When would skepticism NOT be reasonable?
“Well, when would skepticism NOT be reasonable is when you have a confirmed fact.”
I am a rationalist atheist and am only skeptic if it is warranted and reasonable to do so and it is not always reasonable. So I don’t put the same believed value in skepticism that skeptic atheists insist it has. However, I don’t at all see where there would be that much different between Skepticism and atheism to have many issues unless the atheism is religious leaning or fully religious atheism or the skepticism is religious pseudo-skepticism (denialism) or solipsism skepticism.
“Denialism is the refusal to accept well-established theory, law, fact or evidence. In scientific contexts, the denialist can deny a cause (carbon dioxide does not cause global warming), an effect (the Earth is not warming), the association between the two (CO2 levels are rising and the Earth is warming, but not because of the carbon dioxide), the direction of the cause-and-effect relationship (carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing because the earth is warming) or the identification of the cause-and-effect relationship (other factors than greenhouse gases are causing the Earth to warm). Often denialists practice minimization (the Earth is warming, but it’s not harmful) and use misplaced skepticism to give an unwarranted veneer of scientific thinking. Major scientific targets of denialism include evolution, global warming, the link between HIV and AIDS, the link between smoking and lung cancer, and evidence that there is no correlation between vaccination and autism. Often self-interest is the motivation behind denialism, hence arguments are often politicised or financially motivated. For example, tobacco companies denied the smoking-lung cancer link (even though they were well-aware of it for decades) as it would have hurt their profits, and Andrew Wakefield had a strong conflict of interest in ensuring people didn’t take established and effective vaccines. Similarly, global warming denialists tend to oppose the solutions that are needed to address the problem (see the logical fallacy of argument from adverse consequences) and are supported by energy conglomerates and others who could lose financially from reductions in fossil fuel use. Because of financial incentive, denialism can take the form of the accounting known as deferred financing cost, i.e., someone else will pay for the costs while the company/denier takes the profits — a future generation, a different stockholder, the government, or an innocent bystander.” Ref
Almost all rationalists are atheists or agnostics. There has been a long link between rationalism and the scientific method. There is also a long tradition of philosophers who have approached philosophical and ethical questions from a rationalist perspective. Bertrand Russell’s “The Faith of a Rationalist” is an example of a rationalist approach to religious belief. Rationalism is an approach to life based on reason and evidence. Rationalism encourages ethical and philosophical ideas that can be tested by experience and rejects authority that cannot be proved by experience. Because rationalism encourages people to think for themselves, rationalists have many different and diverse ideas and continue in a tradition from the nineteenth century known as freethought. However, most rationalists would agree. There is no evidence for any arbitrary supernatural authority e.g. God or Gods. The best explanation so far for why the natural world looks the way it does is the theory of evolution first put forward by Charles Darwin. All human beings should have fundamental rights. Some rationalists and humanists go further and argue that animals should also have rights as they are living, sensate beings. Society is should be an “open society”, where each individual is able to live “freely and equally practice their chosen life stance, and in which human potential is realized to the benefit of the individual and the community at large.” (Levi Fragell, President of International Humanist and Ethical Union, 2001) As well as approaching life through reason, rationalists enjoy those things in life where emotion and imagination are to the fore. Rationalist atheists wish to follow and inspire in others a desire or value in or for epistemology, axiology, and rationality. Rationalist atheists want to strive for a corresponding and coherent value assessment along with an epistemological rationally, rational epistemology, as well as an accurate or at least a methodological rationally connecting to an epistemic value of the epistemology state of things or ideas. Rationalist atheists want to know what is it to be Rational? To be “rational” is generally considered to mean employing logical consistency and deriving appropriate conclusions from acceptable assumptions. Epistemic value is a kind of value which attaches to cognitive successes such as true beliefs, justified beliefs, knowledge, and understanding. These kinds of cognitive success do of course often have practical value. True beliefs about local geography help us get to work on time; knowledge of mechanics allows us to build vehicles; understanding of general annual weather patterns helps us to plant our fields at the right time of year to ensure a good harvest. By contrast, false beliefs about the existence of weapons of mass destruction can lead nations to fight hugely expensive wars that are ultimately both destructive and useless. It is fairly uncontroversial that we tend to care about having various cognitive or epistemic goods, at least for their practical value, and perhaps also for their own sakes as cognitive successes. There is not just one type of rationalism or use of rationally. Epistemic rationality: believing, and updating on evidence, so as to systematically improve the correspondence between your map and the territory. The art of obtaining beliefs that correspond to reality as closely as possible. This correspondence is commonly termed “truth” or “accuracy”, and we’re happy to call it that. Instrumental rationality: achieving your values. Not necessarily “your values” in the sense of being selfish values or unshared values: “your values” means anything you care about. The art of choosing actions that steer the future toward outcomes ranked higher in your preferences. On LW we sometimes refer to this as “winning”. 1 2 3
Here is my take on Skeptical atheism: takes on fundamental religious claims directly, claiming religious tradition need skeptical investigations and without external proof the only thinking is atheism. Skeptical atheism feels skepticism towards the paranormal claims, astrology, and psychic healers should go hand in hand with skepticism towards the claim that gods exist, religious and holy claims are true are often treated separately but skeptical atheism asserts that they should not be because both criticisms generally stem from a common commitment to a naturalistic and materialistic view of the universe rejecting the paranormal, supernatural, and magical thinking. This atheism arises in the context of total evidence skepticism and so (given my particular way of developing that skepticism) with an awareness of human immaturity in scientific time. The seeming paradoxicality of this idea is erased when we notice that total evidence skepticism may be accepted for the purposes of deeper inquiry and so along with the aim to make what progress we can, even at our relatively primitive stage of development, by reference to (among other things) what seems to us most obviously true. The Skeptical atheist will think their own position may represent such progress. Nevertheless, skepticism still marks the larger context in which they operate. Ref
“Damien, you lost me way back there coming round the pass. I’m not familiar with the term “skeptical atheism.” Nonetheless, I’m sure I could conceive of something of that nature, although it would be merging two quite different notions (once again, skepticism is a method and atheism is a conclusion one might arrive at through such a method). Sadly, there are some noteworthy atheists who fail to grasp the fundamentals of skepticism (Bill Maher comes immediately to mind). The irony is that they (as do most people) insist that they are able to think critically and do appreciate critical thinking. We fall back on the use of this term (CT) instead of skepticism, because to most people the latter term is synonymous with cynicism and negative notions. Skepticism is a methodology. Atheism is a conclusion (a specific and limited one).” – Commenter
My response, well, yes atheism is a conclusion, meaning that a process came before thus there are many ways to reach and support the conclusion of atheism and critical-thinking is a form of rationalism but critical-thinking is not skepticism. Just read the definition of Critical Thinking from the Foundation for Critical Thinking: “Critical thinking…the awakening of the intellect to the study of itself. Critical thinking is a rich concept that has been developing throughout the past 2500 years. The term “critical thinking” has its roots in the mid-late 20th century. We offer here overlapping definitions, together which form a substantive, transdisciplinary conception of critical thinking. Critical Thinking as Defined by the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, 1987. A statement by Michael Scriven & Richard Paul, presented at the 8th Annual International Conference on Critical Thinking and Education Reform, Summer 1987. Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness. It entails the examination of those structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue; assumptions; concepts; empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from alternative viewpoints; and frame of reference. Critical thinking — in being responsive to variable subject matter, issues, and purposes — is incorporated in a family of interwoven modes of thinking, among them: scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, and philosophical thinking. Critical thinking can be seen as having two components: 1) a set of information and belief generating and processing skills, and 2) the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior. It is thus to be contrasted with: 1) the mere acquisition and retention of information alone, because it involves a particular way in which information is sought and treated; 2) the mere possession of a set of skills, because it involves the continual use of them; and 3) the mere use of those skills (“as an exercise”) without acceptance of their results. Critical thinking varies according to the motivation underlying it. When grounded in selfish motives, it is often manifested in the skillful manipulation of ideas in service of one’s own, or one’s groups’, vested interest. As such it is typically intellectually flawed, however pragmatically successful it might be. When grounded in fairmindedness and intellectual integrity, it is typically of a higher order intellectually, though subject to the charge of “idealism” by those habituated to its selfish use. Critical thinking of any kind is never universal in any individual; everyone is subject to episodes of undisciplined or irrational thought. Its quality is therefore typically a matter of degree and dependent on, among other things, the quality and depth of experience in a given domain of thinking or with respect to a particular class of questions. No one is a critical thinker through-and-through, but only to such-and-such a degree, with such-and-such insights and blind spots, subject to such-and-such tendencies towards self-delusion. For this reason, the development of critical thinking skills and dispositions is a life-long endeavor.” Ref
Here is my list of non-theistic and theistic assumptions:
- Weakest implicit Nontheistic/Atheism “negative” / “weak” / “soft” nonbelief similar to Nontheism
- Strong implicit Atheism “negative” / “weak” / “soft” nonbelief similar to Apatheist Atheism.
- Weak Explicit Atheism “negative” / “weak” / “soft” atheists similar to Agnostic Atheism.
- Strong Explicit Atheism “negative” / “weak” / “soft” atheists similar to Ignostic Atheism.
- Strongest Explicit Atheism “positive” / “strong” / “hard” atheists similar to Antitheist Atheism.
- Weakest implicit Theistic thinking/Theism “negative” / “weak” / “soft” belief similar to Somethingism(Ietsism)/Vague Theism
- Weak implicit Theism “negative” / “weak” / “soft” belief similar to apatheist theists.
- Weak Explicit Theism “negative” / “weak” / “soft” theists similar to agnostic theism.
- Strong Explicit Theism “positive” / “strong” / “hard” theists similar to standard theism.
- Strongest Explicit Theism “positive” / “strong” / “hard” theists similar to Gnostic theism.
According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and its Authors, “the term “atheist” describes a person who does not believe that God or a divine being exists. Worldwide there may be as many as a billion atheists, although social stigma, political pressure, and intolerance make accurate polling difficult.
For the most part, atheists have presumed that the most reasonable conclusions are the ones that have the best evidential support. And they have argued that the evidence in favor of God’s existence is too weak, or the arguments in favor of concluding there is no God are more compelling. Traditionally the arguments for God’s existence have fallen into several families: ontological, teleological, and cosmological arguments, miracles, and prudential justifications. For detailed discussion of those arguments and the major challenges to them that have motivated the atheist conclusion, the reader is encouraged to consult the other relevant sections of the encyclopedia. Arguments for the non-existence of God are deductive or inductive. Deductive arguments for the non-existence of God are either single or multiple property disproofs that allege that there are logical or conceptual problems with one or several properties that are essential to any being worthy of the title “God.” Inductive arguments typically present empirical evidence that is employed to argue that God’s existence is improbable or unreasonable. Briefly stated, the main arguments are: God’s non-existence is analogous to the non-existence of Santa Claus. The existence of widespread human and non-human suffering is incompatible with an all powerful, all knowing, all good being. Discoveries about the origins and nature of the universe, and about the evolution of life on Earth make the God hypothesis an unlikely explanation. Widespread non-belief and the lack of compelling evidence show that a God who seeks belief in humans does not exist. Broad considerations from science that support naturalism, or the view that all and only physical entities and causes exist, have also led many to the atheism conclusion.” ref
Ignostic atheism: ignosticism is similar to agnosticism, but where agnosticism is the claim that you can’t know something (god), ignosticism is the claim that, if the definition of something (god) is incoherent, then it can’t be meaningfully discussed, and if the definition of something (god) is unfalsifiable, then it has no meaning. Ignosticism or igtheism is the idea that every theological position assumes too much about the concept of God and other theological concepts. Ignosticism could possibly be one of the best argument against god concepts ever as it sees all efforts surrounding existence of a God concept semantically twisting the definition of God to mean that which is incomprehensible. If God is incoherent then the experiences believers attribute to God are by extension unintelligible and therefore meaningless. In which case you void any and all purported experiences of God because you couldn’t comprehend them. Ignostic atheism holds two interrelated views about to reject all God concepts. They are as follows: 1) The view that a coherent definition of God must be presented before the question of the existence of god can be meaningfully discussed. 2) If the definition provided is unfalsifiable, the Ignostic atheist takes the theological noncognitivist position that the question of the existence of a God concept is rendered meaningless thus must stay refuted. As with any topic, and especially in the realm of the supernatural and woo, the subject of any debate should be coherently defined. If one offers a clear definition of an entity, then in order to take a position whether it exists or not the definition of the entity must be one in which its existence can be falsified (there is a rational and logical method by which we can test the existence of the subject as it has been defined). Few theists ever offer a clear definition of God. The few who do offer a definition almost never offer one in which the existence of that God could be tested. The rare falsifiable definition offered regarding God’s existence is easily falsified. And so as with any subject (such as the existence of almost all supernatural entities) debate about the existence of God is, for the far majority of such conversations, pointless. 1 2 3
I am an Axiological Atheist:
Axiological Atheism can be thought to involve ethical/value theory reasoned and moral argument driven apatheism, ignosticism, atheism, anti-theism, anti-religionism, secularism, and humanism.
“An Axiological Atheist,” can be understood as a value theory or value science Atheist.”
As such axiological atheism’s ethical reasoning is constructive and pro-humanity. We who believe we are thinking rational, leading to opposition or hate of religion may that be limited to the nonfactual or oppressive ideology and not the people. Beyond just not being something lets be something, rational thinking should challenge myths but also prove our love for humanity and care for all living beings.