packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Via, a brief foray into the realm of philosophy.

SMBC May 12, 2010 )
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

Do you believe that a higher power controls our fate or that we choose our own destinies?

Submitted By [ profile] adorlee_malfoy

Answer View 917 Answers

"No" is the short answer. I don't believe that there is such a thing as fate or destiny - the world is far more chaotic than that.
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
Academian on LessWrong talks about the apparent disconnect between our experiences and philosophical materialism. 2227 words. The author edited it down to 771 words.

Please comment there or here if you read it - I have my own opinion, but it's not written for me.

My Atheism

Sep. 24th, 2009 08:07 pm
packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking)
Greta Christina recently posted something rather brilliant about atheism and self-definition that ... well, it inspires me to define my atheism, just so people know where I'm coming from.

I'd love to see people's reactions to this, by the way. I might be too busy to react properly, but I'll try to answer questions, comments, complains, and arguments, whatever reaction you have to what I say.

*clears throat*

I'm an atheist. What that means is that I don't believe that anything like a god is real. I'm not totally certain - I don't think any atheist is totally certain, however hyperbolic their rhetoric might become in the heat of debate - but I've thought about this quite a lot for quite a while, I've read a lot of arguments, and all told I simply don't believe it. I'm pretty sure that the people who do believe there are any gods, be it one, a few, or many, are simply mistaken.

I'm an atheist. I'm a strong atheist - I believe that no such thing as a god is real. Now, this distinction commonly causes semantic confusion: "I don't believe gods are real" doesn't mean "I believe gods are imaginary", never mind that I could state both truthfully; it's perfectly common for atheists to not believe that gods exist, while simultaneously not believing that gods don't exist. Such persons don't believe they have the evidence to commit either way on the question. I do.

I'm an atheist. I'm a metaphysical naturalist - I think the universe operates according to fundamentally non-mental principles. Richard Carrier defined supernaturalism well in an essay a couple years ago: supernatural things cannot be broken down into non-mental pieces. That makes no sense to me. Everything I have ever learned - my education in philosophy, in physics, in psychology, in mathematics, in computer science, in literature - has given me a strong instinct that somewhere at the base of it all are simple mathematical laws. I draw the comparison to Conway's Game of Life: the rules are basic and unbreakable, but through their implications on higher and higher levels of complexity in the world shaped as it is we find everything with which we are familiar.

I'm an atheist. I don't believe there's any overlord of the universe to dictate moral laws for us, nor any afterlife wherein our acts can be judged. Our morals are our own - earned in the struggles and victories of our ancestral species, forged on the anvil of a world which does not tell us what we should do, but merely referees. Our senses of beauty, of honor, of justice, of fairness, of charity, of love, of pride, of disgust ... every subjective experience we have is ours, proven on the steppes from which we came and coming together to create that which is us. To declare that this makes goodness into something meaningless is, if you'll forgive the rhyme, senseless - we're not stupid, and if we value goodness, that is meaning enough.

I'm an atheist. I am an atheist because I have the freedom to be thus - the freedom to learn, to decide, and to proclaim. I would not live where I was required to be thus by ignorance, deception, or coercion: to be an atheist freely is to be aware of the need for freedom. As Alfred Tarski is quoted to have said, "The sentence 'snow is white' is true if and only if snow is white" - and to be forced to believe that snow is white is to be coerced to believe, be that belief true or false. The only way to be free to believe truth is to be free to believe what one must on the strength of one's own judgement.

I'm an atheist. I care about being an atheist - I care about what I believe, and about being true to what I believe. I want to be treated decently and with respect. I want the people who disagree with me to listen to me - to trust my sincerity and my rationality - and when they argue with me, I want them to be sincere and rational in doing so. I want the arguments against me to stem from a fair and charitable reading of my sometimes-clumsy explanations - you can fight me, but fight the true implications of my world-view with the true implications of yours.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
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An ... odd wording, and odd that anyone would still ask. Yes, they should be separate, in fact, must be separate. Your church is a tribe, a "race" in a sense almost as real as the skin-color sense, and to allow the reasons of the church to define the state establishes a privileged caste.

In general, the church and state should be almost entirely unrelated. The chief exception is anti-discrimination, but the two may become loosely entangled due to other causes (e.g. state benefits for charitable non-profits).
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default) the form in which they are then in effect."

The above sentence is extracted from the first rule of Peter Suber's game of self-amendment, "Nomic". As some of you know, I am a fan of this game, to the point where I and a Livejournal friend of mine decided to set one up on Livejournal.1

The reason why Rule 101 was placed in the ruleset is explained simply enough by the author:

Nomic even makes some rules explicit in order to make them amendable, when in most games they are implicit —rules to obey the rules, rules that players each start with zero points, and so on. No tacit understanding that one brings to most games simply qua games, let alone any explicit rule, is beyond the amendment power of Nomic. After Nomic was first published in Scientific American,2 a German philosopher wrote to me insisting that Rule 101 (that players should obey the rules) should be omitted from the Initial Set and made part of a truly immutable shell. He missed an essential point of the game. Rule 101 is included precisely so that it can be amended; if players amend or repeal it, they deserve what they get.

This is, naturally, well and befitting Dr. Suber's purposes in analysing paradoxes of law. However, after playing the game, a second effect of this rule has occurred to me.

It makes it obvious that people can break the rules.

Thanks to [ profile] bradhicks, I sit here knowing two more horrific tales of modern atrocities than I did when I awoke this morning. And no, that's not sarcasm - I am truly thankful to have heard these stories. One of them is the most eloquent condemnation of the U.S. health care system I have ever seen, but irrelevant to this post. The other regards a heartwarming tale of a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agent enjoying the perks of his position. And yes, that is sarcasm - I am truly appalled by what this man did. It's ugly. Terrifically ugly.

And illegal. But people can break the rules.

Let me reiterate. People break rules. And unless those rules are structured and enforced in such a way that people can't or won't do wrong - unless the systems are in place that will make it possible (nay, likely!) that abuses and the like will be caught and their perpetrators punished (and punished severely enough to be a deterrent) - and furthermore, unless the social structures are in place to remove the desire to commit the crime - the fact that such-and-such is illegal isn't worth a bum nickel.

1. The friend is [ profile] active_apathy, the game is [ profile] nomicide. It's not the first, but it's the longest-lived so far. Slash advertisment. ^
2. Editor's note: the <em> tag that appears to have been erroneously applied to the magazine title has been appropriately replaced with an <i> tag. ^


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