What's an Atheist? Catch-All

Rezzy:

I'm beginning to fatigue with the repetition. Also, others might want to discuss other questions of atheism

Science is fundamentally empirical in nature, at least outside what is termed "theoretical science," and those I've always viewed as somewhat fringe. If you take a scientific theory and make a dogmatic belief out of it, it's not bad science - it ceases to be science at all, because at that point, you've changed what the concept is.

Thus a dogmatic belief in scientific theory is not only always identifiable from good science, it is identifiable from science, period.

To put it another way: It seems like you're saying that someone that ignores evidence is worshiping whatever that evidence would disprove... and that doesn't seem like a valid application of the term god.

What I'm saying is not that. What is being worshipped is it the idea of science itself, as something that is ultimately (in its ultimate form) infallible because it is believed to be moving towards a perfected goal. Some of its current precepts may be false, but the process itself is held to be a reflection of Truth (capital T) and therefore akin to seeing the face of God.

The scientific process is a specific thing with specific natures and limitations. Belief in it as the best and most authoritative source of Truth - that's the part that's akin to worship.

LarryC wrote:

Note that Mathematics and Science stand opposite in terms of Methodology, though they can be used together in practical applications. Science tests theories, which are deemed temporary and convenient thought constructs, but nothing more. Mathematics starts off from postulated truths, which are deemed inviolate, and uses logic to arrive at conclusions based on those postulates. In terms of method, it is very similar to the way religious theology works, though the postulates are different.

Not true. Off the top of my head, there's the Parallel Postulate. Mathematics doesn't start off from that, it instead has developed geometries that both accept and reject it.

Malor wrote:

This is not religion. You just want it to be, because your faith is not compatible with evolution, so you look for reasons to think that evolution is incorrect. This is foolishness, however, because we know creatures change over time. We know that the Biblical Creation did not happen as claimed, or if it did, it happened along with a huge amount of evidence designed to make it look as if it didn't.

LarryC wrote:

By the way, Malor, my faith IS compatible with Evolution. The Pope's already made a statement on it. Don't assume.

Yeah, one thing to keep in mind is that whatever other issues the Catholic Church has had, Biblical literalism and the hostility to science we associate with it is not one of them.

ruhk wrote:

EDIT: isn't this like the fourth thread in the last year that we've all discussed this same exact thing? Do we really need to go down this road again?

I actually thought we finally resolved this issue the last time I saw it come up.

CheezePavilion:

I am unsure whether or not you understood the thrust of what I said. Nothing you linked is in conflict with how I described science and math.

Also, this is slightly different. The contexts here is, is it really atheism when you really worship something you think is science?

LarryC wrote:

CheezePavilion:

I am unsure whether or not you understood the thrust of what I said. Nothing you linked is in conflict with how I described science and math.

Also, this is slightly different. The contexts here is, is it really atheism when you really worship something you think is science?

What I linked to is a post where I brought up Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry. You said math starts off from postulates deemed true and inviolate. It doesn't. There's math that assumes the Parallel Postulate is true, there's math that assumes it is false. Far from deeming it inviolate, entire geometries have been devised that reject that postulate.

LarryC wrote:

Some of its current precepts may be false, but the process itself is held to be a reflection of Truth (capital T) and therefore akin to seeing the face of God.

And here I think we see the core of our frustration in this exchange... 'akin to seeing the face of God.' You are needlessly mystifying the process of science and projecting a spiritual intent where there is none.

LarryC wrote:

If you take a scientific theory and make a dogmatic belief out of it, it's not bad science - it ceases to be science at all, because at that point, you've changed what the concept is.

What would be the motivation for twisting Science into that thing you describe?

LarryC wrote:

The scientific process is a specific thing with specific natures and limitations. Belief in it as the best and most authoritative source of Truth - that's the part that's akin to worship.

If a person revered the scientific process to the level you describe, what would be the motivation of 'looking into the face of God' only to spit on it?

EDIT: Missed a quote during edits.

EDIT2: Here's a summary of my position I think: The problems you describe do not stem from Science replacing God. The problems you describe stem from Humans with motives doing Science. Their belief in dogma, the process, or higher powers do not, in themselves, inform their Faith in a god or gods.

CheezePavilion wrote:
LarryC wrote:

CheezePavilion:

I am unsure whether or not you understood the thrust of what I said. Nothing you linked is in conflict with how I described science and math.

Also, this is slightly different. The contexts here is, is it really atheism when you really worship something you think is science?

What I linked to is a post where I brought up Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry. You said math starts off from postulates deemed true and inviolate. It doesn't. There's math that assumes the Parallel Postulate is true, there's math that assumes it is false. Far from deeming it inviolate, entire geometries have been devised that reject that postulate.

Er, I don't think you got the meaning right. Euclidean geometry does not try to prove the Parallel Postulate. It simply assumes that it is true and uses logic to determine conclusions. Non-Euclidean geometry starts out from a different set of assumptions, but in both cases the methodology is the same.

Rezzy:

I have to question how inherent faith in scientific process, beyond what it itself states are its limits, is not akin to worship of a god. At its heart, a god is just an idea - a concept. What does it matter that the object of worship is not a personality?

LarryC wrote:

I have to question how inherent faith in scientific process, beyond what it itself states are its limits, is not akin to worship of a god. At its heart, a god is just an idea - a concept. What does it matter that the object of worship is not a personality?

The problem is the catch-22 of your earlier definition of Faith.
Inherent belief without evidence in the scientific process, a system of evaluating theories using evidence, seems a bit nonsensical. That's like saying that having Faith in the theories that have been supported by evidence is the same as having Faith in a divine being without evidence.

Again... the only way your premise works is if you pervert, go beyond the limits, of what science can do. Making it bad science. Making it anathema to the whole concept of science. Either the system is revered, or it is perverted. Make up your mind. As soon as it is perverted it becomes something else, and if it is revered and upheld... How is it distinguishable from Good Science?

All People.
People Doing Science.
People that are worshiping Science.
People that are worshiping Science to such a degree that they are blinded by their dogmatic adherence to previous research that they ignore or suppress new evidence.

Do you see how each pool of people shrinks in statistical relevance?

EDIT: To add... By your definition of god there can be no such thing as an Atheist. Is that your argument?

LarryC wrote:
CheezePavilion wrote:
LarryC wrote:

CheezePavilion:

I am unsure whether or not you understood the thrust of what I said. Nothing you linked is in conflict with how I described science and math.

Also, this is slightly different. The contexts here is, is it really atheism when you really worship something you think is science?

What I linked to is a post where I brought up Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry. You said math starts off from postulates deemed true and inviolate. It doesn't. There's math that assumes the Parallel Postulate is true, there's math that assumes it is false. Far from deeming it inviolate, entire geometries have been devised that reject that postulate.

Er, I don't think you got the meaning right. Euclidean geometry does not try to prove the Parallel Postulate. It simply assumes that it is true and uses logic to determine conclusions. Non-Euclidean geometry starts out from a different set of assumptions, but in both cases the methodology is the same.

That's not important. What's important is that neither set of assumptions is "deemed inviolate" which is what you said. There's a difference between "assume this is true but let's also determine what conclusions would follow from the opposite assumption" and "deem this an inviolate truth." That is certainly not "very similar to the way religious theology works."

LarryC wrote:

DSGamer:

This forum is American, talking about American issues. I would like to talk about other things, but I'm generally talked over, or ignored. Is it not okay for subhuman foreign brown people to talk about American foibles?

That might be the most ridiculous thing you've ever said.

#1 - Although this particular thread has meandered into who does and doesn't believe in evolution I fail to see where this is an American-centric thread. Certis is Canadian, in fact. Unless you think that's "basically American".

#2 - Me saying that you personally tend to turn a topic into how superior your culture is and how crazy American culture is far far different from me saying that "the ideas of brown people aren't allowed here".

Seriously ridiculous.

In the end we have the ability to choose which sources of 'truth' we place our faith in, up to and including our own senses.

Yes. But that's not the same as judging the actual truth of an assertion, which science can do for us.

Robear wrote:

Yes. But that's not the same as judging the actual truth of an assertion, which science can do for us.

I agree, but when defining personal beliefs such as what is and isn't a god, then 'actual' truth isn't really relevant as that designation is external to the mind in question.

is often dogmatic (see Malor's take on Evolution)

In other words, if you consider an overwhelming vast huge gigantic pile of evidence, so much evidence that no human being could ever even read it all, to be a good solid working proof, you're dogmatic.

Larry, you just define words any way you want to, to maintain a false equivalence between faith and science.

Larry, we can try this if you like. When someone says to you "Evolution is impossible by the laws of science (for example, because it violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics), and it's immoral because it removes God from the universe.", how do you respond to them?

Do you say "Evolution is the best theory we have to explain the variety of life on Earth, but it's by no means certain, and we could see it nullified any day now."? Response - "See? The scientists who study evolution admit that they are most likely wrong! It's a terrible lie foisted upon people!"

Do you say "Your position is factually incorrect and you need to learn more about the topic?" Response - "I went to college just like you did, and I've read many books on Evolution, like "Of Pandas and People", and the scientists who wrote those books assure me that they are correct."

How do you respond? Oh, by the way... This person is responsible for deciding whether to include Creationism as a scientific topic in your son's school. And she has the power to do it, and to have your child told that evolutionary theory is actually wrong, but the scientists won't admit it.

Seriously, if you were in our place, how would you phrase your support in such a way that an ordinary American could understand that the theory of evolution is one of the most certainly accurate theories in the history of science?

Rezzy:

The problem is the catch-22 of your earlier definition of Faith.
Inherent belief without evidence in the scientific process, a system of evaluating theories using evidence, seems a bit nonsensical. That's like saying that having Faith in the theories that have been supported by evidence is the same as having Faith in a divine being without evidence.

That's not it. I'm not referring to confidence in the scientific process. I'm referring to faith in a dogmatic perversion of science. It's taking a scientific theory and running with it beyond what the evidence and the philosophy deems correct. At that point, it is no more supported by evidence than any other faith-based belief.

Do you see how each pool of people shrinks in statistical relevance?

I think you're not getting the thrust. I'm not limiting my observations to scientists. Certainly, I didn't remember any of the Miss American contestants being any (though some may be). I'm pointing out that dogmatic perversions of science is harmful to the actual body of science by affecting the people who compose the work, but it is not limited to that set.

To add... By your definition of god there can be no such thing as an Atheist. Is that your argument?

No. Presumably someone who does not worship at all would be an atheist.

CheezePavilion:

Wrong choice of word, perhaps. I'll concede the wording you choose, so long as the meaning is preserved. What I meant is that within the scope of investigation, the assumptions are not falsified - in fact nothing is. You start with postulates, and use logic to go forward. This is similar to how theology is done, as far as I understand it.

Malor:

It's the mindset that demands "Truth" that is fundamentally at odds with the precepts of scientific inquiry. Theories never advance to become facts, no matter how much evidence you have to show validity. To believe so is to turn a theory into a dogma, yes, and to go beyond what the evidence and the philosophy strictly supports.

I am not drawing a false equivalence between faith and science. I am drawing an equivalence between faith and what you think is science.

Robear wrote:

Larry, we can try this if you like. When someone says to you "Evolution is impossible by the laws of science (for example, because it violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics), and it's immoral because it removes God from the universe.", how do you respond to them?

Do you say "Evolution is the best theory we have to explain the variety of life on Earth, but it's by no means certain, and we could see it nullified any day now."? Response - "See? The scientists who study evolution admit that they are most likely wrong! It's a terrible lie foisted upon people!"

Do you say "Your position is factually incorrect and you need to learn more about the topic?" Response - "I went to college just like you did, and I've read many books on Evolution, like "Of Pandas and People", and the scientists who wrote those books assure me that they are correct."

How do you respond? Oh, by the way... This person is responsible for deciding whether to include Creationism as a scientific topic in your son's school. And she has the power to do it, and to have your child told that evolutionary theory is actually wrong, but the scientists won't admit it.

Seriously, if you were in our place, how would you phrase your support in such a way that an ordinary American could understand that the theory of evolution is one of the most certainly accurate theories in the history of science?

I am a simple man, and I would ask for simple things.

For instance, if a supposedly science-trained person asserts that the ToE violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, I would ask them to explain how. I confess that I'm rather baffled at how a theory explaining a process of competitive elimination between animals could possibly have any significance to a Physics construct.

If they assert that it is immoral, then I will respond that morality is beyond the purview of science, as it is concerned purely with empirical data. As such, it makes no comment about God whatsoever.

Finally, I would point out that Creationism is bad science, and I can readily point to several ways in which it is. It will degrade the quality of science education in America to include such bad content in science classes.

Your final question baffles me the most. I confess that I am at a loss, since even your atheists who purport to support science do so in a distinctly faith-based manner; I'm supposing that part of the reason other faith forces push against them is for that reason - they see the movement as a rival faith.

If I had unlimited resources, I would tackle the problem from the fundamentals - critical thought and empiricism. It is difficult to explain what science is to people who do not even understand the basis of critical thinking.

EDIT:

Just so we're clear, Evolution is not the thrust of my argument in this thread. It's convenient to point to it because I've witnessed it being taken beyond its bounds within this site. The main thrust has always been that the way science is being used by atheists appears to be based on Rationalist and even faith-based thinking. At that point, is it really science, and are they really not worshiping a concept-god?

LarryC wrote:

CheezePavilion:Wrong choice of word, perhaps. I'll concede the wording you choose, so long as the meaning is preserved. What I meant is that within the scope of investigation, the assumptions are not falsified - in fact nothing is. You start with postulates, and use logic to go forward. This is similar to how theology is done, as far as I understand it.

It's not how theology is done. Theology does not consist of postulates that are just "not falsified." Theology consists of postulates that are believed to be facts true of the whole of existence, not just a 'scope of investigation'.

No, because new evidence will change those beliefs completely. Faith is belief without evidence, or belief even in spite of evidence.

Faith is making some sh*t up and sticking to it, no matter what, imagining motive where no actual evidence for a motive exists.

CheezePavilion:

That's a difference of scope, not methodology; also somewhat misleading. As far as I understand it, much of theology is concerned with morality, and spirituality and that hardly covers the entire world.

Malor:

I'd broadly agree, though your biases are showing there. I defined faith in similar terms further up.

LarryC wrote:

CheezePavilion:

That's a difference of scope, not methodology; also somewhat misleading. As far as I understand it, much of theology is concerned with morality, and spirituality and that hardly covers the entire world.

Maybe, maybe not: but if the difference between postulates that are not falsified and postulates that are deemed truth inviolate are not differences in methodology, then this is starting to look like all you can say is that fields that use logic are similar to Mathematics, which really isn't saying much.

It's different from science. You will note on review that that is what I was saying.

I'd broadly agree, though your biases are showing there. I defined faith in similar terms further up.

So, when pressed, there is absolutely nothing to your claim that science and religion are the same, or that we're using religious thinking.

LarryC wrote:

DSGamer:

This forum is American, talking about American issues. I would like to talk about other things, but I'm generally talked over, or ignored. Is it not okay for subhuman foreign brown people to talk about American foibles?

Probably your most offensive and culturally insensitive post to date.

Science is a process.

Faith is a belief.

They are completely separate.

Science is predicated on being wrong and it is universally accepted that, if new evidence arises, our body of knowledge will change. Inherent in scientific knowledge is the accepting and understanding that what we currently know could be wrong, and will be changed in time as we learn new things.

Faith is predicated on being correct. Those who believe Jesus was dead for three days and then came back to life believe because they believe, and there is no way to change that. Those who believe in the inerrant veracity of the Bible do so in spite of evidence that it is wrong. Faith cannot be proved correct or incorrect, simply believed.

"Faith in science" is not "faith". "Belief in science" means respecting that we are limited beings with a limited knowledge, and that everything we know currently may well be proven wrong. It is about being open and accepting and willingness to change. Faith is the exact opposite. There is no link between the two.

For instance, if a supposedly science-trained person asserts that the ToE violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, I would ask them to explain how. I confess that I'm rather baffled at how a theory explaining a process of competitive elimination between animals could possibly have any significance to a Physics construct.

It's commonly asserted that the increasing complexity inherent in the process of evolution is a violation of the idea that entropy *increases* over time. By people with PhDs, although oddly most of them are not physicists...

If they assert that it is immoral, then I will respond that morality is beyond the purview of science, as it is concerned purely with empirical data. As such, it makes no comment about God whatsoever.

You'll be told that evolution's goal is to eradicate God, since it does not require God to have intervened, and so science is indeed immoral in this regard. Thousands of religious leaders hammer this point home every chance they get to their flocks.

Finally, I would point out that Creationism is bad science, and I can readily point to several ways in which it is. It will degrade the quality of science education in America to include such bad content in science classes.

Other scientist, godly men of wisdom and education, disagree with you. They say it will *improve* science education. They can point to ways that your examples are bad (for example, the concept of "irreducible complexity"). This, along with the notion that one unexplained or even *contested* element will nullify the entire field of study is something that Americans who wish to defend the scientific method as a valid method of inquiry must deal with.

Your final question baffles me the most. I confess that I am at a loss, since even your atheists who purport to support science do so in a distinctly faith-based manner; I'm supposing that part of the reason other faith forces push against them is for that reason - they see the movement as a rival faith.

If I had unlimited resources, I would tackle the problem from the fundamentals - critical thought and empiricism. It is difficult to explain what science is to people who do not even understand the basis of critical thinking.

I see you understand the point I'm making. I believe that science in the US is sometimes presented in a way that people who reject evidence but accept authority can understand more easily. They *do* see the movement as a rival faith, and so you've got to either get them you allow you to coexist - there are many more of them than there are of you - or confront them directly, as you suggest in the next paragraph. And they need to relate to it.

In the US, critical thinking is a liberal concept - quite literally so. It's attacked as legalistic and untrustworthy by people who disagree with it's conclusions. What's more important is getting the *right* conclusion from the facts, and that usually depends on what the thinker wants it to be.

Scientists have to sway people, not with evidence, but more with appeals to their biases. There's been a lot of discussion among climate scientists on how to do this, for example. The most successful approach to gaining approval from climate deniers seems to be to co-opt their themes. If they can believe that climate change accommodations can be done by private companies making a profit, and won't require massive taxes or stacks of new government bureaus and regulations, then they will stop arguing against it. But citing figures and studies has not worked, and will not work, because opposition is not based on actual facts or indeed on critical thinking at all. It's based on the fact that the things that they disagree with disgust them, disagree with their accepted authorities, or go against the ideas of a group they are comfortable with. (Describing conservatives here, because they are the vast majority of climate deniers and anti-evilutionists - liberals will get upset if the proposal does not seem to be caring of others or fair to all involved.)

I guess my point is this. Remember that American science is constantly under attack, and so what you see from the public relations side is different from what you find reading papers and studying science. There's a huge difference between a country that is 50% Catholic, and one that has hundreds of large mainstream Christian sects, all with different goals and interpretations of the world. Add to that the bias in the media and the unfettered funding of interest groups designed to sway public opinion over the long run, and you can expect to see much more concrete and certain language about science used in discussions here. Maybe in 1930's Paris you could sit at a table and discuss the relative merits of Hegel's approach to Lenin's implementation, but try that in 1930's Madrid and you'll get a bullet in the face. It's not *that* bad here, but frankly, you'll get a more open minded audience about evolution and climate change and other US hot button topics in Manila than in Akron, Ohio. And so the language is born of defensiveness. I suspect that's what you are seeing, rather than an actual shift in how science is done (although there are certainly plenty of dodgy journals and biased universities these days...)

I hope this helps a bit in understanding the "American style", I suppose I'd call it. We have one of the worst education systems in the industrial world; this is one result.