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Will posthumans all be atheists?
Phil Torres   Jun 1, 2010   Ethical Technology  

There is good reason for thinking that posthumans will, on the whole, be atheists. And there is good reason for thinking that widespread apostasy would, on the whole, be desirable.



“It seems obvious,” Russell Blackford wrote recently, “that something of an atheist movement really has developed in the past few years.” In fact, according to American Religious Identification Survey 2008 [PDF], 15% of Americans in 2008 identified as non-religious – an increase of 6.8% since 1990 and .9% since 2001. As one of the principle investigators of the survey, Ariela Keysar, notes: “The ‘Nones’ are the only group to have grown in every state of the Union.”

Such facts raise a number of questions (that is, “futurological” questions that have not much been discussed, as far as I know) about whether the observed trend will continue, and for how long. On the assumption that humans succeed in engendering a “species” of technologized posthumans, one might ask whether such advanced beings will be atheists or not. And furthermore, would it be a good thing for our technological progeny to be atheists?

In my view, there is good reason for thinking that posthumans will most likely, on the whole, be atheists. In addition, there is good reason for thinking that widespread apostasy would, on the whole, be desirable – that is, it would be beneficial for Earth-originating intelligent life, promoting overall post/human well-being.

To begin, then, consider the concept of ‘posthumanity’. According to Bostrom [PDF], a posthuman is an organism (note the etymology of this term) with no less than one “general central capacity [that greatly exceeds] the maximum attainable by any current human being without recourse to new technological means.” Such a capacity may pertain to any of the broad domains of healthspan, emotion, or cognition.

Only the third capacity listed is germane to the present discussion. We may refer to creatures satisfying this condition as “superintelligent posthumans,” or SIPs. Note that there are a number of distinct routes to the SIP destination. First, through an “extendible” method [PDF], as David Chalmers terms it, we could create superintelligent AI systems that inhabit either a virtual world or the real one. In the latter case, the AI may take the form of an android having a robotic body of some sort.

Alternatively, we could pursue the strategy of cyborgization, whereby a biological human is enhancively modified through a variety of possible techniques (tissue grafts, genetic engineering, neural implants, nootropics, etc.). If one accepts the extended mind hypothesis, enhancement technologies need not be located within the traditional (but arbitrary, or so the argument goes) skin-and-skull boundary of the individual: as long as they satisfy the “parity principle,” they may be physically “external” (though cognitively internal) to the subject.
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This being said, there is a growing mass of empirical evidence that appears to establish a positive link between intelligence and atheism (as well as additional phenomena like liberalism). For example, a recent article entitled “Why Liberals and Atheists are More Intelligent,” by Satoshi Kanazawa, adduces a number of data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the General Social Survey. These data – independent of what one might think of Kanazawa’s evolutionary explanation of them – manifest an appreciable correlation between intellectual ability, as measured by standard IQ tests, and the rejection of theistic belief systems.

Another recent paper [PDF] (by several controversial psychologists) similarly argues that average IQ “predicts” the prevalence of atheism in 137 nations around the world, including the US, based on data from the NLSY97. All-in-all, virtually every study investigating intelligence and religiosity has found a negative correlation between these two phenomena (and thus a positive link between IQ and atheism).

In addition to such studies, IEET denizens are no doubt familiar with a well-known 1998 survey of the most accomplished members of the National Academy of Sciences. This survey found that only 7% of “greater” scientists believe in the existence of a personal Deity. Similarly, in How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science, Michael Shermer discusses the results of a sizable survey of randomly selected Americans that he and his colleague conducted. Consistent with the above studies, they concluded that “more highly educated people are less likely to be religious” (from The God Delusion, by Dawkins).
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Thus, we have the following argument: if (p1) we manage to create SIPs, and (p2) intelligence is indeed positively correlated with atheism, then (c) SIPs will likely be atheists. Or, given the ostensible connection between education-level and atheism, if posthumans are not just superintelligent but highly knowledgeable beings as well (I take it that intelligence and erudition are logically independent variables), then we have at least one additional reason for expecting them to be – as it were – “Nones.” This seems to provide one possible reason for atheists to support the R&D required for the creation of SIPs.

This conclusion seems to conform well with intuition (or at least my intuitions). The theologian Paul Tillich once said* that “He who knows about depth knows about God,” but just the opposite seems, as far as I can tell, to be true. Consider the fact that, generally speaking, the more knowledge one has of the Bible, especially when combined with critical reflection, the more doubt one tends to have about the veracity of Scripture.

In contrast, the more knowledge one has of science, especially when combined with critical reflection, the more confidence one tends to have about its particular model of reality – from cosmogony (the Big Bang) to eschatology (the “entropy death”). Thus, one finds many more atheistic scientists with a deep knowledge of religious matters (e.g., individuals raised in religious households but who later jettisoned their faith) than religious authorities with a deep knowledge of science. (This is precisely what makes Alister McGrath anomalous: he had a formal, and quite superb, education in the sciences before pursuing theology.)

The question remains, though: Would a technological future populated by atheistic SIPs be a good thing? Atheists are, of course, the least trusted demographic in America [PDF] – in part because many believe that rejecting religion is tantamount to adopting a kind of moral nihilism. But this is clearly false, as Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and the other “Four Horsemen” of New Atheism have cogently argued ad nauseum.

In fact, the evidence available at present seems to suggest that a world of atheists would actually be far less risky than one full of “believers.” Consider the fact that the most serious terror risks today originate from groups explicitly motivated by Christian, or Islamic, etc. dogma. In their book Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism [PDF], for example, authors Charles Ferguson and William Potter identify “politico-religious” (al Qaeda) and “apocalyptic” (the Christian Identity movement) groups as the actors most likely to perpetrate a nuclear attack.

There are, furthermore, a number of rather consternating studies linking religious belief with attitudes that are, by most accounts, morally suspect at best. For example, a 2009 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that the more often one attends church, the more likely one is to condone torture. (Evangelicals turn out to be the most likely to support acts of torture against “detainees.”) And a 2010 meta-analysis of 55 independent studies establishes a significant correlation between religiosity and racism; as the authors conclude, “only religious agnostics were racially tolerant.” (Obviously, racism goes far beyond being merely “suspect” – it is downright repugnant: intolerance towards this kind of intolerance is justified intolerance!)

It thus appears that a society-wide move towards atheism would not only decrease phenomena like racism and (the acceptability of) torture, but it might also result in a mitigation of certain catastrophic risks.** This seems to provide a good reason for anyone interested in the perpetuation of Earth-originating intelligent life to advocate the R&D required for SIPs.

More philosophically, we might add that if one agrees with Kant that rationality and morality are correlated, then, as Chalmers writes [PDF], “a fully rational system will be fully moral as well. If this is right, and if intelligence correlates with rationality, we can expect an intelligence explosion to lead to a morality explosion along with it.”

In sum, given the putative connection between intelligence and atheism, it seems reasonable to conjecture that SIPs – possible future beings more intelligent than any living human – will all be atheists. Furthermore, a world of atheistic SIPs would likely be a better world than the contemporary one in which we reside.

This provides one possible response to a previous article in which I suggested that more intelligence might actually exacerbate rather than ameliorate our present situation. But, of course, the issue here is still very much open to debate.


NOTES

* In all fairness, this quote is taken out of context, which is why I provide the citation.
** As William James once argued, atheists cannot take “moral holidays” like the theist can – global warming, for example, will not be solved by divine intervention (if enough believers pray), but because of assiduous human effort.




COMMENTS

Respectfully submit that: 1) the surveys are biased. 2) IQ tests really test education. 3) Education rarely teaches independent critical thinking but indoctrination. 4) Science confirms the “veracity” of a broad (50,000’) view of the Bible. 5) Intelligent people who look for God, find God. 6) Intelligent people who look for no god, find no god. 7) Correlation does not prove causation. 8) “Less intelligent” people who look for God, find God. 9) “Less intelligent” people who look for no god, find no god. 10) Perhaps, it’s more likely that people who score well on IQ tests have been indoctrinated by an education system that biases them to look for no god rather than to look for God.

I feel Unitarian Universalist church will bring wide spread reformations in the future to replace the traditional christian churches, and because of the degrading of the environment and its future tribulations will bring forth a new hybrid pantheistic flavored type spiritual atheism/ humanism focused on the value and spiritualized positive humanistic connections to the Natural World…... If humanity can get past believing in anthropomorphic gods with specific human attributes/ emotions…. If our future includes massive destruction, break down of civil government and large wars, and suffering….then I would predict half the population will revert back to nationalistic fear based superstitious religion.

Just my two cents from post-post-modern American church going Unitarian Universalist Ex-christian Atheist, who feels a deep emotional connection to the Universe and its mechanisms…...

I am sick of people saying that if you search for the truth you will find “god”. I searched for the truth, you know what I found? Nothing about the bible is true! Get over it!!!!! God and all other supernatural things are the product of ignorance, and its disgusting that people act like such intellectual perversions are as solid as observable data. Especially when such accounts rely on testimonies of cave dwelling, inquisition driving, barbaric, sexist, humans!

Here is the initial reaction of a Mormon Transhumanist:

http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2010/06/will-posthumans-all-doubt-their-own.html

This article reeks of the self-serving smugness and arrogance for which atheists are so widely despised. A four point difference in average IQ is enough to convince you that atheists are inherently superior? Pathetic. Correlation does not equal cause. Intelligent people are more likely to go to college, and liberalism is more compatible with a college lifestyle (casual sex, etc). It has nothing to do with the rightness of wrongness of liberalism.You cherry pick your data to support your heavily biased premise that atheists are not only morally equal to but morally superior to theists, when far more objective studies indicate that spirituality is likely to improve an individual’s quality of life. Worst of all, you believe that most bigoted, most superstitious, most irrational of all atheistic believes, that exterminating religion would make the world better. In reality, there is no qualitative difference between ideology and religion, and secular ideologies can indeed breed fanatacism, i.e. environmentalism. I don’t doubt that a world full of atheists would still find ideologies to kill each other over.

I should note that I don’t wholly reject your premise of Transhumans being mostly atheists. However, this is because transhumanists are mostly atheists. Therefore, atheists are likely to become Transhumans, but not necessarily vice versa. In my own speculative fiction, the Transhuman’s atheism was contributary to their downfall. It caused the still largely religious Humans to see them as something unholy, and inspired religious fervour in the bioconservatives.

For more detailed essays about my thoughts on atheism, visit

http://sanctumofvespertine.blogspot.com/2010/03/lets-not-talk-to-joss-hes-sad-and.html

and

http://sanctumofvespertine.blogspot.com/2009/11/lies-breathed-through-silver.html

Science has already prolonged our life… religion will continue until science can give us that “extra eternal” life.

Let’s say one day we can upload our minds to a computer… were we can “live” as long as the puter is up (No windows wink )

What will they faith-heads do… take a chance on god… or do the upload wink

DoctorE, interesting enough I think I have read the same article that you are talking about. I think its rather impossible, not to download another version of you, but the actual you. The brain is the hard disk version of you, if you download its network processes and bridges it will only make another conscious version of you, but not transfer you. Or so I assume, since its the physical brain that makes up the conscious. Interesting stuff to think about! Who knows what interesting mysteries are about to be unlocked about the conscious. But one think I am confident they will never find, a soul! lol

Religions have built civilizations and cultures. We have lots of experience of the good and bad side of religion.

We have very little experience with cultures built by atheism, and the little we do have is not at all promising.

You’re basing your projections and theories on small-scale studies and a bunch of wish-fulfillment nonsense from the Dawkins crowd.

‘Posthumans’ could have varying beliefs dependent upon their minds’ architectures.  Humans have many cognitive biases that were beneficial during our earlier evolution but have serious drawbacks in our modern environment.  We should be able to build minds without these drawbacks, and then those minds would discover ‘truths’ about our universe with a more solid epistemological foundation.  Would these future minds be ‘atheists’ as we generally define it?  Possibly, but they could also possibly construct models of reality that supersede such labels entirely.  One thing I’m pretty sure of is that a properly constructed AGI should definitely not subscribe to any parochial religious traditions we humans have created.

Advanced posthumans will be like gods. How can a god be an atheist?

I agree with Lincoln’s comments.

@Armand This article reeks of the self-serving smugness and arrogance for which atheists are so widely despised.

I would say this differently, but I see your point.

When I see:

“All-in-all, virtually every study investigating intelligence and religiosity has found a negative correlation between these two phenomena (and thus a positive link between IQ and atheism).”—

sometimes I think, “Who the hell cares?”—after I consider who was probably the most intelligent nation in the world in the 1930’s. I’m talking about Germany.

It takes as much faith to believe there is NO God as it does to believe there IS a God. In my ‘simple little mind’ that correlates to atheism being a RELIGION.

My question to you is…

... where does your church hold it’s meetings?

A few quick comments:

DS432: I very strongly disagree that “intelligent people who look for God, find God.” There is, I believe, *very* compelling evidence to the contrary.

Armand: I really don’t think my article is smug or arrogant. It presents a logical (and as far as I can tell valid, in the technical sense of that word) argument with premises whose truth or falsity is an *empirical* matter. One could certainly controvert (a) the measurability of intelligence; (b) the data themselves; and so on. As one whose views about the world track, as best they can, the facts (or what we take to be the facts according to our best science), I am more than willing to admit a failure of the argument if future research vitiates the results of the NLSY97, for example.

Also, I *strongly* disagree with the idea behind your claim that “liberalism is more compatible with a college lifestyle (casual sex, etc).” As Jere Surber said in a really excellent article on the “liberal bias” of academia, “most of those in the liberal arts have concluded that there really isn’t any other intellectually respectable way to interpret the broad contours of history and culture. They are liberal, in other words, by deliberate and reasoned choice, based upon the best available evidence.” I highly encourage you to take a look: http://chronicle.com/article/Well-Naturally-Were-Liberal/63870

DoctorE: Interesting point, but I’m not sure about the disjunction you offer : why can’t the “faith-heads” both upload and believe in god?

crowhill: I’m not sure it’s wish fulfillment. We *know* that religion provides religion-specific reasons to cause harm to other humans : reasons that would otherwise not be compelling. (Imagine, as an atheist, that I decided to go murder my son. You would, quite reasonably, think I’d gone mad, and then try desperately to stop me. But when God tells one to do that, it’s the moral thing to do.) Crucially, it’s hard to imagine how one’s belief that all we have in the universe is each other (ignoring the remote possibility of ETIs) could be an impetus to cause human suffering. Again, there is some fairly robust evidence out there showing that religion *is* correlated with a lot of morally problematic attitudes (such as racism, xenophobia, and so on). And while this evidence is, of course, fallible, it is the best thing we have upon which to form an opinion.

Prisco: You move from saying “like gods” to *being* “a god.” Surely it is impossible for God to be an atheist! But, just as surely, it is quite possible for a being *like* god (whatever that means exactly) to reject theism. Also, to recapitulate: I don’t see the smugness or arrogance of the article. I am very much an epistemological fallibilist : that is, I’m prepared (at least insofar as I’m an intellectually honest individual, which I strive to be) to change my views if the best available data changes. This contrasts *strongly*, I should emphasize, with the transcendental certitude of the Muslim, the Christian, the Hindu, or the Spaghetti Monsterist.

veronica: ok, so you consider (if I understand you correctly) the average intelligence of German citizens in the 1930s to be higher than any other country in the world. On what, though, are you basing this consideration? What would prevent someone else from asserting that Germany was probably the dumbest nation in the world in the 1930s? Again, the *fact* is that virtually every study investigating intelligence and religiosity *has* found a negative correlation between these two phenomena. That claim itself is not up for debate, because its factual. (If you think it is, go count the studies yourself.)

Joanne: no, it doesn’t take as much faith to believe that there is NO God as it does to believe that there is one. Consider the following: how do we know things about the world? Many, many people throughout the ages have thought that revelation is a good way to acquire knowledge; thus, we had “knowledge” about how old the earth is, whether the sun revolves around the earth, what causes diseases, how reproduction occurs, the status of Kings in monarchies, etc. etc. etc., that was acquired through various non-empirical means : most notably, through revelation. Another method, though, based on empirical observations then came along and, it turned out, was able to devise *much* better answers to these (already answered) questions. That other method is the core of modern science.

Thus, we inquire: does God exist? Again, we can turn to revelation, as the Christian, Muslim, and so on, do (each getting affirmative but mutually incompatible answers!). Or, we could try making some observations, to *see* if God exists. And it happens to be the case that no compelling evidence can be found. Thus, we tentatively conclude (since future evidence may very well confirm that, e.g., Allah *does* exist) that God is a mere fiction.

(Alternatively, consider the question of whether an invisible, tasteless, odorless, etc. elephant follows me around everywhere I go. Does it take faith to believe that such an observationally undetectable (except, maybe, for some subjective *feeling* that the elephant is there : a phenomenon about which neuropsychologists would have much to say!) elephant exists or that it doesn’t exist? I would urge the latter: no faith is needed to deny its existence, given the absence of evidence *for* its existence.)

Thanks for many great comments!

Studies on whether atheists or believers are more likely to be good or bad go both ways, and I think the studies themselves (as well as what people conclude from them) are determined by your bias.

But you haven’t addressed the fact that we do have some experience with atheist cultures / countries, and that experience has been pretty horendous.

Philippe, for pragmatic religious persons, there is no difference between being like God and being God. Moreover, as a transhumanist, your posthuman aspirations are probabilistically incompatible with atheism (as understood by a pragmatic religious person).

Is the Bible kaput or is it still intellectually credible? Find out how deep its rabbit hole goes with hundreds of cool links pro and con at http://jehovahswitless.weebly.com

ive never met an athiest as intelligent as me.. or more balanced than I am.. nor even one that can think for himself, or should I say that believes anything some so called self professed expert claims to be true so easily, just because hes an expert he thinks.. R Dawkins does not even know if hes an athiest.. his bus adverts claimed there might be no God.. simply because he does not know wether there is or not..  poor confused people they are.. how many athiests claim they live in haunted houses.. or mother earth, or karma anything goes except a belief in a God .

DS432:

“1) the surveys are biased.”

Maybe, explain how.

2) IQ tests really test education.

Maybe, but does that completely disqualify as a proxy for intelligence?  That is, if two people with the same education level take the same IQ test, won’t it demonstrate which one is more intelligent, at least in most cases?  If not, why not?  If there’s a better proxy for intelligence, what is it?

“3) Education rarely teaches independent critical thinking but indoctrination.”

Explain how “indoctrination” is anything but education you don’t like.  Provide some basis for believing that “most” education doesn’t provide some experience with independent critical thinking.  Even if education is “indoctrination” (and again assuming it doesn’t just mean “education I don’t like”), doesn’t being exposed to that point of view and having to choose between that and any other views encourage critical thinking?

“4) Science confirms the “veracity” of a broad (50,000’) view of the Bible. “

Not sure what this is supposed to mean.  The Bible is true in broad outline, as in there was such a thing as the Roman Empire?  Is the 50,000 foot view of The Da Vinci code true because there’s such a thing as the Catholic church?

“5) Intelligent people who look for God, find God. ” and “6) Intelligent people who look for no god, find no god.”

This is dirty.  So let’s suppose up front that I haven’t found God.  If I accept your premises, this means that a) I haven’t looked for God or b) I’m not intelligent.  So if I insist that I’m intelligent, you will insist that when I thought I was looking for God I really wasn’t; if I insist instead that I’ve looked for God, then I’ve implicitly called myself a dummy.

Instead, I submit (with just as much force of reason as you did): 5’) Stupid people who look for God, find God.  and 6’) Stupid people who look for no God find no God.  Since you looked, and found, you’re stupid.  Since I looked, and didn’t, I’m smart.  This is a fun, pointless waste of time you’ve discovered with this line of argumentation.

“7) Correlation does not prove causation.”

Correlation does not prove causation, but it does prove correlation (obviously).  Since we’re only talking about the negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity and not the causal interplay of the two concepts, this is an irrelevant objection.

“8) “Less intelligent” people who look for God, find God. 9) “Less intelligent” people who look for no god, find no god. “

As I’ve already pointed out, this sort of argument by assertion is pointless.

“10) Perhaps, it’s more likely that people who score well on IQ tests have been indoctrinated by an education system that biases them to look for no god rather than to look for God. “

Perhaps, but have you given any good reason to believe that?  Incidentally, even though I received a public education in the Godless state of Massachusetts, I never felt any pressure from my school or from the content of my education to turn away from religious belief or towards atheism.  In fact, working as a teacher, I was very careful not to express my atheism, since it’s not exactly a popular position and many believers regard even the existence of atheists as a threat. 

The educational system, at least primary and secondary education, are more biased against atheists than they are against believers.  It wasn’t until the end of college when I started THINKING CRITICALLY about Descartes’ “proofs by my ability to imagine it to be so” that I really decided there wasn’t a God.

But more importantly for you argument, are we going to see the negative correlation when we control for education level by comparing only high school grads to high school grads, college undergrads to college undergrads, etc.?  If that is the case, then education (or “indoctrination” for education of which you don’t approve) clearly isn’t a factor, or at least not the most important one.

crowhill:

“But you haven’t addressed the fact that we do have some experience with atheist cultures / countries, and that experience has been pretty horendous. “

If you were really curious, you could read any of the hundreds or thousand of pages that have been written about this problem, but very quickly:

Dawkins, Dennett, and the rest of New Atheism are all about challenging received wisdom and questioning authority.  The basis of New Atheism is usually philosophical skepticism, meaning that one should not believe a proposition without good empirical justification; it is the lack of empirical justification that makes a skeptic an atheist.

Compare to Soviet, Cambodian, Vietnamese, or Chinese communism, where the atheism is NOT derived from philosophical skepticism, but by Communist party dogma.  These were systems in which the citizens were taught NOT to question received knowledge, NOT to question those in authority, but rather to be unfailingly loyal to the communist party.  The parties, then, insisted on dogmatic atheism so that there would be no God to compete with the party leadership.

But it should be clear that there is a big difference between autocrats forbidding religion and individuals choosing to reject it.  This difference should be all the more clear judging by the fact that 25 years ago, Russia was “entirely atheist” but a few scant years later became significantly Russian Orthodox.

Dan,

You raise an interesting point, but I think it makes your case even harder, since we have absolutely no experience with a culture, society or nation built on a foundation of “challenging received wisdom and questioning authority.”

Do we have any idea, any inclination, or ... perhaps more to the point ... any data to say that would be a good thing? Or even that it could work? Or is possible?

BTW, I have read Dennett, Dawkins, Pinker, Hitchens and lots of other so-called “New Atheists.” Generally speaking I find their thoughts sophomoric at best. That is, when they stray from their areas of expertise. Dennett and Pinker have some very interesting things to say, but not in the area of religion or religious belief.

Non-religious does not equal atheist. Thus your entire supposition is based upon a fraudulent premise. The fact that non-religious numbers are growing DO NOT mean that the number of atheists are growing. Does this site respect the scientific method or not? Starting off your articles with broad erroneous posits will not win you any converts. Only fanboys will applaud you.

Non-religious does not equal atheist

I have never been religious in any conventional sense. I used not to object to being called an atheist, but now, having heard this “new atheist”, I really dislike the term. So I am non-religious, but I am not an atheist.

@crowhill:

...since we have absolutely no experience with a culture, society or nation built on a foundation of “challenging received wisdom and questioning authority.”

Do we have any idea, any inclination, or ... perhaps more to the point ... any data to say that would be a good thing? Or even that it could work? Or is possible?

I seem to recall that, way back in the eighteenth century, a bunch of aristocratic iconoclasts with heretical religious beliefs decided that the British crown’s authority over their holdings was unjustified.  The argument put forth was that any government that does not represent the opinion of the governed was illegitimate.  Of course, this was a challenge to the old orthodoxy, that the right of the government was given by God an not to be challenged by the laiety.  But because these men were already unorthodox religious thinkers, they were able to successfully challenge that bit of received wisdom.

To replace the British system of government, they debated and ultimately compromised on a system in which there is no one authority, in which several competing interests would maintain checks on each other.  An important element of this was that the founding document was quickly amended to include several explicit rights, among them the right to vocally disagree with your government.

That is, American democracy and the European socialist democracy that is at least partially based on that model are exactly what you’re asking for, a system founded on the notions of challenging authority and questioning conventional wisdom.

I could actually make similar arguments regarding the evolution of European states throughout the enlightenment; philosophical skepticism and empiricism no doubt played a large part in the development of Parliamentary rule in the UK.  The French Revolution might seem like a bad example, but the same principles are in play.

I could talk about ancient Greeks and Romans as well, about how the Roman republic came to be by rejecting the authority of the original monarchy; how the Athenians constantly vacillated between electing strong, charismatic rulers and running them out of town when they had gotten out of control.

Suffice to say, there is plenty of data to suggest that the wealthiest, most successful, and most free governments and economies on earth have been driven by the rejection of authority and revelation.

BTW, I have read Dennett, Dawkins, Pinker, Hitchens and lots of other so-called “New Atheists.” Generally speaking I find their thoughts sophomoric at best. That is, when they stray from their areas of expertise. Dennett and Pinker have some very interesting things to say, but not in the area of religion or religious belief.

In my experience, when an atheist tries to debate a believer on the believer’s “home turf”—debate the content of religious belief—the atheist cannot win.  No matter what assumptions or premises the atheist makes about God or morality or anything else to find some common ground with the believer, the atheist will be wrong.  After all, if the atheist understood correctly, he wouldn’t be an atheist, right? 

So yeah, atheists look like idiots when they let the believers make up the rules.  Good job.  Wanna cookie?

Posrhuman athiest…you mean sort of like Lenin, Stalin, Mao. Militant athiesism like the communist of past showed us thier true colours. Devoid of hummanity. Athiestic selfishness shall rule supreme as history has taught us. After all….I am the law unto myself because I am my own god…and I’m only hear for a few years so screw you all because I’m gonna do it MY way!!!!

Dan, saying that America is founded on “challenging received wisdom and questioning authority” is incredibly lame.

And it sounds like you’re assuming I am a believer. 

>So yeah, atheists look like idiots when they let the believers make
>up the rules.

No, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens et al. simply are idiots when they talk about religion. They don’t know the subject matter and it is as plain as day to those who do.

“These data : independent of what one might think of Kanazawa’s evolutionary explanation of them : manifest an appreciable correlation between intellectual ability, as measured by standard IQ tests, and the rejection of theistic belief systems.”

[facepalm]

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/02/stop_patting_yourselves_on_the.php

I find your comments concerning the correlation between atheism and IQ to be mildly amusing. I am a believer and a Creationist. I also have an IQ of 148 and I am now working on my masters and eventually on a Doctorate in Archaeology.

In my experience, I have noticed that most atheist I have come in contact with are either monstrously egotistical and believe that nothing can exist that is greater than they are, they are mentally ill, or they are emotionally damaged and claim there is no God out of anger toward Him.

So, for all you intelligent atheists, I have a question: where did the universe come from in the first place?

You have only four options:
1. The universe is an illusion. If you assert this position, we’re done arguing (self-explanatory).
2. The universe is self-created.
3. The universe is eternal.
4. The universe is caused by something outside itself that is eternal.

We easily dismissed option 1. Do you affirm the absurd idea of self-creation (a violation of the laws of logic, specifically the law of non-contradiction)? In order for the universe to be the source of it’s own being, it would have to be and not be at the same time and in the same sense. It would have to have existed before it existed to create itself. Think there’s any way to validate a legitimate contradiction? The idea of a self-created universe is as ridiculous as the idea of a universe created out of nothing by nothing.

We’re left with only two options, both of which require the existence of an eternal something to explain the origin of the universe (or being, if you will).

Let’s look at the notion of an eternal universe: this has been totally dismissed by most serious scientists. All evidence points to a beginning about 14 billion years ago. So, what happened one Friday afternoon 14 billion years ago that caused everything to pop into being out of nothing? Oh, I guess we already addressed the absurdity of the idea of a universe being created by nothing. If there every was a time when there was absolutely nothing, what could there possibly be now?

We’re left with only one option: the universe was created by something outside itself. Is the eternal something that created the universe a mindless force or does it possess intention. Could a mindless force express any kind of intention? No. And if it coudlnt’ express intention, it could never do anything. Whatever created the universe had to have intention. If it has intention, it has to have intelligence and thought. If it has intelligence and thought, it has to have a personality.

Only the irrational mind retreats to atheism for the very reason that the idea that we are accountable to a supreme being, who will hold us responsible for our thoughts and actions, is reprehensible. Therefore, we look for justifications to banish the very idea from our minds. In so doing, we abandon reason and embrace foolishness. 

It takes a Supreme Being to explain the existence of any kind of being…be it a rock, a star, a tree or a person. The very fact of existence screams for a ultimate source.

It is interesting but I’m not convinced populations will gravitate towards Atheism, not that I don’t think there will be a shift away from God based thinking. From my discussions with many, many people and the trends of communities and societies I think the general view may sit in the agnostic camp with some Atheist influences.

That is if a technological society could ever actually exist. The modern ‘Western’ world could be close to this ideal, but it is only a small part of the world and at times it gets pretty shakey.

I have also read some interesting posts as well - the persons who state the bible is all false, might want to do a closer study of actual secular history, middle eastern history and even aspects of Mesopostamian history (through in Ur humans for good measure) - then while you swallow your ignorance reconsider the dribble you just posted. Have an point of view is one thing - being ignorant is no longer an acceptable excuse in these modern times.

If you find yourself in a position that creates what is known and an ‘anti’ position then you have actually stopped learning, so if you have stopped learning how can you comfortably say you know much at all?

While it is true the ‘none’ signifier is lifting, it needs to be understood that many Christians no longer indicate their belief because of government ramifications. To know how relevant the data is you also need to view the false beliefs listed as well, as these will clearly indicate the skeptical nature of the findings.

This does sound bad when you have to really study hard, but I will stick with the developing of stronger agnostic positions rather than atheist

Just a few responses to some of the more peculiar comments so far:

—Blake Stacey: Note that PZ Myers writes in his blog post on Kanazawa’s paper (for which you provided a link [below] in your comment, and which Myers categorizes on his blog as “stupidity”) the following: “And then look at the source [of the IQ data]: Stoshi Kanazawa He’s like the poster boy for the stupidity and groundlessness of freakishly fact-free evolutionary psychology. Just ignore anything with Kanazawa’s name on it.” But Kanazawa did *not* himself produce the data correlating IQ with atheism.

As I stated very clearly in the article (complete with links), Kanazawa uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the General Social Survey. Myers’ argument (or at least part of it) is thus not only ad hominem, but it targets the wrong party! Kanazawa was merely propounding an *explanation* (and, I might add, one that I find rather problematic) of the data acquired by other researchers.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/02/stop_patting_yourselves_on_the.php (the link Blake Stacey provided).

—HLH: Thanks for your comment. As an individual with anomalously high intelligence, you are no doubt aware that anecdotal evidence is not the most cogent sort of evidence one could adduce. In fact, I’ve talked to a few atheists who have said the *exact* same thing about theists that you said about atheists: “Those theists,” they declaim, “are either monstrously egotistical (thinking that they can have a *personal* relationship with God Himself) and believe that nothing can exist that is greater than *their* God (not the “god” of any other religion), they are mentally ill, or they are emotionally damaged and claim that God exists out of a desperate need to feel loved by (sigh) *somebody*.”

Note also group A (whatever A is) can have a lower *average* IQ than group B while a particular individual member of A can have a (much) higher IQ than a particular member of B. There is absolutely no contradiction here (i.e., mentioning that *you* have an IQ of 148 is completely irrelevant to the claim about *averages*.) Also, Creationism? I mean, not even Michael Behe and William Dembski—or Francis Collins for that matter—are Creationists (that is, they’ve all adopted views that accept that the Earth is *old*). Incidentally : and I mean this sincerely : what do you think of Balaam’s donkey (did it really speak?), or the story of Jonas living in a “large fish” for three days, or the report that Jesus cast demons into a herd of pigs? Ought we to interpret these stories literally? And which of the two creation stories in Genesis do you think *actually* happened? (Seriously…)

Finally

—Scott: you write, “So, for all you intelligent atheists, I have a question: where did the universe come from in the first place?”

I must say, I am genuinely perplexed when people bring this up. Here’s the situation: NO MATTER WHAT, *every* possible model of the universe must posit *something* as the “unmoved mover” (or however one prefers to put it). Thus, the theist can reasonably ask: But why did the Big Bang happen? Where did the gravitational singularity come from? And the atheist can then reasonably riposte: But where did God come from? Why is there God rather than not-God? The point: neither one of us : the theist or the atheist : has a satisfying answer to why something rather than nothing exists. Your question, therefore, in no way constitutes an argument against atheism. It’s rather a point that reveals our unfortunate epistemic situation in a deeply strange and mysterious cosmos.

At the risk of belaboring the point: I take it that there are a number of questions that (a) we cannot even ask, because we’re simply not smart enough (just like a mouse cannot in principle be perplexed, like I am, by differential equations), and (b) we can ask but cannot in principle answer. Maybe the mind-body problem is just such a question (see Colin McGinn’s work); and maybe the problem of where the universe came from is another. But, and THIS IS THE POINT, sometimes the intellectually honest thing to do is *admit* one’s ignorance.

Consider this scenario: I want to know (say) how many jellyfish are living in the ocean at this exact moment (10:04pm Eastern time, 6/3/10). To my right is a guy who says “Sorry, friend, but I can’t answer that question : there isn’t enough data on that matter to tell for sure; the best I could do is give you a *very* rough estimate.” And to my left is a guy who tersely states “Exactly 1,234,567.” How does he know? Well, (a) a book written during the Iron Age told him; (b) he claims to have spoken to God about the issue; (c)  and so on. Now, which guy should I listen to?

The answer is, in my opinion, obvious: admitting ignorance about this very hard question (as well as the *very hard* cosmogonic question) is better than having an epistemically problematic, made-up answer. (How’s that for smugness and arrogance!)

Hi Phillipe, I am, not sure I saw smugness but maybe the usual position of making a position based on the reading of data. I am a fiction writer and I take information and depending on what argument I want to make I alter the data, or more the reading of the data to suit what I want to do.

There is nothing wrong with holding Atheist views, not that I can tell anyway, it is just sometimes the view can cloud what is happening about the world. In Western culture it can be seen that Atheism might be on the increase, but in Africa, Asia and even India, Christianity or Islam are on the increase, so the figures do get a bit sketchy when everything is applied.

Post Humanism is a good concept to think about but you do need to ascertain if we won’t destroy ourselves before we even reach such a state - and regardless of IQs and averages, this does look more and more likely each year. Saddened to say.

The scenario you use is really not in all fairness one based on reasonable understanding of two positions. I could easily offer this and we’d be no wiser.

Reason and logic are chemical reactions that take place within the brain, though the chemical compounds and enzymes can be measured and even graphed exactly in each individual expressing reason and logic on a particular subject the outcome will always vary and will always defy the actual measurable data. By looking at this it would be quite clear that no two people think alike, and even if we apply analogy to highlight our point, no two people will actually process the information the same way.

By examining this oddity, away from something that did stop short of being dismissive of someone else, it really is quite difficult to determine tends in belief systems - and you then have to factor in. ‘people lie’ which only makes any data on human based concepts very, very difficult to trust.

Also, some posts and of course you do it slightly, it to create generalities or even slights of hand to get an answer you want rather than the answer that might be there. I do it, everyone does it, this is an affectation of human nature, and by reading all the posts thus far it is on full display.

I do stand with reason and logic, but for me it has nothing to do with any pre-set rules or principles to defend or uphold. I do not have the answers but I do investigate widely to find solutions and learn how to understand the whys? and hows? of this world.

It those pesky chemical reactions that are happening in my head - exactly the same ones happening in yours right now, and yet, despite science’s clarity, the outcomes is still a mystery - isn’t it?

@Dan there is plenty of data to suggest that the wealthiest, most successful, and most free governments and economies on earth have been driven by the rejection of authority and revelation

I agree, a healthy society is one where everyone think with his own head. And this is why I reject “new atheist” revelations, even when they are painted on buses, and claim the right to think with my own head.

If believing in God or Santa Claus makes me happier and gives me positive energy and drive, I will believe in God, or Santa Claus.

@Dan, crowhill, et al

We do have data points for ‘atheistic’ countries, or rather, democratic countries with a significant population of nonbelievers.  Western Europe, and in particular, the Scandinavian countries, have a high correlation between the number of irreligious and the quality of life within that society.

given the current costs of shipping and packaging, to post humans could be expensive

Dan L writes: “Incidentally, even though I received a public education in the Godless state of Massachusetts, I never felt any pressure from my school or from the content of my education to turn away from religious belief or towards atheism…. The educational system, at least primary and secondary education, are more biased against atheists than they are against believers.”

I had the opposite experience in New York. After high school, I took inventory of the works of literature we read in school and determined that whoever picked those books had the goal of turning students away from religion. Of course, the books weren’t anti-religion per se, but rather anti- the bad parts of religion.

Scandinavian countries are not irreligeous, or non believers as some might put it. Their beliefs are not Christian for a good proportion of the population and their are strong traditions and even beliefs that still adhere to ancient lore and legend.

They cannot be claimed to be atheist, they can be said to be traditional nordic people who have had some Christian influences, but not Christian faith adherance.

Always be careful of how you form your argument -

@crowhill

We have no experience with X, therefore we should never try X, although X seems workable.

You see the problem don’t you?

Also, it may just be an anecdote, but the more reading I have done about philosophy, war and science, the more my values have progressed in what one my call a ‘civilised’ direction. That is, supporting non-violence, personal rights and civil freedoms ect.

I seriously have doubts that education is somehow inferior to religion in promoting an ethical and moral society. Just compare the state of human society pre- and post- Enlightenment.

It would be better to say that secular influence has dragged religion kicking and screaming from a state of barbarism and savagery. Some of the way, at least.

Actually Necandum X has been tried quite fatally - Stalin ruled the Russian Empire with full Atheist might - not a very convincing candle that was.

Science at its outset was Christian thinkers and experimentors on the search of God’s wonder and what they discovered was the wonder was quite complex, far more complex than the Catholic Church really wanted accept - but, these Christian scientists developed and developed and developed.

Science eventually enlightened the enlightened - not Artheist or secularism, but the developments and discovering is many scientific fields.

These discoveries did not weaken believers faith, well not the believers who had open minds at least and it was because of these adjusting beliefs secularism was able to grow to the point where it is often the preferred manner of law making and social structuring.

Ethics takes a great deal from the original Christian base point, and has expanded to a point that is more encompassing of ideas and beliefs

Stalin was a merciless tyrant and despot who desired absolute power. He sure as hell didn’t read On Liberty. Yes, he was an atheist in the literal meaning of that word. Nor did he believe in unicorns, Zeus or the Eleusinian Mysteries. Neither do you. Does that mean you’re like Stalin?

I think it is important to stress that the modern social movement whose members are commonly called ‘New Atheists’ are not denying God and stopping there. Rather, the idea is to promote a rational and humane outlook on the world, one of the results of which is the rejection of the God hypothesis for lack of evidence.

“Science eventually enlightened the enlightened [wait, what?] - not Artheist or secularism, but the developments and discovering is many scientific fields.”

I think you have it backwards. No one is claiming that Atheism should be credited with the advance of science. Its a product, not a cause.
One the other hand, secularism definitely aided the advance of science. It allows scientists to follow where the evidence and their curiosity may lead, without fear of being burnt at the stake (or the modern equivalent). Religion hampers free inquiry and as such is injurious to scientific progress.

“These discoveries did not weaken believers faith, well not the believers…”

Aha, right. The PROPER type of religion has no conflict with science. Perfect. Now, please someone tell me what a proper religion is? Because I can assure, a rational being cannot but refuse to have faith in a Creator as described in any of the current religions.

“Ethics takes a great deal from the original Christian base point”

My knowledge of the history of ethics is shaky, to say the least. I have no reason to think your’s is any better.

However, allowing for such origins, I propose that ethics had to start somewhere, but has since moved far beyond any Christian foundations. I think the current values that we hold (individual liberty, equality of race and gender, tolerance, non-violence) are in direct contradiction with the tenets of most Abrahamic faiths.

The bottom line is this:
In the comparison between Finland vs. America vs. Iran vs. Saudi Arabia vs. Nigeria, which comes off as the most humane society? I, for one, would much rather live in Finland than any of the other’s.

They even have a healthy appreciation for ‘Original Convict Brews’.

It’s hilarious that people still think religions are something else than dumb, useless, and harmful memes copying themselves around.
Once again, the comments prove that dumb people exist.

Atomic isn’t worth the bandwidth, typical of people who have less than an idea and more of a mouth - brains are given away free you know, pity not everyone takes one.

This is where we get to the point of Fundamentalism - An Atheist Fundamentalist isn’t likely to know they are one, like a Christian or Muslim, to them everything is just dandy. That makes logical sense given the passion for what they believe.

Fundamentalists of all kinds are usually best ignored because all they have to offer free thinking people is a dogmatic set of beliefs that have long become some kind of mantra to them. The Fundamentalist can absorb no suggestion, discussion or even question about what they believe in - in fact, the more you questions the angrier they get, the more disrespectful the rebukes and the deeper the hole they dig themselves. Sadly, and I have viewed this in both Christian and Atheist based newsboards that Fundamentalism is well and thriving.

Of the many people I have spoken to in life thus far, many have claimed the Atheist mantle and almost all have wanted to drive home their logic and reason based rhetoric without question to the reason or logic - to be honest I have begun to think anyone who stands up and shouts I am an Atheist just might be a Fundmentalist as well.

Agnostics and some Christians (sorry I don’t know any Muslims so I can’t comment here) I have met seem more open to wide and free thinking and the meshing of ideas and experiences, I don’t often get that with an Atheist. To them it is a case of ‘I’m right and anything you say against me is wrong’ - no consideration, not thought, definitely no reason.

I mentioned Stalin, and not because he was a despot, but because he and the Soviet Union enforced full Atheist rule on the people. It was illegal to hold to any faith other than that of the pure reasoning and logic of Atheism. Stalin was only the first Russian leader to use this political oppression, it carried on like this until Gorbechov. So, after nearly 50 years of pure Atheist rule what was left. A very sad oppressed people who were void of hope. History shows this with the Union and annexed countries. It is because of this Atheist based thinking that has now left countries warring with each other and Russia.

I also looked at Christian history and it is no better in cases of political rule, though most of its trouble was in the early centuries, not our later ones.

Only secular rule seems to have better treatment of populations and ideas, in fact I would suggest agnostic rule is what is really in place.

This still leaves me with the view of Fundamentalism—many posts show it’s ugly side on this comments page and the biggest problem is the Fundamentalist won’t see it at all.

Rule of thumb - ‘If you find you are argumentative once someone/someones POV differs with yours. You find you are dismissing without consideration anything you disagree with, or even go to the extremes of simply branding anyone who does not share your belief as inferior in some way, then you probably are a fundamentalist.’

@Robert N Stephenson “I mentioned Stalin, and not because he was a despot, but because he and the Soviet Union enforced full Atheist rule on the people. It was illegal to hold to any faith other than that of the pure reasoning and logic of Atheism.”

What do they call it when people twist the truth to suit their needs? Whatever it is you are mistaken. Stalin and his pals enforced, as far as I’m aware, communism told hold they’re power, which means competing ideologies would have been a problem. Atheism isn’t really an ideology, I’d be rich if I got a euro for every time I’ve had to explain this. Atheism can be phrased like this “I don’t believe in a particular god or gods due lack of evidence”. Simple?

” pure reasoning and logic”
Nope. Stalin did not enforce ‘reason’ and ‘logic’. He enforced utter adoration of himself and mercilessly destroyed his competition. This included political parties, private enterprise and education, any academic (or anyone else) who did not toe the party line and of course religion. In their stead, he placed his own dogma, that of communism and his Cult of Personality.

Understand this please: No one (sane) who calls themselves a humanist, atheist or freethinker would want to IMPOSE atheism on everyone. A religion-free world is sought, but through education, not violent force. Based upon the the principles of personal liberty rather than the power of a tyrant.

It makes all the difference in the world.

Regarding Fundamentalism:

http://www.thegoodatheist.net/images/fundyatheist.jpg

Just swap out the world militant for fundamentalist and my point is made.

Rule of thumb - “If you find you are argumentative once someone/someones POV differs with yours. You find you are dismissing without consideration anything you disagree with, or even go to the extremes of simply branding anyone who does not share your belief as inferior in some way, then you probably are a [fool]”

A slight change and, funnily enough, I agree with that.

Although I would add the caveat that is is perfectly alright to hold a person’s beliefs to be inferior to yours while still holding the person themselves in high esteem.

Laoch writes: “Whatever it is you are mistaken. Stalin and his pals enforced, as far as I’m aware, communism told (sic) hold (sic) they’re (sic) power”

For what it’s worth, he had elementary school teachers teach the following to their students: “OK kids, pray to your God for some candy.” They would, but candy would not come. “Now ask Stalin for some candy.” The teachers would then toss out candy to the class.

Never had much time for atheist idealism, even now after much reading it is still and individualist process of thinking. ‘I am therefore I am only’

I often find myself standing in a position that could easily bog down into standard Atheist mantra, but I have moved on from such things and find the discussion are usually an us v them standpoint.

It has also been said over and over again Atheism is not an ideology, which is its purest for is quite the case, as it is simple an individualistic position.

Sites like this promote ideologies based on simple principles. Like any religion or any secy Atheism is a growing ‘movement’. This may not have been anyone’s intention but it has slowly become an ideology with adherents to set rules and values. Of course it is always denied, and denied quite loudly but put it this way, if it swims like a fish, smells like a fish, tastes like a fish, then with all reason it probably is a fish

These days I can’t agree with the atheist anymore than I can agree with bible wielding Christian, bot have cemented their stances and will not be swayed—in this type of instance further conversation is quite pointless.

When you examine the idea of the ‘God’ gene you will find some startling examinations, either by yourself or through reading. We all have this gene and it does actually mean we all believe in God, it is about the ability to place someone or something in a position where this ‘God - like’ thinking develops in the human mind and life.

Young children express the ‘God’ concept when they view their parents - they are their world, they are everything, the providers of all things. The God gene is activated.

In adolescence it swings about through role models, sports or music identities and even religious positions. Included in this is a belief pattern we adopt. Usually this is fixed for life, but under some conditions this core belief system can change or be changed if the person is willing enough.

In the ‘God’ position you will find everything from Christian and Jesus standpoints all the way to the agnostic shrug of whatever. Something always fills the so called ‘God’ part of out lives. It isn’t actually a God or nor does it need to be God related, it is just a condition of human development.

Atheism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, you name them, they all occupy this place in us depending on which you choose, or in a more reasonable sense, gravitate towards.

Even the Atheist believes in a God, or to them it has been replaced with the term reason, or logic - no matter the name it hold that position in their lives. Every human has the desire to believe in something, whether it is themselves, science of something spiritual, the belief system is there - if it wasn’t then maybe psychopath comes to mind.

My problems with Atheist belief isn’t the belief they have, it is that they also believe it is their right to deny others the freedom to believe what they want. If there is a difficulty in respecting someone’s freedom then why would any really want to be an atheist?

And sorry—thinking someones belief is inferior to your own is indeed disrespecting the person who may hold that different position.

I don’t think the Atheist is inferior or superior in my belief system, but I do think sometimes it could become more humanist than machine.

Your commentary about Paul Tillich is a misread about his liberal theology. The depht there should never means knowledge about the bible. And yes, it was totally taken out of context. “Depth is a dimension”, just a symbol, and “it means either the opposite of ‘shallow’”. Only with humans this depth has self conscience about itself.

First, Paul Tillich think that the bible is not the “the word of god”. Futhermore, he thinks that this is one of the most infelicity of the Christian Theology, since the Bible is full of contradictions, and it is not something unconditional and absolute. Believing in “verbal inspiration” is nothing more than “monofisism”. You should read his Systematic Theology.

And, finally, Dawkins is a fanatic.

Robert Stephenson’s excellent post has this line: “My problems with Atheist belief isn’t the belief they have, it is that they also believe it is their right to deny others the freedom to believe what they want. If there is a difficulty in respecting someone’s freedom then why would any really want to be an atheist?”

I might suggest a change to the first bolded word, and a reason for the bolded phrase.
a) I would change “they” to “a certain percentage”.
b) Perhaps the lack of respect of someone else’s freedom stems from a fear that if the religious side gets too strong, then their (ie the atheists’) side will lose some of their freedom.

@Veronica:

a) I would change “they” to “many”.
b) Freedom of action can be limited under (extreme) circumstances, but freedom of thought and freedom of association should never be limited.

“My problems with Atheist belief isn’t the belief they have, it is that they also believe it is their right to deny others the freedom to believe what they want. If there is a difficulty in respecting someone’s freedom then why would any really want to be an atheist?”

Got anything to back that up?

@R.Stepenson

I can’t find it in to agree with anything you’re saying, either, as it ain’t much.

Thank you Veronica, the subtle changes would improve the point and make it less threatening and judgmental. ‘They’ is clearly only a percentage not an absolute.

Freedom often means developing a sense of respect for others and what they may or may not stand for in their lives. Yes, in many instances we disagree with someone’s position on an issue or even way of life. But to step forward and exclaim you are right and they are wrong, or that your are superior in view is a position that denies freedom and shows no respect.

Though I have picked on the Fundamentalist Atheist here, I also have the same position in regards to the Fundamentalist Christian.

Now Necandum, you do seem to hold a position that would suggest you have superiority over others because of your belief system. This system is Atheist in nature but does bristle with aspects of ideology—

note: The Atheist only wants a world where there is no religion, no god.

In itself an ideology not all that different to some Christians only wanting a world where everyone believes in God.

I also do not think agreeing with me or disagreeing with me is the point here, it is up to you to understand what it is you are trying to accomplish with your beliefs. If you impinge on others for some evidence to prove superiority and to even enforce your view, then yes, take a look at what you believe by all means.

If you simply disrespect people because they do not believe what you believe then again perhaps a reexamination of why you believe what you believe may be in order.

The world is a big place filled with different cultures and beliefs; my view is that anyone who stands up and says, my truth is better than your truth is ignoring the world and attempting to enslave it to their own, unique view.

Also - reason, logic and rational thinking are often used as some kind of defense against anything that is not atheist. IMPORTANT NOTE: All 3 brain functions are chemical reactions that can be measured within the brain, graphed and documented. BUT - no two individuals will produce exactly the same mental outcome based on the exactness of the reactions. The very process of reason and logic relies heavilly on the interpretations of the individual.

The outcomes from information processing is quite illogical and very unreasonable at the best of times - it has been a quandary of modern science for decades.

With this in mind, how can it be said reason and logic must follow certain rules for validation?

That is perhaps enough to contemplate for now - Humanism encompasses all religions and views, as it sees the value of everything in unison to create a functioning whole.

When and if we transcend biology, we should try to preserve as much old cultural human values as possible, such as love, beliefs, hopes, art, traditions, bodies. If some people have religious beliefs, let them live with it. We definitely should preserve all emotions. Without all of this we will not be humans, but an army of aliens, possibly unfriendly and destructive army. In this forum we should we should unite all people to achieve the goal of preservation of human values, not alienate. The greatest danger is if the singularity happens and produces something extremely disruptive and unexpected. For example, it might happen that the only “people” who make it there are group of evil nerds with improperly copied brains who lack anything human and seek to eliminate everything that is not like them.

> “manifest an appreciable correlation between intellectual ability, as measured by standard IQ tests, and the rejection of theistic belief systems.”

It would be interesting to see if the top, say, 5% of atheists have an IQ significantly higher (if at all) than the top 5% of theists.

I invite Mr. Stephenson to demolish memetics once and for all and to show us all what religions are really made of.

Search youtube for memes, blackmore, dennett and tell us why it ain’t so.

Atomic—I do not research for other and I do not have the desire to undermine any ones belief systems for the pedestal position of being ‘right’.

Religions have a base which does follow a logic path… this path is not the supernatural elements attributed to ‘God’ but the social and personal journey.

Religions are based on events and of course reasoning of the time. Understanding religion is really taking a course in ancient history. Does this understanding of the old apply today? In some aspects it does but only in a referential way.

The literal understandings of writings is at best misleading, but the writing themselves have value in a social sense.

This is not to say inquiry, questions and science cannot enlighten the world even further and also uncover deeper understanding of how, when and where writings were created; it is just I feel respect to those who believe in things different to your own beliefs needs to be applied.

I’m an not an Atheist - yet I once was for 20 years… 20 years of telling people who believed in something different that me they were stupid, deluded and only lying to themselves.

I am glad I am not that person any more

Does this mean you know memetics and recognize that it applies also to yourself?

If you do, do you think you have any choice regarding your beliefs? Knowing memetics, you would know that some particularly infectious old memes have found a base in your nervous system, telling it what to believe, feel, and do, namely, things that simply help them get copied to other hosts, and that the memes tell you to be glad you are not that (memeless) person any more.

There is no right not to be offended.

As far as I am concerned, one may believe and do as they wish, as long as they do no unjustified harm to another.

But, yes, I do wish for a godless world, or at the very least, a secular one. I will cajole, reason with, rage at, insult and ridicule and say whatever is necessary to reach that end.

But.

I will not force you to listen. I will not use physical violence, blackmail or threats. I will not cause anyone to be at a material or financial disadvantage because they disagree with me. As Voltaire said:
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

Deal with a person’s arguments, the substance of what they’re are saying, not their tone. Do not whine that someone thinks they’re superior, that they’re calling you stupid, that they believe you are wrong.

Grow a skin, the thicker the better. You cannot be a serious player in the market place of ideas without one.

I will, have and do hate ideas. I rarely hate the person.
I hold theories and philosophies in contempt, but not necessary their proponent.

I respect those that are willingly to listen and learn, willing to admit they were wrong, who are willing to stand up for and, if needed, suffer for what they believe.

And in the end, it comes down to this:

Does the evidence suggest that God exists?

No.

To say otherwise is to lie, or spread a falsehood.

Ain’t no thing in the world that forces you to believe a thing them meme-peddlers say. Believing something without evidence is a mind-malfunction of epic proportions. Ever noticed the problems it has, does, and will cause? It’s stupendously stupid to hold beliefs without proof. If you defend a stupid, indefensible idea, prepare to be called stupid. Choose to discover and defend reality and the truth and you will still be respected at the end of Eternity.

well, atheism is older than any religion and has found many different ways to expound the ‘Truth’ and yet it fails to be a wide spread belief system. Christianity became world wide in less than a thousands years and remained growing another 1000 years later (Though I think it is probably only 1700 years all up - math isn’t my strong point)

atheist always fail to recognize themselves in the very arguments they create. They have been repeating the same memes themselves for longer than any Christian or religious meme, maybe several thousand years longer. This is why I don’t address memes these days, as they cover everything and no belief system is immune from this school of thought, that include atheists and even agnostics.

For Ed—From your point of view it does appear that the greatest scientific discoveries, the greatest social advancements, the greatest medical discoveries were all carried out by ‘stupid’ people. Their are Christians to day who work in leading scientific positions all around the world, work ion the advances of medical research and space discovery. They are all ‘Stupid’

When was the last time you contemplated information packets located within photons to create a quantum state computation device?

Reality, Ed, is only a matter of perception and it can change rapidly at any time and with out warning

A lot of people believe Christianity. That’s great. I think about how they used to burn unbelievers had something to do with it…

Also, Islam would rather disagree with you that’s its a worldwide religion. Hindus and Buddhists too in all likelihood. True, its a bit like english in that you can find a bit of it pretty much anywhere, but I wouldn’t call that world-wide either.

Also, important idea you’re missing and continue to miss. Atheism is the ABSENCE of a particular meme, the God/Gods one. That’s it. Why someone lack that meme depends upon many things, including when they were born, their education and their culture. Caesar was probably not an athiest for the same reasons as Cicero, and both had reasons that would differ from mine.

And get this. Someone can be stupid about one thing (me about quantum mechanics) and yet be incredibly accomplished and talented in another field (I’m not there yet). Its like an individual can be both good and evil, all at the same time. So too can a scientist be both stupid and smart, depending on what you ask him about. And the problem is, believing in religion would tend to -on average- compromise ones ability to be rational and thus do science.

That is of course a generalisation, but considering that religion is fundamentally incompatible with science (one relies on evidence, the other on authority)...
In the individual case, it of course can be hard/impossible to know how much a persons religious beliefs affect their ability to perform science.

Linko (short):
http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html

With this ABSENCE of God you would think the Atheist wouldn’t be so hung up about it - but naturally they are and they have been repeating the same argument since the dawn of time—well before Faith and religions. Why is it memes are only a religious stereo type and not any other. Memes don’t work like that - true you can apply them in that fashion, but memes are not belief specific.

It is clear the Atheist has some issue to deal with and one is its own difficulties with scientists and their own beliefs. Newton was not an Atheist and it was his Faith that pushed into looking for God within light, or looking to find an answer in God’s world. Because Newton was a Christian does this now discount his research? Discount the man’s discoveries?

Feynman was secular (Atheistic) so does his lack of Faith makes him any more important than Newton in the history of science?

The one thing an Atheist categorically cannot accept, and this has been shown for thousands of years, and know for much longer than Christianity at least. The Atheist cannot accept any other thoughts, beliefs, or understanding that are not their own. To the Atheist they are ‘Right’ and ‘All’ else is ‘Wrong’.

I cannot share such an undertaking. This type of thinking is even more narrow minded that the Fundamentalist of any religion. If you cannot accept people for who they are and what they believe, if you feel it is your duty to tell other what they ‘Should’ believe, then you have got the whole idea of humanity out of kilter with what the world people want.

From what I often see from Atheist positions, and of course stringent Atheist arguments is not so much reason or logic, but more Dictator positions all too commonly seen in our world at times.

While Phillipe suggest the World may be Atheist well into the future but I still maintain their may be a stronger Agnostic position

There we go. Got that finally pried out of you: you’re dismally ignorant of memetics. And not only that - willfully so.

Necandum seems to “get” everything, you seem to “get” nothing. The two of you exhibit incredibly huge differences in thinking ability; wow. (Nearly) every one of your responses is a failure in one or more ways, so off the mark they’re not even wrong, and Necadum’s is a success. I’m not surprised you’re not an atheist anymore; I doubt you ever were, unless your brain got physically altered, so believer-like are your post-atheist responses.

Your response on the issue of ‘stupidity’ wasn’t exactly spot on either, as Necandum pointed out, but calling you stupid for that would be disproportionate. One has to reserve the word for refusing to check out what memes actually mean, because you, and the likes of you, really, really need to understand the issues to clear your mind of the ancient, untrue, provably harmful memes. The truth, which is the enemy of the memes, has become your enemy. Watch those videos on YouTube. Read articles and books on memes. Come back and demolish their arguments, which you currently so cavalierly brush off as not worth addressing. They are a key issue for you, one which you utterly fail to grasp. But based on your performance on attacking the truth and defending irrationality so far, I don’t think anyone’s holding their breath.

I’m so glad one of the earlier replies took the time to equate Liberal views to casual sex and his example of a secular fanaticism being environmentalism was very enlightening.

You have convinced me the writer is indeed plagued by the self serving need to cherry pick data.

Is that parody or satire?

“With this ABSENCE of God you would think the Atheist wouldn’t be so hung up about it”

As I said, believe and do as you wish, as long it causes no unjustified harm to another.

The problem a lot of people have is that religious belief incites, exaggerates or even causes a lot of suffering in the world. That’s why “atheists” are so “hung up” about it. As a human being, I am quite understandably interested in my welfare and that of those around me.

The problem a lot of people have is that religious belief incites, exaggerates or even causes a lot of suffering in the world.

Religious belief per se does not cause, exaggerate or incite any suffering. Intolerance does, and I am afraid in this discussion I see most intolerance in the “new atheist” camp.

@Mike: this is a policy of the Catholic Church, which has nothing to do with religious belief per se. You guys should really try to see the difference between the intolerant and oppressive policies of a power structure like the Church, and the honest faith of believers.

There is available data on the number of deaths directly caused by intolerance from atheists in the 20th century, in several oppressive atheist regimes.

Please, Mike, read what I wrote more carefully, take a deep breath, and count up to ten before replying.

I am NOT blaming atheism for the actions of Mao and Stalin, and I am inviting you NOT to blame faith for the action of the Catholic Church.

My statement was targeted at _oppressive_ regimes, and meant to underline that there are atheist oppressive regimes as well as religious oppressive regimes. I do not intend to blame atheism for the action of atheist oppressive regimes, and I am inviting you not to blame faith for the actions of religious oppressive regimes. I condemn ALL oppressive regimes, without giving a damn about whether they are religious or atheist.

However, since you don’t seem to agree, let me change my position.

Yes, I am blaming atheism for the actions of Mao and Stalin. If not for the support of their millions of witless followers and the billions of dollars they have amassed from their supporters, they would not have the power to oppress so many people around the world.

Before embarrassing yourself, please note that these are exactly your words.

Deaths from Stalin became possible only after Lenin expelled all of the opposition and replaced diverse beliefs with a single concept of communism - anything against communism was considered a crime. Lenin created a lot of scientific looking, but extremely naive ideas of what is good and what is bad and he was completely intolerant to opposition. He literally destroyed all churches and killed all religious leaders, because they tried to support the old system of values incompatible with the new society that he wanted to create.

The lesson is that the tolerance is the key to democracy, freedom and diversity, which is the key to the success of western societies and is the key to successful evolution in general.  Intolerance leads to all kinds of violent things, including fascism and communism. Intolerance leads to homogeneous systems which lack diversity and eventually die as was the case with communism and fascism.

Atheism is not a belief and is not equivalent in any way to faith in god.

The militant and intolerant version of atheism is.

@artvladi tolerance is the key to democracy, freedom and diversity, which is the key to the success of western societies and is the key to successful evolution in general.

Well said.

another lesson is that any kind of revolutionary rapid “social engineering” that Lenin tried to unleash is always bad and should be avoided. Societies are far to complex for anyone to engineer.
Societies should evolve gradually and slowly in a tolerant manner.

Singularity presents a big challenge here. We really should try to avoid the destruction of old values and diversity in this rapid and potentially weakly controllable process.

Mr. Verdoux,

A couple of thoughts:

I wonder whether your conclusion really follows. Even if intelligence is strongly correlated with athiesm, and even if SIPs are massively more intelligent than ‘ordinary’ people, it doesn’t seem to follow that posthumans as a whole (or a majority) will necessarily be atheists.

For one thing, lots of very intelligent people believe in God (Descartes, Einstein, Aquinas, Plantinga to name a few.) It seems reasonable to assume that if SIPs are several orders of magnitude more intelligent than even these people, given enough SIPs, some are going to have religious beliefs. Given their superior intelligence, it seems that they would have correspondingly stronger arguments for a belief in God. It’s difficult for me to see how an atheistic argument might progress beyond refuting theistic arguments on the basis of faulty logic or lack of evidence, though super intelligence would likely cause this to occur at a ‘higher level’ of reasoning.

Also, it seems like most atheists are atheists because there is a substantial lack of evidence for a creator. Given ‘super intelligence’, it might be possible that evidence indicating a creator is more apparent (particularly if these SIPs are artificial intelligences created by us, and thus already inherently having a bias toward the existence of at least -some- creator.) If we assume that intelligence leads one to accept the truth of what one has evidence for, and to deny the truth of what one lacks evidence for (at least provisionally), then SIP’s finding evidence for a creator (or crafting superior arguments for a creator based on evidence available to all of us) might lead posthumans in the opposite direction: After all, what kind of intelligence would we be ascribing to SIPs if they denied a creator in the face of overwhelming evidence supporting a creator?

I don’t think that such evidence is likely to be forthcoming, but I’m curious how you might respond to arguments along these lines.

Thanks for the interesting article!

- John

okay… my two cents.

If, and I repeat IF, superstring theory holds merit, or if multidimensionality of any sort is proven, then it stands to reason that there exists a possibility greater than zero of “extra-dimensional” intelligences which could inhabit dimensions other than the 4D of Spacetime, be it in hyperspace, parallel dimensions, etc. There also exists the non-zero possibility that extra dimensions could result in a kind of shared “unconscious” ala Jung.

Thus, there exists a possibility above zero that any interaction between such multi-dimensional or shared unconscious phenomena could be interpreted as “gods” or created due to shared beliefs.

Do I believe that these possibilities mean that “GOD” as defined by religion exists? No. Even if JHVH does exist, it would simply be either a multi-dimensional being, or a creation of shared unconscious, not a “DEITY”. Not even if such a being possesses enormous “power”. It would still not be “divine”

“Worship” is nothing but a fancy way of saying “TRIBUTE”. It is an innate behavior in humans to create social hierarchies. “Gods” are simply pseudo extensions of the social pecking order.

Worldcup… England versus USA tomorrow 13.00 EST?
Atheists and Theists unite?!

@ John & Valkyrie..

At last some sensible speculation… Its almost certain SIP’s will have belief in something, and the search for the first cause/prime mover will only intensify?

@ Mike T.: Good point - I was sloppy there. If not a full on theist, Einstein was at least not an atheist, so the general point still holds. I found this page, checking to make sure my intuition was about right, which expands a little on Einstein’s beliefs about God: http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/einstein.html

Thanks for the heads up.

@Guilio
Right. Because a person DARES to question dogma,  they are militant. Because one DARES to challenge idea, or hell, speak loudly, one is labelled a fundamentalist.

My question is this:
Say you have a society composed entirely of either militant religious people or ‘militant’ atheists. Which do you think will be a free and liberal democracy and which the totalitarian state?

@artvladi
What makes you think societies should evolve and not be engineered (with their consent)? Besides, what counts as social engineering? Does the formation of the U.S.A? Does banning cigarettes?

Also, consider that the Soviet Union ultimately failed because its ideology was flawed both in theory and practise, though it appeared superficially quite sound. The system failed because it was dysfunctional, after all, it survived for ~70 years didn’t it? So I think I can safely disagree that rapid change was the cause of collapse.

@John Niman

I think I see where you’re going. viz:

‘Just because SIPs will be more intelligent, does not mean they will not be liable to the same cognitive biases as their creators. Or hell, they may actually find evidence for God.’

Interesting, but you go on to say that because they will have excellent evidence of a creator (us), they will then, for some reason, be more likely to believe in a supernatural one. I would disagree. Wouldn’t it go the other way? That because they would know they were created by purely natural processes, wouldn’t that make it more likely they would react more favourably to the idea that we were, as well? That is assuming, of course, that they would be quite in thrall to their emotions as we are to ours. The less this is true, I would think, the smaller the likelihood they would be religious.

Going back to your first idea, I think it would extremely unlikely that they could somehow find evidence for a deity, when we cannot. This is apparently the Being who created and maintains the universe, right? One would think that a universe created by such a being would be fundamentally different from one that arose by natural process. The difference would most certainly not be so subtle that it would take another being of supreme intelligence to figure it out. But, that’s just my assumption.

The other thing was, you said that many intelligent people have believed in God before, ergo, intelligent people are likely to go on believing that God exits.

That ignore that a persons beliefs are shaped by ones upbringing and culture. If one is not exposed to a custom of constantly questioning ones assumptions, it is rather unlikely that it will develop by itself (though it can, of course). All those people you listed were products of their time, intelligent in one field, rather ignorant in other(s). I can also assure you, being horribly tortured and killed is a rather good incentive to believe in something…

I guess it all comes back to the basic question, what is intelligence? In what way would these SIPs be more intelligent? I would assume that changing the structure of one’s mind would radically alter the way they think.

Just look at Autism. In some cases, what emerges is an alien intelligence, working along different principles to ours. Computers, although they are not sentient, use a different principle again.

So depending on how the SIPs are built, I think, will determine how they think, in what ways they will be intelligent. Will it just be faster process speeds? Better memory? Allow them to form connections and associations in an instant rather than by slow repetition? Something completely different, that we cannot yet imagine? I don’t think anyone can do more than speculate.

So I guess it will be very possible that SIPs will be ultra-religions (very prone the same cognitive short-cuts as us) or quite atheist (far more rational than humans), or anywhere in between, depending on just how they are made and formed.

So yea, the whole intelligence thus atheism thing is a little bit too simplistic.

Say you have a society composed entirely of either militant religious people or ‘militant’ atheists. Which do you think will be a free and liberal democracy and which the totalitarian state?

Both would be totalitarian states. Militant whatever don’t tolerate diversity and dissent.

@Giulio
*shakes head*

Have you ever known an atheist to murder, blackmail, assault or suppress anyone holding alternate views?

Now, how about religions?


How many times do I have to link this comic?
http://www.thegoodatheist.net/images/fundyatheist.jpg

@ Necandum some good points again.

Quote : “So yea, the whole intelligence thus atheism thing is a little bit too simplistic.”

I get the feeling that Philipe’s rather tentative article was offered more as a proposal to stimulate conversation and debate, rather than propose any kind of future certainty? And it has certainly done the trick!

I have been reading all these comments and found them most enjoyable. What it does highlight, and there have been other similar discussions between the Theist, Atheist and agnostic camps in past articles, is that the beliefs and the future of our established and indoctrinated Abrahamic religions will most certainly be called to question as the future progresses.

This does not mean with certainty however, that humanity needs cast aside faith and belief in God does it? Of course a secular foundation based on the freedoms and rights and protection of the individual should and must be paramount, and this in turn permits the freedoms of those individuals to pursue their faith and beliefs as they so choose. And who is to say that their faiths and beliefs are incorrect you? me? The arguments as to whether God exists or not are irrelevant as compared with the arguments against our established religious indoctrination.

Better I would say is the strive towards the goals of connectedness and existentialism, that will hopefully lead to a new age of philosophy and spirituality, which will evolve to align humanity and its need to cast aside antiquated doctrines and mindsets in favour of this new age of Self-understanding. I propose a new renaissance, not merely a new dawn of 19th century enlightenment!

Yet I can understand more clearly now the aims of the “new” atheism movement and its mission to change worldview, and to encourage acceptance that God does not exist as an entity with a white beard and a deep voice which rules us all with stern condemnation and fear of retribution for our sins. Yet who honestly really does believe in God like this? I guess there are still many fundamentalists that do, and that these are the types of individuals, (for they are all still individuals with individual minds), who are either oppressed, repressed, or are not ready as yet to venture on a more personal journey of self-understanding?

“Militant” or “passionate” Atheism?

I am not a Dawkins fan, although I admire his “passion” and integrity for the argument against the existence of God as an entity with the white beard, and of the sufferings and conflicts that these beliefs have caused on our planet. Yet notice his passion is as strong and adamant as that of the theist he argues with? And notice how this passion is always his undoing in almost every argument? Atheism and theism are merely sides to the same coin, and therefore down to the individual to choose as they see fit. It is not belief in God that is the problem here, it is the powerful and power hungry manipulations of the masses?

The indoctrination within all religious groups is to promote rules and the fear of breaking these rules, to discourage freethinking, and questioning, and condemn these as heresy, with the aim to spread the fear of rejection and banishment for breaches of “religious contract”. Abrahamic faiths, (as well as others), are merely enormous established clubs with members’ rules. Break the rules at your own peril!

Yet notice also that all these “clubs” and “rules” are from the minds of men? And examine more closely that Atheism is in danger of becoming as such the same, with its own rules on the banishment of faith and beliefs thus the answer to the above question, of which will be the more even handed dictator.. is indeed neither of these!

You cannot argue away a persons belief system, they will seek out their own enlightenment in their own time and if they so choose, and will either change their views and beliefs along their journey or not, as the case may be.

Thus I feel it is better not to confront established religions with the arguments of reason, (over the existence of God), but to establish “new” Atheism through existentialism and lead by example. In other words to promote, “I am a biologist/physicist/transhumanist/scientist and “also” an atheist”, (delete as applicable), and not I am etc.. and “must therefore be an atheist”. Eventually all diverse beliefs will emerge and align themselves naturally towards unity, (if you cannot see this, you are not thinking ahead enough), that’s assuming we don’t all kill each other first through conflicts of point of view?

These are the words of the Dawkins’ agnostic whom “sits on the fence”, and who sees that the argument for and against the existence of God/creator/creation is both unprovable and wholly/holy irrelevant.

Thank you for reading

Have you ever known an atheist to murder, blackmail, assault or suppress anyone holding alternate views?

Yes. Try Google.

@Cygnus
I am afraid I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at. If you could perhaps expand on what you mean by a new “renaissance” by a few concrete examples, it would definitely make the issue more clear.

Although, you did repeat a few clichés that have been done to death. Namely:

“And notice how this passion is always his undoing in almost every argument? “

Like when?

“Atheism and theism are merely sides to the same coin,”

I disrespectfully disagree. You see, atheism goes along the lines of something like this:

There. Is. No. God.

Four words. That’s it. None of that dogma stuff. It is the absence of religion, just as darkness is not an entity in itself, but the absence of light.*

“Thus I feel it is better not to confront established religions with the arguments of reason”

You may do as you wish.
However, if your goal is a secular and therefore free world, that ain’t a winning strategy.

Also:
“thus the answer to the above question, of which will be the more even handed dictator”

I believe I mentioned a society composed of a certain type of individual, not dictatorship. Power, rather unfortunately, tends to corrupt, no matter one’s opinion on religion. Still, if you really want to pose it that way, I’d infinitely rather have Dawkins for World King than any Pope, past or present.

” Of course a secular foundation based on the freedoms and rights and protection of the individual should and must be paramount, and this in turn permits the freedoms of those individuals to pursue their faith and beliefs as they so choose.”

I heartily agree. Though of course the Freedom of Speech, and thus of critical appraisal, goes hand-in-hand.

*D.E.T.A.I

“Yes. Try Google.”

That’s not an answer.

But, reading that again, perhaps the wording could have been better. Insert: “because they’re an atheist”.

@Necandum: I don’t think SIPs would necessarily believe in a creator just because they were created by us (or that they would make the jump to a supernatural creator, as you point out) but I think the act of creation, and in particular our deliberate creation of SIPs, might bias some of them toward religious views. We already struggle with the idea of an unmade maker (both theists and atheists), and I’d think being obviously made by a maker (as SIPs would be) might impel them toward the idea of an ultimate maker for their maker as well. I’m thinking here, to throw a little pop culture out, of a mindset like that of the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica.

Again, I’m not saying these views would necessarily hold, just that intelligence alone, even super intelligence, doesn’t seem to necessarily prevent these sorts of beliefs.

“One would think that a universe created by such a being would be fundamentally different from one that arose by natural process. The difference would most certainly not be so subtle that it would take another being of supreme intelligence to figure it out. But, that’s just my assumption.”

I lean toward agreeing with you - that no such evidence is forthcoming. Whatever sort of God may exist, if one does, I can’t imagine it’s the personal sort of God hinted at in most religious texts precisely because there is no obvious evidence of existence. You’re exactly right to think that it doesn’t make any sense for a personal God to be that subtle. On the other hand, with every tech breakthrough, some very smart people believe they’ve found evidence for God in obscure locations: Maybe the evidence for God is written in DNA, or maybe in Quantum Physics, or maybe if we had a Grand Unification Theory His hand would appear, etc.

While fine-tuning arguments are generally bad, if there is a God, personal or not, I have to think that there’s some evidence for its existence somewhere. As smart as we are currently, I’m not willing to say that if we haven’t yet figured it out, no being many times smarter than us could either. I’ve read too many 14th, 16th, 18th ... century folks who thought the same thing.

“So depending on how the SIPs are built, I think, will determine how they think, in what ways they will be intelligent. Will it just be faster process speeds? Better memory? Allow them to form connections and associations in an instant rather than by slow repetition? Something completely different, that we cannot yet imagine? I don’t think anyone can do more than speculate.”

I think the first are going to have to be a lot like us - what other template do we have for creating them? If left to their own devices, however, and allowed to create SIPs at the edge of their ability, and those to create more at the edge of their ability, and so on, very quickly the answer to what it means for a being to be more intelligent gets highly speculative. I imagine it’s possible to code out or alter beings such that they are incapable of religious views, but I imagined Phillipe’s SIPs to be more or less like ourselves (or at least not subject to such a heavy hand in creation).

Try Google” is an answer. Perhaps it is an answer that you don’t like to hear, but it is an answer.

A very quick search with keywords “persecution of religion by atheist regimes” (without quotes) yields many relevant results. The first is this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_atheism

May I suggest that you read some of these articles before continuing this pointless discussion.

I say pointless, because nobody here is questioning the fact that also religious regimes have been, and at times continue to be, guilty of “murder, blackmail, assault or suppress anyone holding alternate views”.

But please, don’t tell me that atheist regimes cannot be guilty of the same things. It insults my intelligence.

@Giulio
Actually, that made me think for a moment. I think I’ll start using the term humanist a bit more, otherwise it gets confusing.

But, yet, I agree. Atheists regimes can be disastrous. Those are some pretty twisted people.

But as I’ve said above, atheism is the absence of a belief. How does a negative belief inspire action without a complimentary positive one?

Hitler did not believe in unicorns.

Do you?

@John

“might bias some of them toward religious views.”
Hmm, I guess until we try it out, we’ll never know. Perhaps they’ll assume a grand creator, extrapolating for their own creation. Or they’ll assume natural processes, as they too were created by these.

We simply don’t have any evidence either way. Might make an interesting short story…the first AI who becomes evangelical…

“I’ve read too many 14th, 16th, 18th ... century folks who thought the same thing. “

Good point.
One wishes to think that their age is special, especially in comparison with what came before.
On the other hand, did anyone actually have any evidence prior to the modern age, or were they just deluding themselves?

“I think the first are going to have to be a lot like us - what other template do we have for creating them?”

We’ll, this is assuming we figure out how WE work.  I could definitely see how it might be easier to start from scratch then try to figure the brain out.

Besides, I have a funny feeling that when humanity first creates sentient life, it won’t have any idea what’s it doing. It’ll be an accident, like penicillin. There’ll be just be a vague idea and a lot of hunches.

“I imagine it’s possible to code out or alter beings such that they are incapable of religious views”

I’m pretty sure the only way includes .45mm travelling at high velocity.

@Necandum: yes, humanism is a much better term.

I certainly don’t believe in unicorns at this moment. Seeing one, or hearing reports of having seen one from trusted sources, might persuade me to change my mind.

In the same sense, I don’t believe in any god, and I don’t believe in the supernatural by definition. In the past, I have never objected to being called an atheist, and I have frequently defined myself as one.

But the “New Atheist” discourse does not sound to me as just “absence of a belief”, to which I would never object. On the contrary, New Atheists sound to me as intolerant, self-righteous thought-policing bigots who would not hesitate to oppress believers if they had the power to do so.

@ Necandum

Concrete examples of what pray tell?
The historical Renaissance? It is a given, it happened. And by “new” renaissance I mean once more the tenacity and audacity to question the power of established religions and their power to oppress and repress the masses either through theocracy or by political persuasions. Notice that the renaissance did not attempt to usurp God however, or the freedoms of the individual to pursue the belief in God, only to question the authority of the church over the individual.

Quote : “Although, you did repeat a few clichés that have been done to death. Namely:”

Why are these clichés and who else has been using these, can you give some examples?

Watch theseit is self evident and rather sad that Dawkins looses his cool and argument every time, yet also comforting to see that he is also human and has emotions and feelings like the rest of us, bless him.
“The Root of All Evil” Richard Dawkins - 4oD - Channel 4
>> http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-root-of-all-evil/4od

Theism and Atheism are both sides of the same coin, because they are both belief systems, (no matter how much you may argue that atheism is not a belief system it is not nihilistic), the base metal of this coin is humanity and its needs to connect into like minded groups and belief systems.

Both are in direct opposition, yet are immovable. Both rely upon foundational belief systems that appear unshakeable and intolerant of each other’s viewpoint. If you don’t like the coin cliché? Then perhaps black and white, light and dark, up and down, left and right etc etc. The analogy merely serves to show that they can never be disconnected nor disassociated.

Quote : “I disrespectfully disagree. You see, atheism goes along the lines of something like this:

There. Is. No. God.

Four words. That’s it. None of that dogma stuff. It is the absence of religion, just as darkness is not an entity in itself, but the absence of light.* “

Thanks for your clarification, alas therefore, there is no debate to be had, this is merely your opinion, and since it is neither scientific nor proven with any sort of fact, it cannot be confirmed as truth. And before you state statistical “evidence” to date as proof, please note they have not yet discovered the Higgs Boson either, although there are many scientists who are also atheists that do “believe” this does indeed exist. String theory, multiverses, singularity, (cosmological), QED, these are all belief systems.. do you deny any of these with the same vigour as above?

It’s a shame you have to borrow from religious analogy to use against these beliefs. Yet have you not twisted it to your advantage? Is it not faith and belief that vanquishes darkness? It is all subjective to point of view. Yet still more important, one cannot exist without the other? (back to the coin).

Whether you accept the possibility that God exists or not depends to a certain extent upon your own understanding of God, hence my analogies earlier to a man with a white beard..I suggest you explore further the explanations of what God may encompass. Do you believe in creation.. that you have been created? If so then you at least believe in this, so there is your starting point.

The trouble is that some atheists are so chained to their own “memes” and cultural biblical personification and identity of God, they fail to see past the man with the white beard, no wonder they are so upset with this idea. Even Dawkins cannot rise above this analogy.

The clue here is, whatever man seeks to find, he eventually uncovers. And if Nick Bostom is correct? There is a 20% chance that we may be living in a simulation right here and right now, so that means unfortunately that God does exist for you and me at the very least? But is this merely more statistics?

Quote : ” However, if your goal is a secular and therefore free world, that ain’t a winning strategy.”

I am already living in a secular nation state, and loving it. How about you? These are not dreams or whims, they are reality now, it is just that sometimes it is almost transparent, this secular divide between state governance and religious belief appears almost as invisible, thanks a great deal to our forefathers, (here in the western nations at least). What we need to do is to express and extend these foundations further, to the protection of the individual, so they may have the freedom to pursue a change in belief as they so choose.

You profess for freedom of speech, yet oppose freedom of belief in the existence of God strange? You really need to be more open minded and tolerant as to the beliefs of others, irrespective of whether you may indeed change your own viewpoints later in life.. God forbid!
And tolerance is such an ugly word, as compared to acceptance?

;0]


*D.E.T.A.I

What does this mean?

@Guilia

Thanks for the opportunity for my to improve my consistency =). And I think I have a better idea of where you’re coming from. You like the general message, but the delivery, not so much.

“On the contrary, New Atheists sound to me as intolerant, self-righteous thought-policing bigots who would not hesitate to oppress believers if they had the power to do so.”

Is there any particular interview or opinion piece could point me to, or is it a general impression?
If so, mine has been a lot different. I’ve never once heard any of the public faces of ‘New Atheism’ (i’ll just call it humanism from now on in) wishing to do anything except spread their idea by dialogue and education, and attempt to mitigate the influence religion has on public policy.

I think many people find it shocking that they’re publicly questioning religion at all and so have an exaggerated negative opinion of them. Like Dawkins, who from what I can tell, is almost always calm, polite and mannered, being called ‘strident’ and ‘militant’ just because he dares to voice any opposition whatsoever.

@Cygnus

“String theory, multiverses, singularity, (cosmological), QED, these are all belief systems.. do you deny any of these with the same vigour as above?”

No, but I don’t unquestioningly followed them, either. Actually, I don’t really think about them much at all, since they don’t have much to do with me and don’t try to dictate how I should live my life.

You see, these are scientific predictions, based upon a theory that has already been proved to give accurate predictions. Thus, yes, belief is the right word. They have evidence that these predictions might be true and are now patiently (or not) awaiting for confirmation. You notice, however, that’s its always said to be ‘the search for’ or ‘I’m just speculating’ instead of ‘THIS IS THE TRUTH INFIDEL!”.

“Thanks for your clarification, alas therefore, there is no debate to be had, this is merely your opinion, and since it is neither scientific nor proven with any sort of fact, it cannot be confirmed as truth.”

You have it backwards. As you are making a positive claim (the existence of a God), you are the one who must provide the evidence. Your’s is the burden of proof.

Up to the present time, I have yet to hear a convincing, or even plausible, argument for God’s existence. Thus, my only possible conclusion is that he does not. 

“Both rely upon foundational belief systems that appear unshakeable”

Atheism has no belief system, just as no object emits ‘dark’ rays. Atheism is the LACK of a belief system. I believe in the same number of Gods as you, minus one.

“It’s a shame you have to borrow from religious analogy to use against these beliefs”
So….?
And I’m pretty sure many religious metaphors were borrowed from the pagans and other various artists and poets. Its not like any has a copyright on this stuff. Nor is it particularly hard to think of. I hate it when religions do this, steal credit for cool stuff and claim its all their own doing.

“don’t like the coin cliché?”
No. I’m fine with the metaphor (two sides of the coin is different from night and day, btw).
I disagree with the idea. Atheism does not need religion to exist, just as we are all emancipationists nowdays and slavery has been gone from developed civilisations for quite a while.

“I suggest you explore further the explanations of what God may encompass.”

You could say God is the Laws of Nature. But then, that’s not what you mean, ey?

“I am already living in a secular nation state, and loving it.”
Which one? U.S.A? Nope, wrong answer. Have you seen how just under half of you elected politicians carry on?

I’m in Australia, and while its not a theocracy, the government is certainly tainted.

“And tolerance is such an ugly word, as compared to acceptance?”
It makes all the difference. Acceptance means I agree with you. Tolerance means I don’t turn up in the middle of the night and hang you from a tree. Very important, that.

“You profess for freedom of speech, yet oppose freedom of belief in the existence of God strange?”
No, I oppose the idea itself, not your right to hold it. I say you can believe all you like, but really, you shouldn’t.

I do so with words.

Notice the difference?

“*D.E.T.A.I “
Don’t even think about it.
You did, so damn you to the burning abyss :p.

Unfortunately, I can’t watch the episode, it says “this service is not available in your area”.

A few examples of the “religion and atheism are basicallly the same”:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/11/_atheism_is_the_new_fundamenta.php

http://richarddawkins.net/articles/1783

http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/ath/blathm_rel_religion.htm

http://www.godlessblogger.com/2010/02/01/atheism-is-a-religion-like/

I’ve seen claimed heaps of times, though I don’t keep archives. Hmm, that might actually be a good idea.

Say I tell you stories and offer precisely zero evidence to justify them, with nonsensical concepts that have no meaning in the real physical world, and explain precisely nothing. Why on earth would one believe a word of it, let alone start acting like the stories tell you to, in many clearly intolerant, unfair, destructive, and evil ways?

Until our intelligence can be increased, atheists should accept the inevitability of religions, because even if religions were somehow eradicated, soon someone would come up with yet another dumb idea and some people would start believing in it. Relative to the maximum intelligence that the universe can support, humans are near zero.

Evolution prefers religious people. Here is why: if you have someone you love (your children, spouse, parents), it is extremely emotionally painful experience to loose them when they die. Now, being an atheist, you have nothing to hope and could be faced with depression, counterproductive life, illness and possible death. So, atheists by selection are more likely to be without relatives who they love or perhaps they are not very attached to relatives (just live together for sex and money reasons) - they don’t care too much if they die. Both types (depressive and unattached) are somewhat less likely to survive in the next generation.

So, the root reasons for religious beliefs are mortality and love. The mortality will not be a factor for supporting religious beliefs in a few dozen (or a hundred) years. Love and attachment to relatives can be experienced by atheists too. Love is a very powerful force and motivation for individual life. So, I don’t think posthumans can abandon love without taking great existential risks. Ray Kurzweil, for example, hopes to revive his father and it was a good motivation for him.

In some religious systems God is considered to be in a broader sense a force that opposes the death and destruction, not necessarily a supernatural being that created the world. Many atheists recognize love as being a force that opposes the death and destruction. In this broader sense God will persist in our future minds as love. It will be hard to survive without it.

artvladi, Rudyard Kipling would like your explanation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-so_story

@Necandum

>What makes you think societies should evolve and not be engineered (with their consent)?

viable self-sustainable societies are too complex and diverse for large scale engineering efforts.

>Besides, what counts as social engineering? Does the formation of the U.S.A? Does banning cigarettes?

Sorry, I was not too clear. Formation of the USA was a relatively slow process - there were no events where a large fraction of population would get expelled or killed or brainwashed. Banning of cigarettes is what I call a reasonably small and justified by scientific evidence evolutionary step.

>Also, consider that the Soviet Union ultimately failed because its
>ideology was flawed both in theory and practise, though it
>appeared superficially quite sound. The system failed because it
>was dysfunctional, after all, it survived for ~70 years didn’t it? So I
>think I can safely disagree that rapid change was the cause of
> collapse.

Lenin was a very intelligent atheist who destroyed almost all of the diversity by expelling or killing a very large fraction of people (something like 30%). The system that he created was progressive for its time, but it was unable to evolve - it was void of diversity and as such was subject to slow degenerative processes that eventually led to its natural death coming from inside of the system.

Here I see a dangerous analogy with singularity. Suppose that the post human society would lack diversity due to some uncontrollable replication of same AIs or uploads. It could then represent an extreme departure from diverse human values. It might be very powerful and survive fine for several generations, but it may not be viable in the long term, subject to slow degenarative processes and eventually self-destruct, in the absence of diverse motivations and goals.

well, being a humanist I do find some comments in this thread stating ‘New Atheists’ are Humanists is greatly over stated. A Humanist does not forgo the human condition over theoretical principles at all costs.

The Humanist knows what love is for instance and also knows it defies reasonable explanation and even logic, but it does exist within people and in many different forms and representations. The ‘New Atheist’ seems to also accept this but at the same time discount people’s religious beliefs which are no different to love in what they do.

I also see quite often - ‘Show me the evidence’ as an argument…

Interesting thought really. The request itself shows a great laziness or unwillingness to change a thought pattern and I would also assume if the evidence were shown that the same thought pattern would remain regardless.

Someone asked, show them the specific evidence of comments or articles showing ‘New Atheists’ being as bigoted as some religions. Considering what has been discussed thus far on this thread and the manner of the discussion by some I would ascertain that even when the evidence is in these people faces they cannot see it.

The evidence, as has been called for, is actually here and within a number of commentators positions, it has been reinforced even further by their on going commentary to cement their rock solid and unmovable positions.

These are not the positions of Humanists, and also not the positions of free thinking people, or even Liberal people.

Evidence calling is a bluff for the intolerant and ignorant

@artvladi

“Evolution prefers religious people.”

You should do some reading on this topic, the tiny bit I have read is really quite interesting.
Basically, religion may indeed have an evolutionary benefit via group selection (unlikely) or is a spandrel, something that was a side-effect of something that was beneficial (likely).

What you said is illogical and pretty damn insulting to boot.
How about we turn it around say that religious people should all really want to die, because then they’ll go to heaven quicker? This type of reasoning is without substance.

“there were no events where a large fraction of population would get expelled or killed or brainwashed.”

Ah, so you want mega-big change. Well, the most recent example would be Nazi Germany. That worked rather well (from a survival and productivity perspecting, not so much from a humane one) until they lost the war (just).

I think its surprising just how flexible and resilient human societes can be. Diversity of ideas is very hard to destroy and keep that way without prolonged and ruthless effort. What makes you think diversity of opinion will be persecuted in the furture?

Besides, I must admit I forgot, who was advocating large scale social engineering? And so did the U.S.S.R collapse as a direct result of rapid social engineering or lack of diversity?

I’m really surprised at some of the comments, especially considering the website we are on.  Possibly not regular readers of this site.  I just see a bunch of confusion, misrepresentations and lack of understanding of, well basically everything. Philippe Verdoux addressed most of them and so eloquently tore up the narrow comments.  Nice job Philippe. 

We know reality has a well-known bias.  So do facts.  What a funny coincidence that the majority of scientists are liberal and not republican.  Most are registered as Independent or democratic.  I think that says a lot. These are the people who produce knowledge to all the questions humans ask.  Maybe not all, but they will continue to answer more and explain more. Unless you believe in the god of gaps.

Other things that need clarification.  It is true that the higher your IQ and/or education the more likely your to be non-religious or atheist and liberal.  Of course this does not explain every person on the planet and you can’t stereotype every person you meet. Ther are educated and intelligent conservatives and religious people. To prove my point, seriously think of every person you know, have seen on Tv, the web or read their work.  If your honest you will notice the truth and higher IQ the more likely,.. you know.  It’s just observation and science.  More and more studies are coming out on the neuroscience of scientisits (liberals) and conservatives.  And of course academia is liberal. They are non-bias studying reality.  Maybe some of you should trust experts. I love how people fear the experts. Good read for you right here…..The Scienc of why we don’t believe science http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney

Next, lot of confusion about atheist/Agnoistics and I can’t speak for them. A couple of comments on here remind me of certain religious people saying “those damn atheist worship the devil.” It makes sense that atheist and agnoistics in general (remember we’re talking about averages) are less likely to be racist. Common sense, no more to be said there. I bet more atheists and agnostics are more moral too. Not morally superior but more often than not, more moral.  No data was cherry picked by the author.  Were talking about in general and averages.  Also, I know many atheist who said they wish they could believe and tried searching for years for God, but were left with non-belief.  I personally think it’s biology. What you believe is not a choice.  It’s just not. I like how we use the word BELIEVE as if there was an option.  It’s like saying you don’t BELIEVE in trees.  Sort of like the idiots who don’t believe in Evolution. The entire statements means nothing because it doesn’t make sense. 

Also, calling atheism a religion is about the funniest thing I have ever heard. It’s so untrue, there is no debate there. Another misconception about people who think there is no higher power behind the universe.  Eventually the word atheism will be retired and Sam Harris gives a great talk at length about the problem with the name.  Another note, there are transhumanist who believe in God and I don’t see any conflict with that. If you do have conflict it comes from the psychopathic god from the different books in the Bible. Spinoza’s god, deist and panentheist are quite different than the christian god.  They are the future religion. Possibly a cosmic religion.  So to the point of the article, I think most post humans would be atheist, however there will always be a branch that yearns for more, even if immortality is real.  I think there will be a small population of the sects I listed above and few that just believe there is a god without baggage of silly stories like talking snakes and homosexuality is a choice.

One more thing.  Many people are confused by the four horesemen (new atheism) and should watch the documentary.  These guys are not really that mean and they are def. not confused about what they “believe.” Someones comment was so ridiculous about Dawkins. Basically he is just saying there is no evidence to prove or disprove the existence of god. Basically he is saying how can anyone be so certain about something that is so uncertain.  It’s not impossible that a god exist of some sort, however his claim is the God hypothesis is unnecessary and irrelevant to life though. It’s funny how much misconception there is about people who think there is no higher power behind the universe and loathed so much. People mistrust more than any other group and they are harmless people (please don’t talk about hitler).

Please also go to Chris Mooney’s blog at The Intersection.  You will learn a lot from an expert grin

“Nothing about the bible is true!”


That’s what is so attractive about religion, it is an escape from reality. For instance the sweeter angels in Heaven sing, the more believers want to be with those angels in Heaven—even if they know in the back of their minds that Heaven doesn’t really exist.

There is a huge difference between truth and facts.

Science gives us facts and these facts are incredibly important and valuable. To deny science is to deny modernity.

But there are experiences that are part of the human experience that can not be addressed by facts alone. The meaning that is derived from facts is also hugely important. When one sits by the bedside of a loved one who is dying, knowing the medical reason for the death is not enough. The love shared, the compassion expressed and the nearly unbearable ache of the pending loss are perhaps what are most salient.

Religion has not evolved to keep pace with the changes in the world and the knowledge we’ve gained from science. It largely still reflects a variety of mythologies.

But religion is not God. God is, God exists, because there is an interconnection between humans and all of creation that is more than the sum of the parts. There is more to creation than the facts of life. The value of a tree, of water, of each being exceeds the commodity of that aspect of being.

God is a “who” in that there are times when other humans (other non-humans too) are the voice of wisdom that speaks a truth about how to live, how to love, how to be.

God is also not at all a “who”. God is also an expression of awe, of wonder, of the amazing coincidences that shape a life. God experiences are transcend ordinary time, ordinary thought, ordinary knowing. The experiences do have a biological explanation. But the biological explanation is a fact and not a truth.

As life spans increase, the need for “God” may actually increase, because time will urge some to understand the more, to transcend the mundane, to connect in a non-mechanistic way. It may no longer be called God, but the essence of what God represents is eternal.

It is possible to be both, simultaneously, a believer and an atheist. The distinction comes not in the cosmology of a belief system, but in the decisions and actions of how one chooses to live and respond. When one makes a choice in favor of interconnectedness, to live deeply in the groundedness of humanism (whether or not the individual decision is the most intelligent decision) it is a choice towards “god” or whatever the terms evolves into.

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