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New Dawkins book: "The God Delusion"

#35: Jan. - Mar. 2007 (Non-Fiction)
FiskeMiles

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Dear Mad:The following statements made by Frank in his previous post are the crux of the issue.Quote:Actually I think you are trying to sell the idea that theism is as logical as atheism, this is simply not so.Contrary to popular belief atheism is not denying the possibility of gods it is really withholding belief because of the lack of any knowable answer or evidence.This is a far more logical stance than making something up from nothing.Overall, this is a cogent summary. I would have said you're trying to sell the idea that it isn't possible to determine which is more logical, but it still comes to the same thing. I would also revise the final statement slightly to assert that atheism is more logical than any world view which asserts a position on the supernatural not based on verifiable evidence (regardless of why verifiable evidence is not available). This position does not conflict with c4 from your basic logical form.Quote:c4: There is no way to determine the relative reasonableness of any position concerning the supernatural. (~A(BC,d))I agree with your conclusion, and I believe Frank would as well. We're not arguing the relative reasonableness of any position concerning the supernatural, we're arguing that no position concerning the supernatural can be reasonable. We're comparing world views that make assertions about the supernatural with world views that don't.This is why I have said (repeatedly) that your argument appears to confuse atheism with anti-theism. I don't believe you have yet responded to that.Fiske
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Fiske: With all due respect, I would venture a guess that you haven't spent much time under the night sky with a telescope. Or outside with binoculars watching birds and other wildlife, or learning to identify wildflowers, hiking in the woods, studying cycles of nature, learning how life has evolved, discovering that the material we are made of was created inside stars (knowledge which is not guess-work, story, or myth but supported by overwhelming, verifiable evidence).I've devoted many blissful hours enjoying the night sky with and without a telescope, and just as many immersed in varieties of ecosystems: searching, probing, digging, hiking, observing, asking, wondering, simply enjoying the rich diversity of biosphere, planet and cosmos. I consider myself an ecologist who has found immense pleasure in learning the complexities of how nature works.And I think it clear we are faced with profound gaps in our knowledge from subatomic particles, to molecular structures, cellular systems, organisms, bodies, communities, species, niches, ecosystems, biosphere, solar systems, galactic clusters, to the vast reaches of deep, dark space....we make leaps from part to whole, creating bridges out of our imagination, hope and...I'll say it...love.When we tell stories about all of this, the whole thing, the complete package of all that is, was, or will ever be...we are in the realm of myth: we are employing our poetic imagination and artistic licence, as well as our hopes and fears...and again...loves. I think this is what the humility you refer to requires of us to admit. Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 12/14/06 4:39 pm
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I know that last paragraph was confusing. What I was getting at is I am not merely an atheist. I am also anti-theist, as you have defined it for us. I don't accept the god premise as a sound premise (premise meaning something assumed or taken for granted). So, though I am atheist in that I am without belief in god, I am also anti-theist. I don't accept the probability in the presumption of the existence of god, I believe that presumption to be faulty. If, as I understand your definition of anti-theism, I disbelieve (beyond all reasonable doubt anyway) in the existence of a god, (as I would argue most theists believe) then I am not just atheist, I am anti-theist. As you state, however, in order to logically argue against theism, you must assert true atheism, not anti-theism. In reality for me, to not be anti-theistic as you have defined it, gives credence to the god premise (theism), which I find to be inherently flawed. (I am able to say, without reservation, that beyond all reasonable doubt there is no god--as has yet been defined by our social concepts of god.) Because with regard to theism, you are often dealing with the presupposition of a god, the argument and the belief lies in the realm of the "anti" as opposed to the "a." To sum up, yes logically and technically I am atheist; in reality, I'm anti-theist (as is much of the atheist writing I read).
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FiskeMiles: Because any answer would be arbitrary.We have entire systems of belief -- both secular and religious -- that are premised on assumptions that lack any evidential support. As I've argued in both this thread and others, all rational arguments are ultimately founded on just such an answer. That doesn't make the question meaningless, nor does it make the belief system meaningless. It may be that some such system is in error -- that much I'll grant -- but that doesn't change the essential characteristics of belief.Niall001: At any rate, there is an answer to the question, even if we are unable to answer it. If a question has an answer then how is it without meaning?It looks to me as though there are two implicit points in Niall's post: 1) that the character of the answers we're capable of giving has no impact on the meaningfulness of the question, and 2) that our incapacity to answer a question does nothing to mitigate the consequences that might arise from that question.FiskeMiles: I agree with every point in your basic logical form, but if atheism asserts no position on the supernatural then evidence regarding the supernatural is not relevant to it.Does atheism assert "no position" in regards to the supernatural? It was my understanding that atheism denied the existence of God. That may be expressed in a negative form, but it's certainly a positive position. Maybe this is a semantic quibble, but if you're witholding judgement altogether, then you're an agnostic rather than an atheist. Even the superior reasonableness of agnosticism is in question, as the reasons provided for limiting all positive belief to what is present to the senses are founded in a-rational, inductive premises.The reasonableness of atheism is then not dependent on establishing a criteria for assessing evidence about the supernatural.Hey, it's the atheists in this discussion that keep bringing up the lack of evidence for theism as the feature which distinguishes atheism as the most reasonable belief. But even if we take the above statement as true, then the previous argument that theism is less reasonable loses all weight. If what you're arguing is that, given the lack of evidence, it's more reasonable to suspend judgement altogether, then atheism is in precisely the same boat as theism -- its agnosticism that comes out on top. But even the superiority of agnosticism depends on a certain interpretation of what does and does not qualify as evidence. Agnosticism at least provides a criteria for assessing the relevance of a supposed piece of evidence, but that criteria is also rooted in a-rational suppositions, and as I've shown earlier in this thread, the further you take agnosticism, the more you beg the question.me: Taking prayer by itself, there are so many uncontrollable aspects to the process as it's generally conceived, that I don't know how it would be possible to establish any sort of objective criteria for determining whether or not it actually indicates a divine presence.Frank: So your argument seems to say that while this evidence is "good logic" for an individual it should not be considered acceptable by objective outsiders.Good logic? No, what I'm saying is that the methodology of modern science places limitations on experience as a form of evidence. The main limitation is consensibility -- if a given experience is limited to one person and cannot be repeated or confirmed by another person, then it's inadmissable as scientific evidence. But that should in no way discount the role that experience plays in the formation of personal belief. That isn't a double standard at all; it's simply a recognition of the limitations of scientific method. And it's a recognition that we implicitly work with all the time, regardless of how much lip service we play to the importance of scientific method in daily life.Why should an individual have laxer standards?They shouldn't. But you're looking at confirmation from the wrong perspective. What we're ultimately saying when we require consensibility is that everyone be capable of taking experience as the basis for a belief. That an experience cannot be reproduced for the benefit of others only limits its consensibility, but to the person who had the experience, there is, a priori, no logical reason to treat it any differently than they would a more consensible experience.As for the North American Dictionary's definition of God, bear in mind that all dictionaries limit themselves to the usage popular in their own societies, and that those definitions are determined by lexigraphical survey methods. I've pointed to several other usages of the term god, all of them having broad usage in their own cultures.This is not a complicated matter but somehow you seemed to have missed its very real logic.I happen to think that it's a very complicated issue, that most questions of belief entail more complications than the contributers to this forum usually recognize, and that I'm the only one in this discussion that has made much of an attempt to really present their logic in a rigorous and explicit form.If you are willing to entertain the idea of a supreme being without evidence why not the galactic chicken, or Venusian unicorns, fate, luck, karma, joo joo, magic beans, dancing plutonian hippos? There is no evidence for or against any of these either.That's a stock atheist argument, but it doesn't really amount to much in the context of this discussion. It isn't my contention that you should be willing to entertain all possibilities. The central argument I've made in this is simply that atheism is not intrinsically more logical or reasonable than belief in the supernatural, broadly conceived. Whether or not there's any evidence for a "galactic chicken" is immaterial, unless you want to start the infinite process of elimination of all possible existants.Explain how the concept of god is in any way more logical than belief in any of the above examples.I've never argued that it was. And even if I could argue to that end, it wouldn't affect the point I've been trying to make above.If it is not, (and it isn't) than they all exist with equal probability, if that is the case god is but one possibility out of an infinity of possibilities which makes him improbable.Non sequitur. How does it follow that God is improbable, unless you can also demonstrate that the existence of any one of these possibilities precludes the existence of others. That their existence might exclude the possibility of other supernatural existants does nothing to effect the possibility that those other things exist. And none of those arguments do anything to diminish the probability that something supernatural exists, whatever that thing might be. Mathematically speaking, without any definite reason to incline us one way or another, each of these things are equally probable, and the probability of their existence is equal to the probability of their non-existence. That is, it amounts to a 50/50 chance, regardless of whether or not we figure in the possibility of a divine Cher or a cosmic antelope.But if we accept the criteria of personal or imaginary "evidence" anything becomes equally possible, and many of the endless possibilities would be incompatible with a god.I'm not arguing that we, as a group, accept personal or imaginary evidence. All I've called for all along is some criteria that would make it possible for us to determine the relevance of any given thing as evidence of the supernatural. Look at it this way: the reason you've called for evidence is that we can take evidence as an indication of the probability of a thing -- evidence allows us to move away from the 50/50 chance that a thing exists, which is our only completely logical conclusion until we have some reason to suppose otherwise. As I've argued before, methodological naturalism makes evidence impossible in the case of the supernatural. That doesn't mean that there is no evidence; only that our method for determining the relevance of evidence provides us no way of including possible evidence. That makes the possibility that there is some evidence 50/50 -- we don't know if there is evidence, and cannot know if there is evidence, because our assumptions allows us to consider only the evidence for natural objects. What I'm getting at is, that the inability of theists to present evidence that makes their theism logical is a result not of the existence of that evidence, or lack thereof, but rather of the criteria we insist upon for evidence. That criteria was determined historically by philosophers (Bacon, Descartes, Hume, etc) who were interested in limiting our cosideration to that of natural objects -- in effect, they defined "evidence" so as to preclude anything that might claim to be evidence of the supernatural. In doing so, they closed themselves (and their inheritors) off from any way of considering not only the evidence for the supernatural, but also from any possible way of determining whether or not there was evidence.Ergo, if you want to demonstrate that atheism (or even agnosticism) is more reasonable than theism, you must either find a way to expand the category of evidence so as to make it possible that any evidence could be relevant to questions of the supernatural, or you have to provide some criteria for reasonableness other than evidential support. If you can do neither of those, then we can only reasonably conclude that the existence of relevant evidence is 50/50, and that the possibility of the supernatural, which such evidence would either support or not support, is also 50/50.Actually I think you are trying to sell the idea that theism is as logical as atheism, this is simply not so.I am, but it looks as though I also draw a distinction that you guys do not: that between agnosticism and atheism.Humans make our decisions based on what we observe and if belief in gods has no observable benefit, why bother with it?I'm not so sure that humans make their beliefs entirely based on what they observe. How, then, do you explain our belief in justice, or love, or reason?Niall(?): Aside from my fun little examples, not being able to answer a question really does not automatically make the question meaningless, (I personally think it does in this case) but it does make any arbitrary answer meaningless.Why does it make any arbitrary answer meaningless. Think of this rather crude scenario. You stand on a suspension wire. You know that there is a safety net below, and you've been warned that the placement of the safety net was erroneous. The safety net is lost in the shadows, and you have no way of discerning which side it's on. You've lost your balance, and cannot regain it, but if you act quickly enough, you can at least direct your fall to the left or to the right.Because you have no way of knowing which side the net is on, your decision as to which way to fall is ultimately arbitrary. But it's hardly meaningless.Fiske: I would also revise the final statement slightly to assert that atheism is more logical than any world view which asserts a position on the supernatural not based on verifiable evidence (regardless of why verifiable evidence is not available).This position does not conflict with c4 from your basic logical form.I might tend to agree, provided you changed "atheist" to "agnostic", and given that you could provide some logical argument as to why some experiences count as evidence while others do not. What I have yet to see in defense of agnosticism, however, is any logical argument as to why the normative sense impressions should be the only valid form of evidence. The former would situation your position in the context of a worldview that we mutually agree witholds judgement on the question of the supernatural; the second would address the objections I've raised concerning our criteria for evidence.This is why I have said (repeatedly) that your argument appears to confuse atheism with anti-theism.I've never encountered the term anti-theism before your posts; in your view, does atheism differ substantively from agnosticism, and if so, how?misterpessimistic: I will add that, given Mad's position, this offers a blanket of respectability to any and all silly ideas that someone can come up with. I will point to the Flying Spaghetti Monster again, but also Scientism and the various cults that have spung up.If the whole of your criteria for respecting a belief is that it be as reasonable as atheism, then yeah, I guess it would. That's not my criteria, though.The way I take it is that ANY view of the supernatural can be defended as something to be reckoned with simply because there is no way to disprove it...and that effectively puts it on an equal playing field as any other body of knowledge.I don't think so. I haven't really provided any way of defending any view of the supernatural -- save from the claim that it, by definition, has less of a grounding in logic than atheism.
FiskeMiles

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Dear Mad:Quote:I've never encountered the term anti-theism before your posts; in your view, does atheism differ substantively from agnosticism, and if so, how?Apparently, the earliest OED citation to anti-theism is from 1833. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AntitheismQuote:Does atheism assert "no position" in regards to the supernatural?This question presumes that atheism is monolithic. How many times have you chastised atheists for making similar presumptions about theism? Let's not fall into that trap.Quote:It was my understanding that atheism denied the existence of God.Many atheists deny the existence of God, but is this strictly necessary to be an atheist? One argument goes that individuals who have never been exposed to the concept of theism can't literally be atheists (infants, illiterates, what have you) because they can't actually be said to deny theism. And yet they hold no belief in God, so, undeniably, they are without theism, hence a-theists.But I see another possibility. It is not necessary for a belief system to make any reference to God or the supernatural, either to affirm or deny it. Theists may think a belief system must assert a position on the supernatural, but that results from their own orientation.Quote:Maybe this is a semantic quibble, but if you're witholding judgement altogether, then you're an agnostic rather than an atheist.The phrase "withholding judgment" implies that a judgment is required. Again, a theist argument. I suppose if my belief system does not include God or the supernatural, it can be characterized as both agnostic (no position on the existence or non-existence of God or the supernatural) and atheistic, including no reference to God or the supernatural. That's fine by me.As I've already stated, this orientation precludes arguing for the non-existence of God or the supernatural but places no restrictions on criticizing theistic arguments on logical/rational grounds.The truth is that the question of whether God or the supernatural exists stopped being important to me when I became an atheist. What is important to me is my connection to and relation with the world, including, of course, the people I meet.Fiske
FiskeMiles

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Dear Mad:It seems to me that the argument made in my previous post establishes one way in which atheism can be demonstrably more logical than theism, but it's not really the only way atheism can be shown to be more logical.First off, the reason you're objecting to the assertion is that you're a theist and you don't want to acknowledge that your belief system is somehow less logical than others.You have a strong motivation not to agree because rational approaches to gaining knowledge have been shown to be so effective by the progress of science. If not for this, rational arguments could be dismissed out of hand.So, what would constitute proof of the existence of God or the supernatural?Well, for starters, how about miracles. Your argument that miracles wouldn't really prove anything amounts to sophistry. Take the Cecil B Demille version of the parting of the Red sea, for example. Only this time, instead of having the story related after generations and generations of oral tradition, with no information about precisely when or even where it occurred (was that the Red sea, or was it maybe the Reed sea?), let's have CNN on the scene. Documented video evidence. Oh, and predictions before hand. And no possible explanation for how it could have happened otherwise. And a clear benefit to people "favored" by God.That would be a start.Or how about an explanation as to why God would "favor" one group over another. I mean, an explanation that isn't self-serving.Or how about people actually being raised from the dead?Or people communicating with the living after they die?Or how about religious revelations actually revealing the same thing to everyone who experiences them, instead of, say, telling people to kill others who don't agree with them.What else? You've seen Poltergeist, right? Documented instances of haunting, we're talking video, multiple independent witnesses, etc.Seeing someone walk on water might give me pause. I mean, bare-footed and right in front of me. And not just me, but thousands of other people, including camera crews, scientists, reporters, etc.Or how about people being struck by lightning when they take the Lord's name in vain?Or how about prayer actually making a difference?Documented cases of werewolves and vampires?And why is it, exactly, that supernatural beings are unable to appear before us and give unambiguous directions and advice? I mean, after all, if one or more supernaturals created the world, it or they would surely be able to offer lots of practical advice.To paraphrase Dawkins from River Out of Eden, things appear pretty much how we would expect if there were no God. So why is it so hard to accept that there is no God?Of course, all sorts of mental gymnastics can be used to account for each one of these items (and have been used for millenia), but as a betting man it's easy to see which way the odds point...FiskePS: One more -- seagulls that can fly hundreds of miles an hour and vanish and reappear at will...
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FiskeMiles: Apparently, the earliest OED citation to anti-theism is from 1833. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AntitheismOkay, let's try to get to the bottom of the distinction as quickly as possible so we can go ahead and shelve any possible confusion over the terminology. As I understand the distinction, the way it's presented in the wiki link you provided, atheism is disbelief in a god or gods, whereas antitheism is opposition to theism. Ergo, someone like, say, Richard Dawkins would be both atheist (in that he doesn't believe there is a God or gods), but also anti-theist because he has vocally called for the society-wide abandonment of theism. Correct?I had taken you explanation, Fiske, to mean that atheism was more or less the suspension of judgement as to whether or not there is a god or gods, whereas anti-theism was the assertion that there is no god or gods. You see the difference? But unless you tell me otherwise, I'll assume that in using those two terms, you mean essentially what's spelled out in the first paragraph of the wiki article, and not what I had (mistakenly) taken you to mean in the first place.Many atheists deny the existence of God, but is this strictly necessary to be an atheist?To one degree or another, I'd say yes. After the Eugenie Scott chat last night, I had a good discussion with some BookTalk regulars, and one of the topics we discussed was the distinction between "strong" and "weak" atheistic positions. I had heard the distinction before, but wasn't certain of what it entailed. As it was described to be, "strong" atheism is essentially the definite denial of the existence of divine being -- ie. "I know that there is no God, and it should be patently obvious to everyone else as well." So someone like Mr. P would be towards the strong end of the spectrum. "Weak" atheism still amounts to disbelief, but allows for at least the possibility that the atheist is wrong -- "I don't believe in a god or gods, but I don't know for certain that there aren't any." Richard Dawkins, in the Time interview Niall mentioned, comes off as a weak atheist (so apparantly you can be a weak atheist and an antitheist).Incidentally, I don't particularly like those terms -- "strong" and "weak" -- but then, I didn't invent the terminology. Something along the lines of "probable" and "definite" would probably describe much the same spectrum, without any of the connotations brought in by the physical analogy.But how far can you take that spectrum? For instance, if a person said, "I think that there probably is no God, but just in case, I'm going to be as good a Catholic as I can," would we still consider that person an atheist?I suppose if my belief system does not include God or the supernatural, it can be characterized as both agnostic (no position on the existence or non-existence of God or the supernatural) and atheistic, including no reference to God or the supernatural.If we tie this all back to your original argument, I think that take on things is problematic. First off, when you say that atheism is more reasonable than any other position, what do you mean by atheism? Assuming that I (tacitly) accept the definition of atheism to include people who have never considered or encountered the idea of god, can we really call their atheism more reasonable than any other position? To my mind, that would be like saying a Russian dock worker is more reasonable than either Lacanian or neo-Freudian psychologists simply because he's never encountered or addressed the problems addressed by those schools. In order to have a more reasonable position, you have to have applied reason to a particular problem, it seems to me. So in the context of this particular assertion, your assertion, it does seem like a distinction between the two kinds of atheists -- those who are atheists because they've consciously addressed the question, and those who are atheists by accident of circumstance -- is relavent.In light of all that, the conclusion that looks, to me, obvious is, that the statement that started this discussion -- the "more/most reasonable" assertion -- is potentially applicable to "conscious atheists", but completely inapplicable to "circumstantial atheists".Incidentally, if I were going to Venn diagram all of this, I would not make the categories of agnostic and circumstantial atheist congruent. Circumstantial atheists aren't necessarily witholding judgement -- they've just never felt the need to make a judgement. Agnosticism, however, is a conscious suspension of judgement in accordance with a particular epistemic standard for arriving at an answer.It seems to me that the argument made in my previous post establishes one way in which atheism can be demonstrably more logical than theism, but it's not really the only way atheism can be shown to be more logical.I don't think it does. The last post was primarily semantic -- you provided some more categories for thinking about atheism, but you didn't really provide a logical argument in demonstration of its supposedly superior reasonableness. That's part of what I'm getting at here -- what's your standard for reasonableness? The evidential standard originally asserted doesn't hold up, for the simple reason that we have no way of evaluating evidence for theism, so is there some other standard?First off, the reason you're objecting to the assertion is that you're a theist and you don't want to acknowledge that your belief system is somehow less logical than others.Even if that's the case, what does that have to do with the logical arguments I've presented? It's tantemount to saying, "we disagree on specific points because we disagree on the issue as a whole."You have a strong motivation not to agree because rational approaches to gaining knowledge have been shown to be so effective by the progress of science.Science hasn't prospered because it's more rational than other cultural modes -- it's prospered because it has tailored its methodology to a particular end, and seeks only to meet that end. The reduction of the scope of scientific enquiry to the natural world is part and parcel of that success, but that isn't an example of "pure reason", if any such thing exists. Rather, its the application of contingent reason to a limited problem set. The groundwork for all of that is explicit in Descartes, Hume and Bacon.Well, for starters, how about miracles... Documented video evidence. Oh, and predictions before hand. And no possible explanation for how it could have happened otherwise. And a clear benefit to people "favored" by God.A few problems. One, if we insist on your last term, then we can only take any given miracle as evidence of a particular kind of God, specifically an interventionist God with a particular interest in a clearly defined set of people. I also think the third term is problematic, because our capacity for explanation changes in relation to what we perceive as "natural law". So the only way to ensure that an purported miracle had no alternative explanation is to guarantee that no one was willing to consider changes to the current state of scientific theory. But that ain't gonna happen, because it's part and parcel of the method of science to either a) find away to explain observable phenomenon in terms of current theory, or b) accomodate theory to observable anamolies. So any supposed miracle that occurs is going to be treated by the scientific community as an anamoly, one that will be explained eventually even if we can't explain it now. And that "eventually" is problematic: how much time must pass without an adequate explanation before we say, "okay, we're never going to be able to explain that scientifically, so it's safe to call it a miracle?" Historically, science is very patient.Of course, all sorts of mental gymnastics can be used to account for each one of these items (and have been used for millenia), but as a betting man it's easy to see which way the odds point...Not really. The odds don't seem to point either way, at least, not in regards to the supernatural altogether. Obviously, you can address specific supernatural claims -- it would be pretty easy to test the claim that God immediately strikes with lightening everyone who blasphemies. And if you wanted to, you could go along and test every possible claim that involves a presumably predictable supernatural incursion on natural events. But you wouldn't have proved anything thereby, because all such incursions would be explicable in strictly naturalistic terms. But that doesn't change the odds of the existence of a supernatural object one way or the other. The probabilistic argument is spurious. I wouldn't say that theistic arguments are any more reasonable, but let's not satisfy ourselves with arguments that don't hold up, simply because they favor atheism.
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Dear Mad:Given that just discussing discussing The God Delusion has brought you a new source of amusement, do you still oppose selecting it as a reading? Full of Porn*http://plainofpillars.blogspot.com
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I'd like to trim this discussion down a little bit and get it back to the point of departure that started the foregoing considerations. I've tried to keep my arguments restricted to the assertion (made by Fiske, restated by Frank, and presumably supported by others), that atheism is more reasonable than other positions regarding the supernatural. Or, in its stronger form, that atheism is the most reasonable position available.Their initial support for that statement was to point to the inability of theists to provide evidence for their beliefs. So long as that was the formal support, it made sense to question the role evidence played in their argument. But in recent posts it looks like the emphasis has been taken off of evidence. If the call for evidence isn't Fiske et al.'s support for their assertion, then I see no reason to insist on it as a point of contention.That shift in position gives me less to argue, of course, but it also leaves the original assertion without any formal substance. I hope it's clear what I mean. Taken together, the call for evidence and the assertion that atheism was more reasonable consituted an argument that at least took logical form: A if, and only if, B; B is true; therefore, A. Take away the second term of that form, though, and all you have is a statement, not a logical argument. Probability arose as a substitute for evidence, but I've argued against that as well, and at any rate, it hasn't been presented as strongly as the argument from evidence.What I'd like to see is an explicit logical argument in defense of the statement that atheism is more reasonable than the alternatives -- not because I need ammunition to continue the argument, but because I don't currently see anything to warrant the original assertion. As I see it, such an argument would need several features in order to pass muster as logical, and it seems to me that we all know enough about how logic works to agree on those features. Specifically, we'll need a set of premises that are logically connected to a set of conclusions, the last of which will be the original assertion. Those premises will have to include some kind of criteria for determining the reasonableness of a position. They should probably also include some explanation as to how the terms are being used, since that's raised a few problems in recent posts.And since my motive in arguing all of this has been called into question, let me finish this reply with some indication as to what is at stake. I argue these points not because I'm out to logically justify my own theism, nor in order to argue that anyone should adopt my belief. I am fairly convinced, in fact, that my own theism essentially a-logical, and I don't recall having presented it as anything more than that. What concerns me, rather, is the impression I've gotten from associating with (some, not all) atheists, both on and off of BookTalk, for the past several years, to the effect that statements like the one in question here -- ie. that atheism is the most reasonable position -- is less a methodically considered argument than it is a form of self-congratulation. I don't know Fiske, don't know what he's like in person, and wouldn't feel comfortable speculating as to what goes on in his head or in his relationships to other people. The same goes for Frank, or anyone who agrees with what they've said so far. It's the statement itself that I find questionable. And if, like me, others on BookTalk believe that Socrates was right about the importance of self-examination, then they ought to have a vested interest in questioning it as well.
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Re: Okay...

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Niall001: Given that just discussing discussing The God Delusion has brought you a new source of amusement, do you still oppose selecting it as a reading?I don't plan on reading it. You guys are welcome to choose whatever you want to read. I wasn't opposed to anyone reading it, and I don't have any particular interest in reading the other freethought options for this quarter, so it's a moot point as far as I'm concerned. So long as there was a chance that we might pick a book that I'd like to read more, it seemed worth arguing. Now, it's somebody else's business.
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