Re: [atheists-27] Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists

From: Chad
Sent on: Monday, March 25, 2013 2:40 PM
Zhibo,
Plainly, you have mired yourself in minutia. I think clear minded people can understand good analogies without wading through the smallest of trivial details.
Chad

Zhibo Lai <[address removed]> wrote:

Joe, I agree with you on your logic with the comparison to god using both your analogies and understood the point you were trying to make. I knew why you chose the example of sun rising and the 1+1=2, and the "spirit of the example" was clear and understood.  I was not trying to relate this back to your god arguments; it was purely a tangent topic.

Yes, I agree with the principle of charity, and it is because of that principle is why I understood the point you made with "tomorrow the sun will rise." I was simply suggesting that it may not be the best of examples to use because it would cause confusion to someone, say living in Alaska. Because that statement is only true some of the times, it is very conditional based on where one is on Earth. A better, less confusing statement, that applies to all humans is "tomorrow the Earth will orbit around the sun." Not to sound like a nit picky wordsmith, but I believe clear and non-confusing statements are crucial in making a philosophical argument. 




From: Joseph B <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Monday, March 25,[masked]:22 PM
Subject: Re: [atheists-27] Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists

Zhibo,
 
If an article with a clever twist makes you rethink past beliefs and "sure statements" then I don't know what to tell you.....
 
For instance, I previously said that 1+1 = 2.. But in Computer Science, if both 1's are strings then 1 + 1 = 11.  And I can "claim" that I used to be certain of the truth of 1+1 =2 until I met an example that made me question my past beliefs and "sure statements" :) 
 
Unfortunately, cute examples like these fail one of the key standards of argumentation: The principle of charity.  No argument can possibly move forward without this principle since a large number of statements are susceptible to these kind of word games. Even a benign statement like "Beijing is in China " can be made false if I meant "China, Texas".....  An argument about Napolean's tactics in Waterloo can have a smart aleck claiming everything is false because he was actually referring to Napolean Dynamite. It would then require conditionals in every single statement we make. (i.e. The sun will rise tomorrow conditional that we are actually living in the DC area.... ) and this reduces the purpose of argumentation from getting at truths to theatrical wittiness.
 
Whether the sun rises in the North or South Pole unfortunately has nothing to do with truths in the spirit of the example.  Truth is a complex beast, and the key takeaway in terms of the God question was that supernatural explanations has constantly receded in the face of naturalistic explanations. This doesn't allow us to definitively claim to truly know that all supernatural explanations are wrong, but "inductively" we can claim (and our science journals do this) that supernatural explanations has an incredibly high probability of not being fruitful.  Whether it's the sun rising, or us walking in the sidewalk and not dying, or the reliability of the very buildings we're in right now not falling apart, the example was meant to highlight that all of these reasoning processes use the very inductive reasoning that allows an atheist to say "there is no god". 
 
Joe
 




 
On Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 11:20 AM, Zhibo Lai <[address removed]> wrote:
Joseph. Good points and while I understand what you're saying with "tomorrow the sun rise." I would advise picking a different analogy in the future. For that statement is actually very false. In fact it has been false for as long as the earth formed and maintained its current orbit. 

I was once very certain of this statement and was sure no one could claim it to be false, but low and behold I read an article that proved this statement false, and it has made me rethink my past beliefs and "sure statements"

What's the proof. In the north and south poles the sun does not rise everyday, depending on the time of the year.  Sure anyone living in Alaska or Sweden would easily point this out. 

Sent from my iPhone

On Mar 24, 2013, at 17:28, Joseph B <[address removed]> wrote:

Aha. so this should be a fun question to answer.  

I believe god does not exist with the nearly the same level of conviction that I believe the sun will rise tomorrow, but NOT with the same level of conviction that 1+1 =2.  

This again brings up the difference between "ontological" truths, vs. "epistemological" truths.  Ontological truths is a question of whether something exist or not, and is an incredibly difficult question to answer... No one can possibly TRULY know whether god exists or not, in much the same way that no one TRULY knows whether the sun will rise tomorrow or not... we don't know if a massive black hole will randomly open up and swallow the sun.. or aliens won't come and extinguish the sun etc. 

However, we humans reason from our experiences and prior knowledge, and much of what we know about how the world works stems from reasoning at this level. We are certain the sun will rise tomorrow because it has risen every single day of our lives, and has constantly risen as far back as our history can go, and we have a solid understanding of how the earth spins, etc.  

God, at least traditionally understood to have omniscient, omnipotent properties falls in the realm of a supernatural explanation. And supernatural explanations have failed miserably since people have been advancing them.  As Sam Harris likes to say, there isn't any phenomenon now that used to be best explained by scientific naturalism, but is now BETTER explained by the supernatural.  The opposite though, phenomenon that used to be explained by supernatural phenomenon that's now best explained by scientific naturalism can literally fill hundreds of books.  And the supernatural that we know today lives in anecdotes and intuition, NEVER in reproducible, verifiable peer reviewed experiments. Whenever I ask this of theists, I'm almost always offered cute little stories of children with "inexplicable" powers, etc, but never one where it's verified by the rigors demanded of the scientific enterprise. The day this happens is the day I question my atheism.

And as with any inductive process, this type of reasoning makes us susceptible to black swans... but no one can possibly live their lives on the constant lookout for black swans... you'd be driven to insanity living like this. 

So yes, to me "agnosticism" in the question of whether god exists is akin to being "agnostic" as to whether the sun will rise or not. You'll have to ignore the decades of evidence and consistent failure of supernatural explanation.  

Joe 

On Sun, Mar 24, 2013 at 10:57 AM, Zhibo Lai <[address removed]> wrote:
Matthew, good points and good question "why are we atheists." I've always been curious about this answer from other people as well.

My answer is I consider myself an "atheist" more so on the grounds of semantics, after long discussions with a good atheist friend. Though, what I really consider myself is an agnostic--one who does not know whether there is a god or not. Again, it's purely a semantic difference here. If to be an atheist is to say "I do not believe in god," then I'm an atheist. However, a belief is not the same as "I know there is no god." For to "know" in this case is to say I'm absolutely certain there is no god. And I can be absolutely certain of nothing, not even "I think, therefore I am." <- this is another topic, i won't get into here> Thus, I still consider myself an agonistic.

The word God is an overloaded term which means many different things to different people. If you define god as an all good, all powerful, all knowing creator of everything that sent Jesus down to absolve our sins, then I can safely say I'm 99.99% certain this god does not exist. But, if you say god is simply the creator of our universe, and that's all we know (it could be limited in power, intelligence, or even dead by now), then I would be fully agnostic in this definition, for I have no evidence or experience to suggest that this god does or does not exist.

I'm also a fan of quantum physics, though it's way above my IQ grade, I read the dumbed down laymen's books of it. In this relatively new field of physics, it opens up a lot more possibility for there to exist this creator/god. For example, in recent science news, physicist are now searching for proof that we live in a simulation. Here's one such article http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/11/physicists-may-have-evide_n_1957777.html

If it turns out to be true that we live in a matrix like simulated world, then there is a God(s)--with respect to the definition that it is our Creator(s). What then do we make of such a group called the atheists?





From: Mathew Goldstein <[address removed]>
To: [address removed]
Sent: Saturday, March 23,[masked]:56 PM

Subject: [atheists-27] Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists

An obvious topic for an atheist email group is to answer the question why we are atheists.  Some people treat this as a question about personal history: When I was xx years old such and such happened.  But I see this as primarily being an intellectual question.  

I am a philosophical naturalist, and my belief that there are no gods (note that I am asserting positively that my belief is there are no gods, I am not merely asserting I don't believe in any gods) is just a by-product of my conclusion that we live in a material world, to quote from a Madonna song.  Like all of my conclusions about what is true or false about how the world works, this is justified based on "looking at", or "reading from", what the overall empirical evidences depict, or say.  In other words, if the overall empirical evidences favored the conclusion that there is one or more gods, then (and only then) I would be a theist.  

Here is as article by Sean Carroll that illustrates how to go about properly justifying beliefs from the empirical evidences, an essential skill that I think far too many people fail to practice, and that I think is worth reading: Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists http://preposterousuniverse.com/writings/nd-paper/





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