I think he's mad at me [Prescriptions for atheists].
First, Larry points out that arguments about the existence of God require one to take a position on fairies. One can only be agnostic about gods to the extent one is agnostic about fairies. My previous argument that this is comparing unlikes has, in one fell swoop, been demolished! Of course, there must be other reasons for thinking that we can rule fairies out of contention (let us call them faeries to avoid confusion) which do exist but are undetectable. It cannot be the principle that “if it is unscientific it is irrational” for that would be the positivist presumption and that would be unscientific. I know I am wrong about positivism here, because Dan Hicks pointed out that some positivists weren’t positivists about everything. So positivism is never self-defeating, even when the positivist presumption is applied by some to everything.My position is that one cannot prove the non-existence of supernatural beings; therefore, if forced to make the choice between knowing that gods exist and knowing that they don't, you have no logical choice but to be agnostic. If the choice is between knowing that gods exist and not accepting that claim, I choose to not accept any of the arguments of the theists. But I'm still agnostic when it comes to making claims for nonexistence.
Larry must have other reasons for showing that faeries do not exist – other than being uninterested in what some people claim; this, as Larry must appreciate, is not about what I the reasoner think is true, but about what others who make these claims must be called. I look forward to him enlightening me on this.
The exact same logic applies to fairies. I cannot prove the nonexistence of fairies, so when talking to a philosopher I'm forced to admit that I am an agnostic when it comes to the existence of fairies.
In my case, my agnosticism about the existence of gods is just about the same as my agnosticism about the existence of fairies. In other words, it's simply an admission that you can never be absolutely, 100%, certain that something does not exist. I do not believe I can prove the non-existence of either fairies of gods but I am an atheist and an afairyist.
I'm not interested in positivism since some of its claims seem to be rather silly—at least the way John describes them.
This leads to the clarification of several commenters: I had thought there was a difference between my having reasons to believe in some claim and others making claims and being critiqued for having them. I had (wrongly, as it turns out) thought that if somebody held a view that I happened to think false, but which was logically coherent and not contrary to facts, they might be wrong but rational. It turns out, much to my surprise, that to be wrong is to be irrational! This, if nothing else, is progress! We have turned a corner here. If somebody has a false belief, they are ipso facto, irrational and to be denigrated in public and have metaphorical rotten fruit thrown at them.This relates to my previous post: Friendly Atheists and the Other Kind of Atheist.
John, if you think someone's views are false but they are "logically coherent," "not contrary to facts," and "rational" then where are they going wrong? Or is this a backhanded way of saying that your view must be incoherent, contrary to facts, or irrational? It's really hard for me to see how two opposing and incompatible views can both be logically coherent, consistent with all known facts, and rational. Isn't it generally true that when opposing sides disagree on important views, one side is usually making an error that can be identified? I though the whole point of most philosophical debates was to try and show why the other side is wrong.
You claim to be an agnostic, but not an atheist—at least in front of a philosophy seminar. Since I disagree with that view, I tried to find out where one of us is going wrong. I concluded that the difference is probably due to using two different definitions of "atheism." The question then becomes which definition is more rational in the 21st century. What's wrong with that?
My mistake was to think that one should disparage beliefs we thought to be wrong, but to give reasons. Oddly (and falsely) I had thought that was the meaning of “rational”; the giving and following of reasons. It turns out, that to be rational is to believe the right beliefs, and to treat those who one disputes as fools. If I believe there are no gods, because all gods (or fairies) so far proposed are silly or false, then anyone who believes in un-silly or not yet shown to be false gods, no matter what arguments they may put forward, I should not take these arguments or views seriously. I can just dismiss them like that [snaps fingers].I pretty much agree with everything you say in this paragraph. I don't know who you are criticizing.
I think we should try and give reasons why we disagree with certain beliefs. Sometimes that might sound disparaging but that's only because some beliefs really are silly.
I am an atheist because I haven't seen any convincing evidence for theism. Since atheism is the default position, and since the burden of proof is on the theist, this seems like a logical position. So far in my life I have never been convinced of the existence of the god of the Bible, or the deist god, or any other god, sophisticated or not.
You, on the other hand, are pretty certain that some of the most ridiculous examples of gods don't exist. However, you are less certain about deism and the sophisticated gods of some philosophers. If I understand you correctly, you don't believe in any of those gods but you can't rule them out. By your definition of atheism, you have to be able to deny the existence of those gods before claiming to be an atheist. It's because we have different definitions of atheism that I can be an atheist and you can't.
Is that right? We could debate which definition of atheism is more rational in the 21st century but I don't think you're interested in that debate, right? Do you agree that by my preferred definition of atheism, you are an atheist?
Of course, when somebody makes an argument for a conclusion you disagree with, and you are Right (we may as well capitalise that blessed state of Enlightenment), the appropriate response is not to make counterarguments showing how the conclusion does not follow from agreed facts or logic, but to insult them. Call them a “word cake baker”. Compare them to creationists. Redefine terms so they are wrong, appealing to common definitions that are under dispute. I wish I had never been taught the rules of what I wrongly thought were reasoned argument. I could have saved so much time just calling people silly poo poos.You posted links to three comments on Sandwalk. Be assured that I do not agree with everyone who comments on my blog but I do not censor comments. I find that it's good policy to address the arguments of the blogger and not the people who comment. That's why I'm ignoring most of the people who commented on Evolving Thoughts. They are silly poo poos. :-)
Finally, I see that mere consistency is a hobgoblin of little minds. On the one hand it is clearly the case that atheism is not the denial that gods exist, but simply a lack of belief in gods, so agnosticism is atheism.That's my definition of atheism, but not yours, right? Nobody says that agnosticism is atheism. Using my definition of atheism, you can be an agnostic atheist. You can also be an agnostic theist. You say it's not possible to be an agnostic atheist. What about an agnostic theist, is that possible by your definitions?
On the other it is clearly the case that atheism is the belief that no gods should be believed in as gods do not exist, so agnosticism is a failure of nerve.If someone believes that atheism is simply the lack of belief in gods then they can't simultaneously claim that atheism is the belief that all gods do not exist. Do you actually know people who define themselves as an atheist using both definitions simultaneously in front of a philosophy class?
And, and this is the major progress in the debate (precursored by O’Brien in 1984), these views are true at the same time, despite the apparent logical contradictions. And as we know, all truths can be proven from a contradiction…Apparently you do know such people. Can you give me an example of a modern philosopher who defends the proposition that gods do not exist (i.e. your version of atheism)?