All things are ready…

Posted by Anti Citizen One on November 15th, 2011

All things are ready if our minds be so.

Henry V, Shakespeare

The Logic of Theism/Atheism

Posted by Anti Citizen One on November 6th, 2011

On question that I find very interesting in debating the existence/non-existence of God is the question of falsifiability of both the theist and atheist positions. Falsifiability is one of the characteristic features of natural science, but it can be useful outside that domain. It is important on a practical level, because if a proposition can never be disproved by evidence, even on principle, it becomes hard to demonstrate the proposition with evidence (and is no longer a-posteriori knowledge). For instance 2+2=4 is not falsifiable, because it is a-priori logic and evidence does not come into consideration. Another example, the Earth orbits the Sun requires observations to find out the truth value of the proposition and cannot be deduced from pure logic. Any proposition that is contingent and also unfalsifiable is usually met with extreme scepticism from critical thinkers. See also: Russell’s teapot.

Atheists usually consider God as a contingent proposition. Briefly, atheism is someone who believes the logical truth value for theism is undecided/undecidable or false (or, alternately and more correctly, someone who doesn’t hold the truth value to be true). This makes logical consideration complicated by these compounded questions: “is there a god?” and “can we determine if there is a god?”. I have been asked “what evidence would make you believe in God?”. I actually had a hard time answering this to my satisfaction. This was frustrating, because I hold that falsifiability is necessary for a-posteriori knowledge. I need to consider if my belief that theism is undecided/undecidable is falsifiable.

These issues are complicated by theism doesn’t have a unified definition of God (or Gods). For every conception of God, it would be another opportunity of atheism to be falsified. For instance, Spinoza says (to paraphrase) God is nature. Well I accept nature exists, so am I a theist? Well I guess not, since Spinoza and I have different conceptions of “nature”. But a more simple fictional example might be “my tea mug is god”. My mug exists, as far as I can tell. Therefore atheism is false? However theism typically implies God has agency. Let us consider a fictional theistic system “my pet cat is god”. Now, my cat exists and has agency. Therefore atheism is false? Because this trivial example, although logically interesting and meets the narrow definition of theism, it doesn’t relate the current debate because the concept “theism” usually implies other attributes, not just agency and existence. Atheism, to be consistent with falsifiability, only applies to theistic systems that the atheist has encountered and considered. If theistic claims are limited to fairly mundane and testable attributes for God, atheism is very falsifiable.

To be continued… Update: continued here.

Acta Treaty

Posted by Anti Citizen One on November 1st, 2011