Sunday, May 27, 2007

The basis for lack of belief

I recently was asked these questions by Paul:

And you are an atheist because of the "evidence?"
You have evidence that the universe burst into existence due to some natural phenomena?
You have evidence that its delicately tuned laws of physics are a lucky roll of the dice because we are one of infinite universes?
You have evidence that life actually arose from simple chemistry?
You have evidence that a prokaryote has changed into a eukaryote, and you know the chemical pathways?
You have evidence that consciousness, will, emotion, and morality can be produced from complex chemistry?
You have evidence that Jesus didn't actually say what is claimed and rise from the dead?


And then he ended with this statement:
I think there are surely some presuppositions haunting your thinking.

Surely there must be presuppositions to thought. I don't see it as a haunting though. I do see that one presupposition is the notion of the burden of proof. A better phrase might be the burden of evidence. Some of these questions I can answer in the affirmative, others I regard as an attempt to shift the burden of evidence. I wonder if my assessment coincides with anyone else's.

11 comments:

Paul said...

You seem to be implying that the answers to such questions are materialistic by default, even if they are problematic to answer according to materialism or are impossible to obtain answers to by nature (like the multiverse theory). But why should atheism get to escape the need for proofs? The answer to that question holds your presuppositions, and those surely need to be defended.

Psiomniac said...

You seem to be implying that the answers to such questions are materialistic by default, even if they are problematic to answer according to materialism or are impossible to obtain answers to by nature (like the multiverse theory).
I think you are confusing process and product here. If I want to play chess then I must follow the rules of chess. If I want to tell you a comforting story, then following the rules of chess is not such a good idea. So the question seems to boil down to the following: what tools can we use to validly investigate reality? My answer is reason and evidence.

But why should atheism get to escape the need for proofs? The answer to that question holds your presuppositions, and those surely need to be defended.

If I want to investigate the world then I need to use reason and evidence and it seems to me that this is the presupposition that I have. You may say that this needs to be defended but again I would draw your attention to the burden of proof. Abandonment of reason is self defeating, how are you going to make an argument that I should not use reason and evidence?

Paul said...

I am, myself, quite fond of reason and evidence, but these are merely tools to be employed at the disposal of our presuppositions. I am not asking you why you would assume that reason is valid (though that is another interesting discussion); I am asking you why reason and evidence must be employed to prove God and not to prove that all the mysteries of the universe are answerable by way of chance and nature? How highly we regard reason has no bearing on the burden of proof. Again I would press you to defend the idea that atheism wins by default.

Psiomniac said...

I am asking you why reason and evidence must be employed to prove God and not to prove that all the mysteries of the universe are answerable by way of chance and nature?
I don't see the process that way. I think reason and evidence are valid means of investigating reality. So far, the mysteries of the universe have been encroached upon but not solved.

How highly we regard reason has no bearing on the burden of proof.
No, but the burden of evidence has a bearing on our default assumptions.

Again I would press you to defend the idea that atheism wins by default.

Well, I don't think it does. The burden of evidence argument would perhaps say that agnosticism wins by default until such time as enough evidence comes in.
If you asked me if I know that there is no god, then assuming I knew what you meant by the term, then I would say 'no'. In that regard I am an agnostic.

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

Would you say that you are equally inclined to accept an answer outside of nature to resolve a slate of open questions, or that you are more inclined to sit on the questions until some natural solution becomes available?

Psiomniac said...

Paul,
I think that there are some inherent methodological problems here. Certainly, if I thought that the idea of a global scientific conspiracy had credibility, or that the objections to evolution had plausibility then I would no doubt speculate about other options. Similarly, if it could be shown that a multiverse were unlikely, or that some 'big rip' in the universe were ruled out, I would have to scratch my head and wonder how it could have happened. Actually, in the case of the origin of the universe I think that is beyond our knowledge right now. There are interesting speculations about it though.
The question then is, what does it mean for something to be 'outside nature'? Also, if this does have a well defined meaning, how would I know if something outside nature were responsible for reality as we experience it, since we cannot know reality-in-itself and therefore cannot have a complete theory of how it all works or how it came to be (unless it was always here).
So, I'm not sure than an appeal to things outside nature really constitutes an 'answer' as such, or resolves anything. It might be a satisfying and comforting fiction, wrapping all the unknowables into a digestible story, but I do not see how it could be known to be more than that.

Unholy Black Death said...

There is no burden of proof on those who do not believe, because we are not making wild claims. Atheism does not claim to have any answers. Just use the scientific method. All things are considered false until they are proven to be true. A claim does not even get to become a "theory" until some real and convincing evidence is presented. Disbelief is just the default when no evidence is present or when some evidence exists that conflicts with the claim being made.

"Belief" is the opposite of thought.

On the side of the angels said...

no, belief is the openness towards possibility and the search for substantial evidence either promoting or proving the contrary...
belief is the beginning of wisdom, it is not the enemy.
All scientific endeavour began with perception and belief regarding that perception.
Evidence substantiates, repudiates and hones the belief - how else can speculative physics have worked ?
there is no such thing as blind faith - one sees through the eyes of belief in order to attempt to understand - when evidence to the contrary is blatant then the belief must change lest it become mere ideology - we are zoon nouon echoon - living beings with nous - with liberating will, wisdom and understanding...
only the bigot is blind, only the fool does not believe - and the belief is holistically grounded in experience and the intellect...

to suggest that belief is an adversary is not only ridiculous, it is a denial of the human condition....

Psiomniac said...

On the side of the angels,

I don't agree with your notions about belief. Nor have I treated belief itself as an 'adversary'.
You believe in some things that I regard as unwarranted by the evidence available, that is all.

On the side of the angels said...

sweetness, I was responding to unholy black death, I am fully aware of your positions, [well some of them anyway - does that sound crude? hope not] but I sincerely believe that by adamantly
maintaining that the merely physical is the sole arbiter; you are denying vast amounts of analysable [horrible word, please accept my apologies] evidence.