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Author Topic: An arguement for Agnoticism - against Atheism.  (Read 3064 times)
Tetro Kornbluth
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« on: January 06, 2009, 04:33:40 pm »
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I was watching TV last night and lo behold it was Arch-Atheist Richard Dawkins at Fatima, trying to make the christians (many of whom old and very ill) stooopppid, it is own particular annoying way. Then I suddenly remembered how much I hate smarmy know-it-all Atheists, this is someone who was a smarmy know-it-all Atheist at the age of 14 before some sensible reality kicked in. Yet Atheistic Arguements seem to be prevelant among "intellectuals" in this forum (no, not Opebo), so I've decided to debunk Scientific Atheism, simply because it bores me so much and has major asshats as its most noted cheerleaders. Here I'll argue that we simply can't know whether God exists or not because there is a lack of evidence to show otherwise. A scientific arguement that God does not exist as this presupposes that science is the definitive truth, something which can't be proven (and how we would do so is completely unknown). Warning: Metaphysics alert.

*********
The modern quest of knowledge - especially Science makes a few essential assumptions:
1. Totality (that is everything) can be perceived from first our senses and then our knowledge - from what we can see (stars, planets, grass, fingers, etc) to we can perceive via developments in knowledge (Atoms, Superstrings, Black Holes, etc).
2. The Universe as it is, is everything. Nothing exists outside it (or the Multiverse).
3. There is no fundamental underlying reality beneath our own reality (this is a bad metaphor, but I think you know what I mean)
4. Everything can be shown scientifically
5. Everything can be understood by human cognition - if we have the tools to do so.
6. Nothing that can't be rationally proven or shown can be real.

It does not take too long to figure out that's these are assumptions, none of these can possibly be proven. How can they proven? How does one go about trying to show that there are more layers of reality than our traditional knowledge thinks? We simply don't have the tools. If a scientist wanted to prove the existence of God, well, how could he? Given that (s)he does not how God is, where he exists, when he exists and etc. Therefore the idea that Science disproves God is completely false. (Though the question has to be asked "What do we mean by God?" That is simply unknown, it could mean anything. The Early 20th Century Logical positivist philosophers argued that word "God" was meaningless as it had no existence in reality, it was just a metaphysical concept and this was bad. But that again assumes that there is no reality outside of the world studied by the sciences.)

Any counter arguement which claims it is more rational to disbelief than to belief is simply false. Because as I have said there is no evidence that the above assumptions of modern science are true, they are only true as methodology, not as fact. Rationally itself is a merely historical-cultural concept, for in the Medieval period what sane man could argue with the existence of God? One here no doubt will argue back that this is because modern science is more enlightened than Medieval Theology, this may be so about the natural world - what we believe to "natural" - but that exclude the divine and besides that is more a sociological point  (enlightened is a subjective value judgement, not an objective fact.)

In short, Scientific Atheism is not scientific at all. It is an ideology, which I will now call "Scientism" which holds that methodological assumptions in modern science are true. Though there is no way of knowing this. It also assumes that one form of knowledge (or even one metaphysical system - scientific materialism) is superior to all others, which we can't prove to be true. When it comes to the fundamental reality of things, we are just second guessing despite 400 years of "progress". Of course none of this proves there is a god, just that there is no proof is his non-existence: "abscence of evidence is not evidence of abscence".

Now onto the common four arguements against religion:
This God Business is just absurd nonsense
This is easy:
1. Absurdity is a subjective judgement: What is absurd to one (I, with my slightly existentalist leanings, find practically everything absurd) is not absurd to another. Absurdity is a value judgement, not a statement on the fundamental order of things.
2. This presupposes the nature of reality that a) There is a category of things called "absurd" which exist outside of the person arguing that they are absurd (see #1) and that 2) what we, the human race have deduced about our external reality (physics, chemistry, Biology, etc) is the whole of reality. Something we simply don't know.
3. Thus this is not a rational viewpoint.

Religion is responsible for all the violence in the world
For this I will bring in the Moralistic Fallacy - a spin-off of Hume's Naturalistic Fallacy (NF) which states that "Ought does not mean is" - in this case: "Religion is an immoral factor in our society, it ought not to exist therefore God does not exist." This is completely wrong, why:
1. As said "ought is not is". If God is messing up human society then that's nothing to do with whether God exists or not, but rather on human beings and their (unproven) conceptions of God.
2. Presumes that there is a link between the God of Religion on planet Earth and a hypothetical God.
3. It is a sociological (and subjective!) point, saying nothing about God but how scientific atheists perceive society: It assumes that the immoral (subjective!) acts done in the name of religion are driven by religion. That somehow, despite all evidence to contrary (actual evidence here), rationalism and irreligion make people somewhat 'better'. That the scientific rationalist is simply better than the priest. This is illogical in the extreme.

Religion is inherently supersitious (and this is bad) and Science has helped bring about a more enlightened society
1. Science has shown things that some have held to be true to be not true (the four fundamental elements or the four humours for instance) - but this does not mean that in every particular case scientific assumptions are right and others are wrong.
2. All subjective value judgements - personally I think the medieval attitude towards sex is more enlightened than either than Early Modern (c1500-1800), Later Modern (c1800-1945) or Postmodern (c1945-) attitude towards sex. Did the Enlightenment bringing about a better society? What is better? Well lets assume that longer life spans are good things, I think most here would agree but that in itself does not show that knowledge is itself good, only its application and more to the point, whether society progresses itself does not show that fundamental reality has changed, only our perception of it. (Further point: What exactly is "the Enlightenment"?)
3. That the Enlightenment brought about a better society, does not logically connect with God. Actual Truth is not Sociology. (Isn't it funny that the likes of Dawkins hate sociology when it used against them? Yet they use sociological points all the time.)

"The Flying Spaghetti Monster" arguement
1. Why not? As I have already said, absurdity is a subjective concept.
2. It's a meaningless rhetorical device, it would mean nothing to a man who doesn't know what spaghetti is (and all our associations with it).

*******
Yes, In all this I'm assuming our traditional metaphysical categories are adequate for description. (Please point out typos).
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2009, 04:36:25 pm »
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(Please point out typos).

why don't we begin with the thread title.
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Tetro Kornbluth
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« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2009, 04:39:46 pm »
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(Please point out typos).

why don't we begin with the thread title.

LOL. Yes, I always spell it that way. Like the word "Aswell". It's a childhood trait I can't quite shrug off.
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2009, 04:41:45 pm »
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(Please point out typos).

why don't we begin with the thread title.

LOL. Yes, I always spell it that way. Like the word "Aswell". It's a childhood trait I can't quite shrug off.

also, 'agnoticism' as opposed to 'agnosticism'
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« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2009, 04:42:27 pm »
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I touch of Bertrand Russell. It's not really a response to him (Why I am Not a Christian), as he simply comes from an 'anti'-theistic proposition to a middle point and you come from an 'anti'-athiestic proposition and come to pretty much the same middle point.
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Tetro Kornbluth
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« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2009, 04:45:10 pm »
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(Please point out typos).

why don't we begin with the thread title.

LOL. Yes, I always spell it that way. Like the word "Aswell". It's a childhood trait I can't quite shrug off.

also, 'agnoticism' as opposed to 'agnosticism'

Ugh. Missed that. Typed too fast.

I touch of Bertrand Russell. It's not really a response to him (Why I am Not a Christian), as he simply comes from an 'anti'-theistic proposition to a middle point and you come from an 'anti'-athiestic proposition and come to pretty much the same middle point.

I tend to agree with that, the only genuinely rational position given what we genuinely know about the universe without assumptions (which is practically nothing) is Agnosticism. I can't prove or disprove science. No-one can. With the mental tools we currently have at our disposal. (I really Russell's book btw, even if I disagree with it - every member of the religious right should be read his "nice people" essay.)
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2009, 04:49:55 pm »
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For those not bothered to read the whole thing, my position is the same as Nicholas of Cusa:

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Nicholas of Cusa held to a form of fideism he called docta ignorantia ("learned ignorance"), asserting that God is beyond human categorization, and our knowledge of God is limited to conjecture.
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2009, 04:57:18 pm »
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I tend to agree with that, the only genuinely rational position given what we genuinely know about the universe without assumptions (which is practically nothing) is Agnosticism. I can't prove or disprove science. No-one can. With the mental tools we currently have at our disposal. (I really Russell's book btw, even if I disagree with it - every member of the religious right should be read his "nice people" essay.)

His work is certainly something I've read, though it was a while ago. Though from my point of view, while I used the term middle ground, there is probably more than one.

I am a theist. I believe in a God but I see modern science as a continuing revelation of his creation, an understanding of which comes through the advance of knowledge therefore I believe scientific concepts to be, on the whole 'correct and compatable.' At least to the point at which scientific understanding currently stands. If things are challenged through a similar method then what is 'correct' becomes not necessarily incorrect, but is merely superceded.

Which on reflection probably isn't a middle ground. I am perhaps folding over both sides, the natural (though we do not yet know what it fully is) and supernatural (which we do not know if it exists by the methods employed to understand what is natural) to meet.
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« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2009, 04:59:51 pm »
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I tend to agree with that, the only genuinely rational position given what we genuinely know about the universe without assumptions (which is practically nothing) is Agnosticism. I can't prove or disprove science. No-one can. With the mental tools we currently have at our disposal. (I really Russell's book btw, even if I disagree with it - every member of the religious right should be read his "nice people" essay.)

His work is certainly something I've read, though it was a while ago. Though from my point of view, while I used the term middle ground, there is probably more than one.

I am a theist. I believe in a God but I see modern science as a continuing revelation of his creation, an understanding of which comes through the advance of knowledge therefore I believe scientific concepts to be, on the whole 'correct and compatable.' At least to the point at which scientific understanding currently stands. If things are challenged through a similar method then what is 'correct' becomes not necessarily incorrect, but is merely superceded.

Which on reflection probably isn't a middle ground. I am perhaps folding over both sides, the natural (though we do not yet know what it fully is) and supernatural (which we do not know if it exists by the methods employed to understand what is natural) to meet.

Completely agree (except on the Theist bit): we should never forget that all our knowledge is temporary. It can be falsified.

Personally however I'm not against belief as long as one can look back and notice the flaws in it, humans are not perfect and I don't see how a belief in any religion is very harmful, I think its less harmful than the "Get rich quick or die trying" philosophy.
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2009, 05:00:53 pm »
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in sort-of actual response to what you wrote, the assumption of a lack of God has basis in Western thought.  it is similar to the 'innocent-until-proven-guilty' cliche.  your argument goes beyond that in stating that our sensory perception isn't advanced enough to observe a God, but, that tends to be my logic.  I don't profess to know the truth, which sort of makes me an agnostic, I suppose, but gun-to-my-head, I would 'guess' against the existence of a 'god' so I self-label as an atheist.
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« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2009, 01:09:28 am »
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I didn't read through all the barf on this thread, but if you still consider yourself a hurfy durfy atheist there are some drugs you need to do

that is all
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« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2009, 01:10:51 am »
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I suppose you eventually have to apply the "Easter Bunny doctrine," here.  To what extent is skepticism meaningful if we accept the limitations of human interpretation?  Does it have any meaning beyond that?

I didn't read through all the barf on this thread, but if you still consider yourself a hurfy durfy atheist there are some drugs you need to do

that is all

?
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« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2009, 06:38:35 am »
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in sort-of actual response to what you wrote, the assumption of a lack of God has basis in Western thought.  it is similar to the 'innocent-until-proven-guilty' cliche.  your argument goes beyond that in stating that our sensory perception isn't advanced enough to observe a God, but, that tends to be my logic.  I don't profess to know the truth, which sort of makes me an agnostic, I suppose, but gun-to-my-head, I would 'guess' against the existence of a 'god' so I self-label as an atheist.

Not necessarily. Just that if we wanted to find God we wouldn't know how to look. Science, our most advanced form of gathering knowledge, isn't able or does not have the ability to answer any question about God. That doesn't mean we can't at some point in history superceed science into a higher form of knowledge gathering.

I didn't read through all the barf on this thread, but if you still consider yourself a hurfy durfy atheist there are some drugs you need to do

that is all

What?

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I suppose you eventually have to apply the "Easter Bunny doctrine," here.  To what extent is skepticism meaningful if we accept the limitations of human interpretation?  Does it have any meaning beyond that?

Essentially, we just have to admit that we are ignorant of things.
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2009, 10:58:28 am »
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in sort-of actual response to what you wrote, the assumption of a lack of God has basis in Western thought.  it is similar to the 'innocent-until-proven-guilty' cliche.  your argument goes beyond that in stating that our sensory perception isn't advanced enough to observe a God, but, that tends to be my logic.  I don't profess to know the truth, which sort of makes me an agnostic, I suppose, but gun-to-my-head, I would 'guess' against the existence of a 'god' so I self-label as an atheist.

Not necessarily. Just that if we wanted to find God we wouldn't know how to look. Science, our most advanced form of gathering knowledge, isn't able or does not have the ability to answer any question about God. That doesn't mean we can't at some point in history superceed science into a higher form of knowledge gathering

Depending on your definition of "God" of course. My bare-bones estimation would be some entity whose existence isn't dependent on what we populaly agree is physical reality. And as we ourselves are incapable of interfacing with anything outside of reality in any observable way, it is unknowable.

The atheist's argument is still important though. More often they argue against religion itself and a collective idea of God than a God itself. Those described by all religions have no evidence. It is only when you strip God down to ideas that it becomes impossible to know for certain.. but those as put forth by major religions are demonstrably unreliable at best.

I didn't read through all the barf on this thread, but if you still consider yourself a hurfy durfy atheist there are some drugs you need to do

The modern mind is an amazing thing, of course, and while no one can deny personal experiences, they're the definition of subjective.

Good thread by the way, I wish I had more to add. Christopher Hitchens is my favourite condescending athiest, by the way. But it's his arguments against organised religion that grab me the most.
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« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2009, 01:23:42 pm »
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I think it can all come down to this, simply:

Atheism is based on the lack of proof that God exists. But they cannot prove that he does not exist. Either is possible therefore Agnosticism is the only safe belief.
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« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2009, 01:25:39 pm »
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I think it can all come down to this, simply:

Atheism is based on the lack of proof that God exists. But they cannot prove that he does not exist. Either is possible therefore Agnosticism is the only safe belief.

But, how many people (over six) would self-identify as "unsure" or "skeptic" about the non-existence of the Easter Bunny?  By that very token, there is no Christianity or Judaism anyway, because faith is based in fallible human interpretation.  To not be "unsure" or "skeptical" in that sense would be elevating oneself to omnipotence.
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« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2009, 01:25:47 pm »
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I think it can all come down to this, simply:

Atheism is based on the lack of proof that God exists. But they cannot prove that he does not exist. Either is possible therefore Agnosticism is the only safe belief.

proving negatives is far more difficult than proving positives
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« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2009, 02:00:19 pm »
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I think it can all come down to this, simply:

Atheism is based on the lack of proof that God exists. But they cannot prove that he does not exist. Either is possible therefore Agnosticism is the only safe belief.

proving negatives is far more difficult than proving positives

Understood, but neither side backs their point up with any proof.
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« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2009, 02:05:14 pm »
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I think it can all come down to this, simply:

Atheism is based on the lack of proof that God exists. But they cannot prove that he does not exist. Either is possible therefore Agnosticism is the only safe belief.

proving negatives is far more difficult than proving positives

Understood, but neither side backs their point up with any proof.

evangelicals think they do.  basically, it boils down to "it is extremely unlikely that all of these things are coincidental."  or, "I heard voices!"  the latter more frightening.
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« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2009, 02:11:35 pm »
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It just seems that the burden of proof lies on the party who believes in the existence of something.  The atheist, or the disbeliever in the Easter Bunny, does not have to shoulder the responsibility of proving the negative, becasue they don't necessarily have to put forward a thesis that "God does not exist" or "the Easter Bunny doesn't exist."  When confronted with an argument by a theist or an Easter Bunny representative, the skeptic merely has to demonstrate that there are no good grounds to believe that the kind of being the believer has faith in exists.

That having been said, I do think the atheist gets into trouble (more trouble than a person who denies the existence of the Easter Bunny) when they posit a thesis that "God does not exist."  If this sort of atheist accepts the definition of God as a being who, under most nornal circumstances, is invisible, intangible, inaudible, and ultimately unconveivable, then they would have to prove that such a being necessarily does not exist, and that sounds to me like a pretty tall order.  So, I basically agree that skepticism, agnosticism, is a more viable position than atheism, but only if the atheist is someone who goes around arguing for God's non-existence.  If the atheist makes no such argument, but only finds the arguments of the theist in favor of God's existence uncompelling, then there is no significant difference between an atheist and an agnostic in this regard.
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« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2009, 08:58:25 am »
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Depending on your definition of "God" of course. My bare-bones estimation would be some entity whose existence isn't dependent on what we populaly agree is physical reality. And as we ourselves are incapable of interfacing with anything outside of reality in any observable way, it is unknowable.

That be my definition more or less (Or see the Nicholas of Cusa quote) - though I don't necessarily think that God is unknowable should he(it?) exist: rather we simply don't have the intellectual tools to go about solving such metaphysical questions yet.

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The atheist's argument is still important though. More often they argue against religion itself and a collective idea of God than a God itself. Those described by all religions have no evidence. It is only when you strip God down to ideas that it becomes impossible to know for certain.. but those as put forth by major religions are demonstrably unreliable at best.

Ah yes, but those are sociological points, not nature-of-reality ones. Which is essentially which I believe Religion-in-the-real-world boils down: "Religion is by and large a social phenomenon" (Durkheim). And while some of those claims are falsifiable, the Bible for instance claims that no person can live past 120 (Genesis 6 I believe...), yet one person has already done so, I don't think that matters too much - all the major world religions are so plastic in their believes and so interferred by sociocultural and historical processes . Is there really such an entity as "christianity" except in an ideal form?

Not to mention, what most people believe is of course not a rational belief - this goes for Dawkins/Hitchens aswell of course. As long as it doesn't harm civilization or other people it doesn't really matter in the long view of things - when we are all dead (Btw, yes, I am a believer in Pascal's wager - I just haven't found a religion which suits.)

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The modern mind is an amazing thing, of course, and while no one can deny personal experiences, they're the definition of subjective.

Yeah, but what's wrong with that? (I only criticize subjectivity in the first post as to show it's not "scientific" reasoning)

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Good thread by the way, I wish I had more to add. Christopher Hitchens is my favourite condescending athiest, by the way. But it's his arguments against organised religion that grab me the most.

Ugh. Though yes organized religion is often very dangerous.

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It just seems that the burden of proof lies on the party who believes in the existence of something.  The atheist, or the disbeliever in the Easter Bunny, does not have to shoulder the responsibility of proving the negative, becasue they don't necessarily have to put forward a thesis that "God does not exist" or "the Easter Bunny doesn't exist."  When confronted with an argument by a theist or an Easter Bunny representative, the skeptic merely has to demonstrate that there are no good grounds to believe that the kind of being the believer has faith in exists.

In theory yes, but the History of Science hasn't worked that way. (See Einstein; Relativitly, theory of.)

proving negatives is far more difficult than proving positives

Not necessarily: Depends on what you try to prove and your methods of proof. Btw I consider Inductive reasoning an incorrect method of proof (see: Black Swan theory)
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Keith R Laws ‏@Keith_Laws  Feb 4
As I have noted before 'paradigm shift' is an anagram of 'grasp dim faith'
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« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2009, 09:09:23 am »
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I know that a sort of militant scientism such as the one Dawkins shops around does initiate the atheist attempt to disprove belief in God.  What Dawkins doesn't seem to get is that evolutionary theory might demonstrate that God did not have quite the role in the creation of the universe that a literal reading of the Book of Genesis depicts, but that does not necessarily prove that God does not exist in any fashion or mode.  Einstein I have always thought of as less a culprit in this brand of militant scientism, witnessed for instance by Einstein's objection to quantum theory ("God does not play dice with the universe").
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« Reply #22 on: January 08, 2009, 09:23:27 am »
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I know that a sort of militant scientism such as the one Dawkins shops around does initiate the atheist attempt to disprove belief in God.  What Dawkins doesn't seem to get is that evolutionary theory might demonstrate that God did not have quite the role in the creation of the universe that a literal reading of the Book of Genesis depicts, but that does not necessarily prove that God does not exist in any fashion or mode.  Einstein I have always thought of as less a culprit in this brand of militant scientism, witnessed for instance by Einstein's objection to quantum theory ("God does not play dice with the universe").

Correct: and Dawkins had completely exaggerated opinion of role of religion in western society (he comes from probably the most secular country in the world after all.)

Einstein's position was iirc that God was a rational 'thing' which had created an ordered universe and that scientists/physicists were those who were to show who it was ordered. Einstein disliked QM certainly because of its apparent disorder, it couldn't be mapped by pure mathematics to the extent that he had hoped (though Scientists still try to solve this problem: See; Everything, Theory of.)

Tbh I'm not a fan of either view (Dawkins or Einstein), however I have greater sympathy towards the latter. Not in the least because I associate Dawkins with evolutionary psychology, which is mechanical reductionism extradinore. (Going slightly off the point...)
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« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2009, 11:17:10 pm »
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(Please point out typos).

why don't we begin with the thread title.

LOL. Yes, I always spell it that way. Like the word "Aswell". It's a childhood trait I can't quite shrug off.

also, 'agnoticism' as opposed to 'agnosticism'

Ugh. Missed that. Typed too fast.

I touch of Bertrand Russell. It's not really a response to him (Why I am Not a Christian), as he simply comes from an 'anti'-theistic proposition to a middle point and you come from an 'anti'-athiestic proposition and come to pretty much the same middle point.

I tend to agree with that, the only genuinely rational position given what we genuinely know about the universe without assumptions (which is practically nothing) is Agnosticism. I can't prove or disprove science. No-one can. With the mental tools we currently have at our disposal. (I really Russell's book btw, even if I disagree with it - every member of the religious right should be read his "nice people" essay.)

Well said.  Religion and atheism are two sides of the same coin:  Arrogant interpretations of what we are more than likely incapable of understanding.
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« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2009, 11:55:42 pm »
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(Please point out typos).

why don't we begin with the thread title.

LOL. Yes, I always spell it that way. Like the word "Aswell". It's a childhood trait I can't quite shrug off.

also, 'agnoticism' as opposed to 'agnosticism'

Ugh. Missed that. Typed too fast.

I touch of Bertrand Russell. It's not really a response to him (Why I am Not a Christian), as he simply comes from an 'anti'-theistic proposition to a middle point and you come from an 'anti'-athiestic proposition and come to pretty much the same middle point.

I tend to agree with that, the only genuinely rational position given what we genuinely know about the universe without assumptions (which is practically nothing) is Agnosticism. I can't prove or disprove science. No-one can. With the mental tools we currently have at our disposal. (I really Russell's book btw, even if I disagree with it - every member of the religious right should be read his "nice people" essay.)

Well said.  Religion and atheism are two sides of the same coin:  Arrogant interpretations of what we are more than likely incapable of understanding.

     I had a friend who said once that he was an Agnostic because it is impossible to know whether or not God exists.
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