Saturday, September 13, 2008

Threaded with Austin Cline--Pop Culture vs. Ontology; and Saturday Quotes

I am publishing this thread because Mr. Cline has either refused, or merely neglected, to publish the last comment I made to him [9.13.08; see below] in which I was able to refute his criticism of me as "fail[ing] to support your arguments," and of having written on the "basis of appalling misrepresentations." He said I was "long on unsupported claims, but short on credible arguments and facts."

If Mr. Cline refuses to admit my credibility as it comes to me from other sources better known and respected than he is, then I am forced to publish it myself.

As Mr. Cline himself alludes to, he is a writer of pop culture and must satisfy his readers and his employer. I must do neither, and if my readers find my credibility strained, they have only to refuse to read my blog.

Cline's column: 9.12.08

"Atheism is only the absence of belief in gods, so there is nothing self-contradictory if atheists believe in astrology, alien abductions, Bigfoot, psychic powers, and a host of other mystical, supernatural, and paranormal things. Being an atheist doesn't mean being a skeptic, and vice-versa. However, paranormal claims aren't very different from religious ones and a relevant atheism is one based upon a consistently and broadly applied skepticism, not one focused solely on religion or theism. Austin Cline

Me: 9.12.08
"Atheism is NOT “only the absence of belief in gods.” As an atheist blogger, I can tell you it’s about “faith” versus “reason.” Atheists do not have faith, and rely on reason. An atheist who has supernatural beliefs like astrology is a contradiction in terms. My blog today is about “reductive monism” vs. “non-reductive” monism, and why “reductive monism” cannot win arguments with theists.

"If you go back in your archives beginning August 7, thread #41223 re: “strong” atheism vs. “weak” atheism, you will see the silly arguments made by atheists against my black-and-white statement that gods don’t exist. One person asked me if, since I didn’t believe gods exist, did I believe Alexander the Great had been real, since he had been deified?

OMG! The reductionists even argue with other atheists!
Curtis Edward Clark

Cline: 9.12.08
"'Atheism is NOT “only the absence of belief in gods.'”

"Yes, it is. That’s the definition.

"'As an atheist blogger, I can tell you it’s about “faith” versus “reason.'”

"You’re mistaken. There is nothing about atheism that prevents a person from having “faith” or believing in any manner of nonsense. Being an atheist doesn’t mean a person is necessarily rational, reasonable, intelligent, moral, civil, or anything else.

"'An atheist who has supernatural beliefs like astrology is a contradiction in terms.'"

"That would only be true if the definition of atheism were “absence of belief in the supernatural.” That, however, is not the definition of atheism. The definition of atheism is “absence of belief in gods.”

"It’s true that most atheist in the West today don’t believe in the supernatural and don’t have “faith” in things in a manner analogous to how theists have “faith” in gods, but that is simply a function of contemporary culture and environment. Not all atheists even in the West are like that, and not all atheists in all other places and at all other times are like that.

"You should be careful not to assume that every position you happen to hold is one that all atheists must therefore also hold. That would be arrogant.

"The definition of atheism is as simple and broad as theism. Defining atheism as you have is a bit like trying to define mere theism as the same as Christianity.

"'If you go back in your archives beginning August 7, thread #41223 re: “strong” atheism vs. “weak” atheism

"First, you’re talking about a forum thread.
"Second, I am quite familiar with that forum thread and I noticed that you fail to support your arguments. I’ve linked to that thread above so others can see. You have commented on things I have written here, but only on the basis of appalling misrepresentations. You are long on unsupported claims, but short on credible arguments and facts." [italics added by me, Clark, because they become relevant below.]

Me: 9/12/08
"I wrote a long reply, using “facts” garnered from Dr. Quentin Smith, Tom Clark, and Tibor Machan. I’ve met Smith, argued with Clark, and was informed by Machan about Clark’s reductionism, which led me to the subject of monism, which you did not address.
Then when I sent it, I was told my email address was incorrect, go back. In going back, I lost the entire reply. I hope it got through. If it did get through, I hope the “facts” I presented, including why theists ought to be made the skeptics to the naturalist position, rather than making us their skeptics, were acceptable to you.
If it didn’t get through, please fix your system so that in the future, such losses do not occur.

Curtis Edward Clark

Cline: 9.13.08
"'the subject of monism, which you did not address. '"

"When it comes to the definition of atheism, it’s irrelevant. The subject of “consulting a dictionary” is usually quite sufficient. [italics added]

"If it didn’t get through, please fix your system so that in the future, such losses do not occur.'
"I’m not responsible for the software on this site any more than you are responsible for the blogging software you use."

Me: 9.13.08 [Cline has so far neglected to publish this last comment in his own blog.]

"Ok. So reductionism has nothing to do with the subject. I'll bite.

"But when you say I fail to support my arguments, and that I write on the 'basis of appalling misrepresentations [ ] long on unsupported claims, but short on credible arguments and facts,' did you notice that in each of my blogs I use other, more accomplished thinkers than myself and I attribute them all?

"No, of course not. You didn't bother looking. Are all my authorities incorrect, or are they merely authorities you find 'short on credible arguments and facts?'

"For example, in my piece about reductionism, I quoted Tom Clark (Naturalism.Org), Raul Corazzon, Ayn Rand, Boethius, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, B.A.G. Fuller, and Wikipedia.

"Please don't say I'm short on facts. I never write a word without excessively, compulsively, doing background on it. I rarely see you attribute anyone but yourself.

"And as I stated in the previous comment, I've argued with Tom Clark, who, frankly, was close-mouthed with any answer to my questions at all, let alone with a credible answer. I've discussed that discussion with Tibor Machan who agreed with me. (Talk about using authorities!)

"And Dr. Quentin Smith, whom I've met, wrote: "Naturalist philosophers need to rethink their goals. In part this involves clearly distinguishing between philosophical goals and cultural consequences of the attainment or pursuit of these goals.

"'One of the four goals of informed naturalists,' Smith writes, is to, 'Reclassify the philosophy of religion as a sub field of naturalism, viz. skepticism about naturalism, so that the position in the various fields of philosophy formerly occupied by 'the philosophy of religion' is replaced by the field 'the philosophy of naturalism.'

"'The fourth goal is to justifiably reformulate, and answer, the two basic ontological why-questions that medieval philosophers took over from the Greco-Roman naturalists, and which have (for the most part) remained ever since 'questions asked in the field of the philosophy of religion.' The successful accomplishments of these four tasks will restore academia to the mainstream secularization it possessed before the post-1967 breakdown in the field of philosophy.'

"This means overcoming theism with non-reductionism. This means not playing the skeptic, as opposed to 'a relevant atheism [ ] based upon a consistently and broadly applied skepticism.' We need to make the theists the skeptics, according to Smith.

"It would seem that in 'distinguishing between philosophical goals and cultural consequences,' you are the cultural expert, whereas I focus on the philosophy, backed by world renowned experts. [I should have stated "even if they back my argument against their position."]

"I was interested in your blog because I thought I could use it philosophically. [But] I seem to be arguing against you. We seem we have different goals, so please lets keep this civil between us:

"You say I wrote you on the 'basis of appalling misrepresentations. You are long on unsupported claims, but short on credible arguments and facts.'

"I think you cannot now claim I misrepresent all the people I attribute in my blog; nor can you say I am short on credibility, unless you wish to claim all of my attributions have no credibility.

"Let me apologize for making it sound as if the posting snafu was your fault. I meant for it to be applied to About.Com, and I can see how you would have taken my words. I am sorry. It was frustrating to click my email address from the drop-down, only to have About.Com claim it was not a valid email, and then to destroy my comment.

"You stick with your 'culture.' I'll stick with my ontology, metaphysics, and epistemic principles. You continue to write as the Deity of atheist culture your fans take you to be; I will continue to write like the expert I someday hope to be credibly accepted as.

"As I said in one of those older threads, this is why I hate getting into threads. I did not attack you personally in my first comment, only commenting on what you said.

"You on the other hand, attacked my credibility and facts, which I have now proven are not all my own opinion; and I've proved that I have authorities upon whom I can rely for straight answers and help when I need it. I guess you are not one of them.

"This is the last time I will reply. I hate threads.
Curtis Edward Clark

Closing comments to this thread, not sent to Cline: In an attempt not to be "arrogant," which Cline alluded to, I referenced a dictionary, as he suggested I do:

"Atheism: (Gr. a, no; theos, god) Two uses of the term:

1. The belief that there is no God.
2. Some philosophers have been called "atheistic" because they have not held to a belief in a personal God. Atheism in this sense means "not theistic." [italics added, to prove that this particular dictionary proves Mr. Cline to be incorrect, not me.]
"The former meaning of the term is a literal rendering. The latter meaning is a less rigorous use of the term although widely current in the history of thought." "Dictionary of Philosophy"; Runes

Now, Mr. Cline, I interpret the belief that there is no god to be different from "the absence of belief in gods," because as you yourself stated, people who merely have an absence of belief in gods can still find themselves involved in all sorts of supernatural enterprises, like astrology, hand reading, tea reading, ghost hunting, etc. As the dictionary above states, these people are not atheist; they are "not-theist." You use a "less rigorous" definition that is "widely current"; but "widely current" does not mean "correct." It means "culturally popular," and you have already identified your definition as "cultural."

Someone with a belief that there is no god may be presumed to also believe there is nothing supernatural; or I would hope it could be presumed, otherwise there is not an iota of distinction in the definitions:

"[M]an's ethical values, compulsions, activities, and restraints can be justified by non-reductive monism, without recourse to supernatural sanctions, and his highest good pursued and attained under natural conditions, without expectation of a supernatural destiny."(amended from B.A.G.Fuller see Naturalism)

That, Mr. Cline, is my definition of "atheism," taken from two, not one, source. Have a good day, sir!

Quotes for Saturday

He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle. Edward R. Murrow; "I Can Hear It Now"; (said of Churchill)

"Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb." Sir Winston Churchill, from the essay 'Painting as a Pastime', published at the end of Thoughts and Adventures.

When they start the game, they don't yell, "Work ball." They say, "Play ball." Willie Stargell

"Live Free Or Die; Death Is Not The Worst of Evils." General Stark sent this toast to be read at the reunion he was too ill to attend; "Live Free or Die" became the New Hampshire State Motto in 1945 General John Stark, a toast for the 32nd anniversary reunion of the 1777 Battle of Bennington in Vermont, July 31, 1809

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