Thursday, August 23, 2012

A response to Sacerdotus



An Atheist tweeter @askegg  @godlessbiz  who engaged me in 2011, in the Fall I believe, posted this response to a discussion board I had on Facebook. Facebook originally had a discussion board app that I added. 

They removed this for whatever reason: (http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/facebook-to-remove-discussions-tab-from-pages/4316)  but I saved the discussions before they were erased and moved them here: (http://sacerdotvs.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/atheism-misconceptions.html)

I was not aware that this tweeter had responded until the other night when he messaged me on Twitter after the whole Rosa Rubicondior drama. The manner in which he posted it is a bit confusing. I was not sure who wrote what, but here is my response nevertheless. My comments will be in black and his original text will be in blue.

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A response to Sacerdotus ( http://www.godless.biz/2011/09/17/a-response-to-sacerdotus/ )

<<I was having a lazy day at home today when a Twitter conversation caught my eye. After a few exchanges, we decided to move to a less restrictive medium in order to allow more elaborate explanations of our positions. As a consequence, “Sacerdotusposted the following.
Today the tweeters @askegg @steviebryant@SkepticalSkotty @_7654_ have all inundated my mentions with questions and of course accusations of being ignorant and what not. Vitriol behavior is not uncommon among atheists… I know.. I used to be one :)
I am highly skeptical Sacerdotus was ever an atheist, as I have often seen individuals make this claim in order to paint themselves as rational, free thinking people who have been swayed by the strength of the arguments for the existence of one of more gods. Nevertheless, I am prepared to give Sacerdotus the benefit of the doubt as it makes no difference at all the the strength of his arguments.>>



This is an unfair assessment to make.  Andrew does not know me personally and it is wrong of him to assume whatever based on his experience with other individuals. Andrew seems to think that only Atheists hold exclusivity to rational thinking. This is not true. Science as we know it today was formed by the Catholic Church. The Church has been the pioneer of many scientific discoveries. Franciscan Friar Roger Bacon developed the scientific method which is used today to find scientific discoveries. Faith and Reason are not opposed to each other. Atheists seem to believe that Faith means to blindly accept things. This is not Faith. Faith opens the mind and heart to what is beyond the perceivable. Faith is what pushes an Olympian to go beyond what he/she knows his body is capable of doing (Reason). Faith is what pushed the Church to form and endorse science so that She could learn more about God's creation. The Church developed the education system, the hospital system etc.  These are all acts of Faith.          


<<Let me begin on what I remember from all the tweets:
Atheism is defined as: a·the·ist [ey-thee-ist] Show noun a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheist)
Despite giving this definition, the above mentioned seem to disregard it.
Just after the starter’s gun has fired, Sacerdotus has made a demonstrably false claim. Far from disregarding the definition provided I agreed with it.>>


Are you saying that the dictionary is a demonstrably false claim? This is absurd.



<<Atheism can be defined as the denial in the existence of gods, however this definition implies there is a god to deny in the first place, so I personally do not use this definition. The same argument can be levelled at the disbelief in the existence of gods, however I accepted the definition on the basis there isn’t sufficient evidence for the existence of any deities.
They claim that atheism is merely just a “disbelief” not a denial. However, that is illogical. The word “disbelief” means:”dis·be·lief noun \ˌdis-bə-ˈlēf\ : the act of disbelieving : mental rejection of something as untrue” -(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disbelief).>>





It is interesting to note that you pick and choose which definition to use. Why do you do this? The etymology of the word is clear:
Atheism is not a lack of belief. The word comes from the Greek "a- Theos" which means "without god or gods" and is used in the negative in that it is a rejection of gods. The "a" means "without" for example:  asexual or "without sex." This is also used in the word Agnostic which means "without knowledge" which is in turn translated as someone who doesn't think anything is knowable. So the word "Atheism" cannot mean lack of belief in anything. A word that would better fit your definition is "Apisteuo" which literally means, "lacking belief, without belief." So you're an Apisteo not an Atheist.




<<Right. I have considered the concept of gods as defined by myself as a believer, and numerous times by theists since I renounced the concept as flawed, illogical, and without foundation. So yes, I did “mentally reject” the concept of a god – how else was I supposed to reject the idea?
Notice that it uses the words “mental rejection.” Rejection is synonymous with denial. (http://thesaurus.com/browse/rejection).
Now you are being obtuse. Simply defining atheists as onlythose who deny the existence of gods leaves you grounds to claim gods exists and atheists are simply being irrational. The same tactics can be used to “prove” the existence of any entity:>>

No I am not being obtuse.  I am merely going with the flow of the definition.  Defining Atheists as those who deny God does not mean that denial of God means there IS a God.  Someone can tell me that Person X steals corn.  I can accept that or deny it.  Just because a person defines Person X as a thief does not mean that Person X is one.  Nor does it mean that Person X isn't one.  The person is merely defining Person X.  The one learning of the definition of Person X decides whether that definition is applicable or not.  


<<Me: “I believe there is an invisible purple unicorn in my garage.”
Friend: “I have tried to conceptualise your contradictory mythical creature to considered your hypothesis, but find it completely without merit.”
Me: “You’re not a true a-unicornist because you can conceive my unicorn.”
Friend: “That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard.”
Moving on.>>



Again, you are misapplying the definition.  Just because a word states that it is a denial of position A, does not mean that position B is true and vice versa.  The act of denial is a choice the person makes and it has no bearing on whether position B is true or not.

Moreover, we do not know if there is a purple unicorn there or not.  Anyone who claims to know for a fact that there is no purple unicorn presupposes that the 5 senses detect "reality" in its full capacity.  In reality, the senses do not detect "reality" as it is.  We never sense the actual objects.  There is always a barrier/filter which our nervous system uses to interpret what we are supposedly sensing.  For all we know, reality could be a simulation like the Matrix as Chalmers explains in his thought experiment.  In reality, we just don't know.  Our brains deceive us all the time.  This is one of the reasons why Atheism makes no sense.  It is an assumption that humanity has learned all there is to know about metaphysics and physics and therefore no God exists because we know everything, saw everything and there was no one else out there.        


<<That being said, atheism is a denial or rejection of God whether as an entity or concept.
Many have tried to correct your definition on Twitter, but it does not seem to be sinking in. Atheism is the disbelief in the god hypothesis. Nothing more, nothing less. Just as you (hopefully) would reject my proposal of an invisible purple unicorn does not make it anymore real, so rejecting theconcept of a god does not mean you are rejecting a real, existing entity. This is the very essence of how we determine fantasy from reality.>>


Again, the word comes from the Greek "A theos" or "without God/gods." It has nothing to do with disbelief.  Atheists loves to play word games and this is an abuse to the etymology of the words that are played with.  The reason why Atheists do this is to change the image of the Atheist from being a contrarian who just rejects religion(heathen), to one who just does not believe.



<<The above insist that atheism is merely just disbelief. However, in order to disbelieve in something or someone, one must be aware of that something or someone.
It is not necessary to “be aware” of something or someone in order to disbelief it. Al that is required is the construction of a mental image, or concept within your own mind. I can propose any number of idea such as lizard men running the world, the power of homeopathic remedies, the existence of Bigfoot, and alien abductions, but none of these somehow become real because I have conceptualised them. Nor do they gain weight if you consider the ideas and subsequently reject them as ludicrous.>>


Yes, in order to disbelieve something there must be something there to disbelieve.  I am thinking right now of something, can you disbelieve it without knowing what that something is?  The mind needs to be aware of God or the concept of God before it can accept or reject it; believe or disbelieve it.  No one is saying that what we think automatically becomes real.  God is different from the examples you gave.  God deals with the origin of everything.  The examples you gave are just random strange things people sometimes believe are real and exist in time, nevertheless, there is always the possibility that they MIGHT be real.  We just don't know enough to claim 100% that a particular thing does not exist.

<<How can one disbelieve in god if one is not aware of the idea, person or subject?
As I pointed out, while you cannot disbelieve in a god if you are not aware of the idea, you can lack a belief in a god if no one has exposed you to the idea.>>


This would be Apisteuo, not Atheism.  


<<It is like Leonardo Davinci disbelieving that Iphones or wifi exist. How can he if he has never had prior awareness of the device or technology?
Leonardo Davinci completely lacked belief in iPhones and wi-fi because he was never exposed to the ideas, or presented with a working model. However, if someone had handed Davinci a working iPhone, he could not be justified in disbelieving their existence.>>



It is impossible for a person to lack belief in an object that he/she was not aware of in the first place.  There can be someone in the world with 5 heads that I am not aware of.  My unawareness does not mean I disbelieve that there is a person with 5 heads some where out there.  If I go back in time and tell Davinci of an Iphone, he might disbelieve me because to him it would be far fetched for something like that to exist.  He would FIRST need PRIOR awareness of something in order to disbelieve its existence.



<<Moreover, another atheist asked for proof of God. When I began to question him regarding quantum physics and how I was going to show the evidence I found, he dismissed it quickly. He even called quantum physics a “pseudo science
No – he called your assertion quantum physics somehow proved god to be “bulls**”. He may have a point there – how exactly does the amazingly accurate physics of the quantum world demonstrate the existence of Yahweh?>>


No, the tweet was clear.  He called Quantum Physics bull.  Physics is a science that provides evidence for many things.  To discredit any Physics that points to a Creator is unfair and shows he is not interested in hearing it.  He is "rejecting" it.    I won't go into details because it will take blogs to do so, but Quantum Physics deals with energy called 'quanta' that comes in units and that behave similarly to particles which do not function in unison but operate randomly.  The theory suggests that the world of atoms is NOT like what we perceive in "our world."  That being said, this opens the door to "something out there" that is not perceivable in the way we perceive the world.  Particles appear and disappear at random, where did they go?  If "THIS HERE" is all there is, where did the particles go?  You and I cannot disappear from this universe and appear again.  Yet our atomic structure has particles that do exactly that.  Yahweh means "I AM." It is a title or name that God gave to Moses showing that He always was.  He has no beginning nor an end.  He completely transcends what we perceive as reality. Now take this "YAHWEH" meaning and apply it to what I just describe in Quantum Theory.  "YAHWEH" is indeed possible according to the theory.  Why do you think the Higgs Boson is called the "God particle?"




<<My conclusion is that this gentlemen is not knowledgeable in physics and therefore rejects it as mere pseudo science in order to save face, so to speak. He is just seeking to engage in nonsensical polemics and is not interested in truly discussing God and evidence using science.
I am glad you have admitted here that your God can be demonstrated scientifically, but you will need to be more detailed in your explanations. Simply stating quantum physics exists is not enough to demonstrate a deity is behind it – you will need evidence for this assertion. Falsifiable models with evidence we can test using empirical methods – you know, science.>>

I stated in my previous comment briefly how Quantum physics can be used to provide evidence of God.  We are still learning.  Astrophysicist and Atheist Fred Hoyle has some interesting words regarding this:

Would you not say to yourself, “Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind
forces of nature would be utterly miniscule?” Of course you would... A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one
calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.
Fred Hoyle. "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections." Engineering and Science





<<Another gentlemen claimed that science is somehow superior to faith and religion. (http://twitter.com/#!/7654/status/114917684138868736) (http://www.tweetdeck.com/twitter/7654/~LRh0w)
Sorry, science is superior. In the past 50 years we have perfected personal computers, geostationary satellites, and an interconnected world wide communications web which allow us to have this conversation. 1,800 years of praying to God resulted in very little except war, disease, ignorance, poverty, suffering, and death. Science works, faith does not.>>

Science is not superior.  I am not hating on Science, I love it.  BUT:  science has brought about the Atom bomb, weapons, diseases due to manipulation of viruses, the extinction of animals and vegetation.  Did you know the banana has been so genetically tampered with that it will become extinct in a decade or so?  Science has brought us devices that interfere with our brains and bodies causing cancers and other effects on the brain.  While science has given us technology that can be useful, humanity has lived thousands of years without them just fine.  What will we do when our energy sources completely deplete?  Our science and its technological advances will be useless.  
Prayer has obviously worked, we are still alive on Earth.  Faith inspired Columbus to take his journey to the "new world."  He even used the Bible to make his calculations.  The Bible was the first book ever printed and it has inspired literature, art and music for a thousand and change years.  The Church developed the university/education system.  I can go on and on.  Without Faith and the Church, science would not be.



<<I tried to explain that science and faith are basically the same in that they both are based on perception and belief.
Utter s***. Science is based on empirical facts leading to testable and falsifiable hypothesis with explanatory powers. Faith maintains already accepted dogma as fact and rejects contradictory ideas to maintain them. Faith is the antithesis of science.>>

You missed the point I was making.  Yes, science is based on empirical facts and so on, but as I commented above, we don't perceive things as they really are.  As Plato states: "Science is but perception."  We TRUST that our senses and instruments are telling us the truth.  Our senses rely on faith.  Dogma deals with things to prepare man for the next life.  It is not meant to be a humanist ideology.  Faith and Science go together.  Science was born of Faith.  





<<In religion, ideas are formulated. Those ideas are then compared to sources “scripture/tradition,” from there they are rejected as heresy or approved as doctrine.
Thanks for proving my point. Faith accepts “scripture” as divine, perfect, and unalterable. Science has no such restrictions – everything is open to enquiry, scrutiny, and rejection.>>


Well I speak as a Catholic so of course I will mention Scripture.  As stated above, dogma/doctrines don't deal with explanations of the natural world.  They deal with what we must to do to go to the next world that is not physical.  Science is limited to sensual perception, faith is not.



<<In extraordinary cases, they are proclaimed “dogmas” or “revealed Divine truth.” Science is similar in that it starts with a “guess” or hypothesis. From there that guess is tested until it is either rejected, theorized or made into a official law. Science relies on perception. It uses instruments made by flawed men. Those instruments can fail, or perceive things differently than the human senses do.
Errr – aren’t the scriptures interpreted via these fallible human perceptions as well? How do you read and interpret scripture if not via the same flawed senses you say is a failing of science?>>

Yes and no.  The human senses are not 100% perfect, but a sober well read theologian will not have a problem interpreting Scripture.  Again, Scripture is not meant to keep us thinking about the physical world.  Scripture is the story of how God is using man to fix man.  For example.  The Bible says killing is wrong.  This is something everyone can accept.  Science can say Pluto is a planet and then, Pluto is NOT a planet.  Science is based on external things while Scripture is based on internal things that deal with morality and preparing for the next life.


<<Moreover, there is the issue of the human perception. We all do not perceive the same thing. Each of us perceives things differently. Perception goes through many filters in our brains.
This is true, however we must also recognise that reality does not change on the basis of our perceptions (unless you subscribe to the useless position of extreme solipsism). If we devised a method to remove as much subjectivity as possible, we should be able to discern reality on its own terms. Luckily, we have already done this and it has proven extraordinarily fruitful. Science, it works.>>



Actually "reality" does change based on perception.  When it rains one can see "colored water."  The water is not colored that way, we perceive it that way.  Nevertheless, the water is in a sense "colored" because the composition of the atoms and how they interact with light give off that "signal."  Moreover, this is an experiment you can try.  If you touch your nose with your finger you will feel your nose with your finger and your nose will feel your finger.  Guess what? You were fooled.  Your brain lied to you.  The time that it takes your finger to send the message to your brain is longer than at the point where your nose touches your finger. Since the nose is closer to the brain than the finger, that signal is faster.  Your brain compensates for this by telling you that you are sensing both the nose and finger simultaneously.   If the brain does this with this simple act, imagine how many other times it is lying to us about "reality."

<<If someone gets well after a horrible accident a believe will think it was a miracle. An atheist will see it as the body regenerated faster than normal. The even (recovery) is static, but the perception of both outside parties are different. Why? Because they passed through filters in the brain. Science is not immune to this. There are scientists who are for and against evolution …
95% of scientists accept evolution as fact, and these number increase if we discount those who do not study in the field.>>



A miracle by definition is something that defies the laws of nature.  Science can never give an answer to this because it relies on those laws of nature in order to formulate conclusions based on evidence.  I never said scientists are against evolution.  I said that there are those who are for and against it.  Evolution is a theory, not a law.  This does not discredit it, but it does not make it 100% accurate either.

<<To say that science is above religion because it uses instruments and gathers data is silly. Both religion and science are subject to man’s perception and not to mention mistakes.
So science has “silly data” which results in the motor car, international air travel, the iPhone, cancer treating drugs, modern building materials, and plentiful crops?>>

No, the idea that science is above religion because of its techniques is silly, not the data.  Your suggestion is silly is what I was saying.

<<At least you admit religion is subject to mistakes. Perhaps your mistaken religion in general (and Catholicism in particular) is correct?>>

Yes religion makes mistakes.  Catholicism has made mistakes politically and in other instances, but not in faith and morals.  How can telling people to behave, live just lives be a mistake?


<<As usual, atheists attack Scripture.
Are you surprised? Any book containing talking snakes, demon possessed pigs, people living in large fish for days, and the walking dead should be continuously and mercilessly mocked.>>



Well people often attack what they don't understand.  Parrots "talk" by mimicking human beings.  Who is to say there was not a snake in the past that did the same?  I am not saying there was one, I am just posing the question.  Informed Bible scholars all know that the talking snake is an allegory used at the time when that particular book was written.  The Bible has to be read properly in order to be understood.  Only the Catholic Church can interpret Scripture properly.  This is not an attack on other Christian denominations, it is merely a fact because the Church put the Bible together.  It is our book.  Luther took 7 books out of it and formulated all kinds of strange theologies and his followers continued that.  Now we have all kinds of strange sects claiming to speak for God.  


<<One tweeter claimed that the Bible does not describe the sun as a “star.” This can be seen in different ways. Depending on how it is translated, the Hebrew word “Shemesh” can be ” a torch, star, or sun.” It can also be used to describe a sun god. Moreover, it is interesting to note that the Bible is not science book. While some science is explicitly and implicitly shown, its purpose is not to explain things in the way we define science today. The purpose of the Bible is to highlight God’s plan of salvation through revelation.
So science uses verifiable and repeatable empirical evidence to build models of reality, while religion uses unverifiable, personal revelation (via the words of an ancient book) to highlight God’s plan. One might have thought if personal revelation of God’s plan was consistent we would see uniformity across the religions of the globe, however this is the exact opposite of what occurs. Each minuscule interpretive variation of divine scripture causes division and schisms within a single religion – not to mention the plethora of holy texts available to choose from in the first instance.>>


You miss the point that science seeks to learn using observation.  Religion uses God's revelation in order to make man just and prepare him for the next life.  There is no conflict here.  There is uniformity in many areas with religion worldwide.  We all share common ideas of right behavior, a "creator," an "afterlife,"  the human soul and so on.  Divisions exist everywhere and this is due to egoism.  Scientists are divided among themselves on many issues.  Take the Higgs Boson for example, Physicist Stephen Hawkings did not accept that this particle existed.  He obviously was wrong and had to pay a bet he lost.  You cannot blame religion or science based on man's political nature.    

<<Another tweeter dismissed the idea that science is also faith in a sense. Faith is defined as “confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.” -(http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faith) Well when we learn science in school or read the science section of a paper, are we not trusting in the studies (thing) or person who wrote/researched the subject matter?
No, you are not meant to trust it – you are encouraged to doubt it, question it, and run your own tests. Experiment. Try your hardest to falsify the data and explanatory models presented. If you cannot, provisionally accept the claims as true and move on, but be alert to the possibility of tectonic shifts in our understanding of the universe when new data comes along which demands a paradigm shift. Science moulds itself to the available data, and (by your own definition) faith holds scripture to be the gauge by which everything else is measured. Scripture is assumed to be true as a starting point, and this is religions major failing.>>


Perhaps in a Philosophy course, but not generally.  If you doubt, question and run your own tests, you learn nothing.  If you learn nothing, you cannot ace exams.  Students are required to learn each established academic discipline and its curriculum.  Doubts, questions, and testing can be done apart from the normal syllabus requirements.  There will always be a solar system that we need to learn about.  We cannot doubt this.  There will always be DNA and RNA, we cannot doubt this.  We can only form new questions based on what we already know.      
Scripture is true in the sense that I describe in my previous comment.


<<Is that not faith? How many of us have traveled to space and have seen the solar system with our own eyes? How many of us have enter the earth and have walked on the mantle and core? How many of us have personally carbon dated fossils? Not many would say yes because not everyone has access to labs and other equipment to make this attempt. Nevertheless, we accept these ideas as truth. We take them on faith that those who conducted the experiments and research are not lying to us.
You are equivocating the “faith” we have in these things with religious faith. I have good reasons for believing silicon chips work despite never having witnessed one being made. I regularly use GPS to navigate my way around which relies on the existence of satellites utilising Einstein’s general theory of relativity. I have witnessed vast quantities of electrical power emanating from nuclear power stations, which are built on the same models of radioactive decay used to date fossils, or determine the age of the Earth. In each case, I have arms length data to verify the claims being made by science – I have no such verification from religions.>>



It is the same.  Faith pushes the human experience beyond the material world.  "It moves mountains," so to speak.  If man did not believe he could go to the moon, he would not have made it.  If man did not believe he could explore the seas without ever coming back, he would not have taken the first step.  Faith brings us to what is beyond what we perceive.  Based on revelation (speaking as a Catholic), we trust God and what God has revealed.  Trusting God does not devalue anyone.  We have nothing to lose with believing in God.  Paschal's Wager touches on this.  
The things you mention are within reach of you.  Yes we can measure arms, use GPS etc.  However, have you seen the solar system with your own eyes?  Have you gone to space and verified that it has zero gravity?  No, you trust the people that told you these things.  Some even doubt that Americans landed on the moon!  We can date fossils, but carbon dating is not 100% accurate.  It is a system made by man that works for man.  Religion is not made by man, it is made by God and is subject to God.  Religion does not and should not claim answers to natural problems in regards to science.  In other words, no religion should define scientific laws.      

<<Religion is no different. Religious people believe God is real, the doctrines are real and applicable. They trust that they are not being misled just as those who follow science only believe they are not being lied to as well.
Religious people may believe god is real, but they are doing so on the basis on zero evidence. This is the religious faith Sacerdotus would have you believe is identical to scientific “faith”. However, as I have hopefully demonstrated, one is based on empirical evidence and skepticism at every turn, the other is built on shifting sands.>>


That is not true.  There is evidence for God.  Some use science, some use philosophy, some use personal experiences and others just came to the conclusion.  You cannot judge and claim there is no evidence for God.  You cannot tell a homeless man who prayed for good fortune in bad times and afterwards wins a the lottery when a random stranger hands him a dollar which he used to buy a ticket.  You cannot tell a person with AIDS or cancer who was told by scientifically minded doctors that he/she will die tomorrow and after a prayer the illness is completely gone as if it never existed.  These things happen ALL the time.  As a matter of fact, no person can rise in sainthood unless science clears the way for the Church to call supposed "miracles" miracles.  

1 comment:

  1. "Atheism is not a lack of belief. The word comes from the Greek "a- Theos" which means "without god or gods" and is used in the negative in that it is a rejection of gods."

    That's grossly overreaching. "Without" does not connote rejection or denial. It is simply the very lack you claim it isn't.

    ReplyDelete

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