Atheists vrs Skeptics

As an Atheist I'm often wondering why there are so few Atheists but a lot of Skeptics and agnostics
Courage appears to be one of the vital ingredients.
To stand up and be counted , requires a lot more courage than sitting on the fence.
The tall poppy syndrome , most people just aren't comfortable being a tall poppy.
We become the target of the majority for daring to be different, to go against the grain and not agree with the views held by the majority.
I believe if we let the majority rule. We will all end up joining our local church.
So my question to the Skeptic/agnostics is
"what would it take to get you to take the leap of courage and declare yourself an Atheist"

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This post smacks of smug bit

This post smacks of smug but I'll bite.

First I'll describe my position. I'm a bit of a fence sitter, I'll admit, but will happily say that if I have to put my money on the table I'll bet on atheism being correct. I have traditionally been sympathetic to the Epicurean idea from their set of 4 guiding rules, the tetrapharmakos, that one shouldn't fear God. To quote wikipedia

As a prelude to "Don't worry about death," the concept of "god" in Epicurus' time was incompatible to Epicurus' beliefs. The worrying about whether or not the gods are concerned about the actions of human beings and the amount of observance and worship ascribed to them, was the general relationship of man's belief to the gods' purpose and temperament. But Epicurus and many other Greeks at the time conceived the gods to be a hypothetical state of bliss rather than higher bodies of judgment; they are undestructable entities that are completely invulnerable, enviable to mortals, and, most importantly, unconcerned about anything beyond the bliss and happiness they represent. They are mere role models for human beings "who emulate the happiness of the gods, within the limits imposed by human nature."

Recently I was Interviewed on the Godless Business podcast (I guess they were desperate for guests) and during that I was asked what my thoughts on atheism were and I sort of floundered the question so when I got home I decided to have a look and see if English has at least one word to describe my position, and it turns out it does: apatheist.

An apatheist is also someone who is not interested in accepting or denying any claims that gods exist or do not exist. In other words, an apatheist is someone who considers the question of the existence of gods as neither meaningful nor relevant to his or her life.

So to elaborate I have a problem with the line 'skepticism leads to atheism' because frankly it's, in my opinion, way too strong. I think much more appropriate would be 'skepticism plus the available evidence leads to atheism', particularly because I've often found that people within skepticsm are not immune to using it to try support their own predetermined conclusions (for example see people claiming that skepticism naturally leads to libertarianism or some particular set of ethics). For a less than perfect analogy I would think of a physicist who claims that 'the model of physics is complete therefore there are no further dimensions', when really he should say that 'the model of physics is complete therefore anyone proposing further dimensions better come to the table with some good evidence'. In the same sense an atheist in skepticism should be saying that 'all (as far as I'm aware) current descriptions of God are internally inconsistent so if you're gonna propose one show me the evidence' and not say 'there is no evidence of God therefore God doesn't exist'. You'll also note I've conveniently glossed over the problem of defining what is exactly meant by the term God.

When it comes to other people I'll group them into the religious and the atheists. In the case of the religious if someone has a belief that helps them sleep at night, fuck it, it's their life they can do what they want. On the other hand if they are proponents of something like prayer-healing I think that should be vigorously fought as, failing any proof of efficacy, it could have very negative effects on people other than the person believing it and, more importantly, it is within the realm of something you, as a member of the nonbelieving community, can do a study on and for reals prove that it doesn't work (providing they don't then come up with a special pleading argument that it works only so long as you don't try to prove it works at which point you should just raise an incredulous eyebrow). On the other hand in the atheist side there are people who let their atheism go too far and, as I stated earlier, plenty that will use skepticism to support their predetermined conclusion. On this topic I think there is an interesting hypocricy: often you'll hear skeptics complain about people who are new age or religious publishing books on science without understanding it, in particular not being published at all in the field. However, as far as I'm aware—I may well be wrong on this, people such as Dawkins are not published in the field of religious theory and as far as I'm aware have only written popular selling books for the public on the subject. I suspect the reason the latter is considered kosher and the former not is partly because Dawkins is probably right (although I think he drops the ball a few times) but also partly because he is sending a message that we agree with.

So after that longer-than-intended post I guess my answer to your question would be: nothing. I'm not gonna be 'courageous' about an issue I just don't really care that much about. :P

Smug?? I don't think so,

Smug?? I don't think so, there's nothing in those statements that say that this person thinks that. What I think it's saying is that there are plenty of people that are functionally atheists, but don't stand up and say they are. Instead they label themselves as skeptics or agnostic, and what this is saying is those people should have the courage to stand up and be counted if they are actually atheists.

There is no hard evidence for a god or gods, but plenty for an naturalistic explanation for events so I'm not sure what the difficulty is with saying one thing can tend to lead to another, what matters is whether the person can provide the reasoning and evidence for whatever stance they've arrived at. I've never yet seen one person argue that scepticism of itself leads to a particular political stance like libertarianism (perhaps it's supposed to be an more liberal outlook?) or a particular ethics, but a person could use logic and reasoning to arrive at a position about one or another. It's just quibbling about semantics to say if a person makes that claim that it's too "strong" or it's "gone too far". Atheism is always going to be a "strong" claim anyway, you can't go any further than no god at all. Unfortunately if it's a atheist claim saying that it cops a lot of flak, but when it comes to religious claims it's more acceptable to say so and some people argue that those beliefs should gain special protection from criticism. It's not easy in that environment to be forthright. The issue I'd have with the statement 'the model of physics is complete therefore anyone proposing further dimensions better come to the table with some good evidence' is that it seems to place the onus not on the claimant where it should lie to provide the evidence for the claim the 'model of physics is complete' but on others to try and prove the claim isn't correct and that there are more dimensions. There is no onus on the person that questions a claim to accept that claim and it's underlying premises prior to seeing the evidence that may or may not support it. This claim wouldn't be made anyway, because scientific claims are always subject to falsification so change as evidence comes in. It's not like that for religious claims.

It's inherently contradictory to take a stance where you sit on the fence and either say it's unknown or unknowable or try and stand aside and take a neutral position, then at the same time say that where religious beliefs cause harm (such as prayer healing) that something should be done to counter it. The key there is that the fundamental basis for those beliefs cannot be ignored if you are saying that what they are doing is wrong. Their belief is that there is in existence a god that will personally intervene to heal their loved one, when there is absolutely no scientific or even logical basis for this and clearly this can cause harm in situations where someone has a life-threatening illness. In medicine, while you can study something for the sake of it and do an study to see if it's efficacious, but unless you look at the biological plausibility any results are going to be spurious (either false negatives or positives) because the assumptions underlying the hypothesis can't be tested. All that leads to is confusion, as small badly done studies can be touted as "proof" despite that the whole premise is nonsensical.

There is no hypocrisy going on when sceptics complain about such things as new age or religious books. New age material can rightly be criticised if they are being used as if they are authoritative statements about the world as there is no such thing as having "expertise" in guardian angels. What's important is not the beliefs but the how and why the belief is arrived at. If they make an truth based claim based on those things and mangle science to support it, of course the sceptic can rationally make the claim that they don't understand the topic and provide the evidence for that claim. Similarly with the theology and the bible, you can ignore any rational basis for the belief in god and pore endlessly over the bible but you hit problems invoking it as an authority on questions that can be answered using observation, experiment and other methods. The other question with theology is whose theology do you rely on, because there isn't a lot of consistency there between the multitude of beliefs and writings, it's something illustrated by pointing out it's a problem even trying to define what is meant by the term "god". With material like Dawkins he isn't making those sorts of claims and his writing relies on his scientific background and using reason to create his arguments, so yes skeptics can agree with this (or not as the case might be, no one is required to conform and accept any or all of this arguments). He's not asking us to believe him just because, or for special exemption from criticism. To say because he's not a published theologian he can't have an opinion is pretty much arguing that no one can criticise anything unless they themselves are experts. This is a bit like saying you have a degree in creationism to argue against that when it's not able to be studied as it isn't grounded in observation and cannot generate any kind of testable hypothesis.

Smug?? I don't think so,

Smug?? I don't think so, there's nothing in those statements that say that this person thinks that.

Really? Because to me it reads 'I'm an outspoken atheist, I think to be an outspoken atheist you have to be courageous' and the rest follows from there.

What I think it's saying is that there are plenty of people that are functionally atheists, but don't stand up and say they are. Instead they label themselves as skeptics or agnostic, and what this is saying is those people should have the courage to stand up and be counted if they are actually atheists.

I'm fully willing to concede that may not have been meant to be smug but, to quote another atheist reader of it, 'that's smug as fuck'.

There is no hard evidence for a god or gods, but plenty for an naturalistic explanation for events so I'm not sure what the difficulty is with saying one thing can tend to lead to another, what matters is whether the person can provide the reasoning and evidence for whatever stance they've arrived at.

I might point out the the argument "x cannot be proven false therefore x is true" and "x cannot be proven true therefore x is false" are both examples of the negative proof fallacy. Really in either situation of the valency of x you can at most shrug your shoulders.

I've never yet seen one person argue that scepticism of itself leads to a particular political stance like libertarianism (perhaps it's supposed to be an more liberal outlook?) or a particular ethics, but a person could use logic and reasoning to arrive at a position about one or another.

I've heard more than one, in the case of libertarianism it was one of the writers of the TV show Penn & Teller's Bullshit. He explicity said that in his opinion skepticism necessarily leads to libertarianism. In the latter case I've heard at least three people claim that skepticsm leads to humanism.

It's just quibbling about semantics to say if a person makes that claim that it's too "strong" or it's "gone too far".

I come from a background where there is a world of difference between statements like 'with probability zero' and 'impossible' and where there are different sizes of infinity, in fact an infinite number of different sizes, complex topics are hard enough to discuss without vague language being used and, where it has been used, I see no problem with suggesting an alternate, more representative, wording.

Atheism is always going to be a "strong" claim anyway, you can't go any further than no god at all. Unfortunately if it's a atheist claim saying that it cops a lot of flak, but when it comes to religious claims it's more acceptable to say so and some people argue that those beliefs should gain special protection from criticism. It's not easy in that environment to be forthright.

This sounds suspiciously like you're saying any atheist viewpoint should be protected but religious ones shouldn't. Or it's possible I've read too much into it.

The issue I'd have with the statement 'the model of physics is complete therefore anyone proposing further dimensions better come to the table with some good evidence' is that it seems to place the onus not on the claimant where it should lie to provide the evidence for the claim the 'model of physics is complete' but on others to try and prove the claim isn't correct and that there are more dimensions. There is no onus on the person that questions a claim to accept that claim and it's underlying premises either unless sufficient evidence exists to support it.

I'm not sure I can parse what you're trying to say, you may have to reword it. To reiterate what I was trying to say the person who makes the claim 'the model of physics is complete' isn't making any more claims than that, in particular all he's saying as that given the available methods and information at hand the model is sufficient to describe everything and is self-consistent (I'm going to gloss over Godel's incompleteness theorem for this example :P). Now the analogy comes when you ask 'what about other processes that are separate from this model?' (if I wanted to come up with an example I might look at string theory with multiple universes - each would (potentially) have it's own rules of physics and physical layout but you can't say anything about the one you aren't in). Now the 'correct' skeptical position would be that no others exist, but of course this is just an assumption based on Occam's razor. It's saying there might be others but until we find some evidence of them let's just assume there aren't.

This claim wouldn't be made anyway, because scientific claims are always subject to falsification so change as evidence comes in. It's not like that for religious claims.

This does somewhat depend upon the religion. Certainly with regards to people who say the Bible is the unerring word of God it's true, but on the other hand in my experience the Anglican church has usually been pretty good at taking the position 'how can we interprete the Bible given the latest scientific advances'.

It's inherently contradictory to take a stance where you sit on the fence and either say it's unknown or unknowable or try and stand aside and take a neutral position, then at the same time say that where religious beliefs cause harm (such as prayer healing) that something should be done to counter it.

With regards to other people it's really not. My mother would've referred to it as 'picking your battles'. Think of all the people that cling onto a belief when there is evidence staring them in the face then seriously tell me it's worth your time to talk someone out of a (assuming it's self-consistent and scientfically-parsimonious belief system) position when neither of you can come to the table with any evidence either way.

The key there is that the fundamental basis for those beliefs cannot be ignored if you are saying that what they are doing is wrong. Their belief is that there is in existence a god that will personally intervene to heal their loved one, when there is absolutely no scientific or even logical basis for this and clearly this can cause harm in situations where someone has a life-threatening illness.

You seem to conflate religious belief and Christian belief. Again I'll point to the Epicureans who said 'if Gods exist they aren't interested in human affairs' (in fact I think it may have been stronger but this will do). This is clearly a religious belief that you think should be argued against but not one that will have any negative ramifications so I don't see the point. In fact a belief such as this will lead to something akin to pragmatic atheism.

In medicine, while you can study something for the sake of it and do an study to see if it's efficacious, but unless you look at the biological plausibility any results are going to be spurious (either false negatives or positives) because the assumptions underlying the hypothesis can't be tested. All that leads to is confusion, as small badly done studies can be touted as "proof" despite that the whole premise is nonsensical.

Sure but be careful about going the other way where because something is based on a bizzare belief it cannot work. I am by no means advocating that should something like the healing power of prayer be found to work that that's where the investigation ends, the first thing to do, should it be found to work, would be to get rid of all the natural causes before ascribing it to a supernatural one.

There is no hypocrisy going on when sceptics complain about such things as new age or religious books. New age material can rightly be criticised if they are being used as if they are authoritative statements about the world as there is no such thing as having "expertise" in guardian angels.

You could've saved yourself a lot of typing but just saying it was an ad hominem and not appropriate in either context.

What's important is not the beliefs but the how and why the belief is arrived at. If they make an truth based claim based on those things and mangle science to support it, of course the sceptic can rationally make the claim that they don't understand the topic and provide the evidence for that claim.

This is sort of the crux of the problem though, isn't it? Although you can't have 'expertise in guardian angels' you can in religious philosophy. You can even be an expert on religion without, shock horror, believing it. Worse, in the philosophical context you end up having to leave evidence behind and relying on consistency.

Similarly with the theology and the bible, you can ignore any rational basis for the belief in god and pore endlessly over the bible but you hit problems invoking it as an authority on questions that can be answered using observation, experiment and other methods.

So Christianity, other than not being consistent, isn't parsimonious with the facts. Whatever. The discussion isn't specifically about Christianity, do you think it impossible that every possible religion has similar problems and, more importantly, can you prove it?

The other question with theology is whose theology do you rely on, because there isn't a lot of consistency there between the multitude of beliefs and writings, it's something illustrated by pointing out it's a problem even trying to define what is meant by the term "god".

I'm sure this is some sort of distributive fallacy because you seem to be saying because not all of them can be right therefore none of them are right. At any rate it's not appropriate, just because you potentially can never 'know' which (including atheism by the way) is the one true one doesn't mean none of them are right.

With material like Dawkins he isn't making those sorts of claims and his writing relies on his scientific background and using reason to create his arguments, so yes skeptics can agree with this (or not as the case might be, no one is required to conform and accept any or all of this arguments). He's not asking us to believe him just because, or for special exemption from criticism.

Except that Dawkins doesn't so much attack the possible existence of God, he attacks the (usually Christian) factual claims and internal consistencies. Again I refer to the Epicurean idea and say Dawkins can never disprove it! He can at best show that science is entirely consistent without it, but it does not then necessarily follow that it's not true.

To say because he's not a published theologian he can't have an opinion is pretty much arguing that no one can criticise anything unless they themselves are experts.

Well... sort of. I think it's fine for anyone to have an opinion the real question to me usually is how much weight to give it. However the experts in philosophy I do know like Dawkins not because he doesn't mangle philosophy (which they assure me he does) but because he's an amusing, to quote Phil Plait, dick.

This is a bit like saying you have a degree in creationism to argue against that when it's not able to be studied as it isn't grounded in observation and cannot generate any kind of testable hypothesis.

This is completely wrong. Creationism (usually [1])makes factual claims. Relgious belief doesn't necessarily make factual (in the sense of testable) claims.

[1] I've heard a version of Creationism where the world was created 6000 years ago, etc to appear exactly as though he didn't create it because if you could prove he did it would remove the 'free will' to believe in God. I personally don't like it as an argument because God wasn't exactly shy about interfering in the Bible, plus I don't believe in free will, but as for the guy who believe it: fuck it. He's someone who'll never disagree with what science comes up with so I really don't care.

OK so maybe I should say what it would take for me to come out and 'courageously' apologise (in the somewhat archaic sense of apologist - sorry that doesn't read quite as I want it to given modern language) for atheism. It would be a proof that the existence of an appropriately defined God necessarily leads to a contradiction. For so long as that hasn't been done apatheist it is for me.

To be skeptical is a given

Everyone is skeptical about one view or another , to label yourself a believer or a non-believer in god is a lot more specific .
I think it is politically incorrect to be an Atheist , because it challenges the belief system that the country was colonized by.
Atheism is in the too hard basket , and the western nations will try to keep the illusion that religion is credible going for as long as possible.
I think like a lot of things in life , "it's not if but when"
Atheism in my view is the future .
It's just a question of how long???
And what will it take for you???

Everyone is skeptical about

Everyone is skeptical about one view or another

Ideally everyone is skeptical about everything.

to label yourself a believer or a non-believer in god is a lot more specific

Sure, but what if you plain don't care?

I think it is politically incorrect to be an Atheist , because it challenges the belief system that the country was colonized by.

Helen Clark and John Key are apparently both atheists (I can't actually get into the site but google displayed what I hope were representative bits http://canterburyatheists.blogspot.com/2008/09/rejoice-new-zealand-clark...) are you sure it's the case?

Atheism is in the too hard basket

This is a bit of a throw-away statement. Too hard for what?

and the western nations will try to keep the illusion that religion is credible going for as long as possible.

So you think this is an organised conspiracy and not just because people are easily led?

I think like a lot of things in life , "it's not if but when"

Or more pertanently "Will it be before the big crunch".

Atheism in my view is the future .
It's just a question of how long???
And what will it take for you???

I answered in the other post before reading yours but will copy/paste here:

It would be a proof that the existence of an appropriately defined God necessarily leads to a contradiction. For so long as that hasn't been done apatheist it is for me.

apatheist , sounds like apathy

You just can't be bothered???
So Atheism is in the "too hard basket" for you,

seems I'm smug ??? the tall poppy is under fire already.
I don't think it smug to have an opinion ,
It may differ from yours , but wouldn't it be you who challenges my opinion to actually be the smug one.
Smugly assuming I am wrong and you are right.
We can trade insults if you like , but that would be a bit childish,
and as one of the FEW adults in NZ I try not to resort to such
immature behavior.
Atheism is in my opinion , the philosophy that will be widely accepted in the future . Just as christianity or religion are today.
I just want to speed up the process.

apatheist , sounds like

apatheist , sounds like apathy

Well... yeah. It's a portmanteau of apathy and theist/atheist.

You just can't be bothered???
So Atheism is in the "too hard basket" for you,

No, I just can't be bothered. Again I ask too hard for what?

seems I'm smug ???

Yep, and the more you post the more it seems that way. Wiktionary defines smug as

1. Irritatingly pleased with oneself; self-satisfied.

So in the interest of backing myself up here are some things you've said that I think sound smug:

the tall poppy is under fire already.

Well that didn't take long. A tall poppy of course being a term for someone who is of genuine merit and you self-describing yourself that way.

And of course from previously there is

Submitted by Godfree on Wed, 2010-09-08 07:41
Courage appears to be one of the vital ingredients.

Again, self-describing yourself as courageous.

From another post

Submitted by Godfree on Sat, 2010-09-11 10:47.
The idea of being average or "normal" has never appealed to me.

This suggests to me you think of yourself as better than normal and, well, you get the idea.

I don't think it smug to have an opinion.

Nor do I. I do think it's smug to think oneself great because of an opinion though.

It may differ from yours , but wouldn't it be you who challenges my opinion to actually be the smug one.

So... uhhh... what definition of smug are you in fact using? Certainly it's a fine line to try tell someone you think they're wrong without coming across as smug but I think you've gone above and beyond the call of duty sufficiently that it's appropriate.

Smugly assuming I am wrong and you are right.

Well... except I'm not just assuming you are wrong and I am right. I also did my best to back up with reasons why I felt that way.

We can trade insults if you like , but that would be a bit childish,

If the situations were reversed and someone called me smug I probably would have said something like my bad, wasn't intended to sound that way. More generally feel free to call me all the names you like. As it won't affect my argument, being an ad hominem and all, I'll likely just ignore them. The whole picking your battles thing.

Irritatingly pleased with oneself ,

That would be irritating others with my self satisfaction .
Sure ,I guess that means you are a Skeptic , being careful not to rise above your station and irritate others with your self pleasure .
Do you see all Atheists as smug , or is it just me???
I can relate to being a tall poppy very well ,
I was always the tallest in my class , an Atheist from the age of 6,
I'm used to people seeing me as different.
So my username is fairly true to who and what I am ,
Is yours also a true representation of who and what you are???
happyevilslosh???

Sure ,I guess that means you

Sure ,I guess that means you are a Skeptic , being careful not to rise above your station and irritate others with your self pleasure .

Rise above my station? Huh? There's a difference between being a skeptic and being arrogant. At the risk of having it turned around on me are you familiar with the Dunning-Kruger affect?

Do you see all Atheists as smug , or is it just me???

False dichotomy. I see some atheists as smug. Not all of them, but not just you either.

I can relate to being a tall poppy very well
I was always the tallest in my class , an Atheist from the age of 6,
I'm used to people seeing me as different.

And the general theme of your posts continues...

Is yours also a true representation of who and what you are???

What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Dunning -kruger affect ???

You got me there , never heard of it .

am I arrogant now as well ? or would that be a Skeptic who rises above their station.
So your pretty feisty for a skeptic , what happened to , "maybe"
isn't that the Skeptics when in doubt...
So what do you see as my general theme???

I'm sure you smell just fine ,maybe pick a username like skeptic with attitude , or feisty skeptic ,
I certainly don't relate to evil , and not really into slosh , if by that you mean lush???
Dunning Kruger affect , is that where we accuse others of being what we are??? , just a guess

am I arrogant now as well ? I

am I arrogant now as well ?

I was using it as a synonym for smug. There's only so many times you can use a word before you bore of it.

So your pretty feisty for a skeptic , what happened to , "maybe"

Huh?!

isn't that the Skeptics when in doubt...

I get the sense Gold was right when he said you don't understand what it means to be a Skeptic (with the capital s). Try reading up on scientific skepticism noting, in particular, that it is different to the colloquial meaning of skeptic.

So what do you see as my general theme???

Smugness... I felt I'd been pretty clear on that.

I'm sure you smell just fine ,maybe pick a username like skeptic with attitude , or feisty skeptic ,

Uhhh why? I'm perfectly happy with my present username.

Dunning Kruger affect , is that where we accuse others of being what we are??? , just a guess

No, you are probably thinking of hypocricy.

The opening paragraph on the wikipedia page does a good job of explaining it so I won't try to reword it.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence: because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.

"Dunning Kruger affect , is

"Dunning Kruger affect , is that where we accuse others of being what we are??? , just a guess"

"No, you are probably thinking of hypocricy."

Both wrong, it's projection you are after. That's where you project your own insecurities and hang ups onto others.

".....Courage appears to be one of the vital ingredients.....To stand up and be counted , requires a lot more courage than sitting on the fence....."

"I'm fully willing to concede that may not have been meant to be smug but, to quote another atheist reader of it, 'that's smug as fuck'."

Firstly, trying to assert that someone (possibly imaginary) supports you doesn't make you right. I've quoted a couple of bits and it's saying that the person thinks it takes courage and that you require it, not anything about them. That's just a personal attack, better to retract, like you say this person should (although you assume there that what you say is true).

" I might point out the the argument "x cannot be proven false therefore x is true" and "x cannot be proven true therefore x is false" are both examples of the negative proof fallacy. Really in either situation of the valency of x you can at most shrug your shoulders."

Which has nothing to do with what I said, but that's your MO.

"I see no problem with suggesting an alternate, more representative, wording."

Yeah, you want to quibble about semantics and try and get people to laboriously and clumsily reword when the statement doesn't need it.

"This sounds suspiciously like you're saying any atheist viewpoint should be protected but religious ones shouldn't. Or it's possible I've read too much into it."

It sounds nothing of the sort, your the one trying to protect and validate the claims of the religious. I'm saying it's not a level playing field, one has the freedom to say that and while the other can, that won't be left unquestioned. But you knew that already, there was nothing there to indicate that I was saying there was any requirements about atheist viewpoints.

"Now the 'correct' skeptical position would be that no others exist, but of course this is just an assumption based on Occam's razor. It's saying there might be others but until we find some evidence of them let's just assume there aren't."

I was saying you were putting the burden of proof in the wrong direction, it should be on the claimant. Occam's razor doesn't apply, no one is adding in an unnecessary entity in there but making a statement of fact. There is no such thing a "correct" sceptical position but if you were going that way, what you'd be saying is present your evidence and if it's sufficient then the sceptic would accept it. If other information comes in to say otherwise then the position alters to suit.

"Certainly with regards to people who say the Bible is the unerring word of God it's true, but on the other hand in my experience the Anglican church has usually been pretty good at taking the position 'how can we interprete the Bible given the latest scientific advances'."

You mean being hypocrites then? Actually it's other way around, they try and fit scientific advances to their beliefs. If they don't fit, then they get rejected. Look at all the drama about Hawkings book, they aren't accepting anything that might mean their beliefs might have to change or worse be proven false.

"My mother would've referred to it as 'picking your battles'."

It's contradicting yourself. You can't have it both ways, say you are unconcerned and then say oh, except in this or that case. Either you address it or don't.

"You seem to conflate religious belief and Christian belief. Again I'll point to the Epicureans who said 'if Gods exist they aren't interested in human affairs' (in fact I think it may have been stronger but this will do). This is clearly a religious belief that you think should be argued against but not one that will have any negative ramifications so I don't see the point. In fact a belief such as this will lead to something akin to pragmatic atheism."

I haven't conflated the two, I used your example and stated what the belief was. That isn't addressing the point the belief itself is baseless and it's going to cause someone harm when you are talking about situations like faith healing and you can't just ignore that. As for the rest, that isn't pragmatic atheism it's deism or theism as it assumes god or gods exist. In both cases they postulate a 'hands off' god. Again that's treating as if there is a self-evident truth there and this is ignoring that there is no fundamental basis for having that belief and what we do see is a Universe that operates under natural laws.

"You could've saved yourself a lot of typing but just saying it was an ad hominem and not appropriate in either context."

Strawman actually, you could have saved yourself a lot of typing if you'd taken note that in some cases criticism is justified instead of making a caricature of nasty sceptics attacking new age books.

"Although you can't have 'expertise in guardian angels' you can in religious philosophy. You can even be an expert on religion without, shock horror, believing it."

Again you contradict yourself. One one hand you admit you can't have expertise in guardian angels, you accept that that claim is not true. You cannot study it and become an expert in guardian angels at all because the basis of the belief is false and it's just something that's been made up. Then on the other hand you say you can study theology, religious theory and philosophy and have expertise in that. More than that, they're more authoritative than a secular author discussing religion and that person must study what they study before they can comment on the subject. That's interesting because in one case you admit that you can't be an expert in something made up, but then treat religious study as if it had solid ground for it's basis like the sciences. What's the evidence for guardian angels? What's the evidence for god? Is there any fundamental difference between the two beliefs?

Sure, you can study the phenomenon and not have belief but what you are doing is saying that theology should be taken as seriously as the subject of biology where there a considerable evidential basis. That's treating those beliefs as if they were true, valid and relevant when there is no more evidence for god than there is for guardian angels or Russell's teapot revolving around the sun.

"I'm sure this is some sort of distributive fallacy because you seem to be saying because not all of them can be right therefore none of them are right."

Which one is right then? It's not a fallacy to point out there is no consistency there and many competing claims (most of which are contradictory).

"Except that Dawkins doesn't so much attack the possible existence of God, he attacks the (usually Christian) factual claims and internal consistencies.....Relgious belief doesn't necessarily make factual (in the sense of testable) claims."

Contradicting yourself there. Is religion making factual claims or not? They do IMO, and they also say how people should live their lives. Creationism is just one good example.

Sorry in advance for my

Sorry in advance for my nested blockquotes. I felt it helped readability in certain spots.

I'm fully willing to concede that may not have been meant to be smug but, to quote another atheist reader of it, 'that's smug as fuck'.

Firstly, trying to assert that someone (possibly imaginary) supports you doesn't make you right. I've quoted a couple of bits and it's saying that the person thinks it takes courage and that you require it, not anything about them. That's just a personal attack, better to retract, like you say this person should (although you assume there that what you say is true).

LOL, nice weasel words there. I assure you Sequoia does in fact exist. She doesn't post on the forum but if you ever go to a Christchurch skeptics in the pub you'll probably meet her (I'd encourage her to join and post but at this point you'll likely just accuse her of being a sockpuppet of mine). You're right that if I felt the smugness was due to my reading things into the post that weren't there I should take it back. But as I've also said given the other posts I don't think that's the case.

There is no hard evidence for a god or gods, but plenty for an naturalistic explanation for events so I'm not sure what the difficulty is with saying one thing can tend to lead to another, what matters is whether the person can provide the reasoning and evidence for whatever stance they've arrived at.

I might point out the the argument "x cannot be proven false therefore x is true" and "x cannot be proven true therefore x is false" are both examples of the negative proof fallacy. Really in either situation of the valency of x you can at most shrug your shoulders.

Which has nothing to do with what I said, but that's your MO.

No, you're right, it was an aside. It's a shame that it is often these that you respond to and not my actual replies.

Yeah, you want to quibble about semantics and try and get people to laboriously and clumsily reword when the statement doesn't need it.

If you think that rewording a single sentence is laborious you clearly have a life that is far too easy.

This sounds suspiciously like you're saying any atheist viewpoint should be protected but religious ones shouldn't. Or it's possible I've read too much into it.

It sounds nothing of the sort, your the one trying to protect and validate the claims of the religious.

What? I'm doing neither of the sort. Criticise religion all you want but do the movement a favour and make sure it's a valid criticism and not just an extension of your own personal bugbear.

Now the 'correct' skeptical position would be that no others exist, but of course this is just an assumption based on Occam's razor. It's saying there might be others but until we find some evidence of them let's just assume there aren't.

I was saying you were putting the burden of proof in the wrong direction, it should be on the claimant.

Yes but who/what opinion do you think is the claimant? It's not clear from your posts.

Occam's razor doesn't apply, no one is adding in an unnecessary entity in there but making a statement of fact.

Uh, in the context of my example the unnecessary entity would be the proposed additional dimensions.

There is no such thing a "correct" sceptical position but if you were going that way, what you'd be saying is present your evidence and if it's sufficient then the sceptic would accept it. If other information comes in to say otherwise then the position alters to suit.

There isn't? how postmodern of you. ;) To your post you seem to be taking a very black and white position where something is either true or false until it isn't. Is there a reason you don't make use of so-called fuzzy logics where things are 'probably true' or 'probably false'?

Certainly with regards to people who say the Bible is the unerring word of God it's true, but on the other hand in my experience the Anglican church has usually been pretty good at taking the position 'how can we interprete the Bible given the latest scientific advances'."

You mean being hypocrites then?

I'm not quite sure why you think of them as hypocrites. Most (and sure it's a biased sample) I know treat the Bible as allegory, they certainly don't think it to be a literal description of events and while you might say they aren't 'truly Christian' if they don't think the Bible isn't the unerring word of God that isn't the same as not being religious.

My mother would've referred to it as 'picking your battles'.

It's contradicting yourself. You can't have it both ways, say you are unconcerned and then say oh, except in this or that case. Either you address it or don't.

It's not. Try looking at the viewpoint of not addressing claims that are unevidential. It's basically the same as the skeptical position, cf Hitchens "That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence". So if someone comes to me with an unprovable claim, such as 'an all powerful God exists', I can dismiss it without evidence, however from their perspetive if I come with the claim 'no all powerful God exists' they can likewise do the same to me and it becomes a waste of both our times. It basically becomes a stalemate. However if they come and say 'prayer heals people', that I can come to the table with some stats on.

You seem to conflate religious belief and Christian belief. Again I'll point to the Epicureans who said 'if Gods exist they aren't interested in human affairs' (in fact I think it may have been stronger but this will do). This is clearly a religious belief that you think should be argued against but not one that will have any negative ramifications so I don't see the point. In fact a belief such as this will lead to something akin to pragmatic atheism.

I haven't conflated the two, I used your example and stated what the belief was. That isn't addressing the point the belief itself is baseless and it's going to cause someone harm when you are talking about situations like faith healing and you can't just ignore that.

Gah! Which is why I said any factual claims should be tested and, if found wanting, fought against!

As for the rest, that isn't pragmatic atheism it's deism or theism as it assumes god or gods exist.

Uh... it doesn't assume. It starts 'if Gods exist ...'. Further from wikipedia (I'm sure the page didn't used to redirect)

Apatheism (a portmanteau of apathy and theism/atheism), also known as pragmatic atheism or (critically) as practical atheism, is acting with apathy, disregard, or lack of interest towards belief, or lack of belief in a deity. Apatheism describes the manner of acting towards a belief or lack of a belief in a deity; so applies to both theism and atheism. An apatheist is also someone who is not interested in accepting or denying any claims that gods exist or do not exist. In other words, an apatheist is someone who considers the question of the existence of gods as neither meaningful nor relevant to his or her life.

Sounds like a fit to me.

You could've saved yourself a lot of typing but just saying it was an ad hominem and not appropriate in either context.

Strawman actually

Well... saying someone's argument isn't much good because they've only authored popular books in my opinion is handily covered by an ad hominem so I think I'll stick with it.

you could have saved yourself a lot of typing if you'd taken note that in some cases criticism is justified instead of making a caricature of nasty sceptics attacking new age books.

LOL speaking of strawmen. I am of the mind that both should be attacked, not neither. Nice try though.

Although you can't have 'expertise in guardian angels' you can in religious philosophy. You can even be an expert on religion without, shock horror, believing it.

Again you contradict yourself. One one hand you admit you can't have expertise in guardian angels, you accept that that claim is not true. You cannot study it and become an expert in guardian angels at all because the basis of the belief is false and it's just something that's been made up. Then on the other hand you say you can study theology, religious theory and philosophy and have expertise in that. More than that, they're more authoritative than a secular author discussing religion and that person must study what they study before they can comment on the subject. That's interesting because in one case you admit that you can't be an expert in something made up, but then treat religious study as if it had solid ground for it's basis like the sciences. What's the evidence for guardian angels? What's the evidence for god? Is there any fundamental difference between the two beliefs?

Ah, you do raise an interesting point, but I think it's coming from a not entirely appropriate comparison. In religious philosophy you do have people talking about specific claims within religion because if they are contradictory that religion is wrong. On the other hand you don't really talk about what qualities or personality God or gods might have because the first step, proving that they exist, hasn't been done yet. Similarly with a book on guardian angels, although I haven't read any I can guess, that they make claims about what they're like and what they can do without first asking the question 'do they exist?' (and aside from that in my experience even the fluffiest woo idea has proponents making potentially testable claims). So yeah, if someone claimed the mere existence of guardian angels, like with God, I would say 'oh yeah? Until you come to the table with some extremely compelling evidence I'm going to assume they don't exist' and still say it's not worth my time to do more than that.

Sure, you can study the phenomenon and not have belief but what you are doing is saying that theology should be taken as seriously as the subject of biology where there a considerable evidential basis. That's treating those beliefs as if they were true, valid and relevant when there is no more evidence for god than there is for guardian angels or Russell's teapot revolving around the sun.

Y'know having been an engineering tutor for four years it really hacks me off when you get people who say that the arts are useless and science is best, particularly because outside of philosophy the arts tend to cover questions I'm not interested in and I find it annoying having to go to bat for it. Should philosophy (and thus by extension theology) be taken 'as seriously' as biology? Abso-fucking-lutely. Is it as useful? Probably not. Is it evidential? Hah! No. What is your point? And in fact here's why: if a for-real proof of God's nonexistence does arise it won't come from the sciences, it'll come from philosophy. It will be arrived at not due to evidence (which it's fairly easy to establish can't be applied to the question of mere existence) but due to logic and consistency. When/if that day arrives I hope you think back to this moment and me smiling gloatingly in your direction.

I'm sure this is some sort of distributive fallacy because you seem to be saying because not all of them can be right therefore none of them are right.

Which one is right then?

Damn, I was hoping you wouldn't go for this. Just because you can potentially never know which one is true doesn't mean none of them are.

It's not a fallacy to point out there is no consistency there and many competing claims (most of which are contradictory).

No, but it is to say that there is no consistency therefore they are all wrong. The strongest statement you can make in such a situation is 'at most one is right'.

Further, hopefully you can verify/deny this for me, you seem to be treating every religious claim as an aspect of one amorphous faith, rather than treating every existant combination of beliefs as a faith on their own.

Except that Dawkins doesn't so much attack the possible existence of God, he attacks the (usually Christian) factual claims and internal consistencies.....Relgious belief doesn't necessarily make factual (in the sense of testable) claims.

Contradicting yourself there. Is religion making factual claims or not? They do IMO, and they also say how people should live their lives. Creationism is just one good example.

Gah! (Other than this being a false dichotomy) read my damn posts! some religions make factual claims, some don't. Making a factual claim is NOT a necessary aspect of a religion.

Well done Michelle

You seem to be a very rational individual , I presume you would describe yourself as an Atheist ?
I think for me the important thing is to try and encourage change.
I think Skepticism is in danger of supporting the Status Quo.
So I would suggest Atheism as it sets the theme.
happyevilslosh , I do give you that you have admitted if you had to put money on it you would see Atheism as being right.
My theme is to challenge Skeptics and their stance as they are closer to being an Atheist , than a theist is .
I have been doing this for about 6 years , I'm running the same title on Philosophy Now , we are up to page 52 at this point.
To me the existence of god doesn't have to be disproved .
Before we would need to do that there would have to be credible evidence that suggests such a thing does exist.
And for me there isn't.
But if one needed proof , surely the fact that every test done to date has produced no god should be sufficient.

Illusory Superiority

Unskilled incompetence ??? and you call me smug!!!
I have been an Atheist for 47 years , how about you???
evilslosh.
I may not be able to recall famous quotes all the time to back up my claims . But that is in itself no reason to dismiss what I say.
"the common person sees religion as true, a wise man sees it as false , and a politician sees it as useful"
This is a quote from before the time of christ.
We don't seem to have progressed very far , we are still entrenched in the madness that is religion .
Was it because I suggested courage is a vital ingredient , and you took this as a personal attack on your own lack of courage???
Do you imagine to be an Atheist is "unskilled incompetence"
It is very hard to know where a Skeptic is coming from , because to be a Skeptic does not outline what one believes on any given subject.
You could be a christian/skeptic ,a creationist/skeptic???
sounds like you are an Atheist/Skeptic, but to clarify for me I usually need to get some answers to some fairly basic questions
Do you believe life after death is possible???
Do you see the universe as infinite or finite???
Do we need to get religion out of power???

Unskilled incompetence ???

Unskilled incompetence ??? and you call me smug!!!

I'm not necessarily saying you are, nor that I am not (it's why I hesitated to use it since it could be reversed without thought as to whether it actually applied to yourself - which it seems is precisely what you've done). Just that it's something you may want to consider given that you really do seem to see yourself as more rational and intelligent than, and possibly picked upon by, larger society.

I have been an Atheist for 47 years , how about you???

Argument from authority? Really?

I may not be able to recall famous quotes all the time to back up my claims .

Probably just as well. I use quotes as illustrative rather than supportive, using it in the latter way can get one into trouble.

But that is in itself no reason to dismiss what I say.

I haven't merely dismissed what you said. I've written quite long posts explaining why I think you're wrong.

"the common person sees religion as true, a wise man sees it as false , and a politician sees it as useful"
This is a quote from before the time of christ.

Certainly it seems people, and thus politicians, don't really change. Hitler wrote "You see, it's been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?."

Was it because I suggested courage is a vital ingredient , and you took this as a personal attack on your own lack of courage???

No? I took it as a a possibly smug statement on your behalf (I say possibly because it was possible it just came across that way and wasn't intended. As I've also stated it's hard to tell someone they're wrong without coming across smug). I don't really care what others think of me to be honest, particularly a faceless person on the internet.

It is very hard to know where a Skeptic is coming from , because to be a Skeptic does not outline what one believes on any given subject.

Uhhh it's actually kinda clear, and especially would be if you followed the link on scientific skepticsm I posted. Although you may be mushing two different meanings of skeptics together. The classical meaning was someone who thinks you can never know anything. The one revelant to this forum is not thinking something to be true without evidence. However, notably, this is not equivalent to thinking something is therefore false.

You could be a christian/skeptic ,a creationist/skeptic???

Nah, dependant somewhat on the form, given the available evidence I don't think either of those are tenable positions.

sounds like you are an Atheist/Skeptic, but to clarify for me I usually need to get some answers to some fairly basic questions
Do you believe life after death is possible???

Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

Do you see the universe as infinite or finite???

Note sure. I understand it's possible, using the Lorentz metric, that space-time is homeomorphic to the surface of a 4-sphere which would make it finite, but it's also possible it's homeomorphic to Euclidean 3-space which would make it infinite so hard to say. I think, if the big bang does hold as true (there've been a few cosmological models that explain dark matter at the cost of the big bang, but none are yet particularly convincing), the former is the more likely case so probably finite.

Do we need to get religion out of power???

Sure, separation of church and state is a good thing, m'kay.

Life after death,possible ?

Happyevilslosh , you obviously know quite a bit on the subject of astronomy . But to me the decision is fairly easy .
Regardless of what the current scientific view is , I have yet to hear a model for a finite universe that made any sense to me .
They can say it's closed or loops back on itself ,or whatever they like but I still see more space outside this model.
The most common response to what is outside the finite universe , is nothing , but nothing can be called space . There may not be much in a given space , but the space is still there.
What do you imagine would be on the other side of the end of a finite universe???
Life after death possible , not for me ,not possible at all.
I can see no science or logic to this idea at all.
Given your seeing this as possible I would further define your beliefs as ,Atheist/Agnostic/Skeptic ,life after death , heaven , spirits ,it all comes under the same heading for me.
We agree on one thing ,,separation of church and state ,
I wouldn't say that the western model is secular ,
But one day we will get there , hopefully soon...

you obviously know quite a

you obviously know quite a bit on the subject of astronomy . But to me the decision is fairly easy .

Actually I know about it from a mathematical perspective. In my 4th year I did a course of differential topology which covered this sort of thing. My knowledge of astronomy is... not great.

Regardless of what the current scientific view is , I have yet to hear a model for a finite universe that made any sense to me .

Well I'll describe a lower dimensional analogue after a word of caution. Dealing with surfaces of high dimension embedded within higher dimensions is hard to visualise and although it's sometimes possible to project it into lower dimensional space and keep the important details it isn't always. The klein bottle is such an example where it is what's known as a non-orientable surface, that is it doesn't intersect itself but also has no interior or exterior (these do have formal definitions btw), it's a higher dimensional equivalent of the Moebius strip. Unfortunately there is no way to project it into, even, 3-dimensional space without resulting in a surface that passes though itself.

That aside the way I'd recomind visualising it based on my understanding is as the surface of the Earth. For the sake of example suppose that you are entirely confined to the surface (like planes and jumping haven't been invented) in this case your options for movement are forward/back and left/right. Technically this sort of feature is referred to as 'locally Euclidean' and is a requirement for something to be called manifold (which is a formalisation of the concept of surface). Now if you pick any direction and start walking without changing direction you'll keep going for ever, but you know that if you view the surface from a higher dimension you are in fact just going round in circles. This setting also nicely illustrates the expansion of the universe. If you visualise the sphere you live on being blow up like a balloon then all the points in the surface of the sphere are moving away from each other.

Now of course the real world isn't as 'nice' as being a perfect sphere. If I recall correctly the Lorentz metric (a metric is formalisation of distance between two points) is allowed to vary smoothly (to incorporate effects from things such as gravity). In addition I think I was in error before, I had overlooked blackholes so I think what I really want is some higher-dimensional multi-holed torus type shape that I can't bring the technical name of to mind right now instead of the surface of a 4-sphere.

They can say it's closed or loops back on itself ,or whatever they like but I still see more space outside this model.

That 'space' (if it exists) is outside space time and possibly, for all intensive purposes, outside what we may know about. I know of some cosmological hypothesis about gravity that involve whatever happens around space-time but can't tell you more than that. Brane cosmology is on the tip of my tongue though.

The most common response to what is outside the finite universe , is nothing , but nothing can be called space . There may not be much in a given space , but the space is still there.

Well... sort of but I think you are unwittingly moving the goalpost with that statement. Your question was whether or not the universe is finite, what happens outside that in the hypothesised higher dimensions would likewise be outside the universe in terms of your question. I think this is one of those situations where, if the language exists to describe it, it hasn't drifted down to common usage yet. Indeed I would think of the higher dimensions of being more a mathematical nicety than an indication of what may or may not exist. If I recall correctly it is possible to define and work with manifolds without embedding them in a higher dimensional surface, it's just not as easy.

What do you imagine would be on the other side of the end of a finite universe???

This is not a meaningful question. A finite universe need not have an end. If you mean what do I imagine would be outside the universe it's hard to say. It may not be possible to comprehend outside of the mathematical equations one uses to define it.

Life after death possible , not for me ,not possible at all.
I can see no science or logic to this idea at all.
Given your seeing this as possible I would further define your beliefs as ,Atheist/Agnostic/Skeptic ,life after death , heaven , spirits ,it all comes under the same heading for me.

You have created somewhat of a strawman of what I think. Ignore the fact that in 'life after death' you are including the numerous people who have literally been bought back to life after having been diagnosed dead I never claimed any belief in heaven or spirits. I said specifically it's not likely in the sense that there is no known mechanism, there is no evidence that I'm aware of, and it wouldn't---as far as I am aware---be explanatory (in fact philosophically the hypothesis of the existence of a soul only ever makes things more complicated which, in my opinion, is a bad sign). However saying it is not likely given this is not the same as saying it's impossible, which asserts a certainty I'm not convinced is warranted, and is a far cry from possible in the sense you are seemingly meaning it.

Godfree, yes I am an atheist.

Godfree, yes I am an atheist. I think you've got a point here, and there is nothing wrong (or smug!) about stating what your position is and having an opinion about why you think that is so. It's true the term skeptic represents many diverse things, so to say you are a sceptic doesn't really say what they might think of many things. It's more a method of inquiry than anything else.

"LOL, nice weasel words there."

It's you using weasel words, this is the internet. It does not bolster your argument to claim someone agrees with you, your words have to stand for themselves in this anonymous format. It doesn't help either to name drop, I don't know who you are talking about or care who it is you apparently know so can't see the relevance there. You seem to be assuming knowledge that just isn't there. Anyone one is free to post here, but yeah, feel free to project as much as you like about sockpuppets. It's nothing to do with me, I'll take the post as it comes.

"No, you're right, it was an aside. It's a shame that it is often these that you respond to and not my actual replies."

That's because I stay on topic. That seems to be a skill lacking in some people.

"Yes but who/what opinion do you think is the claimant? It's not clear from your posts."

You wrote it, it says "a physicist who claims that 'the model of physics is complete therefore there are no further dimensions'" Who is making the claim there?

"Is there a reason you don't make use of so-called fuzzy logics where things are 'probably true' or 'probably false'?"

Wow, I didn't know provisional acceptance subject to change if new information comes in was that black and white. Or post-modernistic for that matter.

"LOL speaking of strawmen. I am of the mind that both should be attacked, not neither. Nice try though."

Why???? This isn't about attacking something for the sake of it, it's whether justifiable criticism can be levelled for what an author has written. Perhaps, just perhaps Dawkins has come up with some reasonable arguments. This isn't an equality thing where every time you debunk something you've got to go out and attack a sceptic to be "fair".

"Further, hopefully you can verify/deny this for me, you seem to be treating every religious claim as an aspect of one amorphous faith, rather than treating every existant combination of beliefs as a faith on their own."

I'm dealing with the fundamental basis of those beliefs, not every single doctrine. Don't shuffle the goalposts and try and make this about every religious belief out there. You'd die of old age in the process of splitting those out and assessing the belief systems of every single faith out there.

"And in fact here's why: if a for-real proof of God's nonexistence does arise it won't come from the sciences, it'll come from philosophy. It will be arrived at not due to evidence (which it's fairly easy to establish can't be applied to the question of mere existence) but due to logic and consistency. When/if that day arrives I hope you think back to this moment and me smiling gloatingly in your direction."

I think the gloating will be on my part, as modern physical cosmology and cosmogony count as well and are continuing to reduce the possibilities for inserting the god hypothesis in there as an explanation to just about down to nil (if not completely untenable). I don't think you can ignore that and say the proof won't come from science but philosophy, in fact it will be both that contribute to answering that particular question.

It's all muddled there, on one hand you say ...."I would say 'oh yeah? Until you come to the table with some extremely compelling evidence I'm going to assume they don't exist"... and then you seem to allow that just because you can insert a bit of doubt there that you have to give credence to the idea of god and the religious claims made based on that ..."Just because you can potentially never know which one is true doesn't mean none of them are."... I'd suggest that's a very poor fence sitting position, it must be remarkably uncomfortable doing that particular straddle. The second argument you've used is one that infers that there must be something there because it's saying there is no evidence that god or gods do not exist, therefore god or gods exist (or at least you must allow the possibility that at least one claim of that type may be true). You can determine both where is evidence that says otherwise and that something is absent. The Michelson–Morley experiment for example disproved the existence of "luminiferous aether". If the proposition is one where we should have evidence for it's truth and there is none, this is evidence for it being false, rather than it possibly being true.

BTW can you state for clarity what your position is. Here you are saying you've followed Epicurean ideas, then you say apatheist (but have rather a lot to say for a person unconcerned about the matter) but here at this link http://atheistexperience.blogspot.com/2010/07/what-type-of-theistic-skep... at at 7/22/2010 11:52 PM you say "just as a disclaimer I too am an atheist". I was just reading more about scepticism/theism/atheism and stumbled across it but I do think you'd be better to be more upfront about what your position is here, and how your other statements fit into that.

there is nothing wrong (or

there is nothing wrong (or smug!) about stating what your position is

No, it is smug to be pleased with oneself over said position, as I have already said to Godfree

It's you using weasel words, this is the internet.

Uhhh.... I was trying to say it wasn't just me getting this interpretation, how something is read being very much a subjective thing. By saying the person was 'possibly imaginary' you attempted to undermine the statement that the OP was smug without actually addressing it and frankly, even if the person were imaginary, it wouldn't change the statement.

It does not bolster your argument to claim someone agrees with you,

This is true. All that was doing was me trying to say 'not just I found it smug'.

It doesn't help either to name drop, I don't know who you are talking about or care who it is you apparently know so can't see the relevance there.

I was addressing your claim the person was imaginary.

You seem to be assuming knowledge that just isn't there.

Huh? I am? Where? Oh do you mean I'm assuming it was meant smugly? Again, as I have already said to Godfree, it was possible it had just come across that way and, again, as I have said to Godfree I think it not the case given his other posts.

Anyone one is free to post here, but yeah, feel free to project as much as you like about sockpuppets.

I don't think I've ever accused you of fabricating people to support your position so I'm not sure why you think I'm projecting.

No, you're right, it was an aside. It's a shame that it is often these that you respond to and not my actual replies.

That's because I stay on topic. That seems to be a skill lacking in some people.

As I think I've said before I like tangents, I'll try omit them in the future since you find them so confusing. Also is it just me but does saying because you stay on topic you reply to my posts that are tangential a non-sequiter?

You wrote it, it says "a physicist who claims that 'the model of physics is complete therefore there are no further dimensions'" Who is making the claim there?

There was also hidden in the text a person making a claim that more dimensions exist, hence my confusion. Especially in this context I was trying to highlight the difference between not asserting existence and asserting non-existence.

Wow, I didn't know provisional acceptance subject to change if new information comes in was that black and white.

It isn't and that wasn't the step I was referring to. I was referring to your position in between the acquisition of new information. Especially in the sense that the further you get from the formal, or even hard, science the more you have to rely on statistical results and you end up in a situation where you need to talk about how confident you are about the results you have and, most importantly, a probability of zero is not the same as impossible.

Or post-modernistic for that matter.

I was referring to your statement '[t]here is no such thing a "correct" sceptical position', not the the truth model you were using.

Why???? This isn't about attacking something for the sake of it, it's whether justifiable criticism can be levelled for what an author has written.

Again you put words in my mouth. I'm not saying we should just arbitrarily criticise everything, that'd be falling into the skepticism that Godfree seemed to think we are. However do you really think that Dawkins has made no errors in his books? In particular if he has where are the criticisms from the skeptic camp? I've seen a few, justifiable ones (although many that aren't) from the religious camp, why the omission?

Perhaps, just perhaps Dawkins has come up with some reasonable arguments.

Yes, this isn't the same as saying that all his arguments are reasonable though.

This isn't an equality thing where every time you debunk something you've got to go out and attack a sceptic to be "fair".

No, this is where you have the opportunity to show that skeptics are skeptical of the skeptics is an accurate portrayal of the group.

I'm dealing with the fundamental basis of those beliefs, not every single doctrine. Don't shuffle the goalposts and try and make this about every religious belief out there. You'd die of old age in the process of splitting those out and assessing the belief systems of every single faith out there.

I think this is risky. The proposal of some sort of deity is the only thing I can think of that is basic to all beliefs, and even then the characteristics are by no means the same. I also think it would encourage somewhat what you've done where you've said 'religions that don't change are wrong' (which in itself isn't necessarily the case) or 'religions that make factual claims are wrong' in either case you are working with a subset of all religious beliefs since they don't all make those claims. Likely what you'd need to do is something like what was done with the proof of the 4-colour theorem where the set of religions would be divided into a (hopefully) finite number of sets such that each possible religion had a characteristic of least one of those sets and then show that the properties of each of those sets necessarily led to a contradiction. Because what you seem to be doing at present is showing things that are true of most religions aren't true but then saying it is not true of all religions and thus making a compositional fallacy.

I think the gloating will be on my part, as modern physical cosmology and cosmogony count as well and are continuing to reduce the possibilities for inserting the god hypothesis in there as an explanation to just about down to nil (if not completely untenable). I don't think you can ignore that and say the proof won't come from science but philosophy, in fact it will be both that contribute to answering that particular question.

Sure they'll contribute but reread the statement. The most any non-formal science will be able to do is say it's extraordinarily unlikely, for that last step to impossible nothing less than philosophy will get you there.

It's all muddled there, on one hand you say ...."I would say 'oh yeah? Until you come to the table with some extremely compelling evidence I'm going to assume they don't exist"... and then you seem to allow that just because you can insert a bit of doubt there that you have to give credence to the idea of god and the religious claims made based on that ..."Just because you can potentially never know which one is true doesn't mean none of them are."... I'd suggest that's a very poor fence sitting position, it must be remarkably uncomfortable doing that particular straddle.

It is the difference between not asserting something's existence and asserting something's non-existence. And frankly I don't give credence to religious claims because they haven't convincingly shown the first step, that God exists, is at all likely.

The second argument you've used is one that infers that there must be something there because it's saying there is no evidence that god or gods do not exist, therefore god or gods exist (or at least you must allow the possibility that at least one claim of that type may be true).

Uh, I said "at most one is right" not "at least one is right". These are drastically different positions. In particular in the former case one possibility is that none are right.

In the case of negative proof you are only applying it one way. Given a definition of God that is supernatural from 'there is no evidence that gods exist' it is false to conclude that they do not, however from 'there is no evidence that gods do not exist' it is false to conclude then that they do. Hence: essential fencesetting. And sure one of these must be true, but then you have the epistemological problem of 'can we know which is true?'.

You can determine both where is evidence that says otherwise and that something is absent. The Michelson–Morley experiment for example disproved the existence of "luminiferous aether". If the proposition is one where we should have evidence for it's truth and there is none, this is evidence for it being false, rather than it possibly being true.

Well... sure but the luminiferous ether made testable predictions. A non-interfering deity doesn't.

BTW can you state for clarity what your position is. Here you are saying you've followed Epicurean ideas, then you say apatheist (but have rather a lot to say for a person unconcerned about the matter) but here at this link http://atheistexperience.blogspot.com/2010/07/what-type-of-theistic-skep... at at 7/22/2010 11:52 PM you say "just as a disclaimer I too am an atheist". I was just reading more about scepticism/theism/atheism and stumbled across it but I do think you'd be better to be more upfront about what your position is here, and how your other statements fit into that.

OK Well I am an apatheist as wikipedia says, although I'm fiercely vocal about my lack of opinion. :P When I made that post I was unaware of the concept of apatheism. It's a far better fit then the things I usually associate with the word 'atheist'.

Regarding Epicureanism it would be more correct to say I'm extremely sympathetic to the philosophies. So for example their concept of epistemology could almost be considered a forerunner to the scientific method, they understood that the world was real but that human psychology could influence the facts, and they considered reduction of suffering (as opposed to increase of happiness) to be the greatest good.

For the Epicureans, ataraxia was synonymous with the only true happiness possible for a person. It signifies the state of robust tranquility that derives from eschewing faith in an afterlife, not fearing the gods because they are distant and unconcerned with us, avoiding politics and vexatious people, surrounding oneself with trustworthy and affectionate friends and, most importantly, being an affectionate, virtuous person, worthy of trust.

On the other hand although their official party line had no claims on the existence of Gods I understand the group themselves did think that non-interfering God existed in a state of pure bliss. In addition Epicurus eschewed sex and relationships because he felt that the break up, if it happened, would reduce ataraxia although it wasn't something he required of his followers.

So my saying 'I follow Epicureanism' was likely a bit strong, since to me it suggests I uncritically agree with everything they think, but like with many things it doesn't mean it's devoid of insight.

Off topic a little I don't know if you've heard the quote but it's fairly common

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

That was Epicurus.

Incidentally that link was what I was referring to (actually did I refer to it? I intended to...) when I mentioned moments of skepticism fail. :P

Possible vrs probable

Thank you Happy and Michelle ,I get the feeling this isn't the first time you two have butted heads , a cat fight ,,yeah.
To try again to justify my label "Atheist" in preference to Skeptic ,
We can look at the possibilities ,forever!!!
The number of probabilities is a lot smaller.
When talking about models for the universe , it's all could be , possible maybe seems like, the maths suggests etc.
I would say the universe is probably infinite ,
that space and time are infinite.
And this curved space time is a theory that will eventually be dropped.
We don't have much in this world that we can put 100% certainty on,
So we fall back to the most probable .
This is "my "definition of logic.
When talking about logic reason and philosophy,
It's not long before we get into definitions of the words we use.
Philosophy , for the love of Sophy ,we could argue Plato was trying to impress Sophy with the size of his intellect.
Modern philosophy doesn't seem to have much to do with love letters?
Logic , as I have just stated , "the most probable"
Reason ,,,measured , calculated ,rational evaluation???
So I see it as entertaining to discuss possibilities ,
But for me reality is based on probabilities.
There is probably no god...

Thank you Happy and Michelle

Thank you Happy and Michelle ,I get the feeling this isn't the first time you two have butted heads , a cat fight ,,yeah.

Correct. this would be the third... maybe fourth time.

And this curved space time is a theory that will eventually be dropped.

I seriously wouldn't hold my breath on this. :P

It's not long before we get into definitions of the words we use.

This is important. In the sole paper I've thus far published the first two pages are of definitions. There's nothing worse than getting into an argument to later find out you both agree on the topic but didn't realise because you were using different definitions of words.

As an example there is a parody song that makes fun of maths using common words in a technical way. The following is the lyrics with the words that have a precise mathematical definition italicised (I think I got them all).

The path of love is never smooth
But mine's continuous for you
You're the upper bound in the chains of my heart
You're my Axiom of Choice, you know it's true

But lately our relation's not so well-defined
And I just can't function without you
I'll prove my proposition and I'm sure you'll find
We're a finite simple group of order two

I'm losing my identity
I'm getting tensor every day
And without loss of generality
I will assume that you feel the same way

Since every time I see you, you just quotient out
The faithful image that I map into
But when we're one-to-one you'll see what I'm about
'Cause we're a finite simple group of order two

Our equivalence was stable,
A principal love bundle sitting deep inside
But then you drove a wedge between our two-forms
Now everything is so complexified

When we first met, we simply connected
My heart was open but too dense
Our system was already directed
To have a finite limit, in some sense

I'm living in the kernel of a rank-one map
From my domain, its image looks so blue,
'Cause all I see are zeroes, it's a cruel trap
But we're a finite simple group of order two

I'm not the smoothest operator in my class,
But we're a mirror pair, me and you,
So let's apply forgetful functors to the past
And be a finite simple group, a finite simple group,
Let's be a finite simple group of order two
(Oughter: "Why not three?")

I've proved my proposition now, as you can see,
So let's both be associative and free
And by corollary, this shows you and I to be
Purely inseparable. Q. E. D.

Plus, it's a catchy tune.

Philosophy , for the love of Sophy ,we could argue Plato was trying to impress Sophy with the size of his intellect.

Well... sure, but that doesn't mean he's wrong.

But for me reality is based on probabilities.

Well... I would say that our model of reality is based on probabilities.

There is probably no god...

Perfect! Stick with that thought. ^_^

Probably no god

Then the people paying 10% of their income to religion ,
are probably getting ripped off .
So the government should probably outlaw the sale of such improbabilities.
The world would probably be a better place if there were no suicide bombers.
Who are being told that there will be 119 virgins waiting for them in heaven.
So ,
Are we getting any closer to government stepping up to the plate
and legislating against religion.
It doesn't seem so.
Is society getting any closer to being ready to part with heaven.
It doesn't seem so.
Even in NZ the government funds religion,60% of charitable donations are claimed back from you and I as a tax rebate at the end of the year.
we the people are probably being ripped off.
We should probably try and do something about it???

So the government should

So the government should probably outlaw the sale of such improbabilities.

Nah, not mixing government and religion goes both ways. Plus I think having laws against thinking certain things is a really bad plan, even if only for the precedent it sets.

The world would probably be a better place if there were no suicide bombers
Who are being told that there will be 119 virgins waiting for them in heaven..

Not all suicide bombers are religious. Even without religion people would still be just as neurotic.

Are we getting any closer to government stepping up to the plate
and legislating against religion.

I'm not interested in the goverment legislating against religion, it's legislating for religion that's the problem.

Even in NZ the government funds religion,60% of charitable donations are claimed back from you and I as a tax rebate at the end of the year.

Hey, if the religion is actually doing charity and not just spreading the gospel or... whatever the appropriate word is for non-Christian religions... I don't have a problem with that.

Edit: And not all of that 60% is taken by religious organisations. Secular, and even atheist, ones dip into those benefits as well.

Atheist Charitable Trust ???

When I applied and was turned down , there was no Atheist Trusts then , about
6 or 7 years ago .
So do you know the name of an Atheist Trust ,??
The government has already legislated for religion , removing that special deal would be all I'm asking .
To treat religion like any other business would be all thats required.
So happy , you would be arguing for the status quo ??
Your happy with things the way they are ??
And can you give me of an example of suicide bombers that aren't religious ?
Also most charities take part of the money for management ,
up to 95% , right here in NZ,
The whole charitable trust scam needs to be scrapped.

there was no Atheist Trusts

there was no Atheist Trusts then , about
6 or 7 years ago .
So do you know the name of an Atheist Trust ,??

The Humanist Society of New Zealand (I'm going to assume they probably have an atheistic bend even thought as far as I'm aware it's not, strictly speaking, required), NZ Atheist Bus Campain and Atheist Billboards are all charities you can get a tax rebate on.

At any rate my statement that if a church is actually doing charity work that it's not a problem for them to be receiving the tax rebate still stands.

The government has already legislated for religion , removing that special deal would be all I'm asking .

Yeah well in that case, and call me a pedant if you like, be wary of talking about legislation against religion when what you actually mean is removal of legislation pro religion.

So happy , you would be arguing for the status quo ??
Your happy with things the way they are ??

Well... they don't tend to affect, thus bother me all that much so although they are on the 'want changed list' they are by no means my number one priority.

(By the way my for reals nick name is Slosh, HappyEvilSlosh is a lengthening so that I can use it on websites I sign up to and be fairly confident it's unique. Thus if you wish to shorten HappyEvilSlosh I would rather it was to that).

And can you give me of an example of suicide bombers that aren't religious ?

The Tamil Tigers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_Tigers#Suicide_bombings), Revolutionary People's Liberation Front(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutionary_People's_Liberation_Party–Front), Sadval (a Lezghin Separatist Movement) are all organisations that have engaged in suicide bombings for non-religious reasons. Hell the continental airlines bomb was a suicide bomb in order to perpetrate an insurance fraud! In fact it seems from my quick reading that suicide bombing is far more frequently linked to (perceived) foreign occupation than to religious motivations.

Also most charities take part of the money for management ,

That doesn't seem unreasonable.

up to 95% , right here in NZ,

I find that number suspiciously high. I'd need to see a little proof before I believed it.

The whole charitable trust scam needs to be scrapped.

Why scrapped and not fixed?

Skepticism in action

Also most charities take part of the money for management ,
up to 95% , right here in NZ,

This number sounds very high to me. Can you back it up?

The common response is "Citations, please."

Before you tell me to search for it myself;

  1. You're making the claim, it's your job to back it up
  2. You're claim is about a specific data point, not a concept/theory/methodology (unlike our earlier conversation about what it is to be a Skeptic)
  3. Dismissing the request for the citations is like admitting you made it up. It does nothing to provide you with credibility.

"how something is read being

"how something is read being very much a subjective thing."

Now you are getting somewhere. On the internet, it's not like talking face-face, you lose tone. It's often near to impossible to work out what the emotional state or motivations are there, quite often things like sarcasm don't come across as intended (that's why I've seen some people use magenta to point out when they are being sarcastic). That would tend to mean when those assertions are made as to state of mind (smugness in this case) it's you that is being subjective, it's nothing much to do with the other person unless they are saying something that makes it very obvious. That you claim support does not, as I said, bolster up your argument. So yes, you are right, it makes no change whether you claim someone else supports your statements or not.

"Also is it just me but does saying because you stay on topic you reply to my posts that are tangential a non-sequiter?"

Neither would be the non sequitur. Off topic and tangents can be fine, but deliberately dragging the topic elsewhere isn't cricket. It's like how you've taken the OP to say "scepticism leads to atheism" when it's not really about that. That of itself is OK, but when discussing that particular topic you don't carry on and further derail that.

"There was also hidden in the text a person making a claim that more dimensions exist, hence my confusion. Especially in this context I was trying to highlight the difference between not asserting existence and asserting non-existence."

You had the physicist (the claimant) requiring that others that might propose otherwise have to come up with the evidence. That's shifting the burden of proof, the physicist needs to prove his claim, not others have to prove otherwise.

"I was referring to your position in between the acquisition of new information. Especially in the sense that the further you get from the formal, or even hard, science the more you have to rely on statistical results and you end up in a situation where you need to talk about how confident you are about the results you have and, most importantly, a probability of zero is not the same as impossible."

It's true we don't always have perfect knowledge, but to do otherwise than try and make a determination is to descend into solipsism and say we can't know anything. If you are talking religion and science, that would be nudging towards the god of the gaps argument, however the mere existence of a gap in our knowledge doesn't mean you can insert some god or spiritual explanation in there. As long as you can give plausible tentative explanations you don't need to introduce that in there. It's like how we don't know exactly how the universe started, but we've got several pretty good scenarios based on physics and cosmology, or we don't know how biological life might have started but there are some reasonable scenarios proposed based on chemistry and biology.

"I was referring to your statement '[t]here is no such thing a "correct" sceptical position', not the the truth model you were using."

I wasn't using a truth model, just a general principle which hopefully at the same time recognises that there is more than one way of skinning a cat (so to speak) and there may be other methods of using critical thinking and reasoning to come to the same conclusion.

"However do you really think that Dawkins has made no errors in his books?"

Never said that and I'd point out there have been times that Dawkins has been critised by sceptics for what he's said. If you want to assert he's being given a free pass questions need to be asked like is he making egregious scientific errors and unfounded assertions in his books that would justify a similar type of criticism to what can be levelled at new age and other texts of that ilk? What are they?

"The proposal of some sort of deity is the only thing I can think of that is basic to all beliefs"

So if that's the case, it's erroneous to shuffle around the goalposts and assert that because religious beliefs come in many forms that that you must necessarily examine all of those permutations. You obviously can identify one signature characteristic that must be proven prior to assuming all the rest of it is true. The problem being this is an impossible task, you can chop and change and sort into sets and not only does this still doesn't deal with the basic premises but then you can circle the argument endlessly by then saying those groups that are assigned don't comprise the true properties of a particular set of religious beliefs and you then need to look at this other subset and so on. Notably, you give yourself a free pass from this monumental requirement by saying "I would say 'oh yeah? Until you come to the table with some extremely compelling evidence I'm going to assume they don't exist' and still say it's not worth my time to do more than that." but you won't allow me to do that.

This is flat earth navigation syndrome, where you are requiring that permutations of the same ideas be examined over and over again when there really isn't anything there to study. The problem there is this is reification of the existent where I must regard at least one possible outcome might end up being prove true, this is requiring that those beliefs warrant they must be taken seriously enough to spend time on.

"Because what you seem to be doing at present is showing things that are true of most religions aren't true but then saying it is not true of all religions and thus making a compositional fallacy."

That's your claim, I was only making responses to statements you've made. You're the one saying "since they don't all make those claims" and therefore it's not true of all religions so I must examine them all.

"Uh, I said "at most one is right" not "at least one is right". These are drastically different positions. In particular in the former case one possibility is that none are right."

I didn't say at least one is right - "or at least you must allow the possibility that at least one claim of that type *may be true*".

"Well... sure but the luminiferous ether made testable predictions. A non-interfering deity doesn't."

I wouldn't be so sure about that. What if evidence should be there but isn't?

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?....That was Epicurus."

Good explanation of the principles, but to get on to the problem of evil which is something theologians have been wrestling with for years. The Epicureans obviously resolved it by creating a construct of a deist god, that is hands-off and leaves everything to chance. This type of god is similar to the type that Einstein objected to when he said "I shall never believe that god plays dice with the world". Modern physics and cosmology imply only a natural explanation, so at best what you've got is a god which if it existed at all, simply tossed a dice. That's not exactly something that justifies tax-free status and suicide bombers.

If you then suggest a personal god, it gets even stickier as you need one that doesn't violate natural laws. This god does act because of prayers and so on, but you can't just say that this god can do whatever they like as if they are the author of the laws of nature, then this god would have to act against themselves which doesn't make them omniscient. If you exempt them from following those laws anyway, then we'd be able to detect this empirically and there would be proof of their existence. It's not a matter of just saying god exists. Then you add in free will, and it gets ever more convoluted.

"Incidentally that link was what I was referring to (actually did I refer to it? I intended to...) when I mentioned moments of skepticism fail. :P"

I was also googling libertarianism and scepticism as well. I don't think that one works, from what I read the consensus seems to be libertarianism does coincide with scepticism sometimes but that's more about that position being anti-authority and so on than anything else. That was an interesting thread to read, I liked the comment where it was said scepticism wasn't a manifesto or something along those lines because there are some subtle differences between the two. Pharyngula has another topic on a similar theme: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/06/should_skeptic_organizations_... That did make me realise what your other statements were directed towards. Where I was getting at there though was whether you using the (or a) position more for the purposes of argument rather than being a solid position that you hold and how that followed through.

OK I'm gonna reorder some of

OK I'm gonna reorder some of your paragraphs for ease of reply. Since the original will (presumably) remain I hope you don't mind taking this liberty.

how something is read being very much a subjective thing.

Now you are getting somewhere. On the internet, it's not like talking face-face, you lose tone. It's often near to impossible to work out what the emotional state or motivations are there, quite often things like sarcasm don't come across as intended [...shifted to later...]. That would tend to mean when those assertions are made as to state of mind (smugness in this case) it's you that is being subjective, it's nothing much to do with the other person unless they are saying something that makes it very obvious.

What do you mean now?! I feel I've been pretty clear that given some sort of reason to not think it was smug I would change my opinion in an instance. But as I also stated there are other things he's said, and since he's kept posting there are now even more, that have given me no cause to change that original assessment. Not even a mea culpa. Just because it's possible it's not right that doesn't mean it's necessarily not right which seems to be what the second half of your paragraph is alluding to.

quite often things like sarcasm don't come across as intended (that's why I've seen some people use magenta to point out when they are being sarcastic).

The following is responding to your tangent: There is sort of nonstandard punctuation marks for this. Unfortunately like the interrobang they largely suffer from a) not being visually very distinct and b) not being on a standard keyboard. I personally use emoticons when I feel the tone of a paragraph runs a higher than acceptable risk of being misinterpreted.

It's like how you've taken the OP to say "scepticism leads to atheism" when it's not really about that. That of itself is OK, but when discussing that particular topic you don't carry on and further derail that.

Well... no. If you reread the very first post by me the first and last paragraphs are addressing the OP's question of "what would it take to get you to take the leap of courage and declare yourself an Atheist". The second and third paragraphs where then, I felt, topical tangents to explore. The second covering my bugbear about how atheism is treated within the skeptical movement. Although it's possibly it is just a bias of the people I interact with I've read enough blogs by various people that I suspect this to not be the case. The third paragraph then addressed how I felt best to deal with religious belief outside of the skeptical movement.

On this note someone pointed out to me that the first line of the OP

As an Atheist I'm often wondering why there are so few Atheists but a lot of Skeptics and agnostics

In fact may not be true. In fact neither he nor I were aware of any data to confirm or deny it.

It's true we don't always have perfect knowledge, but to do otherwise than try and make a determination is to descend into solipsism and say we can't know anything.

I feel you are sort of creating a false dichotomy out of what I've said here. I would go further than you have and say that it's in fact very rare to have perfect knowledge. However to make that admission and then ask 'well how sure are we?' isn't the same as saying 'you can never know anything', it's simply saying you can never be completely certain about anything.

If you are talking religion and science, that would be nudging towards the god of the gaps argument, however the mere existence of a gap in our knowledge doesn't mean you can insert some god or spiritual explanation in there.

No, and that's fine, but it likewise doesn't mean you can arbitrarily rule it out either. If you have a situation when there's something you genuinly don't know anything about I think it's fine to weigh up natural vs supernatural explanations and make the observation that natural explanations have considerably more support, like way considerably, and supernatural ones have huge problems facing them before you even consider trying to apply them to anything thus it is much more likely that an explanation will be natural, but it doesn't follow that the explanation will necessarily be natural.

As long as you can give plausible tentative explanations you don't need to introduce that in there.

No, but nor does it allow you to rule it out.

It's like how we don't know exactly how the universe started, but we've got several pretty good scenarios based on physics and cosmology, or we don't know how biological life might have started but there are some reasonable scenarios proposed based on chemistry and biology.

Again that's all very well and good, but it's still down to likely rather than certain.

I wasn't using a truth model

Any time you make a claim about something being true or false you are implicitly using a truth model. :P Actually I think the technical name is different but I can't bring it to mind right now. Like there's a few different models in stats, the most common to being Bayesian and classical, there's the fuzzy logic one and there's one based on a melding of probability and fuzzy logic called possibility theory, but they're all ... whatever the type of model is called... nontheless.

Never said that and I'd point out there have been times that Dawkins has been critised by sceptics for what he's said.

The following is a question I hesitate to ask because I always feel as if if the other person doesn't think of any I'm appealing to personal incredulity but: can you cite your sources? Cos I'm seriously not kidding when I say I haven't seen any skeptical criticisms.

If you want to assert he's being given a free pass questions need to be asked like is he making egregious scientific errors and unfounded assertions in his books that would justify a similar type of criticism to what can be levelled at new age and other texts of that ilk? What are they?

Although it's been a few years since I read the God Delusion I seem to recall him making statements equivalent to 'I can't believe a deity with [some set of properties exist]' (the implication then being that it can't therefore exist), ie argument from personal incredulity. But my memory isn't what it once was so I should probably double check that.

The proposal of some sort of deity is the only thing I can think of that is basic to all beliefs

So if that's the case, it's erroneous to shuffle around the goalposts and assert that because religious beliefs come in many forms that that you must necessarily examine all of those permutations. You obviously can identify one signature characteristic that must be proven prior to assuming all the rest of it is true.

Contextomy! You ommited the following sentence

and even then the characteristics are by no means the same.

This was intended to cover the definitional problem of what one means by 'deity' or 'God' as I'm aware of no attribute that is constant. Think about it: the Christian God is omniscient and immortal, the Norse Gods are mortal (but live indefintely), The Greek Gods were not omniscient, and so on and so on. So possibly the partinioning can be done based on attributes of deit(y/ies) but I think fundamentally you're still gonna have to approach it the way I described.

The problem being this is an impossible task, you can chop and change and sort into sets and not only does this still doesn't deal with the basic premises but then you can circle the argument endlessly by then saying those groups that are assigned don't comprise the true properties of a particular set of religious beliefs and you then need to look at this other subset and so on.

I have a suspicion you don't quite follow how the argument works...

  1. You start with some set S of which you wish to show no members have a certain value.
  2. You partition S into subsets (they may be overlapping, and at worst the number of subsets will be the same as the size of S. Notable you don't need to do this for every subset of S (this would turn the problem of the number of things you have to disprove from the size of S to 2 to the power of the size of S) You just need that every element of S occur in at least one subset) based on common properties.
  3. For each of the subsets you show that the property necessarily leads to a contradiction.
  4. Since you've done it for each member of the subset, and each member of S is the member of at least one subset of S you've done it for the entire set S.

et voila. Incidentally there are continuous versions of this style of proof as well.

Notably, you give yourself a free pass from this monumental requirement by saying "I would say 'oh yeah? Until you come to the table with some extremely compelling evidence I'm going to assume they don't exist' and still say it's not worth my time to do more than that." but you won't allow me to do that.

Well I guess with this statement I'm addressing one problem, but not another. So when I say 'I'm going to assume not until there's evidence' that assumption is being made to ease possible further investigations (I say possible because you don't need to worry about say the hand of God possibly guiding evolution if you are studying quantum theory). Further I would also say that the more affirmative results you obtain based on this assumption the less likely the assumption was false. However this assumption doesn't affect the existence or otherwise of a God. And as I pointed out since there is the possibility of defining a God such that you can neither prove nor disprove it you then can't conclude whether or not it does exist, it just remains an open question, and by all means you can talk about whether or not it's likely given other information you are unable to talk about whether it's possible.

This is flat earth navigation syndrome, where you are requiring that permutations of the same ideas be examined over and over again when there really isn't anything there to study. The problem there is this is reification of the existent where I must regard at least one possible outcome might end up being prove true, this is requiring that those beliefs warrant they must be taken seriously enough to spend time on.

Well... sure but the luminiferous ether made testable predictions. A non-interfering deity doesn't.

I wouldn't be so sure about that. What if evidence should be there but isn't?

Uh, d'uh, then that's a testable preduction. Out of curiousity do you think a non-interfering deity suggests evidence should be there? I'd be fascinated to hear what you think they are.

deist god, that is hands-off and leaves everything to chance. This type of god is similar to the type that Einstein objected to when he said "I shall never believe that god plays dice with the world".

Uhhh you may wish to double check your source on that. My understanding is that that statement was in response to various probabilistic implications arising out of quantum mechanics.

Modern physics and cosmology imply only a natural explanation

Well... sciences necessarily only uses natural explanations being sciences, I also think more appropriate to say would be that thus far the universe as we know it is adequately explained by only natural explanations. Among other things the 'what implies what' is different between the two sentences (assuming I'm reading you right).

so at best what you've got is a god which if it existed at all, simply tossed a dice. That's not exactly something that justifies tax-free status and suicide bombers.

OK with that you completely lost me. How did you go from hands-off God to one tossing dice?

OK so the following would be good for the partitioning idea I was talking about earlier:

If you then suggest a personal god, it gets even stickier as you need one that doesn't violate natural laws.

One subset can be the religions that have personal Gods, which you then follow through and say that, given our understanding of natural laws, would make them omnisicient so you made need to further breaks this into religions that have personal gods that are omniscient (which you appear to think is impossible - I'm not saying it's not just that I haven't thought about it that clearly) and one that has personal gods that are not omniscient (although Epicurus pithily asks 'why call them gods' I don't think it's a sufficient refutation).

Then you add in free will, and it gets ever more convoluted.

You could likewise have a subset of religions (if you wanted to be cheeky you could include philosophies in here as well) that believe in free will and attack that.

It would totally (potentially) work.

I was also googling libertarianism and scepticism as well. I don't think that one works, [...]

You are totally preaching to the choir. if you'll pardon the turn of phrase.

Where I was getting at there though was whether you using the (or a) position more for the purposes of argument rather than being a solid position that you hold and how that followed through.

Yeah so I made a few edits to my previous post but realised even then there were a few that I left out. One is that, as you seem to have determined from the other thread, I do sometimes take a devil's advocate position. Amongst other things I find it illustrative when trying to decide a position on something I'm a bit wishy washy on and other than that it can help keep one sharp. The other is that regardless of my own position if I see someone who, regardless of their conclusion, I think has made faulty arguments in arriving at that conclusion I'll go after them. Not always successfully mind you (courtesy of a different argument I recently determined that I'd incorrectly allowed confirmation bias to include selective perception) but there you have it.

95% taken by management

This was a news article , there was a big stink made of it at the time,
I seem to remember John Campbell did something on it as well.
I think it was one of those feed the starving children charities.
Slosh ,,I'm glad to hear you have change in the "want to do" box.
For me the need for change is as much about rights of the individual as it is about me wanting to kick religions butt.
If people are being fed a pack of lies and being charged money for it.
This to my mind is a infringement on their rights as individuals.
There is a cut off point , even for religion , or cults as we have had.
If the government decides that a particular cult is too controlling and
crosses too many lines , they will step in and shut them down.

So the question would be , "why doesn't the government see normal religion as too controlling and too many unprovable claims"

Not a citation

This was a news article , there was a big stink made of it at the time,
I seem to remember John Campbell did something on it as well.

At this point it's still anecdote and worthless as a citation to back your point.

For all we know it was one charity with suspect management and nothing more.

A worthless anecdote

It's nice to see you place my opinions in such high regard.
I wasn't suggesting all charities are like this , this is the most extreme example I know of .
But there will be plenty of less extreme examples where they just take 50% or even less.
This is still too much as far as I'm concerned.

Slosh , thanks for the maths lesson ,
If I forgot why I struggled with maths , that post has just reminded me.
I will give you girls one thing .
Your both got a lot of stamina and are quite long winded , or would that be fingered???
But I think you are both good at this forum stuff ,
Unlike Gold who seems uncomfortable being challenged or asked to put things in his own words.
I put the pressure on him in his thread and asked him to tell me in his words what a Skeptic was , he posted your quote Michelle ,
Quite flattering for you, especially since you have stated here that you describe yourself as an Atheist , but I guess that maybe Atheist/Skeptic.

Still missing the point. Intentionally?

It's nice to see you place my opinions in such high regard.

Not yours specifically. Everyone's. The plural of anecdote/opinion is not data.

I wasn't suggesting all charities are like this , this is the most extreme example I know of .

If you weren't suggesting this then why use it as the example provided? The only reason I can think of is for shock value. And that's underhanded and manipulative.

But there will be plenty of less extreme examples where they just take 50% or even less.
This is still too much as far as I'm concerned.

Again, citations on this new position. If you can't back up your numbers please stop providing them.

In which I go on another maths rant

So this post will be fairly tangential but I think is relevant to the conversations.

I think it fair to say that all sciences use mathematics. The entire gambit from hard to soft. Thus how sure you can be about your results in science will also depend on how sure you can be about your results in maths (in fact I've heard maths defined as the 'scientific study of abstract patterns' so it's particularly apt). In the past I've put forward the formal science, and thus maths, as the only science in which you can truly know with complete certainty if something is true or not. However, this is not the entire picture.

One area of study that straddles mathematics and philosophy is that of the foundations of mathematics and it asks things such as 'how can we be sure that what we are doing in maths is actually true'. I guess one of it's most celebrated results is Gödel's incompleteness theorems which I'll cover in some detail. Before doing so however it is important to keep in mind that no matter which field of maths you are talking about it is based on 'axioms' which is mathematical lingo for assumption.

Gödel's first incompleteness theorem stated

Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete. In particular, for any consistent, effectively generated formal theory that proves certain basic arithmetic truths, there is an arithmetical statement that is true, but not provable in the theory.

So, in given a set of axioms they are called consistent if they contain no contradictions, that is you never end up with a situation when something is both true and false. Complete on the other hand means that if something must be true within the set of axioms then you must be able to prove it. So this theorem states that any method we come up with of trying to completely describe arithmetic cannot both contain no contradictions and prove everything that is true. To make matters worse it was subsequently shown (although I can't remember by whom) that the the things that are true but provable are dense within the things that are true but unprovable. Dense will require a little more explaining.

If you do a course in elementary mathematical analysis one of the questions you'll probably come across is 'If you chose a real number between 0 and 1, assuming they all have equal probability of being picked, what is the probability of picking a rational number?' where a rational number is one that can be written as a fraction (rational coming from the word ratio which used to be what a fraction was called). It turns out that the probability is exactly 0. This is in spite of the fact that between any two rational numbers there is an infinite number of irrational numbers and between any two irrational numbers there is an infinite number of rational numbers. The reason that this is the case is that the set of rational numbers between zero and one is the same size as countable infinity whereas the size of the set of real numbers is the next size of infinity up, known as the continuum. What this means with respect to the theorem is that if you pick something that is true uniformly at random, with probability 1 you won't be able to prove it is true.

Now the second theorem states

For any formal effectively generated theory T including basic arithmetical truths and also certain truths about formal provability, T includes a statement of its own consistency if and only if T is inconsistent.

This means that, for mathematics, if we ever manage to prove it's consistent then mathematics is itself inconsistent. This may seem extremely counter intuitive but it's because within an inconsistent system everything is true, including a statement about it's own consistency.

So yeah, just a little spiel to keep in mind. :P

In fact neither he nor I

Were aware of any data to confirm it???
I must have missed that one Slosh ,
When and where did we agree this . I know of lots of examples I can give to show that while agnostic and Skeptic are fairly common , most prefer not to use the label Atheist.
For starters I have done a lot of dating sites . As an Atheist I was naturally looking for an Atheist . Atheist I would say is about 10% of the population.
Agnostic about 80% and religious fundamentalist about 10% .
About half the Agnostics would say they believe in god.
There was a British TV doco a few years ago that described the ratio of religious to Atheist in the world.
America is right up there with Iran Nigeria and Brazil at about 90% religious,
But if you use my model thats really more about which way the Agnostic , or to use a political term the "swinging voter" goes.
I put Skeptic in the same block as Agnostic , prepared to swing either way.

Were aware of any data to

Were aware of any data to confirm it???
I must have missed that one Slosh ,
When and where did we agree this .

No, not you. Someone else.

I know of lots of examples I can give to show that while agnostic and Skeptic are fairly common , most prefer not to use the label Atheist.
For starters I have done a lot of dating sites . As an Atheist I was naturally looking for an Atheist . Atheist I would say is about 10% of the population.
Agnostic about 80% and religious fundamentalist about 10% .
About half the Agnostics would say they believe in god.

Man I actually have a hard time thinking of a worse place to get a feel for it. Firstly you have self selection bias of the sort of person who uses a dating site and secondly they may not be putting down what they actually think in favour of something that they feel will appeal more to the opposite gender. In addition you yourself said you were looking for atheist people, how do you think the numbers might be different if you picked someone at random from the site?

There was a British TV doco a few years ago that described the ratio of religious to Atheist in the world.
America is right up there with Iran Nigeria and Brazil at about 90% religious,

OK I think I know the study they probably used, but your original statement is regarding the relative proportions of agnostics and atheists rather than religious and 'other' so this is kind of irrelevant. Incidentally did the disparity of numbers between this and the perceived proportions on the dating site not ever strike you as cause for a little bit of a think?

But if you use my model thats really more about which way the Agnostic , or to use a political term the "swinging voter" goes.
I put Skeptic in the same block as Agnostic , prepared to swing either way.

Well yeah, to where the evidence points. If you are someone for who absolutely nothing could ever convince you that atheism is wrong than in my opinion you are no better than any other religious fundamentalist.

For starters I have done a

For starters I have done a lot of dating sites . As an Atheist I was naturally looking for an Atheist . Atheist I would say is about 10% of the population.
Agnostic about 80% and religious fundamentalist about 10% .

For a start your pool of subjects are limited to a particular subset of people based on geography and tenancy to sign up to a dating site of the nature you signed up to. Not a particularly representative cross section of society as a whole.

About half the Agnostics would say they believe in god.

...by definition excluding them from the category of "Agnostic" making their entry into your dataset void.

There was a British TV doco a few years ago that described the ratio of religious to Atheist in the world.
America is right up there with Iran Nigeria and Brazil at about 90% religious,

Citation again, please. Which TV doco? This is important. The director, the producers, these are important data points that will tell us if the doco should be taken seriously.

But if you use my model thats really more about which way the Agnostic , or to use a political term the "swinging voter" goes.

I'm assuming that this is a grammar thing, but this statement is incomplete and makes no sense as it stands.

I put Skeptic in the same block as Agnostic , prepared to swing either way.

Thus exposing your inability to read, or even skim and absorb, the previously provided links. Seriously dude, just click one and read/grok it. Either that or start a new post asking for details on something you don't get in them.

But please, stop imposing your opinion of the name. "You're doing it wrong"

But if you use my model thats

But if you use my model thats really more about which way the Agnostic , or to use a political term the "swinging voter" goes.

I'm assuming that this is a grammar thing, but this statement is incomplete and makes no sense as it stands.

..also, why should we use your model? What makes it better than any other? Not an attack on it, just curious as to why we should use it.

Your doing it wrong

Well it's just as well that I have such a patient and knowledgeable person like yourself gold to set me right.
So I havn't checked for your response to my statement on your thread,
"general consensus is that there is a god, a heaven and life after death"
so would you say this all depends on who you ask ,
and surely if we select which group we select our consensus from that is prejudicing the outcome .
So would you agree that most people in the world imagine a god and heaven. The British doco certainly suggests this . The numbers in the countries with less religion get down to about 50 50.Which is England , New Zealand and South Korea.
So if most have more than a 50 50 mix that makes most of the world religious.
Therefore a Skeptic would have to conclude there is a god and heaven???

so would you say this all

so would you say this all depends on who you ask ,
and surely if we select which group we select our consensus from that is prejudicing the outcome .

Absolutely. It's why you tend to select the people who have studied it and have a good grounding in theories that relate to reality (ie scientists) in order to get a consensus that is hopefully closer to the facts than one taken by pure democratic vote.

A skeptic doesn't merely believe what everyone believes, and I have no idea why you are clinging to this belief. The first step is to ask where the evidence is pointing, however, it's impossible to be an expert on everything (and as I and Michelle have talked about in some depth I also don't think it possible for evidence to ever be completely conclusive, merely arbitrarily close to), thus sometimes you have to 'appeal to educated consensus' which you look at what the consensus is amongst the people who study it. So for example I personally think dark matter is far more likely to be due to an incomplete model particularly regarding gravitational theory than a particle that we've had such difficulty finding upto now. However both are consistent with the evidence and the consensus among physicists, even though I know there are those that agree with me, is that it exists so I will provisionally yield to them. But returning to the previous sentence that doesn't mean you throw the first step out the window, the consensus still has to satisfy where the evidence points.

Well it's just as well that I

Well it's just as well that I have such a patient and knowledgeable person like yourself gold to set me right.

Patience only goes so far and you seem resistant to any information that you don't agree with.

So I havn't checked for your response to my statement on your thread,

In the time it took you to write this reply you could have though.

Wiki on Scientific Skepticism

"The ideal case is that every individual could make his own mind up on the basis of evidence rather than appealing to some authority , skeptical or otherwise"
And regards to Carl Sagan , I find him to be one of the best, I tapped the series The Cosmos , and have converted some of it to DVD , unfortunately the sound and image got out of sync in the process.

You may indeed challenge my interpretation of the evidence ,
But I find it a little authoritative of you to tell me I don't have the knowledge to draw any such conclusions.

It would appear to me from the above quote that even in Skepticism , reality is subjective , an individual experience.
And I don't believe you can dismiss my suggestion that the majority of people on this planet imagine a god and heaven.
In regards to who might be an expert on the subject , that in itself would be subjective .
Surely those who believe would insist they are the experts , and what is a bunch of non believers doing trying to tell the believers that they are wrong.
I think nobody has got it 100% right , nobody is perfect , the hope and aim of any site like this is surely simply to have the debate.
As an Atheist science is what I use to determine what is real,
That and logic , but what I do more than most is trust my own thinking ,
I am an original song writer.
To be original you need to unique and different.
I may have a unique approach to philosophy ,
But like my golf , those who assumed me showing up in tennis shoes with a dirty old golf ball to be a joke and an insult to the caliber of player they imagined themselves to be , were soon having to eat humble pie as I proceeded to work my way up to beating the Canterbury number one.

Wiki on Scientific Skepticism

"The ideal case is that every individual could make his own mind up on the basis of evidence rather than appealing to some authority , skeptical or otherwise"
And regards to Carl Sagan , I find him to be one of the best, I tapped the series The Cosmos , and have converted some of it to DVD , unfortunately the sound and image got out of sync in the process.

You may indeed challenge my interpretation of the evidence ,
But I find it a little authoritative of you to tell me I don't have the knowledge to draw any such conclusions.

It would appear to me from the above quote that even in Skepticism , reality is subjective , an individual experience.
And I don't believe you can dismiss my suggestion that the majority of people on this planet imagine a god and heaven.
In regards to who might be an expert on the subject , that in itself would be subjective .
Surely those who believe would insist they are the experts , and what is a bunch of non believers doing trying to tell the believers that they are wrong.
I think nobody has got it 100% right , nobody is perfect , the hope and aim of any site like this is surely simply to have the debate.
As an Atheist science is what I use to determine what is real,
That and logic , but what I do more than most is trust my own thinking ,
I am an original song writer.
To be original you need to unique and different.
I may have a unique approach to philosophy ,
But like my golf , those who assumed me showing up in tennis shoes with a dirty old golf ball to be a joke and an insult to the caliber of player they imagined themselves to be , were soon having to eat humble pie as I proceeded to work my way up to beating the Canterbury number one.

It would appear to me from

It would appear to me from the above quote that even in Skepticism , reality is subjective , an individual experience.

I know some here disagree with me on the following stance but I would say rather reality is objective, the interpretation of reality on the other hand is subjective.

Surely those who believe would insist they are the experts

I think being an expert is like being cool. If you describe yourself that way you aren't. Seriously go down to your local uni and ask one of the professors if they are the expert on their particular field. I'll bet you dimes to dollars most will play it down.

the hope and aim of any site like this is surely simply to have the debate.

And you think we've been doing what exactly? Or is your idea of debate one where you state your opinion and then ignore everything else?

That and logic , but what I do more than most is trust my own thinking ,

Colbert did a great piece on this. It went something along the lines of

Me and the president, we aren't members of the "fact based" community, we trust our gut...

It's from a speech where he roasts Bush, findable on youtube and well worth watching.

But like my golf , those who assumed me showing up in tennis shoes with a dirty old golf ball to be a joke and an insult to the caliber of player they imagined themselves to be , were soon having to eat humble pie as I proceeded to work my way up to beating the Canterbury number one.

There's an important difference here. Those golfers were judging your ability to play golf based on your appearance. We are judging your arguments based on your arguments.

The claim to be an Authority

According to many arguments , nobody has proof either way in regards to the existence or non existence of god . There are plenty of people who have studied religion , many who would qualify to be called a scientist.
So a group of theist scientists would certainly feel they were in a position to judge or offer an EXPERT opinion on the matter.
So as a Scientific Skeptic , we could assume no proof either way, as I would call it , sit on the fence.
As an Atheist I would say "There is no god" and be prepared to present arguments that to my mind prove no god exists
As a theist one would argue no proof is required , that it is a question of faith.
So in regard to the existence or non existence of god , who exactly would you say is the authority on the subject???
Gold is contemplating getting some paranormal guests to speak , I presume this is because he considers them to be an authority on the subject.
So one could argue that it is the Atheist who is the expert on no god existing,
And the Scientific Skeptic an expert on sitting on the fence,LOL

So as a Scientific Skeptic ,

So as a Scientific Skeptic , we could assume no proof either way, as I would call it , sit on the fence.

Well... to a point, hence my original reply.

As an Atheist I would say "There is no god" and be prepared to present arguments that to my mind prove no god exists

And so what would those arguments be? Philosophical? Ones which, as you say, have not come to any firm conclusions outside of observing a system must be consistent. Scientific? In which case I refer you to the people early in your reply, you won't have access to science they don't. You don't have many options for a good argument left.

As a theist one would argue no proof is required , that it is a question of faith.

Sure, but if you're trying to convince other people your position is the right one it's not exactly the most convincing argument.

So in regard to the existence or non existence of god , who exactly would you say is the authority on the subject???

Theologians. And before anyone says anything I would emphasise a theologian simply means someone who studies religion, it doesn't imply religious belief on the part of the researcher. In any sense theology as an academic discipline I understand covers things like the anthropology, history, philosophy, psychology and sociology of religion thus it seems would be in a good position to put forward arguments for or against God. Note that I'm not saying a theologian should be listened to simply because they are theologians, their arguments have to hold water as well. In particular in that list I made it seems to omit to an extent the implications religion has on things such as science. Maybe it comes under one of those headings but it's not clear and having never studied it formally I can't comment as to whether or not it is covered.

Gold is contemplating getting some paranormal guests to speak , I presume this is because he considers them to be an authority on the subject.

I think you presume a little much. I think it because they have said in interviews they use scientific methods in their investigations and he's interested in hearing exactly what they consider to be scientific methods in such a field. Potentially giving them enough rope to hang themselves.

So one could argue that it is the Atheist who is the expert on no god existing,
And the Scientific Skeptic an expert on sitting on the fence,LOL

You seem to overlook aspects like Occam's razor within your strawman of what a skeptic is (not to mention casually throwing in that the atheist, thus presumably you, would be the expert). Or possibly you found the wrong definition of skeptic and are using the classical Greek one. Although you can't, in my opinion, conclusively say God does or doesn't exist that there is no substantial evidence indicates strongly in my mind that if gods exist they are hands off, but existence likewise creates some problems with regards to natural laws as Michelle points out in which case the simplest explanation is that they don't exist. Is it conclusive? No. However, it is at present the simplest, and thus most appropriate, explanation we have.

The minority can be right

The point I have been trying to make about the majority imagining there is a god and heaven , would suggest that the minority can be right . That we shouldn't assume that we can trust the masses to make the right decisions.
Just because most people/scientists/thealogians etc agree on something , we should still maintain our independence and decide for ourselves based on the facts as we see them . Just as my quote from Wiki suggests.
So the determining factor should be ourselves , and not some supposed authority.
So when evaluating any piece of knowledge , the value is determined by how we as individuals value that idea or statement.
Obviously it would depend on what you were trying to prove . As an Atheist I am very interested in proof of evolution ,astronomy that deals with the evolution of the universe ,anything that makes my case stronger .
And this is how most of us work , we have decided a long time ago , what we are , and we spend the rest of our lives trying to find facts and proof that support our stance.
So the moment of decision may be brief and based on one or two simple ideas , but the learning process never ends , and we keep adding to our pile of proofs . For me thats science, I'm very skeptical about paranormal etc

The point I have been trying

The point I have been trying to make about the majority imagining there is a god and heaven , would suggest that the minority can be right . That we shouldn't assume that we can trust the masses to make the right decisions.

Of course. That's why we defer to experts in a given field.

Just because most people/scientists/thealogians etc agree on something , we should still maintain our independence and decide for ourselves based on the facts as we see them . Just as my quote from Wiki suggests.

Agreed. However, we should give the experts in their fields the extra weight their years of research and study deserves. These would be the experts/theologians you lumped in with "people" who don't have that experience.

So the determining factor should be ourselves , and not some supposed authority.

Incorrect. This makes the assumption that your opinion is more knowledgeable than someone that has spent years and years studying the area you have a poor grasp on. Your ignorance or inability to grasp a topic does not make an expert in the topic incorrect. c.f. your understanding of curved space-time.

So when evaluating any piece of knowledge , the value is determined by how we as individuals value that idea or statement.

Incorrect. The personal value is determined by how we as individuals value that idea. The actual value is determined by it's acceptance by the community of experts in the field. New ideas come along and are picked to death. Those that survive are that much stronger, and thus more valuable, to the topic matter as a whole.

Obviously...

To quote Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

...it would depend on what you were trying to prove . As an Atheist I am very interested in proof of evolution ,astronomy that deals with the evolution of the universe ,anything that makes my case stronger . And this is how most of us work , we have decided a long time ago , what we are , and we spend the rest of our lives trying to find facts and proof that support our stance.

Ah. If this is how you operate then that actually explains quite a bit.

You are on a life long hunt for confirmation bias. Only accepting evidence that backs up your position. What do you do when there is evidence that proves your point wrong?

This is also definitely not what it is to be a Skeptic and the antithesis of the Scientific Method.

So the moment of decision may be brief and based on one or two simple ideas , but the learning process never ends , and we keep adding to our pile of proofs . For me thats science,

If this is how you think science works, "You're doing it wrong". Much of science is about disproving things. Hypothesis A comes along and it stands up to the test of time. i.e. People test it, if possible, and verify it. This happens for long enough and it becomes Theory A. All it takes is for one person to come up with a replicable test to contradict the Theory and it's scraped. Regardless of the consequences.

And that's only part of what science is.

I'm very skeptical about paranormal etc

Given the lack of credible evidence I think it's fair to say all Skeptics are. I don't see the need to name this one point here though.

Finding the right science

There have been countless studies done on nearly everything we can imagine .
A lot of it is out of date and been replaced with better studies . But the old knowledge and way of thinking is still part of our society.
When we look at such things as Infinity , it is easy to see how hard it will be to prove . But it is also easy to see that it is real , that there are no other explanations that to my mind make any sense.
I may spend the rest of my life trying to find the proof , but I will have known all along.
The existence of god is the same to me , I may never find anything that a theist would consider proof , and vica versa , the theist will never come up with anything I would consider proof.
But I would say I know there is no god.
Just like I know electric cars will become more common in the future ,
just like I know petrol must run out at some point.
We can know things , without having the data or studies in front of us as proof, some things are obvious and logical.
I think this is a good debate , Slosh , I wasn't suggesting otherwise ,
I was pointing out that the aim isn't to make me a Skeptic , or you an Atheist , but to express our thoughts on the subject.
I got the feeling that gold thought it like a exam , and if I was to pass the exam , I had to learn to see it his way???

There have been countless

There have been countless studies done on nearly everything we can imagine .
A lot of it is out of date and been replaced with better studies . But the old knowledge and way of thinking is still part of our society.

I don't see the point here. You're stating the obvious. Of course the old, outdated knowledge is part of society. That doesn't make it valid.

I got the feeling that gold thought it like a exam , and if I was to pass the exam , I had to learn to see it his way???

Not sure where you got the exam idea from...

You keep referring to things as "The way you see it" and "Your definition of". Paraphrasing, not being literal.

If you're wanting to hold a worthwhile conversation with anyone you need common ground. In many cases "your definition" has not been the standard definition. And when ever this was pointed out the information seems to go ignored or just not absorbed/accepted.

Until you understand and start thinking of things by the standard definition we may as well be speaking different languages without a translator.

Which makes the whole exercise pointless.