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Old 01-29-2007, 03:43 PM   #31
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Originally Posted by Avptallarita View Post
I haven't had the chance to read your blog yet (academia is drowning me, seriously), but can you please stop attributing to us your notion that not to believe in God means claiming to know how the universe came into existence?
To clarify, I'm pointing out that the only positivist explanations for how the universe exists contradict the laws of science that govern the universe's existence. They're obvious conundrums because if the only way to know the universe is through our senses in a material, tangible way, then scientists will never be able to explain how the universe came into existence. How could scientists possibly test a theory in which the laws of the universe did not apply?
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Old 01-29-2007, 04:58 PM   #32
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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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Old 01-29-2007, 07:03 PM   #33
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Mike Doolittle (Post #32):
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"?
Yes, so new things can be learned and old theories can be discarded or altered.

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The first problem is that you insist on material proof of the immaterial...
I insist on material proof for your god hypothesis, as it is a claim about the universe. The tenants and circumstances of altruism are fundamentally different from your god hypothesis because one is of consequence to the entire universe and the other only matters to one particular species on a relatively insignificant pale blue dot (as far as we know). So I don't follow your analogy.

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Whatever brought this universe into existence had to transcend its physical laws, and even spacetime itself.
Not necessarily. Like I've said before, the laws of time, physics, and gravity only exists (as we know them; as far as we know) inside our universe. Whatever is the cause of the universe does not necessarily have to "transcend" those laws because it is possible that those laws did not exist. Or in otherwords, what exactly is it transcending at that point?

If the multiverse hypothesis turns out to be true, you wouldn't say that we "transcend" the laws of other universes, rather that the laws simply do not apply to us. Likewise, I say that the laws which govern our universe don't necessarily (and that is an important word) have to apply to whatever existed before or caused our universe, not that it it "transcended" the universe.

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You're absolutely correct that you will never find positive evidence of God, only inference...
I don't necessarily think that we will never find any positive evidence for any gods, only that your "creative god" lacks any such evidence.

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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.
But this says nothing as to whether our inferences are true or not. (More on this point below.)

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So we "test" various theological concepts in their usefulness.
Or, in otherwords, because they feel good. Which means that theological claims are intellectually no different than getting high on drugs--which is all well and good, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't change the fact that theologians are making objective claims about the universe, therefore the "tests" for their objective claims should be on par with that of science.

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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.
Neither can theism or philosophy. I mean, then can (hell, they do), but there is no unified process to filter the right theological/philosophical claims about what is "right" or "wrong" from the wrong theological/philosophical claims about what is "right" or "wrong." Theologians and philosophers have varying answers for the issue of abortion, the death penalty, eupheisa, torture, drug use, and so on. Because, unlike science, there is no means which can objectively prove which one is right or wrong, people who make conclusions based on their own devices are no less qualified than the most studied philosopher. (This directly questions the "usefulness" of the process itself.)

Science can't give us any absolute answers to those issues either. But science doesn't try to because it does not test the subjective. Where science does apply, it does so with a process which produces a result which can be replicated and predicted. Where science does not apply, anything goes. Who is to say, objectively, that abortion isn't wrong? Nobody. Any opinion on the issue, as long it makes no incapable objective claims, is equally plausible. This is because "right" and "wrong" (like your "creative god") are arbitrary concepts which evolved only because it served our species--a meme as selfish as any gene.

I think you misunderstand the word "limits" when describing science. It is not the case that wherever science stops, an equally refined process takes over. Quite the contrary in fact. Science only stops at unfalsifiable claims and certain issues which apply to one species (as far as we know) one planet.

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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.
Believing in the existence of X is distinct from believing "in" X.

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Old 01-30-2007, 01:57 PM   #34
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Originally Posted by Nicato View Post
I insist on material proof for your god hypothesis, as it is a claim about the universe.
It's a theological claim, not a scientific hypothesis.

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The tenants and circumstances of altruism are fundamentally different from your god hypothesis because one is of consequence to the entire universe and the other only matters to one particular species on a relatively insignificant pale blue dot (as far as we know). So I don't follow your analogy.
I was trying to illustrate that spiritual concepts that are not directly linked to our survival and evolution have the ability to be intuitively known, and the consequences of those known things are observable.

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Not necessarily. Like I've said before, the laws of time, physics, and gravity only exists (as we know them; as far as we know) inside our universe. Whatever is the cause of the universe does not necessarily have to "transcend" those laws because it is possible that those laws did not exist. Or in otherwords, what exactly is it transcending at that point?
Transcend, as not being subjected to. If rationality is governed by the laws of our universe, how could scientists test the tenability of elements that are outside of our universe – be it God or the multiverse of String Theory? (I find that especially interesting since String Theory has been around for nearly 50 years, and has yet to produce falsifiable claims).


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I don't necessarily think that we will never find any positive evidence for any gods, only that your "creative god" lacks any such evidence.
That's true, and I don't know anyone who would tell you otherwise who isn't a fundamentalist nut.

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Or, in otherwords, because they feel good.
Possibly, but that's a drastic oversimplification. We can see the tenability in patterns of behavior that encourage a deeper sense of bonding and fellowship than other types of behavior. We see that it fulfills needs we may not be immediately attuned with, but give us a profoundly deeper sense of fulfillment than trying to fulfill other needs.

I still think you're speaking more about "doctrine", in which case there is no way to test the various doctrinal claims of various religions. But I think the fact that religion and spirituality are ubiquitous in human history speaks that people recognize that certain needs are not fulfilled by the selfish and material. And I think the personification of God through mythology is simply an expressive tool that helps people discuss their spiritual intuition.


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Which means that theological claims are intellectually no different than getting high on drugs--which is all well and good, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't change the fact that theologians are making objective claims about the universe, therefore the "tests" for their objective claims should be on par with that of science.
Maybe some theologians are. If they do, then yes, they should. But most theologians aren't

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Neither can theism or philosophy. I mean, then can (hell, they do), but there is no unified process to filter the right theological/philosophical claims about what is "right" or "wrong" from the wrong theological/philosophical claims about what is "right" or "wrong."
Well sure, that's because there are both selfish and unselfish human needs, and both material and immaterial human needs. These needs often conflict with each other, and their exact nature varies across culture. Religion need not be an easy answer for all questions of morality, but a guide.

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This is because "right" and "wrong" (like your "creative god") are arbitrary concepts which evolved only because it served our species--a meme as selfish as any gene.
Definitions of right and wrong do serve a need, but morality often directly conflicts with our selfish needs. But morality often serves a greater need that transcends our selfish desires. And even in cases that we are serving our greater good through morality, it often isn't through means that can be directly observed or understood. That is, we may have certain instincts that drive us toward selfishness and the passing on of genes, but we also have something that drives us toward cooperation, empathy and even altruism – things that only indirectly contribute to our survival and continued evolution.

Also, I appreciate the flattery, but I'm pretty sure I didn't invent the concept of the creative God. :P

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I think you misunderstand the word "limits" when describing science. It is not the case that wherever science stops, an equally refined process takes over. Quite the contrary in fact. Science only stops at unfalsifiable claims and certain issues which apply to one species (as far as we know) one planet.
You're simply unable to reconcile your steadfastly materialistic worldview with a spiritual perspective. I don't know how much farther we can take the discussion, because you don't believe anything can be intuitively known or understood. You insist that unless immaterial spirituality meets your criteria of material tangibility, it should be discarded. That's simply not what spirituality is.

And I think that, like Dawkins, most of your angst is directed at the surge in religious fundamentalism over the last decade, which often postures moral arguments as facts and resists scientific progress. I appreciate Dawkins and others of his ilk in that respect, but the actions and affirmations of fundamentalists shouldn't be broadly applied to all believers.

P.S. – You should watch the movie Contact, which is a great allegory on faith and skepticism.

P.P.S. – You mention Dawkins' "meme" quite a bit. I personally think the entire concept of a meme is a major misfire by Dawkins. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on criticisms of the meme.
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Old 01-31-2007, 10:14 AM   #35
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Mike Doolittle (Post #34):
It's a theological claim, not a scientific hypothesis.
Once you've made an objective claim, you've made a claim which can be tested by the scientific method. In other words, by positing an objective being, you have crossed the line which supposedly separates science from religion. (I'm using religion as a shorthand.)

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If rationality is governed by the laws of our universe, how could scientists test the tenability of elements that are outside of our universe – be it God or the multiverse of String Theory? (I find that especially interesting since String Theory has been around for nearly 50 years, and has yet to produce falsifiable claims).
(I suppose I should mention that I'm not too fond of String Hypothesis precisely because it produces no falsifiable claims.)

They can't. Access to that realm is reserved for to theologians and yourself, as y'all seem to compose most of the folk who assert that anything exists outside the universe. (I'm being sarcastic.)

It's like I said, where science ends an equally refined process does not necessarily begin. Any question which can't be objectively answered by science can't be objectively answered it all. Outside the reach of science there exists only subjectivity and infinite regression, of which your "creative god" is a part.

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We can see the tenability in patterns of behavior that encourage a deeper sense of bonding and fellowship than other types of behavior. We see that it fulfills needs we may not be immediately attuned with, but give us a profoundly deeper sense of fulfillment than trying to fulfill other needs.
How is what you described any different from other social animals like penguins? (More on this point below.)

My point original point with this "feel good" business was that claims made outside the reach of science, which I reckon you think are just as valuable, offer no definitives. The criterion by which they are deemed is how good they make us feel good.

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I think the fact that religion and spirituality are ubiquitous in human history speaks that people recognize that certain needs are not fulfilled by the selfish and material. And I think the personification of God through mythology is simply an expressive tool that helps people discuss their spiritual intuition.
As to your first claim, I take issue with your reasoning: I don't think how ubiquitous something may have been necessarily speaks to how much of a "need" it is. (Patriarchy is also ubiquitous in human history.) It certainly does not mean that the "need" in question cannot ever be replaced. It has been only relatively recently that we have come to grasp the scope of the material (and even then only in certain cultures), so your claim that it has been historically unfulfilling is presumptuous. Materialism was unfilling throughout most of human history only because we didn't know that what we were in awe about was the material all along.

As to you second, it's no secret that personification is more intuitive than abstraction, but--again--this says nothing as to whether it is true or not. It is counterintuitive to think that the Earth is round; that the Earth orbits the sun; that the sun is a star as average as any dot in the night sky; that we are composed of mostly space; that microorganisms are in our immediate proximity by the trillions; that the life on Earth had evolved; that the Earth itself is billions of years old. The fact that historical gods were invented on specious intuition speaks volumes of the validity of truthiness.

(You've essentially made two "feel good" arguments.)

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Well sure, that's because there are both selfish and unselfish human needs, and both material and immaterial human needs. These needs often conflict with each other, and their exact nature varies across culture. Religion need not be an easy answer for all questions of morality, but a guide.
I honestly don't know what you've just said. Could you please elaborate?

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Definitions of right and wrong do serve a need, but morality often directly conflicts with our selfish needs. But morality often serves a greater need that transcends our selfish desires. And even in cases that we are serving our greater good through morality, it often isn't through means that can be directly observed or understood. That is, we may have certain instincts that drive us toward selfishness and the passing on of genes, but we also have something that drives us toward cooperation, empathy and even altruism – things that only indirectly contribute to our survival and continued evolution.
What I said was that morality originally evolved because it served an evolutionary need, but now it is a bona fide meme. Morality is like a living thing in that it is subjected to the rules of Darwinism--it will evolve, it will diversify, it will selfishly try to replicate itself. I am saying that morality is selfish insofar as its meme-ness.

Also, there is no doubt that the altruism of which you speak most definitely directly contributed to the survival of our species and they exist, albeit in an evolved form, today. If you did watch the Dawkins documentary then you see how altruism isn't unique to our species. Altruism is quite a common trait within social animals like monkeys or dolphins (the latter of which has been known to save human lives--what could be less selfish than going out of your way to save another species), yet both of those animals managed to overcome their "selfish needs." What I am saying is that your notion that such behavior "only indirectly contribute to our survival and continued evolution" is flat wrong. Altruism as direct a factor to our survival as a bird's wing or a fish's gills.

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You're simply unable to reconcile your steadfastly materialistic worldview with a spiritual perspective.
It is not the case that I am "unable" to see the spiritual perspective, rather that you have yet to provide any evidence that such a perspective is worth considering. It is you who keeps talking about the spiritual as if it's this established thing. Its existence may or may not be factual, but you can't start on a premise which you haven't verified--that would be circular.

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I don't know how much farther we can take the discussion, because you don't believe anything can be intuitively known or understood. You insist that unless immaterial spirituality meets your criteria of material tangibility, it should be discarded. That's simply not what spirituality is.
If by "material tangibility" you mean evidence, then yes. Whatever can be called intuitive gives only a narrow and bias view of the reality of the universe, yet you're so willing to vouch for it. Why? Truthiness just isn't reliable.

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Old 01-31-2007, 03:20 PM   #36
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Originally Posted by Nicato View Post
Once you've made an objective claim, you've made a claim which can be tested by the scientific method. In other words, by positing an objective being, you have crossed the line which supposedly separates science from religion. (I'm using religion as a shorthand.)
Then by what standard do you measure something to *not* be an "objective claim"? The existence of God is a claim of the supernatural, which by definition implies that it can't be quantified or observed naturally.

As I've already shown in this thread, we can deduce scientifically that whatever brought the universe into existent was supernatural – transcending our universe's natural laws. You wouldn't assume the universe doesn't exist only because its origins are supernatural and can't be measured from within our existential vacuum, but you can still logically deduce that the supernatural must exist – even though by scientific standards it's not an "objective" claim since we cannot directly observe or test the supernatural.

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They can't. Access to that realm is reserved for to theologians and yourself, as y'all seem to compose most of the folk who assert that anything exists outside the universe. (I'm being sarcastic.)
The universe didn't bring itself into existence, and it hasn't existed forever. There clearly is something outside of our universe.

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It's like I said, where science ends an equally refined process does not necessarily begin. Any question which can't be objectively answered by science can't be objectively answered it all. Outside the reach of science there exists only subjectivity and infinite regression, of which your "creative god" is a part.
Again, it's a mistake to assume that claims of spirituality are objective claims. Maybe a vocal minority of fundamentalists choose to posture their claims as such, but they speak for a relatively small minority of the world's believers.

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My point original point with this "feel good" business was that claims made outside the reach of science, which I reckon you think are just as valuable, offer no definitives. The criterion by which they are deemed is how good they make us feel good.
What is the human experience? Is it just survival? Passing on of genes? Or is there more to it, like love, happiness, sadness, pain, etc.? Do we have inclinations toward behaviors that cause certain desirable or undesirable effects, and inner conflicts that pull us between those polarities? What I'm talking about are elements of consciousness that are ubiquitous to the human experience. Remember the PM I quoted earlier? He said, We, as material beings cannot perceive spiritual realities, but we can understand the "reverberations" of underlying spiritual meanings through their material representations. There is always a series of translations and distortions between the spiritual and the material. So of course there is an element of subjectivity because of the "translations and distortions"; but the implications of such translations can be applied ubiquitously to the human experience. So while there is no objective, clearly delineated answer to the complex nature of behavior, morality, happiness and fulfillment, it is in fact far more than "it makes me feel good".

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As to your first claim, I take issue with your reasoning: I don't think how ubiquitous something may have been necessarily speaks to how much of a need it is. It certainly does not mean that whatever need cannot be replaced (especially if what is replacing it is better).
Clearly, there is something that draws humans to pursue spirituality. It's not simply some "meme" that is found in a few developed cultures. It is an absolutely ubiquitous quality found in all cultures for all human history.

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It has been only relatively recently that we have come to grasp the scope of the material (and even then only in certain cultures), so your claim that it has been historically unfulfilling is presumptuous.
It's not presumptuous to assert that it is contrary to the spiritual needs of humans to put their faith in material things, when this behavior inevitably leads to unhappiness. It's not conjecture; the pitfalls of materialism are established in human psychology.

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As to you second, it's no secret that personification is more intuitive than abstraction, but--again--this says nothing as to whether it is true or not.
That's not the point. It's not about intuition, it's about a need to connect with the world around us and discuss matters of a spiritual nature. A personification of God isn't an inherently objective claim (though it can become one through a rigid interpretation of religious doctrine), merely a supposition that allows spiritual searchers to communicate on the subject.

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It is counterintuitive to think that the Earth is round; that the Earth orbits the sun; that the sun is a star as average as any dot in the night sky; that we are composed of mostly space; that microorganisms are in our immediate proximity by the trillions; that the life on Earth had evolved; that the Earth itself is billions of years old.
None of that is "counter-intuitive", merely unapparent.

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I honestly don't know what you've just said. Could you please elaborate?
Sure. Spirituality doesn't provide an objective black and white moral code because morality is not an objective, black and white phenomenon. We have both spiritual and material needs that incline us toward often conflicting behaviors and desires; so religion is a tool that helps us navigate, not the Staples "Easy" button of morality.

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What I said was that morality originally evolved because it served an evolutionary need, but now it is a bona fide meme. Morality is like a living thing in that it is subjected to the rules of Darwinism--it will evolve, it will diversify, it will selfishly try to replicate itself. I am saying that morality is selfish insofar as its meme-ness.

....

Altruism as direct a factor to our survival as a bird's wing or a fish's gills.
Morality serves an evolutionary need, yes; but morality also transcends and often conflicts with our evolutionary needs. And what is especially important to understand, particularly with regard to altruism, is that these are not merely ideas or "memes", but innate inclinations that often conflict with our innate selfishness and evolutionary needs.

Also: there is no such thing as a meme. It's an unscientific, unverifiable abstraction invented by Dawkins as part of his anti-religious ranting which he occasionally inserts in his brilliant musings on natural selection.


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It is not the case that I am "unable" to see the spiritual perspective, rather that you have yet to provide any evidence that such a perspective is worth considering. It is you who keeps talking about the spiritual as if it's this established thing. Its existence may or may not be factual, but you can't start on a premise which you haven't verified--that would be circular.
Well, you pretty much just rephrased what I wrote.
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Old 02-02-2007, 06:52 AM   #37
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

Let's leave aside for the moment whether evidence can be provided for the supernatural or not. To have a meaningful discussion, you have to have ready evidence for your premises or, at the very least, your premises have to be falsifiable. Otherwise you are just making so many circular arguments. If you cannot provide evidence that a supernatural or a spiritual even exists then, for the purposes of discussion, you are saying nothing when you say that science doesn't apply to it. I have a quote of my own:

Begging or assuming the point at issue consists (to take the expression in its widest sense) in failing to demonstrate the required proposition. But there are several other ways in which this may happen; for example, if the argument has not taken syllogistic form at all, he may argue from premises which are less known or equally unknown, or he may establish the antecedent by means of its consequents; for demonstration proceeds from what is more certain and is prior.

--Fowler's Deductive Logic

(The "equally unknown" part applies to you.)

You say that belief in gods are reasonable yet you've conceded that you lack evidence for your god of choice. I say whatever kind of belief is came about without any evidence is by definition unreasoned. Furthermore, I suspect that no belief in the existence of gods are based on reason, rather faith. So instead of arguing that your "creative god" exists because of X or Y or that it's even reasonable to believe in it, why not just say that you believe in it because you have faith?

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Old 02-02-2007, 05:00 PM   #38
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Originally Posted by Mike Doolittle View Post
As I've already shown in this thread, we can deduce scientifically that whatever brought the universe into existent was supernatural – transcending our universe's natural laws. You wouldn't assume the universe doesn't exist only because its origins are supernatural and can't be measured from within our existential vacuum, but you can still logically deduce that the supernatural must exist – even though by scientific standards it's not an "objective" claim since we cannot directly observe or test the supernatural.
This is incorrect. Our ignorance of how the universe works is not evidence of the supernatural. It's much more plausible to believe that we don't know everything about the natural than to assume the existence of a supernatural.

We've covered this before but you seem to return to this nevertheless. However much you claim not to be using a God-of-the-gaps theory, you seem to justify a lot of your propositions by means of the failure of other theories to provide a comprehensive picture of things, rather than by means of positive argumentations or proof.
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Old 02-05-2007, 02:00 AM   #39
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

I haven't forgotten about the thread fellas. I'm a little burned out on theology right now between this, the TOL forums and my own reading. I'll chime in soon enough.
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Old 02-06-2007, 05:38 AM   #40
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

Well, I've finally got through to reading your blog. (I'll leave aside the fact that you still seem to rest many of your beliefs on the failures and limitations of other theories, as we've been over that). While I agree with and share many of the feelings you seem to have, what I don't really get is how you ascribe them to God. I'm sorry to tell you this but you're flat-out wrong when you say:

Quote:
The atheist believes, simply because he has no choice but to believe as such, that "purpose", aside from our biological "purpose" in perpetuating the survival our species, is irrelevant.
I'm an atheist and I do believe in "purpose". I simply call it morality, and I do think it is objective and universal. It's just that I don't see how you determine it to be given to us from the outside, when it's clearly something that I feel inside me. i.e. why can't this purpose be inherent in our being, rather than inscribed in our becoming?

We seem to share similar feelings, except that you see God in them and I don't. I'm not trying to negate your argument or anything, but this clearly relates to the faith-is-a-choice argument; as I was saying, I simply don't see God in them, not by "choice", but because I don't see anything which encourages me to believe in the transcendental.


(also, sorry for nitpicking but another sentence I had some trouble with was: "We've seen that people who amass great material wealth and power are often lonely, depressed, and unhappy." It's a bit of a useless generalisation, since there isn't any real category of human beings for whom you cannot say that they aren't "often lonely, depressed and unhappy").
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Old 02-08-2007, 12:42 PM   #41
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Originally Posted by Avptallarita View Post
This is incorrect. Our ignorance of how the universe works is not evidence of the supernatural. It's much more plausible to believe that we don't know everything about the natural than to assume the existence of a supernatural.

We've covered this before but you seem to return to this nevertheless. However much you claim not to be using a God-of-the-gaps theory, you seem to justify a lot of your propositions by means of the failure of other theories to provide a comprehensive picture of things, rather than by means of positive argumentations or proof.
Not necessarily, and I think you are misinterpreting what I'm saying here. The "gap" is a limit of science. Clearly, there are limitations of science. A method that is based on observance of natural law cannot study anything that transcends those laws. Yet we know that for our finite universe to have come into existence, something infinite and transcendent of those laws must exist. Our natural laws are but an insulated corridor through which we experience consciousness.

Quote:
I'm an atheist and I do believe in "purpose". I simply call it morality, and I do think it is objective and universal. It's just that I don't see how you determine it to be given to us from the outside, when it's clearly something that I feel inside me. i.e. why can't this purpose be inherent in our being, rather than inscribed in our becoming?
It's both. You say that you feel it inside you, and of course you do, because you are spiritual being innately connected to this universal consciousness we call God. A Dawkins-esque atheist might say that what we are, and what we experience as consciousness, is simply the byproduct of natural laws, and that's true. But those explanations are simply a map, an observation of the order of the universe. But without consciousness, order can't arise out of chaos. The intuition you feel is of a consciousness transcendent of your physical self.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicato
You say that belief in gods are reasonable yet you've conceded that you lack evidence for your god of choice.
That's not what I've said. If God is transcendent of natural law, how could he be known through observation of natural law alone? It's you who seems to be waiting for observational proof of a bearded guy in the sky. I'm talking about a transcendent consciousness that brings creation, order, and purpose to our universe.

Quote:
I say whatever kind of belief is came about without any evidence is by definition unreasoned.
Certainly you do, and this only reinforces what I've said earlier. Reason and intuition are not mutually exclusive. Even though that which is eternal and transcendent logically must exist, you are refusing to acknowledge it unless it becomes material – unless its very nature is what you wish it to be instead of what it truly is. It's an insular view of the universe, like a child pressing his nose against the window of pet store and forgetting about the rest of the world around him.
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Old 02-09-2007, 03:09 AM   #42
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Mike Doolittle (Post #41):
That's not what I've said.
That is precisely what you said, quoting:

The Reasonableness of Faith

Given the speculative and untestable extremes of theoretical physics, the belief in a deity as a creator is not really such an unreasonable stance to take...


--Your blog.

Quote:
If God is transcendent of natural law, how could he be known through observation of natural law alone?
It's not just that your god is outside of natural law, rather that your god is positioned so that it is not falsifiable, even for the purposes of abstract debate. It is your positioning of a supposedly objective entity so that it be proven--while at the same time calling it reasonable--where I take issue with your reasoning.

Mike, it just isn't enough to rhetorically place your god outside of natural law.

Quote:
Reason and intuition are not mutually exclusive.
No, but wherever they meet are coincidental.

Quote:
Even though that which is eternal and transcendent logically must exist...
Must it? You've failed to demonstrate that premise as well.

Where is your evidence for a "transcendent" agent? And how is it that your said agent can violate the laws which you've come to base it's existence on? Also, just how strict are those laws if they are able to be defied? Wouldn't the fact the laws are capable of being defied be sufficient evidence to prove that your premise doesn't necessarily follow your conclusion? Who says that an eternal must "logically exist" if there had to be a "creator?" Doesn't the very idea of a first uncaused cause contradict your notion of an eternal? What created the "creator?"

Quote:
...you are refusing to acknowledge it unless it becomes material – unless its very nature is what you wish it to be instead of what it truly is.
I refuse to acknowledge it because you haven't provided one shred of positive evidence to prove any of your hypothesises.


------

Further, you suggest that I'm somehow missing something when I refuse to acknowledge your unfalsifiable, supposedly objective entities (your god, the supernatural, etc) yet you've repeatedly missed opportunities to demonstrate that these ideas are even worth considering, yet have the audacity to call your position reasonable. If you want to have a logical debate (or claim that you've came to your position logically) then you are going to have base your arguments on falsifiable premises. Otherwise you are only making so many circular arguments. And you are.

Finally, throughout your blog and this thread, you've assigned many presupposed attributes which most do not necessarily apply to all atheists. I find this especially interesting because you are so quick to discard the pigeonholing theism. Why not accept atheism as a big tent?
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Old 02-09-2007, 08:40 AM   #43
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Originally Posted by Nicato View Post
Mike, it just isn't enough to rhetorically place your god outside of natural law.
By definition, God has to be transcendent of natural law. If he wasn't he wouldn't be God.

Quote:
Must it? You've failed to demonstrate that premise as well.
I've talked a great deal about the necessity of transcendent causality because our universe can be neither infinite nor self-causing. To believe either would stand in contradiction to the natural laws you purport to hold as your criteria for belief.

Quote:
Where is your evidence for a "transcendent" agent?
The problem here is what you consider evidence is insular.

Quote:
And how is it that your said agent can violate the laws which you've come to base it's existence on? Also, just how strict are those laws if they are able to be defied? Wouldn't the fact the laws are capable of being defied be sufficient evidence to prove that your premise doesn't necessarily follow your conclusion?
I don't recall saying anything about defying natural law, like miracles or something. Being the architect of natural law requires transcendence of it, but not violation of it.

Quote:
Who says that an eternal must "logically exist" if there had to be a "creator?" Doesn't the very idea of a first uncaused cause contradict your notion of an eternal? What created the "creator?"
God, being absolute and eternal, requires no cause. Our universe, being finite and governed by strict natural laws, does. You yourself said you are not trying to argue the universe is either eternal (self-perpetuating) or self-causing. If this is the case, you must concede that something transcendent of our natural laws exists. You argued that calling the cause of the universe "God" was arbitrary because, in your words, "there is no evidence" for it. But since you are basing your criteria for "evidence" strictly on observation of natural law, you must also concede that you will obviously never find your "evidence" of the supernatural, since "supernatural" is by definition transcendent of natural law.

Now, you may choose to speculate that whatever caused our universe is unknowable, random, or whatever. But our universe exploded into existence from "nothing", and is constructed of the most complex and perfect order of physical laws that, with energy and matter down to each and every atom in the universe performing its own unique function, have allowed vastly complex worlds to form and life to evolve. Without the supernatural, the natural could not exist; and without consciousness, there could be no order, only chaos.

Quote:
I refuse to acknowledge it because you haven't provided one shred of positive evidence to prove any of your hypothesises. Further, you suggest that I'm somehow missing something when I refuse to acknowledge your unfalsifiable, supposedly objective entities (your god, the supernatural, etc) yet you've repeatedly missed opportunities to demonstrate that these ideas are even worth considering, yet have the audacity to call your position reasonable.
Whether you find these ideas worth considering is your choice. Your mode of thinking is narrow and insulated. I'm suggesting you broaden your horizons, not that you should expect my perspective to change to fit your preconceptions.

Quote:
Finally, throughout your blog and this thread, you've assigned many presupposed attributes which most do not necessarily apply to all atheists. I find this especially interesting because you are so quick to discard the pigeonholing theism. Why not accept atheism as a big tent?
Atheism is a rejection of God and the supernatural. If you hold the possibility of the supernatural but believe you just don't
know either way, you are an agnostic.

EDIT: I should amend that to note that the idea of what atheism is exactly is subject to debate. Some people get into all kinds of nuanced subcategories like "strong" and "weak" atheism, the latter of which could be semantically swapped with agnosticism. Wikipedia lists a plethora of various definitions of atheism. To that end, the only practical solution is for each self-proclaimed atheist/agnostic/theist to clarify their own beliefs.
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Old 02-09-2007, 03:56 PM   #44
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Mike Doolittle (Post #43):
Your mode of thinking is narrow and insulated. I'm suggesting you broaden your horizons, not that you should expect my perspective to change to fit your preconceptions.
The degree to which you want me to "broaden my horizon" would require my acceptances of the equally plausible ejaculating unicorn and farting bunny (as well as an infinite number of things which don't fit my "narrow" thinking). Demanding evidence is in no way narrow or insular, rather a requirement for rational discourse (something which is becoming more and more apparent that you don't want to have).

Now, if you cannot provide evidence for your god--and you can't--fine, don't. But at the same time, do not go around pretending that you came about your conclusion by reason--because you didn't. Also, do not attack the "mode of thinking" of the skeptic because he doesn't jump on your circular train.

Quote:
The problem here is what you consider evidence is insular.
I consider evidence to be objectively persuasive demonstrations which serve the advocation of a theory. Yours is neither objective nor persuasive, hence my rejection of your theory. Is that so insular?

The problem is that your evidence isn't evidence it all, only rhetorical nodes.

Quote:
I don't recall saying anything about defying natural law, like miracles or something. Being the architect of natural law requires transcendence of it, but not violation of it.
That's like saying that a foreigner is incapable of committing murder because he might have diplomatic immunity. Your god, being transcended, is more than capable of violating the laws it supposedly created. Moreover, you have to bend the laws which you've supposedly based it's existence on for it to exist. Oh yes you do.

Quote:
God, being absolute and eternal, requires no cause.
Well isn't that just convenient. I have to say, Mike, your god is nothing if not cleverly designed. It requires no cause, it can transcend the laws it supposed created, it can't be verified with observable evidence. Remarkable. Now I know why you call it "God"--it would be considered arbitrary if you were talking about anything else. Your god requires no logical explanation it all--no falsifiable premise, no positive evidence, no observations of any kind--yet it's supposedly completely reasonable. Brilliant.

Quote:
But since you are basing your criteria for "evidence" strictly on observation of natural law, you must also concede that you will obviously never find your "evidence" of the supernatural, since "supernatural" is by definition transcendent of natural law.
Sure, I'll make that concession on the condition that you concede that my criteria for evidence (with respect to both science and critical thinking--not law) is a well-established criteria which has historically been the most proficient means of ascertaining objective truth. That it not like your "god" which only exists inside of your "mind." If you accept that condition, then obviously you have to concede that you can't provide any evidence for your positions, that all your arguments are circular and thus not logical or even reasonable.

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Old 02-10-2007, 06:28 AM   #45
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Re: The Root of all Evil/Trobule With Atheism

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Not necessarily, and I think you are misinterpreting what I'm saying here. The "gap" is a limit of science. Clearly, there are limitations of science. A method that is based on observance of natural law cannot study anything that transcends those laws. Yet we know that for our finite universe to have come into existence, something infinite and transcendent of those laws must exist. Our natural laws are but an insulated corridor through which we experience consciousness.
Again, this is assuming that our knowledge of natural laws is complete. What you define as "transcendent of natural laws" might simply be some other natural law which is yet to be discovered. 300 years ago, the existence of complicated life forms might have been used as proof of the necessity of God, until we discovered evolution. Today the temporal condition of the universe is used for the same purpose, but in 300 years' time we might have the answer to that too. Absence of evidence might not be evidence of absence, but it sure isn't evidence (or indication) of presence either.

Quote:
It's both. You say that you feel it inside you, and of course you do, because you are spiritual being innately connected to this universal consciousness we call God. A Dawkins-esque atheist might say that what we are, and what we experience as consciousness, is simply the byproduct of natural laws, and that's true. But those explanations are simply a map, an observation of the order of the universe. But without consciousness, order can't arise out of chaos. The intuition you feel is of a consciousness transcendent of your physical self.
I'm not negating anything you say, but I still don't really understand where you're coming from when you make statements such as those I've placed in bold, or what your basis is. Could you explain?
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