Theist -> Atheist

  • #51
664
3
Besides, Charles Darwin, a strong propoenent of evolution, was a theist.
This is a classical myth that is being perpetuated by all sorts of strange groups. He was actually an agnostic, after his discovery of mechanisms of evolution.

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin Vol. 1

"What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one but myself. But, as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. … In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind." (p. 304)
"I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic." (p. 313)
In an 1860 letter to Asa Gray, he wrote:

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin Vol 2

"With respect to the theological view of the question: This is always painful to me. I am bewildered. I had no intention to write atheistically, but I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice... On the other hand, I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance." (p. 311)
The Authobiography of Charles Darwin

By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported,—that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become,—that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us,—that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events,—that they differ in many important details, far too important as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eye-witnesses;—by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact that many false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some weight with me. Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can hardly be denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories.

But I was very unwilling to give up my belief;—I feel sure of this for I can well remember often and often inventing day-dreams of old letters between distinguished Romans and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii or elsewhere which confirmed in the most striking manner all that was written in the Gospels. But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished.

[...]

Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague conclusions to which I have been driven. The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the result of fixed laws. (p. 86)
Everyone makes mistakes :biggrin:
 
Last edited:
  • #52
DaveC426913
Gold Member
18,974
2,463
I'm not sure why the obvious might have been missed in responding to the OP's claim that s/he needs evidence:

Why does the OP think that s/he is not chock full of his/her own beliefs upon which s/he builds his/her faith in science?
 
  • #53
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
18,929
2,243
This is a classical myth that is being perpetuated by all sorts of strange groups. He [Charles Darwin] was actually an agnostic, after his discovery of mechanisms of evolution.
I know the Unitarians claim him as one of them. I'll have to look into the basis of that claim.

Certainly one is free to change one's mind as one ages, or one's thinking is bound to evolve in the face of new evidence. :biggrin:
 
  • #54
Dogma vs concept? When I listen to any number of religious leaders speak, it makes my stomach turn, but this is a separate issue from faith.

I liked the thesis from the movie Contact: Science and religion both seek truth.
That's a terrible thesis. Religion seeks to suppress. They could care less about the truth.
 
  • #55
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,223
197
Seems like we're straying a bit into ontological statements.

I believe that there is an area inbetween 100% denial and 100% belief (and this is not necessarily 50/50. When I deny the existence of, say Pegasus, it's because I have an idea of what someone has in mind when they say it, and I know that something with those properties is not realized in reality based on my current observations. However, as my observations are subject to change as my life progresses, I cannot say, with 100% certainty, that Pegasus does not exist. Just that it is highly likely that such a being does not exist because I have never observed it or anything like it.

Similarly, God (or any being for that matter) cannot be denied absolutely. The only things that can be denied absolutely are things like triangles with four sides, or square circles — things that by definition make no sense and therefore cannot be known. However, as I have never observed anything like God, nor do I really think it is possible, I can say that God probably does not exist from inductive reasoning.
Again, we are not talking about belief in God but either accepting the claims of others, or not. To say "I don't know" suggests that I do not accept such a claim at this time, but I might be willing to accept it in the future.

As for belief in God, again, what we really mean is acceptance. As I was pointing out about faith, there is no such thing as faith without doubt. In fact this is a common theme in most religions. One of the most notable biblical excerpts is the story of Jesus in the olive garden. The point of the story is that he lost faith. So even by religious teachings, no one has 100% belief, only faith, and by choice.

It is a fallacy to think that all religious "believers" actually believe. Instead, they choose to have faith. I think most people require proof for true belief. Perhaps this is what separates the average "believer" from the fanatics. No rational person can have faith without doubts. According to the bible - the entire basis for Christian faith - this was even true of Jesus.
 
Last edited:
  • #56
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,223
197
That's a terrible thesis. Religion seeks to suppress. They could care less about the truth.
That confuses the message with the organizations. There is one defintion in religion that God IS truth. One can argue that some religious people literally worship truth.

I think part of the problem is that only the radical people and religions get the press. There is nothing interesting about someone who quietly prays at night and who by faith tries to be a good person - love your neighbor and your enemy, help the poor, don't steal, don't lie, etc. Pretty boring stuff.
 
Last edited:
  • #57
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,223
197
BTW, just to enforce the point that I'm not pushing any particular agenda, if you asked me specifically what I believe about all of this, I couldn't tell you. But I do have a long and strong association with Christianity and spirituality, and I think that because of radical Islam and radical Christianity [which I find to be a contradiction in terms], many people have gotten some very funny ideas about faith. Don't label 100% based on the actions of 10%.
 
Last edited:
  • #58
664
3
Don't label 100% based on the actions of 10%.
I do not think the issue is about people, but what the doctrines and dogmas themselves make people who accepts it fully do. I think that the reason that individuals who practice religious moderation are nice is because of the very fact that they are religious moderates. The new criticism of religion is not about how a few people do bad things and therefore everyone is bad, but about the demonstrated danger of some of the dogmas and doctrines of religion. The religious fundamentalists knowledge of scripture is pretty much unrivaled.

To be honest, I think that religious moderation (or any type of supernatural moderation) is the result of secular knowledge and scriptural leeway, not so much an expression of the 'one true interpretation', but of course, I could be wrong.

Why does the OP think that s/he is not chock full of his/her own beliefs upon which s/he builds his/her faith in science?
I think that the awesomeness of science can be established a posteriori. In the same manner, the potency or lack thereof of religion can as well?
 
Last edited:
  • #59
Garth
Science Advisor
Gold Member
3,574
105
I know the Unitarians claim him as one of them. I'll have to look into the basis of that claim.
Charles Darwin as a boy was a member, with his mother, of the Shrewsbury Unitarian Church as here.
“Mrs. Darwin was a Unitarian and attended Mr. Case’s chapel, and my father as a little boy went there with his elder sisters. But both he and his brother were christened and intended to belong to the Church of England; and after his early boyhood he seems usually to have gone to church and not to Mr. Case’s. It appears (St. James’s Gazette, December 15, 1883) that a mural tablet has been erected to his memory in the chapel, which is now known as the ‘Free Christian Church.’” [F. Darwin, 1995: 6 fn.]
 
  • #61
Religion has defined a good part of human history and we have thousands of years of testimonials of divine intervention in human affairs.
Appeal to popularity much?
 
  • #62
Ivan makes a good point:


If I am correct in saying so - to actively deny the existence of God (i.e. make a claim that God does not exist; How do you know a god doesn't exist? You don't.) is just as fallacious as believing in one. However, remaining unsure of the existence of a God isn't a logical fallacy.
First of all, the lack of evidence gives me the confidence to say so. Of course absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but until something comes up it would be a great leap of faith to say that some deity exists.

And I could just as easily say that denying the existence of the flying spaghetti monster is a logical fallacy. How do you know he doesn't exist?
 
  • #63
That confuses the message with the organizations. There is one defintion in religion that God IS truth. One can argue that some religious people literally worship truth.
Right. Just because someone says something is truth doesn't make it true. They're going to need evidence in order to further validate it. And for people to deny that we need evidence to validate our conclusions are simply dismissing our experience in nature. Supernatural? If there was such a concept where there was some force above and beyond the universe then humans can't conceive it to begin with. I find it best not to throw out unnecessary gaps like that. Because a supernatural concept would likely need to be derived from something 2xsupernatural.

I think part of the problem is that only the radical people and religions get the press. There is nothing interesting about someone who quietly prays at night and who by faith tries to be a good person - love your neighbor and your enemy, help the poor, don't steal, don't lie, etc. Pretty boring stuff.
And these ways of living are only exclusive to people who pray? Again, I think having faith as some prerequisite for living by a banal moral system to begin with is superfluous.
 
  • #64
Hurkyl
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
14,916
19
Appeal to popularity much?
Anecdotal evidence is neither deductive nor scientific proof, but it is evidence nonetheless. Funny, I'm sure I've said that twice already...


First of all, the lack of evidence gives me the confidence to say so. Of course absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but until something comes up it would be a great leap of faith to say that some deity exists.
You seem confused: possibly suffering from a false dilemma. "Affirming the existence of a deity" and "denying the existence of a deity" do not exhaust the possibilities here.

Assuming there was no evidence either way, it would be reasonable not to believe a deity exists... but it would be a great leap of faith to believe no deity exists.


If there was such a concept where there was some force above and beyond the universe then humans can't conceive it to begin with.
Your lack of imagination does not imply that everyone else lacks imagination.
 
  • #65
254
0
Anecdotal evidence is neither deductive nor scientific proof, but it is evidence nonetheless. Funny, I'm sure I've said that twice already...
Why are you making it seem like anecdotal evidence has a place in determining whether something is true or not?
 
  • #66
Anecdotal evidence is neither deductive nor scientific proof, but it is evidence nonetheless. Funny, I'm sure I've said that twice already...
An isolated event does not construct a new truth.



You seem confused: possibly suffering from a false dilemma. "Affirming the existence of a deity" and "denying the existence of a deity" do not exhaust the possibilities here.
Where is the false dilemma in that?

Assuming there was no evidence either way, it would be reasonable not to believe a deity exists... but it would be a great leap of faith to believe no deity exists.
I just explained that the lack of evidence gives me the confidence to say a deity doesn't exist.

First of all, the lack of evidence gives me the confidence to say so. Of course absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but until something comes up it would be a great leap of faith to say that some deity exists.


Then you agree with me, but then you say something contradictory. Are you on something?





Your lack of imagination does not imply that everyone else lacks imagination.
This has nothing to do with imagination. It has everything to do with giving an accurate depiction of this concept which humans simply cannot do. We are not above and beyond our confinements in nature.
 
  • #67
664
3
Actually, when it comes to evidence, the absence of evidence can be considered evidence of absence. There are no evidence for astrology and the 'field' have failed to produce anything of relevance for the past hundreds of years that would suggest astrology is true; the same could be argued for other types of supernaturalism.

Trying to stick to the topic, I don't think it's even worth convincing a theist about your agnostic or atheist-like philosophy, not that a philosophy is even needed.
Indeed. The faithful (in any type of supernaturalism; particularly in ghosts etc.) will hardly change their mind that much; isn't that what faith means (accepting something as true in the absence of evidence or even in the face of evidence against their faith)?
 
Last edited:
  • #68
DaveC426913
Gold Member
18,974
2,463
Actually, when it comes to evidence, the absence of evidence can be considered evidence of absence. There are no evidence for astrology and the 'field' have failed to produce anything of relevance for the past hundreds of years that would suggest astrology is true; the same could be argued for other types on naturalism.
I think something to consider here is whether a hypothesis can be falsified. I think it's fairly easy for Astrology to make predictions that can then be falsified, showing that the 'field' is ... (let's be generous) in dire need of modification.

I'm not sure the same thing can be said for the existence of a deity, since it does not predict anything that we can test. (Sure, there are lots of things we might detect - miracles, lightning bolts upon non-believers, etc., but I do not believe most deities do command performances for human experiments.)
 
  • #69
664
3
I think something to consider here is whether a hypothesis can be falsified. I think it's fairly easy for Astrology to make predictions that can then be falsified, showing that the 'field' is ... (let's be generous) in dire need of modification.

I'm not sure the same thing can be said for the existence of a deity, since it does not predict anything that we can test. (Sure, there are lots of things we might detect - miracles, lightning bolts upon non-believers, etc., but I do not believe most deities do command performances for human experiments.)
Indeed, a general deity cannot. However, some versions certainly make testable predictions, at least if one takes the literal approach.

Technically, since astrology is claimed as a supernatural concept, science with its tool of methodological naturalism should not be able to test it, per definition. But it can. I think that just because one claims that an entity or phenomena is supernatural does not necessarily mean that it is, in fact, supernatural or outside of the realm of scientific inquiry. Any supernatural concept that yields testable predictions cannot, by definition, be supernatural.

Of course, ad hoc hypothesis will be introduced by the general supernaturalism (such as claims that the "energy" was not "right" for the astrological prediction etc.) making most attempts at falsification useless.
 
  • #70
EnumaElish
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
2,304
124
Why is this thread under Soc. Sci.?

Is Atheism/Theism an inherent, natural, or perhaps proposed subject of social science?

If it is any of these, where are the social science references? And I don't mean philosophy, or religion.
 
  • #71
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,223
197
Why is this thread under Soc. Sci.?

Is Atheism/Theism an inherent, natural, or perhaps proposed subject of social science?

If it is any of these, where are the social science references? And I don't mean philosophy, or religion.
I moved it here based on the idea that we are discussing why people make the choices that they do.
 
Last edited:
  • #72
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,223
197
Why are you making it seem like anecdotal evidence has a place in determining whether something is true or not?
It can be used to make personal choices. Are you a person or an experiment? Is science a religion or a tool? If you wish to base all belief on only scientific evidence, then that is your choice, but science can never really prove anything, so if all belief requires scientific proof, then you will never believe anything. And since science cannot falsify the existence of a deity, there is no possible resolution here.


As a friend once pointed out: If the heavens opened up and God spoke to him directly, he would simply assume that he is hallucinating. Be it God or a hallucination, to choose either for belief requires a leap of faith.
 
Last edited:
  • #73
254
0
It can be used to make personal choices. Are you a person or an experiment? Is science a religion or a tool? If you wish to base all belief on only scientific evidence, then that is your choice, but science can never really prove anything, so if all belief requires scientific proof, then you will never believe anything.

As a friend once pointed out: If the heavens opened up and God spoke to him directly, he would simply assume that he is hallucinating. Be it God or a hallucination, to choose either for belief requires a leap of faith.
Personal choices aren't exactly logical choices. And I wasn't under the impression that we were talking about all beliefs, including everyday social beliefs, such as "Are they lying to me? Does she love me?" , which if you try to apply strict scientific reasoning with, you can never decide. Though for cases like what is stated above, I think you can take into account evidence.
 
Last edited:
  • #74
254
0
As a friend once pointed out: If the heavens opened up and God spoke to him directly, he would simply assume that he is hallucinating. Be it God or a hallucination, to choose either for belief requires a leap of faith.
Your friend can believe whatever he wants to in that case, but it doesn't make a difference to the rest of us. Personal experience (anecdotal evidence) doesn't count. So someone says that God spoke to them. Well there are people that have seen pink elephants. The two are no different.
 
  • #75
664
3
It can be used to make personal choices. Are you a person or an experiment? Is science a religion or a tool? If you wish to base all belief on only scientific evidence, then that is your choice, but science can never really prove anything, so if all belief requires scientific proof, then you will never believe anything. And since science cannot falsify the existence of a deity, there is no possible resolution here.
Science can certainly apply Modus tollens. All that is needed is that science supports the various conclusions about the world, as it should be common knowledge that all truth in science is tentative, becoming more and more correct as time passes. Again, just because a deity is claimed to be supernatural does not make it, per definition, outside the scope of scientific inquiry.

Then it is of course a question between scientific realism and instrumentalism, but I feel that you are still trying to invoke equivocation?
 

Related Threads on Theist -> Atheist

  • Last Post
Replies
22
Views
3K
Replies
4
Views
4K
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Last Post
4
Replies
96
Views
8K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
14
Views
2K
Replies
22
Views
4K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
2K
Top