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Nov 17 2006 / Aaron

Hot Topic

I was hoping my innocent little remark about being an Atheist would not lead to a big comment-fest. To be honest, It exhausts me to no end the misunderstandings and confusions and loaded-terms that always get re-hashed any time this topic is invoked.

I will try and briefly contribute my take on things, but I don’t have time or desire to delve in too deeply. I’ve spent this week fighting fires at work, and tomorrow at 6am, we’re getting up to hop a flight over to London for three days. I’ll be back on Tuesday, hopefully with some good pictures and a few interesting anecdotes.

Besides being strapped for time and energy to discuss, I also find it is usually pointless. Has an internet debate on theology *ever* changed someone’s mind? Now that I would find hard to believe. Also, Im not going to delude myself that I’m going to contribute anything new or more eloquently worded to the general debate-at-large. Others have more lucidly espoused my viewpoints in the past.

By definition, a good scientist (or any rational person) holds beliefs that are always open to revision based on evidence and rationalized inferences. The whole freaking point is to not hold a unwavering dogmatic belief system. To expressly not have faith. When a true scientist expresses a belief about something, it should not be taken as sloppy, limiting, or hypocritical. But constantly qualifying every belief statement with epistemological caveats gets really tiring and cumbersome. When I say I believe something, can we get past the sophomoric arguments and take the rational caveats as an unstated given?

Another common misrepresentation that humans seem to love making is to incorrectly categorize things down to black-and-white, yes-and-no, coin-flip reasoning. It’s not a 50-50 proposition that the flying spaghetti monster exists. In fact, it is extremely unlikely that it exists. I can’t say it doesn’t, but it’s sure silly to go around pretending it does.

I’m far more comfortable being agnostic towards first-causes than I am about bronze-age mythologies (i.e. most of the popular monotheistic religions). Like the turtles-all-the-way-down comment acknowledges, invoking a God as a creator of the universe is just stacking yet another turtle under our own. It gives no added value or explanatory power, and in fact begs even more questions than it purports to answer.

All that ranting aside, remember: peace, respect, and tolerance are concepts I hope we can all agree on.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


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  1. J / Nov 17 2006

    I agree that it’s probably not worth discussing here but contributing any new ideas or interpretations to the milieu is a good idea. There are web sites devoted to this crap and Wikipedia etc.

    I can say that my mind HAS been changed and shaped by discussions on the ‘net. I grew up with no emphatic belief system prescribed to me and when I decided that it mattered to me, I went looking for info to find out what all the fuss was about.

  2. Aaron / Nov 17 2006

    Well then, I’m glad is here now to warp impressionable young minds.

  3. John Wise / Nov 17 2006

    Hi Aaron! Checked out Bill’s site,and voila,there you were. I’m not an atheist,but I was a long time ago. I guess now I’m an agnostic with certain memories. The memories are of the most powerful experiences of my life,most of them lastin g only a few moments,in which my perspective was radically altered,and in which terms like reality,truth,and meaning became intensely personal. What I experienced was “realer” than “normal” in all the ways that I judge what “real” is. I can’t adequately describe these experiences,nor do I expect or want anyone to take my word for their legitimacy,but they are in the deepest parts of my self and connect me to something more.

    On the subject of Richard Dawkins,a friend loaned me his book “The Ancestor’s Tale” which is kind of a trip back in time,starting with humans,on a pilgramage to the “first species”. It’s full of fascinating accounts of the adaptations of different organisms,with lots of cross connections and clever observations. He does stumble badly at one point in a chapter called “The Peacock’s Tale” in which he is trying to explain why humans are hairless and bipedal. It seems that at mating time the peacocks perform their mating display for the peahens,and,all else being equal,the peahen always picks the male with the most splendid tail. There is no discernable genetic advantage to mating with a splendid tailed peacock. Dawkins suggests that this is just a case of “whim”. Similarly,though many theories as to why humans became hairless and bipedal have been offered,none really hold up to scrutiny. He suggests that,like the peahen,one of the human genders simply had an aesthetic preference for hairless and or bipedal mates. Hmmm. I don’t think you can be a rational materialistic atheist evolutionist and posit “whim” as a motive or mechanism in the evolutionary process. Whim,aesthetics,etc. are part of the irrational,the mysterious,i.e.the spiritual.
    For me the air went out of his balloon at that point.

  4. bill / Nov 17 2006

    Heya John!

    Nice to run into you on Aaron’s blog. We should get together here more often, trade news, yak a bit, crack jokes …. 😉

  5. Samuel / Nov 18 2006

    Well since everybody is sharing…

    Sometimes it just seems TO ME like everyone’s got these identities and ideas about all that esoteric biznaz, that apparently make us all so individual and has a profound effect on our individual conscious experience, yet, for all practical purposes our systems of understanding do nothing to transcend us from our very regular human nature, i.e. finding some food to eat, getting out of bed and doing something.

    I identify as a ___________: I have no fucking clue what the fuck is going on, and having a solid idea of what is going on would make no apparent difference to MY life. Gawd or no gawd (in the most ambiguous sense), I still gotta wipe my own ass, everyday and forever.


  6. Aaron / Nov 19 2006

    Amen, brother.

  7. d / Nov 19 2006

    “In fact, it is extremely unlikely that [the flying spaghetti monster] exists.”

    You blaspheming bastrad! You are going to wallow in the festering noodle bin for all time! Repent, you rotten smelly slime mold.

  8. Eddy / Nov 21 2006

    John Wise… this is via. via a hello fron Eddy

  9. Matt / Nov 21 2006

    Don’t realy believe in the whole god thing either… I used to, but was just blindly following it due to being in a catholic school.
    Now I read and educated myself, I don’t see how there could possibly be a god, everything is pointing against the idea. Can’t wait to read dawkings book!

  10. Hilary / Nov 22 2006

    Thank you for CRON-o-meter! It is a beautiful design and a comprehensive database. I never would have paid for it but since it is free my nutrition benefits! Thank you so much. Happy Thanksgiving.

  11. ian / Nov 23 2006

    Jesus saved my soul….ONLINE

  12. Jenni / Nov 28 2006

    To proclaim yourself an aetheist in this day and age is very brave. I have a couple of aetheist friends who are teaching me the art of unbelieving…

    Bless you!

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