A “chain-letter” post from Sam at Elizaphanian (he calls ’em memes – yuk!)
Q1. How would you define “atheism”?
Rev Sam – The denial of theism.
Psybertron – Theism cannot be denied, it’s a fact of life. Atheism is a label use by theists for those who don’t share the same theistic basis of belief. People labelled “atheists” don’t believe in lots of things, so would never specifically choose atheism as a label, but they do care what peoples’ bases of beliefs are so neither are they agnostic. [Ref Sam Harris earlier]. The basis of belief is the core aspect at issue. Non-theistic is my best choice if forced to choose a label.
Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?
Rev Sam – Church of England.
Psybertron – Me too, but not very. My mother continues the family tradition, but it was never an “issue”. The family drew its own conclusions.
Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?
Rev Sam – Atheistic.
Psybertron – Useless.
(ID & IDC have metaphorical value for both theists and non-theists, but are a total red-herring when it comes to the core issue of “the basis of belief”, and are a lost cause as far as any valuable debate is concerned since being hijacked by extremists and whacko’s on all sides.)
Q4. What scientific endeavor really excites you?
Rev Sam – Lots. I’m particularly interested in neuro-psychology at the moment.
Psybertron – Lots also. Not sure neuro-psychology is science entirely, but it is a very interesting non-metaphysical interface, where scientific rubber hits the road of philosophy of meaning. “Evolutionary Psychology” is of course Psybertron’s primary agenda – if it has to be reduced to a single label – so very important to me, along with its relationship to the bio-evolved neural systems. Most intriguing scientific domain remains theoretical physics – getting perilously close to metaphysics (after Max Born) – current research in “Quantum Information” takes my vote, with (understanding) “Anthropic Principles” a close second.
Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?
Rev Sam – Give them a better sense of intellectual history, especially Christian intellectual history.
Psybertron – Hear, hear ! History = evolution of ideas.
(Ditto the theist communities, naturally. Education, education, education.)
Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?
Rev Sam – You can’t do it unless you’re called, and if you’re called you can’t do anything else.
Psybertron – That is probably true of many callings in life. As a “parent” I would still ask testing questions about “Why?” – in order to understand the “child’s” understanding of that calling – so as to be in a position to advise and encourage.
Q7. What’s your favorite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?
Rev Sam – I don’t have any favourite theistic arguments.
Psybertron – Favourite arguments ? Refutation ? What overrated concepts. Why would anyone favour refutation ? Much more constructive things to do in life – like extending understanding and finding something worth believing in and acting on.
Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?
Rev Sam – er… bearing in mind where I’m coming at this from, probably that God=meaning.
Psybertron – So close. That is not in the least controversial to me as a non-theist.
[The label we give to the ineffable metaphysical core of everything] God = “significant information” [at the core of everything from sub-quantum physics to cosmology and everything in between, including genetics, biology, evolution, nuero-psychology, neuro-philosophy and evolutionary-psychology.]
Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?
Rev Sam – I’ve never read Harris so can’t comment; Hitchens is a journalist with attitude but not much more; Dawkins is a gifted writer with a good understanding of biology but not much more; which leaves Dennett as the best of the bunch. He at least has some greater breadth.
Psybertron – Dennett easily – read most things he’s written – though Harris is coming up close on the rails; Still more of him to read, but he is much more subtle in his philosophy (epistemology) than the sensational headlines he generates. Hitchens I haven’t taken seriously – for the same reasons Sam suggests. Dawkins is the non-theists biggest handicap in life – he just doesn’t get it – and needs to be countered if we are to make progress.
Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?
Rev Sam – Oo. Lots to choose from, but it’d be a toss up between Osama bin Laden and Peter Akinola.
Psybertron – I really don’t think I’d want anyone to abandon their theistic beliefs. [Oh, how could I forget – Tony Blair gets my vote]. I would want theists (and atheists) to abandon misguided rationalisation of some of their actions and motivations, but concerning their theistic beliefs, I’d say never stop questioning and increasing your understanding of them – after Socrates – the unexamined life ain’t worth it. Abandon blind faith as a basis of belief. Put your faith in a process of meaning, you can even call it God if you like.