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Thread: A Marxist critique of atheism

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Calvinists did not "model reality with mathematics". Yet they believed in determinism. This is sufficient to prove your second paragraph is incorrect -- even ludicrous.
    I don't know how Calvinists came to their conclusions. I can see how a scientist would come to a conclusion that the universe is deterministic by taking a too literal view of mathematics. That is why the indeterminism of quantum physics provided such a shock.

    I can also see how someone who believes in "intelligent design" could be a determinist. They may be assuming the universe is a machine that God made. To the extent that intelligent designers believe in determinism, to that extent they are wrong. The very word "designer" is a poor metaphor for what God would be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Neither a mathematical (scientific) nor a Calvinist determinism "implies we have no ability to make a choice." If, for example, we chose yesterday to walk to the store (instead of driving), that "choice" is now inevitable and "determined". Is it meaningless to use the word "choice" to describe our behavior?
    Why is it meaningless? If we made a choice yesterday and we have to face whatever karmic consequences for that choice today, we still made that choice yesterday. It was not determined yesterday. True we are constrained by those past choices but they were choices when they were made.

    By making a choice we add something new to reality that cannot be explained by either determinism or a uniform random process (like flipping a coin). This adding something new is what bothers determinists.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Do sinners and criminals regularly chant, "My Neurons made me do it?" YesNo has simply invented this moral problem, where it does not exist. Of course one's choices are "determined" by something -- psychological disposition, the physics of neurons, God's creation and foreknowledge, or rational decision making. How does this make the word "choice" inappropriate?
    Why "of course"? Are you assuming what you are trying to prove?

    We have many influences over our lives. You have listed some influences:

    (1) neurons: Do neurons make choices?
    (2) God: Does God make choices that influence us beyond setting some initial state at the beginning of the universe? I think the assumption of this initial state is contradicted by quantum physics, by the way.
    (3) our rational decision making: I assume we are not forced to accept the conclusions of that rational process.

    One of the goals of determinism is to reduce a choice that we make to something that does not make a choice. It is the same thing with consciousness. Reductionism attempts to reduce our consciousness to something that is not conscious.

    What I am saying is that we can make a choice for which we are responsible which is a sign that we are conscious enough to consider at least two possibilities and choose one of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    I can choose to write this post or (which might have been the wiser choice) not to write it. It may be true that my "choice" is predetermined, by the foreknowledge of an omniscient God or by the physics of neurons firing off in my brain. Neither of these possibilities precludes my responsibility for my choice, or the fact that the word "choice" is an appropriate one with which to describe my (rather silly and redundant) decision.
    The reason you are responsible for your choice is that other people insist you are responsible in spite of and in direct contradiction of the belief of determinists who claim your choice was an illusion.

    On the one hand you have a determinist who says you cannot make any choice, you cannot add anything new in even a minor way to the universe that some mathematical formula or God's foreknowledge has not predicted. On the other you have people, including yourself through you own common sense, who insist you can and do actually make those choices. You are trying to put these two contradictory positions together as one which leads to a confused view of "choice". In reality we either can add something new with our choices or we cannot. Make a choice which one you support.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    In addition, the notion that "atheists" all subscribe to some system of mathematical or scientific determinism is insulting, bigoted and incorrect. Some may; others may not. To tar a large, diverse group with one brush is (it seems to me) exactly the kind of anti-intellectual, dehumanizing behavior that you claim to deplore (while practicing it yourself).
    I am aware that people who label themselves "atheist" have differing views of reality. The same goes for people who label themselves "theists". There are times when I think the theist is little more than an atheist and vice-versa.

    That doesn't mean I cannot challenge either of these positions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Regarding the questions in your last paragraph, constraints on our freedom come from a variety of sources. I cannot, for example, fly by flapping my arms, because my arms are not wings. Technology can (and has) addressed this deficiency by developing airplanes and hang gliders. Moral "choices" (which remain choices whether or not they are determined) have proven weightier problems for which technology has found few solutions. We humans use our airplanes to bomb Aleppo. How any of the questions YesNo poses in his last paragraph have any relevance to these moral issues is a mystery to me.
    What I am trying to show you are the walls of the cultural box we are both in. We both agree that we have constraints. Are all of those constraints something that we can use technology to overcome? I would say they are not. That is like a door I am currently using to point to an exit leading out of our cultural box.

    A technological solution addresses what it controls as something unconscious. It itself is an unconscious mechanism (in spite of the views of artificial intelligence). So to rephrase the question, the door opening outside the cultural box: Are there forms of reality that constrain us that we cannot use unconscious technology to control?
    Last edited by YesNo; 10-13-2016 at 10:21 AM.

  2. #17
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    My suspicion is it was not just the evangelists who may have been growing fat. One should also consider whether Dawkins' rhetoric was indirectly attempting to funnel scientific research into areas like molecular biology by using his opposition to fundamentalists to make his favored research areas look more "scientific" than those of his competitors for grant money. Follow the money on both sides. I don't want to make a hasty charge, but my own suspicions about Dawkins center more around science funding than they do about religion. I don't care what he has to say about religion. As Eagleton points out, Dawkins is no theologian.
    Well, sure but his hustle isn't just about funneling money to science. The man himself is worth $135 million dollars, which goes to show that selling disbelief to the masses can be just as lucrative as any evangelism. Dawkins right now is basically the high priest of atheism spreading the "good word." It's sort of a cottage industry, not just with the books, or the speaking gigs, documentaries, etc. You can also buy atheist coffee mugs, atheist key chains, atheist bumper stickers, atheist earrings, atheist tee shirts, et al on his website, or even donate money to his tax exempt foundation.

    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    Thanks for bring up Terry Eagleton. I had not heard of him before this thread.

    I have some doubts about Eagleton's phrase that you quoted earlier that God is "the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever". I don't know what that means. If that "condition of possibility" is explicitly conscious, it might make more sense to me.
    I took that to mean that philosophically speaking the question "Does God exist?" is roughly equivalent to the question "Do other people exist?" It sort of rests on the whole fallibility of the senses, like what Descartes was working on when he felt that he had to doubt everything but his own existence. If we are to be either strict skeptics or strict empiricists, then we can never know for sure that God exists, but we can't ever know that anything else exists either, since our senses can always deceive us. It's sort of linked to all those questions of epistemology about how we know what we know, etc.
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
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  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    Well, sure but his hustle isn't just about funneling money to science. The man himself is worth $135 million dollars, which goes to show that selling disbelief to the masses can be just as lucrative as any evangelism. Dawkins right now is basically the high priest of atheism spreading the "good word." It's sort of a cottage industry, not just with the books, or the speaking gigs, documentaries, etc. You can also buy atheist coffee mugs, atheist key chains, atheist bumper stickers, atheist earrings, atheist tee shirts, et al on his website, or even donate money to his tax exempt foundation.
    Yes, I agree that one can't accuse evangelists of having a lucrative business if one doesn't include Dawkins as one of those evangelists.

    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    I took that to mean that philosophically speaking the question "Does God exist?" is roughly equivalent to the question "Do other people exist?" It sort of rests on the whole fallibility of the senses, like what Descartes was working on when he felt that he had to doubt everything but his own existence. If we are to be either strict skeptics or strict empiricists, then we can never know for sure that God exists, but we can't ever know that anything else exists either, since our senses can always deceive us. It's sort of linked to all those questions of epistemology about how we know what we know, etc.
    As empiricists or strict skeptics, we can't be sure that unconscious stuff, which is what people assume reality is made of, exists either. Finding indeterminacy at the quantum level makes the existence of unconscious stuff even more doubtful. God's existence isn't the only thing that we don't know for sure.

    Since we are conscious ourselves, we can assume that consciousness exists. I am puzzled when atheists claim things like "panpsychism" as Nagel does or Eagleton talks about a "condition of possibility". An atheist must reduce our consciousness to unconsciousness or some trivial consciousness (whatever that might be) to remain an atheist.

    I remember reading somewhere that Descartes was trying to argue for what he could know for sure assuming a demon was tricking him with his observations. How could he tell he was not in a simulation? What could he be certain of if he could not trust his senses? The only thing he could trust is that he had the ability to think about those sense experiences. So he must exist.

    I am reading Roger Scruton's "Kant A Very Short Introduction" as a way to get an overview of some philosophers. This is on page 17, which is where I stopped last night:

    "Kant's contemporary Lichtenberg pointed out that Descartes ought not to have drawn this conclusion. The 'cogito' shows that there is a thought, but not that there is an 'I' who thinks it."
    Last edited by YesNo; 10-18-2016 at 10:12 AM.

  4. #19
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    The reason to consider the silly questions is the suggestion that these thought patterns are not only false but that they provide a ground on which atrocities can more easily occur.

    Belief in determinism is first of all a belief. It arises from modeling reality with mathematics which is deterministic. Of course we only look at a few decimal places of accuracy, but that is adequate for our purpose of improving our technologies. The belief is that if the theory tests out for a very few number of practical decimal places, it must work for infinitely many decimal places.

    Belief in determinism is secondly a dehumanization. It implies we have no ability to make a choice of even a limited sort. It implies we are machines, not agents. Now our common sense, and even legal sense, recognizes our ability to make choices. Atheists (or theists) who claim that our common sense experience of making choices is an illusion dehumanize us. We are less than what we thought we were as human beings. We are no better than the computers we use.

    Does a belief in determinism lead to atrocities? Well, it doesn't allow any accountability for our actions. It takes a view of those around us as machines that can be turned off when it is convenient for us to turn them off (assuming we have the political power to do so). Yes, it is a perfect ground upon which atrocities can occur.

    The problems of atheism (and theism that has been perverted by an atheistic view of reality) go way beyond determinism. We can ask related questions. Assuming we do not have absolute free will, and we don't, where do the constraints on our freedoms come from? Can these constraints all be reduced to something below us that our deterministic technologies can address? Or do these constraints originate from realities over which we have no hope of technological control?
    I think that determinism is so popular in the atheist community because of materialism, rather than because they model reality mathematically. If you believe that there is no spirit, then all matter is equal, and a man is no different than a stone. Humankind isn't special, which is why we are considered no different from other animals and lower forms of life like bacteria in that school of thought. There is no divine spark that animates life in this view. Life arose from a series of chemical reactions, and is just another physical phenomena. Even our thoughts are just patterns of cause and effect like billiard balls smashing into each other. It's dehumanizing and seeks to establish a mechanized point of view of the universe, where everything is a soulless cog in a great machine. They begin by denying God and end by denying man.
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
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  5. #20
    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    The 'cogito' shows that there is a thought, but not that there is an 'I' who thinks it."
    Then who is thinking the thought?
    Exit, pursued by a bear.

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by mona amon View Post
    Then who is thinking the thought?
    I remember hearing about this a couple of years ago, but not what the rational was for it. I think maybe it's like we could just be radio's picking up somebody else's signal.
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
    "This ain't over."- Charles Bronson
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  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    I think that determinism is so popular in the atheist community because of materialism, rather than because they model reality mathematically. If you believe that there is no spirit, then all matter is equal, and a man is no different than a stone. Humankind isn't special, which is why we are considered no different from other animals and lower forms of life like bacteria in that school of thought. There is no divine spark that animates life in this view. Life arose from a series of chemical reactions, and is just another physical phenomena. Even our thoughts are just patterns of cause and effect like billiard balls smashing into each other. It's dehumanizing and seeks to establish a mechanized point of view of the universe, where everything is a soulless cog in a great machine. They begin by denying God and end by denying man.
    Yes, the main problem of atheism is the denial of humanity. I also agree that determinism comes more fundamentally from materialism, which is a belief in the existence of unconscious matter. The mathematical texts come later and justify the basic belief.

    Regarding who is thinking the thought and why this does not imply the existence of an "I", it could be that some "we" are thinking the thoughts each of us has and not each of us individually. I often wonder where "my" thoughts come from. There may be other possibilities. That is one way to argue that just because there is a "cogito" it does not mean there is a "sum". There may be a "we are", whatever that is in Latin.

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    Yes its a fair criticism of Mr Dawkins and other scathing critics of religion. I read his Blind Watchmaker with some difficulty in parts. In his own subject he is brilliant.
    He makes no mention of religion being a result of the human conscience struggling to distinguish right from wrong yet he is a man of conscience like us all.

  9. #24
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    I think the religious criticism that people like Dawkins have promoted has passed its popularity use-by date. What one finds now of interest is keeping Muslims or other immigrants out of one's own country. That comes with an increased negative social mood.

    One of the things that occurred to me about Descartes' cogito ero sum is that it implies that there exists individuals that could counter that demon Descartes assumed was tricking him about reality. The idea of individualism is worth paying attention to. There is also a Darwinian male-centric individual who is struggling to breed and pass on his genes. What makes the assumed existence of individuals useful is that it provides us with a theoretical barrier to the external world within which we can exert our rationality like a robot apart from the world. It also provides a unit toward which we can attempt to analyze a larger group and build a reductionist theory upon. But do we exist as individuals enough for either of these to be really useful?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mortalterror View Post
    I think that determinism is so popular in the atheist community because of materialism, rather than because they model reality mathematically. (...)

    It's dehumanizing and seeks to establish a mechanized point of view of the universe, where everything is a soulless cog in a great machine. They begin by denying God and end by denying man.
    I may be wrong but it seems to me that you divide people in a rather black-white-manner: either one is believing in some kind of deity, or one is purely materialistic, deterministic and lacking any idea of a ´soul´ or something like that. However, there is a much wider spectrum of opinions, many of them rejecting theism as well as materialism.

    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    Yes, the main problem of atheism is the denial of humanity.
    How this? Is it not much more the case that ´humanity´ is the fruit of atheism? It was atheists like d´Holbach and Voltaire, who developed and propagated the ideal of humanity in the Age of Enlightenment, namely against the opposition of the Church. Without atheism to-day culture would lack any humanity, since a precondition of humanity is the absence of any obligation for believing in religious dogmas, what is an atheistic cultural achievement, not a clerical one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tammuz View Post
    How this? Is it not much more the case that ´humanity´ is the fruit of atheism? It was atheists like d´Holbach and Voltaire, who developed and propagated the ideal of humanity in the Age of Enlightenment, namely against the opposition of the Church. Without atheism to-day culture would lack any humanity, since a precondition of humanity is the absence of any obligation for believing in religious dogmas, what is an atheistic cultural achievement, not a clerical one.
    I think the Protestant reformation provided the motivation for religious tolerance, not atheism. However, I do think western atheism could be viewed as a kind of Protestant cult so it might have played a small part in the fact that I do not have to attend any particular religious service.

    Atheism, as I see it, is only superficially about the denial of the existence of Gods. It is more deeply the denial of the existence of consciousness in general, especially human consciousness. That is why it is dehumanistic.

  12. #27
    You are not mormon so go hecking die fgt

  13. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    I don't know how Calvinists came to their conclusions. I can see how a scientist would come to a conclusion that the universe is deterministic by taking a too literal view of mathematics. That is why the indeterminism of quantum physics provided such a shock.

    I can also see how someone who believes in "intelligent design" could be a determinist. They may be assuming the universe is a machine that God made. To the extent that intelligent designers believe in determinism, to that extent they are wrong. The very word "designer" is a poor metaphor for what God would be.



    Why is it meaningless? If we made a choice yesterday and we have to face whatever karmic consequences for that choice today, we still made that choice yesterday. It was not determined yesterday. True we are constrained by those past choices but they were choices when they were made.

    By making a choice we add something new to reality that cannot be explained by either determinism or a uniform random process (like flipping a coin). This adding something new is what bothers determinists.



    Why "of course"? Are you assuming what you are trying to prove?

    We have many influences over our lives. You have listed some influences:

    (1) neurons: Do neurons make choices?
    (2) God: Does God make choices that influence us beyond setting some initial state at the beginning of the universe? I think the assumption of this initial state is contradicted by quantum physics, by the way.
    (3) our rational decision making: I assume we are not forced to accept the conclusions of that rational process.

    One of the goals of determinism is to reduce a choice that we make to something that does not make a choice. It is the same thing with consciousness. Reductionism attempts to reduce our consciousness to something that is not conscious.

    What I am saying is that we can make a choice for which we are responsible which is a sign that we are conscious enough to consider at least two possibilities and choose one of them.



    The reason you are responsible for your choice is that other people insist you are responsible in spite of and in direct contradiction of the belief of determinists who claim your choice was an illusion.

    On the one hand you have a determinist who says you cannot make any choice, you cannot add anything new in even a minor way to the universe that some mathematical formula or God's foreknowledge has not predicted. On the other you have people, including yourself through you own common sense, who insist you can and do actually make those choices. You are trying to put these two contradictory positions together as one which leads to a confused view of "choice". In reality we either can add something new with our choices or we cannot. Make a choice which one you support.



    I am aware that people who label themselves "atheist" have differing views of reality. The same goes for people who label themselves "theists". There are times when I think the theist is little more than an atheist and vice-versa.

    That doesn't mean I cannot challenge either of these positions.



    What I am trying to show you are the walls of the cultural box we are both in. We both agree that we have constraints. Are all of those constraints something that we can use technology to overcome? I would say they are not. That is like a door I am currently using to point to an exit leading out of our cultural box.

    A technological solution addresses what it controls as something unconscious. It itself is an unconscious mechanism (in spite of the views of artificial intelligence). So to rephrase the question, the door opening outside the cultural box: Are there forms of reality that constrain us that we cannot use unconscious technology to control?
    copy and paste off google, I fact checked. Stop plagarizing you ****

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