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The honest rationalwiki user[edit] (talk) 04:52, 20 April 2020 (UTC)

Sam Harris[edit]

Why must we have a picture of that bigoted shit-stain on this article? โ€” Oxyaena Harass 13:23, 30 July 2020 (UTC)

So, Stalin is okey-dokey by Harris isn't? Bongolian (talk) 17:44, 30 July 2020 (UTC)
@Bongolian Where did I say Stalin is okay? โ€” Oxyaena Harass 12:35, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
It's implied. Also, you use Stalin emojis on Discord. โ€” Godless Raven SDAPOe logo.svg talkstalkwalkbalk ๐ŸŒน Flag of Europe.svg 13:05, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
To be fair, I use my goofy Mussolini emoji on Discord. It's not serious. Pizza SLICE.gifChef Moosoliniโ€™s Ristorante ItalianoMake a Reservation 14:31, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
Yeah? โ€” Godless Raven SDAPOe logo.svg talkstalkwalkbalk ๐ŸŒน Flag of Europe.svg 14:38, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
No, it really isn't "implied," Raven. โ€” Oxyaena Harass 15:43, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
Why didn't you then have any issues with Stalin there? (not to mention you use Stalin emojis on Discord) โ€” Godless Raven SDAPOe logo.svg talkstalkwalkbalk ๐ŸŒน Flag of Europe.svg 15:47, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
I don't believe that there's any need to continue this discussion--Hastur! (talk) 15:48, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
True. โ€” Godless Raven SDAPOe logo.svg talkstalkwalkbalk ๐ŸŒน Flag of Europe.svg 15:53, 3 September 2020 (UTC)

โ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”˜Yes, as GR said, it's implied by your wanting to remove Harris but not Stalin. Bongolian (talk) 16:56, 3 September 2020 (UTC)

I didn't imply anything, you're reading too much into what I wrote. As for the point about Stalin and not Harris, that's a whataboutism. โ€” Oxyaena Harass 17:27, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
It is not whataboutism because at the time that you started this section, there were photos of both Stalin and Harris on the page.[1] Whataboutism is a distraction method of referring people to a different bad situation to try to get them to forget about one's one's own bad situation. Bongolian (talk) 18:04, 3 September 2020 (UTC)

Section stuff[edit]

So.... the section was "What do atheists look like?". It probably supposed to show atheists come in all shapes, sizes, and dickishness. It was removed for being dominantly white and male. There was a suggestion earlier (see section "What do atheists look like?" to add more women and people of color to try to combat that notion that atheism is a white bro club, but the entire section ended up getting removed. What's wrong with Harris being on there? You and I might not personally like him but he's still representative of atheism and I'd even try putting the likes of thunderf00t on there just to show bigotry is also prevalent here. This complaint that's just a strong opinion on Sam Harris and just Sam Harris is unhinged, frankly. --It's-a me, Lgm sigpic.png LeftyGreenMario!(Mod) 23:33, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
That's basically correct, LGM. I don't think that the two sections are actually connected. It's not the first time that Oxy has complained about transphobes being on RW pages that are not about transphobia. Anyway, that section could be restored by adding more diversity. Looking through Lists of atheists ยง Lists by surnameWikipedia could offer some help to someone who wanted to restore it. Bongolian (talk) 00:01, 4 September 2020 (UTC)
My personal suggestion of non-(white male) atheists is to include people like Hemant Mehta, Sarah Haider and Neil deGrasse Tyson. โ€” Godless Raven SDAPOe logo.svg talkstalkwalkbalk ๐ŸŒน Flag of Europe.svg 01:05, 4 September 2020 (UTC)
it can be restored at the click of a button. but what for? even with a more diverse roster it adds nowt but an ugly lump of pictures at the bottom of the page. a more useful discussion of demographics than a gallery of celebrity atheists is found elsewhere on the page. AMassiveGay (talk) 07:10, 4 September 2020 (UTC)
I think reinforcing the text with a gallery of human faces helps visually imo. At least when I see it, it's supposed to be encouraging. There are comments by people of color, a person called "James White". In a reference, Mark Hatcher talking about his experiences. You probably don't immediately think of a black person especially outside of that context. I don't think the gallery is ugly myself. However, there's no other article showing "what do trans people look like", "what do gay people look like", and so on, if I'm correct, so I need to think a bit more about the benefits and drawbacks and wonder if it's excessive if there's a consistent hypothetical application. I do think there should be probably one image of maybe Mark Hatcher, as featured on a reference. Mario Huh.png --It's-a me, Lgm sigpic.png LeftyGreenMario!(Mod) 09:50, 13 September 2020 (UTC)
It could be a gallery of of famous atheists. But if it's a representative gallery of famous atheists - then it may well be pictures of old white males. Or it could be a gallery of unknown atheists - but then we will be left with both "so what" and privacy issues. The idea of having this thing is always going to better then the implementation.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 11:10, 13 September 2020 (UTC)
Actually I got that wrong. In the US at least it would be young white males.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 15:51, 13 September 2020 (UTC)
Sam Harris is bigoted?--Libertarianandy (talk) 23:50, 23 June 2021 (UTC)

What do atheists look like?[edit]

We should probably get more women and poc in there imo. Fair amount already, but it won't hurt to have more. (talk) 23:22, 2 September 2020 (UTC)

What published stats do you have about the current situation?Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 06:38, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
im kinda left with impression from this section that atheism is a white people thing. whats the purpose of this section? if its to show the atheist can look like anyone, it fails because it only has white people, if its just an inane these are some famous atheists, the whiteness is still glaring and gives the wrong impression. can we just delete that part? AMassiveGay (talk) 14:47, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
Ah! Now I understand the question! I would guess that the idea was to show that atheists could look like anyone - but it ended up suggesting that atheists were predominantly while males. (A fair number of them being dead.) So I think it fails in what I assume was it's intention.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 14:57, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
unless someone can come up with a decent enough purpose, im gonna go ahead and remove this section. AMassiveGay (talk) 15:17, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
Why not ask the person who wrote the section instead of just undoing it? โ€” Godless Raven SDAPOe logo.svg talkstalkwalkbalk ๐ŸŒน Flag of Europe.svg 15:36, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
Looks like it was added by an editor who hasn't been active since 2015.[2] IMO it's not worth keeping--Hastur! (talk) 15:47, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
Okay. โ€” Godless Raven SDAPOe logo.svg talkstalkwalkbalk ๐ŸŒน Flag of Europe.svg 15:53, 3 September 2020 (UTC)
I agree.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 16:19, 3 September 2020 (UTC)

I think the article may be biased when referring to the educational level of atheists.[edit]

It's unfair to say that religious people, myself included, do not know how to apply skepticism to science. There might be examples of American fundamentalists being like such, but it's unfair to make such a generalization. RationalWiki is supposed to be rational, but being rational does not mean being anti-religious. Fja2021 (talk) 05:31, 21 September 2023 (UTC)

Responding to the heading of your comment - I guess you are referring to the studies referenced in the Education and IQ section. If you have other reputable unbiased studies which have reached different conclusions they should probably be added.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 06:04, 21 September 2023 (UTC)
Also, "But I thought this was supposed to be RATIONALWiki!" Drink! Plutocow (talk) 06:43, 21 September 2023 (UTC)
I read the essay, but I was in no way advocating for pseudoscience of any sort. I simply thought that this topic had no definite answer, so RW shouldn't be quick to make such assertions. For scientific topics, I would agree with the tone of RW, but for religious topics, things get more iffy. Fja2021 (talk) 04:10, 22 September 2023 (UTC)
To look at social issues and other things that have no definite correct answer from a rational, academic view, you need to consider multiple viewpoints on the subject. This is very different from things like math and science. Fja2021 (talk) 04:13, 22 September 2023 (UTC)
Here we have the problem with the naming of this wiki as explained in our essay on the subject. SkepticWiki was already taken, however. But what about LiberalWiki? Sure there's Liberapedia, but that's not "LiberalWiki". Carthage (talk) 06:46, 21 September 2023 (UTC)
The name is just fine. It is perfectly in accord with our mission statements.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 07:08, 21 September 2023 (UTC)

I was not saying that the name of the wiki was not suitable. I was just simply stating that the article should have a more nuanced view of the subject. Fja2021 (talk) 04:14, 22 September 2023 (UTC)

Could you read the section in question and point out the parts which you feel are factually incorrect. At the moment your comments sound a lot like tone policing. If you are, as you say, a skeptic, then I'm sure this is the type of arguement you would want to avoid.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 06:39, 22 September 2023 (UTC)

The tone is fine. The factual accuracy is another story. I was thinking that someone would also realize the concern and help me fix it by raising this concern on the talk page, since I do not have much time to edit RW articles (I am a 3rd year software engineering university student, after all). But since nobody is willing to help me, I will have to make major edits to it myself when I have time (which is hard to come by in university). Sorry if you mistook my comments as being opposed to RW in general. I in no way meant that. Fja2021 (talk) 12:33, 22 September 2023 (UTC)

You realize I added some clarifications about education and religiosity to the section in question, right? To quote from the article:

A simple explanation for the positive correlation of atheism with intelligence is that atheists in general "benefit from social conditions" that tend to promote atheism. The world's most religious countries tend to be poor, less urbanized, have less access to education, suffer from worse child nutrition rates, tend to do a poor job of controlling environmental factors like lead which are all known to affect intelligence.[29] Professor Gordon Lynch of Birkbeck College, London, says that such simplistic analyses tend to ignore the "range of complex social, economic, and historical factors" that each play a role in the complicated phenomenon of religiosity and intelligence.[30]

The fact of the matter is that atheism is positively correlated with higher rates of education. What's in dispute is the causal factors, and I would also question how reliable IQ measurements are as a standard for intelligence, but that's neither here nor there. You also still haven't pointed out "which parts are factually incorrect." Until you do so, don't be surprised when people raise an eyebrow at your "concerns". Carthage (talk) 12:51, 22 September 2023 (UTC)
Yes, the simple facts of the correlation are not in dispute. I note that Fja2021 - who was the first to mention "tone" - initially wrote: "For scientific topics, I would agree with the tone of RW, but for religious topics, things get more iffy." But later wrote: "The tone is fine. The factual accuracy is another story."
So if he now thinks that the tone is fine but the facts are wrong - why did he start off by complaining about the tone? And if the facts are wrong - where are they wrong? I keep asking him but get no substantive response.
(Incidentally I also have big doubts about the utility of IQ measurements, but that is a discussion for another place).Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 13:27, 22 September 2023 (UTC)
Please don't get on my nerves about this. I have enough things to worry about in university already. Fja2021 (talk) 03:49, 23 September 2023 (UTC)
These days, people nitpick on every incorrect word I say. I really don't want additional mental pressure in addition to the large amounts of mental pressure I have in university. Fja2021 (talk) 03:52, 23 September 2023 (UTC)
YOU started the conversation. YOU made the comments. You should not be surprised and certainly not irritated if people then respond to your points and point out your contradictions.
And at no point have you made any substantiative comment about the article. First you complained about the tone - and then denied you had done it. Then you stated the article was factually incorrect - but despite multiple requests that you point out what the factual inaccuracies actually are you have given nothing.
Yet somehow you seem to feel that we are doing something wrong by asking to actually make a substantive point.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 06:11, 23 September 2023 (UTC)
No, you're completely right to have defended your points. I'm just humbly asking you to forgive me if my viewpoints or arguments were logically incorrect. Interpersonal interactions that don't go well give me a lot of mental pressure, and I don't need any more pressure than I already have. Fja2021 (talk) 08:05, 23 September 2023 (UTC)
In that case, for my part, I wish you well in your studies and look forward to your contributions when you have more time available. :-) Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 08:21, 23 September 2023 (UTC)

Proving a negative[edit]

@Serene @Luigifan18 Take it to the talkpage. Carthage (talk) 15:43, 22 September 2023 (UTC)

Proving a negative is as easy as proving a positive. Here's a standard argument schema:
P1: p > q
P2: ~q
C1: ~p
which is deductively valid and has a negative as its conclusion. We even have an article on it, complete with an example.
A fun little aside: "you can't prove a negative" is itself a negative, and so would, if it were true, be unprovable. ๐’ฎ๐‘’๐“‡๐‘’๐“ƒ๐‘’ talk 22:00, 22 September 2023 (UTC)
P1: If P, then Q.
P2: Not P.
C1: Therefore, not Q.
Did I get that right? Carthage (talk) 22:03, 22 September 2023 (UTC)
No, that would be denying the antecedent, which is fallacious. ๐’ฎ๐‘’๐“‡๐‘’๐“ƒ๐‘’ talk 22:43, 22 September 2023 (UTC)
Ah, I see where I made a mistake. It should be:
If P, then Q.
Not Q.
Therefore, not P.
At least, I hope I got it right. Carthage (talk) 22:48, 22 September 2023 (UTC)
Yes, that is the schema. ๐’ฎ๐‘’๐“‡๐‘’๐“ƒ๐‘’ talk 22:49, 22 September 2023 (UTC)

โ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”˜ Statements about "you can't prove a negative" are not statements against the use of formal logic in that way, though. They are, instead, statements about the use of empirical evidence which apply when dealing with unfalsifiable propositions, of which there's many. See argument from ignorance, also called "negative proof". While the article text may need more clarity, I think the section should be improved rather than removed. --ApooftGnegiol (talk) 05:57, 23 September 2023 (UTC)

I agree.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 06:13, 23 September 2023 (UTC)
It's not clear to me what the introduction of empirical evidence to the situation changes. A statement's being negative will still have no special impact. Here's my analysis of the passage:
Arguments related to the burden of proof deal with whether atheists must disprove the existence of gods or theists must provide evidence in their favor. Arguments over burden of proof are almost always spurious distractions from the issue at hand. Each party is responsible for providing evidence to back up its claims; this can be as part of a positive argument for their position, or as a negative argument aiming to refute the positive arguments presented by the other side. The dichotomy indicated by this sentence of the article is completely spurious. The atheist ought to present reasons to believe that god does not exist and the theist, conversely, ought to present reasons to believe that god does exist.
Conventionally, the burden of proof lies with someone proposing a positive idea โ€” This is false. Conventionally, all parties are responsible for justifying their claims, regardless of whether their claim is "positive" or "negative". Those making a claim for which they can provide no justification are generally held to have made too strong a claim. Justification is typically in the form of either deductive or inductive arguments for a position; inductive arguments are frequently presented as deductions, and most people are reasonably able to follow these arguments without quibbling over the exact argument form.
or as Karl Popper fans would put it, those proposing something must present the idea in such a way that it would be theoretically falsifiable. Popper's falsifiablity criterion was proposed as a demarcation of scientific claims. It's worth noting, first, that hardly anybody still thinks Popper's is the correct demarcation criterion; important criticisms came up by the 1950s and '60s, from Quine, Kuhn, and Lakatos. Popper's criterion doesn't seem to do a good job tracking the real practices of actual scientists, and every theoretical problem of verifiability has a mirror-image problem that affects falsifiability, which leads to issues in determining what even counts as a falsification. Secondly, many theists will be happy to say that theism is not a scientific matter, that the existence of god does not meet Popper's criterion, and that this is no problem. After all, falsifiability is not a plausible criterion for respectability, since, for instance, mathematics and logic would not meet Popper's criterion, a fact which Popper acknowledged.
By this standard, atheists have no need to prove anything; they just need to render arguments for the existence of God as non-compelling. Perhaps by this standard, this is true, but as I've indicated, its a poor standard. Adhering to this standard is also a bad move for atheists, since over the course of the some thousands of years, people have come up with a variety of arguments for atheism. A number of people have argued, for instance, that the Christian God is inconsistent, so that His existence can be disproven by deriving a contraction from the premise that He exists. The argument from evil also falls into this category:
P1 If the Christian God exists, then there is no evil.
P2 There is evil.
C1 So, the Christian God does not exist.
In its fully fleshed out form, with the complete argumentative cases made for P1 and P2, this has long been considered, and is still widely considered, one of the most compelling arguments against the existence of God. Presented with a Christian theist who refuses to make an argument for God's existence, the best response on the atheist's part is not to say, "well, then I have no reason to argue for atheism", but to present one of the good arguments for atheism. There are many.
However, the ubiquity of religion historically and even in some modern societies has often resulted in attempts to shift the burden of proof to atheists, who would then be bizarrely required to prove a negative. This is tendentious. Any atheist who believes "God does not exist" ought to be able to offer reasons in support of that belief. There is nothing at all bizarre about asking them to provide justification for it. What might be bizarre would be to hold an absurdly high standard of evidence, such that the atheist must prove that the existence of god is logically impossible (i.e. a contradiction can be deduced from the premise that god exists). But this isn't absurd because the atheist is being asked to make their case, but because their case is being held to an implausible standard. This has nothing in particular to do with the fact that their belief is "negative"; the same standard of evidence rules out justification for belief in anything that is not tautologous, including almost every positive claim.
Assuming that God (or gods) exist is known as presuppositionalism and has always been a key tenet of Christian apologetics, but is usually rejected by more sensible scholars. This comes out of nowhere. Obviously, if you take it as axiomatic that God exists, it's going to be pretty easy to prove that God exists. In the relevant context, this would just be begging the question. Of course, most sophisticated theologians don't do this; rather, they present one or more of the many arguments for god's existence that have accumulated over millenia and are still being refined. Plantinga's modal ontological argument is a good example of a recent innovation, although Plantinga himself is apparently not convinced by it, and prefers to make the case that belief in god can be a basic belief, which is arguably not a public-facing reason to belief in God's existence (but is not the same as presupposing it).
The absurdity of being asked to prove a negative is demonstrated in Bertrand Russell's teapot thought experiment โ€” where no matter how hard you look, you can't thoroughly disprove the belief that a teapot is out there in space, orbiting the sun somewhere between Earth and Mars. This is a prime example of what I just referred to regarding holding an absurd standard of evidence. Sure, if you demand that any argument against the existence of the Teapot eliminates the logical possibility of it, then it's going to be hard to disprove. Of course, by the same standard of evidence, it's going to be hard to prove that your hands do exist, or that you know your own name. Disbelieve in the Teapot is not justified by some a priori logical principle; rather, it's justified by a huge base of background knowledge, including the facts that teapots are manmade artifacts, that no naturally-occurring teapot has ever been discovered, that our best current scientific theories indicate that a teapot is unlikely to form spontaneously under the conditions of interplanetary space, etc. So you can, in fact, make a strong argument against the existence of the Teapot, and are not limited to saying, "well, unless there's some argument in its favor, I guess there's nothing to say against it".
This sort of presuppositional thinking is illogical, so asking an atheist to disprove God is an unreasonable request. This sentence is infelicitious (i.e. it's referent is unclear), and at a glance it seems to be using "presuppositional" loosely. Rather than reiterate on what I've already said, I'm inclined to just move ahead.
Occam's razor can also be invoked as a guide to making the fewest assumptions, and assuming that a specific God exists a priori is a major assumption that should be avoided. This is predicated on the notion that theists merely assume that god exists, which is not the typical situation among sophisticated theists. If atheists want their position respected, they'd do well to respond to the best arguments for theism, and not suggest that their opponents merely start from the assumption that god exists. Perhaps the idea here is that a priori we should start by assuming that god does not exist. But this is spurious, a priori you should suspend judgement, since you have no justification for belief either way. Occam's razor is a heuristic, not a principle of logic, and a fraught one at that, given that there is no consensus on what exactly it is that the razor indicates should be minimized. This is still an area of extensive debate amongst philosophers.
In the best case for theists, the lack of evidence for gods indicates that without supporting evidence, the default position on God must be either weak-ish atheism or agnosticism rather than theism. A theist's response to this sentence would be that there is supporting evidence for the existence of god, and they would be correct. Their mistake would be in thinking that this evidence is compelling, or that the weight of the evidence favors god's existence, both of which are false beliefs. Talk of a "default position" is a spurious distraction. "Babies, considered rightly, are atheists" is a shitty argument for atheism, just as "babies, considered rightly, don't believe in atoms" is a shitty argument against the existence of atoms. Babies certainly don't belief "god exists," but they also don't belief "god does not exist", because they have no concept of god, and hence no beliefs about god. Even if they did have a concept of god, their general ignorance would make them unreliable authorities on the matter. Babies and rocks are not atheists, and speaking of them as if they were is frivolous. Of course, as soon as anybody has made an argument or observation, however lousy, we're no longer in the "default position" (if such speech is even appropriate) and further appeal to such is an embarrassing waste of time.
Proponents of atheism argue that the burden of proof has not been met by those proposing that a god exists, let alone the specific gods described by major religions. Rather, I would say "Atheists maintain that none of the arguments in favor of the existence of a god are persuasive, and those claiming to establish the existence of some particular god described by a major religion are still less compelling". That's the real force of the negative argument.
I could flesh this out more, but I've already spent enough time on this for now. The notion that atheism is some kind of default position, because of some logical principle favoring negatives, is spurious, and would best be excised. Atheism is not a default position, and no such logical principle exists. Positions don't get an a priori bonus for being more difficult to justify, they just get to be more difficult to justify (although it's not at all obvious that atheism actually is more difficult to justify). ๐’ฎ๐‘’๐“‡๐‘’๐“ƒ๐‘’ talk 13:22, 23 September 2023 (UTC)
There's a lot there that could go towards making a different presentation on the topic. But concerning part of the gist that I think you miss for all the rest...
The very common view is that atheism is simpler than theism in a sense, because it has a null hypothesis concerning God's existence. Occam's razor favors a null hypothesis if there's no weight of evidence favoring rejecting it. The principle is that a null hypothesis needs no justification, just the absence of a counter-justification. That's my view of the whole thing about favoring a negative (Occam's razor), but the description in the article seems messier. Anyway, I'm not sure whether you reject that kind of thinking, or just read a different principle into the article. Rejecting it as spurious would seem like a controversial take. It's possible to propose infinite specific things exist, but given no evidence to favor their existence over the null hypotheses, rejection is the sensible option when faced with a hypothetical infinite list of such claims.
It becomes a different matter when considering evidence for God's existence. If there is a reason to reject the null hypothesis, then the above would not apply. But if atheists succeed in arguing against the arguments for God, so that on balance there's nothing favoring the rejection of the null hypothesis, then you're left with the above as the guiding principle. I think there's nothing spurious if that's the point, and it seems to apply to most of the more specific religious beliefs about god(s), but it could be argued more simply and clearly than the article does. However, you're right that other arguments against God, showing why certain combinations of beliefs are (definitely or probably) false, affect the balance of evidence, and are important, and I think that should be mentioned.
On Russel's teapot, you can argue against it using diverse background knowledge etc. But I think your look at it misses the point of it. Consider instead something which doesn't go against such background knowledge, like proposing a very specific rocky space object exists there, in the absence of any evidence for its existence, and it's small enough not to be detected at present. A hypothetical space survey using wild sci-fi technology could confirm it's not there by mapping the area thoroughly. Without any adequate means to gather evidence, though, it's best to reject the hypothesis that our particular imagined pebble exists. The standard of evidence is not at all so strong as to be comparable to something that negates you knowing your name or making you unable to demonstrate the existence of a hand of yours. --ApooftGnegiol (talk) 16:46, 23 September 2023 (UTC)
The principle is that a null hypothesis needs no justification, just the absence of a counter-justification. This is not how the concept of a null hypothesis is used in statistics or in science. If our P-value is insufficiently small, we do not accept the null hypothesis, we merely fail to reject the null hypothesis. That is, if an experimental result is sufficiently improbable on the assumption that the null hypothesis is true, we consider ourselves to have adequate evidence to reject the null hypothesis. On the other hand, if our experimental result is not so improbable on the assumption that the null hypothesis is true, then we are not entitled to conclude that the null hypothesis is correct; it could be that the null hypothesis is false, but our data are consistent with it because the effect size is too small, because there are multiple effects which pull the data in different directions, etc. Furthermore, while we conventionally take the null hypothesis to be that our variables are uncorrelated, this is merely conventional; you could take any hypothesis as the null and perform statistical testing against it. "God exists" is a perfectly good null hypothesis about the existence of god, and if we think, say, that evil is highly improbable given the existence of god, then our observational evidence would seem to give us reason to reject that null. Indeed, if you were to treat "God does not exist" as a statistical null hypothesis, then the outcomes of your testing could only be (i) you reject the null hypothesis: it is not the case that God does not exist, or (ii) you fail to reject the null hypothesis: you are not entitled to conclude "God does not exist", but you are not entitled to conclude otherwise either. Overall, I would describe talk of null hypotheses in this context to be an abuse of the concept.
As an aside, speaking of the refutation of theist's arguments as demonstrating that there is no evidence for theism is really a misrepresentation. The total force of the combined arguments for atheism is that the evidence for atheism is stronger than that for theism, not that every piece of evidence either points toward atheism or is neutral. The latter is implausible, and trying to maintain such a position is an exercise in futility; misleading evidence is not rare, and does not cease to count as evidence merely because it is misleading (by 'misleading evidence', I refer to evidence that favors a false proposition).
Now, as to whether Occam's Razor favors the belief that God does not exist. Occam's Razor can only appropriately be used to compare hypotheses that have equal explanatory power. It is not obvious that "God does not exist" and "God does exist" have equal explanatory power; if some aspects of reality are well-explained by God's existence, but poorly explained on the theory that God does not exist, then Occam's Razor is inapplicable, because our evidence provides reason to favor the existence of God. The fine-tuning argument posits that we are in such a situation. Parsimony is a virtue of theories, but not as much as explanatory power. While an atheist might try to argue that atheism and theism have equal explanatory power, and having established that employ the principle of parsimony to argue for atheism, both of those steps are dubious, and neither is straightforwardly favorable to the atheist. Consider also that, if atheism and theism really do have equal explanatory power, then any citation of empirical evidence in favor of either will be an illegitimate move. But this seems false.
Consider instead something which doesn't go against such background knowledge, like proposing a very specific rocky space object exists there. But this does go against our background knowledge. What's not against our background knowledge is "there is some rocky space object between Earth and Mars, too small to be detected with current instruments." That's a very plausible, and indeed probably true claim. In contrast, claiming, for some particular, well-defined bit of rock, with a particular size, shape, mass, orientation, etc., that it can be found between Earth and Mars, is contrary to our background knowledge and implausible. Past a certain lower size boundary, any particular configuration of material is highly improbable, simply because there are many ways of arranging material. The difference here is like that between claiming that somebody will win the lottery and claiming that my brother, Billy, will win the lottery. Generally, it's pretty likely that somebody will win, but improbable, for any contender, that they, in particular, will win. ๐’ฎ๐‘’๐“‡๐‘’๐“ƒ๐‘’ talk 19:19, 23 September 2023 (UTC)
That's a thoughtful response, brings much to consider. It does suggest that probably more articles also describe ideas too sloppily, and are in need of being brought up to a higher standard, since we're dealing with very common thought in "atheist philosophy" and non-academic skepticism here. Though I haven't ran into further clear-cut examples on RW, yet.
So, you basically (if I got it right) question two very common ideas, where negating the second in turn suggests a third to me: 1) When neither possibility (positive and negative) can be excluded, Occam's razor applies in cases like this. Instead, there's no general reason to go with either as the working hypothesis then. 2) That we're even talking about a case where such uncertainty necessarily applies. Instead, there's plenty of evidence for and against to weigh up to potentially come to a conclusion. Presumably this is a more general line of thought. 3) Unfalsifiable hypotheses are maybe not really unfalsifiable (it's just sloppy and counterproductive to engage as if they are, as in not arguing for atheism rather than just against theist arguments), and (in turn?) there's no solid principle to favor their rejection in general and going with the negation as working hypothesis in the absence of compelling evidence.
I'm not really sure if I got #3 right as representing your thought. Also (and my bad for sloppy wording and thought earlier), the confusion of two things have crept into this discussion, disproving the case for God and so defending the no-God hypothesis (which I suggested should be a favored-by-default null hypothesis) as viable, and having compelling evidence for the no-God (null) hypothesis (as in accepting it based on evidence, or rather interpreting a lack of evidence for the opposite as compelling evidence for it, which would be a fallacy). You're right in making a distinction between accepting a null hypothesis and not-rejecting it, I didn't make that clear enough earlier.
Now, on unfalsifiability and in turn the "hard atheist attitude" towards the God question. The general line of thought which dismisses the question of God's existence as unfalsifiable and therefore useless, considers the "game" to be rigged, and rejects all such "rigged games" as useless. A possibly separate question, though in practice it often comes up at the same time, concerns the nature of many (or even all) arguments for and against God; are they, and their persuasiveness, merely a subjective matter (rhetoric and superficially appealing houses of cards), vs. are they genuinely a matter of inquiry into the nature of the world? This is very relevant in that the use of arguments for God usually rest on subjective persuasiveness. For that matter, arguments making any more definite case against the existence of a more general/generic God also seem to have a rather subjective character. (I've earlier grown rather disillusioned with my own arguments about theism too, in this regard, finding the logic too sloppy to be able to honestly treat them as more than opinion.)
This is in contrast to criticizing particular religious doctrines and their inconsistencies or other issues, which is more viable; I think being a-Christian and a-other-religion for other specific teachings is in a different category, as then you can use background knowledge of human affairs to e.g. dismiss scripture as most likely just being flawed human works. There's also the "moderately soft atheist attitude" that when you are a-some-religion for all religions, in short you are just atheist, but God could also be defined in more vague and nebulous ways and then it's of course possible to move to a different landscape of ideas in which you're not atheist, making it a mainly a question of semantics whether or not you're truly atheist.
There's much to straighten out here. I think there's stuff to cover in place of the deleted article section, but now I'm honestly not sure what the approach of a replacement should be. --ApooftGnegiol (talk) 23:04, 23 September 2023 (UTC)
1) When neither possibility (positive and negative) can be excluded, Occam's razor applies in cases like this. Instead, there's no general reason to go with either as the working hypothesis then. I might phrase things differently, but this seems to capture the core thought. Occam's Razor gets at the theoretical virtue of parsimony, but there are other theoretical virtues that are often more important to consider. Explanatory power is a big one, here.
2) That we're even talking about a case where such uncertainty necessarily applies. Instead, there's plenty of evidence for and against to weigh up to potentially come to a conclusion. Presumably this is a more general line of thought. I'm not sure what uncertainty you're referring to here, but the latter part of this does capture my view. People have been debating theism for millenia; by now, a huge variety of relevant bits of evidence have accumulated. Some of it will suggest the wrong conclusion, but this merely makes the evidence misleading, it doesn't make it cease to be evidence at all. The weight of the evidence can be strongly in favor of atheism (say), even if there are some particular pieces of evidence that speak against it.
3) Unfalsifiable hypotheses are maybe not really unfalsifiable (it's just sloppy and counterproductive to engage as if they are, as in not arguing for atheism rather than just against theist arguments), and (in turn?) there's no solid principle to favor their rejection in general and going with the negation as working hypothesis in the absence of compelling evidence. Some of this is a bit too strong. I would say that not every purportedly unfalsifiable claim is in fact unfalsifiable, but some are. However, I would also say that there's no solid principle to favor the rejection of truly unfalsifiable claims in general and favor their negation a priori. Popper himself did not intend falsifiability to be a criterion for which claims are meaningful, legitimate, valuable, etc., and his mature view (IIRC) was that (unfalsifiable) metaphysical statements were ineliminable even from science. Nothing about the truth of the proposition "God exists" can be inferred from its status as falsifiable or unfalsifiable. Likewise, nothing about our ability to determine whether or not God exists can be inferred from such a status. There's no solid principle that justifies taking some view on the question as a starting point prior to the consideration of relevant evidence. I'll reiterate that questions of mathematics are not empirically decidable, but they still seem to be substantial and legitimate.
A possibly separate question, though in practice it often comes up at the same time, concerns the nature of many (or even all) arguments for and against God; are they, and their persuasiveness, merely a subjective matter (rhetoric and superficially appealing houses of cards), vs. are they genuinely a matter of inquiry into the nature of the world? Well, either God exists or He doesn't, so the question does concern a matter about the world. As for the arguments for and against a particular conclusion, it seems to me that there are two possibilities. Either our rational faculties have some sensitivity to the soundness of our arguments, in which case we have reason to believe that persuasive arguments will, on the whole, tend to point toward the truth, or else our rational faculties are totally insensitive to the soundness of arguments, in which case it seems like we ought to adopt global skepticism, which seems false. Ideally, of course, we engage in argument with an eye to the truth rather than with an eye to the persuasion of our opponents.
With regard to arguments about the existence of a "generic god". Amongst philosophers, debate about the existence of God is usually centered on the existence of what's sometimes called the "God of the Philosophers". That purported being comes with a host of specific features, generally including the three omnis, immutability, eternity, etc. There's a long tradition of Abrahamic religious philosophy centered on this God, or something close to it, and sophisticated Christian theologians, for instance, will generally favor the existence of such a God and a highly metaphorical interpretation of the Bible. Here, the question of theism is essentially, "Is there a perfect being?", which seems like an interesting and well-defined question. In contrast, the genericizing move is to a question more like "Is there any supernatural being, regardless of its other characteristics?". I'm not sure if that's actually a well-defined question. The pathological cases are the ones like "the being such that if it exists, we would expect the world to be just exactly the way it is." It seems like it would be unreasonable to believe in such a being, but this can't be because of a lack of empirical evidence. Bayesians have a problem here insofar as we don't really know how we should assign prior probabilities. You might try to argue that such a being is actually not even conceivable, since it seems to be the same as "the being such that from its existence, we would predict that everything thus far would have happened exactly as it did, but could predict nothing more"; if it cannot be redescribed that way, then the definition implicitly appeals to evidence we don't actually have. Pragmatically, I would say that it's a waste of time to argue against the existence of deities that nobody actually believes exist. ๐’ฎ๐‘’๐“‡๐‘’๐“ƒ๐‘’ talk 15:51, 24 September 2023 (UTC)
On reflection, it's clear that for (generic) atheism to be a tenable position, there have to be some restrictions on what can count as a god. Minimally, there must be some set of properties such that any being lacking all of them cannot be a god. Suppose that this isn't the case. Suppose, then, that I claim, "this mountain is a god." Since there are no properties necessary to godhood, I can claim this even without claiming that the mountain has any properties that it does not in fact have. What, in that case, could an atheist say against me? "Your god does not exist." Well, that's clearly false, since the mountain clearly does exist - look, you can see it yourself, right there. "Well, there are really two distinct things here. First, the mountain, which does exist, and second, a god, which does not exist." But that's not at all my position. It's not that I believe that there are two coincident objects, a mountain and a god; rather, I claim that there is one object, the mountain, which is itself a god. "Alright, the mountain does exist, but it's not a god." Well, on what grounds can you say that? After all, by supposition, there are no properties that a god needs to have, so you can't point to the mountain's lack of some property as proof that it's no god. Indeed, by so genericizing the concept we've robbed it of all substance and made it vacuous. We have our list of criteria that something must meet to be a god and - there's nothing on it! But anything in the world would pass that test; suddenly, atheism is looking trivially false.
So there must be, at least, some set of properties such that you need at least one of them to be a god. In that case, it would be sufficient to justify atheism to show that nothing has any of the properties in that set. Alternatively, to prove that every object that does have any of those properties is not a god. Doubtless, endless disputes could be had over what properties are the right ones. The alternative is that the concept 'god' is robbed of all significance, in which one has to start to wonder what there is to bother about. That clearly doesn't match the way the concept 'god' is employed by any reasonable person. I take this to be an indication that genericized gods are not worth bothering about. Whoever wants to talk about supernatural beings in general, let them talk about 'supernatural beings', not 'gods'; the two are not the same. Perhaps 'supernatural being' will turn out to be vacuous, or somehow trivial, but that would be much less surprising. Perhaps it will turn out that one benefits from being very explicit: "I'm an atheist with respect to the Christian god, and with respect to the god of ABC (that mountain over there), I believe it exists, but I don't think it's a god". In any ordinary context, it would still be reasonable simply to say, "I'm an atheist". ๐’ฎ๐‘’๐“‡๐‘’๐“ƒ๐‘’ talk 01:56, 21 October 2023 (UTC)

Atheism is not lacking belief[edit]

Lacking belief is not a reportive definition. All it shows is a personal psychological trait. So then why all the criticisms of religion on this page? The accurate academic definition is one who denies the proposition "God exists" for good reason. — Unsigned, by: 2a00:23c8:b59c:8101:e5cf:7110:6e58:c9f5 / talk

Have I understood you correctly? An atheist is "one who denies the proposition "God does not exist""? Is that really what you wanted to say? Because if you switch out the negatives you have something like "An atheist is one who accepts the proposition God exists". Which I'm pretty sure is wrong by any standard definition.Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 09:22, 28 December 2023 (UTC)
Corrected.--2A00:23C8:B59C:8101:CC20:783B:DD59:CEDA (talk) 20:59, 31 December 2023 (UTC)