Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!
My argument is only that it is stupid to criticize people who are religious with the reason that "there is no evidence for God" or that "God is not provable or disprovable." It is stupid to criticize them for that when every sane person also makes a decision based on no evidence (believing that the senses reflect reality). Can we start over from there? I don't find many people willing to talk about the mind in this way, so you probably don't know how much it would mean to me if we could talk a bit more. Can we agree that my premise above is true, or do you find fault with it. I think the next part of the story is very interesting (regarding practicality etc) but I don't think we were on the same page above. So maybe we can start from this premise and move on to it (or really I haven't put much thought into your practicality arguments, and after reading some of your homeunix site, I'd like to chew them a bit more).
Obviously the senses exist (thanks Descartes), but there is no amount of wiggling around that can prove anything about what they convey to your brain. We can only gather evidence through our senses, and that evidence cannot be used to prove that our senses convey anything about what actually exists.
Furthermore your argument itself seems to say that there is nothing wrong with religion. Many people "perceive evidence" of a god or gods. By your argument that "the perceptions in question as my consciousness is aware of them" are evidence enough that your senses convey information about reality to your brain, so too would it be enough for the belief of a higher power if someone "perceives evidence" of a higher power. I don't buy that, but it's your argument.
Basically I'm just tired of anti-religious people saying that belief in a higher power is "bad" or "stupid" because there is a lack of evidence in a higher power. There is a lack of evidence that our senses perceive reality. It's an assumption (or act of faith) that every sane person makes. All I see is people OK with basing their belief in their perceptions on no evidence and denigrating other people who believe something else based on no evidence.
Basically I'm arguing that it is arrogant when people say that others who believe in religion are stupid or that religion is "bad" because there is no evidence of a higher power, when they themselves have made a decision that is also not provable and for which there can be no evidence.
Is that any clearer? I'm enjoying this conversation. You've put forward some very interesting arguments and I hope I can be clear enough that we can delve a little further into the murky regions of human thought.
So if you want to convince me to take God 'on faith', you're going to need evidence.
Who said I want to do that? I'm merely commenting on the arrogance held in common by people against religion and people against science. Neither side has any more basis for their claims than the other. Occam's Razor is a good rule of thumb, but it isn't based in reason either. It's just practical. The correct answer is the most likely to be the correct answer, whether it is simple or not, practical or not.
And yet... it's not whimsy or prejudice that drives me to accept these ideas. It's the fact that not assuming them automatically means 'game over'.
No, it's not whimsy or prejudice, but they are also not based on any provable evidence, and therefore not based in reason. I call this faith or belief, but I don't want to get too bogged down in semantics. Whatever you call it, it is not science or reason.
And, interestingly, if you accept such 'non-defeatist' axioms, you get a coherent and demonstrably productive worldview.
This does not mean you aren't making an assumption, and it doesn't prove your belief to be true. We've established that it's a practical decision, but that is not evidence that proves or disproves e.g. the senses. What's funny is that your logic here admits or at least lends credence to the belief in a god or gods. For if we are allowed to make assumptions about our senses and perception, why not accept the "non-defeatist axiom" that God made us and wouldn't give us senses that lie to us? That also can render a "demonstrably productive worldview" (e.g. Ghandi).
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
All I'm saying is that here is an act of faith that every sane person makes every day. As you say, it is a belief based in practicality, not in reason. From this belief comes everything we "know" about the physical world, including science. Therefore even science is an act of faith, and we believe in it for practical reasons, not for purely rational ones.
Science is based on observations made by the senses. There is absolutely no proof that our senses reflect reality in anyway. For some reason many "fans of reason" have no problem basing their everyday lives on an act of faith. There is just as much proof that a god or gods exist as there is proof that our senses in any way reflect reality (none).
Furthermore, if you can't disprove there is a pink unicorn in your kitchen, why disbelieve it? That's basically what I'm getting at. Denying or agreeing with some premise without evidence either way is by definition making a decision that is not based in reason.
Believing in our senses and therefore in science obviously has practical benefits, but never forget that it is an act of faith.
I'm not comparing you to them at all. Maybe it's just been the people behind it and their purposes in using civil religion to cement their power that have given the idea a foul taste, but civil religion has not had a good track record.
Everything is answerable with a scientifically plausible answer.
Prove that your senses and perceptions reflect reality. If you believe they reflect reality, you are engaging in just as much of a leap of faith as someone who believes in a higher power. There is no reliable evidence to prove that a higher power exists and their is no reliable evidence to prove that your senses reflect reality.
Socrates was right, we know nothing. The results of science are just as unprovable as the existence of a god or gods or what have you. They may seem provable, in that they are reproducible and practical, but there is no way to prove that e.g. our senses and perceptions reflect reality. It doesn't make scientific understanding any less practical, but neither does the unprovability of a higher power make spiritual understanding less practical.
Whether you like it or not, religion has played a huge role in getting us where we are today, both in good ways and bad. Leibniz, Descartes, Galileo, Newton, Dante, Einstein, Augustine: all men who believed in some form of higher power, even the Christian God. And then there is the contribution of monasteries -- beer, the preservation of literature and mathematics, and on and on.
Humanity needs more of both spirituality and reason. We lack greatly in each.