Is Atheism Unscientific?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by th.w.heller, Oct 15, 2008.

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  1. th.w.heller Registered Member

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    A few weeks ago Bill Maher was on the Daily Show pitching his film Religulous. Jon Steward took him to be an atheist to which he responded (with some paraphrasing), "I'm not an atheist. I don't like atheism. It's the mirror image of the certitude of religion." To an extremely skeptical agnostic like myself this seemed quite reasonable. Is there enough empirical evidence for atheism? I don't for a minute equate the "certitude" of atheism with that of the currently accepted religions but can't help thinking that atheists are a little too smug given the current state of scientific knowledge. Am I missing something? Do we know enough about the past, current, future state of the universe (amongst other things?) to absolutely exclude the possibility of some form of deity?
     
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  3. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    No, because some form of diety could always be constructed that avoids inquiry.

    Does the present state of science exclude the probability of the orthodox Christian/Islamic/Judeo God? Yes.

    I would reference this book:
    God: The Failed Hypothesis
    How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist
    http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/
     
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  5. th.w.heller Registered Member

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    Spidergoat,
    I couldn't agree with you more on your second point. Thanks for the book reference - I'll check it out. Perhaps it will shake that nagging agnosticism of mine.
     
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  7. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    Is there one definition of such a God?
     
  8. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    In other words, in order to say something doesn't exist, one must define the thing that doesn't exist.

    So, define!
     
  9. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    No, there are different sects and interpretations. Stenger only refuted the most common one as an example.
     
  10. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    Absolutely. So refuting an ill-defined example of an ill-defined set is grounds for claiming that "religion is unscientific"?

    I think you should qualify what you mean by "the orthodox Christian/Islamic/Judeo God".

    As you noted, I can always define a "god" that avoids detection---this is just a restatement of the fact that science cannot prove the existence or un-existence of God, it can only set limits.

    So claiming science kills God is hardly valid, in my opinion.
     
  11. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    One could argue that just for being undefined, it's unscientific.
     
  12. th.w.heller Registered Member

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    For the sake of argument let's say that science can deny the existence of anthropomorphic deities like those found in the accepted religions. Let's also exclude the "god as the machine of the universe" idea simply because it doesn't qualify as a deity to most people. Can science as it stands todayexclude a Prime Mover outside the sphere of natural laws? I'm not saying that I think such an entity exists. My question is whether we have enough data to, with a clear conscience as scientists, exclude such a possibility? If push came to shove I personally would have to say no.
     
  13. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    Likewise, atheism is just the opposite face of the coin, as Bill Maher points out.
     
  14. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    No, it's not undefined at all. As you said, one can always define a God that avoids detection. If this is the case, then it is up to you (the scientist) to design an experiment to test the implications of my God.
     
  15. lightgigantic Banned Banned

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    A/theism is a philosophical (particularly metaphysical) discipline or approach. The general trend of the 20th century onwards is for science to move further and further into field of empiricism and further and further out of philosophy

    Of course, science began in philosophy. But it cut its ties to the parent as it accelerated down the narrow path of the study of bodily objects. Professor Lewis Wolpert, erudite biologist at London's University College, writes that most scientists today are ignorant of philosophical issues. Though at the beginning of the twentieth century a professional scientist normally had a background in philosophy,
    Today things are quite different, and the stars of modern science are more likely to have been brought up on science fiction ... the physicist who is a quantum mechanic has no more knowledge of philosophy than the average car mechanic.


    -Lewis Wolpert, The Unnatural Nature of Science
     
  16. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    I won't argue that God is a poorly defined concept. This is the case even in the Bible, and (I suspect) even in other sacred texts.
     
  17. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    Ahh one more thing. (Sorry for the multiple posts.)

    How can one apply scientific reasoning to an unscientific concept? If you can't design experiments to test it, even in principle, then in what sense can one claim that it doesn't exist?
     
  18. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    If you can't design experiments to detect it, couldn't it be dismissed out of hand, (occam's razor)? In other words, if God answers prayers in such a way as to be indistinguishable from ordinary random events, what is the power of that hypothesis?
     
  19. lightgigantic Banned Banned

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    this is built on the (metaphysical) assumption that empiricism has the monopoly on discerning the truth ... bringing empiricism in to gauge the validity of metaphysical claims is kind of like bringing in a thermometer to measure distances.

    One could just as easily dismiss the claim that empiricism is capable of discerning metaphysical phenomena, since you can't design an experiment to accommodate that either ...
     
  20. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    Maybe not a monopoly, but it has a good track record so far.
     
  21. lightgigantic Banned Banned

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    only amongst things inferior to our senses however .... and even then I wouldn't describe the track record as exceptional in contrast to any other particular discipline of knowledge
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2008
  22. th.w.heller Registered Member

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    Is it reasonable to simply to reject something out of hand simply because you can't at this point in time design an experiment to test it? Aren't there examples in the past (or even now) where scientists had to impatiently wait until they had the tools to design and carry out such experiments? I don't think that is a swipe at science but just a statement of the reality of our situation. The question is what should be our mindset in the meantime?
     
  23. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

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    That wasn't Ben's question, he asked if you could even in principle design an experiment to test the claim... not just that the tools don't exist yet.
     
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