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Author Topic:   Does Atheism = No beliefs?
Tangle
Member
Posts: 5972
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 256 of 414 (774714)
12-21-2015 12:18 PM
Reply to: Message 255 by ringo
12-21-2015 11:56 AM


ringo writes:

It's about communication. If people think "atheist" means "believes there is no God" then identifying myself as an atheist gives them the wrong idea.

If it's about communication, then you're failing miserably. If you don't believe in god you're an atheist. That's the meat of the matter. The rest is obfuscation.

If you cared about clarity you'd just say that you were an atheist, but of course you can't prove that god doesn't exist. Then everyone understands. Saying that your prime position is an agnostic but you don't believe in god has put the cart before the horse - and also makes no sense in plain English usage.

I don't care what people think of me but I'd rather they form their opinions on accurate information.

Then you have no excuse for not using words and terms accurately.

As for fear of coming out, some atheists seem to be afraid to admit that they don't know.

Every atheist I've ever met allows room for doubt and admits that they don't know - to do otherwise would be both logically wrong and plain dumb. Knowing is not the point - it's about what you believe.

The way it goes with me is:

1. I don't believe in god/s so i'm an atheist

2. I can't prove god/s doesn't/don't exist but as far as I can tell there's no evidence of them. (And lots of evidence that the original ideas that founded theisms were wrong - but that's another story).

3. I'll go one step further and say that god/s do/does not exist. But that's a statement of belief not knowledge. Otherwise called a conclusion - which may be wrong but which is supported by the evidence.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif. Je suis Parisien.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 255 by ringo, posted 12-21-2015 11:56 AM ringo has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 257 by ringo, posted 12-21-2015 12:31 PM Tangle has responded

  
ringo
Member
Posts: 14912
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 2.2


Message 257 of 414 (774716)
12-21-2015 12:31 PM
Reply to: Message 256 by Tangle
12-21-2015 12:18 PM


Tangle writes:

If you don't believe in god you're an atheist. That's the meat of the matter. The rest is obfuscation.


Nonsense. Insisting on one dictionary definition and ignoring all others is obfuscation.

If you want to play Dueling Dictionaries:

quote:
atheist
1. a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. link

I neither deny nor disbelieve. Therefore, it ain't me.

Tangle writes:

Saying that your prime position is an agnostic but you don't believe in god has put the cart before the horse - and also makes no sense in plain English usage.


Plain English usage is exactly the point here. Most people don't define "atheist" the way you religious atheists do.

Tangle writes:

Then you have no excuse for not using words and terms accurately.


I am using the term accurately. Sometimes more accuracy involves less precision.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 256 by Tangle, posted 12-21-2015 12:18 PM Tangle has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 258 by Tangle, posted 12-21-2015 12:43 PM ringo has responded

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 5972
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 258 of 414 (774717)
12-21-2015 12:43 PM
Reply to: Message 257 by ringo
12-21-2015 12:31 PM


Denial is an amazing thing.

If you asked 100 people what an atheist was, 95 would say it's someone who didn't believe in god. The other 5 wouldn't know the word.

If someone asked 100 people this question "I don't believe in god, what am I?" how many do you think would say agnostic? Close to zero - the others would run away.

Edited by Tangle, : No reason given.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif. Je suis Parisien.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 257 by ringo, posted 12-21-2015 12:31 PM ringo has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 260 by ringo, posted 12-22-2015 10:42 AM Tangle has responded

  
kbertsche
Member
Posts: 1427
From: San Jose, CA, USA
Joined: 05-10-2007


Message 259 of 414 (774722)
12-21-2015 1:50 PM
Reply to: Message 253 by Diomedes
12-21-2015 11:05 AM


Diomedes writes:

Read your statement:

kbertsche writes:


I do not believe in the tooth fairy. Further, I believe that the tooth fairy does not exist.


You have actually stated two things here from a logical perspective:

In the first sentence is you are stating you do not believe in the tooth fairy. In other words, someone has made a claim regarding the existence of the tooth fairy, which you have rejected.

Your second sentence however is the opposite. You state that you believe that the tooth fairy does not exist. You have just stated a belief in a non-belief.

'believe' in 'non-existence of tooth fairy'.

Is this clarifying things a little better?


First, I wouldn't say that the second statement is opposite the first. It is stronger; it states a positive rather than a negative.

Second, this is not a "belief in a non-belief". I did not say or mean that "I believe in the non-existence of the tooth fairy". I meant exactly what I said, that "I believe that the tooth fairy does not exist." This is a truth-claim, a positive belief that an alleged fact is true.

Diomedes writes:

To compound the problem, your third statement:

kbertsche writes:


I cannot absolutely prove that the tooth fairy does not exist, but I am convinced of it on the basis of evidence.


This actually contradicts your second statement and is inherently self-contradictory in its own right.

Not at all!

We cannot prove scientific theories. Yet we believe that many scientific theories are true, based on evidence. We are convinced of them, even though we cannot prove them.

Diomedes writes:

The statement in wholesale is referencing a non-belief, made in the preceding statement. i.e. 'I believe the tooth fairy does not exist'.
As indicated, you are 'believing' in the 'non-existence' of the tooth fairy. You follow that by indicating you cannot 'absolutely prove' in the non-existence of the tooth fairy, but you are convinced of it based on the 'evidence'.


No, you are misinterpreting my words. I am not claiming a non-belief, I am claiming a positive belief in something's non-existence. This is a crucial distinction.

Let's try a scientific analogy to the tooth-fairy example. Consider the two statements:
1) "I do not believe in cold fusion"
2) "I believe that cold fusion does not exist" (or "can not occur")

The second statement is not "belief in a non-belief". It is a positive belief in something's non-existence. These are very different.

(I think that part of the semantic problem here is that many atheists want to overly restrict the meaning of the word "believe", restricting it only to instances of "blind faith" where there is no evidence in the belief's favor. But the word "believe" in normal English usage is not nearly so specific or restrictive. You may call this normal usage "overloaded", but it is in fact the normal, accepted usage of the word in the English language. In all of the positive statements above where I say that "I believe X", feel free to replace this in your mind with "I am convinced of X" if you wish; this is nearly synonymous.)

Edited by kbertsche, : No reason given.

Edited by kbertsche, : No reason given.

Edited by kbertsche, : No reason given.


"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." – Albert Einstein

“I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives us a lot of factual information, puts all of our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.” – Erwin Schroedinger


This message is a reply to:
 Message 253 by Diomedes, posted 12-21-2015 11:05 AM Diomedes has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 261 by Diomedes, posted 12-22-2015 10:51 AM kbertsche has not yet responded
 Message 269 by Blue Jay, posted 12-22-2015 7:02 PM kbertsche has responded

    
ringo
Member
Posts: 14912
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 2.2


(1)
Message 260 of 414 (774764)
12-22-2015 10:42 AM
Reply to: Message 258 by Tangle
12-21-2015 12:43 PM


Tangle writes:

If you asked 100 people what an atheist was, 95 would say it's someone who didn't believe in god. The other 5 wouldn't know the word.


And 93 would think it meant an active disbelief in God. The other two would be atheist missionaries like you.
This message is a reply to:
 Message 258 by Tangle, posted 12-21-2015 12:43 PM Tangle has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 262 by Tangle, posted 12-22-2015 11:24 AM ringo has responded

  
Diomedes
Member
Posts: 695
From: Central Florida, USA
Joined: 09-13-2013


Message 261 of 414 (774766)
12-22-2015 10:51 AM
Reply to: Message 259 by kbertsche
12-21-2015 1:50 PM


I meant exactly what I said, that "I believe that the tooth fairy does not exist." This is a truth-claim, a positive belief that an alleged fact is true.

However, the point is the claim is meaningless since it requires one proving a negative. Which you yourself stated:

quote:
I cannot absolutely prove that the tooth fairy does not exist

In actuality, you cannot prove it in any sense. There is no test, experiment or otherwise you could perform to prove the non-existence of something.

I think that part of the semantic problem here is that many atheists want to overly restrict the meaning of the word "believe", restricting it only to instances of "blind faith" where there is no evidence in the belief's favor. But the word "believe" in normal English usage is not nearly so specific or restrictive. You may call this normal usage "overloaded", but it is in fact the normal, accepted usage of the word in the English language.

Granted, words 'can' be used in the common vernacular. However, it does not mean they are effective in conveying meaning.

Take the word 'faith' for example. It's definition is:

1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
2. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

Now, if I use the following sentence:

'I have faith that my car will start when I turn the key.'

Looking back at the definition, bullet 2 does not apply. Bullet 1 is more applicable. But as the definition states, it is indicating 'complete trust or confidence'. So it is basically indicating full assuredness that the car will start.

Yet as we all now, that is no way guaranteed. The car's battery may be dead. Perhaps the gas leaked out. Maybe something has gone wrong with the internal mechanics of the motor.

A more applicable sentence would be:

'I am fairly certain my car will start when I turn the key.'

This conveys the notion that based on previous experience and a working knowledge of the car's service history, one can surmise that it will start, but also acknowledging that it is by no means certain.

But let me take a step back since we are going off on tangents regarding semantics, as you indicated.

The original discussion point was that you were indicating that atheism is implying a positive belief in a negative. i.e. I believe that no god exists. And we also indicated that there is an equivalency between those that believe god exists versus those that don't.

Let me expand on the idea of classification for a moment.

Consider someone who is a theist. That, in and of itself, does not yield information regarding that person's religious affiliation.
So if one was to ask, answers might be:
'I am a Christian.'
'I am a Muslim.'
'I am a Jew.'

That would provide context regarding that individuals belief and their religious affiliation.

Now, would the following work?
'I am a non-Christian.'
'I am a non-Muslim.'
'I am a non-Jew.'

Technically, there is nothing wrong with those statements. But what are they really conveying? Someone telling you they are a non-Christian does not really yield a lot of information since it only eliminates one option from a whole field of options.

In the same sense, when someone says: 'I believe in the non-existence of god.' What precisely is that implying? They believe in the non-existence of something? And beyond that, what information is that yielding regarding their actual beliefs if any?

As I indicated earlier, Buddhists have no concept of a god in their religion. They are, for all intents and purposes, atheists. And there are other religions that function similarly. Also, we haven't even gotten into polytheism which complicates the matter even more.

One of the easiest ways to perhaps finally understand this concept is to look at our legal system. We have the concept of innocent until proven guilty. Not the other way around. And this was done for a variety of reasons. But ultimately, it makes the most sense from a burden of proof perspective.

If someone is charged with a crime, they go to court, and the system then tries to prove their guilt. The burden of proof is on the prosecution. The defense's ONLY role is to provide reasonable doubt. That assumption is made that the individual is innocent and that the guilt must be proven.

In the same way, when one looks at the god argument, the burden of proof is on the individual making the claim. So theists have the burden of proof on their side. All the atheist needs to do is provide reasonable doubt. This clearly shows that there is no equivalency between the two. Especially in the case of the god argument, since it requires extraordinary evidence.

So to summarize: by attempting to state something like 'I believe in the non-existence of god', the burden of proof shifts. It now goes into the realm of attempting to prove a negative. Which, as we I think all agree, is mostly impossible.

That is the best I can do from an explanation perspective. Perhaps one of the other posters on the forum can take it from here.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 259 by kbertsche, posted 12-21-2015 1:50 PM kbertsche has not yet responded

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 5972
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 262 of 414 (774770)
12-22-2015 11:24 AM
Reply to: Message 260 by ringo
12-22-2015 10:42 AM


ringo writes:

And 93 would think it meant an active disbelief in God.

Cobblers. The normal usage of the word atheist is a non-belief in god.

You're in the wrong thread, the thread were you argue black is actually white is "Life - an unequivocal definition" you'll be happy there.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif. Je suis Parisien.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 260 by ringo, posted 12-22-2015 10:42 AM ringo has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 263 by ringo, posted 12-22-2015 11:32 AM Tangle has not yet responded

  
ringo
Member
Posts: 14912
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 2.2


Message 263 of 414 (774772)
12-22-2015 11:32 AM
Reply to: Message 262 by Tangle
12-22-2015 11:24 AM


Tangle writes:

The normal usage of the word atheist is a non-belief in god.


I had never even heard your usage before I came to EvC. The common usage is active disbelief in God. I'll take my own experience - and the dictionary definition that I quoted - over your "nuh-uh".

The wishy-washy "lacking in belief" that you talk about is commonly known as agnosticism.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 262 by Tangle, posted 12-22-2015 11:24 AM Tangle has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 264 by New Cat's Eye, posted 12-22-2015 11:56 AM ringo has acknowledged this reply

  
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


(1)
Message 264 of 414 (774774)
12-22-2015 11:56 AM
Reply to: Message 263 by ringo
12-22-2015 11:32 AM


Tangle writes:

The normal usage of the word atheist is a non-belief in god.


I had never even heard your usage before I came to EvC. The common usage is active disbelief in God.

Exactly, and even further:

When someone says "I don't believe in Santa Claus", they are saying that Santa Claus does not exist.

Nobody uses that phrase to say that, while they lack a positive belief in the existence of Santa Claus, they are leaving open the possibility of him existing.

Edited by Cat Sci, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 263 by ringo, posted 12-22-2015 11:32 AM ringo has acknowledged this reply

Replies to this message:
 Message 265 by Tangle, posted 12-22-2015 12:17 PM New Cat's Eye has responded

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 5972
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 265 of 414 (774777)
12-22-2015 12:17 PM
Reply to: Message 264 by New Cat's Eye
12-22-2015 11:56 AM


"I don't believe in god, but I'm not an atheist” - pure Alice in Wonderland. Weird pseudo-intellectual denial.

I'll say no more for a while.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif. Je suis Parisien.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 264 by New Cat's Eye, posted 12-22-2015 11:56 AM New Cat's Eye has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 266 by Phat, posted 12-22-2015 2:18 PM Tangle has responded
 Message 268 by New Cat's Eye, posted 12-22-2015 5:55 PM Tangle has responded

  
Phat
Member
Posts: 10971
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.3


Message 266 of 414 (774789)
12-22-2015 2:18 PM
Reply to: Message 265 by Tangle
12-22-2015 12:17 PM


All they are saying is that the possibility of God has not been ruled out---whereas you think evidence is everything and that God is likely an impossibility.

Chance as a real force is a myth. It has no basis in reality and no place in scientific inquiry. For science and philosophy to continue to advance in knowledge, chance must be demythologized once and for all. –RC Sproul
"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." –Mark Twain

This message is a reply to:
 Message 265 by Tangle, posted 12-22-2015 12:17 PM Tangle has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 267 by Tangle, posted 12-22-2015 2:55 PM Phat has not yet responded

  
Tangle
Member
Posts: 5972
From: UK
Joined: 10-07-2011
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 267 of 414 (774790)
12-22-2015 2:55 PM
Reply to: Message 266 by Phat
12-22-2015 2:18 PM


Phat writes:

All they are saying is that the possibility of God has not been ruled out---whereas you think evidence is everything and that God is likely an impossibility.

Oh Phat, that is absolutlety not what I'm saying and is not what I've said.

I repeatedly say - over and over and over again to the point that I've lost the will to live - that no one can say that god does not exist and it can't be ruled out.

Never-the-less, I don't believe that he she or it does. That's what an atheist is - someone that doesn't believe god(s) exist. All the other pseudo-intellectual masterbation and evasion is bullshit. In a country where atheists aren't so reviled this kind of eqivocation and denial is incomprehensible.


Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Juif. Je suis Parisien.

Life, don't talk to me about life - Marvin the Paranoid Android

"Science adjusts it's views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved."
- Tim Minchin, in his beat poem, Storm.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 266 by Phat, posted 12-22-2015 2:18 PM Phat has not yet responded

  
New Cat's Eye
Inactive Member


(3)
Message 268 of 414 (774799)
12-22-2015 5:55 PM
Reply to: Message 265 by Tangle
12-22-2015 12:17 PM


"I don't believe in god, but I'm not an atheist” - pure Alice in Wonderland. Weird pseudo-intellectual denial.

No, you've misunderstood. Your never going to address my point until you can accept that people can use words to mean different things than what you think the words mean.

For example, the first part: "I don't believe in god,"

This can mean more than one thing:

MeaningWhat they wroteWhat they meantWhat I say they should be calledWhat you insist is the only thing they can be called
1I don't believe in godI do hold the belief that god does not existAtheistAtheist
2I don't believe in godI do not hold the belief that god existAtheistAtheist
3I don't believe in godI do not hold the belief that god exist, but I don't mean to say that he doesn'tAgnosticAtheist

For me, as I said, when I say that "I don't believe in Santa Claus", I am saying that Santa Claus does not exist - Meaning #1.

If someone uses Meaning #2, then that's fine with me, I'll call them an atheist.

But it's that third group, those people who call themselves an atheist but then later go on to explain that they don't really mean that he does actually not exist, they're just saying that they haven't been convinced that he does so they do actually lack the belief.

That's waffling, you go to the wafflers pile in-between with the rest of them. You're the Agnostics.

The people who are saying that god does not exist, you go to the right. You're the Atheists.

The people who are saying that god does exist, you go to the left. You're the Theists.

That's how the words work best for me over here, and I think you're wrong to insist that your preference is the only one that can be used.

quote:
A person that says I don't believe in god but I accept that I don't know whether there is or there isn't a god, is still an atheist. By definition. You can't not believe in god and not be an atheist.

But you can, there's a better way! Three piles instead of two!

I'll say no more for a while.

I'd love to see an argument for why my way sucks and/or where I'm wrong, but if you're just going to use semantics to say that I can't really use the words that way, then don't bother replying. Not because I won't knock it out with you, but because the boss would rather see constructive criticism over circling semantics, and I can agree to that. I'm sure we'd be welcome to play along in the Free for All. You are wrong on this one

So if you want to adress the topic here, it is:

Does Athiesm = no beliefs?

I'm arguing that "no beliefs" should not equal Atheism. If we're categorizing the responses to the question of the existence of god, then we need to use what is more useful.

You're way, that all the people that reply with "yes" are in one pile and then everyone else is in another, can work. I'm not arguing that.

It's your insistence that your way is the only one that can be considered.

I think my way better covers the spectrum of beliefs out there in a more useful way. The people that reply with "yes" are in one pile, the people that reply with "no" go in another, then the people who don't really answer the question go in-between. If you're only counting yes's and no's then there's that, you can still count all the non-yes's as being no's if you want, but I'm not gonna buy it. I like the two-button version over the one-button one*.

That you're making this disagreement out to be some kinda of American cultural phobia is a bit too ridiculous for me, especially when you accused it upon a Canadian.

And the fact that the OP stemmed from a discussion that occurred five years ago, most likely in an Australian bar between two old guys who are in their seventies by now, is making this all a bit too much for me

*I like the two-button version over the one-button one.

Imagine you appear on a game show stage when the lights go up and you're presented with a button: Press it if you agree that god exists.

Either you do or you don't. That's your way.

In my way, you're presented with two buttons: Press this one if you agree that god exists, or press this one if you agree that god does not exist.

So you can press one, the other, or neither. That's a better representation of the way people are actually using the term, despite any dictionary you'd demand, and even more it helps represent the way that people feel about the question - especially in whether or not they are willing to even answer it.

Edited by Cat Sci, : *


This message is a reply to:
 Message 265 by Tangle, posted 12-22-2015 12:17 PM Tangle has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 271 by Tangle, posted 12-23-2015 12:01 PM New Cat's Eye has not yet responded

  
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 558 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


(3)
Message 269 of 414 (774801)
12-22-2015 7:02 PM
Reply to: Message 259 by kbertsche
12-21-2015 1:50 PM


Hi, kbertsche.

Forgive me for butting in here, but I wanted to add some of my own thoughts to Diomedes' and AZPaul's.

kbertsche writes:

We cannot prove scientific theories. Yet we believe that many scientific theories are true, based on evidence. We are convinced of them, even though we cannot prove them.

In the purest language of logic, we wouldn't say we 'believe' or 'are convinced': we would say we 'tentatively accept' or 'cannot reject.'

This is where the atheist lies. We reject the 'god' hypothesis, because we can't back it up with empirical evidence. This results in our accepting the null hypothesis, which is that god does not exist.

In my mind, the difference lies in the difference between 'accepting' and 'believing'.

'Accepting' is what good scientists and empiricists are supposed to do as a means of making proper decisions, and they are supposed to be willing to change which hypotheses they accept based on a re-evaluation of the evidence.

'Believing' is what good crusaders and salespersons are supposed to do as a way of promoting a cause or agenda. It generally implies some level of resistance to re-evaluating the evidence.

So, the 'ideal atheist' (i.e., the type of atheist we all claim to be and would like everyone to believe we are) would be an empiricist who currently lacks belief in god but is genuinely willing to consider re-evaluating evidence for the existence of god, as opposed to being .

The number of us that actually live up to that ideal is probably quite small (most of us are probably more resistant to theistic ideas than is strictly rational), but that's just the classically human trait of falling short of our ideals. Everybody is a work in progress, right?


-Blue Jay, Ph.D.*

*Yeah, it's real

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 259 by kbertsche, posted 12-21-2015 1:50 PM kbertsche has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 270 by kbertsche, posted 12-23-2015 11:35 AM Blue Jay has responded

  
kbertsche
Member
Posts: 1427
From: San Jose, CA, USA
Joined: 05-10-2007


Message 270 of 414 (774823)
12-23-2015 11:35 AM
Reply to: Message 269 by Blue Jay
12-22-2015 7:02 PM


Blue Jay writes:

In the purest language of logic, we wouldn't say we 'believe' or 'are convinced': we would say we 'tentatively accept' or 'cannot reject.'

This is where the atheist lies. We reject the 'god' hypothesis, because we can't back it up with empirical evidence. This results in our accepting the null hypothesis, which is that god does not exist.

In my mind, the difference lies in the difference between 'accepting' and 'believing'.

'Accepting' is what good scientists and empiricists are supposed to do as a means of making proper decisions, and they are supposed to be willing to change which hypotheses they accept based on a re-evaluation of the evidence.

'Believing' is what good crusaders and salespersons are supposed to do as a way of promoting a cause or agenda. It generally implies some level of resistance to re-evaluating the evidence.

So, the 'ideal atheist' (i.e., the type of atheist we all claim to be and would like everyone to believe we are) would be an empiricist who currently lacks belief in god but is genuinely willing to consider re-evaluating evidence for the existence of god, as opposed to being .

The number of us that actually live up to that ideal is probably quite small (most of us are probably more resistant to theistic ideas than is strictly rational), but that's just the classically human trait of falling short of our ideals. Everybody is a work in progress, right?


You make a good case. But you present things a bit too black-and-white, with no acknowledgement of the various degrees of "acceptance" or "belief". The two terms are part of a continuous spectrum with a tremendous amount of overlap.

You give a good explanation of how good scientists approach open questions or ongoing research. But for well-established scientific theories or principles, good scientists don't act the way that you describe. In fact, I believe that it would stifle scientific progress if we did so.

It is true that we cannot prove scientific theories, hypotheses, or laws. But with time and experience, we come to BELIEVE (not only "accept") them very strongly. So strongly that we assume that they are true and we build new theories on top of them. So strongly that when new theories come along that question them, we approach the new theories very skeptically if we give them any credence at all.

For example, most of us are quite convinced that gravity exists and is well-described by our current theories. When new theories come along (e.g. a "fifth force" or MOND), most physicists approach them very skeptically, and many physicists don't investigate them at all.

This attitude sometimes gets us into trouble, of course. But if we were continually questioning the basic principles of science, it would hurt our ability to build new theories on top of the present ones.


"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." – Albert Einstein

“I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives us a lot of factual information, puts all of our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.” – Erwin Schroedinger


This message is a reply to:
 Message 269 by Blue Jay, posted 12-22-2015 7:02 PM Blue Jay has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 272 by Blue Jay, posted 12-23-2015 7:09 PM kbertsche has not yet responded

    
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