AC Grayling

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Beebub
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AC Grayling

Post by Beebub » Wed Nov 09, 2011 5:38 pm

Well done to Harry, Jon, Michael, Jane and anyone else involved in organising the Grayling talk. It was really very good and it was great to see it so well attended.

I enjoyed his talk very much. He had an interesting point to make on theists making the ridiculous claim that atheists have no moral grounding. In short he asked, do we know atheists who are moral? To which the answer is, of course, therefore the argument is bunkum. Of course he put it far more eloquently than that and expanded on it.

One aspect of his talk I thought was worthy of further discussion was the issue of proof. He said (I'm paraphrasing and if I don't have it right, I'm sure someone will correct me) that some theists say the onus is on the non-believer to prove the non-existence of Fred (god; love this name and I think I'll use it henceforth as my name for god!). Some atheists, myself included would say that this is nonsense as you can't prove the non-existence of something. He takes a different tack and says that actually you can. He used the analogy of if you go out into the rain without an umbrella you don't know for certain that you'll get wet, but that the evidence provided by the past is enough proof that in fact you will get wet and that it's irrational to think that you might not get wet next time you go out in the rain without an umbrella.

Bringing that on to the existence of Fred, there’s enough evidence to show us that in fact Fred didn’t do a whole pile of things the Bible says he did and there’s enough evidence to suggest that believing in Fred is irrational and as irrational as thinking you might not get wet next time you go out in the rain without an umbrella.

Moreover, he was suggesting that this is an argument which should be highlighted more by atheists. I’m just not so sure that I agree. It’s not that I disagree with his analogy, I do. I just don’t see the point of going down this route with theists. I’m quite happy to say unless empirical evidence is presented proving the existence of god I’m happy to continue to dismiss it. Trying to get into an argument with a theist about proof will just go ‘round and ‘round imho.

By saying their beliefs are irrational therefore that’s proof of the non-existence of Fred just allows them to discredit my side of the argument by saying that I don’t have real proof thereby somehow making the issue a 50/50 thing.

As an aside, I saw on the Facebook page a thank you for those who contributed. I had to leave early to get back to the office. Was there a collection done at the end? How would I go about making a contribution to the cost of the event now?
DaithiDublin
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Re: AC Grayling

Post by DaithiDublin » Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:18 am

Beebub wrote:..he was suggesting that this is an argument which should be highlighted more by atheists. I’m just not so sure that I agree. It’s not that I disagree with his analogy, I do. I just don’t see the point of going down this route with theists. I’m quite happy to say unless empirical evidence is presented proving the existence of god I’m happy to continue to dismiss it. Trying to get into an argument with a theist about proof will just go ‘round and ‘round imho.
I think he was only implying that it should be another argument to be used. It probably isn't used more often because ridicule is so much easier than philosophical arguments. But I agree with Grayling that it definitely belongs in the arsenal. There's a good tradition of these kind of arguments, but they have come almost exclusively from philosophers. They are the counter-point to spurious 'proofs' like the ontological argument, or Pascal's Wager.

Such proofs amount to nothing more than word games and mental sleight of hand manoeuvres. They place proof for the existence of God on the turn of a phrase and nothing more, but for a believer that is sufficient. To someone raised on scripture, any philosophical argument sounds intellectual, and despite constantly extolling the virtue of faith, they all secretly hanker after the proof they deride us atheists for demanding.

So I think it's no harm to familiarise yourself with one or two examples of these philosophical proofs of the non-existence of God. Not to be cited as any kind of actual proof, but something to pull out as an example of the futility of non-empirical proofs for a creator.

Here's an example that appears in The God Delusion, from Australian philosopher Douglas Gasking:


1. The creation of the world is the most marvelous achievement imaginable.

2. The merit of an achievement is the product of (a) its intrinsic quality, and (b) the ability of its creator.

3. The greater the disability (or handicap) of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.

4. The most formidable handicap for a creator would be non-existence.

5. Therefore if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent creator we can conceive a greater being — namely, one who created everything while not existing.

6. An existing God therefore would not be a being greater than which a greater cannot be conceived because an even more formidable and incredible creator would be a God which did not exist.

Ergo:

7. Therefore, God does not exist.


I enjoyed his talk, and was able to watch it from home, which was great. I'm sorry to say that I've never read anything by him. Any suggestions? This clip from Fora TV where he talks about The Good Book makes me want to start leaving hints for Christmas. :wink:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuxuQO7beYw
As yet I have not found a single case of a terrestrial animal which fertilises itself.

- Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
(he obviously never went to Bray)
nozzferrahhtoo
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Re: AC Grayling

Post by nozzferrahhtoo » Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:45 am

Beebub wrote:He had an interesting point to make on theists making the ridiculous claim that atheists have no moral grounding. In short he asked, do we know atheists who are moral? To which the answer is, of course, therefore the argument is bunkum.
To play devils avocado here I should mention the usual response to this from theists is that of course atheists can BE moral and you can find moral atheist. The theist claim however is that while being moral people they have no actual rational basis for doing so. They are simply emulating those that have (followers of god) while denying the source of those morals (said god).

Of course this is all bunkum indeed. Morality is subjective, there is no evidence that a universal objective standard exists. The only difference between us and the theists is that after deciding on their subjective moral position, they invent an invisible all powerful imaginary friend that they can then pretend agrees with their moral stand point.
paolovf
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Re: AC Grayling

Post by paolovf » Thu Nov 10, 2011 12:31 pm

Beebub wrote:He had an interesting point to make on theists making the ridiculous claim that atheists have no moral grounding
This claim really bugs me.


More recently I've tried to move away from ridiculing religion in the company of theists. I don't think it's useful and it mainly serves to alienate your opposition and puts them on the defensive. I also think philosophical arguments and clever rhetoric can sometimes have a similar effect.

A funny observation I noticed is that I keep a theist happily entertained by ridiculing religions other than theirs. But this seems to help them justify their own practices in comparison so again, becomes an unproductive activity. :roll:
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