Hi Dagh. Sorry it's taken so long for me to get back to you on this. I just haven't had the appropriate chunk of free time to devote to it until now.
Dagh: The amusing thing for me is that, while many atheist often claim to be the only rational people, I often find them to be the least rational people for exactly this reason.
DT: No doubt there are plenty of irrational atheists but that's really neither here nor there. What matters is if atheism is a rational position, the corollary of which is of course by necessity, whether theism is a rational position.
Dagh: It is not particularly interesting to discuss whether atheism is a rational position, since it is (or rather, can be, relative to a belief system).
We're going to have to start defining our terms to make sure we're talking about the same thing when we use certain words pertinent to the subject at hand.Main Entry: ra•tio•nal
Pronunciation: \ˈrash-nəl, ˈra-shə-nəl\
Etymology: Middle English racional, from Anglo-French racionel, from Latin rationalis, from ration-, ratio
Date: 14th century
1 a: having reason or understanding b: relating to, based on, or agreeable to reason : reasonable <a rational explanation> <rational behavior>
Main Entry: rea•son
Etymology: Middle English resoun, from Anglo-French raisun, from Latin ration-, ratio reason, computation, from reri to calculate, think; probably akin to Gothic rathjo account, explanation
Date: 13th century
1 a: a statement offered in explanation or justification <gave reasons that were quite satisfactory> b: a rational ground or motive <a good reason to act soon> c: a sufficient ground of explanation or of logical defense ; especially : something (as a principle or law) that supports a conclusion or explains a fact <the reasons behind her client's action> d: the thing that makes some fact intelligible : cause <the reason for earthquakes> <the real reason why he wanted me to stay — Graham Greene>
2 a (1): the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways : intelligence (2): proper exercise of the mind (3): sanity b: the sum of the intellectual powers
Positions held are not rational and reasonable relative to a belief system by merit of said belief system holding some measure of internal consistency. A belief system having some measure of consistency involved in its formation is not the measure of whether said belief system is rational and reasonable either. I could create a belief system whereby true is false and false is true, and I could create it with some measure of consistency with other beliefs that are part of the belief system. But it would not be a rational or reasonable belief system by merit of it being inconsistent with the truth, the truth being that it is true that true is true and it is also true that false is false.
So consistency is the measure of the rationality and reasonability of a belief system, but that measure it is not related to the belief system's internal consistency relative to itself, it is related to the belief system's consistency with truth, truth and falsity being what rationality and reason are based on.
As such, it is interesting to discuss whether atheism is a rational position when we are trying to assess whether a belief system which holds it to be true that 'God does not exist' or that 'God does exist', because that is the measure of the rationality of the position, and therefore the measure of the consistency with truth of the belief system.
We haven't got our wires crossed btw. I understand what you're saying in that a belief system is just a personal tool for navigating existence and that belief system's rationality is really just a function of its internal consistency - how well it fits together. I'm just contending that this is not the case at all, otherwise all belief systems would be rational by dint of their all having some measure of internal consistency. I'm saying the measure of rationality and reasonableness is consistency with truth and therefore that the measure of the rationality and reasonableness of a belief system is a function of the consistency with truth of the tenets held to be true within the belief system.
Dagh: Let's be sure we talk about the same thing when we say atheism.
I think this one's pretty simple. Atheism is the negation of theism.Main Entry: the•ism
: belief in the existence of a god or gods ; specifically : belief in the existence of one God viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world who transcends yet is immanent in the world
Dagh: What I mean is that it is not necessarily irrational to believe there is no god. I would also say that it is not necessarily irrational to believe there is a God. However, I would find it irrational (or rather, immature) to claim that it is irrational per se NOT to adopt either view. The problem is that many atheists claim exactly that it is irrational not to adopt the view that there is no god.
Well often that claim is just based on hubris, being as the supposed atheist stating it merely believes (as opposed to knows) that there is no God. So I would agree with you in such cases, their proselytising would be hypocritical and therefore irrational. However, were it possible to know that there is no God, and an atheist is possession of such knowledge were to state that it is irrational to believe otherwise, such a statement from such a person would be completely rational.
Dagh: The point is that they don't understand the valid scope of a belief like "there is no god". A sentence like "there is no god" (or "there exists a God") is a part of a person's world view, expressed like a postulate. This world view is, to me, nothing but a personal tool. It has no scope beyond that.
DT: Other people's worldview certainly has plenty of influence on the world I live in. Their beliefs are projected out into the world with their every action, each having its effect.
I think you might have missed this one mate. I'm saying that people's worldviews do not sit in isolation from the world and have plenty of scope to act and effect within it. As such, worldviews are likely to produce a world which is rational to the same extent as the concomitant actions and effects that worldview necessitates. What do you think?
Dagh: It is, to me, simply immature to believe that any personal world view somehow corresponds correctly to The Truth (Whatever That Is Beyond Just A Part Of Some Other Meta World View).
DT: This is an incoherent statement Dagh. Firstly it makes a statement about truth, only to then say that it doesn't know what truth is beyond being a worldview.
Dagh: No, it is not a statement about truth. It is a statement about it being immature to hold certain views about how world views correspond to The Truth.
Yes, there is an element of this statement that refers to The Truth, therefore this statement concerns itself with truth to that extent. To then say that you don't know what the truth is invalidates the statement entirely, for it is a claim of truth about unproven unknowns.
It's like saying that 'it is immature to hold certain views about how worldviews correspond to scientific fact, whatever scientific fact is', i.e. it somehow attempts to draw a correspondence relationship between worldviews and something it doesn't understand, and pronounces it immature to hold views that claim to understand the part it doesn't understand. Do you see that it simply couldn't know?
Dagh: When I tell you that I find certain beliefs and ways of thinking immature, I do not by necessity imply any claims about the objects (here, Truth) of said ways of thinking.
This is wanting to have your cake and eat it. If you claim that it is immature (implying poorly reasoned) to believe that a worldview corresponds to truth, you are most definitely, by necessity, implying a claim about truth - namely that it is immature to think that truth has a correlative relationship with the tenets of a belief system. Like it or not, this statement concerns itself with a definitive article - truth - and then goes on to say that it doesn't really know what truth is, thereby invalidating itself.
You can’t replace the word ‘wrong’ with ‘immature’ and somehow thereby get away with saying you think people are wrong without actually saying that, because that is what you are saying, you believe/think that people are wrong/incorrect/in error/not as right/whatever if they don’t ‘understand the valid scope of a belief system’.
This is the kind of irrational hoodwinkery that post-modern relativism is forced into in order to try to sustain itself. It works with definitive articles and absolutes all the time, yet it doesn't understand that it does and actually believes that it doesn't. Thus it attempts to cover its pronouncing things right or wrong, good or bad, by substituting with words like immature, as though that makes any difference to what it's really saying.
DT: Secondly, it is in itself a statement of a position which it thinks 'corresponds correctly to The Truth'.
Dagh: Secondly, I certainly do not make a statement of a position which I/it myself thinks 'corresponds correctly to The Truth'.
But you do mate. You are saying that you think it is true that it is "immature to believe that any personal world view somehow corresponds correctly to The Truth". You think this statement corresponds correctly to truth, otherwise it would be meaningless to you, meaning being a function of truth.
Dagh: Trust me on this: I navigate my daily life perfectly fine making all kinds of statements about this or that without ever implying that said statements correspond to some truth.
Is what you've just said here true, or not true?
I can't just trust you on faith because you say it is so (claim it to be true) as that would be irrational (As Neitzsche said, faith is not wanting to know the truth). I must judge its veracity according to what it says, and it says that you think it is true that you think you can make statements which you think are true without implying that said statements corresponds to truth. I can only therefore judge that this statement is inconsistent with truth, being as it claims truth to be two different things, and it’s therefore incoherent.
If you were to preface each statement you make with ‘I believe’, then you could of course make statements without implying that they correspond to truth, but that would only be because in prefacing each statement with ‘I believe’, you are really saying that you don’t know what follows in the statement to be true, but you think it to be the case anyway. Not much of a claim really.
Dagh: Fundamentally, I think you may have a problem in that you think that any statement or system of statements can and should be assigned a truth system to them.
Funnily enough, I think you have a problem in that you think it inappropriate to assign truth value to statements, being as that is the entirity of what truth is - a statement's consistency with its premises and logical inference thereon.
Dagh: First, such truth systems are generally not necessary,
If statements are to have any meaning whatsoever, relative to what they reference, they must have a truth value, by necessity. There is simply no coherent meaning without truth and falsity. Therefore, to the extent that communication is to have decipherable meaning, it necessarily has truth value.
Dagh: and secondly, even if you do insist on assigning truth values to statements, you will have a hard time to explain to me how those truth values and truth systems are anything more than just conveniently chosen tools.
Firstly, I don't 'insist on assigning truth value to statements'. Truth value is simply a necessary property of statements which gives them meaning. This isn't some arbitrary insistence of mine, it's just the way existence works. It’s more a question of whether one has been caused to understand that or not.
Secondly, I wouldn't attempt to convince you that truth systems are anything but tools, because that is what they are when we use them. I would however argue that they are not 'conveniently chosen', as though there is any choice in the matter. We don't just arbitrarily choose them or make them up for the purposes of some end or other, they are the way the mind works and if we want our conclusions to be rational, we have no choice but to use them. Without the use of this unique and precious tool evolution has granted us access to, humanity would have got nowhere.
Dagh: To see it from a slightly different angle: It is, to me, immature, even childish, to go around and say: "My view of the world is CORRECT, and you are irrational if you do not share with me this view of the world." But this is actually pretty much what you do when you go around and say that "all world views that don't share this property X with my world view are wrong".
DT: I just don't understand mate, if something is correct then it is, by definition, irrational to believe otherwise.
It seems to me immature to want to believe that something incorrect is actually true. I think that's pretty self-explanatory. But you seem to take the opposite position here. Am I just reading you wrong or, if not, could you elaborate on that position?
Dagh: I will elaborate. What I say is that I think it is immature to think that some beliefs or belief systems are Absolutely Correct according to some Truth or Reality.
In other words, you think it is absolutely correct according to your truth or reality that ‘it is immature to think that some beliefs or belief systems are Absolutely Correct according to some Truth or Reality’. Either that or you’re really saying that you just BELIEVE this to be the case, without actually knowing it or being able to reason why it is so, in which case we’ve just wasted our time reading blind conjecture.
Dagh: You say that "if something is correct then it is, by definition, irrational to believe otherwise", but when doing that, you imply exactly such an absolute concept of correctness.
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing, and I’ve stated such explicitly when I said that ‘truth by definition is rationally undeniable and categorical’. I’m surprised you didn’t answer that one as it seems to be the crux of our primary disagreement here. So, to use my previous example of absolute truth by definition, ‘All bachelors are unmarried’, could you show me how, in any way, that statement is anything but absolute truth? And could you show me how it would be rational to believe that all or any bachelors are in fact married?
Dagh: But I can create a consistent system of beliefs where "there is a God" is part of the system. I can also create a consitent system of beliefs where "there is no god" is part of the system. Both systems are not irrational, by virtue of being consistent.
As previously, a belief system’s internal consistency with respect to itself is not the measure of its rationality. Someone could create a belief system in which all fantasy entities ever created are real. This belief system would obviously be highly consistent within itself. Yet a person who believes in unicorns, pixies, chupacabras, incubus, succubus, Odin, the Man from Atlantis, Batman, Posiedon, dragons, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Loch Ness Monster, Woodland Christmas Critters, God, etc. is a rational person by your measure.
Dagh: In other words, it can, at the same time, be rational for person A to believe in God and also be rational for person B not to believe in god.
Is that true?
It’s not that it would be rational in both cases. Sure, they’d both be valid belief systems as far as being tools for navigating existence is concerned but the tenets that each of these belief systems are based on could not both be true, and to the extent that either tenet were correct/incorrect, the belief system involved would be based on rational/irrational beliefs. So if one person believed that all bachelors are unmarried and another person believed that all bachelors are married, they could both use these belief systems as tools to navigate existence but only one of them would have a belief system based on rational tenets. As such, the person with the belief system based on rational tenets would likely be able to use their belief system tool to more skillfully and realistically navigate existence.
I do not want to believe that "something incorrect is actually true". I do not even work with concepts such as (absolutely) incorrect and (absolutely) true in the first place.
But you do work with such concepts. Your every word does, as does everyone else’s. You, like many of them, simply don’t realise that.
So, for instance, in your above statement, “I do not even work with concepts such as (absolutely) incorrect and (absolutely) true in the first place.”
, you are making the definitive statement that you think it is absolutely correct that you do not do such. You are of course mistaken in thinking that, being as the opposite is the case, but nevertheless you are working with concepts of absolute truth.
Main Entry: te•net
Dagh: So, the statements "I believe in God" and "I believe there is no god" are similar, and this is what some atheists need to understand.
DT: They are similar in that they both express a belief. And you're right in that by far the largest proportion of atheists are atheists by merit only of a belief.
Dagh: The statements are both just a part of some personal view of the world and not by some divine or scientific intervention "True"
DT: Yes, they're both belief systems. A belief system has no truth value.
But the statement of the tenets of a belief system have truth value.
Dagh: Can you elaborate on what you mean when you say that "tenets of a belief system have (absolute) truth value"?
Pronunciation: \ˈte-nət also ˈtē-nət\
Etymology: Latin, he holds, from tenēre to hold
Date: circa 1600
: a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true ; especially : one held in common by members of an organization, movement, or profession
So, for instance, some religious fundamentalists believe it is correct to kill in the name of religion. A statement of that tenet that they hold to be true might be something like ‘Killing in the name of God is correct action’. The truth value of this statement can then be assessed. The veracity of this statement can be tested against ethical premises, such as the universal right to self-ownership that I’ve talked about elsewhere. As such, it can be shown to be an untrue statement, ethically. Such a truth is not necessarily absolute, in fact in this case it is true only in the context of a given logically sound ethical framework, according to the axioms of that framework. We are not working with absolute definitional truth here as axioms are givens, taken as read. However, if someone were to believe that ‘All bachelors are married’, we could know 100% for certain that this tenet of their belief system is absolutely untrue.
Definition is the key to absolute truth. At some point, hopefully we’ll get to the more common definitions of God and see what reason has to say about their veriacity. But doing that is pointless unless we're on the same page with regard to meaning and truth.
Dagh: and the only reasonable stance to take on the question of whether there is a god or not.
DT: Whether one or the other or both or neither are reasonable stances depends on the truth value of the statement of the tenets of each belief system.
Dagh: No. They are reasonable to the extend that they do not hold inconsistencies, and are not nonsensical.
Do you see how you are telling me that I am wrong here, and what that implies?
Dealing with the question of internal consistency versus consistency with truth would just be to repeat myself. We can deal with the word ‘nonsensical’ though.Main Entry: 1non•sense
Pronunciation: \ˈnän-ˌsen(t)s, ˈnän(t)-sən(t)s\
1 a: words or language having no meaning or conveying no intelligible ideas b (1): language, conduct, or an idea that is absurd or contrary to good sense (2): an instance of absurd action
Main Entry: 1sense
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French or Latin; Anglo-French sen, sens sensation, feeling, mechanism of perception, meaning, from Latin sensus, from sentire to perceive, feel; perhaps akin to Old High German sinnan to go, strive, Old English sith journey — more at send
Date: 14th century
6 a: capacity for effective application of the powers of the mind as a basis for action or response : intelligence b: sound mental capacity and understanding typically marked by shrewdness and practicality ; also : agreement with or satisfaction of such power <this decision makes sense>
So, to the extent that the statement 'all bachelors are married' is not marked by good sense, so too a belief in such is nonsensical.
DT: So surely, to the extent that those tenets are true or false, the respective belief system can be said to be reasonable or not so.
Dagh: Are you claiming that unless I make a judgement on whether the tenets of a belief system are true of false (whatever that means), I cannot make a judgement on whether said belief system is reasonable?
Why, are you going to tell me that I’m wrong if that is what I’m saying?
That is in fact exactly what I’m saying, unless we want to make a mockery of the meaning of the word ‘reasonable’ and the concept of sound judgement.Main Entry: rea•son•able
Pronunciation: \ˈrēz-nə-bəl, ˈrē-zən-ə-bəl\
Date: 14th century
1 a: being in accordance with reason <a reasonable theory> b: not extreme or excessive <reasonable requests> c: moderate , fair <a reasonable chance> <a reasonable price> d: inexpensive2 a: having the faculty of reason b: possessing sound judgment <a reasonable man>
Sure, people can make judgements about other’s beliefs left, right and centre if they wish, but that judgement will not be a sound one - not a reasonable one - a guess at best - unless it relates to that in which the belief is held. And that in which a belief is held is a tenet.
For instance, someone could tell me that they believe that information cannot escape the event horizon of a black hole because Stephen Hawking says so and they think he knows what he’s on about. I could guess that to be a reasonable belief, based on their reasoning about Hawking’s expertise. But I couldn’t know that it is a reasonable belief unless I checked it out myself. In doing so, I discover that they’ve actually misread him and Hawking actually says the exact opposite of what they believe. Thus I have judged soundly, instead of guessing.
Anyone can judge anything any way they like. Their judgement, however, will only be sound if their reasoning is sound.
DT: Whether these respective belief systems are useful in navigating existence, regardless of the truth value of the statement of their tenets, is another question entirely. The reasonableness of each position is not somehow exempt from judgement by dint of their both being useful belief systems towards some end. It is the truth value of what those respective beliefs are placed in that matters, when it comes to deciding whether they are reasonable or not, by definition of the word reasonable.
Dagh: In this context, "Reasonable" to me mainly means something like "consistent and not nonsensical".
Yes, consistent as in consistent with reason, and not nonsensical as in consistent with reason. If something is reasonable, it is consistent with reason.
Dagh: Please note that it is possible for me to make a judgement on the consistency without assigning truth values to the tenets of a belief system. This judgement would have the form of "no consistency has of yet been discovered" or "these two parts seem inconsistent".
Then it wouldn’t be much of a judgement - ‘This belief system is reasonable/unreasonable because no consistency has yet been discovered or because these two parts seem inconsistent.’ It’s vague to the extreme and practically meaningless thereby.
Sorry mate, this makes no sense. There is nothing else involved in assessing the reasonableness of a belief system besides assessing the reasonableness of its tenets. That’s what it’s comprised of. If you are assessing how many cars are on a car park, you have to count them. If you are assessing the volume of a cube, you need to measure the length of one of its sides. If you are assessing which of these kids is doing their own thing, you have to look at the group of kids. If you are deciding whether to send a man to prison, you have to look at the evidence. That’s what judging is.
To judge the internal consistency and/or usefulness of a belief system is not to judge its reasonableness.
Dagh: They are a part of a tool/world view with which we grasp events in our lives and communicate with each other about them. It is immature to think that other people MUST be WRONG if they have a differently shaped world view (since it is immature to think that there is such a thing as a correct view of the world in the first place).
DT: It is definitely irrational to think that others must be wrong when their views differ to yours if and only if your view is based on unproven belief. But if your view is based on proven truth, then surely you would be irrational not to think that others must be wrong if they disagree with that proven truth?
Dagh: Please note that while I make a statement about it being immature to think in a certain way, you reply about whether it is irrational to think in a certain way.
Indeed, because that's what you actually mean but you just try to say it in not so many words. By immature, you imply that it is lacking in some way, some way not lacked by a mature view. The some way you're talking about is understanding. So, in saying it is immature, you are saying that it is lacking in understanding. Need I cite the definition of understanding and draw its relationship with reason and truth?
Please understand that muddying the waters by using distantly related synonyms does not somehow relieve you of responsibility for what you're really saying. And that's what the use of such devices is really trying to do, knowingly or not.
Main Entry: 2correct
Dagh: I maintain that it is immature to think that there is such a thing as a correct view of the world,
Etymology: Middle English, corrected, from Latin correctus, from past participle of corrigere
2 : conforming to or agreeing with fact, logic, or known truth <a correct response
So, now we've broken it down, we can see that what you're saying here is that it is lacking in understanding to think that worldviews can conform or agree with facts, logic, or known truth about the world.
Obviously you find the concepts of right and wrong to be wrong
but can you see how the above is just plain wrong? And in fact it is that case that it is lacking in understanding to think that worldviews cannot conform or agree with facts, logic, or known truth about the world. In other words, it is immature to think that there is not such a thing as a correct view of the world.
Dagh: or such a thing as an absolute proven truth.
Do I really need to set out the premises and show the inference as to how all bachelors are married? Do I need to write out the truth tables for such an assertion of absolute proven truth before you'll understand how it works? Or can you see that 'All bachelors are unmarried' is a rationally undeniable and categorical statement, true in all possible worlds - an absolute proven truth?
If not, please explain to me how it is immature (lacking in understanding) to think that there is such a thing as an absolute proven truth.
Dagh: To me, these are just nonsensical statements/entities, and referring to them as solid entities is nonsensical.
Are you yet willing to change your mind? Are you yet persuaded to have respect for reason and truth to the extent that you'll reassess your worldview in light of it?
The facts are - the truth is - the possibility of a correct worldview and absolute proven truth are sensible, the polar opposite of nonsensical.
However, you did preface your statement with 'to me'. So you are saying that it's just your belief, not something you know. Kudos for realising that. On the other hand, perhaps you don't realise that and simply use clauses such as 'to me' as a matter of course in abrogating the taking of responsibility for the veracity of what you say?
Dagh: So when you say that "if your view is based on proven truth", it is a premise that makes no sense to me.
Really? So it would make no sense to you if my view was that all bachelors are unmarried and I thought it irrational for anyone to disagree with that?
Dagh: However, if somebody anyhow holds the belief that their view is based on "proven truth", then, yes, it would be irrational for them not to think that people disagreeing with them are wrong.
Yes, but that's obviously not what I meant. If your view is based on proven truth, then it is something that you know with certainty, not something that you believe. Someone believing that their view is based on proven truth (someone who believes they have performed miracles and therefore believes they are Jesus Christ) is a wholly different proposition to someone who knows that their view is based on proven truth (someone who knows that all bachelors are unmarried and therefore knows this guy saying he's a bachelor is saying that he's unmarried).
Dagh: However, my initial statement was that it was immature of them to think that some beliefs are proven Truths and that other opposite beliefs are thus by necessity Wrong (in an absolute sense).
Indeed, your original statement, like it or not, states that it is incorrect of them to think that they are correct and that others are incorrect. Cake and eat it!
Dagh: I do not find it unreasonable to preach a view of the world, and as such I don't mind people preaching their religion or their atheism (I don't mind preaching because there can be many ways to justify to one another that you really should adopt this or that world view). But as soon as an atheist says that I am somehow irrational because I do not share his atheism, I give up on him because he is simply too irrational to have a rational conversation with.
DT: What if an atheist said to you that they do not consider you to be an irrational person, but they do consider the agnostic position on the existence of God to be irrational?
Dagh: I would tell them that I do not understand what they mean when they say that the agnostic position is (absolutely) irrational
Hopefully, now we've established the meaning of words such as understand, meaning, irrational, etc. you can now understand what I mean if I were to say 'I consider the agnostic position on the existence of God to be irrational'. What I would mean is that it is not in accordance with reason (irrational) to believe that God (the common conception of divinity) is a postulation exempt from the light of reason, truth value and proveability.
Dagh: but that I suspect that they are talking nonsense.
So do you now suspect that the explication above is talking nonsense?
Personally, I would only talk about whether a position is rational when it is observed in relation to a belief system.
The opening 'Personally' clause is noted.
Let's say a person has a belief system in which they believe they are the second coming of the biblical Jesus Christ. As such, they hold a position that they can walk on water. In relation to their belief system, the position that they can walk on water is internally consistent and therefore, by your measure, a rational position to hold.
Do you really think that it is a rational position to hold that you can walk on water, simply because that position is held within a belief system framework of thinking that they're the second coming?
Please forgive any sarcasm contained herein, it is good natured. Also, please do not interpret condescension towards your argument as condescesion towards yourself. You're obviously a highly intelligent person, although I don't think your position here to be well considered. Perhaps a little immature, if you like
Final Whistle Crusader and President of The FWA.