Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Atheist's Guide to Reality

James Anderson claims that Alex Rosenberg has unwittingly produced an excellent case for theism. Thanks, Alex.

99 comments:

Ilíon said...

I haven't yet read the whole thing. However, I find it amusing that Rosenberg appears to fully agree with me about what must be true *if* atheism is the truth about the nature of reality. You know, those very conclusions and entailments that so many of the commenters here insist are simply assumptions, and false ones at that, on my part.

Dan Gillson said...

1. No doubt Ilíon has stumbled upon a happy coincidence. However, Ilíon tends to start first with conclusions and reason backwards from them. He assumes something to be the case, and thinks he substantiate his assumption ex post facto. More often than not, this leads Ilíon to commit the fallacy of false equivalence. (Atheism justis materialism; leftisim just is apologetics for mass murder, etc.) However, Rosenberg, being a professional, probably starts with premises and reasons forwards toward conclusions, thus not making the same mistakes as Ilíon is wont to. (I haven't read the book, nor do I intend to. Rosenberg falls outside the purview of my philosophical interests.)

2. If it's Rosenberg's purpose, according to James Anderson, to convince "limp-wristed pseudo-atheists" like me to "man up, and accept the scientisitic picture of reality as the only true one", my response is simply: no, thank you. I prefer my picture of reality to include things like color, dimension, and meaning, so I'll keep the one I have. (It's anyways funny that Rosenberg, if Mr Anderson is right about him, tries to make an ethical point about what atheists should believe by making a rational case for scientism. He fails to answer satisfactorily the question, "Why should I believe in a scientistic atheism, when there are many other rational alternatives to it?")

Ilíon said...

^ what a troll; what a liar

Crude said...

He fails to answer satisfactorily the question, "Why should I believe in a scientistic atheism, when there are many other rational alternatives to it?"

Rosenberg's contention seems to be that, at the very least, if one fails to embrace the view he is outlining, then one is not a naturalist.

Contra Ilion, I don't think Rosenberg is stating that there are no alternatives to what he outlines if atheism is true. But if naturalism or materialism is true, it's his way or some form of non-naturalism.

Of course, I fully expect that this can and will be replied to with attacking his definition of either naturalism, materialism, or both.

B. Prokop said...

Over on today's British newspaper The Telegraph is a fascinating article by atheist Brendan O'neill who can't stand the gnus. The following excerpt is pertinent to this thread's discussion:

The problem with today’s campaigning atheists is that they have turned their absence of belief in God into the be-all and end-all of their personality. Which is bizarre. Atheism merely signals what you don’t believe in, not what you do believe in. It’s a negative. And therefore, basing your entire worldview on it is bound to generate immense amounts of negativity. Where earlier generations of the Godless viewed their atheism as a pretty minor part of their personality, or at most as the starting point of their broader identity as socialists or humanists or whatever, today’s ostentatiously Godless folk constantly declare “I am an atheist!” as if that tells you everything you need to know about a person, when it doesn’t. The utter hollowness of this transformation of a nothing into an identity is summed up by the fact that some American atheists now refer to themselves as “Nones”.

Dan Gillson said...

Crude:

You know, I just don't feel like living up to Rosenberg's standards for naturalism/atheism. I think I can live just fine with the idea that Rosenberg wouldn't think that my atheism is muscular enough.

Bob:

Welcome back from Vermont! I agree with O'Neill's sentiments. Thanks for sharing the article.

im-skeptical said...

I haven't read Rosenberg's book, but id Anderson's portrayal is accurate, he is at once arguing that atheists have no beliefs, and that we should be consistent in following our atheistic beliefs. I don't agree that atheism (in its own right) implies any worldview, and I don't think he's in sync with the majority of atheists.

Crude said...

Dan,

You know, I just don't feel like living up to Rosenberg's standards for naturalism/atheism. I think I can live just fine with the idea that Rosenberg wouldn't think that my atheism is muscular enough.

That's fine by me. Fuck Rosenberg, frankly. I'm just stating the position he's taking, as far as I've read.

Key here is that for Rosenberg, it's not atheism that's doing the heavy lifting here, it's naturalism - his title aside.

Dan Gillson said...

im-skeptical:

This is an article from one of my favorite bloggers on religion:

http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/god-matters/

The article is about how one cannot be an atheist in the abstract, i.e., that being an atheist implies that one has something more in mind than "just not believing in God." There is a worldview involved, it's just not bundled up with eliminativism, materialism, etc., etc.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

Hoffmann certainly provides food for thought, but he has not convinced me that atheism implies some worldview. In fact, I think it's fair to say that he's guilty of the same thing he accuses atheists of.

Sure, many atheists argue against the supposed attributes of of a god, and in so doing, they may miss the larger issue of existence. But in the same manner, Hoffmann misses the essential element of atheism: a simple lack of belief in gods. This is expressed in many different ways by many different people. While it may be true that every thinking person (including atheists) has a worldview of some kind, the fact of being atheist implies no particular worldview, any more than not believing in unicorns implies some kind of worldview.

Crude said...

But in the same manner, Hoffmann misses the essential element of atheism: a simple lack of belief in gods.

Turds are atheists?

This 'lack of belief' schtick is a recent legalistic innovation. Agnostics are not atheists. Bottles of soda are not atheists.

the fact of being atheist implies no particular worldview

So everyone from the leadership and members of American Atheists to Atheists International to PZ Myers are either lying or deluded when they talk about 'the atheist movement' or their organized atheism?

Better yet: 'implies no particular worldview'? So your stance is that if someone self-identifies as an atheist, you can't make a reasonably likely guess about their being a naturalist?

im-skeptical said...

Regarding agnosticism vs atheism, I know that people have different ideas about what is entailed by each of them, and how much certainty is involved. I can only speak for myself, and admonish others to do the same. As I see it agnostics and atheists have in common a lack of belief in gods. And since that is the most fundamental definition of atheism, we are, in that sense, all atheists. At the same time, most atheists would readily admit that they are not absolutely certain about the existence of gods, and therefore we are, in another sense, agnostics. There is no clear dividing line.

The fact of being atheist certainly does not imply any particular worldview - not even materialism, as ingx24 keeps pointing out. It doesn't make you a humanist. It doesn't make you a follower of PZ Myers or Richard Dawkins. It doesn't imply anything at all about what you believe. You can make all the guesses you want about what an atheist believes, but you won't be correct in all cases.

Crude said...

And since that is the most fundamental definition of atheism

Since when? The 'most fundamental definition of atheism' is a belief that there is no God or are no gods. Hence why 'fundamentally' it's been distinguished from agnosticism until very, very recently, and then largely by a particular group of atheists.

I lack belief in some gods. I'm agnostic about some others. I suppose I'm an atheist too now. (What's that saying - 'we're both atheists, some of just go one God further'?)

At the same time, most atheists would readily admit that they are not absolutely certain about the existence of gods,

Cult of Gnu atheists wear out the '9' key on their keyboards by playing this sort of game. 'They are not absolutely certain, just 99.999999%' convinced. Dawkins in particular is famous for this.

Absolute certainty was not the standard.

The fact of being atheist certainly does not imply any particular worldview - not even materialism, as ingx24 keeps pointing out.

*I* point out that an atheist doesn't need to be a materialist, skep - ingx24's views on the matter aside. But that's a question of logical necessity. In practice, socially speaking, yes - identifying as an atheist does, in fact, imply that one is also a naturalist.

You can make all the guesses you want about what an atheist believes, but you won't be correct in all cases.

You don't need to be correct in all cases. I'm arguing that you will be correct more often than not, when talking about people who self-identify as atheists and how that implies naturalism.

Again: PZ Myers talks about the atheist movement. So does Jerry Coyne. So do all manner of atheists, and they do so at groups like American Atheists or Atheists International.

Are you saying these groups do not, in fact, represent atheists? That they misrepresent their organizations, and the existence of their movement? If so, alright - so what are they, and why are they organizing groups and movements to represent atheism, apparently with very little criticisms from other atheists?

B. Prokop said...

"The fact of being atheist certainly does not imply any particular worldview"

Crude, if Skep actually means what he says in the above quote, why do we even bother to engage with him? His statement has two possible interpretations:

1. Skep has nothing either worthwhile or interesting to say about anything, having "no particular worldview". It is an admission of either insufferable dullness or unreachable apathy. In either case, conversing with such a person is without profit.

2. (which is what I think Skep really means) It is a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. Professing "no particular worldview", it is impossible to pin Skep down to any coherent position or hold him accountable for his words. He can say whatever he wishes, and then squirm out of it, since he can claim to have never meant it in the first place.

C.S. Lewis wisely characterized such persons as piles of ashes in which all trace of a flame has died. You can blow on it till you turn blue, but you'll never manage to get it to burst into flame. There is no life within it.

im-skeptical said...

http://www.investigatingatheism.info/definition.html

Martin said...

It would be better to eliminate the word "atheism", and simply ask people like im-skeptical what their worldview is. It's impossible not to have one, after all.

I'm sure im-skpetical thinks the world is ultimately probably like this, or that, and that ways to find out about it involve that rather than this, etc.

Syllabus said...

I wonder whether one could consider the argument that Rosenberg is advancing a sort of reductio for (what I guess you could call) his scientific über-realism.

Crude said...

skep,

http://www.investigatingatheism.info/definition.html

I'm afraid linking to a meandering discussion that acknowledges contemporary obfuscation about the definition of atheism is of little help here.

I can point at atheist groups and atheist activists, talking about the atheist cause. Apparently they didn't get the memo that atheism isn't linked to any worldview.

Bob,

Crude, if Skep actually means what he says in the above quote, why do we even bother to engage with him?

Because his fibs are obvious, and someday he may actually realize he's been well and truly suckered by the Cult of Gnu. PZ Myers' own daughter eventually realized that things weren't nearly as simple as her dad often portrayed them as, so hey, sometimes there's hope.

Note, by the way, that the goal here isn't even 'convert skep to theism' on my part. It's to get him to see that his confidence, his certainty, and his general approach to these topics is fundamentally flawed. Call it ironic - I'm the big bad theist trying to spread the good word of skepticism and self-doubt to the self-described skeptic.

(which is what I think Skep really means) It is a "Get Out of Jail Free" card. Professing "no particular worldview", it is impossible to pin Skep down to any coherent position or hold him accountable for his words.

Well, the whole 'atheism is a mere lack of belief' thing has a few motivations, but one is definitely some kind of desire to make atheism the default position, and to run away screaming from any and all burdens of proof. It sounds nice and simple - it ain't. I've had atheists approach me saying that all metaphysics and philosophy is bullshit and all they trust is science. Telling them that naturalism and materialism are metaphysical and philosophical positions has resulted in some really great reactions, especially when it sinks in.

Martin said...

Crude,

>Note, by the way, that the goal here isn't even 'convert skep to theism' on my part. It's to get him to see that his confidence, his certainty, and his general approach to these topics is fundamentally flawed.

Aye. Same here. If he were to saying something like, "I'm a physicalist, because XYZ", or whatever, then I honestly wouldn't have a damn thing to say to him.

grodrigues said...

Premise: Atheism is essentially, that is, by real definition, the lack of belief in the existence of God or Gods.

Argument 1:

(1) There is no possible rational discourse about a lack or absence of belief.

(2) Atheism is a specific lack of belief.

(3) There is no possible rational discourse about Atheism.

Argument 2:

(1) asylum lunatics, mental retards, people in a coma, etc. are incapable of forming beliefs.

(2) asylum lunatics, mental retards, people in a coma, etc. lack the belief in the existence of God or Gods.

(3) asylum lunatics, mental retards, people in a coma, etc. are atheists.

note: this has the side-effect of bolstering the number of atheists and at the same time dramatically dropping the average IQ of the group...

Argument 3:

(1) Person x believes that God or Gods do not exist.

(2) It is not true of x that x lacks belief in the existence of God or Gods.

(3) Therefore x is not an Atheist.

The weak link seems to be (2). In order to deny it, one has to maintain that whenever x believes that God or Gods do not exist, then it is also true that x lacks belief in the existence of God or Gods. But this cannot be right. For if x believes that God or Gods do not exist, then x believes that the proposition P = "God exists" *is false*, rather than *lacking* a belief that P is true. The two are obviously different, inequivalent and logically incomparable. And if one wishes to maintain that they are indeed equivalent, say, just different paraphrases, then that would be conceding the point anyway.

A possible response is to alter the definition to a disjunctive one, e.g. Atheism is *either* the lack of belief in the existence of God or Gods *or* the belief that God or Gods do not exist. But then:

(1) Person x at time t_0 lacks the belief that God or Gods exist (e.g. a newborn baby).

(2) Person x at time t_0 is an atheist.

(3) Person x at time t_1 > t_0 believes that God or Gods do not exist (e.g. a newborn baby "matured" into a pimpled teenager).

(4) Person x at time t_1 is an atheist.

(5) It is is true of x at time t_0 that X lacks the belief that God or Gods exist. It is is false of X at time t_1 that x lacks the belief that God or Gods exist.

(6) If it is true of x at t_0 that P and true of x at t_1 that not-P then P is not essential but only accidental to x.

(7) Therefore it is not essential, but accidental, to atheism the lacking of belief that God or Gods exist.

Atheism (athe-ism noun \ˈā-thē-ˌi-zəm\): it starts in tragedy, ends up in farce.

Samwell Barnes said...

Atheism is by nature a philosophical term. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a benchmark in philosophical terminology, defines atheism thusly:

"‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God"

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/


But yet many so-called "atheists" will insist that this and many other scholarly sources are wrong, wrong, WRONG. "It's merely a lack of belief in God or gods!" they asseverate. Which prompts the question: Why do these "atheists" feel they have special permission to radically redefine words, words that already have a settled meaning, as they see fit? Do I get to suddenly redefine a vegetarian as nothing more than someone who lacks a belief about meat eating?

Their horrid arguments are obnoxious enough. Why the unnecessary linguistic vandalism on top of that? If their psychological state is a "lack of belief in gods," then they can simply give it another name instead of "atheism" and operate with that!

Ilíon said...

grodrigues: "[Three reductio ad absurdum arguments concerning the atheistic pretense to have eliminated *their* burden of proof via a tendentious redefinition of the term ‘atheism’]"

And likewise, that DI’s own nuancey-boy, the ‘atheist’ troll Dan Gillson, avers that *his* bundle of beliefs don’t measure up to "Rosenberg’s standards for naturalism/atheism" … and that *somehow* that means that atheism doesn’t entail what it entails … is just another absurd and tendentious atheistic attempt to elide the burden of proof and protect atheism -- God-denial – from rational evaluation.

And similarly, that the self-identifying ‘agnostic’, who is really an atheist, ing(énue)24 avers that he can *imagine* some ‘atheist’ whose bundle of beliefs includes a denial of some of the entailments of atheism … and that *somehow* that means that atheism doesn’t entail what it entails … is just another absurd and tendentious atheistic attempt to elide the burden of proof and protect atheism -- God-denial – from rational evaluation.

The term ‘atheism’ means what it means; the metaphysical concept ‘atheism’ entails what it entails. That ‘atheists’ like to deny the meaning or entailments of ‘atheism’ doesn’t change reality.

B. Prokop said...

As an amateur astronomer, I found this statement by Peter Hitchens (brother of Christopher Hitchens) to be especially noteworthy:

"This is a period of great material wealth and the worship of economic growth and the century of the self, in which religious belief is going to be in trouble. The best metaphor for the state of mind in which we find ourselves is this is the first generation of the human race which doesn’t generally see the stars at night. It has blotted them out with street lamps and car headlights and everything else. You simply can’t see the stars in most places where human beings are concentrated, and, in the same way, the triumph of consumerism and growth and the temporary joys of pleasure as a substitute for happiness has blotted out the metaphorical stars of religious faith. It’s very hard to expect people who can’t see the stars to examine the significance of the stars or see their beauty."

Amen.

Dan Gillson said...

im-skeptical:

Somethings, the existence of which require exemplification, are either believed in or not. Saying that one believes/doesn't believe in S commits one to making a judgement about whether or not there is something in the world which corresponds to S. One cannot lack belief about S without being, in a manner of speaking, ignorant about it. If S hasn't made an appearance to the organization of one's subjectivity, then one can't properly believe anything about S: S doesn't exist in the mind of person P. However, that's not the claim that atheists make. If P is an atheist, P claims that God doesn't exist, which is a judgment about the exemplification of a certain S. Atheism isn't mere lack of belief, but it's not necessarily a package deal with other philosophical ideas.

im-skeptical said...

Clearly, different people have different views about what it means to be an atheist or an agnostic. I attempted to explain my view on the matter. There are many who would proclaim to the world what I believe (according to them), with an agenda of distorting my views in order to show that they aren't valid or coherent. You see it in this thread. It seems to me that rather than arguing against a strawman, it would be more fruitful (and honest) to argue for or against the positions that people actually profess.

I am a person who calls himself an atheist because I don't believe in gods, and like most atheists (and unlike most theists), I make no claim with absolute certainty about the existence of gods. I do have my beliefs, as I stated, and one on those beliefs is that the term 'atheism' is too broad to carry any implications about having some particular worldview. That would rather like assuming that Christians adhere to the teachings of Jesus. The vast majority most certainly do not (in fact, I've never seen one who does), and yet they call themselves Christian.

B. Prokop said...

"unlike most theists, I make no claim with absolute certainty about the existence of gods."

"Most theists"??? I have yet to meet a Christian who says he believes in God "with absolute certainty". Heck, I myself know with absolute certainty only two things:

1. I exist.
2. At least one other thing besides myself exists.

I will however say with confidence that the evidence I have seen allows me to say with reasonable certainty that God exists (and that the Gospels are historically reliable, that Jesus is God, and that the Catholic Church is, when all is said and done, the One True Faith). I guess one could characterize that as a "particular worldview".

im-skeptical said...

""Most theists"??? I have yet to meet a Christian who says he believes in God "with absolute certainty"."

Bob, are you telling me that all those proofs of the existence of god are not really proofs?

grodrigues said...

"Bob, are you telling me that all those proofs of the existence of god are not really proofs?"

Being in possession of a proof and being absolutely certain are two different things: we are not God or angels, so we can only have a degree of certainty that is proper to our nature as rational animals. The obsession with absolute certainty is a relatively modern phenomenon -- Descartes and Montaigne express it with particular force.

B. Prokop said...

"are you telling me that all those proofs of the existence of god are not really proofs?"

Not at all. I am merely pointing out that the implied arrogance you ascribe to theists is simply not there.

For instance, I regard the literal, historical reality of the Resurrection to have been proven to my own satisfaction. But I can certainly understand how someone else, who has not taken the time and effort to approach the evidence objectively and without prejudice, can conclude otherwise. (I think G.K. Chesterton's "outsider" approach is probably the best way to examine the case for Christianity. That's why I must ultimately laugh at Loftus's claims that his OTF somehow tilts against Christianity. The reality is quite the opposite.)

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

"so we can only have a degree of certainty that is proper to our nature as rational animals"

With that degree of certainty, I believe that the Pythagorean theorem is true in Euclidean geometry. I have worked through the logic in a few different ways myself, and I believe it. If that's the same level of certainty you mean when you say you believe in god, then you are leaving very little room for doubt. Very few atheists profess any such mathematical level of certainty.

ingx24 said...


And similarly, that the self-identifying ‘agnostic’, who is really an atheist, ing(énue)24 avers that he can *imagine* some ‘atheist’ whose bundle of beliefs includes a denial of some of the entailments of atheism … and that *somehow* that means that atheism doesn’t entail what it entails … is just another absurd and tendentious atheistic attempt to elide the burden of proof and protect atheism -- God-denial – from rational evaluation.


I have never seen you give an argument for why atheism entails materialism. Ever. If you have a good argument for the entailment from atheism to materialism, let's see it. If it's anything like the "argument" you put forward before, it'll be fun and easy to pick it apart.

B. Prokop said...

If we abandon "dictionary" definitions of atheism, we end up with a literally meaningless word. I'm always amused by polls showing that a large percentage of American self-identified atheists believe in a "higher power", and that a large minority even pray regularly!

If Skep doesn't like the commonly understood definition of atheist, then he needs to find a new word to describe himself.

B. Prokop said...

I have, by the way, just begun reading a most magnificent book, the Catena Aurea (Golden Chain) by St. Thomas Aquinas, a four-volume commentary on the Gospels. What Aquinas has done is collect and arrange the words of nearly major Christian writer going back to the 3rd Century in a way that makes one think he is sitting at a table with all these people holding a conversation. An absolute delight to read. I am blown away, as much by the amazing structure of the thing, as by its actual content. My already extremely high admiration for Aquinas's intellect has just gone up yet another notch. What a mind!

However, at nearly 3000 pages total, I think this is going to be a long-term project - this is not beach reading!

im-skeptical said...

"If we abandon "dictionary" definitions of atheism, we end up with a literally meaningless word."

The most common definition of atheism: "a disbelief in the existence of deities". I'm not abandoning the dictionary definition in any sense. Would you care to look up the meaning of disbelief? Here's a clue - it doesn't involve any positive averment or position.

B. Prokop said...

"it doesn't involve any positive averment or position"

Exactly my point, made back at August 16, 3:40 PM on this thread. If you truly think that way, then one of the two corollaries I listed must also be true. There is no third option.

Crude said...

The most common definition of atheism: "a disbelief in the existence of deities".

No, this is a common definition among a certain class of atheists who are frantic about reworking the term when convenient.

Here's a fun question for you, Skep. What do you call a person who believes God does not exist? Apparently, 'atheist' is incorrect. There must be some other word.

im-skeptical said...

"If you truly think that way, then one of the two corollaries I listed must also be true."

So after pointing out that despite Bob's assertions to the contrary, my view of atheism fits quite well with the dictionary definition, Bob parries right back to his dishonest distorted portrayal of my beliefs. Good move. He avoids having to admit that he's wrong (as always). Now, I'll remind him (again) that I do in fact have my own beliefs and worldview. Which direction will he dart this time?

Crude said...

Merriam Webster's atheist: " One who believes that there is no deity.

Collins: a person who believes that there is no God.

Cambridge: someone who believes that God does not exist

Dictionary.reference.com: a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

Longman: the belief that God does not exist

Macmillan: someone who believes that God does not exist

Merriam-Webster: one who believes that there is no deity

Oxford dictionaries online: a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods:

Oxfored: a person who believes that God does not exist

That's from Wiki's "Selected online English dictionaries using established content". So much for the overwhelming definition of atheism being a lack of belief.

And just for fun: Encyclopedia Dramatica's atheist entry.

grodrigues said...

"Here's a clue - it doesn't involve any positive averment or position."

Which was already shown to land us in absurdities in August 16, 2013 7:42 PM. Response: none, except the usual MGonz spiel: "There are many who would proclaim to the world what I believe (according to them), with an agenda of distorting my views in order to show that they aren't valid or coherent. You see it in this thread" topped with: "It seems to me that rather than arguing against a strawman, it would be more fruitful (and honest) to argue for or against the positions that people actually profess" -- im-skeptical, the banner for intellectual honesty. Right.

Here is another for the road.

"I am a person who calls himself an atheist because I don't believe in gods"

Belief is always belief in some proposition; more precisely, belief is a certain dyadic relation R(x, P) with relata a subject x and a proposition P. Say that R*(x, P) obtains if x believes P is true and R(x, P) obtains iff R*(x, P) or R*(x, P). The intuition at work here is that to stand in a relation of belief towards P is to believe either P or disbelieve in P, which here is taken to be equivalent to believe not-P; to stand in a relation of belief towards P is to have *evaluated* it as either true or false.

Then the above sentence can be understood in two ways:

1. the relation R(x, P) does not obtain; but this is equivalent to say that x lacks the belief that P. If this is construed as the essence of atheism, we end up in absurd conclusions as shown in August 16, 2013 7:42 PM.

2. To say "x does not believe in God or Gods" is a paraphrase for "x believes that P is false", which is logically equivalent to say that R*(x, not-P) obtains, which is just Atheism as traditionally formulated.

Could we say instead that R*(x, P) does not obtain? Well, then either R*(x, not-P) obtains or does not obtain. In the former case, we are back at 2. and in the latter back at 1. Hopefully no one will ask about the case R*(x, not-P)... But then "Clearly, different people have different views about what it means to be an atheist or an agnostic" is false, for there are only two views and one of them lands us in absurd conclusions. Unless we are offered some other view, unhiterto known to mankind, the quoted sentence has been shown false.

im-skeptical said...

Both Merriam Webster and Oxford English Dictionary define atheism in the manner that I did. Those are certainly the the most popular dictionary and most authoritative resources.

http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/english/atheism?q=atheism

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/atheism

But you can see from his last link where crude gets his wealth of knowledge.

Crude said...

Both Merriam Webster and Oxford English Dictionary define atheism in the manner that I did. Those are certainly the the most popular dictionary and most authoritative resources.

Let's see. I list 8 dictionary sources, including Merriam-Webster (twice in fact, oops). All but 1 clearly gives a definition contrary to the one you want, Skep.

You look up MW's 'atheism' as opposed to 'atheist' and get: "a : a disbelief in the existence of deity

b : the doctrine that there is no deity"

Okay. So you just counted M-W as the most authoritative source aside from, for whatever reason, that particular Oxford definition.

Just one problem:

Here's the MW definition for disbelief: the act of disbelieving : mental rejection of something as untrue.

Oops. I guess, by what you regard as one of the most authoritative sources for definitions, you're wrong.

Now, let's see that concession, Skep. ;)

im-skeptical said...

"Just one problem:"

crude is just too dishones. That's why I disbelieve whatever he says. The primary definition links to the root word 'disbelieve': "to hold not worthy of belief : not believe".

Oxford says: "be unable to believe".

It usually doesn't take any authoritative source to know when crude is wrong. All he has to do is make a statement. Now I'll grant that he may occasionally speak the truth. But disbelief is your best bet.

Crude said...

crude is just too dishones. That's why I disbelieve whatever he says. The primary definition links to the root word 'disbelieve': "to hold not worthy of belief : not believe".

Woah woah, little man. Here was your statement earlier:

Both Merriam Webster and Oxford English Dictionary define atheism in the manner that I did. Those are certainly the the most popular dictionary and most authoritative resources.

So I pulled the MW definition for 'disbelief': the act of disbelieving : mental rejection of something as untrue.

Look at what you're doing, Skep. You try to push atheism as a lack of belief. I pull 8 sources and show that only one of them defines 'atheist' even within the ballpark of the way you want, you pick an alternate word ('atheism') for one of the sources, plus the one, and say these are the most authoritative sources. MW makes reference to disbelief.

So I give the MW definition of disbelief, and now you're back to Oxford? Let me guess: MW wasn't that authoritative after all? ;)

As usual, Skep - you tried to fast talk and bullshit, and you lost. Badly. You lost, even on your own terms: one of your own two hand-selected 'authoritative' sources, MW, defines atheist as "One who believes that there is no deity." Atheism in MW is defined as the disbelief in the existence of a deity, and 'disbelief' is defined as " the act of disbelieving : mental rejection of something as untrue."

In other words, even by one of your own 'authoritative sources', atheism involves a commitment. It's not a mere lack - it's an act, a rejection, a belief that something is false.

Worse yet, you said that yours was the 'most common' definition. Well, when one half of your two personally ordained 'most authoritative' sources goes against you, and I supply additional authoritative sources that defy your definition, your 'most common' claim goes down the toilet.

As usual, Skep, I advise you: don't try to bullshit people. Not only is it wrong, but frankly, you don't have what it takes. Once again, the lesson here for you is to keep quiet, think through what you argue for or believe in, and be very hesitant and self-skeptical.

I'm not pointing out your mental slowness and flaws to hurt you. I'm trying to help you. It really is for your own good.

Matteo said...

The real question that should be asked of one who claims that they merely lack belief in the existence of God is this: Okay fine. Do you also lack belief in the non-existence of God?

Do you, im-skeptical?

im-skeptical said...

crude,

Just keep spinning. I stand by what I said. Atheism does not imply any particular beliefs - just a lack of belief in god. People may not agree, but that's the way I think of it, and dictionary definitions agree with that. I don't care what alternative definitions you come up with. You try so hard to prove me wrong, I must be some kind of threat to your fragile beliefs. As usual, you have turned a discussion into a pissing contest.

Matteo,

That's like asking, "do you believe in the non-existence of unicorns?" Forget the double negative. I don't believe that god exists. I have no reason to believe such a thing. Every argument I've heard uses logic based on premises or assumptions that are not acceptable to someone who is not already convinced. There is no tangible evidence. There is plenty of evidence against the existence of any god who has the attributes that theists attribute to their gods.

Matteo said...

So at long last you make a clear statement: You believe that God doesn't exist. You have a belief in god's non-existence, not just a lack of belief in his existence. You have indicated that you are unwilling to affirm a lack of belief in his non-existence. Therefore you possess a belief in his non-existence.

And for lhe record, I do not lack a belief in the non-existence of unicorns, and do not have the slightest trouble answering such a question. I can't see why you would profess to have a problem with it.

im-skeptical said...

"So at long last you make a clear statement: You believe that God doesn't exist."

That wasn't at issue. Rosenberg's book says that all atheists should share a common worldview, and my point was that they don't. Of course, you can say that the majority of atheists have some worldview, or that they believe this or that, but atheism still doesn't imply any of those things.

B. Prokop said...

"fragile beliefs"

Skep, while you've got your dictionaries open, you really need to look up the definition for "psychological projection".

ingx24 said...

On the subject of the entailments of atheism: I think there are a lot of so-called "entailments" of atheism that even most ordinary people who happen to be atheists don't believe. In my experience, most self-described "atheists" who are not fanatical Gnus are simply people who don't find the claim that God exists plausible and don't really have any commitments beyond that. Most ordinary people I know who self-identify as atheists, for example, do not actually have a stance on the mind-body problem: those who do seem to be inclined toward some kind of property dualism rather than conventional materialism. Even substance dualism is perfectly compatible with atheism (one would only need an explanation of where souls come from if not from God), and an atheist could even plausibly believe in some kind of afterlife (although obviously it would be very different from, and much less elegant than, the kind of afterlife a Christian believes in). Things aren't as black-and-white as people like Dawkins, Dennett, Rosenberg, and Ilion (see what I did there) think they are, and belief systems vary much more than most people are aware.

That said, not believing in God does entail some crucial aspects of one's worldview. A consistent atheist has to believe that we are ultimately alone in the world, with no divine plan for us and no objective purpose to life. We're all just here by complete accident, and that's all there is to it - the universe, the ultimate ground of reality, does not (and cannot) care about us or what happens to us. We're completely alone, and there isn't a higher being that will help us in life and answer our prayers. And while atheism doesn't entail that there is no afterlife, it certainly brings a lot of uncertainty to the table regarding what happens to us after we die, and an atheist (or agnostic or deist, for that matter) has to deal with the very real possibility that death might be the end of all consciousness. On the plus side, atheism carries with it a sense of freedom and autonomy: an atheist doesn't have to worry about a "cosmic dictator" giving arbitrary demands about his or her sex life or reading his or her mind and judging every single thought and desire.

im-skeptical said...

ingx24,

I would be hesitant to say you're being inconsistent if you don't believe the following things... Wouldn't it be better to hear what someone does believe first, and then decide whether you think they are consistent?

Ilíon said...

I-pretend-to-seek-truth: "... I don't believe that god exists. I have no reason to believe such a thing. Every argument I've heard uses logic based on premises or assumptions that are not acceptable to someone who is not already convinced. There is no tangible evidence. There is plenty of evidence against the existence of any god who has the attributes that theists attribute to their gods."

This is a combination of untrue and category error and intellectual hypocrisy (and even the first sentence may not actually be true), and it's said with the same good faith as "atheism is simply a lack of belief that God is".

At best, he's *really* saying is something like this: "I have heard no argument that God is that I am not free to deny and/or ignore ... therefore, there are no good arguments that God is, therefore, God is not."

Ilíon said...

(dis)ing(enuous)24: "I have never seen you give an argument for why atheism entails materialism. Ever. If you have a good argument for the entailment from atheism to materialism, let's see it. If it's anything like the "argument" you put forward before, it'll be fun and easy to pick it apart."

Likewise, this fellow is lying and engaging in the same sort of intellectual hypocrisy as the fellow above.

At least twice (and probably three times), on this very blog, I have shown him, personally, that (western-style) atheism entails materialism. And evey time, he waves his dainty little hands (*) and "refutes" what I have show thusly: "I can imagine some self-labeled 'atheist' who believes/asserts some proposition or other that is contrary to materialism directly or to one or more of its entailments ... therefore, 'atheism' does not entail materialism."

In other words, his "counter-argument" -- to the argument(s) he both asserts I did not and did make (read again what he wrote) -- is this: because it is logically possible that there exists a God-denier who believes or asserts a set of incompatible and/or mutually contradictory propositions, therefore it is not the case that (western-style) atheism -- which 1) affirms the reality of the material/physical world, just as Judeo-Christianity does, and 2) denies that the world is the intentional creation of a mind/agent who is logically prior to the world and ergo not "contained in" the world -- entails that *all* states, events, causes and so on reduce to, and must reduce to, mere "matter in motion".

Oh, look! I've just shown again -- right there, as plain as the nose on his face to anyone *willing* to see -- that (western-style) atheism really does entail materialism. Goodness, I wonder whether someone who *wanted* to see what's in front of his face might be able to do so --
1) the material/physical world of matter-space-time, and the interactions thereof, that we human beings perceive (i.e. 'nature') is real;
2) 'nature' is not created/sustained by any immaterial-and-unembodied mind/agent who is the logically prior transcendent "ground of all being";
From these two axioms of (western-style) atheism, it follows that:
3) human beings -- which is to say, human embodied minds -- have not always existed;
3a) this is true of any other embodied minds that may or may not exist in the world;
4) however it is that embodied minds did somehow "arise" in the world – and the cause/trigger must necessarily be ‘natural’, that is, must be “matter in motion” -- there was a time in the past (as there will be in the future) when there were no embodied minds;
4a) that is, there was a time when there were no minds at all;
5) when there were no minds at all in the world, then all there was in the world was “matter in motion”;
5a) when there were no minds at all in the world, then *all* states, events, state-changes, causes and so on were only “matter in motion” and the effects thereof;
6) the first embodied minds were caused to “arise” by “matter in motion”;
6a) the thoughts of these first embodied minds were caused by “matter in motion”;
7) all subsequent embodied minds are likewise caused to “arise” by “matter in motion”;
7a) the thoughts of these subsequent embodied minds are likewise caused by “matter in motion”;

The observant reader can probably already see the asinine objection he’s going to assert refutes this argument.

But, nevermind the intellectually dishonest ‘ingx24’ for now, *look at* what logically follows from the two axioms of (western-style) atheism -- why, it’s just what Rosenberg says!

Ilíon said...

(*) What? Don't you realize that of course an ingénue is going to have dainty little hands? Since you already have your dictionary out, look up the word.

Samwell Barnes said...

To add on to Crude's list, here are some more definitions from philosophical and religious dictionaries and encyclopedias (which thereby carry more weight):




"‘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, Greek atheos - Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of God." - Oxford English Dictionary, 1989

"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 I






As any reasonable person can see, atheism is a positive assertion through and through. These "lack of belief"-ers should call themselves something else, because the "-ism" determines the "-ist," not the other way around.

ingx24 said...

Ilion,

Your argument begs the question against (1) idealism, (2) neutral monism, (3) panpsychism, (4) emergent dualism, and (5) any form of dualism that asserts that both minds and matter have existed from the beginning of the universe (assuming there was one). I could go through your entire argument and show the specific places where it goes horribly wrong, but I'm too tired to do so right now - maybe tomorrow morning. Suffice it to say that you have no warrant to claim that anyone who does not accept your argument is "intellectually dishonest".

im-skeptical said...

Samwell Barnes,

"As any reasonable person can see, atheism is a positive assertion through and through. These "lack of belief"-ers should call themselves something else, because the "-ism" determines the "-ist," not the other way around."

What a moronic statement. There are plenty of things I don't believe - fairies, Santa Claus, what have you. Nobody goes around accusing me of making positive assertions about those things. The only reason I would ever have to deny those things is in response to somebody who makes the positive assertion that they do exist. My worldview and my beliefs are in no way built around the denial of things I have no reason to believe. If some deluded person tries to tell me that there's a unicorn in the room, my denial of it is not a positive assertion - it's just a denial of his delusion.

Crude said...

Skeppy,

Just keep spinning. I stand by what I said. Atheism does not imply any particular beliefs - just a lack of belief in god.

Your habit of blankly repeating what others have demonstrated to be false, /even by your own standards/, is one of the reasons I've pointed out you're not very bright.

People may not agree, but that's the way I think of it, and dictionary definitions agree with that. I don't care what alternative definitions you come up with.

You managed to cite two definitions - one blew up in your face as usual, and the other is a singular example from a joke of a dictionary.

You should have stopped with 'People may disagree, but that's how I think of it, and I really don't care what all the dictionaries say.' What's more, not only did I come up with better, more numerous and more authoritative sources, but /one of your own sources/ agrees with my view.

So hey, great job.

You try so hard to prove me wrong

Uh, no. It took 5 minutes of time, and *you* provided another source proving yourself wrong. I do this because, really - at this point, it's a game. Every time you march in here and proudly, boldly state something that is obviously and demonstrably wrong, I demonstrate as much and point out you're stupid. I'm trying to see if, after 12 times, you finally break down and realize I'm right.

People gently telling you that perhaps you maybe got confused clearly doesn't work. I'm trying the blunt approach. But already you're building psychological barriers to that - someone cites evidence and data along with solid reasoning and arguments to dispute you? Clearly they're engaged in a pissing contest. ;)

There are plenty of things I don't believe - fairies, Santa Claus, what have you. Nobody goes around accusing me of making positive assertions about those things.

Newsflash, skep. If you state that there are no fairies, that there is no Santa Claus, then you are making a claim.

Are you able to tell the difference between a thing you've never heard of and therefore lack any belief about, and something you've heard and that you believe does not exist? Think real, real hard.

Samwell Barnes,

As any reasonable person can see, atheism is a positive assertion through and through. These "lack of belief"-ers should call themselves something else, because the "-ism" determines the "-ist," not the other way around.

Oh, the smarter ones realize that. They just hope that if they cling to their weird obscure definition long enough it will magically become true. Which is why it's so minor fun to prove them wrong in the meantime.

The dumber ones just lash out blindly at those eeeevil folk what with their dictionaries and book learnin' and all dat barbarian stuff.

Ilíon said...

Samwell Barnes: "As any reasonable person can see, atheism is a positive assertion through and through. These "lack of belief"-ers should call themselves something else, because the "-ism" determines the "-ist," not the other way around."

I-pretent-to-reason: "What a moronic statement. [... blah, blah, blah that has nothing at all to do with the proposition he's denying/denegrating as "moronic"]"

Exactly, the "-ism" determines the "-ist," not the other way around."

And every time ing(énue)24, and Parbouj before him, asserts that I have not shown that (western-style) atheism entails materialism he is puroposely, deliberately, dishonestly denying this and asserting its negation. One can know that he does this "puroposely, deliberately, dishonestly" because I have consistently pointed out that I am talking about the '-ism', not about the disjointed bundle of propositions some purported '-ist' may choose to believe-or-assert.

Ilíon said...

This post discusses the claims of two fools who reference a third fool --

I-pretend-to-seek-truth: "The fact of being atheist certainly does not imply any particular worldview - not even materialism, as ingx24 keeps pointing out."

some random fool: "*I* point out that an atheist doesn't need to be a materialist, skep - ingx24's views on the matter aside. But that's a question of logical necessity. In practice, socially speaking, yes - identifying as an atheist does, in fact, imply that one is also a naturalist."

It is not mere innocent ignorance, not on the parts of any of these three fools, which leads them to assert the false proposition that (western style) atheism does not entail materialism; it is willful ignorance -- intellectual dishonesty, hypocrisy with respect to reason -- that is behind their continual false assertions.

In point of fact, it *is* "a question of logical necessity" whether and that (western style) atheism entails materialism. "In practice, socially speaking", an atheist may certainly *choose* to believe or assert propositions that are contrary to (western style) atheism -- and most of them do, for logically consistent atheism (whether eastern-style or western-style) is inherently logically incoherent -- but, doing so doesn't change (western style) atheism, it merely makes the atheist logically inconsistent.

ingx24 said...

Alright Ilion, let's take a look at your argument:

1) the material/physical world of matter-space-time, and the interactions thereof, that we human beings perceive (i.e. 'nature') is real;
2) 'nature' is not created/sustained by any immaterial-and-unembodied mind/agent who is the logically prior transcendent "ground of all being";
From these two axioms of (western-style) atheism, it follows that:
3) human beings -- which is to say, human embodied minds -- have not always existed;
3a) this is true of any other embodied minds that may or may not exist in the world;


Stop. Right there. What you have just done is commit a non-sequitur: it DOES NOT FOLLOW from (1) and (2) that embodied minds have not always existed. It could be true that minds have existed since the beginning of time alongside matter and energy - there is nothing logically inconsistent about believing this. You have simply assumed it to be false, and have done nothing to argue against it.

4) however it is that embodied minds did somehow "arise" in the world – and the cause/trigger must necessarily be ‘natural’, that is, must be “matter in motion” -- there was a time in the past (as there will be in the future) when there were no embodied minds;
4a) that is, there was a time when there were no minds at all;


Again, this is assuming the truth of (3), which you have not shown to be true.

5) when there were no minds at all in the world, then all there was in the world was “matter in motion”;
5a) when there were no minds at all in the world, then *all* states, events, state-changes, causes and so on were only “matter in motion” and the effects thereof;


This blatantly begs the question against views like panprotopsychism, neutral monism, etc. that assert that there is a hidden property of matter that logically adds up to mentality. I happen to think these views are false (they fall victim to arguments from the unity of consciousness, and they lead to epiphenomenalism and thus fall victim to the argument from reason), but you have done nothing to argue against them; you have simply assumed them to be false. Additionally, you have begged the question against the information-theoretic view (which I have called "computational dualism") that claims that information is an objective feature of reality and that minds are created by the accumulation of information within a physical system.

6) the first embodied minds were caused to “arise” by “matter in motion”;
6a) the thoughts of these first embodied minds were caused by “matter in motion”;
7) all subsequent embodied minds are likewise caused to “arise” by “matter in motion”;
7a) the thoughts of these subsequent embodied minds are likewise caused by “matter in motion”;


Besides begging the question against views like panprotopsychism, computational dualism, and neutral monism, you have begged the question against strong emergentist versions of property dualism that assert that there are contingent psychophysical laws that determine that certain configurations of matter will be associated with certain states of consciousness. I happen to think this view is false - I have serious reservations about the whole concept of strong emergence - but you have done nothing to argue against it; you have simply assumed it to be false.

Face it, Ilion - on its own, atheism DOES NOT entail materialism. You have to argue against views like neutral monism, panprotopsychism, panpsychism, computational dualism, strong emergence, and forms of substance dualism that claim that minds have always existed in order to establish theism and materialism as the only possible views available. And you have done nothing to argue against these views; you have simply assumed them to be false.

B. Prokop said...

Here is one case where I am in complete agreement with Ilion. So I'll limit my contribution to "what he said".

Ilíon said...

Precon: "Here is one case where I am in complete agreement with Ilion."

Be careful that "the Dark Side" doesn't claim you! Else, before you know it, you may find yourself arguing in favor of the liberty of the individual over-and-against the (tendentious) claims of of those who purport to "speak for society" to be morally and legally enabled to confiscate, under threat of violent death, any and all the fruit of his labor ... for "redistribution" to "the needy". At the very minimum, which is bad enough, you may find yourself arguing for actually abiding in policy and politics by the actual terms of the US Constitution.

Dan Gillson said...

atheism: The belief that ∄x which satisfies the claim, "x is God."

materialism: The metaphysical thesis that everything is composed of matter, matter being an inert, senseless substance.

The question is, how does one acquire atheism as a belief? Prima facie, it seems that atheism doesn't depend on a metaphysic; atheism just claims that nothing satisfies the description "… is God." If atheism proceeded without argument (if it were content to be a naïve sort of atheism), it surely avoids Ilíon's contention that it entails materialism. A person could just say that he has encountered nothing in his experience that would evince the claim "x is God." But what about atheism that so seeks to defend itself from theism?

As I see it, an atheist can follow two routes: on the first one, he can argue that the reason that nothing satisfies the description "… is God" is because it is logically impossible that ∃x such that x is God. He has committed himself to a metaphysic in which logic determines actuality, in which logic takes priority over history: "it is logically impossible that God exists, therefore God doesn't exist." It is an atheism that prioritizes being over somethingness. Whether or not this conception of atheism depends on materialism is beside the point.

On the second conception of atheism, an atheist can maintain that while it is logically possible that there is an x such that "x is God," there is nothing in the world that exemplifies x. The metaphysical thesis to which he is committed is that all real existence (actuality) is historical, i.e., in order for an x to be a something, x must not only make it entrance in Space and Time, it must have narratable story. This atheist isn't going to argue against the possibility of there being a God, merely that what the religious imagination have identified as gods aren't. Nowhere does his argument depend on the metaphysics of materialism. He could very well be a dualist, panpsychist, or idealist.

Therefore, Ilíon, in believing that atheism necessarily entails materialism is committing the fallacy of false equivalence. He is dreadfully wrong.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

"As I see it, an atheist can follow two routes:"

Good discussion. The first course, the logical impossibility of god, seems a rather difficult course to follow. For a person to take such a stance, he would have to disprove the existence of god. As much as I disagree with every proof of god I have ever encountered, I also have never encountered a solid logical disproof of god, either.

I remain unconvinced by the evidence (or lack of evidence).

A side note for Bob: Ilion is right about one thing - if you start buying into his line of "reasoning", you are likely to lose any concept of humanity in your worldview.

Dan Gillson said...

im-skeptical:

The trouble is, when it comes to the differences between being and somethingness, many atheists start equivocating. They say, "all atheism requires is the lack of belief in God," but then they turn around and make a logical argument against the existence of God. To borrow from Hoffmann's essay, they want to make not believing in snowmen a logical consequence of not believing in snow. The funny thing is, blockheads like Ilíon press the same line of argument vis-à-vis atheism. If, however, one sticks to the fact that one can believe in snow without believing in snowmen, i.e., if the rejection of something doesn't depend upon the matter out of which the something is constructed, one elides the problems inherent to making a metaphysical argument.

B. Prokop said...

"Else, before you know it, you may find yourself arguing in favor of..."

Nah!

B. Prokop said...

if you start buying into [Ilion's] line of "reasoning"

No danger of that. But as I have said before on this website, Ilion is almost always right in what he posts, with the notable exceptions of anything dealing with either Catholicism or politics. It's just his gawdawful tone I don't care for. But his reasoning is generally sound - you (Skep) just don't care for his conclusions. So you feel compelled to attack his logic, which unfortunately for you is pretty damn near unassailable.

ingx24 said...

Bob,

How would you respond to my objections to Ilion's argument for the entailment from atheism to materialism, then? His argument is not a deductively valid argument; at the most, it provides an inductive "inference to the best explanation" from the failure of materialism to the truth of theism. But what he wants is a logically airtight and deductively sound argument - and that is something he has utterly failed to provide.

Ilíon said...

nascent right-winger:But as I have said before on this website, Ilion is almost always right in what he posts, with the notable exceptions of anything dealing with either Catholicism or politics. It's just his gawdawful tone I don't care for. But his reasoning is generally sound - you (Skep) just don't care for his conclusions. So you feel compelled to attack his logic, which unfortunately for you is pretty damn near unassailable.

Neither ‘I’m_irrational_and_damned_proud_of_it’, nor ‘(dis)ing(enuous) ing(énue)24’, nor our very own ‘nuancey-boy’ are “attack[ing my] logic” – would that they’d try – for, after all, my logic is “pretty damn near unassailable.” However, though I see no evidence that they “feel compelled to attack [my] logic”, it does strongly appear to me that they “feel compelled to [assert the denial of my] logic” and conclusions … by whatever means some to hand, even if that involves arguing, or at least asserting, ‘not-A’ where yesterday they argued/asserted ‘A’. You know, that ol’ bug-a-boo, intellectual dishonesty.

Rather that attacking my logic, they simply wave their hands at my logic, and *POOF* it is “refuted”. Plus, I’m a really, really mean, nasty, evil, wicked, hateful person.

nascent right-winger:It's just his gawdawful tone I don't care for.

We both know that your objection to my “gawdawful tone” is hypocritical, for you employ that same “gawdawful tone” … just not in as principled a manner. Further, I know, and you’d know if you’d read the Bible, either Testament, that *God* employs the same “gawdawful tone” that I do, and for the same reason.

nascent right-winger:But as I have said before on this website, Ilion is almost always right in what he posts, with the notable exceptions of anything dealing with either Catholicism or politics.

Then why is it that on those topics you do not “attack [my purportedly faulty] logic”, but rather, like ‘Im-skeptical’ and ‘ingx24’ and ‘Dan Gillson’ and that random fool who likes to lie about me and whom I try to ignore, you wave your hands at the reasoning … and then attack my person? Even if I *were* the really, really mean, nasty, evil, wicked, hateful person you need me to be, what does that have to do with refuting the logic my reasoning?

Ilíon said...

I-wouldn't-recognize-a-well-reasoned-belief-(nor-a-discussion)-if-it-pissed-on-me: "... I must be some kind of threat to your fragile beliefs. As usual, you have turned a discussion into a pissing contest."

B.Prokop: "Skep, while you've got your dictionaries open, you really need to look up the definition for "psychological projection"."

I call it "projectile reasoning" ... I expect that the reader gets the image the phrase is meant to evoke.

im-skeptical said...

"So you feel compelled to attack his logic, which unfortunately for you is pretty damn near unassailable."

Actually, I haven't interacted much with him, except to sometimes respond to comments that he makes about me. What I have observed (perhaps I should go back and refresh my memory) is that he doesn't often make a logical argument at all. He mostly just snipes at people, telling them that they're wrong and calling them names. He also seems to be a legend in his own mind, oh so superior to all of us mere humans.

Dan Gillson said...

Ilion:

Consider your logic assailed: There are two species of the three I considered which don't entail materialism: 1. Naïve atheism, which doesn't advance an argument in support of its position; and 2. Atheists who, to borrow from Hoffmann's essay, reject snowmen without rejecting snow. See above for more details.

Crude said...

Dan,

Atheists who, to borrow from Hoffmann's essay, reject snowmen without rejecting snow. See above for more details.

Please let me know if I have Hoffman's writing right. He's arguing that atheists do not (cannot?) disbelieve in "any God or gods, period", but they have to be atheists with respect to particular deities: the God of Christianity, etc.

Am I on target?

Dan Gillson said...

That's part of his argument. Hoffmann focuses his atheism on the particular deities we get from book traditions. He's generally unconcerned with logical arguments for the inexistence of God.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

I have trouble accepting that we should always focus on specific gods. Of course, when specific godly attributes are specified, it becomes possible to refute them. But this, no doubt, leaves many atheists unsatisfied. We can still conclude inductively, and believe with fairly high confidence, that there are no gods.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>Every argument I've heard uses logic based on premises or assumptions that are not acceptable to someone who is not already convinced.

I'm very curious: what premise of the First Mover argument do you think requires belief in God in order to accept?

Crude said...

We can still conclude inductively, and believe with fairly high confidence, that there are no gods.

Alright. Please provide the inductive argument(s) that there is no God/are no gods.

This should be hilarious.

Every argument I've heard uses logic based on premises or assumptions that are not acceptable to someone who is not already convinced.

Or, every argument you've heard that concludes a way you dislike has a premise that you're willing to deny to avoid the conclusion. As Martin said, once again: let's hear about these craaaaaazy premises. Once again, this should be hilarious. ;)

Crude said...

Dan,

That's part of his argument. Hoffmann focuses his atheism on the particular deities we get from book traditions. He's generally unconcerned with logical arguments for the inexistence of God.

Okay. The problem I have is, that seems wildly inadequate as far as atheism is concerned. There are logical arguments for the existence of God, and I don't think it works to say that we 'get' deities from book traditions. Instead it seems that we get deities from basic belief, or logical argument, or somewhere else - and then augment that belief with 'book religions', which is in turn a mix of investigation, evidence, revelation, etc.

If Hoffman simply rejects the major revealed religions but has no concern about the arguments for or against the existence of God, why even call himself an atheist? That seems a hair away from arguing that I can call myself an atheist, even though I accept God's existence and even a particular religion - after all, I'm (by his standards, though I'd dispute this) an atheist in the case of 99% of other religions' deities. Why should that disqualify me?

Dan Gillson said...

im-skeptical:

Have you based your conclusion that there are no gods on the supposed logical impossibility of such things, or on the fact that there is nothing of the sort that satisfies the description "… is God"?

Dan Gillson said...

Crude:

Lurking behind this discussion is Tertullian's question: What has Athens to do with Jersualem? My answer is: nothing. I can accept the logical possibility that the God whom Athens put forth exists, but this possibility is far from an actuality. The Trinity, Allah, Yahweh … etc., don't cut ice. They appear in their books as characters on the stage of history, not as some dull, otiose Unmoved Mover inferred from logical premises.

If you want to call yourself an atheist because you are one with respect to 99% of other deities, that's fine with me, but I'm not entirely concerned with the "appropriate" application of labels.

Crude said...

Dan,

I can accept the logical possibility that the God whom Athens put forth exists, but this possibility is far from an actuality.

Except parts of Athens do far more than simply argue God's existence is merely logically possible.

The Trinity, Allah, Yahweh … etc., don't cut ice. They appear in their books as characters on the stage of history, not as some dull, otiose Unmoved Mover inferred from logical premises.

Dull? Otiose? We have different understandings of the Unmoved Mover.

But more than that, you seem to be treating the God of Athens and the God of Jerusalem as utterly distinct, maybe even that the Unmoved Mover literally cannot be any of these described deities. Not only do I think that doesn't work, but I think any person who accepts the likelihood, or reasonable possibility, of the Unmoved Mover is put into a vastly different situation potentially than the atheist who tries to deny them all. And if your argument is that it would be irrational or go beyond reason to deny them all, then at the end of the day I think that cashes out as an argument for the irrationality of atheism.

Dan Gillson said...

Crude:

1. It's not that 'Athens' merely argues for the logical possibility of God, it's that the logical possibility of God is the net effect of 'Athen's' argument.

2. We probably do have different understandings of the Unmoved Mover. I was a firm disciple of Martin Luther, and he didn't have very nice things to say about Aristotle's god.

3. To clear things up: I think that the God of Athens and the God of Jerusalem are completely different gods.

4. To clear things up again: I don't believe in an Unmoved Mover either, but I can't negate the possibility that there is one.

5. Insofar as I think that ∄x which satisfies the description "… is God," I technically deny that there is a plausible candidate for God. However the basis for my denial is more historical than metaphysical, though it does entail an ontological claim about existence. See my long post above.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"what premise of the First Mover argument do you think requires belief in God in order to accept?"

Please spell out which specific argument you'd like to hear about, and I'll try to answer.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

"Have you based your conclusion that there are no gods on the supposed logical impossibility of such things, or on the fact that there is nothing of the sort that satisfies the description "… is God"?"

As I said before, I don't think the logical impossibility has been demonstrated. It would be the latter.

Crude said...

Dan,

1. It's not that 'Athens' merely argues for the logical possibility of God, it's that the logical possibility of God is the net effect of 'Athen's' argument.

I disagree. I think "Athen's" arguments goes far beyond simple logical possibility. I suppose you'd disagree, and that's fine.

We probably do have different understandings of the Unmoved Mover. I was a firm disciple of Martin Luther, and he didn't have very nice things to say about Aristotle's god.

Well, now you're not. If you haven't already, you should probably reconsider him on that point as you clearly have on others.

To clear things up

Okay, but I don't think Hoffman even began to establish that that those 'two Gods' were incapable of being one and the same. And, insofar as many people (and we're talking some major theistic traditions here) do find them to be one and the same, then it really would seem that this causes a problem with the 'atheist' label.

Which reminds me. You said you don't care about these labels... but on reflection, I think you'd absolutely have to, at least in this thread. Your response to Ilion turned specifically on two 'types' of atheist. If they aren't atheists after all, then the response doesn't work.

Anyway, I did read your post. If I understand it correctly, it seems like one of the worst positions for an atheist to be in, at least as far as maintaining their atheism goes.

Crude said...

Actually, I'd ask for some clarification.

Insofar as I think that ∄x which satisfies the description "… is God," I technically deny that there is a plausible candidate for God. However the basis for my denial is more historical than metaphysical, though it does entail an ontological claim about existence. See my long post above.

Do you deny there is a plausible candidate period, even a candidate who may or may not exist? Or is it just that you deny there is a plausible candidate historically, even if there are plausible candidates metaphysically?

Dan Gillson said...

Crude:

Firstly, clarification: The basis for my denial is historical, by which I mean that all candidates for God haven't passed muster. (I might add that as long as the classical theism holds the fort, no candidate will pass muster.) I wouldn't flat-out deny that there could be metaphysically plausible candidate.

Secondly, when I said that I don't care much about labels, what I meant was that I don't really care how you choose to self-identify. In fact, sometimes I still say that I'm a Lutheran, even though I wouldn't call myself a Christian.

Thirdly, I'm not really interested in maintaining my atheism (not that I'm interested in giving it up). In a certain sense, I don't see beliefs so much as hard and fast commitments; I see them more as self-descriptions, or self-ascriptions, i.e., ways of communicating what one thinks about oneself. When I say that I'm an atheist, I'm providing a picture-in-language to another person, not necessarily staking out argumentative turf.

Crude said...

Dan,

Firstly, clarification: The basis for my denial is historical, by which I mean that all candidates for God haven't passed muster. (I might add that as long as the classical theism holds the fort, no candidate will pass muster.) I wouldn't flat-out deny that there could be metaphysically plausible candidate.

Okay. I'd like some more clarification: do you mean none of passed muster historically ('All religions have failed to convince you they truly represent God.') or metaphysically ('All offered metaphysical concepts of God have failed.')?

When I say that I'm an atheist, I'm providing a picture-in-language to another person, not necessarily staking out argumentative turf.

Don't pictures which involve statements of belief suggest, at least if a person is trying to be reasonable, that they either are dealing with a basic belief or believe something based on a certain standard of evidence, argument and/or intellectual rigor?

Dan Gillson said...

Crude:

Insofar as classical theism predicates certain a priori qualities of God as being necessary, i.e., timelessness, immutability, simplicity, and impassibility, a priori qualities which by definition can't be exemplified historically, all historical candidates for God don't pass muster. However, I can't negate the classical picture of God's attributes; I can only say that I can only see them when I squint real hard.

I think that your picture of what beliefs are involves a certain level of sophistication or self-reflection that isn't inherent to the nature of beliefs. When someone claims to have a belief, he or she gets an all-access pass to partake in a certain community's activities. Some members of the group might require one to produce some sort of rational proof that what one really believes is in line with the rest of group, i.e., they think that certain individuals within the group set the standard for the rest of the group, but that doesn't mean that beliefs are inherently rationalistic.

Crude said...

Dan,

Insofar as classical theism predicates certain a priori qualities of God as being necessary, i.e., timelessness, immutability, simplicity, and impassibility, a priori qualities which by definition can't be exemplified historically, all historical candidates for God don't pass muster.

I think that's incorrect, but again I'm interested in more clarification here - I know I'm asking for quite a lot. So are you saying it's impossible in principle for any historical candidate to 'pass muster'? Or only that all of them so far have failed? And if it's the latter, can you give a hypothetical example of one who would pass muster?

I think that your picture of what beliefs are involves a certain level of sophistication or self-reflection that isn't inherent to the nature of beliefs.

Sure, but that's why I said 'at least if one is trying to be reasonable'. I cited basic beliefs as one possible type that could be exempt from having to provide justifications, etc, and certainly it's possible to have a belief without the justification. But what, you're telling me you identify as an atheist sometimes and a lutheran at others depending on which particular buffet you'd like to show up at?

Dan Gillson said...

Crude:

1. As long as classical theism sets the standard, there can be no particular, historical candidate for God. The reason being, God's qualities, as construed by classical theism, cannot be historically exemplified. (How would the quality 'timelessness' be instantiated in the temporal world?)

2. I think that a God whose only quality was omnipotence, i.e., a God who worked all things in all things, such as life, death, order, and chaos, would pass muster, but only if new couched our understanding of such a God in some form of noncognitivism.

3. I am simultaneously a Lutheran and an atheist, but sometimes I veer more Lutheran than atheist. (You must think suffer some horrible cognitive dissonance, which I do, but the resolution of dissonance creates beautiful music.)

Crude said...

Dan,

As long as classical theism sets the standard, there can be no particular, historical candidate for God. The reason being, God's qualities, as construed by classical theism, cannot be historically exemplified.

And there I just disagree. But, that would also push us beyond the bounds of this discussion, so I'll leave that there.

I think that a God whose only quality was omnipotence, i.e., a God who worked all things in all things, such as life, death, order, and chaos, would pass muster

In terms of historical exemplification? How? It seems if you can in principle grant omnipotence being exemplified historically, you're well on your way to the classical theist God being so too.

I am simultaneously a Lutheran and an atheist, but sometimes I veer more Lutheran than atheist. (You must think suffer some horrible cognitive dissonance, which I do, but the resolution of dissonance creates beautiful music.)

More tolerable than the typical atheist dissonance, at least.

Dan Gillson said...

Crude:

Omnipotence, like dark matter, can be inferred from its effects. Order and chaos, and the resultants of these, would be the effects of God's omnipotence on us. Therefore, we could infer that God would be omnipotent. (The same sort of reasoning is used against God's omnibenevolence, the effects of which would yield a much less cruel world.)

This is actually where I consider myself to be thoroughgoingly Lutheran. Luther thought that God-in-the-present was indistinguishable from the Devil. God's omnibenevolence, His Triunity, etc., were part of Luther's eschatology, the eschaton being made manifest in Word and Sacrament. When I "became" an atheist, I just dropped Luther's eschatology in favor of his doctrine of God as presently experienced.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

I'm asking you. You said "Every argument I've heard uses logic based on premises or assumptions that are not acceptable to someone who is not already convinced."

I'm asking you for samples. Which argument has such premises, and what are these premises that require one to already believe in God in order to believe the premises?

Crude said...

Dan,

Omnipotence, like dark matter, can be inferred from its effects. Order and chaos, and the resultants of these, would be the effects of God's omnipotence on us. Therefore, we could infer that God would be omnipotent. (The same sort of reasoning is used against God's omnibenevolence, the effects of which would yield a much less cruel world.)

All you need to say is that you could reasonably infer omniscience (and omniscience seems bound up with omnipotence), and I think it becomes clear that the God of classical theism can be inferred in history.

This is actually where I consider myself to be thoroughgoingly Lutheran. Luther thought that God-in-the-present was indistinguishable from the Devil.

So you believe in the Devil, but not God?

Dan Gillson said...

Crude:

The God of classical theism is metaphysically simple, which means that there's no difference between God's qualities. In a classical theistic schema, God's omniscience and omnipotence are one and the same. The schema with which I am toying would posit a metaphysically complex God, wherein qualities such as omniscience and omnipotence are different. Following such a schema, one couldn't infer omniscience from omnipotence.

No, I don't believe in the devil. I believe in an ineffable, arational, omnipotent force about which nothing true nor false can be said.

Crude said...

Dan,

Following such a schema, one couldn't infer omniscience from omnipotence.

I don't see how, or even that classical theism at the moment makes an appearance if it. If the God is all-powerful, capable of doing or causing anything it wishes to take place, then it seems at the very least reasonable to infer its omniscience. Even if you disagreed, it seems like you'd be able to hold that its omniscience would be able to be inferred some way, right?

To skip past some of the back and forth - if you hold that the God of classical theism is logically possible, and you further hold that it's possible to infer omnipotence and/or omniscience in a historical being, then all it takes is for that being to impart knowledge that it is the God of classical theism - directly or indirectly. In which case, it seems like it's entirely possible for the God of classical theism to make a historical appearance after all, at least in principle.

No, I don't believe in the devil. I believe in an ineffable, arational, omnipotent force about which nothing true nor false can be said.

'It's ineffablem arational, and omnipotent - true or false?' I guess you have an answer for that, but it seems like the obvious question.

Dan Gillson said...

Just briefly, my answer is that the statement, "Dan believes in an ineffable, arational, omnipotent force" is a de dicto attitude report, the truth-conditions of which apply to whether or not I actually believe it, not to whether or not such a thing actually exists.

Crude said...

Just briefly, my answer is that the statement, "Dan believes in an ineffable, arational, omnipotent force" is a de dicto attitude report, the truth-conditions of which apply to whether or not I actually believe it, not to whether or not such a thing actually exists.

Well, you also believe it's something about which nothing true or false can be said - at which point I think it's an open question whether the attitude of 'believing in it' makes sense. Any belief in it is going to cash out in a true-false declaration about it, trivially.

I think we've gone on enough here, and I don't want to press you with any further questions right now - you've been civil and answered most things I directed your way patiently, so I'll leave this at whatever you want to say.