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Thread: Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer

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    Quote Originally Posted by element771 View Post
    I don't know about this one.

    I am a Christian.

    I am also a physicalist (no souls)

    I am also an annihilationist (no hell).

    I am an orthodox preterist (no rapture).

    I am politically liberal.

    I think humans evolved from lower life forms.

    The earth is 4.6 billion year old with the universe being 13-15 billion years old.

    I am pretty much the antithesis of the stereotypical evangelical Christian yet I have never been challenged once.
    Heretic!
    Hofstadter's Law: It will always take longer than you expect, even if you take into account Hofstadter's Law.

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  2. Amen element771 amen'd this post.
  3. #42
    tWebber Starlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by element771 View Post
    What type of degree?

    I had a bachelor's degree in biochemistry. When I went to graduate school, I realized that I knew next to nothing about biochemistry.
    I guess having any amount of qualifications is always open to the criticism that one doesn't have more. My phd is in a science field rather than philosophy and my philosophy degree is an undergraduate degree, but imagining I had done my phd in philosophy (which I seriously considered doing and was encouraged to do by a lecturer) surely unless I'd actually done the phd in the right kind of philosophy it wouldn't really have been relevant?

    Then accept the challenge.
    ~shrug~ I've just started rereading The God Delusion since people here seem to want to talk about that. In the preface, Dawkins lays out that his primary goal in the book is to help people realize that viewing themselves as an "atheist" is a serious option for them in their lives. He is concerned that there are a lot of people out there who say things like "well I'm a Christian but I'm not really religious and I don't really believe in God" who, due to social pressures or possible misconceptions about "atheism" haven't really even entertained the notion that they might want to think of themselves as an "atheist". He wants to take "atheism" from being an intellectual notion these people have along the lines of "I'm aware that there's this thing called 'atheism' and know there's some people out there who call themselves 'atheists'... but they're unhappy people with no sense of fulfillment in their lives right?" to viewing atheism as either something they already subscribe to or at least viewing it as a serious live option for people to be atheists in substantial numbers. To achieve this general goal, Dawkins is going throughout the book to go through the various hang-ups that people often have that make them feel that they can't really be atheists or that being an atheist is impossible.

    That strikes me as an inherently reasonable general goal for the book. I live in a country where about half the population says they are non-religious, and where political leaders and average people alike are quite happy describing themselves as "atheist" when asked, so it seems an obvious matter of fact to me that 'normal' people can be atheists and that this is a possible way to identify oneself. But I totally understand that in some countries there is a much much higher percentage of religious people and many people in those countries don't really fully grasp that being an 'atheist' is something that is truly plausible for them.

    Do you have an objection to this primary purpose that he lays out for the book? Sure it's not a "philosophical argument", but I feel that trying to read the book as if it were a collection of philosophical arguments is getting the genre wrong - I feel that what Dawkins is gifted at is consistently making really good observations and comments that are obviously true. The book, to my mind, is a very well chosen set of obviously accurate observations and comments that show that being an atheist is perfectly plausible. That said, those times in the book where he does touch on philosophical arguments, in the chapters about arguments for god, arguments on design, and morality etc, I do think he nails it, so we can discuss those I guess when I get to them. But perhaps you have some comments about his basic goal for his book?

  4. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starlight View Post
    I guess having any amount of qualifications is always open to the criticism that one doesn't have more. My phd is in a science field rather than philosophy and my philosophy degree is an undergraduate degree, but imagining I had done my phd in philosophy (which I seriously considered doing and was encouraged to do by a lecturer) surely unless I'd actually done the phd in the right kind of philosophy it wouldn't really have been relevant?
    Not at all. My only point, and you should know this as a PhD, is that an undergraduate degree is a far cry from being an expert in the field. So to say that you have an undergraduate degree in philosophy doesn't say very much about being an expert in the field.

    Quote Originally Posted by Starlight View Post
    ~shrug~ I've just started rereading The God Delusion since people here seem to want to talk about that. In the preface, Dawkins lays out that his primary goal in the book is to help people realize that viewing themselves as an "atheist" is a serious option for them in their lives. He is concerned that there are a lot of people out there who say things like "well I'm a Christian but I'm not really religious and I don't really believe in God" who, due to social pressures or possible misconceptions about "atheism" haven't really even entertained the notion that they might want to think of themselves as an "atheist". He wants to take "atheism" from being an intellectual notion these people have along the lines of "I'm aware that there's this thing called 'atheism' and know there's some people out there who call themselves 'atheists'... but they're unhappy people with no sense of fulfillment in their lives right?" to viewing atheism as either something they already subscribe to or at least viewing it as a serious live option for people to be atheists in substantial numbers. To achieve this general goal, Dawkins is going throughout the book to go through the various hang-ups that people often have that make them feel that they can't really be atheists or that being an atheist is impossible.

    That strikes me as an inherently reasonable general goal for the book. I live in a country where about half the population says they are non-religious, and where political leaders and average people alike are quite happy describing themselves as "atheist" when asked, so it seems an obvious matter of fact to me that 'normal' people can be atheists and that this is a possible way to identify oneself. But I totally understand that in some countries there is a much much higher percentage of religious people and many people in those countries don't really fully grasp that being an 'atheist' is something that is truly plausible for them.

    Do you have an objection to this primary purpose that he lays out for the book? Sure it's not a "philosophical argument", but I feel that trying to read the book as if it were a collection of philosophical arguments is getting the genre wrong - I feel that what Dawkins is gifted at is consistently making really good observations and comments that are obviously true. The book, to my mind, is a very well chosen set of obviously accurate observations and comments that show that being an atheist is perfectly plausible. That said, those times in the book where he does touch on philosophical arguments, in the chapters about arguments for god, arguments on design, and morality etc, I do think he nails it, so we can discuss those I guess when I get to them. But perhaps you have some comments about his basic goal for his book?
    I have no problem with the purpose of the book. I don't have any major problem with his science. I am not entirely sure that I consider him to be a proper scientist. I know that people will have a stroke when I say that but he publishes books instead of peer reviewed manuscripts. Is that a proper scientist? That being said, I may be ignorant of how evolutionary biology is actually done in as much as this may be how they do things. If that is the case then I would withdraw this criticism. I do find it unusual for a scientist to not publish in the primary literature but again, this may be a reflection of my ignorance.

    I have a real problem about how he uses science as a philosophy. What I mean by that is that he thinks that science is inherently atheistic. In one sense, I agree as science is based on a methodological naturalism. On the other hand, to claim that science naturally leads to atheism is a ridiculous claim.

    Knock yourself out if you want to be an atheist but if you are going to be an atheist, it should be based on sound arguments and not the ones put forth in TGD.

  5. #44
    tWebber firstfloor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by element771 View Post

    Knock yourself out if you want to be an atheist but if you are going to be an atheist, it should be based on sound arguments and not the ones put forth in TGD.
    Atheism makes no claim therefore requires no justification. It is a position about being unconvinced of someone else's claim.
    “I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.” ― Oscar Wilde
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    Quote Originally Posted by firstfloor View Post
    Atheism makes no claim therefore requires no justification. It is a position about being unconvinced of someone else's claim.
    Yeah I don't buy that.

    If I make the claim that there are no apples in the barrel, you would be justified in asking me for justification of my position. Claiming that there is no God (A-theism) is a claim, even if it is a negative one.

    I never understood this position other than to simply get out of the need for justification. I believe that any belief should be backed with justification.

  7. #46
    tWebber Starlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by element771 View Post
    So to say that you have an undergraduate degree in philosophy doesn't say very much about being an expert in the field.
    I think some fields are very different to others in this regard. I think in the sciences there is just so many facts to be learned that it's only possible to brush the barest surface in a simplified way in undergrad, and there are so many sub-fields and there's just not time to get onto the 'real stuff' and thus very few undergraduate science courses would have students directly reading recent journal articles, for example, because that would be way too advanced and specific. Whereas in a subject like philosophy the students do regularly in courses directly read the latest work of the world-renowned experts in the field and critique it and discuss it - many courses are nothing but this - so it is not at all as if there exists "real philosophy" that is being done by the experts and students are only being taught a simplified model in undergrad and are not being exposed to the real thing (which is how scientific fields tend to do it).

    One difference I noticed myself with how this plays out in practice is the comprehensibility (or lack of it) in departmental seminars. Anyone off the street or any university student could sit in on a seminar being given by a philosophy academic about their latest research and have a pretty good chance of understanding most of the seminar. Whereas if a professor from physics were to sit in on a chemistry academic's seminar the chances are fairly good they really would struggle to follow the talk, because they lacked the huge amount of specialized knowledge that are involved in scientific fields.

    I have no problem with the purpose of the book. I don't have any major problem with his science.
    Okay.

    I am not entirely sure that I consider him to be a proper scientist. I know that people will have a stroke when I say that but he publishes books instead of peer reviewed manuscripts. Is that a proper scientist?
    He seems to have published plenty of peer-reviewed journal articles throughout his career.

    I have a real problem about how he uses science as a philosophy. What I mean by that is that he thinks that science is inherently atheistic. In one sense, I agree as science is based on a methodological naturalism. On the other hand, to claim that science naturally leads to atheism is a ridiculous claim.
    I would say that in practice it seems like scientists have a tendency towards being becoming atheists. In general I do not like to over-philosophize science and view it as simply the process by which people try out lots and lots of stuff and see what works reliably and what doesn't. As a result I don't know there's anything all that much deeply philosophical to be said about science... I guess you could construct an argument from the success of science to argue that the universe is a universe where a lot of stuff does seem to work reliably... but that strikes me as a rather weak way of getting to the already universally acknowledge conclusion that 'laws of physics' exist.

    Knock yourself out if you want to be an atheist but if you are going to be an atheist, it should be based on sound arguments and not the ones put forth in TGD.
    Well the arguments I would give for my own atheism are:
    1. I don't find any of the various common philosophical arguments for the existence of God compelling.
    2. I think the problem of naturally-occurring pain and suffering (disease, earthquakes etc) makes it highly probable that a very-powerful very-benevolent God does not exist.
    3. I think the major monotheistic religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) have serious internal problems with their holy books, e.g. containing lots of errors, teaching lots of bad things (Genocide of the amelekites, pro-slavery, "Happy is the one who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks!", anti-homosexuality, etc)
    4. I've never come across any claim that a miracle occurred that I found sufficiently evidenced to be convincing. And I think that the modern information age (youtube, mass media, cellphones etc) seems to indicate a distinct lack of well-attested miracles occur worldwide. And while theologians can try to explain this away (God wants to leave room for doubt/faith etc), historically these religious faiths didn't seem to think God was nearly so reticent about miracles (e.g. Moses parting the dead sea in front of Israelites, Jesus healing people in front of their relatives or his disciples, the Catholic church claiming all kinds of miracles from the prayers of saints etc), but as our abilities to record evidence accurately have improved claims of miracles have steadily disappeared.
    5. I think science has had a great deal of success explaining things that were previously attributed to God, and that the repeated successes of non-theistic explanations over theist ones in explaining everything from the nature of the stars to the origin of life on earth show we should probably be highly skeptical of what few if any (the nature of consciousness and the origin of the universe perhaps) things are still commonly explained by reference to God, and that we are probably justified in believing by induction that science will probably eventually have a decent non-theistic explanation of such things.

    I've probably left something out, but that will do as a sample. Those are reasons why I personally am an atheist, quite aside from anything that is or isn't in TGD. I guess you can give some comment about whether you think those are sound reasons or not if you want.
    Last edited by Starlight; 01-11-2017 at 10:50 PM.

  8. #47
    tWebber Starlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starlight View Post
    in a subject like philosophy the students do regularly in courses directly read the latest work of the world-renowned experts in the field and critique it and discuss it - many courses are nothing but this - so it is not at all as if there exists "real philosophy" that is being done by the experts and students are only being taught a simplified model in undergrad and are not being exposed to the real thing (which is how scientific fields tend to do it).
    Actually -with a thought to the original topic of this thread- Peter Singer actually gives an amusing example of this in one of the talks I linked to.

    He wrote a paper in the 70s in which he basically argued: Assuming we accept a utilitarian ethic (as he does, and as many readers would, and as I do) and believe that we want to maximize world well-being, then people in the affluent West ought to be donating a truly massive percentage of their income to help save the lives of the people in the 3rd world, and in fact ought only to stop donating when giving an extra dollar hurts them so much that it does more damage to them and/or their capacity to earn further income for donation than it does good in saving a dying African person's life. A utilitarian ethic might therefore demand that we donate 90%+ of our income to charity.

    Singer notes in his talk that many philosophy lecturers started giving his paper out to students as an example of a conclusion that is so obviously absurd that there must be flaws in the reasoning and asking them to write an essay critiquing it and describing the flaws in it. But now, ~40 years later an increasing number of people are actually coming to hold the view that there are no flaws in the argument and that the conclusion is sound (I personally think it largely is). That's an interesting example of undergraduate students engaging directly with an academic paper.

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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    I like how Starlight completely ignored the challenge after half-heartedly accepting it, and then changed the topic to things he finds compelling about atheism as if no one would notice. Guess he didn't find The God Delusion so mind blowing after all.

  10. Amen element771, Cerebrum123 amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by element771 View Post
    I don't know about this one.

    I am a Christian.

    I am also a physicalist (no souls)

    I am also an annihilationist (no hell).

    I am an orthodox preterist (no rapture).

    I am politically liberal.

    I think humans evolved from lower life forms.

    The earth is 4.6 billion year old with the universe being 13-15 billion years old.

    I am pretty much the antithesis of the stereotypical evangelical Christian yet I have never been challenged once.
    There is a very wide spectrum of Christian views on this forum from all over the world, and even among the moderation staff. People have told Starlight that several times now, but he's got selective memory. Theologyweb does adhere to a relatively universally accepted concept of "orthodox Christianity" in those subfora where orthodox Christians wish to discuss topics without the interference of people who hold unorthodox views. So, for example, when discussing the topic of the trinity among like-minded believers in orthodox Christian only subforums, no one wants to have to have conversation bogged down by nontrinitarians. There's nothing really unusual about that. You see it on a number of Christian forums. Starlight is just sore cause he thought his strange views on Christianity were representative of Christianity at large. There's something wrong with someone who claims to have done as much research as he has on the subject, and gotten it so terribly wrong. It's no wonder he stopped calling himself Christian if by "Christian" he meant this bizarro version of Christianity he keeps railing against. But then, I don't know what to believe from him anymore. I'm beginning to think he's making a lot of it up, or at the very least, prone to severe exaggeration.

  12. Amen Raphael, Cerebrum123, Sparko, RumTumTugger amen'd this post.
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    tWebber shunyadragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by firstfloor View Post
    Atheism makes no claim therefore requires no justification. It is a position about being unconvinced of someone else's claim.
    I believe that atheism does indeed make a claim concluding that Philosophical Naturalism is the justified result based on Methodological Naturalism, which makes no claim one way or another.

    It is the claim that objective falsifiable knowledge is the only basis for belief. This Dawkins view in a nutshell.

    Peter Singer
    Last edited by shunyadragon; 01-12-2017 at 12:14 AM.
    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

    go with the flow the river knows . . .

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    I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

  14. Amen Raphael, Cerebrum123 amen'd this post.

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