We get email: Brains, evidence, and burden of proof again


Fresh from the “Someone Is Wrong on the Internet” files, this message was sent via the contact form on the ACA website.

My understanding about atheism is you claim that because there is (supposedly) no evidence for God existing that this equates to there being evidence for God NOT existing (please correct me if I am wrong about this).

Kind of, but not exactly.

The default position for any positive claim lacking evidence is usually disbelief.  “Disbelief” doesn’t mean “proof against,” and it doesn’t mean “dogmatic certainty” — it just means, to put it simply, that you generally don’t believe in stuff without having reasons in favor of it.

To give you a small example: Suppose I told you “You know, I died last week, but I rose from the dead on the following morning, so here I am replying to your email.”  Would you believe me or not?

I think it’s safe to say that you would ask me whether I have evidence or not.  My failure to provide any wouldn’t constitute proof that it didn’t happen, but it wouldn’t look good for me.  Don’t you agree?

Or suppose I tried to sell you a car which, by all appearances, seemed to be a twenty year old lemon, but I said “This car has a secret switch which can make it FLY.  And I’m selling it to you for the incredibly reasonable price of $10,000.”  That’s actually a great price for a flying car… but I’m sure you wouldn’t buy it without evidence.

You see the difference between this position and what you’re saying?

My question to you is this:

1) Do you have a brain? You probably think so.
2) How do you know? For the sake of epistomological argument, you could be merely a computer-based machine, akin to a very advanced robot operating on Artificial Intelligence
3) How can you prove this? Given my previous challenge, you probably can’t prove the existence of your brain without cutting open your skull to demonstrate the presence of white and grey matter)

Yes, I’ve heard this one before, there’s a popular urban legend chain mail about a student who stumps a professor with it.  I have a hard time believing that anyone takes that story seriously.

This line of questioning stems from a total confusion about the difference between “evidence” and proof.  You of course couldn’t prove with 100% certainty that any particular person has their own brain; after all, they COULD be a very clever robot.  However, the evidence that we do have is sufficient to that it’s way more likely that you have a brain than any of the alternatives.  For example:

  • Induction (an important tool of science): Every human skull we’ve ever cut open has contained a brain.  Thus the DEFAULT assumption for any given person is that they match an already observed pattern.
  • Necessity: we have built up a pretty good idea of how brains work, and that they are a the source of cognitive processes in people.  In order to say “Person X lacks a brain” you’d have to come up with a credible alternate explanation of why they’re continuing to move around, speak, and write.  Instead of, you know, lying there.  (By contrast, we don’t have any evidence of any particular processes caused by any gods, which means that’s the possibility that requires explanation.)
  • Ruling out alternatives: It’s easy to SAY that your brain’s been replaced with a computer, but as far as we know this can’t be done successfully with any modern techology.  If those kinds of transplants were commonplace, then there would be evidence for the brain switching theory, but there’s not, so following the known pattern is the simplest conclusion.

4) Do you claim to know everything, as in all possible facts? If not, then what percentage of information about the world do you claim to know? 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 %? Whatever the percentage of information about the world which you have knowledge about, it surely is not a full 100% – if this is correct, then the percentage for which you do not have knowledge could, quite possibly, include existence of supernatural phenomena such as the existence of God.

Sure, the possibility is always there, even if the odds are 10^-googol.  You don’t need to convince me that a god is possible.  I just don’t believe that it’s true, due to lack of evidence.  If you want to change my mind about the likelihood, then find some evidence.

My argument then is as follows:
1) You do not really have logical or rational proof for claiming, with certainty, that God does not exist

And, as I just said, I don’t make that claim of certainty.

2) Therefore, you are, by definition, an agnostic, in other words: you are uncertain and do not know the final truth of the matter with regards to God’s existence.

You’re right.  As I’ve said many times on the show, I’m an agnostic atheist.  “Agnostic” because I don’t know whether a god exists, but “atheist” because, given the information currently available, I don’t share your belief that the god exists.

3) You have therefore been mistaken about calling yourself an atheist, since you actually are an agnostic and are simply in need of getting your terms right before using terms such as “atheist” inaccurately

Wrong.  My usage of the word atheist is consistent with the standard definition (as I am not a theist), and also consistent with the viewpoints of many well-established atheists, such as George Smith and Richard Dawkins

Perhaps a more accurate way of describing yourself, as well as your friends and colleagues on your show, could include:
– agnostic

Yes.

- secular

Yes.

- lay

Why, because I’m not a scientist myself?  Okay, I’m a layperson, but I don’t see what that has to do with atheism.  You and I are both lay irrespective of our religious beliefs.

- irreligious

Yes.

- epistemologists

…Sure, if you want.

Now I’ve agreed to your entire list of alternate descriptions, and I’m also an atheist.  If you want to throw some more labels on there, I’m also a computer programmer, a gamer, a father, etc.  None of those things are mutually exclusive with atheism.

Atheism, however, with its claim to conclusively “know” that God does not exist, seems about as irrational as the very belief in God which it seems to have contempt for.

Atheism doesn’t require such a claim of knowledge.  I’m afraid you have been misinformed.  Withholding beliefs in the absence of evidence isn’t irrational, as is obviously the case in my example of the flying car.

Hope that clears things up.

Comments

  1. says

    There are simple ways to prove you have a brain that do not involve cutting your head open, one merely needs an Xray/MRI/CTScan to show the existence of the brain.However there is nothing you can Xray/MRI/CTScan/etc that can show the existence of a deity.

  2. says

    Warren:"He just needed two FAQ pages on gnosticism and the burden of proof."Hell, all he needed was one line in a dictionary and he wouldn't have needed to write the email at all.What is it about theists (the type that have issues with atheists, anyway) that keeps them from finding out for themselves what atheism actually is before attempting to debunk it?It's similar to the endless parade of creationists that throw out caricatures of evolution that they then presume to debunk: "cats don't beget turtles therefore Darwin was wrong therefore Jesus!" Pro tip, emailers: dictionary.com should be your first point of call when seeking definitions of words, not apologist websites.\m/

  3. says

    I had a feeling of nostalgia reading through that. Ahhh, the good ole days of apologetics.It's like popping in a VHS of Original Star Trek episodes.Cue the dorky 70's action music as Russell takes down this pratt.

  4. says

    What is it about theists (the type that have issues with atheists, anyway) that keeps them from finding out for themselves what atheism actually is before attempting to debunk it?I'm surprised he didn't end with "you really do deep down inside believe but you're just rebelling against God because you're mad at him because you had a bad relationship with your father and now you're just denying the evidence all around you.".

  5. Admin says

    This was straight out of Ray Comfort's playbook. "You're not an atheist, you're an agnostic!" To think that Ray Comfort is having influence on anybody is scary.

  6. says

    2 posts in one week you are on a roll here! The whole agnostic/atheist misconception seems so ingrained in the public consciousness it irks me to no end. Maybe at least this guy gets it now. Maybe.And kudos on the correct spelling of googol.

  7. says

    What is it about theists (the type that have issues with atheists, anyway) that keeps them from finding out for themselves what atheism actually is before attempting to debunk it?I could write a long essay on that, but here are a few possible answers:1) The leaders lie. Plain and simple, no point denying it: they lie like hell. They know better, but they keep lying.2) The followers do not fact-check because they've been taught since childhood that blind faith is a virtue and anyone with a clerical collar is inherently trustworthy (unless they're from a different denomination, in which case they're of the devil).3) Religion actively encourages social isolation. To a greater or lesser extent, believers are taught to primarily associate with people who already agree with them and will never ask any hard questions.Bottom line: Theists act like this because that's the type of person that religion produces. It's what it was meant to do and it does it very well.

  8. says

    I am forced to be agnostic in regards to whether the letter writer has invisible penises growing out of his head.I am sure I know only a minuscule fraction of what can be known, but I know enough to say that missing children were probably not kidnapped by aliens. I also know enough to say that the universe was probably not created by an immaterial uncaused "first cause", 3-in-1 deity who is his own son (and a holy ghost). This atheist feels quite comfortable concluding that the invisible/divine beings various people believe in are as unlikely to exist as the invisible/divine beings they think of as mythological or imaginary.Generally it's the theist claiming to know things they cannot know; the atheist makes no claims of divine knowledge. Technically, every one is forced to be agnostic when it comes to unfalsifiable claims– even theists –who imagine they KNOW that god exists (and they imagine they know what he did, thinks, and wants too!)

  9. says

    When I hear the same silly argument from theists over and over, I can only conclude that these are the sorts of arguments that sound deep and valid to a brain damaged by faith. I guess this is the best argument they have to confirm their biases and "keep the faith". I think it's funny when they try to pass this off as their own "deep" argument as if we hadn't heard this many, many times before.Next up: The letter writer is going to tell you that you have "faith" that the sun will rise tomorrow.

  10. says

    I think that theists love the, "you can't prove God's non-existence, so you aren't an atheist" argument because they think that if we are forced to admit we aren't atheists it will put a crack in our "faith" in the lack of God. Basically it is a huge instance of projection

  11. says

    My grandfather died of brain cancer, I can assure you that we did not cut open his skull. So not only did we know there was a brain in his head, we knew from the scans that there was a tumor. This line of reasoning always pisses me off, it's like the people who say you can't see air. The agnostic argument also annoys me, my brother tries to use that all the time. He says he doesn't know if a god exists, and we can't prove it ether way, but he doesn't believe in a god. He's an atheist, he just doesn't like the word.He can do whatever he wants, but still a bit annoying.

  12. says

    Another talking point worth raising with theists like this one is the fact that all theists are in fact "agnostic." Though they claim to "know" the existence of their god, every theist will eventually will punt to faith when backed into a corner in a debate. Faith is, essentially by definition, not a valid approach to truth. Of course fideists will disagree, but their position is not rationally tenable. So they are in the same boat as us atheists. Maybe by pressing this point, the whole silly "agnosticism" issue can be taken off the table someday.

  13. says

    What do they hope to accomplish with this anyway? Its just playing with words, even if I was convinced Atheist is the wrong label for me, I still hold the exact same beliefs/lack of.It just stems from the fear of a word.

  14. says

    Though they claim to "know" the existence of their god, every theist will eventually will punt to faith when backed into a corner in a debate.But having done so, they will then proceed to redefine faith so that the entirety of human knowledge becomes a matter of faith.I've noticed this type of pattern many times:- Theist claims X- Atheist refutes X- Theist switches to claim Y- Atheist concedes that refutation of X doesn't cover Y- Theist proceeds to redefine Y as X and hopes nobody notices

  15. says

    This reminds me of Ray Comfort's "atheist test". Because being an atheist requires absolute knowledge, you're not REALLY an atheist. It's designed to trick the non-believer into giving up ground. I hope the message was from someone simply misinformed and not from someone dead-set in their beliefs.

  16. says

    Gotta love the classics. Of course you point out that an absolute certainty requirement on not believing things would necessitate a belief in everything. You make examples like leprechauns and invisible cars. Then they complain that you are making fun of their religion.Though I will admit, the “you cannot be absolutely sure” bit was the last hurdle I faced in becoming an atheist. It is one of the best arguments the theists have, even if it is terribly flawed.

  17. says

    That argument one is very very old, but still, it amazes me how often i hear it, and how often theists think that is a great argument.That big problem is, that the person doing that argument, is most of the times, is being desonest, since the person dont apply that logic to all things, just to theyr god.So, if we gona believe, anything that has a chance to exist, then we sould belive in unicorn, fairys, big foot, and so on.Its the "good" and old, "special pleading":"No, no, no, o know i made that argument, but you should believe only in god, and it needs to be my version of this god".I wonder, will i live anough time, to see a original argument, to the exitence of a god?

  18. says

    Now this is just hilarious, atheists trying to use a "cop-out" method by relying on their definition. A definition that isn't consistent at all with the actions of atheists.First off, Let's start with Atheism and Morality, without God you've already made a claim on which road to take:Your contention is that due to there existing a plethora of theistic options it is more intellectually prudent not to choose at all. I simply apply this flawed logic to the fact that there exist a plethora of viable moral theories in existence which means that if we apply the same flawed logic it would mean one ought not to choose at all but rather opt out and be amoralist Oxford Dictionary definition of amoral:"lacking a moral sense; unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something"Just some of the moral options:Normative ethicsPostmodern ethicsConsequentialist ethicsDeontological ethicsRelational ethicsRational ethicsPluralist ethicsVirtue ethicsMoral nihilismHedonismEpicureanismSocial ContractualismStoicismUtilitarianism – hedonic or act or rule or ideal or another version?Ethical egoism

  19. says

    So to finish off my statement up aboveSecular ethics (and atheism generally) are just as much assertions and so a claim to knowledge as is the assertion of theistic ethics (and theism generally). Hence BOTH require evidence according to be epistemologically rational Now let's move to Epistemology."Epistemology"Well being an atheist automatically puts you in this boat.So naturalism [your worldview members of ATHEIST EXPERIENCE] has a very special epistemic problem. How do I know that I am not just evolved PURELY for the purposes of survival and nothing else? This means that what I take to be true is just what my genes want me to take as true because it is best for the heuristic purposes it is being put to task to perform. On naturalism a naturalist has a very good reason to think she may well be permanently deceived about a great many things!All physical evidence you encounter in your life is still based on the assumption that you exist, and that you aren't just a brain in a vat or just a simulation, or a computer program. This means EACH and EVERY piece of physical evidence in rooted in an assumption.All your assumptions are based upon any lack of justification whatsoever. In Foundationalist epistemology all your thinking can only be as strong as your foundations are. They cannot be any stronger. The Strength of the foundations determine the strength of everything built upon it.

  20. says

    Lastly let's finish off with Cognitive faculties, as atheists believe rationality comes from Non-rational matter, but before I do that I'd like to explain somewhat I've my position. We all reject forms of secularism, I just go one furtherA STANCE that all members of the Atheist Experience take (as they commit firmly to naturalism) can be aided by our good old friend Charles Darwin:The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of a man's mind, developed from the lower animals are trustworthy? Would one trust the convictions of a monkey's mind? – Charles DarwinNaturalists can't really say that determinism truly exists, because that entails a purpose (determined by what or who?), but nature is purposeless. It might be more accurate for them (and me) to use the term "fatalism" (some would reject that term also because it is too strong…so I and most naturalists really are referring to something between determinism and fatalism). I don't believe that naturalism has any room for something to evolve that does not react in a mechanistic way to input. The very fact we think that truth is something real and not just a concept in our brains. This is completely without justification. Ascribing a natural non-teleological process to answer all these phenomena reduces them to the status of being mere illusions. This is why some naturalists go so far as to suggest that consciousness is an illusion. Because they want to reduce everything down to its working parts. But this is not a good explanation of our world nor how we live.

  21. says

    Now how about we clear up some points that alot of atheists I see misrepresent from OUR SIDE, in regards to the philosophical implications of theism:After all The existence of God IS a Philosophical question.***To those empiricists please let it be known that without philosophy there is no way of differentiating the truth claim of an Easter bunny and the claim that a computer exists.*** What the God Hypothesis actually is:What the God hypothesis stands for is a philosophical or metaphysical hypothesis. It proposes that the reality in which we live can be best understood by postulating one kind of reality as ultimate, and as accounting for all the rich array of realities that we seem ourselves to experienceThe God hypothesis (Philosophical) agrees completely with the argument that, if there is going to be a final explanation of the universe, it has to be in terms of an eternal and necessary being. But instead of having a huge set of complicated quantum laws and a very finely balanced set of fundamental physical forces, all of which are realized sooner or later by some unknown principel, it postulates just one being, a cosmic mind or consciousness.The Hypothesis of God is especially attractive, because it does not really look as though the fundamental laws and states of the universe are very simple at all. There is a whole 'particle zoo' at the subatomic level. There is dark energy and dark matter. There are many complex equations in quantum theory. The scientific search for one neat "Theory of Everything", which would somehow embrace all lower-level physical laws, is looking very unlikely to succeed. The hypothesis that such a search will succeed is an article of faith in the power of science. It is not an unreasonable faith; there are good reasons, in the past success of science and the elegance of the laws so far discovered, to hold it. But to do so is as much a step of faith as is a commitment to the God hypothesis , which also has good reasons to support it, but cannt at present be conclusively established./wave

  22. says

    Your contention is that due to there existing a plethora of theistic options it is more intellectually prudent not to choose at allWhat are you talking about here? Who has ever suggested that simply because there are many options then it follows that none of them are correct? atheists believe rationality comes from Non-rational matter This is just too much self important semantic chicanery for me to wade into. If someone is willing to follow him down this rabbit hole, it might be interesting to see where it leads. I certainly don't have the stomach for it. Especially considering quantum was somehow invoked just to play the "it takes faith to be an atheist" card. Is there a rule yet, similar to Godwin's Law, about using quantum in an argument?

  23. says

    "Your contention is that due to there existing a plethora of theistic options it is more intellectually prudent not to choose at all. I simply apply this flawed logic to the fact that there exist a plethora of viable moral theories in existence which means that if we apply the same flawed logic it would mean one ought not to choose at all but rather opt out and be amoralist"Doesn't need to be a plethora of theistic options to choose from. There doesn't even need to be one. If someone lived stranded on a island there whole life, and never heard or thought of the concept of religion/theism, then he/she is an atheist by default. Without belief in a deity.I haven't heard a good argument, or seen any reasonable evidence for a god/s existence. Thats why I dont believe. The fact there are many different (mutually exclusive) theistic options makes me highly dubious of the god claims in general.What I find interesting is you wrote a list of moral options, and claimed atheists shouldn't pick one because of our 'flawed logic'. Does this imply that you did look at a list of moral options and picked one? If so, did you pick one that happened to have murder as a bad thing? why?

  24. says

    L2Philosophy.To misquote Winston Churchill: Never in the history of mankind have so many long words been twisted into so many meaningless sentences to say so little of use to so few.It says a lot for the state of education in (I assume) the USA, that you have obviously learnt a lot of impressive words without having any understanding of how to put them together to make a coherent thought.

  25. says

    @L2PhilosophyYour contention is that due to there existing a plethora of theistic options it is more intellectually prudent not to choose at all. I simply apply this flawed logic to the fact that there exist a plethora of viable moral theories in existence which means that if we apply the same flawed logic it would mean one ought not to choose at all but rather opt out and be amoralist.The problem here is that you assume that morality is as simply divided as theism, in that you can only have one guided belief. However, a person's morality is far more diverse than what their theistic belief is. Amongst even atheists, morality takes on a wide variety of forms, and we often ascribe ourselves to multiple viewpoints on morality, unlike in the case of theism (except in rare cases). So your statement is false… with the plethora of moral options we often choose several, not just one.We all reject forms of secularism, I just go one furtherIt's probably the other way around. Everyone accepts some form of secularity, in that even you separate yourself from the religious laws and dictates of faiths outside your own (unless you are claiming to eat food that is both halal and kosher). We go one further, and separate ourselves from all religious laws and dictates of faith.Naturalists can't really say that determinism truly exists, because that entails a purpose (determined by what or who?), but nature is purposeless.Then you do not understand what determinism is. Determinism is a philosophical belief that the universe is deterministic, and that all events that will occur cannot be changed. It does not imply that there has to be a purpose, but that all events are caused by prior events through the process of cause and effect. There is no need for a reason to be behind a deterministic universe.***To those empiricists please let it be known that without philosophy there is no way of differentiating the truth claim of an Easter bunny and the claim that a computer exists.***This is simple wordplay. There are multiple forms of philosophy, and they aren't all equal. Ethics and logic tend to be objectively useful philosophical topics, while epistemology and metaphysics tend to be unnecessary when discussing reality.

  26. says

    Then you do not understand what determinism is. Determinism is a philosophical belief that the universe is deterministic, and that all events that will occur cannot be changed. It does not imply that there has to be a purpose, but that all events are caused by prior events through the process of cause and effect. There is no need for a reason to be behind a deterministic universe.To throw in an example, determinism says that if a rock breaks off the side of a hill and starts tumbling down, then we should be able to predict where it lands, given sufficient information. There's no assertion at all that where the rock lands is somehow purposeful.

  27. says

    I became an atheist after being raised by Christian parents and studying many world religions and philosophies. I hosted radio talk shows in the 1960s and early 70s and challenged Christians on every aspect of their belief. In 1971 I interviewed a scientist and professor who believed in God and the Bible. I then interviewed another Christian who shared his simple faith in God. That led me to ask hundreds of questions about science and the Bible. When the dust cleared, I became a believer in Jesus Christ.In the 40 years since that time, I've talked with many atheists and agnostics about their beliefs. Maybe it's because I was an atheist and understand what it felt like not to believe that gives me an understanding and compassion. Maybe it's because God understands and has compassion for those who do not believe in Him. He was kind and patient with me. I see no reason to be unkind or impatient with those who do not believe as I do. Love is key.Mark McGee

  28. says

    I hope you're not just another "Drive-by Christianing".If someone runs into the blog, declares that he/she believes an invisible spidergoat eye-lasered the universe into existence, and then runs off, our reaction is going to be along the lines of:"Um, okay" – and then we proceed with our day as though nothing important had happened.

  29. says

    Oh, so L2Philosophy is back, as if none of the criticisms against his assertions ever happened…He started: "First off, Let's start with Atheism and Morality, without God you've already made a claim on which road to take:"What does this have to do with the definition of atheism? Nah, he's just repeating the bullshit from the other thread to get as much attention as possible.Secondly, what claims do atheists make? None.He continued: "Secular ethics (and atheism generally) are just as much assertions and so a claim to knowledge as is the assertion of theistic ethics (and theism generally). Hence BOTH require evidence according to be epistemologically rational "Oh, so to translate: Atheists have faith too…!Right…Underneath all his clever-sounding nonsense and avalanche of assertions it's still the same bullshit…."without a god you can't explain morality!" Well, we can…but I don't see why that matters. His entire argument crumbles when you ask the question 'do you need to be a theist to know right from wrong?' No? Then the entire argument is irrelevant.If he would admit you don't need theism to be good, then his entire argument boils down to him expexting atheism to somehow do something it's not supposed to. Underneath the bullshit is the childish:"Atheism doesn't explain where morals come from!"Sigh. No. It does not. Who cares?It's desperate. It's ignorant. I'm almost expecting him to end with: "god put something inside you to discern right from wrong, that's why deep down you know there is a god and you are just an atheist because you don't want to obey his laws which are good because he says so. In the bible."It's pathetic.

  30. says

    I've had an argument with an atheist who held the position that atheism specifically means you know their is no god or gods. It was rather annoying.

  31. says

    Your contention is that due to there existing a plethora of theistic options it is more intellectually prudent not to choose at allNo. We don't give up all hope of reaching a conclusion the moment there is more than one opinion on the matter.Instead, we recognize that we need a rational, evidence-based approach to determining which ideas to believe and which to reject. As opposed to the common theistic notion of simply picking the one you like better.…as atheists believe rationality comes from Non-rational matter…I sense a composition fallacy waiting in the wings. Just come on out and join the fun.a naturalist has a very good reason to think she may well be permanently deceived about a great many thingsWhich is exactly why we rigorously test our ideas over and over, constantly debate with each other and never, ever assume that we have the final answer. Because we know that we're very likely wrong about a great many things.However, you seem to think that this means that the attempt to correct our mistakes is futile. I don't see how you get to that.All physical evidence you encounter in your life is still based on the assumption that you exist, and that you aren't just a brain in a vat or just a simulation, or a computer program. This means EACH and EVERY piece of physical evidence in rooted in an assumption.Seriously? You're going with that?First, that I exist is not an assumption. It's in fact one of the few things I can be absolutely certain of. If I'm a brain in a vat, fine. But that brain still exists and is referred to as "I". Therefore I exist.I can doubt what I am, but that I am is beyond dispute.Second, much the same is true for the contents of my experience. I can't know with certainty where they come from, what their basis is or what this might mean vis-a-vis the "real world". However, it doesn't much matter. I'm experiencing something. This something seems to be fairly consistent and to follow certain rules (and yes, I'm skipping the big detour concerning the reliability of memory. I'd like to finish this post before the end of the month). By careful study, I am able to discover what these rules are and apply them in order to more consistently get the types of experiences I want.I don't need to be certain that the physical world is "real" (whatever that means). The fact that my experience presents itself in this form consistently means that it's entirely rational for me to act as if it was real.It doesn't matter what the "real world" is really like. This is my user interface, so this is what I have to deal with.Further, let us, for a moment, say that, OK, I am a brain in a vat and all my supposed sense experience is being fed to me by an advanced computer program. In such a scenario, the scientific enterprise is still entirely valid. It just transforms into studying the program whose output is our sense experience. Discovering a physical law and reverse-engineering a subroutine would simply be two terms for the exact same thing and it would be no less useful or meaningful.So, no, I don't need to make any unwarranted assumptions. I can derive my world view rationally from the most basic axioms.

  32. says

    You get an intelligent and well thought out reply and all you can do is ridicule it? That sure says a lot! @Dawnelle- Just because something is lengthy, that does not make it intelligent nor well thought out. Also, you made no more significant input into the discussion than basic ridicule would add, except that you had the added bonus of not being funny. I think the kids call it a "tone troll".

  33. says

    I absolutely cannot believe that you have the audacity, the sheer, unmitigated gall, to bring up the distinction between "proof" and "evidence" in this piece. How hilariously funny. How utterly self-demolishing.Why do I say so? Because in all my discussions with atheists over the years (I've been doing this for at least 25 years,) they INVARIABLY rely on that very confusion for their anti-intellectual control game.Consider where this starts:"There is no evidence for God."Notice that Kazim does not object to the statement. This is, in fact, exactly what atheists claim. In his mind, theists believe in the existence of God WITHOUT EVEN THE SMALLEST SHRED OF SUPPORTING EVIDENCE.That statement is obviously, ludicrously, unequivocally, indefensibly, irrefutably, gob-smackingly wrong. There exists 3000 years' worth of writers producing evidence supporting the existence of God. Consciousness supports existence of God. Morality supports the existence of God. Meaning supports the existence of God. DNA sequencing supports the existence of God. The 2.7 degrees Kelvin background radiation supports the existence of God. The 2nd law of thermodynamics supports the existence of God. In some arguments, the entire frakking universe supports the existence of God. Existence, itself, serves as evidence for God in some arguments.As soon as I point this out, the goal-post-moving begins. And how do the goal posts move? By confusing "evidence" with "proof." The atheist will claim that this or that argument cannot "prove" the existence of God. It doesn't matter whether the rebuttals are any good, just that the atheist posits a rebuttal to every argument. Because at the end of the discussion, after asserting that they have successfully stymied the theist from "proving" the existence of God, they reassert what they said at the beginning:"See? You believe in God WITHOUT THE SMALLEST SHRED OF EVIDENCE. There is NO EVIDENCE for God."The error is as plain as day. We believe because of the evidence, and by inference, necessity, and ruling out alternatives, just like you said. You would be speaking accurately if you said "I am not convinced by this evidence," or "This evidence is equivocal," or even "I think these are really dumb arguments," but no… that's not what you say. You say "There is no evidence for God."It's nonsense. There's a ton of evidence. You just don't think it's sufficient. You don't think it's proof. But representing the matter accurately does not suit your game, so you … lie.After playing the game over and over again, I have come to the conclusion that atheism is not a religion, and it's not even really a position. It's not even an argument. It's a control game. You just want to be able to call somebody names so you can feel good about yourselves. The proof is that you actually can explain the distinction between two terms that you constantly, deliberately conflate. The misuse is not a mistake, nor is it an accident. You know EXACTLY what you're doing.And that's why I have so very little respect for the intellect of atheists.Go ahead and ban me, and delete the argument. You know it's true.

  34. Afterthought_btw says

    L2Philosophy:Usually I'd love to get into a conversation on this subject, however you seem to have a lot of problems with definitions and logic, that the simple usage of a dictionary, and taking some very basic philosophy and/or logic courses could solve.Also, I noticed that you ran away in the last thread you posted things, and were just drive by… whatever it is you think you're doing… so I don't think it would be worth my time writing a lengthy post in response.Could I make a suggestion?Stop assuming you know more than anybody else does, check your definitions, find a starting point we can agree with and that the discussion can progress from (rather than making bald assertions it is obvious we don't agree with), and try again.P.S. You can disagree with our right to define ourselves, and the meanings of the terms referring to us all you want. It's a particularly stupid position, however, because it doesn't change what we do believe in one iota, and if we're going to have a conversation, you're going to have to deal with what we believe in, rather that your (erroneous) preconceptions about the terms we use to describe ourselves….Bleh, I'm in a grumpy mood today. :p

  35. says

    I think the problem is to a theist, they see their god like we see our brain.. and they can't imagine someone claiming to be without it. Which actually makes sense seeing how their god is just an idea inside their brain. It all seems like mis-attributed parts of their minds.If you say god doesn't exist what they're hearing is "That positive feeling that my brain feels when I think good thoughts doesn't exist" which offends them. Because tell them their dog's missing, they will indeed be able to see that either yes he is or no he is not.If you tell them no that's not a miracle, he just got better from medicine, they are just hearing "No this person just got better but who cares, they are just as unimportant as everyone else"And this is the basis for all the weak religious people that drive me batty. You can never get anything concrete from them. Well the bible says this? Ohh I don't follow the Bible, I follow my heart, but I'm not religious blah blah blah.Sorry for the rambling. Part of this prolly has something to do with my attempting to read CS Lewis Mere Christianity and it makes me want to kick a baby.

  36. says

    @philwynk"There exists 3000 years' worth of writers producing evidence supporting the existence of God."Books are not evidence of any supernatural being, if that would apply as evidence, than lets put fairys, ghosts, and aliens, and any supernatural nonsense, as real beings, since they have as much evidence as this suposed god."Consciousness supports existence of God."If you want to say that god, give us our conscience, than you need present evidence for your god first."Morality supports the existence of God."Morality is a set of rules, create by 2 or more individuals, to be able to live in society, how that would qualify as evidence for a god? and again, if you wana say that, "god created it", you need evidence of your god first."Meaning supports the existence of God."Meaning has no necessity of a god to exist, any human being can give a meaning to anything, even thing meaningless as a simples rock, can have meaning if any human desire."DNA sequencing supports the existence of God. The 2.7 degrees Kelvin background radiation supports the existence of God."WTF?"The 2nd law of thermodynamics supports the existence of God."And how a law of phisic that says, "that all work can transformed in heat, but not all heat can be transformed in work", woul prove that a god exist? "Existence, itself, serves as evidence for God in some arguments."No, because you didnt give any evidence for a god, you look at the universe, and you say that, "this have to be created", but that is just a assertion, you word that a god exist, its not evidnce for one.

  37. Afterthought_btw says

    philwynk:Care to back up any of those assertions?That statement is obviously, ludicrously, unequivocally, indefensibly, irrefutably, gob-smackingly wrong. Let's see…There exists 3000 years' worth of writers producing evidence supporting the existence of God. First define 'God', then please show how this constitutes as evidence.Consciousness supports existence of God.Please show this.Morality supports the existence of God.Please show this. (Without a circular argument, please.)Meaning supports the existence of God.This strikes me as rather a meaningless sentence. Please define what you mean by 'meaning', and then show how it supports the existence of a god.DNA sequencing supports the existence of God.Really! That's news to me! Please prove this assertion.The 2.7 degrees Kelvin background radiation supports the existence of God.Yup, you guessed it. Please show this.The 2nd law of thermodynamics supports the existence of God.Please define what you understand as the laws of thermodynamics (all of them, so I know you actually know what you are talking about), and then show how this proves the existence of 'God'.In some arguments, the entire frakking universe supports the existence of God. A very odd phraseology of the question. I'm starting to wonder if you understand what the word 'supports' means. If it supported the existence of a god in one argument, it would support the existence of a god full stop, not merely in 'some arguments'. Anyway. Please show this.Existence, itself, serves as evidence for God in some arguments.As above, I'm doubtful you know the meaning of the word 'evidence' here. Regardless… please show this.It almost seems to me as though you are claiming it is enough to merely assert that something is evidence for it to in actual fact be evidence, which is a rather odd position to hold, and I suspect you will not find many people who would use that same definition. This may be why you get irritated with atheists – you are using a definition they don't accept as to what constitutes evidence.Finally:Go ahead and ban me, and delete the argument. You know it's true.I am confident enough to say that there's no chance of that happening. That's not to say you couldn't behave in such a manner that would get you banned, but this is unlikely to achieve that.Also, there's no way the 'argument' could be deleted for being 'true': You haven't provided an argument yet. You've made a number of assertions I have asked you to back up. Kind regards,ATB.

  38. says

    The evidence you provide is in violation of the presentability standard of evidence, the testability requirement of evidence, the repeatability requirement of evdience, and the exclusitivity requirement of evidence (providing additional supporting evidence that excludes other possibilities). The logic is not valid.This piece evidence does not meet the basic standards of evidence.Consciousness supports existence of God.This piece of evidence is in violation of the falsifiable requirement of evidence, the testability requirement of evidence, the repeatability requirement of evidence, and the exclusitivity requirement of evidence.The logic is not valid.This piece of evidence does not meet the basic standards of evidence.Morality supports the existence of God.This piece of evidence is in violation of the falsifiable requirement of evidence, the testability requirement of evidence, the repeatability requirement of evidence, the presentability of evidence, the objective requirement of evidence, and the exclusitivity requirement of evidence.The logic is not valid.This piece of evidence does not meet the basic standards of evidence.Meaning supports the existence of God.This piece of evidence is in violation of the falsifiable requirement of evidence, the testability requirement of evidence, the repeatability requirement of evidence, the presentability of evidence, the objective requirement of evidence, and the exclusitivity requirement of evidence.The logic is not valid.This piece of evidence does not meet the basic standards of evidence.DNA sequencing supports the existence of GodThis piece of evidence is in violation of the falsifiable requirement of evidence, the testability requirement of evidence, the repeatability requirement of evidence, the presentability of evidence, and starkly the exclusitivity requirement of evidence.This piece of evidence is engaging in the fallacy from analogy.The logic is not valid.This piece of evidence does not meet the basic standards of evidence.The 2.7 degrees Kelvin background radiation supports the existence of God.At this point I think you're just trolling, but…It actually supports the Big Bang theory.This piece of evidence is in violation of the falsifiable requirement of evidence, the testability requirement of evidence, the repeatability requirement of evidence, the presentability of evidence, the logic soundness requirement of evidence, and starkly the exclusitivity requirement of evidence.The logic is not valid.This piece of evidence does not meet the basic standards of evidence.The 2nd law of thermodynamics supports the existence of God.This piece of evidence is in violation of the falsifiable requirement of evidence, the testability requirement of evidence, the repeatability requirement of evidence, the presentability of evidence, the logic soundness requirement of evidence, and the exclusitivity requirement of evidence.The logic is not valid.This piece of evidence does not meet the basic standards of evidence.In some arguments, the entire frakking universe supports the existence of God. Existence, itself, serves as evidence for God in some arguments.This piece of evidence is in violation of the falsifiable requirement of evidence, the testability requirement of evidence, the repeatability requirement of evidence, the presentability of evidence, the logic soundness requirement of evidence, and starkly the exclusitivity requirement of evidence.The logic is not valid.This piece of evidence does not meet the basic standards of evidence.—You've literally submitted zero valid evidence that meets the basic standards of evidence.You may want to educate yourself on the basics…

  39. says

    For some reason it cut off the initial:There exists 3000 years' worth of writers producing evidence supporting the existence of God.So stick that at the beginning of my post.

  40. Martin says

    philwynk's "argument":There exists 3000 years' worth of writers producing evidence supporting the existence of God. Consciousness supports existence of God. Morality supports the existence of God. Meaning supports the existence of God. DNA sequencing supports the existence of God. The 2.7 degrees Kelvin background radiation supports the existence of God. The 2nd law of thermodynamics supports the existence of God. In some arguments, the entire frakking universe supports the existence of God. Existence, itself, serves as evidence for God in some arguments.[find = "God"][replace = "Artemis"][run]There exists 3000 years' worth of writers producing evidence supporting the existence of Artemis. Consciousness supports existence of Artemis. Morality supports the existence of Artemis. Meaning supports the existence of Artemis. DNA sequencing supports the existence of Artemis. The 2.7 degrees Kelvin background radiation supports the existence of Artemis. The 2nd law of thermodynamics supports the existence of Artemis. In some arguments, the entire frakking universe supports the existence of Artemis. Existence, itself, serves as evidence for Artemis in some arguments.Look! It works just as well!Man, this religion stuff is easy. Just assert shit, declare the discussion at an end, and then taunt people in the hopes they'll be too intimidated to rebut you. I guess what worked on the 5th grade playground at recess just applies to life itself!

  41. says

    Most of the time, the apologetic "evidence" mostly wilts from insufficient efforts to exclude other possibilities.My favorite example is the discovery of chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea. Among the possibilities that this evidence supports are {God, Equipment Shipping Accident}. While it does support both, the equipment shipping accident is far far more likely to be the answer.We can quickly gauge the likeness of each possibility based on how frequently similar events/instances have occurred in the past.We have plenty of examples of chariots, boats, moving equipment around, capsizes, etc. Right off the bat, this is quite mundane/realistic.On the other hand, we have exactly zero confirmed cases of a god, any kind of supernatural entity, or any kind of supernatural anything, ever. Thus, purely from examining its occurrence frequency, that possibility's likeliness is practically nil.It's silly to pick the most far fetched and the most unsupported option out of the other, much more realistic, possibilities.This is standard protocol for most apologetic examples of "evidence", though.What supporting evidence excludes natural possibilities for the asserted evidences of DNA, consciousness, morality, etc…?If you have nothing that excludes the other possibilities, you're just picking the most far fetched possibility out of a hat.No one is going to take you seriously. From an observer's perspective, this makes one appear to be the village idiot.

  42. says

    And keep in mind, the supporting evidence also needs to me the standards of evidence.You can't get away with violating the objective requirement of evidence by saying "But it just seems too complicated to have happened on it's own!", for instance. That's a subjective assessment (opinion) that isn't grounded in anything but one's interpretation of the facts. It'd need to be something demonstrable.

  43. says

    Consciousness supports existence of God. Morality supports the existence of God…That's actually a point I've been wondering; if maybe we shouldn't use that phrasing because it's open to misinterpretation. The problem starts with the core expression "evidence of X". Since any given data point can be made to fit multiple hypotheses, can it really be said to be "evidence" of any one of them? And if so, couldn't several competing ideas claim the same evidence?I'm not entirely sure what to do about this or if any other phrasing would be clearer and avoid such issues. I'd like to just open that point up to the floor and then move on.As soon as I point this out… you start building a straw man. So, let's just stop there. If anyone actually makes the argument you lay out in your post, I'll be happy to tell them to come up with something better or just shut up 'cos they're making us look bad.Of course, nobody in this thread has made such an argument, so maybe we can just leave it out, eh? Otherwise, I'm just going to start criticizing you for the crusades or something.Now, you're right that the things you mention constitute evidence. It is also true that these points of data can be made to fit a theory with a god. But, wait! They can also be made to fit a theory with no god. Oh no! What to do?You just don't think it's sufficient…Again, I'm going to ignore the rest of your blather and just focus on the one point you got right: We don't think there's sufficient evidence for god. So, let's ask the question: What would be sufficient evidence for god?Personally, I would require evidence to satisfy the standard of Ockham's Razor. I would need a collection of data wherein you had to have a god in order to explain it. It would have to be unexplainable by any method no including a god (or another claim of similar grandiosity).This is a time-honored, rational and objective standard, which has served us well. You may complain that I am indeed asking for definite proof of god (I don't think I am, but I acknowledge that it's a very fine distinction). However, all I am really doing is holding your idea to the exact same standard as any other. For any hypothesis to be accepted, it must:a) account for all the available datab) introduce the least possible number of new conceptsc) be falsifiableAlthough god ideas often stumble on c, in this case, I'm focussing on b. As long as there is any other idea which can account for the data without the use of god, then the god hypothesis must be rejected.You may complain about this, but it's really not our fault that you have decided to place your bets on a horse with no legs. Further, when you demand that all the other horses be crippled in order to give yours a fair chance, don't be surprised when people don't take you seriously.Finally, if you insist that we throw out the standard of Ockham's Razor, I'm forced to ask: Do you realize that the evidence also supports a theory of two gods? And three? And five thousand? Not to mention the transdimentional alien hypothesis and the doctrine of the great green arkleseizure. If we chuck Ockham's Razor, how are we then going to decide between the literally infinite number of ideas we could come up with? There's a reason we have Ockham's Razor. It's not there just to piss you off. Really, I promise.Go ahead and ban me, and delete the argumentOh, btw, get over yourself. You're not going to get banned unless you spam, troll or otherwise act disruptively. Argue for what you believe in good faith, back up your claims and respond when asked a direct question. We don't practice conformity of opinion here.Besides, we don't actually find you that threatening. Just saying.

  44. says

    Also, I noticed that you ran away in the last thread you posted things, and were just drive byIn all fairness, he just showed up back there again. So, to give him the benefit of the doubt, I guess he's just busy and can't post regularly.Sorry for the rambling.Hah, you think you're rambling :)

  45. says

    @Lucas"Oh, btw, get over yourself. You're not going to get banned unless you spam, troll or otherwise act disruptively."I think he wanted to get ban, because if he did, then he point would being "proved", and he would be "right", what he dont realize, is that if he were banned from the blog, hes god would not be proven, would just show that the moderation of the blog sucks, or it was on a shit mood when read this XD.

  46. says

    You're probably right. They do love their martyr complexes, don't they.But seriously, The Chris Langan guy posted on three different threads, most of his posts were blatant repetition and copy-paste jobs and it still took over a hundred comments and an admission that he had been lying before he was banned.To get banned on the strength of single comment would take some truly epic trolling.

  47. says

    "I think the problem is to a theist, they see their god like we see our brain.. and they can't imagine someone claiming to be without it. Which actually makes sense seeing how their god is just an idea inside their brain. It all seems like mis-attributed parts of their minds."You think incorrectly, for I do not have this problem and I'm a theist.

  48. says

    Not that I think any meaningful reply will be forthcoming from our wannabe comment-martyr but sometimes I simply can't ignore a baited hook.- There exists 3000 years' worth of writers producing evidence supporting the existence of God. The Australian Aboriginal culture predates that of the ancient Hebrews by +-40,000 years; they have innumerable Dreamtime stories "supporting" the existence of spirits like the Rainbow Serpent (the father of storms, carver of riverbeds and devourer of the sun). Since age and quantity of stories is important to you, perhaps you'd like to convert. However, if you were to read some Dreamtime stories and dismiss them as the naive or ignorant "just-so" tales of a prescientific culture designed to explain the unknown and shore up social hierarchies, I'd understand. The ways of the Serpent are mysterious and he may well have his reasons for denying you the faculties to comprehend his glory.- Consciousness supports existence of God. Morality supports the existence of God. DNA sequencing supports the existence of God. The 2.7 degrees Kelvin background radiation supports the existence of God. The 2nd law of thermodynamics supports the existence of God. In some arguments, the entire frakking universe supports the existence of God. Existence, itself, serves as evidence for God in some arguments.Wow, that's quite a scattergun you have there. Firing blanks, but nonetheless very noisy!I could, as others have done, have a crack at dismantling each and every one of these unsupported assertions, but it's Sunday morning in Oz and I have a life to live. Suffice it to say that simply proclaiming "X is evidence for Y" and expecting reasonable people to swallow it whole is about as naive as it gets (but at least it's easier to swallow than L2P's giant horse pill of freshman-philosophy failures).I would, however, like you to explain precisely why "the 2.7 degrees Kelvin background radiation supports the existence of God." In your own words, please, in a way that displays you understand the topic. Cribbing from apologetic websites is easy to spot (where else would you have found such inanity?).Would a godless universe, or universe with more than one god, or a different god, produce different values on the Kelvin scale? Why? What specific quality of your favourite god registers as 2.7K? What makes you think my Rainbow Serpent isn't producing that 2.7K? Your ancient holy texts? Texts are written by men on paper produced by men and are easily corrupted – but you can't explain the 40,000 years of perfect word-of-mouth re-telling of my Serpent's truths.Please prove me wrong. Debunk my Serpent. Show me precisely how your god is impacting the Kelvin scale.

  49. says

    Philwynk,Doesn't it strike you as strange that your god wants us to believe in him but can't be bothered to provide any evidence less obscure than the second law of thermodynamics?

  50. Admin says

    "Maybe it's because God understands and has compassion for those who do not believe in Him."I'm confused. Isn't this exactly the OPPOSITE both of what the Bible says and of what most Christians say? Why can't these people make up their minds? Are we going to be tortured forever for non-belief or not?

  51. says

    I'm an agnostic atheist. "Agnostic" because I don't know whether a god exists, but "atheist" because, given the information currently available, I don't share your belief that the god exists.You're confusing two different senses of 'Agnostic':* Not having proof one way or the other.* Not believing one way or the other.

  52. says

    You're confusing two different senses of 'Agnostic':It's not confusion. That's the proper usage. It's the Agnostic="I don't know" and Atheist="Believe there is no god" that's the colloquial bastardization.Most people are agnostic, both theist and atheist alike.

  53. says

    That's the point. We're advocating a position where the gnostic-agnostic division relates exclusively to the question of knowledge and the theist-atheist division relates exclusively to what you believe.You might like to read this article, since it deals with this very distinction.The naming convention that you follow is one often proposed by theists. It is often used in an attempt to discredit the atheistic position through semantics, exactly as the writer of the original email did.This behavior is annoying and unrealistic. The naming convention is nonsensical. Our method is both clearer, simpler and more in tune with how real people actually view themselves. As such, our view is more conducive to productive discussion and mutual understanding.

  54. Afterthought_btw says

    Lukas said:In all fairness, he just showed up back there again. So, to give him the benefit of the doubt, I guess he's just busy and can't post regularlyAh, fair enough – my apologies for that. Still don't want to waste my time with them though. :)

  55. says

    JT said…It's the Agnostic="I don't know" and Atheist="Believe there is no god" that's the colloquial bastardization.Oh I see. It's a few people with a recent technical definition who have the 'real' meaning, and everyone else who had the word before them who's wrong.Odd how you don't let christians get away with redefining words as they chose.Most people are agnostic, both theist and atheist alike.Which is precisely why your definition isn't useful.I am an atheist – I believe that there is no god. Other people are agnostics – they believe there are no convincing arguments for there being or not being a god.I think they haven't grasped the burden of proof, but their agnosticism consists in their having not decided.

  56. says

    Lukas wrote:Our method is both clearer, simplerYour method would be simpler and clearer if it didn't consist in adding new definitions to words which already have several definitions.As it is, you've just made a set of simple, clear distinctions which are rendered complex and murky by your choice of words.and more in tune with how real people actually view themselves.That's simply false. In common language, your term 'Gnostic Atheist' is a contradiction in terms, and once explained means what most people (including atheists) mean my 'Atheist'.If you ask a christian "Do you believe in god?" and "Do you believe that it is true that god exists?", then as far as they're concerned you've asked the same question twice.The distinction you're trying to tease out – between what you call a Gnostic Theist and and Agnostic Theist – may or may not be a valid one. But even if it is valid, it's neither commonly understood, nor useful.

  57. says

    Odd how you don't let christians get away with redefining words as they chose.I would gladly let them redefine terms anyway they want. The problem is when they redefine terms:1) in the middle of an argument2) without telling anyone3) and then lie about it when you ask for clarificationYour method would be simpler and clearer if it didn't consist in adding new definitions to words which already have several definitions.Not adding, changing. Language changes over time. As long as it changes in the direction of greater clarity and usefulness, I don't think that's much of a problem. Yes, there is a transitional period before everybody is clear on the new definitions. That's why I bother arguing for my point of view and clarifying things when necessary.your term 'Gnostic Atheist' is a contradiction in terms, and once explained means what most people (including atheists) mean my 'Atheist'.Who the what now?Gnostic atheist is a contradiction in terms? Strange, since with regard to some god claims, I do in fact consider myself to be a gnostic atheist. E.g. if you claim that your god is a pink odor with three horns called Gerald, I'm going to state that I KNOW that you're wrong, because, obviously, there couldn't possibly be any such thing (provided we keep standard definitions of words).Ergo, gnostic atheist is not inherently contradictory.Second, "gnostic atheist" is most certainly not what everybody means when they say "atheist". In most situations that's not how I use the term, nor is it the most common usage I run into when talking to other atheists.Usually, it's only when talking to theists that this is a problem.If you ask a christian "Do you believe in god?" and "Do you believe that it is true that god exists?", then as far as they're concerned you've asked the same question twice.Because you have asked the same question twice. The word "believe" means "to accept at true". Now, if instead you ask "do you know that god exists, then you're asking a different question. Some christians will freely admit that they don't know. They rely on faith.So, all the terms, as defined above are valid, noncontradictory and have real world examples.Now, let me ask you, if we assume your definitions (theist is one who believes in god, atheist is one who rejects god, agnostic is one who has no opinion on the matter), then:1) How do you distinguish between one who believes by faith and one who believes by evidence?2) How do you distinguish between one who disbelieves by evidence and one who disbelieves because of a lack of evidence?With my definitions, I can make these distinctions without introducing any new terms at all. Can you?

  58. says

    Lukas said…Not adding, changing. Language changes over time.First of all, you're not changing the language, you're trying to add to it, by adding new meanings to old words. You are not erasing the old meanings, and it's not within your power to do so.Most likely your proposed new meanings will only be used by a few American atheists, who will have to explain them when trying to talk with anyone outside their circle. That's not a good way to reach people.there is a transitional period before everybody is clear on the new definitions.You seem to think you have dictatorial control over the English language. "your term 'Gnostic Atheist' is a contradiction in terms, and once explained means what most people (including atheists) mean my 'Atheist'." Who the what now?One typo and you can't parse your own native language? See below.Gnostic atheist is a contradiction in terms? Strange, since with regard to some god claims, I do in fact consider myself to be a gnostic atheist.By your definition, so do I. But seeing as 'Gnostic' as in the common meaning found in 'Gnostic Gospels' means 'possessing secret knowledge of god', and 'atheist' as in 'international conspiracy of socialist atheist darwinists' means "someone who's certain there is no god'…there's an obvious contradiction.Which means in calling yourself a 'Gnostic Atheist' you have to spend several minutes explaining what that means before you can start explain why you're a Gnostic Atheist.E.g. if you claim that your god is a pink odor with three horns called Gerald, I'm going to state that I KNOW that you're wrong, because, obviously, there couldn't possibly be any such thingYou mean, like there couldn't be such a thing as a son who's his own father and simultaneously a ghost of wisdom?Putting that to one side though, the only way you know that a pink odour doesn't exist is that it's an irreconcilable contradiction – the opposite of a tautology.Most notions of a deity aren't contradictory in that way – though any holy book probably contains several mutually exclusive definitions of the deity, to be switched between as theologins need.Most definitions of a deity are too vague or confused to even ascertain whether they're internally contradictory or not.(provided we keep standard definitions of words).Erm. Do I really need to point out the inconsistency in what you just said?In most situations that's not how I use the term, nor is it the most common usage I run into when talking to other atheists.Then may I suggest you only know a small cluster of atheists?I'm British, and over here atheism is very common and not much of an issue. In fact, it's those with strong religious beliefs who're usually considered oddballs. So I know a lot of atheists – and I'd never heard the term 'gnostic atheist' before tuning in to Matt Dillahunty's podcasts.That's in spite of 25 years worth of theological arguments with believers, including professional theologins.

  59. says

    The word "believe" means "to accept at true". Now, if instead you ask "do you know that god exists, then you're asking a different question. Some christians will freely admit that they don't know. They rely on faith.Most christians don't think about it in such depth, and neither do most atheists.'To know' usually just means 'to believe something that is also true'. If you're philosophically inclined it can mean 'to believe because of good but not conclusive evidence' or 'to believe because of evidence that is conclusive, and maybe tautological'.'Faith' varies between 'believing in spite of any evidence one way or the other', 'believing in spite of the evidence being weak' and 'believing in spite of the evidence against being strong, even irrefutable'.With my definitions, I can make these distinctions without introducing any new terms at all. Can you?You have introduced no new words. But you have introduced several new meanings. So yes, you have introduced some new terms.And the issue is not whether one can make a case in one paragraph instead of three. The issue is whether the case stands up.Now, you asked: How do you distinguish between one who believes by faith and one who believes by evidence?Religious believers don't believe because of evidence. They believe because it gives them comfort to do so. They might cobble together some illogical arguments or some pretend evidence if they feel the need to justify their belief rationally, but these are just rationalisations after the fact.I suppose it may happen occasionally that a non-believer is foolishly convinced by these arguments and joins a church. But I'm confident they either:* won't stay converted, because they don't have the emotional need for a god-figure in their lives, or* will develop an extremely vague, token belief to justify them staying in the church because the community satisfies different emotional need.How do you distinguish between one who disbelieves by evidence and one who disbelieves because of a lack of evidence?What would constitute good evidence against the existence of god? For anyone who wants to believe, they can come up with any number of dodges to deflect the inconvenient evidence. That's part of what a religion is.If you speak to people who have lost a faith, I think you'll find they weren't persuaded by arguments against god – they were persuaded by the consistent weakness of all the arguments for god's existence.That, and mistreatment by church members, and often some personal tragedy which they couldn't reconcile with the belief that their god would protect them.As for one who disbelieves because of lack of evidence, that would be someone with no compulsion to find something mystical to believe it, but who has also examined the so-called evidence put forward by evangelicals, and seen that it's vacuous.Actually, someone like me.[Apologies if this appears multiple times. I'm having trouble posting.]

  60. says

    Most likely your proposed new meanings will only be used by a few American atheists…I'm Danish :/You seem to think you have dictatorial control over the English language.No, I have the same amount of control, as you or anybody else. I'm not trying to control language any more than a person who's lobbying for a change in legislation is trying to control a country.It's democratic process. If I can get enough people to agree with me, my position will be the new consensus. So, I argue for my position and try to convince people.You seem to think this is somehow illegitimate. Why?Is there some reason why a change in language may not be rationally instigated?One typo and you can't parse your own native language? See below.See above.Do I really need to point out the inconsistency in what you just said?There's no contradiction. While discussing a possible revision of words, you need to discuss one word, or collection of word, at a time. If you try to re-negotiate the definitions of all words of a language at the same time, you end up with a break in communication.It's not an inconsistency. It's a practical necessity.

  61. says

    Most christians don't think about it in such depth, and neither do most atheists.'To know' usually just means 'to believe something that is also true'Clearly, any reasonably intelligent person can grasp the difference between belief and knowledge if you bother to take two minutes to explain it. So, why should we defer to the lowest, stupidest denominator?Should we disallow the use of the term "spin" in physics just because most people will not understand it? I mean, the average person might say that "spin" ought to be right or left, not up or down. Should we change the terminology of physics to suit Billy-Bob and his drinking buddies? Or should we expect people to do a minimum of thinking before they join the discussion?After all, if you can't bother to do five minutes of reading before you open your trap, then why should we take your opinion on god seriously?You have introduced no new words. But you have introduced several new meanings. So yes, you have introduced some new terms.I guess I have to really spell it out for you, huh?I can define these positions using only two sets of two terms: atheist-theist and agnostic-gnostic. Can you, using the same number of terms, define the same number of positions or more?Religious believers don't believe because of evidenceI spoke to some just two days ago that would seriously disagree with you.Now, granted, I don't accept their evidence, but nevertheless, they self-define entirely differently from those who say that they believe by faith.

  62. says

    any reasonably intelligent person can grasp the difference between belief and knowledge if you bother to take two minutes to explain it.Can they? Is knowledge belief supported by more than some threshold of evidence? Is it belief that agrees with the majority of experts on the subject? What happens when the concensus changes? Does it have to be supported by multiple scientific experiments, or will a hundred anecdotes suffice? What if it's not testable by the science of the time? Once proven, was it always true?Could it be belief that agrees with what's implied by what you consider has been proven, but hasn't been proven itself? Does it only apply to quantifiable phenomena? Does the distinction rely on a coherence or a correspondance theory of truth? And is it foundationalist? Where does proof by mathematical tautology fit in?Your distinction between knowledge and belief, common as it is in indo-european languages, isn't so clear cut as it first appears. You need a fairly major epistemological system behind your four-way division.As a side issue, in Dutch there's 'weten' and 'kennen' (Loosely, Bertrand Russell's 'knowledge by aquaintence' and 'knowledge by decription'). You seem to collapse this distinction, common to most germanic languages. Why?I can define these positions using only two sets of two terms: atheist-theist and agnostic-gnostic. Can you, using the same number of terms, define the same number of positions or more?Bravo, you have four words that let you define four positions on a grid.Here are some positions your system can't handle:* I believe, and that's all the evidence I need for me, though you may need more.* I believe, and the strength of my belief should be good enough evidence for you.* I believe, and I don't concern myself about the evidence, though I don't have a problem with those who do.* I believe, and though I don't know what evidence there is, my pastor tells me there's lots of it.* I believe, and though I recognise that the evidence I have isn't good, I'm confident there is better evidence as yet undiscovered.* I believe, and I've discovered a single fact which proves I'm right – and if you disagree you're influenced by satan.* I believe because the absence of evidence is a test of faith.* I believe in something, though I don't define it because what I really believe in is the church.* I believe because my toaster says he'll kill me if I don't.* I don't know whether to believe or not, but I'm playing safe by pretending.* My wife believes, so I guess I do too.* I don't believe in god because no one's been able to tell me what god is.* I don't believe because if god exists he's a bastard.* I don't believe because the bible is inconsistent – if it weren't, I might.* I don't believe because the classical proofs of god are illogical.* I don't believe because most christians are idiots and I'm not.* I don't believe in god because I was raised by atheists and I've never thought about religion.Your system is neat and simple. That doesn't make it useful.they self-define entirely differently from those who say that they believe by faith.If you ask one believer at a dozen points in their life why they believe, they'll give you a dozen incompatible answers. Most will be vague and none will be accurate.You mention faith. I gave three notions of faith earlier – 'believing in spite of any evidence one way or the other', 'believing in spite of the evidence being weak' and 'believing in spite of the evidence against being strong, even irrefutable'. Do you mean one of these, or some other? Faith is another word which is only clear from a distance.

  63. says

    I can't believe that we have an atheist here who's trying to stir-up trouble with the whole "agnostic versus atheist" issue. I'm not calling him a troll because his views seem sincere, but his rationale is mind-boggling and appalling.First of all, "agnosticism" is not "a-Gnosticism." Gnosticism with a capital 'G' refers to a particular ancient belief system, yes. But to suggest that "gnosticism" equals "Gnosticism" is disingenuous, if not simply ignorant of linguistics. Both terms share the same root: "gnosis" which means "knowledge." It doesn't refer to any specific kind of knowledge. Thus, "gnosticism" means "the position that one can or does have knowledge."Here's a virtually perfect analogy: "gnosticism" is to "Gnosticism" as "stoicism" is to "Stoicism." When people use the word "stoicism" to describe themselves or other people or fictional characters, what do they mean? Of course, they most likely are not talking about the ancient Greek philosophy of "Stoicism."There is a clear difference between "knowledge" and "belief." "Knowledge" pertains to a claim of 100% certainty. Knowledge is comprised of facts. "Facts" are pieces of information that are beyond question. "Belief" has no claim to any certainty. Belief is comprised of opinions. "Opinions" are subjective feelings. When you "believe" in something, you accept that it's true because you feel that it's true, for some reason, though you may not be able to prove it in any way.

  64. says

    Here's my paraphrasing of a popular example of the difference between "belief" and "knowledge": Let's say that you meet with a friend from whom you haven't heard in a month. She tells you that she was out of the country, which was why she was out of touch. In that moment, you can choose to believe her or not. Let's say that you believe her, because she's been mostly honest with you in the past, so you have no reason to not take her word at face value. However, you have no evidence of claim, other than her absence. Therefore, you do not know whether she's telling the truth or lying.Your belief will determine what you do next. Since you do believe her, then very likely you'll ask her where she went, how her trip was, what she did on the trip, etc., as any friend would. You would not ask such questions if you believed that she was lying, unless you suspected her deception and were questioning her to test the consistency of her story. But even in that case, your entire attitude would be different, which reflects your belief or lack of belief. There are only two possibilities: Either she's telling the truth about being out of the country, or she's not. Even if she were out-of-town but within the country, she would still be lying. Again, you don't have any more information other than her statements, so you don't know anything about the situation.In terms of the god issue, there are two relevant questions: "Do you believe in one or more gods?" and "Do you know that one or more gods does exist?" These are different questions due to the difference between belief and knowledge, as illustrated in the example above. Of course, there are plenty of theists who claim to know the existence of their deity, but I've discussed early in this thread why they do not actually know. Their "knowledge" is based on faith, just like any theist's, and it's based on their simultaneous belief in fideism (the position that faith is a valid epistemological approach). But there are also many theists, usually liberal believers, who do not make such a claim. They understand that their faith is no better or different than that of believers of other religions, so they don't know that what they believe is true.There are only two possible answers to the question, "Do you believe in one or more gods?" If your answer is "yes," then you are a theist. If the answer is "no," then you are an atheist. That's all. I've been to plenty of atheist sites, and most self-identifying atheists that I've encountered accept the definitions of "agnosticism" and "atheism" that I and others here have offered. I've never personally encountered any atheist who claimed, with 100% certainty, to know that no gods can possibly exist. Everyone just seems to be reasonably sure that none exist, which is a claim of belief, not of knowledge.Do you get it now?

  65. says

    If it means that much to you, call me an agnostic. I don't care all that much. It's not going to change my actual opinion or view. Sheesh. The reason I don't go by "agnostic" when I am asked is that it also is misunderstood. People tend to think it's a "middle ground", or worse, that I think the whole thing is a 50/50 proposition. I'd rather have people think I absolutely don't think there could be a god than to think I've considered it so little as to think god is equally as likely as unlikely. One word rarely sums up a person's whole view on the nature of religion. Take the word "christian" as an example.It's amazing that we can't even get past the introductions to get to an actual discussion.

  66. says

    Here's another example: Someday, you might encounter someone who tells you something along the lines of, "I believe that this sound is red, but I know that this sound is not red." You'd probably think that he's either deluded or he's messing with you by talking gibberish, even though he seems sane and sincere. But then you discover that he's actually a synesthete, and so his statement makes sense and is accurate.He believes the sound to be red because that's what he perceives due to synesthesia. However, he realizes that a sound can't be red because sounds, by definition, do not have a visual nature. In his physical environment, sound waves are stimulating his eardrums but do not enter his eyes as photons. His perception of red with the sound is entirely within his mind. He is also aware that synesthesia works differently for different people, so other synesthetes may not perceive the same sound as red at all.The idea that "belief" and "knowledge" may be on the same continuum of certainty is good food for thought, but nothing more. They are distinct concepts, even if the feelings associated with them are related. Anyone of average intelligence understands that a "body of knowledge" is not synonymous with a "collection of beliefs" or a belief system. If there were no clear-cut distinction between "belief" and "knowledge," then a belief system or a "collection of beliefs" would be not much different from a "body of knowledge." To make such an argument would simply be disingenuous rhetoric.

  67. says

    After posting that last bit I thought about people these days who insist on being called "christ followers" instead of "christians". You know what I don't do? Insist they are christian and tell them what it "really" means. Because that wouldn't allow us to get to something important and, also, it would be kind of dickish. And to make it worse, imo it seems like I'm using the correct term. So it would be tantamount to me telling some who calls themselves a christian that they really should go by "christ follower" because that's not what I think of as a christian.

  68. says

    I can't believe that we have an atheist here who's trying to stir-up trouble with the whole "agnostic versus atheist" issue.The issue is whether Lukas's system is useful for understanding belief or helpful in explaining belief to believers. I suggest that it is elegant and simple, but not useful or helpful.I'm not calling him a troll because his views seem sincere, but his rationale is mind-boggling and appalling.I think you just have called me a troll. And I rather think you mean 'reasoning' not 'rationale' – unless you're claiming telepathic abilities.to suggest that "gnosticism" equals "Gnosticism" is disingenuous, if not simply ignorant of linguistics.The original point was that to most people 'gnosticism' is 'Gnosticism', because they haven't heard of the attempt to give it a new meaning.And by the way, linguistics is my field. Which is why I can identify this…"gnosis" which means "knowledge." It doesn't refer to any specific kind of knowledge. Thus, "gnosticism" means "the position that one can or does have knowledge."…as the Argument from Etymology. By which reasoning 'Christ' means 'the spillage' and the god of Genesis (Elohim) is a group of women.There is a clear difference between "knowledge" and "belief." "Knowledge" pertains to a claim of 100% certainty.Presumably you're referring to the knowledge, not the person, being certain. But it's not a helpful starting point, because there are (to my knowledge) only two forms of knowledge that can claim to be certain.The first are mathematical truths, assuming that mathematics is both complete and consistent – Hilbert's 10th problem, Goedel etc. The second are 'qualia' statements – 'I am at this moment experiencing a visual sensation of red' etc.Knowledge is comprised of facts. "Facts" are pieces of information that are beyond question.You've just defined knowledge as being composed of little bits of knowledge."Belief" has no claim to any certainty. Belief is comprised of opinions. "Opinions" are subjective feelings.Opinions are emotions?! Suspicions? Hypotheses?When you "believe" in something, you accept that it's true because you feel that it's true, for some reason, though you may not be able to prove it in any way.You've forgotten the distinction between 'believing that' and 'believing in' – 'I believe that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon' and 'I believe in jesus'.The latter is related to 'faith', a term you don't mention.

  69. says

    There is also a simple linguistic illustration of the difference between "belief" and "knowledge": When a belief has little or no basis in reality, it is called a "delusional belief," but there is no such phrase as "delusional knowledge." Since knowledge is inherently based in reality and not merely a matter of perceptions and feelings, the corresponding term would be something like "incorrect knowledge" or "faulty knowledge" or simply "lack of knowledge." You can have a "delusional belief" that demonstrates your "lack of knowledge," such as the anti-vaccination belief. Many anti-vaxers are clearly dead certain."Belief" and "knowledge" are far from the only pair of distinct concepts that seem to lie on the same emotional spectrum. One example is "like" and "love." Like with the former pair, people often use these words in casual conversation to refer to different degrees of the same feeling. But when used more rigorously, "love" in almost any context implies more than "extreme like." And just as you might be hard-pressed to draw a definite line between "confident belief" and "knowledge," you'd be equally hard-pressed to draw a definite line between "really like" and "love."A more concrete example might be the difference between "good" and "great" when evaluating art. In casual conversation, people might describe something as "really, really good" and "extremely good," even though "great" is less to say. So why do people use words in this way? Clearly, there is a widely-understood distinction between "good art" and "great art," even though both are subjective evaluations of quality that are based on how strong of a positive reaction that one has. A "great" work of art is often used synonymously with the word "masterpiece," which specifically implies something that will prove to be influential, studied, and able to stand the test of time. But one can like a piece of art so much to be beyond words and yet not judge it to be a "masterpiece" or "great."Along those lines, you can love a movie without thinking that it's "great." I doubt that most people claim their favorite movie to be the "greatest/best movie of all time." One may recognize that a movie (or book or song, etc.) has a sentimental appeal that's specific to you and your life, which puts your feelings about it beyond the realm of artistic judgment. That's why people use such as phrases as "guilty pleasure" (something that you admit is not "good" but that you enjoy anyway) and "I admire it, but I don't like it very much." You'd claim all of these cases to be "nonsense," "redundant," or "tautological" if you didn't recognize that distinct pairs of concepts do exist despite how similar or related they are to each other.

  70. says

    Here are some positions your system can't handle:I wasn't trying to handle those positions. I never claimed that my system could describe the totality of human thinking. I don't know where you got this idea. Also, I can't help but notice that in describing these positions, you've introduced a fuck-ton of new terms and ideas, so clearly your naming conventions can't handle these either.Sooooo, what was the point of this, again?Your distinction between knowledge and belief, common as it is in indo-european languages, isn't so clear cut as it first appearsOh, boo fucking hoo! Life is complicated. We might actually have to stop and think once in a while. What a fucking horror!As a side issue, in Dutch there's 'weten' and 'kennen. You seem to collapse this distinction, common to most germanic languages. Why?Are you telling me that you'd like to introduce this distinction? Do you think it would be useful to do so? If so, why are you allowed to do that when I'm apparantly not? I mean, when I tried to do this, you called me "dictatorial". What gives?If you really want this distinction, fine. We could call it theoretical knowledge and experiential knowledge, or something like that. Now, what do you wish to do with this new distinction?You seem to have some sort of point waiting backstage, but I'm not seeing it. So, words are complicated and their definitions often fall apart under close scrutiny, but so what? No system of naming conventions can cover all possible positions, and who cares?You do realize that this is not a problem unique to my position, right?Also, in this context, I don't actually much care about clear definitions of "belief", "knowledge" and "faith". Let them remain blurry. It doesn't matter. I'm not here to solve the accumulated philosophical problems of millennia. All I'm trying to do is institute a system of nomenclature which is reasonably clear and which allows for certain distinctions that are not found in more traditional use, but are still, in my opinion, important.

  71. Afterthought_btw says

    Kapitano:For the record I'm a British atheist, and I know no atheists that use the word as you do, nor the word gnostic as you do. (In fact, most people I meet have barely even heard of the Gnostic Christian sect (if at all), and thus I find it rather amusing that they would be basing their understanding of the terms 'gnostic' and 'agnostic' on that.)I do, however, come across people continuously that use the words the way Lukas has been describing them, and on the internet it seems almost unanimously used that way.The only reason I'm pointing this out, is it strikes me you have it entirely backwards when trying to claim that the definition you use is the popularly used one, and Lukas' is virtually never used by anybody.Oh yeah, seeing as you mention your long experience debating about this… I was taught these definitions for (a)gnosticism in a philosophy module at university, if that means anything.

  72. says

    Yes, in Dutch they use 'weten' and 'kennen' but in English they just use the same word 'knowing' which can be used in both instances. 'I know that guy'. (ken) 'I know 2 + 2 equals 4' (weet). And I don't see how any of this matters. Knowing a god and knowing he exists…there is only one question: how do you know?There is a distinction however that could lead to miscommunication between atheist and theist. Belief in god and belief in a god's existence. Faith that he exists and/or faith that he has a plan for you. The latter presupposes the first. And I think the latter is also commonly misused by theists whenever they claim atheists are only atheists because they lost someone or because they didn't get what they want or that they don't want to obey god's laws. They are talking about losing faith in this god while we are talking about whether he exists or not. And sometimes this can cause friction. Especially since those theists refuse to imagine a world without their god, they keep presupposing it with indoctrinated self-delusion and gullibility and insist we are wrong and they are right. Because they say so. Because they have faith in their god's plan and in their eyes we 'reject' it.Two different discussions, which only reveals the theist's ignorance regarding atheism. A-Theism. Without Theism. Without gods/without belief in gods.Try telling WLC that and your comment will be deleted, blocked and manipulated in their favour, to mean the opposite.

  73. says

    Farmboy said:Yes, in Dutch they use 'weten' and 'kennen' but in English they just use the same word 'knowing' which can be used in both instances. 'I know that guy'. (ken) 'I know 2 + 2 equals 4' (weet).Lukas's system seems applicable to 'weeten', but not to 'kenen'. That's not a point against the system, but it does ignore what christians (IMO, IME) regard as the important thing about god – their personal relationship with him.Leaving aside questions of how it's conceievable to have a deep intimate relationship with something so alien, with such a power imbalance, I think the psychologically attractive thing about the notion of a 'loving god' is the 'loving' part.There's no reason why there can't be a theistic position which holds that god exists, but doesn't notice us, and wouldn't care if he did. Islam has a god that's unknowable…except when it's politically expedient to know him.

  74. says

    Afterthought_btw said… I do, however, come across people continuously that use the words the way Lukas has been describing them, and on the internet it seems almost unanimously used that way.I can only go by my own experiences and research. If I've somehow missed it, and the general population really are using such terms as "Agnostic Theist", then I can only say it's a very confused term, referring as it does to someone who believes god exists but also believes they've not got sufficient reason to believe it.So I hope it's just a passing fashion.

  75. says

    Lukas said:I never claimed that my system could describe the totality of human thinking. I don't know where you got this idea.What you are claiming is that your system is adequate to describe the range of beliefs about the existence of a god. I have been arguing that it only takes four badly defined points and plots them on a two dimensional grid.Also, I can't help but notice that in describing these positions, you've introduced a fuck-ton of new terms and ideas, so clearly your naming conventions can't handle these either.I have not introduced a naming convention in competition with yours. I have simply tried to explain why I think your system is not sufficient.Sooooo, what was the point of this, again?It's the one you keep missing. The one I keep restating, and have just restated again.Life is complicated. We might actually have to stop and think once in a while.Yes, life is complicated. Which is why oversimplified and overabstract schematic diagrams are misleading.Are you telling me that you'd like to introduce this distinction?No, I didn't say anything to suggest that, and even said it was a 'side issue'.All I'm trying to do is institute a system of nomenclature which is reasonably clear and which allows for certain distinctions that are not found in more traditional use, but are still, in my opinion, important.Fair enough. I think they're unclear and unimportant. You seem extremely upset that someone is questioning your nice neat diagram.I've now said all I intend to say on this thread, and I'm going to listen to show 727.

  76. says

    Kapitano: From the way that you are debating, I'm becoming increasingly suspicious of you, as you are being clearly disingenuous and/or ignorant. But for the sake of argument, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are sincere.First of all, please explain how your views are more "useful and helpful" than "Lukas's system" (which is not something that he made up, but rather the most common definitions for the concepts at issue here). You seem to suggest that "belief" is interchangeable with "knowledge," and that is why you reject our definitions of "agnosticism" and "atheism." However, I find your proposal to be more confusing, and I suspect that I am in the majority. Please go ask a bunch of your friends and strangers whether they think that "belief" and "knowledge" refer to the same thing, and see how many agree with you.Your understanding of the term "troll" appears to be as confused as your understanding of the other terms. "Troll" refers to one's sincerity and intent. "Rationale" has nothing to do with that. In fact, I'm not sure what your understanding of the word "rationale" is. My use of the word is wholly consistent with dictionary definitions, i.e., "a statement reasons; logic, basis, grounds." Merely having reasons implies nothing about sincerity or intentionality, and those reasons may be evaluated without respect to the person's sincerity or intentionality. I feel that all Christians' rationales for their beliefs are "mind-boggling and appalling," but I certainly don't think that all Christians are trolls.I don't see how your "original point was that to most people 'gnosticism' is 'Gnosticism.'" Where did you make this point? It's not even a valid point because most people are ignorant of most ancient history and have no idea what Gnosticism (with a capital 'G') is. But most people have at least a vague understanding of the word "agnosticism," so if you asked about Gnosticism, they'd guess that it's opposite of agnosticism. You claim to be a linguist but have done nothing to demonstrate your credentials; instead, you continue to show that you are, if anything, a poor linguist. You also ignored the analogy that I made with the words "stoicism" and "Stoicism."

  77. Afterthought_btw says

    Kapitano:I can only go by my own experiences and research. If I've somehow missed it, and the general population really are using such terms as "Agnostic Theist", then I can only say it's a very confused term, referring as it does to someone who believes god exists but also believes they've not got sufficient reason to believe it.That's not what it refers to, however. An agnostic theist would be someone who believes in a god, but doesn't claim to have absolute knowledge.If you like, it's the difference between saying: 'I'm pretty sure a god exists but I admit I have no definitive proof' and 'I am certain a god exists and I can prove it'. As a generalisation: your hard core proselytising theists tend to be gnostic theists, and your er… part time Anglicans tend to be agnostic theists. ;)Generally, though, you don't find many people self identifying as agnostic theists simply because they don't care enough about the subject to look into it.Also, it's something that is mainly used by atheists, as it is very helpful in correcting misapprehensions about what they believe.It's a handy way to explain to proselytising theists that being an atheist means we don't believe in a god, not that we believe no gods exist. Also, it helps destroy many stereotypes that religious people have put around about atheists. (Like the arrogantly presuming to know everything stereotype.)(As an aside, I always think the atheist = no gods exist definition is a very stupid definition. There is no hard and fast definition for the word 'god', so for the definition of atheist to mean anything, the atheist would have to provide the definition for 'god', and if you're doing that it is almost a truism that that particular 'god' doesn't exist."I'm an atheist.""So you don't believe god exists?""Yeah, I don't believe a one legged asexual hermaphrodite with tentacles rather than arms, no torso, and that is coloured both entirely green and entirely orange, doesn't exist."As far as I'm concerned that definition of atheist adds absolutely nothing to any discourse.)

  78. says

    I made no "Argument from Etymology." If you really want to go down that road, then a better point would be that the reason why "gnosticism" and "agnosticism" generally refer to discussions/claims about the god concept, rather than to any kind of knowledge, is that these words (and "gnosis" at their root) are based on the ancient concept of Gnostic Christianity. Likewise, "stoicism" is rooted in the ancient philosophy of "Stoicism," but most people today know what the former means while being totally ignorant of the latter. If I made any appeal to etymology, it was only to ground definitions with something concrete, not to make poorly-supported claims of definitions, as you do.Your further discussions of "knowledge" and "belief" are even more confused as you wax philosophical. But I can play that game, too. Although I concede that my initial definitions of "knowledge" and "belief" may not be the most clear, they are still less problematic than your views. "Knowledge" is not merely information. It is the intellectual apprehension of information. Knowledge cannot exist without someone to know it. Because "knowing," in the most rigorous sense, is only a function of a mind, and minds are unique, all knowledge is therefore ultimately subjective to some degree. All measurements are subject to human errors of perception and instrument design. All logic is founded on subjective premises; indeed, there are many different, mutually-incompatible mathematical systems based on different fundamental assumptions. See what you get when you go down that rabbit hole? You become skeptical of everything, including skepticism itself.For you to try to show that my definition of "knowledge" is circular is laughable, because anyone who looks closely will see that you've claimed a circular definition of the word "fact." So how do you define "fact"? As for "opinions," again I concede that my point was not made in the most clear way, and I actually suspected as much when I wrote it. But it was for the purposes of shorthand. An "opinion" is always understood to be something that does not claim to be a universal truth; it's subjective, based on an individual's feelings, preferences, and biases.I argue that there is no meaningful or useful distinction between "believing in" and "believing that." While you may be right that the former connotes a greater emotional significance that might be associated with faith, they are otherwise equivalent. Please go ahead ask people what the phrase, "I do believe in fairies," means. I bet that most will say, "It means that I believe that fairies exist." It is, after all, the theme of that iconic scene from Peter Pan (as well as the theme of the entire story).I would like to note that you claim that I didn't mention "faith," even though I used the word three times in a paragraph in which I discussed fideism. I would also like to note that you've ignored all of my subsequent comments after the one from which you quoted.

  79. says

    "I've now said all I intend to say on this thread, and I'm going to listen to show 727."I certainly hope that you come back here and read the replies and perhaps respond to them. Your statements haven't earned you much respect with anyone, and I'm even prepared to call you a bad atheist, in addition to a bad linguist. You haven't made any truly substantial arguments; you've just been poking holes at others' arguments, which is one of the most common tactics of theists. You call yourself an "atheist," but you haven't explicitly defined what you mean by that. Please also define "belief" and "knowledge." And now you're stubbornly (and vocally) disengaging yourself from the discussion, which effectively doesn't sound much different from a "drive-by" theist.

  80. says

    You seem extremely upset that someone is questioning your nice neat diagram.Don't. Just fucking don't. I argue for my point of view. I do so passionately, because I care. If you think that's a character flaw, then that says way more about you than me.Now, you seem to be interested in having a long, philosophical discussion about the nature of language and meaning. I'm sure that would be quite interesting, but that's not what I'm here for.I think this may be part of the reason for our disagreement, so allow me to spend some time clarifying my position.Here's my problem, in a nut shell:The definitions you use prevent me from clearly stating my position in a simple way. I can't call myself an atheist, because then people will think I'm claiming absolute knowledge. I can't say I'm an agnostic, because then people will think that I don't hold a position on the matter. These are real problems that affect real people having real discussions. I've run into each of these multiple times. If you haven't, fine. I have and they have caused me problems. I have chosen to address this problem by advocating what I find to be a simple, straight-forward method of labeling positions. Is it perfect? No. Show me a system that is.The reason I say things like: "Life is complicated. We might actually have to stop and think once in a while" is because I don't care about the issues you raise. Yes, concepts are difficult. Yes, definitions are murky. Yes, even very simple subjects turn out to be not so simple when you look at the details.So fucking what?My impression is that you're focussing so much on the details that you're missing the big picture. Your position might be relevant for a student of philosophy, but when I'm talking to some christian, I don't need that level of detail. I simply need to be able to clearly make certain key distinctions.In most conversations, you don't actually need to go over rules of epistemology, the nature of belief and whether something constitutes proper justification for a belief. You just need a clear, simple and reasonably accurate label that allows you to quickly distinguish between the major positions.Apparently you don't think that this is an important issue. OK. I disagree. Because I disagree, I'll keep advocating my point of view.

  81. says

    I've always known atheism and agnosticism to have the meanings that luke, or the hosts of this show would describe it. Kapitano's description is foreign to me, and he seems to be projecting his feelings onto luke for "having his neat diagram questioned". Kapitano, if you're reading this, just go with the flow man. Not everything has to be over-analyzed and dissected to the point where you're posting essays on this. For practical purposes just use the words as everyone else here does.

  82. says

    I have no patience to this kind of things, and iam having less and less, since i begin debating with a evangelical.I press him up against the wall, saying that, if god create the world at it is, then hes responsible for all the deaths we have every year caused by natural desasters, like hurricanes and earthquakes, and that after he kills those persons, he still gets to decide if they are going to heaven or hell.But i never spected the answer i got, he said that, maybe yes, maybe we deserve to be killed by his god, and tortured forever after, that we betrayed god, so we deserve the worst of it.Iam thinking what could i say as a answer, or if that discussion deserve a answer, because, after you crossed the line of : "yes, my god can torture us forever, and still be god" ; theres anything at all to be said?

  83. says

    he said that, maybe yes, maybe we deserve to be killed by his god, and tortured forever after, that we betrayed god, so we deserve the worst of it.Clearly this guy has been morally compromised to the point where he's actually insane. I see only one option: Get him to repeat himself in front of as large an audience as possible. He's a lost cause, but maybe he can serve as a cautionary tale.

  84. says

    Iam debating with him in a blog, and i know that a this point, theres nothing i could tell him, that would change his mind, is one of those guys:"God is good, no matter what…"The funny thing is (yes theres at least a funny thing XD), is that in hes eyes, iam the fanatic, bcause no argument he presented, make any effect on me. Well, that tends to happen when you copy&paste argument of Wayne Craig, and say that atheists are afraid of debating with him XD.What i think i cant never understand is, how someone can say that a god that create hell, is a good god? how someone can say that a god that killed all the first born of a entire nation, is a good god?A fucking god, should have the highest standards of ethics, of morals, of justice…but again, that shit was created more than 2000 years ago, maybe iam just expecting too much of it.

  85. says

    in hes eyes, iam the fanatic, bcause no argument he presented, make any effect on meHah! That sounds familiar. "I've made several arguments and you're still not convinced.""Because I refuted every one of your arguments, pointing out poor logic or unsupported premises""Yeah, sure, but I made so many of them!"

  86. says

    The worst thing about using the term as a fence sitting position is that people will call themselves agnostic so as to avoid telling you anything about their views. Such a cop out and a concession to the religious. It makes the term largely meaningless.

  87. says

    I can only go by my own experiences and research. If I've somehow missed it, and the general population really are using such terms as "Agnostic Theist", then I can only say it's a very confused term, referring as it does to someone who believes god exists but also believes they've not got sufficient reason to believe it.So I hope it's just a passing fashion.You mean sufficient evidence. An agnostic theist is a theist that acknowledges that their faith in god is solely based on faith, and doesn't try to claim evidence or logic as being the reason behind it.Which probably constitutes the largest majority of moderate theists.

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