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The Increase in UK Faith Schools Limits Choice For Parents

happy-humanist

Support the campaign – say no to faith schools

End it – don’t extend it

 


Publicly funded religious schools, or ‘faith schools’, currently make up around a third of our education system. This limits choice for parents who do not want a religious education for their children, or do not share the faith of their local school.

 

In order to ensure everyone’s right to freedom of religion and belief is respected, we believe all publicly funded schools should be fully inclusive and equally welcoming to children of all religion and belief backgrounds.

 

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Humanist Celebrations

A celebration without God.

Secular holidays

Some Humanists celebrate official religion-based public holidays, such as Christmas or Easter, but as secular holidays rather than religious ones.

Many Humanists also celebrate the winter and summer solstice, the former of which (in the northern hemisphere) is the root of the celebration of Christmas, and the equinoxes, of which the vernal equinox is associated with Christianity’s Easter and indeed with all other springtime festivals of renewal, and the autumnal equinox which is related to such celebrations such as Halloween and All Souls’ Day.

 

The Society for Humanistic Judaism celebrates most Jewish holidays in a secular manner.

The IHEU endorses World Humanist Day (21 June), Darwin Day (12 February), Human Rights Day (10 December) and HumanLight (23 December) as official days of Humanist celebration, though none are yet a public holiday.

In many countries, Humanist officiants (or celebrants) perform celebrancy services for weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies, and other rituals.

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Is Humanism a Religion

The beginnings of Humanism

Ethics and relationship to religious belief.

“modern, organized Humanism began, in the minds of its founders, as nothing more nor less than a religion without a God”

Continue reading “Is Humanism a Religion”

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Natural Selection

Does not include creationism

Gradual Change Darwin Lamarck
Better than Lamarck?

 

Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype; it is a key mechanism of evolution. The term “natural selection” was popularised by Charles Darwin, who intended it to be compared with artificial selection, now more commonly referred to as selective breeding.

Variation exists within all populations of organisms. This occurs partly because random mutations arise in the genome of an individual organism, and these mutations can be passed to offspring. Throughout the individuals’ lives, their genomes interact with their environments to cause variations in traits. (The environment of a genome includes the molecular biology in the cell, other cells, other individuals, populations, species, as well as the abiotic environment.) Individuals with certain variants of the trait may survive and reproduce more than individuals with other, less successful, variants. Therefore, the population evolves. Factors that affect reproductive success are also important, an issue that Darwin developed in his ideas on sexual selection, which was redefined as being included in natural selection in the 1930s when biologists considered it not to be very important, and fecundity selection, for example.

Natural selection acts on the phenotype, or the observable characteristics of an organism, but the genetic (heritable) basis of any phenotype that gives a reproductive advantage may become more common in a population (see allele frequency). Over time, this process can result in populations that specialise for particular ecological niches (microevolution) and may eventually result in the emergence of new species (macroevolution). In other words, natural selection is an important process (though not the only process) by which evolution takes place within a population of organisms. Natural selection can be contrasted with artificial selection, in which humans intentionally choose specific traits (although they may not always get what they want). In natural selection there is no intentional choice. In other words, artificial selection is teleological and natural selection is not teleological.

Natural selection is one of the cornerstones of modern biology. The concept was published by Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in a joint presentation of papers in 1858, and set out in Darwin’s influential 1859 book On the Origin of Species, in which natural selection was described as analogous to artificial selection, a process by which animals and plants with traits considered desirable by human breeders are systematically favoured for reproduction. The concept of natural selection was originally developed in the absence of a valid theory of heredity; at the time of Darwin’s writing, nothing was known of modern genetics. The union of traditional Darwinian evolution with subsequent discoveries in classical and molecular genetics is termed the modern evolutionary synthesis. Natural selection remains the primary explanation for adaptive evolution.

Or would you prefer – This Created Version?

fucking-with-gods-story

 

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Lamarckism organism

Say Something on the Natural World

 

Gradual Change Darwin Lamarck
Better than Lamarck?

……………is the idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it has acquired during its lifetime to its offspring (also known as heritability of acquired characteristics or soft inheritance). It is named after the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829), who incorporated the action of soft inheritance into his evolutionary theories as a supplement to his concept of an inherent progressive tendency driving organisms continuously towards greater complexity, in parallel but separate lineages with no extinction. Lamarck did not originate the idea of soft inheritance, which proposes that individual efforts during the lifetime of the organisms were the main mechanism driving species to adaptation, as they supposedly would acquire adaptive changes and pass them on to offspring.

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The Last Universal Ancestor

Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including the levels of species, individual organisms, and molecules.

Mr_c_Darwin

All life on Earth shares a common ancestor known as the last universal ancestor, which lived approximately 3.5–3.8 billion years ago, although a study in 2015 found “remains of biotic life” from 4.1 billion years ago in ancient rocks in Western Australia. According to one of the researchers, “If life arose relatively quickly on Earth … then it could be common in the universe.”

Repeated formation of new species (speciation), change within species (anagenesis), and loss of species (extinction) throughout the evolutionary history of life on Earth are demonstrated by shared sets of morphological and biochemical traits, including shared DNA sequences.

These shared traits are more similar among species that share a more recent common ancestor, and can be used to reconstruct a biological “tree of life” based on evolutionary relationships (phylogenetics), using both existing species and fossils.

charles darwin

The fossil record includes a progression from early biogenic graphite, to microbial mat fossils, to fossilized multicellular organisms. Existing patterns of biodiversity have been shaped both by speciation and by extinction. More than 99 percent of all species that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct. Estimates of Earth’s current species range from 10 to 14 million, of which about 1.2 million have been documented.

 

In the mid-19th century, Charles Darwin formulated the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection, published in his book On the Origin of Species (1859). Evolution by natural selection is a process demonstrated by the observation that more offspring are produced than can possibly survive, along with three facts about populations:

1) traits vary among individuals with respect to morphology, physiology, and behaviour (phenotypic variation),

2) different traits confer different rates of survival and reproduction (differential fitness), and

3) traits can be passed from generation to generation (heritability of fitness). Thus, in successive generations members of a population are replaced by progeny of parents better adapted to survive and reproduce in the biophysical environment in which natural selection takes place.

This teleonomy is the quality whereby the process of natural selection creates and preserves traits that are seemingly fitted for the functional roles they perform. Natural selection is the only known cause of adaptation but not the only known cause of evolution. Other, nonadaptive causes of microevolution include mutation and genetic drift.

Blind_Watchmaker

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Is This Evil Theodicy

 

In its most common form, attempts to answer the question why a good God permits the manifestation of evil. Theodicy addresses the evidential problem of evil by attempting “to make the existence of an All-knowingAll-powerful and All-good or omnibenevolent God consistent with the existence of evil” or suffering in the world. Unlike a defence, which tries to demonstrate that God’s existence is logically possible in the light of evil, a theodicy provides a framework which claims to make God’s existence probable. The German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz coined the term “theodicy” in 1710 in his work Théodicée, though various responses to the problem of evil had been previously proposed. The British philosopher John Hick traced the history of moral theodicy in his 1966 work, Evil and the God of Love, identifying three major traditions:

  1. the Plotinian theodicy, named after Plotinus
  2. the Augustinian theodicy, which Hick based on the writings of Augustine of Hippo
  3. the Irenaean theodicy, which Hick developed, based on the thinking of St. Irenaeus

Other philosophers have suggested that theodicy is a modern discipline because deities in the ancient world were often imperfect.

German philosopher Max Weber (1864-1920) saw theodicy as a social problem, based on the human need to explain puzzling aspects of the world. Sociologist Peter L. Berger (1929- ) argued that religion arose out of a need for social order, and an “implicit theodicy of all social order” developed to sustain it. Following the Holocaust, a number of Jewish theologians developed a new response to the problem of evil, sometimes called anti-theodicy, which maintains that God cannot be meaningfully justified. As an alternative to theodicy, a defence has been proposed by the American philosopher Alvin Plantinga (1932- ), which is limited to showing the logical possibility of God’s existence. Plantinga’s version of the free-will defence argued that the coexistence of God and evil is not logically impossible, and that free will further explains the existence of evil without threatening the existence of God.

Image of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz
Evil looking portrait of Leibniz – who coined the term ‘Theodicy’.
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driver ants – are they really such a menace?

Dorylus clean up for nature

Dorylus, also known as driver ants, safari ants, or siafu, is a large genus of army ants found primarily in central and east Africa, although the range also extends to
tropical Asia.

The term siafu is a loanword from Swahili,and is one of numerous similar words from regional Bantu languages used by indigenous peoples to describe
various species of these ants.

 

 

Seasonally, when food supplies become short, they leave the hill and form marching columns of up to 50,000,000 ants, which are considered a menace to
people, though they can be easily avoided; a column can only travel about 20 metres in an hour. It is for those unable to move, or when the columns pass through homes,
that there is the greatest risk…

Source 

 

 

 

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Wallace I Salute You

I am reading all things Darwinism at the moment and I would just like to give Wallace a mention.

He was considered the 19th century’s leading expert on the geographical distribution of animal species and is sometimes called the “father of biogeography“.

More..

Wallace was one of the leading evolutionary thinkers of the 19th century and made many other contributions to the development of evolutionary theory besides being co-discoverer of natural selection. These included the concept of warning colouration in animals, and the Wallace effect, a hypothesis on how natural selection could contribute to speciation by encouraging the development of barriers against hybridisation.

Wallace-Alfred-portrait

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The Watch Maker?

The watchmaker analogy or watchmaker argument is a teleological argument, which by way of an analogy, states that design of creation (like a watch) implies a designer.

The analogy has played a prominent role in natural theology and the “argument from design,” where it was used to support arguments for the existence of God and for the intelligent design of the universe.

The most famous statement of the teleological argument using the watchmaker analogy was given by William Paley in his 1802 book Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity.

Source

The 1859 publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection put forward an explanation for complexity and adaptation, which reflects scientific consensus on
the origins of biological diversity, and provides a counter-argument to the watchmaker analogy: for example, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins referred to the
analogy in his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker giving his explanation of evolution.

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This Is Modern Culture 2015

Ethics 2015 Style

“…Catholic theologians sometimes call supernatural the miraculous way in which certain effects, in themselves natural, are produced, or certain endowments (like man’s immunity from death, suffering, passion, and ignorance) that bring the lower class up to the higher though always within the limits of the created, but they are careful in qualifying the former as accidentally supernatural (supernaturale per accidens) and the latter as relatively supernatural (prœternaturale). For a concept of the substantially and absolutely supernatural, they start from a comprehensive view of the natural order taken, in its amplest acceptation, for the aggregate of all created entities and powers, including the highest natural endowments of which the rational creature is capable, and even such Divine operations as are demanded by the effective carrying out of the cosmic order. The supernatural order is then more than a miraculous way of producing natural effects, or a notion of relative superiority within the created world, or the necessary concurrence of God in the universe; it is an effect or series of effects substantially and absolutely above all nature and, as such, calls for an exceptional intervention and gratuitous bestowal of God and rises in a manner to the Divine order, the only one that transcends the whole created world… It is obvious also that this uplifting of the rational creature to the supernatural order cannot be by way of absorption of the created into the Divine or of fusion of both into a sort of monistic identity, but only by way of union or participation, the two terms remaining perfectly distinct…”

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Osiris afterlife

Osiris was an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He was classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh’s beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and holding a symbolic crook and flail.

Osiris was at times considered the oldest son of the earth god Geb, though other sources state his father is the sun-god Ra and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son. He was also associated with the epithet Khenti-Amentiu, which means “Foremost of the Westerners” — a reference to his kingship in the land of the dead. As ruler of the dead, Osiris was also sometimes called “king of the living“, since the Ancient Egyptians considered the blessed dead “the living ones“. Osiris was considered the brother of Isis, Set, Nephthys, Horus the Elder and father of Horus the younger.

Osiris is first attested in the middle of the Fifth dynasty of Egypt, although it is likely that he was worshipped much earlier; the term Khenti-Amentiu dates to at least the first dynasty, also as a pharaonic title. Most information available on the myths of Osiris is derived from allusions contained in the Pyramid Texts at the end of the Fifth Dynasty, later New Kingdom source documents such as the Shabaka Stone and the Contending of Horus and Seth, and much later, in narrative style from the writings of Greek authors including Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus.

Osiris was considered not only a merciful judge of the dead in the afterlife, but also the underworld agency that granted all life, including sprouting vegetation and the fertile flooding of the Nile River. He was described as the “Lord of love“, “He Who is Permanently Benign and Youthful“and the “Lord of Silence”.The Kings of Egypt were associated with Osiris in death — as Osiris rose from the dead they would, in union with him, inherit eternal life through a process of imitative magic. By the New Kingdom all people, not just pharaohs, were believed to be associated with Osiris at death, if they incurred the costs of the assimilation rituals.

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The Starry Messenger

Galileo

The Galileo affair was a sequence of events, beginning around 1610, culminating with the trial and condemnation of Galileo Galilei by the Roman Catholic Inquisition in 1616 and 1633 for his support of heliocentrism.

In 1610, Galileo published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing the surprising observations that he had made with the new telescope, namely the phases of Venus and the Galilean moons of Jupiter. With these observations he promoted the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus (published in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543). Galileo’s initial discoveries were met with opposition within the Catholic Church, and in 1616 the Inquisition declared heliocentrism to be formally heretical. Heliocentric books were banned and Galileo was ordered to refrain from holding, teaching or defending heliocentric ideas.

Galileo went on to propose a theory of tides in 1616, and of comets in 1619; he argued that the tides were evidence for the motion of the Earth. In 1632 Galileo, now an old man, published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which implicitly defended heliocentrism, and was immensely popular. Responding to mounting controversy over theology, astronomy and philosophy, the Roman Inquisition tried Galileo in 1633 and found him “gravely suspect of heresy“, sentencing him to indefinite imprisonment. Galileo was kept under house arrest until his death in 1642.

Galileo began his telescopic observations in the later part of 1609, and by March 1610 was able to publish a small book, The Starry Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius), relating some discoveries that had not been dreamed of in the philosophy of the time: mountains on the Moon, lesser moons in orbit around Jupiter, and the resolution of what had been thought to be very cloudy masses in the sky (nebulae) into collections of stars too faint to see individually without a telescope. Other observations followed, including the phases of Venus and the existence of sunspots.

Galileo’s contributions caused difficulties for theologians and natural philosophers of the time, as they contradicted scientific and philosophical ideas based on those of Aristotle and Ptolemy and closely associated with the Catholic Church (despite their being pagans). In particular, Galileo’s observations of the phases of Venus, which showed it to circle the sun, and the observation of moons orbiting Jupiter, contradicted the geocentric model of Ptolemy and supported the Copernican model advanced by Galileo.

Jesuit astronomers, experts both in Church teachings, science, and in natural philosophy, were at first skeptical and hostile to the new ideas; however, within a year or two the availability of good telescopes enabled them to repeat the observations. In 1611, Galileo visited the Collegium Romanum in Rome, where the Jesuit astronomers by that time had repeated his observations. Christoph Grienberger, one of the Jesuit scholars on the faculty, sympathized with Galileo’s theories, but was asked to defend the Aristotelian viewpoint by Claudio Acquaviva, the Father General of the Jesuits. Not all of Galileo’s claims were completely accepted: Christopher Clavius, the most distinguished astronomer of his age, never was reconciled to the idea of mountains on the Moon, and outside the collegium many still disputed the reality of the observations. In a letter to Kepler of August 1610, Galileo complained that some of the philosophers who opposed his discoveries had refused even to look through a telescope:

My dear Kepler, I wish that we might laugh at the remarkable stupidity of the common herd. What do you have to say about the principal philosophers of this academy who are filled with the stubbornness of an asp and do not want to look at either the planets, the moon or the telescope, even though I have freely and deliberately offered them the opportunity a thousand times? Truly, just as the asp stops its ears, so do these philosophers shut their eyes to the light of truth.

Geocentrists who did verify and accept Galileo’s findings had an alternative to Ptolemy’s model in an alternative geocentric (or “geo-heliocentric”) model proposed some decades earlier by Tycho Brahe—a model, in which, for example, Venus circled the sun.

Galileo became involved in a dispute over priority in the discovery of sunspots with Christoph Scheiner, a Jesuit. This became a bitter lifelong feud. Neither of them, however, was the first to recognise sunspots—the Chinese had already been familiar with them for centuries.

At this time, Galileo also engaged in a dispute over the reasons that objects float or sink in water, siding with Archimedes against Aristotle. The debate was unfriendly, and Galileo’s blunt and sometimes sarcastic style, though not extraordinary in academic debates of the time, made him enemies. During this controversy one of Galileo’s friends, the painter, Lodovico Cardi da Cigoli, informed him that a group of malicious opponents, which Cigoli subsequently referred to derisively as “the Pigeon league,” was plotting to cause him trouble over the motion of the earth, or anything else that would serve the purpose. According to Cigoli, one of the plotters had asked a priest to denounce Galileo’s views from the pulpit, but the latter had refused. Nevertheless, three years later another priest, Tommaso Caccini, did in fact do precisely that.

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Means of Natural Selection

Selimiye_Camii_ve_Mavi_Gökyüzü
Coleyartastro – Sun over Religion.

 

Darwin’s Re:Evolution is natural…

 

It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution. Darwin included evidence that he had gathered on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s and his subsequent findings from research, correspondence, and experimentation.

 

Evolved?

 

Darwin’s book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the  course of generations through a process of natural selection.

 

Continue reading “Means of Natural Selection”

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When Myth Caved in to Science

Image diagram of Heliocentrism.
Heliocentric Solar System

Earth is not at the Center

Heliocentrism, or heliocentricism, is the astronomical model in which the Earth and planets revolve around a relatively stationary Sun at the center of the Solar System. The word comes from the Greek (ἥλιος helios “sun” and κέντρον kentron “center”). Historically, heliocentrism was opposed to geocentrism, which placed the Earth at the center. The notion that the Earth revolves around the Sun had been proposed as early as the 3rd century BC by Aristarchus of Samos, but at least in the post-Ancient world Aristarchus’s heliocentrism attracted little attention—possibly because of the loss of scientific works of the Hellenistic Era —until Copernicus revived and elaborated it.

It was not until the 16th century that a fully predictive mathematical model of a heliocentric system was presented, by the Renaissance mathematician, astronomer, and Catholic cleric Nicolaus Copernicus, leading to the Copernican Revolution. In the following century, Johannes Kepler elaborated upon and expanded this model to include elliptical orbits, and supporting observations made using a telescope were presented by Galileo Galilei.

With the observations of William Herschel, Friedrich Bessel, and others, astronomers realized that the sun was not the center of the universe as heliocentrists at the time of Copernicus had supposed. By the 1920s Edwin Hubble had shown that it was part of a galaxy (the Milky Way) that was only one of many billions.

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Taoism – Origins and development

Laozi is traditionally regarded as the founder of Taoism and is closely associated in this context with “original”, or “primordial”, Taoism. Whether he actually existed is disputed; however, the work attributed to him – the Tao Te Ching – is dated to the late 4th century BCE.

Continue reading “Taoism – Origins and development”

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Epistemology

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which studies the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge. Knowledge is, from an epistemological standpoint, distinguished from mere belief by justification, warrant, or other such property the having of which is conducive to getting at the truth.

Knowledge in the sense of “understanding of a fact or truth” can be divided into a posteriori knowledge, based on experience or deduction and a priori knowledge from introspection, axioms, or self-evidence. Knowledge can also be described as a psychological state, since in a strict sense there can never be a posteriori knowledge proper (see relativism). Much of the disagreement about “proofs” of God’s existence is due to different conceptions not only of the term “God” but also the terms “proof”, “truth”, and “knowledge”.

Religious belief from revelation or enlightenment (satori) can fall into either the first category, a posteriori knowledge, if rooted in deduction or personal revelation, or the second, a priori class of knowledge, if based on introspection.

Different conclusions as to the existence of God often rest on different criteria for deciding what methods are appropriate for deciding if something is true or not, including:

  • whether logic counts as evidence concerning the quality of existence
  • whether subjective experience counts as evidence for objective reality
  • whether either logic or evidence can rule in or out the supernatural
  • whether an object of the mind is accepted for existence
  • whether a truthbearer can justify.
Arguments grounded in personal experiences
  • An argument for God is often made from an unlikely complete reversal in lifestyle by an individual towards God. Paul of Tarsus, a persecutor of the early Church, became a pillar of the Church after his conversion on the road to Damascus. Modern day examples in Evangelical Protestantism are sometimes called “Born-Again Christians“.
  • The Scottish School of Common Sense led by Thomas Reid taught that the fact of the existence of God is accepted by people without knowledge of reasons but simply by a natural impulse. That God exists, this school said, is one of the chief metaphysical principles that people accept not because they are evident in themselves or because they can be proved, but because common sense obliges people to accept them.
  • The Argument from a Proper Basis argues that belief in God is “properly basic”; that it is similar to statements like “I see a chair” or “I feel pain”. Such beliefs are non-falsifiable and, thus, neither provable nor disprovable; they concern perceptual beliefs or indisputable mental states.
  • In Germany, the School of Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi taught that human reason is able to perceive the suprasensible. Jacobi distinguished three faculties: sense, reason, and understanding. Just as sense has immediate perception of the material so has reason immediate perception of the immaterial, while the understanding brings these perceptions to a person’s consciousness and unites them to one another.
  • God’s existence, then, cannot be proven (Jacobi, like Immanuel Kant, rejected the absolute value of the principle of causality), it must be felt by the mind.
  • In Emile, Jean-Jacques Rousseau asserted that when a person’s understanding ponders over the existence of God it encounters nothing but contradictions; the impulses of people’s hearts, however, are of more value than the understanding, and these proclaim clearly the truths of natural religion, namely, the existence of God and the immortality of the soul.
  • The same theory was advocated in Germany by Friedrich Schleiermacher, who assumed an inner religious sense by means of which people feel religious truths. According to Schleiermacher, religion consists solely in this inner perception, and dogmatic doctrines are inessential.
  • Many modern Protestant theologians follow in Schleiermacher’s footsteps, and teach that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated; certainty as to this truth is only furnished to people by inner experience, feeling, and perception.
  • Modernist Christianity also denies the demonstrability of the existence of God. According to them, one can only know something of God by means of the vital immanence, that is, under favorable circumstances the need of the divine dormant in one’s subconsciousness becomes conscious and arouses that religious feeling or experience in which God reveals himself. In condemnation of this view the Oath Against Modernism formulated by Pius X, a Pope of the Catholic Church, says: “Deum … naturali rationis lumine per ea quae facta sunt, hoc est per visibilia creationis opera, tanquam causam per effectus certo cognosci adeoque demostrari etiam posse, profiteor.” (“I declare that by the natural light of reason, God can be certainly known and therefore his existence demonstrated through the things that are made, i.e., through the visible works of creation, as the cause is known through its effects.”)

Brahma Kumaris religion was established in 1936, when God was said to enter the body of diamond merchant Lekhraj Kripalani (1876–1969) in Hyderabad, Sindh and started to speak through him.

Further Reading

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Mary Wollstonecraft

Wollstonecraft – Advocate of Women’s Rights

black and white portrait of mary wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft (27 April 1759 – 10 September 1797) was an eighteenth-century English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights. During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children’s book. Wollstonecraft is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.

Until the late 20th century, Wollstonecraft’s life, which encompassed several unconventional personal relationships, received more attention than her writing. After two ill-fated affairs, with Henry Fuseli and Gilbert Imlay (by whom she had a daughter, Fanny Imlay), Wollstonecraft married the philosopher William Godwin, one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement. Wollstonecraft died at the age of thirty-eight, ten days after giving birth to her second daughter, leaving behind several unfinished manuscripts. Her daughter Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin would become an accomplished writer herself, as Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.

After Wollstonecraft’s death, her widower published a Memoir (1798) of her life, revealing her unorthodox lifestyle, which inadvertently destroyed her reputation for almost a century. However, with the emergence of the feminist movement at the turn of the twentieth century, Wollstonecraft’s advocacy of women’s equality and critiques of conventional femininity became increasingly important. Today Wollstonecraft is regarded as one of the founding feminist philosophers, and feminists often cite both her life and work as important influences.

#WhiteRibbon

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Supernatural: Nature of relevant proofs/arguments

Since God (of the kind to which the arguments relate) is neither an entity in the universe nor a mathematical object, it is not obvious what kinds of arguments/proofs are relevant to God’s existence. Even if the concept of scientific proof were not problematic, the fact that there is no conclusive scientific proof of the existence, or non-existence, of God mainly demonstrates that the existence of God is not a scientific question. John Polkinghorne suggests that the nearest analogy to the existence of God in physics are the ideas of quantum mechanics which are seemingly paradoxical but make sense of a great deal of disparate data.

Alvin Plantinga compares the question of the existence of God to the question of the existence of other minds, claiming both are notoriously impossible to “prove” against a determined skeptic.

One approach, suggested by writers such as Stephen D. Unwin, is to treat (particular versions of) theism and naturalism as though they were two hypotheses in the Bayesian sense, to list certain data (or alleged data), about the world, and to suggest that the likelihoods of these data are significantly higher under one hypothesis than the other. Most of the arguments for, or against, the existence of God can be seen as pointing to particular aspects of the universe in this way. In almost all cases it is not seriously suggested by proponents of the arguments that they are irrefutable, merely that they make one worldview seem significantly more likely than the other. However, since an assessment of the weight of evidence depends on the prior probability that is assigned to each worldview, arguments that a theist finds convincing may seem thin to an atheist and vice-versa.

Philosophers, such as Wittgenstein, take a view that is considered anti-realist and oppose philosophical arguments related to God’s existence. For instance, Charles Taylor contends that the real is whatever will not go away. If we cannot reduce talk about God to anything else, or replace it, or prove it false, then perhaps God is as real as anything else.

In George Berkeley‘s A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge of 1710, he argued that a “naked thought” cannot exist, and that a perception was a thought; therefore only minds could be proven to exist, since all else was merely an idea conveyed by a perception. This viewpoint has been used in popular fiction, including The Matrix movie series. From this Berkeley argued that the universe is based upon observation and is non-objective. However, he noted that the universe includes “ideas” not perceptible to mankind (or not always perceptible), and that there must therefore exist an omniscient superobserver, which perceives such things. Berkeley considered this proof of the existence of the Christian god.

Outside of Western thought

Existence in absolute truth is central to Vedanta epistemology. Traditional sense perception based approaches were put into question as possibly misleading due to preconceived or superimposed ideas. But though all object-cognition can be doubted, the existence of the doubter remains a fact even in nastika traditions of mayavada schools following Adi Shankara. The five eternal principles to be discussed under ontology, beginning with God or Isvara, the Ultimate Reality cannot be established by the means of logic alone, and often require superior proof. In Vaisnavism Vishnu, or his intimate ontological form of Krishna, is equated to personal absolute God of the Western traditions. Aspects of Krishna as svayam bhagavan in original Absolute Truth, sat chit ananda, are understood originating from three essential attributes of Krishna’s form, i.e., “eternal existence” or sat, related to the brahman aspect; “knowledge” or chit, to the paramatman; and “bliss” or ananda in Sanskrit, to bhagavan.

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Watchmaker analogy

The watchmaker analogy or watchmaker argument is a teleological argument. By way of an analogy, the argument states that design implies a designer. The analogy has played a prominent role in natural theology and the “argument from design,” where it was used to support arguments for the existence of God and for the intelligent design of the universe. The most famous statement of the teleological argument using the watchmaker analogy was given by William Paley in his 1802 book Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity.

The 1859 publication of Charles Darwin‘s theory of natural selection put forward an explanation for complexity and adaptation, which reflects scientific consensus on the origins of biological diversity, and provides a counter-argument to the watchmaker analogy: for example, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins referred to the analogy in his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker giving his explanation of evolution. In the 19th century, deists, who championed the watchmaker analogy, held that Darwin’s theory fit with “the principle of uniformitarianism—the idea that all processes in the world occur now as they have in the past” and that deistic evolution “provided an explanatory framework for understanding species variation in a mechanical universe.”

In the United States, starting in the 1960s, creationists revived versions of the argument to dispute the concepts of evolution and natural selection, and there was renewed interest in the watchmaker argument.

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Intelligent Design

Intell I.D.

Intelligent design (ID) is the pseudoscientific view that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” Educators, philosophers, and the scientific community have demonstrated that ID is a religious argument, a form of creationism which lacks empirical support and offers no tenable hypotheses. Proponents argue that it is “an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins” that challenges the methodological naturalism inherent in modern science, while conceding that they have yet to produce a scientific theory. The leading proponents of ID are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank based in the United States. Although they state that ID is not creationism and deliberately avoid assigning a personality to the designer, many of these proponents express belief that the designer is the Christian deity.

ID presents negative arguments against evolutionary explanations, and its positive argument is an analogy between natural systems and human artifacts, a version of the theological argument from design for the existence of God. Both irreducible complexity and specified complexity present detailed negative assertions that certain features (biological and informational, respectively) are too complex to be the result of natural processes. Proponents then conclude by analogy that these features are evidence of design. Detailed scientific examination has rebutted the claims that evolutionary explanations are inadequate, and this premise of intelligent design—that evidence against evolution constitutes evidence for design—has been criticized as a false dichotomy.

Though the phrase “intelligent design” had featured previously in theological discussions of the design argument, the first publication of the term intelligent design in its present use as an alternative term for creationism was in Of Pandas and People, a 1989 textbook intended for high school biology classes. The term was substituted into drafts of the book after the 1987 United States Supreme Court‘s Edwards v. Aguillard decision, which barred the teaching of creation science in public schools on constitutional grounds. From the mid-1990s, the intelligent design movement (IDM), supported by the Discovery Institute, advocated inclusion of intelligent design in public school biology curricula. This led to the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in which U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science, that it “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents,” and that the school district’s promotion of it therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

 

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Secular humanism

The philosophy or life stance of secular humanism (alternatively known by some adherents as Humanism, specifically with a capital H to distinguish it from other forms of humanism) embraces human reason, ethics, social justice and philosophical naturalism, while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision making.

Happy Humanist SymbolWithout God

It posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god. It does not, however, assume that humans are either inherently evil or innately good, nor does it present humans as being superior to nature. Rather, the humanist life stance emphasizes the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions.

Fundamental to the concept of secular humanism is the strongly held viewpoint that ideology—be it religious or political—must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith. Along with this, an essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy.

Philosophy of Utilitarianism

Many Humanists derive their moral codes from a philosophy of utilitarianism, ethical naturalism or evolutionary ethics, and some advocate a science of morality.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the world union of more than one hundred Humanist, rationalist, irreligious, atheistic, Bright, secular,Ethical Culture, and freethought organizations in more than 40 countries.

The “Happy Human” is the official symbol of the IHEU as well as being regarded as a universally recognised symbol for those who call themselves Humanists. Secular humanist organizations are found in all parts of the world. Those who call themselves humanists are estimated to number between four and five million people worldwide.

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Dogma

Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. It serves as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system’s paradigm, or the ideology itself.

They can refer to acceptable opinions of philosophers or philosophical schools, public decrees, religion, or issued decisions of political authorities.
The term derives from Greek δόγμα “that which seems to one, opinion or belief” and that from δοκέω (dokeo), “to think, to suppose, to imagine”.

Dogma came to signify laws or ordinances adjudged and imposed upon others by the First Century. The plural is either dogmas or dogmata, from Greek δόγματα.

The term “dogmatics” is used as a synonym for systematic theology, as in Karl Barth’s defining textbook of neo-orthodoxy, the 14-volume Church Dogmatics.
Dogmata are found in religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam, where they are considered core principles that must be upheld by all believers of that religion.

As a fundamental element of religion, the term “dogma” is assigned to those theological tenets which are considered to be well demonstrated, such that their proposed disputation or revision effectively means that a person no longer accepts the given religion as his or her own, or has entered into a period of personal doubt.

Dogma is distinguished from theological opinion regarding those things considered less well-known. Dogmata may be clarified and elaborated but not contradicted in novel teachings .Rejection of dogma may lead to expulsion from a religious group.
In Christianity, religious beliefs are defined by the Church. It is usually on scripture or communicated by church authority. It is believed that these dogmas will lead human beings towards redemption and thus the “paths which lead to God”.
For Catholicism and Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christianity, the dogmata are contained in the Nicene Creed and the canon laws of two, three, seven, or twenty ecumenical councils(depending on whether one is Nestorian, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, or Roman Catholic). These tenets are summarized by St. John of Damascus in his Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, which is the third book of his main work, titled The Fount of Knowledge.

In this book he takes a dual approach in explaining each article of the faith: one, for Christians, where he uses quotes from the Bible and, occasionally, from works of other Fathers of the Church, and the second, directed both at non-Christians (but who, nevertheless, hold some sort of religious belief) and at atheists, for whom he employs Aristotelian logic and dialectics.
The decisions of fourteen later councils that Catholics hold as dogmatic and numerous decrees promulgated by Popes’ exercising papal infallibility (for examples, see Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary) are considered as being a part of the Church’s sacred body of doctrine.
Roman Catholic dogmata are a distinct form of doctrine taught by the Church.
Protestants to differing degrees affirm portions of these dogmata, and often rely on denomination-specific “Statements of Faith” which summarize their chosen dogmata (see, e.g., Eucharist).
In Islam, the dogmatic principles are contained in the aqidah. Within many Christian denominations, dogma is referred to as “doctrine”.

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Being a Martyr

Stop being such a Martyr…

Martyr complex

A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for advocating, renouncing, refusing to renounce, and/or refusing to advocate a belief or cause, usually a religious one. Most martyrs are considered holy or are respected by their followers, becoming a symbol of good leadership and heroism.

In psychology, a person who has a martyr complex, sometimes associated with the term victim complex, desires the feeling of being a martyr for his/her own sake, seeking out suffering or persecution because it feeds a psychological need.

In some cases, this results from the belief that the martyr has been singled out for persecution because of exceptional ability or integrity. Theologian Paul Johnson considers such beliefs a topic of concern for the mental health of clergy. Other martyr complexes involve willful suffering in the name of love or duty. This has been observed in women, especially in poor families, as well as in codependent or abusive relationships. It has also been described as a facet of Jewish-American folklore.

The desire for martyrdom is sometimes considered a form of masochism. Allan Berger, however, described it as one of several patterns of “pain/suffering seeking behavior”, including asceticism and penance.

Meaning

In its original meaning, the word martyr, meaning witness, was used in the secular sphere as well as in the New Testament of the Bible. The process of bearing witness was not intended to lead to the death of the witness, although it is known from ancient writers (e.g. Josephus) and from the New Testament that witnesses often died for their testimonies.

During the early Christian centuries, the term acquired the extended meaning of a believer who is called to witness for their religious belief, and on account of this witness, endures suffering and/or death. The term, in this later sense, entered the English language as a loanword. The death of a martyr or the value attributed to it is called martyrdom.

The early Christians who first began to use the term martyr in its new sense saw Jesus as the first and greatest martyr, on account of his crucifixion. The early Christians appear to have seen Jesus as the archetypal martyr.

 

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Where the term humanism came from

Historical use of the term humanism (reflected in some current academic usage), is related to the writings of pre-Socratic philosophers. These writings were lost to European societies until Renaissance scholars rediscovered them through Muslim sources and translated them from Arabic into European languages. Thus the term humanist can mean a humanities scholar, as well as refer to The Enlightenment/ Renaissance intellectuals, and those who have agreement with the pre-Socratics, as distinct from secular humanists.

The term secularism was coined in 1851 by George Jacob Holyoake to describe “a form of opinion which concerns itself only with questions, the issues of which can be tested by the experience of this life.”

The modern secular movement coalesced around Holyoake, Charles Bradlaugh and their intellectual circle. The first secular society was Leicester Secular Society, established in 1851. Similar regional societies came together to form the National Secular Society in 1866.

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Humanists have put together various Humanist Manifestos, in attempts to unify the Humanist identity.

The original signers of the first Humanist Manifesto of 1933, declared themselves to be religious humanists. Because, in their view, traditional religions were failing to meet the needs of their day, the signers of 1933 declared it a necessity to establish a religion that was a dynamic force to meet the needs of the day. However, this “religion” did not profess a belief in any god. Since then two additional Manifestos were written to replace the first. In the Preface of Humanist Manifesto II, in 1973, the authors Paul Kurtz and Edwin H. Wilson assert that faith and knowledge are required for a hopeful vision for the future. Manifesto II references a section on Religion and states traditional religion renders a disservice to humanity. Manifesto II recognizes the following groups to be part of their naturalistic philosophy: “scientific”, “ethical”, “democratic”, “religious”, and “Marxist” humanism.

 

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The Kurds and Religion

I wanted to know a bit more about the Kurdish peoples religion(s) as I was watching the latest troubles unfold in Iraq and Syria. I know little on the subject and don’t pretend otherwise. I thought it was all about Islam but it’s more diverse than that. However, the long history of conflict would appear to be down to religion…

Continue reading “The Kurds and Religion”

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Agnosticisim – Religion and Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell  – Statement of Agnosticism

Bertrand Russell’s pamphlet, Why I Am Not a Christian, based on a speech delivered in 1927 and later included in a book of the same title, is considered a classic statement of agnosticism. The essay briefly lays out Russell’s objections to some of the arguments for the existence of God before discussing his moral objections to Christian teachings. He then calls upon his readers to “stand on their own two feet and look fair and square at the world”, with a “fearless attitude and a free intelligence”.


In 1939, Russell gave a lecture on The existence and nature of God, in which he characterized himself as an atheist. He said:

The existence and nature of God is a subject of which I can discuss only half. If one arrives at a negative conclusion concerning the first part of the question, the second part of the question does not arise; and my position, as you may have gathered, is a negative one on this matter.

However, later in the same lecture, discussing modern non-anthropomorphic concepts of God, Russell states:

That sort of God is, I think, not one that can actually be disproved, as I think the omnipotent and benevolent creator can.
In Russell’s 1947 pamphlet, Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic? (subtitled A Plea For Tolerance In The Face Of New Dogmas), he ruminates on the problem of what to call himself:
As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God.
On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

In his 1953 essay, What Is An Agnostic? Russell states:

An agnostic thinks it impossible to know the truth in matters such as God and the future life with which Christianity and other religions are concerned. Or, if not impossible, at least impossible at the present time.

Later in the essay, Russell adds:

I think that if I heard a voice from the sky predicting all that was going to happen to me during the next twenty-four hours, including events that would have seemed highly improbable, and if all these events then produced to happen, I might perhaps be convinced at least of the existence of some superhuman intelligence.

 

Demographics

Demographic research services normally do not differentiate between various types of non-religious respondents, so agnostics are often classified in the same category as atheists or other non-religious people. Some sources use agnostic in the sense of noncommittal.
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that about 16% of the world’s people, the third largest group after Christianity and Islam, have no religious affiliation.
In the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center, 55% of agnostic respondents expressed “a belief in God or a universal spirit”, whereas 41% stated that they thought that they felt a tension “being non-religious in a society where most people are religious.”

Criticism

Agnosticism is criticized from a variety of standpoints. Some religious thinkers see agnosticism as limiting the mind’s capacity to know reality to materialism. Some atheists criticize the use of the term agnosticism as functionally indistinguishable from atheism; this results in frequent criticisms of those who adopt the term as avoiding the ‘atheist label’.

Many theistic thinkers repudiate the validity of agnosticism, or certain forms of agnosticism. Religious scholars in the three Abrahamic religions affirm the possibility of knowledge material, spiritual element.

They affirm that “not being able to see or hold some specific thing does not necessarily negate its existence,” using gravity, entropy, reason and thought as examples.
Islam tends to completely disregard agnosticism. Religious scholars such as Brown, Tacelli, and Kreeft argue that it does not take into account evidence that God has placed within his creation.

And for this, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli cite 20 arguments for God’s existence. They assert that any ‘demand’ for evidence testable in a laboratory is in effect asking God, the supreme being, to become man’s servant. They argue that the question of God should be treated differently from other knowable objects in that “this question regards not that which is below us, but that which is above us.”

 

 

 

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the american particle physicist Victor Stenger

Victor John Stenger is an American particle physicist, philosopher, author, and religious skeptic.

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Following a career as a research scientist in the field of particle physics, Stenger is now associated with New Atheism and he also writes popular science books.

As of July 2013, he has published twelve books for general audiences on physics, quantum mechanics, cosmology, philosophy, religion, atheism, and pseudoscience, including the 2007 best-seller, God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist. His latest book is God and the Atom: From Democritus to the Higgs Boson (2013).

 

He is a strong advocate for removing the influence of religion from scientific research, commercial activity, and the political decision process, and he coined the popular phrase “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings”.

Victor J. Stenger was born on 29 January 1935 and raised in a working-class neighborhood of Bayonne, New Jersey. His father was a Lithuanian immigrant and his mother was the daughter of Hungarian immigrants.

He is also a regular featured science columnist for the Huffington Post.

 

 

 

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The design argument – Existence of God

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Designed by Coleyartastro/castthefirststone

One of the oldest and most popular arguments for the existence of God is the design argument: that order and “purpose” in the world bespeaks a divine origin.

 

Hume gave a criticism of the design argument in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion and An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.

 

Firstly, Hume argued that for the design argument to be feasible, it must be true that order and purpose are observed only when they result from design.

But order is often observed to result from presumably mindless processes like the generation of snowflakes and crystals. Design can account for only a tiny part of our experience of order.
Second, that the design argument is based on an incomplete analogy: because of our experience with objects, we can recognize human-designed ones, comparing for example a pile of stones and a brick wall. But in order to point to a designed universe, we would need to have an experience of a range of different universes. As we only experience one, the analogy cannot be applied.

Next, even if the design argument is completely successful, it could not in and of itself establish a robust theism; one could easily reach the conclusion that the universe’s configuration is the result of some morally ambiguous, possibly unintelligent agent or agents whose method bears only a remote similarity to human design.

Furthermore, if a well-ordered natural world requires a special designer, then God’s mind (being so well-ordered) also requires a special designer. And then this designer would likewise need a designer, and so on ad infinitum. We could respond by resting content with an inexplicably self-ordered divine mind; but then why not rest content with an inexplicably self-ordered natural world?

Finally, Hume advanced a version of the Anthropic Principle. Often, when it appears that an object has a particular feature in order to secure some goal, it is in fact the result of a filtering process. That is, the object wouldn’t be around did it not possess that feature, and the perceived purpose is only interesting to us as a human projection of goals onto nature. This mechanical explanation of teleology anticipated the notion of natural selection.

 

In astrophysics and cosmology, the anthropic principle (from Greek anthropos, meaning “human”) is the philosophical consideration that observations of the physical Universe

must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it. Some proponents of the anthropic principle reason that it explains why the Universe has the age and the fundamental physical constants necessary to accommodate conscious life. As a result, they believe it is unremarkable that the universe’s fundamental constants happen to fall within the narrow range thought to be compatible with life.

The strong anthropic principle (SAP) as explained by Barrow and Tipler (see variants) states that this is all the case because the Universe is compelled, in some sense, to eventually have conscious and sapient life emerge within it. Critics of the SAP argue in favor of a weak anthropic principle (WAP) similar to the one defined by Brandon Carter, which states that the universe’s ostensible fine tuning is the result of selection bias: i.e., only in a universe capable of eventually supporting life will there be living beings capable of observing and reflecting upon any such fine tuning, while a universe less compatible with life will go unbeheld. Most often such arguments draw upon some notion of the multiverse for there to be a statistical population of universes to select from and from which selection bias (our observance of only this Universe, apparently compatible with life) could occur.

 

 

 

 

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Darwinism

Darwinism originally included the broad concepts of transmutation of species or of evolution which gained general scientific acceptance when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, including concepts which predated Darwin’s theories, but subsequently referred to specific concepts of natural selection, the Weismann barrier or in genetics the central dogma of molecular biology.

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Charles Darwin of Darwinisim

Though it usually refers strictly to biological evolution, the term has been used by creationists to refer to the origin of life, and has even been applied to concepts of cosmic evolution, both fields which have no connection to Darwin’s work. It is therefore considered the belief and acceptance of Darwin’s, and his predecessors, work in place of other theories including divine design and extra-terrestrial origins.
The meaning of “Darwinism” has changed over time, and varies depending on its context. In the United States, the term “Darwinism” is often used by creationists as a pejorativeterm in reference to beliefs such as atheistic naturalism, but in the United Kingdom the term has no negative connotations, being freely used as a shorthand for the body of theory dealing with evolution, and in particular, evolution by natural selection.
The term was coined by Thomas Henry Huxley in April 1860, and was used to describe evolutionary concepts in general, including earlier concepts such as Spencerism. Many of the proponents of Darwinism at that time, including Huxley, had reservations about the significance of natural selection, and Darwin himself gave credence to what was later called Lamarckism.

Darwinism of August Weismann gained few supporters in the late 19th century. During this period, which has been called “the eclipse of Darwinism”, scientists proposed various alternative evolutionary mechanisms which eventually proved untenable. The development of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the1950s, incorporating natural selection with population genetics and Mendelian genetics, revived Darwinism in an updated form.
While the term has remained in use amongst scientific authors when referring to modern evolutionary theory, it has increasingly been argued that it is an inappropriate term for modern evolutionary theory. For example, Darwin was unfamiliar with the work of Gregor Mendel, and as a result had only a vague and inaccurate understanding of heredity. He naturally had no inkling of yet more recent developments and, like Mendel himself, knew nothing of genetic drift for example.

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Imprisoned for having atheist views

Nigerian man is locked up after saying he is an atheist

 

Campaigners call for release of 29-year-old Mubarak Bala, who lives in Kano in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north.

A Nigerian man has been incarcerated in a mental health institution by his family after saying he had lost his belief in God.

Mubarak Bala, 29, is said to have been forcibly medicated for “insanity” for nearly two weeks, despite a doctor’s opinion that he has no psychological problems.

Campaigners are calling for his release and say the case highlights the fact that atheists are a persecuted minority in many African countries.

Bala’s Twitter account uses the handle “ExMuslim”, and his profile says: “Chemical Process Engineer. I stand for Truth&Justice. Religion insults human conscience &reason, duped me that I hav another lifetime. AgnosticAtheist.”

He lives in Kano in Nigeria‘s predominantly Muslim north. The state adopted sharia law in 2000 and has a strict Islamic police force called the Hisbah.

When Bala told his family that he had renounced Islam, they took him to a doctor and asked if he was mentally ill, according to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which has taken up the case. The doctor gave him a clean bill of health, but the family turned to a second doctor, who said his atheism was a side-effect of a personality change.

The family allegedly told the doctor that he had also made delusional claims that he was a “governor” and other “trivial lies”. Bala was subsequently admitted to the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital on 13 June and has since been held there against his will.

He has pleaded to the outside world for help in emails and tweets from several phones smuggled into the institution. In one email, he said: “And the biggest evidence of my mental illness was large blasphemies and denial of ‘history’ of Adam, and apostasy, to which the doctor said was a personality change, that everyone needs a God, that even in Japan they have a God.

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Creationism

Creationism is the religious belief that life, the Earth, and the universe are the creation of a supernatural being.

 

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Coley – Creationism

Creationism is the belief that the Universe and living organisms originate “from specific acts of divine creation.”

For young Earth creationists, this includes a literalistic reading of the Book of Genesis and the rejection of evolution. As science developed during the 18th century and forward, various views aimed at reconciling the Abrahamic and Genesis creation narratives with science developed in Western societies.

 

 

Those holding that species had been created separately (such as Philip Gosse in 1857) were generally called “advocates of creation” but were also called “creationists,” as in private correspondence between Charles Darwin and his friends.

As the creation–evolution controversy developed over time, the term “anti-evolutionists” became common.

In 1929 in the United States, the term “creationism” first became associated with Christian fundamentalists, specifically with their rejection of human evolution and belief in a young Earth—although this usage was contested by other groups, such as old Earth creationists and evolutionary creationists, who hold different concepts of creation, such as the acceptance of the age of the Earth and biological evolution as understood by the scientific community.

25 ACE and CST creationist schools are in receipt of UK govt funds. Take action click This Link

 American Scientific Affiliation

Today, the American Scientific Affiliation, a prominent religious organisation in the US, recognizes that there are different opinions among creationists on the method of creation, while acknowledging unity on the Abrahamic belief that God “created the universe.” Since the 1920s, literalist creationism in America has contested scientific theories, such as that of evolution, which derive from natural observations of the Universe and life.

Literalist creationists believe that evolution cannot adequately account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on Earth. Fundamentalist creationists of the Christian faith usually base their belief on a literal reading of the Genesis creation narrative.

Other religions have different deity-led creation myths, while different members of individual faiths vary in their acceptance of scientific findings.

When scientific research produces empirical evidence and theoretical conclusions which contradict a literalist creationist interpretation of scripture, young Earth creationists often reject the conclusions of the research or its underlying scientific theories or its methodology.

This tendency has led to political and theological controversy. Two disciplines have been labelled “pseudoscience” by scientists.

image of Casting the First
Casting the First

The most notable disputes concern the evolution of living organisms, the idea of common descent, the geological history of the Earth, the formation of the solar system and the origin of the universe.

Theistic evolution, also known as evolutionary creationism, reconciles theistic religious beliefs with scientific findings on the age of the Earth and the process of evolution. It includes a range of beliefs, including views described as evolutionary creationism and some forms of old Earth creationism, all of which embrace the findings of modern science and uphold classical religious teachings about God and creation.

 

 

 

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Philosophical Issues

Existence of God – Part 9 million to One

In Classical theism, God is characterized as the metaphysically ultimate being (the first, timeless, absolutely simple, and sovereign being, who is devoid of any anthropomorphic qualities), in distinction to other conceptions such as Theistic Personalism, Open Theism, and Process Theism.

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Despite extensive writing on the nature of God, these classical theists did not believe that God could be defined.

They believed that it would contradict the transcendent nature of God for mere humans to define him. Robert Barron explains by analogy that it seems impossible for a two-dimensional object to conceive of three-dimensional humans.

 

By contrast, much of Eastern religious thought (chiefly pantheism) posits God as a force contained in every imaginable phenomenon. For example, Baruch Spinoza and his followers use the term God in a particular philosophical sense to mean the essential substance/principles of nature.

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Saturn Cast the First Stone

In modern Western societies, the concept of God typically entails a monotheistic, supreme, ultimate, and personal being, as found in the Islamic, Christian and Hebrew traditions. In monotheisms outside the Abrahamic traditions, the existence of God is discussed in similar terms.

In the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism, reality is ultimately seen as a single, qualityless, changeless nirguna Brahman. Advaitin philosophy introduces the concept of saguna Brahman or Ishvara as a way of talking about Brahman to people. Ishvara, in turn, is ascribed such qualities as omniscience, omnipotence, and benevolence.

 

 

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Darwin’s Natural Selection

Natural selection is the gradual process by which biological traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of the effect of inherited traits on the differential reproductive success of organisms interacting with their environment. It is a key mechanism of evolution. The term “natural selection” was popularized by Charles Darwin who intended it to be compared with artificial selection, now more commonly referred to as selective breeding.

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The Bums Rush?

 

Variation exists within all populations of organisms. This occurs partly because random mutations occur in the genome of an individual organism, and these mutations can be passed to offspring. Throughout the individuals’ lives, their genomes interact with their environments to cause variations in traits. (The environment of a genome includes the molecular biology in the cell, other cells, other individuals, populations, species, as well as the abiotic environment.) Individuals with certain variants of the trait may survive and reproduce more than individuals with other, less successful, variants. Therefore the population evolves. Factors that affect reproductive success are also important, an issue that Charles Darwin developed in his ideas on sexual selection, for example.

Continue reading “Darwin’s Natural Selection”

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David Hume

Scottish philosopher

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Hume – Statue

 

David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist known especially for his philosophical empiricism and scepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment. Hume is often grouped with John LockeGeorge Berkeley, and a handful of others as a British Empiricist.

 

Beginning with his A Treatise of Human Nature (1739), Hume strove to create a total naturalistic “science of man” that examined the psychological basis of human nature. In stark opposition to the rationalists who preceded him, most notably Descartes, he concluded that desire rather than reason governed human behaviour, saying: “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions”.A prominent figure in the sceptical philosophical tradition and a strong empiricist, he argued against the existence of innate ideas, concluding instead that humans have knowledge only of things they directly experience. Thus he divides perceptions between strong and lively “impressions” or direct sensations and fainter “ideas”, which are copied from impressions. He developed the position that mental behaviour is governed by “custom”, that is acquired ability; our use of induction, for example, is justified only by our idea of the “constant conjunction” of causes and effects. Without direct impressions of a metaphysical “self”, he concluded that humans have no actual conception of the self, only of a bundle of sensations associated with the self.

 

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Hume advocated a compatibilist theory of free will that proved extremely influential on subsequent moral philosophy. He was also a sentimentalist who held that ethics are based on feelings rather than abstract moral principles. Hume also examined the normative is–ought problem. He held notoriously ambiguous views of Christianity, but famously challenged the argument from design in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1777).

Kant credited Hume with waking him up from his “dogmatic slumbers” and Hume has proved extremely influential on subsequent philosophy, especially on utilitarianismlogical positivismWilliam Jamesphilosophy of science, early analytic philosophy, cognitive philosophy, and other movements and thinkers. The philosopher Jerry Fodor proclaimed Hume’s Treatise “the founding document of cognitive science“. Also famous as a prose stylist, Hume pioneered the essay as a literary genre and engaged with contemporary intellectual luminaries such as Jean-Jacques RousseauAdam Smith (who acknowledged Hume’s influence on his economics and political philosophy), James BoswellJoseph Butler, and Thomas Reid.

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Atheism: Definitions and distinctions

Writers disagree how best to define and classify atheism, contesting what supernatural entities it applies to, whether it is an assertion in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. Atheism has been regarded as compatible with agnosticism, and has also been contrasted with it. A variety of categories have been used to distinguish the different forms of atheism.

Range

Some of the ambiguity and controversy involved in defining atheism arises from difficulty in reaching a consensus for the definitions of words like deity and god. The plurality of wildly different conceptions of God and deities leads to differing ideas regarding atheism’s applicability. The ancient Romans accused Christians of being atheists for not worshiping the pagan deities. Gradually, this view fell into disfavor as theism came to be understood as encompassing belief in any divinity.

With respect to the range of phenomena being rejected, atheism may counter anything from the existence of a deity, to the existence of any spiritual, supernatural, or transcendental concepts, such as those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Taoism.

Implicit vs. explicit

Definitions of atheism also vary in the degree of consideration a person must put to the idea of gods to be considered an atheist. Atheism has sometimes been defined to include the simple absence of belief that any deities exist. This broad definition would include newborns and other people who have not been exposed to theistic ideas. As far back as 1772, Baron d’Holbach said that “All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God.” Similarly, George H. Smith (1979) suggested that: “The man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god.

This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist.” Smith coined the term implicit atheism to refer to “the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it” and explicit atheism to refer to the more common definition of conscious disbelief. Ernest Nagel contradicts Smith’s definition of atheism as merely “absence of theism”, acknowledging only explicit atheism as true “atheism”.

Positive vs. negative

Philosophers such as Antony Flew and Michael Martin have contrasted positive (strong/hard) atheism with negative (weak/soft) atheism. Positive atheism is the explicit affirmation that gods do not exist. Negative atheism includes all other forms of non-theism. According to this categorization, anyone who is not a theist is either a negative or a positive atheist. The terms weak and strong are relatively recent, while the terms negative and positive atheism are of older origin, having been used (in slightly different ways) in the philosophical literature and in Catholic apologetics. Under this demarcation of atheism, most agnostics qualify as negative atheists.

While Martin, for example, asserts that agnosticism entails negative atheism, many agnostics see their view as distinct from atheism, which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction. The assertion of unattainability of knowledge for or against the existence of gods is sometimes seen as indication that atheism requires a leap of faith.

Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions, and that the unprovability of a god’s existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility. Scottish philosopher J. J. C. Smart even argues that “sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalised philosophical skepticism which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever, except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic.” Consequently, some atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins prefer distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions along a spectrum of theistic probability—the likelihood that each assigns to the statement “God exists”.

Definition as impossible or impermanent

Before the 18th century, the existence of God was so universally accepted in the western world that even the possibility of true atheism was questioned. This is called theistic innatism—the notion that all people believe in God from birth; within this view was the connotation that atheists are simply in denial.

There is also a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe in God in times of crisis, that atheists make deathbed conversions, or that “there are no atheists in foxholes“. There have however been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”.

Some atheists have doubted the very need for the term “atheism”. In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris wrote:

In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist“. We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

 

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Huxley – Agnosticism

Thomas Henry Huxley

Agnostic views are as old as philosophical scepticism, but the terms agnostic and agnosticism were created by Huxley to sum up his thoughts on contemporary developments of metaphysics about the “unconditioned” (Hamilton) and the “unknowable” (Herbert Spencer). Though Huxley began to use the term “agnostic” in 1869, his opinions had taken shape some time before that date. In a letter of September 23, 1860, to Charles Kingsley, Huxley discussed his views extensively:

I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it. I have no a prioriobjections to the doctrine. No man who has to deal daily and hourly with nature can trouble himself about a priori difficulties. Give me such evidence as would justify me in believing in anything else, and I will believe that. Why should I not? It is not half so wonderful as the conservation of force or the indestructibility of matter…

It is no use to talk to me of analogies and probabilities. I know what I mean when I say I believe in the law of the inverse squares, and I will not rest my life and my hopes upon weaker convictions…

That my personality is the surest thing I know may be true. But the attempt to conceive what it is leads me into mere verbal subtleties. I have champed up all that chaff about the ego and the non-ego, noumena and phenomena, and all the rest of it, too often not to know that in attempting even to think of these questions, the human intellect flounders at once out of its depth.

And again, to the same correspondent, May 6, 1863:

I have never had the least sympathy with the a priori reasons against orthodoxy, and I have by nature and disposition the greatest possible antipathy to all the atheistic and infidel school. Nevertheless I know that I am, in spite of myself, exactly what the Christian would call, and, so far as I can see, is justified in calling, atheist and infidel. I cannot see one shadow or tittle of evidence that the great unknown underlying the phenomenon of the universe stands to us in the relation of a Father [who] loves us and cares for us as Christianity asserts. So with regard to the other great Christian dogmas, immortality of soul and future state of rewards and punishments, what possible objection can I—who am compelled perforce to believe in the immortality of what we call Matter and Force, and in a very unmistakable present state of rewards and punishments for our deeds—have to these doctrines? Give me a scintilla of evidence, and I am ready to jump at them.

Of the origin of the name agnostic to describe this attitude, Huxley gave the following account:

When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain “gnosis,”–had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. And, with Hume and Kant on my side, I could not think myself presumptuous in holding fast by that opinion. […].

So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of “agnostic.” It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the “gnostic” of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. […] To my great satisfaction the term took.

Huxley’s agnosticism is believed to be a natural consequence of the intellectual and philosophical conditions of the 1860s, when clerical intolerance was trying to suppress scientific discoveries which appeared to clash with a literal reading of the Book of Genesis and other established Jewish and Christian doctrines. Agnosticism should not, however, be confused with natural theology, deismpantheism, or other forms of theism.

By way of clarification, Huxley states,  (Huxley, Agnosticism, 1889). Although A. W. Momerie has noted that this is nothing but a definition of honesty, Huxley’s usual definition goes beyond mere honesty to insist that these metaphysical issues are fundamentally unknowable.

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atheism – on a sunday

Rejection of Belief – (Existence of Deities?) 

StainedGlassStJohn
Deity Stained Glass

Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.

The term atheism originated from the Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning “without god(s)”, used as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshipped by the larger society. With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word “atheist” lived in the 18th century.

Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to social and historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in any supernatural deity include the lack of empirical evidence, the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, rejection of concepts which cannot be falsified, and the argument from nonbelief. Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies, there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere. Many atheists hold that atheism is a more parsimonious worldview than theism, and therefore the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of God, but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.

New Atheism

New Atheism is the name given to a movement among some early-21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.” The movement is commonly associated with Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger and Christopher Hitchens. Several best-selling books by these authors, published between 2004 and 2007, form the basis for much of the discussion of New Atheism.

These atheists generally seek to disassociate themselves from the mass political atheism that gained ascendency in various nations in the 20th century. In best selling books, the religiously motivated terrorist events of 9/11 and the partially successful attempts of the Discovery Institute to change the American science curriculum to include creationist ideas, together with support for those ideas from George W. Bush in 2005, have been cited by authors such as Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, Stenger and Hitchens as evidence of a need to move society towards atheism.

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Atheism

Rejection of Belief – Existence of Deities

StainedGlassStJohn
Deity Stained Glass

Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.

The term atheism originated from the Greek ἄθεος (atheos), meaning “without god(s)”, used as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshipped by the larger society. With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word “atheist” lived in the 18th century.

Arguments for atheism range from the philosophical to social and historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in any supernatural deity include the lack of empirical evidence, the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, rejection of concepts which cannot be falsified, and the argument from nonbelief. Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies, there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere. Many atheists hold that atheism is a more parsimonious worldview than theism, and therefore the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of God, but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.

New Atheism

New Atheism is the name given to a movement among some early-21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.” The movement is commonly associated with Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger and Christopher Hitchens. Several best-selling books by these authors, published between 2004 and 2007, form the basis for much of the discussion of New Atheism.

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These atheists generally seek to disassociate themselves from the mass political atheism that gained ascendency in various nations in the 20th century. In best selling books, the religiously motivated terrorist events of 9/11 and the partially successful attempts of the Discovery Institute to change the American science curriculum to include creationist ideas, together with support for those ideas from George W. Bush in 2005, have been cited by authors such as Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, Stenger and Hitchens as evidence of a need to move society towards atheism.

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The supernatural

Problem of the Supernatural

One problem posed by the question of the existence of God is that traditional beliefs usually ascribe to God various supernatural powers. Supernatural beings may be able to conceal and reveal themselves for their own purposes, as for example in the tale of Baucis and Philemon. In addition, according to concepts of God, God is not part of the natural order, but the ultimate creator of nature and of the scientific laws. Thus, in Aristotelian philosophy, God is viewed as part of the explanatory structure needed to support scientific conclusions, and any powers God possesses are, strictly speaking, of the natural order—that is, derived from God’s place as originator of nature.

 

 

 

Some religious apologists offer the supernatural nature of God as the explanation for the inability of empirical methods to decide the question of God’s existence. In Karl Popper‘s philosophy of science, belief in a supernatural God is outside the natural domain of scientific investigation because all scientific hypotheses must be falsifiable in the natural world. The Non-overlapping Magisteria view proposed by Stephen Jay Gould also holds that the existence (or otherwise) of God is irrelevant to and beyond the domain of science.

Logical positivists, such as Rudolf Carnap and A. J. Ayer viewed any talk of gods as literal nonsense. For the logical positivists and adherents of similar schools of thought, statements about religious or other transcendent experiences could not have a truth value, and were deemed to be without meaning, because metaphysical naturalism, the philosophical basis for logical positivism, automatically excludes the possibility of the supernatural a priori without proof. As the Christian biologist Scott C. Todd put it “Even if all the data pointed to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.” This argument limits the domain of science to the empirically observable and limits the domain of God to the unprovable.

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Agnosticism

Agnosticism

is the belief that the truth values of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, as well as other religious and metaphysicalclaims—are unknown.

Agnosticism sometimes indicates doubt or a skeptical approach to questions. In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nordisbelieves in the existence of a deity or deities, whereas a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve, respectively. Philosopher William L. Rowe states that in the strict sense, however, agnosticism is the view that humanity lacks the requisite knowledge or sufficient rational grounds to justify either belief: that there exists some deity, or that no deities exist.
Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist, coined the word agnostic in 1869. However, earlier thinkers have written works that promoted agnostic points of view.

These thinkers include Sanjaya Belatthaputta, a 5th-century BCE Indian philosopher who expressed agnosticism about any afterlife, Protagoras, a 5th-centuryBCE Greek philosopher who was agnostic about the gods,  and the Nasadiya Sukta in the Rig Veda which is agnostic about the origin of the universe.
Since the time that Huxley coined the term, many other thinkers have extensively written about agnosticism.

Defining agnosticism

According to philosopher William L. Rowe, in the popular sense an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of a deity or deities, whereas a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve, respectively; but that in the strict sense agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of rationally justifying the belief that deities do, or do not, exist.

Thomas Henry Huxley said:

Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle…Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.

Etymology

Agnostic was used by Thomas Henry Huxley in a speech at a meeting of the Metaphysical Society in 1869to describe his philosophy which rejects all claims of spiritual or mystical knowledge. Early Christian church leaders used the Greek word gnosis (knowledge) to describe “spiritual knowledge”. Agnosticism is not to be confused with religious views opposing the ancient religious movement of Gnosticism in particular; Huxley used the term in a broader, more abstract sense.] Huxley identified agnosticism not as a creed but rather as a method of skeptical, evidence-based inquiry.

In recent years, scientific literature dealing with neuroscience and psychology has used the word to mean “not knowable”. In technical and marketing literature, “agnostic” often has a meaning close to “independent”—for example, “platform agnostic” or “hardware agnostic”

Qualifying agnosticism

Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume contended that meaningful statements about the universe are always qualified by some degree of doubt. He asserted that the fallibility of human beings means that they cannot obtain absolute certainty except in trivial cases where a statement is true by definition (i.e. tautologies such as “all bachelors are unmarried” or “all triangles have three corners”). All rational statements that assert a factual claim about the universe that begin “I believe that ….” are simply shorthand for, “Based on my knowledge, understanding, and interpretation of the prevailing evidence, I tentatively believe that….” For instance, when one says, “I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy“, one is not asserting an absolute truth but a tentative belief based on interpretation of the assembled evidence. Even though one may set an alarm clock prior to the following day, believing that waking up will be possible, that belief is tentative, tempered by a small but finite degree of doubt (the clock or its alarm mechanism might break, or one might die before the alarm goes off).

 

Types of agnosticism

Agnosticism has, more recently, been subdivided into several categories, some of which may be disputed. Variations include:

Agnostic atheism

The view of those who do not believe in the existence of any deity, but do not claim to know if a deity does or does not exist.

Agnostic theism

The view of those who do not claim to know of the existence of any deity, but still believe in such an existence.

Apathetic or pragmatic agnosticism

The view that there is no proof of either the existence or nonexistence of any deity, but since any deity that may exist appears unconcerned for the universe or the welfare of its inhabitants, the question is largely academic.

Strong agnosticism (also called “hard”, “closed”, “strict”, or “permanent agnosticism”)

The view that the question of the existence or nonexistence of a deity or deities, and the nature of ultimate reality is unknowable by reason of our natural inability to verify any experience with anything but another subjective experience. A strong agnostic would say, “I cannot know whether a deity exists or not, and neither can you.”

Weak agnosticism (also called “soft”, “open”, “empirical”, or “temporal agnosticism”)

The view that the existence or nonexistence of any deities is currently unknown but is not necessarily unknowable; therefore, one will withhold judgment until evidence, if any, becomes available. A weak agnostic would say, “I don’t know whether any deities exist or not, but maybe one day, if there is evidence, we can find something out.”

History

Hindu philosophy

Throughout the history of Hinduism there has been a strong tradition of philosophic speculation and skepticism.

The Rig Veda takes an agnostic view on the fundamental question of how the universe and the gods were created. Nasadiya Sukta (Creation Hymn) in the tenth chapter of the Rig Veda says:

Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen?

Greek philosophy

Agnostic thought, in the form of skepticism, emerged as a formal philosophical position in ancient Greece. Its proponents included ProtagorasPyrrhoCarneadesSextus Empiricus and, to some degree, Socrates, who was a strong advocate for a skeptical approach to epistemology. Such thinkers rejected the idea that certainty was possible.

Hume, Kant, and Kierkegaard

Many philosophers (following the examples of AristotleAnselmAquinas, and Descartes) presented arguments attempting to rationally prove the existence of God. The skeptical empiricism of David Hume, the antinomies of Immanuel Kant, and the existential philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard convinced many later philosophers to abandon these attempts, regarding it impossible to construct any unassailable proof for the existence or non-existence of God.

In his 1844 book, Philosophical Fragments, Kierkegaard writes:

Let us call this unknown something: God. It is nothing more than a name we assign to it. The idea of demonstrating that this unknown something (God) exists, could scarcely suggest itself to Reason. For if God does not exist it would of course be impossible to prove it; and if he does exist it would be folly to attempt it. For at the very outset, in beginning my proof, I would have presupposed it, not as doubtful but as certain (a presupposition is never doubtful, for the very reason that it is a presupposition), since otherwise I would not begin, readily understanding that the whole would be impossible if he did not exist. But if when I speak of proving God’s existence I mean that I propose to prove that the Unknown, which exists, is God, then I express myself unfortunately. For in that case I do not prove anything, least of all an existence, but merely develop the content of a conception.

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Theism – conclusion illusion?

The theistic conclusion is that there is sufficient reason to believe that god or gods exists, or that arguments do not matter as much as the “personal witness of the holy spirit”, as argued by preeminent apologist William Lane Craig.

The Catholic Church, following the teachings of Saint Paul the Apostle, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the First Vatican Council, which affirms that God’s existence “can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason”.

In Christian faith, theologians and philosophers make a distinction between: (a) preambles of faith and (b) articles of faith. The preambles include alleged truths contained in revelation which are nevertheless demonstrable by reason, e.g., the immortality of the soul, the existence of God. The articles of faith, on the other hand, contain truths that cannot be proven or reached by reason alone and presuppose the truths of the preambles, e.g., the Holy Trinity, is not demonstrable and presupposes the existence of God.

The argument that the existence of God can be known to all, even prior to exposure to any divine revelation, predates Christianity. St. Paul made this argument when he said that pagans were without excuse because “since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made”. In this Paul alludes to the proofs for a creator, later enunciated by St. Thomas and others, but that had also been explored by the Greek philosophers.

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The Argument for the existence of God?

Empirical arguments

Aquinas’ Five Ways

In the first part of his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas developed his five arguments for God’s existence. These arguments are grounded in an Aristotelianontology and make use of the infinite regression argument. Aquinas did not intend to fully prove the existence of God as he is orthodoxly conceived (with all of his traditional attributes), but proposed his Five Ways as a first stage, which he built upon later in his work. Aquinas’ Five Ways argued from the unmoved mover, first cause, necessary being, argument from degree, and the teleological argument.

  • The unmoved mover argument asserts that, from our experience of motion in the universe (motion being the transition from potentiality to actuality) we can see that there must have been an initial mover. Aquinas argued that whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another thing, so there must be an unmoved mover.
  • Aquinas’ argument from first cause started with the premise that it is impossible for a being to cause itself (because it would have to exist before it caused itself) and that it is impossible for there to be an infinite chain of causes, which would result in infinite regress. Therefore, there must be a first cause, itself uncaused.
  • The argument from necessary being asserts that all beings are contingent, meaning that it is possible for them not to exist. Aquinas argued that if everything can possibly not exist, there must have been a time when nothing existed; as things exist now, there must exist a being with necessary existence, regarded as God.
  • Aquinas argued from degree, considering the occurrence of degrees of goodness. He believed that things which are called good, must be called good in relation to a standard of good—a maximum. There must be a maximum goodness that which causes all goodness.
  • The teleological argument asserts the view that things without intelligence are ordered towards a purpose. Aquinas argued that unintelligent objects cannot be ordered unless they are done so by an intelligent being, which means that there must be an intelligent being to move objects to their ends: God.

Deductive arguments

Ontological argument

The ontological argument has been formulated by philosophers including St. Anselm and René Descartes. The argument proposes that God’s existence is self-evident. The logic, depending on the formulation, reads roughly as follows:

  1. God is the greatest conceivable being.
  2. It is greater to exist than not to exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Thomas Aquinas criticized the argument for proposing a definition of God which, if God is transcendent, should be impossible for humans. Immanuel Kant criticized the proof from a logical standpoint: he stated that the term “God” really signifies two different terms: both idea of God, and God. Kant concluded that the proof is equivocation, based on the ambiguity of the word God. Kant also challenged the argument’s assumption that existence is a predicate (of perfection) because it does not add anything to the essence of a being.

If existence is not a predicate, then it is not necessarily true that the greatest possible being exists. A common rebuttal to Kant’s critique is that, although “existence” does add something to both the concept and the reality of God, the concept would be vastly different if its referent was an unreal Being. Another response to Kant is attributed to Alvin Plantinga who explains that even if one were to grant Kant that “existence” is not a real predicate, “Necessary Existence”, which is the correct formulation of an understanding of God, is a real predicate, thus according to Plantinga Kant’s argument is refuted.

Other arguments

These two arguments follow from possible deductions, i.e., they can be set up as deductions and therefore are placed here.

  • Argument from Meaning.
  • Argument from Ethics, being one type of view by ontologically considered intelligence.

Inductive arguments

Inductive arguments argue their conclusions through inductive reasoning.

  • Another class of philosophers asserts that the proofs for the existence of God present a fairly large probability though not absolute certainty. A number of obscure points, they say, always remain; an act of faith is required to dismiss these difficulties. This view is maintained, among others, by the Scottish statesman Arthur Balfour in his book The Foundations of Belief (1895). The opinions set forth in this work were adopted in France by Ferdinand Brunetière, the editor of the Revue des deux Mondes. Many orthodox Protestants express themselves in the same manner, as, for instance, Dr. E. Dennert, President of the Kepler Society, in his work Ist Gott tot? The will to believe doctrine was pragmatist philosopher William James‘ attempt to prove God by showing that the adoption of theism as a hypothesis “works” in a believer’s life. This doctrine depended heavily on James’ pragmatic theory of truth where beliefs are proven by how they work when adopted rather than by proofs before they are believed (a form of the hypothetico-deductive method).
  • The argument from reason holds that if, as thoroughgoing naturalism entails, all human thoughts are the effect of a physical cause, then there is no reason for assuming that they are also the consequent of a reasonable ground. Knowledge, however, is apprehended by reasoning from ground to consequent. Therefore, if naturalism were true, there would be no way of knowing it—or anything else not the direct result of a physical cause—and one could not even suppose it, except by a fluke.
  • The anthropic argument suggests that basic facts, such as humanity’s existence, are best explained by the existence of God.
  • Qualia-based arguments: Some philosophers see the existence of Qualia (or the hard problem of consciousness) as strong arguments against materialism and therefore for the existence of material and immaterial entities.
  • The teleological argument argues that the universe’s order and complexity are best explained by reference to a creator God. It starts with a rather more complicated claim about the world, i.e. that it exhibits order and design. This argument has two versions: One based on the analogy of design and designer, the other arguing that goals can only occur in minds.
  • The hypothesis of Intelligent design proposes that certain features of the universe and of living things are the product of an intelligentcause. Its proponents are mainly Christians.
  • Arguments that a non-physical quality observed in the universe is of fundamental importance and not an epiphenomenon, such as Morality (Argument from morality), Beauty (Argument from beauty), Love (Argument from love), or religious experience (Argument from religious experience), are arguments for theism as against materialism.
  • The transcendental argument suggests that logic, science, ethics, and other serious matters do not make sense in the absence of God, and that atheistic arguments must ultimately refute themselves if pressed with rigorous consistency.
  • The argument from degree, a version of the transcendental argument posited by Aquinas, states that there must exist a being which possesses all properties to the maximum possible degree in order for such properties to be coherent.
  • Argument from belief in God being properly basic as presented by Alvin Plantinga.
  • Argument from the confluence of proper function and reliability and the evolutionary argument against naturalism, which demonstrate how naturalism is incapable of providing humans with the cognitive aparatus necessary for their knowledge to have positive epistemic status.
  • Argument from Personal Identity.
  • Argument from the “divine attributes of scientific law”.

Subjective arguments

Arguments from historical events or personages

Arguments from testimony

Arguments from testimony rely on the testimony or experience of witnesses, possibly embodying the propositions of a specific revealed religion. Swinburne argues that it is a principle of rationality that one should accept testimony unless there are strong reasons for not doing so.

  • The witness argument gives credibility to personal witnesses, contemporary and throughout the ages. A variation of this is the argument from miracles (also referred to as “the priest stories”) which relies on testimony of supernatural events to establish the existence of God.
  • The majority argument argues that the theism of people throughout most of recorded history and in many different places provides prima facie demonstration of God’s existence.

 

 

 

Bat will tell ya

Let Us Be Bats

The National Bat Monitoring Programme surveys are carefully designed so that anybody can take part in monitoring these fascinating but easily overlooked mammals. As well as being of great value to bat conservation, the surveys are fun and rewarding to carry out.

They usually involve visiting a roost or potential foraging site on two evenings in the summer. We run different surveys which cater to different levels of experience and knowledge.

Mr_c_Darwin

 

UK Bat Research Group

 

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Not a UK Bat!