1. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    28 Jul '05 01:001 edit
    I would like to engage in a brief epistemological exercise.

    Weak atheists don't believe things in the absence of compelling evidence for their existence. So I ask them:

    Are you conscious?
    What evidence do you have for it?
    Are other people conscious?
    What evidence do you have for that?

    If the evidence justifying your belief in your consciousness is simply your personal experience of it, mustn't you also accept the theist's personal experience of God as justifying evidence (that is, justified to the theist) of his belief?

    If you would refute this by saying that you have never experienced God, do you also deny the existence of others' consciousness, as you have never experienced anybody else's consciousness?

    Dr. S
  2. SubscriberAThousandYoung
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    28 Jul '05 03:03
    Originally posted by DoctorScribbles
    I would like to engage in a brief epistemological exercise.

    Weak atheists don't believe things in the absence of compelling evidence for their existence. So I ask them:

    Are you conscious?
    What evidence do you have for it?
    Are other people conscious?
    What evidence do you have for that?

    If the evidence justifying your belief in your cons ...[text shortened]... of others' consciousness, as you have never experienced anybody else's consciousness?

    Dr. S
    I don't know if I am a "weak atheist" but I suspect I am.

    Weak atheists don't believe things in the absence of compelling evidence for their existence.

    "Compelling evidence for" is a personal judgement. Is anyone not a weak atheist by this definition? I suspect everyone may think they have compelling evidence for everything they believe.

    Am I conscious? Define 'conscious'. A sense of self awareness exists, and this is actually how I define myself and how I know I exist. Does this make me conscious?

    If so, other people are probably conscious as well. Other people act with a tremendous similarity to the way I act based on my self awareness, and they seem to be made up in the same way for the most part as I am based on my observations and books I have read. I suspect those books are accurate because they are the sorts of thing I might make if I studied that field and because in general my experience leads me to believe other humans are extremely similar to me.

    If the evidence justifying your belief in your consciousness is simply your personal experience of it, mustn't you also accept the theist's personal experience of God as justifying evidence (that is, justified to the theist) of his belief?

    Well, I am uncertain what "my conciousness" is according to your question; I have defined it as an experience itself. The analogous situation would be to define God as an experience, but this is counterintuitive. Experiences are passive; they can only change the physical world by motivating matter (in my experience). God is supposedly a being with certain characteristics who has created and changed the material universe in certain ways. This does not describe an experience, so defining God as an experience is not consistent with what Christians for example claim.

    I can describe what I do experience which leads me to suspect that other humans experience consciousness. Until theists describe what experiences they've had that leads them to believe God exists as they describe him, I cannot decide whether I'd believe in God given those experiences. The experiences I've heard described did not lead to the conclusion that God exists in my opinion.
  3. Standard memberfrogstomp
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    28 Jul '05 03:08
    Originally posted by AThousandYoung
    I don't know if I am a "weak atheist" but I suspect I am.

    [b]Weak atheists don't believe things in the absence of compelling evidence for their existence.


    "Compelling evidence for" is a personal judgement. Is anyone not a weak atheist by this definition? I suspect everyone may think they have compelling evidence for everything they be ...[text shortened]... experiences I've heard described did not lead to the conclusion that God exists in my opinion.[/b]
    I think therefore , I think I am. I also think Dr Scribbbles is too , but I ain't worried about it.
  4. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    28 Jul '05 03:123 edits
    Originally posted by AThousandYoung
    The experiences I've heard described did not lead to the conclusion that God exists in my opinion.
    Let us be precise.

    You are correct that in my analogy, I should have referred to the theist experiencing an interaction with God, not experiencing God.

    But the gist of this thread is not whether someone else's alleged experienced interaction with God (e.g. a near-death experience, or a priest who has been "called" ) is compelling evidence for you to believe in God.

    The gist is whether the theist's own experience justifies his own belief in God, in the same way that the Weak Atheist's own belief in his consciousness is justified by his own experience of it. If the Weak Atheist's belief in his consciousness is justified, why so, and is the theist's belief in God less justified, given that both beliefs wholly stem from each one's personal experience of the entities in question?
  5. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    28 Jul '05 03:152 edits
    Originally posted by frogstomp
    I think therefore , I think I am.
    I don't dispute this. I think it's quite correct, and I am using it for the fuel for my argument.

    To restate the quote, one could say: I experience my consciousness, so my consciousness exists.

    But if that is not a non sequitur, then neither should be: I experience interactions with God, so interactions with God exist.
  6. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    28 Jul '05 03:257 edits
    Originally posted by AThousandYoung
    I don't know if I am a "weak atheist" but I suspect I am.
    The only tenet of Weak Atheism that I have been able to extract from the Weak Atheists is:
    Existential claims should be denied until such time as they can be demonstrated to be more likely true than false.

    If you agree with that, then you would be a Weak Atheist.

    You would also be wrong a considerable amount of the time about the truth of various existential claims. This is trivial to demonstrate. However, if the above tenet was your justification criterion, you would always be epistemically justified in your incorrectness.
  7. Standard memberfrogstomp
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    28 Jul '05 03:331 edit
    Originally posted by DoctorScribbles
    I don't dispute this. I think it's quite correct, and I am using it for the fuel for my argument.

    To restate the quote, one could say: I experience my consciousness, so my consciousness exists.

    But if that is not a non sequ ...[text shortened]... experience interactions with God, so interactions with God exist.
    For the same reason I can't be sure if you exist, you cant can't be sure god does either. I can't be sure that I'm not all there really is, but I do know that something does exist and I'm part of it, but in the set U(n) , how much of n I am I dont truthfully know. And I don't even know if it's unitary.

    edit leaving the double "can't"s in just to confuse you.
  8. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    28 Jul '05 03:365 edits
    It should be emphasized that since this is a discussion of epistemology, what is at issue is the justification of beliefs, not the correctness of beliefs, or the sureness that one's beliefs are correct. (By 'correct', I mean a belief in proposition P is correct iff P is true; I don't mean it in the sense that it's correct to have only justified beliefs.)

    I'm willing to stipulate that God or consciousness exist or don't exist as you'd prefer - it's irrelevant to the discussion of whether beliefs in their existence are justified according to the Weak Atheistic belief justification criterion.

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    28 Jul '05 04:11
    Originally posted by DoctorScribbles
    I don't dispute this. I think it's quite correct, and I am using it for the fuel for my argument.

    To restate the quote, one could say: I experience my consciousness, so my consciousness exists.

    But if that is not a non sequitur, than neither should be: I experience interactions with God, so interactions with God exist.
    It is interesting that we have chosen Descartes as a starting point for this discussion. If we should accept the cogito as true, we should consider the rest of his "Meditations," seeing as how they all are based on his skepticism. He is unable to establish the existence of a physical world beyond his doubt-generating arguments without directly invoking a god. His reasoning follows from the problem of the mal genie, or the constant possibility of deception. His establishment of an all-powerful being is necessary for him to procede, because the god, who is assumed to be good, is not willing to decieve us concerning the existence of a world outside of ourselves.
    If we follow this extreme skeptical approach, it seems that the athiest can only say, without doubt, that he exists. Anything beyond this requires the assumption that the mal genie is not at work. The theist will make an analagous assumption about the existence of Descartes' god, and thereby procede beyond the cogito.
    In this light, I would consider neither path to be more justifiable than the other.
  10. Donationrwingett
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    28 Jul '05 04:16
    Originally posted by DoctorScribbles
    I would like to engage in a brief epistemological exercise.

    Weak atheists don't believe things in the absence of compelling evidence for their existence. So I ask them:

    Are you conscious?
    What evidence do you have for it?
    Are other people conscious?
    What evidence do you have for that?

    If the evidence justifying your belief in your cons ...[text shortened]... of others' consciousness, as you have never experienced anybody else's consciousness?

    Dr. S
    As Frogstomp pointed out, "I think, therefore I am". If anything can be known, that would be it. I suppose it is possible (as has been pointed out somewhere else) that we are merely part of a dream of some other being and that we don't really exist. As I say, I suppose it is possible, but there is no compelling reason to assume that state of affairs is really true. I think we are fully justified in asserting our conciousness.

    It may then be observed that other people are very similar to ourself. They are all part of the same species, behave in very similar fashions, and all claim to be concious beings themselves. There are plenty of ways to verify this. It is testable. I don't need to experience their conciousness firsthand to be fully justified in claiming to know that it exists.

    Because we accept that they are concious does not mean that we have to accept everything that imprints itself upon their conciousness. We know that people are mistaken about many things and that human faculties are capable of error. We can observe that the theists' experiences of "god" are culturally biased, inconsistent, and oftentimes mutually exclusive of each other. Furthermore, there is nothing outside of the theists' personal experience to indicate that their god might actually exist. It is not testable in any way.

    Therefore, I will continue to withhold belief from the theists' claims for the existence of a god.
  11. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    28 Jul '05 04:23
    Originally posted by yousers
    His reasoning follows from the problem of the mal genie, or the constant possibility of deception.
    Mmmm... Descartes. The concept of the mal genie ranks among the great contributions to philosophy. I regard it as being as monumental as, and curiously analogous to, Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem.
  12. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    28 Jul '05 04:261 edit
    Originally posted by rwingett
    Furthermore, there is nothing outside of the theists' personal experience to indicate that their god might actually exist. It is not testable in any way.
    What is there outside of your personal experience to indicate your consciousness exists? You cannot test it in any way.

    If you apply that justification criterion to the theist's belief in the existence of God, mustn't you apply it to your belief in your own consciousness?
  13. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    28 Jul '05 04:324 edits
    Originally posted by rwingett


    Therefore, I will continue to withhold belief from the theists' claims for the existence of a god.
    I'm not asking if your belief in the theist's claim would be justified. I'm fully aware that you have had no personal interactions with any God, and you see no other evidence for his existence, and thus your justification criterion for the denial is met. That's not at issue.

    I'm asking if the theist's belief in his claim is justified, given that it derives from his personal experience, as your belief in your consciousness derives from your personal experience. That is, the theist presumably thinks he has had an interaction with God. Shouldn't he consider that as justifying evidence?

    I'd also like to know if you have any plans to change your stale and outdated avatar.
  14. Donationrwingett
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    28 Jul '05 04:58
    Originally posted by DoctorScribbles
    What is there outside of your personal experience to indicate your consciousness exists? You cannot test it in any way.

    If you apply that justification criterion to the theist's belief in the existence of God, mustn't you apply it to your belief in your own consciousness?
    In order for a theist to believe in god at all, he must be a conscious being first. All beliefs require a consciousness. My consciousness and a theist's belief in god do not require the same level of justification, as consciousness is a necessary pre-condition for belief in god. The fact that people are able to have any beliefs at all (whether they are justified or not) demonstrates their conciousness.
  15. Standard memberDoctorScribbles
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    28 Jul '05 05:082 edits
    Originally posted by rwingett
    The fact that people are able to have any beliefs at all (whether they are justified or not) demonstrates their conciousness.
    The fact that belief entails consciousness is an unintended aspect of my choice of analogy. If I had it to do over, I would ask what justifies your belief in the existence of your like for beer, instead of what justifies your belief in your consciousness.

    As I said, I'm perfectly willing to stipulate that people are in fact conscious. I'm not concerned with that finding.

    I want to know the following.
    Do you claim that a personal experience of something justifies belief in that something's existence?
    If not, how do you justify your belief in your consciousness, since your personal experience with it is all you have to justify it?
    If so, why is the theist not justified in his belief in God if that theist has a personal experience of that God?

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