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Old 01-29-2007, 03:58 PM   #32
Mike Doolittle
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Originally Posted by Nicato View Post
I am attempting to demostrate how arbitrary the concept of a "creative god" is by substituting it with a logical extreme. As I'm saying for a third time, any definition of any unfalsible entity is by definition arbitrary. So, when you're describing the god which you've hijacked like so much fan fiction, you are essentially describing nothing.
I think "falsifiable" is an interesting word to use. Falsifiable works great for science, because new things can be learned, and old theories can be discarded or altered. But if you were talking about God, the creator of the universe, would you really want his existence to be "falsifiable"?

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You've provided no positive evidence for your "creative god," only chosed it from an infinite number of equally plausible entities because it was most intuitive. This is why I, as a person who believes in evidence (more on that below), find your god unreasonable.
The first problem is that you insist on material proof of the immaterial. When discussing matters of spirituality, we infer. For example, Richard Dawkins writes in "The Selfish Gene":

My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop it being true... Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.

Altruism is a kind of behavior that is not only incongruent with our biological nature, but in many cases directly conflicts with it. Many religions, including for example Christianity and Buddhism, are concerned with a "human" nature that leads toward suffering and selfishness, and a "spiritual" nature which transcends the needs of the human nature. These religions don't try to prove something immaterial, but they infer the existence of the spiritual with something that transcends our evolutionary compulsions.

The existence of a creator is similar. Whatever brought this universe into existence had to transcend its physical laws, and even spacetime itself. You're absolutely correct that you will never find positive evidence of God, only inference. But when we think about what being created would mean for the meaning of our existence, and we can see "reverberations" of this meaning echoed in many everyday aspects of our lives, we infer that we we're the product of something that transcends our materiality.

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What is the criteria by which theism ascertains "why?" By what process do we decipher the false claims from the factful?"
That's a very good question, and I think the most important aspect to answering it is understanding that there is a difference between theology and doctrine. Claims of a theological nature, unlike doctrine, are flexible. Taking the altruism example from above, we can observe that humans have inclinations toward selfishness and destruction; however we can also see that humans have a unique ability to transcend our evolutionary nature. So the Christian concept of the "sinful nature" which is redeemed through Christ, or the Buddhist idea of suffering which is conquered through the eightfold path, are ideas that have real repercussions for our lives.

Similarly, the idea that we were created has repercussions for our lives. Take for example a Warshack inkblot test. The pattern of the ink is random and utterly meaningless. However, when we look at the inkblot we can ascribe meaning to it; "That's a flower!" or "That's a butterfly!" etc. But the inkblot itself is still a meaningless, random blog of ink. We've only ascribed meaning to it. Such is life for the atheist. Since meaning is completely ascribed, no two goals are of unequal validity; living for the purpose of amassing great wealth is as valid as living to help others; living to kill others, even though it's an extreme example, is equally valid as well – although it would clearly violate our social contracts, since life has no intrinsic value we can state that our "right to life" is also an ascribed human construct. Creation, by contrast, implies a purpose and meaning to our lives that is greater than ourselves. It allows us to see a connection between the act of creation and behaviors we as humans are spiritually, rather than selfishly, drawn toward.

So we "test" various theological concepts in their usefulness. The fellow who wrote me the PM I mentioned talks about "reverberations" of the spiritual in the material, and I think that's exactly what it is. Of course we can't prove that any one theology is correct; again, we're talking about the immaterial, spiritual nature of humanity; but we can see the reverberations of certain spiritual views in our world.

Doctrine, on the other hand, is a ridiculous mess and I think it's appalling that so many Western theologians spend their time bickering over dogmatic minutiae; it's why I find Eastern thought, which is concerned more with pragmatism than doctrine, more progressive. When Buddha was asked what happens to us when we die, he said, "On this the Buddha maintains a noble silence." He didn't say, "You go to these pearly gates in the clouds where this dude looks for your name in this book and..."

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I want any "matter of faith" which makes an objective claim about the universe to be subjected to the same scruntiny of any scientific claim about the universe.
I agree, but only to the extent that there are limits on what is scientifically knowable, and of the usefulness science has for us. For example, science may be able to identify the social necessity of cooperative behavior, and extrapolate some degree of explanation of moral patterns. But science can't tell us how to live our lives, or assert anything more than to state that "right" and "wrong" are arbitrary human constructs.

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I know you don't give a shit, but I'll tell you anyway: I believe in demostrating evidence. If there is compelling evidence for a god or gods, I'll believe in gods; if there is compelling evidence for an afterlife, I'll believe in an afterlife. My standing as an atheist and a naturalist are both conditional; my standing as a skeptic is permenant.
I hear this statement a lot from atheists, and it's puzzling to me. If you could prove God exists, why would you have to believe in him (or she or it or whatever)? I don't have to "believe" that the chair I'm sitting on is solid. You're asking for material proof of the immaterial. Your stance is permanent indeed.
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