Friday, May 23, 2014

The Burden of Proof

"god is imaginary"  (Salon comment thread bloviator)

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” 
― Albert Einstein

One of the most silly of atheist strategies for setting up a double standard in their favor is their declaration that the "burden of proof" rests on religious believers.  They assert that since atheism is merely a lack of belief that the burden isn't on them, they can just rest on their pose of saying, "Na-uh" and they've done all they need to do to declare themselves The Winnah!

You would think that, perhaps, the fact that the large majority of humanity has not agreed that they have won, that in places such as the Soviet Union which actively propagandized against religion, killing enormous numbers of people, dynamiting tens of thousands of churches, teaching anti-religious propaganda in the schools, merely suppressed religion and, in the absence of  state oppression, religion came back,  that atheists here declaring themselves the winner with no effort at all is a delusional denial of historical reality.

People get to decide what they find persuasive and, while some insecure people can be hoodwinked into denying their own perception of reality, of their own conclusions about the meaning of their lives,  the majority of people don't seem to be willing to do atheists that favor.   I doubt that the current fad of atheism will prove any more effective in it goals than the Soviet or Albanian or East German governments were in abolishing religious belief.  

Is atheism a mere lack of belief?   Certainly not in the sci-rangers and pseudo-skeptics whose atheism is as intimately tied to scientism and materialism as it could be.   And for a mere, content free "nothing" atheism certainly seems to move its (dis)believers into making an enormous number of positive statements, again quite strikingly about scientism and materialism,  using their atheism to declare all kinds of things to be delusions, many of those things, such as my favorites of equal rights and obligations to respect those, hard fought truths based, not on the abstractions that mathematics and the physical sciences are based in, but in the absolute basis those share with other human knowledge,  individual and collective human experience.  

Mathematics and logic, two of the essential foundations of science,  are based on human experience, it was human experience that validated its historical foundations, on which all further developments in those depend, which can't invalidate those foundations without the entire edifice falling down.   Lacking an absolute logical foundation, logic and mathematics have to fall back on a reliance on that history, on that human experience.   Science, even more so, is dependent on that accumulation of human experience, it is the ultimate source of its validity.  That "it works," the frequent boast of the adherents of scientism, when faced with the lack of an internally logical foundation of science, is an appeal to human experience and a non-formal method of validation.   The other foundations of science are even more obviously based in raw human experience, observation, and the social aspects of science, publication and review by the society of scientists and other reviewers.

Atheism, when it seeks converts, when it seeks to establish its dominance as an ideology isn't attempting to lay out a formal, logical foundation for itself.  It is attempting to persuade people and people can believe what they believe on other bases than those of formal logic.  Human experience happens prior to any logical, quantitative or analytical processing of it.  Because science is based on and dependent on forms of human experience, it is, in a real sense, secondary to it and, since there are realities in human experience that science can't contain, it is not necessary to being persuaded of realities it can't contain.

Since logic and mathematics have no absolute foundation, their acceptance has to be based in the same kinds of raw human experience that observation consists of. No scientist can practice science without having, first, accepted those things on a non-scientific basis, some of those in such early childhood that logic certainly didn't play a role in it, nor mathematics.   Even such arrogant believers in scientism as Sean Carroll and Richard Dawkins base the science that they have turned into an idol on the same foundations that they reject when people come to other conclusions than those they like.  Only they seem to have never gone through the exercise of really looking at the foundations of their own thinking with sufficient rigor to admit that.   Perhaps it's a matter of arrogance winning out over reality.   It's my experience of deeply religious people that they are more likely to have questioned the foundations of what they believe with more rigor than these atheists have.  That gives them every right to demand that the atheists show the same kind of questioning of their faith.


  1. Whenever Dawkins' "thought" is subjected to reasoned critique, his supporters always retreated to ad hominem or "He didn't say that!" or some other redoubt.

    I've yet to find one who can discuss the issues rationally and from an informed basis, largely because Dawkins is neither rational nor informed in his critique. His argument rests on the notion that the rest of the world is crazy, and only he and those who agree with him are sane.

    The standing joke in seminary is about the student who went in devout, and came out an atheist. As soon as science majors have a joke about the evolutionist who came out a creationist, call me. Not that creationism has any basis, but when your education puts you through such an epistemological wringer you are forced to fish or cut bait (defend your beliefs or abandon it, along with the Sunday school paradigms you've been clinging to), we can talk about these matters on an equal basis.

    Philosophy majors face the same challenge. But science majors learn one thing: the correctness of the science. If they learn everything they know is wrong, can they learn science?

    They certainly can't learn how to reason.

  2. I have found, in my several online interactions with these big name scientist, atheists, that if you come up with a point they can't comfortably answer or dismiss that they will get as angry as any Biblical fundamentalist will. They don't want to consider anything that challenges the would be hegemony of their scientism and atheism.

    I know I keep on about rights and moral obligations to respect those but I got into this as a political animal and I continue to think that is the most practically important aspect of it. I don't want to have to trust that the residuum of morality that atheists retain as a cultural holdover from the religious milieu in which they were born lasting through even two generations of atheism as a majority position. I look to what Vernon Kellog found in the intelligentsia of Germany during the First World War and what that became in the next generation. And they had a real intelligentsia, whereas we've got the celebrity atheists plus Tyson. I've had several young people who I know don't understand what the issues are assure me that Tyson is brilliant, though I find him quite pedestrian as I did Sagan. His response to people bringing up the historical inaccuracy he was peddling, that he was just reading a text someone else wrote, to be stunningly bad behavior for an alleged academic and intellectual.

  3. America has no public intellectuals, outside of Chomsky.

    We have popularizers, like Sagan and Tyson. And we follow the Pied Piper of Dawkins because he plays the tune we want to dance to.

    Derrida traveled between France and California, teaching at two different universities and attending seminars where he would frequently lecture. Foucault use to make public appearances on occasion at the institution that paid his bills. The lectures were always SRO.

    Try to imagine that in America. Foucault wrote incisively about the nature of power; Derrida wrote incisively about the nature of television and evangelism and of religious belief (he was a professor of Philosophy of Religion in CA). Much of what he said on TV and evangelists concerned, of course, America.

    America couldn't be bothered to so much as notice.

    I've given up (again!) on on-line atheists. They are prattling children repeating bromides. They have no understanding, and don't want any. Like monkeys in a cage, they just want to fling poo. That quote you started the post with is an devoid of content and thought as it is of insight. What can you do with people like that? Insist that they are taking over the world, and only you can oppose them?

    That's the argument that draws 300+ comments every time Salon posts another article about Cosmos and the creationists. As if anyone besides the handful of people at Salon is paying attention to the subject, or the creationists, for that matter. They tell me repeatedly that 30% of the American public "believes" in Creationism.

    A far higher percentage claims to believe in God; but their ideas about God are just as disjointed as creationism. I honestly think most people keep contradictory ideas in their head (the fossil record v. creationism for example) because they really don't care that much about the ideas in the first place.

    Much like all the on-line atheists who insist THEY are the only "rational ones." If they stopped hating religion and just started ignoring it, what raison d'être would they have?

  4. The least bad of them have not said anything to match James Coyne, Jeremiah Wright, nothing as significant intellectually, socially, politically or spiritually. They haven't said anything scientifically as interesting as what Dean Radin or Rupert Sheldrake or John Searles has.

    I read O'Heir's piece at Salon about Gore Vidal and, as entertaining and interesting as he was, I can't help but feel that Vidal is fading fast into the past. I don't think he has said anything that matches the Liberation Theologians or Dorothy Day in radicalism.

    The online athiests are as close to indulging in Orwellian hate minutes as I've seen. I had an aunt I loved dearly, who, when she was very old and had suffered a lot, spent all day sitting on her couch watching the phony judge shows, getting upset by them. I thought it was a horrible way to spend her last days and she had the excuse of being in her late 80s. The kids who spend all day doing that now are going to be really mean by the time they get old.

  5. Re: Vidal and Day: I know. I haven't read anything on any website as radical as what I came across in seminary. I was actually truly radicalized there.

    Which, of course, is an impossibility, as all I learned there was fairy tales and myths.


  6. The empirical evidence of real life validates what you learned there. You have to be a science-based, atheist "ethicist" to come up with a position denying that morality is real - even as you flail against the immorality of your ideological opponents - it takes that kind of sciency realism to come up with something like that. Oh, they give themselves a dispensation to suspend consistency in a case like that, so it's OK.