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  1. #1
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    Is Secular Humanism the Answer?

    I was watching Life, Liberty, and Levin tonight and his guest was David Berlinski, a secular humanist who has battled against atheist ideologies in his book, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions. Here are some of the points he raises:

    Has anyone provided a proof of God’s [non]inexistence? Not even close.

    Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.

    Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.

    Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.

    Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.

    Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.

    Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.

    Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even ballpark.

    http://www.davidberlinski.org/devils-delusion/about.php

    I think I will read the book to see what he has to say. If these points above express his thoughts I think he hit the nail smack bang, dead on the head. In Life, Liberty, and Levin, Berlinski said a scientist has to reject religion for their religious philosophy to make sense (and I would argue that it does not). He also expressed that secular societies are frivolous and that secular ideologies self protect their belief system. He says that seven million scientists use the same system of thought in pushing their philosophies. Levin states that scientists push their theories out as if they are science rather than philosphies (sceintism) concerning life and origins.

    Anyone care to discuss by objections or affirmations to these points?

    Peter

  2. #2
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    Re: Is Secular Humanism the Answer?

    I know you didn't make these statements yourself directly, but I'm responding to them as if they were yours, based on how you've presented them as being in line with your own opinions.

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Has anyone provided a proof of Godís [non]inexistence? Not even close.
    Anyone with at least a fundamental understanding of epistemology would know the lack of falsifiability actually indicates a lack rational justification.

    Quote Originally Posted by PG2A2 View Post
    Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.
    This is not a problem. Indeed, claiming to know the truth before having the rational justification is precisely what keeps one from learning the truth. Skepticism is a good thing here.

    Quote Originally Posted by PG2A2 View Post
    Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.
    Claiming "seems to be fine-tuned" and demonstrating "is fine-tuned" are two very different things. Theists are still a long way off from the latter. You are like a puddle waking up upon achieving consciousness, looking at itself in its environment and concluding, "Wow, this hole in the dirt I'm inside seems to be perfectly designed to fit me!"

    Quote Originally Posted by PG2A2 View Post
    Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.
    This is a gross misrepresentation of the principle of methodological naturalism upon which our sciences operate.

    Quote Originally Posted by PG2A2 View Post
    Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.
    The superiority of secular morality has already been proven.

    Quote Originally Posted by PG2A2 View Post
    Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.
    You obviously don't know what secularism is. Just a reminder, secularism at its core also provides protections for you to be able to continue holding to your irrational beliefs.

    Quote Originally Posted by PG2A2 View Post
    Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.
    Ugh, not this conspiracy theory foil-hattery again. Have you been watching too much Ben Stein?

    Quote Originally Posted by PG2A2 View Post
    Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even ballpark.
    You have it completely backwards. No belief is rational until it is demonstrated to be rational. So the sciences don't need to claim that religious belief is irrational - religious belief does that all by itself by failing to demonstrate that it is rational.

    Quote Originally Posted by PG2A2 View Post
    I think I will read the book to see what he has to say.
    I wouldn't waste my time if I were you. Berlinski has already admitted that he doesn't actually believe ID - he just likes taking cheques from the Discovery Institute.

  3. #3
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    Re: Is Secular Humanism the Answer?

    Major concession for the following: I have not watched the video, so there may be evidence or arguments presented by Berlinski that I am unaware of.

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    [...] [non]inexistence?
    Just to clarify, do you mean to quote this as "inexistence [sic];" that the cited text writ "inexistence" and you are acknowledging the typo? Otherwise it seems like you're repurposing the text to mean "non-nonexistence," but I don't think that's what you mean based on the nature of your other arguments.

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Has anyone provided a proof of God’s [non]inexistence?
    Has there been any proof for his existence? If not, then one cannot make a valid conclusion either way. However, if much time has passed and no proof appeared, one may make more reasonable assumptions in one direction.
    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?
    This seems to suggest that secular approaches to cosmology do not jump to conclusions.
    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
    I think it's inappropriate to call our universe "fine-tuned" for life. Rather, I'd say that Earth is--or has been recently, relative to the life of it--fine-tuned for life. None of the other planets or dwarf planets in our solar system are so fertile. As a sample probability of 1/13, that's pretty low, but so is the sample size. Additionally, these bodies only seem sterile in known senses of life; they may shelter some utterly alien biologies based off non-carbon chemicals, with different or absent respiration, or completely incomparably biological processes. Considering all the havoc of the majority of the universe--hypernovae, black holes, pulsars, asteroid bombardments, radiation, heat, cold, crushing gravity, utter emptiness--the universe seems less a fine-tuned human home and more like a dangerous but beautiful desert with a green and blue oasis orbiting a yellow star in a random wing of some galaxy.
    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?
    Probably not, since this goes against the skepticism that characterizes them. I may have heard, somewhat facetiously, that scientists enjoy disproving each other's theories. (Need I address the issue that no evidence is presented for this argument, nor many others presented by Berlinski.)
    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?
    Maybe not, but I am not very well-versed in philosophy, and it is unsure whether Berlinski is either. However, I'd say that the quite rational and almost mathematical concept of utilitarianism has benefited our understanding of what is moral.
    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
    This seems to be the opining of one who watches too much major news channels and derives the health of the world from their selections of sensational events. If one were to study history, people's living conditions, nutrition, literacy, or age expectancy, the twentieth century has been far from terrible in comparison. The bitter claim that "19XX/20XX was a mulligan" is short-sighted and useless. Additionally the claim "not even close to being close" seems rather unsupported. If one were to draw to mind some of the major issues of recent times, one would probably think of terrorism, which is predominantly religious. Additionally, evidence is presented for this on this post.
    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?
    If by "narrow" and "oppressive" he means "skeptical" and "critical" then yes, I'd wager that the sciences have a "narrow and oppressive orthodoxy," and that's a good thing. Skepticism encourages scientific patience, and prevents jumping to conclusions, and criticism encourages peer review and good effort, generally.
    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?
    Religion is, almost by definition, and if I understand correctly, faith; belief in something without proof. The science is, in large part about finding proof for hypotheses, so believing in something without proof would be contrary to science. Believe in something without proof includes faith, thus religion, and therefore in opposition to science.
    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    I think I will read the book [...]
    Instead of spending money on probable tomfoolery, I'd recommend familiarizing yourself with the free, peer-reviewed, and featured Wikibook on Formal Logic, and maybe other philosophical or epistemological texts so that you may confront Berlinski's text with an open, but critical mind. Apologies if I misread the merit of your thinking; I'd recommend Formal Logic whether or not you "need" it.
    Last edited by Squatch347; May 1st, 2018 at 05:05 AM. Reason: Tag fix
    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

  4. #4
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    Re: Is Secular Humanism the Answer?

    Quote Originally Posted by YaprakDolma View Post
    Major concession for the following: I have not watched the video, so there may be evidence or arguments presented by Berlinski that I am unaware of.
    http://video.foxnews.com/v/577825474...#sp=show-clips

    ---------- Post added at 08:06 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:47 PM ----------

    http://www.foxnews.com/shows/life-liberty-levin.html

  5. #5
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    Re: Is Secular Humanism the Answer?

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Has anyone provided a proof of God’s [non]inexistence? Not even close.
    If God did not exist, would it even be possible to prove it?

    ---------- Post added at 05:41 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:38 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.
    Why must this have been solved already? We are currently learning things about the universe at a faster pace than ever in human history. Why is this not good enough?

    ---------- Post added at 05:48 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:41 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.


    1. This universe is unquestionably not "fine tuned" for life or we would likely already have evidence it exists places other than on the earth.

    2.Any universe that didn't have those "fine tuned" qualities would not produce the life the to ask the question. So what? Does that mean such a universe can not and does not exist?


    ---------- Post added at 05:48 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:48 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? [B]Close enough.
    Support this and I will respond to it.

    ---------- Post added at 05:50 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:48 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.
    For the majority of humans, the 20th century was pretty darn good

    ---------- Post added at 05:52 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:50 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.
    With regards to morals, though objective morals may exist, human history has been driven exclusively by subjective morals and that continues to this day.

    ---------- Post added at 05:53 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:52 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.
    I am at a loss as to what you mean here, could you elaborate please?

    ---------- Post added at 06:00 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:53 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even ballpark.
    Science makes no such outlandish claims nor will it ever!!!!
    Science is observation, hypothesis, make predictions, test predictions, peer review and retesting of predictions....

    Now if God were to "make" himself available for these things.......what a day that would be indeed
    Last edited by Squatch347; May 1st, 2018 at 05:05 AM. Reason: tag fix

  6. #6
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    Re: Is Secular Humanism the Answer?

    I suspect it is a good read, he seems to be a smart person and he's got his skeptical cap on. He's also clearly keen on making some money from folks who are happy to see someone outside their camp offer them some defense. More credit to his cleverness.


    I'll play the anser game too...

    Has anyone provided a proof of God’s [non]inexistence?
    No. There are some dis-proofs of specific ideas of God. Some qualities ascribed to god can be shown to be somewhat self-contradictory given certain premise. Example: An all loving, all powerful god who condemns people to eternal torment is a largely irrational construct. But there are so many conceptions of God, that it's neigh impossible to rule them all out.

    Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?
    Not decisicely, no. That doesn't mean they won't figure it out of course. Though the point, in the book is to say that until they do, they can't really replace this aspect of religion.

    Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
    Science doesn't explain Why so much as How. I don't think it really matters to be honest. Life is here, obviously, so the universe must be such that life as ours is supported. It's a somewhat arbitrary thing. Why is the universe finely tuned for light beer? Why is it finely tuned for moon rocks? I think this is a case of humans trying to make all the universe about ourselves. Its a question that neither supports nor denies religious thought.

    Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?
    No. And what does beleif mean in this context? There are physicists and biologiests that believe in religious thought. There are those who beleive in in the power of love, there are those that don't. There are reasons not to believe in religious thought but they are not bound in a belief in the consistency of the material world (the underpinnigs of science).

    Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?
    Sure, lots of them.

    Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
    Sure. Secular nations tend to avoid many of the moral failings of states where religion and monopoly of force are combined. Its not a huge thing, but it has achieved some of the greatest diversity in religious thought ever known. The US spearheaded secularism and its one of the leading sources of religious thinking in the modern world as a result.

    Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?
    Somewhat. Science, like many things, has to walk the line between new and innovative ideas, and a conservative resistance to wild disciplined change. The aim is to build a body of trusted knowledge. To do that, you have to be very skeptical of ideas (to ensure they hold up to scrutiny) yet open to change (to ensure progress and learning).

    Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?
    Yes, not in totality, but in some instances. For instance, the religious beleive that sickness is caused by sinful thought is readily disproven in a great many instances. We know that many sicknesses are caused by specific biological infections, toxins, radiation, or genetic conditions and not by sinful thought. Many religious believs have been shown to be compleately irrational. Other beleifs in things like a Creator or Spirit, Magic etc... are pretty well beyond the reach of science to examine, though science can offer theories about why humans create such beliefs.
    Feed me some debate pellets!

  7. #7
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    Re: Is Secular Humanism the Answer?

    I viewed the ~13 minute section of the Levin/Berlinski interview linked by PGA2; Berlinksi made some interesting and seemingly reasonable points, but they were a little different then the ones originally listed (of course this is explicable by the scope of this video). One of the main points he makes is that religion is somewhat unwelcome in the field of science, that the devout often feel uncomfortable or are discouraged to reveal or discuss their beliefs in the scientific field. This is an issue of etiquette; the faithful should feel comfortable in whatever occupation they participate, ideally. What seems likely the cause of this is that (as others have previously mentioned) many scientists view religion as incompatible with scientific thinking; this is a main topic of debate so I shall not discuss in detail here. Ignoring compatibility, it may be worth inquiring whether faith or atheism in an individual has any effect, positive or negative, on the quality of their work.
    First, a consideration of faith on quality of work. One may argue that habitually (i.e. religiously) subscribing to belief in something with little proof may affect the skepticism of a body in their scientific endeavors. Berlinski seems to make a valid point regarding the potential hypocrisy of this in scientists, who will subscribe, almost religiously, to a highly hypothetical theory with relatively little proof. Case-by-case the validity of this method of subscription will vary, especially considering theories as different as evolution and cosmology. But in the face of limited evidence in any direction, would not the most scientific thing be to subscribe (tentatively) to the most logical or reasonable theory? Tangent on the tentativeness of subscription: Berlinski may have criticized this; it may be that too many scientists subscribe to trustingly to less well-proven theories. In addition to this, it may be considered that faith may entrench a supposition of mysticism in individuals that may discourage or not fully motivate further study when faced with greater mystery. An anecdotal example of this could be Isaac Newton, who invoked deities when he could not determine how a system of multiple celestial bodies pulling against each other could maintain a stable orbit around a large central body (i.e. our solar system). This example, of course, may not be generalized to all, since Newton lived a while in the past, and various other potentially confounding variables.
    A note on one of Berlinski's comparison in the above-referenced interview: he compares the validity of the theory of evolution to alchemical theory; that the idea of a species turning into another species is similar to the idea of a base metal turning into gold. Disregarding the validity of evolutionary theory, the case of turning a base metal into gold is not far from possibility. It has been shown that, with supercolliders, one may create (an albeit very small amount of) gold by smashing together other metals, such that their nuclei fuse together to reach a new atomic number. To concede, I am not excellently versed in chemistry, and I may misunderstand the process by which metals are fused, or the vocabulary related to this process.
    In a later section of the interview, Berlinski calls Darwin's On the Origin of Species a "secular myth." This label seems less than appropriate considering that, unlike other myths, which do not (to my knowledge) profess any support for their arguments other than pseudo-scientific extrasensory events, Darwin's work provides actual evidence, and the theory of evolution continues to receive scientific support. On the other hand, religious myths are not (validly) supported by recent theological studies, and, with time, some religions lose all credibility (e.g. Greek pantheon). The major question is, why do we herald Pythagoras' mathematics but not his "harmony of the spheres," why do we credit Euclid's geometry but not Hesiod's Theogony?
    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

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    Re: Is Secular Humanism the Answer?

    I would love to know what you believe that Secular Humanism is an answer for?

    The questions he asks seem the typical anti-atheist questions that are really just straw man arguments that probably have nothing to do with Secular Humanism. So why do you think that people become Secular Humanists? I'm an atheist and I don't consider myself one so it seems that the book is either not sure what it's arguing against or unclear about the meanings of words.

  9. #9
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    Re: Is Secular Humanism the Answer?

    Quote Originally Posted by PGA2 View Post
    I was watching Life, Liberty, and Levin tonight and his guest was David Berlinski, a secular humanist who has battled against atheist ideologies in his book, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions. Here are some of the points he raises:

    Has anyone provided a proof of God’s [non]inexistence? Not even close.

    Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.

    Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.

    Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.

    Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.

    Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.

    Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.

    Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even ballpark.

    http://www.davidberlinski.org/devils-delusion/about.php

    I think I will read the book to see what he has to say. If these points above express his thoughts I think he hit the nail smack bang, dead on the head. In Life, Liberty, and Levin, Berlinski said a scientist has to reject religion for their religious philosophy to make sense (and I would argue that it does not). He also expressed that secular societies are frivolous and that secular ideologies self protect their belief system. He says that seven million scientists use the same system of thought in pushing their philosophies. Levin states that scientists push their theories out as if they are science rather than philosphies (sceintism) concerning life and origins.

    Anyone care to discuss by objections or affirmations to these points?

    Peter
    What points? All I see are unsubstantiated claims with nothing even remotely resembling evidence or support... unless you count the linkwarz-y url trying to sell a book.

    There's nothing to discuss beyond me saying "your claims are false". There. I have provided as much "evidence" as you provided in your op.

 

 

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