Friday, December 19, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
In one of the Biggles books, Biggles pulls a Muslim out of a pit.
Hearing the Muslim thank Allah, Biggles said "Allah pushed you in; I pulled you out."
The Muslim didn't get the point; it still didn't occur to him to thank Biggles.
by ranjit of AvC
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
What evidence would it take for an atheist to believe in a god?
This question comes up often enough to be worth a lengthy response, and, in short, my reply is that such evidence is impossible. I claim that any event that should ever occur to be observed by man that could suggest the existence of a deity will always, in every case, and indefinitely never amount to sufficient evidence for such an existence through no obstinance or arrogance of the atheist, but through mere logic and reason. My argument is as follows.
First, I'd like to draw attention, yet again, to the heroic (arguable) David Hume. Concerning miracles, Hume stipulated that in order for a miracle to be accepted as having occurred, the falsehood of the testimony would have to be more miraculous than the miracle itself. After all, the lesser 'miracle' would be more likely to have occurred, just as it is more likely that I am typing this text rather than it just appearing without any direct or indirect user input. To quote Hume: "When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion." This fairly accurate worded phrasing puts the nail in the coffin concerning that which would be required for a testimony of a miracle to be accepted as factual. We then have to ask ourselves how such a falsehood of testimony could ever be more miraculous than the miracle itself.
*On a quick side note, I can foresee the argument that my terminology only suggests that I will accept the more probable event, and that while winning the lotto is less likely than not winning the lotto, both are possible outcomes, and thus I erroneously equivocate the less likely (or improbable) with impossible. However, before you can suggest something to be possible it has to have been given evidence to support the claim. Miracles have yet to be shown possible and thus I do not run into the obstacle just described. Winning the lottery is indeed possible and has been proven so. Moreover, the analogy is a descriptor of what happened before the lottery numbers were picked, not after. After the lottery numbers are known, it's either impossible that I've won if I haven't, or impossible that I haven't won if I did. One merely needs to look at the numbers and submit it to the lottery board to find out. The claimed miracles in question have already occurred and their validity of being called a miracle is in question, not the perception that it has occurred.*
Lyre birds are capable of mimicking the most unusual sounds, including the sound of a chainsaw cutting through a trunk of a tree. We constantly deceive children into thinking there's a Santa Claus. Mirages occur to people travelling through a desert. Derren Brown can use his powers of deception to convert an entire room to believe there might be a deity, or to convince people that a losing race ticket is a winning one.
Hallucinations will form to those who are mentally ill or extremely physically sick.
People actually believe that Barak Obama is a Muslim and a terrorist, and the Saddam Hussein actually had WMD's. Hell, you've probably even thought that it was your left hand that was shaving your beard, looking in the mirror.
Pick up any psychology book and you're bound to find numerous instances defining some sort of mental disorder which creates illusions. Are aliens really infiltrating our minds? Is the government wire-tapping my phone line? Am I the next Messiah? Why do the pink elephants steal my pillow at night? When will Nessy wakeup? Who is Bigfoot? We are in constant reminder of the ability of people to be deceived, and yet we never give them any credit to their illusions/delusions.
On all levels, and in every corner of the globe, people are deceived, have been deceived, and will continue to be deceived. But what we have never witnessed anywhere near as much is the laws of nature to be suspended. Even if the miracles claimed by the various religions were indeed to have occurred, they are far outweighed by the instances of deception that is continually being put to use for bad and good intentions, and sometimes unintentionally.
But let us assume, for the moment, that by some 'miracle' the likelihood of deception was actually outweighed by the miracle itself. That what we saw really did happen and what happened went against the grain or was unknown of our current knowledge of the natural laws of the universe.
Do we really attribute it to miraculous circumstances?
When scientists discovered that light bent around a planet, did we think it was a miracle that it went against Newton's law of gravity? When the animist of old witnessed lightning, something they certainly didn't understand the physics of, did it command miracle status? Is birth still considered a miracle after biologists have dissected the process of specie fertilization; that of sperm and egg, meiosis, and mitosis?
In any instance in history where there has been a verifiable observed seeming suspension of natural laws, it is not the event that is deemed miraculous; it is our ignorance of the natural laws. Never do we (or ought we) assume that which we don't understand a miracle. Especially since the introduction of quantum mechanics, even some of the most improbable and counter-intuitive events could conceivably occur by no suspension of what is natural. It will always be more likely that we will yet discover what happened by the natural order of the universe than for such an event to actually have ignored the true natural order.
Lightning, medicine, gravity, stars, chemistry, etc were all once thought miraculous or magical and since then there has been substantial proof that deeming such things as miraculous is to admit our ignorance of natural laws, not of such events being actually miraculous. And since all of our current knowledge of the universe has been preceded by our ignorance of it, it will always undeniably be far, far more likely that we as of yet do not understand how such an event has occurred than for such an event to be truly miraculous.
That is why no evidence will ever suffice for the proof that miracles happen. That is why the falsehood of the testimony and our ignorance of the natural world will always be far less miraculous than the miracle itself, and thus not command our belief..
And that is why I, as a rational human being, will always be an atheist.
by Watts of AvC
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Over three out of four Americans have access to the Internet. This group has posters from all over the world, and is listed as one of the most popular groups on Google. The fact that there is a correlation between affluence (and therefore, presumably, Internet access) and secularity is obviously not enough to account for the high atheistic population of this group, so we can safely assume that atheists are much more likely to want to participate in a debate about the value and validity of religious faith than theists are. This is consistent with the view that theists are deliberately ignorant, and know that there is information out there that challenges their faith and they wish to avoid.
Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to step back and examine what we see when we consider this group as a microcosm. Reading books about this revitalized debate between atheists and theists, I don't entirely recognize the discussion of the "debate" as the actual "debate" we have on this group. The atheists are constantly accused of attacking a "caricature" of faith and believers by the opposition, who always make arguments just as stupid or more stupid than the ones being attacked (if not the ones they just got through refuting), but I find that the hypothetical theists addressed by authors like Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett in their books seem to be much more rational and intelligent than any of the theistic posters I've seen here. I think the problem's pretty obvious (and it becomes more obvious, reading their critics): the "Horsemen", if they don't overestimate their theistic audiences, at least have to give the impression of overestimating them to maintain the veneer of a respectful, adult conversation. I think this group is evidence that any kind of a dialogue is beneficial to atheists (and therefore the human race): put AvC on live TV, and the next generation of humans could only be less theistic.
“Unlike all that claim to be Christians you can only tell a real 100% Christian by the FACT....
- HE OR SHE CARRIES NO MONEY
- HE OR SHE NEVER BUYS OR SELL OR TRADE BUT GIVES AND RECIEVES FREELY THE SURPLUS.
- HE OR SHE LIVES INSIDE A CITY CALLED "CHURCH" AND IT IS ROUND
- HE OR SHE ONLY SERVES GOD (SURPLUS CREATED FOR THE MOST NEEDY FIRST)
- HE OR SHE HAVE MANY FRUIT TREES AND PLANT AND GIVE THEM AWAY.
- HE OR SHE RECORD'S THE DAY EVENTS IN DETAIL AND IN THIS AGE RECORDS THEM IN GREAT DETAIL.
- HE OR SHE IS SEEN MANY TIME SPEAKING TO THE SELF BUT IS RECORDING THOUGHTS IN THIS AGE.
- HE OR SHE IS OLD/MATURED, IF OUTSIDE THE CITY AND CLOTHED IN THE MAKINGS OF THE CITY SO ALL KNOW WHERE THAT PERSON COMES FROM.
- A real true christian will act like Jesus as if him even if it take many or plenty to do it.”
Consider Stonethatbleeds. I'll admit I haven't put too much effort into piecing together Stonethatbleeds' worldview (as obvious as it's apparently supposed to be to me), but it evidently has something to do with God wanting us all to segregate by race, age, and sexuality into cities and gain immortality through audio-recordings that will contain our souls. We naturally form a mental picture of what someone is like in real life, reading their words, and Stonethatbleeds probably invokes only the kind of person you see on public transportation sometimes. If Stonethatbleeds started expressing his ideas to someone on the bus, they would probably ring the bell for the next stop, politely excuse themselves from the bus, and then wait for the next bus to get to their actual stop or else suffer through it. If he were arrested for pissing on the subway, he would probably get some kind of psychiatric evaluation. We have to wonder about his job, whether he screams into tape recorders and a large collection of his own recordings, if he has friends, how crazy they are or if they're worried about him, etc.
Are there others that share Stonethatbleeds' perspective? Where did it come from?
But it's worth mentioning that what Stonethatbleeds seems to believe is not less rational than what any other theist believes. We can be certain of this without being entirely clear on what this is, simply by virtue of the fact that theistic beliefs are at a perfect level of irrationality. There really isn't a gradient as far as theistic rationality goes--it's more of a matter of...what? Rationalization, I guess. Or, more specifically, the effort they put into rationalization. It is interesting to see how other theists respond to Stonethatbleeds. Some of them try to make fun of him, but usually on the basis of his writing abilities. We atheists can all have a good laugh at theists having a laugh at Scientologists, because of the massive hypocrisy and lack of self-awareness that implies. Seeing a theist make fun of Stonethatbleeds' views on this group is kind of a heightened version of that. And I think some of them sort of realize that, which is why they refrain.
On what grounds, exactly, can he be called irrational by a theist? Rational grounds?
“'stupider' isn't a word, retard” – jesusfreak117
manny, SEARCHER for those who remember him and a few others who didn't stay long obviously fall into the same category. While theists, who are essentially all the same, can only be categorized on superficial levels I think we can form the basis of another category that would include Brock, omprem and Keith, among others. They don't really rationalize their points any more than Stonethatbleeds or manny do, but just seem aware that criticism is taking place. Their response is to take pride in everything that a rational person would be ashamed of being caught doing in a debate. If you point out a logical flaw in their arguments, they take this as evidence that they're above logic. If you point out a factual inaccuracy, they will repeat the lie to prove that they think they're too good to tell the truth. This category, too, is largely arbitrary because I see a lot of theists (most of them) doing this sometimes, usually when they get stuck.
“They are thinking meta-logically, an ability that is beyond the grasp of atheists. They are aware that logic is insufficient so they use other means of approaching wisdom. Your insistence that astrology is a fraud is not proof that it is so.” – omprem
Other theist posters try to argue as if they are arguing rationally, but just suck at it. There is an internal gradient here, although it's hard to quantify precisely and is probably mostly illusory. When a theist uses arguments to defend theism, they're going to be wrong, and someone here is going to rationally refute it, and then the theist is going to keep defending it anyway as their posts go from bad to worse in the course of a conversation. The relationship between theists is different than the relationship between atheists on this group. I think this can largely be attributed to the fact that, without rationality, they have no consistent grounds on which to agree or disagree. On one hand, they don't seem to be pals like many of the atheists here are pals, on the other, they don't really get into complex disagreements very often like atheists do.
"See, if you simply assert that they are delusional because they believe that Martians are communicating with them telepathically and insist that they are simply on that basis, what happens if Martians REALLY ARE communicating with them telepathically?"
What Vaarsuvius misses here is the whole process by which mental illnesses are diagnosed. If someone were to think they were constantly seeing unicorns, the process by which diagnosis would occur would not involve the professionals going out and looking for unicorns because that would not be pragmatic. Allan is one of those theists that tries to be on rational ground like the atheists, because he isn't as content with his beliefs as omprem or Stonethatbleeds is. It actually upsets him that he fails at it, although he would never acknowledge that it's exactly what's going on.
Anyone who looks into how psychologists deal with the problem of religion can see that the central differentiation that is made is one of commonality, which raises a whole slew of logical problems. First of all, this would imply that theism is the only disease that becomes not a disease by "virtue" of how contagious it is. If something is a sickness, it should be assumed that spreading it is a bad thing. Also, assuming a "culturally normal" belief raises the problem of how many people have to believe something or how similar the beliefs have to be--most theists have different religious views, and the act of churchgoing is largely a group of people pretending to believe the same thing to reinforce their individual delusions. Someone like Vaarsuvius or OldMan is more capable of functioning in some ways than Stonethatbleeds, but to call them more sane would be like saying an adult that believes in the Easter Bunny is more sane than a child that believes the same thing. If anything, their affliction probably runs deeper.
> Every incidence of religious intolerance involves religion. Proven fact.
Nice try. Now, try providing a reference for your 'proven fact'. I'm not interested in your opinion.” – OldMan
“Your rant about WHY God should be considered fictional in no way answers the question of whether or not you think that God exists.” –Vaarsuvius
I tried to explain to Allan that if the "if you can't prove it false, it's rational to believe" madness he spews so proudly were allowed in the legal system, he could easily be charged with a crime he didn't commit--all that would be required would be an easily formulated accusation that couldn't be disproved. His response was something like that the standards for conviction should be higher than those of "belief". The implication, I think, is that the consequences are greater, so the standards should be greater. Why, then, on the thread about the toddler starved and stuffed in a suitcase for not saying "amen"--certainly a consequence--does he go on using this same argument as a defense for theism? Inconsistency, and insanity.
"Well, as you and all the other hard atheists in this group believe in the primacy of the senses and that the senses portray a literal reality, that makes all of you delusional." – omprem
Theists are individually delusional. They support each other not because their beliefs are the same, but because of the larger support system for insane beliefs in general that theism provides. It applies a veneer of normality to beliefs that are not consistent because they are not formulated on a consistent basis.
"no one in their right mind will think 1+3 = 4 is better. it is still wrong, period." – Checkers, to Dev.
"Keepin' him in 'Check' since the beginning." – semi, in response to Checkers.
Under theism, things that are insane by every rational standard gain credibility through confirmation. Theists will kill each other for competing irrational beliefs, but they are all together in a battle against rationality in general. Thus, in a population like this group where many of the posters are atheists, they will lend a vague degree of support to each other. The ambiguity of a God allows theists to be uniquely insane, yet the nature of theism provides a unique appearance of consensus that runs the whole gamut.
“People like to float that story around these days to suggest that the bible advocates genocide. But the same book states he at one point wiped out the entire human race! I think we need to accept that” –Chris Grech
“Great points Chris !!.. Thank you !” – reply by Dillan.
Thus, theism is not really "for" anything so much as it is against intellectual and ethical standards in general. It is through this phenomenon that a fundamentalist redneck in Kansas will make an argument for God that is equally applicable to the God of Islamic terrorists on the other side of the world. If you want to justify rape, genocide, child abuse, or just plain acting like a moron in general, you will always have a friend in theism.
THE THEIST RESPONSE by Vaarsuvius
Since it doesn't seem that Dev actually captured what my beliefs are -- and, in fact, seemed to get them completely wrong -- this is my attempt to dispell the misinterpretations of my views.
I will be snipping heavily to focus mainly on the misinterpretations, and less on what actual arguments there are, but I don't promise to limit myself to that either.
On Aug 15, 8:30 am, Dev <thedevil...@fastmail.fm> wrote:
> "Generally, delusional does not apply to personal experiences." –
This quote isn't addressed anywhere in this post, but is just tossed out there as, I can only presume, an example of my and therefore -- in Dev's opinion, anyway -- theism's stupidity. Even if my view, in context, was insane, stupid, ignorant, or whatever derogatory word Dev is favouring this week it wouldn't apply to theism as a whole, of course, so I will simply defend myself and not theism in general.
Ah, on that note, before I get into it I must point out this one quote that sums up my view towards who I "side" with in this debate, and what side I'm in, which will clarify why I don't pretend to defend any other theists:
"Side? I am on nobody's side, because nobody is on MY side", Treebeard in "The Lord of the Rings".
Anyway, returning to the above quote after that side-bar. My comment here was aimed at the idea that if someone had a personal experience -- by which I really meant sense or phenomenal experience -- that indicated the existence of something, that it should not and is not generally considered a "delusion". In general, it is considered a "hallucination" instead. Appeals to the dictionary supported both positions technically; while the definition did not generally include hallucinations, hallucination was considered to be a synonym for delusion. However, I stand by the claim that hallucinations and delusions are not the same thing. Take, for example, the case where someone gets completely drunk and sees the now legendary "pink elephants". Imagine as well that they are well-aware that they are drunk and that those pink elephants aren't real. Are they delusional? It seems unlikely; they seem to have a pretty good idea of what reality is actually like. However, they are still hallucinating, aren't they? If someone acknowledges that they are hallucinating, is that delusional in the sense that Dev would like it to be?
Let's take an example closer to religion. Imagine that someone who is an atheist suddenly starts seeing images of Jesus everywhere he goes. He goes to the hospital and says, "Everywhere I go, I see Jesus. He's even over there now. I'm very well-aware that he isn't really there and that I'm hallucinating, but I still keep seeing him. Can you help me?" Is he delusional in any way? Well, it seems not; he doesn't believe that his experience is indicating that religion is right -- he remains an atheist -- and instead believes that his experience is not real. But he is still hallucinating.
And it is clear that the treatments in both cases would be different. If he walked in and said, "My socks are trying to eat my feet", the first question asked would be "Why do you think that?" If his reply was "Because socks eat feet as revenge for being lost in the dryer", the doctors would immediately know that he was delusional, and would start therapy designed to eliminate the belief that socks are in any way animate. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy would have a decent chance at curing this, as well as other methods aimed at eliminating false beliefs. On the other hand, if he said "Because I can see them moving with little teeth on the inside, hear the smacking and crunching, and my feet hurt", the doctors would know that he was having hallucinations, and would move to determine what was the problem. CBT would likely NOT be successful, and it would be far more likely to be caused by a drug, chemical imbalance, or tumour.
And this is why the difference is important, even if one might be able to argue technically that they are the same: how we treat and evaluate the two are different. In the case of strict delusion, the beliefs are at fault and must be broken; in the latter, the experience is at fault, and must be correct. In addition, it is not necessarily an irrational belief being held if it must follow from the experience and the subject has no reason to believe that they are hallucinating; a delusion is an irrational belief by definition since it must include the fact that the subject has themselves enough evidence that they should know that their belief is false, if they would only acknowledge it.
Oh, and that's an important point to raise here as well: a belief can only be considered delusional if the person who believes it should, themselves, have enough evidence to consider it false (in accordance with their other beliefs, etc, etc). This is because one cannot judge someone's beliefs on the basis of information that the person does not have and be in any way just or objective. For example, if someone's wife is cheating on him and is very careful not to leave any evidence, and all of their friends know because she told them but none of them will tell him, he is not delusional for believing that she is faithful. However, if she leaves evidence around all the time and all of his trusted friends tell him that she is indeed cheating on him, then he'd be deluding himself if he still insists she isn't.
Moving on after that rather long introduction to the first thing that Dev actually seems to comment on and not just quote: "See, if you simply assert that they are delusional because they believe that Martians are communicating with them telepathically and insist that they are simply on that basis, what happens if Martians REALLY ARE communicating with them telepathically?" – Vaarsuvius
>What Allan misses here is the whole process by which mental illnesses are diagnosed. If someone were to think they were constantly seeing unicorns, the process by which diagnosis would occur would not involve the professionals going out and looking for unicorns because that would not be pragmatic.
Now, the basis of this quote was my comment that you cannot judge someone delusional simply on the basis of the content of the belief, but that you had to consider why -- ie what evidence -- they had for that belief. Dev insisted otherwise. Note that his comment here is taking a rather odd logical extension of that claim by implying that the professionals would have to go out themselves and prove that unicorns didn't exist before concluding the person insane. This is not what I claimed at all. On the contrary, my claim is more akin to the example that if the person said "I belief that unicorns exist", the doctors will reply, "And why do you say that?". His reply could be -- to keep consistent with Dev's comments -- "I see them all the time." "Really?" the doctors would reply. "Yeah, " he says, "There's one right outside the door. I rode it here and tied it up out there." Assuming that that would be accessible by something the size of a horse, wouldn't it be proper for the doctor to at least take a look, just in case? And when discovering no unicorn there, and nothing to indicate that it was, THEN concluding that the person was delusional? The doctors might not, but it would hardly seem to be ideal behaviour.
Let's return to the original quote to highlight why it wouldn't be ideal. Take our poor soul who is saying that Martians are communicating with him telepathically. He runs to a police officer and says this, in a panic. The police officer takes him to the doctors who ask -- just to humour him -- why he thinks that. He states that he has ironclad proof at home. But since they follow Dev's notion that the content of a belief is sufficient to consider it a delusion, they commit him and never check. Two days later, his family finds out where he is and brings the ironclad proof that Martians REALLY ARE communicating with him telepathically. And it's airtight; it is really, absolutely true. Can you imagine that the doctors would NOT be sued and considered to be negligent in their duties? And rightly so; while they may have been justified in locking him up "just in case" on the basis of the content of his belief, there was a responsiblity to at least TRY to ascertain that his claim wasn't correct.
Not that the psychiatric field is all that great at it; I'm certain we've all heard the story about the doctors who committed themselves to an asylum, acted normally, and yet found their quite normal and reasonable behaviours interpreted as signs of insanity because of the predisposition of the doctors. This only highlights why objective psychology and psychiatry will not simply judge on the content of the belief, but on the reasons given with reasonable attempts to verify, to avoid letting predispositions determine the judgement instead of the facts.
> Allan is one of those theists that tries to be on rational ground like the atheists, because he isn't as content with his beliefs as omprem or Stonethatbleeds is.
Actually, I'd say I'm MORE content with my beliefs than they are, and that my experience on AvC and with the words of the Four Horsemen has only made me even more content. This is because a) I accept and have accepted for a long time now that it is just a belief, and that I will not have any hope of knowing the truth until I die and b) that I've noticed that the atheist arguments do not have sufficient funds to cash the check they write about atheism being the only rational position on the issue.
To clarify that, I believe that based on the evidence we have on the proposition, belief, belief in lack, and lack of belief are all rational positions to take -- as long as one accepts that the confidence on any belief formed is quite low, and certainly not knowledge. I admit that there are a fair number of theists who think they know God exists, and I would just say to them "You're wrong".
>"Dev wrote: Every incidence of religious intolerance involves religion. Proven fact. Nice try. Now, try providing a reference for your 'proven fact'. I'm not interested in your opinion." – OldMan
"Your rant about WHY God should be considered fictional in no way answers the question of whether or not you think that God exists." –Vaarsuvius
First, let me get into the context of THIS quote as well. I was challenging atheists to "belly up to the bar" and declare themselves as weak or strong atheists, and indicate whether or not they believed that God did not exist or merely had a lack of belief in God. This was Dev's answer:
"I have a lack of belief in Spongebob Squarepants. I have a lack of belief that he lives in a pineapple under the sea. Can I disprove Spongebob? No. If I were shown _evidence_ that Spongebob Squarepants lived in a pineapple under the sea would I rethink my position? Of course. In spite of that, I might say "Spongebob isn't real" but that's largely because despite a lack of evidence for Spongebob being real there is plenty of evidence that somebody made Him up. Now, I know, these ridiculous analogies of God to other fictional characters are getting old. I'm sick of them, too. But until you guys get the point, they are evidently necessary because they are a great tool to explain where we're coming from concerning your God.
God is fictional based on the assumption that if it cannot be differentiated from other things commonly referred to as "fictional" it is only logical to assume it is the same. I have a feeling you can't disprove most fictional characters. But fictional they remain. If you have to disprove something for it to be "fictional" you are basically redefining how the word is actually used (and I'm not interested in dictionary definitions since we all use the word "fictional"--usage defines usage--dictionaries are only useful for recording how words are used). "
My reply was: "You seem to be dodging the question. Let me make it clearer:
If someone asked "Spongebob Squarepants exists. Do you consider this proposition true, or false?" what would you answer?
If someone asked "God exists. Do you consider this proposition true, or false?" what would you answer?
Your rant about WHY God should be considered fictional in no way answers the question of whether or not you think that God exists.
And if one has a believe or even KNOWLEDGE it does not mean that one cannot also say that if more evidence came in that they'd have to re-evaluate that position. Heck, it's the basis of the scientific<>
Now, it should be clear to anyone reading this that, yes, Dev dodged the question. I was, in fact, actually being excessively FAIR to Dev, since I could have simply assumed that claiming that God or Spongebob Squarepants was fictional meant what it means to most people, which is that he believed that God and Spongebob did not exist. Which would, by definition, make him a strong atheist, and thus no longer to use the "I merely have a lack of belief so I don't have any burden of proof" since he would ACTUALLY have a belief in lack, which DOES accrue a burden of proof. So, in response to my being exceedingly fair to him, Dev takes the quote out of context, ignores the original question, ignores his attempt to DODGE that question, and then immediately after this quote accuses me -- and implies that this quote shows it -- that I am attempting to claim that "If you can't prove it false, it is rational believe" when this quote, in context, certainly implies no such thing. Well, perhaps he didn't really mean to imply that; his quotes have had a habit of not applying to his sections anyway. So perhaps I'll grant him that one.
At any rate, the quote is perfectly correct; unless I know that to Dev "fictional means non-existent", he didn't answer the question, and any attempts to show God as "fictional" in no way addressed the original context.
>I tried to explain to Allan that if the "if you can't prove it false, it's rational to believe" madness he spews so proudly were allowed in the legal system, he could easily be charged with a crime he didn't commit--all that would be required would be an easily formulated accusation that couldn't be disproved. His response was something like that the standards for conviction should be higher than those of "belief". The implication, I think, is that the consequences are greater, so the standards should be greater. Why, then, on the thread about the toddler starved and stuffed in a suitcase for not saying "amen"--certainly a consequence--does he go on using this same argument as a defense for theism? Inconsistency, and insanity.
Dev has kindly provided a context for these comments in another post, so I will reproduce it here in the interests of fairness and, of course, in defense. He included the comments above, split to reference his evidence, so I will include them as well.
***** Start of Dev's quote here *****
"I tried to explain to Allan that if the 'if you can't prove it false, it's rational to believe' madness he spews so proudly were allowed in the legal system, he could easily be charged with a crime he didn't commit--all that would be required would be an easily formulated accusation that couldn't be disproved. His response was something like that the standards for conviction should be higher than those of 'belief'."
Message in question:
"It is well known that in the U.S. and Canada, at least, that the standards of evidence required for a criminal conviction are HIGHER than those required to get a civil court decision on the matter which are HIGHER than that required for a mere belief."
"The implication, I think, is that the consequences are greater, so the standards should be greater. Why, then, on the thread about the toddler starved and stuffed in a suitcase for not saying 'amen'--certainly a consequence--does he go on using this same argument as a defense for theism? Inconsistency, and insanity."
Message in question:
"And you don't get to defend it on the basis of 'it's true whereas theism is false', because then you'd have to prove that theism is false, and no weak atheist can even claim that that's been done."
It is well known that in the U.S. and Canada, at least, that the standards of evidence required for a criminal conviction are HIGHER than those required to get a civil court decision on the matter which are HIGHER than that required for a mere belief. The O.J. Simpson case is a prime example of this: almost everyone believes that he killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, the civil court case held him responsible for their deaths (that decision is what bankrupted him), but the criminal trial did not convict him, and there were no grounds for appeal sufficient to get that decision overturned. So the question has to be turned back to you: why do you think that the standards required for a mere belief in God can or should be applied to criminal cases, when the entire legal and social systems of the U.S. and Canada -- at least -- insist otherwise? " So, since eugenics can indeed follow directly from the belief in evolution, should we consider evolution a dangerous belief as well? And you don't get to defend it on the basis of "it's true whereas theism is false", because then you'd have to prove that theism is false, and no weak atheist can even claim that that's been done. " >Why, then, on the thread about the toddler starved and stuffed in a suitcase for not saying "amen"--certainly a consequence--does he go on using this same argument as a defense for theism? Inconsistency, and insanity. by Vaarsuvius
Let me begin with the first reproduced quote. And since Dev was so kind as to include the message link, let me restore the context first:
>Would you accept that the amount of evidence required to convict you of a crime need only equal the amount of evidence you can produce for your God?
Well, the problem is that your question, in fact, violates the standards of evidence required for criminal convictions, civil court decisions, and beliefs in current Western society, so the question is utterly irrelevant.
Dev was asking -- in accordance with previous arguments that he had made -- that in some way if I have a certain set of standards for accepting beliefs -- including God beliefs -- that those standards should also apply to the legal standards, and so we should all accept that we could be tried and convicted of a crime based on the same standards. My reply, of course, was that no one in the world -- except possibly Dev -- thinks that way; even civil cases do not require the same standards of evidence as criminal cases, and we consider those judgements far more reliable than general mere beliefs. So his question, as I said, is irrelevant ... and my reply is certainly no indication that I think that if you can't prove it false it is rational to believe, since we'd have to look at what the standards actually say about beliefs.
As for my ACTUAL position on that statement, I hold that if I know that something is false, it is absolutely irrational for me to believe that it is true. Something proven false cannot be held to be true rationally, so any such proof immediately eliminates the belief proven false. Beyond that, we need to get deeper into the standards of belief, and that starts to get subjective since what the people already believe must play a role in determining whether or not to believe. So it MAY be rational, or may be irrational, based on what the standards for belief are in general and for the individual. I will not even start to get into those there.
So, onto the second part. Let me reproduce the full context yet again (it's so convenient that Dev's attempts to look fair provide the message link, allowing me easy access to the context that shows him wrong):
>Likewise, pedophilia is simply the desire to have sex with children and racism is simply the belief that certain races are superior or inferior (Walt tries to redefine these terms, but as watts points out, even with his stupid redefinitions the point stands)--neither of these mentalities are more "inherently" harmful than theism, they are simply harmful, they do more harm than good, and anyone who perpetuates them is partially responsible for their consequences. To apply different standards to theism is to employ a double-standard, and the original post of this thread is just one of a billion examples of what this double-standard leads to.
My "that" here, in context, is clearly the belief in evolution. My charge was that, in order to be consistent, since it seems that eugenics can indeed follow from the belief in evolution, the belief in evolution would be just as much a dangerous belief as theism is (I hope I do not need to relate the horrors that eugenics can lead to). I then forstalled an argument by stating that Dev could NOT claim "Well, evolution is true, and theism is false, so that's why we don't need to hold evolution responsible for what evil is done by eugenics" because, as I said, that would mean that he'd have to show that the premises -- 1) Evolution is true, 2) Theism is false -- were true. That would mean proving theism false. And I then noted -- quite correctly -- that no weak atheist can claim that to be the case.
Dev could have tried to show that eugenics does not follow from evolution. Others did, but it is quite easy to get to eugenics from evolution (I really hope to have the time to get back and argue for that soon) as anyone can see. One can argue that evolution does not lead to eugenics by necessity; one can believe in evolution but not eugenics. This is quite fair, but other arguments from other people -- including Dev, of course -- argue that even though theism does not necessarily lead to killing in its name it is still responsible, so they'd run up against that argument as well. But the attempt could have been made.
That is not what Dev did. He didn't even try to argue that we don't KNOW that theism is true, and therefore evolution gets immunity that theism doesn't since it IS known to be true. This would run us into a bit of a problem if anyone ever proved theism true, so it isn't a particularly GOOD argument, but it could have worked.
Instead, you got what Dev gave.
So, my comment was never, there, about that the consequences were higher so the standards were higher with respect to the legal system at all. But I did argue about consequences around that point, but in the opposite way. I argued that all beliefs have a confidence level attached to them. That confidence level is used to determine what actions it is justifiable to take with respect to that belief. To kill someone, the highest amount of confidence is required before doing so; you have to have knowledge, which represents the highest possible confidence we can have in the truth of a proposition. I do not claim to know that God exists. I claim that NO ONE knows that God exists. So if we look at the toddler case that Dev references, my reply would be that anyone who would kill someone on the basis of the belief in God is just plain wrong. Either they think they know when they clearly don't, or they think that killing someone requires less than knowledge. They'd be wrong on both counts.
Let me bring the question down here so that we can all see what it might relate to:
Well, the message he quoted didn't relate that I was using that argument as a defense at all, so he's wrong there. I also state above -- as I have elsewhere, enough so that I'm certain that Dev must have seen it -- that those standards do NOT defend the actions. So where is the inconsistency and insanity? Only in Dev's head, it appears.
The only defense of theism I have ever made in relation to these sorts of incidents is, in fact, the claim that you cannot hold all theists beliefs responsible for the logical contortions that some people put them though, which is, consistently enough, my precise position on evolution vis a vis eugenics. Seems fairly consistent to me ...
>Under theism, things that are insane by every rational standard gain credibility through confirmation. Theists will kill each other for competing irrational beliefs, but they are all together in a battle against rationality in general. Thus, in a population like this group where many of the posters are atheists, they will lend a vague degree of support to each other. The ambiguity of a God allows theists to be uniquely insane, yet the nature of theism provides a unique appearance of consensus that runs the whole gamut.
This is one comment that I don't want to pass by. It strongly implies this: that theists will fight amongst themselves unless united by a common enemy. Thus, theism does not exist as a unified entity, nor do theists consider that the beliefs of other theists with slightly different theistic beliefs buttresses them unless someone or something external attacks all of them.
This means that anti-theism's current main impact is to unite theists, if this is correct, and if the case study here really does show something. Hardly a beneficial result; can you say "self-fulfilling prophecy".
That being said, I don't think AvC is a good case study for that, taken at least personally; at best, I don't go around tell other theists off, but why should I? There are plenty of atheists around to do that and I don't have time to discuss my own beliefs, let alone engage other theists when half the board will do that as well.
Now, one final point. This is a long post. A VERY long post. I have no pretensions that I've said anything devastating here; almost all of this was merely clarifying my own points against misrepresentations by Dev. Is it any wonder that I, at least personally, have very little time to make actual posts, when simply defending what I said -- and not as true or false, but literally just what I said -- takes up so much space?
And is it worth the effort, knowing that my words will be misconstrued so terribly?
It is well known that in the U.S. and Canada, at least, that the standards of evidence required for a criminal conviction are HIGHER than those required to get a civil court decision on the matter which are HIGHER than that required for a mere belief. The O.J. Simpson case is a prime example of this: almost everyone believes that he killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, the civil court case held him responsible for their deaths (that decision is what bankrupted him), but the criminal trial did not convict him, and there were no grounds for appeal sufficient to get that decision overturned.
So the question has to be turned back to you: why do you think that the standards required for a mere belief in God can or should be applied to criminal cases, when the entire legal and social systems of the U.S. and Canada -- at least -- insist otherwise? "
So, since eugenics can indeed follow directly from the belief in evolution, should we consider evolution a dangerous belief as well?
And you don't get to defend it on the basis of "it's true whereas theism is false", because then you'd have to prove that theism is false, and no weak atheist can even claim that that's been done. "
>Why, then, on the thread about the toddler starved and stuffed in a suitcase for not saying "amen"--certainly a consequence--does he go on using this same argument as a defense for theism? Inconsistency, and insanity.