Quantcast

«

»

Jul 12 2013

Can you be a good skeptic without being an atheist?

Brian Keith Dalton (aka Mr. Deity) gives his answer.

10 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Tyrant

    Can you be a good skeptic without being an atheist?

    My answer:

    Absolutely. It would be beside the point to demand a certain set of beliefs before someone can join the Skeptical club, since skepticism is not a defined set of beliefs about the world but rather an agreement about a method to evaluate claims. However, What definitely qualifies you a bad skeptic is if you start whinging and are annoyed/offended if someone applies the tools and standards of skepticism to your own “sacred cow”.

  2. 2
    richardrobinson

    This was funny, but I think this view demands that believers believe in a way that’s easy to debunk. The fact is there plenty of ways Christians can believe that just aren’t amenable to skeptical inquiry. If a person wants to believe in a nebulous god who doesn’t have any real effect on the world and is impervious to empirical investigation and call that Christianity, there’s not much I can say about it. And so long as they admit to me and to themselves the intellectual vacuum in which their belief exists, I see no reason to question their skeptical credibility.

    I know a few very devout Christians who believe in this way. Their values align just fine with mine, and they are some of the smartest and kindest people I know. Certainly better humanists than some atheists I’ve met.

  3. 3
    Tyrant

    @richardrobinson

    I disagree. There is imho a difference between skepticism and doing a scientific experiment. The principles of skepticism demands that beliefs that make strong claims are justified. Call it Occams Razor if you will. This strongly disfavours such elaborate proposals as most religious stuff in the absence of evidence.

  4. 4
    Corvus illustris

    If a person wants to believe in a nebulous god who doesn’t have any real effect on the world and is impervious to empirical investigation …

    The god of the philosophers, whose existence and properties can be deduced from metaphysical = heuristic principles. If people want to believe this entity exists–provided they maintain a skeptical position toward these principles–I don’t see a problem (some do).

    … and call that Christianity …

    Discussions of atheism on the internet are clouded by unstated assumptions that the theos in “atheism” is the Christian deity (usually–sometimes the Jewish one, sometimes the Islamic one), and identifiable with the metaphysical one (peace to FtB’s Avicenna). If the theos is one of these, then so much has to be taken for granted to be a theist that I think skepticism goes out the window.

  5. 5
    invivoMark

    So, let me get this straight. You think that if someone believes something without evidence, that doesn’t mean they aren’t skeptical?

    Exactly what do you think skepticism is if it doesn’t mean demanding evidence for propositions before believing them?

  6. 6
    Marcus Ranum

    “No.”

  7. 7
    Marcus Ranum

    Atheism is the disbelief in gods. Belief in gods requires proof, evidence or argument sufficient to establish that belief. Lacking that evidence, proof, or argument, skepticism requires disbelief.

  8. 8
    J. Quinton

    Being a “good skeptic” doesn’t necessitate that you’ve applied skepticism to every belief that you have. I would argue that being a good skeptic is following Luke Muelhauser’s advice:

    ” Skepticism and critical thinking teach us important lessons: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Correlation does not imply causation. Don’t take authority too seriously. Claims should be specific and falsifiable. Remember to apply Occam’s razor. Beware logical fallacies. Be open-minded, but not gullible. Etc.

    But this is only the beginning. In writings on skepticism and critical thinking, these guidelines are only loosely specified, and they are not mathematically grounded in a well-justified normative theory. Instead, they are a grab-bag of vague but generally useful rules of thumb. They provide a great entry point to rational thought, but they are only the beginning. For 40 years there has been a mainstream cognitive science of rationality, with detailed models of how our thinking goes wrong and well-justified mathematical theories of what it means for a thinking process to be “wrong.” ”

    If you are only following the vague but generally useful rules of thumb, then you are not being a good skeptic no matter how much of an atheist you are. You are just being a vague skeptic.

  9. 9
    richardrobinson

    You don’t demand evidence for everyone of your beliefs. No one does. You would not have time to live a reasonable life if you did.

    We all have beliefs we choose not to examine too carefully. It’s usually a cost/benefit proposition. Are the consequences of your belief great enough to justify the effort of examining it.

    For the Christians I’m talking about, the only Christians I could ever imagine would feel comfortable within the skeptical movement, their god-belief is not so important a factor in their decision making as to justify the effort in questioning it. So they don’t, and instead devote their time to more important questions.

  10. 10
    richardrobinson

    Are we going to demand such a personal cost from them before we accept their contributions? This seems spiteful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>