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March 01, 2010

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Home Run!

Thanks Greg

Great point Greg, isn't it also true that to be an atheist is to take positions on metaphysics, ethics and epistemology by default? To say "I'm an atheist" is to say something like the world is such that there is no design and that ultimate reality is impersonal (therefore reason came from non-reason) that all that exists is in some sense physical (so no universals for morality and logic since the laws from which they come aren't physical), that man's brain provides the criteria/standards for determining what is true and false, right and wrong. In other words to be an atheist is to say that man in himself is the ultimate authority, now if that's not a claim that needs to backed up then what does?

Now that I think about it, given atheism perhaps he isn't obligated to defend his position. Obligated by what standard? Who/what says you ought to be rational (the universe?, evolution?, me?, you?, us? everyone? . . . what if the atheist doesn't want too)? If the atheist doesn't feel like being rational, why should he (i.e. on atheistic assumptions)? Of course then he shouldn't demand that anyone else be rational either. In that case he shouldn't utter a sentence (but if he has no obligation to be rational perhaps he should utter the sentence . . . or not).

Since he will be on here eventually to defend his position, I want to go ahead and ask RonH what is your most convinceing arguments and evidences for atheism? Thanks for your time.

I suppose whether there is intellectual dishonesty would depend on the particular atheist. Put aside for the moment the issue whether one can be born with particular beliefs, or with particular concepts. To have a belief or unbelief in something, you would have to have formed a concept of that something, which would come either from experience or what you are told by someone else. If it is from experience, you can form a falsifiable hypothesis from what you have experienced, and that hypothesis can be added to theory under probation. All theory is falsifiable, and is on probation. If a later fact arises that causes you to reject the hypothesis, you have "unbelieved", which is different from doing nothing. But your unbelieving is an undoing of a prior believing. No intellectual dishonesty here, since you have an observation to back up your reversal of belief.

If you learn the concept from being told of it by someone else who believes in it, the someone else would have the burden of presenting the falsifiable hypotheses that he has formed about the concept, or describing the experiences on which the someone else is basing his theory. Then you, the listener, can accept or reject the theory based on experiences of your own, or you can form your own theory drawn from the experiences of the someone else.

In all these cases the acceptance or rejection of a hypothesis is based on experience, either your own or someone else's. It is intellectual dishonesty to reject a theory if the evidence for it (the observations) have been accurately presented and you have no countervailing evidence, but it is not intellectual dishonest to remember that all theories are on probation.

You would not be called upon to provide evidence that there are no fairies under your house if no one has presented evidence to support a theory that they are there.

I got here via a link on Twitter. Excellent video & reasoning! Thank you.

Nobody writes, discusses, or argues about their non-beliefs? Nothing to discuss?

Suppose you give an argument for P. Clearly I'm allowed to refute your argument without defending not P.

In fact I can refute your arguments for P all day long without incurring an obligation to defend not P.

I could even believe P and do this.

RonH

A worldview that leads one to non-belief (Atheism) requires some arguments/reasons to support the conclusion that their worldview is correct. The burden of the Atheist is to argue for their worldview, not to argue against God.

If the reasons are compelling then non-belief is justified. If they are not compelling, then belief is justified.

Most people rationally conclude, after having given it some thought, that the Atheist worldview is deficient in some way.

RonH,
You are free not to defend "not P" if you like, but dont pretend as many atheists do, that you have not made any claims. You do have beliefs that differ from theists, so why not offer positive evidence for your view?
Why should not having an "obligation" keep you from sharing your evidence?

I think you're overlooking one possibility for why those with non-belief would write books - in circumstances where people try to make laws or regulations based on faith-based morality, an atheist would want to talk about their non-belief as an argument for why these laws and regulations shouldn't come into existence. Those who write books beyond these sorts of motives probably are outright believers in the non-existence of any deities.

Actually, 8% of the world doesn't believe in god. http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html So I guess the statistics in this video fall into the 47% of statistics that are just made up on the spot (including that one).

So in a way, the lack of evidence to prove gods existence is an evidence itself of gods existence.

And discussing about fiction is pointless because it's non-belief.
So in a way, every opinion about anything has to be factual.

My logic hurts.

Sorry Goobs -- from the link you provide, atheistic adherents amount to about 2.5%.

I like how you do not differentiate from atheism and secularism; they share much in common, but they are not synonymous.

Nice try though.

"I can refute your arguments for P all day long without incurring an obligation to defend not P.

I could even believe P and do this."

A theist who rejects all arguments for theism is a theists who believes that theism requires blind faith.

This gives rise to an obvious question. What is the difference between atheism and blind faith theism?

Or is this a distinction without a difference?

If my loved ones were organizing their lives around the belief that unicorns existed, giving tons of money to institutions that propagate unicorn belief, then I might write a book about how belief in unicorns is not justified. It's not that I can prove it. It's that there is not good evidence for them. I can't make any argument except that there is no evidence for them. He who positively asserts the existence of unicorns has the burden of proof.

What about the fact that the majority of people believe in some sort of God? Does this somehow mean I have a burden? I still don't see why. 7K years ago the majority of Hindu's might have believed that the earth sat on a turtle. A skeptical Indian might write a book and simply say that there is no evidence for such a thing despite the fact that a majority of people believe in it. He's intellectually justified in writing that book. He does not have to show that it is positively false that the earth sits on a turtle to rational reject the notion based on the simple fact that there is no evidence for it.

This post fails at philosophical burden of proof.

Steve and Steve,
Greg said, and I agree, that until he makes an argument supporting the claim that he has fairies under his house I am justified not trying to prove they don't exist. After all, I can't be expected to try to disprove everything he claims.

Once he makes an argument I have two choices.

I can offer an argument against the fairies or I can refute his argument(s).

If I do either well enough we are back where were we started. It is as if he never made an argument. My view in the case of God is that the second has been done for all the arguments I've heard.

Nastassja,
I'm much more interested in, for example, keeping religious views out of science classes and abortion law than I am in arguing that God doesn't exist.

RonH

David G.-

Isn't the one who positively asserts the existence of a failure the one that bears the burden of proof?

Jon-

"He who positively asserts the existence of unicorns has the burden of proof."

What makes this principle true?

>>I'm much more interested in, for example, keeping religious views out of science classes and abortion law than I am in arguing that God doesn't exist.

Ron, out of curiosity, do you consider human rights to be a "religious view," or do you believe in them?

""He who positively asserts the existence of unicorns has the burden of proof."

What makes this principle true?"

Common sense and the language of discourse make this true. If it is NOT the case that I must provide evicdence to back up assertions about the universe, then ANYTHING goes. Pink unicorns, fairies, the inivisible purple dragon in my garage, and (famously) teapots orbiting the moon.
Atheism, as a LACK of belief, makes NO claims about the universe. Those that believe in some form of deity find this EXTREMELY hard to understand. What atheists CONTINUALLY point out is that this is the default position - a complete lack of belief in deities. If YOU CLAIM that deities exist, you MUST stump up evidence. Thus weak atheism; existence of deity(ies) is a hypothesis - there is no evidence to support that hypothesis, hypothesis dismissed. The day theists stump up some evidence, the hypothesis can be re-examined for purpose. If atheists 'have beliefs' as mr video blogger says, its that theists are wrong and their evidence is pants/not evidence. Thats it. Next?
Oh, Mr VideoBlogger - best not to follow up one distorted view of logic with another - i.e. burden of evidence fail with argument from popularity fail. All those people can be wrong.
Lastly - we are in the same boat. I just believe in one less god than you. Does your belief in 'God' AUTOMATICALLY mean that you have evidence that Thor, Wodan, Allah, Buddha etc etc etc ad nauseum DONT exist? I dont think so. I dont expect YOU to come out and tell me why all those gods DONT exist - that's not your job, but IS a job for the people that believe in those OTHER gods.
With me so far?
So when it comes to YOUR god, its your job to justify and provide evidence for its existence. rofl. Best of luck and goodnight.

Hi, Nastassij,

>>”in circumstances where people try to make laws or regulations based on faith-based morality, an atheist would want to talk about their non-belief as an argument for why these laws and regulations shouldn't come into existence.”

This is pervasive in many countries - I agree. There are so many places around the world where people, including Christians, are persecuted due to oppressive governments (ie “regulations based on faith-based morality”). The great thing about the US is that so many people, including Christians, fight against this.

Wow..."EpistleoftheApostles" got anything new? "one less god then you"? So if you are not making a claim...then please admit that you have nothing to back up your unbelief. That you are merely making a choice not a claim and you have nothing to add or criticize since you are claiming that you don't know one way or another if there is a God. So get off the floor and sit in the corner because you belong in the peanut gallery. Your comments are worthless if you have no claim to test or interact with.

Hi, EpistletotheApostles

>> “Atheism, as a LACK of belief, makes NO claims about the universe.”

To be an atheist, you must believe the universe just ‘began’ – out of nothing. I’d say that’s a pretty substantial claim.

Also....what if one was an atheist as to whether or not a baker baked the cake on the shelf at the bakery? I’d say that person doesn’t have the burden of proof either. No claim. No further work needed.

"To be an atheist, you must believe the universe just ‘began’ – out of nothing."

Not at all. Atheists can, and many do, say "I don't know" when it comes to the question of the origin of the universe. Rejecting the non-answer "God did it" is not the same as making a claim about what actually happened.

I see weak atheism or agnosticism as the default position when it comes to the existence of any deities. Anyone making claims, be they "god X exists" or "no gods exist," needs to provide evidence for their claim. But an atheist who has not been convinced that any gods exist (yet remains open to the idea that there may be some evidence they haven't seen) does not have a burden of proof.

Even if you were right and belief is the default position, then which god is it? A Hindu god? Allah? Yahweh? A deist god? Surely you would agree that naming a specific god brings a burden of proof into play?

Hi KWM,

Danny has already dealt with your canard, but Ill add a little. Actually its your theism/deism that makes claims about the origins of the universe. And in doing so, shifts the burden of existence without cause onto the diety, then quite dispassionately say "well god is omniscient/infinite/omnipresent (delete as applicable)" without any sense that they have just walked into logical doo doo. Id say any claim about the origins of the universe is substantial, but one that starts with observation/evidence/data is better than one that comes from a manual for goat herders.

Anyway, no need to invoke atheism. "I dont know" is a good enough answer for me.

Why are universes at all comparable to bread? Go and look up Paley's watchmaker argument rofl.

EtA

Hi, Danny.

I was referring to the atheist that claims, “no gods exist".

>>”Even if you were right and belief is the default position, then which god is it? A Hindu god? Allah? Yahweh? A deist god? Surely you would agree that naming a specific god brings a burden of proof into play?”

Yes, definitely.

P.S. In my post about the baker above, I should have written "atheist" (in quotes).

Marcus

"That you are merely making a choice not a claim and you have nothing to add or criticize since you are claiming that you don't know one way or another if there is a God."

Oh dear me no. If you KNOW there is a god one way or the other then show me the evidence. Need a definition of evidence? Try this: "independent corroboration from an outside source, or a direct, methodologically rigorous, repeatable empirical demonstration"
I am criticising YOUR belief. I dont NEED "anything to back up my nonbelief" because if you INSIST on that then I will insist that you demonstrate that there are no fairies etc etc.
Its not a question of choice - its a question of logic. Until you stump up evidence why should I not summarily dismiss your claims? rofl.

EtA

"Common sense and the language of discourse make this true."

How?

"If it is NOT the case that I must provide evidence to back up assertions about the universe, then ANYTHING goes. Pink unicorns, fairies, the invisible purple dragon in my garage, and (famously) teapots orbiting the moon."

And why shouldn't anything go? How do we know that we don't live in a world that is stuffed with all sorts of entities whose existence is difficult or downright impossible to prove? If that is the sort of world we live in, anything should go. So how do we know that's not our world?

Ockham's Razor?

What makes Ockham's Razor true?

"Atheism, as a LACK of belief, makes NO claims about the universe. Those that believe in some form of deity find this EXTREMELY hard to understand."

I think everyone understands that you are not saying that you believe the denial of every (or any) theistic claim. You are saying that you don't believe theistic claims. These are different.

But the fact that you don't believe a claim may commit you to beliefs about other claims. That is what atheists don't seem to get.

"What atheists CONTINUALLY point out is that this is the default position - a complete lack of belief in deities. If YOU CLAIM that deities exist, you MUST stump up evidence."

Which brings us back to the original question. "Why is this true?" Saying it again in all caps isn't an answer, it's just a shout.

Please note, I tend to agree with Ockham's Razor and with the general principle that the burden of proof should rest with the one making an existence claim. It's just that these principles have implications, and I don't think most atheists have thought through what those implications are.

Eta,

I’m familiar with the watchmaker argument. The comparison still stands, however. The theist believes there is sufficient evidence to conclude God exists by looking at the world and the evidence – an atheist who denies that set of evidence and says, “no, God does not exist,” shares a burden of proof – the whole point of the post.

The assumption made by you and others is that the atheist just says, “I don’t know”. He rarely does baby.

By the way, it seems that you enjoy “rofl”. Suit yourself, but it doesn’t look good on you.

"And why shouldn't anything go? How do we know that we don't live in a world that is stuffed with all sorts of entities whose existence is difficult or downright impossible to prove? If that is the sort of world we live in, anything should go. So how do we know that's not our world?"<- What evidence do you have that this is the case? What practical effects can be detected? Such claims are irrelevant until there is evidence to back them up - assert what you like, dont expect it to be taken seriously until there is evidence.
"But the fact that you don't believe a claim may commit you to beliefs about other claims. That is what atheists don't seem to get."<- I disagree. Usually these are lumped in by deists/theists to conflate their belief sytem with one they impute on atheists. Hardly the same thing.
I really dont see what is difficult about one requiring evidence before one accepts anothers assertion about the universe.

KWM

"The comparison still stands, however"<- Why? Whay are watches/houses/bread comparable toi universes? You impute design as a large inductive argument which is independently rational but does not logically translate to the universe.
"an atheist who denies that set of evidence and says, “no, God does not exist,” shares a burden of proof"<-This is entirely incorrect. You imply that I need to oiffer an explanation. I do not. I can shoot at your assertion all day long and when you turn around and say "what IS going on then" I am quite entitled to reply "I. Dont. Know"

If you think that the universe is evidence for a deity by the way, then you need to look at my defintion of evidence above. And why is my defintion applicable? Because this is science we are talking about. We are making claims about how the universe works. So we need to be clear and non-emotional about what is admissable. Dictionary defintions of evidence will mot suffice.

And rofl at use of 'baby'. Im 38.

>>”And rofl at use of 'baby'. Im 38.”

Without getting into the lexicon, I was using “baby” as in “whoa baby”. I wouldn’t have guessed you were 38…the way you throw around “rofl” : )

Again, many atheists don't say, "I. Don't. Know." Often times they’ll cut you off telling you what to believe about the world and human existence. Enter “burden of proof”.

KWM

"Often times they’ll cut you off telling you what to believe about the world and human existence."

Well seeing as that isnt my point, still leaves those who would claim existence of a deity with the burden of offering up evidence to justify their deity hypothesis.

I'd love to see some evidence. Any takers?

EtA

"What evidence do you have that this is the case? What practical effects can be detected? Such claims are irrelevant until there is evidence to back them up - assert what you like, don't expect it to be taken seriously until there is evidence."

And around we go. Repeating an unsupported claim is not the same as providing support for it.

Wow, atheists and anti-theists are out in full force.

If you guys had nothing to prove/claim -- why then, pray tell, are you here?

This is delicious irony at its best.

Amy,

You asked if I consider human rights to be a "religious view," or believe in them?

Human rights are a much better idea than religion.

RonH

"If you guys had nothing to prove/claim -- why then, pray tell, are you here?"

Why do you and the man in the video think that not making a claim about the existence of god equals not ever participating in discussions about religion and how it affects the world? I don't see the connection. We evaluate and reject theistic claims because they cause harm.

Ah, yes. A perfect example of an atheist smuggling in a claim. Danny's last sentence just 'is'. Are we just supposed to yawn and move on?

Perhaps Danny can hit the high points of Hitchens' GING?

"what are your most convincing arguments and evidences for atheism? "

I define atheism as a lack of believe in gods. My evidence for that lack of belief is the lack of evidence for any theistic claims. If you reject that definition of atheism, then you might call me an agnostic. I don't really care what label you use, I just don't buy your claims. I don't claim that no gods exist.

WL,
Suppose my belief is based on my personal experience. But, I find all your arguments for the same belief flawed. What then?
RonH

Hi Danny

"I don't claim that no gods exist."

Then you are not an atheist.

Todd

My goodness!

A lot of churning on a topic already well treated. Please see:

http://tr.im/Qk8K

Can we move on now?

For those not willing to relent, let's try to make this as simple as possible:

This discussion boils down to nothing more than the atheist failing to recognize that "I make no claim!" is, in reality, a claim. The only true "claimless" atheist is one who keeps his mouth shut and his pen capped. All other are making claims. And claims must be defended. Period.

RonH, in yet another exasperating post, says:

    Amy, You asked if I consider human rights to be a "religious view," or believe in them?

    Human rights are a much better idea than religion.
    RonH
To that I say, "And Pepsi is better than Coke."

Yet neither your statement nor mine addresses Amy's question.

RonH -- would you kindly answer Amy's question!?!

Ron-

Is this:

"Suppose my belief is based on my personal experience. But, I find all your arguments for the same belief flawed. What then?"

in response to this:

"A theist who rejects all arguments for theism is a theist who believes that theism requires blind faith.

This gives rise to an obvious question. What is the difference between atheism and blind faith theism?"

???

If so, then I'd say that you haven't yet distinguished atheism from a form of theism. Many theists will balk at the title "blind faith" by insisting that their spiritual subjective experience (but no argument or objective evidence) grounds their belief.

But clearly atheism is incompatible with any form of theism. Isn't it?

This last point provides another way of seeing this whole discussion. Only claims can stand in incompatibility relationships with other claims. If atheism really were not a claim, then it would not be incompatible with any claim. In particular, atheism would not be incompatible with theism!

btmbo

http://tr.im/Qk8K - well treated?

That 'argument' just assumes God as axiomatic - its starting point is biased. It is logical flick flacks at its worst.

One must start from a position of saying "I dont know" and then observe whatever it takes to gather evidence. Be honest with yourselves - your staring point is that God exists. Why is that so?

"This discussion boils down to nothing more than the atheist failing to recognize that "I make no claim!" is, in reality, a claim."

Rubbish. Atheism would be a claim IF the existence of God were well founded in evidence. Sadly you have zero evidence. If you have incontrevertible evidence for gods existence (note that evidence = independent corroboration from an outside source, or a direct, methodologically rigorous, repeatable empirical demonstration) then show it. What are you afraid of? Lets see the data! Until that point, it is illogical to assume that your deity exists. As Russell said, one shouldnt believe things because they are useful, one should believe them because they are true.

Richard Romano

"If you guys had nothing to prove/claim -- why then, pray tell, are you here?"

To tell you that YOU are the one with the claim - YOU have to provide the evidence.

There is a reason why its called faith. Faith is belief without evidence. Faith in God I cannot argue with, obviously, but then what is the point of wishful thinking?

Lastly, Im here because the video above, and the link that btmbo posted are pernicious. They are examples of poor quality thinking.

EtA

Btmbo,
You're right. Amy deserves a clearer answer.

Human rights stem from our nature which is a real thing that stems from our past.

Our future seems to depend on our having some notion of human rights or the equivalent.

In both of these respects, human rights are like chewing: given our situation (past, present, and future) there seems to be no way around it.

Chewing, also, is a really good idea.

(Don't misunderstand. I'm not looking for a way around either chewing or human rights. I embrace both heartily.)

RonH

EpistletotheApostles made the claim:

    [...] you have zero evidence.
Would you kindly support your claim?

Wisdom Lover asked:

"What makes this principle true?"

I'd recommend Greg's "Tactics in defending the faith." That's where I learned this principle. He called it common sense and basic courtesy. He says "Do I need to defend the claim that the explanation for the resurrection evidence is that Jesus is a space alien?" The one that asserts the claim has the burden to prove the claim.

The "I don't know" answer is part and parcel to the frustration shared by person who posed the initial question posed to Greg.

"I don't know" becomes a stop-gap tactic that can shut down any epistemological search.

Sometimes this is cheap and lame and contradictory.

Cheap and lame because of the timing of uttering the sentence of "I don't know".

Contradictory because most times you still have to give an explanation or reasons for why you say "I don't know".

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