Posted by: sponyak | March 2, 2008

Three Points of Atheism

In a recent Cleveland Freethinkers discussion thread, I attempted to present three points of evidence on which I base my atheism.

Joining me in this part of the discussion (which has not concluded as of yet) are Paul, an Agnostic (as far as I know)- and Michael (CFT’s Blogmaster), an Atheist like myself. Both Paul and Michael gave their analysis on each of the three points.

Here is what ensued… (Mark blue, Paul red, Michael black)

1) The distinct and obvious lack of ANY empirical evidence for the existence of a Supreme Being (all hearsay & manipulated science are ruled out).

1) I agree with the above because it is true. However if we flip the coin we have: The distinct and obvious lack of ANY empirical evidence for the non-existence of a Supreme Being etc….

1) The argument of evidence, or lack thereof, in defense or critique of god, is one that I feel very strongly about, and on that I personally believe best illustrates the nature of the debate. A person who claims that the lack of evidence of non existence can be construed as possible evidence of existence is revealing them self to be guilty of wanting that existence to be true, to the extent that they are willing to reject any argument that conflicts with that desire. Desire does not have any influence over reality, and as such cannot be used in defense of a position.

2) Being human myself, I know of the human mind’s propensity for falling prey to both fear of the unknown and wishful thinking.

2) We can wish there is a God and we can wish there isn’t a God. This statement proves nothing other than human beings can wish. It doesn’t add anything credible to whether or not God does or does not exist. It simply levels the conversation to one of choice!

2) As I said previously, desire does not have any influence over reality. You clearly recognize that thinking along these lines reduces the argument to one of choice- I have to ask, why then should we dismiss the significance of choice in defense of the the god hypothesis? I think we can all agree that we are, by nature, atheist at birth, needing to be influenced by our environments and families in order to embrace any understanding of a higher power. Why cannot it be argued that those who believe in a higher power are doing out of no more compelling motivation than their own selfish desires? Why is the natural position, one of atheistic agnosticism, the position that must do all the intellectual heavy lifting?

3) The observable, measurable natural universe is capable of self-organization, self-regulation, and self-replication within the framework of nature itself- no “intelligent designer” needed!

3) Says who? You! A person can say: The observable …………of nature itself needs an intelligent designer. Your statement is faith based because you can’t prove it. There are colors the human eye cannot see and sounds we can’t hear. Because we can’t see or hear a thing with our five senses does not mean it doesn’t exist! Therefore something could be standing next to us made of a color we can’t see, speaking to us in a range we can’t hear! I’m a philosopher but I’m also a realist and admit what I can’t prove to be true or false.

3) I have to point out that you have not addressed Mark’s statement with your comment, but rather suggested that he makes it out of faith. I agree with Mark’s position that the natural world functions without intervention, and that there is no omnipotent, invisible hand manipulating things in our absence. I disagree with your assessment of that position being a faith claim. As I understand it, a faith claim has it’s origins in the human mind, not in the observable natural world. We can, and have, and do, and will, for our entire lives, be able to observe and interpret and manipulate with great effect the machinations of the natural world. This is no faith claim. I can plant a seed, give it water and light, and in time it will grow into a adult specimen of a plant. If I planted a sunflower seed, I could have faith that it would grow into a pear tree, but the reality of nature dictates that things operate independently of our thoughts and desires, and that I would be disappointed with the outcome, as every person is who bases their faith outside of what is real, determined through observation, reason, and experimentation. god is not obervable, his existence cannot be proved through experimentation (I will argue that is have been disproved through experimentation), and the very notion of it’s existence is unreasonable (though understandable). Therefore, god cannot be real.

MT

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Responses

  1. Samuel Skinner
    Use the existance arguement- reality exists and therefore god doesn’t. Point out that God has no reason to make reality, while there is a natural reason for it to come into existance. Ask why a god would make reality- the best you’ll get is something that fits a deist god (he wants to see what it would look like).

  2. “The observable, measurable natural universe is capable of self-organization, self-regulation, and self-replication within the framework of nature itself- no “intelligent designer” needed!”

    – I disagree, but my reasoning for disagreeing is actually my strongest argument against intelligent design. I don’t think the universe is as organized and regulated as we make it to be. I think it is in fact completely and utterly chaotic and meaningless.

    The human “gift” if you will, the quality that sets us apart from all other life is our unique ability to create meaning out of the chaos, and we do that by creating arbitrary boundaries which we use as reference points to define everything.

    Take ideas like “organized” and “regulated”. What do they mean? They are subjective and relative concepts. The human body seems organized compared to other things, but if you think about all the differences between people, defects, mutations, and other health problems, it’s really not as organized as it seems.

    We need characteristics to describe things in reality, and we need boundaries or extremes to give those characteristics meaning, but these extremes are not real. We know hot and cold, but what is the hottest hot? What is the coldest cold (absolute zero is not attainable). We know black and white, but there is known substance that absorbs or reflects 100% light. We understand true and false but we cannot say for certain that anything is 100% true or false. We are not totally free because our environment affects us, but we also have control over it. The list goes on.

    I’d say god fits perfectly into this mold. God is the boundary humans have set for themselves, omnipotence and omniscience, but it’s not attainable, just a way for us to measure ourselves

  3. Ha! I love this discussion!

    Josh- I think that you and Mark are on the same page, but coming from different directions. As I understood it, Mark was saying that the universe is capable of functioning without interference from an celestial dictator, not that there was any intended outcome or order to the actions of the cosmos.

    Continuing what you have said, I agree wholeheartedly that god does fall within a different realm as we do, and as such is far more akin to concepts such as time, energy, morality, right and wrong, etc.

    Michael

  4. Ok, now this is amusing…

    After reading all 3 previous comments, I suddenly realized I was doing what Josh is doing in his pic! Why do human beings hold their chins when deep in thought?

  5. Josh said:
    “I don’t think the universe is as organized and regulated as we make it to be. I think it is in fact completely and utterly chaotic and meaningless.”

    Meaningless, I agree wholeheartedly with… utterly chaotic? I’m not so sure.

    I know that the snowflake is a heavily-used example… but last week, I was outside having a smoke at work… and those perfect hexaflakes were falling. Such order, such symmetry.

  6. Right on up through the birth & death of stars, and the formation of galaxies- almost everything we can observe seems to follow some sort of pattern.

  7. Samuel Skinner
    Yeah, but the follow the same pattern that supermarket lines do- there are a few simple rules that cause self organization (take the shortist line). However one the very large and very small the universe is random (at least as far as we know).

  8. Good point, Samuel. The line of least resistance, shortest distance, least amount of energy spent. Complex patterns can emerge from these simple properties of nature, or so it would seem.

    As for the randomness of the very large & very small, I have to admit I don’t know much about quantum mechanics. But on the very large scale, there have been recent discoveries of the largest known structures in the universe, huge filamentary structures that involve groups of galaxy clusters.
    These immense thingees show properties of organization, but no symmetry.

  9. “After reading all 3 previous comments, I suddenly realized I was doing what Josh is doing in his pic! Why do human beings hold their chins when deep in thought?” – Mark

    HA! Chicken or egg maybe… was Rodin’s The Thinker inspired by people already in that pose, or did the pose come from the sculpture?

    “I know that the snowflake is a heavily-used example… but last week, I was outside having a smoke at work… and those perfect hexaflakes were falling. Such order, such symmetry.” – Mark

    On a macroscopic level maybe, but if you take a powerful microscope and examine the flake more closely, you’ll see trillions of electrons racing around chaotically. Like I said, terms like “organized” are very subjective and relative. It’s all about point of view

  10. Yet, the trillions of subatomic particles must behave in an orderly way to some degree- since they all unite to form liquid matter, which shapeshifts to solid at 0 degrees C. If no properties of self-organization are present, and at the subatomic level there is pure chaos, wouldn’t the result be a “particle cloud” instead?


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