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I Get Mail – Science and Correctness

This one is in response to a comment made on the “Do You Science” post.

I have a question to ask.  What virtue is it to say that you acknowledge you might be wrong?  I don’t get that take on agnosticism.  Whether one’s wrong or not is not derived from the degree of humbleness one holds.  What purpose does that humbleness serve?

It’s honesty.

And I am not an agnostic, I am an atheist. The fact of the matter is that there is no evidence for a god what so ever, so I don’t believe in one. I cannot fathom a set of conditions that can rationally allow one to exist, however I accept that there is a vanishingly small chance that I may be wrong because my entire stance on atheism is based on a lack of evidence for any gods and after the first million gods got rejected the rest got easier and easier.

It’s not humility, it’s fact. My entire view is based on evidence. Should evidence show up to support the existence of a colony (I suppose?) of T-Rex in Central Africa then I will have to revoke my stance that Dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. By the same principle if one can demonstrate to me empirically and scientifically that a god exists and that their personal god is Tlaloc then I am afraid I will have to revoke my atheism and start sacrificing babies to ensure the rains remain regular…

However, just like that Jehovah bloke, there isn’t any evidence for the existence of Tlaloc and our current knowledge indicates that the precipitation of the planet is reliant more on the water cycle than the satiation of a god through baby sacrifice.

It’s not humility it’s fact. I am not the only atheist who holds this view. Dawkins himself stated similar things.

If I demonstrate to you (hypothetically) testable, verifiable proof that a god exists and demands worship lest x, y and z occur, you would accept it (after proper testing and review) would you not?

The thing is not one person has been able to demonstrate the existence of a god and the spaces in which such a being can hide is vanishingly small. To the point that Christians have to hide their god behind the Big Bang and get very very vague about the interventionist policies of god. Any religious person who tries to bring scientific proof to a “proof of god” doesn’t manage to be convincing to anyone with an inkling about science.

I mean, the mere fact that we don’t know (and ignorance is the fundamental human condition) doesn’t in and of itself mean that we might be wrong on the (myriad contradictory and sometimes outright illogical) god notion(s). From “I don’t know” the only conclusion one can draw is “I don’t know.”

I prefer to think that a thirst for knowledge is a fundamental human condition. Religion satisfies that thirst, but it does so by claiming that the zenith of human achievement was around 0 AD Judea or 600 AD Saudi Arabia or 1800 BC Northern India. That we don’t know anything else that’s new. Which is daft.

Now if you obviously believe this notion or parts of this notion then you cannot understand how science works by saying “I Don’t Know. That is why a lot of religious fundies seem to misunderstand how science works.

Now, should evidence and reason be found to support this particular nonsense (and so it currently stands), and were we to deny it, by digging our fingers in our ears and saying “NONONONONONONO!”, then, sure, we’d be in the wrong.  But up until that point, I don’t find that I’m under the obligation to entertain hypotheticals, all for the purpose of appearing “humble.”What am I missing here?

Which is how my atheism works too. There is no “hypothesis” of a god because there requires to be some observable evidence to indicate one exists or at least a valid assumption.

In order to accept a god exists we must assume that the laws of existence can be voided at whim. That in effect “magic” exists. Which is a phenomenal thing that needs to exist. Our literal understanding of reality has to change for that which itself requires extraordinary proof.

I wouldn’t even consider “the God Hypothesis” to be a valid one because it’s not a hypothesis grounded in reality.

Sorry, I realize it’s off topic, really, but, meh, ill informed Christian quote mines to denigrate …isn’t exactly news.

Which is fine. They can quote mine me all they like. Their Carpenter god is never going to get any realer just because I “accept” the very minute chance that Jesus may exist. If that’s what makes their faith “strong” then I am afraid they have a very weak faith.

They can quote mine but they still have no proof that their god is real. The religious will have to provide evidence. Scientific, Testable Proof.

We don’t accept Bible Verse in court, why should we accept it in science? I am willing to accept a god if someone provides proof.

Comments

  1. Psychopomp Gecko says

    And the person has no reason to believe everything anyone says just out of humility. They might as well stick their hand into some boiling water because, even though someone told them it was hot, this person should still entertain the idea that it’s not hot because they are humble. Which has nothing to do with whether something is actually true or not.

    All the belief, faith, or humility in the world has nothing to do with how fast light travels, how old the earth is, how equations work, or why stars behave as they do.

  2. khms says

    I’d add that “god” is currently a very ill-defined concept. The best I’ve been able to come up with is tat it is actually a religious title, and different religions have different rules as to where they bestow that title. There is a rather dramatic difference between, say, Jehova, Athena, and Hirohito.

    If you want to talk about proof for some god’s existence, you first need a definition of said god. (Of course, that works for proof of other stuff, too. Want to prove the existence of unicorns? Trees? Grizzlefoombles? Still need definitions … it’s just some of these are easier than others.)

  3. says

    Great post, except for one thing… technically, we’re all agnostic about the existence of a higher power or powers because we don’t yet know exactly what caused the Big bang, and sine we don’t yet know, while the God Hypothesis may be the least likely explanation (by… like… a lot), it can’t be completely ruled out because, as you say, evidence could one day suggest that it’s true in some sort of way.

    No, I don’t think that’s very likely at all (the best that can be said is that this creator thingy would be part of some extremely advanced race of extraterrestrials, because nothing can be “outside” reality), but still… that 0.00000000000000000000000…01% chance is still a chance… :p

    Knowledge and belief are not the same thing, so one does not need to know for a fact in order to believe or not believe.

  4. says

    khms… how about “conscious and intelligent creator of natural things”? From my basic understanding of the God Hypothesis, that’s about the one thing all proposed deities appear to have in common. They “created” something that appears within nature (or, in the case of some like Yahweh, created nature itself).

  5. says

    @3: Actually, although I don’t know what “caused” (your word) the Big Bang, I’m pretty confident, as are 98% or so of working cosmologists that a “higher power” is not among the solutions for which a working hypothesis can be derived.

    So, no. The god of the gaps argument doesn’t work there, either.

    There’s no god because there’s no definition of god, no description of god, no hypothetical (theoretical) mechanism by which it can work, and no evidence in favor of the god hypothesis, which in and of itself is nonexistent except as a presuppositional claim based on the imagination of people who did not know what caused the weather.

    I’m quite confident in saying “I know there is no god”. The likelihood of my being proved wrong is too vanishingly small for me to bury it in qualifiers.

  6. katzenklavier says

    Avicenna, you exhibit here the clarity of thought you attribute to Richard Dawkins. Excellent piece.

    “Inquiry is fatal to certainty.” ~Will Durant

    “The true argument is never between science and religion: it is between fields of knowledge that are subject to correction and amplification by fresh information and those that are not.” ~ Thaddeus Golas

  7. remuss says

    Well, holy jeebus.
    I’m the subject of a blog post.
    Yes, folks, it was my question.

    Again, Avicenna, you say there’s a “vanishingly small chance” you’re wrong. Why do you say that? Where do you get the “numbers” exceedingly infinitesimal though they might appear? Can you cite specifics?
    Is it because you don’t know that it is not impossible for such evidence to exist? For such concepts to exist?
    That still doesn’t make them possible, at whatever vanishingly small level of chance.

    Let me reiterate:
    I know there are (many) things I don’t know. But the only thing I can say about them is that I dunno a thing about them. For sure, that’s no reason to purport that the pet ideas of some may, might, maybe, possibly exist in the unknown. There’s no reason to make that assessment. At least, the reason cannot be the ignorance itself.

  8. B-Lar says

    Good use of “daft”.

    Remuss:

    …There’s no reason to make that assessment. At least, the reason cannot be the ignorance itself.

    It cannot?

    If you are making an truth statement about something, and you care about being honest, then taking ignorance into account is imperative.

    Of course, if you are simply shooting your mouth off on the internet, don’t care about the complete truth and don’t give a positive integer of rats asses what people think of you then you can say what you like, limited only by your imagination.

    How about another reason other than honesty and intellectual integrity? Strategy. When you say that you are 100% sure of something, you leave yourself open to the opposition scoring the obvious point and you then having to backtrack in order to not appear that your point is half assed and weak. A qualifying statement gives a hat tip to reality (as all good points should) and removes an option from your opponents hands.

  9. remuss says

    @8.
    Hi, B-Lar.
    Did I make any statement saying I know anything with 100% certainty? Could you quote me having said that?

    Furthermore, do you have an actual reason for why you’d say that X is possible/ probable? What is it?

    Last I checked, I said the following:
    I don’t find that my ignorance is sufficient reason to say that XYZ is possible, probable, likely, even infinitessimally so. Now, tell me: Does that say that I absolutely, 100% certainly say that it is not possible?
    Are the two equivalent?

    Or, you know, accuse me of shooting my mouth of and not caring about the truth. That’s cool too. Is that an absolute statement on your part, or can you qualify it?

  10. B-Lar says

    You will note that I did not accuse you of anything, and in fact I was using the royal “you”. Anyone can shoot their mouths of online as much as they like as long as they don’t care about truth or public perception.

    My point is that if you do care about those things, and you recognise that you cannot know something with 100% certainty, then it is a simple step to say so. it makes it clear that you are not just shooting your mouth off and that you have actually considered your position properly.

    Regarding X (lets say god’s existence) and its possibility. It is impossible to say with complete certainty that it is impossible, and it is therefore possible, although with our ability to examine the universe becoming greater and greater, the places god can hide get exponentially smaller. Technically god could still hide outside the universe though, but that doesn’t really harm my case. In fact, I can point out that a supposedly mighty god is hiding from me, a relatively insignificant ant on a relatively insignificant rock if I want to be snarky and score a cheap point.

    If I say “God doesn’t exist.” flatly, I have made a statement which cannot be proven, and is easy to attack because it is over-generalised with no qualifying statement to say that I understand what the fuck I am talking about. I don’t need to mention the 100% bit at all, because it is implied by my cavalier catchall approach that this is what I meant. “AHA! but how can you REALLY KNOW that god doesn’t exist” they retort smugly, and now I have to make the same qualifying statement, but on the back foot instead of the front.

    Seriously, I have been bogged down in conversations like that, and learned my lesson. You will too. Eventually.

  11. remuss says

    @10.
    Thanks for clarifying who “you” is supposed to be. The less ambiguous “one” (as in, “one could say this,” etc) would be more clear, for future reference.
    What I can say with certainty:
    I don’t know that it’s not impossible that this particular cockamamy idea represents actual truth.
    However, what follows from that is not that it’s possible. Mind you, the statement I’m making is that I don’t know that it’s impossible. That’s not equivalent in the least with it’s not impossible. They are two separate statements. The moment to say that it’s possible:
    -either in a hypothetical universe, made up to illustrate a point
    -when the information/data/evidence comes in that to suggest that it IS possible.
    Until then, the statement is fallacious that it is possible that this exists.

    Did I ever make the statement that god doesn’t exist (with any degree of certainty, probability, etc), B-Lar?
    Can you quote me saying that?

    ’cause, you’re not arguing against me, but against all the theists you’ve argued with before. Hint: I’m not them.

  12. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Avicenna

    if one can demonstrate to me empirically and scientifically that a god exists and that their personal god is Tlaloc then I am afraid I will have to revoke my atheism and start sacrificing babies to ensure the rains remain regular…

    Consciousness raising time.

    You say that, but I’m pretty sure you don’t mean all of that. Take a moment to think that through.

    I agree that if someone brings forth good scientific evidence that this thing named Tlaloc exists, is very powerful, and demands worship or else it will bring forth punishment, then the rational and correct thing to do is accept the material facts of the case.

    However, your second part does not follow. We can all agree that Tlaloc exists, but it remains an entirely separate question whether we should obey the ridiculous decrees such as sacrificing babies in rain ceremonies. A more appropriate course of action would be to explore how powerful this creature is, and whether it is possible to reason with it, and if reason and discourse fail and it persists in such abhorrent acts, then the next proper activity is to research how to destroy it, and upon finding such means, employ them.

    For a more concrete example, consider the class example of modern fiction, the entire plot of Stargate SG-1 – both the inital seasons and especially the last 2 seasons. In the show, when the old Egyptian gods come around demanding worship or death, do our heroes start worshiping them? No, they blow their shit up. When god-like “ascended beings” start making a fuss in the last two seasons, do our heroes give up and start worshiping? No, they blow their shit up. That is the proper response to false gods and evil gods.

    tl;dr You may change my mind and make me no longer an atheist, but I will never be a christian. I will never worship a creature that abhorrent as described in the christian bible. Also, frankly, I never worship anything, but at least some kind of cool nice god-thing might earn my respect and friendship, but never worship.

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