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Unbelief, the world’s third-largest religion

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#91    Valdemar the Great

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 07:50 AM

View PostLiquid Gardens, on 29 December 2012 - 12:45 AM, said:


Atheism is not rooted in deep philosophical assumptions, I really don't know what you mean for example, you do seem to be trying to make some equivalence between atheism and theism. I fully agree that some atheists can be just as irrational as some theists, but I consider that different than the concepts themselves. I hear a lot about 'hard atheists', and I'm assuming that those are atheists who say they know for certain there is no God, but I've never seen one; Richard Dawkins himself specifically says he's not certain, but that he finds no reason to believe in God any more than any other entity you can just dream up. I
really? The man who's made it his life's mission (and thereby neglecting his proper job as a scientist*) to convert people to Atheism? (Spelt with a capital letter because he really does see it as a religion.) If he sees no reason to beleive in God, fair enough, but why does he have to appoint himself as the evangelist for atheism? Frankly the man really is very tiresome.

(* and thereby doing immense harm to the image of Science, making people think of it as being angry and intolerant and evangelical, all the things that he accuses religion of being)

Life is a hideous business, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous.

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#92    eight bits

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 02:12 PM

Arbie

Quote

Ask a believer how certain they are that their god exists.

Fine. My question in words is answered in words. This tells me nothing that would allow me to compare the responsive believer's private mental state with the private mental states of anybody else.

Some atheists use verbal formulas to describe their mental states that apparently they think imparts information, but does not. For example, "I don't know whether there is a God or not, and if compelling evidence against my current opinion were to come along, I'd change my opinion."

I don't know = I am a human being. I already knew that.

Compelling = I'd change. Yes, that's what compelling means, all right.

Conversely, a believer (at least in some religions) might use other verbal formulas. "By the grace of God, I have faith in the truth."

In other words, they decline to describe their own inferential process at all. It is something that happened to them, so far as they are willing or able to articulate it.

I ask again, if what people describe about their private mental states is uninformative or even misleading (and that's fairly typical; language isn't great at communicating strictly private experience in general), then how do you compare two people's mental states, armed only with their self-report?

If we get past comparing even two people, then we can address how to go about generalizing your methodology to atheists as a group versus believers as a group.


Mr W

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So, 750 million out of 6.7 billion modern day humans do not express an active religious spiritual belief in god, or in a  spiritual dimension to life.  That percentage is quite consistent across the world, and across a fair period of time since such surveys have been conducted..

This is a nice example of why it's important to go to the original research, rather than reports about the research.

"Religiously unaffiliated" weighs in at an estimated 1.1 billion, of a world population of 6.9 billion, or 16%. These are estimated as of 2010. Of that 1.1 billion, 700 million, the majority, come from mainland China. This country has its own methodological note in the report.

"Religiously unaffiliated" in China apparently means unafiliated with one of the state-recognized religions. Separate attempts by Pew to examine beliefs in China (see all my previous remarks about the differences between belief and affiliation), yield the following statement (Report, page 15, in the Executive summary):

Quote

The Religiously Unaffiliated
The religiously unaffiliated population includes atheists, agnostics and people who do not
identify with any particular religion in surveys. However, many of the religiously unaffiliated
do hold religious or spiritual beliefs. For example, various surveys have found that belief in
God or a higher power is shared by 7% of unaffiliated Chinese adults, 30% of unaffiliated
French adults and 68% of unaffiliated U.S. adults.

So, maybe the Chinese number actually is long on atheists, agnostics, polytheists, ancestralists and others who would not assent to the modern Western assumption that the hypothesis of interest concerns a hierarchical (that's what higher means), interventionist (that's what power means) solitary (all that singular number throughout) supernatural alpha being.

There is nothing in the report that supports the notion that the religiously unaffiliated in China or anywhere else typically lack "a spiritual dimension to life."

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#93    Liquid Gardens

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 03:40 PM

View Post747400, on 29 December 2012 - 07:50 AM, said:

really? The man who's made it his life's mission (and thereby neglecting his proper job as a scientist*) to convert people to Atheism? (Spelt with a capital letter because he really does see it as a religion.) If he sees no reason to beleive in God, fair enough, but why does he have to appoint himself as the evangelist for atheism? Frankly the man really is very tiresome.

(* and thereby doing immense harm to the image of Science, making people think of it as being angry and intolerant and evangelical, all the things that he accuses religion of being)

Yes, really, all you need do is read what he has written.  On wikipedia, look up 'spectrum of theistic probability', it's straight from 'The God Delusion'.  Dawkins himself assigns himself a 6 on this scale, which is "De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. "I don't know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.".  There is a 7 also, "Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.".  He uses this spectrum to point out how many theists are 1's, "Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know.", but that there are not nearly as many 7's on the atheist side.

As for the rest of your post I have to say I disagree with all of it.  I have no idea where you are getting this 'proper role as a scientist' stuff; people can do multiple things, you can be a scientist and advocate for atheism or theism or anything else simultaneously.  Are theistic scientists who evangelize likewise neglecting their proper role as scientists too, or does this criticism only go one way?  No, of course he does not see 'Atheism' as a 'religion' because it is clearly not a religion; citation please.  And no again, he has not done 'immense harm' to the image of science, at least to the people who even understand what science is.  If someone says, 'I don't trust science because Dawkins/atheist scientists are angry and intolerant', they are clearly making an illogical statement and are confused about how science works in the first place and need further education anyway.  Do angry chefs likewise do immense harm to the culinary arts? Of course not.  He has reason to be angry, it's his scientific specialty, biology, that has been under attack ever since Darwin by the largely scientifically ignorant; talk about 'very tiresome'.  Science is already very intolerant to unsupported ideas, that's why it works.

It's just difficult to take these 'Dawkins is a meanie' statements seriously given the context.  First, at least in the US and I'd guess the world, social or cultural changes don't usually come about because the advocates are 'nice', it usually takes a lot of angry statements, marches, and for civil rights, violence.  Worse, any anger and 'evangelism' that you see on the part of vocal atheists is dwarfed in intensity and prevalence just by the many preachers, let alone their flocks, that put Dawkins anger to shame and evangelize all kinds of heinous ideas; what statement can any atheist possibly make that matches 'you are going to hell and you deserve it' on the other side.  And atheists are outnumbered hundreds- if not thousands-fold by theists on this front.  Am I correct that you find them that many times more tiresome than Dawkins?  Or do they just get a pass for some reason?

"You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into"
"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence" - C. Hitchens
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" - Richard Feynman

#94    Liquid Gardens

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 03:45 PM

View PostBeany, on 29 December 2012 - 05:44 AM, said:

The religious right wasn't given power, it purposely sought to become a major political force in US politics in order to promote their religious beliefs and affect secular life through political means, which resulted in the Christian Coalition. Do some research on Ralph Reed, the Heritage Foundation, and the Christian Coalition, and you'll better understand how the Christian conservatives came to wield so much political power & influence. I remember when Bush told us that he had prayed to God and God had told him to invade Iraq. That pretty much scared the tweet out of me. The problem with people claiming god told them something, or to do something, is that it can NEVER be verified, and for me that dog doesn't hunt.

I agree Beany, especially with your last few sentences.  I didn't mean to say that the religious right didn't have a role in seeking and consolidating their political power in the first place.  I meant it more in the sense that there are a sufficient number of them that their votes and influence have to be catered to.  As opposed to the Amish say, who if they were politically active, would not be effective in lobbying for changes they'd like simply because of their low numbers.

"You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into"
"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence" - C. Hitchens
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" - Richard Feynman

#95    eight bits

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 04:20 PM

LG

The famous Dawkins non-analysis of his own mental states is a nice example of what I posted in answer to Arbie. It is also an example of the shallowness of Dawkins' scholarship in a field other than biology.

Quote

Dawkins himself assigns himself a 6 on this scale, which is "De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. "I don't know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.".  

As if anybody ever thought that Dawkins did know.

And now for the crappy scholarship:

Quote

There is a 7 also, "Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.".  He uses this spectrum to point out how many theists are 1's, "Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know.", but that there are not nearly as many 7's on the atheist side.

The Jung quote has been analyzed in depth here:

http://uncertaintist...owledge-of-god/

In brief compass, what Carl Jung meant by "God" was not any external object of religious worship, but rather some kinds of private experience distinct from his own conscious ego. Granted that Jung invited misunsderstanding by using a common word, God, in an uncommon way, but since what he meant was his own private mental state, Jung was exactly as entitled to claim certainty in it as was Descartes about his "I think, therefore I am."

Obviously, Jung's statement provides no support whatsoever for there being anything "special" about Dawkins' simple humanity (restated self-importantly as scrupulous doubt about an uncertain proposition, in other words, restating the human condition). What Dawkins did in this instance is quote mining.

Edited by eight bits, 29 December 2012 - 04:21 PM.

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#96    Liquid Gardens

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 05:19 PM

Interesting stuff eight-bits.  I've got to run, but I definitely have some comments on your post, but I need to catch up with the thread of your conversation a little prior to doing that.  Quick comment on this:

"As if anybody ever thought that Dawkins did know."

I'm not sure what point you are trying to make with that.  Dawkins point is, in context, that despite his being a very ardent atheist, even he does not say he is 'certain' god does not exist, unlike multitudes of believers who are indeed certain, if we are to believe what they are saying.  As far as the quote-mining, even if that is an accurate representation of what he did (and you do rightly place some blame on Jung for misusing the word 'God')  it alone doesn't really bother me; do you know someone who does not make mistakes?  I haven't had time to check your link, but I will find no signs of any quote-mining or fallacies or errors there?  Regardless, this is a red herring to his point, there are plenty of people you can use as examples instead of Jung who are certain if Jung specifically doesn't believe that; his point doesn't change if we substitute 'the Pope' for 'Jung'.

"You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into"
"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence" - C. Hitchens
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" - Richard Feynman

#97    Valdemar the Great

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 09:23 PM

View PostLiquid Gardens, on 29 December 2012 - 03:40 PM, said:

Yes, really, all you need do is read what he has written. On wikipedia, look up 'spectrum of theistic probability', it's straight from 'The God Delusion'. Dawkins himself assigns himself a 6 on this scale, which is "De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. "I don't know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.". There is a 7 also, "Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.". He uses this spectrum to point out how many theists are 1's, "Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know.", but that there are not nearly as many 7's on the atheist side.

As for the rest of your post I have to say I disagree with all of it. I have no idea where you are getting this 'proper role as a scientist' stuff; people can do multiple things, you can be a scientist and advocate for atheism or theism or anything else simultaneously. Are theistic scientists who evangelize likewise neglecting their proper role as scientists too, or does this criticism only go one way? No, of course he does not see 'Atheism' as a 'religion' because it is clearly not a religion; citation please. And no again, he has not done 'immense harm' to the image of science, at least to the people who even understand what science is. If someone says, 'I don't trust science because Dawkins/atheist scientists are angry and intolerant', they are clearly making an illogical statement and are confused about how science works in the first place and need further education anyway. Do angry chefs likewise do immense harm to the culinary arts? Of course not. He has reason to be angry, it's his scientific specialty, biology, that has been under attack ever since Darwin by the largely scientifically ignorant; talk about 'very tiresome'. Science is already very intolerant to unsupported ideas, that's why it works.

It's just difficult to take these 'Dawkins is a meanie' statements seriously given the context. First, at least in the US and I'd guess the world, social or cultural changes don't usually come about because the advocates are 'nice', it usually takes a lot of angry statements, marches, and for civil rights, violence. Worse, any anger and 'evangelism' that you see on the part of vocal atheists is dwarfed in intensity and prevalence just by the many preachers, let alone their flocks, that put Dawkins anger to shame and evangelize all kinds of heinous ideas; what statement can any atheist possibly make that matches 'you are going to hell and you deserve it' on the other side. And atheists are outnumbered hundreds- if not thousands-fold by theists on this front. Am I correct that you find them that many times more tiresome than Dawkins? Or do they just get a pass for some reason?
In the eyes of a great many of his admirers, Dawkins is very much seen as the great champion in the fight against Religion, and anyone who doesn't accept that he knows the Truth is a heretic.he all too frequently comes across as every bit as angry and frankly tiresome as any hardline religious Fundamentalist. Ok, not quite as bad as some of his fellow atheist fundamentalists, who've argued before now that Atheism should actively crusade for the destruction of religion, but still angry and, as a result, tiresome.
Of course he's neglected his proper job as a scientist; when was the last time he was in the news for his scientific knowledge? he's now a full time evangelist for Atheism, and like all evangelists, he comes across as a result as a single-issue obssessive.

Life is a hideous business, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous.

H. P. Lovecraft.


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#98    eight bits

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 09:41 PM

Quote

Interesting stuff eight-bits.  I've got to run, but I definitely have some comments on your post, but I need to catch up with the thread of your conversation a little prior to doing that.

Thank you for the kind word, and take your time.

Quote

"As if anybody ever thought that Dawkins did know."

I'm not sure what point you are trying to make with that.  Dawkins point is, in context, that despite his being a very ardent atheist, even he does not say he is 'certain' god does not exist, unlike multitudes of believers who are indeed certain, if we are to believe what they are saying.

The point I was making was that I have no complaint that Dawkins described his own belief state, but I reject Dawkins' proposal that some different in kind and stronger position on any contingent uncertainty is available to human reasoning. There isn't any such thing.

Perhaps Dawkins' imagining that there might be such a thing as "7" is bound up in his misunderstanding of what Jung said. Jung, who isn't a "7," even in Dawkins view, is Dawkins' example to support his idea that somebody else is a "7." Obviously, Dawkins would have been better off using somebody he thinks is a "7" as his example.

Quote

and you do rightly place some blame on Jung for misusing the word 'God'

He didn't misuse it, IMO. Jung defined his terms, and had fairly good reasons to believe that people would know what he meant. It's just that it is dangerous, ever, to use a common word in an uncommon way. The "definition of terms" is the first casuality of a quote mining exploit.

Regardless of Jung's risk-taking, Dawkins is a retired Oxford professor. He's a big boy, and he has been told that if you quote somebody, then you make damned sure that what you quote is  representative of their views. Dawkins didn't do that in this case. It's not the only time, either.

More recently, this past fall, Dawkins pulled a similar stunt on Einstein, with the twist of using a gimmicked "translation" of Einstein's German, selectively "edited," to make out falsely that Einstein was an atheist. In fact, Einstein was writing about a specific book, to its author, and criticized the religious framing of ideas whose secular version Einstein largely agreed with.

Quote

I haven't had time to check your link, but I will find no signs of any quote-mining or fallacies or errors there?

If you find any, then comments are open on all articles. Let the blogger know what you find.

Quote

Regardless, this is a red herring to his point, there are plenty of people you can use as examples instead of Jung who are certain if Jung specifically doesn't believe that; his point doesn't change if we substitute 'the Pope' for 'Jung'

So what is it that the Pope is supposed to be unnaturally certain about, and how do you know? In any case, as noted earlier, Dawkins needs an example of a "7" to support what he said about his own belief states compared with others who agree with him, only supposedly more so. I don't think Ben16 is a "7."

More personally, how is it a red herring for me to show that any advocate's example isn't an example of what he says it is? That's fair rebuttal.

Edited by eight bits, 29 December 2012 - 10:05 PM.

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#99    Ryu

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 10:23 PM

View PostLion6969, on 27 December 2012 - 03:53 AM, said:

Non religious person = has a belief that there is no god, so removes god from the centre of his existence. Naturally and logically you replace it with yourself, not nothing! You then serve and exist to serve yourself.

Simples!

You just love blanket statements that puts everyone in the same dung heap, don't you Lion?

As one who does not believe, I do not replace any deity with myself. I do not build shrines to myself nor do I worship "me".
I exist simply because of what my parents did. Plain and simple. No shrines, no bibles, no prayers...nothing. I take responsibility for myself instead of begging a sky monster to "save me" nor do I blame demons for bad things.

Sure, lots of things are greater than me like the sun, the oceans, the galaxy but I certainly REFUSE to worship them or personify them.


#100    Mr Walker

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Posted 29 December 2012 - 11:46 PM

View Posteight bits, on 29 December 2012 - 02:12 PM, said:

Mr W



This is a nice example of why it's important to go to the original research, rather than reports about the research.

"Religiously unaffiliated" weighs in at an estimated 1.1 billion, of a world population of 6.9 billion, or 16%. These are estimated as of 2010. Of that 1.1 billion, 700 million, the majority, come from mainland China. This country has its own methodological note in the report.

"Religiously unaffiliated" in China apparently means unafiliated with one of the state-recognized religions. Separate attempts by Pew to examine beliefs in China (see all my previous remarks about the differences between belief and affiliation), yield the following statement (Report, page 15, in the Executive summary):



So, maybe the Chinese number actually is long on atheists, agnostics, polytheists, ancestralists and others who would not assent to the modern Western assumption that the hypothesis of interest concerns a hierarchical (that's what higher means), interventionist (that's what power means) solitary (all that singular number throughout) supernatural alpha being.

There is nothing in the report that supports the notion that the religiously unaffiliated in China or anywhere else typically lack "a spiritual dimension to life."

Perhaps you misunderstood me To start with your last point. If we go by all other statistical analysis of human beings around the world, the number of declared atheists is very low; between 5 and 10 %. In australia it is even lower, although we are not a religious country. In some countries declared belief in a god is well above 50% In some it is below that numnber  but generally higher than 30%. Then there are between 10 and 20% of people who decalre themselves basically agnostic or undecided. The rest are not religious or theists but have a belief that life is more than a material existence and that  the spirituality of humanity/the natural world is a significant aspect. They could be pagans gaeans or any thing in between.

And so my assumption for china would be that inately they are the same, despite decades of govt suppression of religiousity. The report i read gave 400 million non chrsitian religious believers, in the categories i gave, in china

China has  one of the highest percentages of christian conversions in the world at present from memory (not suprising going from a low base and given the efforts being made there)
But most chinese are inately spiritual, just as most humans are So i was not indicating a lack of spirituality in the chinese. Rather the reverse. Religious non affiliation is not an indicator of personal or individual belief. For example I am religiously unaffiliated and indicate so on all forms. In a country with a political system that makes it very hard to attend a church other than about 3 recognised "state" religions, many people cannot be affiliated with a religion of their choice, at least safely and legally

Recent surveys indicate two things world wide. First a greater individualisation of belief, and a movement away from established religious institutions. Second a far greater transferrabilty of religious affiliation. People shop around and move from church to church/ faith to faith, seeking one which meets their personal needs and world view. In some countries that "bargain hunting" is mostly within the mainstream religion. In others people move quite far afield, eg from christianity to islam or to buddhism.

Thus your own figures, and those I quoted, are probably not far apart. Religiously unaffiliated does not mean people are non believers, only that they have no affiliation with a church.

In modern western society, traditional church membership, like many other traditions, has broken down considerably. Very few australians attend church regularly, if at all . Yet the vast majority indicate a "religious" and or a spiritual dimension/belief in their life. Only about 2-4 % indicate they wish to be considered as atheists. And this is in a country with no  entrenched prejudices towards religiousity, perhaps even the reverse.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world..

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

#101    eight bits

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 09:05 AM

Mr W

Quote

Religiously unaffiliated does not mean people are non believers, only that they have no affiliation with a church.

So, it sounds as if we're in general agreement about the key point, even if we took slightly different routes to get there.

That's not so bad; I trhink I'll settle for that.

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#102    Liquid Gardens

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 03:49 PM

View Post747400, on 29 December 2012 - 09:23 PM, said:

In the eyes of a great many of his admirers, Dawkins is very much seen as the great champion in the fight against Religion, and anyone who doesn't accept that he knows the Truth is a heretic.he all too frequently comes across as every bit as angry and frankly tiresome as any hardline religious Fundamentalist. Ok, not quite as bad as some of his fellow atheist fundamentalists, who've argued before now that Atheism should actively crusade for the destruction of religion, but still angry and, as a result, tiresome.
Of course he's neglected his proper job as a scientist; when was the last time he was in the news for his scientific knowledge? he's now a full time evangelist for Atheism, and like all evangelists, he comes across as a result as a single-issue obssessive.

Does how he 'comes across' have anything to do with whether he is correct or not?  Why do you point your arrows in one direction, you didn't address my point that he is vastly outnumbered by theist fundamentalists who are worse, do you find them 'tiresome' also?  It's a bit rich to argue about some of his 'fellow atheist fundamentalists' who 'actively crusade for the destruction of religion' when 'the destruction of atheism' is the freaking purpose of most religion in the first place.

And I'm sorry, I missed where the 'proper job as a scientist' is specifically laid out?  He's not under communist rule, people are not assigned careers, and believe it or not, people can choose to change them.  Let's see, he's a best selling author of books on both science and atheism, and just wrote a book in 2009 on the evidence for evolution; does that count as being in the news for his scientific knowledge?  What's wrong with being a full time evangelist for Atheism?  I really don't get where you are just coming up with these hoops that you insist that he jump through, and why you are acting like you are the arbiter of what anyone else should be doing with their life.  Can you lay out exactly what is permissable as far as how atheists are to behave?  I can fully understand not liking him, I'm not really that big of a fan and didn't really like him so much as an author (although I've heard his science books are excellent), but I'm just not agreeing with the reasons you are laying out why you don't like him, especially the insinuation that there is some equivalency between the behavior of theists vs atheists.

"You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into"
"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence" - C. Hitchens
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" - Richard Feynman

#103    Liquid Gardens

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 05:06 PM

View Posteight bits, on 29 December 2012 - 02:12 PM, said:

Some atheists use verbal formulas to describe their mental states that apparently they think imparts information, but does not. For example, "I don't know whether there is a God or not, and if compelling evidence against my current opinion were to come along, I'd change my opinion."

I don't know = I am a human being. I already knew that.

Compelling = I'd change. Yes, that's what compelling means, all right.

Conversely, a believer (at least in some religions) might use other verbal formulas. "By the grace of God, I have faith in the truth."

This is what you directed me to that you had replied to Arbie, my apologies if I'm interrupting that conversation.  If I'm understanding you correctly, you are I think saying that both theists and atheists use verbal formulas to convey their thought processes, and because they are just verbal formulas, there is some equivalency?  I don't know why describing their mental states 'imparts no information', it does to me.  Are you just objecting that the information that is being imparted may not be accurate or is not something that the atheist can know about themselves?

The verbal formula that you've chosen by the believer, although I admit it exists, isn't nearly as specific as the atheist's to which you compare, we have to unpack 'grace', 'faith', and 'the truth' in this context.  Here are some clearer theist quotes a la Google, just regular believers I'd guess, answering the question, "Do you know with absolute certainty that God exists?":  "There would be absolutely NO PROOF that could be shown to me that could make me deny my entire past and all the things God has done in my life.", "So yes I know with absolute certainty that GOD exists and that JESUS CHRIST is the Son of GOD; and if there had been any reasonable conclusive evidence to disprove this, it would have surfaced long before now.", "Yes, God has proved to me he exists, there is no evidence to show my beliefs are likely wrong and even if some one tried to provide some I would reject it.".  That imparts different information to me than extreme atheist Dawkins',  "I don't know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."  I can't think of anything that I would say to mimic those believers' statements, I couldn't substitute anything in for the word 'God' in those statements.  And with full acknowledgment that I have no specific numbers, in my experience the above believers' statements are not that uncommon.

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In other words, they decline to describe their own inferential process at all. It is something that happened to them, so far as they are willing or able to articulate it.

Interesting, I could definitely use some more detail on this.  I'm not sure I use the phrase 'something that happened to them' to describe obtaining the knowledge that the moon is millions of miles away, are you referring instead to some event or religious experience that caused them to believe?

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I ask again, if what people describe about their private mental states is uninformative or even misleading (and that's fairly typical; language isn't great at communicating strictly private experience in general), then how do you compare two people's mental states, armed only with their self-report?

Okay, maybe it's starting to sink in more; we can't know for sure what a believer really means by 'I know with absolute certainty that God exists' and so it may actually be equivalent to the atheist position after all?  Do you think mental states can be compared at all and if so, what is required?  Is it unreasonable to believe that some percentage of the people who are saying that they are close-minded to contrary evidence actually are communicating their mental state accurately?

I think I'd rather talk about the above rather than the 'quote-mining', 'red herring' stuff, unless it is pertinent to your point about Dawkins.  I read part of your link, and it certainly seems to me that Jung was unclear that what he meant by 'God' is not what 99% of the population means by 'God'.  It says that the BBC received many letters after he said "I know", and I think he offered some more clarification, so apparently it wasn't only Dawkins who was thinking differently (it's tough to tell, that article mentions multiple interviews simultaneously).  Quote-mining is usually more purposeful, and I don't think anyone is necessarily required to go hunt through all the statements someone has made to make sure that they didn't provide some clarification or changed their position from what's being quoted.  And again, I think the sample quotes by the believers provided above are at least as strong as Jung's and I have no indication that we are missing any further clarification on those, so the point he was making is not reliant about him being accurate about Jung specifically.

"You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into"
"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence" - C. Hitchens
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" - Richard Feynman

#104    Sean93

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 05:30 PM

I don't see how an Agnostic can be called a fence sitter.

An Agnostic claims that they do not know if God exists and rightly so.
An Atheist knows there is no God...but how? If this information is out there, can I see it please? Same goes for the believer who says they know God exists, please show us all this proof so that we can put an end to these debates and get cracking on the interstellar space travel.

I personally don't believe in/ trust the Earthly religions or gods/ goddesses but that's not to say there isn't a creator of some sort out there, we're one planet, a grain of sand on a  thousand mile long beach, let's all reserve conclusions until the proof rears it's head and that it doesn't take the form of some book written thousands of years ago or by some Charlatan.

I think Agnostics are the one's who need to be applauded because at least they can say "I don't know yet" as opposed to the Staunch Believer/Atheists "I know" claim.
There's nothing wrong in saying that you aren't sure because in the end it all comes down to faith.  

In retrospect, we're all Agnostics because inside I guarantee the Believer and Atheist have thought "Have I got this wrong?" at least once in their lives.

(Of course I won't even bother with the holy book-bashing crazy religious nut jobs, they aren't worth the time of anyone)

"Be peaceful, be courteous, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery."

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

#105    eight bits

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 08:33 PM

LG

OK, it's probably best to recap a bit. As it happens, I wandered into a conversation between Arbenol68 and Seeker79, in which Arbie said:

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  For many believers the assumption of god's existence is based on a concrete and unwavering certainty that their deity of choice exists. No atheist can logically argue that their assumption has that level of certainty.

So you can see that he disagrees with Dawkins about the existence of "7's" but does agree with Dawkins that believers (many believers) can experience certainty in their opinion.

Before Dawkins came up, I asked Arbie how he could know the mental state of another,

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I missed how you would know that "many believers" have different credal experiences than any atheist. Interpersonal comparisons like that are very difficult in principle, and I'd be curious to know how you've solved this problem, which so many others find impossible.

To which Arbie answered by proposing an experiment that I "ask a believer how certain they are that their god exists."

I found the answer unsatisfactory, since this cannot possibly tell me anything about the relative level of confidence the believer feels, which supposedly no atheist can logically argue that their assumption has that level of certainty.

Then, a particular atheist, Richard Dawkins, was quoted as saying that some other atheist or atheists have what is logically the highest possible level of certainty, although Dawkins declined to name names. Instead, he named a non-atheist who expresed the required level of confidence, but in a different kind of proposition altogether.

Little wonder, then, that matters are a bit confusing. Turning to issues in your latest post, then:

The significance I find in spontaneous verbal self-reports is that they do not impart enough inforamtion about internal private mental experience for anybody - not Arbie, not me, and not Richard Dawkins - to compare the quality or intensity of these experiences between different people.

It may well be that people who hold one kind of opinion will characteristically choose different words to describe themselves and their experiences than people who hold an incomaptible kind of opinion. But whether they do or not, No spontaneous free-text verbal self-report, or collection of them, will validly support the kind of interpersonal comparisons that either Arbie or Dawkins proposes.

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Interesting, I could definitely use some more detail on this.  I'm not sure I use the phrase 'something that happened to them' to describe obtaining the knowledge that the moon is millions of miles away, are you referring instead to some event or religious experience that caused them to believe?

But you yourself were kind enough to provide an example immediately before that, in a religious context. One of your believers said, empahsis added,

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"There would be absolutely NO PROOF that could be shown to me that could make me deny my entire past and all the things God has done in my life."

I am unsure whether any people learning academic subjects have that kind of experience or not. I agree that learning is a kind of opinion formation, but I just don't know if it has the same qualities as abstracting an opinion about God from a lifetime of personal experiences.

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Okay, maybe it's starting to sink in more; we can't know for sure what a believer really means by 'I know with absolute certainty that God exists' and so it may actually be equivalent to the atheist position after all?

Yes!

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Do you think mental states can be compared at all and if so, what is required?

Sure, sometimes, with some granularity, and about some mental states. That's what they do every business day on Wall Street, or in the sports book shops in Vegas or London.

Some people are also gifted or trained in expressing their confidence within some standardized formal system, like probability. Unfortunately, the people who are really good at that tend not to be prominent atheists or believers. And prominent or not, what with all that unusual attention to articulating their interior mental states rigorously, they may be atypical in their belief or disbelief.

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Is it unreasonable to believe that some percentage of the people who are saying that they are close-minded to contrary evidence actually are communicating their mental state accurately?

I am reluctant to call anybody's consistent personal beliefs "unreasonable." I am skeptical about it though. For example, that one of your believers who said

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"There would be absolutely NO PROOF that could be shown to me ...

Is that the same credal state, or a different credal state, from another (?) believer who said,

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...  if there had been any reasonable conclusive evidence to disprove this, it would have surfaced long before now."

The latter sounds quite reasonable and routine: it's a prediction about the future state of the evidence, and making such predictions is a function of belief. The other may or may not be reasonable, depending on what the speaker meant by that "would ... absolutely ... could" sequence. Is that also a prediction, or is it a claim of logical necessity - or what? I get that the chosen believers have more bluster than selected atheists might have, but the question was whether they had more confidence. And that question stands unanswered from these snippets, IMO.

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I read part of your link, and it certainly seems to me that Jung was unclear that what he meant by 'God' is not what 99% of the population means by 'God'.  It says that the BBC received many letters after he said "I know", and I think he offered some more clarification, so apparently it wasn't only Dawkins who was thinking differently (it's tough to tell, that article mentions multiple interviews simultaneously).  

First, Jung disagrees with you about what 99% of the population means by 'God.' Maybe he's right, maybe you're right, but obviously, Jung's beliefs will be what drives Jung's testimony about his own beliefs. Otherwise, we can stop right there and say that Jung's testimony is uninformative about his beliefs, and so Dawkins erred to use Jung's testimony at all.

Jung said substantially the same thing, what Dawkins cites, at least three times: in a Time magazine interview, a few years later in a television interview, and a few months after that in a letter to the BBC, who had run the TV interview. The only time there was any widespread confusion reported was after the TV interview.

The source of that confusion, IMO, was the sequence of questions (over which Jung had no control) that made it appear that Jung could be saying something we know that he didn't intend. Jung  truthfully answered each question as it was presented to him, without an on camera opportunity to reconcile the individual answers. That was the source of the confusion, not anything that Jung did personally and could have done otherwise.

Dawkins is a professional scholar. Jung's statement to the BBC is the definitive resolution of what his words meant. What Jung wrote to the BBC was fully consistent with what Time reported him to have said to them a few years before. Dawkins purported to know Jung's state of mind. It is obvious that Dawkins erred, and that in order to err, Dawkins had to overlook both the Time and the Listener written statements.

If some internet blogger can find them, then how could Dawkins, an Oxford professor, miss them? There was no compelling reason for Dawkins to mention Jung's religious opinions. Jung is not a "7." Jung is, however, a recognized expert in psychology. Dawkins introduced him solely because some words that Jung uttered, three times no less, could be divorced from their context, also three times, and made to appear to lend elite expert support to Dawkins' otherwise speculative and unsupported point about the existence of "7's."

I call them as I see them. That's what quote mining looks like.

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