Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Southampton University Atheist Society - Atheist and 2 religious atheists

Dorset Humanists

source: highlights comments
  • Chris Street anybody interested. If you can get to Bransgore 7, bH23 8nd we could share petrol to Southampton
  • Matthew Coussell That sounds like a really thought provoking and interesting debate. It's great to see them holding an event like that.
  • John Kingston I'd love to go but can't make this evening. Excellent subject for debate.
  • Matthew Coussell Chris, if it would be possible to pick me up from Ferndown on the way, then l would be more than happy to pay all the petrol costs for the whole trip.
  • John Davison Yes please Chris Street, give me a time at yours, if you still have space.
  • Matthew Coussell How was the talk?
    4 hours ago · Like · 1
  • John Davison Livia Stacey (Non-religious Atheist) Vice President of Southampton Atheist Society:

    Good account of her atheist position, reflecting a probable trigger in the tension of a nominally xian mum and atheist dad. She remembers a childish thought that her dad may be condemned to ever lasting hellfire. Most of her observations were of a personal non-belief nature with little reflection to wider society.
    Tim Rouse (Quaker Atheist) AHS Communications Officer

    Probably had most work to do in rationalising a cultural attachment to the 'friends' whilst being atheist in outlook. Articulating the 'political' dimensions of the 'friends', particularly pacifism. It would not be difficult to imagine him in a couple of years time realising he can port all of his political instincts to atheism without any loss.
    Sean Oakley (Buddhist Atheist) Founder & Former President, Reading Atheist Society:

    A non reincarnating ('but but we are all reused atoms') buddhist had no distance to travel to atheism. Very articulate about the value of meditation, to which all of the atheists present concurred.
    A worthwhile trip (thanks to Chris for notice and lift) to hear youthful debate. Questions from the floor were interesting, after the Uni 'chaplain' ('I'm also a scientist') gave assembled 15 or so folk the usual interfaith pep-speak.
    3 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Chris Street I agree with John Davison summary of the 90 minute discussion. 

    2 beliefs of being 'religious' seem to be 1) belief in a supernatural being AND/OR 2) using a 'holy' or 'sacred' or 'important' book as a basis for a worldview. 

    None of 3 atheists, by definition, believed in 1) but Tim (Quaker Atheist) found Quaker books (eg 'Advices and Queries') updated yearly to be useful and these books reinforced his worldviews, but he harked back to abolishing of slavery whilst not articulating any current benefits of Quakerism eg pacificism.

    Alan de Botton's daily reminding us 'to do good' was cited as was Don Cupitt's 'God is a human construct'. 

    The Quaker chaplain said that 'love' was a fundamental principle of Quakerism (see: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
    New International Version - UK (NIVUK)). He drew a distinction between 'atheist quaker' and '

    Sean Oakley (Buddhist Atheist) Founder & Former President, Reading Atheist Society spoke about:-
    Buddhas' sayings. Fideism. 'science v religion'. Concept of Brahman 4000BC, 'enlightenment' (moral awakening / free from suffering (Samsara, flip between happiness and fearfullness?); dislike of authoritarian rules v spirituality. Rationalism v Empiricism. Objectivity v subjective morality. Wisdom, Knowledge, Happiness / Eudemonia. Sean Oakley (Buddhist Atheist) described the 3 categories of Religion (Abrahamic, Chinese, Indian). Research on brain wave patterns of buddhists and nuns are same cited.

    Livia Stacey (Non-religious Atheist) Vice President of Southampton Atheist Society: spoke 'scientifically', degree geophysics. Spoke with passion about critical enquiry and her sceptical attitude. Dune - 'there is no point in living as if you don't have freewill'

    Problems about words 'Faith' and 'Worship' were discussed. Everyone liked 'meditation' cf 'prayer' which externalises agency.

    This discussion should be on Youtube - but nobody filmed it!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Paleolibrarian: The Positivity of Leading An Evidenced Based Life

Paleolibrarian: The Positivity of Leading An Evidenced Based Life: Darwin's "Tree of Life" c.1837

reposted from:
crabsallover highlightskey pointscomments / links.

I reproduce Paleolibrarian post in full (in case he ever deletes his site) with my highlights in blue and keywords/points in bold blue. I agree with everything he says (perhaps I'm a weak sceptic!!) so no comments in red!

The Positivity of Leading An Evidenced Based Life

Darwin's "Tree of Life"
One of the many things I’ve learned from my experiences as a professor of anthropology as well as my years as an information professional, and which I take into my private life in the freethought movement, is my general skepticism. I briefly will define this as follows, "A life and universe examined without facts is an unexamined life and universe." My need for evidence informs my approach to all things related to humanism as well. Certainly, it could be argued that my personality type has brought me to my chosen field, academic discipline and activist interests rather than the other way around. But whichever is more accurate they certainly feed into one another.

There is a litmus test of sorts which requires the use of my own experience, perceptions and of course foundational elements of logic. These three areas are as follows and usually concentrate on the same fundamental question; "is the idea, or process or argument reasonablelogical and defensible." If we use this line of skepticism, which I conclude is pretty simple, we can see which if any constructs work best to fully inform our lives and which indeed hold up to inspection.  

These same elements can be found within the peer review process in science as well as in the rationalist philosophy of Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle and more recent philosophers such as Descartes, Spinoza and Kant. It also opposes the idea of Empiricism (sorry John Locke fans), which touts that only through our experiences and senses can we gain knowledge.   Basically, rationalism takes a deductive worldview. It does not however mean that rationalists can’t use their emotions, nor does it mean rationalists lack the same range of human feelings as those who choose to view the world just through their personal experience and senses.

If we take the emotional and experiential nature out of religion and the acceptance of deity belief, we are left with ancient stories, moribund theology and cultural artifacts which prove nothing other than historical confirmation bias of those who choose theology over evidence. After all, one may feel a lot of positive ways about religious belief or other religious ritual, or enjoy the collectivism of shared religious experience, but that doesn’t make the ritual or experience true.

Well, it does but for only those who believe it to be so. But such belief is what I like to call “closed door belief” or belief which is locked in a room (this case the mind) and cannot escape.  It is truth based on conformity rather than evidence.  

But let's define "reasonable" as fair, accurate and plausible."Logical" as the use of deductive or inductive reasoning, using proofs or critical thinking skills and "defensible" as supported by evidence or tenable and justifiable.

Using this rubric, we are left with little in the way of biblical or spiritual truth, other than for those who use the bible or religious spiritualism to inform their lives. This then leaves those who are skeptics free to look at the world from a whole other ordered form of questioning and set of sensibilities and constructs. This is also why the pretext for some to accept religious faith and science as compatible leaves me unmoved by the illogic of such ideas.  

Dr. S.J. Gould
This post and this website is not a personal judgment of anyone in particular. But I conclude that holding faith and science as separate but equal ways of knowing, or as non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) which was suggested by the late paleontologist and religion/science bridge builder Stephen Jay Gould, is intellectually dishonest. I’m not calling anyone who truly believes that science and religion are compatible an accommodationalist, but I am suggesting they are uninformed and either lack or are avoiding consciously or unconsciously an understanding of the underlying disconnect between two fundamental ways of viewing the world.

And the two ways are based on faith or the lack thereof. Faith requires no evidence for some religious concept to be true or false or to be both true and false at the same time. For instance, if I have faith that either Jesus or Zeus is god, then they are god to me. But if I come from another faith tradition which doesn’t accept Jesus or Zeus as god, then they are false and not god. Therefore, any god can  be true and false at the same time when you use faith as its measure of reality.

While this may appear to be like the example of Schrodinger’s cat, (that is in physics a cat occupies two states inside a box as equally alive or dead and only when you open the box do you know the answer), it isn’t because the cat example can be scientifically tested and provable while the god example cannot. You can't test metaphysics with science. Its like asking which color is the best color. God, like color choice is a favored opinion of the believer brought forward by many social inputs.

Flintstones...Meet the Flintstones
Personal trials of faith are typically accepted as proof of experiential review.  Usually this search for additional meaning affirms the same basic belief if the individual chooses to continue to accept the same or another religious or spiritual tradition.  Perhaps the quest will even build a more complex religious philosophy but never one which disconnects from the basic tenets of the original dogma. The best modern example of this is the Creation Museum. Where literal biblical interpretation leads to exhibits showing humans and dinosaurs co-existing since, in their worldview, the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Whereas, lack of faith usually results in true paradigm shifts in thinking which contribute more readily to informed discovery while both simultaneously challenging and changing the world.   

Faith and prayer won't create medicine or machines, but science does. We can pray for fire or we can build a fire. We can pray for a cure for a disease or actually find a cure for a disease. We can pray for peace or work for it through humanistic values to create such a just cause through secular democracy.  In all cases, I think prayer, while it may make the individual believer feel empowered, really is a terrible waste of both time and energy. Either one feels blessed if their prayers are answered in which case you are depending on outside 3rd-party magic and mysticism for both correlation and cause and effect or you feel grief and sadness for payers which go unanswered.  

To me and to many others, the awareness of our current reality is the key advantage of secular rationalism over religious faith. Whereas skepticism is a clear and clean break between living a rational existence versus one where the individual is dependent on metaphysics. The secular humanist viewpoint doesn’t require magical thinking, but just critical thinking to see the world as it.

And it is from this factual vantage point that we can as rationalist humanists improve the world through our activism and trust in the scientific method.  While at the same time be open and accepting of so much more of what the world can offer us without the need of religious dogma to inform our lives, provide us our morality or speak to us about art and literature and other ways of being in this world.