Tuesday, July 9, 2013

ADDLED ATHEIST #1: Edward Clint

Agnosticism is untenable and irrelevant

"The agnostic tends to insist that knowledge and belief are categorically different."

Self-described "agnostics" (just agnostics) tend to use a broad definition of "agnostic" and a narrow definition of "atheist". It is the atheists that tend to use a broad definition of "atheist" and a narrow definition of "agnostic". Clint is basically ranting against other atheists, but calling them "agnostics", dishonestly representing "agnosticism". At the very least, he should be calling them "agnostic atheists", rather than just "agnostics".

"The Greek word for atheist, conversely, is at least 2500 years old"

In the 17th century, the ancient Greek word "theos" was pulled out of antiquity and an "ist" suffix was added. Nobody, seems to deny that "theos" (god) =/= "theist" (someone who believes gods exist). Nobody thinks "theists" are "gods". 

Almost a century earlier, in the 16th century, the word "atheos" was pulled out of antiquity, and an "ist" suffix was added. Yet, people can't seem to agree that "atheos" (no/not/without god) =/= "atheist" (someone who believes gods do not exist). Many atheists would like us to believe that "atheist" = "without gods". Or, they'd like us to believe that an "a" prefix was somehow magically attached to the word "theist", a century before the word "theist" existed.

"Hume never uttered the word"

In the 18th century, D'Holbach wrote about how the majority theists used their narrow definition "atheist" label on plenty of people improperly. He argued these non-believers were mislabelled. He argued they weren't atheists. The narrow definition of atheism was the common definition of atheism, by a long shot.

There is also a story of D'Holbach being visited by Hume:
Hume was a dinner guest at the home of the libertine thinker Baron d'Holbach. Hume announced that he did not believe atheists existed for the simple reason that he had never met one. Holbach laughed. Look around you at your fellow dinner guests, "I can show you fifteen atheists right off. The other three haven't yet made up their minds." 
Though Hume smiled at Holbach's remark, he was also saddened. Rational proofs against god's existence, after all, were as nonsensical and intolerant as were rational proofs for His existence. Indeed, in Hume's eyes, the three undecided guests at Holbach's table were the only reasonable men in the room.
Hume and Humility

"This means that millennia of philosophical thought progressed without the need for a word for this position, including the entire Enlightenment period."

In the 19th century, Huxley also complained. Like Hume, he wasn't very fond of narrow definition atheists, thinking them pseudo-scientists, but felt he was part of the same group of non-believers that was mislabelled "atheist", and that there wasn't another label for him. The broader definition for atheism wasn't in common usage, or even common knowledge. It was effectively non-existent, at the time. So, yes, there was a need for a word. Many people had been looking for other labels..."free thinker", "skeptic", etc.

Huxley's "agnosticism" (no belief either way, no burden of proof) caught on in a big way. Numerous writers near the end of the 19th century, and beginning of the 20th century, described the period as an "age of agnosticism". Non-believers, who weren't narrow definition atheists, were in need of a word, and they latched on to it.

"The label paradox"

According to this guy, broad labels are better. This is like saying, me telling you I'm an "Earthling" gives you a better understanding of me, than telling you I'm "Canadian". Or, a theist, only telling you they're "Theist", gives you a better understanding of their beliefs, than if they told you they were "Christian", or "Muslim". Or, if someone saying I'm a "Capitalist" gives more information than I'm a "Libertarian" or "Republican". Sometimes broad, is too broad. If the label "atheist" incorporates two positions of belief, so that you need to add qualifiers, like "weak" and "strong", then your label is too broad.

"The pretentiousness of why versus what"

First off, People aren't going to read that much into a label. And, every label does answer both questions. Atheists have seen enough evidence to form a belief that Gods don't exist. Theists have seen enough evidence to form a belief that Gods do exist. Agnostics haven't seen enough evidence to form a belief = no belief. Once everyone knows the definitions, they aren't going to read all of that into a label, every time they hear it.

Secondly, he pulls the usual a-theist tactic, and pretends there is only one proposition, as to the existence of Gods. There are actually two. I don't get why Athe-ists (strong Atheists) allow themselves to be discounted, all the time. A-theists need to constantly rely on this tactic, to hide the fact that their labelling system is inadequate.

"The Santa clause"

Agnosticism is basically described as religious skepticism. The terms Agnostic, and Agnosticism, are mostly used regarding the existence of "gods". Here, this guy degrades down to the usual argument that agnosticism demands absolute truth, and is about the unknown and unknowable. But, then he suggests that that form of agnosticism be applied to everything.

Agnosticism should be applied to the gathering of evidence, prior to the formation of a belief. Huxley specifically mentions the belief phase.

"Agnosticism is of the essence of science, whether ancient or modern. It simply means that a man shall not say he knows or believes that which he has no scientific grounds for professing to know or believe." ~ Thomas H Huxley

So, if we do apply it to everything, we get the dictionary definition of agnosticism that doesn't apply to religion, that of someone who has no belief, either way. If I can test for Santa, where he is supposed to exist, then I can form a belief about Santa. Absence of evidence, that Santa exists where he is supposed to, is evidence of absence. I can be an aSanta-ist. 

"Huxley Reduxley: Pointless philosophical asceticism"

Again, this guy goes on about absolute truth. But then, makes the outrageous statement that Huxley didn't believe in natural selection, "the engine of evolution", implying Huxley wasn't a firm supporter of Darwin's ideas. 

Huxley believed in evolution. He declared it so obvious that he lamented about not coming up with the theory himself.

Huxley also believed in natural selection, with a caveat...being that every so often a "jump" would occur, that a constant plodding along, as Darwin suggested, didn't explain everything. So, no, Huxley didn't think Darwin's version of "natural selection alone" could be proved outright. But, he still believed in it, comparing breeding animals to natural selection in the wild, precisely because he felt there was evidence for it. Huxley has been the one proved right, by DNA showing that every so often mutations occurred, and a "jump" happened. 

Throughout the paper, that this guy ripped the quote from, Huxley praised Darwin. And ended with this...
"Another, and unfortunately a large class of persons take fright at the logical consequences of such a doctrine as that put forth by Mr. Darwin. If all species have arisen in this way, say they–Man himself must have done so; and he and all the animated world must have had a common origin. Most assuredly. No question of it."
...obviously believing the overall theory of evolution was true.

Clint, also seems to have missed the memo: Evolution is now both fact and theory.