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bngbuck
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Posted - 11/13/2011 :  23:17:32  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Recently I have been engaged in a dialog with another member of SFN concerning certain aspects of supernatural belief. Views were expressed regarding various aspects of human cognition - specifically religious and/or spiritual beliefs as they may relate to the practice of Critical Thinking.

After reflecting on this very interesting exchange with a practicing Wiccan, I am struck by his view that a religious faith involving belief in gods and goddesses, the ritual practice of magic, ceremonial celebrations often under a full moon, forming a "magic circle", reference to the classical elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth, invoking spells using magical tools, and other miscellaneous oddities --- it is remarkable, to say the least, that this religion can be consistent and compatible with the practice of critical thinking.

It is my impression that a majority of the consistent participants that post regularly on this forum are atheists, and that atheism is the only rational position on religious matters that a rigorous application of critical thinking will allow.

However, an alternative opinion certainly exists - specifically that reality is actually dualistic; there is, at least for some humans, an internal reality and an external reality, and a person can be religious internally while being a critical thinker externally.

Critical thinking is seen as applying only to the external reality - the universe as perceived by the conventional five senses; while belief (and faith) in the supernatural is seen as rationally acceptable as long as it is confined to the internal reality of one's cognition.

The internalization and externalization of reality is seen as mutually exclusive, there is no overlap. The definitions of Existence that apply in either one of the two alternatives do not apply to the other - and vice versa.

The need for evidential proof of fact statements obviously only exists in the external conciousness, and the precepts of critical thinking are not germane to any conclusions or perceptions existing in the internal arena.

It is important to note that a distinction between spirituality and religion was expressed in the course of our dialog. Spirituality is seen as a different cognitive function than that of religious belief, and spirituality is firmly defined as not identical with religiosity and "does not require a deity"

If there are contrasting opinions here, or positions of agreement; with any of these views of the compatibility of religion (or spirituality) with Critical Thinking, please comment and share your personal views.







Edited by - bngbuck on 11/14/2011 20:30:47

Dave W.
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Posted - 11/14/2011 :  08:54:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by bngbuck

After reflecting on this very interesting exchange with a practicing Wiccan, I am struck by his view that a religious faith involving belief in gods and goddesses, the ritual practice of magic, ceremonial celebrations often under a full moon, forming a "magic circle", reference to the classical elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth, invoking spells using magical tools, and other miscellaneous oddities --- it is remarkable, to say the least, that this religion can be consistent and compatible with the practice of critical thinking.
Actually (as I'm sure Val will point out), Val specifically said, "...It is part of my spirituality and, since it is belief based and not evidence based, is conflictive with critical thinking..." His spiritual world is neither consistent or compatible with critical thinking.

Val is clearly engaging in some compartmentalization, trying to maintain a NOMA-like distance between two realms. But just because you keep a cobra and a mongoose in two separate cages doesn't mean that they are "compatible." The problem is that the "magisteria" really do overlap.

For example, Val claims to use his spirituality for self-improvement. If a specific definition of "self-improvement" can be created, then "does Val's spirituality lead to his own improvement" becomes an empirical question. By keeping claims like that sufficiently vague, Val can ensure that certain hypotheses can remain completely untestable, but it's not because "internal reality" is inherently immune to skeptical investigation.

If one were to take a religion or spiritual what-have-you and either strip it of its fuzzy claims or clarify them into testable questions, one would necessarily wind up with a set of hypotheses for which the most religious-like answer would have to be "we don't know," and that's not something that one can build any sort of community or leadership upon. Faith is required to take a large group of mostly trivial answers and turn them into a foundation for spirituality, and then muddy the waters in order to hide the charade from critical eyes.
It is important to note that a distinction between spirituality and religion was expressed in the course of our dialog. Spirituality is seen as a different cognitive function than that of religious belief, and spirituality is firmly defined as not identical with religiosity and "does not require a deity"
So many cognates. I see "religion" as the rituals, dogma and community that grow around common aspects of peoples' spirituality. Religion in general "does not require a deity." Buddhism, for example, is commonly referred to as an atheistic religion.

"Religious" is just the adjective form. People can be religious about a TV show or a football team, with all the dogma and tribalism that one generally sees in religions. In common usage, though, there's no substantial difference between "religious belief" and "spiritual belief." The key similarity being the lack of evidential support.

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bngbuck
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Posted - 11/14/2011 :  13:48:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave.....

Actually (as I'm sure Val will point out), Val specifically said, "...It is part of my spirituality and, since it is belief based and not evidence based, is conflictive with critical thinking..." His spiritual world is neither consistent or compatible with critical thinking.
Do you feel that the qualification "belief based" is sufficient to immunize the entire concept of "spirituality' from examination by critical thinking? He states that the concepts are indeed conflictive, but by simply positing a safe refuge named "belief based" he establishes that religion and spirituality are indeed not subject to scrutiny by critical thinking.

Val is clearly engaging in some compartmentalization, trying to maintain a NOMA-like distance between two realms. But just because you keep a cobra and a mongoose in two separate cages doesn't mean that they are "compatible." The problem is that the "magisteria" really do overlap.
Indeed. Not only overlap but actually cut from the same cloth of reality. My personal view is that "spirituality" is a artificial and imaginary construct, concocted simply to create some form of justification for belief in the supernatural - probably sourced by the emotional need for an intellectual palliative to intentional ignorance. NOMA appears to me to be an elaborate excuse for the exercise of irrationality.
In common usage, though, there's no substantial difference between "religious belief" and "spiritual belief." The key similarity being the lack of evidential support.
The implication here is that "spirituality" and "religion" are semantic constructs that have no objective reality. If this is what you mean, then I am in complete agreement.
Religion in general "does not require a deity." Buddhism, for example, is commonly referred to as an atheistic religion.
Religion may not necessarily require dieties, but I feel that considerable acceptance of supernatural nonsense is a necessary part of all religions and of all spirituality. The concept of Pratyasamutpda, central to practically all Buddhist practice, is a virtually incomprehensible word salad to me, dressed with liberal doses of supernatural balsamics. The practice of the Eucharist is not only preposterous, it is delusional; at least in the Catholic interpretation of the rite. Muslims repeatedly banging their heads on the floor at proscribed times and geographical orientations, Holy Rollers rolling, Baptists submersing, Mormons clusterfucking -- all smack loundly of superstition and ignorance.
The key similarity being the lack of evidential support.
Which certainly implies that true critical thinking applied to all manifestations of religiosity or spiritualism will invariably demonstrate that the subject has no basis in reality, or fact - as defined by science and logic.


Edited by - bngbuck on 11/14/2011 20:33:32
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

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Posted - 11/14/2011 :  14:49:41   [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
Bill:
Which certainly implies that true critical thinking applied to all manifestations of religiosity or spiritualism will invariably demonstrate that the subject has no basis in reality, or fact - as defined by science and logic.

Logic maybe. Unless there is a testable claim, science itself must remain silent on the subject. Of course, that silence is in its own way informative. But not by the use of scientific methods.

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Dave W.
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Posted - 11/14/2011 :  15:21:51   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by bngbuck

Do you feel that the qualification "belief based" is sufficient to immunize the entire concept of "spirituality' from examination by critical thinking?
Not at all. I feel that people should believe things only according to the evidence. Just because evidence is hard to find (or even impossible to get) doesn't give anyone free reign to believe whatever he/she wants. Quite the opposite: facing a lack of evidence for a question ought to drive us to steer clear of fact claims about that subject. But there are plenty of con-men who've made good livings exploiting the all-too-human trait of believing made-up stuff when evidence isn't available.

Beliefs have consequences. Val may be correct that his particular beliefs are minimally harmful, but that hasn't been tested, either.
He states that the concepts are indeed conflictive, but by simply positing a safe refuge named "belief based" he establishes that religion and spirituality are indeed not subject to scrutiny by critical thinking.
And there are plenty of professional skeptics who would agree. I am not one of them. Generally speaking, religions make too many claims which are empirically testable to give them a pass when it comes to critical thought. If, for example, you define "god" with sufficient precision, you ought to be able to test for such a being's existence. And if the definition includes characteristics which would preclude testing (like that it doesn't want to be tested, or that it cleans up after its miracles so that it leaves no traces), then such a being isn't going to have any lasting impact on the universe and so may as well not exist.
NOMA appears to me to be an elaborate excuse for the exercise of irrationality.
Bingo.
The implication here is that "spirituality" and "religion" are semantic constructs that have no objective reality. If this is what you mean, then I am in complete agreement.
Hmmm... Well, it is undoubtable that religions and spirituality exist, objectively. People go to church and mosque and do all sorts of spiritual stuff even if the underlying "truths" upon which they build their dogmas and rituals are complete fabrications.
Which certainly implies that true critical thinking applied to all manifestations of religiosity or spiritualism will invariably demonstrate that the subject has no basis in reality, or fact - as defined by science and logic.
I would tend to agree. At least sociologically. Anyone can dream up religious questions that science can't possibly answer, but then the answers must have no bearing on the real world, anyway (per the definition of "science").

All the available evidence suggests that Jesus didn't live, die, and get resurrected. So we can reject the main dogma of Christianity on evidenciary grounds. But some theologians object that the "reality" of that dogma isn't the important part of the religion. What is, then? I can't say, because the explanations shoot off into bizarre, post-modernist, philosophical constructions which seem to bear as close a resemblance to reality as I do to Meg Ryan. The apologetics coming from these people have sometimes gone so far off the rails as to imply that if you think that Christianity insists that god exists in any physical way, then you're no better than a fundamentalist.

Is any of this testable through science? Of course not, because we can see through the use of other tools of critical thinking that it's all just made-up nonsense thrown around in a desperate attempt to save a false hypothesis.

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bngbuck
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USA
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Posted - 11/14/2011 :  19:23:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Kil.....

Logic maybe. Unless there is a testable claim, science itself must remain silent on the subject. Of course, that silence is in its own way informative. But not by the use of scientific methods.
I strongly disagree, David, or else you have misunderstood my syntax.

Read my meaning in that sentence as, the subject has no basis in reality, or fact - as reality or fact is defined by science and logic.

It is my opinion, actually my conviction, as a mildly educated layman; that the sciences of particle physics and chemistry have contributed an enormous body of evidence demonstrating the true (factual) meaning of that which is described by the word "reality". I am certain that literally thousands of testable claims concerning the nature of matter and energy have been rigorously examined, accepted as valid, or discarded as invalid during the last hundred years or so of the development of most of the "hard", or physical, sciences.

So I must hypothecate that there has been extensive use of the scientific method in the search for what actually constitutes that which we define as "reality". To me, science speaks louder than any other voice on that subject.
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
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Posted - 11/14/2011 :  20:23:01   [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 bngbuck

Kil.....

Logic maybe. Unless there is a testable claim, science itself must remain silent on the subject. Of course, that silence is in its own way informative. But not by the use of scientific methods.
I strongly disagree, David, or else you have misunderstood my syntax.

Read my meaning in that sentence as, the subject has no basis in reality, or fact - as reality or fact is defined by science and logic.

It is my opinion, actually my conviction, as a mildly educated layman; that the sciences of particle physics and chemistry have contributed an enormous body of evidence demonstrating the true (factual) meaning of that which is described by the word "reality". I am certain that literally thousands of testable claims concerning the nature of matter and energy have been rigorously examined, accepted as valid, or discarded as invalid during the last hundred years or so of the development of most of the "hard", or physical, sciences.

So I must hypothecate that there has been extensive use of the scientific method in the search for what actually constitutes that which we define as "reality". To me, science speaks louder than any other voice on that subject.
There are claims like weeping statues and such that can be tested. To my knowledge, all religious claims that are in the realm that science can test for have failed. But with questions like "is there a god?" science doesn't offer an answer because it can't. Science has yet to demonstrate by experiment or observation or inference the non-existence of anything outside of nature.

Now you can take that lack of evidence and come to the conclusion that there is no god because from a scientific standpoint, there is simply no evidence for any such being, for or against. But the best science itself can do with that claim is to remain agnostic about it. Science deals in empirical evidence. Lacking anything to look at, science is silent. But that doesn't mean that critical thinking can't be applied to our own conclusions about that silence.

I should add that what some scientists have done is to make a fairly persuasive argument, based on our knowledge of science, that at least one brand of god is unnecessary as an explanation for all that we see around us.

Or maybe I'm just misunderstanding what your saying.

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Dave W.
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Posted - 11/14/2011 :  22:16:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

But with questions like "is there a god" science doesn't offer an answer because it can't. Science has yet to demonstrate by experiment or observation or inference the non-existence of anything outside of nature.
No. Science can't answer "is there a god" because the question is poorly formed. You may as well ask, "is there a flirpniq?"

If "god" is defined in a way that would have real-world effects, then those effects can be tested for. And if the effects are found, that'd be scientific evidence in favor of that god's existence. If the expected effects are missing, then that's scientific evidence against god's existence.

If "god" is defined in such a way that there are no real consequences from god's existence, then who cares? The question isn't scientific, but god being real wouldn't matter one iota.

The latter is what modern-day theologians - the "sophisticated" sort like Karen Armstrong and others - are doing to the Christian god: re-defining it into insignificance.

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bngbuck
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Posted - 11/14/2011 :  22:26:23   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send bngbuck a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Kil.....

There are claims like weeping statues and such that can be tested. To my knowledge, all religious claims that are in the realm that science can test for have failed. But with questions like "is there a god" science doesn't offer an answer because it can't. Science has yet to demonstrate by experiment or observation or inference the non-existence of anything outside of nature.
Yes, given, but I am not addressing the application of critical thinking and the use of the scientific method to an examination of religiosity or spirituality.

In the sentence under consideration here, I was attempting to emphasize that science, utilizing the tools of critical thinking, logic, and the scientific method, has contributed massively to an understanding of exactly what "REALITY" may actually be.

I do not contest the fact that it is difficult, if not impossible to prove a negative. But critical thinking and scientific analysis certainly can test the validity od a positive assertion, such as "spirituality exists in reality". Not so! No evidence! We cannot prove that "spirituality" does not exist

Lack of any evidential support leads me to believe that "spirituality" does not manifest itself as "reality" in anything resembling the same sense that your big toe or the morning newspaper does. does.
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Kil
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USA
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Posted - 11/15/2011 :  01:55:09   [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
Well... Here's what I know. Science is agnostic on the god question no matter how the question is formed. I did say that every claim that could be tested so far, real world questions, have been tested and failed. Many of us deduce from that, and the lack of evidence for the existence of any kind of god, that there is no such thing as god. We say that with a reasonable amount of certainty. That reasonable amount of certainty is arrived at by way of critical thinking. I never said that science can't inform that conclusion and in fact, I said otherwise.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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Dave W.
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Posted - 11/15/2011 :  09:10:16   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

Well... Here's what I know. Science is agnostic on the god question no matter how the question is formed.
But that's simply not true. Science cannot be agnostic on the question, "does a god who turns 30 gallons of water into wine on the 3rd Saturday of every month in the lobby of the Downtown Manhattan Holiday Inn exist?" It's absolutely testable and falsifiable.
I did say that every claim that could be tested so far, real world questions, have been tested and failed.
Yes! But questions that are not real-world questions are irrelevant. It's not just that science can't answer them: it's that they shouldn't be deemed in any way "important" by anyone calling him/herself a "skeptic."

Otherwise good skeptics who believe things for which there is no evidence are leaving their skepticism behind when examining those questions. People who think that only "scientific skepticism" should be what everyone means when they say "skepticism" are insisting that they should be able to believe whatever bullshit they want so long as they can hide the bullshit away from science with philosophical or even just semantic games. There certainly are no thought police that can prevent them from doing so, but they'll get no respect from me.

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

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Posted - 11/15/2011 :  12:20:06   [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

Well... Here's what I know. Science is agnostic on the god question no matter how the question is formed.
But that's simply not true. Science cannot be agnostic on the question, "does a god who turns 30 gallons of water into wine on the 3rd Saturday of every month in the lobby of the Downtown Manhattan Holiday Inn exist?" It's absolutely testable and falsifiable.

Yes. Thatís a real word claim that can be examined. But failing that examination does not rule the existence of god. It rules out a claim made about god. And the existence of god is what I meant. If I was unclear about that, and I donít think I was, sorry. I still maintain that science is agnostic on the existence of god, and even "flirpniq" if it ever comes up. I did go on to say, "every claim that could be tested so far...have been tested and failed. Many of us deduce from that, and the lack of evidence for the existence of any kind of god, that there is no such thing as god." I have said that more than once in this thread. So I'm not getting what we don't agree on?
Dave:
Otherwise good skeptics who believe things for which there is no evidence are leaving their skepticism behind when examining those questions. People who think that only "scientific skepticism" should be what everyone means when they say "skepticism" are insisting that they should be able to believe whatever bullshit they want so long as they can hide the bullshit away from science with philosophical or even just semantic games. There certainly are no thought police that can prevent them from doing so, but they'll get no respect from me.

So why donít you take it up with the people who are saying that since I have already agreed with you elsewhere that based on a lack of evidence, skeptics can use rationalism and critical thinking to come to a conclusion about what the science says or doesnít say. Thatís exactly why Iím an agnostic/atheist.

Now, I get that you have your knickers in a bind because some skeptics, friends of mine even, have narrowed what it means to be a ďscientific skepticĒ to only include those things that can be scientifically tested. I prefer this explanation of what scientific skepticism is:
Scientific skeptics believe that empirical investigation of reality leads to the truth, and that the scientific method is best suited to this purpose. Considering the rigor of the scientific method, science itself may simply be thought of as an organized form of skepticism. This does not mean that the scientific skeptic is necessarily a scientist who conducts live experiments (though this may be the case), but that the skeptic generally accepts claims that are in his/her view likely to be true based on testable hypotheses and critical thinking.

Scientific skeptics attempt to evaluate claims based on verifiability and falsifiability and discourage accepting claims on faith or anecdotal evidence. Skeptics often focus their criticism on claims they consider to be implausible, dubious or clearly contradictory to generally accepted science. Scientific skeptics do not assert that unusual claims should be automatically rejected out of hand on a priori grounds Ė rather they argue that claims of paranormal or anomalous phenomena should be critically examined and that extraordinary claims would require extraordinary evidence in their favor before they could be accepted as having validity.
Bolding is mine.

Most skeptics consider all positive claims, real world or not, about the existence of god, extraordinary.

Science is still the jumping off point. You canít get to those other epistemologies without first considering the evidence, or the lack of it. And the door must still be left open, even if itís just a crack, for evidence to turn up that will cause us to reevaluate our positions.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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Dave W.
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Posted - 11/15/2011 :  13:47:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

Yes. Thatís a real word claim that can be examined. But failing that examination does not rule the existence of god. It rules out a claim made about god. And the existence of god is what I meant. If I was unclear about that, and I donít think I was, sorry. I did go on to say, "every claim [made about god] that could be tested so far, real world questions, have been tested and failed." I have said that more than once in this thread.
Yes, but "the existence of god" is the badly formed question. What kind of god? If you're going to leave it purposefully vague, then of course science can't address it, but neither should the question matter to anyone. "Does the Christian god exist?" is a very different question than "Do the old Norse gods exist?" because the sorts of evidence we should see for them are very different. The generic question is pointless because nobody believes in a generic god.
So why donít you take it up with the people who are saying that since I have already agreed with you elsewhere that based on a lack of evidence, skeptics can use rationalism and critical thinking to come to a conclusion about what the science says or doesnít say. Thatís exactly why Iím an agnostic/atheist.
Yes, that's not what I'm going on about.
Now, I get that you have your knickers in a bind because some skeptics, friends of mine even, have narrowed what it means to be a ďscientific skepticĒ to only include those things that can be scientifically tested.
No, my knickers are in a twist because some people, friends of yours even, are trying to protect the religious majority from having their feelings hurt by minority atheists who think that a complete lack of scientific evidence for an unobserved phenomenon is grounds for a rational withholding of belief. Instead, they are treated to lectures about what sorts of questions science can or cannot address, post-modern pontifications about how objective assessment of religious "evidence" is impossible (and even arrogant!), told to not "conflate" skepticism and atheism, and are deemed to be irrational opponents of religion, all in an apparently political strategy to distance "Big-S Skepticism" from "attacks" on potential allies.

Is there evidence that turning atheists-due-to-skepticism into boogeymen and outcasts will work to attract more of the faithful into Big-S Skepticism? I haven't seen any of its promoters offer any. And given that young believers cite the conflict between church and science as a major reason for leaving their religion, I don't think it will do anything but backfire.
I prefer this explanation of what scientific skepticism is:
Scientific skeptics believe that empirical investigation of reality leads to the truth, and that the scientific method is best suited to this purpose. Considering the rigor of the scientific method, science itself may simply be thought of as an organized form of skepticism. This does not mean that the scientific skeptic is necessarily a scientist who conducts live experiments (though this may be the case), but that the skeptic generally accepts claims that are in his/her view likely to be true based on testable hypotheses and critical thinking.

Scientific skeptics attempt to evaluate claims based on verifiability and falsifiability and discourage accepting claims on faith or anecdotal evidence. Skeptics often focus their criticism on claims they consider to be implausible, dubious or clearly contradictory to generally accepted science. Scientific skeptics do not assert that unusual claims should be automatically rejected out of hand on a priori grounds Ė rather they argue that claims of paranormal or anomalous phenomena should be critically examined and that extraordinary claims would require extraordinary evidence in their favor before they could be accepted as having validity.
Bolding is mine.

Most skeptics consider claims about the existence of god an extraordinary claim.
Why not all skeptics? Why are some skeptics completely unskeptical about god? And why should they be treated with kid gloves by other skeptics?
Science is still the jumping off place. You canít get to those other epistemologies without first considering the evidence, or the lack of it.
We can't even get to science without first defining our terms, is what I've been saying. That simple exercise is often enough to either turn a non-scientific question into a scientific one, or to turn a non-scientific question into a patently ridiculous one.
And the door must still be left open, even if itís just a crack, for evidence to turn up that will cause us to reevaluate our positions.
I agree completely.

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Kil
Evil Skeptic

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Posted - 11/15/2011 :  14:40:09   [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
Dave:
Why not all skeptics? Why are some skeptics completely unskeptical about god? And why should they be treated with kid gloves by other skeptics?

I dunno. Why don't you ask Val that question? And I don't say that their beliefs can't or shouldn't be questioned. That's not me. My position is that if they hold such a belief, and get that their belief is not consistant with skepticism, as Val seems to understand, I'll still welcome them to the table if what they bring is mostly reasonable. I haven't changed my position on that one iota in all of these years.

I don't know how we got here in this thread. But I said a while back that I'm not going to try to defend Barbara's remarks, though I think some of them were valid. I wound up agreeing with you, Dave, about the use of other epistemologies as being consistant with skepticism. As even being consistant with "Scientific Skepticism." And it kinda bums me out that I'm now supposed to be their representative at SFN or something. The truth is, I'm pretty much a moderate on the subject. I made a comment about science, and somehow you took that to mean something I never intended. Mostly, I was commenting on what science can and cannot do, which harkens back to our debate with Officiant.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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Dave W.
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Posted - 11/15/2011 :  15:42:00   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

I dunno. Why don't you ask Val that question?
I've been hoping he'd jump in here, anytime.
And I don't say that their beliefs can't or shouldn't be questioned. That's not me. My position is that if they hold such a belief, and get that their belief is not consistant with skepticism, as Val seems to understand, I'll still welcome them to the table if what they bring is mostly reasonable. I haven't changed my position on that one iota in all of these years.
And we're in complete agreement, there. My rant is rather out of place. I apologize.
I don't know how we got here in this thread.
Well, I'll tell you: it was the "science can't answer some questions" thing. It seems to me that some big-name skeptics (Barbara included) are content to let questions like "does god exist?" alone and simply declare them off-limits to science. My problem is that "does god exist?" is a meaningless question because "god" isn't defined with any rigor. Religious people who ponder that question have a particular definition of "god" in mind when they ask it, and many of those particular definitions are amenable to scientific investigation. The problem isn't that "does god exist?" isn't scientific, it's that it's not meaningful within any epistemology (not even a religious one) without first declaring what is meant by "god."

In other words, the question is only unanswerable because it's vague, not because it's inherently unscientific. But some skeptics will harp on about scientific precision and then turn around and declare "god questions" off-limits without even attempting to pin down any characteristics in a wholly unskeptical fashion.

Try a different example: if you didn't know what money is, could you use science to answer the question, "does money exist?" Of course not.

- 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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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
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Posted - 11/15/2011 :  23:23:13   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I find the question: What makes otherwise good critical thinkers believe in irrational claims? interesting and significant to understanding the human experience better in what limited capacity we can currently understand it.

I can't be sure, but I tend to assume that the same emotional need (basically the existential crisis) that is gratified by irrational, literal beliefs is felt and hopefully gratified in atheists by other things. I definitely get into states of mind on a fairly regular basis where I have strong feelings in this area. When I was younger they could be called existential crisis, but as I've formed a fairly concrete worldview they've become less crisis and more various pangs of strong emotion that I associate with the existential, such as a deep feeling of isolation, or conversely connectedness with all that exists. I also get all-encompassing feelings of gratitude and awe. And typically when I get these strong pangs of emotion associated with big, abstract concepts, they come with a need to put the feeling into some sort of context or action in my life.

In religion, the literal beliefs provide a context, and the rituals provide an action. (I'm not saying this explain all or even most religious belief or ritual. Just some, perhaps particularly people who are deeply introspective and intellectual.)

For me as an atheist, as far as the need for context goes, I find great solace in the ideas of uncertainty and doubt as great virtues in-of-themselves. And the idea that the nature of the universe and existence are great mysteries that we'll probably never completely solve is actually kind of awesome. There is nothing objective about these connotations. I only have adopted them because they are emotionally gratifying, and I'm cool with that. Reading Douglass Adams helps.

And the need for action in response to existential pangs of strong emotion can be almost anything. I swear all the weird colors I dye my hair has something to do with these feelings.(It certainly isn't about vanity.) Although physical activities (such as biking, swimming, dancing) or art (making it or seeking out that created by others) come to mind as potentially cathartic or deeply satisfying activities.

This is the sort of stuff I think about when people talk about "spiritual health". I think the term "spiritual" can have meaning for atheists. We were talking about it in my humanist community once, and one of our members defended the concept, saying, "You know it when you experience it. Like when you're cooking broccoli and it suddenly turns just the right color green." Then she laughed because she knew what she said sounded silly. The really funny thing is, since hearing her say that, I've never been able to steam broccoli without being overtaken by a deep sense of calm and perspective as I watch it turn bright green.

People are weird.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

Edited by - marfknox on 11/15/2011 23:26:20
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