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Author Topic: God; is he or isn't he?
PanHeraclitean
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I just thought about it and I have a question for the "infidels," "non-believers," "atheists," and "agnostics" on the board.

This is not a light question. I don't want to know why you don't believe in God. I want to know why God is antithetical to you as a person. If that doesn't work why is belief in God antithetical to you as a person.

I am not looking for an answer that says essentially because it doesn't fit my burden of proof. I expect nothing less from thoughtful intelligent people. What I am looking for is what is the burden of proof that you are looking for and why do you think that this is a necessary or an attainable level of proof (if it is not attainable I would hope that you see that it is as dogmatic of a position as bible thumping fundamentalists that condemn so many to hell).

I am really trying to figure out the sceptic/cynic side of things.

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Sampler
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I am looking for a bona-fide personal experience of my own, and then a personal explanation from god why s/he lets all this evil and suffering and injustice exist if s/he really gives a damn. I never bought the stupid free-will circular stuff, so it will have to be ex-cathedra incarnate. After all, I know someone who believes in god, he just thinks god is evil and feeds upon suffering, like some sort of cosmic vampire.

So even if god revealed itself to me, I'd need some way of s/he proving to me that it was good.


All of that is necessary because all of the various forms of god that other people talk about are gods that demand our worship and obedience. Considering all of the natural misery--as well as religion and anti-religion inspired misery that exists, I will never give my love and devotion to something that doesn't exist to me personally as something I have experienced, and even if it does I have to see for myself that it is good.

[ May 14, 2007, 07:02 PM: Message edited by: Sampler ]

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MattP
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quote:
I am really trying to figure out the sceptic/cynic side of things.
Ouch. You know, there's nothing inherently pessimistic about skepticism. I'm a pretty darn upbeat and fun guy who expects good things to happen and expect to be able to manage just fine when they don't.
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MattP
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If God is anywhere near as powerful and omniscient as most believers believe Him to be, I expect that He would be able present to me evidence that exceeds the burden of proof necessary for me to believe. He has not yet done so.

I can't say what proof would be necessary, but I'm a pretty limited being and I recognize that so I won't let my lack of imagination lead me to any conclusions about the attainability of such proof.

[ May 14, 2007, 07:10 PM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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KnightEnder
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Lack of evidence. Lack of logic. It is antithetical for me to 'believe' in something so important with insufficient evidence, much less 'no' evidence.

KE

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
I want to know why God is antithetical to you as a person. If that doesn't work why is belief in God antithetical to you as a person.
God isn't antithetical to me as a person, Pan. The problem is, you've framed the question in the inherent solipsism of faith. Faith tells you that your belief is proof enough of god's existence, which I do not accept. It doesn't matter how much you believe in something, that doesn't make it any more or less likely to be true. It would be correct to say that faith is antithetical to me as a person.

I require evidence to believe in something, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The more we learn about the universe, everything behaves exactly as we would expect it to in the absence of a god.

Lack of evidence for god doesn't not prove his nonexistence. As Carl Sagan was fond of saying, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I can say beyond a reasonable doubt that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god is fictional, but it is always possible to abstract the concept of god to the point that it is no longer testable. Atheism is essentially just defaulting to the null hypothesis of nonexistence until further evidence is forthcoming. Not that I'm holding my breath.

[ May 14, 2007, 07:45 PM: Message edited by: Adam Lassek ]

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KnightEnder
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What Adam said. [Smile]

KE

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PanHeraclitean
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MattP, what makes you think that I necessarily associate pessimism to Skepticism or Cynicism. I forgot to capitalize the words but I meant as philosophical systems.

Adam, I like your perspective to a certain extent. Here is where I disagree with it though; all evidence require ascent. Why do you consider God an extraordinary case? I know you might be shocked by that question and might laugh or think me stupid. But let's get that simple. What would make god any more extraordinary than gravity or cell replication? Where does one draw the line of what is extraordinary. A person from ages ago would say that germs making someone sick would be extraordinary.

You have faith in other things that you don't understand and can experience. Why is God so far fetched? One couldn't say this is or is not the way the universe would behave with or without a god because we don't know where god fits into the equation very well.

I agree with you that if there is a god s/he is not like we think. There is no doubt in my mind either. But the thing about fiction is that it does have a connection to reality.

Here's a question for those that wish to think of it; if there was a god what would he have to be like to satisfy you (not that I am saying God is there to satisfy you in a Rolling Stones kinda way)? As a follow-up what prevents the existence of such an entity in your mind?

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MattP
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quote:
MattP, what makes you think that I necessarily associate pessimism to Skepticism or Cynicism.
The way you phrased it -- "I am really trying to figure out the sceptic/cynic side of things." -- seemed to imply an equivalence or association between "skeptic" and "cynic."

quote:
You have faith in other things that you don't understand and can experience. Why is God so far fetched?
I have no reason to believe that I can experience God.
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0Megabyte
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I think the key to Adam's statement is this:

Where's the proof? Is it any better than the proof in UFOs or psychic phenomena? Does it prove God at all?

Visions of God don't work as evidence, because people of other religions get visions of Muhammud, Buddha, or whomever, without any particular, special thing distinguishing the visions of God or Buddha.

Stigmata proves nothing, for Muslims get it too... in the shape of the wounds that Muhammud was supposed to have recieved, which are totally different than the wounds Christ recieved.

Those are two examples.

The question is: Where's the evidence? What is there that suggests it's true?

In addition, how is believing in something with absolutely no proof but your belief work? Other totalyl contradictory religions through history have the exact same thing. If belief is adaquete proof, then they would exist too.

If belief was proof enough, then there's such a thing as psychics and vampires, but there aren't. IF belief was proof enough, then those who say we never went to the moon would have been right, but they aren't.

How is the belief in God better?

(Is that a good summary?)

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DaveS
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There's a fundamental mismatch of "granularity" in your question. I don't think I need to posit or seek out a God in order to believe in the deep majesty of nature. Nor would I have to posit or fashion a God in your God's image if I did seek or find God. Your question implies that I'm missing something by not doing so. Like most "deep" questions, it can be reversed to ask why God seems so important to you? Would nature, existence, whatever you call it, be less if it hadn't been created by God? I suppose I can say that God exists, just not in an accessible way, and there is comfort and a kind of satisfaction in knowing that. The music of the spheres is rapture enough to those who can hear it.
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Everard
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" I want to know why God is antithetical to you as a person. If that doesn't work why is belief in God antithetical to you as a person."

You've framed the question wrong.

The first question anyone has to ask is "What is god?" Then the atheist, or theist, can present the definition for god that they are working from. Then, the next question is, "what reason is there to believe that this god exists?"

Its not that either god or belief in god is anthithetical to me. Its that there's no reason to believe that anything I would define as god actually exists. Absent evidence for the existence of somthing, all rational people should say, at best, there is no reason to think that thing exists.

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DaveS
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I think Ev gets at my issue from a different direction. What is the necessity for God?
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PanHeraclitean
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So to throw everybody off I'll say something that seems contradictory from my perspective. truth as we know it is relative.

What I mean by that is that we don't know that there are no such things as alien UFO's or Psychics. As far as the vampire thing goes there are so many multiple explanations for vampires. Only a few involve immortality and stakes through the heart.

I outright admit that I am predisposed to acknowledge the possibility of seemingly "extraordinary" things.

This is why I'm asking about the other points of view and why belief under your circumstances is limited, calculated and requires x level of proof which may or may not be attainable.

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PanHeraclitean
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Everard I am framing in a way that you haven't seen before, I believe. I don't think that that is the wrong way to frame it. It is approaching the topic from a different angle. I have brought up peoples "definition" of God. I ask a vague question on purpose. I ask it the way that I did because of the very thing that you say. Your definition of God is very different from mine. If you were to say that Gode it antithetical to me for reasons x, y and z. Than I could say tell me more about what x,y and z are and what they mean to you. It is a different way of framing the debate that could give new understanding to people.

So if you would please play by my rules of my game instead of saying this isn't how the game is supposed to be played.

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Everard
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"What I mean by that is that we don't know that there are no such things as alien UFO's or Psychics."

We don't know it. But there's also limited reason to believe that they exist.

The choice isn't "knowledge that something doesn't exist" vs "believing that it does."

Knowledge is difficult to attain, at least as I use knowledge in metaphysical discussion. It admits to no possibility of being wrong (or if I am feeling generous, a ridiculously low percentage of being wrong). In between knowing somethng doesn't exist, and acting as if it does, there's the ground of beliving the proposition is false, believing the proposition is probably false, being indifferent to the propostion, beleiving it might be true without acting as if its true, thinking there is not enough information to make a decision, and a variety of other positions.

The skeptic takes the position that propositions should not be believed to be true until evidence (or logic) is obtained for the proposition, where the evidence must be for the specific proposition and not evidence that could be due to multiple propositions.

Further, skeptics generally take the position that a proposition should be considered false if attempts have been made to gather evidence, and none can be gathered.

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Everard
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"Everard I am framing in a way that you haven't seen before, I believe."

No, I have seen it this way before.

" I don't think that that is the wrong way to frame it."

You are. You framed it in a way that presupposes the existence of god.

I dont' choose to play by your rules, because they are bad rules that aren't conducive to you learning anything. They are conducive to you "winning."

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PanHeraclitean
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BTW at this point I am not up for the consideration of what makes God necessary. I would like to talk about why he is not necessary.

We can go around and around about the necessity of God and in fact I have done that several times with different people. I think you know my point of view. It is very much unlike the LDS view that God it subject to eternal laws. God is the foundation, or as might be quaint, he is the cornerstone.

In other words he is the first mover but not in the sense of Aristotle's or as I know Islam's first mover or God. He is the undissipated whole of a universe of space and time. He is fundamentally different in kind to what is created. This is why the what created God question makes me laugh.

So that is what I view as the necessity of God. He is source where I see others as leaving a source blank and unknown. If you admire the majesty of the universe I can appreciate that for I do the same. But I am always led back to what came first both temporally and in logical priority.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
truth as we know it is relative.
I disagree entirely. Truth is an absolute, but our interpretation of truth is personal.

Our interpretations, however, may create a model which inaccurately predicts reality -- which is as good a definition of "false" as you're going to get.

I think it boils down to this, Pan: you're more credulous than we are.

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0Megabyte
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"The skeptic takes the position that propositions should not be believed to be true until evidence (or logic) is obtained for the proposition, where the evidence must be for the specific proposition and not evidence that could be due to multiple propositions. "

That's as good a definition as I've ever seen. A really accurate one. And... one which I happen to follow into.

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Everard
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"But I am always led back to what came first both temporally and in logical priority."

And yet, do not apply this question to god.

"I would like to talk about why he is not necessary."

Proposition A. If it does not exist, then it is not necessary.
Propositin B. If there is no evidence for it, then it does not exist.
Proposition C. There is no evidence for god.
Proposition D. God does not exist.
Proposition E. God is not necessary.

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0Megabyte
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"Truth is relative."

*grins*

As Tom said, no it isn't. Truth simply is. Reality is objective. A person's beliefs do not shape the world, do not determine reality, except insofar as said person acts on those beliefs.

"What I mean by that is that we don't know that there are no such things as alien UFO's or Psychics. As far as the vampire thing goes there are so many multiple explanations for vampires. Only a few involve immortality and stakes through the heart."

As Everard stated, a skeptic essentially asks for evidence. Without evidence, a skeptic asks, why should one believe something?

When you mention all the multiple explanations of vampires, none of the credible ones explain vampires as normally defined as being real. They explain why people might come to that idea, where such ideas come from, what aspects that are part of the vampire story are true, etc, but they show first of all no evidence for real vampires as the legends describe them, and a lot of evidence for other causes of the things formerly attributed to vampires.

Why bother continuing with believing in vampires when there's no evidence for them and other, testable, usable theories that accurately predict the things formerly attribted to vampires, in a manner far exceeding the accuracy of the vampire theory, come about? A skeptic would not bother.

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0Megabyte
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"Propositin B. If there is no evidence for it, then it does not exist."

Careful. For a long time, remember, there was no evidence we could see of quantum physics. (I mean, you know, back in the fifth century, etc.)

A blanket "without evidence then it doesn't exist" probably shouldn't be used bare like that.

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Carlotta
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Everard,
Is your problem simply that we can't have a discussion about God until we agree on a definition of what that word means? Or something more? Because if it's just the first one, then Pan, I agree with Everard. Even on a basic level, if part of your essential definition of God is "the being who created the universe ex nihilo" then you've just excluded all the Mormons. When you say "God," give us a very basic definition of what you mean.

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Sunshine
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Because I lack the Faith gene. Haha, just kidding. Sort of.
I don't have the faith to believe in god, and I don't believe we have the ability to know god through reason.

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MattP
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I think Everard's argument would apply to any popular conception of God. It's kind of nonsensical to ask an atheist which god he doesn't believe in.
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MattP
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oops. double post

[ May 14, 2007, 10:43 PM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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PanHeraclitean
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Everard, are you implying motive for me here. It seems as though you are. I am not trying to win an argument. It is not a thing to win. I am asking questions that is what I do. That is what I know. I don't ask questions to just to prove somebody is stupid for not giving an adequate answer.

It is a common way of exploring the necessity of a thing by showing what it cannot be. If it cannot be those things it doesn't mean that the thing is non-existent. It might mean that it is not able to be attributed such and such features. If that were the case, what does that leave us with? This is my process Everard. The reason that I have approached the topic the way in which I have is that I could come up with any number of "gods" but they may not even be pertainent to you as individuals.

Oh BTW, I don't think that presupposing the existence of God gives me an unfair advantage because my point is not to prove you wrong.

TomD, I said truth as we know it. Truth per se is not relative. But when truth and the human person intersect, our interpretation of truth, which would be truth as we know it, is not an accurate representation of truth per se.

I don't think that I am necessarily more credulous than you. I think that my credulity is accepted as such. I still don't see why you hold some things as more solid when it comes to reality than others, as far as I see.

Again Everard I have to agree with 0Megabyte that you might want to rethink your propositions.

When it comes to Vampires I think it is important to say a little more because it brings up a good point. There is a lengend that has built up around it. Vampires didn't start out as the folk mythology that there is now. There are layers upon layers of different meaning that has been compounded to represent different things.

This is the same with the conception of God. I think that many people have built up so much crap and folk myth around god that the reality of god is lost in peoples sentiment. I know his happens to me at times. I doubt you skeptics don't have this same difficulty at times, but on the other hand I'm sure you have thought of legitimate reasons for not positing or negating a god.

MattP, I don't think it is nonsensical to ask an atheist what is it about god that he doesn't believe because the atheist has either chosen or allowed the label to be used which connects that person to god even if it is by negation.

Sunshine, what faith is needed to believe in God? Why don't you believe that we have the ability to know god through reason? Is reason the only faculty with which we can meaningfully interact with reality?

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
What would make god any more extraordinary than gravity or cell replication? Where does one draw the line of what is extraordinary. A person from ages ago would say that germs making someone sick would be extraordinary.
We can examine these things and predict their behavior with a high degree of accuracy. Can you predict the actions of god with an equally high degree of accuracy? That would be a starting point for extraordinary evidence.

quote:
You have faith in other things that you don't understand and can experience. Why is God so far fetched? One couldn't say this is or is not the way the universe would behave with or without a god because we don't know where god fits into the equation very well.
You are confusing faith and trust. The key difference is evidence. When I get in my car in the morning and turn the key, I trust that it will start. This isn't necessarily always going to be the case; cars sometimes don't start, in fact this has happened to me before. But the vast majority of the times it has started for me, so I trust that it will and have a rational reason for doing so.

Believing in god simply isn't informed by any such evidence; faith requires that I give up evidence as a requirement, shut down my critical faculties and accept what I'm told. Either that, or else form my own idea of god based on the mystery of the universe; essentially that would mean worshiping my own ignorance.

quote:
But the thing about fiction is that it does have a connection to reality.
Not always. The only way to tell is independent corroboration.

quote:
if there was a god what would he have to be like to satisfy you
Real.

quote:
what prevents the existence of such an entity in your mind?
Like I said, everything we know about the universe seems to be just as we would expect it to in the absence of god. See God: The Failed Hypothesis for a scientific critique of evidence for god from the point of view of a physicist. I recommend this book expecially because it is almost anti-polemical in nature and very informative about physics and the nature of the universe.
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Adam Lassek
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quote:
So to throw everybody off I'll say something that seems contradictory from my perspective. truth as we know it is relative.

What I mean by that is that we don't know that there are no such things as alien UFO's or Psychics. As far as the vampire thing goes there are so many multiple explanations for vampires. Only a few involve immortality and stakes through the heart.

I think you need to consider Bertrand Russell's Celestial Teapot argument. Simply being unable to disprove something doesn't mean accepting it as true is rational. The burden of proof lies on those who would claim such things exist.
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Adam Lassek
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quote:
0Megabyte wrote:
(Is that a good summary?)

I think you understand the gist of it pretty well, yeah.
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PanHeraclitean
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Thank you for your candor Adam. I have read several thinkers that say the God question really has nothing to do with whether or not the universe would be the same with or without him. Why is this such an important point for you? Is it an Ockham's razor thing? Why do you think that you would be worshipping your own ignorance? It would seem that we are already ignorant of a great deal of things and that the question of God does not change that.

I'm beginning to question the predictability and accuracy of science as I hear more and more of it being tauted about. We know that there are several if not countless possible exact results that fall within a particular range. We cannot get true accuracy or predictability with anything. I'm forced to think of the phrase I like using when I get something done but not as well as I would have liked to; "it's good enough for government work."

When it comes to the God question there are innumerable variable to consider in the equation. What can we count as evidence? As a materialist one seems to have the end in mind. God no longer is the all encompassing mystery to be unraveled but the universe. But we still don't get that right.

I guess my question for you is about trust versus faith. Those are concpets that I could use clarification on in this discussion. Thanks again for the answer.

BTW I'm not asking you to prove your belief but explain why you believe it and what is integral to that belief. The why is not necessarily a proof, it is not a well refined thing typically, but it is always behind a proof.

[ May 14, 2007, 11:57 PM: Message edited by: PanHeraclitean ]

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
The skeptic takes the position that propositions should not be believed to be true until evidence (or logic) is obtained for the proposition, where the evidence must be for the specific proposition and not evidence that could be due to multiple propositions.
Possibly the most elegant expression of skepticism as I have ever seen. Bravo!

quote:
Further, skeptics generally take the position that a proposition should be considered false if attempts have been made to gather evidence, and none can be gathered.
I have to partially disagree with this, though. Lack of evidence shouldn't lead to an assertion of nonexistence, but rather to default to the null hypothesis of nonexistence until further evidence is forthcoming. I believe the difference is very important, because to assert god's nonexistence is really no better than theism.

An assertion should only be considered false if there is evidence to the contrary. When there is a lack of evidence altogether, the best you can say is that it's very unlikely.

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MattP
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quote:
I don't think it is nonsensical to ask an atheist what is it about god that he doesn't believe because the atheist has either chosen or allowed the label to be used which connects that person to god even if it is by negation.
You want me to describe the attributes of a being which I don't believe in and tell you why those attributes cause me to disbelieve in it? I'm not sure how that's much different than asking you which color of unicorn you don't believe in.

There are an infinite number of God concepts that I don't believe in. The only common denominator is that they lack evidence. If there is a particular concept you want to discuss, I can probably provide additional reasons for not believing, but the lack of evidence will be the overriding factor.

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0Megabyte
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"but rather to default to the null hypothesis of nonexistence"

Good to see taking a math class had some use. I understand this phrasing and its implications at least in statistics now, so it helps a lot to understand!

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
I have read several thinkers that say the God question really has nothing to do with whether or not the universe would be the same with or without him. Why is this such an important point for you? Is it an Ockham's razor thing?
Yes. Ockham's Razor states "entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity."

When Pierre LaPlace gave his book Méchanique céleste to Napoleon, Napoleon remarked "they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator." LaPlace responded, "I did not need to make that assumption." Ockham's Razor in a nutshell.

quote:
I'm beginning to question the predictability and accuracy of science as I hear more and more of it being tauted about. We know that there are several if not countless possible exact results that fall within a particular range. We cannot get true accuracy or predictability with anything. I'm forced to think of the phrase I like using when I get something done but not as well as I would have liked to; "it's good enough for government work."
I don't think that's a fair assessment. We send probes into space with precision accuracy (most of the time [Smile] ) and pass by planets and moons at a relative hairsbreadth of distance away. Quantum Mechanics can predict quantum outcome to such a degree of accuracy, Richard Feynman famously compared it to measuring the width of North America with a margin of error the width of a single hair. I think you need to give me some specific examples of what you're talking about.

quote:
I guess my question for you is about trust versus faith. Those are concpets that I could use clarification on in this discussion. Thanks again for the answer.
Trust: belief based on evidence and logic. Faith: belief based on no evidence, and usually grounded in wishful thinking.

quote:
BTW I'm not asking you to prove your believe but explain why you believe it and what is integral to that belief.
I believe that truth is objective, and unconcerned with human opinion. I believe that the best and most reliable way to uncover said truth is through the scientific method; I believe this not as a matter of faith but based on the past ability of science to explain and manipulate our world in ways no other discipline is capable. I believe that science does not know everything there is to know (yet [Smile] ) and therefore it's conclusions must be tentative lest we uncover an error in thinking, as has happened in the past. I believe that assertions should be viewed with skepticism in proportion to the amount which we want them to be true.
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MattP
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quote:
I think you need to give me some specific examples of what you're talking about.
And no fair using social sciences, climatology, or other sciences that involve very complex systems which rely on complex statistical calculations or subjective interpretation of data. Those problems are very hard and are acknowledged as such.

[ May 15, 2007, 12:36 AM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
Why do you think that you would be worshipping your own ignorance? It would seem that we are already ignorant of a great deal of things and that the question of God does not change that.
I'm replying to this separately because it's a much larger question.

The question of god does indeed change things. When ancient humans looked up to the sky, and saw the Sun, their ignorance of the universe was so overwhelming that they could only assume it was a god.

Eventually, we determined that it was not in fact a god, but a great fire in the sky. But we assumed that the sun, and the rest of the solar system, was created by god.

Then we discovered heliocentrism, and accretion, and nuclear fusion, and determined that the formation of the solar system was totally natural. But we couldn't explain the presence of life, so again we assumed god did it.

Then we discovered natural selection, and realized that life was a natural occurrence. But we still couldn't explain the existence of the universe, so we assumed god did it.

Until Edwin Hubble discovered cosmic red shift, and Georges Lamaître came up with the Big Bang theory.

In every case, we assign everything we don't understand to god; and to be satisfied with that answer means you stop searching for the natural explanation. It was those who were dissatisfied with "god did it" as an answer who are responsible for progress.

We create god because we think we need him to explain the universe, but that isn't the case. In order to believe in god our understanding of the universe must become forfeit, and the pursuit of what we don't know must be abandoned. Because when you invoke the mystery of the universe to justify god, your god shrinks a little bit every time we learn something new. This is what I meant by worshiping my own ignorance.

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Ikemook
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quote:
And no fair using social sciences, climatology, or other sciences that involve very complex systems which rely on complex statistical calculations or subjective interpretation of data. Those problems are very hard and are acknowledged as such.
From what I've been told, those studying animal social systems (can't remember official discipline's name, sorry *_*) have come to find that behavior is a sometimes potent modifier on the other, more "natural" and mechanical phenomena associated with those animals (biological processes, evolution, etc.). The older notions of a mechanistic nature might be getting some revision soon. In addition to the previous revisions in the 20th century ^_~

This in no way suggests that God exists or anything. I certainly don't think he (or she, or it) does. I just think it's interesting ^_~ Reality is a more complex system than we often give it credit for.

----------------------------

I always find myself torn in these discussions. On the one hand, I like science, am an atheist, and don't think God exists (though I certainly can't prove it). And I'm involved in the social sciences, to boot. On the other, trusting science too much (as I sometimes think *some* other atheists do) can lead down some very unfortunate roads.

Of course, that may just be the anthropologist in me talking. When you've read some of the amazingly stupid things people have done in the name of science and progress (which were supported by the science of their time), you get skeptical about these things.

Am I the only atheist here who feels this way?

--David

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
When you've read some of the amazingly stupid things people have done in the name of science and progress (which were supported by the science of their time), you get skeptical about these things.
I don't think you can give me a single example of an amazingly stupid occurrence that was the fault of science rather than the scientist. People make mistakes; 90% of science is just correcting for human error! This doesn't invalidate science as a method.
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