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Hawking Goes Dawkins

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npower1
742309.  Sat Sep 11, 2010 5:15 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
But there are some who are 100% convinced that God does not and cannot exist - or at least, that is what they say. I've probably only ever met a single figure number of them, but they are out there.


Suze, add me to your list. Maybe we can get you into a 'teens' number, or maybe a twenties number, or, much more likely, a millions number.

 
Sadurian Mike
742320.  Sat Sep 11, 2010 5:52 pm Reply with quote

The problem with being 100% convinced of anything is that you look pretty stupid if new evidence come forwards that contradicts your view.

I am honest enough to say that, whilst I do not hesitate to say that the evidence is all against there being any sort of god and therefore I do not believe there is one, I would be prepared to change that view should I be presented with sufficiently strong evidence of a god existing.

Just like science, spiritualism ought to be judged using the best evidence currently available rather than a 100% immobile stance.

 
CB27
742328.  Sat Sep 11, 2010 6:41 pm Reply with quote

That's leaning towards agnostisicm, and doesn't suit me.

I was 100% sure a few years ago that the Earth only had one moon, now I know otherwise. It might have made me wrong, but not stupid, there was no evidence at all for a second "moon", either through sighting, influence on gravity, or any way that we could measure such things.

I'm 100% convinced there's no deity of any kind. If I'm proven wrong, so be it, but there is absolutely no evidence or reason for me to believe otherwise at this point.

I'm not condemning agnosticism, I just reject it in this case.

Ask me if I think life evolved on this planet without any external influence, and there I can give you an agnostic answer. There are various theories with regards to how life can spark from a primordial soup, and it makes sense to me, I'm just not 100% convinced it happened here on Earth now that we know more about how meteorites have shaped our planets, and recent studies showing the possibility of some basic forms of life surviving on asteroids.

 
Sadurian Mike
742329.  Sat Sep 11, 2010 6:54 pm Reply with quote

I disagree. An agnostic is undecided as to the existence or not of a god, whereas an aetheist does not believe that there is one. I do not believe that there is a god and I am not actually looking to be convinced either way, but I am also realistic to know that nothing is 100% certain. Small though the possibility may be, there is a chance that we may see some supernatural being reveal themself publicly and explain that he is actually controlling the universe.

By allowing that tiny element of doubt, I leave open the possibility that what I hold true based on current evidence may be challlenged by new revelations. I would therefore call myself about 99.9% sure that there is no god.

Your statement;
CB27 wrote:
I'm 100% convinced there's no deity of any kind. If I'm proven wrong, so be it, but there is absolutely no evidence or reason for me to believe otherwise at this point.

doesn't sit right. If you are 100% sure then surely you do not believe that there will be any evidence to the contrary. You are completely sure of your stance and therefore completely sure that no evidence can be forthcoming to prove you wrong.

Yet you also acknowledge that there may be contrary evidence. I would argue that this means that you cannot be 100% sure of your stance because you are allowing that there might be evidence as yet undiscovered.

 
CB27
742338.  Sat Sep 11, 2010 10:33 pm Reply with quote

No, I'm saying I'm 100% sure that there is no God because I see no reason to believe otherwise. Similarly I believe there is no such thing as a talking koala bear named Fred who who works for an accountancy firm during the week and dons stockings and suspenders during the weekends, preferring to call himself Sheila.

However, if Fred shows up at my door clutching a bunch of Eucalyptus leaves in one hand and a briefcase in the other, and complains about the ladder in his stockings then I'd have to consider he might actually exist.

It doesn't mean have an iota of doubt as to Fred's non-existence, and the same goes for any deity of any kind.

 
npower1
742353.  Sun Sep 12, 2010 3:15 am Reply with quote

I thought this short report fitted this thread.

 
soup
742361.  Sun Sep 12, 2010 3:32 am Reply with quote

CB27 wrote:

It doesn't mean have an iota of doubt as to Fred's non-existence,.


Of course it does. You have said he may(probably won't but he may) turn up, this means you have a (very very very small admittedly) doubt that he does actually exist. If you knew for a fact that there was no transvestite Koala called Fred you wouldn't have allowed for him turning up at your door.
I will go one further and say there is no transvestite Koala called Fred and he won't ever ever ever turn up at my door.

 
tetsabb
742369.  Sun Sep 12, 2010 3:55 am Reply with quote

Fred is not a very good accountant, and has fallen on hard times.
He's known as 'Fred Bear'

Move along, now.

 
RLDavies
742418.  Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:07 am Reply with quote

Sadurian Mike wrote:
I disagree. An agnostic is undecided as to the existence or not of a god, whereas an aetheist does not believe that there is one.

Not quite...
An agnostic (a-gnosis, "not knowing") is undecided about whether there is a God. Strictly speaking, the agnostic argument is that the existence or nonexistence of God is unknowable to the human mind.
An atheist (a-theos, "no god") believes that there is definitely no God. This is a more decided viewpoint than "does not believe that there is one".

Strength of belief doesn't necessarily mean unshakeableness of belief. You could believe something wholeheartedly, but be willing to change your belief in the face of sufficient new evidence. In a way, this is a test of sanity, or at least rationality.

 
PDR
742419.  Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:11 am Reply with quote

This is always an interesting discussion which (for once) seems to have remained as a rational debate rather than descending into a slanging match - possibly because I've stayed out of it for a few days...

:-)

Anyway, my thoughts (FWIW):

Is it a matter of believing deities exist or believing they don't exist?

I think this illustrates one of the problems we have discussing it. To a "person of faith" it is necessary to believe one or the other position. To a "rationalist" it is not necessary to "believe" in anything. If asked "is there a <deity of choice>" they rationalist would probably so "no", but as a matter of observation rather than belief. The rationalist sees nothing around them which requires the existance of <deity> as part of its intrinsic nature, so regards it as an irrelevancy.

The person-of-faith doesn't understand this position and so interprets it as belief in the non-existance of deities, but it's both more and less than that. I suspect even those who subscribe to the "100% certain that <deity> doesn't exist" actually fall into this category. The person-of-faith is looking for proof that <deity> doesn't exist, and when presented with a person who says "I have no proof that it does or doesn't" interprets this as some sort of mid-way position. But this misses the point. To a rationalist it is not a matter of proving the non-existance; it's an outlook which holds that nothing exists until you start seeing some evidence to suggest it might. Absence of proof *against* is not evidence *for*, but absence of evidence *for* makes the possibility irrelevant.

Is science a "Faith"?

Interesting point. In general the scientific approach is a method and an outlook. There is one sense in which it can be described as a "faith", and that is the belief that the scientific/rationalist method of deduction and induction is a viable way of exploring the nature of reality - faith in the method rather than faith in the data it produces.

But there is one massive difference between this faith (if it is one) and the religious type of faith. In general (remembering that all generalisations are dangerous) the religious faith approach requires that where evidence contradicts faith it is the evidence that must be in error, whereas faith in scientific method would require that if the associated "articles of faith" are contradicted by ecvidence then the articles of faith can (and often are) subject to modification.

So religious faith can over-rule reality whereas faith in scientific method can't.

0.03 supplied,

PDR

 
Efros
742420.  Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:13 am Reply with quote

Huxley who first used the term to describe his situation concerning god, said this "So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of "agnostic." It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the "gnostic" of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. To my great satisfaction the term took."

 
Spud McLaren
742426.  Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:22 am Reply with quote

PDR wrote:
Absence of proof *against* is not evidence *for*, but absence of evidence *for* makes the possibility irrelevant.
Hmm. That sounds a lot like, "I can't see, hear, touch, small or taste it, so it doesn't exist." to me. Were atoms irrelevant before Dalton? Were WsMD irrelevant to the decision to start the war in Iraq?

 
PDR
742508.  Sun Sep 12, 2010 11:03 am Reply with quote

Spud McLaren wrote:
PDR wrote:
Absence of proof *against* is not evidence *for*, but absence of evidence *for* makes the possibility irrelevant.
Hmm. That sounds a lot like, "I can't see, hear, touch, small or taste it, so it doesn't exist." to me.


That is actually a good way of looking at the rationalist position, yes. Although it isn't limited to "see, hear, touch, taste or smell" [queue klaxon for limiting it to just five senses] - I can't see, hear, touch, taste or smell the behaviour of electrons in many electronic components, but I can infer their behaviour from other effects that I can detect. The point would be that as long as nothing that I see [etc] requires the postulation of greater levels of abstraction and/or interaction with unseeable [etc] entities I don't need to worry about the existance (or not) of those entities in order to be able to understand and predict the behaviour of things I *can* see [etc]. Thus they are irrelevant.

Quote:

Were atoms irrelevant before Dalton?


No, becuase many things which they COULD detect required the understanding of the atom to be able to understand and predict them. Much of physics and the majority of mechanical engineering does not depend on what goes on *within* an atom, so the rutherford-bohr atom is a more than adequate explanation for their purposes. Thus a mechanical engineer does not need to be concerned about whether electrons are in the D or F orbitals (or indeed whether they exist al all). They become irrelevant for most purposes. In my personal explanation of the universe I see nothing which would require the existance of a deity for its behaviour to be understood or predicted, so for my purposes I consider no such entity to exist.

Quote:

Were WsMD irrelevant to the decision to start the war in Iraq?


Not really a cogent example IMHO, but in my opinion the answer would still be yes. The relevant factor here was the perceived probability that WsMD existed, infered from various data and (IMHO) a deliberate misinformation campaign being run by Saddam (as part of a game of very high-stakes poker game in which he was banking on his bluff no being called - he lost). It then became a matter of how large this perceived probabilty could become before it became necessary to act on it given the rather serious consequences of inaction should they transpire to be real.

PDR

 
Sadurian Mike
742517.  Sun Sep 12, 2010 11:33 am Reply with quote

Taking the atom as an example, the fact that atoms could have been at the root of many other discoveries does not mean that they were (taking a contemporary view rather than a modern one).

It was certainly a good bet that something very atom-like was causing all those effects, but we could not sense the atom and so it was educated speculation rather than positive proof that the atom existed.

Now you could easily transfer such an argument to religion; before the modern understanding of science it was easy to speculate that the creation of life was down to a divine being. There was no proof but speculation using contemporary knowledge pointed that way.

By your logic in saying that the atom must have existed before its discovery because the circumstantial evidence pointed that way, it follows that god must have existed back in the day when modern sciences weren't properly understood.

 
Efros
742521.  Sun Sep 12, 2010 11:43 am Reply with quote

The atom concept, an indivisible body, goes back to 500BC or thereabouts. Just thought I'd throw that into the general melee.

 

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