Do you consider yourself a secular humanist?
Yes, I'm a secular humanist
47.4% (46)
47.4% (46)
I agree with what it stands for, but I don't think of myself as a secular humanist
27.8% (27)
27.8% (27)
No, I disagree with what secular humanism stands for, though I am an atheist or agnostic
9.3% (9)
9.3% (9)
No, I disagree with what secular humanism stands for, and I'm a theist
4.1% (4)
4.1% (4)
I don't know
5.2% (5)
5.2% (5)
Other
6.2% (6)
6.2% (6)
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Poll: Atheists: Do you consider yourself a secular humanist?

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renegade7:

nyysjan:

renegade7:

Actually, yea, it sounds like semantics because it IS semantics.

Theists accuse atheism of being a religion. I just said atheism is a position on religious belief, that is, my position on religion is that I do not have a religion. Not every belief is religious belief, so don't get the two confused.

If I said "My position on conservatism is that I am not conservative" would that make me "just another kind of conservative"? Absolutely not. My position on religion is that I am not religious and do not believe in a god, hence, I am an atheist. I think what you're describing is agnosticism, taking no position at all ("lacking belief and disbelief").

Well you think wrong.
What i am describing is not agnosticism (though i did describe it in one of my posts when quoting Stephen Sossna), but atheism.
Agnosticism/Gnosticism handles knowledge, while Atheism/Theism handles belief (or lack there of).

As for bolded, no, you did not.

Let me quote you again.

renegade7:

Atheism is a statement of belief, believing that there are no gods and not worshiping anything.

That bolded part right there, is where you claim that atheism is believing that there are no gods.
That is a false claim (the bit about not worshiping anything is also false btw).
Many atheists may believe that there are not god, but that is not what atheism is.

And no, it is not just semantics (well, it might be, in the non casual usage of the word), it merely seems so because you seem to not grasp the small, but very definite, difference between the two positions.

I'm just gonna go with Wikipedia on this one:

"Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[3][4][5] Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist.[4][5][6][7] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[8][9] which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.[9][10]"

Soooo I'm a little confused by your position. What am I supposed to call myself if I don't believe in any gods and don't have any religious or spiritual belief and don't follow worshipful practices? Because "atheist" sounds like a pretty good shorthand for that.

You may want to read my posts, either again, or for the first time, not sure which would apply to you.

Your claim was that atheism is belief that no god exists, and not worshiping anything.

The first part is partial truth at best, because believing that no gods exist would be atheism (specifically, strong atheism), but simply not believing is also atheism. The first part is true, but only partially so.
Second part is pure bullshit. Atheism has nothing to do with worship (ancestor worship, for instance, is completely compatible with Atheism provided you don't claim the ancestors are gods).

nyysjan:

Just because people make "assumptions", does not make their assumptions the logical starting point, or even reasonable position to take.
Just because people make up bullshit stories (or believe in bullshit stories given to them) does not make those stories any way valid explanations.
Prevalence of stupidity, is no excuse for it.

If your argument here is that most people are religious, then yes, i would agree, but that has never been the point of my argument.
My point is, was, and will most likely remain, that atheism is not a faith based position, because it is a position that makes no assertions on the nature of anything.
And that is what null position means, and that is why is the starting point.

Well, I never intended to make any of those claims. I was merely wondering if you could come to the position of atheism in a vacuum - actually making no assertion on the nature of anything. And while I agree with your point that a lack of belief is not logically the same as active disbelief, I don't quite understand the distinction with regard to the deity question.

nyysjan:

There are plenty of terms that are not in regular use, because they are not often needed, that does not make the terms useless.
Implicit Atheism is especially useful in conversations where someone claims belief in god to be the natural state of being, and atheism an unnatural position.
As well as conversations on the nature and formation of religion and god concept.

Well, I guess I'll just trust you on this, though I am not sure why anyone would want to make the claim that theism is the "natural state of being", and why that would matter.

nyysjan:

1. I am an atheist.
2. I am an agnostic.
And i do not fucking flip a coin, mentally or otherwise and accept the result.
Nobody has shown me any compelling evidence to support a claim for existence of god, so i don't believe in one.
But just because there is no evidence does not mean i can be 100% certain about something, so i accept my lack of knowledge instead making bullshit claims i can't back up.

But here is the thing: I'd say you know there is no god, because you weighed the evidence and came to a conclusion. That, to me, is no longer agnosticism. That you cannot be 100% sure only means that what you think you know might turn out false, but that is the case with all knowledge, and nothing is ever 100% certain. Maybe I am just confused as to how one would come to a belief that is not in line with what you think you know.

nyysjan:

Just because i am unable to prove or know that god does not exist, is no fucking reason to believe in one.
Hell, i can't prove unicorns don't exist, i'm still don't believe in them, do you?
Are you willing to accept any explanation, no matter how ridiculous, unbelievable or unscientific, just because you don't know that it is not true?

No, I don't, which is why I am an atheist. But this is still a principle (a very basic one), but a positive principle I adhere to, and my atheism is the consequence of that principle. Which is why I don't consider it a null position.

nyysjan:

And, just so you know, there are people who are atheists because it is the null position. They might not always start from there, or because it is the null position, but that is where they end up (even if they might not themselves use the exact words).
Logic goes something like this, you recognize that believing in something without a reason is silly, then you examine your belief in god, find yourself having no actual reason to believe, and BAM, atheist.

Exactly, but I figure this makes you a gnostic atheist, since you examined the evidence, applied your epistemological principles to it, and came to the conclusion that you know god doesn't exist. It doesn't strike me as an agnostic position, and that is what always confuses me about the divide. I can believe I know something, and believe I don't know something. But how can I believe I don't know something and still believe it?

BiscuitTrouser:

Not at all. Consider this.

Lets take Russels teapot. My claim is there is a teapot behind jupiter that demands you do 30 starjumps RIGHT now or you die.

You would be wise to agree with me if i said "We cannot know there is no teapot there". So youre an agnostic, since you admit we cant know.

I wouldn't agree, however, because under a practical definition of knowledge, I know there is no teapot. Every other assumption, if applied consistently, would force me to remain "agnostic" on everything, which is self-defeating and therefore an irrational position to take.

BiscuitTrouser:

You can live as if the god claims are false and say you KNOW they are false or say you DONT know they false but dont wanna waste time on stuff you dont see a good reason to follow.

Ok, this makes sense to me. But then would my decision to not follow the command have anything to do with the claim ("the teapot exists") that I am agnostic about? It seems to me I simply wouln't decide whether or not the teapot exists or not (that is I'd be neither theistic not atheistic) and just decide that whatever may be the case, because I don't see a good reason to follow the commands of a teapot (assuming it exists), I am not doing it.

Maybe I am overthinking this... The agnosticism "problem" has always bugged me, I can't seem to wrap my head around it. I am guessing that's because I have a problem with the concept of "believing" as such.

BiscuitTrouser:
Its alright, someone has to explain these concepts to everyone at some point.

Thanks for trying, at any rate. It's an interesting subject for sure.

Ok, seems you have one huge misconception of what gnosticism means.

First of all, the fact that i examine the evidence has nothing to do with whether or not i am gnostic or agnostic.
There is no evidence for existence of god, but there is no evidence that there is no god either, therefore i remain agnostic.
There are people who claim to know, but i have yet to see anyone actually come up with compelling evidence either way.

Secondly, why you are atheist has nothing to do with the null position, your personal beliefs, religious or otherwise, are irrelevant.
Null position exists as a logical construct, a natural starting point for any question or claim, just because so many people grasp onto any explanation out of stupidity, gullibility, desperation or fear (or any other reason), does not make the null position any less valid or important.

And lastly, yes, people can come to the position of atheism in a vacuum.
Of course, they would first have to leave the position of atheism by inventing gods.
And then decide they don't believe in those.
And atheism is not the same as making no assertions on anything, it is simply not having a belief that god exists.
Maybe they think pixies do everything, pixies aren't gods.

Stephen Sossna:

I wouldn't agree, however, because under a practical definition of knowledge, I know there is no teapot. Every other assumption, if applied consistently, would force me to remain "agnostic" on everything, which is self-defeating and therefore an irrational position to take.

I dont need to be agnostic on everything, for example if i said the teapot was behind your house instead of behind jupiter you now have the tools available to gather knowledge on this question. You CAN check if there is a teapot and you can use that gathered observation to decide either way using evidence. Then you dont need to be agnostic. Because you can see theres no teapot and you now have all the information possible to gather about the teapot question.

If we discuss the teapot in space ZERO evidence about the teapot exists, theres no way to gather the information unless we send a probe so our working understanding has to be done using literally zero evidence. In my view whenever you have to work with no information at all agnosticism is the word i use. Its my word for "An understanding built on lack of information and the understanding that you dont have the tools to gather said information."

Ill use another example. Lets say theres a light in a cave i can see from my house. Now i have a good idea its probably a fire someone lit. But it might not be. I have no specific evidence to decide what IS in the cave, but i know a few things it could be and i can reason a likely explanation using past experience or general knowledge of what reality is like. Emphasis on likely, my agnosticism admits that, if i COULD gather information on the topic, i might find something different like a lamp or a car with headlights turned on. An agnostic claim is tentative, its a claim made on the basis that new information could arise or be found to prove me wrong and my current understanding is built on a very incomplete knowledge base. If i study something i gain knowledge about it and my claims cease to be agnostic, since now i have knowledge about if something is true or not using verifiable observation.

You are correct in saying agnosticism means you pretty much remain agnostic on all metaphysical claims, since metaphysical claims cant have any information gathered about them. Maybe thats frustrating but it makes a decent point on treating all god claims the same.

nyysjan:
Ok, seems you have one huge misconception of what gnosticism means.

Quite apparently I do, yeah. It seems to consist of two very different aspects: There is the "I know/don't know" question, which seems to adress the level of certainity my claims have, and then there is the "I blieve I can know/cannot know at all" aspect, which is an epistemological question and depends heavily on how you define existence

nyysjan:

First of all, the fact that i examine the evidence has nothing to do with whether or not i am gnostic or agnostic.
There is no evidence for existence of god, but there is no evidence that there is no god either, therefore i remain agnostic.
There are people who claim to know, but i have yet to see anyone actually come up with compelling evidence either way.

Well, but if that is agnosticism, then that makes one "agnostic" on a whole lot of claims. According to this, there is no way to know whether anything at all exists, because there is always the possibility you are in the matrix. But that's not a usefull position to take, and not a position one applies to any other field - we all know there are no dragons or witches. If there is absolutely no valid evidence for a claim, doesn't that make it false?

nyysjan:

Secondly, why you are atheist has nothing to do with the null position, your personal beliefs, religious or otherwise, are irrelevant.
Null position exists as a logical construct, a natural starting point for any question or claim, just because so many people grasp onto any explanation out of stupidity, gullibility, desperation or fear (or any other reason), does not make the null position any less valid or important.

And lastly, yes, people can come to the position of atheism in a vacuum.
Of course, they would first have to leave the position of atheism by inventing gods.
And then decide they don't believe in those.
And atheism is not the same as making no assertions on anything, it is simply not having a belief that god exists.
Maybe they think pixies do everything, pixies aren't gods.

Oh, ok, well I would draw the definition of theism wide enough to incorporate any superior entity or group of entities. Anyways, I get the logical null position part, it's just that I wouldn't call it atheism - I know it fits the dictionary description, but it seems to me we should have a more specific term to differentiate those who are simply ignorant (or are a a stone) from those that have come to a conclusion regarding the existence of a deity. Perhaps a good way to put it is that I consider a theist or an atheist someone who has a position regarding the nature of the universe, while I consider someone who simply doesn't know or care about the question an "agnostic". But I figure I have a different was of looking at this: I want to convey information about the person's position, while you are concerned with the logical position.

BiscuitTrouser:

I dont need to be agnostic on everything, for example if i said the teapot was behind your house instead of behind jupiter you now have the tools available to gather knowledge on this question. You CAN check if there is a teapot and you can use that gathered observation to decide either way using evidence. Then you dont need to be agnostic. Because you can see theres no teapot and you now have all the information possible to gather about the teapot question.

If we discuss the teapot in space ZERO evidence about the teapot exists, theres no way to gather the information unless we send a probe so our working understanding has to be done using literally zero evidence. In my view whenever you have to work with no information at all agnosticism is the word i use. Its my word for "An understanding built on lack of information and the understanding that you dont have the tools to gather said information."

I just think the "zero evidence" situation is special, because when talking about the physical reality of the world, there must be a valid conclusion when there is zero evidence, otherwise we'd be forced to accept everything exists that we cannot disprove, and we cannot disprove anything. It seems problematic to define knowledge in such a way that to have knowledge of non-existance is impossible. If existance is to have any meaning as a qualifier, then it needs to be falsifiable.

BiscuitTrouser:

Ill use another example. Lets say theres a light in a cave i can see from my house. Now i have a good idea its probably a fire someone lit. But it might not be. I have no specific evidence to decide what IS in the cave, but i know a few things it could be and i can reason a likely explanation using past experience or general knowledge of what reality is like. Emphasis on likely, my agnosticism admits that, if i COULD gather information on the topic, i might find something different like a lamp or a car with headlights turned on. An agnostic claim is tentative, its a claim made on the basis that new information could arise or be found to prove me wrong and my current understanding is built on a very incomplete knowledge base. If i study something i gain knowledge about it and my claims cease to be agnostic, since now i have knowledge about if something is true or not using verifiable observation.

You are correct in saying agnosticism means you pretty much remain agnostic on all metaphysical claims, since metaphysical claims cant have any information gathered about them. Maybe thats frustrating but it makes a decent point on treating all god claims the same.

Now this second example makes a lot more sense to me. Because you know you are seeing something, you just don't know what it is. Let's say in your example you don't have any way of telling what lightosurce it is, you just theorize that there is some kind of lightsource. With regard to the existance of a lightsource of any kind, you are unsure, but you are making an assumption based on the best evidence you have. So here you are "agnostic", in the sense that you aren't sure enough to call it knowledge, but it is certainly something similar - the difference is quantity of evidence.

With regard to the type of lightsource, you are "agnostic" in a different sense, as there seems to be one, but you can't even guess properly - every decision you make would be random. That seems to me a different kind of uncertainity.

Let's look at the etxraterrestrial life example. My position so far puts me in a bad spot here: It seems I'd need to state I know there are no aliens, because there is no proof for any specific aliens existing. However, there are good reasons to theorize the existance of extraterrestrial life - according to all the evidence we have about life and the universe, it is likely to exist. But of course that doesn't extend to any specific lifeform in any specific place. Can I know that there aren't any martians or must I remain agnostic to that claim? And at what point is knowledge established, then?

Stephen Sossna:

nyysjan:

First of all, the fact that i examine the evidence has nothing to do with whether or not i am gnostic or agnostic.
There is no evidence for existence of god, but there is no evidence that there is no god either, therefore i remain agnostic.
There are people who claim to know, but i have yet to see anyone actually come up with compelling evidence either way.

Well, but if that is agnosticism, then that makes one "agnostic" on a whole lot of claims. According to this, there is no way to know whether anything at all exists, because there is always the possibility you are in the matrix. But that's not a usefull position to take, and not a position one applies to any other field - we all know there are no dragons or witches. If there is absolutely no valid evidence for a claim, doesn't that make it false?

And?
I'm agnostic on a shitload of things, because there is a shitload of things i have no way of demonstrating to be false or true.
Gods, Unicorns, Multiverse, etc...

And yes, we might be a brain in the jar, or a computer simulation, or any number of other things (google solipsism).
This is both very accurate, and utterly useless observation.
And irrelevant to the fact that, withing whatever common experience we have, we can make observations about things, we can do tests that, when replicated by others, will provide same results.

As for the existence of dragons and witches, yes, you "know" they don't exist, but you can't prove it (and might even have problems coming up with a widely accepted definition), and because there is no actual proof, your claims of knowledge are hollow to anyone who knows (or believes) that they do exist.

Well, i don't know witches and dragons don't exist, but because there is no evidence they exist, and them existing (to some definitions of a witch and/or dragon) would greatly alter our world view from what we know, i would require pretty heavy evidence of them existing.

Stephen Sossna:

nyysjan:

Secondly, why you are atheist has nothing to do with the null position, your personal beliefs, religious or otherwise, are irrelevant.
Null position exists as a logical construct, a natural starting point for any question or claim, just because so many people grasp onto any explanation out of stupidity, gullibility, desperation or fear (or any other reason), does not make the null position any less valid or important.

And lastly, yes, people can come to the position of atheism in a vacuum.
Of course, they would first have to leave the position of atheism by inventing gods.
And then decide they don't believe in those.
And atheism is not the same as making no assertions on anything, it is simply not having a belief that god exists.
Maybe they think pixies do everything, pixies aren't gods.

Oh, ok, well I would draw the definition of theism wide enough to incorporate any superior entity or group of entities. Anyways, I get the logical null position part, it's just that I wouldn't call it atheism - I know it fits the dictionary description, but it seems to me we should have a more specific term to differentiate those who are simply ignorant (or are a a stone) from those that have come to a conclusion regarding the existence of a deity. Perhaps a good way to put it is that I consider a theist or an atheist someone who has a position regarding the nature of the universe, while I consider someone who simply doesn't know or care about the question an "agnostic". But I figure I have a different was of looking at this: I want to convey information about the person's position, while you are concerned with the logical position.

So the main problem we have in communicating here is, that you insist on redefining terms to better suit your own personal world view?

Stephen Sossna:

Let's look at the etxraterrestrial life example. My position so far puts me in a bad spot here: It seems I'd need to state I know there are no aliens, because there is no proof for any specific aliens existing. However, there are good reasons to theorize the existance of extraterrestrial life - according to all the evidence we have about life and the universe, it is likely to exist.

Y'don't need proof to assign likelihood to a possibility, you just need evidence-- and with extraterrestrial life, there's statistical and mathematical evidence, combined with the knowledge of the circumstances under which life on earth emerged. It's not strong evidence, but it's a lot more than none.

Stephen Sossna:
But of course that doesn't extend to any specific lifeform in any specific place. Can I know that there aren't any martians or must I remain agnostic to that claim? And at what point is knowledge established, then?

Well, since we've looked around up there on Mars already, the probability seems to be very low. They'd have to be subterranean or gaseous or something, which are big assumptions.

You can be agnostic if you like, depending on how compelling you find those possibilities. I regard the probability as too low, so I'll stay A-Martian-ist.

nyysjan:

And?
I'm agnostic on a shitload of things, because there is a shitload of things i have no way of demonstrating to be false or true.
Gods, Unicorns, Multiverse, etc...

And yes, we might be a brain in the jar, or a computer simulation, or any number of other things (google solipsism).
This is both very accurate, and utterly useless observation.

And if this is, as you agree, such an utterly useless observation, why should we define knowledge in such a way as to force us into this agnostic stance? Why not ditch this kind of agnosticism and go with "No, we don't" if there is no use to the "maybe" position?

nyysjan:

And irrelevant to the fact that, withing whatever common experience we have, we can make observations about things, we can do tests that, when replicated by others, will provide same results.

Which, however, according to this position, will never constitute knowledge beyond "it worked this time". But obviously we assume gravity will remain in existence tomorrow, even though we have no "proof" of that.

nyysjan:

As for the existence of dragons and witches, yes, you "know" they don't exist, but you can't prove it (and might even have problems coming up with a widely accepted definition), and because there is no actual proof, your claims of knowledge are hollow to anyone who knows (or believes) that they do exist.

Well, i don't know witches and dragons don't exist, but because there is no evidence they exist, and them existing (to some definitions of a witch and/or dragon) would greatly alter our world view from what we know, i would require pretty heavy evidence of them existing.

But couldn't we just throw that middle position out and say: "I know they don't exist, and I would be pretty surprised to find out I am wrong about this" without changing anything? There is already the option that what you think you know turns out wrong, do we need another option that says "I am not even sure I know and I may be wrong"? Why does knowledge need to be unchangeable? Our information about the universe changes constantly, trying to put up a monolithic definition of knowledge seems pointless.

nyysjan:

So the main problem we have in communicating here is, that you insist on redefining terms to better suit your own personal world view?

I tried to explain to you why I used the terms the way I used them. In order to explain to you what I meant. There is no need to be this adversarial, I am not trying to "win" some kind of contest, I am just interested in this, because, as I have already admitted, I never could quite wrap my head around this "agnostic atheism" thing.

Silvanus:

Y'don't need proof to assign likelihood to a possibility, you just need evidence-- and with extraterrestrial life, there's statistical and mathematical evidence, combined with the knowledge of the circumstances under which life on earth emerged. It's not strong evidence, but it's a lot more than none.

Yes, that's about what I meant. Thanks for putting it in better terms than I was able to! What does that mean for the existence of extraterrestrial life? Are we "agnostic" on that, or do we "know" it exists? Is there a "gnostic" position where you "know" it probably exists or is that still "agnostic"?

Silvanus:

Well, since we've looked around up there on Mars already, the probability seems to be very low. They'd have to be subterranean or gaseous or something, which are big assumptions.

You can be agnostic if you like, depending on how compelling you find those possibilities. I regard the probability as too low, so I'll stay A-Martian-ist.

So you'd agree that we do not have to scour every last crater and cave on Mars in able to make the "gnostic" claim that no, there are no "Martians"?

Stephen Sossna:

nyysjan:

And?
I'm agnostic on a shitload of things, because there is a shitload of things i have no way of demonstrating to be false or true.
Gods, Unicorns, Multiverse, etc...

And yes, we might be a brain in the jar, or a computer simulation, or any number of other things (google solipsism).
This is both very accurate, and utterly useless observation.

And if this is, as you agree, such an utterly useless observation, why should we define knowledge in such a way as to force us into this agnostic stance? Why not ditch this kind of agnosticism and go with "No, we don't" if there is no use to the "maybe" position?

Why should we define "fire" in such a way that we have to define most of the things "not on fire"?
This is what you are asking.
We know things because we hare evidence things, or reason to think they are true.
We remain agnostic on things we have no evidence for (unless we are delusional), or have no reason to think are true.

You are asking us to eliminate a whole concept because you seem to feel it makes things untidy.
You are trying to eliminate "i do not know", as a valid answer.
Are you really that afraid of ignorance? of uncertainty?

Stephen Sossna:

nyysjan:

And irrelevant to the fact that, withing whatever common experience we have, we can make observations about things, we can do tests that, when replicated by others, will provide same results.

Which, however, according to this position, will never constitute knowledge beyond "it worked this time". But obviously we assume gravity will remain in existence tomorrow, even though we have no "proof" of that.

You really have a thing for false equivalency, don't you...
For one, we don't know for absolute certainty that gravity continues to exist tomorrow, but living in a universe 14 billion or so years old, and not having any evidence for gravity randomly fluctuating, and having had it work just fine for at least 4 billion or so years (or however old the earth was), we have a reasonable cause to believe it will continue to work.

Stephen Sossna:

nyysjan:

As for the existence of dragons and witches, yes, you "know" they don't exist, but you can't prove it (and might even have problems coming up with a widely accepted definition), and because there is no actual proof, your claims of knowledge are hollow to anyone who knows (or believes) that they do exist.

Well, i don't know witches and dragons don't exist, but because there is no evidence they exist, and them existing (to some definitions of a witch and/or dragon) would greatly alter our world view from what we know, i would require pretty heavy evidence of them existing.

But couldn't we just throw that middle position out and say: "I know they don't exist, and I would be pretty surprised to find out I am wrong about this" without changing anything? There is already the option that what you think you know turns out wrong, do we need another option that says "I am not even sure I know and I may be wrong"? Why does knowledge need to be unchangeable? Our information about the universe changes constantly, trying to put up a monolithic definition of knowledge seems pointless.

Now, i may have been a bit flippant on the witch argument, so i'm going to apologize for that.

Witches and Dragons are ill defined concepts.
If witch is just someone who knows how to brew some herbs into something that, at minimum, is unlikely to kill you, then they clearly exist.
If witches are people who have magical powers of some sort, then we would have reasonable cause for saying that they do not exist because we have no evidence for magic or supernatural, and any actual tests we have made on finding them have failed.
If dragon is just a big lizard we call a dragon, then they do exist
If dragon is a gigantic flying fire breathing thing with scales, then we have reasonable cause for saying they probably don't exist (on earth).

Stephen Sossna:

nyysjan:

So the main problem we have in communicating here is, that you insist on redefining terms to better suit your own personal world view?

I tried to explain to you why I used the terms the way I used them. In order to explain to you what I meant. There is no need to be this adversarial, I am not trying to "win" some kind of contest, I am just interested in this, because, as I have already admitted, I never could quite wrap my head around this "agnostic atheism" thing.

And in every post we have, it seems like your issue is in admitting uncertainty, or simply misusing labels.

Sorry if i come of as adversarial, but i have had this conversation (or variation there of) over dozen times, and i've seen it done hundreds more. And i am tired of it.

It is not a difficult concept.
We have two categories, one handles things we know (or think are possible to know), and other handles things we believe.

Stephen Sossna:

Yes, that's about what I meant. Thanks for putting it in better terms than I was able to! What does that mean for the existence of extraterrestrial life? Are we "agnostic" on that, or do we "know" it exists? Is there a "gnostic" position where you "know" it probably exists or is that still "agnostic"?

Well, I think agnosticism is a fair position on extraterrestrial life, but others may disagree. It's quite valid to be an alien-believer or an alien-disbeliever-- some people are so convinced one way or the other that they shouldn't be described as agnostic on that question.

Stephen Sossna:

So you'd agree that we do not have to scour every last crater and cave on Mars in able to make the "gnostic" claim that no, there are no "Martians"?

I'd say you can come to a pretty solid conclusion without scouring every crater, yeah.

Personally, I still wouldn't ascribe a total claim of "knowledge", though, owing to the existence of water in the planet's past, since we're pretty sure water was essential to earth-life. We also know that space-travel is possible, since we've accomplished it ourselves, so there's also the outside chance that Martian life developed and exists today off-planet.

With those (very small) pieces of evidence supporting other possibilities, I'd say I'm maybe around 98% sure there are no Martians (or somewhere around there). If we were talking about a gruesomely inhospitable planet without any liquid whatsoever in its history, then I'd more confidently say 99.99% (which is around how sure I am there isn't a benevolent God). I'd confidently call myself pretty "gnostic" about that.

Quick clarification:
Gnostic is not about whether or not you know (or if it is possible to know).
Gnostic means that you "think" you know (or are convinced that it is possible to know).

Lot of theists would be properly called gnostic theists, because they think they know, even if they have no actual evidence they can point to as a reason for their "knowledge".

As for alien life, i don't know if there is life outside earth.
But given that we know life can exist, and the huge number of planets that exist in the universe, and the age of the universe.
I would assign the odds of life existing outside earth as almost certain (Europa would be a decent place to start looking).

I had to wikipedia it what a humanist actually is, I'm still not sure.
While I'm an atheist, I do not think it's probable that everything in the universe has natural origins. I think the universe is filled with phenomena not at all bound to any set of laws, for I can see no reason why the universe ought to be limited. A commonly observed phenomena that I think is absolutely free of any set of laws, is human behaviour. Sure in bulk it can be at times predicted reasonably well with pseudeo sciences such as psychology. But free will is still truly free. Though affected by biology and my environment I can steer my thoughts and desires in whatever direction I please.
I do not think this fits within the philosophy you dubbed as secular humanist.

rutger5000:
...with pseudeo sciences such as psychology.

Bah. Somehow I doubt you looked into that field too much but are regurgitating talking points, pop-culture references and jokes about quacks and more than outdated, Freud-style psychoanalysts, when you say that.

But free will is still truly free. Though affected by biology and my environment I can steer my thoughts and desires in whatever direction I please.

That seems contradictory. If it's affected, how is it "truly free"? What does "truly free" mean exactly?

It's no coincidence that people who, for example, were sexually or physically abused as children, have a much higher rate of sexually or physically abusing their own children later in life, because we are the products of the sum of our experiences.

The last part in particular is odd to me, when you consider things like intrusive thoughts which a lot of people suffer from and the fact that people develop fetishes and desires they can't really control, just to give two simple examples of our limited ability to control the direction our minds wander.

Also, as we accumulate more and more knowledge about the brain and learn what issues like depression, manic syndromes, schizophrenia etc. are really based on biologically, it becomes more and more clear that our brains' actual chemistry is responsible for most if not all of our minds' states. Considering an imbalance can lead people to the decision to commit suicide or invest their last cent in rubbish or believe they are being watched by the "eyes" of traffic lights and so on, and that fixing or at least lessening that imbalance with medication can prevent such behaviours and views, I fail to see the supposed "true freedom" in our wills. Not to mention all the evidence we gather from outright brain injury, where people who have their frontal lobes affected can have massive personality shifts and the like. Clearly to me, "we" are our brains - with all the consequences attached to that fact - and not some other, independent, "truly free" entity.

I'm a mostly a determinist, although I'd say I'm a compatibilist also.
I'm of the opinion that - if we had enough information and the kind of processing power required - we could perfectly predict human behaviour, because in essence the choices we make are not free in any metaphysical sense but based on what we know about the world, what we value, what we think will happen as consequences etc.. Of course, such predictions will never be possible fully because we'd have to be basically omniscient to account for all factors, but the more we learn, the better we will get at it and reach high percentages of correct predictions, I'd assume, even if we could never eliminate a margin of error.

What we do is still our choice, though, even if it is predictable in reality or in principle, because we made the decision. Based on all the previous data, based on our brain chemistry, based on possible damages and imbalances and whatnot, but still our decision to make. That's where the compatibilist part comes into it. "Truly free" will is an anthropocentric illusion, but that doesn't make us mere automatons.

Skeleon:

rutger5000:
...with pseudeo sciences such as psychology.

Bah. Somehow I doubt you looked into that field too much but are regurgitating talking points, pop-culture references and jokes about quacks and more than outdated, Freud-style psychoanalysts, when you say that.

But free will is still truly free. Though affected by biology and my environment I can steer my thoughts and desires in whatever direction I please.

That seems contradictory. If it's affected, how is it "truly free"? What does "truly free" mean exactly?

It's no coincidence that people who, for example, were sexually or physically abused as children, have a much higher rate of sexually or physically abusing their own children later in life, because we are the products of the sum of our experiences.

The last part in particular is odd to me, when you consider things like intrusive thoughts which a lot of people suffer from and the fact that people develop fetishes and desires they can't really control, just to give two simple examples of our limited ability to control the direction our minds wander.

Also, as we accumulate more and more knowledge about the brain and learn what issues like depression, manic syndromes, schizophrenia etc. are really based on biologically, it becomes more and more clear that our brains' actual chemistry is responsible for most if not all of our minds' states. Considering an imbalance can lead people to the decision to commit suicide or invest their last cent in rubbish or believe they are being watched by the "eyes" of traffic lights and so on, and that fixing or at least lessening that imbalance with medication can prevent such behaviours and views, I fail to see the supposed "true freedom" in our wills. Not to mention all the evidence we gather from outright brain injury, where people who have their frontal lobes affected can have massive personality shifts and the like. Clearly to me, "we" are our brains - with all the consequences attached to that fact - and not some other, independent, "truly free" entity.

I'm a mostly a determinist, although I'd say I'm a compatibilist also.
I'm of the opinion that - if we had enough information and the kind of processing power required - we could perfectly predict human behaviour, because in essence the choices we make are not free in any metaphysical sense but based on what we know about the world, what we value, what we think will happen as consequences etc.. Of course, such predictions will never be possible fully because we'd have to be basically omniscient to account for all factors, but the more we learn, the better we will get at it and reach high percentages of correct predictions, I'd assume, even if we could never eliminate a margin of error.

What we do is still our choice, though, even if it is predictable in reality or in principle, because we made the decision. Based on all the previous data, based on our brain chemistry, based on possible damages and imbalances and whatnot, but still our decision to make. That's where the compatibilist part comes into it. "Truly free" will is an anthropocentric illusion, but that doesn't make us mere automatons.

I'm actually reasonably well versed in both old day as modern psychology, and I consider both pseudo-science. For opposed to Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology etc etc, in which it's actually possible to clearly formulate a hypothesis on either first principles or previously made observations and test that hypothesis with a reliable, repeatable and quantifiable experiment. To claim that psychology as an academic field has similar credibility and cohesion as sciences as mentioned above is utter folly. Perhaps someday psychology could evolve to a science, but that day is still very far away.
I don't see what's troubling about my statement on free will. I think I stated my thoughts on it very clear, I can't summarize or rephrase them without altering their meaning, but I'll attempt to illustrate them. Think of biology and past experiences as shackles that generally steer our consciousness, the truly free feature of free will allows us break those shackles when we wish it and do so at any time, in any situation in any circumstances and make a decision completely unaffected by those factors. I'm not a big fan of Freud, but I do subscribe to the notion of the ubermensch in us all. The part of our consciousness that can make decisions in complete and utter disregard of biology, psychology, genetics and any conceivable external influence. In general most humans don't let their ubermensch make their decisions (rightfully so as that would be immensely tiring), but we all have it.
I do not think we'll ever agree upon this, for I do think and believe (both are different concepts, here I'm arguing for the former, I'm not interested in discussing the later) that our consciousness is free in the metaphysical sense. I do not subscribe to the notion that every phenomena in this universe is bound to physical laws, that statement is illogical and counter-intuitive to me. Now I'll be the first to admit that science can't progress when it allows metaphysical explanations for their observations. However that does not mean such phenomena do not exists, and when science attempts to tackle explain them, it'll be a dead-end pursuit. Therefore even if psychology would eventually succeeded in become a scientific process of studying and explaining human behaviour, it'll never be able to truly succeed in generating a model which explains and predicts it accurately. As free will is an all determining factor, for which it'll never be able to account for.

rutger5000:

I'm actually reasonably well versed in both old day as modern psychology, and I consider both pseudo-science. For opposed to Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology etc etc, in which it's actually possible to clearly formulate a hypothesis on either first principles or previously made observations and test that hypothesis with a reliable, repeatable and quantifiable experiment. To claim that psychology as an academic field has similar credibility and cohesion as sciences as mentioned above is utter folly. Perhaps someday psychology could evolve to a science, but that day is still very far away.

...Therefore even if psychology would eventually succeeded in become a scientific process of studying and explaining human behaviour, it'll never be able to truly succeed in generating a model which explains and predicts it accurately. As free will is an all determining factor, for which it'll never be able to account for.

It's a pity that pure mathematics, biology and chemistry don't do nearly as good a job at explaining complex behaviour, then.

Silvanus:

rutger5000:

I'm actually reasonably well versed in both old day as modern psychology, and I consider both pseudo-science. For opposed to Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology etc etc, in which it's actually possible to clearly formulate a hypothesis on either first principles or previously made observations and test that hypothesis with a reliable, repeatable and quantifiable experiment. To claim that psychology as an academic field has similar credibility and cohesion as sciences as mentioned above is utter folly. Perhaps someday psychology could evolve to a science, but that day is still very far away.

...Therefore even if psychology would eventually succeeded in become a scientific process of studying and explaining human behaviour, it'll never be able to truly succeed in generating a model which explains and predicts it accurately. As free will is an all determining factor, for which it'll never be able to account for.

It's a pity that pure mathematics, biology and chemistry don't do nearly as good a job at explaining complex behaviour, then.

You're joking right? The understanding that biology, chemistry and other hard sciences have brought is what allowed modern civilization to form. The phenomena they explain are no less complex than human behaviour, but as of yet we've not created a successful model/science for doing so, and therefor it seems more complex. It's natural to think of concepts that we understand to a satisfying degree as simple, and concepts that we don't as complex. But such a simplification is not just. Science has uncovered and unraveled mysteries that go way beyond your imagination (that's not an insult, there's not a person alive who can grasp the full scope of the successes of science).

rutger5000:

You're joking right? The understanding that biology, chemistry and other hard sciences have brought is what allowed modern civilization to form. The phenomena they explain are no less complex than human behaviour, but as of yet we've not created a successful model/science for doing so, and therefor it seems more complex. It's natural to think of concepts that we understand to a satisfying degree as simple, and concepts that we don't as complex. But such a simplification is not just. Science has uncovered and unraveled mysteries that go way beyond your imagination (that's not an insult, there's not a person alive who can grasp the full scope of the successes of science).

You've misrepresented my point. I simply never said human behaviour was more complex than chemistry, physics, biology-- but it's vastly different. We cannot apply the same criteria (beyond relatively simple behaviour).

If we want to explain complex human behaviour, we would be far better off going to a psychologist than a pure biologist or chemist; that was my point.

Silvanus:

rutger5000:

You're joking right? The understanding that biology, chemistry and other hard sciences have brought is what allowed modern civilization to form. The phenomena they explain are no less complex than human behaviour, but as of yet we've not created a successful model/science for doing so, and therefor it seems more complex. It's natural to think of concepts that we understand to a satisfying degree as simple, and concepts that we don't as complex. But such a simplification is not just. Science has uncovered and unraveled mysteries that go way beyond your imagination (that's not an insult, there's not a person alive who can grasp the full scope of the successes of science).

You've misrepresented my point. I simply never said human behaviour was more complex than chemistry, physics, biology-- but it's vastly different. We cannot apply the same criteria (beyond relatively simple behaviour).

If we want to explain complex human behaviour, we would be far better off going to a psychologist than a pure biologist or chemist; that was my point.

I don't understand your sentence: "We cannot apply the same criteria (beyond relatively simple behaviour)."
In any case if that's your point, than it was not I who misrepresented it. You claimed and I quote: "It's a pity that pure mathematics, biology and chemistry don't do nearly as good a job at explaining complex behaviour, then." I pointed out that was utter nonsense, as those sciences have and still do explain the complex behaviour of many many systems. Though I guess you could mean human behaviour, in which case I suppose a claim could be made that psychology explains human behaviour better than biology, chemistry and physics. I wouldn't support that claim, as a great deal of psychologies more creditable claims are directly related to chemistry (think drugs), biology (think sex (same as most of our evolutionary cousins)) and physics (think electrical signals travel down nerves and activating axioms). But I suppose to some other claims made by psychology (which are generally much more difficult to support by repeatable experiments) carry more weight as they have more clear applications. However in general those claims lack the cohesion you find in the sciences previously mentioned, making it difficult to think of psychology as a independent fully fledged science.

rutger5000:

I don't understand your sentence: "We cannot apply the same criteria (beyond relatively simple behaviour)."
In any case if that's your point, than it was not I who misrepresented it. You claimed and I quote: "It's a pity that pure mathematics, biology and chemistry don't do nearly as good a job at explaining complex behaviour, then." I pointed out that was utter nonsense, as those sciences have and still do explain the complex behaviour of many many systems. Though I guess you could mean human behaviour, in which case I suppose a claim could be made that psychology explains human behaviour better than biology, chemistry and physics.

I would have thought, from the context, that that was clearly what I was saying.

If somebody says, "Biology explains the composition and workings of the body", you know from the context that they're referring to organic bodies, not celestial bodies.

rutger5000:
I wouldn't support that claim, as a great deal of psychologies more creditable claims are directly related to chemistry (think drugs), biology (think sex (same as most of our evolutionary cousins)) and physics (think electrical signals travel down nerves and activating axioms). But I suppose to some other claims made by psychology (which are generally much more difficult to support by repeatable experiments) carry more weight as they have more clear applications. However in general those claims lack the cohesion you find in the sciences previously mentioned, making it difficult to think of psychology as a independent fully fledged science.

Psychology does not exist separately from chemistry and biology; any good psychologist will recognise brain chemistry, biological impulses, etc.

But, neither do the hard sciences exist separately from one another. Biology overlaps with chemistry, chemistry overlaps with physics, physics overlaps with mathematics. The fact that psychology is not "independent" of those other disciplines does not lessen its usefulness, because none of the hard sciences can function as well in a vacuum, either.

There are huge avenues of psychology which are not best explained by chemistry or biology, though, and that was my point. Do you think a profiler or a psychiatrist would be of as much use if they appealed solely to electrical signals, nerve-endings, and evolutionary impulses?

Silvanus:

rutger5000:

I don't understand your sentence: "We cannot apply the same criteria (beyond relatively simple behaviour)."
In any case if that's your point, than it was not I who misrepresented it. You claimed and I quote: "It's a pity that pure mathematics, biology and chemistry don't do nearly as good a job at explaining complex behaviour, then." I pointed out that was utter nonsense, as those sciences have and still do explain the complex behaviour of many many systems. Though I guess you could mean human behaviour, in which case I suppose a claim could be made that psychology explains human behaviour better than biology, chemistry and physics.

I would have thought, from the context, that that was clearly what I was saying.

If somebody says, "Biology explains the composition and workings of the body", you know from the context that they're referring to organic bodies, not celestial bodies.

rutger5000:
I wouldn't support that claim, as a great deal of psychologies more creditable claims are directly related to chemistry (think drugs), biology (think sex (same as most of our evolutionary cousins)) and physics (think electrical signals travel down nerves and activating axioms). But I suppose to some other claims made by psychology (which are generally much more difficult to support by repeatable experiments) carry more weight as they have more clear applications. However in general those claims lack the cohesion you find in the sciences previously mentioned, making it difficult to think of psychology as a independent fully fledged science.

Psychology does not exist separately from chemistry and biology; any good psychologist will recognise brain chemistry, biological impulses, etc.

But, neither do the hard sciences exist separately from one another. Biology overlaps with chemistry, chemistry overlaps with physics, physics overlaps with mathematics. The fact that psychology is not "independent" of those other disciplines does not lessen its usefulness, because none of the hard sciences can function as well in a vacuum, either.

There are huge avenues of psychology which are not best explained by chemistry or biology, though, and that was my point. Do you think a profiler or a psychiatrist would be of as much use if they appealed solely to electrical signals, nerve-endings, and evolutionary impulses?

There's a big difference between psychology and psychiatry, one is the study of human behaviour, the latter the study of the human mind and is much more akin to an actual doctor. I see psychiatry as a very necessary specialization within medicine. I'm however not convinced that the academic study that is psychology significantly helps with things such as profiling. Simple people-knowledge seems to work just as well.

While all hard science do share an overlap (especially with mathematics) I would say that all of them have a core set of coherent theorems that stand independent on their own. The laws of physics and chemistry (though often formulated in a mathematical way) are independant from other sciences. I do not know of any such set of theorems within psychology.

rutger5000:

There's a big difference between psychology and psychiatry, one is the study of human behaviour, the latter the study of the human mind and is much more akin to an actual doctor. I see psychiatry as a very necessary specialization within medicine. I'm however not convinced that the academic study that is psychology significantly helps with things such as profiling. Simple people-knowledge seems to work just as well.

What exactly does "simple people-knowledge" entail? It sounds purely intuitive, if anything, even more subjective than psychology. It doesn't sound like a discipline at all.

http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=jV79pP8rW8kC&oi=fnd&pg=PA171&dq=Offender+Profiling+and+Investigative+Psychology&ots=4kokzpgXM-&sig=TOE631qA-Odun8H2cjahby1K7jg#v=onepage&q=Offender%20Profiling%20and%20Investigative%20Psychology&f=false

http://books.google.bg/books?id=YG0Qyfxqtx8C&lpg=PP1&dq=Criminal%20psychology&hl=bg&pg=PA226#v=onepage&q&f=false

A look at google's scholarly articles shows a number of others on the subject, most of which are in subscription-based journals (see here, here, here and here).

Is there anything academic to support the idea that "simple people-knowledge" is enough?

rutger5000:
While all hard science do share an overlap (especially with mathematics) I would say that all of them have a core set of coherent theorems that stand independent on their own. The laws of physics and chemistry (though often formulated in a mathematical way) are independant from other sciences. I do not know of any such set of theorems within psychology.

If you're asking about laws or theorems that can be expressed absolutely, then that's not how psychology works.

It does, however, have numerous theories that have resulted in greater understanding and prediction. They are not absolute; that does not mean they haven't advanced our understanding greatly.

They're easy to find and read about.

The thread was supposed to be about the merits (and drawbacks) of secular humanism, and it derailed into a thread about the definition of atheism...

Irmin:
The thread was supposed to be about the merits (and drawbacks) of secular humanism, and it derailed into a thread about the definition of atheism...

I blame you.
Mentioning the word atheism was guaranteed to bring us to this topic.

Flutterguy:
"Belief that humans can operate ethically without religion"

Is that even a question? The only reason to disagree is out of bravado for your particular religion. It sounds like one of those terms used by Fox news with the intent of brooding hatred for a people undeserving of it.

Define "ethically".

Annihilist:
Define "ethically".

I'm not sure I see the need, because any meaningful ethical or moral behaviour can exist without religious influence.

Silvanus:

Annihilist:
Define "ethically".

I'm not sure I see the need, because any meaningful ethical or moral behaviour can exist without religious influence.

How do you know a behaviour is ethical?

Annihilist:

Silvanus:

Annihilist:
Define "ethically".

I'm not sure I see the need, because any meaningful ethical or moral behaviour can exist without religious influence.

How do you know a behaviour is ethical?

How do you?

Annihilist:
How do you know a behaviour is ethical?

That's entirely subjective, and also irrelevant to my point.

I am an atheistic anti-humanist.

Humanism is an attempt to read morality into the fabric of the material universe. It says "we deny the transcendental plane of existence" while saying "we embrace the transcendental concept of morality". This does not follow: even if there were some sort of 'morality gene' in man that tends him towards pro-social behavior, it does not then follow that there is an ontological imperative to follow its dictates; there is no meaning behind immorality.

The Christian charges the secular humanist with nihilism - and rightly so. The Christian also is a nihilist, though he'll never see it. Both are active nihilists and locate the source of morality beyond the immediate world of consciousness and experience, whether it be literally embodied in the human genome (or in human social structures for non-determinists) or within the dictates of an absent God.

What follows practically from this is that, for an atheist to speak of morality in any real and tangible sense, he is speaking of a realm whose existence he denies: the transcendental, above the sensuous world of consciousness. The only coherent atheistic position is an anti-humanist one. This does not mean, to wit, some sort of aggressive, anti-social personality. One can very well create their own ethics and hinge them on -- nothing. There is nothing wrong with acting on a level that is fundamentally arbitrary and conscious of it; no existential crisis need follow on from it. There's a great deal wrong with acting arbitrarily and imagining it to be predetermined.

Quote the end of Max Stirner's book The Ego And Its Own, the man in my avatar:

The ideal "Man" is realized when the Christian apprehension turns about and becomes the proposition, "I, this unique one, am man." The conceptual question, "what is man?" - has then changed into the personal question, "who is man?" With "what" the concept was sought for, in order to realize it; with "who" it is no longer any question at all, but the answer is personally on hand at once in the asker: the question answers itself.

They say of God, "Names name thee not." That holds good of me: no concept expresses me, nothing that is designated as my essence exhausts me; they are only names. Likewise they say of God that he is perfect and has no calling to strive after perfection. That too holds good of me alone.

Other authors in this vein are Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Martin Heidegger, Georges Bataille, Andre Gide, Eugène Ionesco, and Unica Zürn. It is a legitimate philosophical tradition, more intellectually rigorous (in a phenomenological, deductive sense) than the Analytic tradition that Dawkins and his ilk crawled out of.

Also note that this is not synonymous with atheistic existentialism. Jean-Paul Sartre famously defended his interpretation of existentialism as a humanism in a public lecture. It shares basic concepts, but existentialism can be read in many different ways.

https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exist/sartre.htm

TL;DR version: The secular humanist is an inverted Christian, a quasi-Christian. I refuse to be one. If the Christians in this thread are looking for a strawman nihilist you may well have found one in me, but I guarantee you I can justify the position with more intellectual coherency than they can their belief in the martyr-messiah, so why bother?

nyysjan:

Annihilist:

Silvanus:

I'm not sure I see the need, because any meaningful ethical or moral behaviour can exist without religious influence.

How do you know a behaviour is ethical?

How do you?

I don't.

Silvanus:

Annihilist:
How do you know a behaviour is ethical?

That's entirely subjective, and also irrelevant to my point.

Well, not really, because you can't claim to be ethical without first defining what you mean by ethical. It boils down to the inherent subjectivity of the word.

Annihilist:

nyysjan:

Annihilist:
How do you know a behaviour is ethical?

How do you?

I don't.

Silvanus:

Annihilist:
How do you know a behaviour is ethical?

That's entirely subjective, and also irrelevant to my point.

Well, not really, because you can't claim to be ethical without first defining what you mean by ethical. It boils down to the inherent subjectivity of the word.

The debate about whether people can be ethical without religion assumes that being ethical is possible in the first place. If the answer is "well, people just can't be ethical at all" that is rather beside the point of contention which is whether religion is uniquely able to help people be ethical. You certainly don't need religion to live up to religious standards of ethics, and you certainly don't need religion to have your own ethical opinions or even the same ethical opinions as any religious person. Even an ethical non-cognitivist should be able to see this.

Annihilist:
Well, not really, because you can't claim to be ethical without first defining what you mean by ethical. It boils down to the inherent subjectivity of the word.

Since any behaviour is perfectly possible without religious influence, it doesn't matter what definition we use.

DisasterSoiree:
I am an atheistic anti-humanist.

Humanism is an attempt to read morality into the fabric of the material universe. It says "we deny the transcendental plane of existence" while saying "we embrace the transcendental concept of morality". This does not follow: even if there were some sort of 'morality gene' in man that tends him towards pro-social behavior, it does not then follow that there is an ontological imperative to follow its dictates; there is no meaning behind immorality.

The Christian charges the secular humanist with nihilism - and rightly so. The Christian also is a nihilist, though he'll never see it. Both are active nihilists and locate the source of morality beyond the immediate world of consciousness and experience, whether it be literally embodied in the human genome (or in human social structures for non-determinists) or within the dictates of an absent God.

What follows practically from this is that, for an atheist to speak of morality in any real and tangible sense, he is speaking of a realm whose existence he denies: the transcendental, above the sensuous world of consciousness. The only coherent atheistic position is an anti-humanist one. This does not mean, to wit, some sort of aggressive, anti-social personality. One can very well create their own ethics and hinge them on -- nothing. There is nothing wrong with acting on a level that is fundamentally arbitrary and conscious of it; no existential crisis need follow on from it. There's a great deal wrong with acting arbitrarily and imagining it to be predetermined.

Quote the end of Max Stirner's book The Ego And Its Own, the man in my avatar:

The ideal "Man" is realized when the Christian apprehension turns about and becomes the proposition, "I, this unique one, am man." The conceptual question, "what is man?" - has then changed into the personal question, "who is man?" With "what" the concept was sought for, in order to realize it; with "who" it is no longer any question at all, but the answer is personally on hand at once in the asker: the question answers itself.

They say of God, "Names name thee not." That holds good of me: no concept expresses me, nothing that is designated as my essence exhausts me; they are only names. Likewise they say of God that he is perfect and has no calling to strive after perfection. That too holds good of me alone.

This was an interesting post. But what is meant by "reading a fabric of morality into a material universe"? Secular humanists typically say that human morality is a product of evolution (which is true) and not created by a god.

DisasterSoiree:
Other authors in this vein are Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Martin Heidegger, Georges Bataille, Andre Gide, Eugène Ionesco, and Unica Zürn. It is a legitimate philosophical tradition, more intellectually rigorous (in a phenomenological, deductive sense) than the Analytic tradition that Dawkins and his ilk crawled out of.

Isn't the Analytic tradition a form of contemporary philosophy? I thought Dawkins was a scientist, not a philosopher.

My own preference happens to be Analytic philosophy rather than Continental philosophy. That's because the former, while not being a science, typically has a great deal of respect for science and proceeds in a scientific spirit.

nyysjan:

Irmin:
The thread was supposed to be about the merits (and drawbacks) of secular humanism, and it derailed into a thread about the definition of atheism...

I blame you.
Mentioning the word atheism was guaranteed to bring us to this topic.

Heh, is it really such a trigger?

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