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← IQ2 debate on "Atheists are wrong" - the results (Lions defeat Christians)

IQ2 debate on "Atheists are wrong" - the results (Lions defeat Christians) - Comments

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 1 by Russell Blackford

Intelligence Squared has since published figures on its site that are slightly different from the ones it tweeted, which I used in the linked post.

On the published figures, the number for the motion actually dropped marginally after the debate rather than going up marginally. The number against the motion that "Atheists are wrong" rose by 10 per cent. The undecideds dwindled to 6 per cent.

Just saying, as an update. Obviously there are different ways to spin this. Still, however you look at it, and for whatever value these debates have, the atheist side won this one quite decisively.

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 01:07:40 UTC | #871367

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 2 by Zeuglodon

Pre-debate: 28.5% for the motion, 56% against, 15.5% undecided. Post-debate: 28.9% for, 66.3% against, 5.7% undecided.

Well, even if the second lot totals 100.9%, assuming they're approximate, then it seems the power of persuasion has changed a fair few "don't knows" to "nos". That's an encouraging sign that people can change their minds on the issue.

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 01:07:55 UTC | #871369

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 3 by Neodarwinian

If it were only as easy as debating!

Then we could debate on a binding motion. Whether the pope should, or should not face the international court in the Hague for his crimes against humanity. Or something else in that in that vein.

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 01:51:05 UTC | #871373

raytoman's Avatar Comment 4 by raytoman

Wonderful news! Great to know that we now have another 13 Atheists.

That makes it 75,000,013 Atheists to 6,924,999,987 Religious people!

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 02:20:53 UTC | #871376

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 5 by Zeuglodon

Comment 4 by raytoman

Roughly speaking, it was an increase of 10% thanks to those changing their minds in favour of atheism. That's 10% of the "1200 people assembled in the City Recital Hall, Angel Place", which is 120. You were out by 107. And where did you get those figures from?

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 02:58:40 UTC | #871386

Sci Fi's Avatar Comment 6 by Sci Fi

PZ Myers has tagged an 'article' by Scott Stephens, post debate.

Apart from the nauseating tinge of 'sore loser', Stephens' piece is a ridiculous series of ad homs and straw men.

It is startling in it's arrogant presumption that he knows the group atheist mind!

In Australia, we call this a "dummy spit". Childish and ignorant.

Quel suprise.....

Last I heard, Stephens had been admitted to hospital with multiple bullet wounds to his feet.

(You really should check his article out!)

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 03:18:10 UTC | #871392

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 7 by Steve Zara

I'm glad to see Russell becoming involved in such debates. I have long admired his calm and reasoned approach to these matters. It clearly proved effective here.

However...

I don't claim to have proved, once and for all, that no gods exist. No high-profile atheist makes that claim - not Richard Dawkins, not Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris - and neither, generally, do philosophical atheists in universities. Atheists don't usually make such an overweening claim.

I do feel I have to defend the "no gods exist" position! I know it is not widespread, but I also know I'm not alone in having that hard atheist position. Whether or not gods can exist depends on the definitions of the term, and I think it's not unreasonable to insist that the supernatural avatars of aspects of Nature (which includes the Abrahamic God) are truly impossible beings, even if only because their invention was at a time when Nature was thought to be very different from what we understand it to be today. Such gods are not just beyond evidence, but beyond reason and beyond possibility.

It may require some effort, but I do hope we can arrive at a point where the hard atheist position isn't considered "overwheening", but one of many respectable opinions about the nature of reality!

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 04:23:39 UTC | #871401

xsjadolateralus's Avatar Comment 8 by xsjadolateralus

Right there with ya, Steve. Nice comment.

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 04:38:45 UTC | #871405

mmurray's Avatar Comment 9 by mmurray

The Scott Stephen's article is

http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2011/09/13/3316962.htm

Dummy spit is a good description (dummy - baby's pacifier for you north americans).

Interestingly though it seems to concentrate on trying to argue that we need to believe in god to maintain morality. I take this to indicate that he has given up trying to prove god exists and is arguing that we need to lie for social cohesion.

Michael

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 06:34:37 UTC | #871416

mmurray's Avatar Comment 10 by mmurray

However, beyond rhetorical skirmishes, in the end, just one fundamental question must be answered: does God exist? Given what is at stake, there can be no more important question.

As Blaise Pascal famously argued, if you are a rational punter, then you would bet on God's existence. If you're proved wrong then there's nothing lost. However, if you bet against the existence of God, and are wrong, then you risk eternal perdition!

If you are worrying about Pascal's wager surely the important argument isn't does God exist but which God exists. There is no point in swearing off contraception and meat on Fridays to get to the end of your life and discover you should have been praying 5 times a day and beating your wife.

Michael

Fri, 16 Sep 2011 06:38:12 UTC | #871417

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 11 by Barry Pearson

Comment 7 by Steve Zara :

I do feel I have to defend the "no gods exist" position! I know it is not widespread, but I also know I'm not alone in having that hard atheist position. Whether or not gods can exist depends on the definitions of the term, and I think it's not unreasonable to insist that the supernatural avatars of aspects of Nature (which includes the Abrahamic God) are truly impossible beings, even if only because their invention was at a time when Nature was thought to be very different from what we understand it to be today. Such gods are not just beyond evidence, but beyond reason and beyond possibility.

For those reasons, I adopt a more positive position which pretty well leaves gods out of the equation, as being irrelevant once their obvious idiocies are filtered out:

  • I believe that the universe operates solely via unintelligent forces and processes.

  • I believe that religions are man-made, without divine input.

  • I believe that when you pray, you are talking to yourself; that miracles don't happen; and that when our brains die, we will never experience anything again.

  • It enables me to side-step futile diversions about the nature of any particular god.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 07:44:28 UTC | #871430

    Sci Fi's Avatar Comment 12 by Sci Fi

    @Steve Zara

    In a nutshell, then, no-one has to claim they have proved no gods exist as the proof already exists. I just have to point you in the right direction, as it were.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 08:06:34 UTC | #871433

    Aztek's Avatar Comment 13 by Aztek

    Comment 7 by Steve Zara :

    I do feel I have to defend the "no gods exist" position! I know it is not widespread, but I also know I'm not alone in having that hard atheist position.

    You are definitely not alone. The position of strong atheism (belief there is no god) is said to be philosophically more difficult to defend than the general definition of atheism, or weak atheism (no belief in god). I do understand that. Strong atheism makes a specific claim about there being no gods, not unlike the theistic claim that there is a god. This is more difficult to defend than weak atheism which simply suspends belief in gods because of lack of evidence.

    Despite this, I do consider myself a strong atheist. My view on reality does not only remain on the level of not believing in a god, but I do take it one step further to strong atheism believing there is no god. It might be harder to defend philosophically, but to me it is very much a practical solution. There are so many things we believe do not exist because of complete lack of evidence. And we do it with such ease, without even giving the possible existence of these things a second thought. Therefore it is easy to take the step to believing there are no gods.

    Or maybe I should use the scale Richard introduced. I do believe there is no god, but the probability for my stance is a 6.99 on the scale of 1 to 7. But a 6.99 is a sufficiently large number to believe there is no god. I also give my faith in there being no Santa Claus a value of 6.99. Not only are there no evidence for is existence, but what we know about physics makes it impossible for him transport presents for 100+ million children in Christian families during one night. The speed he would have to travel would cause such a friction with the air that the sleigh would instantly burn up. The same reasoning applies to the existence of gods. Ergo, I believe there are no gods.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 09:27:11 UTC | #871452

    JustLikeMyPops's Avatar Comment 14 by JustLikeMyPops

    From the link:

    He has written extensively about the intersections among philosophy, theology and blah, blah, blah, moral problem of secularism and why atheism stems from the theological revolution of Christianity.

    So atheism stems from the theological revolution of Christianity? (capital for Christianity not out of respect but because I have come to adore the lower case "a" in atheism) Now as you may be aware I am not in fact a philosopher, in fact I can be a bit of an ill-informed prick, but this works for me:

    Atheism is the lack of a belief in god/s.

    Religion is the belief in god/s.

    Religion exists.

    Religion had a beginning.

    Before religion existed there was no belief in god/s, therefore atheism pre-dates religion. By a lot. You cretin.

    Hit them with their own stick. (schtick?) Really, really can't wait to see the video and the gems the for crowd come up with trying to defend their obsolete tripe .

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 10:02:33 UTC | #871455

    Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 15 by Peter Grant

    Comment 7 by Steve Zara

    I do feel I have to defend the "no gods exist" position! I know it is not widespread, but I also know I'm not alone in having that hard atheist position. Whether or not gods can exist depends on the definitions of the term, and I think it's not unreasonable to insist that the supernatural avatars of aspects of Nature (which includes the Abrahamic God) are truly impossible beings, even if only because their invention was at a time when Nature was thought to be very different from what we understand it to be today. Such gods are not just beyond evidence, but beyond reason and beyond possibility.

    I think you are making the same mistake you make with "free will" by assuming that the word God is actually meaningful. The statement "no gods exist" is just as meaningless as the statement "God exists". The hard atheist position, as you call it, is actually very brittle because, like theism, it depends on a meaningful definition of God. The true atheist position is much more firmly based on a lack of belief in gods, there is nothing weak about it.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 10:08:33 UTC | #871457

    God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 16 by God fearing Atheist

    I don't think analyzing the stats. for inspiration is a useful pursuit. They were a self selected audience some of whom would have anticipated the analysis and therefore given appropriate answers to manipulate the conclusions.

    On the hard/soft atheism:- It would be nice to have a solid definition of what the woo-woo merchants actually believed in order to give a firm opinion. All I can say is that I'm a 7 with respect to the incoherent blather I've heard so far.

    I'm looking forward to watching the video when it's posted.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 10:15:07 UTC | #871461

    justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 17 by justinesaracen

    Interesting point, Peter. It's true that there are many definitions of god, and to take Steve's 'hard' atheist position is to concede to the believer (on the other side of the argument) his particular definition of god. Perhaps it is simply better to state "I believe there are no forces operating other than the natural ones that can be detected by experience and science."

    It's a bit more wordy and will never catch on, but it is a stronger position. The believer is then forced to argue for something that cannot be detected or experienced. This might well cause the believer to respond with some sort of Karen Armstrong woo woo, but it firmly establishes it as undetectable woo woo.

    The 'I just feel it in my heart' argument, of course, cannot be countered at all.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 10:34:45 UTC | #871464

    Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 18 by Peter Grant

    Comment 17 by esuther

    Interesting point, Peter. It's true that there are many definitions of god, and to take Steve's 'hard' atheist position is to concede to the believer (on the other side of the argument) his particular definition of god.

    Thanks esuther :D

    Perhaps it is simply better to state "I believe there are no forces operating other than the natural ones that can be detected by experience and science."

    This last bit might still be going a little bit too far thought, there is no need for a positive belief that "there are no forces operating other than the natural ones" if what can be detected by experience and science gives us no reason to suggest even that there might be. What exactly is a "supernatural" force, and how would we know if we encountered it?

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 10:57:21 UTC | #871469

    Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 19 by Alan4discussion

    Comment 17 by esuther

    Perhaps it is simply better to state "I believe there are no forces operating other than the natural ones that can be detected by experience and science."

    You are leaving this very open! Woo woo merchants are full of "proof by experience"! "Repeatable, testable, objective, observation", would be better wording!

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 10:59:46 UTC | #871472

    Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 20 by Steve Zara

    Comment 15 by Peter Grant

    I think you are making the same mistake you make with "free will" by assuming that the word God is actually meaningful. The statement "no gods exist" is just as meaningless as the statement "God exists". The hard atheist position, as you call it, is actually very brittle because, like theism, it depends on a meaningful definition of God.

    I see it the other way around - the idea that there could be evidence for gods assumes that there could be a meaningful definition of god, something that could be actually pointed at by evidence.

    My view is that there are three stages that we need to go through before we rationalists can accept that gods exist:

    1. The concept of a god is coherent and logically possible.

    2. The concept of god is such that there can be convincing evidence for a god.

    3. There is convincing evidence.

    I say that all definitions of god that match what the vast majority of believers believe fail at step 1.

    There may be rare definitions of god (e.g. a very powerful technological alien being) that could be shown to exist by evidence, but it is very questionable indeed whether or not such a definition is at all reasonable given what the vast majority of people believe.

    I do wonder if, in discussions like these, two separate things are conflated:

    A. The existence of a supernatural power or force.

    B. The existence of some natural being who could seem like a god.

    The two are not the same! It is my contention that (A) can never be reached by evidence. I therefore admit to being quite puzzled when rationalists say that they are prepared to believe in god given evidence. What evidence could possible prove that the apparently miraculous was truly miraculous?

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 11:51:13 UTC | #871487

    Graxan's Avatar Comment 21 by Graxan

    'There is no 'God'', is about as accurate a statement as can be made. Given all the observable and calculatable information, including works of philosophy, the evidence still amounts to almost nothing. As nothing as nothing can get anyway.

    I agree with Steve Zara as he appears to be correct, again. It leads me to wonder if clarity of thought is, as a rare quality, the result of study or natural ability.

    Will look for this debate later on tonight, as I'm presuming it will be on youtube.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 12:09:19 UTC | #871496

    Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 22 by Peter Grant

    Comment 20 by Steve Zara

    I see it the other way around - the idea that there could be evidence for gods assumes that there could be a meaningful definition of god, something that could be actually pointed at by evidence.

    I might call my cat God. That would be a meaningful definition and I can provide plenty of evidence of her existence. Unfortunately so many people refuse to worship cats these days, sigh.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 12:10:49 UTC | #871498

    Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 23 by Steve Zara

    Comment 22 by Peter Grant

    I might call my cat God. That would be a meaningful definition and I can provide plenty of evidence of her existence. Unfortunately so many people refuse to worship cats these days, sigh.

    A definition has to apply to what a significant number of people believe. There is a difference between whether or not what a hundred million faithful say about god makes sense and using words arbitrarily.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 12:15:00 UTC | #871501

    SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 24 by SaganTheCat

    what can be learned from such a debate? the idea that "right" and "wrong" can be decided on majority vote is rather unsettling

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 12:21:32 UTC | #871504

    Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 25 by Peter Grant

    Comment 23 by Steve Zara

    A definition has to apply to what a significant number of people believe. There is a difference between whether or not what a hundred million faithful say about god makes sense and using words arbitrarily.

    Yet my cat definition just made more sense than any of the other hundred million ever offered. Just because hundreds of millions of people believe something doesn't make that belief sensible, or definitive.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 12:23:27 UTC | #871505

    Egon Voolavon's Avatar Comment 26 by Egon Voolavon

    The problem remains GODS (as in all them) are associated with, or terms for, something no one can define, the "supernatural". To date the definition remains super and unnatural....or something? Voodoo merchants fail all ways, for the simple reason they are conditioned (culturally) to start from stage umpteen rather than stage 1. As Steve Zara points out.

    It's quite amazing when you question them about the supernatural thingymajigger they are having a personal relationship with[n.b]. They admit they can't even define the "thingymajigger", yet in the same breath say they have a full-proof method of telling which supernatural thingymajiggers (Fairies/Gods/Bogeymen) are genuine, actuality, and which are fake. As in nothing bar the product of human imagination.

    Organised cultural conditioning/God did it.

    All the Best.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 12:41:58 UTC | #871510

    Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 27 by Mr DArcy

    If "Atheists are wrong", where's the evidence? Can these religios show me their bearded man in the sky, who watches my every move? Of course they can't. They can only waffle on about personal relationships with Jesus etc. It's beyond me to see how atheists could possibly be wrong.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 12:48:23 UTC | #871512

    Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 28 by Steve Zara

    Comment 25 by Peter Grant

    Just because hundreds of millions of people believe something doesn't make that belief sensible, or definitive.

    It doesn't make it sensible, but it does make it definitive. Words are defined based on how they are used. That's what definitions are about. If we are trying to deal with the word 'god', there is no need to take any notice of your personal definition which no-one else uses.

    I'm not sure what your point is. I can define 'quantum mechanics' as building with Lego, but it would be silly for anyone to take any notice of that definition.

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 12:58:10 UTC | #871516

    CreekDweller's Avatar Comment 29 by CreekDweller

    Here is something that has occurred to me for quite awhile: If atheism is correct and there is no God and no afterlife, if indeed we thoroughly cease to exist at all, then why do atheists desire the human race to continue on this planet? It would seem that if atheists are truly convinced to the nth degree in their minds that we live only a little while and then poof! are gone, why continue the suffering mankind endures and will continue to endure forever? We will never eradicate all disease, all pain, all murder, all abuse, etc. Would it not be infinitely more just, more merciful, more caring to advocate the total eradication of human life in order to end human suffering forever? If not, then what is the atheist's justification for continuing human life on earth, considering all the suffering? To say it is "worth it" is nothing but an empty value judgment when measured against the extreme suffering of mankind around the globe. Just wondering...

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 13:02:26 UTC | #871520

    Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 30 by Peter Grant

    Comment 28 by Steve Zara

    It doesn't make it sensible, but it does make it definitive. Words are defined based on how they are used. That's what definitions are about. If we are trying to deal with the word 'god', there is no need to take any notice of your personal definition which no-one else uses.

    Definitions have to define something. All the God definitions we have encountered don't actually define anything. My cat is a much more useful definition than any encountered so far, though for some reason no one takes it seriously. A senseless definition which doesn't describe anything is exactly the same as no definition at all. When you say "there are no gods" it's exactly the same as saying "there are no undefined things".

    Fri, 16 Sep 2011 13:13:00 UTC | #871522