Curt Doolittle does me the honor of offering an essay eviscerating my post on atheism. I thought I owed at least a bit of a reply. Curt, I am not pretending to respond to all your points. There are, however, a few I want to say something about
The question [Ron Rosenbaum is] really asking is “what are the implications for my anthropomorphic anthropocentric view of the universe. In other words, how can I make this universe about the creature man rather than a universe in which man is not central, and in fact, may be an improbable accident? That’s the question he’s asking and the problem he’s seeking, becaus that is the comfort that religion brings to man: anthropocentrism. But that anthropocentrism also adds value to political discourse. Because ANY ANSWER includes a proscription for human behavior. I think we forget too often that the purpose of religion is to provide an inexpensive means of proscribing behavior for humans who must coexist in large numbers. Externalizing requirements as scriptural is simply an inexpensive means of lawmaking.
So it’s important to note that Ron is arguing not from the religious point of view but from the Agnostic point of view. In my response to Ron I wasn’t arguing about whether or not religion is right or wrong. I was arguing that one can meaningfully be an atheist. That atheism is not, as Ron suggests, a faith in disguise.
So religion might do all sorts of things but none of those things are germane to our particular disagreement.
“Gods exist like numbers exist”.
They exist because people act like they exist. People use them in the same way: to calculate. To reason. To estimate. To judge. We lack the knowledge, the experience, the perception, the time and computational ability to exist as a polity in a market, in a division of labor, without them. The question is the form of their existence.
Right, so I am not exactly sure what’s being argued here. Numbers are a logical construct. They exist as a logical construct independent of whether they have any impact on the real world.
Now, it’s a very interesting question why the Unique Complete Ordered Field seems to have such a tight analog to the relationship between measurable quantities but the Real Numbers would be the Real Numbers whether or not we could use them for anything. In the same way the Cyclic Group of Order 4 is the Cyclic Group of Order 4, whether or not it’s useful for anything.
Moreover, I think most theists are not making a mere logical claim but an empirical one. That is, that God or Gods have some identifiable impact on the world that we inhabit. If all you want to claim is that God is a useful construct for solving some sorts of problems and then you proceed to show that usefulness, then I am satisfied. I don’t think that clashes with my belief set in anyway. I would submit though that this is not the claim being made by most theists.
Science is a formal process for discovering patterns and replicating them. It is a process. That is all. What we know from science is that which is falsifiable – the negatives, not what’s ‘probable’ – the positives. Science is largely eliminative. But scientific knowledge is constantly open to further revision, greater explanatory power, and the elucidation of error. It is constantly being disproven. Contrary to our religious wisdom, science is egregiously more perishable. In economics in particular, vast swaths of our knowledge is patently false. THe entire DSEM model appears to be false.
Not to get too, too fancy town as some might say but this is a sort Popperian perspective that I do not hold. I take a Bayesian view that says that we have evidence which allows us to predict future evidence. That’s it.
We are not whittling away down to some fundamental truth nor are we evolving along a path to greater and greater truths. We are refining probabilistic estimates.
Does there exists some truth beyond this. Is the computer in front of me in some sense “really there.” I don’t know. I am not even sure its a meaningful question. What I do know is that when I hit the keys I expect something to happen and if that something doesn’t happen I am confused.
Further, if we were able to build a system of “knowledge” such that we were never confused. If everything always happened as predicted. If no matter how deep or how wide we looked we always got the picture we expected, then I would conclude that the scientific enterprise was done.