Does it matter if an Atheist doesn't fully understand evolution?
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18-11-2010, 07:18 AM
RE: Does it matter if an Atheist doesn't fully understand evolution?
I disagree with how you are defining atheism here but let's go with it for a minute.

So, what you seem to be saying is that to be an atheist, you have to learn about god and then reject him, and therefore it's a learned position. Is that about right? If so, then so what? The fact is that the default position is not to believe in god. And, this business about "choice" is pure nonsense.

Stealing from Sam Harris, assume the following scenario: a virus infects every man, woman and child on Earth at the same time and it's effect is to wipe out all memory and knowledge except language and the ability to read. So, one day humans find themselves in a world that they have no idea how to function in: we can't drive cars, cook food, know who are family is, etc. We can read and talk to each other but that's about it.

So, what are now our priorities? I'd imagine that we would first try to figure out who we are, where we live, etc. Then we'd try to figure out how to drive cars, operate power plants, etc.

At what point do you think we'd get around to religion? And, what religion would we be? Where I live you've got several churches of various denominations, and at least two synagogues - one reformed and one conservative. If you live in New York City you've got all that plus Mosques, Buddhists temples, etc. And, then you've got the ancient religions, so we could worship the Greek gods or the Roman gods or the Norse gods, etc. So, where do you suppose religion would fit into this scary new world of ours? Would it be before food, clothing and shelter? Would it be before we figured out how to operate power plants? Before cars and planes?

When would we study it? And, would we believe it? On the one hand we have science books that tell us all about the universe and we have data and evidence to support it. We've got all these cool things we've invented using science and, judging by history books, it has made our lives -- well maybe not better -- but certainly more convenient and more advanced. Then you have religion which is stuck in an era that ended before the advent of indoor plumbing. How many converts do you think religion is really going to get in that world?

And, if there is a god, then what does he do? Does he go quietly off into the sunset or does he reveal himself? If he does not reveal himself, does he damn everyone for not accepting him despite that fact that a) it's not their fault and b) he could probably fix the problem?

It is certainly impossible to answer these questions but we can certainly speculate. And, a reasonable speculation here is that religion would mostly fall by the wayside. I'm sure someone would read some of the texts and decide to follow it but my guess that is in places where the only resources available to them are these books. Any place where people had access to information and could see what the world has to offer, I think it's a pretty safe bet how people are going to go and it's not towards religion.

Now, as for the question of what god does in this scenario, obviously no one can answer that. Perhaps I'm wrong, there is a god, and this is about the time that he shows up to show everyone he exists and they have to include him. I seriously doubt that, though.

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18-11-2010, 09:19 AM
RE: Does it matter if an Atheist doesn't fully understand evolution?
Hey, Bnw.

What you've said (outside of the first 6 sentences) has nothing to do with anything. It's actually kind of baffling.

My point is simple. To say that Atheism is the default position is ludicrous. Not knowing anythyng is the default position. We're Atoiletists, Aforketists and Agendrerolletists at birth. We're Aeverythingists at birth. This notion that the fact that we don't know about God when we're born is somehow significant is a childish argument. True in the sense that infants are certainly not-Theists, but absurdly meaningless.

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Matt
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18-11-2010, 11:11 AM
RE: Does it matter if an Atheist doesn't fully understand evolution?
Ghost,

I agree with your point that we are ignorant at birth. No doubt about that. I just disagree with your point that all atheists are taught not to believe in god(s). I've never believed in a god; I was never taught one way or the other. Once I learned what "atheism" was, I then started identifying myself that way. Did that change my unbelief? No.

Just because I explored other possibilities, and confirmed for myself that atheism was the best option, doesn't mean that I was a believer and then became an atheist. It just means that I searched to make sure that my unbelief was the only option for me.

Sorry if I wasn't clear before ^.^

"Remember, my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker." - Dr. Van Helsing, Dracula
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20-11-2010, 12:39 AM
RE: Does it matter if an Atheist doesn't fully understand evolution?
Hey, Secular Student.

Quote:I just disagree with your point that all atheists are taught not to believe in god(s).

That's a reasonable point.

My issue is that Atheists cannot self-identify without having a relationship with God; one of disbelief. I can't know that I'm not a Theist without knowing what a Theist is (or at the very least that Theism and/or Theists exist). So while I might exist as an Atheist, say, being taught a scientific worldview that simply doesn't include God(s), Atheism would be meaningless to me. Atheism is a reactionary position with no meaning without the contextual relationship with the thing it is in reaction to.

To just expand on what I've said, I can say we're all Atoiletists at birth. Toilet use has to be taught to us. Atoiletism is the default position and I wouldn't know anything about toilets unless someone taught me about them. The idea that the fact we're born Atoiletists has bearing on the debate of using or not using toilets is just gobbledigook to me.

The idea that the fact we're born without any constructs in our minds has bearing on what constructs we learn is just gobbledigook to me. Like, it's trying to score cheap points but ultimately irrelevant. We're born Ascientists. I don't see the relevance of that to anything.

So while all newborns are certainly not-Theists, to take the position that being born Atheists is somehow a meaningful support of Atheism, to me, is ridiculous. And yes, I have certainly heard Atheists take that position, which is why I mentioned it in the first place. So yeah, it's true, we're born Atheists. But what does that have to do with anything? Does saying, "it's the default position," have any meaning?

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Matt
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20-11-2010, 02:36 PM
RE: Does it matter if an Atheist doesn't fully understand evolution?
(20-11-2010 12:39 AM)Ghost Wrote:  My issue is that Atheists cannot self-identify without having a relationship with God; one of disbelief. I can't know that I'm not a Theist without knowing what a Theist is (or at the very least that Theism and/or Theists exist). So while I might exist as an Atheist, say, being taught a scientific worldview that simply doesn't include God(s), Atheism would be meaningless to me. Atheism is a reactionary position with no meaning without the contextual relationship with the thing it is in reaction to.

I agree.

(20-11-2010 12:39 AM)Ghost Wrote:  So while all newborns are certainly not-Theists, to take the position that being born Atheists is somehow a meaningful support of Atheism, to me, is ridiculous. And yes, I have certainly heard Atheists take that position, which is why I mentioned it in the first place. So yeah, it's true, we're born Atheists. But what does that have to do with anything? Does saying, "it's the default position," have any meaning?

I think it does have meaning to an extent. More and more parents are raising their children in neutral, secular environments. Does this mean that their children are going to consider themselves atheists? Some might, but most probably won't bother. That doesn't diminish the fact that many of them won't believe in a deity. If this trend continues, then there will be a growing population of people who aren't theists (or, to use your term "not-theists"), which, I believe, will be a positive thing.

"Remember, my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker." - Dr. Van Helsing, Dracula
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20-11-2010, 03:03 PM
 
RE: Does it matter if an Atheist doesn't fully understand evolution?
no you dont have to understand evolution to be an atheist.

but it's a good idea to have a basic grasp of the concept for several reason. the foremost being that the overall idea of the process is generally efficient at improving things and can be applied in more areas than just science.

personally speaking my studies of biology have influenced my belief system, not because evolution refutes god or anything like that but because Ive taken the framework of evolution and applied it to my beliefs. functional ideas are kept and non functional ideas are discarded. different ideas are combined to create new ideas that are subject to the form of selection that my life and studies offer. i think that follows for most thinking individuals...i just happen to do it consciously.
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22-11-2010, 03:18 PM
 
RE: Does it matter if an Atheist doesn't fully understand evolution?
I agree with Ghost. Ignorance is the default position, as it should be. The problem is, that ignorance is often exploited by the introduction of religion when it is most believable (when you are ignorant). Thus, once humans pass out of the phase of ignorance, they often exist with religion as the default position, and they then use the deductive method to explain away everything else as simply a product of the initial assumption of the existence of God, even though this assumption has absolutely 0 evidence. But that doesn't matter to people if they were introduced to the initial premise of God in the ignorance phase, before they bothered with evidence.

Doubting everything, or at least not having any knowledge, is the way to begin discovery. The problem is, the one point where we are the most clueless is also the point in our lives when we are least able to use that ignorance as a starting point for discovery (our childhood).
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22-11-2010, 09:20 PM
RE: Does it matter if an Atheist doesn't fully understand evolution?
I don't think it takes much to understand.

Every life is slightly different, and over millions of years a species will become another species because the slight differences add up.

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23-11-2010, 09:37 AM
RE: Does it matter if an Atheist doesn't fully understand evolution?
Quote:I agree with Ghost. Ignorance is the default position, as it should be.

I think this misses a point, though.

Ghost has made the argument that we are born ignorant of all things and must be taught, so why would religion be different. Ok, that's a fair starting point. However, some of his examples are not, in my opinion, fair to compare with belief in God. Take, for example, the use of the toilet. Here is the problem that I find with this: irrespective of whether or not people are born knowing how to use modern plumbing, they are born with the ability to remove waste from their bodies. Any parent will tell you that babies, as soon as they are born, no how to poop. It is inherent in all living beings that they can remove waste from their systems. The toilet is just something man invented much, much later to deal with the waste but its the removal of the waste that is the real issue here and we are not born ignorant of how to do that.

Now, if man was created by an all knowing, all seeing God, wouldn't it stand to reason that we would be born with the inherent ability to recognize Him as our creator? Forget the religious window dressings that man has created as those are clearly man made constructs. But, wouldn't that being create us with the innate ability to recognize him without question? In mammals babies will be able to find their mothers and bond with them. It's a survival instinct. Wouldn't it make sense that we could recognize our own creator?

Obviously, a creation that is given free will would later be able to reject their creator, and maybe even chose disbelief, the same as a teenage will often reject their parents (until they really need them). But, if we are all created by God, how can not having an innate belief in God not be the default position? How does that make any sense at all?

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23-11-2010, 11:20 AM
RE: Does it matter if an Atheist doesn't fully understand evolution?
Something observed in humans is the propensity to develop some spiritual understanding. Those with an agenda call this the God spot.
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