Religion


Time to close some tabs, this time on my perhaps greatest intellectual heroes. Daniel C Dennett and Douglas Adams.  Starting with Adams:

  • Is there an artificial god?” – Douglas Adams brilliant speech on Digital Biota 2 Cambridge U.K., September 1998. Fabulous stuff in a rambling typical Adamesque way. Including the famous puddle analogy and the ages of sand. Long read, but worth it.
  • “Parrots, the universe and everything” – A likewise rambling speech, but this time on video. Hilarious and reflective, just what we loved him for. And do read the book, it is rather nice.

And now Dennett:

  • “Free Will” – A lecture from Edinburgh University. This is, if you like, a short version of his book Freedom Evolves. Which you should read (I’m re-reading now).
  • “Thank Goodness” – Reflections on his near death experience (from an atheist’s perspective) and a moving thanks to the advancements of science and medicine we tend to take for granted these day. I don’t think I could be as hard on the theists though, but the man has a point.
  • “Autobiography, pt I” – And if you need more, here’s some on the man himself.

Enjoy!

Here’s a position I’ve been thinking about lately, and been tempted to try out, which has to do with the problems of communicating across different view points, mostly in paranormal, faith based or plain strange discussions (let’s call them “supernatural” for this post). Such discussions are often frustrating both for the skeptic and the believer as both sides tend to use very different language. But perhaps there’s a starting point we could use, a threshold to see if we should at all go on with the discussion?

Naturally I’m presenting this little exercise as a skeptic, but I’m genuinely interested in if this is a fair argument or not. Let’s call it “the minimum threshold stand-off”.

If you want to persuade me to accept a statement you have made as true which I currently do not believe, you must first, openly and honestly, acknowledge the possibility that you may be wrong. Furthermore, if I can provide you with examples of the kind of things that would be likely to sway me to accept you claim, the you must equally present me with examples of things that would sway you to change your opinion. If you cannot do this, it is either because you have honestly never considered the option and you may find it hard to come up with such examples immediately, or you are quite simply intellectually dishonest and uninterested in genuine argumentation.

Implied here is of course that if this minimum threshold fails, then I’m not interested in the discussion.

What I’m trying to establish is mainly:

  1. A fair, double-edged starting point. If you want me to listen, you must listen yourself. If you want me to be open for alternative explanations, you must equally be open. This seems extremely fair and should not be controversial.
  2. A simple threshold based on meta-data instead of real arguments. Instead of arguing and getting involved in the messy details, let’s make sure we we start at the same page, and a page we can both agree to. This also seems fair, but in supernatural discussions it may seem skewed towards materialism (more on that below).
  3. A transparent agreement that both sides may be wrong. This should be obvious, but is remarkably often not.

Obviously I do not think very many supernatural proponents will be able to meet this test. And the reason I believe, is this: Many, if not all, supernatural ideas are based on faith, and faith, famously, is the belief in a proposition despite lack of evidence, or indeed in the face of conflicting evidence.

If this is a fair test it puts the supernatural proponent in a very difficult position. What, after all would make you stop believing in an almighty, all powerful god? What would make you stop believing in ghosts? What would make you accept that homeopathy does not work, and is mainly a fraudulent business?

Is this fair? After all we’re dealing with two kinds of changes here: the switch from “I do not believe” to “I believe” normally only requires positive evidence of some sort, whereas the opposite, going from the positive to the negative is often quite tricky. But in both cases it is a negative statement that is sought: what would it take to falsify you current beliefs? And as such, I’m beginning to think it is fair after all.

I do think that this test is slightly skewed to a materialistic view point, but in a good way. It requires simple, and verifiable examples to pass, and such examples, by the very nature of being verifiable, must be materialistic. There’s no other real alternative. But this is also one of the main strength of the test, in order to pass both sides must agree, in the real world, to examples of what is needed to persuade the other, that both can understand, and it should be nailing down an important point: The only things we can agree upon are facts, and those belong firmly in the real world; make belief can only take you so far.

This test is inspired by the Outsider Test of Faith, proposed by John W Luftus, of which one main point is that the only intellectually honest position from which to test ones faith is that of an outsider looking in.

What do you think?

Because low hanging fruit is soooo easy to reach. Here’s two more or less funny and one “damn yes I told you so”:

Enjoy.

Lately I’ve started reading Stephen Law. Don’t really know why I picked him up, but so far so good, most of the stuff he publishes is very nice. In fact I shall have a look around for his books as soon as I’ve finished my current stack.

In particular, his take of the problem of evil, is gratifying, The God of Eth:

This hardly sounds like the behaviour of a supremely compassionate and loving father-figure, does it? Surely there’s overwhelming evidence that the universe is not under the control of a limitlessly powerful and benevolent character?

In short, he uses a fictional dialog intending to show why the traditional religious responses to the problem of evil are at least inadequate, and the dialog does so by referring to an all evil god and showing that all arguments for the all good god can easily be turned around. Read the whole stuff, it good.

Which reminds me; and I’ll leave you with a very beautiful lyric:

Credo in un Dio crudel
che m’ha creato simile a sè
e che nell’ira io nomo.
Dalla viltà d’un germe
o d’un atomo vile son nato.
Son scellerato perchè son uomo;
e sento il fango originario in me.
Sì! Questa è la mia fè!
Credo con fermo cuor,
siccome crede la vedovella al tempio,
che il mal ch’io penso
e che da me procede,
per il mio destino adempio.
Credo che il guisto
è un istrion beffardo,
e nel viso e nel cuor,
che tutto è in lui bugiardo:
lagrima, bacio, sguardo,
sacrificio ed onor.
E credo l’uom gioco
d’iniqua sorte
dal germe della culla
al verme dell’avel.
Vien dopo tanta irrision la Morte.
E poi? E poi?
La Morte è il Nulla.
È vecchia fola il Ciel!

I’ll leave the translation for you 🙂

I’m confused. Is this ironic or not? It seems true to me.

Prayer is a late-term symptom of Religion. it is one of the most accurate, non-medical means of determining whether or not a suspected person has been infected with Religion.

Yes.

It has been observed that nothing works just like prayer.

LOL!

This is a damn fine blog which you all should read. A teenage atheist in a heavily catholic country. With an intolerant family. Damn it got me angry. Let’s all go there and leave our encouragement and respect.

Since space is cool and important:

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