i'm instantly suspicious of any scientist who wins the The Templeton Prize or who even accepts money from them for research. The Templeton Foundation uses it's endowment to fund science and scientists with the sole purpose of using science to try to shore up religion, specifically Christianity. they try to sound like they're interested in supporting science but in fact they're only interested in supporting science or scientists that support their agenda.
in fact what makes Lane Craig's arguments more impressive than other apologists is that he does indeed try to use science in his arguments. he usually misuses or misunderstands the science or he uses outdated science. but if someone doesn't have a good science background or if they don't check into Lane Craig's science they'll find his arguments very impressive.
if i had to then, yeah, i think it does pretty much accurately describe me. to be fair though concepts like empiricism and methodological naturalism plus the philosophy of reductive materialism sort of go hand in hand. empiricism is the epistelmological concept of relying on experience, on observation. in science it's the reliance on the scientific method and experimentation. reductive materialism is the idea that everything can be reduced to it's natural constituent parts and that everything we see around us is the interaction of those constituents, matter. methodological naturalism is the rejection of supernatural causes, i.e. naturalism, in the context of the scientific method. so you can see how each fits together. i was really just using several words to be as silly as possible, going overboard on purpose.
but yes, overall, each word is an accurate description of my thinking generally.
you're right of course. that's my mistake. i used the wrong term. with all the strong and weak, atheist and agnostic, philosophical skeptic and philosophical agnostic, i mixed them up. lol.
what i should have said was that i would take exception with the PHILOSOPHICAL agnostic, it's that position that seems silly to me for it's they that ignore the shading of probability. my understanding of weak and strong agnosticism is just what yours is i think. weak agnosticism is what Dawkins calls Temporary Agnosticism in Practice (TAP). basically: we don't have the evidence, or if we do we don't understand it yet, or i haven't had time to read the evidence to my satisfaction- the truth may be out there we just don't have it yet. strong agnosticism is what Dawkins calls PAP, Permanent Agnosticism in Principle. again, basically: no matter how much evidence we accumulate the question will remain unanswerable. it's on the order of "when you see the color red do you see the same thing that i see as red or do you see red as my green?"- we'll never know.
again, i think we have the same understanding that both weak and strong agnostics do not ignore the shading of probability.
forgive me for the misunderstanding! :)
and yeah, i don't tend to refer to myself with all of those labels. lol. that would be tedious- hi! i'm an ignostic agnostic atheist reductive materialist empiricist methodological naturalist! how're you doing? lol. no, you wouldn't get invited to parties.
yeah, when i'm discussing the existence of a god with someone i always ask at the outset what the person believes, what is their idea of god. otherwise i might begin to argue against a god the person in front of me doesn't even believe in. when i ask that question and the person responds with "god is energy" or "god is love" or "god is the universe" then the conversation is over right then. i believe in energy, love, and the universe. so if this person's idea of god is something i already believe in, well, then, i believe in this person's god. but of course all they're doing is confounding terms. this person doesn't believe in a god that most people would recognize as god. in equating god with energy you change the meaning both of the word god and the word energy. it's confusing.
but you're right, many people have no clear concept of what god is, what they're even agnostic about. there is actually a position, that of "ignosticism", that says that since there's no cohesive coherent non-contradictory definition of god, his attributes, that therefore the discussion of his existence and indeed whether even to believe or not to believe is meaningless. i actually quite agree with this idea. accordingly, i might call myself an ignostic agnostic atheist.
as for the philosophical skeptic, many agnostic atheists also believe that universal knowledge of a god's existence can't ever be had. some believe we'll find out someday but others believe we'll never find out. i'm still not sure someone who calls themselves a philosophical skeptic is telling me anything more that if they had simply said they were an agnostic atheist, one who specifies that their agnosticism is of the variety that says we'll never have universal knowledge.
meh, people'll lable themselves what they will i guess. as long as they get the definitions right i've no problem with it whatsoever.
i think that's brilliant! that's exactly how i would have laid it out were i to.
obviously i would take issue both with the strong agnostic and with the weak atheist who is a philosophical skeptic. to me strong agnosticism is a silly position that people only adopt due to the perceived importance of the decision of god's existence. these people are strong agnostics on God but, like Sam Harris says, you never meet anyone who's a strong agnostic regarding Zeus. and that's just the point. it seems that they're quite comfortable to take into account probability regarding Zeus but not with Yahweh. the question is why?
my problem with weak atheist who calls themselves a philosophical skeptic is that philosophical skepticism seems to me to be a superfluous label. it's so similar to weak agnosticism, the idea that we don't now and may never have ultimate knowledge of the universe to be able to judge the probability of a god's existence to be zero so we can only say the probability of a god's existence is very very low due to both lack of evidence and even due to positive evidence as well, i just don't understand why they wouldn't just use the agnosticism label. what really is a person telling you about themselves when they call themselves a weak atheist who is a philosophical skeptic that they wouldn't be telling you if they simply said agnostic atheist? you know what i mean?
no problem Rene! i'm enjoying the exchange. you've got some great questions.
i agree with you that a positive claim is a claim to knowledge without uncertainty. my only caveat would be to specify how the word "knowledge" is used in each case. if someone is using it in an epistemological way as in Knowledge then i agree it's a positive claim. but if they're using it in the conversational sense the way we all do then it isn't a positive claim necessarily. for instance, going back to the examples i've used before, when someone says they know there's no celestial teapot they're not saying they Know there's no celestial teapot in the sense that they have total certainty. they're using the word conversationally to refer to knowledge based on available evidence or lack thereof, they're using probability to justify a non-zero probability knowledge of the non-existence of the celestial teapot. we do it with so many other things in our conversations surely it's valid to do it with gods too. we just have to ask the person what they mean exactly to see in what way they're using the word knowledge. and my experience is that even atheists who say they know gods don't exist aren't asserting a zero probability- total certainty- and so ruling out even the possibility of a gods existence. they're just saying they know in the same way they know that celestial teapots don't exist.
now, to your question...
i'm afraid i can't grant your starting point in all cases. i'm not sure we can quite so easily set aside knowledge when talking about belief when dealing with theists.
they would argue not just that they believe but that they Know their god exists. they would tell you that their belief and their Knowing are the same thing. they have complete certainty so their belief doesn't indicate that they fall short of Knowing. these people admit of no chance that they could be wrong. they have total certainty.
but with regard to lack of belief and a belief in non-existence being two sides of the same coin, i think that's probably true. it seems to me that if you lack belief it's because you believe that gods don't exist. otherwise, if you believed they existed then you wouldn't lack belief in gods (though whether you would worship is another question). but of course this kind of belief, the belief in non-existence, is totally different to the theists kind of belief/knowing. this statement of belief on the part of the atheist is really more like shorthand for, "because there's no evidence for a god's existence i judge the probably of existence to be very low, though still non-zero. accordingly, i believe gods do not exist."
perhaps i'm misunderstanding your ending but i'm not sure how if lack of belief and belief in non-existence can be thought of as two sides of the same coin they are also differing degrees of certainty. quantifying the actual probability and so the degree of certainty is impossible as it would require inputting every single variable. but i don't think that most atheists have in their mind a quantified probability as opposed to just the notion that since there's no evidence whatsoever the probability is extremely low, as low as for celestial teapots that we also don't believe in and are comfortable saying we know don't exist.
did i misunderstand your meaning?
hi Rene! good to hear from you again. i hope you're well.
i'm thrilled that you're getting some use out of the books in my box.net folder!
it's a good question you raise. let's see...
when the question of whether to believe in something or not is considered the default position, the starting point, is lack of belief. for instance, using Bertrand Russell's classic illustration of the point, if i told you that there exists a tiny celestial teapot in orbit between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, that this teapot's existence can't be verified by observation because our instruments can't detect something so tiny from such a distance, well then when i ask you whether you believe in the celestial teapot or not you, of course, say no. your default position is non-belief. to move you off of that position and to the belief position you must be shown evidence to justify believing. and so simply lack of belief because there's no evidence isn't a positive claim.
contrast this with someone who says, "i Know there is no celestial teapot!" this person, rather than remaining at the default non-belief position, has said that they Know (as in they have ultimate objective knowledge) that the celestial teapot doesn't exist. well, how do they know that? they've made a positive claim to Knowledge and so must produce evidence to back their claim.
notice that there are two positive claims that can be made on the question of existence: 1) something exists and 2) something does not exist. in each case a person must produce evidence for their assertion. notice too that the person who simply says they lack belief in the existence of something because there is no evidence, or because the evidence is insufficient, is not making a position claim for which they need to produce evidence- because how can a person produce evidence that justifies their lack of belief due to lack of evidence?
in the case you point to where people have pointed out that a god's attributes are contradictory and so logically impossible, i would have to ask the person on a case by case basis whether or not they're then saying that they believe the logical contradiction to be evidence that a god absolutely does not exist or simply evidence that the probability of a god's existence is infinitesimally small. if the person says that they find the logical contradiction to be absolute evidence of nonexistence i would judge that evidence to be very poor indeed. if the person is only saying that the logical contradiction demonstrates that the probability is vanishingly small, well then, i quite agree with that. using another classic example, this time a modern classic, it is obviously a logical contradiction to say that the Invisible Pink Unicorn is both invisible and yet pink as well. if she is pink then she is not invisible, otherwise how could we know her color, and if she is pink, because we know her color, then she is not invisible. but if someone said that that logical contradiction absolutely ruled out the existence of the IPU then i would say that would be going to far- we just don't have ultimate universal knowledge of every square inch of the universe's expanse. but if someone said that that logical contradiction was evidence that reduced the probability of the IPU's existence down, not quite to zero, but very near to zero, then i would quite agree with that. in that case one person is claiming to Know while the other is being informed by the evidence as to what the probability is while still not claiming to Know.
the difference i think is a difference between lack of belief and an understanding that the probability is very very low, though not zero, while still not claiming to Know that a god absolutely does not exist and claiming that one absolutely does or does not exist. one need only point to lack of evidence but also often positive evidence like logical contradictions in the god's attributes, while the other must produce evidence to justify their claim to Knowledge.
i want to be clear though that i'm perfectly comfortable saying i know god's don't exist but when i say it i'm using the word "know" in a conversation sense and what i mean is simply i know gods don't exist to the same degree and to the same extent that i know that celestial teapots, invisible pink unicorns, and little green men from mars don't exist. the shading of probability tells me that the likelihood of their existence is so low as to be beyond reasonable consideration. consequently i'm not going to walk around and say that "i don't know" as if the probability is 50/50 (philosophical agnosticism). but if in a debate with someone i will absolutely stress that i only "know" as opposed to "KNOW" and i'll explain as i've just done regarding probability.
if we say that the overwhelming evidence points to the non-existence of gods are we claiming to know something or simply saying that the evidence tells that the probability of a god's existence is infinitesimally small and so we are forced to go on the assumption that gods don't exist. i italicized "points to..." because that phrase isn't a statement of certainty or surety. contrast that phrase with this one: "the overwhelming evidence makes it an objective fact that gods do not exist". there's an important difference there. the person making the first statement simply has to provide evidence that shows the probability to be very low while the other person has to show evidence that demonstrates that we have Ultimate Knowledge of the Universe that gods do not exist. one allows that the probability is not 0 and the other rules out even the possibility.
it's also important to point out that most atheists do not talk about the preponderance of evidence that points to the nonexistence of gods but rather the LACK of evidence that points to the nonexistence of gods- there should be evidence but there isn't and so why believe something without evidence. that's another important distinction.
regardless, such a person, even if they were making a positive claim, while still admitting that they don't have final knowledge, should still be asked to provide the evidence they feel they have and let others judge the claim in light of the evidence.
i myself don't claim to have evidence that gods do not exist, i'm not even sure how you would come to such evidence. the only evidence i can even conceive of would be negative evidence, i.e. if there should be evidence but when we look for it it isn't there then, it can be argued, that's evidence of nonexistence. many theists invoke the adage, "absence of evidence is is not evidence of absence" and that sounds great in principle but in practice it just isn't true. if we look for evidence where we'd expect to find some and it isn't there that absolutely is evidence of absence. for instance, with intercessory prayer, when we test the efficacy of intercessory prayer to see if it works we'd expect to find some aberrant results that would point to a god's existence. but when we do these studies we find nothing more than simple chance behind the results. that absence of evidence IS evidence of absence.
a position that is both weak agnostic and strong atheist is, i believe, impossible according to their meanings. a weak agnostic holds that the probability isn't 0 and so we can't say we Know there is no god but, and here's where the two stances contradict, strong atheism is the position that says, "i Know there is no god". so if one admits to not Knowing and the other claims to Know, they contradict.
the appropriate name for the position you describe, my position, is agnostic atheist. this position is one where you grant that the probability of a god's existence isn't 0, and so we can't Know, while still lacking belief in god. agnostic atheism is the same thing as weak atheism. the terms are interchangeable.
i wouldn't equate strong agnosticism, what is often called philosophical agnosticism, with philosophical skepticism because strong agnostics ignore the shading of probability, believing instead that we lack the Knowledge to be able to answer the question of existence whereas philosophical skeptics generally do indeed embrace whatever knowledge is available to us and use that knowledge to inform us about the probability of existence (though admittedly some philosophical skeptics are strong agnostics). remember that scientific approximations, models and theories, are based on knowledge and the shading of probability; strong agnostics believe we don't have the knowledge, and indeed may never have the knowledge, and ignore the shading of probability, or, perhaps more accurately, they believe since we lack the knowledge the probability is 50/50 either way.
yeah, one of the things that frustrates me the most is the common confusion between the meanings of agnosticism and atheism. it drives me nuts the way many agnostics don't even know what they're really professing, to hear some agnostics describe their stance, typically with a haughty holier-than-thou attitude, as some mutually exclusive honest middle ground between the unwarranted arrogant certainty of theism and atheism (as if the majority of atheists actually claim certainty); and no less nuts to hear people describe agnosticism as "fence-sitting". the confusion isn't exclusive to agnostics mind you. agnostics, theists, and atheists often have no idea what agnosticism is and agnostics, theists, and even a handful of atheists i've met don't know the proper meaning of atheism.
check out all the wrong answers here. notice the number of people saying that atheism is a BELIEF that there is no god rather than a simple lack of belief in gods. notice the people saying that agnosicism is just "i don't know". notice the one idiot who professes agnosticism but describes agnostics as NOT disbelieving in a supreme being. some people do manage to get atheism or agnosticism right but then get the other one wrong. sigh.