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Humanism:

 51 Fighteer, Tue, 6th Dec '11 9:55:38 PM from the Time Vortex Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
@feotakahari: Well, the human brain is definitely wired in such a way that religion — or more properly, superstition — is something that comes to it naturally. It's our pattern recognition software running wild and making associations that aren't factually present. You're right that it may require transhumanism to remove, but rationalism proposes the idea that we can at least work to inoculate people against it.

@USAF: My opinion in the matter is that there's no need for disproof of something for which there's no proof in the first place. Religion is tricky that way; you're asking me to prove a negative, which is impossible. Of course I can't know that there isn't a God, but I can't know that there is one, either, and when faced with two competing theories in that manner, I'm going to choose the one that requires less unprovable assertions.

However, ultimately I consider the question irrelevant. Unless God chooses to unequivocally prove His existence, I refuse to base any part of my life on assumptions regarding what He does or does not want, especially when said assumptions are being handed down through nothing more than glorified Appeal To Tradition. Whenever anyone makes an argument related to or based in faith, I mentally filter out all of the unprovables. What's left is rarely cogent when standing on its own.

edited 6th Dec '11 9:58:21 PM by Fighteer

Ironically, the pursuit of the definition of happiness does not appear to be a happiness-maximizing behavior.
 52 USAF713, Tue, 6th Dec '11 10:00:31 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
My opinion in the matter is that there's no need for disproof of something for which there's no proof in the first place. Religion is tricky that way; you're asking me to prove a negative, which is impossible. Of course I can't know that there isn't a God, but I can't know that there is one, either, and when faced with two competing theories in that manner, I'm going to choose the one that requires less unprovable assertions.

Well, that would be soft agnostic atheism. You acknowledge that you can't personally prove your disbelief in any god, but that you subscribe to it anyhow because that's how the logic follows for you.

I take the opposite approach. I believe there is something. What it is, what its character is, what form it may take, whether or not it is intelligent in any meaningful, understandable capacity, and whether it has any direct impact on our lives—or whether or not it is a plural or singular—are not things I can personally attest to nor care to think about.

edited 6th Dec '11 10:01:42 PM by USAF713

I am now known as Flyboy.
 53 Erock, Wed, 7th Dec '11 5:49:03 AM from Toronto
Proud Canadian
@Lawyer: True, I didn't really make it easier for you.

I agree with almost all of humanist ideals, especially secular humanism. SO I think that's my thing.
If you don't like a single Frank Ocean song, you have no soul.
 54 Fighteer, Wed, 7th Dec '11 7:01:10 AM from the Time Vortex Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
You acknowledge that you can't personally prove your disbelief in any god
Clarification: I deny that there is anything to disprove in the first place. You can assert that there's an invisible pink dragon in your garage, but I'm not even going to give you the benefit of my disbelief unless you offer something tangible as evidence. I'm just going to ignore you and file you under "crazy" in my personal sorting algorithm.

We had a conspiracy theorist posting here a little while back; I thumped and locked him and told him to stop it via PM. His reply to me was to demand that I offer counterproof of his assertions. Logic does not work that way.

Edit: Relating this back to the topic, I think that any assertion that some force beyond our perception dictates our morality is disempowering at a fundamental level, because it devalues the uniquely human capability to determine for ourselves what our purpose should be.

edited 7th Dec '11 7:20:07 AM by Fighteer

Ironically, the pursuit of the definition of happiness does not appear to be a happiness-maximizing behavior.
 55 Lawyerdude, Wed, 7th Dec '11 7:33:29 AM from my secret moon base
Citizen
Arguing with conspiracy theorists is a waste of time and energy. They reach a conclusion and then only look at the "evidence" that supports that conclusion. They reason backwards.

As far as proving one's disbelief in a god or gods, it is a fallacy to suggest that it's the person saying that they don't believe in a god bears the burden of proof as to its nonexistence. Do they believe that everything they hear is true unless they can prove otherwise? Nobody lives like that. Nobody could live like that.

So a person may believe in a god. I don't. I have no reason to adopt your belief if you can't show me some hard, convincing evidence. And you have no business telling me what this god I don't believe in wants of me unless you can prove it.

On the other hand, I believe that intelligent life exists outside our solar system. I can explain my reasons for that belief, but I have no proof, and I have no business telling anybody else that they should share my belief in extraterrestrial intelligence. Perhaps someday our technology will advance to the point where we do find other people out there, and at that point we will have proof.

edited 7th Dec '11 7:39:16 AM by Lawyerdude

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.
 56 Fighteer, Wed, 7th Dec '11 7:39:04 AM from the Time Vortex Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
[up] It's called Shifting The Burden Of Proof.

As for intelligent extraterrestrial life, I acknowledge the distinct likelihood, but the specifics are, at this point, unknowable. There is a very good rationale, however; given our own existence, it is self-evident that intelligent life can arise. Therefore, given a big enough universe, even the tiniest probability has a near 100% chance of occurring somewhere else at some point in time.

The problem, then, is determining that probability, which we can only guess at. Interstellar distances being what they are, even as much as a 1 in 100 chance would mean that we'd probably never encounter another intelligent species within the lifetime of our own. (Bear in mind that we're not only separated by distance, but by time. We could have missed our neighbor race by a million years as easily as 100 light years.) We can certainly try, though.

edited 7th Dec '11 7:40:44 AM by Fighteer

Ironically, the pursuit of the definition of happiness does not appear to be a happiness-maximizing behavior.
 57 Lawyerdude, Wed, 7th Dec '11 7:59:28 AM from my secret moon base
Citizen
Precisely. A belief in a god is like any other unprovable belief. People will believe whatever they want. But to structure your life around something for which you have no proof is irrational and wasteful. And then to tell people that they are wrong for not believing your unprovable claims is sheer arrogance.

Humanism, on the other hand, says that we should examine people as they are and try to reach solutions based on what is good for us human beings, not based on what some people may say about some hypothetical supernatural being. Of course it would also be illogical to disregard the fact that people can and do believe in the supernatural, so the fact that they do should also be taken into account. After all, people don't change strongly-held beliefs on a whim.
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.
 58 Fighteer, Wed, 7th Dec '11 8:32:15 AM from the Time Vortex Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
Religion actually does have an interesting role in human societies, one I've thought long and hard about (with a bit of help from Neal Stephenson, admittedly). Religion is a channel for rapid and efficient propagation of memes.

People naturally resist new information. Therefore, it's a struggle to get a population to adopt viable survival strategies in the face of established tradition that says otherwise. Take food sanitation for example. Early humans observed that eating pork had a higher chance than other meats to cause sickness. Since germ theory and genetic theory had yet to be invented, they had no way to understand that the reason for this is that the genetic similarity between pig and human allows for easy disease transmission. They needed a way to get people to stop eating pork, but nobody would do it just because they said so.

Enter religion. Insert "Because God(s) said ..." in front of any statement, and you automatically bypass the mental defenses of a properly conditioned population. Further, labeling it as "God's will" reduces the Chinese whispers problem — the risk of information loss in transfer — because people have a strong motivation (being called a blasphemer) to transmit the memes verbatim — especially in the millennia before reading became commonplace.

In short, religion is an extraordinarily successful (by evolutionary standards) means of transmitting cultural memes. It's no wonder it's stuck around so fervently. It also, unfortunately, is a correspondingly successful tool of political control, and by its nature it propagates harmful memes as readily as beneficial ones. People with the religion virus are susceptible to any idea, good or bad, that is framed in the context of their existing beliefs.


Edit: I crossposted this here as I suspect it may be more relevant.

edited 7th Dec '11 8:48:26 AM by Fighteer

Ironically, the pursuit of the definition of happiness does not appear to be a happiness-maximizing behavior.
 59 Lawyerdude, Wed, 7th Dec '11 9:10:39 AM from my secret moon base
Citizen
I recall reading about religion as a tool for meme propagation in Snow Crash. Taking the metaphor further, ancient communities would also exile those who adopted differing beliefs, as though the person had become infected and they were performing a form of religious quarantine.

I also remember reading an essay by (I think) Richard Dawkins about the evolutionary causes of religion. Basically he saw religion as a byproduct of our ancestors' children need to quickly and readily believe whatever an authority figure told them. Your parents say, "Don't go into that river, it's full of crocodiles, " and you as a child obey. The children who refused to obey got eaten.

Anyway, going off of the idea of meme delivery, perhaps humanists should come up with their own stories, fables and nursery rhymes in order to propagate humanist values and properly inoculate their young.
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.
 60 Fighteer, Wed, 7th Dec '11 9:34:43 AM from the Time Vortex Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
Yep, that little diatribe is adopted almost entirely from Snow Crash, with some bits of Less Wrong thrown in. cool

edited 7th Dec '11 9:35:00 AM by Fighteer

Ironically, the pursuit of the definition of happiness does not appear to be a happiness-maximizing behavior.
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