An atheist that Believes

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That’s right, folks. You read it correctly. More to the point, a recent CNN article “Meet the Atheist … who believes in God” was published on 6/10/14.

 

Meet Frank Schaeffer and his opinion piece to CNN.  Mr. Schaeffer has written one of the most vocabulary challenged articles on the subject of belief and non-belief that I have seen in quite some time.

 

Let’s have an excerpt from the first twelve sentences:

 

“All the public debates between celebrity atheists and evangelical pastors are as meaningless as literary awards and Oscar night. They are meaningless because participants lack the objectivity to admit that our beliefs have less to do with facts than with our personal needs and cultural backgrounds.

The words we use to label ourselves are just as empty. What exactly is a “believer?”. And for that matter what is an “atheist?” 

Who is the objective observer to define these terms. Maybe we need a new category other than theism, atheism or agnosticism that takes paradox and unknowing into account.Take me, I am an atheist who believes in God.

Let me explain. I believe that life evolved by natural selection. I believe that evolutionary psychology explains away altruism and debunks love, and that brain chemistry undermines the illusion of free will and personhood. I also believe that a spiritual reality hovering over, in and through me calls me to love, trust and hear the voice of my creator.”

Mr. Schaeffer says that we need a new term that describes a person that doesn’t have a belief in a day to day, in your face, fire and brimstone, old testament god. But, this same person might also believe that there is a being behind the scenes. One that brought about the beginning of everything, but then decided to step back and just let things develop as they may . The question to the answer of 42 of Douglas Adams’ fame, if you will. Interesting and provocative argument for the academics to sit down and debate about a new term for this new and exciting concept that you have come across.

 

Of course, if you have made it to this point, you probably know exactly where I am going with this all. But in the interest of those that may have just stumbled across this post in your meanderings around the interwebz, there just so happens that there IS a term for people that believe as Mr. Schaeffer does: deism

 

Deism is: “not a specific religion but rather a particular perspective on the nature of God. Deists believe that a creator god does exist, but that after the motions of the universe were set in place he retreated, having no further interaction with the created universe or the beings within it. As such, there are a variety of common religious beliefs that deists do not accept.

 

As another bit of icing on the cake, Mr. Frank Schaeffer asked us to consider apophatic theology. Apophatic theology is an attempt to describe God by what cannot be said of Him. Many of the terms used to describe God’s attributes have within them an apophatic quality. For example, when we say God is infinite, we’re also saying is that God is not finite (i.e., not limited).” As Dr. Evil would say….”rrriight”. For those of you that having a working knowledge of logical fallacies, you may recognize the tautology inherent to that notion. For those a little less geeky about logical fallacies, a tautology (in formal logic) refers to a statement that must be true in every interpretation by its very construction. By defining God by what God is not, you can always arrive at the conclusion that you want to come to. Also, I find it highly dishonest by calling apophatic theology just “the theology of not knowing”. By being that ambiguous, the lay reader can all to easily draw a correlation between apophaticism and agnosticism. Although I cannot be 100% of Schaeffer’s motivation to word that as it is, but it smacks of an attempt to blur the lines between the two.

Here is one of Schaeffer’s claims that I found truly insulting:

“If you want to be sure you have “the truth” about yourself and our universe, then prepare to go mad. Or prepare to turn off your brain and cling to some form or other of fundamentalism, whether religious or secular.” As Tim Minchin put so amusingly in his song Storm:

“You’re so sure of your position
But you’re just closed-minded
I think you’ll find
Your faith in Science and Tests
Is just as blind
As the faith of any fundamentalist.

“Wow, thats a good point, let me think for a bit”
Oh wait, my mistake, its absolute bullshit.
Science adjusts its beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.”

Exactly. Absolute bullshit. I no more cling to anything in the secular world than I would to a deity. Nothing is truly beyond reproach. All it takes to change the mind of a skeptic is empirical data proving otherwise. A caveat though: the more fundamental the thing that is being questioned is, the greater the evidence must be. Pass that? Again, nothing is truly sacred to the skeptical atheist

And, at last, we come to the very LAST sentence in the article:

“You—like some sort of quantum mechanicals physics experiment—will always be in two places at once.”

Ahhhh, to bask in the glory of the bane of every religious or pseudo-scientific practitioner, quantum mechanics. If you are not one of the few theoretical physicists that have dedicated their professional lives to pulling apart that Gordian Knot, the instant you utter “quantum mechanics” in defense of or analogy TO your claim, I dismiss everything you have previously said and will be not be truly listening to anything that you will be saying.

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

 

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The Slippery Slope fallacy

Ahh, the slippery slope fallacy, a favorite of those that hold archaic ideologies.
This fallacy holds that to accept a premise, you must accept the extremes of that premise. Those that bring this up are ignoring that the original position was a moderate one. They immediately extrapolate it out to it’s absurd ends where the premise seems stupid or untenable.
An example of this is when discussions of pro-choice or pro-life crop up. Often (but not always) the proponents of pro-life will charge that those of the pro-choice camp only want the abortion of fetus’. This completely ignores the more moderate idea that a woman should have control over her reproductive system. This also assumes that the pro-choice person doesn’t believe that other paths are available to that woman.
Another popular slippery slope is made by hardcore gun enthusiasts when the subject of gun control comes up. I think it is fair to say that a majority of those favorable towards gun control would only want more through background checks to put into place and that weapons be registered in the state where they are kept. The enthusiast see this and believe that this is the first step towards the government making gun ownership illegal and to the mass confiscation of weapons of all types.

Until next time!

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Dr. Carl Sagan, Prophet

I am about to piss everyone off for about a minute:
Dr. Sagan was a prophet.

If you have managed to not drop your phone or laptop in disgust, sent me an extremely hated filled email, or sought me down to execute me prisoner style between reading the above and now, I applaud your self restraint!
I deem Dr. Sagan a scientific prophet.
In this article, he makes a few specific “predictions” in the that have come true.
We now DO have a grade school lack of science education, we DO see the apathy bred into today’s youth in regards to STEM, we DO see the influence of religion on the laws and policies in our nation. Dr. Sagan seems to have proven that prophesies can be real, but only in the context of the right mix of science, critical thinking and skepticism.
To wax philosophical for just a moment, Dr. Sagan’s words echo down the halls of time from the past for us to listen to here in the future.

We might do well to heed them.

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/wonder_and_skepticis/m

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

A disheartening experience with Dr. Lawrence Krauss

I recently attended the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS). It was generally a wonderful experience. I loved meeting many of the people I have conversed with online in the real world and also meeting with many of my skeptical heroes ( I’m looking at you, SGU crew, George Hrab,Dr. Cady Coleman, and Julia Galef). But, I was also witness to a a bit of the disreputable side of our movement.

I introduce you to Dr. Lawrence Krauss. A prominent physicist and popular science communicator. Also, in my recent personal experience watching him talk at NECSS, a bit of a self absorbed curmudgeon. He also, in my opinion, is more than a bit sexist.

During his keynote speech, Dr. Krauss was correct in all of his science and physics,yet he came across as dismissive of the intelligence of the assembled crowd. With repeated statements like, “if you had paid attention in geometry class…” and, “had you listened to your physics teacher, you would remember this formula…”, I found him distasteful at the least and offensive at the most. Granted, we all might not have his aptitude to grasp physics at the level that Dr. Krauss can, but to demean his sympathetic audience? Not needed. Being smart does not give you license to be a smart ass.

The next day, He was the guest host of Rationally Speaking with Dr. Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef. This is where I had my biggest point of contention with Dr. Krauss. He all but ignored the two hosts. Dr. Pigliucci got polite (but sparse) conversation. Julia though, got none of this. Dr. Krauss either ignored her questions, only allowed her to get only barely into her question, or was nodding/shaking his head during her questions. It seemed to me, he was only tolerating her. I have listened to Julia during all of the RS podcasts. She is not worthy of dismissing and often asks questions that are true insights into the given subjects.

What really brought all of these thoughts into focus was my delving into the Skeptics Guide to the Universe archives.  The SGU crew had Dr. Krauss as a guest on episode #124. While listening to him speak back then, I can see why he became a popular science communicator. But it is amazing to see what seven years and popularity can do to a person.

 

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Ad Ignorantiam

Ad Ignorantiam

Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam ( or Ad Ignorantiam, for short) means “argument from ignorance”. This is a fun fallacy, everyone!

Before I start on the fallacy itself, let’s start with a caveat. Never confuse ignorance with stupidity. Those are, or can be, two mutually exclusive topics. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge or information. Stupidity is the lack of the ability to learn and understand things. To surmise that your opponent’s argument is ignorant is one thing. To assume that your opponent’s argument is stupid is a slippery slope to a fallacy itself. Even after your co-debater has proven themselves to be lacking of factual knowledge, you cannot say that they are stupid.

When you boil this fallacy down, it basically follows ,the formula of, “what I believe is true because we don’t know that it can’t be true”. This could be difficult to deal with, as the person just might be right. The “trick” is, as you probably have surmised, that we have critical thinking on our side.

Many of the arguments that you might make if you travel the circuits of pseudoscience or religion will be against this very fallacy. A Bigfoot believer will tout that his/her dubious hair samples will outweigh the fact that no definite DNA has been produced. The “UFOlogist” (and this one is the funniest one to me as it’s just that rich) that their blurry photo or video proves that the unidentified flying object has been identified as an unidentified flying object. Or, one that can truly affect us all, the Creationist or Intelligent Design proponent that claims that evolution is false (therefore god is real) because that humans cannot be “proved” to have sprung fully formed as a species because the fossil record doesn’t provide such evidence. This is known as the “god of the gaps”.

When dealing with such arguments, one of the best concepts to use is Occam’s Razor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam’s_razor ). Occam’s razor states, that when given multiple hypothesis’, the one with the least amount of assumptions should be chosen. How is this relevant, you might ask. Well, let’s break down the three ideas in the paragraph above:

1: Which is more likely? That there is a breeding population of several thousand large primates located the world over that have managed to escape pervasive video/camera ubiquity, definitive DNA analysis, or just a corpse. Or that the argument is flawed?

2: Which is more likely? That an alien race has managed to cross the eons of space but cannot navigate the “wilds” of earth and crash, need to perform experiments on cattle, can only communicate through designs in crops, or haven’t figured out that wherever they have seen people (if they wish to stay secret) that they need to avoid such places.

3: Which is more likely? That “man” sprang fully formed from the dust of the earth from the will of a being that is unknowable, and that “woman” was born of a rib of the man that was made of dust. That a talking snake persuaded someone to take a bite of the fruit the tree of “Knowledge”, therefore introducing pain and disease upon the people that “he loves”, not to mention that he would kill the majority of them. Or is it a passing off of a collection of tales from the millennium preceding it?

 

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

The Straight White male (me) to Fred Phelp’s near death

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As a straight, white man and all the privileges bestowed on me because of those facts, I can honestly say, I am glad that this hateful man will soon no longer be among our ranks.

My fellows in the critical thinking community may think that it’s better left alone, but I hope that to the deluded assholes that think like Phelps, this serves as a reminder. Whether you believe in god or not, you’ll either burn in your gods hell for hate, or you will burn in the history that you created for yourself.

Either way, you have made your bed, Phelps. Lay in it for eternity.

http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2014/03/fred-phelps-may-be-dying-but-the-lgbt-community-should-let-him-go-quietly/

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

The Ad Hominem

The Ad Hominem…. I will venture to say that this is almost everyone’s favorite logical fallacy, regardless if you are the purveyor of “woo”(better known as pseudoscience) or the skeptic. Or, at least, this seems to be everyone’s favorite logical fallacy to MAKE! It’s never fun to be on the receiving end of it…

Let’s start with the definition of the word in modern day usage. From Latin, literally meaning “to the person”, an ad hominem attack is defined as a rejection of an argument or claim because of a non-related fact of the entity making the argument. I say fact as while it is true that you cannot dismiss the argument of an opponent because of a non-related fact or opinion, you can still HAVE an opinion of an opponent: “Bob is a pedantic ass” is just an opinion of Bob. Saying “Bob’s take on homeopathy is wrong because Bob is a pedantic ass” is an ad hominem. The basic argument from a believer of “woo” might go like this: “You skeptics are closed-minded! That is why your argument against my claim is wrong!”. Whether or not the skeptic is close-minded or not has nothing to do with the validity of the purveyor of “woo”s claims.

We, as critical thinkers, must be wary of ourselves as it is FAR too easy to fall into using ad hominems against true believers. You cannot dismiss the argument of the true believer by saying that they are “all insane”, as that is very much not the case for a large majority of the people that believe. Most of them can be very sane in every other part of their lives and can be quite sane about the topic they are arguing about (whether the topic is even close to the truth is another matter).

Here’s another thing: You can also flip ad hominems on their heads. Even if you have avoided all of the above pitfalls, acknowledged to yourself that you shouldn’t commit an ad hominem, and realize that your opinion of the person isn’t a valid rebuttal of their premise, you can still be on the path to a logical fallacy; or, at least a subset of the fallacy. If you are in a public debate with someone, you should even refrain from speaking your opinion of the other party. Why, you might ask? By voicing your opinion, you are committing what is known as “poisoning the well”. This subset is done by hinting that the other party has qualities that are untrustworthy. If you are aware of “Godwin’s law” (http://tinyurl.com/6cnjm), you have a good understanding of “poisoning the well”. If you don’t know what Godwin’s law is, it’s pretty simple and you’ve probably seen it before. In1990, lawyer and author, Mike Godwin, stated that given enough time, any online conversation about any topic, someone will inevitably make a correlation to Hitler or the Nazi regime. This has become a meme within the internet culture. Another meme closely related to Godwin’s law is “Don’t be that guy”….

Until next time!

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.