Article

Atheist ‘Metaphysics’ and Religious Equivocation

Knowledge Paradigm

The diagram represents the “Knowledge Paradigm” of science. It says simply and visually:

We have a very limited scope of knowledge. Everything we do know about our universe, we have learned through the scientific method. That which is outside our circle of knowledge, we seek to discover. We do not accept any new information about our universe into this circle of knowledge without sufficient evidence, and we only accept that evidence when instrumentation or multiple observers thoroughly corroborate it. In this manner, we seek to carefully and prudently expand the boundaries of our circle of understanding further into the great unknown. We accept that no matter how far we expand that boundary, there will always be much more to learn. Therefore we accept and make peace with the unknown, for it will always be with us.

As reasonable and sufficient as the Knowledge Paradigm sounds, there are those who insist that not only is this view wrong and arrogantly expressed, but that it represents a falsely all-encompassing and therefore unsupportable metaphysical position about the nature of reality. They refer to this Knowledge Paradigm as ‘scientism.’

If they’re really crafty, they’ll actually be able to cite some references to the philosophy of science, pointing out that disagreement remains as to the efficacy of the scientific method, especially with regard to the problems of induction and the limits of accuracy of human perception. If they’re really dodgy, they might try to deflect the discussion by bringing up an example of a negative result of the practice of science such as eugenics. But both objections are irrelevant to the question.

Other supposedly intellectual theists are not so cautious, engaging in overt presuppositionalism, circular reasoning, and a total lack of respect for evidence or logic. These theists are equally likely to routinely commit an equivocation containing the word metaphysics. For example:

“Your belief in no god is your particular brand of metaphysics. It takes just as much faith as a fundamentalist. You’ve have just flipped your belief system and your gods are the scientists. You have put your faith in science. You have no more evidence for your beliefs than we do.”

So far–five different words: “faith,” “god,” “evidence,” “beliefs,” and “metaphysics,” each used in the same discussion, each with two different meanings.

This subject has already been explored by other writers, who’ve posted lengthy rebuttals to this type of faulty logic. But I’ve had several instances come up in conversation or correspondence recently that prompted this post. Here are a few examples:

“Atheists keep telling me that there is no dogma and therefore no agenda to atheism, but if that is the case then why do these New Atheists seem so keen on pushing an anti-theism agenda? If it’s just the political stuff that bugs you, then why can’t you just fight the politics without having to convert everyone to your metaphysics?” –From comments by Mike C at Friendly Atheist

“I wont post again after this as, if it doesn’t open Black Sun’s heart, no amount of further posts will - arguing with naive-realists about metaphysics is fairly pointless, because they are completely blind to it. Succinctly put: Followers of Scientism believe that reality is essentialy dead matter that ‘accidently’ came alive and conscious, and started making observation statements about itself.” –Hasan Spiker, BSJ, deleted comment

Spiker is a particularly strident theist, steeped in Islamic mysticism, he is not content with a spirit-matter split. He contends that all of matter is unreal, with the spirit world (which no one can see) being the only reality. It’s easy to see how people move from this position of devaluing all matter to justifying things like suicide bombing as a response to nudity (previous post). But that’s a whole other discussion.

“And in this you are proclaiming “truth” standing on your own soapbox of fervent faith, no less rickety than that on which every fundamentalist Christian stands. The idea that consciousness ends at the death, you have no evidence of it, you know there is no evidence of it, yet you proclaim it as truth. This is your own brand of religious belief, founded on no less a blind faith than that which you ridicule in the fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, or what have you.” –Personal correspondence

This faith in science construction is one of the most pernicious and enduring forms of theistic equivocation. Let’s review: It’s self-evident that when I do a physics lab assignment and test out Newton’s laws, I don’t have to have faith. I make observations which either correspond with the laws or they don’t. If I’m unsure, I can ask someone else to observe with me. If we both find a discrepancy, either I made a mistake in my procedure, or I’ve discovered a new property of matter. The same can be said of those who will eventually work at the Large Hadron Collider or other science laboratories.

For a theist to claim that lab work requires faith in science is clear equivocation. At the risk of being highly tedious and pedantic, let me just reiterate what I mean: Faith in careful procedures and collection of evidence is not the same as faith in the resurrection of Jesus or in life after death (for which there can be no empirical evidence). But this equivocation comes up all the time. It’s part of the immune system of the theistic memeplex.

It’s an ironic argument, because the claim of the existence of an atheist metaphysics is itself based on an assumption that not only does empirical knowledge require faith, but it claims to explain everything. As you can see from the diagram above, it does exactly the opposite, leaving a potentially infinite space under the domain of the unknown. Theists and pundits try to turn this strength into a weakness, insisting because science doesn’t explain everything, it therefore explains nothing. Bill O’Reilly took this tack in an interview with Richard Dawkins a few months ago, asking him to explain the origins of the universe–to which Dawkins replied cheekily “we’re working on it.”

The next attack on the Knowledge Paradigm comes from relativism. Relativism, as I’ve said before, is the ocean in which all bad arguments swim. It’s the refuge of scoundrels. And it’s invoked in this debate as social constructivism chiefly by those who seek to justify their non-evidence-based belief systems through their popularity or efficacy. Or to claim things aren’t what an objective observer can see that they are.

An example of such constructivism is the “Courtier’s Defense:”

The Courtier’s Defense is the defense offered to help those who can’t “see” to understand that the Emperor IS, indeed, wearing clothes. We poor commoners may see only the Emperor’s underwear, but the courtier sees the Emperor’s “New Clothes” - the wonderful raiment, the capes, the jewelry, the crown. We see only the underwear or nakedness because we don’t have the vision (faith) to see what the courtiers see. The Emperor’s new clothes are invisible to us because we cannot see beyond physical reality, whereas the courtiers - who by their association with the king and their belief in the infallibility of his sense of reality - know better than the rest of us in assessing not only the existence of, but the very nature and appearance of the new clothes.

This type of thinking concentrates on the social results, comfort level or desirability of information rather than its truth-value. It thus immunizes non-rigorous minds against external challenges whose consequences they don’t wish to face (embarrassing the king, or being seen as a commoner). But this relativistic value-system falsely elevates personal interior subjectivity to an equal status with empirical inquiry.

This is no surprise. The dizzying pace of change can be painful, and we live in the midst of an explosion of knowledge which challenges our capacity to adapt. But clinging to outmoded certitudes and faulty worldviews imposes a heavy risk: not just to the individual, but to the effective functioning of representative democracy.

Back to the nature of the theistic claim: I posit that this equivocation comes from a deep-seated knowledge that their beliefs are not supportable. The emperor really isn’t wearing clothes, and they know it at some level. The part of their brain which normally would question such belief on insufficient evidence has, however, been shunted permanently into bypass mode. No one wants to feel deficient. So they play up the virtues of this “cognitive bypass” and call it “faith.” They’ve traded truth for comfort as a survival strategy which allows them to maintain the requisite levels of cognitive dissonance.

But they can’t completely shut down their critical thinking–which gives them a permanent inferiority complex, albeit at an unconscious level. Though they may have outer comfort, they still feel the sands shifting beneath their feet, because they know they can’t be sure they’ve chosen the ‘right’ belief system out of the countless thousands possible. The more time they have devoted to the system they chose, the more the bypassed critical thinking skills will have atrophied, and the more likely they are to defend their faith to the death. Knowing they suffer from this insurmountable uncertainty, they simply must attempt to level the playing field. (To do so, many have devoted lifetimes or built entire libraries of theological texts based on their presuppositionalism–essentially intellectual castles in the air.)

Rather than take the difficult and painstaking steps of learning to live within the confines of evidence-based knowledge, they attack its most basic value. They try to bring the discussion down to their level, where their preferences for softer ‘truths’ untethered to an unbending natural world can carry the day.

Which brings us to consideration of the Superstition Paradigm:

Superstition Paradigm

If you’re alive on Earth in 2007, chances are excellent you now embrace (or have at one time embraced) one of the superstitions in this diagram. You might even feel offended that I’ve included your pet superstion(s). (If it’s not on there, sorry, there’s just so much). Chances are also very good that you will have no problem dismissing about 90% of them as absolute nonsense. Good. You just made my point for me. Many other people will have no problem dismissing yours either.

Competing worldviews claim absolute knowledge of the principles of the universe–which they hold to be true at deeper levels “beyond” science–the levels of feelings or traditions. Many of these traditions claim to define not only the source and beginning of the universe, but its ultimate purpose. Others are simply untested or patently false claims of unproven phenomena. These unaccountable memes move around the collective human consciousness virtually unopposed. (Their virus-sheath disables critical thought). They’re initially guided by their handlers for reasons of power or prestige, aggregating in a free-floating and wide-ranging attack on rationality and often on each other. Once they achieve a certain autonomy and fixation in the population or institutions, they crowd tightly around the circle of human knowledge–trying to squeeze their way in. This creates confusion and uncertainty, threatening to collapse the circle entirely. Each superstition must accomplish two things:

  1. Subtly undermine the possibility of truths of greater value being found elsewhere
  2. Disavow the possibility of certainty of knowledge such that no belief remains able to strike a fatal blow at any other; Promote an ultimately self-interested ‘respect’ for other superstitions. “Many paths lead to the summit,” and other such aphorisms.

They especially must attack science, which they recognize as an ultimate threat, at the very least insisting on “non-overlapping magisteria.” We can therefore expect the superstitious to vigorously oppose scientific attempts to investigate their claims. To recap:

  1. Superstitions make unbounded and contradictory claims. Science tries to resolve conflicts and knows the boundaries of its knowledge.
  2. Superstitions would like to crowd each other out of the picture. Science only sees one picture.
  3. Superstitions make extremely specific claims about the nature of their gods (spirits, energy, law of attraction, etc.). Science does not claim anything about god or these other phenomena, other than to say it has failed to find evidence for their existence.
  4. Superstitions make assertions about the nature of consciousness as spirit, and that it precedes (or creates, or can change) matter. Science investigates methods of information storage and how consciousness arises as an emergent property of matter.
  5. Superstitions hold creation myths. Science pushes back the veil of time ever closer toward what seems like it might be the beginning (but we can’t be sure).
  6. Superstitions promote dualism (mind/body, spirit/matter). Science sees the entire universe or multiverse as a natural, potentially explorable whole.
  7. Superstitions deal in certainties. Science deals in probabilities, and aggressively pursues uncertainty.

With that background, we come full circle back to metaphysics and equivocation. A 1998 poll of scientists found that 72% do not believe in god, while 7% do. The rest are agnostic. So there are differences of opinion as to whether a scientific worldview excludes such a belief. But one thing is certain: the method does. The scientific method would have to find repeatable evidence from multiple sources which could be corroborated under laboratory conditions before it accepted the notion of a deity.

In his book Why God Won’t Go Away, Andrew Newberg throws away all his scientific training and gullibly accepts the testimony of laboratory meditators as providing sufficient evidence for the existence of an alternate reality–what he calls Absolute Unitary Being. But he’s definitely taken a position outside the method and outside the mainstream. What he observed was SPECT scans (showing blood flow and brain states) which gave some very interesting and potentially useful results. But then he made the mistake of extrapolating from these observations to speculate about a larger ontological reality. His ‘evidence’ consists of subjective experiential verbal reports from the meditators, which must wait for some kind of objective corroboration before being considered even remotely scientific.

This is the crux of the matter. Though atheists often speak forcefully about the lack of existence of a god or an afterlife, the truth is, we can affirm neither with certainty. Just to make sure you got that, I’m saying atheists cannot positively prove there is no god. What we can do is assert that there is a very low probability of such a construct. This is very important. Implicitly in conversation, when theists say “you can’t prove there’s no god,” they feel as if they’ve won a rhetorical victory and elevated the existence of god to an equal 50% probability: I hate to disappoint them.

Here’s how the probability calculation goes: Take every god ever written about or imagined by every human who’s ever lived. They’re all different, of course. Let’s give this an arbitrary value of one MILLION gods. Add a single digit to that million to represent the probability of “no god” existing. There you have it. 1:1,000,001 probability of anyone’s particular god existing for certain, or “no god” existing for certain. [Assuming that one and only one person in human history has discovered the exact and ontologically correct theology.] One in a million, or less. About the same as for the existence of Russell’s Teapot orbiting Mars, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

So it doesn’t make much sense to believe in things which cannot be falsified. Which brings us full circle to the need for positive proof, and why atheism, far from being metaphysical, is the default position. We just don’t have enough information. But we must learn to make peace with our level of ignorance. Filling the unknown universe full of concocted mental garbage (even if pleasant) does not make our lack of knowledge any less threatening. In fact, when people focus on the hocus-pocus, they decrease humanity’s chance of ever expanding their circle of knowledge to find out what’s really “out there.”

So the metaphysics we atheists are often accused of promoting concerns itself with cosmology. According to Wikipedia:

Cosmology is the branch of metaphysics that deals with the world as the totality of all phenomena in space and time. Historically, it has had quite a broad scope, and in many cases was founded in religion. The ancient Greeks did not draw a distinction between this use and their model for the cosmos. However, in modern use it addresses questions about the Universe which are beyond the scope of science.

Beyond the scope of science. Now go back to the beginning of the article and look at the diagram. The Knowledge Paradigm clearly shows awareness of its cosmological limitations, and does not comment on things outside the “circle of the known” unless the circle can be legitimately expanded through new observations or credible theories.

QED

The Knowledge Paradigm places itself firmly within scope of science, and is therefore completely free from the trappings of metaphysics. It refrains from commenting on things outside of its scope, and therefore does not require any kind of faith or belief to operate. The only thing needed for science to successfully expand human knowledge is a strong and unwavering commitment to both skepticism and epistemic humility.

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Comments (56 comments)

Chriss Outcast / July 12th, 2007, 11:31 am / #1

What a nice birthday present. :)

In my own commentaries on the struggles for reason and logic, I have found that much of this flows from the human tendency to leap to a premature conclusion, then defend that conclusion to the death, denying all contrary evidence and never even considering that their original conclusion might be wrong.

- Spaceman Spiff - / July 12th, 2007, 11:00 pm / #2

I was just wondering how you would present your ides to a Christian who believes that we can’t know everything…even through faith. You stated in your post that superstitions rely on certainties, but what if their belief in those “superstitions” isn’t reliant on thinking they know everything? What if they believe that science is a tool to understand the creator and eventually science will help them understand more fully the complexities of God? If someone is willing to admit that only by accepting science as viable will they truely beable to understand the creation as God intended it then how are they diminished as a voice in the science realm? In fact, wouldn’t that put them fuly on your side despite the fact that they choose to believe that God is in the unkown?

By the way, why would God reveal Himself before he revealed all of the intricasies of His creation? Why would he spoil the surprise when we have so much to learn about his gift to us?

For the moment, place yourself in His shoes. Probably not a big stretch for someone’s ego who thinks God doesn’t exist, but try it. Apply all assumptions about God that Christians make. All knowing, present everywhere, and all powerful. Part of being all-knowing is knowing ultimately what would be the best for his creation. would you flat out have yourself in their daily lives to where scientists would be able to prove your existence?

I would equate to the idea that kids don’t need to know all of the secrets to baby-making…agreed? I would confuse them and maybe even scar them for life. In good conscience, would you demonstrate the process to them? I would hasten to say that the same thing would happen to us if God were to try to explain or even demonstrate what he did to bring about existence. First we let children get accustomed to the world to where we think they are ready for that level of information. Some kids are more adventurous and curious than others, but we still wait until WE think they are ready. I believe that this is what God does. He is waiting for us to get to the age that HE thinks we would be able to understand it.

This doesn’t mean that we simply stop and wait for God to decide to tell us the secrets of the universe…quite the opposite. It means we continue to discover and be curious of our surroundings so we show God that we are getting closer to the age that He can reveal His Majesty. I believe this was the whole idea of science to begin with…considering it actually was started by a bunch of Christians. Ok, maybe not Christians, but at least they had a quite firm belief in God as the Creator. Remember, to deny your past is to also deny your future. There is something to be said for having a firm foundation.

BlackSun / July 13th, 2007, 12:07 am / #3

@Spaceman–

What if they believe that science is a tool to understand the creator and eventually science will help them understand more fully the complexities of God?

Right away, I think we have at the very least a semantic problem. Your language presupposes that there was a creator, and presupposes the existence of god. I’m saying, we can’t even get that far. To speak in those terms, we would have already had to have discovered such a being. Otherwise, it’s like the blind men and the elephant. We have very incomplete knowledge, and yet you seem satisfied enough to assume you know the whole.

By the way, why would God reveal Himself before he revealed all of the intricasies of His creation? Why would he spoil the surprise when we have so much to learn about his gift to us?

Same problem here. You can’t say anyone is revealing or not revealing anything. Whatever we know has been discovered by humans on their own terms and timetables. To say otherwise is to buy into superstition.

It means we continue to discover and be curious of our surroundings so we show God that we are getting closer to the age that He can reveal His Majesty. I believe this was the whole idea of science to begin with…considering it actually was started by a bunch of Christians.

I think that may have been the idea when science got started. Actually it was called natural philosophy. But I agree with you that since a great deal of the funding for such study came from religious organizations that it would have to have been “for the glory of god.” But that still doesn’t speak to the ontological reality (or lack thereof) of such a being. Only human structure and the metaphor which governed early science.

It’s well known that Newton was a prolific theologian. But what we remember him for is calculus and the laws of motion, among other things.

So I’d be really careful arguing as if you know the intentions or calculations of how a ‘deity’ would treat his ‘creation.’ Those two words as applied to our physical universe are entirely presuppositional.

@Chriss Outcast–

Happy Birthday!

darkeros / July 13th, 2007, 10:46 am / #4

What an exceptional piece, Black Sun! Thank you for it.

This last line from the Knowledge Paradigm continues to resound…

“Therefore we accept and make peace with the unknown, for it will always be with us.”

This statement suggests a greater expression of humility than found in any religion I have encountered. Most religions purport humility toward the great unknown mystery, or ‘God’, and then proceed to proselytize their exclusive comprehensive detailed cosmology on EVERYTHING! As my father was wont to say, “How can the finite mind of man know the infinite mind of a god?” He was an atheist and a scientist at heart, and exposed me at a very young age to the awareness that ‘god’ was made in the image of man, not the other way around!

The philosophy of science reflects a new credo and ironically, one that brings us to a the new/old living sacred ‘tao’, expressing great respect and regard for ‘matter’ and this life here and now on earth.

Wonderful!

a / July 13th, 2007, 6:39 pm / #5

Well done. This is quotable, I likey:
For a theist to claim that lab work requires faith in science is clear equivocation. At the risk of being highly tedious and pedantic, let me just reiterate what I mean: Faith in careful procedures and collection of evidence is not the same as faith in the resurrection of Jesus or in life after death (for which there can be no empirical evidence). But this equivocation comes up all the time. It’s part of the immune system of the theistic memeplex.

slbakercu@yahoo.com / July 14th, 2007, 11:22 am / #6

Great Post! I am book marking this one.

Question on the second graphic. To what does “olduvai theory” refer to? I know about the hominid fossil site of Oduvai gorge in Kenya (or Tanzania?), but what is “olduvai theory”.

In the comment section at the Secular Outpost someone stated the following in an attempt to validate the concept of faith:

“We as humans have to acknowledge the limits of our understanding at some point. This event horizon is faith.”

To which I responded:
Yes, I acknowledge the limits of my understanding. After that I don’t make up stuff to fill the void. If I did, that would be “faith”.The other option is simply to not attempt to fill this “void” with something contrived like “faith”.

BlackSun / July 14th, 2007, 11:38 am / #7

A and Slbakercu,

Thank you! :-)


Olduvai Theory
is the idea that industrial civilization will be limited to 100 years. Here is the original text. This is loosely the basis for the doomerist predictions of the peak oil cult. Strangely, it looks like they are right about peak oil. But by using terms like “olduvai theory,” they imply some sort of unalterable predestination which prevents humanity from finding and using other energy sources. Many of the peak oil doomers are religious in their insistence that there is no way out for humanity except massive die-off and a return to pre-industrial civilization with dramatically lower populations levels (say 1 billion or less).

The Olduvai Gorge was the cradle of pre-human civilization, and where some of the earliest tools (2 million years old) were found.

Sheldon / July 14th, 2007, 3:29 pm / #8

Ok thanks, indeed, I went to Wikipedia for a quik scan, and it certainly sounds like poppycock to me. I have never heard of it before seeing it in your graphic.

I am actually an archaeologist, and I feel compelled to correct you on your terminology here:

The Olduvai Gorge was the cradle of pre-human civilization, and where some of the earliest tools (2 million years old) were found.

In anthropology, civilization has a more specific meaning connected to the development of the state, cities, economic specialization, intensive agriculture etc..

On the other hand, as you properly note, the remains at Olduvai Gorge were species prior to the evolution of Homo sapiens. They were most likely scavengers, at most hunter-gatherers, and they didn’t build cities, thats for sure!

BlackSun / July 14th, 2007, 3:41 pm / #9

Yeah, Sheldon, I guess I didn’t use that term correctly.

- Spaceman Spiff - / July 15th, 2007, 9:28 pm / #10

I choose to believe in God not because I “know” He is real, but because I choose to believe in more than nothing. Which god is the more complicated part of it. Belief is not about knowledge, it is about faith.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines faith as firm belief in something for which there is no proof. How can that be equated with knowing? I don’t know if God is real. But I choose to believe it despite having no proof. I think people get that mixed up. it is more about what could be than is apparent. Otherwise, you wouldn’t need faith to believe.

I understand this is a paradox, and I am not going to suggest I understand it more than anyone else. I just choose to believe. There is the whole deeper meaning, the reason for existence, and then there is personal proof that “something” has touched my life and I know it is more than natural.

I have personally seen people I KNOW are unable to do certain things, like walk, do the unthinkable when their lives are touched by the person/force/entity/phenomena I call God. I have seen broken bones heal right in front of me. And there are doctor notes that corroborate these miracles, at least that is what I call them.

Belief in God just makes sense to me. Not only because of my need to have a reason for my own existence, but because of what i have witnessed, and experienced. Take it for what it is worth, but that is how I feel.

BlackSun / July 16th, 2007, 1:40 pm / #11

I choose to believe in God not because I “know” He is real, but because I choose to believe in more than nothing.

This is what Daniel Dennett would call “belief in belief” or the state of preferring belief as opposed to truth-value. Spaceman, let me just first say that you seem like a nice guy, not your typical fundie troll. But you’re still saying things that sound just as irrational.

Which god is the more complicated part of it. Belief is not about knowledge, it is about faith.

Yes, this was the entire point of the post. Faith puts the cart before the horse. You take a shortcut to fulfillment–no need to be bothered with pesky facts.

I have personally seen people I KNOW are unable to do certain things, like walk, do the unthinkable when their lives are touched by the person/force/entity/phenomena I call God. I have seen broken bones heal right in front of me. And there are doctor notes that corroborate these miracles, at least that is what I call them.

This is highly suspect, and smacks of rampant self-delusion. If you can prove it, you might just win the James Randi challenge for $1 million. Beyond that, there’s a lot of suffering people in the world who’d like to talk to you.

Belief in God just makes sense to me. Not only because of my need to have a reason for my own existence, but because of what i have witnessed, and experienced. Take it for what it is worth, but that is how I feel.

It’s worth something only to yourself. Which was again, my point. If you want to participate in something truly larger than yourself, it is the search for and appreciation of knowledge that can be confirmed empirically.

fjell_strom / July 17th, 2007, 6:22 am / #12

BlackSun, just had to chime in with:

You rock. Please continue your work, which is filled with delicate, accurate, admirable sentences.

fjell

Reality Czech / July 17th, 2007, 10:45 am / #13

There is one thing I would contribute as a caption to the graphic.  I do not remember who wrote it, but it bears repeating:

“The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.”

Doris Tracey / July 18th, 2007, 1:51 pm / #14

Hi Blacksun,

Science or Religion will never discover all the mysteries of the universe it would take forever to uncover them all and would be quite boring for us and our posterity if that were to take place. We would not have any desire to go on . There would be no desire for perfection, which is our ultimate goal. Again maybe I’m wrong.

BlackSun / July 19th, 2007, 2:12 pm / #15

Doris, I will echo the comment made by breakerslion over at Kill the Afterlife:

“Truth is limited, bullshit is infinite.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

The Green Atheist » Humanist Symposium V.5 / July 22nd, 2007, 8:24 am / #16

[...] From the “Scientism-is-a-superstition” department: BlackSun also had two entries, I chose to present this excellent post titled Atheist ‘Metaphysics’ and Religious Equivocation (posted at Black Sun Journal). [...]

Black Sun Journal » Archives » Margaret Somerville’s Other Ways of Knowing / July 24th, 2007, 6:16 pm / #17

[...] The presumptions do not have remotely close to the same probability of being true. This is equivocation (previous post), presuming the existence of god to be a falsifiable premise, which it is not. It’s conflating positive proof with negative proof, the latter being logically impossible. [...]

Black Sun Journal » Archives » Eckhart Tolle In My Mail / July 31st, 2007, 7:53 pm / #18

[...] Whatever makes you feel in control, I guess. But sometimes things which make us feel better aren’t necessarily true or even good for us. Again, if Tolle is talking about needs, what could he possibly add to either Maslow’s hierarchy or the human universals? I just don’t get it. Why would anyone want to listen to the musings of a non-scientist? If I want to learn about human needs, I would (and have) explore ev-bio, ev-psych, or anthropology. Tolle and others like him are squarely in the camp of woo. They promote a watered down and ultimately meaningless new-age theology. (And of course Oprah loves him.) Don’t want to name any other names, but Deepak Chopra. Examples of other equally useless anti-science hokum would be “The Secret” or What the Bleep?. I don’t torture myself with such media excretions except to deconstruct them. And often times, I don’t even need to bother. There are plenty of others who’ve done it for me. (Please don’t tell me science is my “religion” or that I have “faith in science”–I’ve already taken that one apart.) Here’s my recent reading list of knowledge-based works (fiction excepted). [...]

Religion, and Science as Philosophy at Abstract-Expressionist Painting Journal / August 6th, 2007, 9:34 am / #19

[...] Related to my many discussions on the meaning of knowledge in the realm of science, versus its meaning in religion, read: Atheist ‘Metaphysics’ and Religious Equivocation. [...]

John B. / August 6th, 2007, 11:18 pm / #20

Black Sun, I followed your link to this back from “Why Don’t You Blog” and Heather’s post on “New Enemy of Reason”? I nearly forgot to do so, having read your comment early this morning. I’m so glad my mind occasionally works the way I would like it to! This was so worth coming here for. VERY POWERFUL post. One of the best rebuttal’s of the accusation of “scientism” that I can even imagine. This should be widely read and I will certainly refer people back to it from my little blog. It would be nice if it gets reposted on some of the more frequented blogs. Great job and thanks!

BlackSun / August 7th, 2007, 4:05 pm / #21

John B., Thanks! It was cross-posted at American Chronicle and also ExChristian.net

If you have any other suggestions, I’d be happy to submit it.

Cheers!

Brian / August 7th, 2007, 9:23 pm / #22

Great article. Very well presented. I get so frustrated when believers pull the equivocation tactic.

N J Wong / August 8th, 2007, 12:27 am / #23

I was directed to this post from richarddawkins.net. Great article.

The phrase “I place my faith in science” is a commonly uttered construct even by atheists and agnostics (in fact, I recently found Carl Sagan saying it in one of his lectures in his book “The Varieties of Scientific Experience - A Personal View of the Search of God”). Obviously, we are using the word “faith” to mean that we have “confidence in something - after giving it much thought and studied consideration”. This is not exactly the same as the religious meaning of “faith” which implies “embracing a belief unquestioningly despite evidences of the contrary”.

Similarly, the word “God” is used to both mean the Abrahamic god figure by Judeo-Christian followers, or the Universe/Cosmos by atheists and agnostics.

Because of such ambiguities, atheists and agnostics should perhaps try to avoid using such terms (although this is extremely difficult due to sheer force of habit), and use “confidence” and “Universe” instead when that is their intent. This may reduce the number of arguments due to quibbles over semantics.

NJ

Mark / August 8th, 2007, 1:37 am / #24

Good article. However, you seem to be missing the broader point of “non-overlapping-magisteria”. There are different types of “knowledge”, and the empirical method is not amenable to all of them. For example; scientific / engineering knowledge may enable you to construct a musical instrument, but they won’t tell you much about composing a symphony.

BlackSun / August 8th, 2007, 2:54 am / #25

Mark,

Good article. However, you seem to be missing the broader point of “non-overlapping-magisteria”.

I don’t think I missed it. In general, NOMA claims that science explains the “how” and religion explains the “why.”

I’ve never heard anyone claim that science would address how to write a symphony. But it does reveal the underlying brain structures which give rise to such human creativity.

Rune / August 8th, 2007, 3:28 am / #26

If something goes against oranized religion, I agree, as always.
But as you seem to go against lots of ancient and newer medicine, I have to give you an example of the limits of scientific medicine:
I did not look up if the tests for the anti-depressant Prozac (TM) were made correctly then and I will not now, I just presume it for argument´s sake. When it was new, I was one of the first patients my doctor gave it to. And after only two days, the shadow of the ignition key seemed to jump out of the windscreen of my car and attack me! It felt very real and very scary. I raced to my doctor, and it was nothing more than respect for a patient´s will that she agreed to stop (we had very much exhausted anything else then).
It was years afterwards that in medicine journals this “side effect” to create paranoia in some patients began being described.
Should I be interested in “tested knowledge by scientific method” or in MY individual reaction to a class of medicine???
By the way, I react very different to anything influencing central nervous system compared to the information given out by the respective pharmacy firm - and THAT knowledge from experience is what I trust in, and my INDIVIDUAL values are the checkpoints for the next try. Just as I fight religion to force any of their values on me with the penal law I like the worldview of Traditional Chinese Medicine and do my Tai Chi exercises each day, eat Asian foods often and I experience that this is good for me.
O.k., translating “qi” as “energy” may be as much of a mistranslation as the “virgin”-Mary-thing, but that does not do away with its working!

Moridin / August 8th, 2007, 3:37 am / #27

BlackSun, Thank you for a great article!

Mark, the problem with advocating NOMA is three-fold.

1. No other relevant epistemology for knowing about the supernatural have been presented.
2. Religion and supernaturalism tries to make fact claims about the natural world.
3. Science has steadily over turned old religious superstitions, both by disproving them and by providing alternative natural explanations and then explaining the natural origin of such superstitions.

Mark / August 8th, 2007, 3:48 am / #28

The point about NOMA is, in essence, one regarding the incommensurability of subjective and objective “knowledge” (which contradicts your point #6 above). Understanding the neural underpinnings of creativity is not equivalent to appreciating a great piece of music first-hand. Analysing the chemical composition of a piece of fruit is not the same as actually tasting it. However, the NOMA argument cuts both ways. Making claims to objective truth based upon subjective “revelation”, as many religions are wont to do, is equally ill-informed.

Janus / August 8th, 2007, 8:43 am / #29

Very nice article.

It’s the first time I see someone other than myself bring up the probability calculationargument. For some reason I’ve never managed to convince anyone, even weak atheists, that this argument forces a weak atheist or agnostic to be a strong atheist towards all specific concepts of God. Anyway, I’m glad to see someone else had the same idea, shows I’m not completely insane.

Conocimiento vs Superstición // menéame / August 8th, 2007, 9:15 am / #30

[...] Conocimiento vs Supersticiónwww.blacksunjournal.com/science/847_atheist-metaphysics-and-… por shapiro_wilks hace pocos segundos [...]

George Jelliss / August 8th, 2007, 10:25 am / #31

I appreciate that your first diagram is just a graphic, but I would question whether “the unknown” is as extensive as it suggests. There are many physicists who think we are close to a “theory of everything” in their subject or in cosmology.

Of course if you include mathematical knowledge in the unknown area then it is probably infinite, though even that may become less interesting over time, reducing to the study of pettifogging details, crossing “t”s and dotting “i”s of previous work.

I suppose that the smaller one makes the outer ring the closer one comes to being a scientismist, if that’s the word.

Reginald Le Sueur / August 8th, 2007, 10:57 am / #32

The comments about appreciating or composing a musical symphony or the subjective sensation of tasting fruit, should not be taken as being outside of scientific scope. Science investigates the mind/body problem and seeks the neural basis of consciousness,-which is what does the appreciating of both symphonies and fruit. Religious superstition has no more to offer on these problems than it does on basic chemistry.

Beth / August 8th, 2007, 11:24 am / #33

I have just a small point to add: Not only are there no clothes, there’s no emperor. It seems silly to even mention, or give any credence to, the idea of hypothetical clothing on a nonexistent being. And I’m not entirely convinced that believers really understand the absurdity of their beliefs. I think it is atheists who have learned to think unnaturally, and to rely on logic and evidence rather than personal experience and cultural/familial traditions.

denoir / August 8th, 2007, 7:35 pm / #34

@Spaceman–

I believe this was the whole idea of science to begin with…considering it actually was started by a bunch of Christians. Ok, maybe not Christians, but at least they had a quite firm belief in God as the Creator.

This whole idea of science was started by a bunch of Greeks that were polytheists and their gods weren’t the creators. Their creation myth was that the Earth (also fulfilling the role of the goddess Gaia) was created out of void. She then mated with the sky to create the titans which were a sort of beta version of gods. The titans gave birth to Zeus (the über-god to be) who promptly proceeded in eliminating them, grabbing power.

The point is that the Greek belief system had extremely little in common with the christian one.

What is true is that most of the Greeks believed in their mythology just like you believe in your christian mythology. What unites you is that you have both equally little evidence for your beliefs. The relevant difference there is however that you can forgive them more easily as their sphere of knowledge was very very small.

Humility of science and the arrogance of religion « Open Parachute / August 9th, 2007, 6:54 pm / #35

[...] There is a timely posting entitled Atheist ‘Metaphysics’ and Religious Equivocation, in Black Sun Journal which goes into these issues. The whole article is well worth reading but the following extract gives some idea of the content: 1. Superstitions make unbounded and contradictory claims. Science tries to resolve conflicts and knows the boundaries of its knowledge. 2. Superstitions would like to crowd each other out of the picture. Science only sees one picture. 3. Superstitions make extremely specific claims about the nature of their gods (spirits, energy, law of attraction, etc.). Science does not claim anything about god or these other phenomena, other than to say it has failed to find evidence for their existence. 4. Superstitions make assertions about the nature of consciousness as spirit, and that it precedes (or creates, or can change) matter. Science investigates methods of information storage and how consciousness arises as an emergent property of matter. 5. Superstitions hold creation myths. Science pushes back the veil of time ever closer toward what seems like it might be the beginning (but we can’t be sure). 6. Superstitions promote dualism (mind/body, spirit/matter). Science sees the entire universe or multiverse as a natural, potentially explorable whole. 7. Superstitions deal in certainties. Science deals in probabilities, and aggressively pursues uncertainty. [...]

Atheist ‘Metaphysics’ and Religious Equivocation @ Gary’s Brain Excretions / August 10th, 2007, 9:19 am / #36

[...] read more | digg story Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

Black Sun Journal » Archives » The Mind Shuts When There’s No Evidence / August 20th, 2007, 11:16 am / #37

[...] In a commentary in USA Today called “Secularists, What Happened to the Open Mind?,” Tom Krattenmaker takes secularists to task for “leaving their critical thinking at the door” regarding religion. In trying to strike a middle ground, Krattenmaker commits numerous fallacies of equivocation (previous post) and fails utterly to engage his own critical thought. The primary focus of his column, like so many other journalists who wish to avoid taking sides, is the idea of NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria): Discussing the relationship between science and religion, I had expressed my view that religion should leave scientific research to the scientists and devote itself, along with the fields of ethics and philosophy, to the mighty issues of the human condition: good and evil, the meaning of life, the nature of love and so forth. To which my correspondent replied: Why would something as inherently foolish as religion deserve a place at the table for discussions of that magnitude? [...]

Black Sun Journal » Archives » Priest of the “Middle High Ground” / August 31st, 2007, 1:25 am / #38

[...] As I and many others have tried to explain, (previous post) science has never claimed to have all the answers. It is indeed a tool, and part of its gift is knowing its own limits. The same cannot be said for religion. This is the clearest and simplest of distinctions, and one of the most important we can ever make. Books like “God is Not Great: How Religion Ruins Everything” aside, church faith is no more to blame for all the world’s ills than atheism as practiced by the world’s great mass killers, such as Hitler, Pol Pot or Stalin. It’s just not that simple. [...]

I Wish I Knew » Blog Archive » More on atheist and scientific epistemology / September 17th, 2007, 3:17 pm / #39

[...] In case I haven’t banged on about this enough over the past couple of weeks, here’s another great article explaining why atheism is the rational result of the scientific world-view. This time with pictures! I especially like this diagram; it does a great job of illustrating the scientific attitude to knowledge. Go and read the whole article, it’s all just as good. [...]

Black Sun Journal » Archives » A Milestone / October 13th, 2007, 1:54 pm / #40

[...] The Typepad format was a much better and more interactive and immersive experience for me. I learned a lot and met a lot of new friends on the net. Special thanks to the crew at Goosing the Antithesis, Aaron Kinney at Kill the Afterlife, and Matt Crandall at 10,000 Reasons to Doubt the Fish. Later, after launching BSJ 3.0 as a custom wordpress application, I became friends with Tobe38 of A Load of Bright, John P from Spanish Inquisitor, John Blackman of Evolutionary Middleman, and Heather and TW from Why Don’t You Blog? I also helped Ebonmuse of Daylight Atheism to get the Humanist Symposium started, hosting the 3rd edition of that carnival. In August of ‘07, John Blackman submitted my article Atheist Metaphysics and Religious Equivocation to the Richard Dawkins site which resulted in about 10,000 unique visitors. [...]

Black Sun Journal » Archives » The Home Schooling Question / October 31st, 2007, 1:30 am / #41

[...] The above is blatant equivocation, based on Muser’s contention that secularism is a religion. I’ve thoroughly debunked this (previous article), and am not going to address it again. (Please go read the article.) She wraps up her religious diatribe with the conclusion that the “secular religion” is privileged over her Christian religion, and therefore that her religion is equally deserving of public subsidy. Thomas Jefferson would be turning over in his grave. How can you reason with someone who doesn’t understand that “secular” as defined by the dictionary is “not pertaining to or connected with religion”? There can be no secular religion. It is an oxymoron. [...]

Black Sun Journal » From the Mailbag: A Call to my ‘Divine Mission’ / November 29th, 2007, 9:51 pm / #42

[...] Atheism primarily asks people to adhere to rationality. If you admit there is no proof for god, then you should refrain from making any comment about what “it” is or may be and instead be willing to make peace with the unknown. I have written extensively about this question. You should read this article if you are interested in my true stance. [...]

Agnostic Observer / February 27th, 2008, 8:22 pm / #43

Blacksun,
Overall, an excellent article. I have a few points of contention though.
1) You say

Superstitions make assertions about the nature of consciousness as spirit, and that it precedes (or creates, or can change) matter. Science investigates methods of information storage and how consciousness arises as an emergent property of matter.

I agree with your assessment of what assertions are made by superstitions. However, I would argue that there is a sort of dualism between consciousness and the brain that cannot be explained by understanding the neural correlates of consciousness. Chalmers breaks out the “easy” and “hard” problems of consciousness. The “easy” problem is to find the neural correlates of consciousness. The “hard” problem is to explain “experience”. To quote:

The really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience. When we think and perceive, there is a whir of information-processing, but there is also a subjective aspect. As Nagel (1974) has put it, there is something it is like to be a conscious organism. This subjective aspect is experience. When we see, for example, we experience visual sensations: the felt quality of redness, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field. Other experiences go along with perception in different modalities: the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothballs. Then there are bodily sensations, from pains to orgasms; mental images that are conjured up internally; the felt quality of emotion, and the experience of a stream of conscious thought. What unites all of these states is that there is something it is like to be in them. All of them are states of experience.

It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does.
Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness

He posits the solution is to take experience as a fundamental:

I suggest that a theory of consciousness should take experience as fundamental. We know that a theory of consciousness requires the addition of something fundamental to our ontology, as everything in physical theory is compatible with the absence of consciousness. We might add some entirely new nonphysical feature, from which experience can be derived, but it is hard to see what such a feature would be like. More likely, we will take experience itself as a fundamental feature of the world, alongside mass, charge, and space-time. If we take experience as fundamental, then we can go about the business of constructing a theory of experience.

Where there is a fundamental property, there are fundamental laws. A nonreductive theory of experience will add new principles to the furniture of the basic laws of nature. These basic principles will ultimately carry the explanatory burden in a theory of consciousness. Just as we explain familiar high-level phenomena involving mass in terms of more basic principles involving mass and other entities, we might explain familiar phenomena involving experience in terms of more basic principles involving experience and other entities.

I would also posit that is it an assumption or article of faith to presume that consciousness is an emergent property of matter and not the other way around, or neither. We really don’t have evidence either way.

2) My second contention is your probability calculation. You state:

Here’s how the probability calculation goes: Take every god ever written about or imagined by every human who’s ever lived. They’re all different, of course. Let’s give this an arbitrary value of one MILLION gods. Add a single digit to that million to represent the probability of “no god” existing. There you have it. 1:1,000,001 probability of anyone’s particular god existing for certain, or “no god” existing for certain. [Assuming that one and only one person in human history has discovered the exact and ontologically correct theology.] One in a million, or less. About the same as for the existence of Russell’s Teapot orbiting Mars, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

This doesn’t make any sense. It is equivalent to saying that the probability that I am in New York is 1/50 because there are 50 states … or 1/195 because there are 195 countries. In reality the probability of me being in New York is ZERO because I am not in new York. It is independent of the number of possible places I could be. You mistake uniform priors with the a posteriori probability. I pick a card from a deck. It is a jack of spades. What is the probability I have a jack of spades? 1.0. The probability of a specific God’s existence has no dependence on the number of God’s posited by humans.

3) I believe that faith plays an imprtant role in doing science. However, this is not unbreakable faith that is unyielding in the face of contrary evidence. When I have a panel of 10 experiments I could do, I choose one because I believe that has the best chance to yield the evidence that will fortify or falsify my hypothesis. Of course, if it does not, I would do another experiment. We use a measure of faith to prioritize our experiments. At a higher level, we have faith that experiments will yield interpretable results, or we would not bother to do experiments at all!!

BlackSun / February 27th, 2008, 8:47 pm / #44

Agnostic Observer,

Thanks for a well thought out comment!

1) You are correct that the nature of subjective experience has not been sufficiently explained, nor has the idea of qualia and why they are experienced the way they are. Until we can can analyze and compare qualia, which would require figuring out a way to wire up one person’s consciousness to another, or simulating the “experience” on an artificial substrate, we cannot really say how or why a particular experience feels the way it does. Or even if two people see red or experience heat the same way, for example.

But no one knew what it was like to walk on the moon either, until we got there. No one could describe a color in terms of a specific wavelength of light until we understood the physics behind it.

Like most unknowns, the hard problem of consciousness is something we can only speculate about. But I can be certain that once a functioning human brain is modeled on a machine, we will know a lot more about it than we know now.

Clearly we cannot now say that there is no “other” basic quality of experience that is separate from the component parts of matter that seem to give rise to our brain states. But nor can we say there is, and this is one of those questions which awaits further explorations. I’m as eager as anyone to find the answers.

2) You’re right, the probability calculation is kind of weak. But I was using it to illustrate the irrationality of saying for certain that any particular god or no god absolutely existed or did not exist. Many believers of all stripes ignore the fact that the probability of them being correct in totality about their deity or cosmology is slim to none. Though I tend to agree there’s absolutely no deity (at least none that has been properly described by a human being) I cannot prove there is no such god. Therefore, I simply content myself with the thought that the probability of anyone having described the actual “Lord of the Universe” is vanishingly small. Strong atheists go one step further and declare god’s absolute non-existence, but in practice, I don’t think my probability -based position is really much different from theirs. I live my life the same way a strong atheist would, so the difference for me is academic.

3) I would say that your description does not imply faith, but rather what I would call hunches or instinct. When a person’s brain is highly skilled at investigating a particular realm of knowledge, often their subconscious mind is working very hard on the problem at hand without being fully aware of this process.

Countless little observations and factors we aren’t even aware of factor into our decisions. Marvin Minsky theorizes that our emotions are shorthand for thousands of little cognitive calculations we make. We then experience the result as an emotion that says “do this, not that.” We can’t always say why. So when an experimenter decides to go down a particular road, it’s not faith, but hidden processing power of the brain that leads to the decision. If the experiment fails, then obviously, a mistake was made. But that’s the beauty of the method. The brain of a scientist will take in the error signal and make a better decision the next time.

Black Sun Journal » “Everyone Believes in Something” / March 26th, 2008, 9:14 am / #45

[...] Usually at this point, I direct people to read my article Atheist Metaphysics and Religious Equivocation. In it, I explain how using the word "belief" in multiple contexts (to describe belief without evidence, belief in spite of evidence, or belief based on evidence) as if they were the same thing is equivocation. It’s like saying "day" actually also means "night" because a day has 24 hours. Technically, it’s true, but you have to qualify it, and make the distinction, explaining that when you say "day" you mean the entire rotation of the earth and not just "day" the time when it’s light. Deliberately confusing the two in conversation would be either woefully imprecise or downright mendacious. But that’s just what gets done every day with concepts involving "belief." [...]

David Franklin / February 5th, 2010, 2:02 pm / #46

I'll state right from the start that I'm a Christian.
I'll also state that I'm a scientist - by training and by inclination. A falsificationist, to be precise.
The arguments in this post are good. Very good. But I can't help noticing a flaw in the explanation of the diagram
of science. The flaw is the blithe dismissal of relativism.
Science does (or should) work as described. Once we know something, by golly, we know it. We've tested it,
rigorously. Unfortunately (or not), we could only begin that accumulation of knowledge from some arbitrary,
subjective starting point. We had to make assumptions, use "self-evident" truths and the like to begin the process.
Euclid's postulates, Descartes' *Cogito ergo sum*, and the like.
From here, we've built a body of knowledge, NOT discovered "truths about the universe".
Science is as much a human construct as mathematics is. Both are closely based on external reality (if our
assumption that it exists is correct) and both say many useful and apparently true things about it, but neither are
absolutely objective and true ON THEIR OWN. They only have truth and meaning in the context of human
knowledge.
As someone said in the comments "knowledge that can be confirmed EMPIRICALLY" (emphasis mine). Empirical
observations are grounded in reality, yes. They are also very much SUBJECTIVE. Any observation is, and
observation is the bedrock of science.
I presume that you understand the concepts of hypothesis, hypothesis testing, falsification.
Then you'll understand what I am getting at when I say that "The God Hypothesis" is nonsense.
The very nature of God (as put forward by various religious texts) is untestable: infinite, eternal, limitless - how does
one measure, how does one test, the unmeasurable?
I'd appreciate your comments. You're one of very few atheists I've encountered who could put a decent argument
for their unbelief, and actually understands how science works :)
Not, mind you, that I belief you were argued into atheism, I don't think humans are that rational. I certainly didn't
become a Christian on the basis of scientific arguments…

BlackSun / February 5th, 2010, 6:51 pm / #47

David Franklin,

Empirical observations made by one person are subjective, but when multiple observers and multiple methods are involved, they subjectivity is almost if not completely removed. To see why relativism makes no sense, as a thought experiment, take all conscious entities out of the universe. It still operates on a set of principles which do not change based on the removal of consciousness. It is those rules science tries to discover. We can only observe and discover, never dictate. Even the phenomena of "observation" changing quantum states are not really based on conscious observation, but rather *measurement* which involves hitting one particle with another (such as a photon).

You cannot test the unmeasurable. I posit the reason these things are unmeasurable is because these are all conscious constructs, not objective realities.

Shifu Careaga / November 16th, 2010, 3:08 pm / #48

Right away, I think we have at the very least a semantic problem. Your language presupposes that there was a "creator, and presupposes the existence of god. I'm saying, we can't even get that far. To speak in those terms, we would have already had to have discovered such a being. Otherwise, it's like the blind men and the elephant. We have very incomplete knowledge, and yet you seem satisfied enough to assume you know the whole."

Does one need the data on the contents of a room to see what's in the room, know its shape, color, smell, sounds, temperature and safety/threat level?
Under your kind of existence you cannot know anything, and yet you live under massive amounts of faith that comes from assumptions in the hypothalamus and protective physiology of the reticular formation. In other words your hypothesis that you can live without faith in either a metaphysical or religious structure seems to be at odds with biology and psychology.
In other words your approach, however 'logical' (as though people are that) is inherently impractical and for lack of a better word useless; it's mental masturbation.

Also, you use the idea of probability to make a point. I'd like to turn that point on you. First, the probability of life existing is FAR lower than that of God, (according to your stat), hence making God practically a certainty as compared to the infintessimally small "probability of life". Moreover the probability of sentient life is practically nil, and yet … here we are.
Second supposing that we couldn't know anything without the scientific proof, then almost nothing humanity knows, even in science could be used or known because none of it is complete. For example, we do not know how the circulatory system returns blood to the heart under such low pressure, but empirically we know it does. We do not know exactly the value of any of the important irrational constants or why we need the imaginary number to define waves and EM forces, but we do. We do not know how the area of the dirac delta is 1 when it goes to infiinity but it is.
We do not even know how medications or vaccinations work but we use them and call it "science"

You say we cannot disprove God, that is certainly true. Not only because the probability is so high (as you have made clear) that a superstructure known here as God exists, but because for all intents and purposes, everything you see or do is a living manifestation of the very principles and forces that make God up - even if you choose to deny it on a rational basis.
Your sense of love, rightness, peace, etc… are not quantifiable, nor is even the equation for how much energy they contain (also your mind) yet known if it can ever be known being more than likely non-linear).

The simple problem, my good sirs is not that science and religion don't mix… that is just another dualistic metaphysical ASSUMPTION taken on faith here in this article.

The problem IS that there are three different planes of knowledge, spiritual, mental, and physical and trying to prove or disprove one or another is like trying to define a real number along the imaginary axis… the answer is 0; or an imaginary number along the real axis, the answer is 0.

They are simply different matrices of knowledge. Cross them on their respective planes, and get a paradigm that more accurately reflects how you live, how you can be healthy, and also what science says and can't say and what religion says and can't say.

You want harmony of internal structures, stop trying to negate the matrix of knowledge and simply put it in context of itself.

Btw I give your article an 8.5, not bad for an atheist. You're an even better atheist than I used to be, but frankly, nothing you've said here will lead to lasting happiness, so in the end it is just more 'mental garbage' as you judgmentally applied to religions. I tried. A paradigm is only useful if it works with ACTUAL LIFE. Also science has already proven God exists… it's called self-replicating structures or self-organizing structures. It's a rpoduct of the laws of evolution and chaos math in play.

drug rehab Utah / December 1st, 2010, 7:30 am / #49

i believe in Christian values. i can not understand those who believe and glorify lucifier. no wonder why the world is like that. the teenagers are so easy convert to bad things, the consume drugs like candies, drink alcohol like water. they don't have no ashame of their parents and the older ones. i don't where is going this kind of behavior.

Dwight Robinson / August 7th, 2011, 5:56 pm / #50

Hi Sean

I just read your entire treatise.

Thank you for the noble example of reaching beyond the perceived inconsistencies of your roots, that is your inherited childhood world view as the son of presumed parental prophets, to seek truth that cherishes no other allegiances or social loyalties than to discover internally consistent realities in an ever-expanding circle of enlightenment. Do we agree that any other preference likely devolves from a misguided fear that something less liberated and less inquisitive will better serve our highest well-being, individually and corporately, than to boldly explore who we are and learn how to harmlessly deploy observably immutable, universal, causal laws of life and love?

Years ago as a young Colorado College undergrad & farm boy from Montana I was invited to an evening of your mother's taped dictations in Colorado Springs. I politely accepted a ride that evening and afterwards politely without further inquiry dismissed it as a curious claim to mystical knowledge beyond my immediate interests. As a grad student I bypassed climbing the corporate ladder and set out hitch hiking and bussing around the Western US seeking answers to unanswered questions of health, origins and life purpose. I stumbled across Summit University again in Pasadena and enrolled for a couple of mind-bending weeks, cautiously dropped out of the 3 month orientation to read some of the works. I curiously returned after a summer of Montana wheat harvest to Camelot in Malibu and spent 3 months as a skeptical "chela on the path," wanting to give such a radical paradigm shift fair opportunity to establish credibility, knowing that the pursuit of truth requires more than cursory inquiry. I concluded I couldn't then disprove the CUT world view presented, that there was virtuous pursuit of truth by many young people there like myself, but that neither could I validate any of it, so continued my search for purpose and fulfillment. I had previously lost interest in the Christian world view, not satisfied with questions unanswered by the simple claims to truth of the parochial country Methodist church I had attended in my youth on the plains of Montana.

After Camelot I decided to look more deeply into the credibility of Christianity and the Bible, concluding I had not given it fair inquiry in my youth, and explored other Christian denominations including 9 months studying Mormonism while attending their priesthood meetings, and studying with Jehovah witnesses, Unity church, Worldwide Church of God, and Seventh Day Adventist. The SDA reckoning of the Bible struck me as much more credible than the others but I was very reluctant to contemplate the writings and credibility of their prophetess Ellen G. White as I had wearied of the compelling but ultimately untenable role your mother had claimed as a prophetess and was not anxious to explore another woman's similar claims.

Perhaps motivated by a respect for scientific inquiry, I at first reluctantly went ahead and read Great Controversy and Desire of Ages, discovering that Ellen White defended true science as consistent with the Bible while classifying as "science falsely so called" much of the world's biased claims to scientific objectivity.

Athiests may be surpirsed to know that Adventists can easily demonstrate that the Bible teaches that the dead are entirely dead as most atheists conclude, not spiritually alive, that the Bible does not teach the self-existence of human spirit apart from the biological functions of a human body nor the existence of a perpetually burning place called Hell. They also can convincingly demonstrate from Scripture that multiple prophecies have historically fulfilled with exacting precision to the day and sometimes to the hour, and that the Bible itself predicts gross misrepresentation of its truths by those who claim to be the repository and arbitor of Biblical truth, sopecifically the Roman Catholic Church and the apostate Protestant children that are in bed with her.

Dwight Robinson / August 7th, 2011, 5:58 pm / #51

(continued)

I am now 61 and no longer a young man searching all alternatives for the most healthful lifestyle, life-purpose and most validated world view. The process of elimination has obviously narrowed the field of inquiry to a much smaller subset of credible alternatives. My wife and I are Adventists, vegan, pacifists and teach what most Christians and athiests don't want to hear, that the closest examination of Bible principles and the life and teachings ascribed to the Messiah reveals that the God of scripture, when understood in light of the rules of engagement between the one prevailing government secured by force and the other government secured by forceless liberty to all, is innocent ( in = no; nocent = harm), despite apparent Bible language to the contrary.

Here you may likely argue that it is pointless to speak to an athiest about the innocence of a being whose existence has not been validated by scientific process, but may I appeal to a scientific process used to solve Mensa puzzles in which one purposely assumes first one, then each of the remaining of the other unverifiable alternative answers to see how many of them logically lead to internal inconistency and by the process of elimination at best prove all but one internally inconsistent, leaving the final unprovable assumption as the only plausible known alternative? Toward that end read "The Great Controversy" to get into perspective the stunning correlation between history foretold and history fulfilled, as well as its examiniation of the recurring agendas between those who love self and hate impartial truth vs. those who love both selflessness and impartial truth.

Because origins is an unprovable tautologic conundrum subject to subjective empirical inferences my interest in origins is not to argue it but is instead borne by the pragmatic question "What kind of a universe would I like to live in?" I would like to live in a selfless universe where all equally regard the well-being of all. The spirit of that intent appeals to me, supremely above all others. If our origins was through intelligent design and we are selected by an Intelligent Designer to inhabit a predator-free eternity on the basis of our individual trustworthiness to ever practice harmless intent then I would like to somehow attain to that trustworthiness in my character development, and be there. If non-intelligent natural selection selects the unselfish and cooperative, I would likewise prefer for the sake of others and myself to arrive at that perfect intent. If neither of the above is true then I take heart in the prospect I will not long inhabit a universe of competitive selfish predation and ascendancy, as I will be culled out, not in by either process. Whatever the case if we survive temporal life through divine recreation or natural genetic regeneration I suspect, given the broad range of doctrinal differences and diverse world views, most of those selected will arrive with the wrong doctrine but the right intent, i.e. to be harmless participants in the enchantment of eternal life.

Your mother, as revealed in your 2006 "Happy Birthday Mom!" expressed her desire not to harm others. However doctrinally correct or incorrect her world view, I would be delighted to discover that the purity of her intent qualified her to live forever. Yes, as a Christian whose synchronetic spiritual sojourn has led him back to the foot of the cross to meditate on the wonder of a man who in a dysfunctional body just like mine reportedly maintained communion with divine Intelligence that sustained a perspective on humanity that empowered him to live in selfless love and overcome every temptation know to man, I admit, whether Christ existed or not, that the universal principles of love ascribed to him are the only I have discovered worthy of my desire. Ironically, amidst the planetary debate over origins, it would appear most creationsts and athiests hold in contempt and would rather kill their enemies than die at their hands to prove a love strong than any survival instinct or fear of death.

As one who survived the almost overmastering spiritualist deception of the I AM movement I sincerely and prayerfully desire that you family members who survive your dear mother will by the miracle of constraining love, in fierce loyalties to truth at any price, without compromising or prostituting rational faculties, pursue with the intensity of your mother's spiritual sojourn, the discovery of life's highest purposes and fulfillment.

All the best,

Dwight Robinson

Pachomius / June 25th, 2012, 5:47 pm / #52

[quote]@Spaceman–

"What if they believe that science is a tool to understand the creator and eventually science will help them understand more fully the complexities of God?"

Right away, I think we have at the very least a semantic problem. Your language presupposes that there was a creator, and presupposes the existence of god. I'm saying, we can't even get that far. To speak in those terms, we would have already had to have discovered such a being. Otherwise, it's like the blind men and the elephant. We have very incomplete knowledge, and yet you seem satisfied enough to assume you know the whole.
[quote]

——————–

The idea is to have a concept in our mind of God as the unique uncreated creator of the created universe, then to go forth in the universe to find the entity that corresponds to that concept.

Is that unscientific?

If you insist that that is unscientific and therefore you must not entertain the concept of God as the unique uncreated creator of the created universe, it is then obvious to thinking people to see you atheists are peculiar humans who have already imposed in your mind a blinder by which you will not entertain concepts in your mind which you already take to be taboo to your mind.

Pachomius

Pachomius / June 25th, 2012, 6:08 pm / #53

So, my invitation is for you and me to launch off on the search for God in the universe as per the concept of God as the unique uncreated creator of the created universe.

We will first agree where we will set off to search for God, then, is that all right with you?

Or you want to show how that concept of God is an invalid concept?

Pachomius

Pachomius / June 25th, 2012, 6:15 pm / #54

And please, don't delete my comments here.

Pachomius

prints / April 8th, 2013, 9:33 pm / #55

I’m curious as well as considering what you are writing about below.

Paul / November 16th, 2014, 8:42 pm / #56

For a theist to claim that lab work requires faith in science is clear equivocation. At the risk of being highly tedious and pedantic, let me just reiterate what I mean: Faith in careful procedures and collection of evidence is not the same as faith in the resurrection of Jesus or in life after death (for which there can be no empirical evidence). But this equivocation comes up all the time. It’s part of the immune system of the theistic memeplex.

Sorry I'm just glancing around your site as I was skimming info for some handy quotes. I noticed the above statement and thought you might have a reductionist definition of faith. If by faith you mean having confidence in the laws of scientific evidence or the laws of legal evidence, then perhaps you might not have a true equivocation? Courts depend on being confident that there is sufficient testimony to induce a conclusion. Science depends on being confident that their is sufficient evidence to induce a conclusion.

Don't feel like you need to respond, but I would be interested to hear what you think.

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