Archive for atheist

Richard Dawkins on ABC’s Q&A

Posted in News, Philosophy, Spirituality with tags , , , , on March 12, 2010 by cpolsonb

This past week Richard Dawkins appeared on the ABC program Q&A to answer some predictably heady questions. For those of you who don’t know Q&A is a weekly panel program where questions are posed to the panelists from the live studio audience or via the internet. The members of the panel change each week with some occasional repeats. Topics discussed vary greatly between weeks but if it’s a burning social, political or philosophical issue you can bet it’ll be featured on Q&A. It was really great of Richard Dawkins to accept his invitation to appear on Q&A, he must be aware that his reputation will precede him no matter where he goes and that he’ll often be fighting an uphill battle. Nevertheless he strides brazenly straight into the enemies line of fire and comes back safely having taken no prisoners.

For those of you in Australia you can watch the episode in full from the ABC website by following this link: ABC iViewNow unavailable

Everyone worldwide can still watch the episode in this slightly poorer quality version found here: Vidoemo

The other panelists alongside Richard Dawkins were the following:

Patrick McGorry – Australian of the Year
Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio
Tony Burke – Minister for Agriculture
Julie Bishop – Deputy Opposition Leader
Steve Fielding – Family First Senator

If you’re curious about the questions that were asked, here is a complete transcript of the questions. You’ll have to watch the show to hear the answers though…

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Chronicle of Belief: Part 2 – Secular Humanism

Posted in personal views, Philosophy with tags , , , , on March 6, 2010 by cpolsonb

It’s time for the second installment of my “Chronicle of Belief” where I attempt to put into words my own world-view and the opinions and positions that help define me. This entry is about my identification with the label Secular Humanist, a particular world-view with which I sympathize and identify strongly. Before I begin explaining secular humanism I should start by clarifying my position on other terms commonly used by those who reject the supernatural and/or demand falsifiable evidence for claims about reality. Of these people some of the most common terms I hear used are skeptics, rationalists, critical thinkers, agnostics, atheists and humanists. I must make clear that this blog entry is not about arguing for or against the existence of divine beings. I am planning on dividing my evaluation of particular arguments for divinity into a series of future blog posts. This is simply about which branch of non-believers I identify with and why. I am also not discussing which particular belief systems I believe are objectively “better” than any other. While I do believe strongly that beliefs in the supernatural range along a spectrum with demonstrably harmful on one side (Jonestown) and perfectly harmless on the other (loose deists) this post is not a discussion on such matters. I shall enter now into a case by case discussion on particular labels associated with a rejection of the supernatural:

Atheism vs Agnosticism
This issue is perhaps one of the strongest and most passionately debated topics dividing non-believers today. At the core of the issue is a true lack of definition for each of the terms. As well as this there are a myriad of sub-divisions and cross-overs between the camps. I couldn’t dream of covering the issue in any real depth, there are hundreds of pages of blog entries and forum threads which have attempted to do that already. Instead I’ll hit on a couple of main points as I see them.

One interpretation of atheism is that it requires an assertion that no gods exists. In this particular strand a truth claim is made that positively argues that there are no gods or divine beings. While this view is an honest interpretation of atheism it is also commonly set up as a straw man by believers in order to characterize the atheistic world-view as dogmatic and unscientific. I reject this view of atheism as there is no scientifically verifiable way to prove a negative. There is an equal amount of proof that the god of Abraham doesn’t exist as there is that a Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t exist. All that can be done scientifically is to prove that any interaction with reality claimed to be divine (like prayer or creationism) actually occurred through natural means. So far this effort has been successful and I’m not aware of any testable divine claim that has turned out to be truly supernatural.

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Chronicle of Belief: Part 1 – Labeling

Posted in personal views, Philosophy, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 23, 2010 by cpolsonb

I thought I’d take some time to draw out a sketch of my own beliefs or worldview. There is far too much to condense into a single entry so I shall instead space it out over a number of broader topics. Before I begin I wish to stress that all of these posts will be an attempt to put into words my current belief and are subject to change via rational arguments. This is an important difference between people similar to myself (whatever label they wish to use) and those who follow dogma blindly (which is only a subset of people with supernatural/divine belief systems), in so far as I am perfectly willing to modify and refine my personal beliefs as I learn new information and mature as an individual.

One issue over which my opinion has been rather fluid as of late is that of labels. Often times I avoid the use of labels, arguing that they provide others with opportunity to make unfounded assumptions and put into practice pre-conceived notions. As we come to learn new labels we inevitably begin a process of shaping our opinion of that group of people. This opinion is formed through a number of means, chiefly our personal meetings with these people, stories or memes that circulate through society, media image and place in popular culture. As a quick demonstration of what I mean please conjure into your mind thoughts and feelings associated with the following ‘labels’: fundamentalist, emo, atheist, nerd and bogan. These images in your mind both consciously and subconsciously shape your interaction with any individual who self-identifies as or you identify as belonging to these groups. In sociology this is referred to as “Labeling Theory” and is described as follows:

“The theory is concerned with how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them, and is associated with the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping.”

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