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Letís Declare a Truce in the Culture War [Why are believers and atheists still bickering?]
The American, A Magazine of Ideas ^ | June 16, 2008 | Peter J. Wallison

Posted on 07/10/2008 11:31:50 AM PDT by Uncle Ralph

Neither faith nor science can answer the most important questions. So why are believers and atheists still bickering?

I went to a debate recently in New York between a rabbi and the famous polemicist Christopher Hitchens, on the question "Does God exist?" Hitchens was called on to speak first, and he won the debate with his first two sentences: "I don't know why I have to speak first. He has the burden of proof." The mostly secular ... audience heartily applauded this sally, which was based on the premise -- never challenged by the rabbi -- that science provides an explanation of everything and any need there might be for a Supreme Being is more an artifact of human psychology than anything else.

But it turns out that this premise is false; science has no explanation for any of the major questions about our existence ... What's more, by the standards of science itself -- the view that if something can't be falsified it cannot be the subject of scientific inquiry -- science will never be able to provide an answer ...

Under these circumstances, it is just as rational to believe in the existence of a Supreme Being as it is to believe a Supreme Being does not exist. Since science will never be able to provide [the answer] and the Supreme Being has not appeared to mankind in a way that all of us will accept, the most rational position is to describe oneself as an agnostic ... One of the results of the Enlightenment was a broad recognition that squabbling about the correctness of this or that religion was pointless and counterproductive. In this sense, the Enlightenment has not yet come to those who relentlessly pursue the culture war between believers and nonbelievers.

(Excerpt) Read more at american.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: atheism; christopherhitchens; enlightenment; faith; god; hitchens; religion; science
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1 posted on 07/10/2008 11:31:50 AM PDT by Uncle Ralph
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To: Uncle Ralph
his first two sentences: "I don't know why I have to speak first. He has the burden of proof." The mostly secular ... audience heartily applauded this sally, which was based on the premise -- never challenged by the rabbi -- that science provides an explanation of everything and any need there might be for a Supreme Being is more an artifact of human psychology than anything else.

That's not what it's based on. It's based on the logical presmise that you can't prove a negative hypothesis.
2 posted on 07/10/2008 11:37:10 AM PDT by Borges
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To: Borges; Alamo-Girl; betty boop
[ It's based on the logical presmise that you can't prove a negative hypothesis. ]

Proof is a mental construct.. that you must have faith in..
Proof is subject to the observer problem..

3 posted on 07/10/2008 11:43:46 AM PDT by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole....)
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To: Borges; All
In reply to the article:
"The mostly secular ... audience heartily applauded this sally, which was based on the premise -- never challenged by the rabbi -- that science provides an explanation of everything and any need there might be for a Supreme Being is more an artifact of human psychology than anything else."

Borges wrote:

"That's not what it's based on. It's based on the logical premise that you can't prove a negative hypothesis."

Later in the article:

"What's more, by the standards of science itself -- the view that if something can't be falsified it cannot be the subject of scientific inquiry -- science will never be able to provide an answer ..."

I see that "you can't prove a negative hypothesis" is not exactly the same as "if something can't be falsified it cannot be the subject of scientific inquiry" but is there a correlation?

I can't quite get my mind around "if something can't be falsified..." Do you think the author of the article screwed something up here?

4 posted on 07/10/2008 12:00:15 PM PDT by Uncle Ralph (I think I am.)
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To: Uncle Ralph

Love the quotes: Einstein the clever American, Chesterton the whimsically cheeky Brit, and Camus the French pragmatist.


5 posted on 07/10/2008 12:03:37 PM PDT by Petronski (Scripture & Tradition must be accepted & honored w/equal sentiments of devotion & reverence. CCC 82)
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To: Uncle Ralph

“Let’s Declare a Truce in the Culture War”

To declare a truce means that the dark forces of atheism have won.


6 posted on 07/10/2008 12:09:34 PM PDT by 353FMG (What marxism and fascism could not destroy, liberalism did.)
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To: Uncle Ralph

to...”I don’t know why I have to speak first. He has the burden of proof”...

I would have said “No, be my guest, you go first...In the beginning there was what?”


7 posted on 07/10/2008 12:18:20 PM PDT by UltraKonservativen (( YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID!!!))
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To: Uncle Ralph
More to the point, the idea that science accurately describes the world is a quaint Victorian notion.

Science is nothing more than a series of human paradigms, that change rather rapidly. In medicine, bodily humors give way to cell theory, which gives way to biochemistry and genetics. Newtonian physics gives way to relativity, which gives way to whatever Stephen Hawking is up to.

Science is useful, and has helped the world tremendously - it is how I earn my daily bread. But it does not, and cannot describe the true nature of the world. Humans are limited in their perception of the world, and science (a human creation itself), is subject to the same limitations.
8 posted on 07/10/2008 12:19:07 PM PDT by horse_doc (Visualize a world where a tactical nuke went off at Max Yasgur's farm in 1969.)
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To: Uncle Ralph

Part of it, I think, is that there is a certain percentage of atheists who are obnoxious about their disbelief and go out of their way to insult religious people.

On the other hand, there are believers who consider all atheists to be terrible people, regardless of the evidence to the contrary.

I’m personally agnostic- there is not enough evidence for me to conclude that there is a supreme being out there, but I admit that I cannot be sure of this conclusion because our knowledge is limited. That being said, I have no desire to berate or insult people for holding certain beliefs, so long as they let me live my life in peace.


9 posted on 07/10/2008 12:20:40 PM PDT by Citizen Blade
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To: Uncle Ralph

Oh come on, what’s the harm in a little healthy debate?


10 posted on 07/10/2008 12:23:15 PM PDT by the_devils_advocate_666
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To: Uncle Ralph

He can declare at truce. I’m going to keep witnessing to people.

His opening statement was false, also, as has already been noted.


11 posted on 07/10/2008 12:28:40 PM PDT by Marie2 (It's time for a ban on handgun bans)
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To: Uncle Ralph

The author comes very close to treating science’s failure to deal with the supernatural as a straw man. However, this is not a “failure” of science, but rather a clearly self-imposed delineation of the purpose and methods of science by scientists themselves. From its beginning, scientists have always been aware that the supernatural is not subject matter for science. Therefore, science has no concern, one way or the other, with the supernatural or its subset, religion


12 posted on 07/10/2008 12:30:36 PM PDT by Rudder
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To: Citizen Blade

I think you nailed it. There are a lot of atheists that are obnoxious. There are also plenty of obnoxious religious believers. I think that most of us don’t really care what you believe, (so long as you’re not advocating violence), but we don’t like it when people try to cram it down our throats.


13 posted on 07/10/2008 12:39:34 PM PDT by elmer fudd (Fukoku kyohei)
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To: Rudder

Exactly so. Just as it’s utterly pointless to use science to investigate the nature of the soul, it would be equally absurd to use religion to shed light on the evolution of life on Earth.


14 posted on 07/10/2008 12:39:53 PM PDT by rosenfan
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To: Citizen Blade

Excellent post.

From what I can see, generally speaking, any “war” is not really between the athiests and the believers, but between various sects and types of believers.

Christians are believers. Jews are believers. Muslims are believers. Pagans are believers. Buddhists, New Agers, Scientologists, etc., etc.,...are all “believers.” It is from within these various faiths and sects, or denominations within certain faiths, that the bulk of the arguments come from: At times it seems lik a “My God can Beat up Your God” kinda thing.

Additionally,while I cannot dismiss athiests as individuals, I do feel sorry for them in many ways. It seems to me that the only naive belief is to believe that there is no life after life on this earth - that all of this was strictly accidental and that when life ends here, it ends - period.

I can tell you that, personally, I am a believer in a supreme, benevolent, creator and being - a God. However, I am not so vain or inadvertantly arrogant to state I have all the answers concerning the Creator’s plan or design, regardless of what various religious texts may say.


15 posted on 07/10/2008 12:46:34 PM PDT by NCPAC
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To: elmer fudd
I think you nailed it. There are a lot of atheists that are obnoxious. There are also plenty of obnoxious religious believers. I think that most of us don’t really care what you believe, (so long as you’re not advocating violence), but we don’t like it when people try to cram it down our throats.

Yeah- it gets old. The screechy atheist demanding we remove "In Good We Trust" from dollar bills. The old bat on a 3 hour flight sitting next to me who decided to try and convert me to her particular sect of Christianity. The petulant Muslims demanding the rest of us accomodate our lives to their beliefs. And on and on.

I don't ask anyone else to do anything in order to accomodate my beliefs. I don't think it's asking too much to want others to do the same.

16 posted on 07/10/2008 12:50:13 PM PDT by Citizen Blade
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To: Citizen Blade
certain percentage of atheists who are obnoxious

What is 100%, Alex?

What is it with the arrogance, anyway? What the heck do they have to be arrogant about? That they view themselves as gods? That might be it right there.

17 posted on 07/10/2008 12:56:27 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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To: Uncle Ralph

I can’t quite get my mind around “if something can’t be falsified...” Do you think the author of the article screwed something up here?

No, Karl Popper contends that the only matters that can be falsified are subject to scientific inquiry.


18 posted on 07/10/2008 12:58:27 PM PDT by DOGEY
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To: MrB
certain percentage of atheists who are obnoxious

What is 100%, Alex?

I know plenty of atheists who don't spend any time insulting religious people. The people you encounter are what I call "evangelical atheists"- they're just the flipside of the obnoxious street-corner bible-thumper telling the passersby they are all going to hell. Neither type is representative of the majority of believers or non-believers.

19 posted on 07/10/2008 12:59:59 PM PDT by Citizen Blade
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To: Citizen Blade

I have a strong suspicion that the “evangelical atheists” really have something they’re covering.

Their real resistance to faith is usually NOT what they voice as their objections.

A person can’t claim that he is being true to his “intellectual integrity” and refuse to look at evidentiary sources that point to the opposite conclusion that he is espousing.

It’s also arrogant to assume that those with the opposite conclusion have not performed reasoned research to come to that conclusion. I don’t make that assumption, but most of the “evangelical atheists” do.


20 posted on 07/10/2008 1:05:49 PM PDT by MrB (You can't reason people out of a position that they didn't use reason to get into in the first place)
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