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Atheist myths and errors

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Initial post: Mar 1, 2013 4:07:08 PM PST
Eric Pyle says:
Among other questionable assertions, I have seen two people on this forum posit an atheist version of the myth of the Fall of Man.

In this version, people are logical and rational until they are deflected from this pure state by religion. The original pure state is not sinlessness but rationality, while the serpent's role is played by religion.

To believe this, we have to think that logical thinking is a kind of default position for human beings.

Posted on Mar 1, 2013 4:32:41 PM PST
Eric Pyle says:
A common over-simplification: the statement that if someone says she is an atheist, that we know nothing else about that person. That an atheist is a person who lacks a belief in God and nothing else may be said about that person.

This is true only if we are limited to deductive reasoning alone. If we can use inductive reasoning, we can make statements of probabilities about the person.

Based on experience, if there is an atheist posting on this board, we are allowed to know some things about this person, and to assume other things. It would be rude to assume too much, of course.

Expressed in percentages of probability, I think we can say that an atheist on this forum

--thinks that the scientific method is the best and perhaps only way to gain knowledge about the world; close to 100%

--thinks that evolution by natural selection occurs; close to 100%

--votes Democrat; about 70%

--leans Libertarian; maybe 25%

Can you think of more?

Posted on Mar 1, 2013 4:34:58 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 22, 2013 11:59:05 PM PDT
Eric Pyle says:
Common vocabulary error:

"Metaphysical" does not mean "supernatural."

Edit: I see that some dictionaries list one of the meanings of "metaphysical" as "supernatural." Although oddly, a 1913 dictionary lists such a definition as obselete.

Anyway, I'll amend my original statement to:

The word "metaphysical" may and often does refer to subjects which are not related to the supernatural.

Posted on Mar 1, 2013 4:39:15 PM PST
Eric Pyle says:
Common assertion:

A belief is always unjustified, while knowledge must always be empirically proven.

This is about definitions of words, and of course people are always free to make up their own definitions. We should keep in mind, though, that the above definitions are far from universally accepted. And I have never read a serious philosopher or epistemology study that defines the words that way.

Posted on Mar 1, 2013 4:41:08 PM PST
Eric Pyle says:
Desperate clawing after empiricism:

The claim that the presence of love may be proved through the study of behavior or through brain scans.

Posted on Mar 1, 2013 5:04:48 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2013 5:08:39 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 5:19:22 PM PST
Eric Pyle says:
Christopher,

You've lumped together a number of things which perhaps don't deserve lumping.

Freudian psychology is largely dismissed by empiricists these days. It survives among literary types and theorists such as Lacan, whom the hard sciences reject as poetic or wishy-washy.

String theory and multiverses I think are still very much thought-experiments. Most people I read are clear that these things are far from settled.

I don't know what Modern Evolutionary Synthesis is. There is good evidence for global warming. Naturalistic abiogenesis is also unsettled but can hardly be called myth. Neuroscience exists and produces good results. It's always possible that someone claims too much for it, but you'd have to be more specific.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 5:21:15 PM PST
Freudian psychology has been pretty out of the mainstream for years now--at least since the 1970's when I was in grad school.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 6:17:49 PM PST
S. Kessler says:
What makes this an "atheist" version? It just sounds like a myth created by someone who understands nothing about human nature or how the human mind works.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 6:20:22 PM PST
Eric Pyle says:
SK,

Two atheists used it on this forum to denounce religion.

The religious version of the Fall of Man myth is different, as I'm sure you know.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 6:24:12 PM PST
S. Kessler says:
Of course I know. But two dumb atheists don't make a trend.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 6:28:13 PM PST
Amy Hall says:
hahahaha!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 6:32:59 PM PST
Eric Pyle says:
SK,

Just putting traps out for the dangerous memes.

Those things breed.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 7:27:16 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2013 7:28:01 PM PST
Dr. Chaos says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 7:32:58 PM PST
S. Friedman says:
Eric,
"Expressed in percentages of probability"

Based on observations here over the last few years:

Can spell, uses appropriate punctuation, and can form a coherent sentence -- 99%

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 8:29:49 PM PST
Astrocat says:
Tell that to the polar bears!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 9:10:14 PM PST
Allan says:
''In this version, people are logical and rational until they are deflected from this pure state by religion. The original pure state is not sinlessness but rationality, while the serpent's role is played by religion. **To believe this, we have to think that logical thinking is a kind of default position for human beings**.''

S. Kessler says: What makes this an "atheist" version? It just sounds like a myth created by someone who understands nothing about human nature or how the human mind works.

Allan: That seems a bit harsh, S. Kessler.

Would you feel the same way about someone who thinks that, as an evolved social/tribal animal, we are genetically programmed to work together for the benefit of the tribe/pack, and our mythology has failed to keep pace with the fact that we are now well beyond the hunter-gatherer culture living in a hi-tech, industrialised, citified, near-global environment?

Broadly speaking, up until the Enlightenment we saw ourselves as part of God's plan, expressed as a place for everyone and everyone in their place, role and position in society clear-cut.

The change from that to a society where people are encouraged to reach their own full potential was radical, and no mythology was created to help us deal with it. Greed and selfishness are powerful. We see, too, a diminution of the power of religion -- once a unifying system of support -- in the educated West, an increasing breakdown in the family structure (I work with some of the victims), orthodox schooling failing to provide for the more-intelligent and imaginative, yet little is being done to address these factors.

Religion can't fix it, so what can?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 9:25:11 PM PST
S. Kessler says:
I don't know what was "harsh" about what I said. It is demonstrably true that anyone who thinks the original state of the human mind was rationality is simply wrong based on everything we currently know about how the human brain works. That's all I said.

I was implying nothing about any of the issues you brought up in this post.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 9:32:00 PM PST
Re OP: Since the "fall of man" is entirely fictional, it is inane to say anything about what anyone may have been "before" or "after" it.
"we have to think that logical thinking is a kind of default position for human beings." It should be clear that it is not: people do irrational things quite frequently -- such as believing in a deity (or deities) when there is no evidence, of any sort whatever, that any such thing exists. In fact, it can be shown that there cannot be grounds for such a belief [1].
"thinks that the scientific method is the best and perhaps only way to gain knowledge about the world" This is provably true [2].
"thinks that evolution by natural selection occurs" This is also provably true [3].

1. "Search Customer Discussions" for "saundersg" in "Belief in the Christian god is absurd". The search will turn up many pages of references; the one in question is on (or nearly on) the last page. The actual post is on the first page of the thread.
2. Search for "saunderst" as above. It is also on the first page of the thread.
3. Search for "saunderse" as above. It is also on the first page of the thread.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 9:43:57 PM PST
Allan says:
'' It is demonstrably true that anyone who thinks the original state of the human mind was rationality is simply wrong based on everything we currently know about how the human brain works.''

I'm still lost.

Why can our forefathers not be seen as rational?

OED: Definition of rational
adjective
1based on or in accordance with reason or logic:
I'm sure there's a perfectly rational explanation

able to think sensibly or logically:
Ursula's upset-she's not being very rational

endowed with the capacity to reason:
man is a rational being

Allan: We certainly can be irrational at times, but why should that mean we can't also be rational when it is appropriate to be rational, when being rational is necessary??

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 9:49:32 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2013 9:50:22 PM PST
S. Kessler says:
Because humans are guided first by their emotions and second by their reason. That is how science tells us the mind works.

If the so-called atheist myth is that before religion, man's mind was entirely rational, that is incorrect.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 9:50:28 PM PST
Eric Pyle says:
Robert,

Here is the original exchange which, to me, seemed to imply that you were positing religion as a fallen state, or "corruption," of reasonable people:

*****

Robert A. Saunders says:

Re Rothery, 11-3 4:59 AM: "... the reason people are here is to convert others to their way of thinking, ..." I declare openly that such is precisely my intention. Religion is a corruption of rational thought, and should disappear for that reason. The progress of our species depends, directly and exclusively, on our ability to understand the real world and to use its assets for our purposes -- and this can be accomplished solely by rational thought.

*****

Robert,

<<Religion is a corruption of rational thought>>

While I share your respect for rational thought, the word "corruption" here gives me pause.

Probably rational thought is in the minority in human history. Religious, mythological, metaphorical, emotional, et.al.... other types of thought came first and continue to be dominant.

To call religion a "corruption" implies that reason came first and was diverted by religion. It's probably more true to say that the current value we give to reason is the aberration from human history, a tenuous valuation that has been making headway since the Enlightenment, but is in no way guaranteed to persist. You and I hope it will continue to grow, but that is just our preference.

By positing that rational thought is the original, ideal method, and religion came in and corrupted it, I think you are reproducing the pattern of a common myth. The myth of the Fall of Man teaches that there is a prior and desirable state and that we have undergone a corruption. And that if we strive sufficiently, we may return to the good condition. I don't think that history bears out this type of thinking, nice as it would be to believe it.

*****

Robert A. Saunders says:
Re Pyle, 11-4 1:17 PM: "To call religion a "corruption" implies that reason came first and was diverted by religion." Nonsense: the time order is immaterial. The point is that belief in ANY deity cannot be supported on rational grounds [1], so it is irrational perforce.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 9:57:33 PM PST
Eric Pyle says:
Allan,

I'm sure there were rational forefathers.

The point I wanted to make was that we shouldn't think of reasonableness as a default, which then got corrupted by nasty priests.

I'm pretty sure that people had superstitions as soon as they could use conceptual thought. You know, cave man days.

Likewise, I don't think individuals start out reasonable and then get corrupted by religious adults. To convince me of that, you'd have to show me a two-year-old who was never unreasonable.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 10:00:10 PM PST
S. Kessler says:
You are quite right, Eric.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 10:06:49 PM PST
Mens Sana says:
Our "severe weather" is rather immediate evidence of global warming. We might argue over the causes, but not the warming itself.
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Discussion in:  Religion forum
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Initial post:  Mar 1, 2013
Latest post:  Jul 15, 2013

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