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John Shook weighs in now

And he offers a historical perspective on Skepticism and Religion.

Enlightenment theologians had to strike a bargain with scientific skepticism since they were terrified by a different, far older kind of skepticism: ancient Greek Skepticism. This rationalistic skepticism demanded high standards of provability before accepting anything as knowledge. The basic idea for a rationalist skeptic during the Enlightenment was something like this: Where reason and empirical inquiry cannot confirm, it must be disbelieved as unreasonable. For this rationalist skepticism, all the gods must go. The core of religion, and not just the claptrap, is entirely unreasonable and unbelievable, since no theological argument demonstrates a god’s existence and no empirical evidence is sufficient to support a god’s existence. Instead of saying "No Comment" to religion’s core claims, rationalist skepticism says "That’s unreasonable for anyone to accept."

To this day, many skeptics rely on both scientific skepticism and rationalist skepticism. It’s all about the appropriate use of reason. That is why being a genuine skeptic means being a disbeliever and being open about disbelieving everything religions talk about. But joining up with this current Skeptic(TM) movement means never having to tell the faithful how their god isn’t real. Is that too big a price to pay, to get more science accommodated by society?

To answer that last question, yes, it’s much too high a price to pay, especially since we aren’t getting a reasonable return on the investment. Science is a disruptive, revolutionary force, and lying about its implications does not lead to acceptance — it leads only to acceptance of an insipid shadow of science.

Comments

  1. Chuck says

    But joining up with this current Skeptic(TM) movement means never having to tell the faithful how their god isn’t real.

    Good to know. I’m out.

  2. scottrobson says

    Agreed. Science has always been disruptive. When renaissance scientists said – I really mean demonstrated – that the earth went around the sun, this was a challenge to the bible.

  3. scottrobson says

    Damn – pressed enter…. anyway, a skeptic couldn’t say “No comment” in light of this evidence. You have to say their god is not real.

  4. Sastra says

    From Shook’s article:

    Why does modern theology benefit from scientific skepticism? It’s a simple matter: so long as religion’s supernatural claims cannot be contradicted by anything science would ever say, then religion can continue to enjoy its own reasonable autonomy as a source of genuine knowledge about god. All scientific skepticism has to do is agree to this proposition: Where science can never disprove, science must fall silent.

    But science doesn’t deal in ‘proof’ — it looks for preponderance of the evidence and a tentative conclusion. It’s not silent. And the entire realm of the supernatural is supported by massive amounts of evidence, experience, and argument. Poor evidence, misinterpreted experience, and bad arguments. That counts.

    What is the difference between the “supernatural” and the “paranormal?”
    Press.

    I’ve often said that for me convincing evidence for the existence of God would probably have to involve several cumulative steps. Demonstrate the existence of mind/body substance dualism and now the God hypothesis looks much more likely — has something to build from. God is a disembodied mind which uses ESP and PK. If Skeptics have taken those 3 items on, then it has addressed the question of God using science.

  5. scourge99 says

    Though liberal Christianity is certainly an order of magnitude better than fundamentalism, we shouldn’t give tacit approval to their wish-washy beliefs by muzzling our criticism. And its not like this street only runs one way. Liberal Christians are completely within their right to criticize atheists for our beliefs. That doesn’t mean we can’t work together on the things we agree about. Shook seems to think its a deal breaker.

  6. says

    But joining up with this current Skeptic(TM) movement means never having to tell the faithful how their god isn’t real. Is that too big a price to pay, to get more science accommodated by society?

    Of course that it too high of a price to pay, especially since it is paying for something we’re going to get anyways for free, in exchange for giving up even more that we’re ALSO going to eventually get. It is sort of like the marriage equality movement, which could have accepted some tiny sliver of rights through “civil unions” in exchange for bullshit support from Christians and an end to any further progress towards full legal equality. Now we’re looking at Minnesota being the 12th state to legalize full rights by the middle of next week. Would that have been a worthwhile trade, a price worth paying, to give that up in exchange for next to nothing?

    Easier, I guess… for people who don’t have anything at stake, and who have as their guiding principle a desire to not have their feathers ruffled too much or to get too involved in anything stressful that doesn’t directly serve their most selfish instincts.

  7. evilDoug says

    appol’s if this gets double posted – I got a “gateway timeout” first try

    Is that too big a price to pay, to get more science accommodated by society?

    And just how much does this “Skeptic(TM) movement” contribute to getting more science accommodated, what ever the hell that means, by society?
    I’m inclined to believe that the women in secularism movement is a bigger, stronger and faster way to get more science into society. It is still the case that in primary and elementary schools in the US and Canada women greatly outnumber men as teachers. Win the minds of the teachers, win the minds of the kids.

    Science is a disruptive, revolutionary force

    This reminds me of some character Ophelia wrote about some time ago. IIRC, he was chastising Greta over something she had written about taking away peoples religion and replacing it with atheism. He contended that this would be unspeakably cruel because it would change the persons worldview. It damned well should.

  8. says

    It seemed like Jamy was perfectly willing to talk about religion, just not as an activist. There are some things I’m not willing to talk about as a physicist, but it would be inaccurate to say that I have given up the ability to speak of them.

  9. davebot says

    The core of religion, and not just the claptrap, is entirely unreasonable and unbelievable, since no theological argument demonstrates a god’s existence and no empirical evidence is sufficient to support a god’s existence.

    The problem is it’s claptrap all the way down, including the core. When you remove all the claptrap you get nothing but a vague and foggy agnosticism in which you believe in something that can’t be defined. Once that happens, the conversation goes:

    “I believe in something that has yet to be discovered”

    “What is this thing exactly?”

    “I don’t know…”

    At that point, why should we burn even a single calorie more thinking or arguing about it?

  10. gordonmacginitie says

    God exists: it is a combination of Fraud, Delusion and Hallucination.
    The fraud is the people who gain power and make a living by promoting the delusion.
    The delusion was crafted by the first of the fraudsters so that it can be supported by the hallucinations.
    The hallucinations are peculiarities of the human mind that can be beneficial in other contexts.
    Our enemy is the fraud, the clergy.

  11. says

    ancient Greek Skepticism. This rationalistic skepticism demanded high standards of provability before accepting anything as knowledge.

    Incorrect. Ancient Greek skepticism (and, specifically, later the pyrrhonian skeptics) refuted the possibility of correct knowledge, by arguing that claims of fact appear to be only observations and opinion, and that general claims such as induction are unreliable because it does not appear to be the case that the future is predictable from the past. Hume was clearly exposed to pyrrhonian skepticism and extended it brilliantly to argue that knowledge does not appear to be possible and that induction does not yield knowledge. Pyrrhonian skeptical tropes as written down by Sextus Empiricus, a Roman doctor living in the 1st century CE, became embedded in enlightenment thinking and were used as intellectual weapons of mass destruction before that in the wars of religion – Martin Luther’s arguments about papal infallibility appear to be at least somewhat inspired by Sextus’ methods.

    It appears that the pyrrhonians were sort of a curiousity in philosophy, since they would have been pointless to argue with: withholding judgement about any claims of fact and claiming that were dealing only with things as they appear to be in full acceptance of the overwhelming likelihood that those appearances are deceptive. One can imagine kicking a pyrrhonian skeptic in the kneecap, to attempt them to acknowledge one’s existence, only to get the unruffled reply, “it appears to me now that my knee hurts.”

    Ancient Greek skepticism was absolutely not demanding a high degree of proof, it was constructed so that there was no apparently acceptable level of possible proof.

    For those who are interested in learning what “skepticism” actually meant to philosophers, I highly recommend Popkin’s “History of skepticism, from Savanarola to Bayle.”

  12. says

    used as intellectual weapons of mass destruction

    What I mean by that is that both the Catholics and the Protestants used pyrhhonian skeptical methods to attack the other sides’ claims to revealed truth. Of course, once they did that, they discovered that they had also demolished their own claims to revealed truth. Consequently, David Hume won all the marbles, and still has them to this day.

  13. truthspeaker says

    It’s a simple matter: so long as religion’s supernatural claims cannot be contradicted by anything science would ever say, then religion can continue to enjoy its own reasonable autonomy as a source of genuine knowledge about god

    Those words I bolded? I don’t think they mean what you think they mean, Mr. Shook.