What are the conflicts between atheism and science?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Mind Over Matter, Feb 25, 2011.

  1. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    That's why I used different words.

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    It depends what you mean by "understanding".

    What any individual "understands" about god is what they have been told or have "worked out for themselves" - in other words they have no practical basis to claim understanding.
    You may understand a friend because you interact and see how they behave and react under various conditions and situations - does the same apply to god?
    Unless we can show that god does indeed exist and that any given individual has interacted with him then the claim of "understanding" is, I suggest, little more than a personal projection.
    Example: take a look at the (increasingly large!) number of posters who imply by their comments that they understand me. And then claim they understand me well enough to ascribe motives to me...

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  3. NMSquirrel OCD ADHD THC IMO UR12 Valued Senior Member

    now the level of understanding is a different story..

    one can understand that you like to argue,this does not mean they understand your motivations for arguing, as far as ascribing motives to you, sure it tends to be speculative, unless you spell out why you are arguing, and then it is still subjective to effectiveness ,you are saying you are arguing because of the goal of X, if the goal of X is not reached then you have failed at your predetermined goal,does this mean you are wrong to argue? or does it mean you just have to refine your argument to make it line up with your intended goal?

    this also brings up the argument 'how do you know?' if you are correct.
    are you sure that you are effectively arguing to your goal?
    how do you know if you are effective?
    (there are pry alot more points to parallel your arguments with that of the theist, but i will stop here.)
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  5. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Quite. For example:

    As it turns, that's not exactly the case.
    The argument is a means.

    Yet a number of posters have expressed this speculation as if were an obvious fact...

    Two things here:
    If one is involved in an argument which is more pertinent: why one is arguing or the resolution of the argument?
    The second point is that if by "you" you mean me personally (because I can't speak for others) then you are correct in that it is required to refine my argument to achieve my intended goal if I don't achieve it on the first (or second, or third...) attempt.
    The thing here, though, is what actually is my intended goal?

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    Too many people think they know...

    Correct? With regard to...?

    Well one way of finding out if I was effective is "have I reached my goal or not?"
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  7. phlogistician Banned Banned

    God, Zeus, Pan, Loki, Ganesh, Quetzalcoatl, Odin, Shiva, Hades. Apollo, Isis, Osiris, Mars, Vulcan, or many hundreds of others to boot, I have no real knowledge of.

    And of course, I have no understanding of God, because nobody has ever made sense in their descriptions. You have repeatedly avoided giving me your description for instance, something I find dishonest.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2011
  8. NMSquirrel OCD ADHD THC IMO UR12 Valued Senior Member

    both the if the goal is what the users needs to know, and with the means to get there, is the argument you are using effective to your goals or is your argument distracting from your goal.
  9. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Which users? Why do others need to know?
    My goal is my personal goal. That's why I engage.

    Throughout my entire life I have found my methods to be effective (they are a result of experience). Far more effective than any other. Really.
  10. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    They can be quite preposterous, those theists can't they? I even started a thread once, on the proposition that the real problem of theodicy is about the ethics of evangelizing!
    Seriously - a Mormon or a Born Again Christian can approach me in the street, asking "Have you met God?" - and I feel floored. How is it that a short question, a mention of a particular word can have such an incapacitating effect on me??

    Many years back, I had an intense experience: I was out shopping with my relative. He is a staunch atheist, by all means, a cool-headed, rational man, a physically strong man too. At a store, we met a work acquaintance of his who after a few polite words started to preach some Christian teaching. And I saw how my relative cowered. He lowered his shoulders, his voice weakened. He didn't agree, he opposed, he argued against. But he physically submitted to the Christian, and apparently unwillingly at that. He, the staunch atheist whom I had put so much faith in. It was a very visceral and disturbing experience for me.
    At first, I was bewildered and angry. I used to think that my being so incapacitated by theists was simply my own weakness, a flaw of my character. But seeing my relative cower like that was an impetus for me to find a better way to deal with theists. Without giving in, without cowering. Without doing damage to myself or others. Without anger, contempt, or sadness.

    The immediate reaction to feeling threatened is to either fight, flee, or freeze. Most people seem to be in this FFF mode. My experience is that this is not a good way to live.

    The theists are making an extraordinary claim - and by all means, they should provide extraordinary evidence.
    But them making that extraordinary claim - and my being so very much affected by it - also means that I will have to have extraordinary measures to deal with it.

    The fact is that many people are very much affected by the claims the theists make. Whether they admit to this affectation or not, whether they rationalize it or not. The fact is that they put a lot of time and effort into dealing with theists and theism, in one way or another.

    Many atheists and agnostics resort to the FFF mode, trying to refute the theistic claims. But such refutations normally come at the cost of one's own intellectual integrity.
    Calling Jesus a myth or claiming that we are just biomechanical systems might leave the theist at a loss for words, but it compromises my intellectual integrity.

    Namely, claiming that something is a myth, I also claim that I know full well what reality is. Well, if I really knew that, then I would not feel in any way troubled by what the theists say, would I? And knowing how they work, it's not like I actually trust archaeology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, historiography and folkloristic to have the ultimate say on what is real and what is not.
    And thinking of myself and others as "biomechanical systems" does not paint a hopeful picture for me either.
    Similar goes for all the usual objections against theism.

    Dealing with theism and theists requires extra effort on one's own. (Regardless how much one might resent that and find it is asking too much.)

    Sure: The Buddha made it very clear that there are things which, if one were to speculate about them, one would go mad (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.077.than.html).
    Especially the fourth category of those things, about the origin of the world (which includes questions of where the self comes from, does God exist etc.) are pertinent for us here.
    Note that the Buddha said that one ought not speculate, not conjecture about them. He didn't say that they cannot be known or that nobody knows them.

    (I'm not sure how/where I opposed that?)

    Christianity is anything but a monolithic building; by some counts, there are as many as 30,000 Christian churches/denominations.
    One of the core disputes between them is whether salvation is by faith, by grace, or by works, or some combination of them.
    E.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_fide
    The whole issue is rather complex in Christianity.

    Buddhism begins with Right View, which is a kind of orthodoxy, is you will.

    I agree with all you're saying here; in fact, I have previously posted on the danger of effectual solipsism (and its insanity) in relation to religious belief.

    As far as I can tell, there are some assumptions here about how a person arrives at a religious conviction (belief, faith), and those assumptions may not necessarily be true.

    For example, even religious doctrines sometimes make the point that a person's faith is God's doing, not one's own. Ie. no matter what a person might do or how un/philosophical thoughts they may think, this doesn't actually bear on whether they will have faith in God or not. In this view, the majority of religious philosophy can seem like a waste of time and space.

    When theists describe how they have arrived at their faith, we must bear in mind that perhaps they do not know the whole happening around it or are not able to talk about it accurately.
    In fact, we'd be taking for granted they are omniscient, enlightened or close to it if we believed they do (which would put us into the trap of conjecturing about the unconjecturable mentioned earlier).

    If we posit that God is a person, and that in order for two persons to get to know eachother, it takes the input of both, then we also must posit that God has a say in a how a person gets to have faith in Him (or any related faith).
    In this sense, those theists who say something like "I sought God, and God made Himself known to me" are actually the most accurate. As opposed to those who say something like "I have studied many books on philosophy, science and religion, talked to many people, prayed and fasted, and came to the conviction that God exists and He loves me". The first reponse might seem dogmatic and useless, but it is accurate (at least as far as personalist theism goes). The second response sets one up for a potentially infinite search or resorting to the in(s)anity of extreme epistemic egoism.

    How some theists talk about how they have arrived at their faith might not necessarily be the accurate description, nor an actionable instruction.

    That isn't my specific intention. If I am sometimes heavy (on theists, atheists, agnostics), this is a reflection of my urgency to settle the matter for myself, not to promote a particular kind of theism.

    Years back, I almost drowned. I was free diving, overestimated my abilities, went too deep, ran out of air, panicked. And as I was struggling in the water, I was wondering whether life is worth living. This was the worst part of it the experience - being under durress and realizing that I don't know whether life is worth living or not. It also made me realize that once under durress, I will not have good opportunity to start thinking about these important things.
    It is only a matter of time when aging, illness and death will strike. And when they do, it is not a favorable time to start thinking about things such as the meaning of life. Hence the sense of urgency.

    Actually, I am not familiar with them.

    As best as I can describe, what drives me is to understand my desire for God, to justify that desire, to justify acting on it.
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    It depends. (Like everything else in life, it seems...) Christians don't seem to be agreed on that question themselves.

    I've seen Christians vigorously trying to argue that everyone is born with knowledge of God already written in their hearts (or something). Atheists are supposedly just denying (for reasons of moral evil, presumably) what they already know to be true.

    Other Christians insist that knowledge of God is the gift of the holy spirit (or something) and that some people receive it and others don't. (Predestination, I guess). So these Christians vigorously insist that atheists don't have the faintest clue what they are talking about.

    I guess that I'd agree with the first theory to the extent that I think that most people do have some innate sense of religiosity. I'd favor a naturalistic psychological explanation for it though. I don't think that innate human religiosity points people towards the God of Judeo-Christian-Islamic myth specifically. Most cultures in human history have happily entertained very different kinds of religious beliefs.

    The second theory may or may not be true. I'm not a Christian and haven't been visited by any ghosts, holy or not. I don't believe it though. Self-identified Christians don't seem to have any knowledge or insight into ultimate questions beyond what many atheists, agnostics and adherents of other religions also have. Those who claim to have been touched by the holy spirit differ in having (or at least in many cases saying they have) personal faith in the unshakeable truth of their myths. It's more a matter of emotional conviction than of factual knowledge.

    That's looking at things from the Christian perspective.

    Seen from the atheist perspective, no God exists to know. So when it comes to knowledge of an actually existing divinity - the atheist, the Christian, and everyone else on earth are in exactly the same position. It's just that some people believe in this set of religious myths, others favor that set of myths, and some especially clear and courageous thinkers try to get along without the myths entirely.

    When it comes to the myths themselves, when it comes to the various arcane doctrines of theology, there's no reason why an atheist couldn't become highly educated in such matters. I know for a fact that some are. It's very common in academic religious studies for scholars to become quite expert in religions that aren't their own.
  12. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    What is your goal?


    So they can see if they can meet you halfway. It's kinda nice that way.
  13. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member


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    The funny thing is that most people already meet me halfway (or more), without realising it. And yeah, it is kinda nice.
  14. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Well noted.

    The problem here is that the formulation of the OP as it stands is essentially a Category Mistake fallacy.
  15. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Scientifically, there's no such thing as negative evidence.....
  16. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Not exactly a "conflict," but atheism (like theism) deals with many propositions that are not scientific in nature. I.e., the question of whether "God exists" is not really something that can be settled conclusively through the scientific process (although, certain specific claims as to the nature and function of God are not so immune). So to the extent that some atheist claims knowledge that God does not exist, that is not a strictly scientific statement.

    But most atheists I've met don't say things quite like that. Rather, they tend to regard putative conceptions of divinity with skepticism - things that they see no reason to believe, nor evidence for. Moreover, the claims are rather extraordinary, often to the point of being beyond any conceivable questions of scientific evidence. Which is to say that atheists regard belief in God as something akin to belief in Leprechauns or UFO's - possible, but extremely unlikely, scenarios that one need not particularly concern one's self with as such.

    Most of the stronger atheist statements about God not existing apply to much more specific, testable conceptions of God. I.e., the Christian God that is omnipotent, benevolent, and amenable to prayer. That sort of stuff is simply inconsistent with everyday, observed nature on its face - hence all of the circular justifications about "mysterious ways" invented by believers.
  17. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    One very important point:

    The idea that a theist has the intention to convince others is not a universal one.
    I know of one religious tradition where it is specifically part of the doctrine that it is not up to the theists to convince people (that instead, this is up to God), but that the theists are supposed to be merely conducive elements in the process.

    The Western theistic debate is mainly related to Christianity. In Christianity (as well as the main other Abrahamic traditions), there is the doctrine of eternal damnation - "All those who do not come to the right belief in God in this lifetime are doomed, with no second chance."

    This has the important implication for theistic discussion/debate in that an enormous, even ultimate weight is given to the argumentation / presentation of the doctrine.
    Basically, "if you don't become convinced by the arguments the [fire-and-brimstone] theists give you, you're doomed forever."

    Once propositions of eternal damnation are introduced, everything gets skewed.

    So we have to keep in mind that not all theistic traditions operate with the proposition of eternal damnation.
    While all religions, philosophies, worldviews present that there is an urgency to "get it right, in this lifetime", they may have very different motivations for this urgency.

    In Buddhism, for example, this sense of urgency is based, among other things, on the understanding that birth in the human form is difficult to obtain and that under the durress of birth, aging, illness and death it is difficult to apply oneself to metaphysical issues, even though it is precisely under durress that we are often most aware of them.
  18. dwivedys Registered Member


    How about there being no counter-evidence to prove God does not exist? Has anyone done that?
  19. dwivedys Registered Member

    Theists believe in God and atheists do not and the only possible recourse to any reconciliation between the two would be for God Himself (if one exists) to somehow present the evidence of His existence.

    However if we go by the traditional advaitic/vedantic belief - of there being *nothing* separate from God - which effectively says that God Himself is all there is - the possibility of this *ever* happening is non-existent.

    Can't offer proofs here. This is just traditional teaching which has its basis in faith alone - which of course is questionable etc. I choose to follow it for want of any other cogent belief system.
  20. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

    There is evidence against some concepts of God.
  21. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    What? Of course there is.

    To take a simple common-sensical example, suppose that there are six items in my drawer. I want to determine whether there are any socks in the drawer. So I look at each item in turn and determine whether or not the item is a sock. After looking at all of the items in the drawer and determining that none of them are socks, I'm justified in concluding that there are no socks in the drawer.

    It's easy to imagine similar things happening in the laboratory. Analytical laboratories routinely determine that samples don't contain whatever it is that's being sought (adulterants, toxic substances, illegal drugs or whatever).

    I guess that a better argument for the impossibility of negative evidence can be made if the universe of discourse is unbounded. If there are an unlimited and potentially infinite number of objects in my drawer, then I won't be able to determine that there are no socks in the drawer by simple enumeration, by looking at the objects one after another. If the process of enumeration is an infinite series, then there's always the possibility that the next thing examined will be a sock.

    The problem of God's existence is at least superficially an analogous problem. When they are feeling expansive, theists are often adamant that their God is transcendent, infinite, not fully knowable by humans and so on. So one could argue that the fact that no convincing evidence of God has been found can't ever logically preclude the possibility that the evidence is still out there, even if human beings can't conceive of it.
  22. NMSquirrel OCD ADHD THC IMO UR12 Valued Senior Member

    that still doesn't 'prove' there is no sock in your drawer..what if it is hiding in your pant leg stuck by static?
  23. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Or it's the type of sock that's not discernible to science?

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