Posted: Dec 19, 2011 4:55 am
by jlowder
Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:
Calilasseia wrote:So, now that you're here, Jay, care to tell me which, if any, mythological assertions are supported by any evidence?

I'm an atheist. Furthermore, as a metaphysical naturalist, I don't think any supernatural beings exist. I don't believe mythological assertions are supported by the evidence. I suspect you already knew that, however. What are you getting at?

Well Mick here claims that you take the purported "evidence" for the resurrection of Jesus seriously. He asserts this here. I'd like to know if this is true, and if so, on what grounds you purportedly take the wish-fulfilment of pre-scientific and superstitious humans "seriously".

I'm not trying to be difficult, but I'm not sure what it means to take a claim "seriously" in this context. What I can say is this.

1. I don't think Christians are automatically idiots just because they are Christians. I don't think theists are automatically idiots just because they are theists.
2. I don't atheists are automatically rational just because they are atheists.
3. I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about purported evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, I co-edited a book on the subject.
4. I do think many skeptics have tended to offer poor responses to Christians who try to argue for the resurrection of Jesus on purely historical grounds.

Calilasseia wrote:Meanwhile, with respect to this:

jlowder wrote:Back when I was the moderator of the USENET newsgroup alt.atheism.moderated, I used to debate the definition of atheism and I used to defend the atheism as the lack of belief position. I'm persuaded, however, by Ted Drangethat by default we should define our terms in a way which matches ordinary usage. Ordinary usage of the word "atheism" is that it means the belief that God does not exist. I see no benefit whatsoever to the proposal that nontheists should spend their limited time on trying to convince people both that (a) atheism is rational and (b) that they should use the word atheism in a different way, as opposed to merely focusing on (a).

I disagree. I'm interested in a rigorous definition of atheism, not some dumbed-down strawman caricature thereof that simply makes life easy for duplicitous purveyors of supernaturalist apologetics.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you were to grant that atheism means the belief that God does not exist. How, precisely would that make life easy for "duplicitous purveyors of supernaturalist apologetics"?

Calilasseia wrote:I propose as a corollary, that atheism, in its rigorous formulation, consists quite simply of a refusal to accept uncritically unsupported supernaturalist assertions. In short, it consists of "YOU assert that your magic man exists, YOU support your assertions". In the latter exposition thereof, the implicit requirement being that said support involves something other than the erection of yet more blind assertions and apologetic fabrications. Perhaps you might like to tell me why this is purportedly "wrong"?

No, I'm not going to tell you are objectively "wrong" about the definition of atheism because I'm a linguistic relativist. I don't think there is such a thing as an objective right or wrong definition of a word; definitions are purely relative to different cultures and times. What I can and will say is that your definition is different from how the majority of English speakers and writers define "atheism." Thus, there's a risk that your efforts to engage in real dialogue with other people will be undermined by the fact that you and the people you're talking to do not speak the same language, so to speak. Whether you find that risk acceptable is, of course, up to you.

Calilasseia wrote:
jlowder wrote:Among professional philosophers, including self-identified atheist philosophers, the majority viewpoint is that atheism is the belief that there is no God and agnosticism is the lack of belief in God's existence and God's nonexistence. When professional philosophers want an umbrella term to group together people who believe God does not exist with the people who merely lack belief, they use the term "nontheist." So I'm not sure I agree with you that the majority of people who define atheism as the belief that there is no God are "religious people."

Actually, my understanding is that agnosticism consists of the position that the question of the existence of any god-type entity is unanswerable. Atheism, as a corollary of my proposed framing above, consists of the position "Perhaps this question is answerable, but we've yet to see a supernaturalist provide a proper answer".

That's one version of agnosticism, but it's not the only version. For example, Paul Draper is an agnostic philosopher of religion who believes there is good evidence for naturalism and good evidence for theism, but he doesn't know how to the weigh the former against the latter.

Calilasseia wrote:Meanwhile, with respect to the "fine tuning" trope, my answer to that is essentially that arising from Douglas Adams' Puddle. Namely, we are here because the laws of physics permitted our existence, and the relevant, physically permitted, historical events took place.

That simply pushes the problem back a step. Why do the laws of physics permit our existence? Proponents of fine-tuning arguments claim that the fact that they do is evidence for theism and against naturalism. To say that the laws of physics permit our existence is not a refutation of the FTA; it's simply a description of the evidence cited by the argument.

Calilasseia wrote:Plus, there's quite a bit of research emanating from the physics community with respect to the fact that, for example, manipulating a range of parameters produces a significant number of possible universes in which star formation can take place, and as a corollary, the nucleosynthesis of relevant chemical elements. Treating our existence as purportedly supporting the idea that the universe was somehow "made for us", consists of reading the relevant evidence backwards, not to mention reading it from a presuppositional basis.

I don't think I would word things the way you do in your last sentence. Your first sentence, however, seems to me to be a much better response to FTAs than your earlier response.