Saturday, September 28, 2013
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
I just saw this image on the blog I love to hate, Boing Boing.
It reminded me of how putting things in to rubrics does not guarantee a refining of understanding, nor does it necessarily add any value. While it's possible that this simple double-dichotomy reflects the way people think about themselves, it does not describe any deep epistemological divide, or explain anything really.
But most irritatingly, on the face of it this cartoon seems to be criticizing 'gnostic' versions of theism or atheism, making them equally ridiculous. But what is more absurd, asserting that something that has no evidence exists, or that it doesn't exist? The standard argumentum ad absurdum (sorry to bore you) says that I know that God does not exist the same way I know that Leprechauns don't exist, or that a magical tea-pot is not orbiting the Sun near Jupiter, or that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not real. I know that all these are not real for the same reason - not a single shred of evidence has been given to even marginally imply that they do.
But this is the way all human knowledge is based. I know that the sun will rise in the east and not the west. This is a gnostic belief. A scientific assertion. But like all scientific assertions, it will be quickly repealed or ammended in the face of new facts. The sun rising analogy is a proper one. Just as there has never, ever, ever, been any reason to think that the Sun will not appear to rise in the east, there has never, ever, ever, been any reason to think that a supernatural deity is governing the affairs of the universe.
What does it really matter if you say "I believe that that sun will rise in the east, but it could end up rising in the west for all I know." Of course, in any understanding of the world, new information could upset the status quo. You "know" what you think you know right now, and of course it could (and most certainly will) change, sooner than you think. That's what's important to realise.