Quickies

Skepchick Quickies, 10.6

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Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. Really loathed that “7 things” article. If anyone really thinks that riding a vehicle without proper safety equipment is safer should find a more efficient way to remove their genes from the pool.

  2. They failed to mention the number 1 problem with gated communities. Anything hard to get into is hard to get out of. Especially for those with limited cognitive abilities. Think about getting trapped in one during a zombie apocalypse. Once the zombies get in, they won’t be able to get out, and NEITHER WILL YOU!

  3. Theists can of course also be skeptical. It’s just doubt so if a theist doubts that theist is being a skeptic. A cynic however is not a skeptic. A cynic questions other’s motives and holds a belief of what those motives really are.

    I myself am skeptical of the claims of atheism, that there is no god, and am therefore a skeptical agnostic.

    The gender article was very good.

  4. @noen: Yes, you don’t know if a god or god exists, but do you believe in one?

    Atheism doesn’t make a claim…it’s a lack of belief…for most, due to insufficient evidence. Gnosticism or Agnosticism is regarding what knowledge you possess or don’t. So a skeptical agnostic merely states that they don’t possess the knowledge of the existence of a god or gods. Well, neither do I…but since I have not come across any evidence FOR the existence of a god or gods, I just don’t believe that there is one. Thus, I am an agnostic atheist.

    It’s the same process that allows me to not believe in drop bears, djinns or sentient energy clouds floating in space…all possible, none with sufficient evidence to justify belief.

    That being said, theists can be skeptical for the most part, and I welcome them to the party, but I don’t give undue deference to their beliefs beyond that of any astrologer or acupuncturist (many of whom could hold some skeptical points of view, and should be welcome as well…but their views on horoscopes and pin pricking should not be protected from legitimate criticism).

  5. @noen: Theists can of course also be skeptical. It’s just doubt so if a theist doubts that theist is being a skeptic.

    I disagree. A skeptic believes in logic and evidence above other means of reaching a conclusion. Doubting gravity doesn’t make you a skeptic. It makes you a moron.

  6. scribe999 said
    “Atheism doesn’t make a claim…it’s a lack of belief”

    That is false. The best discussion of what atheism is I have found is the online entry at Encyc. Britannica

    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/40634/atheism

    Nowhere in that definition will you find atheism as a lack of belief only. Briefly:

    Theism asserts the statement “God exists” is true.

    Atheism asserts the statement “God exists” is false.

    As a skeptical agnostic I doubt the truth value of the statement “God exists” without committing to an answer.

    “but since I have not come across any evidence FOR the existence of a god or gods, I just don’t believe that there is one.”

    That makes you an atheist because you assert that the proposition “God exists” is false. You also add the problem of what evidence you would accept for god’s existence. Not everyone agrees with you about what constitutes evidence for belief in god. Some people claim to have direct experience of god. My guess is that for you there could never be any amount of evidence that you’d accept.

    davew siad
    “I disagree.” Followed by ad homs.

    Pro tip: Ad hominem is not a substitute for reasoning.

  7. @noen: davew siad
    “I disagree.” Followed by ad homs.

    You are absolutely right. In my zeal to come up with an example to illustrate my point I launched an unwarranted and shameful ad hominem attack on people who don’t believe in gravity. I apologize to these people. If you don’t believe in gravity then I apologize to you too.

    Now if you can see past my lack of social grace I think my point about skepticism being more than simple doubt is still valid.

    As to who is and is not an atheist or agnostic this is well-trodden ground. Since there is no universally agreed upon definition of either word I find it most useful to let people label themselves however they it. The trouble starts when you try to label other people.

  8. @noen: A)
    “Atheism asserts the statement “God exists” is false.” — nowhere will you find in your dictionary defintion this statement. Did you read the whole thing??

    “Comprehensive definition of atheism

    Reflection on this should lead to a more adequate statement of what atheism is and indeed as well to what an agnostic or religious response to atheism should be. Instead of saying that an atheist is someone who believes that it is false or probably false that there is a God, a more adequate characterization of atheism consists in the more complex claim that to be an atheist is to be someone who rejects belief in God for the following reasons (which reason is stressed depends on how God is being conceived): for an anthropomorphic God, the atheist rejects belief in God because it is false or probably false that there is a God; for a nonanthropomorphic God (the God of Luther and Calvin, Aquinas, and Maimonides), he rejects belief in God because the concept of such a God is either meaningless, unintelligible, contradictory, incomprehensible, or incoherent; for the God portrayed by some modern or contemporary theologians or philosophers, he rejects belief in God because the concept of God in question is such that it merely masks an atheistic substance—e.g., “God” is just another name for love, or “God” is simply a symbolic term for moral ideals.”

    Your own link states that atheism is a rejection of claims made by theists.

    I have no “god” claim to make. My lack of belief is a default position, as I have NO REASON to believe in a god. It is not an assertion as I make no positive claims for anything other than reality. Typical attempt at shifting the burden of proof. I don’t require enumeration of my evidence no more than you are required to enumerate the type of evidence you would require for proof of the existence of Man-Bear-Pig…if I claim I can fly, you don’t have to come up with reasons why I can’t. I’m supposed to come up with reasons why I can. This is logic 101.

    Furthermore, if there IS an all-powerful, all-knowing god, then he/she/it would know exactly, by its sheer omniscience, how to convince me. Of course, it’s unbelievably arrogant to assume nothing would ever convince me. Some people claim a direct experience with astrological signs foretelling their future…if it worked 99% of the time, maybe I’d be convinced. I can’t know everything, so I can’t know what the evidence for a god would even look like. PLUS, no one seems to have a coherent, useful definition to work with to begin searching for ‘evidence’. So, again, you are mistaken.

    “As a skeptical agnostic I doubt the truth value of the statement “God exists” without committing to an answer.”

    Pretending humility by arrogantly assuming the objective high ground is no substitution for reasoning either. According to the Law of the Excluded Middle, either one is a believer or one is not a believer. If you need an analogy: “Either Socrates is mortal, or it is not the case that Socrates is mortal.” He can not be both or neither.

  9. davew said
    “If you don’t believe in gravity then I apologize to you too.”

    Well, I have no idea what it would mean to believe in gravity. Your statement makes absolutely no sense to me at all. Is gravity a thing that exists out there in the world? Do you mean some particular theory of gravity in which I am supposed to “believe”? The entire question is deeply confusing.

    “I think my point about skepticism being more than simple doubt is still valid.”

    My dictionary says – Skepticism: “Doubt about the truth of something.” Please explain to me how skepticism is not doubt.

  10. scribe999
    “@noen: A)
    “Atheism asserts the statement “God exists” is false.” — nowhere will you find in your dictionary defintion this statement. Did you read the whole thing??”

    The premise is my own but I think that “someone who rejects belief in God” is equivalent to “someone who asserts the proposition ‘God exists’ is false.” If you reject belief in god then you have a propositional attitude towards the premise that god exists. That attitude is one of negation or in other words, if P is belief in god then the atheist is someone who thinks it false that P.

    “Your own link states that atheism is a rejection of claims made by theists.”

    Exactly. I agree with that.

    “I have no “god” claim to make. My lack of belief is a default position”

    Skepticism is the default position. Atheism or theism is a conclusion that some people reach for many and varied reasons or emotional considerations.

    “This is logic 101.”

    No hun, that wasn’t logic. That was opinion. It is your opinion that atheism is the default position and that everyone else must try to move you from your Fortress of Solitude but it is not logically the case. At the very least you’ve not proven your claim true.

    “According to the Law of the Excluded Middle, either one is a believer or one is not a believer. “

    This is a category error. A “believer” is not something that has a binary state. People can have varying degrees of belief or they can have doubts.

    I believe the following statement is true.
    I believe the previous statement is false.

    Am I a believer or not?

    Only statements can be true or false. Belief is a psychological state that some people can have to varying degrees. Humans are not truth tables.

  11. @noen
    So, if I say that santa claus doesn’t exist, the burden of proof is on me? That makes no sense. Stop trying to shift the burden of proof. By telling people to prove a refutation, you are comitting argument from ignorance, a logical fallacy. So no, it is not an opinion, it is logic.

  12. No hun, that wasn’t logic. That was opinion. It is your opinion that atheism is the default position and that everyone else must try to move you from your Fortress of Solitude but it is not logically the case. At the very least you’ve not proven your claim true.

    Awfully familiar there aren’t we? Is it also your claim then that all lack of belief is an asserted position? Have you ever heard of a dokkaebi? It’s a Korean mythical creature…as a default you do not believe it exists I imagine since it may be unlikely you even ever heard of it. Is your a-dokkaebi-ism an asserted position until you know more about it? If I made the claim that it exists, it is the claimant that must “prove” the “claim true”. I can not claim all gods are false, I can only claim that I have not see one yet that is true, thus I have no reason to believe in one until there is such a time. It is practical and rationally justified.

    Expressing ‘doubt’ is uncertainty, but one still falls into either believing or not believing depending on the degree of uncertainty. This does not change the binary state.

    I believe the following statement is true.
    I believe the previous statement is false.

    This is a paradoxical statement (infinite regress), not a refutation of the binary statement of belief and nonbelief. ‘A’= ‘not A’ is a paradoxical statement, but does not render the conclusion that ‘A’ does not equal ‘not A’ untrue.

    Let me use ‘truth’ statements as you recognize them:

    I know the following statement is true.
    I know the previous statement is false.

    Does this somehow render the statement ‘I know’ does not equal ‘I don’t know’ untrue?

    In fact, your paradox bolsters the notion that belief is a binary state. You can not believe and disbelieve at the same time. It is paradoxical. It’s your assertion that belief is a expression of a human psychological state. “Humans are not truth tables.” – an irrelevant assertion, as you do not demonstrate how the STATE of belief is immune to logical absolutes.

    A doubt does not preclude one from believing or disbelieving…it is merely a description of the scale of conviction. If one doubts to the point of lack of conviction, it is disbelief, whereas when one has doubts, but still maintains some level conviction, it is still belief. If you believe that the sun will rise tomorrow, but as with almost everything, there is always some modicum of doubt, you still believe that the sun will rise tomorrow, provisionally. If your provisions were heavy enough, you would at some point disbelieve the sun coming up the next day. Equilibrium is paradoxical as you can not both believe and disbelieve the sun rising. If you claim that you don’t know if the sun will come up tomorrow, you will still either disbelieve because of insufficient data, or believe despite your lack of knowledge. Saying I have no opinion is the same as not believing the asserted claim that the sun will rise tomorrow, as again, otherwise it is a paradox.

    Let me demonstrate with another human state: love

    Love does not equal not love. There are many levels of love, and definitions, but there is no equilibrium…the excluded middle. ‘Indifference’ to the point of lacking love, instead of excessive ‘doubt’, is not love.

  13. scribe999
    “Awfully familiar there aren’t we?”

    Many atheists, like their fundamentalist brethren, try to build an impregnable fortress into which they may then retreat from the chaotic world. It is reactionary in nature. I see attempts to fit humans into absolute categories as a part of that reactionary response to the world.

    “Have you ever heard of a dokkaebi?”

    Nope, until now I had never heard of it. Before I heard of the dokkaebi I was not an a-dokkaebi-ist, I simply had no beliefs about it whatsoever. I am not now agnostic about the dokkaebi’s existence either since you’ve told me it is a mythical creature and I have no reason to believe you would lie about that.

    “If I made the claim that it exists, it is the claimant that must “prove” the “claim true”.”

    Sure, that is skepticism, a systematic application of doubt or disbelief. Atheism is not doubt, it is a knowledge claim no different than theism. Theism is the claim that P where P = “God exists”. Atheism is the claim that ¬P.

    The difference in our positions is that I am applying logic to statements where you are using it on people or groups of people. I think that is an inappropriate use of logic. Humans cannot occupy logical categories, we can only assert or deny propositions. Categories of thought are binary (mostly), humans are not.

    “you do not demonstrate how the STATE of belief is immune to logical absolutes. “

    Yeah, I guess that example was a mistake. What I would say instead is that while beliefs are either true or false they are asserted propositions. Truth is a property that only statements can have so ¬P applies only to propositions. The error that I believe many make today is they take the set of theists T = {believers in god} and assert that atheism = ¬T which returns not only those who don’t believe in god but everything else in the universe as well. I have had atheists actually tell me that rocks and galaxies are atheists. This is absurd but it is the logical consequence one is forced to adopt if you really assert that atheism = ¬T.

    “Love does not equal not love.”

    This doesn’t work because love is not a proposition it is an emotion, one that most certainly does not adhere to logic. People are perfectly capable of feeling totally in love and out of love at the same time. We can do that, statements cannot.

  14. @noen: I’ve missed the party as usual, but I figure I’ll post my thoughts for anyone who wanders by. I skipped over most of the argument above since it didn’t interest me much. But atheism is definitely the absence of belief. That conception of it has been advanced by, well, quite a long list of atheist writers dating back to the 18th century, and it is alive and well today.

    A good overview of the history of the word, with quotes from leading atheists and theologians, can be found here:
    http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/smithdef.htm

    What I find most interesting about the issue is that positive atheism (atheism as the assertion there is no god) doesn’t seem to have been promoted by anyone of significance prior to the 20th century. Negative atheism (lacking belief, and nothing more) was pretty much the only game in town before then.

    Here is my quick overview of atheist thought, if anyone is interested. (I keep this statement handy for these occasions.) Note that I am using ‘god’ with a lower-case ‘g’ to represent the full range of god-concepts, and God with an upper-case ‘G’ to represent the Judeo-Christian deity specifically.

    Atheism is the absence of belief in any god, where ‘god’ is defined as a supernatural being. (Some define god more narrowly, as a personal entity and/or the creator of the universe, but the more scholarly thinkers tend to be more inclusive.) To illustrate the implications, consider that atheists fall into 2 broad categories:

    1) Negative atheists, who see no way to judge the likelihood of god’s existence. Some consider the concept of god to be incomprehensible, and lack belief because they simply don’t know what the word represents. (This branch of atheist thought is called “the meaninglessness of religious language” or “noncognitivism”.) Others consider the existence of god to be a realistic possibility, but unproven, so they suspend judgment. Some go so far as to say god is unprovable even in principle.

    2) Positive atheists, who consider the existence of god to be improbable. That is, they think it is so unlikely that nonexistence should be assumed until better evidence is presented. Positive atheists do not consider god to be impossible in an absolute sense. It should be noted that certain narrow definitions of God have been argued to be self-contradictory, like a square circle. (This school of thought is called “the incoherency of divine attributes”.) But such arguments cannot be used against god in general; the point is only that certain definitions of God are invalid.

    As far as I am aware, the writings of every significant atheist writer from the 18th century to the present have been consistent with this definition, with the exception of some atheists in both categories who define the word narrowly, so that only members of their camp qualify. But you cannot understand the full range of atheist thought without accepting the broad definition.

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