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Featured Why atheism entails the possibility of God

Discussion in 'Non-theism' started by siti, Feb 10, 2017.

  1. siti

    siti Well-Known Member

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    Here's an essay I wrote a few years ago. Sorry its a bit long - but feel free to tear my argument to shreds...

    The following partial definitions of atheism and materialism are taken from the American Atheists web pages:

    Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a life-style and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds.


    Materialism declares that the cosmos is devoid of immanent conscious purpose…

    I think the partial definition of materialism quoted is a denial of the very means by which the author has constructed the definition. That, I think, is the fundamental problem of atheistic materialism – it fails to account for the inherent purposiveness and creativeness that its proponents quite deliberately employ in order to formulate and express the principles of their own “mental attitude”.

    We know, from even casual observation, that, “the whole” is often, if not always, “greater than the sum of its parts” – that is holistic emergence. It happens, so obviously as to be almost unremarkable, at every level of reality we have yet observed. A trio of lonely quarks choreograph their dance to form the original ménage-a-trois, in the process creating a new, emergent level of reality with properties that are unpredictable from the observation of quarks in isolation (if that were even possible). The three become one – a proton, and they are quickly joined by a fourth quark, an electron, who never quite makes it into the inner love triangle but is content to waltz around the periphery giving rise to another novel emergence – a hydrogen atom.

    Two of these join together with another more complex atom, oxygen, to form a water molecule and billions of these cooperate to give rise to yet another emergent property not implicit in the underlying level – liquidity. Is the propensity for water (and other molecules) to form liquids under certain conditions an immanent property of the underlying, more fundamental reality, or is it an emergent property that arises from the complexity of the ratios and relationships between the component “particles”?

    We could trace the course of emergence onward and upward through the various levels of reality from atoms and molecules, via cells and organs, to organisms, communities and biospheres. At each higher level, higher level functions and properties emerge that correspond approximately to information (data), communication, signal-processing and eventually consciousness and mind. And we must then ask the same question – is the propensity for complex organisms to develop consciousness and mind an inherent, immanent property of the underlying levels of reality, or does it emerge from the complexity of the system?

    But at this level, the question takes on a more significant import. If we say consciousness and mind are inherent and implicit in the sub-structure of the universe that gave rise to them, we are subscribing to a kind of panpsychism. If we say it is emergent from the complexity of the system, then why stop there? Why insist that the universe that gave birth to human intelligence is, in its entirety, nothing more than the simple sum of the nuts and bolts it is made of when there is abundant evidence to prove that almost everything that it is made of is so much more than the sum of the component parts?

    We could argue forever about terminology – about whether or not it is appropriate to use the word “God” to describe either the fundamentally panpsychical reality or the “more than the sum of its parts” emergent holistic and obviously creative nature of the whole universe – but in a universe that has apparently, to take a strictly atheist/materialist viewpoint, randomly given rise to the emergence of life and mind, who could realistically deny the possibility that God may emerge (if s/he hasn't already)?
     
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  2. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    As a materialist, I have to admit you've grasped some of the weaknesses of atheistic materialism very well. At this point in time materialism is out of favour amongst scientists particularly due to the revolutionary implications of general relativity and quantum mechanics in changing our understanding of the two extremes of time and space: at the cosmological level and at the sub atomic or quantum level.

    The indeterministic behaviour of sub atomic particles constitutes a breakdown in material laws of causality, whereas the ideas such as the big bang suggest non-material phenemeona such as a "begining" of time and space, the existence of unobservable properties such as dark matter, or the existence of multiple dimensions and universes beyond our own, etc represent challanges to the universality of material laws and causality.

    Each of these undermines the confidence with which we can attribute cause and effect. When we then come to studying consciousness, these physical observations and theories undermine the credability of materialism in treating consciousness as having a material or physical source in the brain because of the apparent "randomness" of causality.

    The materialist objection to this view is that the appearence of randomness is not the same as the reality. It can be argued that the reliance on mathematics as a way to measuring reality and the use of probabilities is a preconception that determines the organisation of theories in an indeterministic way. This is a radical departure from mainstream science and a philosophical challange to theoretical physics. Not being a scientist, I am not able to catagorically refute the possibility so my "materialism" is an inconsistent by very pragmatic one. The essence of atheistic materialism is the belief in the uniformity of nature and that nature obeys material laws of causality. The breakdown of these assumptions in response to scientific discoveries means it is not very hard to hold views that the existence of god is impossible without radical departures from mainstream science and its philosophical implications.

    As a materialist, I am comfortable with the belief that an answer to these questions can be found even if we do not know them at present. I give myself that much license in having atheistic-materialism as a belief system but without being informed on the physical science I do not feel able to catagorically refute the authority of science behind such objections.
     
  3. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    That's got to be the most complex and involved definition of atheism I've ever seen -- and it doesn't seem to define atheism at all.
     
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  4. Koldo

    Koldo Incredible Member

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    Doesn't that depend on how you define 'God' ?
    There are certain definitions where 'God' is the creator, the unmoved mover.
     
  5. Blackdog22

    Blackdog22 Well-Known Member

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    Interesting post. No one can say that a God doesn't exist for sure, nor do I know many atheists who would say so. Heck, most people cant even come up with a consistent concept of God, so what that would entail can be drastically different. My main issue with the concept of God/gods is the stance that it would be difficult to imagine us or the universe to have come from nothing, but somehow something drastically more unbelievable could have come from nothing or simply always been. If we can trace where we came from to basic atoms, then certainly that is easier to grasp to have existed/came from nothing than something infinitely more unbelievable or complex yeah?
     
    #5 Blackdog22, Feb 10, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2017
  6. Curious George

    Curious George Veteran Member

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    Let's take this step by step. Do you ever show how atheists deliberately employ an inherent creativeness and purposiveness to formulate and express their own mental attitude? Or am I to assume that this is supposed to be accepted as true by concluding that consciousness is an emergent property?
     
  7. Jumi

    Jumi Well-Known Member

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    American Atheists don't seem representative of atheists nor would I have agreed with their definitions when I was atheist.
     
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  8. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    As so often is the case, the thesis in the OP suffers from lending deity-derived concepts too much significance.

    Concluding that "god might eventually develop" is essentially meaningless, because god is a meaningless concept, which relies on people lending it often mutually exclusive meanings.

    And I must agree that the definiton of atheism borrowed for the OP is... odd.

    There are interesting points in the OP, but they deserve more functional a terminology. Although I suspect that will end up reproducing some ideas about transcendence that I first learned from Spiral Dynamics by way of Ken Wilber.
     
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  9. Stevicus

    Stevicus Veteran Member
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    The universe is a pretty big place, and the possibilities of what could be or might be or how it all began are endless. I would never deny the possibility that there might be a God or some kind of sentient, intelligent, creative force that put it all together. Who can be certain about anything? All we really know is what we can observe through our own senses, and even then, we can't be all that sure about "reality."

    Considering the immense size of the cosmos and comparing that to the size of Earth and the enormous distances between solar systems and galaxies, it does appear that we are indeed quite small when compared to the vastness which is out there.

    I don't think atheism rejects the possibility of a god/gods/goddesses (or even none of the above), but I think it's reasonable to object to other people's supposition or imaginings of what they think is "god" and then trying to impose it on others as "absolute truth."

    Even if one accepts the idea that "someone" or "something" might have created us, it doesn't automatically entail that there's anything we should or need to do about it. It also doesn't assume anything about "us," as humans. That's the other problem with religion, since it assumes that "we" (humans) are special and are at the center of God's universe. But maybe we're really not that special after all.

    It's possible that our existence and our very lives could be nothing more than a bizarre side effect of a failed experiment, and our "universe" could be nothing more than a cosmic garbage can. Maybe we humans were some kind of deadly virus which had to be isolated, which might explain why we're confined to this planet and not able to survive outside of this infinitesimal "bubble" we've been put inside.

    But religions will often tell us that we were created for a purpose, that God has a plan for us, and that God loves us. But how do we know this? Maybe God hates us. Since the universe is so vast, if God did have a purpose in creating it, He might have isolated us and confined us to this planet so that we don't screw up the rest of it.
     
  10. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Abnormal before it was fashionable
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    It was a difficult read for me.
    But I infer.....
    We can't prove there is or isn't a god or gods.
    So there could be a god or gods.
     
  11. Satans_Serrated_Edge

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    Firstly, you picked the most loaded definitions you could from a source with a very specific agenda. I reject both of them.

    Secondly, the existence of synergy and emergence is a pretty good argument in and of itself for life not needing a god.

    Third, if the universe gave rise to a god, and not vice versa, then it's no god at all.
     
  12. Windwalker

    Windwalker Veteran Member
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    These particular definitions are not all that great. What they are defining as atheism is actually the definition of Logical Positivism. I think the person is a bit confused here, as many who identify as atheist may not necessarily subscribe to logical positivism and still be considered an atheist.

    The same holds true for his definition of materialism he goes into beyond the first half-sentence you quote. The rest of what he defines as materialism is actually just humanism in general. If to him both of these reflect his view of himself and other atheists like him, then he should say something to the effect that "many atheists subscribe to logical positivism and humanism," without trying to define these things themselves as atheism, which they are not. He should also recognize that other atheists do not necessarily subscribe to those.

    I think atheism fundamentally should be open to knowledge beyond itself, which includes reimagining the nature of reality beyond simple scientistic and logical positivist philosophies. I think to me ultimately it leads to a reimagining of what "God" or Reality or whatever one wishes to call the whole, is beyond simplistic theistic models of a supernatural being, or necessarily reductionistic philosophical materialism, or even emergentism for that matter. It allows a deconstruction of mythology firstly, but it should also continue to deconstruct its own mythologies if being true to itself as the open pursuit of knowledge.
     
    #12 Windwalker, Feb 10, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2017
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  13. Nous

    Nous Well-Known Member
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    I think most everyone (so far) has missed this part your thesis or hypothesis. It's the first part (and maybe your final paragraph) that I cut out that has grabbed most everyone's attention. That's unfortunate.

    As you apparently know, a number of philosophers (and Process Theologians) have articulated versions of your panpsychist thesis here. I think this thesis is kind of hard to deny when one begins with the basic panpsychist assumption.
     
  14. Nous

    Nous Well-Known Member
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    Laika, I think you must be about the only person in the world who can or is willing to say what you've said in these two sentences after beginning with "As a materialist . . ." (Why are you practically unique in this way? That is, how did you get to be practically unique in this way?)

    I just wish to add one thing. You use the term "material laws of causality" as though it's unproblematic. Matter is, of course, any object that has mass and volume. The idea that all effects are caused by the impacting of objects that have mass and volume was refuted even before the development of general and special relativity and QM. Energy, which is a quantity, and which no one has ever seen or touched, has been an integral part of the theories of physics since at least the mid-19th century. The law of the conservation of energy was proven by theorem prior to the advent of QM (see Noether's Theorem). In a way, the thesis of classical materialism died with Newton.
     
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  15. Guy Threepwood

    Guy Threepwood Mighty Pirate

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    I think it was a typo- it was supposed to read

    Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly assumes the supremacy of one's own intellectual superiority and aims at establishing a life-style and ethical outlook regardless of reason, and reliant on arbitrary assumptions of there being no ultimate purpose to anything anyway

    [​IMG]:)
     
  16. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Projecting yourself much?
     
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  17. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    Like the OP's definition, this one doesn't even mention God. How can a definition of atheism not include mention of a deity?
    Atheism is not an attitude, belief, system of ethics or lifestyle.
     
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  18. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Shrugs. I tried.

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    Okay. I'm bored. My short answer: No, atheist doesn't entail the possibility of god. Atheism says belief god does not exist. Any other definition is not atheism.

    Atheism isn't a mental attitude. It's strict disbelief in the existence of god. Someone's lifestyle, cultural outlook, worldview, and religion has nothing to do with it.

    I'm not a materialist, but here is the definition of the word " a preoccupation with or stress upon material rather than intellectual or spiritual things <materialism, hedonism, and the overriding quest for personal gratification" Among other definitions Merriam herself quotes.

    In other words, atheism materialism denies conscious purpose of life? Conscious purpose is another word for god? Atheism doesn't deny. It doesn't believe. Denial is not in the atheist definition. Materialism, I have no clue but going by the dictionary, atheism and materialism are not synonyms.

    The whole isn't "greater" than it's parts. The whole is a combination of parts. Yes, things come together to make a whole but how does that entail the possibility of god?

    Um.

    Conscious and mind are not a sub-structure of the universe. Conscious and mind is a human trait not one of the universe. The universe isn't a god.

    Yes, everything is the sum of it's parts (not greater or lesser, just sum) but how does that entail the possibility of god?

    It hasn't. God is a human concept. God is an experience, cultural idea, and definition made by humans. God isn't a "sum" of it's parts. Life is what it is. It isn't god.

    Atheism says disbelief in god
    Materialism says things exist without the spiritual

    The "sum of individual parts" is not god and isn't in the definition in any one of these words.

    So how can disbelief in god and the philosophy of things existing without a spiritual cause entail the possibility of god? (Isn't that an oxymoron or contradicting statement?)
     
  19. Guy Threepwood

    Guy Threepwood Mighty Pirate

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    They believe in a specific type of creation story for the universe and life, driven by unguided, automated, processes- with a whole slew of implications for ethics, lifestyle etc.

    How would you define this belief?
     
  20. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    No, it's not even that. The only essential, definitive feature is lack of belief. Adding anything more is extraneous.
    True, there are atheists who believe that god definitely does not exist, and there are atheists with various scientific or ethical convictions, but these are not essential features. All it takes is lack of belief. All the rest is extraneous.

    How does one relate to the other?[/quote][/QUOTE]
     
    #20 Valjean, Feb 10, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2017
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