May 8, 2007
Kudos for original thinking to those who came up with the idea for this survey. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the high regard most groups have for Jews, who were discriminated against during the early twentieth century on a level nearly equal to that of African-Americans. The low regard for atheists comes as no surprise It would be interesting to see a study like this conducted on an international scale and including a wider array of religious identifications. (3 hrs ago | post #1)
That may be true of some atheists, but many of us came to the conclusion that deities are improbable through logical and/or emotional processes outside of science. Not believing in deities makes it much easier to accept such scientific theories as the Big Bang and Evolution, but none of the atheists I know rejected the possibility of deities because of them. (4 hrs ago | post #154)
Here's the ting: current scientific thought could be entirely wrong about the origins of life, the universe, and everything and it would still be reasonable and rational to doubt that any deities exist or that any of the primitive origin myths reflect any objective reality. While most atheists accept the basic truth of science, none of them are essential to atheism itself, so arguing that atheism is wrong because science might be ignores the bases of atheism. I say "bases" rather than "basis" because there is not a single one that is common to all of us. This forum presents a relatively narrow view of atheism because the atheist participants 1.) like to write, 2.) don't mind sharing our thoughts, 3.) have adjusted our views because of our exposure to each other. The wider population may have a much wider range of reasons for their atheism and attitudes about, well, life, the universe, and everything--if any of those matter to them enough to give it much thought at all. Idiotic assaults on science will never fail to get a rise out of us. That doesn't make them any less beside the point. (Yesterday | post #140)
I generally stay out of discussions about the beginning of the universe because I don't know enough about advanced astrophysics. But Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who does, says that astrophysicists don't know anything about the pre-BB state, making it fair game for the God-of-the-gaps crowd. He also points out that, historically, those gaps have a way of disappearing. (Friday Jul 18 | post #131)
We skeptics are a minority. For many, faith trumps evidence. The two mindsets are so incompatible that understanding is unlikely and agreement all but impossible. We see examples of this in every discussion here in the atheism forum. Thus, our conversations are interesting and entertaining, but ultimately must fail to achieve resolution. Why expect otherwise? (Thursday Jul 17 | post #123)
The range of beliefs in any population is wider than most would think. Not all spiritual beliefs involve beliefs in deities, I've talked to people who believe that the universe has a spiritual infrastructure of some sort that mirrors its physical one but don't believe that spirit has any qualities that one would associate with a deity--mind, will, personality, etc. I've heard others assert that humans have a spiritual dimension unique to us and any other species that are sentient on at least the same level. Neither these nor beliefs in reincarnation and karma require belief in deities. Moreover, the range of belief about the nature of spirituality is just as wide--not all of them even involve phenomena that take place outside of human brains. So while I think it's probably the exception rather than the rule, I'm sure there are atheists who believe in some form of spirituality. (Thursday Jul 17 | post #5)
The difference in birthrates between believers and nonbelievers does not guarantee a halt to the increase in skepticism even in the populations, mostly third-world, where that growth is most dramatic. While less extreme, that difference has always existed in the subpopulations of most countries. The increase in skepticism comes from the rate at which members of each generation question the beliefs of the previous generation in general and their parents in particular much more than it does from comparative birth rates. Any analysis that ignores that factor is fatally flawed. The growth of Christianity in Africa is not an indication of the increase of religion in general, but of that tendency. Younger Africans are not choosing Christianity over non-belief but over the religions of their parents and communities. It may also reflect a reduction of tribalism and towards identification with wider social identifications. Over subsequent generations, those trends could well include greater intellectual and spiritual independence and self-reliance, which could result in a growth of skepticism in the long run. Trends towards skepticism are also augmented by increases in prosperity and education. How long can the extreme disparity between the nations and regions of the earth last? I suspect that neither belief or skepticism will triumph in the long run. rather, at some point a balance will be found between the two, and we will see only slight demographic variations within a larger stability. With any luck, that stability will include greater levels of mutual toleration and respect and lower levels of strife and discord. (Tuesday Jul 15 | post #1)
Or perhaps it's a bit more complicated than that. Maybe as social populations advance, the practice of religion changes even if the actual scripture does not. Maybe the emphasis on a book too long and complicated for many to read in its entirety even after its translation and publication wider than the upper echelons of the clergy tends to be placed on that which supports those changes. Maybe through the preachers that those populations choose to follow, they develop within religions, worshiping in ways their ancestors would have deplored as much as they would have deplored the actions of their forebears. It's harder to give up a religion in name than in practice, easier to overlook the scriptural passages that are no longer socially acceptable or even permissible under modern secular law, clinging to what's left with a tenacity that falls somewhere between the extremes of ferocity and half-heartedness. Let's be glad of that. It makes most believers easier to deal with than if they actually practiced their faiths in their entirety. When each person is ready to let the fall the final veil of unreality, it will happen without atheist activists harping at them--sooner, perhaps, without the defensiveness that those challenges to their beliefs create. It's easier to be dispassionately rational when no one is poking around at one's emotions with a sharp stick. (Sunday Jul 13 | post #96)
Perhaps CK's need to see the universe within the confines of biblical interpretation overrides and desire to gain any wider insights. If so, all evidence must be made to fit that view. It's may be easier for him than to expand his spiritual views to fit modern cosmology. For me, the whole point of the Bible is learning to treat others better than our selfish natures would ordinarily allow. Instead, many of its followers use it to excuse one form of selfishness or another. The example seen most often stems from the desire to feel superior to others by winning arguments instead of learning from others or humbly sharing insights that seem to be missing from discussions in progress. It's the difference between a conversation that encourages a hand on the shoulder and a friendly smile and one conducted with tense faces and clenched fists. How much better things would go if we only took the time to let go of hostility and defensiveness before posting testy little responses to each other. When we let go of powerful emotions, we think more clearly and behave more rationally. We get along better, too. Would that we could do that at least as well here as we do in face-to-face relationships. (Saturday Jul 12 | post #77)
Here's the thing. We all have areas of expertise, others of general knowledge outside of that, and pockets of ignorance. There's just not time in one lifetime to learn all that can be known. So we rely on others to keep up with the forward progress of general knowledge But how do we tell experts from charlatans? In science, the best experts are actively engaged in cutting-edge research. Most of them don't have time for much else, though, so the next best are the science educators and advocates who follow that research more closely than most of us can on our own. It's crucial to make sure that those in whom we place our trust in that regard are free of biases that are non-scientific or even anti-science. That kind of bias makes people cling to beliefs from which all evidence has evaporated and blown away. Or say things like, "Science says a pig can turn into a whale." and actually believe it. (Friday Jul 11 | post #57)
Yoiks! I hate to think what mine must look like. Mirrors begone! (Wednesday Jul 9 | post #773)
Indeed it is. The brain is, after all, the true origin of all emotion. (Wednesday Jul 9 | post #772)
The heart is an organ that pumps blood; it has nothing to do with emotions. But it has been used for centuries as a metaphor for the seat of human emotion. In a community of skeptics, if I use the word in that fashion, some one will inevitably point out the heart's limitations as a physical organ; I used "metaphorical " as a modifier to avoid that extraneous little exchange. Worked, to, except for your belated response. (Wednesday Jul 9 | post #771)
Is your position that the Exodus story must be true if it cannot be "proven" false or that if it cannot be supported by solid evidence that archeologists and other scientists would expect to find if it were true, that the story's accuracy remains highly unlikely? Which approach do you consider to be consistent with solid logic? What evidence can you present that Egypt held a sizable Hebrew population during the epoch in question, that they were', in fact' the ancestors of the world's Jewish population? To what "hard facts" do you refer? Simply stating that evidence exists is not sufficient. You have to first present it and then validate it with documentation that holds up to skeptical review. In a community of skeptics, the answers to questions like this all rely on solid evidence, not speculation, and not assertions to be proven false or stand as true, which is the reverse of any logical process. If you are not willing to do this, don't expect to change even a single mind. (Monday Jul 7 | post #306)
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