Ron Rosenbaum’s New Agnosticism

Ron Rosenbaum wrote an article in Slate on Monday entitled “An Agnostic Manifesto.”  It’s a ridiculous piece in which he advocates for a “new agnosticism” to deal with the rise of the dreaded New Atheism.  In his article he makes a number of bizarre assertions that are entirely disconnected from reality, shows his lack of understanding of basic philosophical issues, and, in the end, pats himself on the back for being brave enough to shrug his shoulders and take potshots at the empty strawmen he works so hard to construct.

Rosenbaum opens with this gem:

Let’s get one thing straight: Agnosticism is not some kind of weak-tea atheism. Agnosticism is not atheism or theism. It is radical skepticism, doubt in the possibility of certainty, opposition to the unwarranted certainties that atheism and theism offer.

Well, no, it’s not “radical skepticism.”  Sorry, but that term has already been taken, and it does not mean what you think it means.  Radical skepticism is just that, radical skepticism. Put simply, it’s a position that knowledge in general is impossible.  At the risk of being pedantic, it’s a position that most anyone who took an intro course in philosophy should recognize.  As Rosenbaum is going to accuse atheists of being philosophically unsophisticated, it does not bode well for him that he is unaware of such an elementary position.

The first strike at atheism comes in the next paragraph.  He writes,

Agnostics have mostly been depicted as doubters of religious belief, but recently, with the rise of the “New Atheism”—the high-profile denunciations of religion in best-sellers from scientists such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, and polemicists, such as my colleague Christopher Hitchens—I believe it’s important to define a distinct identity for agnosticism, to hold it apart from the certitudes of both theism and atheism.

Right here we can see he’s already completely derailed.  The “certitudes” of atheism?  What might those be?  How can a position that describes a lack of a belief be described as being certain of anything?  Groan.

I would not go so far as to argue that there’s a “new agnosticism” on the rise. But I think it’s time for a new agnosticism, one that takes on the New Atheists. Indeed agnostics see atheism as “a theism”—as much a faith-based creed as the most orthodox of the religious variety.

Faith-based atheism? Yes, alas. Atheists display a credulous and childlike faith, worship a certainty as yet unsupported by evidence—the certainty that they can or will be able to explain how and why the universe came into existence.

And here’s his big, radical misunderstanding.  First, it should be made explicit that atheism, new or otherwise, has nothing to do with science at all.  It is a lack of a belief in any deity.  Now, it may well be that many atheists like science, but such is neither necessary nor sufficient to be an atheist.  Indeed, such a stance has nothing at all to do with lacking a belief in a god.  If you lack a belief in a god, you are an a-theist.  It’s just that simple.  In fact, judging from Rosenbaum’s description of his own beliefs, it looks like he too has no belief in a god, and that makes him an atheist as well.  Maybe someone should clue him in on this stuff.

But then we have this question of whether or not it is, in fact, an accurate description of any of the prominent so-called New Atheists to suggest that they are certain that science “can or will be able to explain how and why the universe came into existence.”  I can’t see that it is.  Seriously, who holds that view?  We might hope that science will one day give us an answer as to how the universe came to exist, but be certain that it will?  I have never heard any thoughtful person espouse anything like such a view.  And as to the “why” question, unless by that you mean a causal description (which I would think falls under how), such as “Why is the ground wet?  Because it rained,” I’m not sure what it would even mean for science to provide such an answer.  Certainly, I have not heard or read any of the so-called Four Horsemen suggesting any such thing.  Rosenbaum quotes no one saying anything like this, and I think that is for good reason:  no one has said this.

Rosenbaum then charges that the New Atheists cannot answer old philosophical conundrums like “why is there something rather than nothing?”  He then goes further, “bravely” laying down the gauntlet, and writes,

In fact, I challenge any atheist, New or old, to send me their answer to the question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” I can’t wait for the evasions to pour forth. Or even the evidence that this question ever could be answered by science and logic.

No Ron, you won’t be getting a flood of responses from thoughtful atheists, but that is not because they are scared.  They just don’t hold the position with which you’re attempting to paint them, namely that they are certain that science can and will provide any such thing.  In fact, I don’t personally know any professional philosopher who even takes that question seriously.  I mean, it presumes something it should not in the first place, namely that there is a “why.”  I though you were a “radical skeptic,” Ron, someone who wasn’t sure of anything.  What makes you think that there even is a why in the first place?  Worse, what makes you think that the universe is contingent, that there is some possibility that it could have not existed at all?  Surely such a possibility needs to exist in order for the question at hand to even make sense, yet we have no way of knowing that such is the case.  Come on, Ron, where is that doubt you so proudly proclaimed having in the beginning of your essay?  You’re jumping the gun here assuming things of which you have no right.

I could go on taking this article apart piece by piece, but I’ll quit after making one final point.  Rosenbaum says he wrote to one John Wilkins, someone else who proudly extols the virtues of foisting positions onto people that they don’t really hold.  In quoting Wilkins’ letter, Rosenbaum makes the following comment:

Wilkins’ suggestion is that there are really two claims agnosticism is concerned with is important: Whether God exists or not is one. Whether we can know the answer is another. Agnosticism is not for the simple-minded and is not as congenial as atheism and theism are.

Rosenbaum seems to be of the wildly ignorant position that only self-described agnostics are aware of the difference between ontological and epistemic questions.  The hubris here could take down an elephant.  Seriously, Ron?  You don’t think Dan Dennett or Alvin Plantinga are aware of the kind of distinctions that you should recognize upon completion of a Phil 101 course?  Really?  Really? The irony here of Rosenbaum’s charge of atheists and theists as simple-minded is as weighty as his hubris.

Groan.

Rosenbaum finishes by saying, “The courage to admit we don’t know and may never know what we don’t know is more difficult than saying, sure, we know.”  Nice pat on the back there, Ron.  It’s good to know that intellectual deceit and the building of endless strawmen are what pass for courage in your world.  That’s quite a marketing scheme for your New Agnosticism, but I don’t think I’ll be buying into it.

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28 Responses to “Ron Rosenbaum’s New Agnosticism”

  1. Craig Says:

    Enjoyed your post very much; I’ll be stopping in to read you in the future. Rosenbaum has been increasingly irritating to me lately–the outsized ego and the miniscule ability. His last piece in Slate was a breathtakingly stupid argument against attributing parts of a play called Double Falsehood to Shakespeare. The argument went: I don’t like the play, and I am the Shakespeare Cop.

    In the course of this magesterial pronouncement he also managed to identify Betolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Alabama Song” as being by The Doors, because they covered it and presumably Rosenbaum owned that album in college. This in a piece where he was trying to set himself up as an expert on literary attribution. What a fantastic buffoon.

  2. Reginald Selkirk Says:

    Ron Rosenbaum: Poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger effect

    Slate must be pretty hard up these days.

    • Jim Says:

      I almost made that exact point myself just to note the irony of Rosenbaum saying things like “This sort of ignorance, a condition called ‘anosognosia’, which my friend Errol Morris is exploring in depth on his New York Times blog, means you don’t know what you don’t know. Or you don’t know how stupid you are.” The weight of the irony in that statement is crushing.
      Over at Pharyngula PZ also point out how ridiculous it is that Rosenbaum complains about the “us vs. them” attitude of atheists while actively engaging in exactly that kind of tribalist behavior.
      The entirety of the article is just one long study in how to miss your own points.

  3. Greg Says:

    A lack of belief is not something that exists. Atheism exists, it is by logical necessity the belief that god does not exist. A lack of belief does not exist, there is no such object.

    • Jim Says:

      This is just silly. Atheism is a description of a situation, namely one where an individual lacks a belief in any god. Such circumstances where people lack beliefs are innumerable. For example, if you ask me if I believe there is a red car in my driveway, I will say that I do not. I lack that belief. However, it is absurd to suggest that such means that I have a positive belief that there is no red car. I have no such thing, and if you asked, I would make that explicit. While I have no reason to think there is a red car, there might be. Someone could have just pulled up to visit driving a red car. I would need to go look to make any positive assertion as to the existence of a red car in my driveway.
      Similarly, atheism is merely a lack of a belief in a god. It is a-theism. The “a” indicates a lack just as it does in concepts like “atypical” and “asymmetrical.”
      That said, some atheists do, in fact, have the positive belief that there is no god, but such is independent of their lack of a belief that there is a god.

      Seriously, this stuff isn’t difficult to understand. You really should stop throwing around phrases you don’t understand, like “logical necessity.”

      • Greg Says:

        The reasons that atheism is the belief that there is no god by logical necessity is that there is no proof there is no god, all positions are either truths or beliefs and you cannot prove anyone believes in a god or believes there is no god.

        As per a lack of belief existing, or a lack of anything… I all ears. I know there is no such thing, as it is a misunderstanding of set theory to say a lack of X, where X is anything, exists. Do tell! For example you lack a 32nd head, but there is no property of you that is “lack of a head” let alone a 32nd one.

        Let me point out how set theory works in this context. My blue pen is not red… it is nonred. Not red is a propositional logic term, and does not require my pen to exist to be valid. If the pen does not exist, it is also not red. NON from set theory requires existence of the pen, or it cannot be a member of a set. Nonred is not a property of my blue pen, no part of the pen is “nonred”. Nonred does not exist, there is no such object and since “lack” uses not, whenever we say what X lacks, we are saying what X does not have. Lacking belief, is not an object…. there is a better chance of a god existing than of that being what atheism is.

        You’ve misunderstood a truth about what atheists are not, to say that is what atheism is. Saying so violates both formal logic and set theory. Also, saying what something is not is not talking about that thing. It is valid to say the present King of France is not a believer in god, not an atheist, has no hair and is not bald. All true, none of it true about the present King of France who does not exist. So while it is true to say atheists lack belief, it is not true about atheists. It is true about what atheists are not. What atheists are not, is not what atheists are.

        Your error in logic is in saying is = is not and are = are not.

        To show how silly your position is, is as simple as pointing out that theism lacks belief in a god. Theism is the belief itself that a god exists and no belief is capable of any belief. So according to what you think is logical, theism is atheism, since it is true theism lacks belief in a god.

        The key for you here would be to read On Denoting by Bertrand Russell, which led to his Theory of Descriptions. It is there that the present King of France example is given.

        Just saying you are an atheist is a statement of faith. People cannot read your mind. You cannot prove you are an atheist or that anyone else is, or that anyone is a theist. People must put their faith into you that you are telling the truth (given you understand what it means). And it would seem you also put your faith into theists, believing that they really do think there is a god. Anyway, if I asked you to prove what you say, that I don’t understand what logical necessity is, I know you’d be stumped there… I most certainly do so. Try to stick to things you know and you won’t be called out to prove the claims that you do not know.

        • Jim Says:

          You’re kinda all over the place here, so it’s difficult to tell exactly what led to your initial misunderstanding. In a couple of places you look like you’re confusing ontological with epistemic concerns, but I don’t think that’s your big issue. The big problem is that you seem to think that we can’t define something based on what it is not, but we do that all the time. We have a special prefix for words that do just that thing: a-. But knowing that does not tell us anything about what that thing is, only what it is not. Knowing that something is asymmetrical tells us nothing other than that it lacks symmetry. Do you want to say that such a thing also is logically impossible?
          Let me put it this way: (G)~b =/= ~(G)b.
          We can create concepts that are based upon lacking characteristics all we want, and we do. Someone is broke when they lack money, a bachelor when he lacks a spouse, etc etc.
          I think you need to go reread Russell, because you’ve seriously misunderstood him. Better yet, go talk to your logic teacher about this stuff, because you’ve misunderstood the stuff they taught.

          As to you saying “Just saying you are an atheist is a statement of faith,” that’s as wrong as everything else you’ve said. It certainly is not an article of faith for me as I know whether or not I believe any such thing. Also, you’ve just misunderstood what faith itself is. Faith is about believing without good reason, without evidence. If I say I don’t believe in a god, then you have evidence of that, namely that I just said it. Saying that isn’t good reason to believe things is like saying that you’re stuck having mere faith that France exists if you haven’t been there. After all, everyone could be lying. Pictures of France could be from somewhere else or just photoshopped. Worse, even if you went there, you would still need to have some measure of trust that there wasn’t some enormous conspiracy to fool you by flying you to Spain and just telling you that you were in France. Even worse, you have to trust your senses themselves as it is conceivable that they are mistaken, that you’re insane, or any other of the countless possibilities that exist. But we don’t generally take that to be a problem worthy of consideration. Again, you’re just wrong about this.

  4. YamaZaru Says:

    This post had me laughing my ass off; nice sharp takedown and Rosenbaum is such a damn embarrassment. I get the distinct feeling Rosey is really just another crypto-deist like Karen Armstrong, though why clinging to some wispy “first cause” should make anyone then give any time to the elaborate and implausible specifics of any modern faith is the real mystery. Maybe he’ll become so completely befuddled that he really WILL take a page from the 16th century “radical skeptics”, the ones that agreed with Sextus Empiricus that we can’t know anything, and thus might as well support Mother Church.

    • Craig Says:

      I firmly believe, and Aristotle be damned, that this Unmoved Mover stuff is not serious enquiry; it is kicking the can. Positing an Unmoved Mover to explain the Universe is exactly as worthwhile as positing an infinite stack of turtles to carry it. Because where did God come from? “Well, God is special: God did not need to be created.” Then why don’t we just say the Universe is special, and it did not need to be created?

      To pare back the concept of “God” so far that it becomes simply a box which we label “Why did the Big Bang happen?” reminds me of Penn Jillette’s memorable statement on Atheism: “You can’t prove that there isn’t an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? … Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word “elephant” includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?” The Unmoved Mover is just something people comfort themselves with when they can’t bear to admit to themselves that they don’t believe in God anymore.

      • Jim Says:

        I’m with you. Solutions that just make unknowns into Unknowables and mysteries into Mysteries are not solutions at all. To claim that we need solutions to questions like “What caused the universe to come into existence” only to turn around and say that the answer to that question is exempt from any similar requirement is say that the explanation is Something That Cannot Be Explained, and that’s not really an explanation. It’s a cheat at best and nonsense at worst.

  5. Andy Says:

    I just couldn’t believe how uneducated Rosenbaum’s piece was. Amazing how someone who writes for Slate can’t even get the basic terminology right. Thanks for your post—spot on.

  6. Greg Says:

    You’re kinda all over the place here, so it’s difficult to tell exactly what led to your initial misunderstanding.

    Greg: I don’t have a misunderstanding, you do. Every position is a belief or a truth, all positions are one or the other. You want to take a position and say it is neither.

    The big problem is that you seem to think that we can’t define something based on what it is not

    Greg: What should be obvious to anyone.

    but we do that all the time.

    Greg: Utter nonsense. Nothing IS what it IS NOT. Is does not equate is not.

    We have a special prefix for words that do just that thing: a-.

    Greg: Not quite. The prefix a states what a specific thing is. Asymmterical is what a shape is. Atheism is not symmterical and is not asymmterical. To be asymmterical requires being a shape.

    But knowing that does not tell us anything about what that thing is, only what it is not.

    Greg: False. We know abacterial things are all infections. Asexual is a form of reproduction. Atheism is not sexual and is not asexual. Atheism is without bacteria and is not abacterial.

    Knowing that something is asymmetrical tells us nothing other than that it lacks symmetry.

    Greg: False. All asymmterical things are shapes.

    Do you want to say that such a thing also is logically impossible?

    Greg: Nope.

    Let me put it this way: (G)~b =/= ~(G)b.

    Greg: False. Not believing god is something true about you in the year 1200 when you did not exist. It has nothing to do with you.

    We can create concepts that are based upon lacking characteristics all we want, and we do. Someone is broke when they lack money,

    Greg: Rocks lack money and are not broke.

    a bachelor when he lacks a spouse, etc etc.

    Greg: Distilled water lacks a spouse and is not single or a bachelor.

    I think you need to go reread Russell, because you’ve seriously misunderstood him.

    Greg: Then why am I continually showing what you allege as false?

    Better yet, go talk to your logic teacher about this stuff, because you’ve misunderstood the stuff they taught.

    Greg: Expressing unjustified arrogance while being spanked is quite unique, but hardly convincing.

    As to you saying “Just saying you are an atheist is a statement of faith,” that’s as wrong as everything else you’ve said.

    Greg: Then pull out your mind reading machine and prove anyone is an atheist. For that matter prove anyone is a theist. You cannot do any such thing. Prove what you say or admit it as a belief.

    It certainly is not an article of faith for me as I know whether or not I believe any such thing.

    Greg: Not believing in god is not about you. It is about what you are not, not about what you are.

    Also, you’ve just misunderstood what faith itself is. Faith is about believing without good reason, without evidence.

    Greg: Again, that is utter nonsense. Faith is any belief held strongly. If you had no faith that the earth will exist tommorow then you would be pretty silly. All propositions are truths or beliefs, faith is merely any belief held strongly. I have faith there is no god, that you will read this message and that the sun will rise tommorow…. none of which is proven true.

    If I say I don’t believe in a god, then you have evidence of that, namely that I just said it.

    Greg: Saying you do not believe in a god is not talking about you. It would be true when you do not exist. The present King of France does not believe in a god, is not an atheist, has no hair and is not bald. I referred you to Russells On Denoting, and until you read it and understand it, you make it very easy for me to counter what you say. And oh ya, if a theist says they believe there is no god, you need to trust they are not lying. You put your faith into theists who claim this. Using the method you offer here of proof, if I were to say I am a UFO abductee, you apparently would have evidence I was on a UFO. Just claiming you are an atheist does not make you one.

    Saying that isn’t good reason to believe things is like saying that you’re stuck having mere faith that France exists if you haven’t been there. After all, everyone could be lying. Pictures of France could be from somewhere else or just photoshopped. Worse, even if you went there, you would still need to have some measure of trust that there wasn’t some enormous conspiracy to fool you by flying you to Spain and just telling you that you were in France.

    Greg: France may have ceased existing the minute you landed in Paris and become another country or it could have been dissolved. Of course you have faith that France exists, like you do the sun. No data is available from the sun that is less than 8 minutes ago. It is possible it does not exist right now.

    Even worse, you have to trust your senses themselves as it is conceivable that they are mistaken, that you’re insane, or any other of the countless possibilities that exist.

    Greg: Yes you do, always. Good point. Another Bertrand Russell point actually. He said it would be difficult if not impossible to prove you didn’t pop into existence 1 second ago with all your memories programmed in. Feel free to try, or admit it is a belief.

    But we don’t generally take that to be a problem worthy of consideration. Again, you’re just wrong about this.

    Greg: Philosophers do and for good reason, it demonstrates the limits of our knowledge.

    • Jim Says:

      “Rocks lack money and are not broke.”

      Seriously? Strawman much? Is your argument so poor that you’re now reduced to suggesting that the issue is a lack of specifying the proper quantifier? Are you actually under the mistaken impression that I’m making an argument about things that lack the ability to believe anything about the existence of gods can be atheists? Surely not. Surely you are not so dense as to think that I am suggesting that rocks are atheists or that they can be broke. That might be a fun puzzle for someone, but it’s awfully dull to me. Your entire comment is similarly ridiculous. All I can do is be charitable and assume your are being purposely obtuse. Regardless, the idea that I must either positively believe your name is Greg or believe that your name is not Greg is clearly absurd. I don’t have to believe either thing, and, in fact, I don’t. I have no idea whether or not your real name is Greg. It might be, but it is the case that posting under pseudonyms is a standard activity on the internet. The idea that I must either believe your name is Greg or not Greg is a false dichotomy. I have no positive beliefs at all about your name. Further, you can use the fact that I lack any such belief in your description of me. You can say “Jim has no positive beliefs about whether or not the guy who calls himself ‘Greg’ is, in fact, named Greg.” You could even come up with a shorthand for that: “Jim is an a-Gregger.” And the same thing goes for beliefs about the existence of gods. Your assertion that such is impossible is ridiculous, and, again, it is difficult to believe that you hold any such belief. That such is so obviously absurd coupled with your clear strawman just makes you come off as a troll.

      • Greg Says:

        Seriously? Strawman much?

        Greg: Ok I must advise you…. notters like you make me laugh. In large part my argument to notters is that they are buffoons on logic. Your accusation here of a strawman is an excellent example of that. There is no difference in the logical form of “atheists lack belief” and “rocks lack belief” or in this case “money”. In On Denoting by Bertrand Russell he uses the present King of France, and points out the present King of France has no hair and is not bald. As well, the present King of France does not believe in a god and is not an atheist.

        Is your argument so poor that you’re now reduced to suggesting that the issue is a lack of specifying the proper quantifier?

        Greg: No actually, the argument relies on formal logic and what the word NOT means and how it is used. First identified in 1905 by Russell in On Denoting. You rely on the meaning of NOT as per the stone age when the Greek language was formed, rather a tad out of date.

        Are you actually under the mistaken impression that I’m making an argument about things that lack the ability to believe anything about the existence of gods can be atheists? Surely not.

        Greg: Not at all. I am pointing out that they fit your definition. I am pointing out that you’ve misunderstood words like asymmetrical, since atheism is not symmetrical and is not assymetrical either. There is the proof that your grasp of “other a words” is so messed up you needed to redfine them to cover for your misuderstanding of atheism. You’ve literally rewritten the dictionary to suit your needs. All I have done is show that you have.

        Surely you are not so dense as to think that I am suggesting that rocks are atheists or that they can be broke.

        Greg: They fit your definition for both. Rocks lack belief in a god and you said that was atheism so according to your definition they are atheists. There is no difference in saying a person lacks belief than a rock, both are true. And they are not true about rocks or people. They are true about what they are not, not true about what they are. Greg is not Jim is true, not Jim is not anything, is not an object. Atheists lack belief in a god is true, just not about atheists. Lacking belief is not something that exists.

        That might be a fun puzzle for someone, but it’s awfully dull to me. Your entire comment is similarly ridiculous.

        Greg: Then get an education. Why try to talk about things you have no clue about? Your grasp of NOT was clarified 105 years ago, you were directed to On Denoting by myself with good intentions, instead you apparently still have not done so. You mock what is considered the most influential essay in philosophy in modern times, and it led to Russells Theory of Descriptions which is his biggest contribution.

        All I can do is be charitable and assume your are being purposely obtuse.

        Greg: No I am actually clarifying, and since you’ve taken to an insulting tone to my first reply you are simply having the same charity extended to yourself. If you want nice, be nice. Act like a goof and and you get the same in return. Charitable my ass.

        Regardless, the idea that I must either positively believe your name is Greg or believe that your name is not Greg is clearly absurd.

        Greg: I never said any such thing. Strawman much?

        I don’t have to believe either thing, and, in fact, I don’t. I have no idea whether or not your real name is Greg.

        Greg: And it doesn’t matter either if you did or not. One who does not believe there is a god and does not believe there is no god, is nontheist and nonatheist. There is no requirement to be either. Babies are neither. So much for me saying you must be one or the other. When confused as to what someone says, instead making up garbage they do not say and would reject, it is better to ask.

        It might be, but it is the case that posting under pseudonyms is a standard activity on the internet. The idea that I must either believe your name is Greg or not Greg is a false dichotomy.

        Greg: IMPRESSIVE! You got something right anyway. That would indeed be a false dichotomy. Too bad I never argued as much.

        I have no positive beliefs at all about your name. Further, you can use the fact that I lack any such belief in your description of me.

        Greg: False. It is what you are not. You lacked belief about my name before you existed, so it cannot possibly be about you. You did not believe in a god in the year 1200, where you an atheist in the year 1200? Nope. Poof went your definition then.

        You can say “Jim has no positive beliefs about whether or not the guy who calls himself ‘Greg’ is, in fact, named Greg.”

        Greg: I don’t know that your name is Jim either. Big deal.

        You could even come up with a shorthand for that: “Jim is an a-Gregger.”

        Greg: Shorthand? A-Gregger? LOL. wtf? There appears more to unwind here than meets the eye! First off that you do not believe I am a Greg or not, is true when you do not exist so it isn’t talking about you. Second, I am not a Gregger, there is no such thing.

        And the same thing goes for beliefs about the existence of gods. Your assertion that such is impossible is ridiculous, and, again, it is difficult to believe that you hold any such belief.

        Greg: It is a matter of formal logic and proof, not belief. Not X, no matter what X is, is not something that exists. Notred is not a property of my blue pen. Nonalcohol is not an ingredient in milk.

        That such is so obviously absurd coupled with your clear strawman just makes you come off as a troll.

        Greg: You get the respect you give. If you do not believe there is no god then you are not an atheist. Notters (those who say they are what they aren’t) reply to these arguments often by saying rocks lack belief and thus are atheists. Worse, I have had replies state that the present King of France (directly from Russells example) is an atheist as it lacks belief in a god and the present King of France does not exist. That is a category 5 notter. You’ve only used this bit of nonsense towards people, which is a category 1 notter. The logical form is identical in saying people lack belief or rocks lack belief. Notters rarely agree with each other. The truth is saying the present King of France does not believe a god exists is true, about what the present King of France is not, not about what the present King of France is. Same for people, whether you are educated enough to realize so or not. Notters misrepresent themselves as atheists and that is what I am calling you out on. You are not an atheist. All atheists by logical necessity believe there is no god. You are saying atheism is what atheists aren’t, which is just plain foolish. What atheists are not, is not anything. Lacking belief is not an object or thing, no such thing exists. It is saying Not X is an object, which is a complete retardation of modern or classical logic. It also renders “god does not exist”, if proven true, and about god (it isn’t) as proof that god exists. A truth about an object proves that object exists. That is how messed up your logic is. Worse, your grasp leads to things having more properties than the whole universe has. If lacking belief is what is true about an atheist (it is true about what an atheist is not), and what constitutes an atheist then it is a property of the atheist (it isn’t, as it is not anything at all). That would mean the 345th leg you lack is a property of you too. Good! Show me this property of “lacking a belief” or “lacking every atom on Jupiter”. And do so with some charity or expect none in return.

        • Jim Says:

          “Ok I must advise you…. notters like you make me laugh. In large part my argument to notters is that they are buffoons on logic. Your accusation here of a strawman is an excellent example of that. There is no difference in the logical form of ‘atheists lack belief’ and ‘rocks lack belief’ or in this case ‘money’.”

          Nope. In fact, there’s a further strawman here in that you neglect the following line about quantifiers. That makes your “buffoons on logic” comment particularly ironic. You can’t even recognize your own commission of logical fallacies. Priceless.

          “No actually, the argument relies on formal logic and what the word NOT means and how it is used. First identified in 1905 by Russell in On Denoting. You rely on the meaning of NOT as per the stone age when the Greek language was formed, rather a tad out of date.”

          Nope, and your continued insistence to the contrary won’t change that. You can keep beating your fists and stamping your fists on this all you want, but it won’t make it true.

          “Not at all. I am pointing out that they fit your definition. I am pointing out that you’ve misunderstood words like asymmetrical, since atheism is not symmetrical and is not assymetrical either. There is the proof that your grasp of “other a words” is so messed up you needed to redfine them to cover for your misuderstanding of atheism. You’ve literally rewritten the dictionary to suit your needs. All I have done is show that you have.”

          Wow! Another strawman. What a surprise! Thanks for pointing out to me that things that have no possibility of being symmetrical shouldn’t be described as asymmetrical! Astounding! And, again, the irony of you accusing me of rewriting the dictionary is crushing.

          “They fit your definition for both. Rocks lack belief in a god and you said that was atheism so according to your definition they are atheists. There is no difference in saying a person lacks belief than a rock, both are true. And they are not true about rocks or people. They are true about what they are not, not true about what they are. Greg is not Jim is true, not Jim is not anything, is not an object. Atheists lack belief in a god is true, just not about atheists. Lacking belief is not something that exists.”

          Yay! Strawmen are fun! And so is ignoring the entire substance of my first response to your comment! Yay!

          “Then get an education. Why try to talk about things you have no clue about? Your grasp of NOT was clarified 105 years ago, you were directed to On Denoting by myself with good intentions, instead you apparently still have not done so. You mock what is considered the most influential essay in philosophy in modern times, and it led to Russells Theory of Descriptions which is his biggest contribution.”

          What is this? More strawmen? Impressive indeed! Editing my comment to make it appear as if I were talking about something else. Quite clever, that one. And you telling me to get an education…more irony! Hmmm, maybe I should start listing my CV…nah, that’s just pretentious.

          “No I am actually clarifying, and since you’ve taken to an insulting tone to my first reply you are simply having the same charity extended to yourself. If you want nice, be nice. Act like a goof and and you get the same in return. Charitable my ass.”
          Trolls get insulted.

          “I never said any such thing. Strawman much?”

          The irony is suffocating. You can’t even recognize when the logical form of the issue genuinely is the same, unlike your nonsense claim above.

          “And it doesn’t matter either if you did or not. One who does not believe there is a god and does not believe there is no god, is nontheist and nonatheist. There is no requirement to be either. Babies are neither. So much for me saying you must be one or the other. When confused as to what someone says, instead making up garbage they do not say and would reject, it is better to ask.”

          Truly astounding! You can’t even keep your own position straight. Now you’re arguing that it’s possible to be what you’ve been screaming isn’t, only you’ve renamed it it to something else. You’ve moved from arguing that something is “logically necessary” to quibbling over which term you like more. Lame.

          And on and on and on. Again, lame. I see little reason to respond to anything else you write.

  7. Greg Says:

    Nope. In fact, there’s a further strawman here in that you neglect the following line about quantifiers.

    Greg: Quantifiers have nothing to do with my argument, you asked if they did, and I answered no.

    That makes your “buffoons on logic” comment particularly ironic.

    Greg: Yet you are saying something is what it is not. You are calling atheism by something that does not exist. A lack of belief is not anything at all, no such thing exists and you are saying this is what atheism is….. and I have a problem with logic? This is why I laugh at notters. One of the reasons anyway.

    You can’t even recognize your own commission of logical fallacies. Priceless.

    Greg: I didn’t make any and you haven’t shown one. You haven’t shown an inkling of knowing where to begin. I congratulated you on showing a false dichotomy, but it was not one I held to ever. I have never argued that someone must believe a god exists or believe a god does not exist. Your misunderstanding of Russells argument has led you to jump to conclusions that were never offered to you. You simply made them up.

    Greg earlier: “No actually, the argument relies on formal logic and what the word NOT means and how it is used. First identified in 1905 by Russell in On Denoting. You rely on the meaning of NOT as per the stone age when the Greek language was formed, rather a tad out of date.”

    Nope, and your continued insistence to the contrary won’t change that. You can keep beating your fists and stamping your fists on this all you want, but it won’t make it true.

    Greg: First off, that was my reply to the question of quantifiers, secondly your “nope” reply is in respect which of the 6 propositions does that offhand NOPE refer to? Yep! All of what I said above is true.
    1. the argument relies on formal logic (and set theory). Not is a term defined in propositional logic. NON is a term defined by set theory. We can say what something is not when it does not exist. Something that does not exist, is not X where X is anything. The present King of France is not anything. Saying so is not talking about the present King of France as there isn’t any such thing. The proposition “god does not exist” takes the same form, and does not say what god is. Atheists do not believe in a god, or lack belief or are without belief… all do the same thing and take the same form. You are saying X is not Y, is what X is, when it isn’t it is what X is not. Not Y is not anything, no matter what Y is. X is not Y, does not say what X is…. but your definition of atheism says it does. You are saying what an atheist does not do, what the atheist is not, what the atheist is without, what the atheist is lacking… is something. It is atheism right? Not believing? You misunderstand X is not Y to be saying what X is.

    Greg: “Not at all. I am pointing out that they fit your definition. I am pointing out that you’ve misunderstood words like asymmetrical, since atheism is not symmetrical and is not assymetrical either. There is the proof that your grasp of “other a words” is so messed up you needed to redfine them to cover for your misuderstanding of atheism. You’ve literally rewritten the dictionary to suit your needs. All I have done is show that you have.”

    Wow! Another strawman. What a surprise!

    Greg: Strawman arguments need to be shown and there was not one there for you to show. You have changed the meaning of broke to be “lacks money”, and when reminded that rocks lack money and are not broke you simply had a hissy fit. The present King of France has no money and is not broke. Clearly being broke does not mean what you say it does, you have rewritten the dictionary to suit your misunderstanding of atheism.

    Thanks for pointing out to me that things that have no possibility of being symmetrical shouldn’t be described as asymmetrical! Astounding!

    Greg: If you did not argue that the a in atheism works like the a in asymmetrical then I was wrong to raise that point to you. I am content with my point of you rewriting the dictionary to suit your needs as valid based on your usage of “broke”. As well, that atheism lacks symmetry and is not asymmterical, certainly does address the issue of a=without or lack, as your article professes. You can thank me later for introducing atheism to you as neither, so atheism is nonsymmetrical and nonasymmetrical. This is set theory, where NON gets used and NON requires the object exists, wheras NOT does not require the object exist (since you are not talking about it). eg: my blue pen is not red. The present King of France is not red. My blue pen is a member of the set of nonred things. The present King of France is not a member of the set of nonred things. Non is called a statement of idenity, it refers to something that must exist. Not does no such thing and lack, without, absent of, all use not.

    And, again, the irony of you accusing me of rewriting the dictionary is crushing.

    Greg: And unsubstantiated rhetoric is funny. Quite easy to put to bed when you know your topic.

    —-

    Yay! Strawmen are fun! And so is ignoring the entire substance of my first response to your comment! Yay!

    Greg: Fairytales will only take you so far dude…

    ——

    What is this? More strawmen? Impressive indeed! Editing my comment to make it appear as if I were talking about something else.

    Greg: No strawman. No edit either. Hallucinate much? I copy/pasted every single word you wrote with no need to edit anything. I have replied to your comments with reasons why you are wrong, examples that demonstrate it, and you’ve taken to acting like a zeolot who shuts out formal proof.

    Quite clever, that one. And you telling me to get an education…more irony! Hmmm, maybe I should start listing my CV…nah, that’s just pretentious.

    Greg: And not believable, certainly not on formal logic. It is true that atheists lack belief in a god, true about what atheists are not, do not do. What is not the case about atheists is not what is the case about atheists or atheism. Worse is you misunderstand theism to be a set when it isn’t, in order to establish atheism as a lack of belief in god. Theists are a set. Atheists are a set. They are not the compliment set to each other. Nontheists are those that do not believe in a god. Saying so does not tell you anything except that the nontheist exists. You know 1 thing about it, it exists and 1 thing it is not (which is true when it does not exist and is not about the member of the set). Nontheism does not exist, since theism is not a set. Your model requires atheism to be the compliment to theism, when theism is not a set to begin with. Nontheists are not atheists, they are those (exist) that do not believe (not about the nontheist).

    “No I am actually clarifying, and since you’ve taken to an insulting tone to my first reply you are simply having the same charity extended to yourself. If you want nice, be nice. Act like a goof and and you get the same in return. Charitable my ass.”

    Trolls get insulted.

    Greg: I am disagreeing with your claim of what atheism is. I have shown why and with reason, given reference to Bertrand Russells essay called On Denoting, and shown you examples from it. All the present King of France mentions I make are examples of Russells argument. The present King of France does not believe in a god is true. The present King of France is not an atheist. End of your definition dude. Rocks lack belief in a god and are not atheists, whoops for atheism being a lack of belief. The present King of France and rocks and animals and babies and atheists all do not believe in a god is true, just not about the present King of France, rocks, animals, babies or atheists. Get over it.

    “I never said any such thing. Strawman much?”

    The irony is suffocating. You can’t even recognize when the logical form of the issue genuinely is the same, unlike your nonsense claim above.

    Greg: You haven’t shown any fallacies by me at all. I find it’s those who shout fallacy all the time and never show them to exist are those that make the most. The cool part of arguing with those who make a lot of fallacies is in the argument in reply, not the accusation, the accusation never needs to be made… the argument reply counts. Just show the fallacy through explanation and for you I have done so. You simply made up that I would declare you must believe there is a god or believe there is no god, when I said no such thing and implied no such thing. That is a strawman. Wheras what you would like to call a strawman is taking your logic and applying it. All I have done is take your definition and apply it to other objects and it fails immediately and why you are wrong. Pointing that out is not a fallacy, it is communicating to you why you are wrong on what atheism is. You’ve stated a truth about what atheists are not and misunderstood NOT Y to ever be something itself.

    —-
    Truly astounding! You can’t even keep your own position straight.

    Greg: Dude. There is no variation in my argument. I have argued this same thing quite unchanged for over a dozen years. I do it very much with ease.

    Now you’re arguing that it’s possible to be what you’ve been screaming isn’t, only you’ve renamed it it to something else.

    Greg: Nope. I have said merely that if you lack belief in a god you are nontheist. That is not what you are, it is what you are not. You are merely showing your misunderstanding of not, again. I am not Jim. Not Jim is not what I am. Not Jim is not anything. No such thing exists. I am a member of the set of things not called Jim. In set theory we express nonred as nonredness, so in effect I am lacking in Jimness. Saying I am nonJimness, does not say what I am, it says only that I exist and I am NOT named Jim. Saying I am not Jim is true when I do not exist and is not talking about me. Bertrand Russell was the first to identify this about the logical operator NOT, whether you are aware of it or not. Saying I am a nontheist is true about what I am not, not true about what I am. You are merely making the same mistake that got you here to begin with.

    You’ve moved from arguing that something is “logically necessary” to quibbling over which term you like more. Lame.

    Greg: Nope. Again you seriously misunderstand how NOT is used and think X is not Y, says what X is. It says what X is not. Saying atheism is a lack of belief, is saying X is not Y, is what X is.

    And on and on and on. Again, lame. I see little reason to respond to anything else you write.

    Greg: No wonder, you can’t. You fabricate things I do not say, change definitions to suit your misunderstandings, avoid arguments given to you, hallucinated fallacies, brag without warrant, and violate logic like it simply does not get noticed by people who know better. There is no argument in support of atheism being a lack of belief that holds up to even the slightest tug. And no wonder dude, a lack of belief…. does not exist. Ironic considering atheisms sole concern is the existence of a god.

    And while I am at it, you referenced STRONG atheism, with the implication being there is WEAK atheism. This is a false dichotomy straight up. There is only atheism, not strong or weak atheism. If weak atheism applies to those that lack belief there is no god (completely ignoring why that is not the case as outlined above), then weak theism would be lacking belief there is no god. Thus if you lack belief there is no god, you would be a weak theist by your own definition.

    Learn to think for yourself. All I see is a wannabe who acts like a zeolot, who when confronted on his mistakes simply resorts to empty rhetoric punctuated by unwarranted insults. I am an atheist, you do not know what that is.

    • Jim Says:

      “Greg: Quantifiers have nothing to do with my argument, you asked if they did, and I answered no.”

      The point there, elementary as it is, is that you’re trying to take issue with the a lack of specifying that in order for something to be broke, it has to be the kind of thing for which lacking financial resources is a problem. But, actually, that was too kind to you. It wasn’t even that; it was a plain ol’ strawman (gasp!). I wrote, “Someone is broke when they lack money…” The “someone” there points to a person (since you wouldn’t refer to a rock as “someone”), hence you reply about rocks not being able to be broke is a strawman since I never suggested that anything other than persons could be broke.

      “Yet you are saying something is what it is not. You are calling atheism by something that does not exist. A lack of belief is not anything at all, no such thing exists and you are saying this is what atheism is….. and I have a problem with logic? This is why I laugh at notters. One of the reasons anyway.”

      A lack is a lack. Yes, you have a problem with simple everyday language. That’s why I’m laughing at you. That and the strawmen you love to build.

      “I didn’t make any and you haven’t shown one. You haven’t shown an inkling of knowing where to begin. I congratulated you on showing a false dichotomy, but it was not one I held to ever. I have never argued that someone must believe a god exists or believe a god does not exist. Your misunderstanding of Russells argument has led you to jump to conclusions that were never offered to you. You simply made them up.”

      I’ve pointed them out; you just can’t comprehend simple logic. I never said rocks could be either broke or atheists. The only kinds of things that anyone has ever suggested can be atheists are the kinds of things for which it is possible to be a theist. Like people. The fact that you want to accuse me of suggesting something different is the strawman. Atheism is a description of a beliefset in which the belief that gods exist is missing. It’s a description of the circumstances, the situation. I have already said this explicitly, but you ignored that, instead going about stuffing straw indiscriminately.

      And on and on. Yawn.

      • Greg Says:

        “is a description of a beliefset in which the belief that gods exist is missing.”

        LOL. Ya ok. A beliefset now eh? A missing belief is a belief. No wait it is a beliefset?

        I rest my case, you are clueless on logic, clueless on set theory, and clueless on atheism.

        • Jim Says:

          Wow, you really are an idiot.

          • Greg Says:

            I am an idiot eh? LOL! Yet you call atheism by something that does not exist. Yet you say atheism is a lack of belief, which is a belief set, which is a missing belief.

            I tell you what, you show me the object “missing X” and I’ll eat my words. Show me the missing 99th leg you have. Clown.

          • Jim Says:

            That you think your characterization of my position in any way resembles the actual position I’ve explained to you repeatedly in the simplest way I know clearly demonstrates your idiocy. There is clearly no discussion possible here.

  8. James Gray Says:

    I saw an interesting answer to the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” at Camels with Hammers: http://camelswithhammers.com/2010/07/01/6-basic-kinds-of-answers-to-the-question-why-is-there-something-rather-than-nothing/

  9. Clouser Says:

    I don’t really have an issue with agnostics (beyond the fact that each one that I met in college was just trying to act deep and conflicted so that people would want to sleep with them). I can even identify with them being offended by stuff Dawkins and Hitchens say about agnosticism.

    Still, as an atheist, I understand the frustration with the dumbassery exercised by so many agnostics. I know that you were too busy exposing the weakness of agnostic attacks on atheism to point this out, but it’s worth pointing out that agnosticism IS a philosophy for imbeciles because they haven’t bothered to think about whether theism is an adequate philosophy to be weighed against atheism.

    None of us know that there is no god, but that’s irrelevant (the invisible toaster analogy certainly comes to mind). Atheism is not the same as theism.

    As an atheist, I am willing to accept reasonable evidence for a deity’s existence. I am willing to become a theist, if evidence for deities materializes.

    Theists, on the other hand, filter evidence. They treat discoveries in any scientific field–the very discoveries that unveil reality’s indifference to human imaginings of divine involvement in nature–SO delusionally.

    Really, it’s a lot like OCD. People with OCD often imagine that their thoughts can affect reality in impossible ways. For example, they might imagine that if they think about someone dying, that person will actually die. Most suffererers benefit from confronting their fears (eg, being forced to think about a loved one dying over and over again, only to find that their thoughts had no effect). Some, however, will refuse to accept the therapy, coming up with all kinds of excuses for why their mental death threats didn’t work.

    Anyway, I really wonder why agnostics think that a stance based on reason should be considered equal to a stance based on being willfully ignorant in a way very similar to the (il)logical method employed by sufferers of severe OCD, who are uncontroversially considered to be batshit crazy.

    • James Gray Says:

      Not all agnostics have spent the time to know how reasonable their position is. To actually take a look at actual philosophical arguments for and against God is a pretty unusual activity for most people. I wouldn’t say they are idiots. They might not care. Life is short and even philosophers have better ways to use their time.

      • Clouser Says:

        Sure, and I should have addressed that.

        Regardless, when agnostics decide to write articles about how douchey atheists are, I have no qualms about really trashing their views.

        • James Gray Says:

          I agree that ignorant, pretentious arguments don’t deserve respect. That kind of talk should be in a casual conversation and not used as a political tool.

  10. Clouser Says:

    P.S. The reason that there is something rather than nothing is… because there fucking IS, dude!

  11. Stephen Wells Says:

    The thought occurs: isn’t agnosticism a very specific kind of conditional theism? It involves the assertion that, if any god or gods exist, they are of such a nature that we cannot know if they do or not. As such it’s inapplicable to any proposed god with any observable effect on the world.


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