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10/24/11 6:44 PM
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Benedictus
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My my, there are sensitive folks on here. No one atheist has provided there research that led them to unbelief in God. Simple attacks at believers and questioning their intellect. Typical behavior of these new atheists. Phone Post
10/24/11 7:00 PM
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Da playmaker17
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Evolution. Phone Post
10/24/11 7:03 PM
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Benedictus
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How does evolution prove there is no God? I dont think you understand evolution. Phone Post
10/24/11 7:26 PM
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Da playmaker17
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I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. Phone Post
10/24/11 9:06 PM
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prof
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Benedictus - My my, there are sensitive folks on here. No one atheist has provided there research that led them to unbelief in God. Simple attacks at believers and questioning their intellect. Typical behavior of these new atheists.


Sorry are you talking to anyone here?

You start a thread, and then you don't seem to interact with the responses.

Why?

Prof.
10/24/11 10:21 PM
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Da playmaker17
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I copied it from another thread on the OG but my iPhone wouldn't pick up the name at the end of the quote Phone Post
10/24/11 10:39 PM
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Malvert the Janitor
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Verse wars rules! Phone Post
10/24/11 11:00 PM
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Benedictus
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Been a busy weekend, prof. I dont live on the site. Just checked it today. Phone Post
11/8/11 4:22 AM
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Druskee
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The bar scene from Good Will Hunting just happend on the internet

bravo Da playmaker17
11/11/11 12:13 PM
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vermonter
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Prof,

Firstly, prudence is a reason to believe in god. Not a reason that god exists, but a reason to believe.

Secondly, simply because god is unverifiable by science isn't a scientific reason to not believe, and certainly not a proof against god's existence. I find it interesting that you believe it to be "scientific" to reject any notion because no promise is shown to prove or disprove it (burden of proof notwithstanding). This would be like rejecting non-interacting particles simply because they can't be proven empirically. Not only might non-interacting particles exist, but they could exist in vastly greater quantity than the particles we know about.

In fact, a scientist might say that we do have a scientific basis to at least postulate that non-interacting particles do, in fact, exist. There are powerfully interacting particles, medium-interacting particles and weakly interacting particles. It stands to reason that there are also particles that exist that we could never know about or demonstrate empirically, and therefor could never be proven (or disproven) by science. Why isn't it reasonable to conclude the same thing about god? There are things in the world capable (or not) of expressing power, information, and presence. Doesn't this give me a natural reason, much like particles, to believe in something that expresses any one of these qualities to an ultimate degree? Certainly. At the very least, any reasonable person (athiest or otherwise) would say that god (not necessarily the judeo-christian one) could exist.

Now a good reason to not waste any time with non-interacting particles is probably from prudence. Why should i care if they don't interact with anything? they have no impact on me whatsoever, and even if they exist it's a considerable waste of time to think about them for very long, from either a philosophical or scientific standpoint. In other words, my time is better spent thinking about something else.

However, i don't have a prudential reason to believe in non-interacting particles, but i do in god.
11/11/11 3:27 PM
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prof
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vermonter - Prof,

Firstly, prudence is a reason to believe in god. Not a reason that god exists, but a reason to believe.


What prudential reason would that be? Do I hear Pascal tapping his toes, waiting to come on stage?
If so, Pascal's Wager is a rather terrible reason to believe in God (in fact, it isn't a reason) so I'm wondering if you have something else.


vermonter -
Secondly, simply because god is unverifiable by science isn't a scientific reason to not believe, and certainly not a proof against god's existence.


Actually, it follows precisely from the epistemic underpinnings of science that, scientifically speaking, there is no warrant to believe something that is unverified or unverifiable. That is not saying "God does not exist."
Rather: I have no scientific justification to believe God exists."

That's also the case philosophically, but since science is inseparable from it's philosophical underpinnings, it's pretty much the same thing.


vermonter -
I find it interesting that you believe it to be "scientific" to reject any notion because no promise is shown to prove or disprove it (burden of proof notwithstanding).


Careful with the word "proof." Notice that I did not use that word because it confuses many people, especially when we are talking about science.

I'm not talking about "proof" and "disproof" in the strict, formal logical, deductive sense. Strictly speaking science doesn't "prove" or "disprove" propositions (with caveats).
Rather, it provides support for certain propositions/explanations over other ones. I'm talking about levels of confidence in a proposition - justified beliefs.

So of course notions of a "God" can be made to be compatible with what we see (though not all versions of God). But Magic Monkeys can also be made compatible with what we see.
But, scientifically speaking, there is no warrant, no justification for BELIEF in Magic Monkeys or Gods unless such things are testable or strictly NECESSARY for explaining something. Parsimony and all that...


vermonter -

However, i don't have a prudential reason to believe in non-interacting particles, but i do in god.


And the prudential reason is?

Thanks,

Prof.
11/11/11 7:16 PM
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micmac
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prof -
Do you like
green eggs and ham

I do not like them,
Sam-I-am.
I do not like
green eggs and ham.

Would you like them
Here or there?

I would not like them
here or there.
I would not like them
anywhere.
I do not like
green eggs and ham.
I do not like them,
Sam-I-am

Would you like them
in a house?
Would you like them
with a mouse?

I do not like them
in a house.
I do not like them
with a mouse.
I do not like them
here or there.
I do not like them
anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

(Etc)

Prof.

At the end of that book when he opened his heart and mind to the green eggs and ham he liked it. Phone Post
11/12/11 11:41 PM
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vermonter
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Prof,

"What prudential reason would that be?"

I believe that statistically christians live longer than the general population. Assuming long life to be a general human goal, it seems generally prudent to behave in ways that conform to that goal, christianity included.

"Do I hear Pascal tapping his toes, waiting to come on stage?"

No, but a portion of Pascal's argument is central to the position i will attempt to make here.

"Actually, it follows precisely from the epistemic underpinnings of science that, scientifically speaking, there is no warrant to believe something that is unverified or unverifiable."

Strictly speaking, i agree, and i have to apologize for my shoddy, imprecise writing in my last post: what i am saying specifically is that it also follows precisely from science that there is no warrant to believe that god does NOT exist. I.E. it is as unverifiable that god does not exist as it is that god does exist. (This is a portion of Pascal's argument: reason cannot dictate an answer regarding the existence of a god that does not want to manifest within the realm of science.)

Now, i bring this up because, although you have been careful in your writing to say repeatedly that science offers no reason to believe in god (which, again, is true per se) you have seemed to move into a stance of atheism from this position (e.g. "that's why i'm an atheist"). However, science offers no reason to believe there is no god either. Science only offers a withholding of judgment.

Before i go on, i have to also clarify: certain claims regarding the christian god seem fairly easy to show to be false, which you brought up, and you'll get no argument here. Let's assume, for the sake of this argument, that we are talking about the possible existence of an omnipotent being that does not now, for whatever reason, want to be known.

It seems to me there is no scientific reason for atheism, but rather some form of agnosticism. Would you agree? If not, i'm interested in how. I don't think logic, or fact hold the answers either, insofar as they are different from science. Emotional? Social? Perhaps... as you mentioned setting policy around a belief that we are forced to otherwise hold judgment on hardly seems sound. But isn't something like retributive justice as strongly from social intuition as it is from religious precedent?

That said, what sort of reasons are left? Honest question, as you are clearly more studied and have greater academic breadth than i. Assuming you agree that there is no scientific warrant for atheism per se, how could you justify it?

I think prudence is a good reason when no others remain. Much like non-interacting particles, it might be a waste of time to think about god, but if belief extends my lifespan, makes me feel good, or whatever, maybe i do have a good reason to believe.

One thing is for sure, i'm tired and perhaps reading this post will only provide a glimpse into my addled, fractured mind at best, but i enjoy the discourse nonetheless.
11/13/11 1:23 AM
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Ali
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Hi vermonter -- I hate to ask, because it's so well-known as to be a cliche, but are you familiar with Russell's flying teapot? It seems you're halfway between Pascal's wager (which you acknowledge) and Russell's teapot. That's where your version of "agnosticism" seems to me to land. Most versions, actually.
11/13/11 8:41 AM
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vermonter
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Ali,

My point is that atheism is as scientifically unverifiable as theism (some of it anyway). If you wish to call the resulting withholding of belief "agnosticism" then that works for me.

I think that if atheism is warranted, it would have to be for a reason other than science.
11/13/11 10:05 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 11/13/11 12:06 PM
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I think your point is clear.

I just want to know if you could replace the word "atheism" with "flying teapot" and hold the statement equally valid.

Or put another way, I'm trying to figure out if your point is both true and non-trivial.
11/13/11 1:00 PM
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vermonter
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Presumably the celestial teapot could be demonstrated empirically given sufficient science and resources unless there is some caveat to the concept I am unaware of. The same could not be said for an omnipotent being that does not want to be known.

That said, I am responding to profs seeming indication of a scientific basis for atheism. If this is sufficiently similar to the teapot to be important, I do not know.
11/13/11 1:32 PM
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Ali
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Prof has a pretty good idea of the role of statistics (and statistical observation) in science.

Agreed that we know some characteristics of a teapot that would make what we observed teapot-or-not. But the lack of observation of it is the problem.

Presumably the more you define God (omnipotent being, with a goal of being not-known is a start -- not a lot to go on, but SOMETHING towards an operation definition) the more the concept becomes amenable to scientific inquiry. This is why atheists talk of unicorns and fairies and flying teapots and such. NOT because we think God is "like" a fairy, or Santa Claus, in toto. But because of the way observation and definition ("operationalization") works.
11/13/11 3:15 PM
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prof
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vermonter -
I believe that statistically christians live longer than the general population. Assuming long life to be a general human goal, it seems generally prudent to behave in ways that conform to that goal, christianity included.


I think you need to be careful about such conclusions. It's tough when dealing with statistics and statistics can also be adduced to show the opposite. First, look at the statistics for life-span per country, and note how the most secular, least religious countries actually rank highest for life span.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy

They also rank highest on indexes of societal health.

The prudential reason you raise seems rather flimsy, to say the least.
And of course, it's not a reason to think God really exists in the first place.

vermonter -
Now, i bring this up because, although you have been careful in your writing to say repeatedly that science offers no reason to believe in god (which, again, is true per se) you have seemed to move into a stance of atheism from this position (e.g. "that's why i'm an atheist"). However, science offers no reason to believe there is no god either. Science only offers a withholding of judgment.


Depending on the God..yes. But it works out to the conclusion: It is not warranted to believe in God.
Hence, atheism.

vermonter - Before i go on, i have to also clarify: certain claims regarding the christian god seem fairly easy to show to be false, which you brought up, and you'll get no argument here. Let's assume, for the sake of this argument, that we are talking about the possible existence of an omnipotent being that does not now, for whatever reason, want to be known.


Again: therefore no warrant to believe in this being, hence atheism.

vermonter - It seems to me there is no scientific reason for atheism, but rather some form of agnosticism. Would you agree? If not, i'm interested in how.


First, why not Agnosticism. The answer depends on which conception of Agnosticism we are talking about. The formal version as a stance about the very knowability of God. That is, not that we don't have enough information to go on, but rather that we CAN NOT know if there is a God. I find that self-refuting, as it on one hand holds we can not know about a God, yet on the other presumes to KNOW the nature of a God - that God is unknowable. Which is incoherent.

A second version says "We don't have enough information on which to base a belief a God does not exist." But that presumes such a stance correct, and I think human history provides plenty of warrant for concluding no God exists (see"no evidence" plus "people making stuff up" to follow).

The other version is more along the lines of "You can't disprove a God so you shouldn't say a God doesn't exist."

In reply, we need to remember that some form of formal disproof, or %100 certainty has never been needed to hold reasonable beliefs. I don't know that, in getting into my car tomorrow morning, that I won't be killed on the way to work. But since there is no particular reason to think I will be, and on the grounds that observation of "how things work" suggests the probability is low, then predicating my plans on the belief I'll get to work is entirely reasonable, even if I can't "prove" it will happen.

Likewise about dropping a shoe to the ground. I can reasonably hold the belief, based on what I've apprehended about the nature of reality thus far (which includes gravity), that if I drop my shoe it will fall to the ground.

What if someone says "but what about the possibility of an invisible, super powerful Being suddenly manifesting and catching the shoe before it hits the ground? You can't disprove BEFORE HAND that such a Being does not exist and won't start catching falling shoes tomorrow.

Does that mean I therefore must be "agnostic" about my belief that the next time I drop a shoe it will fall to the ground? It should be obvious: No. I'm quite justified in my belief a shoe will drop to the ground, because it seems to be the nature of mass to act that way, as we've apprehended it thus far. And there is no reason to add the belief in the invisible Being. Just because someone can CONCEIVE of the Invisible Being doesn't mean I need to DISPROVE the invisible Being before I affirm that no such Being is going to stop my shoe dropping. In fact, it's an even stronger claim: To say "My shoe will drop to the ground" is also to necessarily DENY the existence of an invisible Being who will stop the shoe. And yet, it's justified to do so.

Other factors are positive evidence for people having imagination - making things up. My son drew a picture of a 4 headed monster with wings and chicken feet. Now, formally speaking, is it possible to "prove" that such a monster does not exist somewhere? No. But then, belief has never required such proof. I DO know that humans have an imagination and can think of Beings that don't exist (that's why we have the concepts of "fantasy" and "true"). After all, what are the chances that my son just happened to make up a never-before-seen Being that happens to exist? The fact there is no reason to think the monster actually exists combined with the fact that people make up imaginary Beings allows me to conclude that my Son's monster was "made up." That is: the monster is fictitious. Until such a monster shows up, I'm justified in believing it doesn't exist.

Same with concepts of Gods. Whether we are talking about Biblical Gods or Deist Gods, they bear all the earmarks of "something made up," lacking any evidence they actually exist. So until there is good evidence for a God, any God, I can be justified in thinking they are fictions made up by people.

(This would not be true for, instance, Aliens. The fact people dream up different Aliens combined with the fact that we don't have any evidence Aliens exist does not give me warrant to say "Aliens don't exist." The reason is, and the crucial difference between Aliens and God, is that we already have examples that Aliens are a possibility: our existence on this planet shows inhabited planets are possible.
And what we know about the universe does not rule out other habitable planets with other life forms.
Whereas we have no such evidence for Gods or the supernatural).

So, while the unknowable Deist God may be the "hardest" to argue against in one sense, in another sense there can still be a justification for believing a God does not exist: insofar as we apprehend the nature of reality, it appears fully "natural" and to affirm this is also to believe a God does not exist, until evidence suggests otherwise.

Of course for non-Deist Gods that have more positive attributes, like a "Good" God, I think one can be a strong atheist, ruling them out by regular old, standard modus tollens type reasoning (that is, if a Good God existed we'd expect to see X, but we do not see X, therefore a Good God does not exist).

Prof.

11/14/11 12:36 PM
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Granpa
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The burden of proof is on the god believers. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Replace "god" in your question with "bigfoot" and realize how utterly absurd you sound.
11/14/11 8:23 PM
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vermonter
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Ali,

Ali - Prof has a pretty good idea of the role of statistics (and statistical observation) in science.


Excellent, i love to learn.


Agreed that we know some characteristics of a teapot that would make what we observed teapot-or-not. But the lack of observation of it is the problem.


Epistemic access is meaningless to whether each thing exists (i'm certain you know this, just covering my bases). As far as belief is concerned, i have already agreed that there is no scientific reason to believe in the teapot or god, but also stipulated that there is no scientific reason to believe they do not exist. I'm not even certain you disagree with that point, but prof seems to.


Presumably the more you define God (omnipotent being, with a goal of being not-known is a start -- not a lot to go on, but SOMETHING towards an operation definition) the more the concept becomes amenable to scientific inquiry.


Why would i need to define a god as more than that? That said, even if the Christian god, in some iteration, didn't want to be known now (maybe he got shy?) i'm confident it would be within such a being's ability to escape further detection or access to any sort of science (e.g. if such a being wanted us to be having this conversation right now, uncertain or unbelieving of his existence).


This is why atheists talk of unicorns and fairies and flying teapots and such. NOT because we think God is "like" a fairy, or Santa Claus, in toto. But because of the way observation and definition ("operationalization") works.


I'm no stranger to thought experiments or metaphor. I've even provided my own example (non-interacting particles) that are pretty plausible but impossible to detect. I wouldn't even say i'm a stranger to atheism.
11/14/11 9:59 PM
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vermonter
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Prof,

"The prudential reason you raise seems rather flimsy, to say the least.
And of course, it's not a reason to think God really exists in the first place."

I don't disagree about the flimsyness. I think there are plenty of prudential reasons to be an athiest too. If we can't get past the scientific reasons, it's a moot point anyway, but if we can, i'm trying to say that when prudence (or preference, or whatever) becomes the deciding factor, the contest suddenly gets a lot more even for most people (and it seems that fits nicely with our every day experiences with people).

"Depending on the God..yes."

Well the gods that would get a yes answer are the only ones worth discussing. A god that is easily demonstrated against scientifically wouldn't be worth much discussion. Additionally, it would seem that science provides no warrant to believe that there is no god even if just one god fits into your yes answer here. Atheism is only warranted if science can provide reason to believe that no god of any kind exists, not just some of them. Science cant do that.

"but it works out to the conclusion: It is not warranted to believe in God.
Hence, atheism."

I'm no logician, but this does not follow logically. Given your 'yes-to-some-gods" answer above it would be the case that:

1. Science provides no warrant to believe in god

AND

2. Science provides no warrant to believe there is no god.

If athiesm is the belief there is no god, and the above two premises are true, it cannot be concluded that science warrants atheism, even if just one sort of god (e.g. an omnipotent being that does not wish to be known) could exist outside of the realm of science (or even outside the realm of current science, but that's a different discussion i suppose).

"Again: therefore no warrant to believe in this being, hence atheism."

And again, atheism does not follow from only a premise of no scientific warrant to believe, because this premise does not exclude a premise of no scientific warrant not to believe.

"First, why not Agnosticism."

While i loved reading your versions of agnosticism (not something i've really seen laid out before), it may be a moot point. If science does not give sufficient reason to believe in god, and nor sufficient reason to believe there is no god, then what is left must necessarily be something else, e.g. a reason to withhold judgement entirely (and I.E. no scientific backing for theism OR atheism). If this is some form of agnosticism, then so be it, but it does follow.

As such i won't go into each version, as i think it isn't necessary, but i'd like to mention briefly the first, as i can see where you are going with it:

"That is, not that we don't have enough information to go on, but rather that we CAN NOT know if there is a God. I find that self-refuting, as it on one hand holds we can not know about a God, yet on the other presumes to KNOW the nature of a God - that God is unknowable. Which is incoherent."

This seems like a strange position to take. Firstly, there is a version of agnosticism in which people believe that "we can not know if there is a god"? What if such a god decided to make an appearance at my house? This should be within that gods power, and also within that gods power to convince me sufficiently that it's really a god. I could know that such a god exists, but presumably only if that god wished it so.

Secondly, you mention both not knowing about the existance of a god, and not knowing "about a god." However, even if i don't know about the existence of a god, i can still know things about a god, should one exist. I know that such a being doesn't presently seem easy (or even possible) to find. I know that such a being is very powerful (by definition) and capable of escaping detection (for the same reason). This would make it perfectly coherent to be this sort of agnostic, and know that, should a god exist, we may not ever know it (again, just using a pretty common definition of a god, and what such a being would be able to accomplish).

"we need to remember that some form of formal disproof, or %100 certainty has never been needed to hold reasonable beliefs"

I don't think this discussion is about any old reasonable belief. There are many reasons to believe in theism or atheism. However, science, per se, doesn't appear to be one of them.

"I don't know that, in getting into my car tomorrow morning, that I won't be killed on the way to work. But since there is no particular reason to think I will be, and on the grounds that observation of "how things work" suggests the probability is low, then predicating my plans on the belief I'll get to work is entirely reasonable, even if I can't "prove" it will happen."

And yet i doubt you would label yourself as a person who believes it impossible that you would be killed. Such a label would be unreasonable, don't you agree?

"You can't disprove BEFORE HAND that such a Being does not exist and won't start catching falling shoes tomorrow."

What happened to being careful about the use of the word "proof"? ;) I'm not interested in proving or disproving the existence of such a being, as it doesn't appear to be possible. I'm only saying there is no scientific warrant to believe there is no god.

cont
11/14/11 9:59 PM
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vermonter
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"Does that mean I therefore must be "agnostic" about my belief that the next time I drop a shoe it will fall to the ground? It should be obvious: No. I'm quite justified in my belief a shoe will drop to the ground"

I think the discussion is losing focus here. As i've said already, there may be good reasons to believe in shoes dropping, theism, or atheism. If science gives me no reason for theism or atheism, i'm not saying you can't (or even shouldn't) choose one, but simply that science isn't the basis for the reason. There's plenty of other good reasons to choose from, like prudence, congnitive/psychological, etc. E.g. it's just easier, but that doesn't suddenly necessitate scientific warrant to believe in atheism.

"Other factors are positive evidence for people having imagination"

This may be a reason to decide that the chance such a being exists is less (then again, statistics might say many different things, as you noted), but not a scientific warrant to believe that there is no god, or other mystical unknowable beings. Perhaps, more accurately, its a reason to not think much about it unless such a being shows up (you mention this, but let's be clear, this isn't the same as saying there is a warrant to believe it doesn't exist at all).

"The reason is, and the crucial difference between Aliens and God, is that we already have examples that Aliens are a possibility: our existence on this planet shows inhabited planets are possible."

Based on points prior, i would imagine you simply think the chance that a god exists is less than the chance that aliens exist. The chance for aliens is, for you, perhaps high enough to cross your threshold for what you consider reasonable belief. But, again, this is not the same as saying that there is NO chance that god exists. If there is a chance, it seems that a belief in atheism based on something like statistics or science isn't tenable. All i would have to say is: "but there's a chance, prof" and science justified athiesm would be vanquished.

"it appears fully "natural" and to affirm this is also to believe a God does not exist, until evidence suggests otherwise."

"Natural," maybe, but not scientific.

"f course for non-Deist Gods that have more positive attributes, like a "Good" God, I think one can be a strong atheist,"

You'll get no argument regarding certain attributes of some iterations of gods, however, i still think you cannot be an atheist, per se, which i take to be the existence of no god. If your use of the term atheist is something you feel as though you could say about just some gods, then i've just wasted a lot of time ;)
11/14/11 11:00 PM
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Ali
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Edited: 11/14/11 11:05 PM
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Wow.. Doug... can you be an a-fairiest? An a-astrologist? An a-white-ravenist?

This is not flip. This goes to the heart of positing what you "can be" in the face of non-existence of whatever it is you're positing must be amenable to scientific inquiry.

It also goes to the heart of what scientific observation is -- a statistical endeavor. So far we have zero observations of white ravens.

Is this PROOF that there isn't a white raven? Is it proof that there isn't an omnipotent, omniscient white raven that doesn't want to be seen? Is it proof that there isn't an omnipotent, omniscient white raven that doesn't want to be seen but really digs the Stones?

No, of course it isn't. Though I think there is scientific reason to think such a creature doesn't exist. Only scientific, even.

I can make what you say true. I can interpret your "no scientific reason to think either thing" as true; but I can't figure out how it could be both true and non-trivial.
11/15/11 9:53 AM
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vermonter
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It's been pretty well established by each poster that proof of existence isn't an issue here. We all agree on this point.

"No, of course it isn't. Though I think there is scientific reason to think such a creature doesn't exist. Only scientific, even."

What is the reason then? Do you have a reason(s) that is more than just a reason to believe it isn't likely such a being exists?

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