Saturday, 28 June 2008

'The Atheist 13' in 10 easy steps

I was recently tagged by Lubab No More and asked to answer these questions. I followed the tagging back (quite a lot) to Nullifidian, where it appears the meme originated from - I believe the number 13 was thought up because there are 10 questions+3 bloggers you're supposed to tag. It could also have something to do with this meme being created on the 13th of June 2008.

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?

I was originally going to say the word 'atheism' means "without theism" where "theism" is belief in God. However, I went over to answers.com to help with the answer and it said the following:
  1. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
  2. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
I'm sorry answers.com, but I disagree. The first suggestion seems to imply that God exists, but that the atheist chooses not to believe. The second says atheism is a doctrine. Is it? Can you have a doctrine of disbelief? If belief is a positive step (and none of us are born with leanings towards one religion or another) then the atheist is in a default state of nothing, as far as religion is concerned. An analogy would be darkness being the absence of light, not an entity (or doctrine) of it's own. I think my definition of "without theism" (darkness being without light in the analogy) stands up very well, if I may say so myself.
Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?
Mixed. Up until the age of 7 or so, I had a strong Jewish identity but wasn't religious. Around this age my parents decided to become more religious, and we started the upward climb from Reform Judaism to Orthodox Judaism to Ultra Orthodoxy. This last step was completed when I was about 12 or so and was cemented as I went through Ultra-Orthodox education.
Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?
Delusional.
Q4. What scientific endeavor really excites you?
General human advancement in all sciences really excites me. However, I have to say Space exploration, robotics and genetics take the cake.
Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?

Add a sense of identity to it, so that there really could be an 'atheist community.'

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?

Ask which clergy. After that, if the statement was sudden, I'd probably have a stiff drink: orange juice with ice. No alcohol, obviously. If they'd been showing religious tendencies and this didn't come as a complete shock, I'd make sure they weren't being forced/bribed/conned/emotionally black mailed into it, and if it was a normal clergy (i.e. not a cult or fanatical Christian/Muslim/Jewish sect) I'd accept that they can make their choices just as I've made mine. If it was one of these wacko places, I'd attempt to intellectually dissuade them from their endeavours.
Q7. What’s your favorite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
"People who disbelieve just want an easier life."
I've heard that so many times. A rabbi came to my college and said that and I asked if he honestly believed, out of the millions and millions of people,* that there wasn't one person on the entire globe who was intellectually honest with themselves?

The answer was "I do." I said "that's incredible" and he said "That's why I get invited here: I come to tell you the incredible." Quite ironic that the word 'incredible' means "without credit."

Other times I disprove it by pointing out that it's not at all easy to leave the Jewish community or stop believing in one's beliefs they've held so close to the hearts for so long. How is that easier to just forgetting about intellectual woes, or being orthoprax?

*Atheism is more common in Europe than America, it seems.
Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
Like Lubab No More, I'm surprised that many atheists wish for the destruction of religion. Like LNM, I posit what seems to be the controversial view of "live and let live"
Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favorite, and why?
I haven't read the last two and only read a small part of Dennett's work, which I recall disagreeing with. I think Dawkins has grown intellectually arrogrant over the years and I dislike him because of that. So I'd have to answer: none.
Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
My child in question 6 - otherwise no-one. As I said in question 8, live and let live.
Now name three other atheist blogs that you’d like to see take up the Atheist Thirteen gauntlet:

Abandoning Eden (who was one of the inspirations of this blog), Baal Devarim (whose blog I immensely enjoy) and Frum Heretic (who's bound to offer up something interesting).

12 comments:

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Q1. How would you define ;atheism?p
...However, I went over to answers.com to help with the answer and it said the following:

Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
I'm sorry answers.com, but I disagree. The first suggestion seems to imply that God exists, but that the atheist chooses not to believe. The second says atheism is a doctrine. Is it? Can you have a doctrine of disbelief? If belief is a positive step (and none of us are born with leanings towards one religion or another) then the atheist is in a default state of nothing, as far as religion is concerned...."

False. Is disbelief in Relativity the default position? And is someone who believes in Relativity so much as you believe in atheism supposed to say he doesn't believe in Relativity but knows it is true? Belief doesn't imply an absence of a default position to be dislodged or not. The concept that atheism is the default position and can not be described as belief is a statement born of antiintellectualism. Rather than bother to subject atheism to scrutiny just use semantics, by fiat declare it true, beyond question apriori with the opposing view having to be defended. A Catholic Saint said that atheism is a semantic contradiction and so theism is true. Surely the knights of atheisism would say that is silly but they then say things that are just as semantic. The default position on atheism versus theism is not even agnosticism since agnosticism has ignorance on the subject as unchangeable. The default position is rather saying you don't know and perhaps it can be found out. If something by contrast is so true it doesn't require proof or is built into reality as the default position that is not even related to science not that it can be resolved by science. If atheists really had the intellectual upper hand they would put as little energy into bothering to refute theists as round earthers do for flat earth proponents.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Other times I disprove it by pointing out that it's not at all easy to leave the Jewish community or stop believing in one's beliefs they've held so close to the hearts for so long. How is that easier to just forgetting about intellectual woes, or being orthoprax?"

There's also societal pressure to forgo observance. Sure there are those who are more intelectual but there are combinations of motivations. But it is amazing how in skeptic blogs I have encountered the view that skeptics are so because of intelectualism but that their opponents' case can only be because of emotional wants. There needs to be a recognition that your opponent may have possibly used the same data and arrived at another conclusion based on intelect too.

Jewish Sceptic said...

Rabban, you raise an interesting point.

If I understand your point correctly, you posit that atheism is only a default state if someone has a presupposed belief in atheism. This is a valid argument. But by the same token, you cannot claim this thought to be false because you have a presupposed belief in theism.

The only way around an intellectual stalemate, as I see it, is to ascertain the belief system of man before religion. Was atheism indeed the default state or not? I'm choosing to work back from a state of religion (rather than a state of atheism) because theists outnumber atheists today. Really what I'm asking is, what was the first religion and what happened before it?

Using the Torah as a reference, we would be forced to conclude that the first religion was a type of monotheism, for Adam and Eve knew there was only one God and worshipped Him. We then know this state degenerated into idol worship, and monotheism was eventually revivied for the masses by Avraham, who is said to have taught many people about God.

Anthropological work, however, suggests something different:

Broadly speaking, the first religion of Homo Sapiens is said to be Animism. Before then, there was nothing - this was the first time humans used a supernatural explanation to explain natural phenomena.

It is not because I or you are intellectually dishonest that we disagree. It is because we are using different measures to determine our positions (thus you are not correct in thinking we use the same data). You're using the bible, whilst I'm using the social sciences, and we come to different conclusions.

The next stage then, is to assess the validity of our measuring tools. Obviously, I have found the bible to be lacking and if you find the social sciences to be lacking, I would ask you to explain why in full and we can then debate that.

And yes, I agree with most of your last point. Many people have asked me if I think the religious are liars, madmen or dreamers. I respond by saying they are none of those things, and that I believe there are religious people in the world who really believe in their religion. It doesn't take a genius to look around the world and realise this is the case. Perhaps those skeptic/atheist blogs you refer to are talking in terms of theists who teeter, such as I used to, between religion and atheism.

Again, one point I would like to take issue with is that you said atheists and theists use the same data to reach different conclusions. Again, I would say that this is incorrect - atheist and theist sources are different, or if they aren't, theists alter the data in some way to make the data different (inteligent design springs to mind). Religion doesn't comment on, or entirely dismisses archaeological and biological evidence (skeletons of differnet species of humans: Homo Erectus, the hundreds and hundreds of Neanderthals and more recently, Floresiensis), history (where applicable) and a whole host of other things. But in the mind of the theists who do this, this is acceptable because anything which contradicts the bible - God's word - must be wrong. I believe this to be a perfectly acceptable and logical reaction, though I also believe it is misdirected.

On a side note, I often ask people how, if they believe in God, they can justify not being absolutely and strictly religious, because at the end of the day, they believe in a Being who will lay down an absolute judgement of their deeds and misdeeds, and the words "your law was not convenient" will not be a valid response.

Jewish Sceptic said...

"If atheists really had the intellectual upper hand they would put as little energy into bothering to refute theists as round earthers do for flat earth proponents."

You're the only person in real life or on the internet that I actively engage in big talks like this (aside from my parents from time to time, usually because they start a discussion with me). There are a few atheist blogs out there (such as AE) who aren't interested in big intellectual debates either.

For the rest, I would say that the atheist community is defined by not believing, and non-believers have to actively demonstrate why they do not believe in today's society - much like there's a tendancy to ask why a gay person is gay, hence the famous response "I was born gay." There are others who enjoy debate, as do I from time to time, and a blog is the most convenient and proper place to engage in that intellectual debate.

Others may just want to learn new things, or are constantly revising their spiritual decision, as agnostics or new atheists may.

But to imply that all atheists engage in debate because they're intellectually insecure in their lack of belief, is a lazy supposition and is clearly not true.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"If I understand your point correctly, you posit that atheism is only a default state if someone has a presupposed belief in atheism. This is a valid argument. But by the same token, you cannot claim this thought to be false because you have a presupposed belief in theism."

Not quite. I am always willing to concede beliefs I have that are only from faith as a result I don't feel a need to prove G-d's existence using reason. All the same if I see evidence I'll call a spade a spade. I am certainly predisposed to allowing for things beyond the senses from my background but I don’t have Judaism be the basis of anything beyond itself. Nor do I feel it is the point of Judaism to tell us concerning facts but rather to instill values and meaning and senstivity. You can’t prove things from such subjectivity in the way a lab can show a virus.

"The only way around an intellectual stalemate, as I see it, is to ascertain the belief system of man before religion. Was atheism indeed the default state or not? I'm choosing to work back from a state of religion (rather than a state of atheism) because theists outnumber atheists today. Really what I'm asking is, what was the first religion and what happened before it?"

We have no data of a time before faith. This is counterintuitive and should introduce a sense of wonder at the origins of human society. Evolution with its reducing us to the sum of our parts is not enough to explain societies origins. The whole is not the sum of its parts. This is increasingly what we see in science like with the brain.

"It is not because I or you are intellectually dishonest that we disagree. It is because we are using different measures to determine our positions (thus you are not correct in thinking we use the same data). You're using the bible, whilst I'm using the social sciences, and we come to different conclusions."

No I see the same data but data is just that. We have data suggesting the earth is flat but that interpretation is wrong. However I am not rejecting the social science's answer here. I feel that it is a matter of semantics. Just as amongst the opinions of the rabbis of Talmudic times included ones espousing prior generations of people and worlds on the earth and still they could speak of Adam as the first man and the world according to the Jewish Calendar as not more than some thousands of years old so I can say Adam was the first man in the full sense for spiritual purposes but not scientific purposes.

"Again, I would say that this is incorrect - atheist and theist sources are different, or if they aren't, theists alter the data in some way to make the data different (inteligent design springs to mind)."

I would hardly agree. I see atheist scientists who try to explain away design no matter how awkwardly and they depend very much on saying that we don't know this or that. I fail to see design advocates altering data. What they do is what Evolution did in the past, namely point to what looks like design. If Evolution doesn't claim there is apparent biological design then it undermines itself and contradicts Darwin and NeoDarwinism. On the contrary if things are so ill designed then it is claiming that natural selection cannot really work or at best it partially works which was hardly the elegance seen within Darwinian theory. The reason for such a distortion of Darwinism is only to score points against the opposition and not because of well thought out ideas. On the contrary it is very strange that Design is called antievolutionary as it has advocates who believe in an Evolution. Politics determines now who is an Evolutionist even if not an Orthodox one and who is not. It is a bunch of fatuous nonsense that turns me off. You know the feeling. You read Dawkins.

"Religion doesn't comment on, or entirely dismisses archaeological and biological evidence (skeletons of differnet species of humans: Homo Erectus, the hundreds and hundreds of Neanderthals and more recently, Floresiensis), history (where applicable) and a whole host of other things. But in the mind of the theists who do this, this is acceptable because anything which contradicts the bible - God's word - must be wrong."

In the minds of Evolutionists such as Dawkins anything contradicting Evolution has to be wrong. The data will be bent however awkwardly to suit them. The theists have some real data on their side and that is what makes Dawkins and his type so angry. If the theists did not I can assure you he would not be devoting so much time to his crusade. It would be easy to embarrass the theists then and all would be well. How much of an AntiFlatEarth campaign do you see or an AntiEarth as the Center of the Universe campaign do you see? How is it that while a sturdy theory like Relativity can have its foundations tested and have apparent contradictions to it stated as challenges to it with Evolution there is no such thing spoken in mainstream science? In science you test things without end and challenge them without end. What is demonstrably true is that whatever the truth of Evolution there is a nonthinking bias for it. This is unfortunate as it impedes progress in Evolution too. It is unnatural in science to be satisfied with a lack of explanation as an answer as science is meant to find answers. This is precisely what militant Atheists have told theists. A bias in and of itself is needed to reach any decision as otherwise we just have data. It is rather why we have a bias that is the real issue.

"You're the only person in real life or on the internet that I actively engage in big talks like this (aside from my parents from time to time, usually because they start a discussion with me). There are a few atheist blogs out there (such as AE) who aren't interested in big intellectual debates either."

Thank you for the compliment. I enjoy my discussions with you too. Typically my experience on skeptic sites on the internet as opposed to real life is that if I challenge too much I might as well be talking to the wall and the opposition simply declares victory by silence (sometimes assured on XGH’s site by bans and on Fedup’s site always am I banned but others have tried to shut me up, to no avail. By nature I'm a skeptic and so I give people a run for their money because I can talk on their supposed level. Although mostly I see instead of real skepticism an exchange rather of one orthodoxy for another. It is natural enough for most people. As I said, I don't feel the need to have my faith be supported by reason and am always willing to admit when I am saying something just from faith. I wish Dawkins could do that. LOL

"But to imply that all atheists engage in debate because they're intellectually insecure in their lack of belief, is a lazy supposition and is clearly not true."

True. The ones who dominate the debate though are not naturally the ones who are more mouth than brain with this topic. Face it my skeptical friend most people are not as much into debate Lishma as you and me.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"True. The ones who dominate the debate though are not naturally the ones who are more mouth than brain with this topic."

Typo. Should have read "True. The ones who dominate the debate though are naturally the ones who are more mouth than brain with this topic. "

Jewish Sceptic said...

"as a result I don't feel a need to prove G-d's existence using reason"
I don't believe that's possible anyway, many have tried but through the years, all ultimately have failed.

"Nor do I feel it is the point of Judaism to tell us concerning facts"
That's something we agree on at least. And yet this is what Judaism has sought to do since it told us "In the beginning God created..." - there are far more example of where Judaism has come to teach "fact," so I think you're ultimately wrong with this particular point.

"We have no data of a time before faith."
That's a very ethnocentric statement. There are so-called primitive socities which exist today that show no signs of faith in the religious sense.

"This is counterintuitive"
I don't believe it is - it is more like a thought exercise from which we can attempt to deduce logical steps.

"However I am not rejecting the social science's answer here. I feel that it is a matter of semantics."
What's a matter of semantics is using the word "data" to describe "evidence" and claim evidence can be construed whichever way you want. Evidence should lead us to a conclusion - not furnish presupposed ideas, as theists tend to use it. As I said last post, that's a perfectly reasonable reaction when someone believes in God and is presented with evidence suggesting the contrary, but ultimately misguided.

There is only one way you can interpret

"In the minds of Evolutionists such as Dawkins anything contradicting Evolution has to be wrong."
Really? Well, I hereby challenge you to provide an example where Dawkins has said that something is wrong, simply because it contradicts his beliefs. For my part, I can point to almost any Orthodox Jewish establishment, be it a school, shul or kiruv program, and can guarantee that they routinely ignore facts not palpable to Judaism or misconstrue them so that they are.

"We have data suggesting the earth is flat but that interpretation is wrong."
That is impossible - we have no such data. In order for the earth being flat to be a reasonable conclusion, the data would have to be incomplete - in other words, you'd have to ignore large chunks of data: which is exactly what I accuse theists of doing on a routine basis.

"I see atheist scientists who try to explain away design no matter how awkwardly and they depend very much on saying that we don't know this or that."
In all honesty, do you know what they refer to when they say you don't know this or that? That being said, there's many a religious leader who says the same thing.

"The theists have some real data on their side and that is what makes Dawkins and his type so angry. If the theists did not I can assure you he would not be devoting so much time to his crusade."
With due respect, I don't think anyone is in a position to state what Dawkins and others would or would not do in any given circumstance. Next, I believe Dawkins is angry because theists claim to have data when what they really have is fabricated data, or data to the exclusion of other data. In science, one cannot pick and choose, it's the whole bundle or nothing.

"What is demonstrably true is that whatever the truth of Evolution there is a nonthinking bias for it."
I don't really understand where any of that comes from, but it's an argument I've heard many Americans make. I can only assume that this is more of an issue with the American Establishment than any European science institute.

If you're asking why mainstream science doesn't test evolution as rigorously as it once did, the answer would be: because like gravity, it is a theory which has been sufficiently proven to gain such acceptance. Darwinism isn't the only non-God theory as to how we came about, there are others too -such as Lamarckism - but they were ultimately rejected in good scientific fashion because they were wrong.

"The ones who dominate the debate though are naturally the ones who are more mouth than brain with this topic."
I don't know that this is correct either - it's just a generalisation. I've spoken to many intelligent atheists - as well as Jews and Catholics. Perhaps you just need to be exposed to better debaters!

Rabban Gamliel said...

""as a result I don't feel a need to prove G-d's existence using reason"
I don't believe that's possible anyway, many have tried but through the years, all ultimately have failed."
That's not true. The more we know of the universe the more it shouldn't exist if left to chance. The statement of a famous scientist that the universe is not only stranger than we imagine but stranger than we can imagine is hardly the ho hum accidental universe of atheists like Dawkins.

""Nor do I feel it is the point of Judaism to tell us concerning facts"
That's something we agree on at least. And yet this is what Judaism has sought to do since it told us "In the beginning God created..." - there are far more example of where Judaism has come to teach "fact," so I think you're ultimately wrong with this particular point."
The point of Judaism is to tell us facts of values. I stand by my statement. It is not the point of Judaism to tell us about what Avraham served others but the example of it is a part of what Judaism inculcates. You have to ask why a story is told.

""We have no data of a time before faith."
That's a very ethnocentric statement. There are so-called primitive socities which exist today that show no signs of faith in the religious sense."
I read of someone who claimed he saw such a society and he was wrong. Certainly in ancient times which was my point not present times there was no atheism. Later you had developments like Buddha starting a religion that does not require a god. Religion in that sense would have also included communism if there would have been a people that would have adopted it instead of maintaining faith underground.

""This is counterintuitive"
I don't believe it is - it is more like a thought exercise from which we can attempt to deduce logical steps."
Not so as how could it be that peoples with no contact with each other throughout the earth maintained belief in deities?

""However I am not rejecting the social science's answer here. I feel that it is a matter of semantics."
What's a matter of semantics is using the word "data" to describe "evidence" and claim evidence can be construed whichever way you want. Evidence should lead us to a conclusion - not furnish presupposed ideas, as theists tend to use it."
Theists do not tend to do it. some tend to it. Atheists have been just as guilty. Further data is only data. We then decide based on our own thought what it means. If scientists feel the data does not fit in with what is the truth they then will construe the evidence in such a way as to not contradict their ideas. We all do that. Data can lead one to think someone did something bad and yet if we believe the person incapable of doing such a thing we will interpret the data accordingly. Science is limited to what can be tested using data but aside from that it produces many interpretations. If a theory is useful for prediction of data it can be true enough for our purposes but it is still challenged and called only apparently true by its opponets in science.
You sound like you hear one side of the debate. I would recommend doing what I do and that is hearing all sides and not assuming one side is engaging in fraud. It would hardly be conducive to any side to engage in that. Good faith in credentials must be assumed.
"As I said last post, that's a perfectly reasonable reaction when someone believes in God and is presented with evidence suggesting the contrary, but ultimately misguided."
I have yet to see evidence of no G-d. Accident as the basis of science is not science. Science looks for and posits cause. If we are content with pure accident as an answer then that is not science.

"There is only one way you can interpret"
I agree but whose way? Mine or this scientist or that scientist or that other scientist? Data is only data. Science is an explanation based on the presupposition of cause.

""In the minds of Evolutionists such as Dawkins anything contradicting Evolution has to be wrong."
Really? Well, I hereby challenge you to provide an example where Dawkins has said that something is wrong, simply because it contradicts his beliefs."
If you say something is wrong because it contradicts your beliefs you are not saying you are believing in your beliefs for nothing. Dawkins believes that there should be a whole multiverse if the alternative is not accident. I believe in a multiverse but a multiverse still doesn't lead to accident. It is governed by law itself and posited as such by many cosmologists. He also says that natural selection has to be a positive force because he says that it as a negative nonforce cannot produce Evolution. He has his presupposition and if something doesn't fit in it he will make it fit.
"For my part, I can point to almost any Orthodox Jewish establishment, be it a school, shul or kiruv program, and can guarantee that they routinely ignore facts not palpable to Judaism or misconstrue them so that they are."
Just like many Evolutionists. A strong scientific theory has itself tested to see whether it is true or not without an end to this testing. Evolution's proponents do not say we will test whether Evolution is true. They will only claim victory afterwords. With a strong scientific theory if data shows up that doesn't fit in it will be said that the theory is being challenged by the data and we will test to see if it is true. With Evolution's proponents this is not so. On the contrary they say we will have to see how it fits natural selection. We will have to see what selective advantage it has. Never do they say it is a challenge to natural selection being true. I don't expect an Evolutionist to feel that the theory won't survive but I do expect a willingness to call a challenge a challenge. Everything becomes a selective advantage. That is having all the data explained away. Selfishness survives because it has advantage. Selflessness survives because it has an advantage. Bias is there. I am not saying this disproves the theory only that bias is there and it hinders further progress by keeping all explanations within a more narrow range in an age in which there is simply too much data for this.

"We have data suggesting the earth is flat but that interpretation is wrong."
That is impossible - we have no such data. In order for the earth being flat to be a reasonable conclusion, the data would have to be incomplete - in other words, you'd have to ignore large chunks of data: which is exactly what I accuse theists of doing on a routine basis."
You don't understand what I meant. I meant to the senses the earth looks flat. That's one bit of data but it is misleading because other facts are ignored. Theists in holding unto their beliefs are not ignoring data. They are just saying what is convincing to them or not as far as what conclusion to draw.

"I see atheist scientists who try to explain away design no matter how awkwardly and they depend very much on saying that we don't know this or that."
In all honesty, do you know what they refer to when they say you don't know this or that?"
Yes I do. For instance Dawkins above with his reason for a multiverse.
"that being said, there's many a religious leader who says the same thing."
I know.

"The theists have some real data on their side and that is what makes Dawkins and his type so angry. If the theists did not I can assure you he would not be devoting so much time to his crusade."
With due respect, I don't think anyone is in a position to state what Dawkins and others would or would not do in any given circumstance."
Then why aren't they incensed against flat earth advocates. Where is the vitriol for them? Don't they argue data? One can see the arguments made against theists and see that it is so vehement because there is much to say.
"next, I believe Dawkins is angry because theists claim to have data when what they really have is fabricated data, or data to the exclusion of other data. In science, one cannot pick and choose, it's the whole bundle or nothing."
They don't have fabricated data. Nor are they lacking in a wealth of data you can read about in mainstream science books and news
The idea of fabricated data is just propaganda to dismiss others' credentials and sincerity. It would not suit them to have fabricated data as that would not help their arguments. Dawkins is angry because he is experiencing real challenges. If it was so easy he wouldn't spend so much time. Is he arguing with astrologers or New Age groups or occult groups?

"What is demonstrably true is that whatever the truth of Evolution there is a nonthinking bias for it."
I don't really understand where any of that comes from, but it's an argument I've heard many Americans make. I can only assume that this is more of an issue with the American Establishment than any European science institute."
See above.

"f you're asking why mainstream science doesn't test evolution as rigorously as it once did, the answer would be: because like gravity, it is a theory which has been sufficiently proven to gain such acceptance. Darwinism isn't the only non-God theory as to how we came about, there are others too -such as Lamarckism - but they were ultimately rejected in good scientific fashion because they were wrong."
Gravity is more rigorously tested and challenged now than it ever was. That's the strength of a theory. On the contrary Darwinism should be more tested now than ever before as now we know so much more about the inner workings of biological organisms and have better instruments and new ones.

"The ones who dominate the debate though are naturally the ones who are more mouth than brain with this topic."
I don't know that this is correct either - it's just a generalisation. I've spoken to many intelligent atheists - as well as Jews and Catholics. Perhaps you just need to be exposed to better debaters!"
Well I wasn't referring to my own personal experience although my blogging experience has shown up the same thing but that may just be a limited pool of skeptic blogs. I was talking about those who are the leaders in the debate not the ordinary debaters. There was a time perhaps when ordinary debaters may have counted more but for sure now it is the leadership that dominates the debate.

Jewish Sceptic said...

"That's not true. The more we know of the universe the more it shouldn't exist if left to chance."
Chance? Who said anything about chance? If all your prerequisites for life are present, and you can wait a few billion years, hey presto - you have a new earth.

"The statement of a famous scientist that the universe is not only stranger than we imagine but stranger than we can imagine is hardly the ho hum accidental universe of atheists like Dawkins."
I think just about every scientist would agree with your famous scientist. But a general statement (GS)and two questions on this point:

GS)Dawkins himself mentions how awed he is at the universe, why's that so hum-drum?

1) Why should I care what Dawkins does or doesn't say? He isn't the rav of atheism whom all atheists follow or anything. Why not choose Dennett, Pinker, etc?

2) The awe factor of the universe is no more to the point of whether a god exists or not than the un-awe factor of my big toe. Although I do agree with you that many people follow religion because it weaves attractive narratives, though I'm quite sure that's not what you were saying.

"You have to ask why a story is told."
So to you, the Torah is nothing more than Aesop's fables? There's nothing of value in the details, such as "what Avraham served others" - it's all about the moral? I know Rashi [and just about every other rav through time] would disagree with you there. Rabbi Akiva comes to mind - he said we can even learn things from the crowns which are on the letters of the Torah.

"I read of someone who claimed he saw such a society and he was wrong."
What's that got to do with me?

"Certainly in ancient times which was my point not present times there was no atheism."
Why are you so certain and does the mere mention of your certainty prove it to be so? Of course not.

Atheism has certainly been around since ancient times; Greek philosopher - the so-called "Diagoras the Atheist" - sounds pretty atheist to me. He lived during the 5th cent BC. So again, you have committed a mistake of fact and are ultimately wrong with the original point you were trying to make.

In case we've forgotten that original point, it was to do with the origins of religion. I implied atheist was the default state and religion came along later.

Sure enough, if we look around at the 5th century BC, Christianity had not yet developed, and the entire world was pagan. I'm guessing this is not the type of religion you had in mind when you spoke of faith.

That fact is, monotheism just wasn't the norm in the ancient world. What was the state of Judaism in 5th cent BC? Unless I'm mistaken, and I could be, the Purim story was unfolding. According to modern scholars, this would be when the Torah was finalised into the state it is now. Telling signs of this, of course, are the Samarians who hold a slightly different Torah to what we hold (and I'm not talking about the mount Ebel things they inserted later either).

Of course, 401 BC signalled Assyrian conquest of Samaria and was the end of the Kingdom of Israel - see http://www.multied.com/dates/500bc.html

Back to my thought experiment, before Judaism (and during Judaism) was paganism and animism and before that, nothing.

We know Neanderthals never had religion, and they lived at the same time as Homo Sapiens. So it would make sense that animism would have started with H.Sapiens, and that's evolved down to the well organised religions of today.

"Then why aren't they incensed against flat earth advocates. Where is the vitriol for them? Don't they argue data?"
Because
1) Not even the flat-earthers seriously believe in a flat earth
2) they are do not have such an influence on life and society as does religion, so aren't really worthy of the attention from that perspective.

If religion kept to itself, much like the flatearthers do, then perhaps atheists such as Dawkins wouldnt feel the need to attack it.

"Gravity is more rigorously tested and challenged now than it ever was."
No it isn't. At least, not in the sense you want evolution to be tested. No-one doubts gravity exists and it isn't being tested on that basis - similarly, no-one in mainstream academia doubts evolution exists and it isnt being tested on that basis either.

Of course, advanced evolutionary testing continues, such as the effects of genetic mutations/alterations through generations, which scientists observe through fireflies (which have very small lifespans, making it easy to observe the effects on genetics across hundreds of generations of flies in a small amount of solar days).

"The ones who dominate the debate though are naturally the ones who are more mouth than brain with this topic" and "I was talking about those who are the leaders in the debate not the ordinary debaters"

Who's to say someone is an ordinary debater or a leader in the debate? Is the local town jester, often vocal about many issues, the leader of that town just because he speaks loudest? I hope not.

I also maintain that there are no leaders of atheism. It isn't a religion, there's no heads nor tail of the thing, we're all free radicals (mind the pun).


Overall, I tire of this debate. Much of what you've said doesn't relate to whether or not there's a God and that which does I find lacking. It's obvious you find my arguments lacking, which you're entitled to do. I suggest we just both move on from this debate.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Jewish Sceptic said...
"That's not true. The more we know of the universe the more it shouldn't exist if left to chance."
Chance? Who said anything about chance? If all your prerequisites for life are present, and you can wait a few billion years, hey presto - you have a new earth."

We don't know how life had time to develop. Further it isn't clear how it did. But however it did the point is it needs an explanation and if it isn't simply chance then it jeopardizes the atheist position.

""The statement of a famous scientist that the universe is not only stranger than we imagine but stranger than we can imagine is hardly the ho hum accidental universe of atheists like Dawkins."
I think just about every scientist would agree with your famous scientist. But a general statement (GS)and two questions on this point:

GS)Dawkins himself mentions how awed he is at the universe, why's that so hum-drum?"

So was Newton overawed. But relative to modern physics his universe is ho hum. Dawkins isn't with the modern direction of discovery in physics.

"1) Why should I care what Dawkins does or doesn't say? He isn't the rav of atheism whom all atheists follow or anything. Why not choose Dennett, Pinker, etc?"

I didn't say you have to follow him but I was using him as an illustration of the general direction of those in the forefront of the attack of the atheists.

"2) The awe factor of the universe is no more to the point of whether a god exists or not than the un-awe factor of my big toe. Although I do agree with you that many people follow religion because it weaves attractive narratives, though I'm quite sure that's not what you were saying."

I wasn't saying awe is the point. I was talking of the universe not conforming to a boring chance model. But one that is full of explanations and defying of expectations.

""You have to ask why a story is told."
So to you, the Torah is nothing more than Aesop's fables? There's nothing of value in the details, such as "what Avraham served others" - it's all about the moral? I know Rashi [and just about every other rav through time] would disagree with you there. Rabbi Akiva comes to mind - he said we can even learn things from the crowns which are on the letters of the Torah."

I was talking about the point of giving details. If a detail has no significance in and of itself but is given just as a part of the story so that detail is believed in too but the story is not told for history but for the sake of its message. Sometimes a message is in the details and is important to believe in because of its message. It's not a matter of detail being false for all Judaism would care. It is a matter of the point of why details would be given in whatever circumstances. If you write a book about something you have to decide what is the aim of the book and that will determine what you include or not. As for Rabbi Akiva he was talking about learning Halacha from the letters of the Torah.

""I read of someone who claimed he saw such a society and he was wrong."
What's that got to do with me?"

You claimed there is a primitive society without belief in a god. Well what society or societies are you referring to because I know of no such case that has turned out to be true?

""Certainly in ancient times which was my point not present times there was no atheism."
Why are you so certain and does the mere mention of your certainty prove it to be so? Of course not."

I'm so sure because that is what the historians all say. It is a weak assumption to assume I say matters of history or science from nothing.

"Atheism has certainly been around since ancient times; Greek philosopher - the so-called "Diagoras the Atheist" - sounds pretty atheist to me. He lived during the 5th cent BC. So again, you have committed a mistake of fact and are ultimately wrong with the original point you were trying to make."

Excuse me but you are mistaken. I also mentioned about Buddha being an atheist and he lived in ancient times. It took a while for Buddhism to become a religion yet. I was referring to more ancient times than Buddha. Further while atheism may have been in some Greek philosophical system or systems that was not the Greek belief. The Greeks believed in gods. The point is that atheism was a later development.

"In case we've forgotten that original point, it was to do with the origins of religion. I implied atheist was the default state and religion came along later."

Why are you so certain and does the mere mention of your certainty prove it to be so? Of course not.
There is no such data to support your thesis. It is simply not true. It has no basis in history.

"Sure enough, if we look around at the 5th century BC, Christianity had not yet developed, and the entire world was pagan. I'm guessing this is not the type of religion you had in mind when you spoke of faith."

Yes I did have it in mind.

"That fact is, monotheism just wasn't the norm in the ancient world. What was the state of Judaism in 5th cent BC? Unless I'm mistaken, and I could be, the Purim story was unfolding. According to modern scholars, this would be when the Torah was finalized into the state it is now. Telling signs of this, of course, are the Samarians who hold a slightly different Torah to what we hold (and I'm not talking about the mount Ebel things they inserted later either)."

The Samaritans adopted the Torah before the Persian period or even the Babylonian. As for the Torah of the Samaritans basically it is the same as ours. For the most part divergences are a result of them tampering with the text so as to make it smoother and be more in accordance with how they spoke.

"Of course, 401 BC signalled Assyrian conquest of Samaria and was the end of the Kingdom of Israel - see http://www.multied.com/dates/500bc.html"

The Assyrian conquest was before the Persian or Babylonian periods.

"We know Neanderthals never had religion, and they lived at the same time as Homo Sapiens."

On the contrary it is said they did have religion as evidenced by their burial practices. In any event even if they didn't that doesn't have anything to do with Homo Sapiens which was my point.

"So it would make sense that animism would have started with H.Sapiens, and that's evolved down to the well organised religions of today."

So how does that prove your case exactly. It wouldn't be like they were atheists by thinking nothing and also they didn't evolve atheism and then switch to evolving theism.

""Then why aren't they incensed against flat earth advocates. Where is the vitriol for them? Don't they argue data?"
Because
1) Not even the flat-earthers seriously believe in a flat earth"

They sure do. They are vehement in their belief.

"2) they are do not have such an influence on life and society as does religion, so aren't really worthy of the attention from that perspective."

If they had serious arguments are you telling me it wouldn't be felt that it should be addressed as a challenge to theory? Is that how science works by ignoring challenges. And what about New Age philosophy? That does have a solid and influential following.

"If religion kept to itself, much like the flatearthers do, then perhaps atheists such as Dawkins wouldnt feel the need to attack it."

Flat earthers don't keep to themselves. They just don't have a huge following.

""Gravity is more rigorously tested and challenged now than it ever was."
No it isn't. At least, not in the sense you want evolution to be tested. No-one doubts gravity exists and it isn't being tested on that basis - similarly, no-one in mainstream academia doubts evolution exists and it isnt being tested on that basis either."

First of all it isn't a matter of gravity being doubted. It is a matter that it is tested constantly to see if it is true. On the moon was dropped a feather and a coin. Why? to test it yet again. Further you do have scientists with theories that differ from Gravitational theory as established by Newton and modified by Einstein.

"Of course, advanced evolutionary testing continues, such as the effects of genetic mutations/alterations through generations, which scientists observe through fireflies (which have very small lifespans, making it easy to observe the effects on genetics across hundreds of generations of flies in a small amount of solar days)."

And has this produced anything other than fireflies?

""The ones who dominate the debate though are naturally the ones who are more mouth than brain with this topic" and "I was talking about those who are the leaders in the debate not the ordinary debaters"

Who's to say someone is an ordinary debater or a leader in the debate? Is the local town jester, often vocal about many issues, the leader of that town just because he speaks loudest? I hope not."

The ones who shape the debate are the leaders of the debate. The ones who are mostly quite to the world are not going to be the leaders of the debate. You clearly can see a difference between you and Dawkins in terms of who would be a leader in the debate.

"I also maintain that there are no leaders of atheism. It isn't a religion, there's no heads nor tail of the thing, we're all free radicals (mind the pun)."

People use the term leaders also not in the sense of having formal control.

Jewish Sceptic said...

"We don't know how life had time to develop. Further it isn't clear how it did. But however it did the point is it needs an explanation and if it isn't simply chance then it jeopardizes the atheist position."

I still maintain once the prerequisites for life are present there's no longer any chance involved, because then it's no longer a question of if life will evolve, it's a question of when. Sure, there are some unknowns, such as what form those life forms will take, and how intelligent will such life forms be.

But let's disect your point here: if it isn't simply chance, i.e. if life was purposefully created, say by God, then it jeopardizes the atheist position. This seems pretty obvious and is merely restating what we already know: if God exists, atheists everywhere are wrong. What you haven't done, is prove that life isn't here by chance alone. I could just as easily turn your point on its head and say "if chance is a factor, you're wrong," but much like your point, that doesn't contribute anything to the discussion.

"...I was talking of the universe not conforming to a boring chance model."
Why do you insist chance is boring? If one subscribes fully to the world working through chance, then isn't life exciting? Unknown? Mysterious? There's nothing boring about chance. However, it's clear that you interpret chance as being exclusive to the atheist's world view somehow, perhaps because of the explanation of random genetic mutations in evolution, and therefore want to decry it as a negative.

"You claimed there is a primitive society without belief in a god. Well what society or societies are you referring to because I know of no such case that has turned out to be true?"
Brazillian Amazonian tribes. I look with interest to the newest one discovered, which I'm sure you've heard about.

"First of all it isn't a matter of gravity being doubted. It is a matter that it is tested constantly to see if it is true."
Twaddle and semantics, but first and foremost, twaddle.

"It is a matter that it is tested constantly to see if it is true."
Within the school room? Sure. In mainstream science? Not a chance.

"On the moon was dropped a feather and a coin. Why? to test it yet again."
If this actually happened, they probably wanted to know the particular effects of the diminished gravity on the moon, which is different to that on earth and therefore worthy of testing.

I'm sorry, but this whole "gravity is tested because it's right and evolution isn't because scientists know its wrong" tangent is simply utter twaddle. Your pure speculation about the scientific world proves nothing about the existence of God or the credability of evolution, and smacks of unlikely conspiracy theory at best.

"If they [flat earthers] had serious arguments are you telling me it wouldn't be felt that it should be addressed as a challenge to theory? Is that how science works by ignoring challenges."
But they don't, which is exactly my point. If they did, then the evidence would be presented and the facts would be followed, such is science.

"And what about New Age philosophy? That does have a solid and influential following."
Philosophy is much like religion and less like science.

"I'm so sure because that is what the historians all say. It is a weak assumption to assume I say matters of history or science from nothing."
And yet you still, two posts on, don't offer your sources. Who are "all historians" and what of my proof to the contrary? 500BC sounds pretty ancient to me.

"And has this produced anything other than fireflies?"
It has produced genetic variants of the original specimen, which is all evolution needs. Did you know we're 85% genetically similar to apes?

"You clearly can see a difference between you and Dawkins in terms of who would be a leader in the debate."
My point is, Dawkins speaks for himself, not me.
-----

I fail to see any relevant materials here. Barely anything mentioned in our posts touches upon the original debate and I must discontinue all discussion on this topic, so we can both move on.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"I still maintain once the prerequisites for life are present there's no longer any chance involved, because then it's no longer a question of if life will evolve, it's a question of when. Sure, there are some unknowns, such as what form those life forms will take, and how intelligent will such life forms be."

You don't have science as we presently know it to back you up on this. Evolution can only give chance with this.

"What you haven't done, is prove that life isn't here by chance alone."

The burden of proof is to prove something is only here by chance. Science's first assumption is that there is a reason behind something but in any event you claim as said above;"I still maintain once the prerequisites for life are present there's no longer any chance involved, because then it's no longer a question of if life will evolve, it's a question of when." So we are in the same boat.

"Why do you insist chance is boring? If one subscribes fully to the world working through chance, then isn't life exciting? Unknown? Mysterious?"

To the degree something is only chance means something is not under laws of science or any law. Yes that's boring.

""You claimed there is a primitive society without belief in a god. Well what society or societies are you referring to because I know of no such case that has turned out to be true?"
Brazillian Amazonian tribes. I look with interest to the newest one discovered, which I'm sure you've heard about."

They believe in spirits.

"First of all it isn't a matter of gravity being doubted. It is a matter that it is tested constantly to see if it is true."
Twaddle and semantics, but first and foremost, twaddle."

That's your ignorance talking. It isn't semantics but basic science you'ld learn in school. The scientifc method underlies science and is not semantics.

""It is a matter that it is tested constantly to see if it is true."
Within the school room? Sure. In mainstream science? Not a chance."

That's sheer ignorance on your part, first and foremost, twaddle.

"On the moon was dropped a feather and a coin. Why? to test it yet again."
If this actually happened, they probably wanted to know the particular effects of the diminished gravity on the moon, which is different to that on earth and therefore worthy of testing."

We are talkng about a feather and a penny! If you see the footage they were dropped from the hand. That was the whole experiment and the whole world watched them fall at the same rate. That was the experiment, no instruments used. You make pronouncements to me based on no science with the greatest of assurance.

""I'm so sure because that is what the historians all say. It is a weak assumption to assume I say matters of history or science from nothing."
And yet you still, two posts on, don't offer your sources. Who are "all historians" and what of my proof to the contrary? 500BC sounds pretty ancient to me."

Semantic twaddle. First of all the real topic is the begining of history not if we call something ancient history or not, second 500 B.C.E. is not very ancient, no. It is only a thousand years before Medieval history.

""And has this produced anything other than fireflies?"
It has produced genetic variants of the original specimen, which is all evolution needs. Did you know we're 85% genetically similar to apes?"

Genetic variants are not enough to rise above the level of a fruitfly. Further what were produced were mutants. If mutant people were called variants just for being mutants we'd have a lot more races listed.