1. The universe is purely material. It is strictly natural, and there is no such thing as the supernatural (e.g., gods or spiritual forces).

2. The universe is scientific. It is observable, knowable and governed strictly by the laws of physics.

3. The universe is impersonal. It does not a have consciousness or a will, nor is it guided by a consciousness or a will.

4. Meaning comes from the living world.  



If atheism had to have tenets, because we wanted to explain our worldview to outsiders, what do you think of these?  The first three are from this article from the most recent Sunday School.  The fourth is adapted from an idea of our own very lovely Onyango Makagutu: "meaning comes from human beings".  

As for the article: 1) he's not saying that atheists are bad people. 2) he might look like an enemy, but really he's a friend, because he's spelled out some very relevant questions that we need to answer explicitly and rigorously.  The reason we need to answer them is because many other people ask them too, and that's enough reason.  We shouldn't shy away from them, if we want to hold our heads up high as a legitimate world view.  We expect other world views to justify themselves.  I'm doing a lot of work behind the scenes, and one day I'm going to answer them all with a flourish, I'm going to butt heads with all those people.  On the one hand I expect it will upset some applecarts but also they will be pleasantly surprised with what I've got to say. 

[edit]  here is my response to Pastor Rick Henderson's article. 

The two bases of the moral framework:   

http://yellowgrain.co.uk/healing_principle.html

http://yellowgrain.co.uk/personal_morality.html

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A dastardly genius.  Thanks Pope Beanie, I'll try and look into him some time. 

Think it's a good idea in principle Simon. Have to be careful how it's worded. There definitely needs to be more understanding of atheism. I wasn't too keen on 3.

Why don't you like 3?  What if you separate 3 and 4, but present them together?  Do you believe that a dead universe can have a consciousness?  I'm not going to mock you if you do.  Plenty of people have the spiritual experience of a universal consciousness or that "everything is one consciousness" or something like that. 

Well there are probabilities I wouldn't care to admit lol :), there's no scientific basis for it yet. But I'd personally omit the second half of 3 based on the fact it's not as important to an atheist compared to say using science to find truth. Maybe it should be encompassed with 2.

Also 2, I don't think the universe is scientific, it can be seen scientifically.

2. The universe is natural. Scientifically observable, knowable & governed by natural physical law. Is that a better play on words?

I agree with Mai to an extent. Especially the "knowable" part. You might want to clarify that a little. Also the "strictly" next to governed by physical laws may be a little strong.

Yes maybe omit 'knowable' & 'strictly' altogether.

2.The universe is natural. Scientifically observable & governed by natural physical law.

I was going to suggest similar to this. Also, the processes of "knowing" and sharing knowledge is significantly different between science than faith.

Yes, you're right.  We don't even assume it's observable or knowable.  And science is scientific, not the universe.  So I think 2 should be "The universe is governed by the laws of physics."

It may seem nitpicky, but I don't like the word "governed" here, unless it's qualified more explicitly.

But more importantly, what strikes me as most significant wrt the scientific method is that it leads to standard definitions of reality (across all scientific disciplines), and describes predictable results given a set of conditions. Think about the difference between curing someone by the laying on of hands, versus modern medicine, especially (say) wrt cancer.

Ugh.  Beating-head-against-wall.

You all are convincing me that we have to do a much better job teaching about the nature of science in our undergraduate curriculum.

The universe is not governed by the laws of physics.  The laws/theories of physics are (flawed) human explanations of observable phenomena shared within one small community. 

There is no such thing as the "scientific method", and neither the practices of science nor the "definitions of reality" are the same across all scientific disciplines.  In fact most scientific disciplines aren't even particularly concerned with predictable results because they are dealing with complex systems. 

You folks really do treat science as more of a dogmatic faith than I treat Catholicism.

The universe is not governed by the laws of physics.  The laws/theories of physics are (flawed) human explanations of observable phenomena shared within one small community.

Newton's laws, for example? Were they so flawed as to prohibit the success of rocket science or space travel? Sure, Einstein (and "a small community of others") improved upon Newton... is it all just "flawed"? Curing cancer? Do you find the period table unuseful when you teach science to the larger community? I'm sure I'm missing your point.

There is no such thing as the "scientific method", and neither the practices of science nor the "definitions of reality" are the same across all scientific disciplines.  In fact most scientific disciplines aren't even particularly concerned with predictable results because they are dealing with complex systems.

Here's what I said:

what strikes me as most significant wrt the scientific method is that it leads to standard definitions of reality (across all scientific disciplines), and describes predictable results given a set of conditions.

I didn't say "are the same", but "it leads to standard definitions". Quibbling about the word "reality" again? Have you never published any scientific papers, and do you not teach standard definitions to students? What do they learn from you? So when the light of a star could be seen to bend around the sun as predicted by Einstein's science, was this not by use of scientific method? Was it not real?

You folks really do treat science as more of a dogmatic faith than I treat Catholicism.

Where is this dogmatism you're speaking of? Do you not have faith that science will continue to discover more, and accurately predict more and continuously update our books? Are you just an a-scientist in disguise?!

No, the universe is not governed by Newton's Laws, nor by Einstein's theories.  Those are made-up human ideas that are nothing more than our attempt to explain phenomena we experience.  They aren't "real".  They're just ideas written down in a book. 

We believe them enough to trust them for making some decisions like building a rocket (although not without a lot of trial and error and testing); we believe them at other times because we don't have any better idea at the moment like our approaches to cancer therapy.   In either case they're just human ideas. 

For some (even many) things in the sciences and other fields we have definitions, but those definitions aren't of "reality".  The definitions are just descriptions of human ideas.  This word means this idea and not that idea.  The definitions are so that we can distinguish which idea we're talking about.   All of the definitions and all of the ideas are just made-up human explanations.  They aren't "reality."

This is really important, because if you believe that the universe obeys our human "laws" and ideas, you are absolutely not doing science.  You are doing fundamentalism.

Do you not have faith that science will continue to discover more, and accurately predict more and continuously update our books?

What is this "science" that you are speaking of?  People discover new things.  People come up with insights and ideas.  People write books of all sorts.   New insights in economic theory, new discoveries in history, new applications of principles in engineering, new models in the sciences, new understandings in theology.

When Einstein came up with the General Theory of Relativity, it was a stunning act of inspiration and creative insight.  There wasn't some mythical magical "method" that he followed that anybody else could have as well.   Like Archimedes, he had a revelation, an insight. 

Science is a creative endeavor.

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