Atheist believe there is no God? Yes we do, strongly!

by bohm 139 Replies latest jw friends

  • bohm

    Essan: We seem to arrive at some conclusion.

    I understand you to mean that if a person say:

    "I believe santa does not exist", using belief in this way implies he take a "leap of faith" as you put it. This is not of no consequence: He is being unscientific in doing so.

    To put it on the edge, this could be one of the final questions if you can answer yes/no:

    Is the word "belief" defined in such a way in english that it is unscientific to say: "I believe santa does not exist?" because it require a leap of faith?

    If you say yes, i can only conclude we have two different definitions, and use english in different ways. I am not a native english speaker, so i might be in error.

  • Essan

    That's a difficult question because then we have to define 'scientific' and this might never end. LOL.

    I think to say "I believe X" when X cannot be categorically proven is necessarily to make a leap, to inject a degree of faith, no matter how seemingly small, and that there is no legitimate definition of "believe" in the English language that can remove this element of faith. Is that "unscientific"? I think it's contrary to strict principles of good science, and yet it is very common. So common, in fact, that someone who insisted on such accuracy would be something of an oddity as a scientist. But they would not be an oddity as an agnostic.

    With whatever definition of "believe" you use, either as indicating acceptance as true because of perceived high probability/improbability or acceptance as true because we believe something to be absolutely true (or false), both require degrees of faith to reach "acceptance". Faith and belief are not - for me - part of good science, but I fully accept that they are operative within science (even if this is not always readily admitted). That makes them 'scientific' by virtue of being endemic within science and among scientists, but not 'scientific' if one believes good, pure science, involves being as accurate and unbiased as possible.

    To sum up what I'm saying as simply as possible: no matter what definition you use of "believe", if you say "I believe X does/does not exist", you are a "believer", and if you can't categorically prove 100% that which you believe then your belief involves faith.

  • bohm

    Essan: Well, being unbiased an accurate is certainly what i think science should be, and i think we can both say one should "believe in good, pure science!" (oh wait, that would imply it takes a leap of faith to believe in good, pure science? im confused!) HEHE! :-)

    idea for bumper sticker: "Its unscientific to believe santa does not exist"


    The reason true agnostics often become single: "Sorry honey, i cant say i dont believe you are a crack-snorting slut, it would be unscientific of me and, quite frankly, it would take a leap of faith!"


    You englishmen have a perculiar language, and very tolerant women!

    (Sorry, i have to yank your chain. You have LOL'ed me a few times allready!)

  • bohm

    Essan: Regarding the matrix -

    Probabilities are, commonly, defined as "degrees of belief" (read David Mackays "information theory" which is avaliable online. David Mackay is one of the fathers of turbo decoders, an application of belief propagation) or "degres of certainty"; in more detail, one commonly define it as a set of numbers sattisfying the so-called Cox axioms, but lets not get carried away.

    So what about the Matrix?

    well. I got to admit that its a hard one to swallow. Once you throw in an idea such that the entire world is a simulation, there is a lot of bagga such that mathematics may not make sence. But i think it is quite possible to talk about my degree of belief it is so, and as such i will say - a bit carefully - that it is a well-defined quantity. Yes, there is a probability we live in the matrix, and it is not 0.

    Are you going to be satisfied by this, or do you want me to write numbers to get back at me? :-)

  • Essan

    LOL. Maybe that's why I keep getting slapped by women.

    Actually, when you said that you weren't a native English speaker that got me thinking and something suddenly occurred to me. English is very strange, as you say. So strange that I can see one meaning of "believe" that may have confused you especially if you derived an understanding of it from a dictionary rather than a native English speaker. You may or may not be aware of this already but I thought I'd mention it in case it is the source of our disagreement.

    Believe can sometimes be used to indicate almost the exact opposite of it's primary meaning. It's rarely used by Americans I think (although I'm sure they would understand it) but is used in England sometimes but it's a slightly archaic usage now. The reason I haven't mentioned it before if that the context of our discussion absolutely rules it out as being the intended meaning of the statement "I believe God does not exist" or suchlike and I didn't know you weren't a native English speaker and so it was something I thought would be obvious to both of us as irrelevant so that it didn't need mentioning. The rules of this usage of believe are very, very subtle, but a native English speaker (a well educated English, English speaker, at least) would instantly recognize when this meaning is not being indicated. And as such I'm telling you, it doesn't help your case, so don't get excited LOL.

    Believe can sometimes be used indicate suspicion, very weak suspicion or even serious doubt. For instance you might ask someone where your car keys were and, if they had a vague idea they may have seen them in they kitchen, but certainly didn't know for sure, they might say "Erm, they are in the kitchen, I believe". or "I believe they are in the kitchen". It is often used in this way to indicate, not belief, but real uncertainty. It's almost a way of saying "I suspect they may be there, but I really don't know, so please don't take my word for it". Usually the tone of voice, word emphasis and facial expression is what indicates the degree of doubt. Now, the context and sentence structure of statements like "I believe God does not exist" totally rules out such a usage, but it's possible that if a dictionary listed such a usage that this may be where you derived your beliefs about "belief" and what it can indicate. Just a thought.

    I had no idea you were not a native English speaker, which says a lot. :)

  • Mad Dawg
    Mad Dawg

    Good ole' Bohm, arguing in the shadows of hair splitting semantics. Essan, you will never get him to agree what the meaning of "is" is.

  • Essan

    No, no need to delve into the Matrix LOL.

    I think my point was to indicate my views on 'probability'.

    Investigations into probability, much like those of quantum physics, reveal how much we don't and can't know, as well as how much that we formerly thought impossible could well be possible or - possibly LOL - inevitable. They confirm my agnosticism rather than lead me to conclusions. I feel that paradox and unknowing are the closest we have come to "Truth" and that 'the more we learn the less we know'.

  • bohm

    Mad Dawg: Good old Mad Dawg, arguing ... eh, no wait. he is not arguing. he is just being grumpy! :-)

  • Essan

    Hi Mad Dawg,

    Bohm is as tenacious as I am but he has shown a lot of patience and kept his cool too, never being rude, which is a rare and welcome thing. :)

  • bohm

    Essan: I have not looked up believe in the dictionary... I think some of the confusion is that the word sononymous with believe in my language does not signify a "siding" with a belief, merely that one think its most likely.

    I will maintain that many scientists use believe to signify high probability though. That may be a wrong usage of the word, but it is common. This is how David MacKay define probability in his book "Information theory":

    "Probabilities can also be used, more generally, to describe degrees of belief in propositions that do not involve random variables { for example `the probability that Mr. S. was the murderer of Mrs. S., given the evidence'"


    Nevertheless, degrees of belief can be mapped onto probabilities if they satisfy

    simple consistency rules known as the Cox axioms (Cox, 1946) (gure 2.4).

    Thus probabilities can be used to describe assumptions, and to describe inferences

    given those assumptions. The rules of probability ensure that if two

    people make the same assumptions and receive the same data then they will

    draw identical conclusions. This more general use of probability to quantify

    beliefs is known as the Bayesian viewpoint. It is also known as the subjective

    interpretation of probability, since the probabilities depend on assumptions.

    So in MacKayes book belief come in degrees -- as do it in Jaynes, but i am to lazy to take it down from the shelf and quote it. This is commonly refered to our "belief" or prior beliefs. Notice the wording of "more general" refer to the frequentist interpretation of probability theory which is more limited in the sence it only talk about random variables (a very ill-defined concept which map poorly to reality). You can find his book online for free if you want to check it out.

    Does that proove anything? i dont really know.

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