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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Agnosticism/Atheism -- IRC Discussion

[The following is a brief but enjoyable discussion I had on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) this evening. I am sharing here in my blog because (1) I wanted to share with a larger audience my thoughts and ideas on the subject under discussion, and (2) because I have been so overwhelmed at work and putting in so many hours, six days per week, I've been too exhausted to write anything yet. My apologies for the lull in posting. All mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc., belong to the speaker that prefixes each comment]

[FrSam] Atheists like to say they lack beleif -- but this is simply a rhetorical trick to gain the high ground in a debate -- they actually do have a positive metaphysical beleif in the non-existence of gods, which they camouflage with persiflage.

[Ryft] Atheism is just a proposition with regard to deity/deities. What atheists actually believe, their actual belief system, varies greatly -- for most it is naturalism.

[Jewelz] Best to ask atheists what they believe

[Ryft] Jewelz: The answer wouldn't be "atheism."

[Jewelz] who, what and how atheist define themselves is the definition of atheism, not what Christians define it as

[Ryft] Jewelz: Atheism, as defined by atheists, still regards only the question of God(s). It is not a belief system; it is a statement about the lack of a particular one. When it comes to an atheist's belief system, the talk is usually about naturalism, evolution, etc. "Atheism" is simply a statement about one particular subject: God(s). An atheist is what someone is not -- a "theist." What he or she is, is a separate question.

[Jewelz] Ryft, atheism is the lack of belief in any gods. Babies and children are atheists.

[Ryft] Jewelz: I reject the latter part of your statement; however, the former is what I said, yes.

[Jewelz] Reject, I don't know how you can reject it. Babies lack a belief in any gods.

[Ryft] "Atheism" is an informed position. One is an 'atheist' on consideration of the question of God's existence, the evidence (or lack) thereof, etc. After such consideration, they come to the informed position of atheism. Infants and babies are not informed of anything. They are non-theists, and also non-atheists.

[Prophet2PostModerns] Ryft don't atheists usually have reasons for why they are atheists that have to do with rational (heheh) thought processes and so on? Isn't that part of why they are atheists? and wouldn't that be part of their philosophy? and isn't a philosophy a system of beliefs (but not necessarily having to do with gods/God)?

[Jewelz] Prophet2PostModerns, makes perfect sense. My children are atheists. My children lack a belief in any gods, that like I lacked a belief in any gods up untill a few years ago.

[Prophet2PostModerns] Ryft well stated!

[Ryft] Prophet2PostModerns: Yes, atheists hold an informed position on the question of God(s). Correct. However, it regards only the question of God(s), nothing more. Jewelz, rather unflatteringly, would have it that atheism is a position of ignorance. I'm not sure many atheists would be quick to agree with her; I also know, in fact, several atheist philosophers who reject her position.

[Jewelz] Ryft, it can be a position of ignorance. Infact, from my point of view now, it is.

[Ryft] Jewelz: I see that. And that is quite unfortunate. Thankfully, the more scholarly atheists I have read of, and from, hold quite a different position on the matter, one far less unflattering. It's one reason -- rather, the primary reason -- atheist and skeptic Michael Shermer coined the term 'non-theist'. I know that if I were an atheist I would want people to understand it as an informed position I hold, one quite unlike the utter non-thought that goes on in the minds of incontinent infants.

[Jewelz] If there is a God, anyone who lacks belief in God would be ignorant about it.

[Ryft] That regards agnosticism, not atheism (see the Greek root 'gnosis'). Interesting note -- not all atheists are agnostic. One does run into the occasional atheist that knows there is no God(s).

[Jewelz] agnosticism doesnt specifically invovle religion or gods. It it includes a lack of knowledge in anything supernatural. Atheism is more specific in dealing with gods,

[Ryft] Jewelz: Correct, which was my point above. Agnosticism is not an alternative to theism or atheism. It is not as though agnosticism is a third option. Agnosticism is a subset of either theism or atheism -- you can have agnostic theists and agnostic atheists.

[PreacherLuke-KJV] how can you have an agnostic athiest?

[Ryft] PreacherLuke-KJV: An agnostic atheist is someone who (1) does not believe God exists, but (2) does not know whether God exists or not. Such a person admits God may or may not exist, but personally does not believe God does.

[PreacherLuke-KJV] so they are just agnostic then

[Ryft] PreacherLuke-KJV: No, they are at once both atheist and agnostic. For instance, agnostic atheism is also known as "implicit atheism" or "weak atheism." In contrast to this is "strong atheism" or "explicit atheism," adherents who know God does not exist, in addition to believing he does not. Again, see the Greek root 'gnosis' (to know, or knowledge).

[Jewelz] And it refers to much more than just gods

[Ryft] Jewelz: Agnosticism? Correct, yes. And to expand a little on my thoughts here, agnosticism and atheism regard two different but related spheres of human thought -- belief and knowledge. While belief is a necessary condition for knowledge (it is nonsensical to 'know' something that you do not 'believe'), knowledge is not a necessary condition for belief (it's possible to 'believe' something you do not 'know').

[OnEarthAsHeaven] Jewelz, why do atheists believe in life on other planets but not god.

[Ryft] OnEarthAsHeaven: They don't necessarily believe life on other planets exists. Their position on that issue is simply a probablistic statement.

[doppelganger] as an atheist, i do not believe that aliens have visited our planet, however it is entirely possible that life may exist on other planets...

[Ryft] OnEarthAsHeaven: Notice what doppelganger, as an atheist, just said. For him, the question of life on other planets is a probablistic issue (". . . it is entirely possible that life may exist on other planets.")

[doppelganger] ryft: for all we know, life elsewhere probably thrives in, say, five hundred degree temperatures...

[doppelganger] there may be some crystalline lifeforms on some other planets that completely defies our definition of life as we know it...

[Ryft] doppelganger: There is credulous speculation, and then there is knowledge. You can have the former, if you want it.

[doppelganger] ryft: im not saying there is, and im not saying there isnt. im saying there could be.

[doppelganger] for all we know.

[Ryft] doppelganger: Indeed. There may also be, on some other planet, purple winged pigs wearing Nike sneakers and selling flopsap.

[doppelganger] ryft: bah. they would be selling mepsipax :P

[Ryft] doppelganger: For all we know.

[StBruno] this might sound silly, but what on earth is flopsap?

[Ryft] StBruno: For all we know, it could be a breakfast cereal. I'm just underscoring the epistemic poverty of doppelganger speculations.

[doppelganger] poverty?

[Ryft] doppelganger: Probability is not knowledge; possibility is even less so.

[StBruno] lol

[doppelganger] ryft: good, now since we both agree that we dont know whether life exists on other planets or not, let's shake hands and move on.

* Ryft shakes

* doppelganger shakes