Originally posted by dominicus
1. Why are you an Atheist?
I'll try to keep this manageable in length.
Put simply, an Atheist does not believe in God. God is not well defined, however for the common definitions that I am familiar with, I do not believe
in it. I don't believe in any supreme being, or spiritual entities.
I accept the scientific worldview and reject mystical worldviews. There are several reasons for this, including the relative success of each system
in terms of demonstrating understanding of the world by using theories to make successful predictions, the underlying philosophical ideas about
reality and how to understand it, and the lack of logical progression within mystical beliefs system compared to the astounding logical progression in
Accepting the scientific worldview entails accepting a very specific system for evaluating beliefs. In this case, the crux of the issue is faith vs.
reason. I don't accept beliefs based on faith, dogma, or arbitrary preference. I want a reason if I am going to believe. I have many reasons to
accept the scientific worldview. I have no reason to add a belief in god to that worldview. For me, no evidence means no reason to believe. I
don't think that there is any evidence of god, and I don't think that the facts which are presented as evidence really support the existence of god.
I think of the existence of god as a theory(because according the my definition of theory, it is), and generally there are two basic ways to evaluate
a theory. One way is predictive success. If the theory is good, then it can be used to make predictions. Once those predictions are made, we can
test them. If they come true, the theory is supported. If they don't come true, the theory is rejected. The second way has to do with why the
theory exists. A theory is an explanation for some set of observations/facts/evidence. A good theory is the best explanation for the observations;
it fully explains the set of facts in question, it is not inconsistent with other strongly confirmed theories, and no better theory exists to explain
the observations/facts in question.
The predictions associated with the existence of god are widely varied depending on which religion is taken to be accurate, but so far I have seen no
predictive success based on the theory that god exists that could not be better explained in non-mysical terms. As far explaining
evidence/observations/facts, god has been and continues to be used as an explanation for many observations. However, the results are not compelling;
in every case where god has been used as an explanation which science has become equiped to investigte, the scientific explanation has always turned
out to be better than the mystical explanation related to the existance of god. There are observations/facts which are still explained by invoking
god, but these tend to be untestable in principal, simply unaddressed by science at this time due to technological limitations, or highly speculative
philosophical puzzles related to things like the begining of time or the edge of space. For example, I don't consider it evidence for god to say,
"Something had to start everything." I'll tell you why if you would like to know.
Basically, according to my standards for reasons to believe something, the belief in god's existence should not be accepted. There are a couple
possibilities: I'm right and god doesn't exist, or I am not in possession of the most compelling evidence or argument, or my standards for beliefs
are not good standards to use. I'm open to discussion on all counts.
2. Does not believing in something prove it does not exist?
Of course not. Beliefs don't determine what exists. In fact, it is supposed to be the other way around; we experience what exists and based on
experience we try to form a system of beliefs about what exists.
3. Do you agree that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence?
Yes. I agree that not being in possession of some type of evidence is not the same thing as proof that such evidence does not exist. I would go on
to say, however, that absence of evidence is synonymous with absence of a reason to believe. (At least, absence of evidence is the same as absence of
what I consider a good reason to believe. I don't consider faith based on indoctrination or abitrary preference a "good reason" to believe in
something. I am aware that there are people who believe in thing for reasons of faith.)
4. What do you think about the large number of people that say they have experienced God?
I believe that for the most part they are honestly describing their experiences as well as they can. I know that experience does not always
correspond to objective reality. For example, I know that what I experience in dreams can be a very vivid, real experience, but I know that that
experience does not correspond to phenomena which exist in objective reality the way that my waking sensory perceptions correspond to such phenomena.
I also know that, even while awake, we have experiences that do not correspond with phenomena in the external world. I believe that people who have
experienced god have had real experiences, but I believe that those experiences are best explained by neurological phenomena and that neither the
experiential event nor the neurological event can be traced back to a god in the external world.
5. Does one's claim to have experienced God hold as much weight as your claim to not having had that experience?
I don't know what you mean by weight. Obviously, if I don't believe in god then that means that I don't believe that people have had a direct
experience of god as a real external entity. I think that we can take both claims in good faith. I don't have any reason to believe that these
people are lying about their experience, I just think that they are mistaken when they attribute these experiences to supernatural forces. I haven't
made the claim that I have not experienced god. I know that experience does not always correspond to external reality, and I believe that
experiencing god is one of the types of experiences that does not correspond very well with external reality. There are better explanations for
experiences that seem to be of god than to explain them as literal, mystical experiences of a real divine entity.
6. (Hypothetically) if God did exist, what would your version of he/she/it be?
I may be missing the point here but if what you're asking me to do is to make something up and tell you about that made up thing, I'm going to have
to pass. If you can explain what you think we would get out of this, and if that sounds reasonable to me, I would play along.
7. Is logic and reason limited? And if the answer is yes, is there something beyond the aforementioned?
They are not limited in the sense that they are infinite. They go on forever; an infinite number of unique logical statements can be constructed and
combined and operated on in an infinite number of ways, and reason can be applied to an infinite number of statements and combinations of statements
to derive an infinite number of new statements.
That being said, there certainly are unreasonable and illogical things. Consider this, though: Is there reason or logical on Jupiter or Neptune? Of
course not, everything just is what it is. I would say that logic and reason are purely human concepts, because nothing had a concept of reason or
logic before humans(for the sake of convenience, I'm not accounting for ETs or other higher primates or any other intelligent creatures on earth).
Reason and logic are ultimately just concepts. To attempt to describe their scope or what may or may not be beyond that scope is more a game of
semantics than anything else.
8. (Hypothetically) if science proved the existence of God as fact, what would you do being an Atheist?
My atheism is not faith based. I accept the scientific worldview, and I am a scientist. There are a number of reasons that I don't accept the
existence of god, but the main two are that I think it is made up, and think that the scientific worldview is more accurate, justifiable, and
successful than any mystical worldview, and I haven't seen anything to convince me otherwise. If there existed evidence which was best explained by
god, then I would accept that explanation.
Note, however, that scientifically speaking no theory can ever be proven to be a "fact." This is an issue of what these words mean at a fairly
technical level, but theories can only be supported or disproven, never positively proven. That being said, theories are explanations and the best
theory is the best explanation, and the best explanation is all that we have. I accept what I consider to be the best explanation for things, and if
god were the best explanation then I would accept it.
9. Do you agree superstition is relative to the knowledge of the times? i.e. airplanes and internet were once considered superstitious.
I'm not sure what you mean when you say that airplanes and the internet were once considered superstitious. Do you mean that people whose worldviews
could not easily account for these things were "spooked" by them, and took them to be suspect?
I'm not sure I have a clear understanding of this question, but if the issue is regarding the relationship between superstitious beliefs and the
larger knowledge base/worldview as a context, then yes, I think that it is an historically accurate observation to say that what is considered
superstituous is determined by how a belief fits into an existing knowledge base/worldview.
10. Do you base your Atheism specifically on what you can comprehend with your 5 senses, logic/reason, and what is currently scientifically known?
You could say that. I base my beliefs on those things, and, based on those things, I have no reason to believe in god. God is an awfully significant
belief to accept into my worldview for no reason.
I believe that science is the best way to understand the world. Accepting this worldview means that I accept a certain methodology for forming and
evaluating beliefs. So far, this worldview has been unbelievably successful, especially when compared to the hundred thousand years of mysticism
leading up to it. Science is moving along at pretty good clip, and we haven't come across any sign of god yet(I know that this statement won't go
over very well with those believers who see signs of god in every scientific claim, so perhaps I should say that we haven't come across anything
which is best explained by god). In fact, most of our ideas about god come from the organized religions of the world, who, for a very long time, have
told us a lot of stuff that isn't true. I'm not ready to take their word for it at this point.
I'm not sold on faith. If god were supported by reason and evidence, I would be on board. At this point, that's not the case.