How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

Spin-off from "Dialog on 'Creationists read this' "

Incl. intelligent design, belief in divine creation

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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2681  Postby Jayjay4547 » Jan 13, 2019 4:46 am

zoon wrote:
Jayjay4547 wrote:..
my whole aim is to reveal the role of ideology In origin narratives, especially of human beings.

In discussing this Smithsonian Mag article on the human skin https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science- ... 1xo4mme.99 I criticized some of those involved: science writer Jason Daley for building his story on basic science research that had nothing to do with the speculations about the human skin he went on to detail. Mark Pagel for proposing that our hairless skin is to combat lice, and Mark Changizi who proposed that primate colour vision is to help in signalling emotional and health status. Also reader Ben Hotchkiss proposed it was to avoid getting singed by fire….

I take it your “ideology”, as you stated in the OP to this thread, is that humans were designed by God:
Jayjay4547 wrote:This claim is that the human origin story has been presented as one of self-creation, in reactive opposition to the Genesis story in which human beings were made by something greater than themselves- and which is a basic truth about human origins and the human status.

I wouldn’t argue with a position that this “something greater than themselves” is the genius expressed in large fluxing systems of biomes, such as “Africa”. Being a Christian myself, I think of these biomes or maybe the moving boundaries between them, as the fingers of God. But it’s fundamental that an atheist should be able to accept what I am arguing for, without changing his philosophical position. Otherwise, I could be sure, from first principles, to be arguing wrongly, because my argument would amount to a purported proof of the existence of God, which would be false and in terms of religion, impious. I will try to explain that a bit below.
zoon wrote:I’m happy to agree with you, in the context of this discussion, that my atheism, and that of most people here, includes an alternative narrative, or “ideology” if you want to use that term for both narratives. My alternative claim is that the hypothesis of evolution by natural selection is a better fit with the evidence than the hypothesis that God made us.

I agree with Dawkins (writing in “The Blind Watchmaker) that before the theory of evolution by natural selection was put forward, there was in fact strong evidence for some sort of goal-directed creation of living things, because there is such a strong appearance of teleology in their design: we grow eyes which are useful for seeing, ears which are useful for hearing, etc. The strength of the theory of evolution is that it explains how this apparent teleology comes about, without in fact requiring pre-thought-out goals.

It seems to me that William Paley (The Watchmaker on the Heath analogy, 1802) was impious in his attempt to conclude from observation that we are designed by a Creator God, by the following argument. According to the Jewish conception, it is impious to even name the “Unseen” Creator. The ancient Jews saw this as an advance on the religions of other nations; theirs was more serious. Similarly, Islam considers it impious to draw a picture of the Creator or His Prophet. I understand that these religious rules are insisting on two things: (a) that to name or draw something is in a sense to own it and (b) the human condition is that we are embedded in a hierarchy where we don’t own what is higher than us.

In the 20th century secular context, that embedded conception of the human condition was also expressed by my countryman Jan Smuts in his “Holism and Evolution” and by Arthur Koestler in “The Ghost in the Machine”. Koestler said that beings in a hierarchy are Janus faced: appearing autonomous to those below but dependent from above.

As a young man Darwin was impressed by Paley’s argument; in a sense they spoke the same language and so do today’s IDists and Dawkins, in using the words “design” “purpose” and “complexity” in an agreed way that they take as relevant to the issue of whether “God exists”. I argue that we need to reframe the discussion in terms of whether we are embedded in a hierarchy, replace the word “complexity” and “design” with “function” and not concern ourselves with “purpose”.

What one could actually observe from finding a watch on the heath, is not the freighted concept “design” but that this object has a particular function –to keep time- and that this function is enabled by a particular mechanism. To find out more about the found watch, one would need to seek out not “a designer” but the human culture from which watch-making emerged. Then one would look back in time; at the history of watch making within that society. Similarly in the natural world, one observes deep piles of function and through palaeontology scientists have traced its historical accumulation in particular geographical areas. If they find a particular species appeared at a particular time, they might look for a “land bridge” whereby that species could have trekked, from somewhere bigger, for example “Africa”. The appearance of new functionality can be called “creation” and creativity is a property in the first instance, of large biomes.

Natural selection merely provides adaptive mobility to populations; that’s less interesting than the discovery via palaeontology, of the creative path followed by particular populations.

zoon wrote: You appear, somewhat bizarrely, to be putting forward an argument for God which is the reverse of the argument from design. OK, some scientists have put forward hypotheses to explain the hairless skin of humans, and all the 3 hypotheses which you cite have the surface appearance of being teleological in nature: the hairless skin may have been useful for discouraging lice, or for signalling emotions, or for not getting singed by fire. Of course, the scientists are using this teleological language as a shorthand for saying that natural selection over thousands of years resulted in the trait of hairless skin, but the weird thing about your argument is that, as far as I can tell, it’s the teleology you are objecting to. Since you are arguing that God created us, why are you so keen to argue that hairless skin is useless? If hairless skin doesn’t help us to avoid lice, or miscommunication, or getting burnt, then God just did it for the fun of it?
Are you claiming, as a positive argument in favour of creationism, that God designed our bodies without any predesigned usefulness? The uselessness of the appendix, for example, is in your view an argument for God as designer, since in your view evolution would have made a better job of it?


I am really sorry to have given you that impression, by being unclear. I have not been putting forward an argument for God, indeed as I tried to argue above I think that would be impious. And about the “Naked Ape” I wanted to make one observation way below the level of teleology: that people telling an human origin story for the human skin in terms of evolution, systematically selected within-species explanations, which is unreasonable seeing that the skin is our interface with the whole of the environment and considering that the really distinctive feature of the human skin is shared with our other distinctive features of apparent vulnerability to the environment: human beings lack all the features that make us cautious when we meet other large African animals: no hooves no horns no fangs no claws. And our skin gives us strikingly less protection. How the hang could these guys have missed all that? Surely, we lack those important aspects of other animals’ interface with Africa, in the first place, because we don’t need them? Vital constraints on skin type applicable to other large mammals fell away for our ancestors. Presumably, because our ancestors used hand weapons in their relations with other species. And hand-weapons provide stand-off protection. That was recognised nearly a century ago by Raymond Dart when he described the first small-brained bipedal “Southern Ape of Africa”. It’s really noteworthy that between-species relations are overlooked in explanations for the human skin. I suggest that is because Darwin established a style for telling the human origin narrative in terms of within-species relations and that style has been maintained, because it draws attention away from the creative hierarchy in which we are embedded.
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2682  Postby Thomas Eshuis » Jan 13, 2019 9:32 am

Still mindlessly regurgitating the same tired PRATTs I see. :rolleyes:
"Respect for personal beliefs = "I am going to tell you all what I think of YOU, but don't dare retort and tell what you think of ME because...it's my personal belief". Hmm. A bully's charter and no mistake."
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2683  Postby archibald » Jan 13, 2019 9:58 am

newolder wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:...

How is this relevant? There isn't an image of a cat hidden in theology that anyone can find if he just shakes his head around.
...

I brought the purported Unruh effect as an example of things that are not there for one observer but may, nevertheless, be there for another. It may off topic in a creationist screed but it did have some tangential relevance to archibald's post which is why I called it a side note.


I have been thinking about (what I now understand to be called) the Unruh effect. As it relates to what I was saying about absence, I think it might not apply, because the image of the cat is there. To paraphrase cito (who got there before me), there almost certainly, imo, isn't (the theistic equivalent of) an image of a cat hidden in theology that anyone can find if he just shakes his head around. In fact, a theist might use the Unruh effect to suggest that god is there, some people just aren't looking for him in the right way.

Going back to what I said that you replied to:

archibald wrote:... Can I actually mentally have a lack of something in other words? How would or even could a lack of something even manifest physically in my brain?


Perhaps my mistake was to corrupt the definition of atheism ('atheism is a lack of belief') to be 'atheism is having a lack of belief'. Only the 'having' is philosophically problematical. It could be argued that a cake can't, strictly speaking, 'have no nuts in it', but it can 'not have nuts in it', it can be nut-free. Iow, the lack of belief in god doesn't have to manifest physically in my brain.

So much for abstract definitions. Whether, at the end of the day, an atheist is, in practice, an unbeliever in god or a believer in a world that has no god, iow whether any beliefs an atheist has are nonetheless necessarily of a 'positive' variety (ie they exist) might be another matter.

Also, whether what I am saying is particularly important or profound or not, or whether I am for example merely splitting hairs, is up for grabs. It seemed interesting when I started posting on it. :)
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2684  Postby Calilasseia » Jan 13, 2019 10:20 am

Let's put this bullshit to bed ONCE AND FOR FUCKING ALL shall we?

When Darwin proposed sexual selection as a mechanism influencing the emergence of traits within organisms, he did so as AN ADDITIONAL MECHANISM THAT WAS IN OPERATION ALONGSIDE NATURAL SELECTION. Furthermore, he did so BECAUSE THE REAL WORLD DATA TOLD HIM THIS MECHANISM WAS IN OPERATION.

Oh wait, natural selection COVERS THE EFFECTS ARISING FROM INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER SPECIES. JayJay's assertion that this is being ignored is, therefore, total horseshit. As is his assertion that sexual selection was conjured into existence as an "ideological" construct. Because, wait for it, anyone who has bothered to observe real living organisms in action, has observed individuals in a population exerting CHOICE with respect to their mating partners. I've seen this dozens of times in my own fucking aquarium. When I bred three generations of Panda Catfish back in the early 2000s, the males courted some females in preference to others. Likewise, the females expressed a preference for which males they were going to mate with.

Now since I've seen this happen in fucking catfish, it's doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that humans will do the fucking same.

Now can we drop this tiresome fucking "self-creation" bullshit once and for fucking all?
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2685  Postby newolder » Jan 13, 2019 10:30 am

archibald wrote:...
I have been thinking about (what I now understand to be called) the Unruh effect. As it relates to what I was saying about absence, I think it might not apply, because the image of the cat is there.

Then that particular illusion is not applicable and Unruh is not relevant at all. :thumbup: I'm simply attempting to answer your question:
How would or even could a lack of something even manifest physically in my brain?

and using optical illusions as the tool. The illusions that "manifest physically" motion in your brain when no motion takes place in the image certainly comply.
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Credit: Akiyoshi Kitaoka via RIKEN BSI Neuroinformatics Japan Center, Creative Commons license

To paraphrase cito (who got there before me), there almost certainly, imo, isn't (the theistic equivalent of) an image of a cat hidden in theology that anyone can find if he just shakes his head around. In fact, a theist might use the Unruh effect to suggest that god is there, some people just aren't looking for him in the right way.

If a theist argued that way then the evidence that any effect yielded a god would have to be demonstrated.
Going back to what I said that you replied to:

archibald wrote:... Can I actually mentally have a lack of something in other words? How would or even could a lack of something even manifest physically in my brain?


Perhaps my mistake was to corrupt the definition of atheism ('atheism is a lack of belief') to be 'atheism is having a lack of belief'. Only the 'having' is philosophically problematical. It could be argued that a cake can't, strictly speaking, 'have no nuts in it', but it can 'not have nuts in it', it can be nut-free. Iow, the lack of belief in god doesn't have to manifest physically in my brain.

So much for abstract definitions. Whether, at the end of the day, an atheist is, in practice, an unbeliever in god or a believer in a world that has no god, iow whether any beliefs an atheist has are nonetheless necessarily of a 'positive' variety (ie they exist) might be another matter.

Also, whether what I am saying is particularly important or profound or not, or whether I am for example merely splitting hairs, is up for grabs. It seemed interesting when I started posting on it. :)

OK.
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2686  Postby zoon » Jan 13, 2019 5:10 pm

Jayjay4547 wrote:
zoon wrote:
Jayjay4547 wrote:..
my whole aim is to reveal the role of ideology In origin narratives, especially of human beings.

In discussing this Smithsonian Mag article on the human skin https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science- ... 1xo4mme.99 I criticized some of those involved: science writer Jason Daley for building his story on basic science research that had nothing to do with the speculations about the human skin he went on to detail. Mark Pagel for proposing that our hairless skin is to combat lice, and Mark Changizi who proposed that primate colour vision is to help in signalling emotional and health status. Also reader Ben Hotchkiss proposed it was to avoid getting singed by fire….

I take it your “ideology”, as you stated in the OP to this thread, is that humans were designed by God:
Jayjay4547 wrote:This claim is that the human origin story has been presented as one of self-creation, in reactive opposition to the Genesis story in which human beings were made by something greater than themselves- and which is a basic truth about human origins and the human status.

I wouldn’t argue with a position that this “something greater than themselves” is the genius expressed in large fluxing systems of biomes, such as “Africa”. Being a Christian myself, I think of these biomes or maybe the moving boundaries between them, as the fingers of God. But it’s fundamental that an atheist should be able to accept what I am arguing for, without changing his philosophical position. Otherwise, I could be sure, from first principles, to be arguing wrongly, because my argument would amount to a purported proof of the existence of God, which would be false and in terms of religion, impious. I will try to explain that a bit below.
zoon wrote:I’m happy to agree with you, in the context of this discussion, that my atheism, and that of most people here, includes an alternative narrative, or “ideology” if you want to use that term for both narratives. My alternative claim is that the hypothesis of evolution by natural selection is a better fit with the evidence than the hypothesis that God made us.

I agree with Dawkins (writing in “The Blind Watchmaker) that before the theory of evolution by natural selection was put forward, there was in fact strong evidence for some sort of goal-directed creation of living things, because there is such a strong appearance of teleology in their design: we grow eyes which are useful for seeing, ears which are useful for hearing, etc. The strength of the theory of evolution is that it explains how this apparent teleology comes about, without in fact requiring pre-thought-out goals.

It seems to me that William Paley (The Watchmaker on the Heath analogy, 1802) was impious in his attempt to conclude from observation that we are designed by a Creator God, by the following argument. According to the Jewish conception, it is impious to even name the “Unseen” Creator. The ancient Jews saw this as an advance on the religions of other nations; theirs was more serious. Similarly, Islam considers it impious to draw a picture of the Creator or His Prophet. I understand that these religious rules are insisting on two things: (a) that to name or draw something is in a sense to own it and (b) the human condition is that we are embedded in a hierarchy where we don’t own what is higher than us.

In the 20th century secular context, that embedded conception of the human condition was also expressed by my countryman Jan Smuts in his “Holism and Evolution” and by Arthur Koestler in “The Ghost in the Machine”. Koestler said that beings in a hierarchy are Janus faced: appearing autonomous to those below but dependent from above.

As a young man Darwin was impressed by Paley’s argument; in a sense they spoke the same language and so do today’s IDists and Dawkins, in using the words “design” “purpose” and “complexity” in an agreed way that they take as relevant to the issue of whether “God exists”. I argue that we need to reframe the discussion in terms of whether we are embedded in a hierarchy, replace the word “complexity” and “design” with “function” and not concern ourselves with “purpose”.

What one could actually observe from finding a watch on the heath, is not the freighted concept “design” but that this object has a particular function –to keep time- and that this function is enabled by a particular mechanism. To find out more about the found watch, one would need to seek out not “a designer” but the human culture from which watch-making emerged. Then one would look back in time; at the history of watch making within that society. Similarly in the natural world, one observes deep piles of function and through palaeontology scientists have traced its historical accumulation in particular geographical areas. If they find a particular species appeared at a particular time, they might look for a “land bridge” whereby that species could have trekked, from somewhere bigger, for example “Africa”. The appearance of new functionality can be called “creation” and creativity is a property in the first instance, of large biomes.

Natural selection merely provides adaptive mobility to populations; that’s less interesting than the discovery via palaeontology, of the creative path followed by particular populations.

You say that you are not using the argument from design because you regard it as impious: to claim that we know what God’s goals or purposes are is disrespectful to God.

At the same time, the word “function” seems to be central to your argument, you say: “The appearance of new functionality can be called “creation” and creativity is a property in the first instance, of large biomes.” Usually in this kind of context (we are not talking about mathematical functions), the words “function” or “functionality” imply some kind of goal or purpose; there’s something the function is for, if only the continuing existence of the biome. If you are not implying any kind of purpose, what did you mean by “functionality” in that sentence – please would you give an example of the functionality of a biome which has no purpose?

If you are happy that belief in God doesn’t require us to suppose there is any discernible purpose or goal in his creation, then what is your problem with the standard theory of evolution by natural selection? You could continue to believe in god and admire the wonders of the natural world without needing to be continually embroiled in arguments with hard science?
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2687  Postby zoon » Jan 13, 2019 6:55 pm

archibald wrote:
zoon wrote:
I think one problem here is that the word “ideology” is generally used as a pejorative. Wikipedia here gives the definition: “An ideology is a collection of normative beliefs and values that an individual or group holds for other than purely epistemic reasons”, but in practice, other people’s views tend to be “ideologies”, while one’s own set of opinions is perhaps more likely to be a “worldview”? I would agree with Archibald that most current atheism is associated with a particular worldview: that there is an underlying mathematical structure to the universe, which is not unduly complicated. This worldview is in conflict with the view that there’s any kind of humanlike moral structure to the universe, which worldviews like Buddhism or the perennial philosophy accept even if they don’t specify gods.

In the present day, atheism is usually coupled with acceptance of the scientific view of the world. While science is not an ideology in that it is always open to contrary evidence, I think it’s fair to claim that modern science is by no means just about piling up random facts, the defining feature is ongoing success in demonstrating a deep mathematical structure to which the facts conform. Modern science got underway with Newton’s demonstration that astronomical objects and objects on the earth’s surface followed the same laws, which in their underlying form were fairly simple mathematical equations. ......

....Strictly, in the broadest sense, atheism is indeed no more than an absence of belief in gods. I think this is a useful point when theists try to argue that atheism is like theism in being faith-based. In practice, though, I think most current atheism is based on the success of science, which is itself, in the end, based on the kind of common-sense empirical evidence on which both theists and atheists depend in ordinary life – science-based plans work where prayers and theology don’t.


Yes, I would have to be using the words I chose in a non-pejorative sense and they would have to be received and understood in that sense.

To add to what you say, I've also always been unsure as to whether all there is to 'bare atheism' is only a lack of something. I know that's the definition, and in many ways it seems correct. I've used the 'I'm aunicornist too' line myself many times. But, sometimes I wonder, does that mean I lack a belief in unicorns or does it mean that I believe (in this case to a pretty strong degree) that they probably don't or don't exist. Can I actually mentally have a lack of something in other words? How would or even could a lack of something even manifest physically in my brain?

Try this. I am thinking of something right now but you don't know what it is. So, it would seem that you are unable to either believe in its existence or not believe in it. Does that make you neutral, or unbelieving (a-the-something-archibald-is-thinking-about) or what?

Or is it the case that you need to know about something in order to not believe in it (or believe in the not of it if you like, which I'm provisionally suggesting is what atheism is, for the sake of argument)? I have never been totally ok with the suggestion that babies are born as atheists for example.

This is surely not that controversial. Doesn't everyone have to be somewhere along a spectrum of belief (or Dawkin's Scale of probability)? His number 6 (De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. "I don't know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there") seems to cover what I'm saying (and his no. 7 is a strong belief, not a lack of belief).

Now you might say that you agree with that, but that it's just a belief, not an ideology, but I think that might be hair-splitting, because in reality unless you don't believe in the world (or believe that the world does not exist) you will believe in a world with no god, and surely that gets us to a worldview, arguably a belief system and (non-pejoratively) essentially an ideology, even using the definition you cited from wikipedia, since the "other than purely epistemic reasons" applies to all beliefs, to at least some extent, even those which are supported by evidence.

Don't start me on the blurred line between those and religion. That might be a bit more controversial. :)

But not, imo, entirely out of bounds. We could discuss what Émile Durkheim said on the topic for instance.

And don't tell me you don't believe in beliefs. I knew someone once who said that about himself. I could never quite figure out what he meant, but it sounded very interesting.

I certainly agree with you that being an atheist in practice, in the world as it is, implies a fairly strong and active belief that there isn’t a god. I’m rather staking out a claim to a possible grey area before theists try to muscle in. If we take it that there is a dichotomy between atheists on the one hand, and theists on the other, and if we insist that atheists all have to be actively against theism, then we are leaving theism as the default position, we are saying that anyone who isn’t prepared to stand up against theists is therefore a theist. I would not be at all happy with that; it does seem to me that if we are assuming only the two positions of theism and atheism, then theism should be taken as some sort of active belief in some humanlike supernatural power, with atheism as the default position of having no such positive belief, whether or not the atheist has other beliefs which are in conflict with theism. Otherwise, in my view, we are ceding far too much to the theists.

If there is someone who has no views one way on the other, and I did not want to call such a person an atheist, I certainly wouldn’t want to call that person a theist either. Is there a term which you would prefer? Passive atheist? (Perhaps “agnostic”? My feeling is that agnostics are rather people who feel the evidence isn’t yet in – in practice, it was a useful term for people who wanted to promote science, especially evolution, without getting into unnecessary fights with theists.)

Again, I think that in the world as it is theism is the default, it’s been accepted by most people throughout history and before, even though it’s not logically the default, it’s a positive set of beliefs. In practice, it’s only been seriously challenged by an equally strong positive claim, the claim of science that everything follows mathematical regularities. Theists are happy to argue against the positive claims of science, for example by trying to show that natural selection doesn’t work, and to claim that theism is the default: if you don’t accept evolution and the mathematical regularities, therefore God. I think, for those of us who are actively and enthusiastically atheist, it’s worth making the counter-claim that atheism is the default – if there is not enough positive evidence for god, then that’s evidence for atheism (though not necessarily for the claims of science).

It’s also useful on the occasions when theists who are making the bare claim that god’s existence cannot be disproved attempt to turn this into an argument for theism. Logically it isn’t, but if we are saying that atheism has to be active, then we’ve lost that useful logical argument by ceding the default ground to the theists.

I’m saying there’s a Venn diagram, with one circle for theism, another mostly non-overlapping circle for the scientific worldview, and an encompassing circle for all the various worldviews that people may or may not have. Anything that isn’t inside the theist circle I would call atheism, even though in practice most modern atheists are inside the science circle. Anyone in the overlap between the theist and science circles is accepting the claims of science, and believes in an inactive and innocuous god.

?
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2688  Postby archibald » Jan 13, 2019 9:41 pm

zoon wrote:I certainly agree with you that being an atheist in practice, in the world as it is, implies a fairly strong and active belief that there isn’t a god. I’m rather staking out a claim to a possible grey area before theists try to muscle in. If we take it that there is a dichotomy between atheists on the one hand, and theists on the other, and if we insist that atheists all have to be actively against theism, then we are leaving theism as the default position, we are saying that anyone who isn’t prepared to stand up against theists is therefore a theist. I would not be at all happy with that; it does seem to me that if we are assuming only the two positions of theism and atheism, then theism should be taken as some sort of active belief in some humanlike supernatural power, with atheism as the default position of having no such positive belief, whether or not the atheist has other beliefs which are in conflict with theism. Otherwise, in my view, we are ceding far too much to the theists.

If there is someone who has no views one way on the other, and I did not want to call such a person an atheist, I certainly wouldn’t want to call that person a theist either. Is there a term which you would prefer? Passive atheist? (Perhaps “agnostic”? My feeling is that agnostics are rather people who feel the evidence isn’t yet in – in practice, it was a useful term for people who wanted to promote science, especially evolution, without getting into unnecessary fights with theists.)


To answer your last question, I think everyone is on a spectrum as regards this, both in terms of belief in god and also in terms of being religious. That said, the latter is possibly too complicated to fit on something as simple a spectrum as the former. I'm not sure where my football fandom lies, for example, but I concede it is partly irrational and involves worship and other ceremonies.

As to your first paragraph, personally, it had not occurred to me that we might be risking ceding too much to theists in arguments. Imo the theist case is so obviously lacking, for a variety of reasons (eg prayer not working, lack of good evidence generally, the relative weakness and redundancy of ID compared to the alternatives) that it doesn't bother me much how they argue it. Iow, I don't feel on the defensive, any more than I would if someone asserted that there were elves at the bottom of their garden. Perhaps this is partly why I am fairly fine with acknowledging that atheists and theists are not so different, really. What's the point in endlessly attacking them on discussion fora just because their (broadly similar to ours) thinking happens to have ended up going somewhere wonky in one specific sense?

Perhaps if I lived somewhere where theism and religiosity weren't already in fairly sharp decline, I'd be more worried. But I don't.
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2689  Postby Calilasseia » Jan 13, 2019 11:48 pm

I'm minded to take an in depth look at this ...

zoon wrote:I certainly agree with you that being an atheist in practice, in the world as it is, implies a fairly strong and active belief that there isn’t a god.


This is by no means the case. The contention I propose, as an atheist, is that the question of the existence of a god-type entity remains unanswered, and is not yet currently answerable. But I remain open to the possibility that both of these status values for that question may change at some point in the future, if our knowledge expands to the point where the question can be subjected to a proper, rigorous test. I contend that [1] no such test has been conducted, in no small part because we don't have the means to do so, and [2] claims on the part of supernaturalists, that their favourite mythologies constitute such a test, are manifestly absurd to the point of being beneath deserving of a point of view. Indeed, my stance as an atheist, is not that a god-type entity does not exist, but rather, that mythologies are incompetent at providing an answer to the question. That distinction needs to be made in the interests of rigour here.

zoon wrote:I’m rather staking out a claim to a possible grey area before theists try to muscle in.


One of the reasons I am in favour of rigour in this matter, is to shut off the possibility of supernaturalists misrepresenting atheist views. It's not as if we lack evidence of their doing so on a routine basis, this thread being a prime example.

zoon wrote:If we take it that there is a dichotomy between atheists on the one hand, and theists on the other, and if we insist that atheists all have to be actively against theism


At this point, we need to inject rigour again.

I contend at this point, that what we need to be against, is not theism per se, but the annoying tendency of theists to try and impose their theism on the rest of us. If theists kept their enthusiasm for mythology to themselves, we would have far fewer issues to deal with. Most of the issues we do have to deal with, centre upon the fact that supernaturalists keep insisting that the rest of us treat their mythologies as fact, in the same uncritical manner that they do, and that policy decisions should be shaped by adherence to their mythologies. It is perfectly proper to reject this hubristic insistence, but one doesn't have to be "against theism" to do so. All one has to do, is point out the incompetence of the requisite mythologies, to be anything other than entertainment. One doesn't have to insist that theists change their minds in order to do this, all we need to do is tell them that their insistence upon imposing their mythologies upon the rest of us, is wholly improper. They would bristle at having adherents of a different mythology imposing that mythology upon them, and as a corollary, we are perfectly within our rights to tell them where to get off, if they try to impose their mythology upon us. This doesn't for one moment mean coercing them into abandoning their mythologies, and this is an important point to make. As much as we would like them to do so, this has to be their choice, one guided by requisite education.

zoon wrote:then we are leaving theism as the default position, we are saying that anyone who isn’t prepared to stand up against theists is therefore a theist.


And again, it's time to inject rigour here.

We are not theists, simply by dint of not accepting the assertions of their mythologies. That is all that is required to be an atheist. Furthermore, I think it is wise to make a distinction between opposing the presumption of theists, of regarding themselves as having some sort of 'right' to impose their mythologies upon the rest of us, and making the mistake of trying to apply the inverse coercion, which almost certainly will not work. Opposing their attempts to coerce us into treating their mythologies as fact, does not mean turning the coercion on its head. One of the fallacies that supernaturalists routinely fall for, is to make the mistake of treating critique of their mythologies, and the assertions contained therein, as some sort of attack upon them personally, because they come from an environment where they fail to recognise the elementary distinction between persons and ideas. Educate them out of that fallacy, and you will go a long way toward strengthening your own case. If, after effort has been expended educating them about the proper rules of discourse, and the fallacies to avoid during conduct thereof, they still insist upon clinging to their mythologies, there is little we can do about this. What we can do, however, is put in place measures preventing them from exercising the duplicitous coercion they've been allowed to for far too long.

zoon wrote:I would not be at all happy with that; it does seem to me that if we are assuming only the two positions of theism and atheism, then theism should be taken as some sort of active belief in some humanlike supernatural power, with atheism as the default position of having no such positive belief, whether or not the atheist has other beliefs which are in conflict with theism. Otherwise, in my view, we are ceding far too much to the theists.


And my above response shows that I'm not conceding anything to them. :)

zoon wrote:If there is someone who has no views one way on the other, and I did not want to call such a person an atheist, I certainly wouldn’t want to call that person a theist either. Is there a term which you would prefer? Passive atheist? (Perhaps “agnostic”? My feeling is that agnostics are rather people who feel the evidence isn’t yet in – in practice, it was a useful term for people who wanted to promote science, especially evolution, without getting into unnecessary fights with theists.)


Again, it's time for rigour here.

Anyone who takes atheism seriously, is agnostic with respect to the existence of a generic god type entity, but is most certainly gnostic with respect to the incompetence of mythologies to supply candidates for the role. I may not know if there is a god type entity out there, but there is no way I can accept the ludicrous candidates presented in mythologies. In that respect, I'm very much gnostic.

zoon wrote:Again, I think that in the world as it is theism is the default


Only by dint of supernatualist coercion. Remove that, and the house of cards collapses.

zoon wrote:it’s been accepted by most people throughout history and before


Again, I would contend that said 'acceptance' is the result of supernaturalist coercion. For the first time in history, we have developed nations where said coercion is thankfully all but eliminated, and in those developed nations, supernaturalism is experiencing a critical decline.

zoon wrote:even though it’s not logically the default, it’s a positive set of beliefs.


But again, in the interests of rigour, that's the whole problem with theism - it's a set of beliefs, and not a set of evidentially supported postulates.

zoon wrote:In practice, it’s only been seriously challenged by an equally strong positive claim, the claim of science that everything follows mathematical regularities.


Again, in the interests of rigour, this doesn't distinguish between a universe possessing a god-type entity, and a universe lacking such an entity. Despite insistence on the part of some supernaturalists that it does. The existence of ordered interactions is independent of the existence of any god-type entity, and furthermore, needs to be in place before any god-type entity that does exist, can function as such. That's a condition applicable to the problem, that practically no supernaturalist understands.

zoon wrote:Theists are happy to argue against the positive claims of science, for example by trying to show that natural selection doesn’t work, and to claim that theism is the default: if you don’t accept evolution and the mathematical regularities, therefore God.


See the paragraph above for why this apologetics fails miserably.

zoon wrote:I think, for those of us who are actively and enthusiastically atheist, it’s worth making the counter-claim that atheism is the default – if there is not enough positive evidence for god, then that’s evidence for atheism (though not necessarily for the claims of science).


Again, in the interests of rigour, atheism does not present assertions of its own, when treated properly, It simply consists of a refusal to accept uncritically unsupported supernaturalist assertions. That is it. Since atheism doesn't present any claims in its rigorous formulation, it doesn't need 'evidence' for those non-existent claims.

zoon wrote:It’s also useful on the occasions when theists who are making the bare claim that god’s existence cannot be disproved attempt to turn this into an argument for theism.


Except that once again, in accordance with the proper rules of discourse, they are presenting assertions on this matter, therefore they're required to support those assertions, with something other than Derrida-esque fabrications. All we have to do is stand by and watch them fail.

zoon wrote:Logically it isn’t, but if we are saying that atheism has to be active, then we’ve lost that useful logical argument by ceding the default ground to the theists.


Again, in the interests of rigour, we are ceding nothing to them, by insisting upon proper rules of discourse and proper evidential standards. It's not for us to lower our standards, but for them to acquire competence in this matter. If they're not willing to do that, that's their problem, until of course they start engaging in duplicity to get their way, and countering that certainly concedes nothing to them, just as countering duplicity on the part of criminals concedes nothing to the criminals.

zoon wrote:I’m saying there’s a Venn diagram, with one circle for theism, another mostly non-overlapping circle for the scientific worldview, and an encompassing circle for all the various worldviews that people may or may not have.


I would not only contend that the part of the Venn diagram for the scientific worldview doesn't overlap at all with theism, but that it never will. The methodology of science - testing assertions to destruction - is so diametrically in opposition to the supernaturalist modus operandi, that no overlap is possible.

zoon wrote: Anything that isn’t inside the theist circle I would call atheism, even though in practice most modern atheists are inside the science circle.


I'm not minded immediately to pick this apart, but I harbour suspicions that we have here another assertion in need of test.

zoon wrote:Anyone in the overlap between the theist and science circles is accepting the claims of science, and believes in an inactive and innocuous god.

?


Or, as is more likely, cherry picking. Just as supernaturalists are routinely observed to do with their mythologies.
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2690  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 14, 2019 12:55 am

Calilasseia wrote:The contention I propose, as an atheist, is that the question of the existence of a god-type entity remains unanswered, and is not yet currently answerable.


Really? Which god-type entity is that?

Calilasseia wrote:I'm minded to take an in depth look at this ...


Really? Be sure to include plenty of rigor.

Calilasseia wrote:But I remain open to the possibility that both of these status values for that question may change at some point in the future, if our knowledge expands to the point where the question can be subjected to a proper, rigorous test.


Mm-hm. Which god-type entity would that be? Surely not the one concocted by pre-scientific peoples of ancient times. Their attempts have been on the books for thousands of years. So, we must be thinking that the status values might somehow be updated at some point in the future by fitting something properly god-like into the god-shaped hole bequeathed us by the goat-roasters, you know, as that vaunted exercise in pattern matching.

You're welcome to suspend belief until then. I'm fine with calling it a god-shaped hole. Status value? Hole! And that's my approach, for you: Holistic. Or maybe better, a-hole-istic.

Calilasseia wrote:Except that once again, in accordance with the proper rules of discourse, they are presenting assertions on this matter, therefore they're required to support those assertions, with something other than Derrida-esque fabrications.


Just as severe a problem is not just the Derrida-esque fabrications, but also the analytic fabrications with language like status-values. Let's have another chorus on the relata of a property-exemplification nexus. Don't fail to miss the characteristic rigor of that approach.
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2691  Postby Jayjay4547 » Jan 14, 2019 4:30 am

Cito di Pense wrote:
Jayjay4547 wrote:Actually Cito, I’ve developed a high tolerance to being treated rudely, I just won’t put up with being told I’m lying. And I’m not exactly complaining about ideology; my whole aim is to reveal the role of ideology In origin narratives, especially of human beings.


Well, if you could do that, wouldn't it be a feather in your cap!? I already asked you why you're trying to keep the human origins narrative separate from, say, the astrophysics narrative. I can't make that separation, so I'd like to know on what basis you're doing so. I suspect it's because you lack the mathematics facility to discuss astrophysics. Who knows what you suspect?


It’s true that I lack the mathematics facility to discuss astrophysics. I know that it supports highly precise predictions, such as enabled the New Horizons spacecraft to fly by a planetesimal way out in the Kuiper Belt. By contrast, the subject matter of evolution doesn’t support predictions at all. And origin stories told in the name of evolution are at least as subject to ideological influence as are human history stories. But whereas historians know a lot about such influences on their stories, people telling origin stories in the name of evolution tend to dress themselves with the authority of astrophysics.
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2692  Postby Jayjay4547 » Jan 14, 2019 4:32 am

Calilasseia wrote:Let's put this bullshit to bed ONCE AND FOR FUCKING ALL shall we?

When Darwin proposed sexual selection as a mechanism influencing the emergence of traits within organisms, he did so as AN ADDITIONAL MECHANISM THAT WAS IN OPERATION ALONGSIDE NATURAL SELECTION. Furthermore, he did so BECAUSE THE REAL WORLD DATA TOLD HIM THIS MECHANISM WAS IN OPERATION.

Oh wait, natural selection COVERS THE EFFECTS ARISING FROM INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER SPECIES. JayJay's assertion that this is being ignored is, therefore, total horseshit. As is his assertion that sexual selection was conjured into existence as an "ideological" construct. Because, wait for it, anyone who has bothered to observe real living organisms in action, has observed individuals in a population exerting CHOICE with respect to their mating partners. I've seen this dozens of times in my own fucking aquarium. When I bred three generations of Panda Catfish back in the early 2000s, the males courted some females in preference to others. Likewise, the females expressed a preference for which males they were going to mate with.

Now since I've seen this happen in fucking catfish, it's doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that humans will do the fucking same.

Now can we drop this tiresome fucking "self-creation" bullshit once and for fucking all?


Sexual selection is about “a struggle between the individuals of one sex, generally the males, for the possession of the other sex. “

It’s not about choice. It’s about outcomes of struggle or competition.
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2693  Postby Fenrir » Jan 14, 2019 4:55 am

Jayjay4547 wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:
Jayjay4547 wrote:Actually Cito, I’ve developed a high tolerance to being treated rudely, I just won’t put up with being told I’m lying. And I’m not exactly complaining about ideology; my whole aim is to reveal the role of ideology In origin narratives, especially of human beings.


Well, if you could do that, wouldn't it be a feather in your cap!? I already asked you why you're trying to keep the human origins narrative separate from, say, the astrophysics narrative. I can't make that separation, so I'd like to know on what basis you're doing so. I suspect it's because you lack the mathematics facility to discuss astrophysics. Who knows what you suspect?


It’s true that I lack the mathematics facility to discuss astrophysics. I know that it supports highly precise predictions, such as enabled the New Horizons spacecraft to fly by a planetesimal way out in the Kuiper Belt. By contrast, the subject matter of evolution doesn’t support predictions at all. And origin stories told in the name of evolution are at least as subject to ideological influence as are human history stories. But whereas historians know a lot about such influences on their stories, people telling origin stories in the name of evolution tend to dress themselves with the authority of astrophysics.


The red is entirely a product of your bias and ignorance. Tiktaalik and Xanthopan are two well known organisms which come readily to mind.

The scientific method itself depends on prediction, without prediction there is no method. First you make a guess, then you test your guess. Diametrically opposed to theology where first you make a conclusion and then you .... actually that's it.


And if you want simple maths i'd stick to astrophysics if I was you. Biology is all about probability and statistics, planets tend to be reliably found in the orbit you last left them on.
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2694  Postby Jayjay4547 » Jan 14, 2019 5:03 am

zoon wrote:
Jayjay4547 wrote:
The appearance of new functionality can be called “creation” and creativity is a property in the first instance, of large biomes.

Natural selection merely provides adaptive mobility to populations; that’s less interesting than the discovery via palaeontology, of the creative path followed by particular populations.

You say that you are not using the argument from design because you regard it as impious: to claim that we know what God’s goals or purposes are is disrespectful to God.

At the same time, the word “function” seems to be central to your argument, you say: “The appearance of new functionality can be called “creation” and creativity is a property in the first instance, of large biomes.” Usually in this kind of context (we are not talking about mathematical functions), the words “function” or “functionality” imply some kind of goal or purpose; there’s something the function is for, if only the continuing existence of the biome. If you are not implying any kind of purpose, what did you mean by “functionality” in that sentence – please would you give an example of the functionality of a biome which has no purpose?


I argued that “[the] appearance of new functionality can be called ‘creation’ and creativity is a property in the first instance, of large biomes.” For example, speech as a new functionality, was apparently created in Africa. That was creative. I can’t say anything useful about the “purpose” of or through African biomes, in that creation. Though I am grateful for it.

zoon wrote: If you are happy that belief in God doesn’t require us to suppose there is any discernible purpose or goal in his creation, then what is your problem with the standard theory of evolution by natural selection? You could continue to believe in god and admire the wonders of the natural world without needing to be continually embroiled in arguments with hard science?


What hard science would that be? Le'ts take this Smithsonian article https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science- ... 1xo4mme.99 that I’ve been trying to start a discussion on.

It starts with a hard science discovery about the truly hairless places on the human skin, by Sarah Millar, professor in a School of Medicine. That’s hard science. Then it goes on to review some earlier proposals for why the human skin is so different from that of other primates (and indeed from other large African mammals). Those hypotheses are scattershot, but with the common theme of privileging within-species explanations. That’s not hard science.
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2695  Postby Cito di Pense » Jan 14, 2019 5:23 am

Jayjay4547 wrote:By contrast, the subject matter of evolution doesn’t support predictions at all.


Actually, you're completely wrong about that, but the deep lack of scientific sophistication into which you substitute your preference for playing with words is going to make it difficult to discuss the point with you. Relationships of genomes of various organisms from different phyla on down to families and genera are predictable emerging from the classification schemes that preceded molecular genetics. I don't expect you to discuss this rationally. Nevertheless, your error is amply pointed out to you by Fenrir.

If you resent the authority of people with scientific training, by all means go your own way in ignorance and write stories and poetry to entertain your vanities.

Jayjay4547 wrote:It’s not about choice. It’s about outcomes of struggle or competition.


Your error here is to inject your teleology into the term 'competition', which in biological terms is not literally a game with rules that someone designed to serve the game play; you project your own sensibilities into concepts of 'winners' and 'losers'. Again, you're just flattering your own vanities. This is particularly true of your view of human beings, and your judgements assume (and perhaps even require) that human beings are special in some way, even though you may recognize that our species is subject to extinction exactly as any other. Perhaps your view is that the universe is going to be disappointed if we 'fail' the competition to survive. The jury's still out, N.B., and there's no sense in which humans have won more than one round of a very long 'competition'. The biosphere and the food chain can break down almost completely, as it did at the close of the Permian, and humans had nothing to do with that. Everybody has to eat, and humans will eat just about anything, including each other, when times get tough.

Jayjay4547 wrote:I argued that “[the] appearance of new functionality can be called ‘creation’ and creativity is a property in the first instance, of large biomes.”


You never argue anything, but you're hell on wheels flattering your own vanity. You make lots of assertions though, for example, that "the appearance of new functionality can be called 'creation'". Call it 'creation' if you like, because your priority is for creation, and so you are fashioning your assertions to serve your pre-determined conclusion. You believe you're doing something different, but you still have all your work ahead of you to set up the appearance of new functionality as the product of an unfolding design process. As an avowed Christian, you're beholden in your beliefs to a creator, despite your discomfiture that naming your creator is an 'impiety'. The whole problem with proselytizing this point of view to me and others who enjoin your assertions in this thread is that a person cannot force himself to believe what you do simply because you claim you have 'argued' for it. That's a strategy fit for selling to a bunch of hayseeds. You lack respect for your audience, but you've made that much very clear.
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2696  Postby zoon » Jan 14, 2019 12:19 pm

archibald wrote:
zoon wrote:I certainly agree with you that being an atheist in practice, in the world as it is, implies a fairly strong and active belief that there isn’t a god. I’m rather staking out a claim to a possible grey area before theists try to muscle in. If we take it that there is a dichotomy between atheists on the one hand, and theists on the other, and if we insist that atheists all have to be actively against theism, then we are leaving theism as the default position, we are saying that anyone who isn’t prepared to stand up against theists is therefore a theist. I would not be at all happy with that; it does seem to me that if we are assuming only the two positions of theism and atheism, then theism should be taken as some sort of active belief in some humanlike supernatural power, with atheism as the default position of having no such positive belief, whether or not the atheist has other beliefs which are in conflict with theism. Otherwise, in my view, we are ceding far too much to the theists.

If there is someone who has no views one way on the other, and I did not want to call such a person an atheist, I certainly wouldn’t want to call that person a theist either. Is there a term which you would prefer? Passive atheist? (Perhaps “agnostic”? My feeling is that agnostics are rather people who feel the evidence isn’t yet in – in practice, it was a useful term for people who wanted to promote science, especially evolution, without getting into unnecessary fights with theists.)


To answer your last question, I think everyone is on a spectrum as regards this, both in terms of belief in god and also in terms of being religious. That said, the latter is possibly too complicated to fit on something as simple a spectrum as the former. I'm not sure where my football fandom lies, for example, but I concede it is partly irrational and involves worship and other ceremonies.

As to your first paragraph, personally, it had not occurred to me that we might be risking ceding too much to theists in arguments. Imo the theist case is so obviously lacking, for a variety of reasons (eg prayer not working, lack of good evidence generally, the relative weakness and redundancy of ID compared to the alternatives) that it doesn't bother me much how they argue it. Iow, I don't feel on the defensive, any more than I would if someone asserted that there were elves at the bottom of their garden. Perhaps this is partly why I am fairly fine with acknowledging that atheists and theists are not so different, really. What's the point in endlessly attacking them on discussion fora just because their (broadly similar to ours) thinking happens to have ended up going somewhere wonky in one specific sense?

Perhaps if I lived somewhere where theism and religiosity weren't already in fairly sharp decline, I'd be more worried. But I don't.

Yes, perhaps I’ve become more exercised about arguing with theists as a result of spending time on RatSkep than would have been the case otherwise. It’s partly that I like to feel that if I were to get into an argument with an intelligent and well-rehearsed theist, I wouldn’t immediately find myself flat on my face. Theism is still more of a force in the world than belief in elves, and it doesn’t help if atheists let themselves get out-argued. Nobody takes elves at the bottom of the garden as a default (i.e. trying to argue “if not evolution therefore elves”), my main argument here is that the same line is to be taken with theism (I think perhaps you do this more automatically than I do, so you find my stressing the point is overkill). I can then acknowledge my uncertainties without feeling that I’m giving ground to the theists. Like you and Calilasseia, I’m happy to leave theists to their beliefs until they start trying to convert the rest of us.

?
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2697  Postby zoon » Jan 14, 2019 12:26 pm

Calilasseia wrote:I'm minded to take an in depth look at this ...

zoon wrote:I certainly agree with you that being an atheist in practice, in the world as it is, implies a fairly strong and active belief that there isn’t a god.


This is by no means the case. The contention I propose, as an atheist, is that the question of the existence of a god-type entity remains unanswered, and is not yet currently answerable. But I remain open to the possibility that both of these status values for that question may change at some point in the future, if our knowledge expands to the point where the question can be subjected to a proper, rigorous test. I contend that [1] no such test has been conducted, in no small part because we don't have the means to do so, and [2] claims on the part of supernaturalists, that their favourite mythologies constitute such a test, are manifestly absurd to the point of being beneath deserving of a point of view. Indeed, my stance as an atheist, is not that a god-type entity does not exist, but rather, that mythologies are incompetent at providing an answer to the question. That distinction needs to be made in the interests of rigour here.

zoon wrote:I’m rather staking out a claim to a possible grey area before theists try to muscle in.


One of the reasons I am in favour of rigour in this matter, is to shut off the possibility of supernaturalists misrepresenting atheist views. It's not as if we lack evidence of their doing so on a routine basis, this thread being a prime example.

zoon wrote:If we take it that there is a dichotomy between atheists on the one hand, and theists on the other, and if we insist that atheists all have to be actively against theism


At this point, we need to inject rigour again.

I contend at this point, that what we need to be against, is not theism per se, but the annoying tendency of theists to try and impose their theism on the rest of us. If theists kept their enthusiasm for mythology to themselves, we would have far fewer issues to deal with. Most of the issues we do have to deal with, centre upon the fact that supernaturalists keep insisting that the rest of us treat their mythologies as fact, in the same uncritical manner that they do, and that policy decisions should be shaped by adherence to their mythologies. It is perfectly proper to reject this hubristic insistence, but one doesn't have to be "against theism" to do so. All one has to do, is point out the incompetence of the requisite mythologies, to be anything other than entertainment. One doesn't have to insist that theists change their minds in order to do this, all we need to do is tell them that their insistence upon imposing their mythologies upon the rest of us, is wholly improper. They would bristle at having adherents of a different mythology imposing that mythology upon them, and as a corollary, we are perfectly within our rights to tell them where to get off, if they try to impose their mythology upon us. This doesn't for one moment mean coercing them into abandoning their mythologies, and this is an important point to make. As much as we would like them to do so, this has to be their choice, one guided by requisite education.

zoon wrote:then we are leaving theism as the default position, we are saying that anyone who isn’t prepared to stand up against theists is therefore a theist.


And again, it's time to inject rigour here.

We are not theists, simply by dint of not accepting the assertions of their mythologies. That is all that is required to be an atheist. Furthermore, I think it is wise to make a distinction between opposing the presumption of theists, of regarding themselves as having some sort of 'right' to impose their mythologies upon the rest of us, and making the mistake of trying to apply the inverse coercion, which almost certainly will not work. Opposing their attempts to coerce us into treating their mythologies as fact, does not mean turning the coercion on its head. One of the fallacies that supernaturalists routinely fall for, is to make the mistake of treating critique of their mythologies, and the assertions contained therein, as some sort of attack upon them personally, because they come from an environment where they fail to recognise the elementary distinction between persons and ideas. Educate them out of that fallacy, and you will go a long way toward strengthening your own case. If, after effort has been expended educating them about the proper rules of discourse, and the fallacies to avoid during conduct thereof, they still insist upon clinging to their mythologies, there is little we can do about this. What we can do, however, is put in place measures preventing them from exercising the duplicitous coercion they've been allowed to for far too long.

zoon wrote:I would not be at all happy with that; it does seem to me that if we are assuming only the two positions of theism and atheism, then theism should be taken as some sort of active belief in some humanlike supernatural power, with atheism as the default position of having no such positive belief, whether or not the atheist has other beliefs which are in conflict with theism. Otherwise, in my view, we are ceding far too much to the theists.


And my above response shows that I'm not conceding anything to them. :)

zoon wrote:If there is someone who has no views one way on the other, and I did not want to call such a person an atheist, I certainly wouldn’t want to call that person a theist either. Is there a term which you would prefer? Passive atheist? (Perhaps “agnostic”? My feeling is that agnostics are rather people who feel the evidence isn’t yet in – in practice, it was a useful term for people who wanted to promote science, especially evolution, without getting into unnecessary fights with theists.)


Again, it's time for rigour here.

Anyone who takes atheism seriously, is agnostic with respect to the existence of a generic god type entity, but is most certainly gnostic with respect to the incompetence of mythologies to supply candidates for the role. I may not know if there is a god type entity out there, but there is no way I can accept the ludicrous candidates presented in mythologies. In that respect, I'm very much gnostic.

zoon wrote:Again, I think that in the world as it is theism is the default


Only by dint of supernatualist coercion. Remove that, and the house of cards collapses.

zoon wrote:it’s been accepted by most people throughout history and before


Again, I would contend that said 'acceptance' is the result of supernaturalist coercion. For the first time in history, we have developed nations where said coercion is thankfully all but eliminated, and in those developed nations, supernaturalism is experiencing a critical decline.

zoon wrote:even though it’s not logically the default, it’s a positive set of beliefs.


But again, in the interests of rigour, that's the whole problem with theism - it's a set of beliefs, and not a set of evidentially supported postulates.

zoon wrote:In practice, it’s only been seriously challenged by an equally strong positive claim, the claim of science that everything follows mathematical regularities.


Again, in the interests of rigour, this doesn't distinguish between a universe possessing a god-type entity, and a universe lacking such an entity. Despite insistence on the part of some supernaturalists that it does. The existence of ordered interactions is independent of the existence of any god-type entity, and furthermore, needs to be in place before any god-type entity that does exist, can function as such. That's a condition applicable to the problem, that practically no supernaturalist understands.

zoon wrote:Theists are happy to argue against the positive claims of science, for example by trying to show that natural selection doesn’t work, and to claim that theism is the default: if you don’t accept evolution and the mathematical regularities, therefore God.


See the paragraph above for why this apologetics fails miserably.

zoon wrote:I think, for those of us who are actively and enthusiastically atheist, it’s worth making the counter-claim that atheism is the default – if there is not enough positive evidence for god, then that’s evidence for atheism (though not necessarily for the claims of science).


Again, in the interests of rigour, atheism does not present assertions of its own, when treated properly, It simply consists of a refusal to accept uncritically unsupported supernaturalist assertions. That is it. Since atheism doesn't present any claims in its rigorous formulation, it doesn't need 'evidence' for those non-existent claims.

zoon wrote:It’s also useful on the occasions when theists who are making the bare claim that god’s existence cannot be disproved attempt to turn this into an argument for theism.


Except that once again, in accordance with the proper rules of discourse, they are presenting assertions on this matter, therefore they're required to support those assertions, with something other than Derrida-esque fabrications. All we have to do is stand by and watch them fail.

zoon wrote:Logically it isn’t, but if we are saying that atheism has to be active, then we’ve lost that useful logical argument by ceding the default ground to the theists.


Again, in the interests of rigour, we are ceding nothing to them, by insisting upon proper rules of discourse and proper evidential standards. It's not for us to lower our standards, but for them to acquire competence in this matter. If they're not willing to do that, that's their problem, until of course they start engaging in duplicity to get their way, and countering that certainly concedes nothing to them, just as countering duplicity on the part of criminals concedes nothing to the criminals.

zoon wrote:I’m saying there’s a Venn diagram, with one circle for theism, another mostly non-overlapping circle for the scientific worldview, and an encompassing circle for all the various worldviews that people may or may not have.


I would not only contend that the part of the Venn diagram for the scientific worldview doesn't overlap at all with theism, but that it never will. The methodology of science - testing assertions to destruction - is so diametrically in opposition to the supernaturalist modus operandi, that no overlap is possible.

zoon wrote: Anything that isn’t inside the theist circle I would call atheism, even though in practice most modern atheists are inside the science circle.


I'm not minded immediately to pick this apart, but I harbour suspicions that we have here another assertion in need of test.

zoon wrote:Anyone in the overlap between the theist and science circles is accepting the claims of science, and believes in an inactive and innocuous god.

?


Or, as is more likely, cherry picking. Just as supernaturalists are routinely observed to do with their mythologies.

I think we are in violent agreement here. Like you, I was arguing that atheism is most usefully taken as encompassing any worldview which does not include the positive claims made by theists. I agree with the substance of everything you write above.

My only caveat, in the interests of pedantry, is that I saw my original difference of opinion with archibald as a question about the useful meaning of the word “atheism”. I don’t think the meaning of the word “atheism” can be rigorously defined, in the way that an inch is defined to be 2.54 centimetres, since “atheism” is like most words in that its meaning is defined by usage, not by fiat. I see your arguments as giving strong reasons, with which I agree, for atheists to prefer that usage, rather than as providing a proof that that’s the meaning. Of course, the etymology of the word is the Greek for “without theism”, but ordinary English words aren’t defined by their etymology, it’s just another reason for preferring that usage.

For example, the first sentence of my post : “I certainly agree with you ((archibald)) that being an atheist in practice, in the world as it is, implies a fairly strong and active belief that there isn’t a god”, was intended as a statement of a usage which is common, but which I disagree with, though perhaps I didn’t make that clear enough. Accordingly, I have no quarrel with the substance of the paragraph you wrote in response to that sentence, since you were giving strong reasons for disagreeing with that way of defining atheism:
Calilasseia wrote:This is by no means the case. The contention I propose, as an atheist, is that the question of the existence of a god-type entity remains unanswered, and is not yet currently answerable. But I remain open to the possibility that both of these status values for that question may change at some point in the future, if our knowledge expands to the point where the question can be subjected to a proper, rigorous test. I contend that [1] no such test has been conducted, in no small part because we don't have the means to do so, and [2] claims on the part of supernaturalists, that their favourite mythologies constitute such a test, are manifestly absurd to the point of being beneath deserving of a point of view. Indeed, my stance as an atheist, is not that a god-type entity does not exist, but rather, that mythologies are incompetent at providing an answer to the question. That distinction needs to be made in the interests of rigour here.

I’m especially happy that you stress the uncertainties in the atheist position, in a way that does not give ground to theists. I would only disagree with what appears to be an insistence that “atheism” has, rigorously, only one meaning. As a word in the English language, it has rather a range of meanings, summed up briefly by Google’s dictionary here:
atheism
/ˈeɪθɪɪz(ə)m/
noun
disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

I do agree with you, for the reasons both of us have given, that it’s sensible for atheists to prefer, and to press for acceptance of, the second option: “lack of belief” rather than the first: “disbelief”, but I don’t think we can legislate.

Edited to add: perhaps it's a question of being more inclusive: to lack belief in god doesn't stop one from also having a working belief that there's no god, while if "atheism" is defined as disbelief in god then it follows that someone who merely lacks belief is not an atheist?
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2698  Postby Scot Dutchy » Jan 14, 2019 12:45 pm

tfl;nrl
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2699  Postby Calilasseia » Jan 15, 2019 12:38 am

At this point, I'm going to have to come in here, and say that I find Cito's affected contrarianism wearing a bit thin here.

For those who haven't worked out the reason for my making the statement I did about a 'god-type entity', gather round until you're all sitting comfortably. Then I'll begin.

Quite simply, I'm aware that simply being able to define a god-type entity, in a manner that does not involve supertanker loads of wibble, will constitute a monumental undertaking all by itself, let alone trying to find such an entity. Anyone who succeeds in both of these matters, will be a guaranteed candidate for a Nobel Prize. Doing so will require a degree of heavy lifting that will scare the shit out of the typical supernaturalist.

But there's more. Let's suppose that someone decides to define a god-type entity as "any entity capable of instantiating a universe, such as the one we observe ourselves to be residing in". That's going to offer no concesssions whatsoever to supernaturalists. The reason being, that all we need is for physicists to provide a suitably robust demonstration, that a testable natural process fulfils this criterion, and that testable natural process, along with its participating entities, wll together constitute a "god-type entity" according to that definition. If, for example, someone works out how to perform a direct experimental test of Steinhardt & Turok's braneworld collision mechanism in the laboratory, and by doing so, demonstrates that said mechanism works as a means of instantiating a new universe, then said colliding branes will be, according to that definition, a 'god-type entity'. But they won't provide any comfort to supernaturalists who want a sky daddy that they can talk to. Apart from subjecting every pre-scientific mythology to nuclear annihilation, and blowing supernaturalist pretensions apart with enough force to reduce them to their constituent quarks, such an experiment will force those who care enough about the problem to start thinking properly about it, instead of pretending that apologetic fabrications carry the same discoursive weight as empirically supported postulates.

Quite simply, any attempt to frame a definition of 'god-type entity' that doesn't involve observability and testability at some point in the exercise, is going to be a waste of time, especially in the light of supernaturalist assertions that their magic man du jour intervenes in the operation of the universe in a manner that cannot be anything but observable and testable. The days of supernaturalists pretending that their magic men are observable and testable, but only when being so fulfils their fantasies, should have been over long ago, and seen long ago for the farce that it is, but pushing them to do some actual work on the matter will be a welcome hastening of the demise of this farce.

That's the whole point of the fucking exercise. Anyone out there who really wants to provide a proper answer to the question, is going to have to get off their arse and do something far more substantial than parrot mythological assertions. The moment the requisite prodding actually propels a supernaturalist to exert that effort, we'll be a lot closer to calling "Game Over" for the wibble brigade. It will also be wonderfully subversive, for the reason I gave above - namely, that making a god-type entity (whatever form it takes, if such an entity exists) observable and testable, will wrench that entity out of the supernatural realm, and merely extend our knowledge of the natural. Which is one reason why most supernaturalists won't dare travel that road. We'll have them by the short and curlies whichever way they go - the ones who don't dare put in the effort, can be dismissed as indolent and not interested in putting their preconceptions to actual test, and any that do exert the effort, will almost certainly have their preconceptions blown apart while doing so. Plus, said effort, if done properly, will replace the wibble and apologetics with real knowledge.
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Re: How atheist ideology messed up the human origin story

#2700  Postby Hermit » Jan 15, 2019 3:44 am

archibald wrote:I do not in principle have much of a problem with atheism being described as either an ideology, a worldview or a belief system.

What, apart from a lack of belief in the existence of a supernatural entity, is the common denominator of 'atheist ideology'? Show your work with reference to the following atheists:

Karl Marx
Ayn Rand
Simone de Beauvoir
Jeremy Bentham
Arthur Schopenhauer
Peter Boghossian
Max Stirner
Albert Camus
David Hume
Steven Hawking
Umberto Eco
Lucretius

Once you have identified one or more common denominators of 'atheist ideology', you will need to demonstrate that it/they are not present in 'theist ideology'.

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