Atheist or Agnostic — and Does it Matter?

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By Herb Silverman

Many people tell me they wouldn’t mind if I were an agnostic, but that I shouldn’t be so arrogant as to be an atheist.

I used to call myself an agnostic because I could not logically prove whether a god exists, so I took the agnostic position that the existence of any god is unknown — and perhaps unknowable. I was without belief in any gods and thought it highly improbable that any supernatural beings exist. When I learned that this view is consistent with atheism, I became an atheist.

So, my “conversion” from agnosticism to atheism was more definitional than theological. In reality, depending on how terms are defined and their context, I can accurately call myself an atheist or an agnostic, as well as a humanist, secular humanist, freethinker, skeptic, rationalist, infidel, and more.

I’m curious about why people find “atheist” so much more threatening than “agnostic” when self-described “atheists” and “agnostics” often hold identical views about deities. As with atheists, agnostics almost never give equal merit to belief and disbelief. For instance, I can neither prove nor disprove the following claims.

Claim 1: The universe was created 30 minutes ago and the creator planted false memories in all of us.

Claim 2: Infidels who don’t believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are condemned to burn for eternity in a vat of hot pasta sauce.

I assume we are all “agnostic” about these two hypotheses, but at the same time pretty certain they are false. (I’d also call myself an atheist with respect to such creators.) The burden of proof is on the person making the assertion — as it should be with any supernatural claim.


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113 COMMENTS

  1. Language matters, as I am reminded each time I use the Oxford Dictionary online.
    The concept of a supernatural God is an oxymoron for me. The word God represents in my life the Infinity of everything and my be ultimately unknowable. In my belief structure God is expanding in lock step with us. For me whenever we came from and whenever we are going to is unimportant when compared to now. I am trying to lead what I believe is a good life. It is difficult without a framework of others that share my concepts. I believe living a good life is the task we need toget on with individually. There are no short cuts or cheats. We can not follow anyone even if we are desperate to so for they are or were themselves and I am me. I will end up expressing me whether I follow, lead or sit makes no difference in the overall scheme of things. We explore no matter where or what we are. Even when we try not to we are exploring how to. So it seems we are a creature driven to explore and we do. Following that “truth” it seems if I have only 2 main choices in my life; !) to explore the things that make me happy, content or 2) explore the opposite. I am constantly choosing Happy as the content of my direction and “God” is up that-a-way. So yes, I do believe that there is something that-a-way that defies description because it is Infinite. And how can Infinity have but a single path? And what word shall I use? God the Infinite works best for me so therefore I am an Agnostic.

  2. I think most atheists when their back is up against a wall would say they are agnostic. I certainly fall into that category, however, the one problem I have found is that when I say agnostic people falsely assume I am much closer to belief. Saying that I am an atheist is more accurate in terms of where I stand belief wise versus what I can and cannot prove.

  3. George H Smith in the opening chapter of his book Atheism: The Case Against God explains in some depth the precise meanings and implications of the quite distinct concepts of atheism and agnosticism. You can read the chapter (and indeed the whole book) here if you wish.

  4. In popular thinking, if your doubt about Jehovah is the same or greater than Zeus, you are an atheist. If it is less you are an agnostic. However, if you estimate the probability of Jehovah existing to be greater than 0.5, you are a believer.

  5. I’d argue (actually not my argument but it resounds with me) that agnostics are atheists. Atheists do not believe in God/s. Agnostics are uncertain, uncertain means do not believe yet, awaiting more evidence. I’d argue anyone but a theist is an atheist. Of course it soon becomes semantics and can degenerate into a useless distraction. I’m also sympathetic with Sam Harris’s position that we have no word for someone who doesn’t believe in Astrology but when discussing matters with the religious distinctions matter.

  6. But I know of religious people who have some kind of thinking that if enough children in the theatre believe in fairies, sorry god, she’ll come to life and be as real as real can be. For them God is as real as justice and faith is the key. All faithists live on this line. The agnosticism for them is then asking the questions, actually how real? and, real enough? and, does it matter? The believe in beliefer’s agnosticism may be much more positive.

  7. You have a point,

    My wife was a believer, being married to me has shaken her faith (I very deliberately made a point of not trying to convince her to leave her faith-but I’ve answered every question she has asked me). So in reality she would prefer to believe but finds it hard, so she probably falls along your line also. Of course it just makes hard to define. I suppose my position is in terms of debate about religion Theist vs Atheist it is somewhat useful to define terms.

  8. For atheists who have bothered to think about more than one god, the presence or absence of some tiny improbability does not seem matter.

    It seems to matter to theists, who think that getting an atheist to honestly admit that some tiny uncertainty in their “absence of evidence based view” of the balance of probabilities, – can be translated into, “There you admit (my) god is possible, therefore you are just in denial of him/her/it”!

    There is plenty of evidence in discussion threads on this site, that many theists cannot understand the concept of the absence of gods from philosophies, or of brains which are not dominated by god-delusions.

    To many theists an “agnostic”, is someone with a few minor doubts about their god – with quite a few claiming to be agnostics, while clinging to creationism as a form of origins of life and cosmology!

    As others have said, defining terms is important.

  9. As others have said, defining terms is important.

    We can’t have a simple semantic discussion about this given the fact of “faith”. That faith makes personal “evidence” pop into existence, confounding reason and corroboration, means the faithful may see a term like agnosticism quite differently. For them lacking evidence may mean not that there is no evidence but that they have personally failed to generate it. Perhaps like Mother Teresa devout and bereft?

    Faith is the very triple bonded carbon’n’nitrogen ion attached to any religion…

  10. Yes, it matters. Here’s why:

    A god by all religious definitions is something that can perform magic tricks… but, there is no such thing as magic.

    Ergo, it is a factual statement, based on millions of years of observations and failed magicians aka preachers, priests, and popes, that all such actions to perform religious magic, such as curing a sick person using prayer, or making someone’s amputated leg magically grow back…or make a fat lady loose 100 lbs in a minute…has never, ever worked.

    Therefore, there is no such thing as religious magic caused by imploring, begging, praying, genuflecting, rolling beads around, singing, humming, whatever….to get that god’s attention to do magic tricks just for you.

    Agnostics just have not figured it out. First one has to define what a god is…. A god by all definitions has a personality and can do super human, magical feats, and no such divine thingy has ever been known to be present or interactive in the last 11.5 billion years of cosmological history.

    There is only Atheism. There is no such thing as being agnostic. An agnostic might as well state they are “potentially” religious, but just haven’t figured out which imaginary god they want to worship.

  11. Not me….I state to one and all, often in advance that I am an Atheist. Agnostic people just don’t know the facts…that religion is a belief in magic, and magic does not exist. There is no such thing as magic, ergo, there are no magical gods, doing magic tricks.

    Agnostics might as well state they are “potentially religious” and just waiting to find the right god to show him or her self and do some magic tricks just for them.

  12. I don’t understand why people still debate whether to be an atheist or agnostic. One can obviously be both since they deal with different questions. Atheism (and theism) deals with the theological question about belief in god. Agnosticism (and gnosticm) deals with the epistemological question about knowledge about god. Sure, one is agnostic if she doesn’t have knowledge about gods, doesn’t think there is a way to gain knowledge about gods, or doesn’t think anyone can have or gain knowledge about god. But does this person believe in god? That determines if he or she is an atheist or theist.

    I wish people would stop muddling the waters by all kinds of weird assumptions about what atheism and agnosticism mean and that agnosticism is some kind of a “safe middle ground” between lack of belief and belief.

  13. as an agnostic atheist I always pull people up on this if they try to suggest there is some sort of conflict. often people need to understand that one can be an both or just one or the other.

    Usually people think atheists are arrogant because it’s received wisdom. the term arrogant atheist is a meme where arrogant agnostic is not. personally I find most self-styled “agnostics” far more arrogant. in fact if someone tells me they’re agnostic I always ask “agnostic atheist or agnostic theist?” just to wathc them struggle to invent yet another fake, safe middle-ground

    The idea of arrogance just comes from the fact that atheism is easily and regularly mis-represented as an anti-religion. the most common times you will hear the word atheist is from the mouths of prominent god-botherers talking about the enemy

    The God Delision converted many agnostics into atheists, not by proving the agnostic position as false but by proving the agnostics reading it were atheists all along. This is what upset theists because previously agnostics were fair game for conversion, just unsure individuals waiting for the right religion to come along or at least a potential ally against the straw bogeyman

  14. Atheism seems to be another word that the US right have redefined: from being without religion to being against religion. Anti-theist would be more appropriate for the latter. The best (or worst) example is liberal which now is akin to communist.

    I’m not sure if the best way forward is to challenge their use of atheism as being anti-religion at every occasion or simply accept their ignorance.

  15. zzzz2222 Jan 15, 2015 at 6:20 am
    There is only Atheism. There is no such thing as being agnostic. An agnostic might as well state they are “potentially” religious, but just haven’t figured out which imaginary god they want to worship.

    Self professed theist style “agnostics” seem to struggle in debate over which gods they agnostic about (frequently making the uncritical theist assumption that there is some particular “default god”!).
    Are they agnostic about the 33million Hindu gods, (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gadadhara-pandit-dasa/the-33-million-demigods-o_b_1737207.html), the Ancient Greek and Roman gods, the Aztec gods, or the Viking gods? – Or are they more agnostic / atheistic about some gods than others?

  16. safe middle ground

    A succinct reply from a son to his mother who professed “agnosticism”, has stuck with me: What are you waiting for(?), get off the fence already. (you’re an atheist, just say it!)

  17. I went through similar conversion when I read Dawkins assert that the onus of proof was on theists. I had a different definition of agnostic then most. I defined an agnostic as one who tries to live without faith. I had been too focused on the infinately small possibility that there was indeed a god. Could I be agnostic about Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy . . . Of course not. I was and continue to be an atheist.

  18. I always say that I’m without any sort of belief in the supernatural, it’s easier that way. If you carry a label, you have to defend it, and most people seem to think, or pretend to think, that Atheist is a kind or religion like being Muslim, Catholic or Buddhist. If you use the A word, they argue that non belief is a sort of belief. If you just say that you don’t believe, then you don’t have to prove anything, and it’s harder for them to say that you do.

    The worst are those who say, well, I believe in something spiritual. It’s usually a sort of one-upmanship.

  19. I agree with eejit, but I try to go a step further.

    It’s not that I’m some sort of nihilist who doesn’t believe in anything, nor do I believe in nothing (except for maybe Lawrence Krauss’ type of nothing!). It’s that I choose not to follow the practice of believing things. I choose to acknowledge and live by established truths about the world, I understand that there are things we don’t know yet and I eagerly await every new scientific discovery, and I’m perfectly happy to acknowledge that there are things we don’t know and will never know. But I don’t waste my time believing things that are unknowable.

    It seems to me that the desire for labels of belief of any kind might be a way for the mind to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of ‘not knowing’ something, even if that something is just speculation by another mind. Perhaps the act of believing helps to overcome an awkward feeling not unlike cognitive dissonance. So even the label ‘atheist’ appears to be someone declaring that they believe there is no god, maybe on the basis of the null hypothesis, and the ‘agnostic’ is saying he doesn’t know what to believe. I’m saying why bother believing stuff in the first place? If it’s just a psychological mechanism of the mind, then we can learn to work around that mechanism, just like once you learn about cognitive dissonance, it becomes easier to identify it when you are actually doing it yourself and thus it’s easier to overcome the uncomfortable feeling. Just acknowledge the psychological tic and move on.

    Yes, we all have beliefs in life, e.g. unproven scientific hypotheses, political beliefs, hunches, or even the belief that our significant other will remain faithful. But these sorts of things are comparatively mundane and, if pressed, can at least be sometimes borne out by investigation and facts (except for maybe string theory ;). But supernatural beliefs aren’t like that. They are by definition unknowable, outside the purview of empirical knowledge. If it were knowable, it would be part of the natural world. To speculate on things that ‘might’ be beyond that seems to be a waste of time, no point in believing things that aren’t knowable, so no point in believing at all. It’s not that I believe my wife is faithful, the evidence so far is that she has been and I trust that she will continue to be in the future. Trust is not the same as belief – I trust in science and the scientific method ability to reveal truths about the world, I don’t ‘believe’ in them. No need to have faith when the facts are laid out and available for me to test for myself. But believing or disbelieving in a sky fairy changes nothing at all, for me anyway, so I don’t engage in the act of belief – one way or the other – since there are no facts that will bear the opinion out anyway. You can’t actually prove Allah or Yahweh or FSM exist, and you can’t technically prove they don’t. So fuggetaboutit.

    As is often pointed out, we don’t need a word for ‘a-fairy-ists’ and thanks to the null hypothesis we never have to defend our afairyism. It’s not that I’m agnostic about fairies, it’s not that I just don’t know and I’m waiting for conclusive proof – they don’t exist, there is nothing up for debate. Yet atheists and agnostics feel the need to defend their atheism. I do it too. But why? Maybe because human minds feel uncomfortable with the unknowable, and asserting atheism gives that comfort, sets that awkward feeling to rest. Knowing this, I instead try to consciously comfort myself by saying ‘don’t bother with believing things for which there is no evidence’. Is my brand new car about to explode the next time I turn the ignition? Maybe, but in the absence of any evidence of imminent threat, I’m not going to waste time ‘believing’ one way or the other about it. I trust it’s all good, and that’s good enough to live my life in peace. Belief doesn’t need to enter into it, and changes nothing when it does.

  20. Marvellous cartoon SaganTheCat,

    I’m always getting into trouble with people who try to shut down debate with the assertion that I am arrogant. I always come back with argument that if what I am saying is true then accusing me of arrogance for simply defending that position is to assert your own ignorance or inability (or unwillingness) to argue runs the risk of arrogance in itself. Taken to an extreme the world is flat, no it’s not we know it’s not because of shadows, air travel, satellite images etc. Your just an arrogant reductionist. I maintain I would be arrogant if I continued to hold a view in-spite of good arguments to the contrary. I wonder if I could buy this on a T’shirt and save myself the arguments.

  21. But supernatural beliefs aren’t like that. They are by definition
    unknowable, outside the purview of empirical knowledge. If it were
    knowable, it would be part of the natural world. To speculate on
    things that ‘might’ be beyond that seems to be a waste of time, no
    point in believing things that aren’t knowable, so no point in
    believing at all.

    Agreed.

    What’s more it’s like your mind has a bunch of empty slots, if you fill each slot with belief instead of just acknowledging doubt or uncertainty and leaving them empty, you fill that slot and will have to go to the bother of emptying it out before you can fill it with what is true.

  22. XKCD do make t shirts of their cartoons so maybe have a look

    the other issue I take with being called arrogant is the fact it’s a pretty lame come-back to an intellectual position. If I was an athelete, won loads of races then told people about it, the fact they might call me arrogant would not make much difference to the results.

    I’ll take honest arrogance over fake modesty any day

  23. I find myself pondering this question from time to time, defining myself as an agnostic. There seems to be difference between atheism and agnostism, which is hard to define. But I try, however rough it might be.

    Bloggist seems to have a perspective where the definition answers simply to one’s views to a certain factual arguments concerning supernatural entities. In this sense, atheism and agnostic views are the same, if we keep to scientific world view. Now we make a leap to previous, indirect definition that bloggist gave us: “I became atheist.” There is worlds in-between of taking position to a factual argument and “becoming” something.

    So, what is this something? What is to be theist, deist, atheist, agnostic or whatever words we might fill in here? It surely seems unintuitive (and this is an intuitive matter, i dare to say) say that it’s only a philosophical position? There seems to be argument of beliefs being meaningless, but that’s just deceiving oneself. We cannot know, that much we know of science, the hard questions.

    From my own experience (and I’ll gladly admit that it’s only my personal experience, not a scientific fact) I define atheist (especially cult of dawkins -type atheists) as those who has personal faith in no god universe, agnostics those who really don’t have an answer and theist those who has personal faith in god universe. Atheist is no scientific point of view, as we all (hopefully) know. There is no scientific ways to measure anything supernatural, nor has science any position about those, except keeping them out of science. There is no scientific atheist no more than there’s scientific theist. Those two are positions of personal faith. We faithless are somewhere in the middle, trying to stay neutral towards both positions. This is more social – practical – definition than metaphysical one.

    My second personal experience is that for whatever reason, people defining themselves as atheist are much more likely to try to explain the universe from their personal point of view. More individualistic way.

  24. I tend to describe myself as an agnostic for the simple reason that I do not know , although I tried very hard. ” Atheist” to me means the denial of a God’s existence which I can’t , since there is no scientific way to prove/ disprove. In my opinion the principle of q.e.d. applies and the burden of proof is clearly with the believer. I am living in a country where the majority are ” good christians” and if I were to admit publicly that I am a non-believer it would ( for them ) amount to a form of blasphemie. Have tried to discuss this matter and I was faced with disbelief ( ” how can one…”. )Needless to add that this is one of the most corrupt countries and a truly failed state. That’s the way it is, unfortunately.
    JR

  25. Atheists have just taken one more step than agnostics its not difficult come on now …take that final step and stop straddling the fence….

  26. Jorma Jan 16, 2015 at 9:41 am

    There is no scientific atheist no more than there’s scientific theist. Those two are positions of personal faith.

    This must be nonsense! A scientist is someone who follows scientific methodology and respects scientific evidence. There is such a thing as evidence-based scientific knowledge which discards the improbable until such time as evidence is available and discards refuted hypotheses when they are debunked. There is a very high probability that some many whimsical claims will never produce supporting evidence, while so-called “knowledge” derived from faith-thinking, has been experimentally proved to be no more reliable than random chance, many times. Most theologies, are incompatible with science, although some theist scientists manage to compartmentalise their theistic and scientific thinking to avoid the contradictions.

    We faithless are somewhere in the middle, trying to stay neutral towards both positions.

    A “neutral” fence-sitting position, equating science and faith-thinking, can only be a false equivalence based on ignorance of both! There is no “neutral” position between, Genesis and the sciences, cosmology and astronomy! “Faith” is belief without evidence or proof. Science is reasoning built on an evidenced base. They are opposites!

    This is more social – practical – definition than metaphysical one.

    Not really! It is just the sort of fudge, where a driver unable to decide whether to go left or right at a T-junction, goes ahead through a wall, as a “moderate, impartial” middle-ground, fence-sitting position.

    My second personal experience is that for whatever reason, people defining themselves as atheist are much more likely to try to explain the universe from their personal point of view.

    This is backwards surely! Wish-thinkers who dream stuff up and believe it on “faith” in their personal god-perception, have numerous personal points of (mis)understanding of the universe as do numerous religious denominations and cults.

    Scientific atheists are much more like to go with an evidence-based scientific consensus and admit what they don’t know, rather than claim made up supernatural stuff as “knowledge”!

    More individualistic way.

    Only theists who merely follow dogma without thinking would be without an individualistic view.

    There are thousands of gods! There is no “middle-ground” between them!

  27. My experience was also a transition from agnostic to atheist. I just needed to understand (determine for myself) the difference between the two. My original position was there could possibly be some higher lifeform (entity) because I didn’t have the knowledge or proof to say there wasn’t. But then I realized that once I put a name to it (god for example) I also had to have a description for it and once I tried to do that I found that the only attributes available were things that are known to be unknown, and for all intents and purposes (at this time) unknowable. This of course excludes the common theist belief in miracles which are either unverifiable claims or scientifically explainable phenomenon.

    At this point I could still technically call myself agnostic because I can’t prove there’s not something else out there (i.e. higher life form) but to do so lends credence to every person (religion) that has defined a “god”. So my position is that I do not believe in any god ever defined by mankind and considering that they have been trying for thousands of (recorded) years, I can clearly (from my perspective) call myself an atheist.

    As an example (an odd one), I would call myself agnostic about the possible existence of a transporter (think Star Trek) and even though our species may never develop one there may be a species on another planet that already has one. We are made up of atoms and it may technically be possible to disassemble, transport and rearrange them in another location (a bit far fetched). I cannot however use the same knowledge and logic to theorize the existence of a higher lifeform (think creator or controller of everything we know and experience). This would require an order of magnitude leap of logic.

  28. George H Smith had no clue what he was talking about. Regarding Agnosticism, he contradicts himself and totally butchers Huxley’s definition. Then, based on his own butcher job, he uses circular reasoning to claim Agnosticism isn’t valid label for a middle position. While fully admitting that the stronger definition of Atheism is the common definition, he promotes popularizing the less common broader definition as a label that covers two separate positions, “belief that gods do not exist” and “no belief that gods exist”. He then hid his counter claim belief position behind a no belief label, and claimed all the burden of proof belongs to the Theist.

    Huxley’s agnosticism equated to no belief due to lack of evidence, and no burden of proof because it makes no claims.

    “Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe.”

    “The extent of the region of the uncertain, the number of the problems the investigation of which ends in a verdict of not proven, will vary according to the knowledge and the intellectual habits of the individual Agnostic. I do not very much care to speak of anything as “unknowable.” What I am sure about is that there are many topics about which I know nothing; and which, so far as I can see, are out of reach of my faculties. But whether these things are knowable by any one else is exactly one of those matters which is beyond my knowledge, though I may have a tolerably strong opinion as to the probabilities of the case. Relatively to myself, I am quite sure that the region of uncertainty–the nebulous country in which words play the part of realities –is far more extensive than I could wish.”

  29. The deistic “god” is just a creator of a universe. Some scientists are already working on doing just that. Care to try again?

  30. It’s more rational to form a degree of certainty about what does or doesn’t lie outside our universe, a place that we currently can’t explore, than it is to remain uncertain? Do tell.

  31. “I know” and “I believe” are both degrees of certainty as to the truth of a proposition.

    The Dawkin’s scale…

    Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”
    De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”
    Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”
    Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”
    Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”
    De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
    Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”

    “I know”, “I believe” and “I don’t know” are statements of certainty, not probability. “I know” is a statement of absolute certainty, so, if you use the word “certainty” instead of “probability”, what you get is a very different scale. Then, it becomes quite obvious that “I know gods exist” and “I know gods don’t exist” are both statements of 100% certainty as to the truth of two opposing propositions. This would make the mid point, between two opposing propositions, 0/0 certainty, not 50/50 probability. Yet, Dawkins would have “I know gods don’t exist” as 0% certainty as to the truth of one proposition. Utter garbage.

    Theo-gnostic: claims to know X is true (100% certainty)
    The-ist: believes X is true (1-99% certainty)
    Agnostic (weak a-theist): doesn’t believe X is true or false (no belief, 0% certainty)
    Athe-ist: believes X is false (1-99% certainty)
    Atheo-gnostic: claims to know X is false (100% certainty)

  32. Dawkins lied. The onus of proof is on anyone making a claim. And, any claims about what does or doesn’t exist beyond the borders of our universe, is an extraordinary claim.

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” ~ Carl Sagan

  33. You’re living in the dark ages, if you think it takes “magic” to create universes.

    That our universe is a lab experiment has a possibility of not zero.

    “The third level, for a very advanced civilisation, would involve the ability to set precise parameters, thereby designing it in detail. An analogy would be with designer babies – instead of tinkering with DNA to get a perfect child, a scientists might tinker with the laws of physics to get a perfect universe. Crucially, though, it would not be possible in any of these cases – even at the most advanced level – for the designers to interfere with the baby universes once they had formed. From the moment of its own Big Bang, each universe would be on its own.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/space/7972538/Are-we-living-in-a-designer-universe.html

    “What my theoretical argument shows—and Alan Guth and others who have looked at this matter have come to the same conclusion—is that we can’t rule out the possibility that our own universe was created in a lab by someone in another universe who just felt like doing it.”

    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/egghead/2004/05/the_big_lab_experiment.html

    “Just imagine if it’s true and there’s even a small chance it really could work,” he said. “In this perspective, each of us can become a god.”

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6545246

    On the morality side, if we could create a universe, should we?

    http://reducing-suffering.org/lab-universes-creating-infinite-suffering/

  34. The problem is that “atheist” also means “someone who believes gods don’t exist”. That has always, and still is, the most common definition. Belief isn’t compatible with agnosticism, in my opinion. So, if you want to call me a “weak agnostic atheist”, go ahead, but I’ll just use the term “agnostic” for myself, as I think that’s sufficient.

    There is no word for someone who doesn’t believe in Astrology. This modern (post 1960s) popularizing of a-theist, instead of athe-ist, doesn’t make much sense. Also why I don’t use it for myself.

  35. Do tell.

    There may be dragons but rational folk like me don’t think so.

    Agnostics are those who haven’t got around to considering it rationally.

  36. 3DJ Jan 17, 2015 at 1:11 am

    Dawkins lied. The onus of proof is on anyone making a claim. And, any claims about what does or doesn’t exist beyond the borders of our universe, is an extraordinary claim.

    Sorry!! – but basic competence in reasoning recognises demands for negative proofs as a fallacy!

    Atheists make no claims of what might exist outside our universe (although some physicists may have some answers quite soon). Theist gapologists make claims, and the onus of proof is on them to produce supporting evidence for their claims!
    Otherwise it is “Turtles all the way down”!

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” ~ Carl Sagan

    Indeed so, – with claims of the existence of thousands of different gods, noted for lacking it!

  37. 3DJ Jan 17, 2015 at 12:36 am

    Then, it becomes quite obvious that “I know gods exist” and “I know gods don’t exist” are both statements of 100% certainty as to the truth of two opposing propositions.

    It simply reduces the argument to absurdity to replace balance of evidenced probability with “absolute certainty”, for the sake of exaggerating an argument.

    This would make the mid point, between two opposing propositions, 0/0 certainty, not 50/50 probability.

    Mid-points decided by those who make no attempt to use scientific evidence or objectivity to refute wildly speculative opinions are well understood..
    If in doubt about views, on if living in USA or Europe is a better choice, the option of sitting in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean, as the fudgists, fence-sitting, mid-way between two views, is simply irrational!

    So how many of the millions of gods I quoted and linked here are you uncertain about??

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/01/atheist-or-agnostic-and-does-it-matter/#li-comment-165659

    Yet, Dawkins would have “I know gods don’t exist” as 0% certainty as to the truth of one proposition.

    RD has said in various books, that he is an atheist-agnostic. Atheistic about many gods claims which can be refuted by science, while technically admitting remote improbable possibilities, for some of the vaguer ones.

    Utter garbage.

    Utter strawman!

    IMO: – the neuroscientific evidence I have seen, has Occam strongly supporting the existence of god-delusions in parts of brains, as a much more probable explanation, than gapologist claims about infinitely regressing “creators” – “outside the universe”.

  38. Of course it matters. An agnostic is the only true scientific term to describe some one who doesn’t believe in a deity. Atheist is not a scientific term. Because you can’t prove God or gods do not exist an atheist must rely on faith. Therefore atheism is a faith-based position. The fact that you thought/think it highly improbable that supernatural beings exist is of no relevance. Many people no doubt once thought it highly unlikely that wifi or laser printing would exist.

  39. The Big Question Jan 17, 2015 at 7:24 am

    Of course it matters. An agnostic is the only true scientific term to describe some one who doesn’t believe in a deity.

    That very much depends on the specification of the deity. Those which HAVE a material specification are refuted!

    Atheist is not a scientific term. Because you can’t prove God or gods do not exist an atheist must rely on faith.

    WE do seem to keep returning to that negative proof – argument from ignorance fallacy!

    Therefore atheism is a faith-based position.

    Nope! a lack of gullible credulity is not “faith”. It is a lack of “faith-thinking”! Atheism on the balance of evidenced probabilities, is a credible position, unless you are going to give credibility to every whimsical notion anyone has ever dreamed up!

    The fact that you thought/think it highly improbable that supernatural beings exist is of no relevance.

    Not at all! Going with the balance of probabilities and objective scientific views of how things work in the real world is highly relevant!

    I’ll ask the question I asked earlier. Howmany of the thousands of gods claimed to exist by their followers, do you take seriously?

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/01/atheist-or-agnostic-and-does-it-matter/#li-comment-165659

  40. 3DJ Jan 17, 2015 at 12:08 am

    The deistic “god” is just a creator of a universe. Some scientists are already working on doing just that.

    Really?? They are explaining the “turtles-all-the-way-down” infinite regression of, who-created the creator, of the creator, of the creator, of the creator, of the creator, of the creator, of the creator, of the creator, of the creator, …… in scientific terms?? Citations please!

    The vague deist god, is just a symptom of deists hesitating to do the final pruning out of childhood anthropomorphic indoctrinated superstitions, after they have dumped the more obvious absurdities of gods and theistic teachings.

    Care to try again?

    Physicists and cosmologists are producing hypotheses of the physics of the big-bang, but I have not heard of any credible evidenced hypothesis including living alien creators, or personified anthropomorphic gods being involved.

    Do you have evidence of such, – or any reason to reject the simpler explanation, that the huge diversity of conflicting god-claims http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deities arise from a delusional psychological need of some people, for a parent-figure watching them, with the herding effects of this, producing objectives for in-group co-operative actions and behaviours?

  41. The Big Question Jan 17, 2015 at 7:24 am

    Of course it matters. An agnostic is the only true scientific term to describe some one who doesn’t believe in a deity.

    Of course it matters. An agnostic is the only true scientific term to describe some one who doesn’t believe in FAIRIES.

    Scientific open-mindedness does not equate with credulity.

  42. I find that posting the following image helps in this type of discussion (though it does annoy the hell out of some, both atheist and theist alike 😉 ).
    http://actok.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Agnostic+v+Gnostic+v+Atheist+v+Theist.png
    The fact is that one can either be a theist or an atheist, there is no middle ground covered by the term agnosticism. One either believes in a god or gods or one does not.
    Of course, as per the Dawkins scale one can be either sure or unsure about whether particular gods exist, and in the scale of probabilities some gods may be more probable than others, however, if you claim not to know for sure that is where agnosticism does come into it. If you do claim to be sure you then are being gnostic about this knowledge claim.

    I do find it really annoying in discussions with theists that define atheism to be the “belief that God does not exist” (and it usually is a particular god that they call God) and attempt to shift the burden of proof by asking one to prove this “belief in the non existence of their god” as if such a thing were even possible.
    I guess one tactic is to say, well, in that case, in your eyes I am not an atheist, however, I still simply do not accept your assertions that this god entity exists and it really is up to you to show by logical proof or evidence that it does.

  43. 3DJ Jan 17, 2015 at 1:17 am

    “What my theoretical argument shows—and Alan Guth and others who have looked at this matter have come to the same conclusion—is that we can’t rule out the possibility that our own universe was created in a lab by someone in another universe who just felt like doing it.”

    . . . .But first we would have to have evidence of where their universe came from and how those beings were evolved or created, so it just pushes the INFINITE REGRESSION OF CREATORS, of creators, of creators, of creators, of creators, of creators, of creators, … one step back, and answers nothing, . . . . . .. . while being a vastly more complex and improbable answer which Occam would bin!

  44. We’ve basically known how to create a universe since the 80s. Now, we’ve already created a mini big bang, and some scientists are working towards creating a universe. What, exactly, haven’t I considered rationally?

    “A majority of Americans say they are Christians. In fact, when you ask what they really believe about God you find that almost half are really deists.” ~ Stenger (2008)

    “True that this does not rule out other gods, such a deist god that does not act in the universe. But we can rule out the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God to a high degree of probability (see God: The Failed Hypothesis).” ~ Stenger (2011)

  45. 3DJ Jan 17, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Sorry, but eternal inflation already theorises an infinite regression of pocket universes.

    But of course science does not unconditionally accept the hypothesis of eternal inflation or theorising about an infinite regression of pocket universes. – let alone anthropomorphic life-forms, with god-like properties. This is just side tracking!

    You answer explaining the infinite regression of gods or aliens, in preference to the simpler, scientifically evidenced, “god-delusions in brains”, explanation – is . . . . . . . . .. ?

  46. 3DJ Jan 17, 2015 at 10:29 am

    We’ve basically known how to create a universe since the 80s. Now, we’ve already created a mini big bang, and some scientists are working towards creating a universe. What, exactly, haven’t I considered rationally?

    Do give a link and citations to these monumental discoveries! I’m sure the quantum physicists at CERN will find the news fascinating! – Unless of course you have misunderstood the physics!

  47. So would you describe yourself as an Agnostic Atheist with regard to god and a Gnostic Atheist with regard to Santa Clause? If so where do you draw the line between Santa and god? If not, doesn’t it seem a little disingenuous to not be able to state that Santa doesn’t exist?

  48. Tom Jan 17, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    If so where do you draw the line between Santa and god?

    Is there a line between fantasy deliverers of Xmas presents and fantasy deliverers of afterlives, miracles, hell-fire, floods, or famines?

    If not, doesn’t it seem a little disingenuous to not be able to state that Santa doesn’t exist?

    Surely no more than stating the high probability that none of the thousands of imagined gods, angels, demons, tree-spitits, etc. exist.
    That is the nature of hair-splitting between the levels of certainty/uncertainty, in the use of the terms “atheist” and agnostic”.

  49. I’ve already posted higher up a few links to physicists, like Brian Greene, talking about creating a universe. We’ve basically known how to do it since the 80s. Similar to knowing that intelligent life developed once equates to a possibility of not zero that it could have developed elsewhere, since intelligent life developing is a thing. Creating mini big bangs is already a thing. Creating a full big bang we’re already working on. So, there’s a possibility of not zero that ours was created. No “magic” needed to be a universe creator. If you want to commit to a likelihood of what did or didn’t happen just prior to the big bang, in a place outside our universe, go right ahead. Just know you’re doing it based on faith. I’ll stick with uncertain.

    “Eternal inflation” and infinite regression is already an hypothesis. One that has also been around since 1979.

  50. Alan4discussion, the questions you answered were in response to helucigenia’s (post) diagram which defines Agnostic and Gnostic Atheists.

    My point was that there is not a definitive line between god and Santa therefore the idea of Agnostic/Gnostic Atheist is disingenuous at best.

  51. 3DJ Jan 17, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Creating mini big bangs is already a thing. Creating a full big bang we’re already working on.

    This sounds more like tabloid journalese, rather than physics!

    If you want to commit to a likelihood of what did or didn’t happen just prior to the big bang, in a place outside our universe, go right ahead.

    I make no claims about that.
    You are the one speculating about a “creator”, without evidence, and without explaining the infinite regression inherent in the claim.

    Just know you’re doing it based on faith.

    Nope! I’m challenging you to produce evidence!

    So, there’s a possibility of not zero that ours was created.

    There are all sorts of possibilities that natural phenomena could be be created in labs, but that is not evidence that they were.
    Nor is it an explanation of how such labs came to exist.

    I’ll stick with uncertain.

    I am also uncertain about the physics behind the origins of the our universe, but does not mean that I consider the hypothesis that The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” as credible.
    As I said in another post, an open scientific mind does not equate with credulity about any imagined concept!

    Occam’s razor can be applied where evidence is not conclusive, or some attempts at explanations are unduly elaborate and improbable.
    Scientific views are not based on cherry-picking the most unlikely possibilities to the exclusion of the more probable ones.

    Eternal inflation” and infinite regression is already an hypothesis.

    So is the “big crunch”, but these are simply speculation at present.

  52. It simply reduces the argument to absurdity to replace balance of
    evidenced probability with “absolute certainty”, for the sake of
    exaggerating an argument.

    “Evidenced probability”…about what happened immediately before the big bang and outside the known universe? To gather even an iota of such “evidence”, you must know if “outside the known universe” exists or not. You should be able to tell either the multi-verse theorists or the single universe theorists to pack up their stuff and go home.

    Mid-points decided by those who make no attempt to use scientific
    evidence or objectivity to refute wildly speculative opinions are well
    understood.

    Scientific demarcation declares an hypothesis that lacks evidence, currently unscientific, and inconclusive. It doesn’t declare it false. Science, currently, has no opinion as to whether other intelligent life exists in the universe, other than a possibility of not zero. Science is totally uncertain as to a lot of things. That we’ve created a mini big bang, and some are working on creating a big bang, indicates a possibility of not zero, that our universe could have been a science experiment. Some concepts of “god” just equate to a creator being. Ruling them out as false is not “scientific”.

    RD has said in various books, that he is an atheist-agnostic.
    Atheistic about many gods claims which can be refuted by science,
    while technically admitting remote improbable possibilities, for some
    of the vaguer ones.

    RD also doesn’t describe himself as a 7, which is the “I know” position, I was referring to.

    Utter strawman!

    No, we are dealing with peoples subjective beliefs. People express their beliefs in degrees of certainty, not a percentage of probability. “I know” is a statement of absolute certainty, not an expression of probability.

    IMO: – the neuroscientific evidence I have seen, has Occam strongly
    supporting the existence of god-delusions in parts of brains, as a
    much more probable explanation, than gapologist claims about
    infinitely regressing “creators” – “outside the universe”.

    How is “Every society known to man fell under a delusion in their brain.” simpler, than, “Hey, we’re going to create a universe, maybe ours was created”?

    There is no “god spot”, if that’s what you’re referring to. That’s been refuted. “Spiritual” experiences affect different parts of the brain, but the same goes for atheistic “spiritual” experiences. Sam Harris’ non-Buddhism Buddhism would get the same results, for example.

  53. If antipodesman is a weak “no belief” atheist, then there’s no conversion to speak of. There’s just a different choice in label. It seemed, to me, a description of a conversion from “No belief that X is true or false” to “belief that X is false”.

  54. Tom Jan 17, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    My point was that there is not a definitive line between god and Santa therefore the idea of Agnostic/Gnostic Atheist is disingenuous at best.

    I agree there is no line between supernatural beliefs and evidenced scientific rational atheism. The difference is essentially the shrinking of the compartmentalised faith thinking giving way to objective science.

    There is a sliding scale of the gradual discarding of irrational “faith” beliefs, between the end points of literalist fundamentalist believers, and atheists.

    Usually religious believers, do not see a problem of simply discarding any “faith” beliefs they encounter from other religions, which conflict with their own.

    That is why we need to recognise that there are no “default gods” before discussions of agnosticism and atheism become meaningful.

    (Greek) Olympian agnostics, Buddhist agnostics, Catholic agnostics, Jewish agnostics, and Islamic agnostics, are on different roads towards atheism, and at different distances and paces going down those roads as supernatural stories are discarded!

  55. That is why we need to recognise that there are no “default gods” before discussions of agnosticism and atheism become meaningful.

    Agreed, the main problem is that theists view agnosticism as meaning that the person (agnostic) believes that their default god could be real. So all self-described agnostics that agree that any god defined by man (default gods) is not and cannot be real is really an atheist.

    This allows theists to demonize atheists while tolerating agnostics. Most proclaimed agnostics don’t think about it to the point of Christians actually thinking that agnostics believe it may be possible that the bible is the word of god.

  56. An agnostic doesn’t know about god/s.
    An atheist doesn’t believe in god/s.

    Why all this endless word play ? There is no effing God OK ? Or if there is, show us the evidence !

  57. 3DJ Jan 17, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    How is “Every society known to man fell under a delusion in their brain.” simpler, than, “Hey, we’re going to create a universe, maybe ours was created”?

    “How is the brain in a single species working consistently across many populations, simpler and more probable, than some imagined unexplained alien universe-creating species, from some gapologist undisclosed universe, and undisclosed infinitely regressing source, a more credible than an evidence-based explanation of neuroscience?”

    No contest really!

    One explains an observable biological phenomena on Earth, The other is very far-fetched fantasy, based on anthropomorphic thinking about unknown physical phenomena.

    There is no “god spot”, if that’s what you’re referring to. That’s been refuted. “Spiritual” experiences affect different parts of the brain,

    The absence of a single “god-spot” does not refute god-delusions in the brain, when (as you point out) the delusions are the product of a combination of workings of different areas of the brain.

    “We have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it’s not isolated to one specific area of the brain,” said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. “Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.”

    “I know” is a statement of absolute certainty, not an expression of probability.

    Not necessarily – regardless of how convenient some might find absolutes in pretending views of others are inflexible by way of the Fallacy of extension.

  58. Because of the impact religion has on society, obviously. Anything that lends credence to beliefs in the supernatural should be examined and debated for clarity and understanding. We’re not discussing the actual existence of god(s).

  59. So, you really didn’t understood what I was saying with most points. Be it my fault or someone elses, let me go deeper into this.

    Blockquote
    There is no scientific atheist no more than there’s scientific theist. Those two are positions of personal faith.
    This must be nonsense! A scientist is someone who follows scientific methodology and respects scientific evidence. There is such a thing as evidence-based scientific knowledge which discards the improbable until such time as evidence is available and discards refuted hypotheses when they are debunked. There is a very high probability that some many whimsical claims will never produce supporting evidence, while so-called “knowledge” derived from faith-thinking, has been experimentally proved to be no more reliable than random chance, many times. Most theologies, are incompatible with science, although some theist scientists manage to compartmentalise their theistic and scientific thinking to avoid the contradictions.

    So, you call it non-sense and next you argument why it’s true? These two are both perspectives towards the reality, both claiming they have knowledge of something that science rules out of being or not being. One of the hardest thing seems to for hardcore atheists, that complement for false is true.

    Blockquote
    A “neutral” fence-sitting position, equating science and faith-thinking, can only be a false equivalence based on ignorance of both! There is no “neutral” position between, Genesis and the sciences, cosmology and astronomy! “Faith” is belief without evidence or proof. Science is reasoning built on an evidenced base. They are opposites!
    Blockquote

    Are they opposites or parts? Not all faith is against scientific facts, some are totally unrelated to that. And some are for.

    Blockquote
    This is more social – practical – definition than metaphysical one.

    Not really! It is just the sort of fudge, where a driver unable to decide whether to go left or right at a T-junction, goes ahead through a wall, as a “moderate, impartial” middle-ground, fence-sitting position.

    Blockquote

    I’m not inable to decide, i’m not going either left or right. It’s your personal opinion if you think that everyone must choose direction out of those two. Perhaps you should find out what condorcet paradox is really about?

    I can be impartial if I choose to, even if you don’t like it. I have no problems with religious people because they are religious, nor do I have problem with irreligious. I have problems with blantantly illogical arseholes.

    What is problem of scientific atheism, that it’s only position that is absolutely certain for being wrong. If you want to seek out what science says about supernatural, you get system error. If you claim your position for that, you are pretty thick headed.

    Also, if you think that question is about thousands of gods or difference between gods, you should understand that from science point of view, you are wrong. There are no gods, nor is there complement for that.

    From my point of view, some of the “sciencitific atheist” are just another version of kreationists.

    This is propably a mess since i’m not familiar with this boardtype nor how to use the quoting right. I’ll keep editing it, but not the context.

  60. One general comment which might include same things i said elsewhere.

    One thing “scientific atheist” does not seem to undestand is the difference between hypotethical god and hypotethical something else, that latter actually might be scientific question, if it will be in the scope of science. Asking proof for god from science is a false question: it’s in the axioms of science that no such answer exists. There are no default gods, but there also is no default complement. Accepting the complement seems really hard to some people.

    EDIT: Just to define my position better: in the terms of logic, asking proof for god is a red herring.

  61. Jorma Jan 17, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    A scientist is someone who follows scientific methodology and respects scientific evidence. There is such a thing as evidence-based scientific knowledge which discards the improbable until such time as evidence is available and discards refuted hypotheses when they are debunked. There is a very high probability that some many whimsical claims will never produce supporting evidence, while so-called “knowledge” derived from faith-thinking, has been experimentally proved to be no more reliable than random chance, many times. Most theologies, are incompatible with science, although some theist scientists manage to compartmentalise their theistic and scientific thinking to avoid the contradictions.

    These two are both perspectives towards the reality,

    Theism and atheism are not equivalent views of physical reality. For centuries, numerous theist faith-based gapology claims, have been debunked as science has advanced.

    both claiming they have knowledge of something that science rules out of being or not being.

    That would only be the case of a vague deist god claim with no examinable properties and no material effect in the physical universe. (Physical effects on matter or energy are detectable by science). Such deities would be utterly irrelevant to life on Earth, as with no detectable properties they would have no physical effects.

    Science does not know everything, but it has assembled a vast collection of the most reliable information we have about how reality works.

    One of the hardest thing seems to for hardcore atheists, that complement for false is true.

    Beyond the frontiers of research scientists simply admit they do not know. That does not open the field to whimsical fantasies as pseudo explanations, from other people who do not know!

    There is no “neutral” position between, Genesis and the sciences, cosmology and astronomy! “Faith” is belief without evidence or proof. Science is reasoning built on an evidenced base. They are opposites!

    Are they opposites or parts? Not all faith is against scientific facts, some are totally unrelated to that. And some are for.

    Any correlation between “faith-thinking-conclusions” and scientific “facts” is purely co-incidental.

    Believing on “faith” (strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence), is as I said, the opposite of the evidenced based reasoning of scientific methodology.

    What is problem of scientific atheism, that it’s only position that is absolutely certain for being wrong.

    Not at all. Scientific atheists recognise the refutation of many theist claims, and also recognise the absence of evidence for those claims too vague or incoherent to be refuted.

    If you want to seek out what science says about supernatural, you get system error.

    Of course you do! If the claimed supernatural events were detectable as physics, they would be natural. An absence of properties points to their absence of existence.

    Also, if you think that question is about thousands of gods or difference between gods, you should understand that from science point of view, you are wrong. There are no gods, nor is there complement for that.

    There is no evidence for gods, but we are discussing agnostics, who have some belief in the possibility of the existence of some god.
    It is therefore reasonable to understand that an agnostic Hindu may be agnostic about 33million Hindu gods!

    From my point of view, some of the “sciencitific atheist” are just another version of kreationists.

    This is a laughable false equivalence.
    Many creationists (especially YECs) have a whole range of dreamed up loopy notions about the formation of the solar System, the age of the Earth, and biology, where as scientists (a greater proportion of whom are atheists as a higher percentage than the general population), base their views on vast collections of repeatedly confirmed experimental evidence.

  62. If god exists to humans then there has to be a definable impact otherwise it is by definition (no discernable impact) just a fantasy. Once you define something logic takes over and proof is required. So if proof is a red herring then any belief in god is fantasy.

  63. The Big Question Jan 17, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    That’s what scientific open-mindedness is – an attitude towards examining what may appear incredible.

    Have a look at some of the space science discussions.
    I deal with the incredible on a regular basis, but don’t confuse examining it, with the credulity of accepting whimsical fantasies.

  64. Jorma Jan 17, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Just to define my position better: in the terms of logic, asking proof for god is a red herring.

    Without a named and defined god with properties, there is nothing to refute, so the whole claim hinges on the negative proof fallacy.

    That is the catch for theists who hide their gods from refutation by defining them in terms of vague, meaningless, obfuscating semantics about some mysterious thingummy.
    Once they have hidden their god by describing it as having no detectable properties and being outside the physical universe, it is non-existent or utterly irrelevant.

    It is quite amazing how often, at the end of long contorted mental gymnastics to avoid detection and refutation, the mysterious hidden god turns out to be called “Jesus”!

  65. Lets play a thoughtexperiment what would happen if there would be god and science would try to understand its actions, called miracles or whatever. Lets says something very closely reminding zeus would land on some large city, and create some destruction with his lightning bolts amidst the city.

    Science would do a hard work trying to define and understand, but due its nature, it would be bound to look for a reasons natural instead of supernatural. It just couln’t (well, lets hope we don’t make another invisible hand ever again) proove it would exists, even if we could proove it with our eyes. Any god, existing or non-existing, is beyond the scope of the science. Hence, there are no scientific atheists or theists.

    The scope of science is actually existing, even if some very scientific people are trying to imply otherwise. But it is just a hope, a faith in science. Which is ok to have, if it’s not mixed with actual science.

  66. How would you think this impact would be (scientifically) measured? Why would it register to anywhere, or register as we might like to understand it should? It’s an empirist illusion that everything that is by wide definition observable, would actually be scientifically observable. We observe scientifically those things we can define (or at least identify), nothing else. It’s a metaphysical argument to try to say that scope of science is actually scope things that exists in general.

  67. Jorma Jan 17, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Lets play a thoughtexperiment what would happen if there would be god and science would try to understand its actions, called miracles or whatever. Lets says something very closely reminding zeus would land on some large city, and create some destruction with his lightning bolts amidst the city.

    Let’s make this more realistic!
    Some lightning bolts strike a city, or whizz past an aircraft, so some children think that some god-did-it with magic or fairies, because they cannot understand the complexities of electrical storms.
    http://nova.stanford.edu/~vlf/optical/press/elves97sciam/

    … and it’s not just children!

    Ireland—*Councillor Maurice Mills claimed that Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to the United States as an . .. . . .

    He wrote that the earthquake and tsunami *were God’s way of punishing … In his opinion, the disaster was sent to the Japanese because some … . . . *

    Glenn Beck.* wonders if the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and results nuclear power issues are a message from God.**

    SAUDI RELIGIOUS AUTHORITY.* SAYS GOD SENT THE TSUNAMI TO PUNISH GAYS AND OTHER SINNERS.*

    God intended the tsunami as a warning: Shakur R. Sheffield of Miami, …. God sent the tsunami to punish people because of tourists’ sexual … . . . .

    “Yes! MY god-did-it to punish those who disagree with me“, is the childish thinking of the religious mind in attempting to understand natural events, while those mean scientists keep debunking such childish egotistical claims, and upsetting faith-thinking believers who are having fantasies about powerful gods!

  68. You really don’t understand it, do you?

    You are making nothing but circular logics. You think that science has actually found out something about divine beings? No. Do you think that any refutal has had any impact of what we know about things divine in science? Only thing you are saying that science has not made a conclusions that science will not do, by its axioms.

    You really don’t seem to undestand the nature or scope of science. You are trying to say that there is either god that is natural or there is no god. Which, of course, is just a matter your personal faith, it has nothing to do what science has proven or not prooven.

    You are not allowed to put words in my mouth. You are trying to explain me where scientific atheist and kreationist are different, yet you just overlook the obvious: both believe that science has actually said something about their faith. Which is absolutely by definition wrong conclusion.

    You atheism is a matter of faith, even if it’s your intuitive outcome from scientific facts.

  69. Jorma Jan 17, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    It’s an empirist illusion that everything that is by wide definition observable, would actually be scientifically observable.

    The laws of thermodynamics account for the matter and energy of which stars, planets and living things are made.

    Any inputs or outputs are measurable. It is the theist in denial who simply fails to understand this, while dreaming up “ethereal” fantasy energies from the dark ages of ignorant mythologies.

    We observe scientifically those things we can define (or at least identify), nothing else.

    “Nothing else” registers on the instruments as “nothing else” ie not existing, when to sum total of energies are accounted for. http://physicsforidiots.com/physics/thermodynamics/

  70. You just can’t communicate. I asked you to play a thought experiment, and you did exact opposite.

    What people say or say not are not empirical scientific proof, either way around. I’m aware of the idiots who are willing to claim anything to their personal faith. Sadly, there are some on a field of scientism as well.

    Now, answer single question: if god would exist, would it be inevitable that we could register and understand it with science?

  71. Another defender of faith wordplay. We don’t have omniscope which would “register” everything. Nor do our instruments register everything. Or are you trying to say that your thermal meter registers if your aunt calls your mother?

    Are you really trying to say that nothing exists that is not registered with our instruments? Glad I finally undestand why world was black and white before colour tv..

  72. Jorma Jan 17, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Now, answer single question: if god would exist, would it be inevitable that we could register and understand it with science?

    You would need to define the god and list its properties, before there would be anything to consider.

    For example I would consider Haile Selassie I, was shown by science to be a man not a god! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari_movement

  73. Jorma Jan 17, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    Nor do our instruments register everything. Or are you trying to say that your thermal meter registers if your aunt calls your mother?

    I am saying that the electricity in telephone land-lines and the radio frequencies of mobile phones are detectable.
    For that matter, so are electrical impulses in neurons, the thermal energy generated by jaw muscles, and the CO2 and heated air exhaled when people talk.

    Why don’t you read the links I have given instead of pretending that incredulity is knowledge.

  74. Answering here, because thread wont go deeper.

    Why don’t you read the links I have given instead of pretending that incredulity is knowledge.

    Primarily, because i’m not claiming so. Second reason is that I actually know what it is, and what it is not. You, however, seem not to understand how you roll on incredulity and claiming it to be scientific knowledge. You seem to think that certain scientific results somehow are evidence towards the supernatural beings, or their non-existance.

  75. You would need to define the god and list its properties, before there would be anything to consider.

    For example I would consider Haile Selassie I, was shown by science to be a man not a god! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari_movement

    So, avoiding continues. And it wouldn’t need to define it, identifying is enough. I recommend Mario Bunge for reading.

    Now gentleman, it seems to be discussion is over. What I was personally left with it was the idea that fundamentalist atheist are not really very different from fundamentalist theists. Both of you keep to your holy book, not understanding that there really is things around it. I also learned that it is quite common to have an illusion of selfevidentic nature of science, instead it being just a machine that we human created and set laws upon it, with selfevidentic as our enemy. So, keep on digging deeper. But I do recommend reading some serious philosophy of science instead of taking words of your cult leaders as holy truth.

    I also remain my non-scientific beliefs, such as causality.

  76. Jorma Jan 17, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    You really don’t understand it, do you?

    I think if you consider it further, you will work out that I understand it in depth.

    You are making nothing but circular logics. You think that science has actually found out something about divine beings?

    No! Science has established an absence of evidence for any “divine beings on Planet Earth, along with the preconceptions of circular thinking faith-pseudo-logic.

    Do you think that any refutal has had any impact of what we know about things divine in science?

    I have little doubt that solidly evidenced scientific refutations will have little effect on the beliefs of committed faith-thinkers.

    Only thing you are saying that science has not made a conclusions that science will not do, by its axioms.

    Scientific axioms are grounded in the objective observations of physical reality, augmented by instrumentation, to extend the perceptions of human senses. Science explains how things work in the real world (as our technologies show).

    They are quite different to unreliable processes of subjective introspective wish-thinking, which only show how some people would fancifully like things to work but usually fail on test.

    You really don’t seem to undestand the nature or scope of science.

    I have been a scientist for many years.
    I think this is just your psychological projection
    of your wishful misunderstanding of science which challenges your viewpoint.

  77. The Big Question Jan 17, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    See you understand after all. The agnostic doesn’t accept what he doesn’t know. The atheist does.

    There is often confusion over personal levels of understanding, being confused with the boundaries of collective scientific knowledge.
    There are many things which individuals do not know, but it is a mistake to think that others are equally ignorant of areas where we lack knowledge.
    Those lacking knowledge of whole subject areas, have no idea where the frontiers of research or the boundaries of present knowledge lie.

  78. Jorma Jan 17, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    You would need to define the god and list its properties, before there would be anything to consider.

    So, avoiding continues. And it wouldn’t need to define it, identifying is enough.

    You want me to comment on how undefined nothingness interacts with physical reality on Earth, and how science would detect this???

    Sorry! The best I can do with something as vague as that is to say the “absence or presence of nothing” would would make no difference to reality.

    If however you were to specify some of the world’s worshipped gods we could examine the historical refuted claims made about them.

    I also remain my non-scientific beliefs, such as causality.

    Causality is physically detectable, as evidence of, and consequences of, actions.
    A god causing physical effects would be detectable by science. Do you have evidenced examples?

  79. The concept “certainty” refers to the cognitive status of an idea within a given context. An idea is certain when the evidence for it is conclusive, and not certain when the evidence for it is not conclusive. Certainty is thus an absolute; one is either certain of the truth of an idea, or one is not; there are no degrees of certainty. The same can be said of the concept “belief”; one either believes an idea, or one does not; there is no middle ground.

  80. 3DJ Jan 17, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    “I know” is a statement of absolute certainty, not an expression of probability.

    I KNOW that people who step out of 20th floor windows believing they can walk across the street to another building on air, – fall to the ground with predictable acceleration (less some air friction) while exercising their doubts about evidenced science and waiting for the chance that some “New Physics” will turn up!
    Scientific knowledge DOES exist!

  81. When giving talks in schools on atheist humanism I start with definitions that I accept. (The older one gets, the less helpful dictionaries become.)

    “A-theist” – “without god”.

    We are defined by what we are not, not by what we are, and obviously we would not exist if there were no theists.

    “Atheism” – no such thing – there is no ideology, set of beliefs, shared by atheists. Labelling someone an atheist tells you nothing about them other than they have no need for the god idea. Atheists can be good people or bad people, just as religious people can be good or bad – being religious does not make you good.

    I don’t talk about agnostics or “agnosticism” (whatever that may be) since I think it is an unhelpful 19th century neologism. Obviously agnostics don’t believe in a god – or they would say so. To me that means they manage to get through life “without god” which makes them, like me, atheists. Agnostics run counter to Occam’s Razor – they make things too complicated. We are “not theists” – that’s enough for me. All this sectarian “hard/soft” atheist stuff is silly – a waste of intellectual effort that would be best used to talk to the young.

    While I don’t like labels (I am just me) I am increasingly happy to accept the label “religiophobe” – I am indeed fearful of many of the things done in the name of religion. Last week a Guardian writer labelled herself a “Faithophobe” – I don’t feel comfortable with that – it is not “faith” that make me fearful, but religions, and their actions, derived from supernatural beliefs and holy books.

    It seems to work in the classroom.

  82. Very well said.

    Some further thoughts on the meaning and basic qualification of the concept “atheist”:

    The concept denoted by the word “atheist” is a basic concept with a specific and very narrow meaning. The concept “atheist” identifies a specific class of entity in reality: a person who has an absence of belief in any god. A person with an absence of belief in any god – an atheist – may or may not have grasped the meaning of the notion “god”. One is not born with an automatic understanding of this notion; this notion can be understood only after one has grasped the meanings of a range of basic concepts such as “world”, “universe”, “reality”, “awareness”, “cause”, “create”, etc., all of which one derives ultimately from one’s direct awareness of reality. A young child is unable to believe that gods do not exist (an active process of conceptual, and therefore volitional, consciousness) until he or she has first grasped the meaning of the notion “god” and the meanings of all the various concepts upon which the notion “god” depends. Before a young child has grasped the concept “god” he or she can logically be identified as one who has an absence of belief in any god and can therefore be appropriately called an atheist. If one wishes to distinguish between those atheists who have an absence of belief in god on the basis of their having not yet grasped the concept “god”, and those atheists who have an absence of belief in god informed by some conceptual grasp that “god” is an incoherent notion whose basis is imagination, then one must employ additional qualifying concepts, such as “implicit” for the former type of atheist, and “explicit” for the latter.

    Some ideas you might like to pass on to your students:

    All knowledge is the mental grasp of facts (aspects) of reality, achieved either by direct perceptual observation or by the process of reason (the method of which is logic – the essence of which method is non-contradiction) based on direct perceptual observation. The processes of acquiring and validating knowledge are thus entirely and consistently objective.

    Faith is the acceptance of ideas based on one’s feelings, emotions, intuitions, desires, wishes and hopes, etc., in the absence of direct evidence or proof, or in spite of such. The processes of acquiring and “validating” faith-based ideas are thus entirely and consistently subjective.

    Reason is to faith as food is to poison:

    Poison damages a man’s tissues and organs, thereby impairing his health, and, if strong enough, will kill him. Faith damages a man’s capacity to deal appropriately with reality, thereby impairing his ability to live, and, if strong enough, will kill him.

  83. I can neither prove nor disprove the following claims:

    Claim 1: The universe was created 30 minutes ago and the creator
    planted false memories in all of us.

    Claim 2: Infidels who don’t believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster
    are condemned to burn for eternity in a vat of hot pasta sauce.

    One may not be able to formally disprove these two claims, but one can certainly invalidate them with ease.

    Far too many people, who really ought to know better, have an inadequate grasp of what the process of proof actually entails. Beyond the sphere of mathematics, the concept of proof has a quite narrow meaning: it identifies the cognitive process of validating a claim or conclusion about reality by logically reducing that claim or conclusion to the direct evidence of the senses – i.e., to one’s direct perceptual awareness. The basis of proof is thus self-evidence. The concept of validation, however, is a broader concept than that of proof, subsuming the concepts of proof and self-evidence. Thus one can validate claims self-evidently or by a process of proof. For example, one does not validate the existence of ultra-violet light self-evidently, because ultra-violet light is not directly perceivable; one validates the existence of ultra-violet light by the process of proof – i.e., by logically inferring its existence from the self-evident effects it has on other, self-evident, entities (such as laboratory measuring devices).

    (Note that one cannot prove the non-existence of the non-existent, because the basis of proof is self-evident existence, not self-evident non-existence.)

    The two claims quoted above can be invalidated (not disproved) on the basis of their arbitrary nature. Each of the claims includes an arbitrary – and therefore invalid – notion. Claim 1 includes the arbitrary notion “creator”, and claim 2 includes the arbitrary notion “flying spaghetti monster”. (By “arbitrary notion” I mean an idea for which there is no evidence – i.e., no perceptual or logical tie to reality; and I am presuming that by “creator” the author has some sort of supernatural consciousness in mind.) The two arbitrary notions, because they have no basis in reality (and consequently can only be imagined) are thus meaningless in the context of reality. And since the arbitrary notions are meaningless, so too are the claims that are dependent upon them. The two claims are thus invalid and can (and should) be dismissed without further consideration.

  84. I think the authors point may have been that you either do your best to live in a fact based reality or you live in a complete fantasy, or somewhere in between.

    What if your reality is just some type of dream (hallucination) and the rest of us don’t really exist? Everything you perceive only exists in your mind. You can’t invalidate this as any attempt at invalidation would be invalid:-)

  85. What if your reality is just some type of dream (hallucination) and
    the rest of us don’t really exist? Everything you perceive only exists
    in your mind. You can’t invalidate this as any attempt at invalidation
    would be invalid:-)

    If the only thing in existence were my mind and its richly varied content, then from where did all that content come? What was the content of your mind on the day before your birth, and from where did all of its subsequent content come?

    Try focusing your mind on what it actually means to be conscious. To be conscious is to be conscious of something; or, restated, to be aware is to be aware of something. A consciousness conscious of nothing is thus a contradiction. Consciousness thus requires the existence of physical entities external to itself for it to be conscious of. In other words, consciousness requires objects of consciousness. If there were no physical entities in existence – no objects of consciousness – there could be no consciousness. A consciousness can, of course, be conscious of itself, by means of the process of introspection, but before it can be conscious of itself it must first be conscious of things external to itself. (Introspection is a process whereby a consciousness attains awareness of its own actions in regard to some existent(s) in the outside world, such actions as perceiving, thinking, emoting, reminiscing or imagining.) Of course, a consciousness also requires some physical means of sensing or perceiving its objects – i.e., some sensory-perceptual apparatus – but this fact, and the fact of the requirement of some form of brain, is not relevant to my argument here.

    Now imagine a hypothetical reality in which the only thing in existence is a single consciousness – let’s call this consciousness Descartes, or God. What would be the knowledge content of that consciousness?

    Consider very carefully that all of the knowledge (both perceptual and conceptual) that a consciousness possesses at any point in time derives ultimately from its direct sensory perceptions of physical entities (including their attributes, actions and relationships) existing, or having existed, in the outside world. If there had been no physical entities in existence, a consciousness could have acquired no knowledge content. Thus the knowledge content of a single consciousness existing in a hypothetical reality in which nothing else existed would be exactly zero. And a consciousness with no knowledge content, nothing to know, and nothing to introspect upon is a contradiction, for in reality such a “consciousness” would be no consciousness at all.

    Consciousness is fundamentally the faculty of perceiving that which exists in the outside world. If nothing existed external to consciousness, then neither would consciousness exist.

    In reality, consciousness exists in a particular relationship with its objects in the outside world, wherein consciousness (the subject in the relationship) perceives its objects – which exist and are what they are independent of consciousness – rather than actively creating and controlling them. In this relationship, consciousness is dependent upon its objects, and the latter are said to have metaphysical primacy over consciousness. This relationship between consciousness and its objects (existence) gives rise to a fundamental philosophical principle known as the principle of the primacy of existence. And it is the primacy of existence in the consciousness-existence relationship – the fact that the objects of consciousness exist and are what they are independent of consciousness – that enables objectivity. However, when you assert the possibility of a consciousness that actively creates its objects – its content – by turning its attention inward upon itself, instead of simply perceiving them by looking outward at reality, you commit the logical fallacy of reversing the true order of dependency in the consciousness-existence relationship – i.e., the fallacy of the primacy of consciousness.

    How do I know that everything I perceive and am aware of is not just some type of lucid dream or hallucination?

    Well, how did I form the concept “dream” in the first place?

    Before I can know what a dream is, I first must know that which is not a dream – i.e., reality. I can only recognise a dream for what it really is by distinguishing it from that which I know is not a dream – i.e., reality. If everything that I perceive and know is really a dream, then I could not distinguish it as a dream, for it would be my reality. The concept “dream” is hierarchically dependent upon the concept “reality”. I cannot form or grasp the concept “dream” until I have first grasped, at least implicitly, the concept “reality”, and I cannot grasp the concept “reality” until I have first experienced reality. And the same argument applies in regard to the concept of hallucination; the concept “hallucination”, like the concept “dream”, has its epistemic root in the concept “reality”. When you propose that my awareness is just a dream or an hallucination, you steal the concepts “dream” and “hallucination” and commit the logical fallacy of the stolen concept. If only Descartes (and countless other philosophers throughout history) had been aware of this most devastating of fallacies.

  86. What if your reality is just some type of dream (hallucination) and
    the rest of us don’t really exist? Everything you perceive only exists
    in your mind. You can’t invalidate this as any attempt at invalidation
    would be invalid:-)

    Well, what if your reality is just some type of dream or hallucination, too, and I don’t really exist. And if I don’t really exist, then I can’t do anything, can I? 🙂

    Back in the real world. How do I know that everything I perceive and am aware of is not just some type of lucid dream or hallucination?

    Well, how did I form the concepts “dream” and “hallucination” in the first place?

    Before I can know what a dream is, I first must know that which is not a dream – i.e., reality. I can only recognise a dream for what it really is by distinguishing it from that which I know is not a dream – i.e., reality. If everything that I perceive and know is really a dream, then I would not be able to distinguish it as a dream, because it would be my reality. The concept “dream” is hierarchically dependent upon the concept “reality”. I cannot form or grasp the concept “dream” until I have first grasped, at least implicitly, the concept “reality”, and I cannot grasp the concept “reality” until I have first experienced reality. And the same argument applies in regard to the concept of hallucination; the concept “hallucination”, like the concept “dream”, has its epistemic root in the concept “reality”. When you raise the possibility that my awareness is just a dream or an hallucination, you steal the concepts “dream” and “hallucination” and commit the logical fallacy of the stolen concept.

    Everything you perceive only exists in your mind.

    And you commit the same fallacy here, too – in at least two respects.

    I can know what exists in my mind only by distinguishing it from that which exists outside my mind – i.e., reality. Without the contrast between the internal and the external, “internal” loses its meaning. If everything that I was aware of really did exist only in my mind, I would have no way of knowing it.

    Similarly, “everything exists only in my mind” renders “my mind” meaningless; it is only the contrast between mind and external reality that makes the concept “mind” possible.

    The fallacy of the stolen concept has cut a broad swath of destruction throughout the history of philosophy, and is still rampant today. Would that Descartes (and countless other philosophers) had been aware of this most devastating of fallacies.

  87. The fallacy of the stolen concept is mostly Randian ojectivist clap trap. Branden’s use of the idea is often specious. Its probably better not to use it in public. Try this in preference.

    Last Thursdayism is simply an hypothesis that has no utility, no predictive power, and is not scientifically formed, being unegatable and therefore value free.

  88. I’m curious about why people find “atheist” so much more threatening than “agnostic” when self-described “atheists” and “agnostics” often hold identical views about deities.

    I doubt this is the case. Atheism is more “threatening” because it denies credibility to most religious claims and premises, and will therefore reveal most believers as incorrect in their beliefs, which in most cases are beliefs held with strong emotional and personal attachments and to which a mildly or weakly tribalistic self-identity is latched on. That’s not a conductive environment for dispassionate self-criticism; when believers have a social stake in not wavering from their “identity”.

    Agnosticism grants those religious claims at the very least a patina of intellectual respectability, if not a cloud of respectable obscurity to hide in, and that’s sufficient for such people to save face. It’s simply less threatening to your image to be told you may be right, may be wrong, than to be told outright you haven’t got a leg to stand on. Add in a tendency to confuse religiosity/spirituality with signs of good character or virtue, and a vaguely taboo-like approach to religious “offence”, criticism, and subversion, and you have a recipe for turning the word “atheist” into a tarnish.

    There are likely to be many more factors I haven’t thought of, considering one can be an atheist and an agnostic simultaneously, the most readily apparent example being Dawkins himself. It also depends on which of the many versions of a deity or equivalent are trotted out (or switched mid-argument in less honest discussions). But there is, to me, the suggestion of a genuine continuum from hard-liner atheists, through atheist but with agnostic concessions, to wishy-washy agnostics who lean on accommodationism. And whether or not people fall into three discrete categories of theist, agnostic, and atheist (I doubt it), there is probably a tendency to stereotype people that way.

  89. I think the more comprehensive point is that it can’t escape the Munchhausen trilemma: between circularity, infinite regress, and arbitrariness. In this case, it is arbitrary. Last Thursdayism represents a set of propositions that are pulled out of thin air, with no demonstrated connection to anything real. If you wanted to dispute the claim that the Earth was 4.5 billion years old, you’d know what evidence you’d have to tackle, even if only to dispute it: radiometric dating, geological strata and astronomical observation, and the like. You might have to take a crash course in how these work, but the principle is that there is an anchor in there somewhere. There’s no such equivalent for Last Thursdayism: even an appeal to revelation would merely be trying to prop one premise up by appealing to another, equally problematic one (i.e. that revelation works).

  90. The Big Question Jan 17, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    The agnostic doesn’t accept what he doesn’t know. The atheist does. But I’m over this.

    It seems that some self proclaimed agnostics accept quite a few inherited faith beliefs about things they don’t know!

    The figures, published by the UCL Institute of Education, were analysed by David Voas, professor of population studies at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30910342

    A quarter of those who called themselves agnostic said they did believe in life after death.

  91. You need to allow for a logical step backwards. For example there theories out there (i.e. Nick Bostrom) that our existence is just a very complex computer simulation.

    Your earlier assertion could be applied here that there would have to be a reference existence to create everything needed for the simulation but that does not disqualify that our existence may not be what it appears to us to be.

    I don’t personally believe this to be very plausible but am not sure how you would invalidate it.

  92. 3DJ Jan 17, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    I’ve already posted higher up a few links to physicists, like Brian Greene, talking about creating a universe.

    Nope! Greene SPECULATES about NINE possible alternative forms of universe.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hidden_Reality

    . . . . . . about creating a universe. We’ve basically known how to do it since the 80s.

    We have absolutely no idea how to create a universe!

    We could not even create a star or a galaxy, even though we have a good idea how the form naturally!

  93. So let’s start by defining god.

    Do we mean the mysogynistic and genocidally murderous, filicidel and adulterous, rabidly intolerant lunatic who apparently looks like an undressed and sternly bearded sea Captain, or similiar? The one who has a talking snake, and dislikes apples and knowledge, and obsesses about what we do, when we are dressed like him?
    I hope not, because this is simply way too silly to be taken seriously, even by those in the Middle East committing atrocities in his name, or punching young parishioners in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    This god is way too incompetent to design a working set of molars, let alone sub atomic particles, so to me, and I hope to anyone with half a brain, there is no chance for agnosticism with respect to this non existent piece of mythological nastiness. Atheism is the only way treat him and maintain any claim to clear thought.

    Or, do we define god as a conscious and creative force that exists somehow both within and without the universe. “Without” as it had to be there first, if creative. Because “Something from Nothing” is so counter intuitive, maybe even more so than talking snakes, it is an obvious and very tempting place into which to plug god. But, one could just as easily lump all the laws of physics, discovered and yet to be discovered, together, and call them “God.”
    And it would be wrong, because there is no directed and conscious creativity involved. If there was, it would be god, or turtles, all the way down.

    But, a case can be made for some people, intelligent people, to compartmentalise the wonder that can come from the human brains capacity for imagination, and look to a god in the mystery of the universe, and gain comfort. For these people, and I am not one, this god may give cause to wonder, and a focus for their lives.
    And for them, agnosticism may not be such a silly state of mind.

    Finally, I have no idea why this has not come up before. If it has, my apologies.

    What did the dyslexic, insomniac, agnostic, do?

    He lay awake all night wondering if there really was a dog.

  94. Then there is the maths of atheism. How many gods have ever been created by mankind. There is the list of deities in Wikipedia, but that is only a shadow of the gods actually created by humans during their self aware evolutionary stage.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deities

    Every tree in the Amazon has a spirit. Every feature of the Australian landscape is spiritual and is part of the Aboriginal dream time creation. You can have a row of Catholics in the front pew of the St Peters Basilica and each one believes in difference version of the Catholic god. Cardinal X doesn’t believe in the god of Cardinal Y.

    There are hundreds of thousands of gods, possibly millions, past, present and future because they’re still being created by man. But you need to choose one. Now lock in that choice and you can’t phone a friend. It now means that you are an atheist in relation to all of the other gods that have ever enter the consciousness of the homo sapiens mind. You don’t believe in those gods. They’re not real, just pre-scientific tribal imaginings. So you are in fact a 99.99999% atheist. You are a 0.000001% believer in god. You wouldn’t put your life savings on a horse with these odds but you are prepared to kill. A bit stupid really.

    So when you have a number like 99.9999 you follow the rules of maths and round it up to a whole number, 100%. This takes care of the last pre-scientific tribal imagined god. So Michael the Christian from over on this thread is just as much an atheist as me.

    Michael Jan 24, 2015 at 9:43 pm Love Letters to Richard Dawkins

    We’re all atheists.

    An agnostic is just a wishy washy atheist.

  95. David R Allen Jan 24, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    Then there is the maths of atheism. How many gods have ever been created by mankind. There is the list of deities in Wikipedia, but that is only a shadow of the gods actually created by humans during their self aware evolutionary stage.

    After looking at fallacious “middle positions” between some imaginary, standardised, assumed, default, god, we can come to the conclusion that the “middle position”, – or more accurately, “the shared perception” of the believers in the thousands of world religions, is that other people’s gods are imaginary false “god-delusions”! This view is also shared with atheists, – so is the only view which is common to all!

  96. But of course science does not unconditionally accept

    If I was unconditionally accepting “gods”, I’d be a freaking theist. I’m an agnostic.

    You answer explaining the infinite regression of gods or aliens

    Firstly, you’re the one who seems to be assuming things with “infinite regression”. Let’s say our universe was formed in a black hole of another universe. That doesn’t automatically mean every single universe is formed from the black hole of a previous universe. Obviously, the original universe couldn’t have. So, there could be multiple ways universes are formed. That it’s seemingly possible to create universes just means it’s one of many possibilities for the beginning of our known universe.

    Secondly, I didn’t say I had a preference.

    let alone anthropomorphic life-forms, with god-like properties

    I call myself an agnostic. I see no evidence to suggest that any religious writings should be taken as fact. You seem to be accept religious writings as evidence for what a “god” is. At best, I’ll accept a deistic concept that gives no description or powers…just some kind of being that created our known universe. Whether that’s just a guy creating universes in his garage, or something more, is not worth debating.

    I consider “God” is to “god” as “Superman” is to “alien”. I do not accept a Superman comic as valid testable evidence for, or against, the existence of “aliens”. I do not accept a Bible as valid testable evidence for, or against, the existence of “gods”. I would not call myself an anti-alienist because I consider “Superman” to be someone’s imaginings as to what an “alien” might be like. I do not call myself an atheist because I consider “God” to be someone’s imaginings as to what a “god” might be like.

    When the theists and atheists have something to bring to the table, other than the equivalent of a comic book, let me know.

  97. Do give a link and citations to these monumental discoveries! I’m sure the quantum physicists at CERN will find the news fascinating! – Unless of course you have misunderstood the physics!

    Alan Guth

    http://www.nytimes.com/1987/04/14/science/physicist-aims-to-create-a-universe-literally.html?pagewanted=all

    Andrei Linde (worked at CERN)

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-th/9110037.pdf

    http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=32024

    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/egghead/2004/05/the_big_lab_experiment.html

    Brian Greene

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6545246

    The universe out of a monopole in the laboratory?

    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0602084

    Create your own universe

    http://physweb.bgu.ac.il/GROUPS/DATABASE/guendel/newscientistspace.html

    How to make a universe

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2006/08/5027/

  98. 3DJ
    Sep 28, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Firstly, you’re the one who seems to be assuming things with “infinite regression”. Let’s say our universe was formed in a black hole of another universe. That doesn’t automatically mean every single universe is formed from the black hole of a previous universe. Obviously, the original universe couldn’t have. So, there could be multiple ways universes are formed. That it’s seemingly possible to create universes just means it’s one of many possibilities for the beginning of our known universe.

    Science is prepared to say, “We do not know”! It is theists who have the problem of the infinite regression of personified creators.

    I call myself an agnostic. I see no evidence to suggest that any religious writings should be taken as fact. You seem to be accept religious writings as evidence for what a “god” is.

    I also call myself an atheist and a 0.00000001% agnostic, as scepticism – (particularly in the absence of evidence for, and clear credible historical and neuropsychological explanations of, the sources of theist claims), – is the rational default position, not credulity.

    At best, I’ll accept a deistic concept that gives no description or powers…just some kind of being that created our known universe. Whether that’s just a guy creating universes in his garage, or something more, is not worth debating.

    Deism is just theism with the refutable descriptions removed, or made too vague and incomprehensible to evaluate!

    I consider “God” is to “god” as “Superman” is to “alien”. I do not accept a Superman comic as valid testable evidence for, or against, the existence of “aliens”.

    And yet you quote them as a possibility for the origins of the universe!!! – A big stretch from their existence on some planet in some galaxy!

    I do not accept a Bible as valid testable evidence for, or against, the existence of “gods”. I would not call myself an anti-alienist because I consider “Superman” to be someone’s imaginings as to what an “alien” might be like. I do not call myself an atheist because I consider “God” to be someone’s imaginings as to what a “god” might be like.

    When the theists and atheists have something to bring to the table, other than the equivalent of a comic book, let me know.

    Neuropsychology has various progressively soundly evidenced studies on the location and nature of of god-delusions.

    3DJ
    Jan 17, 2015 at 1:17 am

    You’re living in the dark ages, if you think it takes “magic” to create universes.

    Not really! It is the theist claim that “god-did-it-by-mysterious-magic”!

    That our universe is a lab experiment has a possibility of not zero.

    I commented to that effect on this site some years ago! It does however bring us back to the infinite regression of who, or what, created or evolved, the creator or the universe it lives in!

  99. You are the one speculating about a “creator”, without evidence, and without explaining the infinite regression inherent in the claim.

    Not my claim. There is a bare bones deistic definition for “god”.

    Infinite regression is you speculating that every universe would need to have come into being in exactly the same way.

    Nope! I’m challenging you to produce evidence!

    Evidence for what? That it wouldn’t take magic, to create a universe?

    PHYSICIST AIMS TO CREATE A UNIVERSE, LITERALLY
    By MALCOLM W. BROWNE
    Published: April 14, 1987

    http://www.nytimes.com/1987/04/14/science/physicist-aims-to-create-a-universe-literally.html

    that is not evidence that they were.

    It is seeming, to me, based on anecdotal evidence, that many atheists have reading comprehension problems. I never claimed anything was a certain way.

    these are simply speculation at present

    Captain Obvious

  100. 3DJ
    Sep 28, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    You are the one speculating about a “creator”, without evidence, and without explaining the infinite regression inherent in the claim.

    Not my claim. There is a bare bones deistic definition for “god”.

    You seem unable or unwilling to see the connection between asserting the possibility of a deist creator and the implication of an infinite regression!

    Infinite regression is you speculating that every universe would need to have come into being in exactly the same way.

    I made no such claim! My position on the origin of the universe(s) is: “We do not know”! –
    But that does not mean I am going to credulously accept unevidenced wild speculations, whimsical fantasies, or deliberately vague obscurantist claims, which are too incoherent to refute!

    Nope! I’m challenging you to produce evidence!

    Evidence for what? That it wouldn’t take magic, to create a universe?

    Evidence of the possibilities you claim exist!
    The onus of proof is on those making assertions, regardless of attempts at negative proof fallacies attempting to shift this responsibility.

    these are simply speculation at present

    Captain Obvious

    What can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence!

  101. BlockquoteYou seem unable or unwilling to see the connection between asserting the possibility of a deist creator and the implication of an infinite regression!

    Let’s try this again. I’m not claiming any kind of gods exist. Someone else is claiming gods exist. Me, not asserting their claim is impossible, isn’t me asserting their claim is possible. No objective/testable evidence = a subjective/unfalsifiable claim. Results: unscientific and inconclusive. No belief as to the truth, or falsehood, of the claim.

    My position on the origin of the universe(s) is: “We do not know”!

    Exactly. So, what is it you’re claiming to know is false?

    Evidence of the possibilities you claim exist!

    There are either an odd or even number of stars in the universe. Me not ruling either one out, isn’t me making a claim about one, or the other. “Gods” wither do, or don’t, exist. Me saying “I don’t know”, isn’t me making a claim, one way, or the other.

    What can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence!

    Exactly. Dismissed =/= false, though. I’m dismissing both claims, as unsupported, until someone shows me some freaking evidence. If you’re claiming something is impossible, then the the burden is on you.

  102. Exhumed thread?

    Good place for some definitions. If atheist is a label for someone who disbelieves what a theist believes, then I suppose there’s room for an Aastrologist? Just after Aardvark in the dictionary.

    Along with Aastrologist, I’d have to admit to being an apathist. Most “nones” in the census sense would be I suppose more apathetic than even agnostic. Don’t know and don’t care, with the don’t care part being more dominant. Unlike “seekers” who might be dont-know-do-care, who are “on the road to FindOut”, and are easy prey for the Converters.

    The argument about disbelieving something being the same as believing the opposite I find tiresome, and contrived. If I have as much faith in the various deities described in testaments old, new and islamic as I do in the ones described in Marvel comics, or the spoof-deity the FSM, does that make me a-gnostic or a-theistic or a-pathetic?

    Mind you I’ve gone against the apathy by bothering to comment here, so I’m clearly failing in my apathetism. If that’s even a word.

  103. 3DJ #111
    Aug 3, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    You seem unable or unwilling to see the connection between asserting the possibility of a deist creator and the implication of an infinite regression!

    Let’s try this again. I’m not claiming any kind of gods exist. Someone else is claiming gods exist.

    So what about the scientific evidence from neuroscientists, that god-delusions exist, and provide a clear and credible explanation for the multitudes of conflicting versions of gods? – along with the well known confused tendency, for humans to project anthropomorphic properties onto other animals and inanimate objects!

    Me, not asserting their claim is impossible, isn’t me asserting their claim is possible.

    As I said earlier, what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence!
    Only the credulous take contrived tenuous wild unevidenced speculations seriously – especially when there are evidence based much more probable explanations.

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