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

From: Joseph B
Sent on: Sunday, March 24, 2013 5:28 PM
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.  


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

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

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