Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Stupid! It Burns! (in every conceivable universe)

the stupid! it burns! I don't usually "honor" comments on this blog, but this one is just too good to pass up. Solan comes charging to Jim Lippard's defense, with a lance of wet noodles, armor of grass and a UK spell-check.
That scepticism = atheism is really a claim that sceptical inquiry would conclude that there was no god - and that this would be so *in any conceivable universe*.

So confusing scepticism and atheism is a species of confusing method and conclusion.

Lippard also correctly identifies how atheism may be the result of other processes than scepticism. Adherence to certain political beliefs would be one of these, and these political beliefs may be founded on a rather uncritical and even anti-sceptical outlook. [boldface emphasis added]
It is utter and complete nonsense to say that atheists are necessarily, usually, typically or even very often making such a broad claim about every conceivable universe. There is no god in this universe; the inhabitants of other universes will have to decide for themselves. Every position that skeptics normally believe follows from skepticism hold only for this particular universe; nobody says that evolution or global warming must be true *in any conceivable universe*.

Notice too the weasel words I've highlighted above. "May be" is a phrase for theologians, philosophers, politicians and advertising executives. Again, any position — evolution, vaccination, global warming — may be the result of processes other than skepticism. So what? Who actually does that? Name some names! And if they do, well, we skeptical atheists will be the first to laugh them off the floor.

And what the hell is with this "skepticism=atheism" construction? The claim is clear: skepticism leads to atheism. The use of the equals sign, which implies a symmetric relationship, is an egregious misrepresentation; Solan is not just a fool, he's a liar as well.

Remember, critics such as Lippard, Solan, etc., demand that skeptical atheists stop using the word "skepticism" in connection with atheism. They claim they are different things: one can be both skeptical and atheist, just as one can be skeptical and six feet tall, but the one has nothing to do with the other. If anyone wants to make that argument, let him or her actually make it, so we can examine the argument skeptically. But if you want to argue like a theologian, and lie like a creationist, you should expect mockery not just from atheists but from skeptics as well... at least those skeptics who take skepticism seriously.

5 comments:

  1. Even having a universally skeptical outlook "may be" the product of processes other than universal skepticism. It has to be if it's induced at all.

    Banishing atheism from a skepticism conference on the grounds of its possible origins makes as much sense as banishing the idea that skepticism is the outlook best suited to discover truth.

    Not only are traditional religious claims about reality subject to reason but so too are liberal ones about the nature and value of faith (and the corollary claims about how well their brand of nonsense accurately represents the religious milieu). If liberals claim that they make no claims, that too is fair game. Somehow they think they can squirm away from rational inquiry, and when they are thwarted they abandon dialog and change the subject from discussions' truth to their politeness, usefulness or tendency to mislead despite being true.

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  2. Note too that these critics are not just "Banishing atheism from a skepticism conference", they are demanding that other people banish atheism from the other people's own skepticism conference. They are essentially demanding that atheists in general not invoke skepticism, that our atheism is something that has nothing to do with skepticism.

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  3. "Remember, critics such as Lippard, Solan, etc., demand that skeptical atheists stop using the word 'skepticism' in connection with atheism."

    "Note too that these critics are not just 'Banishing atheism from a skepticism conference', they are demanding that other people banish atheism from the other people's own skepticism conference. They are essentially demanding that atheists in general not invoke skepticism, that our atheism is something that has nothing to do with skepticism."

    I've made no such demands, and these claims actually contradict my opinions. I think atheists should use and promote skepticism--and criticize atheists who don't.

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  4. I've made no such demands, and these claims actually contradict my opinions. I think atheists should use and promote skepticism--and criticize atheists who don't.

    I stand corrected. You just want to make sure we don't make a connection between skepticism and atheism, to make sure we don't claim atheism is inherently a skeptical position.

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  5. I am afraid the only point to concede in the above is that I stick to the beautiful UK spelling instead of the less aesthetic US version.

    Aside from that, the post centers on my use of the non all-inclusive phrase "may be". It seems TBB considers it "weaseling" if I do not tar everyone with the same brush. This is a rather sorry response from somene calling themselves a sceptic, so I'll leave it at that and not grab the - tar baby.

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