This is a blog to discuss philosophy, chess, politics,
C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
If I understand the article, Zara says that 1 Theism is incoherent in any formulation2 Therefore, there can be no evidence for theismIf the case he presents for premise 1 were any good, then there might be something to the argument. But it isn't.
MattghgI believe the article expresses the argument that, seeing as how the known formulations for God appear incoherent, talk of evidence is premature. So, what is the correct formulation for Theism?
Really, you don't need to get further than the starting quote.It seems like a reasonable statement that we atheists would change our minds about the existence of God if presented with the right kind of evidence. I'm going to propose that this position is actually not reasonable at all.The rest is just ignorant scattershot wharblegarble, and radically confused. (I love the bit about the Vogon fleet. The man doesn't seem to realize, as Nick Bostrom openly speculates, once you're willing to cop to a being of enough power and resources, you're dealing with what anyone would call God or god anyway.)But that quote is magnificent, and illustrates that evidence actually means squat to some atheists. Whatever argument, evidence, or experience they have will be explained away.And, contra mattghg, I think he's incorrect in his interpretation of Zara. He doesn't dare say that theism is 'incorrect in any formulation'. He mostly makes 1 to 2 sentence long complaints about caricatures of theism, and then moves on.
It's difficult to parcel out the tangled webs of sophistry this guy spins. But here's one go at one knot of it. "And finally, what I consider the most absurd position of all – theists claim that we are far more than material beings, that we can exist beyond death of our bodies, that our true selves have a supernatural foundation, and yet they insist that we could not exist unless God had tuned the universe just so, to make the physical, natural world perfect for our existence, an act which would seem absurd if our true selves were non-physical." So, our true selves are non-physical (a position Christians needn't advocate). However, God needed to have fine-tuned the physical world for our existence. Therefore... Contradiction? This undergraduate philosophy sophomore neglected that even given substance dualism (which is not necessitated by Christian belief), human beings are not entirely non-physical, and so there's nothing "absurd" about God needing to create a physical world in order to create human beings.
If it's impossible, in principle, to prove an aberration from the nature of the physical world because what appears to be an aberration may in time be reasonably synthesized with the rest of one's naturalistic model of the universe, then for the same reason it is impossible, in principle, to prove what the nature of the physical world is.
A clear, cogent and reasoned exposé on the problematic nature of theism generally and supernaturalism particularly.Incidentally, what is this thing, 'god', that a few people talk about ? Does it do anything? Does it make anything? From where can we buy one to place at the bottom of the garden among the gnomes and cherubim spouting water from its ........ ?Might look good on the mantelpiece or hanging on the wall.
There are two a hidden premises in this argument from inconceivability:1. That what is inconceivable is impossible2. That what he finds inconceivable defines what anyone else can conceive.So, toss it and start over I'd say.
finney:"And finally, what I consider the most absurd position of all – theists claim that we are far more than material beings, that we can exist beyond death of our bodies, that our true selves have a supernatural foundation, and yet they insist that we could not exist unless God had tuned the universe just so, to make the physical, natural world perfect for our existence, an act which would seem absurd if our true selves were non-physical."Really, the conceptual sloppiness here is too pathetic for words. Every salient historical feature of the theistic tradition, both particular and general, flies in the face of Zara's statement. Re: "theists claim that we are far more than material beings;" wrong, c.f. Peter van Inwagen, certain Calvinists, deists, etc. Re: "that we can exist beyond death of our bodies;" wrong, there is no necessary connection between "a Creator of the cosmos exists" and "human beings can exist beyond bodily death." Re: "that our true selves have a supernatural foundation." wrong again, nothing within theism ("some kind of Deity created the cosmos") makes reference to "our true selves." Re: "they insist that we could not exist unless God had tuned the universe just so." wrong, the conception of God as cosmic "tuner," "tinkerer," etc., has been rejected by both Thomists and Christian Platonists throughout history, i.e., the conception has been rejected by most of Christian tradition. Re: "our true selves were non-physical;" wrong, classical theists famously reject such a notion, believing instead that humans are just as much body as they are soul.And in all of this, Zara overlooks a crucial fact - that one need not be religious to be a theist. This alone renders his entire statement nonsensical.
Telling that everyone seems to be trying to explain why the simple question does not deserve an answer: what is the correct formulation for Theism?
Give me a definition of faith that everyone here agrees on, first :).Folks here can't agree on 'believe'-- you want to agree on 'believe in God'? lotsa luck with that.
Or how about the correct formulation for Atheism, Tony? Is it Western Materialism/Atheism? Does Atheism deny the soul or does it include a afterlife as David Staume argues? And we can have some real fun if we bring Buddhism into the discussion.I am with William here, demanding people on this blog to agree to a common definition a major metaphysical concept like 'faith' or 'belief in God' is an exercise in futility.
"I am with William here, demanding people on this blog to agree to a common definition a major metaphysical concept like 'faith' or 'belief in God' is an exercise in futility."Let's just cut to the chase, " ... a major metaphysical concept like 'faith' or 'belief in God' is an exercise in futility." End of story.
Having a universally accepted definition of "God" or "faith" is not necessary for purposes of argument....anymore than having a universal definition of "knowledge" is necessary to doing epistemology. In fact, if we had to have clear, universally accepted definitions of things like "science", "matter"...or even "atheism"....in order to debate them, then we would be unable to debate anything.
The era of the angry atheist is over!
Gregory:Yes, agreement of exact definitions is not needed, but what is needed is a level of respect for the formulations of others that is required for civil discussion and that is often lacking here.Check the Loftus link above. How many epistemologists are advocating ridicule of their opponent's positions in the interests of furthering a social agenda? None? Read the Loftus link again and pretend this is an epistemologist taking about pushing the case for evidentialism or some such. Hmm, does not work too well does it? And this is someone espousing a _moderation_ from prior behavior? Wow. Ok, it's a start :)
Pap,How cute. How shall I score this attempt at wit?Originality: 0 (ripping quotes out of context is nothing new for you)Sarcasm: 0 (it really doesn't have any bite)Cleverness: 0 (I have seen ten year olds do better)Sorry Pap, you have failed to qualify for the Bronze Medal in the Atheist Snark Awards and I am afraid the gold is just out of your reach.
KG: "Or how about the correct formulation for Atheism, Tony?"Okay. Atheism is a lack of belief in Gods. See? How hard was that.Gregory: "In fact, if we had to have clear, universally accepted definitions of things like "science", "matter"...or even "atheism"....in order to debate them, then we would be unable to debate anything."And now Gregory joins KG in Opposite World, now at population 2.It is precisely because we do have clear, universally accepted definitions of things like science that we can use language, and discuss science. There will always be quibbles at the fringes of definitions, but to mistake these minor differences as not having clear or universal definitions is to forsake discussion altogether.
Tony,Okay. Atheism is a lack of belief in Gods. See? How hard was that.That's nice. It's also only your definition, does every atheist agree with it? Or do they say that Atheism is a belief that there are no Gods? Is it the same thing as materialism? etc.... In other words, I didn't ask what your deifnition of atheism was. I asked for a definition of atheism that everyone from you to Pap to Dawkins to Lenin would agree with.
And, oh, since I was endorsing William's comment Opposite World's population is actually at 3. My, it's getting crowded here.
"Okay. Atheism is a lack of belief in Gods. See? How hard was that."Okay, then theism is a belief in a god or gods.How does this help?
"the conception of God as cosmic "tuner," "tinkerer," etc., has been rejected by both Thomists and Christian Platonists throughout history"That's most interesting. Because among actual scientists, the concept of Fine Tuning is Accepted Fact. The academic literature on cosmology is stuffed full of discussion of the Anthropic Principle and of the Fine Tuning Quandary. Every serious contemporary astronomer acknowledges that the universe is fine-tuned to our benefit within an astonishing degree of precision. (Landing a hole-in-one from a distance of several million miles while blindfolded would be a more likely chance event.) They just don't ever go so far as to speculate how this state of affairs came to be.
"That's most interesting. Because among actual scientists, the concept of Fine Tuning is Accepted Fact. The academic literature on cosmology is stuffed full of discussion of the Anthropic Principle and of the Fine Tuning Quandary. Every serious contemporary astronomer acknowledges that the universe is fine-tuned to our benefit within an astonishing degree of precision. (Landing a hole-in-one from a distance of several million miles while blindfolded would be a more likely chance event.) They just don't ever go so far as to speculate how this state of affairs came to be."Only to those astronomers who also happen to have a predilection for superstitious woo and misguided teleology. Rather than the somewhat unedifying and thoroughly self-congratulating anthropocentric religious view of life of a universe fine-tuned to our benefit, the more widely accepted and the more rigorously defensible scientific position, based on the evidence, is the obverse, that life on this planet [in the universe] is exquisitely fine tuned to flourish in the existent prevailing conditions following billions of years of the cycle of settling and disturbance, settling and disturbance. Conditions eventually settled sufficiently to facilitate self-propagating chemistry that now results in the diversity of organisms, of which homo sapiens is but one form of the common self-generating antecedent from which every living element on this planet is a descendent. We must be mindful that the conditions on this planet have not always been conducive to life. Witness the various unsettled periods of extinctions of life in the fossil record, the period after the Cambrian explosion, the period of the dinosaurs, etc. Life on this planet is tenuous at best. Who is to say that another asteroid hit will not wipe out all life as we know it on this planet into the future, as surely as earth science history has so clearly shown is a very real and present possibility. We would not be right at this moment maintaining a program of scientific deep space search for possible meteor and asteroid strikes if we knew that god was here to protect his crowning 'creation'.When it all boils down, religious malarkey is precisely that, religious malarkey.
Papalinton,With all due respect, you really need to remain silent when you haven't got the faintest idea whatsoever of what you are talking about. I know whereof I speak here (Heck, I spent all last evening presiding over a gathering of astronomers at the Robinson Nature Center, and am preparing right now for my upcoming talk at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore), and what I wrote is the professional consensus, even among militantly atheist scientists. This is one case where your knee-jerk reaction to others' postings just makes you look like an unthinking puppet being pulled by your prejudices.You didn't even read what you were responding to. Note that I ended with the words, "They just don't ever go so far as to speculate how this state of affairs came to be." No "superstitious woo" there!Friendly suggestion: Don't be so quick on the draw when you haven't a clue as to what your target is. You are out of your depth here.
On second thought, please do not change your modus operandi, 'cause by posting in the manner that you do, you are merely aiding the theistic cause with every word that you write.
Bob" .... and what I wrote is the professional consensus, even among militantly atheist scientists." WHY (ALMOST ALL) COSMOLOGISTS ARE ATHEISTSPrepared for God and Physical Cosmology: Russian-Anglo American Conference on Cosmology and Theology, Notre Dame, January/February 2003. Published in Faith and Philosophy 22, 622 (2005). By Dr Sean M. Carroll, Senior Research Associate in Physics at the California Institute of Technology.http://preposterousuniverse.com/writings/nd-paper/
Of course many accept that the parameters are such that life (as we know it) can form. This is a tautology. That is different from accepting 'fine tuning arguments.' Which is not physics, but speculation.
Zach"Which is not physics, but speculation.'How much more speculative can one get than to imagine that we, human beings are the central reason that the universe exists and has been fine tune specifically for us. Woefully anthropocentric, smug and self-congratulatory. "Anthropocentric' and even 'anthropogenic' must not be confused or even considered a synonym for or a corollary of 'anthropic'. The 'anthropic principle' is a vastly different concept, and has nothing to do with theism. The anthropic principle in science inquiry is the investigation of the conditions, circumstances and the physical context out of which scientists are able to establish the necessary requirements under which organic life can be sustained. The anthropic principle has nothing to do with conditions of the universe being fine tuned to support life. Organic life is a product of existing conditions forged over billions of years, with the forms of life developing from single cell organisms to complex life forms over time in concert with and following the naturally changing biospheric conditions. The conditions didn't change as a result of the increasing biological complexity of living organisms. That silly notion is most assuredly placing the cart before the horse. It smacks of religious humanocentrism promulgating the silly notion of human supremacy [made in god's image, 'imagio Dei']"If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno. ”—Mark Twain, ridiculing Alfred Russel Wallace's "anthropocentric' theory" that the universe was created specifically for the evolution of mankind.Interestingly, it seems Mars, like Earth, may also have once resided within the 'Goldilocks Zone' as the possibility of some tantalizing evidence for life on the planet before it lost its atmosphere, is being investigated.
B.Prokop:That's most interesting. Because among actual scientists, the concept of Fine Tuning is Accepted Fact.Bob, I do not disagree with you that God in some sense designed the world, and neither do I disagree with you that God is the best explanation for the vanishingly small window of cosmological values that are absolutely necessary not only for life, but for cosmic order itself. However, as a Christian Platonist or Thomist (largely dependent on my mood), I part ways with many modern theists on the issue of what specifically is meant by saying, "God is the designer of the world." Classical theists like myself understand transcendence and immanence very differently from them, and thoroughly reject the notion that God is a sort of "technician," "tinkerer," or "tuner" that needs to interfere with his creation from time to time, implying as it does a universum that is primordially a defective whole, and a God reduced to being just another cause among the causes of nature.
Karl Grant: "I asked for a definition of atheism that everyone from you to Pap to Dawkins to Lenin would agree with."I remembered a while back that an Anonymous cobbled together a full set of encyclopedic definitions of the term, so I just dug it up:********"‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God." - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2004"Atheism, from the Greek a-theos ("no-god"), is the philosophical position that God doesn't exist." - Academic American Encyclopedia"Atheism (from the Greek a-, not, and theos, god) is the view that there are no gods. A widely used sense denotes merely not believing in God and is consistent with agnosticism. A stricter sense denotes a belief that there is no God, the use has become the standard one." - Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 1995"Atheism is the doctrine that there is no God. Some atheists support this claim by arguments, but these arguments are usually directed against the Christian concept of God, and are largely irrelevant to other possible gods." - Oxford Companion to Philosophy, 1995"Atheism (Greek, a- [private prefix] + theos, god) is the view that there is no divine being, no God." - Dictionary of Philosophy, Thomas Mautner, 1996"Atheism is the belief that God doesn't exist." - The World Book Encyclopedia, 1991"Atheism, commonly speaking, is the denial of God. Theism (from the Greek theos, God) is belief in or conceptualization of God, atheism is the rejection of such belief or conceptualization." - Encyclopedia Americana, 1990"Atheism is the doctrine that God does not exist, that belief in the existence of God is a false belief. The word God here refers to a divine being regarded as the independent creator of the world, a being superlatively powerful, wise and good." - Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987"According to the most usual definition, an atheist is a person who maintains that there is no god..." - The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1967"Atheism (Greek and Roman): Atheism is a dogmatic creed, consisting in the denial of every kind of supernatural power." - Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol II"Atheism denies the existence of deity." - Funk and Wagnall's New Encyclopedia, Vol INotice that atheism is not merely a "lack of belief" in the existence of God. It is not just *disbelief* in the proposition "God exists," but is rather the outright *denial* or negation of that proposition.Notice that I didn't peddle definitions from wikipedia, dictionary.com, or some popular-level, anti-religious screed a la The God Delusion.Notice that I consulted scholarly reference works, especially works in academic philosophy. "Atheism" is a strictly philosophical term denoting a strictly philosophical position, and therefore reference works in academic philosophy are the ultimate reference point as to what the word actually means, in much the same way as medical dictionaries and encyclopedias supersede lay, ordinary dictionaries and encyclopedias on issues pertaining to medicine.And notice that there is no mention of "strong atheism," "weak atheism," "agnostic atheist," "agnostic theist," or any other such contemptible, unscholarly, linguistically unsightly piffle.Anyway, all that to say the following towards modern, so-called "atheists":If the above definitions of "atheism" do not characterize anything within your mental network, you are simply not an atheist, and therefore should not style yourself as such. Do us all a favor and give up the label "atheist" so that the contemporary atheist/theist debates can have a much-needed, increased measure of clarity.********
AmirF,you are simply not an atheist, and therefore should not style yourself as such. Do us all a favor and give up the label "atheist" so that the contemporary atheist/theist debates can have a much-needed, increased measure of clarity.I am not an atheist, I'm a Christian, a quick look at my postings on this blog would tell you that. I was asking Tony, who is an atheist, for a universally accepted definition of atheism.And his answer, Okay. Atheism is a lack of belief in Gods. See? How hard was that doesn't exactly square with your statement Notice that atheism is not merely a "lack of belief" in the existence of God. Which means he isn't an atheist as you define it (that knowledge should make him happy).
I have no idea with whom I am agreeing or disagreeing, but (as a Christian) I have not seen any consensus among self-styled atheists as to what the term actually means. At one time or another I have noted it defined variously as:1) lack of a belief in God (the "passive" position)2) belief that there is no God (the "active" position)3) uncertainty about whether or not God exists, but tending toward skepticism4) a belief in "science" as the sole authority in All Truth (Note that this does not require one to actually be a scientist. You simply have to have faith in those who are.)5) Marxism-Leninism6) not collecting stampsAll of the above have been passionately championed as the one-and-only legitimate definition of the term by partisans of the various interpretations.I find it extremely interesting that Charles Williams (a reliable authority on the meaning of words) wrote that in the English language at the time of the Reformation, the term "atheist" was used to label those who denied the validity and efficacy of the Sacraments. My, how our language can evolve!
This is hysterical. When asked to provide a definition for atheism (presumably to move this discussion forward on its topic), I have done so and have since been told that my definition is somehow wrong and that therefore... I'm not sure what. Notice that I offered a short definition that agrees with every other definition of atheism offered here, and that any difference is a matter of quibbling over the fringes, which is unnecessary unless this topic is about the correct definition of the term atheism. The OP, just to remind everyone, was on the topic that looking for evidence for an inadequately defined concept is premature at best. So, naturally, I asked those who reacted negatively to the article to address the problem the article point out -- that there doesn't seem to be any formulation for theism for which evidence can be sought.So far, I've heard nothing that would make me think the article is incorrect.
No, Tony, there are basic, fundamental, and irreconcilable differences between the definitions I offered. This is not quibbling at the fringes.
Bob, all that matters with definitions is agreement. If I offer a definition, you can agree with it for the sake of argument, or offer your own definition for others to agree to for the sake of argument.It appears that you are making an argument that, ironically, argument is not possible, because words cannot be defined.
Naw, I'm not really arguing with anyone here. I don't have a dog in this particular fight.But I will insist on getting people to acknowledge that there is as much diversity in atheism (if not more) as there is in theism. On a separate thread, Loftus deemed me not worthy of his time because I didn't lose any sleep over the fact of the varieties of religious belief. When I called him out on an equivalent multiplicity amongst atheists, he accused me of engaging in the "You Too" fallacy (a fallacy I had never before heard of, and don't acknowledge as a legitimate rebuttal). And then he (like you, here) brushed aside any differences amongst atheists as trivial and unworthy of mention.But they're not. And my point is not to stop argument, or even to come up with a commonly accepted definition. I don't believe that's possible with this particular term.A couple of years ago, Loftus linked to a poster on his own website showing two timelines. The first was labeled "religious thought then - religious thought now" (or something like that), and it looked like a complex, branching tree from left to right. The second line was labeled "atheism then - atheism now" and depicted an unwaveringly straight line with no branches. But that is a completely false view. So false as to be irreconcilable with the actuality.
>Telling that everyone seems to be trying to explain why the simple question does not deserve an answer: what is the correct formulation for Theism?There is no such thing as a one size fits all definition of Atheism or Theism for purposes of Apologetics or Polemics.There are specific positive Theistic viewpoints and philosophies and specific positive Atheist viewpoints and philosophies.Negative definitions are pointless to fruitful discussion.Examples:Atheism="lack of God belief".Theism="lack of No-God belief".These are just rhetorical tricks to avoid taking on the burden of proof. If you are going to argue Theism pick a specific Theistic philosophy and go with it.If you are going to argue atheism pick a specific Atheist view( i.e Platonic Atheism, Naturalism, Materialism, Reductionism, Skepticism etc) and defend it.It's not hard.
Tony you can argue with Catholics like Crude, Myself or Bob and learn the particulars along the way. You can argue with Deists like Walter same thing. Monists(as opposed to dualists) like BDK. Protestants, Evangelicals, Liberal Protestants, Fundies, Muslims, Jews etc....Platonic Atheists? Atheists like Nagel who believe Consciousness can't be explained materially.Property Dualist Atheists like Searle. But if you want an easy simplistic argument you should choose a Young Earth Creationist forum.Seriously.
Yeah, Bob, I have to say that I have no interest in carrying on a discussion with you on any topic since you declared that you view all history based on first the premise that Jesus was raised. That's probably a fine starter for an all-Christian group, but it kind of makes discussions on topics like this with you seem pointless to me.I'll leave you all to figure out how it is that theism, unlike atheism and all other words I use, appears to be a term that defies any attempt at definition.
Karl,I was well-aware that you're not an atheist and was in no way accusing you of being one. The entire passage (which I demarcated with two sets of double ***'s) that started with the list of encyclopedic definitions, including the multiple "Notice" remarks after the list, was not mine, but belonged to the Anonymous whom I was referring to. Sorry if I wasn't clear enough.I found his post in this thread:http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2011/06/intellectual-rubbish-dilemma.html
"it kind of makes discussions on topics like this with you seem pointless to me"Really now? So you only regard discussions with people who agree with you as having any point? I think you you need to confine yourself to sites like Loftus's Debunking Christianity then. Keep in mind that the owner of Dangerous Idea (Victor) also "view[s] all history based on first the premise that Jesus was raised."
"...you view all history based on first the premise that Jesus was raised."This doesn't mean that we accept the proposition "Jesus was raised" without any evidence.
Bob: "So you only regard discussions with people who agree with you as having any point?"Ha, no. I mean that like all atheists, I am not interested in theological discussions (discussions based on a premise I do not hold). And I don't know that to be true about Victor -- I thought this blog was supposed to be, primarily, about philosophy.Of course, I think that I might also consider discussion with you to be fruitless based on misrepresentations like the one I quoted above. But I also should have added that we could probably have discussions based on many things that didn't depend on our metaphysical premises. It's just that on the Internet those things matter far more than they do in real life.Cheers.
“I thought this blog was supposed to be, primarily, about philosophy”.But remember that Victor, like myself (and many others on this site - even Papalinton for that matter), is a staunch defender of the Oneness of Truth – in the principle that all paths of knowledge lead to one and the same end. There is no, and can be no, contradiction between science, philosophy, art, theology, personal experience, and faith. We may disagree with each other on particulars (since none of us is omniscient), but we all agree that in the final analysis, only one of us can be right, as regards any particular point of disagreement.And yes, yes, and once more yes, I personally see in the Incarnation and Resurrection the axis about which all of history turns, the foundation upon which all of creation rests, the lens which puts everything into focus, the ultimate source of all meaning and purpose in life, and the reason why there is something rather than nothing in the first place. (“All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”) I resolutely condemn the notion of a “God of the Gaps” and proclaim the “God of the Filled In spaces”.“Pointless” or not, you at least do not ever need to worry about defining the terms of Where I Stand in these discussions. Making one’s self clear should make any discussion less pointless.
Bob, yup, got it. Like I said, I know where you stand, and so I find that I can fairly reliably predict your responses in virtually every instance: I believe that I know what you will say, I just don't find it very persuasive.
Glad we straightened that out.Signing off the internet for maybe a week, maybe more. (Off with family, and leaving computer behind.)
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