Re: [asa] Dawkins, religion, and children

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Tue May 01 2007 - 10:25:00 EDT

*Whenever anyone -- even an atheist -- says anything, he is presupposing a
universe in which a thing called "truth" may be encoded and passed from mind
to mind through a medium called language. These are huge presuppositions,
and only serve to re-emphasize the crudity of the atheist mind. Unless an
atheist is an abject nihilist, then he doesn't have the courage of his
absence of convictions.
*
Not to defend atheists, but is this really a fair characterization? I'm not
so sure. Many atheists are pragmatists. They don't presume that they
necessarily have access to universal truth or that their atheism is true in
an "absolute" sense. They simply argue that, given what the human mind is
capable of knowing, and given the limits of human language, atheism is the
only epistemically justifiable alternative. The qualifiers "given what the
human mind is capable of knowing" and "given the limits of human language"
makes this a pragmatic, rather than universal, claim. It is close to, but
stronger than, agnosticism.

This pragmatically justified atheism doesn't seem much different than theism
justified by modest foundationalism. Modest foundationalists (Moreland, et
al.) recognize that there are limits to human mind and language, and that
their truth claims are therefore ultimately defeasible. This seems to me to
be exactly the same kind of epistemological pragmatism to which most
atheists subscribe. The pragmatist / modest foundationalist atheist and the
pragmatist / modest foundationalist theist simply make different inferences
from the evidence available to them.

I'm not so sure, then, that a theist who subscribes to a pragmatic modest
foundationalism -- reflected in Janice's quote above with its strong
emphasis on propositional truth -- can credibly argue that the atheist's
position is incoherent. It seems to me that the core of the argument has to
be about the strength of the inferences drawn from their common pragmatic
stance.

And this is one reason why I think insistence on a pragmatic, modest
foundationalist stance in the context of Christian theism is a mistake. It
cedes the epistemic ground to Dewey.

Or, my critical realist scientist friends, am I overstating this?

On 5/1/07, Janice Matchett <janmatch@earthlink.net> wrote:
>
> At 09:28 AM 5/1/2007, you wrote:
>
> still nothing. How do you manage it... to send so many characters and
> words and yet fail to communicate? ~ Pim
>
>
> *@ "... *For example, this is why atheists are not only wrong about God,
> but not *even* wrong, for it cannot be ungnosised that their coarse
> language is inadequate to the lofty subject it can never reach. *Truly,
> they are like the tone deaf person who dismisses musical beauty just because
> they can neither hear nor express it.
>
> *Put another way, if one truly understands and appreciates the capability
> of language to store and convey immaterial spiritual qualities, this poses
> an insurmountable obstacle to atheism, if only because there is no
> materialistic/Darwinian theory that will ever account for this mysterious
> property of language. *The moment a Darwinian struggles to express his
> ideas in an elegant and aesthetically satisfying way, he is no longer a
> Darwinian. To the extent that he believes that truth is what one is
> ethically bound to believe -- just as good is what one is obligated to do --
> he is no atheist.
>
> Let us stipulate what is not a tautology -- that Truth is truth, and that
> it is mankind's unending task to make the one conform to the other. Whenever
> anyone -- even an atheist -- says anything, he is presupposing a universe in
> which a thing called "truth" may be encoded and passed from mind to mind
> through a medium called language.* These are huge presuppositions, and
> only serve to re-emphasize the crudity of the atheist mind. Unless an
> atheist is an abject nihilist, then he doesn't have the courage of his
> absence of convictions.
>
> For example ..."
> http://onecosmos.blogspot.com/search?q=failure+to+communicate
>
> ~ Janice
>
> On 5/1/07, Janice Matchett <janmatch@earthlink.net> wrote:
>
>
> At 08:35 AM 5/1/2007, PvM wrote:
>
> Haha very funny Janice. Of course, nothing much to support the existence
> of
> or our ability to recognize absolute truths. Happy May Day. ~ Pim
> @ "...But if truth is relative and perception is reality, then no one's
> ideas about the world are any better than anyone else's. Fact is reduced
> to
> opinion, and conformity to opinion is ultimately maintained by the group
> or
> institution that has the power to enforce its version of reality.
> Ironically, this achieves the opposite effect intended by its liberal
> proponents. That is, if we cannot judge the merit of competing ideas by
> assessing their value in light of an absolute standard, then either
> everyone
> will have their own private truth, or truth will be enforced by the state
> or
> some other powerful collectivity. On college campuses, no one is
> unsophisticated enough to believe that truth exists; however, you'd better
> not utter the wrong truth, or you will come face to face with the Fist
> that
> enforces absolute horizontal relativism. ..."
>
> Those who are emotionally able to handle it, may read the rest of it
> here:
> http://onecosmos.blogspot.com/search?q=recognizing+absolute+truth
>
> ~ Janice
>
>
>
>
> On 5/1/07, Janice Matchett <janmatch@earthlink.net> wrote:
>
>
> At 01:05 PM 4/30/2007, PvM wrote:
>
>
> Excellent point. Let me also point out that "But a democracy mediated by
> mere animal-men will sooner or later lead to the Reign of the Beast. "
> is
> contradicted by science showing how such communities arise and are
> maintained. Religion historically may have been a way of mediating these
> communities, but would it not be fascinating if religion evolved as a
> side
> effect of community's and individual's survival? In fact, that many
> cultures have found different expressions of their religious faith, seems
> to
> further show that the role of religion may be one of mediation more than
> about 'absolute truths'. After all, how do we recognize absolute truths?
> Not
> that we have not tried, often with very limited success. ~ Pim
> @ Some aren't emotionally (or spiritually) able to recognize absolute
> truths yet. Here's a test you can take to find out if you're among those
> who aren't able to:
>
> Dr. Sanity's moral Rorschach Test
> http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2006/07/moral-difference.html
>
> ~ Janice ...."If one is going to engage in comparative religion, one
> needs
> to exit history and take a martian's-eye view of the situation. From that
> much wider trans-historical viewpoint, the Judeo-Christian tradition
> emerges
> not as religion, but the cure for religion--including the religion of
> atheism or "secularism." Allow me to explain..."
> http://onecosmos.blogspot.com/search?q=pacifists
>
>
>

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Received on Tue May 1 10:46:40 2007

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