Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Non-Astrologer

An atheist is simply one who doesn't believe in a supernatural higher power, it is the position of non-belief. For whatever reason someone comes to be an atheist, it should not change whatsoever the arguments for theism. So to complain that there are irrational atheists out there is nothing more than a distraction for the arguments for theism. Sam Harris makes the point that the word atheist shouldn't even exist, that we don't have a word for someone who doesn't believe in astrology. So to extend Harris' point about what atheism is, here is an analogy of what it means to be an atheist only the belief is in the understanding the trials of humanity by reading the positions of the stars.


Demonstrating astrology
In this hypothetical world, the prevailing belief is that the celestial bodies tell the story of future human events, and that by knowing how to interpret the stars that one can gain knowledge of future events. Now consider that some people don't believe this. Some people may have been brought up in isolation to this behaviour, that they never knew that people believed in such a way. Others may have been brought up in a family where they considered such a belief nonsense. More still may have been astrologers in their younger age, but lost their belief through an inability to see how it works. Yet however any of them got into that mental state, all of them are non-astrologers.

Now would a valid defence of astrology be that there are some non-astrologers who didn't come to their conclusions about astronomy through reason? I would think not. Nor would I think that someone giving bad arguments why astronomy is wrong would make it any more valid. If a non-astrologer were to come out and say that astrology is wrong because meteors do not contain little green men, does such an argument have any bearing on the truth of astrology? What if they were to say that astrology cannot be correct because it gives a conflicting account to what the tea leaves do, and furthermore the crystal ball shows something different entirely! A Christian does this already in regard to Inca beliefs or Hindu beliefs.

Then come a group of people who study the movements of the planets and stars. Through careful observation and thinking, they conclude that the points of light in the sky act on a set of laws. These laws are able to predict the movements of the stars and planets with such a degree of accuracy that the celestial signs and "wandering stars" now have a sense of order. Many take this point and conclude that astrology cannot be right because the movements are shown to be indifferent to the events of mankind. This sparks some astrologers to re brand astrology and put the motion of the stars as part of a greater plan, that the predictions of the stars are valid because the cosmos is there for us. Other astrologers refuse to believe that mars, like earth is on an elliptical orbit around the sun that causes the wandering appearance.

Now, because there are those who don't believe in Astrology because they had trouble predicting the future, does that mean that the arguments made by astronomers and physicists for the validity of astrology? Again, I would contend not. The validity of a concept should exist externally to the reasons why people believe in it. Either the stars can be used to interpret future events or they cannot. If person X has poor reasons for why it cannot, it doesn't follow that there are good reasons for the notion that stars hold the key to the future of mankind. The same holds true for religion. That people come not to believe in God because of a hardship in their life is simply irrelevant to the question of the existence of God. That there are irrational non-astrologers makes no difference to whether astrology is valid.

Consider the following statement. "Creationists say evolution breaks the 2nd law of thermodynamics. But thermodynamics is to do with heat physics and speaks nothing of biology. Therefore evolution is true." This is frankly absurd, even if a creationist fool thinks that evolution violates SLoT, the invalid argument against evolution has no bearing on the validity of arguments for evolution. Whether there are atheists who don't believe because prayer didn't work for them or non-astrologers who think that the phases of Venus make reading the stars impossible, the arguments for God should be able to stand on their own.


Constructing a worldview
Astrology can be used to understand nature, it predicts future human events and shapes the way we live our own life. What business decisions should we take? Who is best suited for us romantically? An unsure person can consult the stars and use the knowledge of astrology to shape their lives. To not be an astrologer, on the other hand, does not dictate any of those. It can not be a worldview except in the most diffuse sense. To compare astrology and non-astrology as different worldviews is equivocation. Being a non-astrologer, like being an atheist, is the negative position on a particular claim. And even if that claim encompasses Life, The Universe, and Everything, the inverse is not a comparable worldview. We define worldviews by what people believe, not by what they don't.

How does one make business decisions if they don't consult the stars? Well they could decide based on past experience, or by studying market trends. They could consult experts in the field. Or they could ask the advice of friends, random people on the street or even the local priest. Then there are what we would call absurd ways, like pulling names out of a hat or plucking petals off a flower. Which in the non-astrologers worldview points the right way to go? As for romantic relationship, maybe a non-astrologer would choose based on compatibility intellectually or sexually. Maybe they would just choose the person it is the most fun to be around, or comforting. Maybe they would use one of those SMS compatibility programs.

This is why atheism is not a religion, it is the not-belief. It doesn't ascribe behaviour, doesn't pass down dogma, it simply entails not believing that God is a good answer to the way the world works. Yet atheists do have beliefs, they have behaviours and they could very well pass down their own beliefs onto their children and perpetuate a cycle similar to that of religion. Humans have beliefs by which they assess the world. We need to in order to survive. But what atheists have as beliefs varies from person to person. There's no code of conduct, no history of how we came to be, no way of understanding the world. It's a word to describe those who don't believe in the supernatural for whatever reason.

The non-astrologer is one who doesn't believe in the power of astrology. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. But a non-astrologer has their own beliefs and their own way of viewing the world. They may be well versed in the scientific method, or maybe they are into philosophy. Maybe they are lea leaf readers, maybe they believe in the eternity of a soul. They could even believe in God! Yet you can't derive anything about a non-astrologer from them saying they are one. A few things could be implied, but to call it a worldview is absurd.

Many atheists are naturalists or materialists, but not all of them are. Many are well versed in science and scepticism, but not all of them are. Some believe in ghosts, or aliens living among us. There are cryptozoologists who think that Bigfoot is real, Buddhists who believe in reincarnation but not a higher power. The point is that to take atheism as a worldview is to add positive beliefs to it, and then it becomes exclusive. If atheism requires a belief that the scientific method is the only way of ascertaining knowledge about the universe, then it is going to narrow the definition of atheism.

And this gets to the biggest mistake many make, by comparing worldviews as a whole it takes the notion that either one or the other is all true. And since the atheist worldview is lacking (by very definition) it does not account for many of the things that theism does and therefore theism wins! The same tactic is used by creationists on evolution, while evolution says nothing about gravity or abiogenesis, creationists use the lack of explanation for gravity or abiogenesis as weaknesses of evolution. A non-astrologer may not be able to account for how people can gain knowledge, but it doesn't mean that astrology wins because it says that it can account for it. Likewise, the absence of explanation in atheism does not follow that theism can explain anything.


What non-astrology is
As demonstrated, non-astrology cannot by definition be a worldview. How people come to this position should have no bearing on whether astrology is a valid path to knowledge. If astrology works, then it should be able to be shown to work, so it is doing nothing more than begging the question to question how others came to not believe in the power of astrology. The explanation for the movement of the planets and stars still exists even if a non-astrologer has no idea of the science behind it. If the goal is to actually learn how the universe works as opposed to winning arguments, then a focus should be on the strength of the arguments for the topic at hand.

As for what being a non-astrologer is, I'm going to use the slightly modified words of Michael Shermer:
As for non-astrology, there are no major or minor tenets. Non-astrology is simply the lack of belief in astrology. I don't believe in astrology, so I'm a non-astrologer. End of story.

9 comments:

Danny said...

Good post.
I like to listen to arguments. But I also know that the winner of the argument does not neccessarily hold the correct view.

As far as: Non astrology is simply the lack of belief in astrology.- I do agree but at the same time don't know if that's all you can say about atheists.
If your Creator does not have the last word in how you act and react to life, then who does? Obviously different atheist would have different answers, but in a free society I would think that their answers would be more common.

Who provides my needs?- me
Who keeps me safe?- me
Whoose opinion of right or wrong matters most?- mine
etc...
Even christians differ in minor tennants. These questions and more are why it would seem that atheists do share a common belief. Maybe not a common belief about God though.
thanks
danny

Danny said...

Wow. I just read the last post..

Webster's 2 New Riverside Dictionary Revised Edition

Religion:... 2. A belief, activity, or cause pursued with fervor and devotion.

Based on that I would say that religion does not have to include a belief in a God. That is my whole point for this one.

Zorove, Oh yeah, post,post,post,post,etc... Dude you were posting so fast you could not type correctly. And that is in no way making fun of your spelling or grammar. Im saying that you were typing too fast. Slow down man.

feeno said...

Kel
Danny's right, good post.

Danny
ZAROVE is not not typing fast, (well maybe he is?) But he is dyslexic.

Peace out, have a nice long weekend.
Late, feeno

Kel said...

As far as: Non astrology is simply the lack of belief in astrology.- I do agree but at the same time don't know if that's all you can say about atheists.
If your Creator does not have the last word in how you act and react to life, then who does? Obviously different atheist would have different answers, but in a free society I would think that their answers would be more common.
That was my entire point. I get a lot of my behaviour from the values I have gained from my parents and the society around me, from studying ethics and psychology. From reading books, watching films and listening to the opinions of others.

I'm very liberal when it comes to social values, and bordering on libertarian when it comes to civil rights. These behavioural traits are shared by many theists as well, and there are many non-theists who don't live by these values. I'm very much an Aussie leftist who cares about helping the environment.


If the g-word was going to come into it, I suppose it could infer that I think all problems on this planet have to ultimately be solved by man. There are many theists who share this view too, so it's not really exclusively atheistic. At the end of the day, I'm just another person on the street. If you spoke to me, you'd have no idea what my religion was - which is the way for most people in Australian society. I'm just another guy.



These questions and more are why it would seem that atheists do share a common belief. Maybe not a common belief about God though.There's always commonality through society, but the only thing that atheists share is the not-belief. On Pharyngula I get along with a lot of people there because their philosophy, love of science, and political views are similar to my own. This is not representative of atheists though, it's one small section of the community.

Danny said...

First of all, I didn't know you were dyslexic.

Kel. Ok. Fair enough. I think it is kind of ridiculous to tell a person what that person believes.
I think you would know better than I what you believe.

ZAROVE said...

Kel, the porblem with you is tyou don't veen understand my arugment about Religion, becaue your too busy tryign to see me saying "Atheksm is a Religion".

I never said Atheism itself is a Religion, but I do maintain that all Atheists, including you, hodl to a Religion.

Atheism may not be a Religoon, but neither is Theism a Religion. Theism is beleif in a god. (WHo doesnt have ot be a Supernatural creator, by the way)

No ones religion is Theism.

But Teism is integral to many Religions, although not all Religions are theistic.


And the same applies ot Atheism. Atheism may be a lack of beleif in a god, but it is not a lack of Religion.

To explain further, an Atheist hwo describes himself as a Secular Humanist, like Richard Dawkins, for example, is followign the Religion of Secular Humanism. As much as Seucular Humanists like to sya its a Philosophy and not a Religion, they miss the poitn that all Religions are in the end just Philosophies.

A Religion is simply a Philosophy regarding the nature of our existance, and is used by us to udnerstand our world and relaitonship to it, and to assign menaign to the events and thigns in our lives. Everyone has this, and this is what a Religion ultimatley is.


Peopel dont beleiv in God as an abstact relgiiosu concept, apart form their dialy existance, they beleive in God liek they beleiv ein other people, for for that matter cars or rocks. An Artilce i read in New Scientists recently confirmed this. When peopel pray, their brains light up int he same regions they woudl if talking ot a friend on the Phone. It snot a special region in the brain, its the normal, everyday part.

he same applies to other Religious cncepts as well.

Religin isn't soem seperate category, its jjst how we view the world, and respond to it.

Are yu goign to tell me Athiests dont jhave any understanding of the world at all? Becuase in order ot tell me Atheists lack religion, you'd have to.

Kel said...

Religion is not just philosophy. It is not just a worldview. Otherwise why have two seperate words for the same thing? If you ask if I have a worldview, I would say I do. Everyone has a worldview. But it is NOT my religion. I don't have a religion, unless you are going to define things like being a member of society or political beliefs as a religion. Which frankly is absurd.

Your definition of religion is absurd, it's far too broad to be useful. I remember watching an episode of Real Time With Bill Maher where the rapper Mos Def tried this exact same argument when there were Bill Maher, Salman Rushdie and Christopher Hitchens on the program. It doesn't work, it's misrepresenting the way religion is used in both colloquial and academic circles. And for what? Why bother at all? What good does it do labelling non-religious people as religious?



And this is where I fail to see your argument. Even IF every person has their own religion (which I would contend that a worldview is not a religion), what does that matter at all in regard to anything? All I could see it doing is making it so I have to change the wording in my previous post from "religion" to "faith-based cultural practices." And there is no point to this at all, you're the first person I've ever come across that tries to define religion this way.

Religin isn't soem seperate category, its jjst how we view the world, and respond to it.No it is not, that's completely ignoring the cultural aspects of what religion is and what it does. You're describing a worldview.

ZAROVE said...

Religion is not just philosophy.Actually it is. Ther is no real difference beteween thebeleivf of a Religiosu person and what you call a non[religiosu person in terms of the funciton the Relgiion or "Non-religiosu philosophy" play.

Why shoudl one set of beleifs regardign hwo the world works be labled "Religion' and the other "not religion"?

That makes much less sense, don't you htink?





It is not just a worldview. I'm afraid your mistaken. It is just a worldview. And you spend this post tellign us its not but not providing us with a clear understanding of what Relgiion is that makes sense.


Otherwise why have two seperate words for the same thing?We have two seperate words for lotsx of things. Am I expected ot ebelive a Sea is not an Ocean because they are seperate words? Or that an Automobile and a Car aren't the same thing? Or that a flash light and torch aren't?

Coem now, surly you know that simply having two words isnt proof that thethings those words describe are actually two seperate things.


If you ask if I have a worldview, I would say I do. Then you have a Religion. Because htis is all a Religion is.


Everyone has a worldview. Thus why everyone has a Religion, including you.



But it is NOT my religion. Yes it is. And unless you advocate an argument hat shows a real difference, then I'm afraid your not begn very convincing. Then again you read Sam Harris and Richard awkisn and watch Real Time with Bill maher, so I suspect your Anti-Religious, and as a result have asosicated a lot of negative baggage to the word Religion. THis woudl mean you'd not want ot be identified as the same sort of perosn as those religious nutters you argue agaisnt.

Otherwise, why are you so uoset that I call your worldview your Religion?

You surly havent demonstrated hwo its fundamentlaly different form a Religion, have you?



I don't have a religion, unless you are going to define things like being a member of society or political beliefs as a religion. Which frankly is absurd.Actually I define a basic philosophical understandign f the owrld and our pale in it as a Relgiion. Political affiliation is seperate as its mainly inteested in seocndary social planning. So I dont deifne belingign to a Religious party as a Relgiion.

But I do define a worldview as one.

Yoru Atheistic worldview is a Religion. I relaise you are Anti-Religiosu and watch and read a lot fo Anti-Relgious mateiral, and to you the word is asosicated with evil and stupidity, but that doens't change the fac thtat your wordview is a Religion.


Your definition of religion is absurd, it's far too broad to be useful. Actually my deifnition is th eone used in Sociology, and it snot that broad. Your just makign it more broad than I acutlaly present it as , to make it useless. IE, yo claim that my deifnition fo Religion woudl include thigns liek politial parties when, in fact, it doens't. It includes mainly foundaitonal understanding of the nature of the world. One can be in any political party and be Cahtolic, for example, but to be Cahtolic you have ot hodl to a Cahtolci theological and ohilosohical basis rooted in the person of Jesus, as usnderstood through the Cahtolic Church.

In the sasme eay, oen can hodl to any political party an be a Humanist, even though in order ot be a Humanist you have to adhere to the tenets of Humanism.

Humanism is a Relgiion (EVen if modern Humansist liek to say otherwise) because it is a Philosophical putlook on the nature of life and existance. Political asosciatiosn aren't.

My "Definition of Relgiion' is thus not too broad, and not really absurd.




I remember watching an episode of Real Time With Bill Maher where the rapper Mos Def tried this exact same argument when there were Bill Maher, Salman Rushdie and Christopher Hitchens on the program. It doesn't work, it's misrepresenting the way religion is used in both colloquial and academic circles.

ZAROVE said...

Do I need to list several Sociologyists, psycologists, and anthrolpologists who agree with me? Because the way I define Religion is pretty standard in those fields.

It snot my fault you misunderstand what Im sayign andhtink its briad enugh to includ epolitical parties, but the deifnition I use mainly applies to one soutlook on eixtsance itself, not on how we decide to orignise socially, though they do overlap.



And for what? Why bother at all? What good does it do labelling non-religious people as religious?There are no non-religious people. Thats my point. I'm not doign this for any good or ill.

WHat I am doign is syaing that "Religiosu people" dont have somethign non-relgiiosu people lack that hidners or blidns them liej you htink, or even nessisairly enlightens them. Im sayign that a Religion is just how you think the world acutlaly works.

Its a Philosophy about how the world exists.

And there is no one I know of that lacks htis, so I see no reason to think of peopel as Non-Religious just because they are Atheists.




And this is where I fail to see your argument.I think you failt o see it because you want the word "Religion" to be limited to peopel who beleive a god exists, and to maintain a lot of the negative baggage. Nto to mention the priase you can heap upon your "Non-religious" beleifs , such as how you are a freethinker, as if religiosu people aren't.

But truely your just as relgiious as the religiosu people. YYou parrot catchphrases and abide by an idea of Metaphysics.

You have an udnertsanding of hwo the world works and camer ot be.

In what way are you different?




Even IF every person has their own religion (which I would contend that a worldview is not a religion), what does that matter at all in regard to anything?It raises your ocnciosuness, by allowign you to see that the divide you erect by callign soem peopel relgiious whislt seeing yourself as a freehtinker is illusory.





All I could see it doing is making it so I have to change the wording in my previous post from "religion" to "faith-based cultural practices." Which wodl stol in the end include you. Everythgin you beleive in Faith Based.

I dont care what Dawkisn or Maher says, Faith isnt beleif withotu evicednce. EVen if it was, youbeleive wihtotu evidence that God was invente dby primitive tribes to explain natural phoenomenon, andbeleif wihtut evidence the idea of a societal evolution thatlead suoward towards a secular dmeocracy, noen fo which is proiven or even provable.

When you add that to the fac tthat there ar emany rationalists in the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim Faiths, your whole "Faiht based"Definition woudl crumble.


And there is no point to this at all, you're the first person I've ever come across that tries to define religion this way. Read a sociology book. Im not the only one.