Thursday, July 14, 2011

Atheist on Atheist Violence

I'm having one of those problems where I've got so much I want to say that I end up not saying any of it.  So I'll just share some stuff I wrote in a Facebook exchange with a friend who is a strong Atheist atheist who dislikes Agnostic atheists like myself; who he considers to be weak and wimpy.  As if it takes strength to be rude towards people in an online debate.

He's a nice guy and everything, but he's one of those atheists who's more of an anti-Christian than anything, and fails to see how he causes problems for the rest of us atheists who are neutral on the issue of other people's religions.  As I always say, if someone claims they need guidance from God to stop them from raping dogs, who am I to disagree?

He even wrote a book on the subject, called Malevolent Design: The Death of a Loving God, which I'll plug, even though I don't necessarily agree with it.  If you're interested, here's the first chapter; which isn't bad, though it's far less convincing that he thinks it is.  As you can guess from the title, it's all about why Intelligent Design isn't compatible with a loving god.  And yeah, I'm afraid I might have just given away the whole thing.

And anyway, I saw a post of his on Facebook which kind of insulted Agnostic atheists like myself, so I defended agnosticism while explaining that it's the only logical position for a skeptic to take.  And this guy not only continually refuted the idea that you can't prove a negative, but actually claims that he can prove that gods don't exist.  Seriously, he said that repeatedly; that he could prove no gods exist.  And that's just ridiculous, but being the open-minded kind of guy I am, I asked for the proof.  Needless to say, I was disappointed.

Here was my reply to him:
Uh, Matt. Nothing you wrote gave any evidence that gods don't exist. When you write things like "where do gods fit in" and refer to contradictions and bad science, you're not proving your claims. You're merely disproving other people's claims, and that's not the same thing at all.
And this all ties back into the "can't prove a negative" thing that you clearly don't understand. Your arguments haven't been to prove a negative, but to disprove a positive. I already explained the difference earlier, while you're still hung up on the semantics of the phrase.
And just so it's clear, I intentionally used the terms "gods" repeatedly, and wasn't referring to any god in particular. While you're still stuck arguing against Yahweh and other known gods, I was addressing the entire concept of gods. That wasn't accidental on my part, as I've been using that construct for years, because my arguments apply to ALL gods, not just the Christian god.
And even Yahweh himself is clearly outside of your disprove zone. What part of omnipotent didn't you understand? He supposedly can do ANYTHING and works in mysterious ways. So mysterious, in fact, that it's impossible for mankind to understand what he's doing. That's part of his story and makes it utterly impossible to prove that he doesn't exist. Do I think this sounds likely or probable? Of course not, or I wouldn't be an atheist. But proof isn't about guesses, probability, or opinion. Proof is proof, and if you claim you can prove no gods exist, you better back it up or stop making the claim. That's the first rule of skepticism: Claims require proof.
All you've done is to dispute manmade religions. But that doesn't mean anything, as it's widely understood that most religions are false, if not all of them; or there wouldn't be so much disagreement among them. But for argument's sake, let's say ALL the religions are wrong: Does that prove that Yahweh doesn't exist? No, it doesn't. It just means mankind got it wrong. Showing contradictions in religion does NOT prove that gods don't exist. After all, maybe the gods WANTED people to get it wrong, and it's all part of their design.
And so, how about it? Are we going to get your proof that gods don't exist? Or will you continue to disprove other people's claims without ever supporting your own? But I'm telling you, you shouldn't bother. It's simply impossible to prove that gods don't exist, so you shouldn't even try.
I then posted this:
The weirdest thing about all this is that I remember having these debates with Christians fifteen years ago, with them insisting that I had to prove that gods didn't exist; and if I couldn't prove it, it proved that their specific god DID exist.
And forget about their odd belief that proof of any god is proof of THEIR god (a mistake they make constantly, including their mistaken belief that the "Creator" Jefferson wrote about was Yahweh), it all came down to them insisting that I had to prove my claim. Yet I didn't have to because I wasn't making a claim, and rightly insisted that I couldn't possibly do so. And since they were making the claim, the burden of proof was on them.
And that's so often the case with these sorts of debates, as people aren't really arguing about the real topic, but merely joisting about to decide who has the burden of proof. Everyone always wants to be the skeptic demanding the evidence, as it's far easier than being the sucker who has to prove his claims. And they all believe that if the other guy can't prove his claim it somehow proves the skeptic's claim, without understanding that all claims have a burden a proof and the moment you make a claim, you're the sucker who has to provide the proof and there are no shortcuts out of it.
And that's why I'm agnostic, so I never make the mistake of making a claim I can't prove. Agnosticism is the only logical answer for the true skeptic. Being skeptical about the existence of gods is easy. Proving it is impossible.
So, is that the cheapest way of filling blog space?  No, but it's not great either.  But hey, what do you expect for free?


Anonymous said...

But Biobrain, there are many claims that can't be proven that nobody is wasting their time over. Nobody's doing their research thesis on whether little hopping Scottish faeries are unduly influencing the British Parliament. Logically, lack of evidence is not evidence of absence, it's just lack of evidence, but I don't think you are I are going to be caught dead defending the WMD claim any time soon.

Every single day we use Occam's Razor to dismiss what is improbable and lacking evidence. Quantum mechanics states that a human being CAN apparate through solid steel, but you may have to wait longer than the age of the universe to see it happen. Just because it can be doesn't mean it will be, just because it is doesn't mean it is in any meaningful way to us, and just because I can't prove it isn't, doesn't mean I or anyone else should be wasting braincells on it.

Maybe it's just that physics education... it's an education in what to baldly ignore. Why ignore? Because undetectable forces that have no practical impact on 100% of everything tell us nothing. And we're the people who chase down particles that don't interact with 99.999% of everything. Heck, we consider that to be an exciting day in the office.

For some values of God, existence is illogical (which would not preclude existence, but still), and without evidence. In fact, for all known values of Universe, the Standard Model predicts the behavior of Universe perfectly without God. No room for God, buh-bye, see ya later.

It's interesting that you call yourself biobrain when religious experience can be better and better explained by neurology. And if that is the most parsimonious explanation it is rather unreasonable to defend an unparsimonious model that is absolutely without evidence and has zero explanatory power.

I am a strong Atheist for God, Odin, The Virgin Mary, Leprechauns, cold fusion, gremlins, and the missing sock and ballpoint pen dimension. I'm going to make a positive claim for nonexistence and it's up to the Godbotherers to provide counter-evidence, of which they will always have zero. Not really seeing a problem here.

Finally, it's easy to be a strong Atheist for the Christian concept of God because it is constructed so stupidly that it contradicts its own existence. Eventually when you retreat to the theater of the possible you are left with the possibility of some superbeings which none of us would call "God" anyway. Well, at least I wouldn't. God is a character in a story that's made up, the God of the gaps is fleeing before the advance of science, and whatever horrors are lurking in the deep, Lovecraft's Old Ones, would not be God god. Because God god is a voice inside your head and is explained by understanding human cognition. God is not "out there", he's "in here". Saying "we can't possibly know" is totally beside the point.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Anonymous, can you prove to us what happened before the Big Bang? No, you can't. You can have speculation, but there's no evidence whatsoever supporting your claim. Does this prove that the opposite claim is true? Are we forced to accept a god-created universe if we can't prove what happened before the Big Bang? Of course not. Just because you can't prove your theory doesn't serve as proof of an opposing theory.

Similarly, no, theists cannot prove their claims. But that doesn't prove YOUR claims. The burden of proof is always on the person making the claim. If a theist claims that their god exists, the burden of proof is on them. But if you claim no gods exist, the burden of proof is on you. That's just how it works.

And that's as it should be. To suggest that we have proof that no gods exist is an extremely unscientific way of thinking, as proof requires proof; always. It's completely acceptable to assume there are no gods and act accordingly. But once you step into the area of imagining that you have proof backing this up, you're on your own and making the same mistakes theists make.

I'm not defending the claims made by theists in any way. I'm merely knocking down the bogus claims made by atheists who pretend they know something they can't possibly know. You make a claim, you have to support it. That's what science is all about. Pointing out flaws in someone else's theory is not the same as proving your own.

Uchitrakar said...

God of the Gaps Argument-From a New Perspective

I will begin this article with two suppositions: 1) God has created this universe; 2) He has brought man in this universe with some purpose.
I am not claiming here that these two suppositions are true, or that I can prove them to be true. But I want to show here that if these two suppositions are true, then God will always be the God of the gaps. Anyone who will be reading this article should not forget that there is an “if” clause in the last sentence.
Now I begin with the supposition that God has created this universe. If God has created this universe, then He could have created it in four different ways: 1) He created it in such a way that there was no necessity for Him to intervene in it after creation, 2) After creation He intervened in it, but these interventions were a bare minimum, that is, He intervened only when these were absolutely necessary. In order to clarify my point here, I will say that He intervened only when He found that without His intervention the universe would come to a standstill, 3) He created the universe in such a way that in order to keep it going He had to make very frequent interventions in it, 4) God's total intervention after creation.
If it was the purpose of God to keep mankind crippled in every possible way, then He would have adopted either the third or the fourth way while creating the universe. This is because in these two cases man, in spite of his having sufficient intelligence and reasoning power, will fail to unveil the secrets of nature, because in almost every phenomenon of nature that he will decide to study he will ultimately find that there always remains an unknown factor, for which he will have no explanation. For him the book of nature will thus remain closed for ever. But if it were God's purpose that man be master of His creation, then it is quite natural for Him that He would try to keep the book of nature as much open to him as possible, so that with the little intelligence he has been endowed with man will be able to decipher the language of nature, and with that acquired knowledge will also be able to improve the material conditions of his life. In that case God will try to adopt the policy of maximum withdrawal from His creation. He will create the universe in such a way that without His intervention the created world will be able to unfold itself. However that does not mean that He will never intervene. He will definitely intervene when without His intervention the created world would become stagnant. In such a scenario man will be able to give an explanation of almost all physical events in scientific language. But in those cases where God has actually intervened, he will fail to do so.
So I think there is no reason for us to be ashamed of the "God of the gaps" hypothesis. Yes, if God has created the universe, and if God’s purpose was that man be master of His creation, then He would try to keep as little gap in His creation as possible. But the minimum gap that would be ultimately left can never be bridged by any sort of scientific explanation. God will also reside in that gap. Why should we be ashamed of that?

Uchitrakar said...

God of the Gaps Argument-From a New Perspective

The whole matter can be seen from another angle. Those who strongly believe that God has created this universe also believe that He has created it alone. Now is it believable that a God, who is capable of creating such a vast universe alone, is not capable enough to keep a proof of His existence in the created world? So I think it is more reasonable to believe that while creating the universe God has also kept a proof of His existence in something created. This proof is open to us all, but we have not found it, because we have not searched for it. So even if it is the case that God has never intervened in the created world after its creation, still then there will be a gap in this natural world, purposefully left by God, for which science will find no explanation. This will be the ultimate gap that can only be filled up by invoking God.

So it is quite logical that a God who will create man with some purpose will always prefer to be the God of the gaps. Yes, if we were really created by some God, and if it was not God’s desire that we be some sort of semi-savage beast, then it makes quite a good sense if I say that in that case God would try to keep the book of nature as much open to us as possible (policy of maximum withdrawal). In such a case man will also be able to explain almost everything of nature without invoking God. But then this “ability to explain almost everything of nature without invoking God” will not prove that there is no God, because it might also be the case that this ability itself is God’s design, God’s plan.
My thesis presented here has at least one merit. It can successfully explain as to why nature has opened her secrets to man, whereas proponents of accidental origin of man cannot give any reason as to why nature has done so. If their theory was correct, then man also could have led a life just like other higher primates, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutangs. That man has not done so and that instead he has been able to raise a civilization and lead a life with some dignity and self-respect shows that nature has taken a special care for us and equipped our brain accordingly.

Uchitrakar said...

God of the Gaps Argument-From a New Perspective

Here I will give an example in order to make my point more clear: Let A be one most obvious fact of nature, and let D be one natural phenomenon that follows from A. Let us also suppose that D does not directly follow from A, but there are some intermediate steps. A causes B, then B causes C, then C causes D. In order to be more precise here let us say that A means dark clouds gathering in the sky, and that D means lightning. We know very well that lightning does not always take place whenever there are dark clouds in the sky. So we will modify the above chain from A to D in this way: A causes B, but B does not always cause C. Instead of C, it sometimes causes C1. When B causes C1, there is no lightning. But when B causes C, in that case only lightning occurs. Now it might be the case that there is a God, and that after creating the universe He has not intervened in it at all. So all the processes from A to D will be natural. In that case if man wills then one day he will be able to understand the whole natural process here. He will understand what lightning is, how and when it occurs, and with that knowledge it can be hoped that one day he will also be able to protect himself and his property from lightning. Now let us suppose that after creation God has frequently intervened in his creation, but his intervention was not total, but only partial. Let us also suppose that God has chosen the above case of lightning for His intervention. That means lightning can never take place unless He wills. When He decides to punish mankind by sending lightning, then only B can cause C, otherwise in every other case B causes C1. In this case the whole chain from A to D will be broken at B. Man will never understand how B can naturally cause C, and so he will never understand how D naturally follows from A. So lightning will forever remain a mystery to him. Now let us suppose that God's intervention in this universe is total, that is, behind every natural phenomenon there is hand of God. In that case man will understand nothing of nature, and he will remain as ignorant as a savage. In this world his fate will be no better than birds and beasts, and his condition will remain as miserable and helpless as those birds and beasts in the face of natural calamities. But if God wills that man be almost equal to Him in the knowledge of things in nature, and if He also wills that man live in this world with some dignity and not just like birds and beasts, then He will create the universe in such a way that almost all the phenomena in nature can take place naturally without His intervention. In that case He will adopt the policy of maximum withdrawal. He will intervene only in those cases where His intervention is absolutely necessary. One such case is genetic code. Genetic code is information code, and those who believe that there is a God try to make a point here. They say that information code cannot naturally arise from space, time, force, field, matter, energy. Some intelligence is required, and nature does not possess that intelligence. Only God possesses that intelligence, and therefore only God can generate information code. If what they are saying is true, then I will say that man will never understand how information code can arise from space, time, force, field, matter, energy. It will forever remain a mystery to him.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Uchitrakar, I skimmed enough of what you wrote to feel fairly confident that it's gibberish. It's not that I disagree with anything you wrote, per se, but I'm just not sure any of it needed to be said. You really need to start your conversation from square one, rather than beginning with your conclusion like this.