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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2010 :  20:42:07   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Just to clarify, when I say "nothing can exist apart from nature", what I'm saying is that the definition of nature (for this argument/context) is "all that exists". If it's out there, and can interact with us, it is part of nature. So if the christian omnipotent god, who created us, were real, it wouldn't be "super"natural, it would be part of nature.

Things we don't know about or things we don't understand get thrown into that "super"natural box all the time. This is just an extension of the god-of-the-gaps. Complete nonsense obviously, because "I don't know/understand" is the proper response, not "goddidit".



Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2010 :  20:45:43   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dude

Just to clarify, when I say "nothing can exist apart from nature", what I'm saying is that the definition of nature (for this argument/context) is "all that exists". If it's out there, and can interact with us, it is part of nature.
In other words, the important distinction isn't "natural vs. supernatural" it's "real vs. fictional."

"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13470 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2010 :  20:54:34   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm an agnostic/atheist. And anyone who thinks I'm wishy washy about religion or that I call myself agnostic because I don't want to offend can lump it. It's as close as I can come to being precise in how I define my approach to the God question.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2010 :  21:26:09   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by H. Humbert

Originally posted by Dude

Just to clarify, when I say "nothing can exist apart from nature", what I'm saying is that the definition of nature (for this argument/context) is "all that exists". If it's out there, and can interact with us, it is part of nature.
In other words, the important distinction isn't "natural vs. supernatural" it's "real vs. fictional."

Correct.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26014 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2010 :  21:26:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by chefcrsh

In my case when someone asks me if I believe in god, I do not say no, I ask if they can describe it. Usually they do such a poor job that I still can't say no, but rather that their description is unintelligible. With some rigorously devout who have a deep definition of a god I can say I doubt much of their claims about the god in question and so no I do not believe in it. But to my mind and in full congruence with the rules of logic I can not be an honest skeptic and still dismiss any basket of claims outright.
There is no difference between what you've described and "weak" atheism. I see no evidence for any god, therefore I don't believe in any.

The epistemological limit is bunkum, however. Nobody's ever been able to put forth a functioning epistemology of the supernatural. What we're left with are epistemological methods which rely on Earth-bound phenomena and reasoning. If a claim fails to be testable under such methods - if there's no way in principle to tell if it's true - then for all practical intents and purposes, it can be considered false because it will necessarily have no impact on the world. And if a whole class of claims falls into such a category, after thousands of years of search and examination, then to give the next claim the time of day, it had better be presented with some truly extraordinary evidence.

I greatly admire Radford and Nickell, but what they're doing is assuming, for the sake of investigation, that the emperor has clothes, and then they're finding out that the epaulets or buttons they've been shown aren't, in fact, a part of the emperor's outfit at all, but instead bits of string or pebbles along the parade route. They're interested in very specific claims, while I (for one) am more interested in the big picture.

How, for a Joe Nickell example, is a bit of re-liquifying blood evidence for the Christian God, anyway? Where in the Bible does it say that samples of Jesus' blood will dry and re-liquify? It doesn't. So even if Nickell couldn't find a plausible natural explanation, those particular relics wouldn't actually become evidence in favor of the Christian God, because there's no logical or Biblical reason to think that Jesus' blood would act in such a manner.

It's great that those investigators are doing what they're doing, but they're working in a bottom-up fashion, and I'm a more top-down kinda guy. For example, we can look at a huge number of claims from Christianity and see the inconsistencies and even self-contradictions, and put that data together with what we know about human nature, politics and power, and easily come to the conclusion that the Abrahamic religions are human inventions. At that point we need not examine any individual reliquaries or splinters of wood ourselves, but instead say, "come talk to us when you've done all your homework and have built a solid case, please." The burden of proof, after all, is on the claimants. Nickell and Radford and others like them just purposefully play along as if it weren't.

And there's nothing wrong with such a division of labor, until someone starts implying that one is more honestly skeptical than the other.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26014 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2010 :  21:42:46   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

I'm an agnostic/atheist. And anyone who thinks I'm wishy washy about religion or that I call myself agnostic because I don't want to offend can lump it. It's as close as I can come to being precise in how I define my approach to the God question.
The question remains: why? From my readings of Huxley, he only coined the term "agnostic" because "atheist" already (in his time) carried too much political baggage for his tastes. Look at the definition of "agnostic" that chef provided: it's not really close to Huxley's, and we know that amongst the atheist crowd, there's a split between "strong" and "weak" atheism, so we know that there are semantic problems with the words to begin with, in that they're not precise. So just saying that that's as close as you can get to precision, when those words mean different things to different people, isn't really saying anything. At least, not in relation to Ebone's question.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13470 Posts

Posted - 08/16/2010 :  23:01:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.

Originally posted by Kil

I'm an agnostic/atheist. And anyone who thinks I'm wishy washy about religion or that I call myself agnostic because I don't want to offend can lump it. It's as close as I can come to being precise in how I define my approach to the God question.
The question remains: why? From my readings of Huxley, he only coined the term "agnostic" because "atheist" already (in his time) carried too much political baggage for his tastes. Look at the definition of "agnostic" that chef provided: it's not really close to Huxley's, and we know that amongst the atheist crowd, there's a split between "strong" and "weak" atheism, so we know that there are semantic problems with the words to begin with, in that they're not precise. So just saying that that's as close as you can get to precision, when those words mean different things to different people, isn't really saying anything. At least, not in relation to Ebone's question.
I don't use the words agnostic and atheist to satisfy other people. My attempt at being precise is admittedly subjective. How I define myself is for me. But once again I'll take a stab at making why I call myself an agnostic/atheist clear.

I'm agnostic in the classic sense of having no knowledge of anything from that realm we often call the supernatural. (Whether what we call supernatural would really be natural if any of those claims that we commonly call supernatural turn out to be true is of no great importance to me. If we discovered by way of very convincing evidence that some sort of creator exists, natural or not, it would still be a pretty startling discovery.) We can test specific claims having to do with religion like those claims that Radford and Nickell look at, but we can't test for anything outside of what we call nature. I have no knowledge that such a realm exists and I strongly doubt that it does. My lack of knowledge and my strong doubts can only take me so far. Certainty is not one of the cards in the reality deck. And so, I feel that agnostic with a strong and very reasonable doubt is what I'm left with, if I am being precise. And, of course, that makes me an atheist too. I have no beliefs along theistic lines other than it's very close to (but not absolutely) a sure thing that it's all baloney.

I could drop the agnostic part, and call myself an atheist only, and much of the above would still hold true for me just as it does for many atheists. But I feel I must at least give a nod to the lack of knowledge part in order to be consistent as a skeptic, which is how I identify first and foremost.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Ebone4rock
SFN Regular

USA
894 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2010 :  04:18:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Ebone4rock a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil
I'm agnostic in the classic sense of having no knowledge of anything from that realm we often call the supernatural. (Whether what we call supernatural would really be natural if any of those claims that we commonly call supernatural turn out to be true is of no great importance to me. If we discovered by way of very convincing evidence that some sort of creator exists, natural or not, it would still be a pretty startling discovery.)


But don't you have knowledge enough to fully embrace the fact that the supernatural doesn't exist?
originally posted by Dude
Just to clarify, when I say "nothing can exist apart from nature", what I'm saying is that the definition of nature (for this argument/context) is "all that exists". If it's out there, and can interact with us, it is part of nature. So if the christian omnipotent god, who created us, were real, it wouldn't be "super"natural, it would be part of nature.

This thought process is something I have lived with since I was a teenager. I call the theory " It's impossible for anything to be unnatural".

Haole with heart, thats all I'll ever be. I'm not a part of the North Shore society. Stuck on the shoulder, that's where you'll find me. Digging for scraps with the kooks in line. -Offspring
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13470 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2010 :  08:37:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Ebone4rock:
But don't you have knowledge enough to fully embrace the fact that the supernatural doesn't exist?

Like I said, it doesn't really matter if those things that are called supernatural are, if ever discovered, natural or not. I doubt that anything exists beyond the natural. But how can I have "knowledge enough" of something that I have no knowledge of? As a skeptic, I approach all claims to anything assigned to the realm of the "supernatural" with suspicion and doubt. And given the track record of such claims, my doubt is more than reasonable. There is no compelling reason for me to start making claims to facts that I can't support as you have just done. I'm okay with rejecting all claims that lack supporting evidence. As a skeptic, that should be sufficient.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Ebone4rock
SFN Regular

USA
894 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2010 :  08:51:22   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Ebone4rock a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil
But how can I have "knowledge enough" of something that I have no knowledge of?


Because the fact that it doesn't exist means that there is no knowledge to be had.

Haole with heart, thats all I'll ever be. I'm not a part of the North Shore society. Stuck on the shoulder, that's where you'll find me. Digging for scraps with the kooks in line. -Offspring
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13470 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2010 :  09:05:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Ebone4rock

Originally posted by Kil
But how can I have "knowledge enough" of something that I have no knowledge of?


Because the fact that it doesn't exist means that there is no knowledge to be had.
What "fact" would you be referring to? Don't you see that you are making a claim to a fact that you can't support?

The only conclusion you can reasonably come to is that due to a lack of evidence it can reasonably be inferred that the existence of anything supernatural is unlikely to the extreme. Once you enter fact-land, you are making a claim. Why go there? What's to be gained by making claims to facts that are unsupportable?

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Ebone4rock
SFN Regular

USA
894 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2010 :  09:33:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Ebone4rock a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

Originally posted by Ebone4rock

Originally posted by Kil
But how can I have "knowledge enough" of something that I have no knowledge of?


Because the fact that it doesn't exist means that there is no knowledge to be had.
What "fact" would you be referring to? Don't you see that you are making a claim to a fact that you can't support?

The only conclusion you can reasonably come to is that due to a lack of evidence it can reasonably be inferred that the existence of anything supernatural is unlikely to the extreme. Once you enter fact-land, you are making a claim. Why go there? What's to be gained by making claims to facts that are unsupportable?


Here lies the fundamental difference. Me being a practical person says that no supporting evidence for supernatural beleifs over the entire history of human evolution means that I can come to the conclusion that God does not exist....and I am willing to claim it as fact.
You being a bit more philosophical than me are willing to not commit even though deep inside I bet we feel the same way about it.
What's to be gained? It keeps the beleivers from thinking they have any chance at converting me.

Haole with heart, thats all I'll ever be. I'm not a part of the North Shore society. Stuck on the shoulder, that's where you'll find me. Digging for scraps with the kooks in line. -Offspring
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2010 :  10:22:51   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I agree with Dude that agnostics are atheists. Though I'm a philosophical agnostic (part of being a scientific skeptic, in my opinion), I generally prefer to identify myself as an atheist, as I'm for all practical almost certain there are no divinities. I also like "atheist" because it's straightforward and shows none of the implied shame of being a euphemism. It doesn't beat around the bush.

I like "freethinker" too, as it seems inclusive of non-theists and religion-doubters of all stripes. I generally use it as such an inclusive term.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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bngbuck
SFN Addict

USA
2437 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2010 :  10:33:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
chfcrsh.....

To me the whole discussion centers on epistemology. If you posit that we can know something about something that is not of this material world, your epistemology goes a step further from mine into the supernatural. Even if it is the denial of the supernatural. All I can say about the supernatural is what I can say about deism as well. That is that without natural proof, it is a boring bit of mental masturbation at bets, and likely (as we are social animals) the spreading of a meme of belief, as if it were fact, that can not be supported by evidence.
What is your view of the material composition of human emotions, such as love, hate, anger, shame, etc.? Or, for that matter, the concept of thought itself? Are the mental conditions that result in symptomology that we label emotion or cognition totally of this physical world in the same sense as that which is completely defined and quantifiable as "material" by the hard sciences?

I am not saying that I see such human experience as supernatural or preternatural, simply that such experiential states may possibly be "not of the physical world" as compared to the way that a pebble or a planet may be.
that without natural proof, it is a boring bit of mental masturbation at bets, and likely (as we are social animals) the spreading of a meme of belief, as if it were fact, that can not be supported by evidence.
Proof of the existence of thought, emotion, and mental activity in general is certainly possible, although their highly definable physiological concomitants are only a partial proof; anecdotal "evidence" is an important part of the study of such conditions. By any definition, a good deal of the evidential proof of psychological states is not "of this material world" in the same sense that the proofs of the hard sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology are.

There is abundant physical evidence for evolutionary theory, but relatively little for psychological concepts such as bipolar affective disorder.
I use the term atheist towards myself only in terms of specific and particular god claims, you tell me what you believe and how it works, and I may be able (upon reflection) to say I don't believe in that. Otherwise it seems a bit of a stretch. I can't be asked to rule out all the possible claims in one fell swoop, that would be temerarious.
chf, (and others) what do you feel is the pragmatic value in establishing a firm dichotomy between atheism and agnosticism?
Edited by - bngbuck on 08/17/2010 15:23:46
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Dude
SFN Die Hard

USA
6891 Posts

Posted - 08/17/2010 :  17:53:51   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Dude a Private Message  Reply with Quote
bng said:
I am not saying that I see such human experience as supernatural or preternatural, simply that such experiential states may possibly be "not of the physical world" as compared to the way that a pebble or a planet may be.

That is a bunch of absurd, meaningless, nonsense. "Experiential states" come from your brain, which is certainly a part of the physical world in exactly the same way a pebble is. You are trying to engage in a variation of the god-of-the-gaps, putting things that aren't exactly understood into some quasi-mystic realm.

There is abundant physical evidence for evolutionary theory, but relatively little for psychological concepts such as bipolar affective disorder

Really? Not much evidence for bi-polar disorder? If, maybe, you mean evidence for the cause of it, then I'd agree. But we lack the ability to closely examine a living brain. Technology is advancing though, and human neruoscience is a rapidly expanding field.


Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.
-- Thomas Jefferson

"god :: the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument." - G. Carlin

Hope, n.
The handmaiden of desperation; the opiate of despair; the illegible signpost on the road to perdition. ~~ da filth
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