Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

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Steve3007
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Steve3007 » October 5th, 2017, 5:30 am

Roel:
If you have a bias that something is fake, can you still be a good sceptic?
If your purpose it to discover something that you feel you can regard as "objective truth" (i.e. something that is likely to be true for all possible observer/observed pairs) then you're right. A bias is a bias. Whether it's a pre-existing desire to see something as fake or to see it as real.

Obviously that's not always our purpose in life. Often our purpose in life is to be contented, or fulfilled or some such thing. Often the belief that we've discovered one of these objective truth things helps in that purpose. Sometimes it doesn't. Maybe sometimes it's irrelevant.

Remark of Speedy's to which Eduk replied:
it does take more faith to be an atheist than a theist
I'm assuming that "faith" is being used here in the sense of: complete confidence that something is a self-evident or axiomatic truth.

As I recall (and I could be wrong), the standard thinking behind this remark is that if you don't believe that the universe was created by a sentient being then you must have faith that it just exists without having been created by anyone.

I've never really got this. If I couldn't see the universe then I can see how I would need faith to believe that it exists. But I can see it. So all I need is eyes.
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." - Eric Cantona.

Eduk
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 5th, 2017, 7:11 am

if you don't believe that the universe was created by a sentient being
That does not define atheism well to my mind.
I am agnostic to if a sentient being created the universe or not. I have no evidence either way.
I am atheist to if your specific sentient being created the universe or not.
For example if you say you believe in the Christian God I can say I do not believe in the Christian God. Or you can say you believe in the Islamic God I can say I do not believe in the Islamic God.
To go further you could say you were a Catholic and I can say I do not believe in Catholicism because I am a Protestant.
Not believing in something is something I do all the time. There are an infinite number of things I don't believe in, just like everyone else.
then you must have faith that it just exists without having been created by anyone.
This does not follow. I have no idea how the universe exists. I am entirely agnostic as to how the universe exists. I can not believe in your personal God and still be agnostic about creation.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Steve3007 » October 5th, 2017, 7:31 am

Eduk:
That does not define atheism well to my mind...
Well, as has been noted around here many times before, that's the problem with words, labels and semantics isn't it? Now that you've described the specific sense in which you are agnostic and the specific senses in which you are atheistic perhaps you might even find something in common with those on here who might call themselves theists? Or perhaps not. I guess we'd have to find out exactly why they label themselves like that.

Trouble is, people jump to conclusions. If you've self-labelled as "atheist", as you'll have observed, you get a whole lot of people attacking "atheists" as a supposed group rather than asking you exactly what you mean when you label yourself like that. Same with any other label.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 5th, 2017, 8:06 am

that's the problem with words, labels and semantics isn't it?
I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with labels or semantics. It is all down to specific usage. I believe usage can be better or worse.

This is why I was questioning the assertion that atheism requires more faith than theism. This is only true with a non normative definition of faith, and I personally doubt that definition would be more useful than the normative one, and I doubt that the new definition would be self applied fairly to the person inventing the new definition. I was in effect asking for the further specifics where such a statement might make sense.

P.S. I believe I have a lot more in common with the average theist than what I don't have in common.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Speedyj1992 » October 5th, 2017, 12:38 pm

Eduk how do you believe I am redefining the word faith right now? What I am saying is that it takes more faith to believe the universe and life formed from nothing than it does to believe that we were created by a higher power. I apologize if I was unclear at any point with that.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Steve3007 » October 5th, 2017, 7:39 pm

Some alternatives to consider:

1. X has always existed.

2. X emerged at some time in the past from nothing.

3. Y has always existed and then one day it created X.

4. Y emerged at some time in the past from nothing and then created X.

Do any of these 4 alternatives require more or less faith to believe than any of the others?

(If we're not happy that Y has always existed or that it emerged from nothing, we can create a Z...)
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." - Eric Cantona.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Papus79 » October 5th, 2017, 9:51 pm

My criticism of 2 that I can't let go of, ie. it has to be augmented this way to make any sense:

2. X existed in discrete and impotent quantities which coalesced into structures where it rebundled/repackaged as higher order systems.

It's one thing to say that a cluster of a certain resource can yield a far more advanced network and gain exponential leverage over the environment, a completely different thing to say that at a certain quantity or combination X goes from not existing to existing. If that's the case we should be able to evolve flying carpets.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Speedyj1992 » October 5th, 2017, 10:24 pm

One response I've heard is that God, as an eternal being, exists outside of time, and since our time and finite universe have the laws of cause-and-effect in order to create, than God would not need a creation: God just always is. Which makes number 3 the most viable option in that sense, though that "one day" is the very beginning of time, in and of itself a finite creation. The nature of our universe means the first one cannot be true, and modern science would agree with you regarding the first one. The second one is trickier to refute, and while I can actually buy that the non-organic universe forming the way it did on its own is within a ridiculously liberal realm of possibility, based on what we currently know and can observe about life formation (aka SCIENCE), organic matter, aka LIFE, could not have formed on its own.

Therefore, you require faith to believe that life did form on its own DESPITE it going against what we currently have knowledge of, and I have faith based on what we do know and can observe that it makes more sense that we were created, which takes far less faith.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Steve3007 » October 6th, 2017, 3:03 am

Papus79:
2. X existed in discrete and impotent quantities which coalesced into structures where it rebundled/repackaged as higher order systems.
No, that's 1. That's the one in which the universe (represented by X) has always existed.
It's one thing to say that a cluster of a certain resource can yield a far more advanced network and gain exponential leverage over the environment, a completely different thing to say that at a certain quantity or combination X goes from not existing to existing. If that's the case we should be able to evolve flying carpets.
You're saying that if the universe can be created from nothing then the law of gravity should, at some point in the future, stop applying to carpets? I don't see how that conclusion follows from that premise.
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 6th, 2017, 4:04 am

What I am saying is that it takes more faith to believe the universe and life formed from nothing than it does to believe that we were created by a higher power.
This is a pretty mixed up sentence. As I already explained believing the universe formed from nothing is not an atheist belief. Atheism is, very simply, not a belief in God or Gods. Now granted perhaps some atheists do believe that the universe was created by 'nothing' but that is not something you can lay claim to all atheists. If you had said 'some atheists have more faith than some theists' then I would have very little to complain about, but that is like saying some atheists are shorter than some theists, height obviously has nothing to do with being an atheist.

Now I can see how you might say well if you don't believe God created the universe then you must believe that 'nothing' created the universe, but that does not follow. Problem is that when you say God you don't mean a generic god, you mean the Christian God (assuming you are a Christian). An atheist doesn't believe in the Christian God, or the Islamic God or so on. An atheist is agnostic to a generic god depending on the properties of the generic god.

For example
1. Was the universe created. Agnostic.
2. Did Christian God create the universe. Atheist.

Do you see the difference?

To be honest I would like to go slightly further. This has nothing to do with being an atheist, this is just my personal belief now.

1. Existence is, according to cause and effect, logically impossible as an infinite regression is instantly formed.
2. I do believe in existence.
3. What conclusions can I draw?
a. My knowledge of cause and effect is incomplete. This is likely.
b. My knowledge of logic is incomplete. Let's say that it applies to this universe but not outside of the universe. Again quite likely, I'm not perfect.
c. An explanation of how the universe came into being is literally impossible to comprehend (for humans). Very possible.
d. Concepts like 'before' the universe, or 'outside' the universe, or the universe was 'created' make absolutely no sense whatsoever to whatever the reality is. Totally possible. This make me slightly less than perfectly agnostic as to the question of how the universe was created. Because I would suggest it's very possible that the term 'created' makes absolutely no sense in this context (of course it might, it's just possible that it doesn't).

So as you can see my conclusions are almost nothing. How were we created? Entirely unknown, possibly unknowable and possibly the question doesn't even make sense.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Papus79 » October 6th, 2017, 7:49 am

Steve3007 wrote:Papus79:
No, that's 1. That's the one in which the universe (represented by X) has always existed.
Steve3007 wrote: You're saying that if the universe can be created from nothing then the law of gravity should, at some point in the future, stop applying to carpets? I don't see how that conclusion follows from that premise.
In both of those cases I was suggesting that truly 'strong' emergence is a joke.

I jumped into this thinking more about self-awareness as the topic but in terms of creating something from nothing in terms of matter I'd have to agree in the same manner. The bit about flying carpets is a dig at the idea that enough chemicals put together out of dead matter yields consciousness - IMHO it's as bad a claim as that eventually with enough diverse oriental rugs being made a big enough or complex enough carpet will fly. Yes, a carpet flying would completely break the rules of physics as we understand it (really it's an absurdity), consciousness from dead matter is equally foolish just that we tend not to think about it that way for a couple of reasons - one being that we're steeped in it from birth and the other that we've been desperate for answers that fit a particular narrative that has to pass through that point for us to be comfortable.

In a similar way I do see the same thing with certain creationists needing ex-nihilo creation of the universe to be true. The problem with that - a big explosion is rearrangement and state changes of energy. A creator speaking a universe into existence is just as inexorably tied to that universe as if they had just made that within and of their own substance - ie. if they're truly universal there's no extra stuff for them to draft it in and to think of it speaking something into existence would be quite literally taking one's own substance and shifting it's state. We don't think of turning steam energy to electricity as creating electricity out of nothing, it's the same kind of logic.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Steve3007 » October 6th, 2017, 7:55 am

Eduk:

I think the above post (84) is a pretty good analysis. I would add to point 'a' this thought: The concept of cause and effect, causality or causation is a general rule that we've established by observing individual instances of correlations. So I think you're right to point out that one possibility is that our knowledge of causality is incomplete. As with any Inductively arrived-at general rule, it can never be shown with certainty to be complete. We can merely improve our confidence in it with more and more verifying observations. ("White swans").

---

On your comments about generic god concepts, around here:
For example
1. Was the universe created. Agnostic.
2. Did Christian God create the universe. Atheist.
It's true that many different individuals and religions have many different understandings of the word "god". But it does seem to me that the common thread among them is the idea of sentience, consciousness, purpose and will.

Given that the only places where we can actually observe what we take to be these thing is in living beings like ourselves, I think it's safe to say that this common thread is the idea that there exists a large thing which is analogous in some of its characteristics to a human mind. And that thing is variously thought to have created the Earth, created the universe, to be the universe or some combination of these.

In that case, I'd say a general atheist would probably be an atheist on both point 1 and point 2 above.

-- Updated Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:55 pm to add the following --

Sorry Papus79. Just missed your post.

-- Updated Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:00 pm to add the following --
Yes, a carpet flying would completely break the rules of physics as we understand it (really it's an absurdity), consciousness from dead matter is equally foolish just that we tend not to think about it that way for a couple of reasons - one being that we're steeped in it from birth and the other that we've been desperate for answers that fit a particular narrative that has to pass through that point for us to be comfortable.
I wouldn't say it would "break the rules" because these kinds of rules don't work like that. If it really was happening and there was no explanation based on something like the aerodynamics of the carpet, then it would change the rules. The laws of nature are descriptive. They don't tell nature what to do. If there's a difference, it's not nature that is wrong. It's the rules.

I don't know how you judge whether "consciousness from dead matter" is a foolish idea. What are your criteria for deciding whether an idea is foolish?
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." - Eric Cantona.

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Papus79
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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Papus79 » October 6th, 2017, 8:02 am

Also to my last comment - I realize I could have just said that I agree with the first proposition and not the second, just that I think the concept of emergence is too useful. Particularly I do think it's the basis of the world we live in because when you get a system to a new energy and resource threshold lots of new and novel things can happen that couldn't before and happen that can no longer happen if that system completely breaks down. At the same time the new system didn't flesh out of whole cloth but rather it was an arrangement based on allowances of the previous system.

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Eduk » October 6th, 2017, 8:39 am

It's true that many different individuals and religions have many different understandings of the word "god". But it does seem to me that the common thread among them is the idea of sentience, consciousness, purpose and will.

Given that the only places where we can actually observe what we take to be these thing is in living beings like ourselves, I think it's safe to say that this common thread is the idea that there exists a large thing which is analogous in some of its characteristics to a human mind. And that thing is variously thought to have created the Earth, created the universe, to be the universe or some combination of these.

In that case, I'd say a general atheist would probably be an atheist on both point 1 and point 2 above.
Well depending on how you interpret what I said you might think that, please let me try to elaborate.

'Was the universe created' is as open a statement as I can make with the English language. I even explain later that 'created' may not make sense, but it's the best I can do.
This is an attempt to make the least assumptions possible about the creation process. To this question I am agnostic because I have no information other than I believe in existence. The words 'creation process' may make no sense but in my limited human understanding those are the best words I can come up with. The key thing is that I know zero about what the creation process is.

Atheism is a rebuttal and only makes sense in the context of theism. If there was no theism there would be no atheism. If there was no atheism, theism would be fine. Wikipedia actually has a good definition of atheism which I will paraphrase.

1. Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of God/Gods.
2. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any God/Gods exist.
3. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no God/Gods.

Now the above 3 statements seem general but in fact they need to be applied to each religion in turn. The truest definition of atheism is not a theist. This really tells you almost nothing about what someone does believe so it's no the most useful definition.

If you take all the religions in the world and take the most common beliefs then perhaps you can come up with an amalgamated god. But I didn't ask 'was the universe created by an amalgamated god' (to which I would be atheist about). I simply said 'was it created'.

-- Updated October 6th, 2017, 8:43 am to add the following --
consciousness from dead matter is equally foolish just that we tend not to think about it that way for a couple of reasons
If neuroscience demonstrated how consciousness arose from matter would you be willing to change your mind?

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Re: Are sceptics sometimes irrational?

Post by Steve3007 » October 6th, 2017, 9:03 am

Eduk:

Yes, I take your point. The mistake I made was when you asked "was the universe created?" I automatically read that as "...created by an act of will", simply because that's the way the word "created" is often used. But I guess it doesn't have to be used like that.

-- Updated Fri Oct 06, 2017 2:08 pm to add the following --
The truest definition of atheism is not a theist. This really tells you almost nothing about what someone does believe so it's no the most useful definition.
Yes. I think this why the answer to the question "What do atheists believe? What is their position on various moral issues?" is the same as if we ask that question about any other person about which we have no positive information. - "If you want to know - ask them!"
"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea." - Eric Cantona.

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