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Boron10
Religion Moderator

USA
1265 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  08:15:30  Show Profile Send Boron10 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
This thread has been started to field the tangental discussion in the Crisis of Faith- Time Mag topic. Please continue all conversations on this topic here.

H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  08:31:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In response to this post:
Originally posted by marfknox
I don't have a right? Gee, does a religious historian like Karen Armstrong who has extensively studied all the major world religions have that right?
Show me a passage where any scholar writes that awe or states of transcendence are the exclusive domain of religion. If they aren't, then arguing for religion as you have done on the grounds that only religion can provide these things is false. There is much awe to be found in science and the pursuit of knowledge. To call these things exclusively religious states is dishonest.

This is the second time you've questioned my status as a skeptic. Reminds me of Christians who call other Christians not really Christians 'cause they don't subscribe the exact same Christian theology or hierarchy of Christian values.
I don't care what it "reminds" you of, Marf. You've said questionable things, such as that some theists rely on "personal evidence." But as a skeptic, that very phrase should seem as nonsensical as "square circle." Personal, subjective experiences can never be evidence.


First of all, skepticism certainly is something people can and do pick up whenever they feel like, dabble in, and never commit to. In fact, probably most people use skepticism in this manner.
Then it is useless. Skepticism applied only randomly is no better than applying no skepticism to anything. In fact, it is the same thing, as one simply accepts or rejects what one would on personal preferences anyway without any need of skepticism.

Skepticism only works when it is applied consistently. To flick it on and off like a light switch inevitably leads to the sorts of errors of bias that skepticism is designed to avoid. As soon as you start ignoring results you don't like, the entire process is corrupted.

Wow. Nice speech. Prostrating and everything what does that remind me of? What does it have to do with my call for religious tolerance and pluralism?
Nothing. I was trying to explain to you why consistency in skepticism is a requirement, how you must submit to the process, and how second-guessing results based on personal bias is exactly what the skeptical method was created to eliminate. But it seems like I'm talking to a brick wall.


"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
Edited by - H. Humbert on 08/29/2007 08:38:47
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  08:33:58   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dave wrote:
That would be fine, if he'd kept things personal. But Bidlack is being held up as an example of faith being compatible with skepticism, and he seems to be going along with that premise. My beef with him is only along that line. (This is happening with Kenneth Miller, also, but to a lesser extent because he's not a "skeptic" primarily, but sticks to biology - the question there being "are science and faith compatible?" and the answer again being "no, but people compartmentalize all the time.")

In other words, I don't want him kicked out of the big tent because of his faith. I don't want him kicked out at all. I want the idea that skepticism and faith are compatible to be kicked out, simply because it is wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong. But what Bidlack seems to be doing - and what other people are definitely doing - is embracing this wrong idea. I have a problem with that.

This is more or less exactly what I've been trying to get across, only much better said.


"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
13467 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  08:47:04   [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 me:
Actually, no. He has said many times that he questions his own faith.

H. Humbert
But if he isn't willing to abandon it, then the questioning is pointless. It's just an exercise in self-flaggelation.

Baloney.

Atheism defaults to atheism. As skeptics, we should hold our beliefs up to questioning too. That doesn't mean if I don't change a belief I am questioning I am engaged in an exercise of self-flagellation. Or do we only meet that criteria only when we are questioning faith based beliefs? His questioning isn't pointless. In fact, it is the unquestioning believers that I am concerned about. You know, those who revel in their truth and expect us to believe as they do. Fundamentalists.

What you are really saying is if he doesn't change his mind and believe as you do he is defective in some way.

I reject that notion.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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leoofno
Skeptic Friend

USA
346 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  08:53:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send leoofno a Private Message  Reply with Quote
As a skeptic, I think one would have to say that the existence of the Jewish/Christian/Muslim God is unsupported by the available evidence. It seems much more likely that HE has been created by humans, and reflects their collective ideas of morality, than visa-versa. The same goes for any other god-centered religion, past or present.

Therefore I think that a belief in god is incompatible with skepticism. Seems to me that he closest a skeptic should get is a "maybe", because some new evidence may someday show up, but thats not belief.


Edited to add: I know this post is unrelated to the surrounding ones, but it does relate to the new toipic. Hope you don't mind.

"If you're not terrified, you're not paying attention." Eric Alterman
Edited by - leoofno on 08/29/2007 08:58:47
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Cuneiformist
The Imperfectionist

USA
4954 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  08:59:29   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Cuneiformist a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It never much bothered me if people "compartmentalized" things. If a religious person wrote an eloquent essay on how, for instance, the conspiracy theorists are wrong about their claims of a secret government role in the 9/11 attacks, I wouldn't disregard it because the author is a Christian.

And I probably hold onto certain ideas that another skeptic might find ludicrous (I still quietly buy into the arguments that we should question the authorship of Shakespeare, for instance).
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  09:08:10   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil
As skeptics, we should hold our beliefs up to questioning too. That doesn't mean if I don't change a belief I am questioning I am engaged in an exercise of self-flagellation.
Right, because it is unspoken that your position depends upon the answers to the questions. We question in order to arrive at our positions, and we are willing to change our position based upon new information. Is Bidlack really engaging in that sort of questioning? Is his position really informed by the answers he finds, or does he maintain a position despite of and in the face of the answers he finds?

Do you not see the fundamental difference between these two processes?

His questioning isn't pointless.
Ok, I must admit a failure to imagine what that point could be. If his position isn't based upon the answers he receives in return to his questions, then what is the point in asking them? Other than simply allowing him avoid the criticism of being an unquestioning theist, I mean.

In fact, it is the unquestioning believers that I am concerned about. You know, those who revel in their truth and expect us to believe as they do. Fundamentalists.
The problem with fundamentalists isn't that they believe in a universal truth, but that they're wrong.

What you are really saying is if he doesn't change his mind and believe as you do he is defective in some way.

I reject that notion.
Not defective, just not a skeptic.


"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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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
4907 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  09:26:32   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't care what it "reminds" you of, Marf. You've said questionable things, such as that some theists rely on "personal evidence." But as a skeptic, that very phrase should seem as nonsensical as "square circle." Personal, subjective experiences can never be evidence.


But if one is not trying to convince others of, then personal experiences can indeed count. For example, if I was visited by extraterrestrials and was completely conscious the entire time, and I saw things I knew we didn't not have the technological ability to do (short proof of Fermat's Last Theorem would suffice), then I would find it difficult if not impossible to not believe aliens have visited our planet. Would I expect any other person to believe this? Absolutely not. But it was my personal experience, and I can't just ignore that.

Then it is useless. Skepticism applied only randomly is no better than applying no skepticism to anything. In fact, it is the same thing, as one simply accepts or rejects what one would on personal preferences anyway without any need of skepticism.

Skepticism only works when it is applied consistently. To flick it on and off like a light switch inevitably leads to the sorts of errors of bias that skepticism is designed to avoid. As soon as you start ignoring results you don't like, the entire process is corrupted.


Skepticism does not apply to everything. To paraphrase Sagan, one should not be skeptical of the abc's. You can believe in something without evidence and not be irrational, so long as your realize that it is in fact belief without evidence.

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  10:07:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Cuneiformist

It never much bothered me if people "compartmentalized" things. If a religious person wrote an eloquent essay on how, for instance, the conspiracy theorists are wrong about their claims of a secret government role in the 9/11 attacks, I wouldn't disregard it because the author is a Christian.
Compartmentalization by itself isn't a bad thing, and people do it all the time. For example, Rumble in the Bronx is pretty a good movie if you ignore the plot. It's when the compartmentalization is denied (as with creationists) or portrayed as two conflicting views being "compatible" (as with Bidlack) that a problem exists - and it's still not the compartmentalization that's the real problem with those scenarios.

- 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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Gorgo
SFN Die Hard

USA
5310 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  10:41:51   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Gorgo a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You can believe in something without evidence and not be irrational, so long as your realize that it is in fact belief without evidence.


I don't see any reason to believe in the abc's. It is a good tool. If something better comes along, let's use it. That is, in my opinion, a skeptical approach.

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright-
Jerry Garcia
Robert Hunter



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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  16:29:04   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Halfmooner wrote:
Okay, I should have said "nearly all New Atheists are tolerant." (Actually all of them that I'm aware of.) Hardly something that can be said for theists.
I agree that most of them are tolerant, but I think that is only because they are such a small minority they don't have any power. And many of them do proselytize, such as the Rational Response Squad that makes conversion their mission. And I don't recall putting myself on the side of theists who proselytize and think their worldview would be best for everyone. I have spent much of my short life so far criticizing such religious people, and I do find them quite dangerous.

That's the "NOMA" bullshit again, with a slippery slope argument added for good measure. I don't buy it. NOMA's basically like the ID tactic of trying to say all "theories" are somehow all equally legitimate. They're not. Rationally rejecting superstition is not "dangerous," just good sense. Theism is primitive magical thinking, and a time-proven danger.
Theism is a "time-proven danger" only in the same way that alcohol is. Most people use it responsibly for their own personal benefit, their use of it is their personal business, and they don't push it on other people. Polite intellectual disagreement with theism is one thing. Admonishing all theism as dangerous is akin to being an annoying teetotaler. And we all know from history what those people did when they got political power. (I'm responsibly enjoying a delicious beer as I write this.)

Strawman, and slippery slope combined. I know of not a single living atheist who would want to ban religious expression. Do you?
Not a strawman since I explicitely said I was giving an extreme example to illustrate a point. Not a slippery slope since I made no statement that tolerant atheists will slip into intolerance. I'm saying there are atheists who are already intolerant, and if the mainstream secular movement that prevails doesn't include pluralism and tolerance as an essential part of its worldview, most people will not have a solid philosophical base in their mindset to oppose extremists. In other words, most will be indifferent to tolerance.

Taslima Nasrin has been publicly quoted as saying that churches and mosques should be banned. Granted, her extreme atheism stems from years of childhood abuse in a fanatically Muslim household and culture. I tend not to worry too much about what she says because it is so extreme that I don't think hardly anyone takes it to heart. But it does worry me when she and others I've met say such things. Heck, there's someone in my local community who thinks the Amish should be forcibly disbanded! Atheists aren't immune to radical discrimination. We are human. This is why I think religious tolerance and pluralism are as important to promote as skepticism.

You have at least implied that the New Atheists might be potential monsters.
Any movement based on a worldview which is purported to be better for everyone and that doesn't explicitly make pluralism and tolerance integrated parts of its values is likely to become abusive if it gains power. That is something time-proven. It doesn't mean all or even most atheists will want or advocate discrimination. It means that the most extreme if they have the power and number will become abusive, and many more will turn a blind eye because they agree with the extremists on what they think are the most important values, and ride the fence over whether intolerance is a good or bad thing. Maybe I'm totally wrong in this prediction, but it is what I think based on what I've learned from history and human nature. I know I'm young, and my mind has changed many times before and many things, and I hope to continue changing and growing as I learn more about the world. But for now I feel quite strong in this opinion, and I think it is backed up by solid reasoning.

Halfmooner, I think we agree on a lot, and what we disagree on is probably fairly minor. I like Dawkins for many reasons, just like I like Taslima Nasrin for many reasons. They do much great work. I don't mean to downplay that and I do probably overstate my position at times. It just bugs the crap out of me that Ethical Culture and Humanism both movements which push pluralism, democracy, and real religious tolerance at the same time as they push for critical thinking and a humanist approach to deciding right and wrong are almost completely unknown to the public, but the "New Atheist" movement which criticizes all religious belief as dangerous (something I see as blatently false) gets so much press and attention. The mainstream Left doesn't even like them, and this is exactly why.

Fundamentalism which seeks to impose itself on everyone needs serious and constant criticism and very strong opposition. We weaken our opposition to these real threats to religious freedom by grouping moderate and progressive religious folks with them. That's why I get so upset when I see some kid with a T-shirt that touts the Rational Response motto: "Believe in God? We can fix that."

I've heard some people argue that it is good to have the more extreme atheist viewpoint because it sets us moderates apart, but I don't know if I buy that considering that I doubt most people know that most atheists are moderates and don't give a damn what peoples' personal religious beliefs are.

"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 08/29/2007 17:17:05
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  16:32:48   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote

Dave wrote:
The question was, "is skepticism compatible with religion?" The answer is still "no," because the only logically defensible position on the god question is "I don't know." The answer, "I don't know, but I believe anyway" is a position that requires compartmentalization.
If I am to agree with this, then I suppose I must admit that I do not think this kind of compartmentalization is dangerous at all.

He appears to refuse to bring his armament of critical thinking skills to the subject (and in fact rejects their use there), and so doesn't engage in skepticism with regard to his faith, no matter how much he might doubt.
I still think he does apply it, he just can't get his heart to agree with his head. That is what I mean by belief not being a choice, only actions based on beliefs are a choice. Since Bidlack would never act against what is provable fact based on what his heart alone tells him, I regard him as fully a skeptic. I think this is where you and I disagree.

But Bidlack is being held up as an example of faith being compatible with skepticism, and he seems to be going along with that premise.
Perhaps this is a semantics problem over the word "compatible". If a Jew marries a Muslim, they are compatible, even if both remain true to their personal religious beliefs.

I want the idea that skepticism and faith are compatible to be kicked out, simply because it is wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong.
So if Bidlack's deism isn't compatible with his skepticism, what would you call his peacefully holding on to both?

But what Bidlack seems to be doing - and what other people are definitely doing - is embracing this wrong idea. I have a problem with that.
What kind of "problem" do you have with it? What do you mean it is a problem? It doesn't seem to be any kind of problem for him, so why is it a problem for you? Fundamentalist trying to get Creationism taught in public schools is a problem for me 'cause it affects the public interest. I don't think personal and humble religious beliefs, tempered by skepticism, are a problem for anyone in any practical and tangible sense, so what is the point of calling them a "problem"?

The assertion that skepticism is not compatible with faith should raise (and should have raised) no more of a fuss than the assertion that skepticism is not compatible with HIV/AIDS denial, or ancient astronauts, or lizard people running the government, or any other unevidenced belief.
Ah! Okay, so you are fighting for what you see as accuracy. I still think this largely boils down to semantics, but the way you are clearly meaning things, I think I might actually agree with you whole-heartedly.

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

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Boron10
Religion Moderator

USA
1265 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  16:51:58   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Boron10 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.

...It's when the compartmentalization is denied (as with creationists) or portrayed as two conflicting views being "compatible" (as with Bidlack) that a problem exists - and it's still not the compartmentalization that's the real problem with those scenarios.
You're begging the question, Dave W. This entire conversation is about whether those two views are incompatible.

Can you all honestly tell me that, if there is insufficient evidence for (or against) something, it is inappropriate for a skeptic to think it may be true?

I think the magnetic strip in my driver's license works. I haven't seen it used, so I really don't know. Are you going to kick me out of the Skeptic's Club for that? There is little difference (on the personal level) between my belief and Mr. Bidlack's.

Caveat -- I understand that mine is, in fact, testable. That doesn't change the belief without evidence.

Even if you don't agree with me on a philosophical level, you should agree with Kil on a practical level. If we start excluding people who are (for the most part) excellent skeptics solely because they believe the magnetic strip works on their driver's licenses, where does that leave us? A movement with very few followers. Do you honestly think any social change can occur that way?

I suppose I am presupposing your desire for social change. If you are content with the way things are, and don't think skepticism is a good idea for the majority, go ahead and exclude whomever you like.

edit -- formatting
Edited by - Boron10 on 08/29/2007 16:56:43
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  17:17:49   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Humbert wrote:
Show me a passage where any scholar writes that awe or states of transcendence are the exclusive domain of religion. If they aren't, then arguing for religion as you have done on the grounds that only religion can provide these things is false. There is much awe to be found in science and the pursuit of knowledge. To call these things exclusively religious states is dishonest.
Hold the phone quote where I said that awe or states of transcendence are the exclusive domain of religion. Quote where I said that only religion can provide these things. What I said was that progressive, non-literal religious beliefs have been part of the religious experience for thousands of years and not incompatible with the values of skepticism.


You've said questionable things, such as that some theists rely on "personal evidence."
That's not questionable, that's a fact. There are tons of religious people who admittedly base their belief on some personal spiritual experience, such as a vision or dream or even just a strong feeling within a certain context and mindset.

But as a skeptic, that very phrase should seem as nonsensical as "square circle." Personal, subjective experiences can never be evidence.
This is a semantics game and you are utterly ignoring the context in which that was stated. There are different kinds of evidence, and I was referring to observational evidence. Consider this from Wikipedia's entry on "evidence"

The most immediate form of evidence available to an individual is the observations of that person's own senses. For example an observer wishing for evidence that the sky is blue need only look at the sky. However this same example illustrates some of the difficulties of evidence as well:
someone who was blue-yellow color blind, but did not know it, would have a very different perception of what color the sky was than someone who was not. Even simple sensory perceptions (qualia) ultimately are subjective; guaranteeing that the same information can be considered somehow true in an objective sense is the main challenge of establishing standards of evidence.

I never said it was good evidence and I certainly didn't say it was proof. However, if you can't accept my intention of meaning with my use of the word "evidence" then I hereby strike it and change it to "reasons".

Then it is useless. Skepticism applied only randomly is no better than applying no skepticism to anything.
I don't think many people apply skepticism randomly. In fact, most people apply it exactly when it is useful. Is Bidlack's application of skepticism useless because he doesn't fully apply it to his deism? I'd say that it doesn't make any kind of practical difference whether he fully applies it to his deism or not. He applies it to everything that actually matters in the real world, and that is what counts.

In fact, it is the same thing, as one simply accepts or rejects what one would on personal preferences anyway without any need of skepticism.
I agree with you that skepticism that is applied based on personal preference is pretty useless.

Skepticism only works when it is applied consistently.
You are demanding it be applied absolutely, which I don't think anyone is even capable of doing all the time. We all fail to fully apply skepticism in various aspects of our lives. That doesn't stop it from working when we do apply it.

To flick it on and off like a light switch inevitably leads to the sorts of errors of bias that skepticism is designed to avoid. As soon as you start ignoring results you don't like, the entire process is corrupted.
I agree, however, the point of skepticism is not the process itself. The point is its usefulness in practical application. As I see no more usefulness to Bidlack being an atheist compared to his being a deist, and he seems to gain some emotional benefit from his deism, I'd say that his deism is clearly a good thing, even if it is not absolutely in line with skepticism. Again you seem to adhere to skepticism in an absolute or extreme sense. There are other values that are just as important, and the process of skepticism is a wonderful means to a desired end, not the end in of itself.


Nothing. I was trying to explain to you why consistency in skepticism is a requirement, how you must submit to the process, and how second-guessing results based on personal bias is exactly what the skeptical method was created to eliminate. But it seems like I'm talking to a brick wall.
Oftentimes "I don't know" cannot be an acceptable answer due to circumstances. Oftentimes people are forced to make a decision knowing that they don't have enough information, and in these cases they utilize other useful tools, such as intuition.

I suppose I'm arguing that for people who feel compelled to hold religious beliefs, all the while knowing that their beliefs aren't and cannot be proven, are yielding to their own personal emotional need, just as someone might run away out of an unexplainable sense of danger. Again, given that these kinds of religious belief do not provoke irrational action, I fail to see how they are dangerous or even undesirable. There is more to the quality of life than knowing facts.

You wrote to Kil:
The problem with fundamentalists isn't that they believe in a universal truth, but that they're wrong.
I agree with Kil, the problem with fundamentalists is their self-righteousness; their certainty that causes them to try to push their ideas about "universal truth" above others.

Skepticism is incompatible with any claims of universal truth. This doesn't mean that skeptics must believe there is not universal truth, but rather, that no skeptical claims about that truth can be made with absolute certainty.

Not defective, just not a skeptic.
Now you are just being arrogant. If Bidlack is not a skeptic then probably nobody is a skeptic since it is difficult to imagine any human being being able to be totally skeptical about everything all the time. Bidlack's activist record, his questioning of his deism, and his regulation of his faith to that which is unprovable makes him a much better skeptic than most people and certainly someone to be admired for his skepticism. Again you are being extreme, demanding that in order to qualify as a skeptic that one must be exclusively skeptical and not hold any values that at times might conflict with absolute skepticism.

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

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26012 Posts

Posted - 08/29/2007 :  18:51:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Boron10

Originally posted by Dave W.

...It's when the compartmentalization is denied (as with creationists) or portrayed as two conflicting views being "compatible" (as with Bidlack) that a problem exists - and it's still not the compartmentalization that's the real problem with those scenarios.
You're begging the question, Dave W. This entire conversation is about whether those two views are incompatible.
No, we've already determined that they are incompatible, in that hard-nosed logic and empiricism tells us that the answer to "is there a god?" can only be "I don't know." Believing despite that result is nothing more than the capitulation of your skepticism in that one subject.
Can you all honestly tell me that, if there is insufficient evidence for (or against) something, it is inappropriate for a skeptic to think it may be true?
No, it is inappropriate for a skeptic to believe that it is true. It's not inappropriate for me, an atheist, to say, "it is possible that there is some sort of being that we would consider to be a god out there somewhere," because there's no evidence that it is impossible that such a being exists. Strictly speaking, the odds appear to be very close to - but not equal to - zero. Bidlack's faith isn't so vague or technical.
I think the magnetic strip in my driver's license works. I haven't seen it used, so I really don't know. Are you going to kick me out of the Skeptic's Club for that? There is little difference (on the personal level) between my belief and Mr. Bidlack's.
Can I insert some rolleyes here for the implication - despite my plain statement otherwise - that I don't want to kick anyone out of the Skeptic's Club? Forcryinoutloud, we've got a freakin' Wiccan on staff here at the SFN.

But back to your question: if your belief is, indeed, without evidence, then it is incompatible with your skepticism. You should only have come to the conclusion that you don't know if the strip works or not. If you've got no reason to think it does, why would you? There's no reason to think so, not even a real (or imagined) pragmatic reason. Unless, of course, your belief that the strip works is the only thing holding you back from a career- and family-destroying lifelong quest for The Truth of the Strip. In the other thread, I even offered a somewhat similar, pragmatic scenario as a possible reason for Bidlack's faith.

Obviously, if you go around without evidence and try to convince others that they should believe that the strip works, you'll get jumped on by your fellow skeptics. But what I'm saying is that the idea, "believing without evidence that the strip works is compatible with skepticism," is just as wrong.
Caveat -- I understand that mine is, in fact, testable. That doesn't change the belief without evidence.
You're quite right there, but I suspect that you can think of some evidence you do have already.
Even if you don't agree with me on a philosophical level, you should agree with Kil on a practical level. If we start excluding people who are (for the most part) excellent skeptics solely because they believe the magnetic strip works on their driver's licenses, where does that leave us? A movement with very few followers. Do you honestly think any social change can occur that way?

I suppose I am presupposing your desire for social change. If you are content with the way things are, and don't think skepticism is a good idea for the majority, go ahead and exclude whomever you like.
Rolling eyes from me, again.

This is not, and has never been, about excluding people with otherwise good skeptical skills from any movement, group, club or society. This is about acknowledging that the subjects in which people's skepticism fails them (or they fail their own skepticism - it can happen either way) are, indeed, areas in which those people are not skeptical. To say otherwise, for example by suggesting that faith is compatible with skepticism, is to be less than truthful.

If the goal is to create a big tent by blowing smoky falsehoods up some peoples' butts so they'll feel more welcome, then you can count me out. There shouldn't be any problem with walking up to someone like Bidlack (for example) and saying, "I disagree completely with your ideas about god, but welcome wholeheartedly your skeptical skills in other areas of human inquiry." If the recipient of such a greeting takes umbrage at not having their sacred cow treated with kid gloves, then it's their choice to take their ball and go home. There's a big difference between tolerance and coddling, and I'll have none of the latter.

- 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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Ricky
SFN Die Hard

USA
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Posted - 08/29/2007 :  19:03:53   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Ricky an AOL message Send Ricky a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think the faulty assumption here is that there is such a thing as a "pure skeptic". I agree with Dave that as soon as you put belief in something you don't have sufficient evidence for, you are not following the principles of a skeptic. However, everyone does that, probably so often it's really not a big deal. It's just when you do it too much that it becomes a problem.

For example, I myself have a weird thing about seat belts. When I get into a car, I think to myself, "You know, if I don't wear my seat belt this time, I'll probably end up being in an accident." I know that is absolutely absurd, but I still think it anyways.

Everyone does it from time to time. Having such a belief doesn't make you a non-skeptic, just a human. There isn't a line between skeptic and non-skeptic, just a big gray area.

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
- Isaac Asimov
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