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And now for the watchmaker...

Scraff asserted that Paley's watch was long ago refuted as a basis for believing there needs to be a designer. However, the principle holds in the absence of a natural explanation, so until the past century or so, it would have been challenging for the aspiring atheist to defend their belief.

The Watchmaker Argument: COMPLEXITY IMPLIES THE EXISTENCE OF AN INTELLIGENT DESIGNER

The analogy is that if a watch exists, one might reasonably suppose that a watchmaker exists who constructed it, rather than it simply existing by chance. The problem with the analogy (when applied to God) is that we already know watchmakers exist. Not so with God. Suppose a watch was found on some remote planet where no human or human artifact could ever have gone. We know that the planet never supported life and that no other lifeform has ever visited the planet. Then we have two explanations:

  • The watch came into existence spontaneously.

  • A watchmaker came into existence spontaneously and made the watch.

Neither is at all likely, so there is probably some other explanation. But if we must choose, the second is certainly less likely than the first, since a watchmaker is much more complex than a watch.

But what the hell, let's ignore that and assume the watchmaker argument is valid. Where does it lead? There is complexity in our universe, so there must exist an intelligent god who created it. An intelligent god has complexity, so there must exist another even more intelligent god who created him or her. That god has even more complexity, so must have been created by a still more intelligent god. And so on. The whole infinite hierarchy of gods has complexity and therefore must have been created by a really quite impressive god, et cetera, et cetera. So if we assume the watchmaker argument to be valid, it cannot support the idea of a single god, only a cascading hierarchy of gods.

In a broader sense, let's just ask the question "Why do things exist?" and consider if a possible answer might be "Because God created them".

There are two problems with that answer:

1) It does not answer the question

If God created the universe, God must therefore fall within the category of "things that exist", and was therefore created by God, which makes no sense at all. A typical approach taken by theists is to reduce the question to "why does the universe exist" and leave God out of it (let's not worry about where God came from). That's obviously a cop-out. Also bear in mind that our "universe" must at least include all that we can interact with, so if God can affect our world in any way it's a bit artificial trying to draw a line between that which we seek to explain and that which we would rather ignore.

2) It provides no explanation anyway

This is the problem I explained above, with the watch on another planet. The existence of God leaves more to be explained than the existence of the universe without God, since God has complexity and intelligence, without any mechanism such as natural selection to explain how that happened. An explanation of complexity that relies on greater unexplained complexity is no explanation at all.

Please note that natural selection or any other natural explanation is not required to understand any of these arguments. The presence of an alternative hypothesis is not needed to demonstrate the absurdity of the God hypothesis. Although of course perfectly good alternative explanations do exist.

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ugh I had a huge post and I accidently quit the program! Basically the top part of it was apologizing to Duh Puck about Scraff's harshness in his most recent post. He's just trying to get a point across- we all are. And the rest was agreeing with Octopuppy and building on what he was saying, and talking about collective intelligence and soul and stuff, but yeah. Maybe I'll find a nice link to post that says what I was saying or something, cuz I don't feel like retyping it, lol

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I don't have much time to respond at the moment, but wow, I'm really surprised that Octopuppy and Scraff so vehemently reject the notion that atheism is a belief. I'm not sure why. It's not like I am unable to grasp this concept because, I, like all theists, am a bloomin' idiot, and it's not like it's a complex point you're trying to make. I just think it's a completely unnecessary point, arising from a disdain of the type of thinking associated with theism. On that basis, I can understand rejecting terms like "dogma" or "religion", but "belief"?

When you say "I do not believe that it is necessary or helpful to posit a God in order to explain our universe," you are implicitly stating "I believe that there are naturalistic explanations for our universe." Without knowing a thing about those natural explanations, you have a belief. Of course, in order to substantiate your belief, you are interested in examining the natural processes that support it, so as I stated, almost every atheist is familiar with, and agrees with, the scientific explanations for the origin of life and the rest of the universe. This adds to your belief. You are not an atheist because you believe in the common origin of life, but you have a belief in common origin which is almost required by your absence of a belief in God. I really don't see how you can argue against that, and so far you haven't.

To quote Shepherd Book: "When I talk about belief, why do you always assume I'm talking about God?"

Of course there's much more to respond to, but I gotta run ...

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Ok, to move the discussion along, I'd like to add a proviso to my previous statement ...

While I believe my assertion of an implicit belief is true, this is not directly denoted by the word "atheism", which is only an explicit statement of non-belief. Therefore, the statement "atheism is a belief" is, in the strictest sense, not true. It would be correct, however, to say that "an atheist has belief." I think this is purely semantics, and doesn't alter the point I was making, but if it will help avoid prolonged and frivolous argument, fine.

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I don't have much time to respond at the moment, but wow, I'm really surprised that Octopuppy and Scraff so vehemently reject the notion that atheism is a belief. I'm not sure why.

Because as has been stated many times in this thread, it's a lack of a belief. Just like a-SantaClausism is not a belief.

I just think it's a completely unnecessary point, arising from a disdain of the type of thinking associated with theism.

Nice try. You're the one who found it necessary to bring up and it arises from trying to associate rational non-superstitious belief with the notion that sky fairies exist.

When you say "I do not believe that it is necessary or helpful to posit a God in order to explain our universe," you are implicitly stating "I believe that there are naturalistic explanations for our universe."

No you are not, you could think Darth vader created the universe.

Without knowing a thing about those natural explanations, you have a belief. Of course, in order to substantiate your belief, you are interested in examining the natural processes that support it, so as I stated, almost every atheist is familiar with, and agrees with, the scientific explanations for the origin of life and the rest of the universe. This adds to your belief.

It can add to you belief in evolution, but not your belief in atheism, because atheism on it own does not say what your world view is. Every atheist I know does not "not believe in gods" a little more when they learn about how things work. They don't have a belief in gods because they don't have the evidence for them. Also, I know many theists that believe God set the ball rolling but everything that happens, e.g. evolution, lightning, etc. happens through scientifically explainable means. Likewise, the more they learn about evolution, etc., their theism is not weakened.

You are not an atheist because you believe in the common origin of life, but you have a belief in common origin which is almost required by your absence of a belief in God. I really don't see how you can argue against that, and so far you haven't.

No you are an atheist because you lack a belief in a god. Atheism is a negative.

While I believe my assertion of an implicit belief is true, this is not directly denoted by the word "atheism", which is only an explicit statement of non-belief. Therefore, the statement "atheism is a belief" is, in the strictest sense, not true. It would be correct, however, to say that "an atheist has belief."

I see, you took it back...but not really.

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No you are not, you could think Darth vader created the universe.

...

I see, you took it back...but not really.

You're right. I didn't really take it back. Like I said, it's purely semantics, and you seem to disagree with the dictionary:

belief

1. something believed; an opinion or conviction

atheism

1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.

If you don't believe in something, you believe that it does not exist. Why are you arguing against this? If Darth Vader created the universe, he would be a god, so in the case of non-belief in God, there is an additional implicit belief in naturalism, but I already conceded that's not denoted by the word "atheism". Your point is hollow, and I'm really not sure what value there is in trying to prove it. It doesn't affect anything else we were discussing.

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And now for the watchmaker...

Suppose a watch was found on some remote planet where no human or human artifact could ever have gone. We know that the planet never supported life and that no other lifeform has ever visited the planet. Then we have two explanations:

  • The watch came into existence spontaneously.
  • A watchmaker came into existence spontaneously and made the watch.

Neither is at all likely, so there is probably some other explanation. But if we must choose, the second is certainly less likely than the first, since a watchmaker is much more complex than a watch.

But what the hell, let's ignore that and assume the watchmaker argument is valid. Where does it lead? There is complexity in our universe, so there must exist an intelligent god who created it. An intelligent god has complexity, so there must exist another even more intelligent god who created him or her. That god has even more complexity, so must have been created by a still more intelligent god. And so on. The whole infinite hierarchy of gods has complexity and therefore must have been created by a really quite impressive god, et cetera, et cetera. So if we assume the watchmaker argument to be valid, it cannot support the idea of a single god, only a cascading hierarchy of gods.

In a broader sense, let's just ask the question "Why do things exist?" and consider if a possible answer might be "Because God created them".

There are two problems with that answer:

1) It does not answer the question

If God created the universe, God must therefore fall within the category of "things that exist", and was therefore created by God, which makes no sense at all. A typical approach taken by theists is to reduce the question to "why does the universe exist" and leave God out of it (let's not worry about where God came from). That's obviously a cop-out. Also bear in mind that our "universe" must at least include all that we can interact with, so if God can affect our world in any way it's a bit artificial trying to draw a line between that which we seek to explain and that which we would rather ignore.

2) It provides no explanation anyway

This is the problem I explained above, with the watch on another planet. The existence of God leaves more to be explained than the existence of the universe without God, since God has complexity and intelligence, without any mechanism such as natural selection to explain how that happened. An explanation of complexity that relies on greater unexplained complexity is no explanation at all.

Yes, this is the standard line of reasoning I expect in response to the Watchmaker analogy. It seems like a nice and simple way to avoid the discussion altogether. Let me try to explain why I think it's flawed ...

First of all, let me clarify that when I refer to the "analogy", I am not referring specifically to Paley's 200-year old argument, but rather to an updated version which includes natural processes as a possible explanation. While natural selection may or may not be sufficient to explain the complexity in living things, I think it's self-evident that we don't accept an unidentified "natural process" as an acceptable explanation for the arrival of a god or other supernatural forces, since these are by definition not natural.

So ... you imply that the analogy has no merit in limited usage if it fails in any instance. You say 'if it can be shown that the analogy must have an exception, then the analogy is false and not useful for any explanation.' This is similar to saying that because quantum mechanics demonstrate an exception to Newtonian physics, we might as well throw classical physics out the window, even though we know it works in the great majority of cases. Therefore, I would assert that the analogy is perfectly rational if you add the restriction that it only applies to the natural world. Since God is inherently supernatural, it would fail when applied to him.

This is why, in a previous post, I stated "For any complex function having a known origin which involves the interaction of many parts to accomplish a specific purpose, we recognize that there must be an intelligence behind it." I was probably a little too vague in using the expression "known origin," since most naturalists would consider the origin of life to be "known," and would thus take the statement to be false. Perhaps I should have substituted "an observed origin" instead. My point was, that in everyday usage, the watchmaker analogy holds up perfectly fine, which is why it's so intuitive. Of course, since many theists use it as a large blunt weapon against the evil of naturalism, I can understand why you are quick to attack it.

Take your example: the watch found on a remote planet you know has never been visited by life.

According to the analogy, it can't be the first possibility you suggest (spontaneous generation), since the watch would require either a designer or a natural process to explain it. According to a naturalist, who does not accept the analogy, it still can't be the first possibility, for the same reason: it could not be explained by natural processes.

The second possibility satisfies the restricted analogy (i.e., complexity in the natural world requires a designer), and the theist thus has an explanation: God made it and put it there. What explanation does the atheist provide? I can only imagine that you would find this scenario implausible, which kinda makes it seem like a weak illustration for making your point. Can you come up with a better one?

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While natural selection may or may not be sufficient to explain the complexity in living things, I think it's self-evident that we don't accept an unidentified "natural process" as an acceptable explanation for the arrival of a god or other supernatural forces, since these are by definition not natural.
"We" being Christians I presume. So you don't have an explanation for the arrival of god? Is the term "supernatural" supposed to make that flaw in your logic any more accceptable? Think about the term "supernatural". What does it actually mean?

Proposed definition: "things I don't want to try to rationalise, but would rather make assumptions about"

When you talk about "natural process", are you not just talking about any process? The natural world is the world that exists (though often taken to exclude artificial creations). If God exists, God is natural. Why not? Why aren't we allowed to apply rationality to God?

Nonsensical religious thinking typically accepts rationality insofar as it supports your desired conclusion, otherwise abandoning it and saying that God is exempt from any reasoning which does not work in his favour. I'm sure you can do better.

This is why, in a previous post, I stated "For any complex function having a known origin which involves the interaction of many parts to accomplish a specific purpose, we recognize that there must be an intelligence behind it." I was probably a little too vague in using the expression "known origin," since most naturalists would consider the origin of life to be "known," and would thus take the statement to be false. Perhaps I should have substituted "an observed origin" instead. My point was, that in everyday usage, the watchmaker analogy holds up perfectly fine, which is why it's so intuitive.
Like all pro-theist arguments that I have ever seen, it's intuitiveness is it's only merit. If you cannot distinguish between intuition and logic your reasoning is always prone to self-deception. But your reference to a specific purpose reminds me of another problem with the watchmaker analogy.

A watch exists for a purpose: to tell the time. It's complexity exists for that reason. Individual humans, or the human race, or life on earth, or the universe as a whole, exhibit no signs of purpose (although purpose is a tacit assumption often made by the religious, who are then left wondering what the purpose might be). A better analogy would be to use something which has complexity but no overall purpose, like a snowflake:

"The existence of a snowflake implies the existence of a snowflake-maker"

Thus proving the existence of Jack Frost.

You could point to parts of an organism like an eye and say "the purpose of an eye is to see". But the function is localised to the organism (and a necessary by-product of complexity) and there is no evidence of there being an overall higher purpose served. Purpose can also be detected at the level of organisms working together to serve a common goal, but these goals are also localised to fulfilling short term requirements. If God created life for a purpose, life as a whole would work toward this purpose. There is no evidence of any such purpose.

So ... you imply that the analogy has no merit in limited usage if it fails in any instance.
Take your example: the watch found on a remote planet you know has never been visited by life.

According to the analogy, it can't be the first possibility you suggest (spontaneous generation), since the watch would require either a designer or a natural process to explain it. According to a naturalist, who does not accept the analogy, it still can't be the first possibility, for the same reason: it could not be explained by natural processes.

The second possibility satisfies the restricted analogy (i.e., complexity in the natural world requires a designer), and the theist thus has an explanation: God made it and put it there. What explanation does the atheist provide?

I think I need to make this clearer. In the watchmaker analogy the watchmaker is a person. When we see a watch in a jewellery store, we don't say it was made by God. We naturally think a person made it. A watchmaker. This person is an analogy for God as the watch is an analogy for the universe, or life, or whatever you want. The analogy says that the existence of a watch implies that a person made it. What I was pointing out is that this deduction depends on the abundance of people who are available to make watches. A watch does not prove the existence of a person where otherwise we would have no reason to think they exist. Hence the watch on a remote planet. It is unlikely that a watch should come into existence spontaneously but far more unlikely that a person would. Similarly, it may seem intuitively unlikely that our world should just happen to exist without having been designed (though on closer examination there is no reason to think so), but it is far more unlikely that God should just happen to exist and have intelligence without any causal process. Which is one of the reasons why the watchmaker argument doesn't work. Is that any clearer?

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I strongly recommend that everyone click on this link and read it. It has good arguments!

By the way, unreality, I did read the whole thing and thought is was well written. I have bookmarked it and will view it as a useful and straightforward summation of atheist thinking (whew! good thing I caught myself. I almost said atheist belief). At some point, when I'm not busy arguing with scraff and octopuppy, I'd like to take on a few of the points in it. Shoot, my list of stuff to do is growing much faster than I have time for. :o

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You're right. I didn't really take it back. Like I said, it's purely semantics, and you seem to disagree with the dictionary:

belief

1. something believed; an opinion or conviction

atheism

1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.

If you don't believe in something, you believe that it does not exist. Why are you arguing against this?

Because it's wrong.

Your dictionary seems to be a bit selective in its definitions. It appears to have omitted the relevant part:

atheism

1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.

2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

Repeating my previous statements:

I may not speak for all atheists but as far as I'm concerned atheism is not a belief, but an absence of belief. It is simply a state of being unconvinced by the hypotheses which underlie religion. As such the principle or idea it is based on is the necessity to question things and not accept belief without evidence.

I'm not sure you grasp what I meant about atheism not being a belief. It's like the difference between these two statements:

1. "I believe that God does not exist"

2. "I do not believe in the existence of God"

The first is a statement of belief, and a point of view I do not support. The second is a statement of an absence of belief, and this is my position. The first statement does not allow for the possible existence of God. The second does. I think that the existence of God is possible. It's just that there appears to be no evidence for it and therefore no reason to believe it is true. The only assertion I am making is that, having looked for it, I have encountered no evidence for God. I'm always happy to change my point of view in the light of new evidence so if you can provide any I'd love to hear it.

I think Scraff has been similarly clear and shares a similar position. I have explained the nature of my atheism and reasons why that is more than semantics. How is any of that not clear?

Your point is hollow, and I'm really not sure what value there is in trying to prove it. It doesn't affect anything else we were discussing.
It's about being correct. I do not wish to support a logically unsubstantiated viewpoint. The definition of atheist you have attempted to foist on us has a flaw in its logic. Therefore I do not support it.

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To elaborate on my last post, the reason these things matter is because atheism is based on rationality. When you base a viewpoint on rationality it is important to distinguish between what you know to be true and what is just assumption.

To assert that God does not exist is assumption. Nobody can prove this since God is often claimed to be unobservable.

I cannot expect other people to recognise their own assumptions if I do not recognise my own. So I will not make or support such an assertion. I will not even make the assertion that God's existence cannot be proven. Only that the God hypothesis is absurd, that no proof or reliable evidence exists that I am aware of, that I will not ignore such evidence should it ever be presented, and that therefore in my opinion there is no reason to believe that God exists.

Clarity matters.

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I think Scraff has been similarly clear and shares a similar position. I have explained the nature of my atheism and reasons why that is more than semantics. How is any of that not clear?

...

It's about being correct. I do not wish to support a logically unsubstantiated viewpoint. The definition of atheist you have attempted to foist on us has a flaw in its logic. Therefore I do not support it.

Yes, you've been very clear. I understood you the first time, and I understood you even better the second time, so, for the sake of clarification, I will word it differently yet again ...

When you say "I do not believe that it is necessary or helpful to posit a God in order to explain our universe," you are implicitly stating "I believe that there is insufficient evidence to support belief in God." And, as I've repeatedly stated, and yet nobody has successfully argued (the Darth Vader line doesn't work, as I've shown), this also implicitly states "I believe there are naturalistic explanations for our universe."

There's certainly no question that both you and Scraff believe these implied statements. I'm therefore not 'foisting' some belief on you that you don't have, and therefore I can't see how that alters the discussion in any way. I'm sorry if my use of the dictionary definition of atheism does not correspond to yours, but arguments like this absolutely are semantics, and I encourage you to look up the word before you once again say it's not.

Can we move on to the better stuff? I'm sure you find debating the watchmaker analogy much more interesting. I know I do.

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To elaborate on my last post, the reason these things matter is because atheism is based on rationality. When you base a viewpoint on rationality it is important to distinguish between what you know to be true and what is just assumption.

To assert that God does not exist is assumption. Nobody can prove this since God is often claimed to be unobservable.

I cannot expect other people to recognise their own assumptions if I do not recognise my own. So I will not make or support such an assertion. I will not even make the assertion that God's existence cannot be proven. Only that the God hypothesis is absurd, that no proof or reliable evidence exists that I am aware of, that I will not ignore such evidence should it ever be presented, and that therefore in my opinion there is no reason to believe that God exists.

Clarity matters.

That was well said. It's what I had already understood, but you put it very clearly. Thanks. Now let's move on ...

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When you say "I do not believe that it is necessary or helpful to posit a God in order to explain our universe," you are implicitly stating "I believe that there is insufficient evidence to support belief in God."... this also implicitly states "I believe there are naturalistic explanations for our universe."
Almost. I do believe that there are naturalistic explanations for our universe, but accept that this depends on the assumption that God does not exist, which I recognise as an assumption (though a pretty safe one). So it is not directly implied by my atheist position, but I am splitting hairs now.

Can we move on to the better stuff? I'm sure you find debating the watchmaker analogy much more interesting. I know I do.

Quite. I'm getting bored of this. One last thing. I've laboured the point, partly because of the ambiguity of the word "belief":

1. something believed; an opinion or conviction: a belief that the earth is flat.

2. confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof: a statement unworthy of belief.

3. confidence; faith; trust: a child's belief in his parents.

4. a religious tenet or tenets; religious creed or faith: the Christian belief.

Definitions 2 and 4 characterise religious belief and are something I want to distance myself from, as it would suggest that atheism is an equivalent alternative position (as in, one belief is as good as another), a common mistaken point of view which I must refute.

Enough said. Consider it dropped.

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You're right. I didn't really take it back. Like I said, it's purely semantics, and you seem to disagree with the dictionary:

belief

1. something believed; an opinion or conviction

atheism

1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.

Your dishonesty is unbelievably transparent. When cherry picking a definition for "dogma", you provided both the first and second definition from dictionary.com and decided you liked the second one (but you actually had to go to the second entry for "dogma" because none of the definitions from the first entry suited your purpose). When going back to dictionary.com for the definition for "atheism", you purposely omitted providing the second definition as a blatant attempt to pretend it doesn't exist because it wouldn't back up your attempt at labeling atheism as a "belief". Sad.

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The second possibility satisfies the restricted analogy (i.e., complexity in the natural world requires a designer), and the theist thus has an explanation: God made it and put it there. What explanation does the atheist provide?

Most atheists aren't experts in evolution or science in general. I don't know why you're under the assumption that the theist's explanation of "God did it" has more weight if an atheist's answer is "I don't know" and why a made-up answer is better then no answer at all. "God did it" is no more an explanation for anything than claiming that the Sun goes across the sky because it's being pulled by a chariot. Explanations based on no evidence and requiring magic are worthless.

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Your dishonesty is unbelievably transparent. When cherry picking a definition for "dogma", you provided both the first and second definition from dictionary.com and decided you liked the second one (but you actually had to go to the second entry for "dogma" because none of the definitions from the first entry suited your purpose). When going back to dictionary.com for the definition for "atheism", you purposely omitted providing the second definition as a blatant attempt to pretend it doesn't exist because it wouldn't back up your attempt at labeling atheism as a "belief". Sad.

Thanks for pointing that out. One thing I'm gradually coming to appreciate is that it's good to argue against someone who is hostile, insulting, and attacks the character of his opponent. It helps me to see that such sentiments are completely worthless to the discussion, doing nothing to strengthen any actual point you might have been making. And it helps me to develop a thick skin so that such attacks don't make me upset. Thanks for your assistance in this regard.

First of all, I'm not sure how "cherry-picking" definitions is dishonest. I chose to display the definitions that were the clearest for making my point. Let's break them down:

dogma - The entry I skipped had the same definitions as the one I posted, but the non-church definition was #4 instead of #2, so I chose the entry that conveniently put the contrasting definitions at 1 and 2. I was merely making the point that the word had more that one use, and that we were simply referring to different definitions. You see, prior to looking up the word, I didn't realize that it's primary usage was so directly connected to church teaching, which is why, upon learning this, I was willing to acknowledge our difference was purely semantics, and there was therefore nothing to argue. Atheism is obviously not "1. a system of principles or tenets, as of a church," but it certainly is "4. a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle." (oh look! I used that first entry that I had dishonestly skipped! oddly enough, it made the point much better.)

atheism - The difference here is that you were asserting that my statement was incorrect. You didn't acknowledge that atheism may be a belief. I only had to cite one definition, conveniently the first one, to disprove this. In any case, I had already stated that it was a matter of semantics, which, according to the third definition of the first entry from dictionary.com (cherry-picked for clarity) is "the meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word, sign, sentence, etc," but both you and Octopuppy insisted that it was not just semantics, and that I accept your statement that atheism is not a belief.

I understand that you were trying to present a logical argument that you don't explicitly believe God does not exist, which means you are, by definition, a "weak atheist." For that reason, I conceded that the term "atheism" does not explicitly imply belief that God does not exist. This is the basis on which the article unreality linked to can make the statement:

Does atheism have any positive content?

Not as such, no. Atheism is the lack of belief, not a belief.

But my point was that such an explicit, negative definition, a statement of disbelief rather than belief, implicitly results in some form of belief. Hence, later, on the same page, it states ...

Everybody believes in something! Atheism is a religion too!

... Atheists have belief in good, tested theories, but we do not possess religious faith involving gods. Atheism is no religion, but simply an absence of belief in silly deities.

The first part of the assertion he is arguing against is true. Everybody does believe in something. This doesn't make that belief religious, and he acknowledges that atheists have belief, which is exactly the same point I made when I was 'not really taking back' my statement.

Basically, there were two different points being made as we danced around each other's arguments. You were saying that atheism is not belief in the sense that it does not insist that there isn't a God (which, incidentally, would make strong atheism a belief), and I was saying that atheism is a belief in the sense that not believing in the existence of deities implies belief in alternative explanations, for the reason that you must have belief. In hindsight, I will admit that this logic, while true in practice, is lacking. The former cannot directly be surmised from the latter, and thus I am left with the conclusion that weak atheism is simply not belief. And hopefully you are left with the conclusion that atheists, yourself included, do in fact have the beliefs that I claim are implied by atheism.

And please don't call me dishonest again unless you know I'm actually lying. I may make untrue statements, I may bias what I say in favor of my thinking, but I will never intentionally be dishonest.

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How bout we drop the whole "belief" thing. I'm sick of watching Scraff insult Duh Puck, whose just trying to understand, and then because Scraff insults him, Duh Puck retaliates back trying to prove a tiny insignificant point about the definition of the word "belief". Duh Puck, sorry man, but it's not up to you what atheists believe or think. We are the ones who decide for ourselves. When we say "we don't believe in a God", we mean exactly that. End of story. So please, please, PLEASE drop this "meaning of the word 'belief'" arguement, it's annoying as hell. How bout we get onto points that actually matter (like the watchmaker analogy)

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Most atheists aren't experts in evolution or science in general. I don't know why you're under the assumption that the theist's explanation of "God did it" has more weight if an atheist's answer is "I don't know" and why a made-up answer is better then no answer at all. "God did it" is no more an explanation for anything than claiming that the Sun goes across the sky because it's being pulled by a chariot. Explanations based on no evidence and requiring magic are worthless.

I'm curious. The gist of your argument for atheism not being belief was that you don't think there's reason to believe in God, but you aren't saying he doesn't exist. Ok, I can accept that. So what if he did exist, but simply hadn't provided evidence of his existence that you found convincing? Then, if there was some phenomenon that was a direct result of his supernatural action, how would you explain it? After all, you allow for that possibility, but you're just not convinced of it.

However, since I am convinced that God exists, the answer of "God did it" has weight to me. That doesn't mean I'm not interested in how it was done. It doesn't make me any less curious about the observable nature of things. It doesn't give me the logical basis to infer purposeful design unnecessarily. But at the end of the day, if I do believe in God, then yes, "God did it" is meaningful to me. Contrary to your repeated assertions, I'm pretty sure that simplistic line of reasoning doesn't make me an idiot. It's perfectly logical if I believe there's sufficient evidence to support belief in God, or even the possibility of belief in God. Naturally, that evidence is in debate, but it's not nearly as clear cut as you like to make it.

You, however, reject such reasoning out of hand as irrational, even stupid. So, in the event that God did exist, and did something that you could observe, how would you explain it?

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I have been reading through several of the posts here and find it an interesting read. Religion and politics always seems to lead to heated discussions because both topics are things most of us are passionate about. But, in reading this, a question came to my mind that I honestly had not considered before. By the way, I am a believer, so please consider this a sincere question. For those that do not believe in a supreme being, a God, a god, et al. Does an atheist believe in angels or devils? I am curious. For whatever reason, that question had never crossed my mind before. Usually in discussions like this it is all about the Supreme being.

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How bout we drop the whole "belief" thing. I'm sick of watching Scraff insult Duh Puck, whose just trying to understand, and then because Scraff insults him, Duh Puck retaliates back trying to prove a tiny insignificant point about the definition of the word "belief". Duh Puck, sorry man, but it's not up to you what atheists believe or think. We are the ones who decide for ourselves. When we say "we don't believe in a God", we mean exactly that. End of story. So please, please, PLEASE drop this "meaning of the word 'belief'" arguement, it's annoying as hell. How bout we get onto points that actually matter (like the watchmaker analogy)

You're right, but it's really very hard not to defend an attack. I intentionally left a couple of Scraff's posts unanswered and it irritated me, because it looks like I don't have an answer. Maybe it's just a pride thing.

In any case, perhaps it would be helpful to understand why I'm participating in these discussions. I'm not here just to learn what atheists believe. I'm here to challenge the beliefs of all of us, myself included. Atheists often seem to think that they are the only ones who manifest rational thought, but since I believe that rational thought factors heavily into my belief in God, I want to test it out. I want to make sure my own beliefs stand up to scrutiny, adjusting as needed, and I want to point out to others (both atheists and theists, although they seem to be in short supply) where I think their rationale is lacking. I never felt it was up to me to tell atheists what they think; I just felt their statement was misleading, although in hindsight I've conceded it is technically accurate. As pointless and annoying as that "belief" discussion was, I think it did result in some useful clarifications, and I'd be glad to move on. I'll probably just have to ignore Scraff's inevitable response. ;)

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Atheism is obviously not "1. a system of principles or tenets, as of a church," but it certainly is "4. a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle." (oh look! I used that first entry that I had dishonestly skipped! oddly enough, it made the point much better.)

Are you for real? Atheism IS NOT "a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle". IT'S A LACK OF BELIEF IN GODS!

And please don't call me dishonest again unless you know I'm actually lying. I may make untrue statements, I may bias what I say in favor of my thinking, but I will never intentionally be dishonest.

I'll call it like I see it. I don't think for a second you excluded the second definition for any other reason but to be deceitful or what you just pulled above was done in honesty. You knew exactly why calling atheism dogma or a belief was wrong.

I'm curious. The gist of your argument for atheism not being belief was that you don't think there's reason to believe in God, but you aren't saying he doesn't exist. Ok, I can accept that. So what if he did exist, but simply hadn't provided evidence of his existence that you found convincing? Then, if there was some phenomenon that was a direct result of his supernatural action, how would you explain it? After all, you allow for that possibility, but you're just not convinced of it.

...

You, however, reject such reasoning out of hand as irrational, even stupid. So, in the event that God did exist, and did something that you could observe, how would you explain it?

Why should I be able to explain it? If my cat is suddenly able to talk and perform magic, I'm supposed to have an explanation?

Atheists often seem to think that they are the only ones who manifest rational thought, but since I believe that rational thought factors heavily into my belief in God, I want to test it out. I want to make sure my own beliefs stand up to scrutiny, adjusting as needed, and I want to point out to others (both atheists and theists, although they seem to be in short supply) where I think their rationale is lacking.

I don't see where you're doing that. Why don't you just tell us what your evidence for a god existing is already instead of skirting around the issue page after page. You know why we stand where we do, it's about time we understand your reason(s).

BTW, did you adjust your beliefs regarding macro-evolution after the thread you started asking for proof of it which was answered to the fullest degree or are you still a "skeptic"?

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Come on Scraff, enough is enough. Your logic is sound, but your confrontational approach isn't helping. The more exasperation you display and the more intensity you use to drive home the point, the more you characterise yourself as an opponent for theists. Regarding you as an opponent encourages them to take an entrenched point of view and not consider the full logic of your arguments. Or mine for that matter. Where rationality fails them they will fall back on whatever else is at hand, because defending one's belief and religion becomes a matter of pride, principle and emotional attachment. It becomes a contest. You may win, but you will still lose. Theists often look for some sort of silver bullet to defend their beliefs against atheist logic, unaware that it is already in their possession: irrationality. A rational argument cannot win over an irrational mind. But in Duh Puck we have a theist who embraces rationality in principle at least. You cannot expect him to apply it thoroughly, he wouldn't be a theist if he did. The combination of rationality and theism is an inherently unstable condition. Neither can be absolute. Unstable conditions need careful handling. You can't just expect Duh Puck to accept what you say, even if you are right.

In any case, perhaps it would be helpful to understand why I'm participating in these discussions. I'm not here just to learn what atheists believe. I'm here to challenge the beliefs of all of us, myself included. Atheists often seem to think that they are the only ones who manifest rational thought, but since I believe that rational thought factors heavily into my belief in God, I want to test it out. I want to make sure my own beliefs stand up to scrutiny, adjusting as needed, and I want to point out to others (both atheists and theists, although they seem to be in short supply) where I think their rationale is lacking.

This is all laudable. Really. And uncommon. I'm in danger of sounding patronising here but I genuinely respect your desire for truth.

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I have been reading through several of the posts here and find it an interesting read. Religion and politics always seems to lead to heated discussions because both topics are things most of us are passionate about. But, in reading this, a question came to my mind that I honestly had not considered before. By the way, I am a believer, so please consider this a sincere question. For those that do not believe in a supreme being, a God, a god, et al. Does an atheist believe in angels or devils? I am curious. For whatever reason, that question had never crossed my mind before. Usually in discussions like this it is all about the Supreme being.

Hi emeraldcity. The point we've been beating each other over the head with here is that atheism is no more or less than a lack of belief in God (or gods plural). This is sometimes called "weak atheism" since it makes no assertions of its own. There is also a form called "strong atheism" which asserts that God does not exist, though it seems to have no proponents here.

Theoretically an atheist position does not directly imply any opinion about angels, devils, or other religious constructs, but usually an atheist would not believe in such things since the whole of religious belief tends to go hand in hand with a belief in God. Most atheists do not believe in the supernatural at all (or anything else which is unsupported by evidence). I'm glad you asked the question because it illustrates why atheists often take affront at their position being called a "belief". There is no atheist creed, or organisation, so opinions about related subjects are a purely personal matter. Atheism is an individual stance simply derived from being unconvinced about God. Atheists classify themselves as atheists purely because they are not theists (believers in God), and it means nothing more.

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Why don't you just tell us what your evidence for a god existing is already.

Yes, I'm working on it, but I'm pretty sure that if I don't think it through carefully I'll only succeed in confusing things. I have an itemized list with seven forum topics to follow up on, but I'll make "evidence of God" the priority. I have a big deadline on Friday and will be working overtime for most of the week, so it might be a bit. I can hear you sharpening your knives already. I can't wait.

For what it's worth, you may call it like you see it, but in this instance you saw and called wrong. My follow-up post explained exactly what was going through my head when I posted those definitions, and while I don't really care if you believe me, I suspect a rational discussion would be much more useful if everyone involved presupposed honest intentions in the others. For the sake of the other participants, I promise I won't comment further on this topic.

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