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Sunday 22 January 2006

Do you know Who I^ He Is? [Am]

Bit of a conversation going on the other day reared the old drunken topic of whether someone is a Theist, Agnostic or an Atheist. M'Friend was avowing deeply that he was a total atheist. The following was what I went back to him with. His response is ommitted cos that'd stunt the blog. But it's a bit of a doozy and really rather major topic, we might as well give it a dust down on the hatch they call cross....
.....Really atheism and theism are both illogical if you use "illogical" in its strictest sense. Soren Kierkegaard was a philosopher who knew where shit was at and one of his most famous flows went to the fact that there are many questions or propositions which are non-proveable where to take one side or the other is to go beyond logic and take a "leap of faith".
Over the centuries, hell millenia, many philosophers have tried to make logic-only arguments for the existence of God - you can look 'em up on - try the ontological argument and the teleological for starters. In summary, they are all highly refuted and generally busted apart from in the minds of a few blowhard believers.
So you can't prove God by logic and therefore this is where you get left with the "leap of faith" which is taken in "fear and trembling" precisely because there is no logic behind it. Believers have faith and therefore belief in God. But it's not based in logic. Atheists are somewhat more problematic - since it's impossible to prove or disprove God, how can you say you are an atheist rather than (deeply) agnostic. As a logical premise it's really totally unsupportable to say that you are an atheist rather than deeply agnostic. Way I see it, in the end wherever anyone is deeply passionate about arguing "no no I really AM an Atheist", it's a secular statement about how much you dislike religion's place in the humanitarian world. Now that I understand. But let's not confuse it with the logical deniability of God.
As to the major religions, go study their books for a few years and then read the works round them giving the historical precedents for their content which preceeded them. I think many'll be pretty shocked how much of the content of, for instance, Christianity, takes direct content from other major cult religions preceeding its codification in the Bible. It's not a couple of cues - it is totally littered. There are other major religious texts which are, to anyone other than an already inculcated follower are incredibly eye-brow raising as an expression of the word of god given how firmly rooted they are in the sociology and politics of the time they were written in.
What Islam got right was to venerate and respect the prophets of other religions. Do not confuse that with the secular US vs "Islam" war at the moment. There you have TWO increasingly fundamentalist "nations" whose perversion of BOTH religions is to do with self-serving their secular needs.
In the end of the day, the hundreds of millions that have been killed through religious conflicts are humanity's greatest self-attributed stupidity. There may be a God, indeed I hope there is. But the playground fights about whose incredibly inaccurate made-up versions of what that God is truly like (particularly as practised more than as originally written) show us to be the undeveloped animals we really are.


  1. It is completely reasonable to say that you are an athiest, in the same way that it is completely reasonable to say that you don't believe in Hobbits, leprachauns or that the universe was created by a giant spaghetti monster. The atheist simply doesn't need to prove that God doesn't exist, because to an athiest, the absurd claim is that God DOES exist. The burden of proof is on the theist.
    You're making the mistake that a lot of people make in assuming that atheists think that the notion of a creator is a reasonable idea. It just isn't to them, so isn't worth considering anymore than it is worth trying to conclusively disprove that fairies live at the bottom of a garden.
    Unsurprisingly, the only people to whom atheism is unreasonable, are theists.

  2. Nah Dr Love, you're falling into the old trap.
    Atheism, Agnosticism and Theism represent the values -1, 0 and 1 respectively. Atheism is, definitionally, to absolutely deny the existence of God without any doubt. Like any other proposition that can't be proved empirically, to state that absolutely, for sure, without doubt it is beyond ANY question that God, hobbits or leprachauns definitely do NOT exist is logical balls. You can be extremely monstrously sure on the balance of probabilities that it's mind blowingly unlikely that they exist but this is a three state arguments not a binary one. For this reason, theism and atheism are both unproveable through logic.

  3. Now, see, your logical squirming and semantic arguments are reducing the world to a sort of opinionless, grey goo. I accept wholeheartedly that what you are saying is true, but counter that to follow this to its logical conclusion, there simply would be no valid opinion or position on anything.
    Everybody immediately, by necessity, is agnostic on all subjects - what do I want for my tea tonight? Since I can't prove that I would prefer eggs and chips over a nice pie, there is no point in holding an opinion on the subject. Did England win the world cup in 1966? I can't prove that they did, or didn't, so I can't answer this question.
    It is absurd. Absurd I tell you!
    As a matter of interest, would you call yourself "agnostic" if asked to whether Hobbits exist?

  4. Now you see, this is ultimately why I got pissed off with philosophy as an academic study because, in fact, having done all the fun stuff, philosophers in the twentieth century ended up pretty much majoring on semantics. As a different example I did a thesis on the Philosophy of Mind and basically argued that while it was all well and good to puff on a pipe and dream shit up, arguing that it was an abstract discipline that didn't need to refer to neuroscience was arse. You can imagine how that went down.
    To your point, no the world doesn't become grey goo as long as things are observable or defineable in a binary sense. That's empiricism for you. What do I want for my tea is a matter of choice not belief - I am the determinent. So opinions are in fact the definition of something useful not navel-gazingly difficult. Did England win? Well according to the current world information in front of you, yes they did.
    In the absence of a decision or information stream, we're in loads more trouble. Does God exist? No clue. Do Hobbits? No clue either. Does Dr Dave - I've met him and I have no reason to believe he doesn't. That's the sort of thing.

  5. On your point about atheism, agnosticism and theism being -1,0,1...
    Well, lets look at this from the point of view of a scientist. My view, as it happens. I would prefer to label the three: 0,1,2. With 0 being the default state. With any scientific theory, which theism really is, a scientist must begin in the default state of disbelieve.
    The burden is then on the theorist to offer evidence supporting their claim. A theist hypothesises the universe was created by a God - fine, that is a perfectly valid notion. Now back it up with some evidence that beats the other hypotheses' evidence.
    To be an athiest is to simply have not seen any good evidence for the theist's position.

  6. You see, you're not thinking this through deep enough. You claim that you cannot prove there is a God, or a Hobbit. But you're perfectly willing to asert, despite having not been there, that England won the World Cup in 1966. Even if you had been there, you're relying on the fact that your memory is not faulty, your eyes weren't playing up, that your perception of reality is in fact a fair representation of reality.
    You claim you've met me - prove this with 100% certainty please.

  7. Dr Dave, asking for 100% certainty, you've just proved why Atheism is illogical. QED :)

  8. Not at all, I'm just saying that me claiming to be an atheist is just as valid as you claiming you've met me.
    I'd be a fool, and a bad scientist, to claim you could prove anything to 100% certainty, you simply can't. But there are positions you can take, based on a balance of probability, that are perfectly valid.
    I would concede that in a purely semantic sense, it is a logical absurdity to claim to be an atheist. But by the same measure, I would claim that it is a logical absurdity to claim to be an agnostic - how can I prove that I can't prove God doesn't exist? :)

  9. Theism can't be a scientific theory - a scientific theory proposes a model & makes a prediction that is testable, supporting or refuting the theory. Theisim is the total opposite, belief [B]is[/B] everything. The Thesit needs no proof, his belief is all...."Slim>BF2 is shit."

  10. Nice try Dr Dave! But since the 0 proposition of agnosticism is the middle state of a positive and a negative state of existence / non existence which IS a binary argument of reality (you can't be anything other than existing or not existing), it's logically impossible to argue against a middle position of uncertainty which is an intermittent state of deciding which binary reality is in fact true! Uncertainty is a definition of a transient human state and I would say inargueable!

  11. But we're not talking about the theist's point of view, we're talking about the atheist's.
    From an atheists point of view, at least those who subscribe to scientific method, what the theist says is simply a hypothesis: "God created the world" in simple terms. It is exactly the same as offering "the speed of light is the fastest anything can travel". Therefore, for an atheist to accept the theist hypothesis, it needs to be backed up by evidence.

  12. Spoken like a scientist and properly so. But no at the end (and of course we don't get to resolve this eternal ol' bullshit) imho, in the absence of an empirically proveable result, any proposition is not disproveable. So ultimately my argument is ultimately a scientific and yes definitely semantic one. I just fuckin hate the cunts that say "I know god doesn't exist" cos it's fuckin wank.

  13. I do realise that the awankological argument for the existence of god probably has a few PR problems :))

  14. Fine, let's do away with agnosticism altogher, I always thought it was a waste of a perfectly good word anyway.
    It gets back to my earlier point - why is religion so special that it needs this mysterious third position of uncertainty? Nobody claims to be agnostic about Hobbits existing, because there's no point. Agnosticism is not needed because it is a truth rather than opinion. Agnosticism describes how everybody would be if we were pure automatons.
    So to hell with it! Embrace the binary!

  15. Babydave I'd be right with you if it weren't for it's implications. "I say Christianity is definitively right" / "No I say Islam is definitively right". Doesn't "logically I can't know I'm right either way so respecting each of your opinions and not blowing the shit out of either of you" sound pretty good?
    More seriously, you must be the first Dr of Scientological Thinkology who I've heard argue all Uncertainty Principles out of existence!

  16. Sorry, thoughts just flooding out here...
    I would say that agnosticism is a trap set by theists for atheists. See, everything you say makes perfectly good philosophical sense - agnosticism is easily the most defensible position, logically.
    So being good little logic bunnies, atheists should say "oo yeah, we never thought of that. If it's logical, then we're all for it!" and decamp on notch up to be agnostics. Meanwhile, theists, who were never that hot on logic, say "nah, don't fancy that, we'll stick with the big fella thanks!"
    So you're once again in a binary system, but the atheists have fallen foul of the trap and gone from definitely not believing in all that nonsense, to accepting it as a possibility. The next thing you know, they'll all be getting pamphlets describing "Pascal's Wager" through the door and throwing their lot in with the bible bashers.
    Down with agnosticism!

  17. I'm quite prepared to accept uncertainty when it is applied to the gasing of cats! ;)

  18. Cor where did Spiny jump in from (despite being incredibly lucid and to the point ffs)?
    Dave funnily enough I take the opposite view to that - in proving the nonsensical nature of atheism, I think it's quite a good bolster to the agnostics "come off it" argument to theists. By every tennet of theism, belief in god is not possible without that "leap of faith" unless you're fundamentalist. Meeting a believer who has made that leap of faith and is comfortable discussing its inherent challenges and lack of logicality is very attractive when discussing whether god exists or not - you admire them. The fact that the hugest majority of believers are not comfortable about discussing that leap across the canyon and start spitting hellfire and brimstone at you for not believing in Him shows what secular NOT religious "decisions" they have made in "believing"

  19. That's on the money Am. The whole argument is moot to some extent because God provides the theist with the why, not the what. Only the fundementlist can belive literally in the THE WORD FRM GOD (i.e. the what). Taking the bible as an example: creationism, Adam & Eve etc. Religious texts provide in the main a moral code for society & as a consequence, a means of controlling the masses. I wouldn't expect anyone to obey 10 commandments that I laid down, hence the creation of an omnipotent father figure bringing forth the rule book. (as an interesting aside, do matriarchal societies have female gods?). Towing the sociatal line, therefore means believing in the rules & therefore "god". In essence we create god and cause him to exist by the virtue of belief. So, you could say his spiritual existance is proved by this fact. Belief in the physical existance of god is that leap of faith refered to by Am. It's precisely this which gives the fundamentalist his strength of conviction & the 'ordinary' believer weakness. Feeling painted into a corner & spitting hellfire is the only recourse they have, being unable to form an argument other than essentially "because this is the way I was taught/raised".Don't believe me, ask Yello.

  20. Its all very well arguing the toss over the existence of God (large G) or gods (small g) or hobbitses, but let us consider the most important question of all....
    What came first, the chicken, or the egg?

  21. The egg clearly, being as they were laid by dinosaurs, the evolutionary ancestors of modern boids.

  22. What Dave said - and, to put a logical spin on things - chickens by our definition are avian creature that reproduce by laying eggs. If, therefore, the first chicken predated the first chicken egg, then that first chicken would have been produced through live birth, asexual reproduction or some other procedure. Making it not fit the definition of a chicken as we use it.

  23. A quick word of warning, I seems that our uneducated brethren across the water now regard atheists as the biggest threat to american society. Worse than gays, or communists, or even muslims no less!
    They make a fair point though, I mean, atheists are well known for expressing their lack of morals by strapping bombs to themselves and walking into crowded bars. Or ambushing and murdering doctors because they don't agree with their medical ethics. Or ethnically cleansing an entire subsection of a society because they believe in different flavoured fairies to them.
    Those fucking atheists with their common sense and rationality! Down with them!