Does Weak Atheism Reduce to Strong Atheism?

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Does Weak Atheism Reduce to Strong Atheism?

This topic has been bothering me recently. Doesn't "weak" atheism simply reduce to "strong" atheism? If you have George Smith's understanding (also held by our own todangst) that religious language is meaningless, and if even the probability exists that non-material creatures somehow might "exist" in whatever sense they could, and even if you're just giving the concept of gods a fair shake ... can one really say that they are a "weak" atheist?

Saying you're only 99.999999999% sure that gravity will continue to work is admirable humility, but when do we say we're "agnostic" towards gravity or have a "negative" belief in some alternative to gravity?

It's my contention that weak atheism reduces to strong atheism, but I invite any criticism on that point.

Edit:

The position should be clarified. I'm saying that when discussing gods, either:

(1) As Smith says, all talk of gods is meaningless (employs empty names)

OR

(2) Descriptions of gods are meaningful, but internally inconsistent.

Either way, you have an untestable entity.

Therefore, everyone is agnostic, and the weak atheist is waiting for evidence that can never be applied to anything at all.

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HisWillness wrote:This topic

HisWillness wrote:

This topic has been bothering me recently. Doesn't "weak" atheism simply reduce to "strong" atheism? If you have George Smith's understanding (also held by our own todangst) that religious language is meaningless, and if even the probability exists that non-material creatures somehow might "exist" in whatever sense they could, and even if you're just giving the concept of gods a fair shake ... can one really say that they are a "weak" atheist?

Saying you're only 99.999999999% sure that gravity will continue to work is admirable humility, but when do we say we're "agnostic" towards gravity or have a "negative" belief in some alternative to gravity?

It's my contention that weak atheism reduces to strong atheism, but I invite any criticism on that point.

I think the teapot analogy works better - we can demonstrate gravity easily.

But even with the teapot, we have a well-defined something to work with. With a solid definition we can eventually reach a level of certainty about it's existence or lack thereof through evidence - even if we technically have to be "teapot agnostics" for now.

"God" has so many meanings that it's absurd. The definition for "god" will change even while talking to a single theist in a single conversation.

Though we can easily discard definitions that are internally inconsistent, or directly conflict with evidence, we're still left with such a pantheon that we really can't be expected to test them all. We're forced to be agnostic about them - at least for now.

However, there is also no evidence that any of the definitions describe something real, and so far there's no need for any of those definitions as a hypothesys to explain anything we observe in the universe thus far. So, "weak" atheism is the rational conclusion. That is, we default to the null hypothesys.

"Strong" atheism makes a statement about reality - and let's be frank; for any specific definition of a god, we can be "strong" atheists. I'm a "strong" atheist about Zeus, for instance. That god's definition is specific, and the evidence that the definition predicts simply is not there. Thus, neither is Zeus.

 

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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JillSwift wrote:But even

JillSwift wrote:
But even with the teapot, we have a well-defined something to work with. With a solid definition we can eventually reach a level of certainty about it's existence or lack thereof through evidence - even if we technically have to be "teapot agnostics" for now.


That's my point, really. If we were being agnostic about a teapot, it wouldn't be an issue. Smith's noncognitivism is part of it: a teapot isn't a god, so the teapot analogue isn't the kind of agnosticism I'm talking about. Agnosticism with regards to something that is nonsense is ... nonsense.

JillSwift wrote:
Though we can easily discard definitions that are internally inconsistent, or directly conflict with evidence, we're still left with such a pantheon that we really can't be expected to test them all. We're forced to be agnostic about them - at least for now.

But that doesn't make any sense. Being agnostic towards things that haven't been discovered and have no compelling theory to even suggest their existence is a de facto disbelief in them. There would have to be a compelling reason to believe in something that had never been experienced. I think that's positive disbelief, and it's justified.

JillSwift wrote:
However, there is also no evidence that any of the definitions describe something real, and so far there's no need for any of those definitions as a hypothesys to explain anything we observe in the universe thus far. So, "weak" atheism is the rational conclusion. That is, we default to the null hypothesys.

That doesn't seem to default to the null hypothesis at all. Since we lack a definition to even suggest a hypothesis (the absence of falsifiable terms) there's nothing for us to be weak about.

JillSwift wrote:
"Strong" atheism makes a statement about reality - and let's be frank; for any specific definition of a god, we can be "strong" atheists. I'm a "strong" atheist about Zeus, for instance. That god's definition is specific, and the evidence that the definition predicts simply is not there. Thus, neither is Zeus.

If that's the case, though, then the only gods for which one can be a weak atheist are the ones with meaningless attributes. It seems that as soon as you're specific, a god can be strongly disbelieved. If that's all it takes, then I can safely say that there exist no gods for which one can be said to be a weak atheist: they have all been given specific attributes.

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HisWillness wrote:That's my

HisWillness wrote:
That's my point, really. If we were being agnostic about a teapot, it wouldn't be an issue. Smith's noncognitivism is part of it: a teapot isn't a god, so the teapot analogue isn't the kind of agnosticism I'm talking about. Agnosticism with regards to something that is nonsense is ... nonsense.

...

But that doesn't make any sense. Being agnostic towards things that haven't been discovered and have no compelling theory to even suggest their existence is a de facto disbelief in them. There would have to be a compelling reason to believe in something that had never been experienced. I think that's positive disbelief, and it's justified.

...

That doesn't seem to default to the null hypothesis at all. Since we lack a definition to even suggest a hypothesis (the absence of falsifiable terms) there's nothing for us to be weak about.

...

 

If that's the case, though, then the only gods for which one can be a weak atheist are the ones with meaningless attributes. It seems that as soon as you're specific, a god can be strongly disbelieved. If that's all it takes, then I can safely say that there exist no gods for which one can be said to be a weak atheist: they have all been given specific attributes.

That's my point, really - there are quite a few solid definitions that have not been tested, some largely because we currently can not.

I'll use Eloise's ideas about Panentheism as an example. She does have a solid definition, but one that's really untestable for now.

I'll have to say, though, the weakest bit in my argument is that the god(s) hypotheses is so utterly unnecessary. I often feel like that's enough to come to the conclusion that there is nothing out there godlike at all - that is, to take the "strong" atheist conclusion. On the other hand, it feels a little dishonest to leave the testable definitions untested. (Which is why your having starting this thread so interests me Smiling )

OMS* I'm a conflicted atheist! =0.o=

 

 

 

*Oh My Science

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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JillSwift

JillSwift wrote:
That's

my

point, really - there are quite a few solid definitions that have not been tested, some largely because we currently can not.

I'll use Eloise's ideas about Panentheism as an example. She does have a solid definition, but one that's really untestable for now.

I'll have to say, though, the weakest bit in my argument is that the god(s) hypotheses is so utterly unnecessary. I often feel like that's enough to come to the conclusion that there is nothing out there godlike at all - that is, to take the "strong" atheist conclusion. On the other hand, it feels a little dishonest to leave the testable definitions untested. (Which is why your having starting this thread so interests me Smiling )

OMS* I'm a conflicted atheist! =0.o=

I'll leave Eloise out of this until she makes an appearance. She might be able to help me determine if she's a "weak" theist.

But let's use easy examples. Take all gods that are male. "Male" is very specific, involving a whole host of attributes, and so we can be strong atheists about male gods. How about "female"? Same deal: assigning gender instantly means we're strongly atheistic with regards to that god.

So what's left? Should we decide that there are a class of gods that we merely assign a grammatical gender for the sake of discussion? Okay, fine. How about "speaks to people"? That's pretty specific. That would require all sorts of communication equipment like vocal chords (or a psychic transmitter of some kind). So "speaks to people" = "has some kind of psychic transmitter". That's specific enough to strike it off the list.

"Acts on physical objects" is another specific attribute, and the list goes on. A disbelief in described gods is very much justified. In fact, one can safely be strongly atheistic with regards to any god that has been described with meaningful attributes at all. It isn't even a stretch.

One might be able to make the argument that an undescribed nonsensical being could exist, but that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about gods. All gods have been described, therefore a strong disbelief in them is justified.

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OK, "acts on physical

OK, "acts on physical objects" would really have to be the most important facet of a definition. It encompasses the important stuff, like being able to speak with us, "miracles" and the sort - where other aspects are either meaningless or pointless to worry about until this god critter is shown to exist.

How does one conclude that sufficient testing has been done to preclude "acts of god"? Or is it sufficient to say that an act of god was never necessary to explain any given phenomenon, and so it's just not necessary to test?

Because, if there has either been sufficient testing or no call for it, then all atheism must reduce to "strong" atheism simply because therer isn't anything left to be unsure about.

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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JillSwift wrote:OK, "acts on

JillSwift wrote:
OK, "acts on physical objects" would really have to be the most important facet of a definition. It encompasses the important stuff, like being able to speak with us, "miracles" and the sort - where other aspects are either meaningless or pointless to worry about until this god critter is shown to exist.

But that's the funniest part about it: we'd have to have something to describe to act on physical objects, wouldn't we? What exactly are we saying is acting on physical objects? We don't even know how to frame the statement in a way that means something! "A god touched this rock" is a meaningless statement, because we don't know what we're talking about when we say "a god". Once we start describing it, we can safely have a strong disbelief in such things, regardless of whether or not we want to argue about the possibility of their discovery. The term "god", however, defies description to such an extent that its meaninglessness is guaranteed.

The meaning of "god" unfolds as quickly as you can think about it.  What is "a god"? In the broadest sense, it's a supernatural being. What's "supernatural"? It's everything outside of the things that exist in the practical sense. Oh. Then in a practical sense, I'm justified in saying "There are no gods".

JillSwift wrote:
How does one conclude that sufficient testing has been done to preclude "acts of god"? Or is it sufficient to say that an act of god was never necessary to explain any given phenomenon, and so it's just not necessary to test?

"Acts of god" still includes that word that nobody can define. How can we determine if something exists if it can't be defined? In that case, it's not the testing that we're not able to do: it's the defining. Even if you say "acts of an agent without attributes" it's a lie, because the agent can clearly act, and that's an attribute!

JillSwift wrote:
Because, if there has either been sufficient testing or no call for it, then all atheism must reduce to "strong" atheism simply because therer isn't anything left to be unsure about.

The only thing that's left to be unsure about is why we must be held to definitions of gods when no such definitions can be meaningful. Such definitions aren't just incomplete, they're meaningless.

I know todangst has said the same, but I think that if what we agree is true, and statements about supernatural (and thus undefinable) entities are nonsense, then claiming to be "agnostic" with respect to gods is nonsense. If you can't even say what you're being agnostic about in any meaningful way, an "agnostic atheist" is ridiculous.

An atheist is only saying that the thing that can't be defined doesn't exist, because you have yet to define it, and anything you do define using nonsensical attributes doesn't exist because that's the same as not defining it.

This isn't like the three blind men touching different parts of the elephant and determining that it's three different things. Assigning physical attributes to something un-physical doesn't make any sense, and neither does deciding that something has no physical attributes. Having no physical attributes is practically the definition of non-existence.

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addendum:Can we say that an

addendum:

Can we say that an entity whose attributes are not meaningful exists? To exist, this entity must have at least one meaningful attribute: existence. Is existence actually possible without any other meaningful attributes? I would say no. It's fine and dandy to say that something exists, and has no other attributes, but you can't even imagine something without attributes, so again ... what are we saying exists?

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Well, I was going to try to

Well, I was going to try to posit something natural but hidden, but frankly an "agnostic of the gaps" thing doesn't stand up well.

So, we have three problems with god:

  1. No evidence in favor of one.
  2. No need for one to explain anything.
  3. No definition that isn't nonsense.

To quote an imaginary book title: "So, that about wraps it up for god."

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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In 'Breaking the Spell',

In 'Breaking the Spell', Daniel Dennett uses the phrase 'Vanishing Sets' to refer to a set of 'possibilities' which while not actually zero, is so small, or so improbable, that it can be treated for the purposes of argument as if it were zero. IOW, relative to the Vast space (his corresponding term for incredible large but not actually infinite) of 'possibilities'.

He uses these terms to address this sort of problem - where we can't say something is absolutely impossible, but it is so incredibly unlikely to exist that it makes no sense to entertain the idea. The terms Vanishing and Vast allow him to discuss these sorts of things without blurring the distinction between 'real' possible entities and those which we cannot strictly say are impossible but not worth taking seriously.

 

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JillSwift wrote:Well, I was

JillSwift wrote:
Well, I was going to try to posit something natural but hidden, but frankly an "agnostic of the gaps" thing doesn't stand up well.

I don't really know how that argument can go, either. If gods are natural things that remain hidden, and affect nothing in the physical world, then it's like my example of something that exists and that's its only attribute. Still, any gods that have been described with more attributes than just existence are not described as natural, so we would no longer be talking about gods.

"Is there a sphynx somewhere" is a different question, because now we're talking about a physical thing. We might actually be able to find such a creature.

JillSwift wrote:

To quote an imaginary book title: "So, that about wraps it up for god."

You can safely pluralize that. Or go with "The Gods Must Be Nothing".

The title "You Can't Tell Me With A Straight Face That The Thing You Can't Even Define Is There" seems a bit long-winded.

 

 

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The thing with comparing it

The thing with comparing it to a "nomilly in gravity" such as me dropping a pen and it skyrockets to Mars, is that it makes a claim in our immediate experience.

 

Same with the teapot. It's logical to be a strong "a-teapotist" since there is no reason for a teapot to be orbiting the planet. A teapot is a human invention and we don't go launching them into space, so there is legitimate reasons to not believe in the teapot.

 

With God however, since it deals with the creation of the universe, we don't really have enough data.

 

 

 

 


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Cpt_pineapple wrote:With God

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

With God however, since it deals with the creation of the universe, we don't really have enough data.

Well, that's Will's point, isn't it? Enough data about what, exactly?

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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Cpt_pineapple wrote:The

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

The thing with comparing it to a "nomilly in gravity" such as me dropping a pen and it skyrockets to Mars, is that it makes a claim in our immediate experience.

 

Same with the teapot. It's logical to be a strong "a-teapotist" since there is no reason for a teapot to be orbiting the planet. A teapot is a human invention and we don't go launching them into space, so there is legitimate reasons to not believe in the teapot.

 

With God however, since it deals with the creation of the universe, we don't really have enough data.

You don't believe your god, the same one that made the universe, could play with gravity or place teapots in space? Seems to me if you give the god hypothesis any serious consideration despite having zero evidence for it (or if you do please share), you're in no position to argue against pretty much anything else being illogical either.


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Cpt_pineapple wrote:The

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

The thing with comparing it to a "nomilly in gravity" such as me dropping a pen and it skyrockets to Mars, is that it makes a claim in our immediate experience.

Same with the teapot. It's logical to be a strong "a-teapotist" since there is no reason for a teapot to be orbiting the planet. A teapot is a human invention and we don't go launching them into space, so there is legitimate reasons to not believe in the teapot.

With God however, since it deals with the creation of the universe, we don't really have enough data.

The gravity example does not refer to a claim in our immediate experience, it is about our confidence about the unlikelihood of a specific 'possible' future event.

The teapot is precisely about an unlikely possibility, although not as unlikely as when Russell originally made the argument. 

God does not explain existence in any ultimate sense, and is undefined, so it is less justifiable than the teapot.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

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JillSwift wrote:Well, that's

JillSwift wrote:

Well, that's Will's point, isn't it? Enough data about what, exactly?

 

 

About the nature of the universe. What lays beyond it, what happened prior to it etc...

 

Manageri wrote:

 

You don't believe your god, the same one that made the universe, could play with gravity or place teapots in space? Seems to me if you give the god hypothesis any serious consideration despite having zero evidence for it (or if you do please share), you're in no position to argue against pretty much anything else being illogical either.

 

 

I don't see the particular reason why God would place a teapot into orbit of some planet.

 

And no, I don't beleive God places dice with the universe to do something outside what we know of the universe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Cpt_pineapple wrote:I don't

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

I don't see the particular reason why God would place a teapot into orbit of some planet.

And no, I don't beleive God places dice with the universe to do something outside what we know of the universe.

You're only complicating it, making it even less plausible, and incresing the amount of evidence required to take it seriously. Not only are you postulating a god made the universe, that same god now can't have placed teapots around and doesn't tamper with physics.

What makes you even think the god option is the most plausible one? What data makes that explanation better than a natural explanation, the flying spaghetti monster, magical universe building unicorns, or anything else (currently) unfalsifiable that anyone could come up with? With no evidence at all, I don't see the point in making any kind of assumptions, we haven't even established the universe needed creating in the first place.


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Cpt_pineapple wrote:With God

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
With God however, since it deals with the creation of the universe, we don't really have enough data.

So this thing is a creator? Is that what you're saying? Just of universes? Does it create universes ... daily? Do we actually know why we're positing this creator?

Keep in mind, just because you can posit something, doesn't mean that it necessarily exists. It doesn't even mean that it should exist.

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Cpt_pineapple

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
JillSwift wrote:
Well, that's Will's point, isn't it? Enough data about what, exactly?
 

About the nature of the universe. What lays beyond it, what happened prior to it etc...

You said it was about god - Will's point was that this god idea fell apart at the level of definition, so what we know about the universe doesn't much matter.

Do you have a coherent & meaningful definition of god? 'cause, I'm at a loss.

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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Cpt_pineapple wrote:I don't

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
I don't see the particular reason why God would place a teapot into orbit of some planet.

Are you saying that because you know something about God? Like maybe what God would and would not do?

I see no reason to invoke God in the first place, since we know literally nothing about God. It's not like it adds anything. What happened at the beginning of the universe? Well, we don't know exactly.

So does that mean we can put God there? Sure, you can put anything you like there. But describe this God using meaningful attributes.

 

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Keep in mind my point is to

Keep in mind my point is to justify the strong atheistic position. Also to say that agnosticism is a crock, but that's kind of beside the point now.

I'm past even "improbable" at this point. I'm saying it's justified to believe that there are no gods. None. Zero.

Really give it a good shot to find something that makes a description of God. It gets more ridiculous the more I try. Even when using very ethereal things like saying "God is good", you're left with determining how this type of thing can be good in a way that makes sense for a thing you know nothing about.

What's good? Chocolate is good, but that's probably not what we mean, because as far as I know, nobody's saying that God is like chocolate. Chocolate doesn't tend to be invisible, for one thing. People can be good, I suppose, if they do good things, but is God like people? People are also not invisible, and people have bodies, and when they do good things they use their bodies. What would God use?

The list goes on. The small-g "god" and captital-G "God" aren't any different in terms of how nonsensical they are.

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Manageri wrote:You're only

Manageri wrote:

You're only complicating it, making it even less plausible, and incresing the amount of evidence required to take it seriously. Not only are you postulating a god made the universe, that same god now can't have placed teapots around and doesn't tamper with physics.

 

 

I don't know if God can, I said I don't see why he would. [Here I use "he" due to lack of a better term.]

 

 

Manageri wrote:

What makes you even think the god option is the most plausible one? What data makes that explanation better than a natural explanation, the flying spaghetti monster, magical universe building unicorns, or anything else (currently) unfalsifiable that anyone could come up with? With no evidence at all, I don't see the point in making any kind of assumptions, we haven't even established the universe needed creating in the first place.

 

I'm not sure exactly. The fact of the matter is we don't know.

 

 

 

HisWillness wrote:

So this thing is a creator? Is that what you're saying? Just of universes? Does it create universes ... daily?

 

Wouldn't God be, by definition a creator?

 

HisWillness wrote:

Do we actually know why we're positing this creator?

 

Apperantly not.

 

I do it because of study of science and the sense of harmony and awe intertwined in the universe.

 

 

JillSwift wrote:

Do you have a coherent & meaningful definition of god? 'cause, I'm at a loss.

 

 

Not in particular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Cpt_pineapple

Cpt_pineapple wrote:

HisWillness wrote:

So this thing is a creator? Is that what you're saying? Just of universes? Does it create universes ... daily?

Wouldn't God be, by definition a creator?

Since we don't have a definition, I don't know.

Pineapple wrote:
HisWillness wrote:

Do we actually know why we're positing this creator?

Apperantly not.

I do it because of study of science and the sense of harmony and awe intertwined in the universe.

But I have no argument with your saying that you have a sense of the harmony of the universe. I have the same sense. You didn't actually have to invoke a god to tell me that, so why would you need a god to experience it?

This isn't a matter of ignorance, really. It's of positing something instead of saying what we mean. In your case, you sense the harmony of the universe, and it gives you a sense of awe. Okay. Nowhere in there was a god required.

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Cpt_pineapple

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
JillSwift wrote:
Do you have a coherent & meaningful definition of god? 'cause, I'm at a loss.
Not in particular.
Ah. So, then... you're an atheist?


 

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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JillSwift wrote: Ah. So,

JillSwift wrote:

 Ah. So, then... you're an atheist?

 

I would think that calling me that would be a matter of semantics.

 

 

 


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Cpt_pineapple

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
JillSwift wrote:
 Ah. So, then... you're an atheist?
I would think that calling me that would be a matter of semantics.
Of course it would.

I just find it confusing that you've outright claimed something akin to belief in a creator god, but don't have a definition for that belief. That seems like a disconnect from the meaning of belief.

 

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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HisWillness wrote:It's my

HisWillness wrote:

It's my contention that weak atheism reduces to strong atheism, but I invite any criticism on that point.

Everything reduces down to what are the neural firing patterns in the brain.

Because I am a former theist, I find myself falling back into the old habits of thinking 'I need to pray' or 'I need gods help' for an instant. Then the new pathways that say there is no god kick in. That is going to be true of anyone indoctrinated with religion.

Do you judge 'strong or weak atheism' by their internal thoughts or external actions? Aren't 'weak' atheists and agnostics hedging their bet(Pascal's wager)?

Perhaps the terms atheist or theist are really meaningless. The real question is how much fantasy thinking in supernatural beings and heavenly afterlives does an individual engage in? Then put people on this scale.

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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JillSwift wrote:I just find

JillSwift wrote:
I just find it confusing that you've outright claimed something akin to belief in a creator god, but don't have a definition for that belief. That seems like a disconnect from the meaning of belief.

Is it really just semantics, though? I'm not sure human beings are actually able to believe in something they can't describe coherently. It's kind of like the classic example of trying to believe in a four-sided triangle.

Seriously, is it possible to have a justified belief of something that is undefinable?

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HisWillness wrote:Seriously,

HisWillness wrote:

Seriously, is it possible to have a justified belief of something that is undefinable?

Define what it means "to have a justified belief of something".

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Seneca


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JillSwift wrote:I just find

JillSwift wrote:

I just find it confusing that you've outright claimed something akin to belief in a creator god, but don't have a definition for that belief. That seems like a disconnect from the meaning of belief.

 

 

That's why I got into science. To get a better grasp of things.

 

 

 


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When I was 19 years old, I

When I was 19 years old, I could bench 340lbs., squat 500lbs., leg press/hip sled 1,400lbs., do 30 dips, 100 push ups, 25 chin-ups, and run a mile in 8 minutes.

I was a pretty strong atheist back then.

I'm not so capable of those things nowadays (maybe the dips and push-ups). I guess I would be turning into a middle-aged out of shape atheist.

My point:

We spend a fuckton of time informing people that 'atheist' denotes merely a lack of belief.

The amount of confusion generated by trying to find adjectives to an ideological label placing oneself in a different category than his/her fellow ideologues is astounding.

I understand the human need to feel like a special little snowflake. However, it doesn't encourage any form of unity.

If we were to look at just the differences in our personalities or social ideological viewpoints then honestly would any of us 'inhabit' a common message board?

Thus the reason I normally skip these weak vs. strong arguments.

Someone inevitably brings the "Prove no god!" statement to the foray into philosophy.

Q: Do you believe in a god(s)?

A: No.

Result: Atheist

 

Q: Do you believe no god exists?

A: Please frame the question in an answerable manner.

Result: nil

 

Q: Do you believe there is no god?

A: The question is unqualified by the negative. Please rephrase.

Result: nil

 

Q: Do you believe there is a god?

A: No.

Result: Atheist

 

Q: How much can you lift?

A1: A lot.

A2: Not much

Result A1: Person is strong.

Result A2: Person is weak.

 

Q: Do you have considerable body odor?

A1: Yes.

A2: No

Result A1: Person is strong.... smelling.

Result A2: Person has sinus infection and cannot smell themselves. See doctor.

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HisWillness wrote:because as

HisWillness wrote:

because as far as I know, nobody's saying that God is like chocolate.

correction. do you not recall losing streak's great 3-berry blast smoothie ?

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Or what about The Coffee

Or what about The Coffee Bean's Black Forest iced coffee?


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EXC wrote:HisWillness

EXC wrote:

HisWillness wrote:

Seriously, is it possible to have a justified belief of something that is undefinable?

Define what it means "to have a justified belief of something".

What is justification?

I'll take justification in any of its flavours, for the purposes of this argument. The problem here is that it's actually impossible to discuss anything undefinable (or that has no intelligible attributes) as an object in any statement.

"I went to the store and purchased some X", where X is the undefinable thing, makes no sense. You can only purchase definable things.

"I feel X" is the closest one might come, and in the case of God, is often the expressed justification in and of itself. But even the feeling has no "meaning" (in the sense that two people do not necessarily communicate the same feeling). Having the object X be undefinable just makes the whole thing weirder.

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darth_josh wrote:We spend a

darth_josh wrote:
We spend a fuckton of time informing people that 'atheist' denotes merely a lack of belief.

I'm trying to find out if that's a disingenuous statement. I believe it is. When someone claims that a god exists, and I say, "oh REA-lly?", I'm making a positive statement about my beliefs. I'm not 100% positively certain that there are no gods, I'm saying we can all have a justified disbelief of gods without some sort of qualification.

darth_josh wrote:
The amount of confusion generated by trying to find adjectives to an ideological label placing oneself in a different category than his/her fellow ideologues is astounding.

I understand the human need to feel like a special little snowflake. However, it doesn't encourage any form of unity.

I'm not sure what you're saying, here. Are you suggesting that this philosophical problem that I'm having be dropped for reasons of social expediency? I'm actually arguing against the "strong" and "weak" labels, and calling shenanigans on agnosticism.

I realize that the discussion could be contentious, but that's the point. It really is a problem that's bothering me, and I really do believe that the members of this board can help me with it. I realize that I'm making a forceful case. I'm looking for criticism that helps me work it out one way or another.

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Agnostic atheism is an

Agnostic atheism is an oxymoron. You either accept the evidence for God, you reject the evidence or you decide it is inconclusive. You may use decisions of significance for accepting likelihoods, but ultimately you choose one of the the three choices.
 


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Just so everyone's up to

Just so everyone's up to speed, I'm using the same kind of angle as this essay and George H Smith's "argument from non-cognitivism".

It seems, however, that when this particular argument is put into simpler language, it becomes even clearer:

(1) When we can define gods, they're obviously ridiculous;

(2) When we can't define gods, they're obviously meaningless.

The only place I find for agnosticism would be in (1), based on an admirable humility regarding the lack of exhaustive knowledge. But we're not talking about creatures that could possibly exist, we're talking about creatures that have already been described.

Could there be a description of a god at some point in the future that applies to some creature that could possibly exist? Maybe, but that's not what we're saying we don't believe in. We're saying we don't believe in gods, as described.

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OrdinaryClay wrote:Agnostic

OrdinaryClay wrote:
Agnostic atheism is an oxymoron.


Not really an oxymoron; one refers to knowledge, the other to belief. I'm arguing that "agnosticism" is a redundant term, because we are all agnostic of things when we're ignorant of them. I'm "agnostic" with regards to green space men, but that's not really a position on green space men.

OrdinaryClay wrote:
You either accept the evidence for God, you reject the evidence or you decide it is inconclusive.

I'm not surprised that you've ignored the substance of my argument, but I have to point out how: it's not possible to have evidence for something you can't define. Any evidence you would have would not apply to that thing, because you can't match evidence to something undefinable.

If, however, you find yourself defining gods, attempts to match evidence to those gods have proven completely fruitless.

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Eloise wrote:HisWillness

Eloise wrote:

HisWillness wrote:

because as far as I know, nobody's saying that God is like chocolate.

correction. do you not recall losing streak's great 3-berry blast smoothie ?

Haha! Good call. Best deity ever.

 

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HisWillness wrote:JillSwift

HisWillness wrote:

JillSwift wrote:
That's

my

point, really - there are quite a few solid definitions that have not been tested, some largely because we currently can not.

I'll use Eloise's ideas about Panentheism as an example. She does have a solid definition, but one that's really untestable for now.

 

I'll leave Eloise out of this until she makes an appearance. She might be able to help me determine if she's a "weak" theist.

Oh hello Jill and Will.

Just for arguments sake, Jill, I wouldn't bother, and I'm not bothering for that matter, devising tests to prove that what exists is God, it's mere corollary. It seems to me more interesting to design tests for methods of exploiting what is possible given such a universe. And I doubt my god would frown on that sentiment.

Will, do you have a suggestion as to what weak theism might look like?

 

 

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Eloise wrote:Oh hello Jill

Eloise wrote:
Oh hello Jill and Will.
Eloise! =^_^= *intercontinental telehug*


Eloise wrote:
Just for arguments sake, Jill, I wouldn't bother, and I'm not bothering for that matter, devising tests to prove that what exists is God, it's mere corollary. It seems to me more interesting to design tests for methods of exploiting what is possible given such a universe. And I doubt my god would frown on that sentiment.
I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I expected testibility or testing - It's just you're ideas came to mind as the only descussions about the subject that weren't just vaguery and hand-waving.

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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HisWillness

HisWillness wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
Agnostic atheism is an oxymoron.


Not really an oxymoron; one refers to knowledge, the other to belief. I'm arguing that "agnosticism" is a redundant term, because we are all agnostic of things when we're ignorant of them. I'm "agnostic" with regards to green space men, but that's not really a position on green space men.

You're perpetuating the baseless meme that atheism is nothing. Belief (that God does not exist) acquired through a rejection of evidence becomes knowledge. This does not define agnosticism as redundant. This term agnostic atheism is still an oxymoron as it stands.

 

Quote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
You either accept the evidence for God, you reject the evidence or you decide it is inconclusive.

I'm not surprised that you've ignored the substance of my argument, but I have to point out how: it's not possible to have evidence for something you can't define. Any evidence you would have would not apply to that thing, because you can't match evidence to something undefinable.

If, however, you find yourself defining gods, attempts to match evidence to those gods have proven completely fruitless.

Defining the item to be proven and matching evidence with that definition are distinct. It is perfectly legitimate to define something prior to any evidence for it. God is defined in the Bible. Your ejection of that definition is not because it can not be defined. It is because you reject the evidence.  Calling oneself an atheist or an agnostic admits to some definition of God. In the end your argument has nothing to do with whether agnostic and atheism are mutually exclusive.
 


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OrdinaryClay wrote:Belief

OrdinaryClay wrote:
Belief (that God does not exist) acquired through a rejection of evidence becomes knowledge.
Some day you'll have to present this "evidence" you keep claiming is being rejected.

(No doubt you'll claim you've already done this and post a link to one of your posts in another thread, and upon following said link one will discover an assertion there is evidence but no description of it.)

 

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray


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Eloise wrote:Will, do you

Eloise wrote:
Will, do you have a suggestion as to what weak theism might look like?

I was really just teasing with the idea of "weak" theism. I don't know if that's even possible.

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OrdinaryClay wrote:You're

OrdinaryClay wrote:
You're perpetuating the baseless meme that atheism is nothing. Belief (that God does not exist) acquired through a rejection of evidence becomes knowledge. This does not define agnosticism as redundant. This term agnostic atheism is still an oxymoron as it stands.

If you want to come up with your own terms of art with regards to philosophy, that's fine, but you can't expect everyone to understand what you're talking about when you change the meanings of words.

How is it that you even suck at agreeing with me? We both believe that atheism is a positive statement. I'm saying the opposite of atheism being "nothing".

OrdinaryClay wrote:

Will wrote:

OrdinaryClay wrote:
You either accept the evidence for God, you reject the evidence or you decide it is inconclusive.

I'm not surprised that you've ignored the substance of my argument, but I have to point out how: it's not possible to have evidence for something you can't define. Any evidence you would have would not apply to that thing, because you can't match evidence to something undefinable.

If, however, you find yourself defining gods, attempts to match evidence to those gods have proven completely fruitless.

Defining the item to be proven and matching evidence with that definition are distinct. It is perfectly legitimate to define something prior to any evidence for it. God is defined in the Bible.

And someone would be completely justified in disbelieving the god described in the Bible. That's my point. I'm not trying to determine that the Biblical God for sure doesn't exist: I'm pointing out that there's no reason for a person to say that they're "agnostic" towards it, in the same sense that there's no reason to say you're "agnostic" towards leprechauns, Harry Potter, or any other character present only in a book.

OrdinaryClay wrote:
Your ejection of that definition is not because it can not be defined. It is because you reject the evidence.  Calling oneself an atheist or an agnostic admits to some definition of God. In the end your argument has nothing to do with whether agnostic and atheism are mutually exclusive.

You missed the two parts of the argument above, and again misrepresented my argument. When gods are defined, the descriptions given are ridiculous.

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Eloise wrote:Just for

Eloise wrote:
Just for arguments sake, Jill, I wouldn't bother, and I'm not bothering for that matter, devising tests to prove that what exists is God, it's mere corollary. It seems to me more interesting to design tests for methods of exploiting what is possible given such a universe. And I doubt my god would frown on that sentiment.

Since this particular argument hinges on the semantics, it's important to note how you might or might not know what your god would approve or disapprove of, and having said that, how a thing that is just the universe has the capacity for disapproval in the first place.

 

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HisWillness wrote:Eloise

HisWillness wrote:

Eloise wrote:
Just for arguments sake, Jill, I wouldn't bother, and I'm not bothering for that matter, devising tests to prove that what exists is God, it's mere corollary. It seems to me more interesting to design tests for methods of exploiting what is possible given such a universe. And I doubt my god would frown on that sentiment.

Since this particular argument hinges on the semantics, it's important to note how you might or might not know what your god would approve or disapprove of, and having said that, how a thing that is just the universe has the capacity for disapproval in the first place.

 

Okay, good points. My first argument goes to what you're implying when you say just the universe because it (the universe) isn't that, I'm quite sure.

The capacity for disapproval is directly entailed by the inclination to favour. Both require a subject on which to project them and values to project on them. In the event that my god does such a thing it is, by definition, a world playing out those dichotomous powers in an epic grudge match. Our world is a world like that, hence my god has the capacity for disapproval, just not the manner of exercising it that we might suppose.

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Eloise wrote:HisWillness

Eloise wrote:

HisWillness wrote:

Since this particular argument hinges on the semantics, it's important to note how you might or might not know what your god would approve or disapprove of, and having said that, how a thing that is just the universe has the capacity for disapproval in the first place.

Okay, good points. My first argument goes to what you're implying when you say just the universe because it (the universe) isn't that, I'm quite sure.

In fact, that's the salient point of your belief, isn't it? That the universe has more to it than just the material universe?

Eloise wrote:
The capacity for disapproval is directly entailed by the inclination to favour. Both require a subject on which to project them and values to project on them. In the event that my god does such a thing it is, by definition, a world playing out those dichotomous powers in an epic grudge match. Our world is a world like that, hence my god has the capacity for disapproval, just not the manner of exercising it that we might suppose.

You mean: those things that happen are approved, and those that don't are not approved?

PS - I like the new smiling avatar

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 Wow.  Good topic,

 Wow.  Good topic, Will.

The comments have all been very good.  The only thing I'll add is my personal conception of what weak and strong atheism are useful for.

Weak atheism is the only precisely correct philosophical position available to anyone.  I mean that even with Dennett's "vanishingly small" probabilities, and even with the array of asterisks disclaiming "actual" credibility to ideas of which we cannot conceive, there's a big, glaring infinitude of things out there (existent or not) that we don't know that we don't know.  (That is, we don't know that we don't know that there are no glarblefarbs.)

Since knowledge of God would necessarily involve induction (since as far as I can tell, the only guy who was actually God is dead from too much rum... rest in peace, IAGAY) there will always be, as in all science, a real if infinitesimal gap between virtual certainty and complete certainty.

Having said that, I'll point out that we are far more certain that there is no god than we are of many things in science that are declared as fact and accepted by pretty much everybody with a brain.  Hell, even the multiverse theory, which has been central to Pineapple's arguments for the thing she can't define or even produce a reason for looking for, is based on more evidence than the most bend-over-backwards-to-make-a-natural-god definitions I've ever seen for a god.  If we do not hold to the same degree of strong atheism as we do strong Anything-else-undefined-and-unnecessary-ism, we are giving God a free pass.  So, yeah, if we're talking pure philosophy, sure, we've got to hold to weak atheism.  In day to day life, however, I can't think of a reason why we should pause at any point to consider our next action as if there were a god.

 

 

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HisWillness wrote:Eloise

HisWillness wrote:

Eloise wrote:

HisWillness wrote:

Since this particular argument hinges on the semantics, it's important to note how you might or might not know what your god would approve or disapprove of, and having said that, how a thing that is just the universe has the capacity for disapproval in the first place.

Okay, good points. My first argument goes to what you're implying when you say just the universe because it (the universe) isn't that, I'm quite sure.

In fact, that's the salient point of your belief, isn't it? That the universe has more to it than just the material universe?

Hmmm, as long as you mean the material universe is more in itself than is reflected on it by the values of individual parts of it, then yes. But that doesn't seem to be what you were saying.

HisWillness wrote:

Eloise wrote:
The capacity for disapproval is directly entailed by the inclination to favour. Both require a subject on which to project them and values to project on them. In the event that my god does such a thing it is, by definition, a world playing out those dichotomous powers in an epic grudge match. Our world is a world like that, hence my god has the capacity for disapproval, just not the manner of exercising it that we might suppose.

You mean: those things that happen are approved, and those that don't are not approved?

No !in caps! I mean that disapproval is a function of some stuff that is entailed in a world and a god in the world that entails that function has a capacity for disapproval. In the sense that it's a way of being mostly. 

When I said my god is unlikely to frown on furthering the human experience with knowledge about the real universe I was kind of being facetious, but I also meant it plainly.

The sense in which we frown on things is substance to this god, its kind of a great idea to 'disapprove', doing so is intrinsic to having a position in a world, hence to being. Therefore in this regard I'm being facetious, my god would be all over a disapproving state for the sake of itself.

Speaking plainly, however, the sense in which we disapprove of some given value is otherwise meaningless to my god* because what, then, does it do for existence? 

 

*Unless she gets tired and cranky and wants a few eons of peaceful, quiet nothingness. Sticking out tongue

By the by, wasn't the topic of this thread somehing totally unrelated?

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 Quote:No !in caps! I mean

 

Quote:
No !in caps! I mean that disapproval is a function of some stuff that is entailed in a world and a god in the world that entails that function has a capacity for disapproval. In the sense that it's a way of being mostly.

Ow.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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