Re: [atheists-27] Dawkins on Aljazeera

From: Maurice Edmonds
Sent on: Thursday, July 25, 2013 3:46 PM
Joe,

You are correct.  I do not believe that "truth" exist.  We can only have ideas of "truth".  Yes, you understand my arguments well, although you may not agree with this point of view.

Reece


On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 2:13 PM, Joseph B <[address removed]> wrote:
Well said Matthew... although I do think that while sometimes it's way for others to avoid liability for an a priori held belief, at other times it could also just be a sincere but mistaken broad application of seemingly reasonable decision heuristics. In this case something along the lines of "We should respect other people's opinions", or "No one person can ever fully have the truth", or "All opinions have some truths", or "Stating you have the truth isn't being humble and we should always display humility hence never state that you can have truth".  

The key missing piece here is like you said justification. And that process is not nor should be subjective. What constitutes good justification from poor justification is fairly standardized and how we ascribe confidence in a belief should fit accordingly.  Decision heuristics like the ones above are heuristics designed to foster civility, which while noble isn't all that related to what is truth... if anything more like a "communication lubricant" than anything else. 

Joe. 


On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 1:02 PM, Mathew Goldstein <[address removed]> wrote:
For people who think of themselves as universe creating demigods, we are free to define reality to match our policy preferences.  Such people do not want to be confined by an external reality when defining their policy preferences so that their policy preferences match the reality.  One way to free themselves from being so confined by reality is to deny the importance of reality by declaring that everything is a preference.  So if someone points out that reality is such that it can get in the way of their policy preferences, they respond by declaring that acknowledging any such external reality that is distinct from individual preferences is dangerous because it could justify policies that they a-priori decided to reject.  Thus declaring anyone to be wrong for believing in a falsehood becomes a  "dangerous" thing to do.  

It's like I argued on my recent blog article titled Ways of knowing, 
"People who build their true/false conclusions about how our universe works from their moral and aesthetic judgements (a.k.a. from theological principles), although often well-intentioned, are making a mistake, like a home builder constructing a house underneath its foundation." Only here the a-priori principle that is re- defining reality appears to be anarchistic libertarianism rather than theism.  Doesn't matter, ideology that distorts reality can be religious or secular.  Maurice Edmonds takes an ideology first approach to reaching conclusions about how the universe works, which is exactly what I argue is a bad and wrong approach.  From an evidence first approach, the concept of determining what is true/false about how the universe works by first looking at the policy implications is a backwards, circular, closed, ideological approach to understanding reality and to setting policy.

On Jul 25, 2013, at 11:02 AM, Joseph B <[address removed]> wrote:

Yea this isn't clear nor logical. if Matthew is saying "someone who believes there is no danger to them self in walking past the leading edge of a cliff is wrong" - That's a perfectly objective statement. Walking off a cliff = bodily harm. 

You seem to be confusing this with individual preference to harm oneself. Or individual preference to believe the sun won't rise tomorrow. 

as the saying goes, people are entitled to their opinions, not their truths. 


On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 9:54 AM, Maurice Edmonds <[address removed]> wrote:
Matthew,

What you are suggesting is very dangerous.  "someone who believes there is no danger to them self in walking past the leading edge of a cliff is wrong" is your statement.  Who are we to judge the life of an individual?  I find society to be one big hypocrisy!  We have seat belt laws to keep one from killing oneself, but make liquor legal, as well as cigarettes.  It is more or less about money.  I am allowed to destroy my liver or destroy my lungs, but i cannot get behind the wheel of a car without seat belt.

The quality of life of an individual - is simply that...the individual's choice.  You nor I have a "right" to judge him or her....  just like freedom to be an atheist or theist...it is the individual's choice.

I think the theist and the atheist come to their conclusion with "unaided" reasoning when making a choice because your first sufficient causes are "uncertain"

Reece




On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 9:06 AM, Mathew Goldstein <[address removed]> wrote:
I am not changing anything.  Faith:  "Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof."  And "firm belief in something for which there is no proof".  Yes, it is also sometimes defined as signifying a strong belief, but clearly the prevailing distinction between faith and belief more generally is that faith is a belief that is held either without any empirical justification, or out of proportion to the available empirical evidences. Synonyms include trust and loyalty.  Since faith is a belief that is not held proportionate to the available empirical evidences, it also tends to be a strongly held belief.  People who hold beliefs in proportion to the available evidences hold their beliefs with different degrees of conviction.

Someone who does not believe that the sun will rise tomorrow is wrong.  someone who believes there is no danger to them self in walking past the leading edge of a cliff is wrong.  This is true for everyone, there is no difference here if the someone is you or if it anyone else.  What you like to do is distinguish between yourself and everyone else and apply a normal, functional standard to yourself and a different, anything goes, abnormal, dysfunctional standard to everyone else.  There is no proper justification for doing that.  Your status in our universe is no different from everyone else's status.  

On Jul 25, 2013, at 7:49 AM, Maurice Edmonds <[address removed]> wrote:

Matthew,

Faith defined according to Oxford: Translate faith | into French | into German | into Italian | into Spanish

noun

  • a strongly held belief or theory:   the faith that life will expand until it fills the universe

The example given is a scientific example.  If we are going to change the meaning of a lexicon, then I guess  you are correct.


Also, I believe if someone were to walk off the edge of a cliff, then it is subjective and I have no problem with it.  I am agnostic, but I am too logical and fearful to perform such an act.  Life is valuable to the  individual.  If one wants to take his or her own life, then so be it.  However, when another takes a life from another, then I have a problem because it is now a crime.


Agnostics reason all the time.  Since there is so much "uncertainty" in life.  I judge on a case by case basis.  I could never give a universal and blanket condemnation about any proposition.  Even "scientific theories" change when challenged, if a set of evidence warrants it.


Why truth?  Why not "untruth, uncertainty, or even ignorance"? ...not as its coarseness, but refinement.  this will to truth is going to tempt us to  many a hazardous enterprise.  A celebrated veracity which many have spoken with reverence!!  We must began to recognize "untruth" as a condition of life....to renounce false judgement, would be to renounce life.


Reece



On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 12:22 AM, Mathew Goldstein <[address removed]> wrote:
No, belief is not a synonym for faith.  Faith is a type of belief that is not properly justified.  Outside of social contexts, we should avoid faith, we should not reach conclusions about how the universe works with faith.

On Jul 25, 2013, at 12:15 AM, Maurice Edmonds <[address removed]> wrote:

Matthew,

Then you agree.  All we have is ¨belief¨ and not truth.  All we have is ¨faith¨  I am in agreement with that.

Belief and faith are one in the same

Reece


On Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 9:12 PM, Mathew Goldstein <[address removed]> wrote:
We see many people foolishly elevating belief for the sake of belief itself to a virtue and we want to distance ourselves from that folly.  Some people think they accomplish this distancing by dropping the word belief, along with word faith, from their vocabulary.  I disagree.  Belief is the right word and it applies here.  There is nothing wrong with having beliefs, all educated adults should have lots of well justified beliefs.   I think a much better way to distance ourselves from the folly of elevating faith to a virtue is to emphasize empiricism.

On Jul 25, 2013, at 12:00 AM, Maurice Edmonds <[address removed]> wrote:

Matthew,

You wrote, ¨we are fully justified in believing definitively that this conclusion is correct because all of modern history shows that this method is the most reliable in producing successful results.¨

Yes, ¨belief¨ and not ¨knowing¨ is correct.  I can believe via empiricism to conclude logically, but it does not incorporate ¨truth¨.  Why is it so hard for people to simply admit that they do not ¨know¨ something to simply accept that fact.  It is ok not to ¨know¨  really.


On Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 8:48 PM, Mathew Goldstein <[address removed]> wrote:
Not having certainty, and not being justified in reaching a definitive conclusion, are not the same.  We all reach definitive conclusions in the presence of uncertainty.  Again, if the available evidences strongly favor one conclusion over the competing conclusions then we are fully justified in believing definitively that this conclusion is correct because all of modern history shows that this method is the most reliable in producing successful results.  The evidences strongly favor the conclusions that minds are always physical, that our universe is indifferent to life, that life is chemical, that our multiverse sums to nothing and exists because nothing is unstable.  All of these evidences conflict with the supernatural universe conclusion.       People are not agnostic when the evidences are not agnostic.  When the evidences have an overall direction people follow the evidences to the corresponding conclusion.  Everyone does this.  This is why people do not walk past the leading edge of cliffs.

Mathematics is logical rules, it defines what could true.  By matching what is observed to mathematical rules we can sometimes find a logic behind what is true.    

On Jul 24, 2013, at 9:44 PM, Maurice Edmonds <[address removed]> wrote:

Joe,

I agree that morality is a useful concept as well.  Because ¨certainty¨ is always in question,  I will remain agnostic for that reason alone.  Math is certain because we created it.  Math is not ¨intrinsically¨ certain.  Man created it to build and perform other useful act.  I believe some things are inexplicable and appears to be a ¨miracle¨ to me.  I am a man of science.  I have a PhD in Epidemiology and I still question science as a ¨certainty¨

¨God¨ is one of those things.   What do you mean by ¨God¨ is the real question.  I think it is a power that is inexplicable....no aims...no intentions...no purpose...to me it is just a power....i do not pray because i do not know it this thing call ¨God¨  wants to be praised.

BY my definition, a ¨God¨ could exist.  This is why I am agnostic.  Therefore, I do not know anything for ¨certain¨ so, I am always open to hear varying opinions.

Reece


On Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 7:06 AM, Joseph B <[address removed]> wrote:
That's part of the reason why I actually like Sam Harris's frame on this. He definitely leans utilitarian, but if it's "Maximizing the well-being of conscious creatures" that precludes things like hedonistic excess, or inflicting suffering on someone for personal gain. But yea, like Matthew said, no doubt morality is a tough question to precisely define that nonetheless is a useful concept. 

Joe. 


On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 6:02 PM, Carl Stoll <[address removed]> wrote:
I would like to remark that some participants have endeavoured to deduce morality from utility, i.e. morality is a form of maximiing pleasure or minimizing suffering, by means of a complex aggregation of individual pleasures and sufferings. The original utilitarians like Bentham were condemned by Christians because the latter held utilitarianism's underlying hedonism to be profoundly immoral. For example, many moral duties oppose the plesure principle. 
How do you explain this contradiction?. 
Merely aggregating pleasure and suffering becomes dubious when one person's pleasere is reduced in order to increase that of eomeone else. 


2013/7/22 Maurice Edmonds <[address removed]>
Carl,

That was emphasize in that manner on purpose because the conversation referencing "evil vs good".  Bush claimed Saadam was "evil" on many occasions.  Of course, a much  broader perspective is in order.

Reece


On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 4:52 PM, Carl Stoll <[address removed]> wrote:

I approve your condemnation of the Bush. However I find your arguments rather feeble. You write "Bush claimed that Saddam was "evil" so he killed him.  I do not believe we should be able to enter another country and impose our will because we do not believe in their philosophy" Why do you assume that Saddam represented Iraq's "philosophy". He was never elected to office and was widely hated.

Valid grounds for invading a country can be provided only by international law. In this case they were lacking. There is no need to speculate about anyone's "philosophy".

I am continually amazed by Americans' ignorance and disregard for international law, even on the part of those who criticise US imperialism. In weaker countries critics of imperialist aggression constantly cite international law. At least I have personally observed that in Latin American  and Europe. 

This is a serious problem. Mere moralistic denunciation can easily be derailed into demagogic and opportunistic paths.  That is because morality is not codified and arranged hierarchically as is international law. That makes it easy to squeal about one moral rule while blatantly ignoring others. 


2013/7/22 Maurice Edmonds <[address removed]>
Joe,

You make a very strong and valid point.  However, I believe that  you and I disagree with the term "truth".  You assume that you have knowledge of it.  I am not implying that it is "ok" to commit genocide.  However, we must investigate before we conclude.  I mean with "any" questionable preposition no matter how absurd it may seem.

Bush claimed that Saddam was "evil" so he killed him.  I do not believe we should be able to enter another country and impose our will because we do not believe in their philosophy.

I think the United Nations should have stopped Bush.   We must thoroughly investigate and get others involved and conclude with a general consensus. You are over exaggerating my  agnostic disposition.

Reece


On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 10:52 AM, Joseph B <[address removed]> wrote:
"I am not referring to "law". We have a "right" to be unethical, amoral, or non-religious without breaking laws. There is a clear and distinct difference. You cannot judge a culture for it's actions because we "disagree" if it is not breaking their laws."
See but this conflates what is legal with what is ethical (Which is something btw, folks in the illegal immigration debate always confuse). The odd part is, if a society for example, in their legal system removed your right to be "unethical, amoral, or non-religious" then under an ethically agnostic position you would be perfectly ok with that, since you can't judge a culture for it's actions.  It was legal in Germany to find jews hiding in basements and report them to the Gestapo to go to concentration camps. That's legal, but most certainly unethical.
 
Look a culture isn't being judged because I just happen to disagree, a culture ought to be judged in whether or not certain practices promote the well-being of conscious creatures. Nobody is ignoring the power of religion... on the contrary I'm very much aware of it's power, good and bad. The key problem I have with religion is precisely how Matthew framed it... It's in the "how we know what we know". And a system that relies on revealed knowledge means it is impervious to evidence. I can tell you that homosexual behavior exist in nature, that it isn't a conscious choice as per neuroscience or psychology, that there is no statistically significant difference in deviant behavior between homosexuals and heterosexuals, etc. but your ethical system would be impervious to all that evidence if your revealed text condemns it. Even more pernicious, is the tendency to then use the mantle of science to justify a conclusion (in this case say homosexuality is wrong) to fit the evidence accordingly, muddling the truth between rigorous studies and bunk science funded by think tanks etc. .
 
The postmodernists fought this fight in the 90's and royally lost. I think the subjectivist appeal is in how exotic a reality it creates (that there truly is no external out there, that it's all constructed separately by everyone), and it's a convenient philosophy to avoid the act of judging. Open mindedness isn't about accepting the truth of everything. It's about the ability to entertain ideas and understand it using logic, but ultimately judging on the basis of logic, reason, and evidence. To say for example that genocide can't be judged because a german regime claims "hey, it's our cultural practice to you know, exterminate jews" is patently absurd. I wouldn't judge that wrong simply because I disagree with it, but because the harm of killing millions of people for no good reason is self-evident.
 


On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 9:11 AM, Maurice Edmonds <[address removed]> wrote:
Joe,

Cross cultural-ism is "subjective" in the realm of ethics,  I am not referring to "law".  We have a "right" to be unethical, amoral, or non-religious without breaking laws.  There is a clear and distinct difference.  You cannot judge a culture for it's actions because we "disagree" if it is not breaking their laws.  Who are we to make that decision?  

Again, I am agnostic because I am open-minded and I do not assume I have answers to a complex and crude question involving religion, ethics or morality.  

We simply cannot ignore the power of religion and its effects on society.  I think that is fascinating.  I also think it is a fantasy similar to Santa Clause..

There is nothing "wrong" with making up "realities" to best "fit" our understanding and produce a "subjective" quality of life.

We all do it, including the atheist!  I simply believe that atheist assert a more "logical" approach when inferring. I cannot not be an atheist because I do not have answers, only questions, which makes me ignorant.  I am ok without "knowing" however, I will not cease seeking.

"God is a rude and crude answer - a piece of indelicacy to us thinkers" Nietzsche

Reece


On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 1:51 AM, Joseph B <[address removed]> wrote:
I get the feeling that what we're doing is applying a simple heuristic ("always be fair: certainty with anything is wrong") and that simple heuristic is the genesis of the entire agnostic argument. Take this heuristic to an extreme and there really is no difference between an STD vaccination program and genital mutilation, genocide and public education. 

Universal right and wrong is actually something that anthropologists are finding, much in the same sense of Chomsky's universal grammar. The details of the ethical systems may differ, but we are born with a set of "guidelines" that we use to navigate the world. There's a large number of independently developed versions of the Golden Rule around the world for example, you can find that rule from as far away as India, to nearly all of the major religions. (Shermer covers research into these global principles in the Science of Good and Evil) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is another example of this, with most member countries signing on (The USSR + satellites didn't because of free entry/exit of countries, and the middle east didn't because it allowed apostasy)  

The reason we have so many problems right now is simply because people use a combination of instinct, social pressures from others around them, and social institutions like religion to not only decide their day to day ethical decisions, but what the "ideal" decision/ the standard moral code is. Like Matthew has brought up, the issue here is in the "how" we got these codes in the first place. We may have a built in moral code, but we also have built in things like aggression and violence, tribal loyalties etc. that get in the way, and are codified in these religious texts (as you would expect from an ethical system built over 2,000 years ago or even older). It's why for example it was perfectly ok to kill infidels, or simply tax them, to own slaves, in these texts.  

If we say that all of morality is simply "subjective", then there is no way for any of us to condemn genocide, or child abuse, rape, torture, etc. Sam Harris for example, brought up the practice of Kundun? in Albania, where you get to kill a relative of a killer. If the basis of how you act is "revealed knowledge" or part of "cultural practices" then we can most definitely expect the same problems we've been having today... you can't condemn any of this and we just wring our hands. Ethics is relative because people fear criticizing shitty practices out of the fear that they're "culturally imposing values" on others. They're relative because no major player is willing to call out the bad in some religions out of "respect"... And while I can understand the fear given the horrific screw up the West has done with colonialism, truth ought to be independent of it's purveyor... its truth value ought to be evaluated on its own merits. If a child molesting killer told you to fasten your seatbelt, the fact that this is a despicable human being doesn't make his advice right or wrong. 

Finally, a universal set of ethics doesn't mean there's only ONE way to be ethical. Again, like Sam Harris brought up, there could be a number of different ways to get to societies that foster the well being of conscious creatures. Asking for a global discussion on this based on reason isn't the same as asking that it be forced at the barrel of a gun. I don't think any of us is suggesting we invade Saudi Arabia for not allowing women to drive, but we certainly ought to condemn it as vocally as we can. If however a genocide is underway in say Rwanda, it's the agnostic position to me that's dangerous, because that's precisely the situation where you would want immediate action. It's not relative, it's not culturally subjective, it's simply wrong and we ought to act accordingly. 

Joe





On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 12:29 AM, Maurice Edmonds <[address removed]> wrote:
Matthew,

You are correct; however, that is not a good reason to refrain from agnosticism.  I think religion is "good' for the weak.  I understand that critical analysis is not for everyone and one's psyche may not be able to handle "reality" of our created "false and synthetic" world.  Truth is not held by atheist or theist.  However, I believe atheist assert a more logical approach.  This is why a member of an atheist club, but not a member of any religious affiliations.  I do not believe religious groups apply empiricism, in the realm of epistemology to reason.  This is a major problem to me.

Reece


On Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 12:11 AM, Mathew Goldstein <[address removed]> wrote:
Maurice, some Catholics like to argue that Aquinas favored metaphorical interpretation of the bible and the Church and its followers were always non-literalist.  But this is false history.  Aquinas himself was selectively a literalist.  He believed that Adam was literally the first human created from the earth and Eve was literally created from one of his ribs and they were literally the common original parental ancestors of everyone alive because god said so in the bible.  He was a non-literalist only to extent newly available secular knowledge conflicted with the bible compelled him to back peddle from the more complete literalism that was endorsed by the earlier Church.  Like Joseph says, all of history is one-sided this way.  All knowledge is naturalistic, supernatural knowledge assertions from all religions are false across the board, and have been in continuous retreat for many hundreds of years.  At some point, with the score millions for naturalism to zero for supernaturalism, its time to stop being agnostic and acknowledge that religion and supernaturalism were routed and defeated hundreds of years ago, religion and supernaturalism have been non-competitive and dying for a long time.  That a majority of people do not acknowledge this is their failure, it is not a good excuse for agnosticism.

On Jul 21, 2013, at 9:46 PM, Chad  <[address removed]> wrote:

> Aquinas



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The information contained in this communication may be confidential, is intended only for the use of the recipient named above, and may be legally privileged. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this communication, or any of its contents, is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please re-send this communication to the sender and delete the original message and any copy of it from your computer system.
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Meetup, POB 4668 #37895 NY NY USA 10163 | [address removed]



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The information contained in this communication may be confidential, is intended only for the use of the recipient named above, and may be legally privileged. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this communication, or any of its contents, is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please re-send this communication to the sender and delete the original message and any copy of it from your computer system.
 Thank you.




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Meetup, POB 4668 #37895 NY NY USA 10163 | [address removed]




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Please Note: If you hit "REPLY", your message will be sent to everyone on this mailing list ([address removed])
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Set my mailing list to email me As they are sent | In one daily email | Don't send me mailing list messages

Meetup, POB 4668 #37895 NY NY USA 10163 | [address removed]





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Please Note: If you hit "REPLY", your message will be sent to everyone on this mailing list ([address removed])
This message was sent by Joseph B ([address removed]) from DC Atheists Meetup.
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Set my mailing list to email me As they are sent | In one daily email | Don't send me mailing list messages

Meetup, POB 4668 #37895 NY NY USA 10163 | [address removed]



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The information contained in this communication may be confidential, is intended only for the use of the recipient named above, and may be legally privileged. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this communication, or any of its contents, is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please re-send this communication to the sender and delete the original message and any copy of it from your computer system.
 Thank you.

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