Opt in or opt out?

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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby Tigger_the_Wing on Wed Jan 12, 2011 3:20 am

I think that a major difference in population and transport arrangements is the reason behind the differing cycle laws here and back in Britain. Here, houses are comparatively huge, as are the plots of land on which they sit. Thus, a street with six houses on it here is as long as one with thirty houses in England. This makes most journeys impractical to undertake on foot. Also, the weather extremes means that most shops are in indoor malls, unlike in England where they are alongside streets and mixed in with housing. Thus, in Australia, most pedestrian traffic is inside malls (where bicycles are strictly forbidden) and almost non-existant anywhere else. Cycling on footpaths I rarely encounter pedestrians and thus can, with no inconvenience to anyone, avoid conflict with them. British towns, villages and cities are not new like Australian ones. They grew from ancient settlements. The footpaths, at least during the day, are mostly very busy with pedestrians. Cycling on them would be dangerous to the pedestrians and the cyclists.

Laws do not exist in a vacuum. They are not created out of thin air. They are largely an attempt to codify the principal of minimising harm, and that varies from time to time and place to place. It makes no sense to ban cycling on deserted footpaths and insist that cyclists share the road with fast-moving traffic. In England, the speed limits tend to be lower and the pavements more crowded. Leaving it to the discretion of cyclists would lead to selfish ones abusing the privilege. Thus the illegality of it; although, to be honest, the chances of anyone being arrested for cycling on deserted pavements in the middle of the night are probably nil, at least the police have a right to throw the book at idiots showing off and weaving in and out of pedestrians, as if they are a fun obstacle course, during the day!

It isn't that DB wants to ride on footpaths as a matter of principal; it is that he sensibly weighs the risks and benefits, and only rides on pavements when it is safer than riding on the road. I doubt very much that he would want to ride on crowded pavements during the day! It isn't as if it is difficult for a cyclist to become a pedestrian and push the bike!

And, generally, the British Police have a pragmatic attitude to by-laws such as these. People breaking by-laws to the detriment of others will be warned. Causing actual danger will get a summons. Causing no danger or inconvenience to anyone will usually be ignored.
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby MakkaPakka on Wed Jan 12, 2011 3:36 am

Tigger_the_Wing wrote:Atheists do not believe there is a god. That statement is not at all the same as "Atheists believe there is no God".


Well firstly I believe you will find that you have used the word believe in both cases. I think I could stop my argument right there but I want to bore you a little longer.

Secondly atheists are people who say there is no god, no deities. That is their firmly held position. If you have not made up your mind then you are agnostic. If your position is that you don't care one way or the other then you are simply apathetic. I would say that I am atheist, there is no God but I am open to any proof (or for that matter evidence) that I am wrong, you are millitant atheist, there is no God and nobody is going to change that position. Well good for you, your beliefs are clearly more firmly held than mine.

Finally using what kind of logic is "Atheists do not believe there is a god" not the same as "Atheists believe there is no God"?

Tigger_the_Wing wrote:It is encumbent upon the person making a positive claim to back that up with evidence. The reverse is not the case, otherwise I could claim that non-belief in Russell's teapot, or leprechauns, or DB's diamond are all religions; which is an utterly ridiculous position to take and it is certainly not "narrow-minded" to refuse to believe in things for which there is no evidence.

Prove Nessie doesn't exist! Can't? Then you are narrow-minded for not believing in Loch Ness Monsters! Disbelief in Loch Ness Monsters is a religion!

See how daft it gets?

In other words, no-one has to prove the non-existence of anything. It is the claim of the existence of something that has to be backed with evidence.


Your logic is completely restricts your view of the world to those things that are proven. I personally believe the big bang theory is a good explanation based on the evidence but no serious scientist would say there is proof for the big bang (only evidence). I do not believe in Nessie but cannot prove it does not exist beyond the efforts that have been made already and would have to leave that option open. Your view is that without proof nothing exists. Well then stop believing in the big bang, evolution, or actually anything that you cannot personally prove exists.

Many years ago I had a discussion with someone who was a Christian. I told him that as far as I was concerned there is no God. However (being a bit techie) I proposed an alternative. We are living in a computer simulation of a world. What he calls God is simply the administrator of the system. That administrator is outside the simulation and cannot be proven to exist. To us the characters in the simulation everything feels real because it has been designed to be so. Then some years later I heard a similar proposition being made by serious scientists. I do not actually believe that we live in a kind of matrix like simulation but denying the possibility is simply to narrow ones mind. So yes, anyone who denies the possibility of God is narrow minded, just as anyone who denies the possibility that there is no God is narrow minded.
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby daftbeaker on Wed Jan 12, 2011 5:35 am

MakkaPakka wrote:
daftbeaker wrote:No. The point I'm trying to make is that a person's moral code is internal and not affected by the law. If someone considers an activity to be morally wrong they will not do it, regardless of whether it is legal or not.

But broadly speaking what I was saying is that, for atheists, the law approximates to the moral standards of society but I will admit that there are discrepancies on both sides.

Ok, that makes more sense to me. I'd broadly agree with you in that case.

daftbeaker wrote:
MakkaPakka wrote:
daftbeaker wrote:To put it another way, if murder was legalised tomorrow that would not make it morally right :wink:

Neither you nor I can conceive of a nation that would legalise murder so it is difficult to imagine why such a country would revoke the law. But I'll give you an example, in Europe the death penalty (or state authorised murder) is not permitted. However other countries such as China and the US regularly kill (murder) people for crimes that would carry custodial sentences here.

Ok, since your argument is that atheist's morality derives from the judicial law of the country they live in are you suggesting all atheists in the UK are against the death penalty and all atheists in the US are for it?


I believe that most Europeans are against the death penalty and presumably most Americans are for the death penalty.[/quote]
That wasn't the question I asked, I wanted to know the correlation between atheism and support for the death penalty. What I suspect you'll find is that it's about the same in the UK and the US.

MakkaPakka wrote:
Tigger_the_Wing wrote:Atheists do not believe there is a god. That statement is not at all the same as "Atheists believe there is no God".

Finally using what kind of logic is "Atheists do not believe there is a god" not the same as "Atheists believe there is no God"?

Ever heard the phrase 'absence of evidence is not evidence of absence'? Exactly the same logic. Believing there is no god is an active belief that there is no god and never will be whereas not believing there is a god is just not following any religion.

MakkaPakka wrote:So yes, anyone who denies the possibility of God is narrow minded, just as anyone who denies the possibility that there is no God is narrow minded.

Precisely how plausible does a possibility have to be for you to still consider it? The chance of me having a diamond in my back garden the size of a house is so infintesimally small it may as well be zero. Are you narrow minded for not thinking I might have a giant diamond in my back garden?
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby Tigger_the_Wing on Wed Jan 12, 2011 6:00 am

MakkaPakka wrote:
Tigger_the_Wing wrote:Atheists do not believe there is a god. That statement is not at all the same as "Atheists believe there is no God".


Well firstly I believe you will find that you have used the word believe in both cases. I think I could stop my argument right there but I want to bore you a little longer.


Of course I used the word 'believe' in both cases, as belief or lack of belief was the subject of the discussion.

MakkaPakka wrote:Secondly atheists are people who say there is no god, no deities. That is their firmly held position. If you have not made up your mind then you are agnostic. If your position is that you don't care one way or the other then you are simply apathetic. I would say that I am atheist, there is no God but I am open to any proof (or for that matter evidence) that I am wrong, you are millitant atheist, there is no God and nobody is going to change that position. Well good for you, your beliefs are clearly more firmly held than mine.


Where did I say that I'm any kind of atheist, let alone a militant one? :confused: As far as I know, using the scientific method to decide what is real and what isn't leads one always to be ready to change one's mind upon the presentation of new evidence. I am quite sure that all atheists would accept the existence of any deity for which any evidence came to light. That evidence would have to be extraordinary, to rule out a natural explanation, but if someone produces it, one would have to be as closed-minded as a creationist to deny the evidence. Scientists tend to be the most open-minded of people; but not so open-minded that their brains fall out, as they say!

MakkaPakka wrote:Finally using what kind of logic is "Atheists do not believe there is a god" not the same as "Atheists believe there is no God"?


You really cannot tell the difference between the two statements? :facepalm:

Look at where the negative is in each sentence. The first has a negative verb, the second a negative object. Would it help if I substituted the word 'tree' for 'atheist'? "Trees do not believe there is a god" is obviously true; trees do not have a central nervous system and are thus incapable of believing. "Trees believe there is no god" is obvious nonsense. NOW do you see the difference?

MakkaPakka wrote:
Tigger_the_Wing wrote:It is encumbent upon the person making a positive claim to back that up with evidence. The reverse is not the case, otherwise I could claim that non-belief in Russell's teapot, or leprechauns, or DB's diamond are all religions; which is an utterly ridiculous position to take and it is certainly not "narrow-minded" to refuse to believe in things for which there is no evidence.

Prove Nessie doesn't exist! Can't? Then you are narrow-minded for not believing in Loch Ness Monsters! Disbelief in Loch Ness Monsters is a religion!

See how daft it gets?

In other words, no-one has to prove the non-existence of anything. It is the claim of the existence of something that has to be backed with evidence.


Your logic is completely restricts your view of the world to those things that are proven. I personally believe the big bang theory is a good explanation based on the evidence but no serious scientist would say there is proof for the big bang (only evidence). I do not believe in Nessie but cannot prove it does not exist beyond the efforts that have been made already and would have to leave that option open. Your view is that without proof nothing exists. Well then stop believing in the big bang, evolution, or actually anything that you cannot personally prove exists.


You seem to have got things backwards. My logic does the exact opposite: it does not restrict my view of the world to those things that are proved! I used the word 'prove' in the context of a negative, i.e. that humans do not need to prove that something does not exist. My words are there for anyone to read. Proof is for mathematics and whisky. :drinking:

MakkaPakka wrote:Many years ago I had a discussion with someone who was a Christian. I told him that as far as I was concerned there is no God. However (being a bit techie) I proposed an alternative. We are living in a computer simulation of a world. What he calls God is simply the administrator of the system. That administrator is outside the simulation and cannot be proven to exist. To us the characters in the simulation everything feels real because it has been designed to be so. Then some years later I heard a similar proposition being made by serious scientists. I do not actually believe that we live in a kind of matrix like simulation but denying the possibility is simply to narrow ones mind. So yes, anyone who denies the possibility of God is narrow minded, just as anyone who denies the possibility that there is no God is narrow minded.


Your definition of 'narrow-minded' seems to encompass anyone who isn't totally credulous! Do you not see that, human imagination being what it is, there is almost an infinite number of scenarios that could be proposed to explain the universe. It is up to the proposer to furnish evidence that their proposal better fits the evidence that we have, than the current theories do. It is most certainly not the responsibility of anyone else to disprove crackpot hypotheses! Calling the non-credulous 'narrow-minded' is silly and doesn't further our scientific knowledge about the actual, real universe in which we live.

There is a wealth of evidence to support the normal world view and none whatsoever to support any conspiracy-theorist's bizarre 'matrix' fantasy; so that can be safely ignored when designing tests and experiments (as can the existence of cosmic teapots*).

*Edit: Or DB's diamond! :lol: :stupid:
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby Qwertyuiopasd on Wed Jan 12, 2011 9:29 am

daftbeaker wrote:not believing there is a god is just not following any religion.


So why do atheists have such a bad rap for saying 'There is no God!' or ending up with arguments with theists about it? I mean, by this definition, wouldn't an argument with a theist go "I don't follow any religion." "I do." "Meh." rather than "There is no God!" "Sacrebleau!" or, with the theist starting "I believe in God." "I don't, really, but that's nice." rather than "I believe in God." "God doesn't exist, you're clearly deluded."

I can accept your definition of atheist, but then what word should we use to describe it when people who incorrectly identify as atheist say "There is no God?"

I suppose to me, your definition suggests that instead of taking any kind of stance on whether or not God exists, and atheist just doesn't even consider it, isn't bothered, worried, or affected by it, and carries on their life as happily as anyone else.
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby daftbeaker on Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:32 pm

Qwertyuiopasd wrote:
daftbeaker wrote:not believing there is a god is just not following any religion.

I can accept your definition of atheist, but then what word should we use to describe it when people who incorrectly identify as atheist say "There is no God?"

Both definitions apply to atheists :wink: You have the 'I believe there is no god' type like me, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins etc. and the 'I don't believe there is a god' type which I don't know any famous examples of. It's the same way that 'christian' encompasses the bats***-insane creationists, the catholics, protestants, baptists, methodists, some UU members etc. The only thing that atheists must have in common is not being religious, the extent they debate it or the arguments they use are completely up to them.

Note - Before anyone gets picky and starts complaining that it's impossible to truly 'know' anything, I treat the possibility of a god's existence as being sufficiently small it is approximately zero :wink:

Qwertyuiopasd wrote:So why do atheists have such a bad rap for saying 'There is no God!' or ending up with arguments with theists about it? I mean, by this definition, wouldn't an argument with a theist go "I don't follow any religion." "I do." "Meh." rather than "There is no God!" "Sacrebleau!" or, with the theist starting "I believe in God." "I don't, really, but that's nice." rather than "I believe in God." "God doesn't exist, you're clearly deluded."

Because the majority of atheists you read about are the ones that are outspoken about their atheism. The famous atheists are famous because they talk and debate about atheism. It's selection bias, a weak atheist and a theistic accomodationist will disagree about very little and would make for a very boring discussion about religion. Strong atheists and creationists make for much more interesting articles.

To put it in perspective, out of me, Roy, Tig, Edd and DavidH, there's one stubborn argumentative atheist and four reasonable polite atheists :haha:
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby Qwertyuiopasd on Wed Jan 12, 2011 2:44 pm

I learned the word (or at least, it was brought to my attention) "Nontheist" today. Perhaps that would be better to describe the "I don't believe in God" and to separate from the Atheist "I believe in no God."

Or maybe nonreligious, since there are certainly nontheist religions out there, as well. Ahhh, semantics.

What is it exactly about being called a religion that atheists are so often vehemently opposed to? Obviously there is no organized Atheist Church, but I really don't think that's what most people are asking when they ask "What religion are you?" Someone may answer Episcopalian, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan, or whatever. What they're communicating in that instance is what they believe, and what they feel is significant about what they believe. An Episcopalian might just say "Christian" because while they happen to be Episcopalian, the differences aren't that important, compared to the main Jesus thing. However, a Calivinist who was big on Predestination might say "Calvinist" over just "Christian" to make that point clear.

It is in this sense that Atheism is a religion, I think. I mean, on a census form or whatever, if it says Religion and has options, one of which is atheist, do you mark atheist, or do you leave the section blank because you intentionally lack religion in your life?
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby daftbeaker on Wed Jan 12, 2011 3:20 pm

Qwertyuiopasd wrote:What is it exactly about being called a religion that atheists are so often vehemently opposed to?

Because it's not a religion. There really isn't much more to it than that. Imagine someone asking you what breed of dog you have, you tell them you don't have a dog and they insist that not having a dog is a breed of dog.

Qwertyuiopasd wrote:It is in this sense that Atheism is a religion, I think. I mean, on a census form or whatever, if it says Religion and has options, one of which is atheist, do you mark atheist, or do you leave the section blank because you intentionally lack religion in your life?

I'd answer atheist if it's a tick box, not because it's a religion but because I interpret that question as 'Do you have a religion and if so, which one?' (Answering 'atheist' is then effectively saying 'no, I do not have a religion'.) If there's a space for writing your own answer then I'd be fine with 'atheist' or 'no religion'. In this situation 'atheist' is bureaucratic shorthand for 'atheist, no religion, not religious, doesn't believe in a god, believes in no gods' etc.
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby Qwertyuiopasd on Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:04 pm

How is that different from being asked what breed of dog you have and answering "No dog?" :confused:

I guess my question is what is specific about the definition of religion that you think atheism is not properly counted as one, or what is specific about atheism to that same end?

To me, atheism is a worldview that takes a stance on The Absolute (or whatever you'd like to call it) that takes a very materialistic approach. Maybe not a religion one would study deeply in a World's Religions class, certainly. But of course what interests me is just the knee jerk reaction of "No it's not" any time someone mentions atheism as a religion.
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby MakkaPakka on Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:43 pm

Qwertyuiopasd wrote:How is that different from being asked what breed of dog you have and answering "No dog?" :confused:

I guess my question is what is specific about the definition of religion that you think atheism is not properly counted as one, or what is specific about atheism to that same end?

To me, atheism is a worldview that takes a stance on The Absolute (or whatever you'd like to call it) that takes a very materialistic approach. Maybe not a religion one would study deeply in a World's Religions class, certainly. But of course what interests me is just the knee jerk reaction of "No it's not" any time someone mentions atheism as a religion.


Well perhaps there is a like minded person here after all :-)

I can see how it might not be counted as a religion because there are no churches, no rituals, no religious leaders (Dawkins might kind of count), and very little by way of telling other people they will burn forever for not believing. However it certainly is a belief that there is no God. However, when I say that, people get all confused and say you cannot believe in nothing. It is an assertion that the statement "there is no god" is true as in "I believe there is no God".

My own atheism is simply about taking the stand point that the evidence is that there is no god. However I cannot prove this is true so it remains a hypothesis or theory.
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby Qwertyuiopasd on Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:51 pm

MakkaPakka wrote:Well perhaps there is a like minded person here after all :-)


Or just a devil's advocate. :wink: For the record I'm undecided on the issue.
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby Cardinal Fang on Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:56 pm

Qwertyuiopasd wrote:I learned the word (or at least, it was brought to my attention) "Nontheist" today. Perhaps that would be better to describe the "I don't believe in God" and to separate from the Atheist "I believe in no God."


My impression was that Nontheist applied to "don't know, don't care". It's all very confusing.

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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby Ubi Dubium on Wed Jan 12, 2011 5:57 pm

Cardinal Fang wrote:
Qwertyuiopasd wrote:I learned the word (or at least, it was brought to my attention) "Nontheist" today. Perhaps that would be better to describe the "I don't believe in God" and to separate from the Atheist "I believe in no God."


My impression was that Nontheist applied to "don't know, don't care". It's all very confusing.

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I think the correct term for "don't know, don't care" would be "apatheist".
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby daftbeaker on Wed Jan 12, 2011 6:21 pm

Qwertyuiopasd wrote:How is that different from being asked what breed of dog you have and answering "No dog?" :confused:

daftbeaker wrote:Imagine someone asking you what breed of dog you have, you tell them you don't have a dog and they insist that not having a dog is a breed of dog.


Qwertyuiopasd wrote:I guess my question is what is specific about the definition of religion that you think atheism is not properly counted as one, or what is specific about atheism to that same end?

A religion is a belief that a god exists that is shared by many people. (A religion of a few people is a cult and a religion of one person is craziness.) Arguing that atheism is a religion because you can never truly 'prove' a god does not exist makes as much sense as arguing that gravity or evolution or heliocentrism are religions.

Qwertyuiopasd wrote:To me, atheism is a worldview that takes a stance on The Absolute (or whatever you'd like to call it) that takes a very materialistic approach. Maybe not a religion one would study deeply in a World's Religions class, certainly. But of course what interests me is just the knee jerk reaction of "No it's not" any time someone mentions atheism as a religion.

Because, you know, it's not. In the same way an empty bowl is not full of soup and an empty cage does not have a hamster in, atheism is not a religion. How is that so hard to get your head around? :confused:
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Re: Opt in or opt out?

Postby Qwertyuiopasd on Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:07 pm

daftbeaker wrote:A religion is a belief that a god exists


Er, no it's not. Belief in a/multiple deity/deities is not a requirement at all for something to be a religion. Take Taoism, for example, or even some flavors of Buddhism.

And I'm not saying it's a religion because you can't prove that God doesn't exist. It's more because atheism performs functions of other religions. Take some of the questions most if not all religions answer: "What is ultimate reality?" "What happens after we die?" "What is the right way for me to behave?" Etc. You can answer all of these with atheism (Yes, atheism doesn't give a moral code, per se, but everyone's personal moral code and ethics come from somewhere, and for most atheists, it'll probably be rational thinking and logical processes similar to the ones that lead to the rejection of God, or any kind of spirituality).

To paraphrase Forrest Church, as I love to do, "Religion is the human response to the dual reality of having to live and having to die." All I'm saying is that that response may be atheism.

daftbeaker wrote:Because, you know, it's not.


And if I say, "Well, you know, it is," then we don't get particularly far. :wink:
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