how are you calculating probability here?
In the total absence of evidence for any deity hitherto dreamed of, it is logical to look elsewhere for explanations. However, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, so one must acknowledge the theoretical possibility of a deity. However, as there are better explanations, the probability remains vanishingly small.
Do you know what you are looking for, to say it is absent?
I'm taking as a guide the concept of the god of the 3 major world faiths. That might seem arrogantly western-centric, but in truth, the average modern westerner finds the concept of other gods (Norse, Roman, Greek, Asian etc) too ridiculous to consider seriously. There's a lesson here: the western god is the same.
For you to claim something does not exist you should at least know what you are looking for. I understand that the claim of the absence of something may help you to negate the requirement of knowing what you are looking for, in a physical sense. However, at least you should know its influence on the environment (physical things) based on which you can claim that it is absent. For ex, none of us have "seen" energy in the physical sense but we can test its existence because we hold that it influences things around us - existence of heat energy boils the tea, existence of magnetism can be proved when you bring a magnet in contact with another magnet or iron, etc
Well, as a starting position, how about looking for a source of morality and a cause of the universe? In neither of these cases is there any evidence of a supreme being, nor is it the best explanation, by a long chalk. Our experience of energy led to hypothesis and testing, to theory and prediction, and has itself responded to research. That does not apply to any religion.

(I may come back to your astronomy example later. It is straightforward to deal with)

.

Nirvanam
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#58 Post by Nirvanam » August 27th, 2010, 2:36 pm

Nick wrote:In the total absence of evidence for any deity hitherto dreamed of, it is logical to look elsewhere for explanations. However, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, so one must acknowledge the theoretical possibility of a deity. However, as there are better explanations, the probability remains vanishingly small.
Again, the basic question is, do you know what you are looking for? What according to you is a deity? Secondly, 'vanishingly small', is an invalid conclusion of a premise that states - 'as there are better explanations'. What are these explanations? The explanation, I presume would be of some phenomenon...do these 'better' explanations include the phenomenon called god? Best way to answer this is to first define god.
Nick wrote:I'm taking as a guide the concept of the god of the 3 major world faiths. That might seem arrogantly western-centric,
Perfect! And there in lies the problem
Nick wrote: but in truth, the average modern westerner finds the concept of other gods (Norse, Roman, Greek, Asian etc) too ridiculous to consider seriously.
Another illogical conclusion...you say the 'average modern westerner finds...', my question - aren't the average modern easterners equally relevant?
Nick wrote: There's a lesson here: the western god is the same.
Sorry Nick, the lesson here is that you do not know what is the definition of god. You are assuming western god is the same. At least attempt to define western god, and eastern god, and any other god...southern? northern? northeastern?
Nick wrote:Well, as a starting position, how about looking for a source of morality and a cause of the universe? In neither of these cases is there any evidence of a supreme being, nor is it the best explanation, by a long chalk. Our experience of energy led to hypothesis and testing, to theory and prediction, and has itself responded to research. That does not apply to any religion.
Again, what is your understanding of god? Your entire argument depends upon one thing, that is your definition of god. And unless you can define it, you will not be making it clear whether you are speaking in the air, or you know what you are talking about as in you have some logical rationale (means the logical rationale that is used in determining logical fallacies. Everyone has some "logic" or rationale in his views, the question is, whether that logic is agreeable to the established logical fallacy determination. But I'll give it to you that the established logical fallacy determination itself is not complete, rather can never be complete)
Nick wrote:(I may come back to your astronomy example later. It is straightforward to deal with)
That won't be necessary because it is only an example. Focusing too much on the example will lead us to debate the example rather than the original point to be debated.

Nick
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#59 Post by Nick » August 27th, 2010, 3:04 pm

As someone who doesn't believe in any concept of god it is not for me to make the definition, but rather for those who are making the claim. It is also difficult define the non-existent. Isn't that why the religious talk of divine mysteries?

However, I tried to define a concept of god by setting out some parameters that a god should have:
as a starting position, how about looking for a source of morality and a cause of the universe?
If there were any evidence for these, then that would be cause to consider the existence of God. But there isn't. Please read my previous post with that in mind.

I'm not familiar with other gods, so it is up to you to propose one.

Nirvanam
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#60 Post by Nirvanam » August 27th, 2010, 3:08 pm

Nick wrote:Well, as a starting position, how about looking for a source of morality and a cause of the universe? In neither of these cases is there any evidence of a supreme being, nor is it the best explanation, by a long chalk.
Just thought I'll add more points at this...

how does source of morality determine the existence of god or its absence?

how does cause of a universe determine existence or absence of god? if you find a cause for the universe, then can you say god does not exist? or if you do not find a cause for the universe can u claim god exists? NO logical connection between the premises and conclusion - very very important, this. Secondly, what is the cause of the universe? Has anyone ever explained to you or humanity what is the cause of universe (I know priests do but I am not referring to those guys I am talking about the non-god guys)? Let me help you here, all you need to do is to let us know what is the cause of the big bang...all causes die there, do we have a cause for the big bang?

supreme being...same thing...what is your understanding of a supreme being? I assume you are referring to supreme being = god. And since you say it is not the best explanation, I assume you know the best explanation, or at least a better explanation. What is that?

Nirvanam
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Re: atheism versus agnosticism

#61 Post by Nirvanam » August 27th, 2010, 3:15 pm

Nick wrote:As someone who doesn't believe in any concept of god it is not for me to make the definition, but rather for those who are making the claim. It is also difficult define the non-existent. Isn't that why the religious talk of divine mysteries?
That is illogical. It is not necessary for you to define god to opine that a god does not exist. But to claim probability of existence or not, you should at least be aware of what the definition of god is according to the god-believers? Fair?
Nick wrote:However, I tried to define a concept of god by setting out some parameters that a god should have:
as a starting position, how about looking for a source of morality and a cause of the universe?
If there were any evidence for these, then that would be cause to consider the existence of God. But there isn't. Please read my previous post with that in mind.
My new post (it was cross-posted) extends an argument, let's debate those points.
Nick wrote:I'm not familiar with other gods, so it is up to you to propose one.
I definitely will, but let's first finish off the debate on the stance for the absence of existence of god...whether that is logical enough

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