More on the subjective aspect of evidence

As we have seen, there is a subjective aspect to evidence.  This follows from the simple fact that evidence is conceived rather than sensed.  We cannot measure “evidence.”  We measure data and transform data into evidence with the act of thinking.  In other words, evidence comes into existence only when the mind interprets data that are sensed.  Given the existence of evidence depends on the subjective act of interpretation, it cannot escape its subjective aspect.  Now, this does not mean evidence is entirely subjective.  For its existence also depends on the data that are sensed.  Thus recognizing the subjective aspect of evidence does not commit us to some full-blown, post-modern denial of objective reality.  But it does mean that evidence is not some objective criterion that can decide an issue of dispute.  Disputes are only resolved when a) data exist to be interpreted as evidence AND b) all minds agree to interpret the data similarly.  We deceive ourselves if we treat evidence as an objective criterion.

I trust that we have all seen the subjective aspect of evidence play out before our eyes. We have seen examples where two or more people can sense the same data, yet interpret it differently.  For one person, the data are transformed into evidence as a function of their background beliefs and expectations.  Yet since the other person does not share this subjective reality, they do not view the same data as evidence.  So you see, evidence depends on the context that is supplied by the mind.  Evidence is context-dependent.  And given that evidence is context-dependent, it, alone, cannot decide between contexts.

If you are still having to hard time grasping this, there is a perfect illustration on this blog.

 

Most of us think there is an atheist movement because there is plenty of evidence the atheist movement exists.  People like Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and PZ Myers tell us there is an atheist movement and consider themselves part of it.  For example:

“I believe future historians of the decline and fall of religion will come to see the 2012 GAC in Melbourne as a pivotal turning point. Helped by outstandingly efficient organisation behind the scenes, and a series of uniformly excellent talks, the Melbourne conference will be joined in our minds with the Reason Rally in Washington as the ‘Atheist Spring’ of 2012. The buzz of youthful, good-humoured optimism at both events has given our movement a momentum which will prove hard to resist.” – Richard Dawkins

Dozens of other atheist bloggers agree and many refer to themselves and others as atheist activists.  The atheists organize a Reason Rally and compare themselves to the women’s rights movement.  There are many atheist organizations with a social, and even political, agenda.  Even news organizations, ranging from Fox to NPR, have noticed the movement:

In the last decade, atheism in America has risen from a tiny, demonized fringe to a serious presence in the public and political arenas. The latest polls show that almost 20 percent of Americans now identify as non-religious, and the atheist movement — a loose coalition of skeptical, rationalist and humanist groups — is making inroads everywhere from high school campuses to the halls of Congress.

As the atheist movement gains numbers and prominence, it’s inevitably been forced to confront questions about what it ultimately seeks to accomplish.

http://www.salon.com/2012/10/06/atheisms_growing_pains/

Billed as “the largest gathering of the secular movement in world history,” the Reason Rally — a march on Washington by atheists and other non-believers on Saturday, March 24 — is a coming-out party for a movement that has gained momentum in recent years.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/03/24/reason-rally-is-coming-out-party-for-secular-movement/#ixzz29kAvaUMM

 

As a movement, the secularists have hurdles to overcome; some of their most prominent spokespeople, such as the British biologist Richard Dawkins, reject religious belief as wholly irrational, loopy, and crazy….. Many of the organizations and activists who are part of a coalition of church-state separation advocates have long done stellar work in raising awareness of encroachment of religion in politics and policy-making. Being able to keep the pressure on church-state separation issues during a campaign season will be the test of the movement’s political muscle.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/mar/26/reason-rally-resonate-religious-democracy

Atheist organizer takes ‘movement’ to nation’s capital…….He started as a volunteer in New Jersey in 1996, moved up to be the state’s director and then jumped from national spokesperson to vice president. In 2010 he became president of the organization, which counts 4,000 members, has a $750,000 annual budget and has become the organizational face of a burgeoning American movement of atheists.

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/23/atheist-organizer-takes-movement-to-nations-capital/

Thousands of people are expect to descend on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to celebrate not believing in God. It’s being called a sort of “Woodstock for Atheists,” a chance for atheists to show their power in numbers and change their image…… Tension Within Movement. But not everyone thinks that’s the best approach. “I’m not sure it is to atheists’ benefit to always present a kinder, gentler face,” says Greta Christina, a prominent atheist blogger and author of a new book called Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off The Godless.Christina says there’s a tension in the movement. On one side are what she calls “firebrands,” such as Oxford biologist Dawkins, who has called some believers “staggeringly ignorant” and “insane.” On the other are the “diplomats,” such as Mehta, who deliver the same message of a Godless universe — but politely. Christina says every modern social movement — civil rights, feminism, gay rights — had the same tension, and you need both.

http://m.npr.org/story/149021993

Yet in the comments section of this blog, Alan Fox is one atheist who denies the existence of an atheist movement.  Certainly he can detect all these data listed above.  But because of his background beliefs and expectations, he interprets it all differently, as being insufficient to acknowledge the existence of an atheist movement.  In Alan’s mind, he doesn’t see these data as evidence, thus there is no evidence and thus no atheist movement.

Once you can see how this all plays out, you’ll start to recognize how silly it is for atheists to demand evidence for God’s existence.

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63 Responses to More on the subjective aspect of evidence

  1. Alan Fox says:

    All very persuasive, Mike. Maybe there is a movement forming. I’ll concede the point. Maybe there will be enough impetus for a single-issue umbrella group to emerge.

  2. Crude says:

    Maybe there is a movement forming. I’ll concede the point. Maybe there will be enough impetus for a single-issue umbrella group to emerge.

    So, let’s be clear. Are you admitting you were wrong all this time to deny that there exists an atheist movement? Because you certainly did deny that – even in the face of most of this evidence (a fair chunk has merely been recycled and placed into this single post.)

    Yet it sounds like you’re squirming into ‘Okay, maybe someday there will possibly emerge an atheist movement. There’s not one now though.’ I’d love for you to stick to your guns, even now, and deny there exists such a thing. It’d be a great post to refer to in the future when ‘Why do you treat Alan Fox like a crazy guy who can’t evaluate evidence at all?’ is asked of me. 😉

  3. Alan Fox says:

    I see 20,000 was an estimate for the numbers at the 2012 “Reason Rally”. Was the weather bad?

  4. Crude says:

    Again, Alan, I ask you: would you say people who believe there is an atheist movement are deluded? I don’t recall your reply to that. 😀

  5. Alan Fox says:

    You do too!

    I think we can reserve delusions for facts rather than opinions! When atheists start coming together in significant numbers we can then… what exactly? Worry? Applaud?

  6. Crude says:

    Alan,

    I think we can reserve delusions for facts rather than opinions!

    Right. It’s a fact that Dawkins, Coyne, etc believe that an atheist movement exists. Not “will exist, maybe someday” but “exists”. Mike provided quite a lot of evidence that said movement does exist – now – and certainly that those gentlemen believe the movement exists.

    You, meanwhile, don’t think a movement exists. In fact, you think it’s plainly obvious there is no movement.

    C’mon, Alan, say the magic word. Take it slow. Start with the easy parts.

    “I think Dawkins and Coyne and Myers are…”

    That part should be easy for you. At first, imagine you’re paying them a compliment or agreeing with them! Then, it’s all a matter of taking it slow.

    “I think Dawkins and Coyne and Myers are D… D… D…”

    See, “Deluded” is going to be hard for you to call them, so you’ll stutter. After all, you’re admire them so – lots of emotional investment, especially after all these years. So focus on that first part, that D. Try some practice words: “Daring!” “Dashing!” “Determined!” “Delightful!”

    And then, after a few of those… the key is to switch at the last minute. Try to get your tongue – well, in this case, your fingers – running ahead of your thoughts. Really, this should be easy for you. Look at your track record.

    “I think Dawkins and Coyne and Myers are deluded!”

    See that? That’s the goal, Alan. The words you have to say here, to maintain your ‘obviously there is no atheist movement, people who think otherwise are imagining it’ line.

    Now, to avoid “the vapors”, you should probably immediately follow this up with caveats. “But it’s only on this topic, I think they’re great men otherwise, really correct, worthy of respectandthey’resowonderfulit’sjustonTHISISSUEIthinkthey’redeludedbutthat’sokaynobodyisperfectImakemistakesallthetimeand…” etc, etc. You’ll probably feel overwhelmed at first, but really, it’s all part of the process for you. Baby steps.

    I’d say you shouldn’t worry about being ostracized by your atheist peers, but c’mon. Ostracizing pretty much is a Gnu pasttime. So yeah, you’ll lose some friends by saying this. There’s an alternative, of course – you just say “I was wrong. Mike’s correct. There is an atheist movement.” But that, of course, involves the distastefulness of admitting that Mike was right and you were wrong. Again, look at your track record – I wouldn’t count on it. Better to go with the “Dawkins and company are deluded on this” line.

    Ball’s in your court again. Not that it matters, since I have a feeling you’re going to run the heck away from it again rather than take a proper swing. 😀

  7. Alan Fox says:

    Facts are generally past events. Things that we can check on. Statements about the future can only be opinions. It’s easy to test how reliable our opinions are by seeing how things turn out. We just have to wait.

    So what is in dispute here? What fact would establish the bald statement “there is an atheist movement” as correct? Fact; Gnu atheists support the idea of a movement and offer encouragement to the extent of appearing at public events. Fact: atheism as a view is on the rise in the US. Fact: atheists are not attending rallies and other events specifically for advancing the cause of atheism in particularly large numbers as yet .My opinion: atheism is catching on in the US because it makes more sense than the alternatives to enough people. My opinion: the growth in ,atheism will continue to outpace the development of any movement specifically set up to promùote the cause of atheism. My opinion: Prominent Gnus are exploiting a trend rather than driving a movement. My opinion: Mike needn’t blame Coyne, Dawkins, Myers et al for the rise in atheism. They are not that powerful. It is the ideas they express that are unstoppable. My opinion: the sky will not fall in when atheism becomes a majority view and a socially acceptable one in the US. So he is worrying needlessly.

  8. Alan Fox says:

    .Sorry about the odd formatting. Just typed direct into comment box as usual.

  9. Crude says:

    What fact would establish the bald statement “there is an atheist movement” as correct?

    Apparently, lobbying efforts, tens of thousands of people in attendance at rallies, leadership (both in terms of figureheads and established groups that were, even back in Madelyn Murray O’Hair’s time, receiving donations amounting to many thousands, possibly millions of dollars), and the almost universal recognition of the existence of the movement by both supporters and detractors isn’t enough for you.

    Instead, here’s your lynchpin:

    Fact: atheists are not attending rallies and other events specifically for advancing the cause of atheism in particularly large numbers as yet

    So, your excuse for saying there is no atheism movement – against all the existence evidence to the contrary – is “I, Alan Fox, don’t consider the numbers to have reached the magic point at which I’d consider it a movement. Merely tens of thousands. Not enough, I say!”

    The great thing is, by being stubborn and trying desperately to walk the increasingly inane line where Mike is wrong and there is no atheism movement, but all these people who insist there IS an atheism movement aren’t deluded, much less wrong themselves… you’re just unwittingly backing up one of Mike’s points.

    See, Mike’s made a big theme recently about the problems atheists have when it comes to evidence. It looks like that problem isn’t limited to God for some atheists.

    So tell us, Alan…

    What would evidence look like for the following claim: “There exists an atheism movement.” 😉

  10. Crude says:

    And, just to cap it off…

    It is the ideas they express that are unstoppable.

    Except for that idea they have of ‘there is an atheist movement’. There, you think they’re completely freaking deluded. 😉

  11. Alan Fox says:

    BTW on ostracism. No worries there as I am not, and never have been, a card carrying member of any atheist group I am an outside observer, never having set foot on US soil (the closest I ever got so far is Niagara) and the mega-churches are a uniquely US phenomenon. I wonder if their former success and the subsequent high profiles of Ted Haggard, The Bakkers, Kent Hovind and others of their ilk contributed to the disillusionment with organised religion.

  12. Alan Fox says:

    There, you think they’re completely freaking deluded.

    Naughty Crude! Mike is the mind reader here. I don’t think you have his skills yet, young grasshopper!

  13. Alan Fox says:

    Perhaps another problem with organised religion in the US is the inability of some sects to change dogma in the light of obvious facts. The age of the Earth is apparently an article of faith rather than something that can be established by measurement for some sects, as the ID proponent, Bill Dembski found out to the detrimùent of his relationship with his former employer.

  14. Alan Fox says:

    Spooky! There isn’t even a “ù” key on my keyboard!

  15. Alan Fox says:

    Crude paraphrases:

    “I, Alan Fox, don’t consider the numbers to have reached the magic point at which I’d consider it a movement. Merely tens of thousands. Not enough, I say!”

    That’s a fair summary. I am also making the point that there is no cause for alarm among the religious. I don’t think atheists are out to conquer the world. They are just more vocal in asserting their right to free expression.

  16. Cale B.T. says:

    “The age of the Earth is apparently an article of faith rather than something that can be established by measurement for some sects, as the ID proponent, Bill Dembski found out to the detrimùent of his relationship with his former employer.”

    The employment controversy you’re referring to here was actually over whether the flood was global or local, rather than the age of the earth.

  17. Crude says:

    Alan,

    That’s a fair summary.

    Wonderful! Then can you describe what kind of evidence would help to establish that an atheist movement does, in fact, exist? After all, since you’ve repeatedly said you’re skeptical of the very existence of an atheist movement, it makes sense to ask you that. 😀

  18. Alan Fox says:

    @ Cale B. T.

    It’s how it was reported in the media, see this misleading title. Hardly makes much difference as a global flood is about as much supported by evidence as a six thousand year old Earth!

  19. Alan Fox says:

    Then can you describe what kind of evidence would help to establish that an atheist movement does, in fact, exist?

    When politicians begin to listen to an atheist viewpoint would be irrefutable evidence of a movement.

  20. Alan Fox says:

    But allowing for the sake of discussion that an effective, organised, coherent campaigning and numerous atheist movement is or is about to be under way…

    so what?

  21. Alan Fox says:

    Oops messed up link to Florida Baptist Witness.. Here it is!

  22. Cale B.T. says:

    My apologies Alan, I stand corrected.

  23. Alan Fox says:

    My apologies Alan, I stand corrected.

    I shall try and emulate your example in future! 😉

  24. Crude says:

    When politicians begin to listen to an atheist viewpoint would be irrefutable evidence of a movement.

    If they did, then we’d have irrefutable evidence that an atheist movement not only exists, but predates the New Atheists – since at least the time of Madelyn Murray O’Hare, what with the atheist lobbying groups.

    Wait, wait, let me guess – “no, I mean, listening more than that”. 😉

    Really, I have to hand it to you: you just demonstrated one of Mike’s points to a freaking T. “The subjective aspect of evidence”, indeed.

  25. Alan Fox says:

    From the CNN blog that Mike linked to entitled “Atheist organizer takes ‘movement’ to nation’s capital” (Note scare quotes!)

    David Silverman, president of the 4,000 strong American atheist organisation and his wife are quoted:

    “Religion is not a factor in our lives to the point that is causes strife,” Silverman says. Hildy stills attends Orthodox synagogue sporadically.

    “I am a very strong supporter of separation of church and state,” she says. “My husband has no problem with people believing what they believe. I am proof of that. He just doesn’t want it foisted on him. And I am totally in line with that.

    Mrs Silverman takes a good pragmatic attitude,I think.

  26. Crude says:

    We’ve had atheist lobbying groups going back to Murray O’Hair at least, Alan. So by your own standards, the atheist movement exists. Like I said, I expect further twisting – and further backing up of Mike’s point. 😉

  27. Alan Fox says:

    Just to be clear, Crude. Are you lumping together secularism, humanism and atheism as identical or just synonymous?

  28. Alan Fox says:

    And I’m still curious as to what evangelical Christians have to fear from an atheist movement.

  29. Michael says:

    Alan: My opinion: Mike needn’t blame Coyne, Dawkins, Myers et al for the rise in atheism. They are not that powerful. It is the ideas they express that are unstoppable.

    Fact: Mike does not blame Coyne, Dawkins, Myers et al for the rise in atheism.

    Alan:My opinion: the sky will not fall in when atheism becomes a majority view and a socially acceptable one in the US. So he is worrying needlessly.

    Fact: I am not worrying.

  30. Michael says:

    Crude,

    See, Mike’s made a big theme recently about the problems atheists have when it comes to evidence. It looks like that problem isn’t limited to God for some atheists.

    Yes, that’s the big point theme to notice. I think the evidence for the atheist movement is quite powerful. Powerful enough that this is one topic where you, I, Dawkins, and Myers all agree. We all see the same on this one. But as we can see, as powerful as it is, the evidence is still context dependent in that Alan strongly denies the existence of the movement. As we can see, “evidence” cannot compel belief. Instead, it must be first perceived, then second, embraced.

    We need only shift this very same dynamic to the question of God’s existence. If you or I were to present such evidence to Alan, there is not one reason to think the dynamic would be any different. In other words, evidence for God’s existence cannot compel atheists to believe. That’s not how people work. The atheist would need to perceive the evidence and then embrace the evidence. But the context associated with being an atheist in the first place effectively rules this out. And this makes further sense when you consider so many atheists score as a 6.9 or 7 on Dawkins seven point scale. For recall that those scores are the scores of the closed-minded.

  31. Alan Fox says:

    I just read that Foxnews piece that Mike linked to in the OP. I was struck by what a sane analysis it seemed to be from an organisation that employs Bill O’Reilly. But then I see the (presumably, guest) author, David Niose is president of the American Humanist Association.

  32. Alan Fox says:

    The Guardian piece Mike links to is quite nuanced too. Lets hope for the sake of economic progress, the various secularist, humanist and atheist groups can get together and focus into a general movement for political change that will loosen the grip of fundamentalists on current policies.

  33. Alan Fox says:

    Well, I don’t know, Mike, your approach seems to be working on whether there is or soon will be an effective political movement that embraces atheism.

    Shall we try the evidence for gods, now? You never know. 🙂

  34. Alan Fox says:

    I wonder how strongly the revelations transmitted to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni will influence the economic policies of Mitt romney?

  35. Michael says:

    Alan: No worries there as I am not, and never have been, a card carrying member of any atheist group I am an outside observer,

    You may want to think of yourself as an outside observer, but that is not how you come across. We know you are a big fan of Dawkins and now we can see that you position yourself such that Dawkins is deluded about the existence of some non-existent movement, yet you refuse to follow the logic of your own position and agree he is deluded. What’s more, you even agree with some of the extreme aspects of the atheist movement, such as making religious indoctrination of children illegal.

    Alan, do you have any evidence that you are an “outside observer?”

  36. Alan Fox says:

    Alan, do you have any evidence that you are an “outside observer”?

    Well I am an outside observer of the US, evidently, because, I have never been there. I of course have have a view on many political issues and don’t claim top be a disinterested observer.

  37. Alan Fox says:

    What’s more, you even agree with some of the extreme aspects of the atheist movement, such as making religious indoctrination of children illegal.

    Actually, I think I said that the type of religious indoctrination that I would find objectionable, taken to an extreme of isolationism that became neglect, was probably covered by existing legislation in UK. I did not have enough knowledge of how child protection operates in the US to comment on that.

  38. Alan Fox says:

    …the existence of some non-existent movement.

    Well, did we properly establish what constitutes a movement? .It’s a bit like trying to establish or discuss what the evidence for gods might be before actually clarifying what we mean by gods.

  39. Alan Fox says:

    Meanwhile, let’s try a little research.

  40. “I trust that we have all seen the subjective aspect of evidence play out before our eyes. We have seen examples where two or more people can sense the same data, yet interpret it differently. For one person, the data are transformed into evidence as a function of their background beliefs and expectations. Yet since the other person does not share this subjective reality, they do not view the same data as evidence. So you see, evidence depends on the context that is supplied by the mind. Evidence is context-dependent. And given that evidence is context-dependent, it, alone, cannot decide between contexts.”

    Or, not. An alternative is that things aren’t that subjective, an atheist movement clearly exists, and Alan Fox is just wrong or being misunderstood. He seems to more or less concede the point here in this thread. So much for subjectivity.

    “And given that evidence is context-dependent, it, alone, cannot decide between contexts.”

    Meh. This really is just bad old postmodernist relativism (or, alternatively, bad old fundamentalist presuppositionalism). You haven’t explained why not. Since relativism, and your own claims that everything is subjective, seem to be self-refuting (if true, they themselves cannot be true), you’ve got some explaining to do.

  41. Michael says:

    Or, not. An alternative is that things aren’t that subjective, an atheist movement clearly exists, and Alan Fox is just wrong or being misunderstood. He seems to more or less concede the point here in this thread. So much for subjectivity.

    Nick, you just relied on your subjectivity here. More or less? Is it more? Or less? You see some concession (more, but maybe less), but I don’t. It looks to me like he is doubling-down. More or less.

    Since relativism, and your own claims that everything is subjective, seem to be self-refuting (if true, they themselves cannot be true), you’ve got some explaining to do.

    LOL. You think I have explaining to do because you don’t bother to read what I write (as usual). So where did I claim “everything is subjective?”

    Y’see Nick, your version of positivism (two can play the label game) has you thinking you are objectively detecting my argument. But from your paraphrasing, it is clear my arguments must pass through your mental filters. If subjectivism is not in play, how is it that you so easily misinterpret my arguments?

  42. Crude says:

    Pointing out that what qualifies as evidence is determined in part, even in large part, by what worldview we bring to the table isn’t a subjectivist/relativist claim itself. It’s a pretty banal point that most philosophers would agree with. So Nick’s complaining that Mike is off into post-modern total relativity land just seems like bunk.

    But I too would like to see where Mike said ‘everything is subjective’. Maybe Nick will provide us with that quote.

  43. Alan Fox says:

    Hi Nick

    …an atheist movement clearly exists, and Alan Fox is just wrong or being misunderstood.<

    Wrong and misunderstood! I readily concede the bald statement of fact- that there is an atheist movement. I am questioning whether this, currently, small, fringe and disparate group has yet developed any muscle in US politics I sincerely hope it does. Time will tell.

    I have also pointed out that Mike has nothing to fear from the progress of such a group but he tells me he is not worried. So that’s fine!

  44. Alan Fox says:

    BTW I can’t recall Nick mentioning where he personally stands with regard to atheism/agnosticism but I would like to congratulate him for his excellent contribution to the cause of secularism in the US;

    Nick has experienced the lack of political nous sometimes demonstrated by the shining lights of the atheist movement, so I wonder whether he thinks such a movement is capable of changing into an effective political force for change. Would that be a good thing?

  45. L.W. Dickel says:

    Here’s a good description of the Judeo-Christian religion.

    “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change this.
    For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”-Albert Einstein

    Religion is mind rot. A bunch of asinine Stone Age bullshit that only the weak minded, apparently in need of comforting fairy tales, can swallow.

    Oh,and it’s also stupid as fucking hell.

  46. Alan Fox says:

    Oops it’s new glasses for me. Superfluous “change”!

  47. Alan Fox says:

    Mike, what do you mean by “doubling down”? Googling gets me some kind of gambling strategy. Is that what you mean?

  48. chunkdz says:

    how is it that you [Nick] so easily misinterpret my arguments?

    **Best Arnold Horshack imitation**

    OOOH! OOOH! OOOH!

  49. chunkdz says:

    Alan:

    Lets hope for the sake of economic progress, the various secularist, humanist and atheist groups can get together and focus into a general movement for political change that will loosen the grip of fundamentalists on current policies.

    Hasn’t this already happened in France, Alan?

    The inevitable outcome (since secularists don’t like to reproduce as much as fundamentalists) will be the continued influx of Maghreb fundamentalists. They will inevitably continue to grow in power (since they are the only ones along with Turks who reproduce fast enough to replace the population).

    Kiss your beloved Occitania goodbye, Alan. And thank the secularists for making it possible.

  50. Alan Fox says:

    Hi Chunk

    I have to say you are doing a fine job of keeping Telic Thoughts going almost single-handed; Well done!

  51. Alan Fox says:

    Hasn’t this already happened in France, Alan?

    Several times, I guess. Makes life interesting. Funny you should mention Occitania, though Septimania (God forbid) is a name kicked around now by a few de-centralisers. It’s been fought over, depopulated and repopulated many times since prehistory. The latest wave of immigration from North Africa will be absorbed without too much bloodshed. I like the Moroccans I meet here. There are enough of them that we have a large Moroccan supermarket in town with an incredible range of spices and other products that would otherwise be hard to come by in this conservative bit of France

  52. Alan Fox says:

    Turks are largely a German problem. I have never come across any Turkish families since moving here ten years ago, though I was told I could hire a gang of Turkish builders once. I stuck with my Moroccan guy.

  53. Alan Fox says:

    Sorry for derail, Mike. Research at Jerry Coyne’s blog and Pharyngula is a bit slow. Have not been ripped to pieces for suggesting the atheist movement is pretty ineffective.

  54. chunkdz says:

    Yup. That’s the inevitable endgame for secular societies. You can either maintain status quo by brute force or whither away as fundamentalists slowly gain control and soothe your fears with exotic spices.

    Either way your kooky idea that secularists can “loosen the grip of fundamentalists on current policies” is a fleeting pipe dream. (Unless of course you are referring to the way secularists usually maintain control of society which has historically been through brute force).

  55. Alan Fox says:

    There is always the possibility of dialogue and compromise, Chunk.You ought to try it sometime!

  56. chunkdz says:

    The salient point is that atheists who fear “the grip of fundamentalists”, as you say, also seem bent on a policy which encourages fundamentalists to gain power.

    As if we needed more evidence, this is yet more evidence that these are not rational people we are dealing with.

  57. chunkdz says:

    secularist, humanist and atheist groups can get together and focus into a general movement for political change

    You and your moron friends still yearning for the glory days of the Culte de la Raison, Alan?

    Lol!

  58. Alan Fox says:

    Sorry chunk, I am not following your train of thought here. You seem to be talking hypotheticals unless you are referring to the huge influence of fundamentalist Christians on the GOP.

  59. Alan Fox says:

    You and your moron friends still yearning for the glory days of the Culte de la Raison, Alan?

    Not sure to whom you are alluding by “moron friends” me old china. There are three lessons to be learnt from history

    1, We are doomed to repeat the mistakes if we don’t learn from history

    2, Real life does not go in predictable cycles, it is chaotic

    3. I’ll come in again.

  60. chunkdz says:

    You seem to be talking hypotheticals…

    Umm, yes, Alan. It’s the one you presented. Lol.

    You seem to have become rather unhinged since we last spoke. Still obsessed with Mike, I see.

  61. Alan Fox says:

    Internet addiction; What can you do?

    Sorry, you caught me on the hop. Did you want to discuss the OP?

  62. Ratheist says:

    I think that indeed, as you say, ‘the data are transformed into evidence as a function of their background beliefs and expectations’. In this sense, as you also suggest ‘evidence depends on the context that is supplied by the mind, and since evidence is context-dependent, it, alone, cannot decide between contexts’.

    As I see it, the issue here is how to stick to this kind of contextualism about evidence or justification while avoiding relativism. If evidence cannot itself be used to provide justification to the conceptual system (of background beliefs and expectations) of which they are part (because that would be viciously circular), then does this mean that all conceptual systems are on equal footing as regards their justification?

    I think that this does not necessarily follow especially if we take into account the fact that while it is indeed true that a conceptual system (CS) cannot justify itself, it is nevertheless possible to epistemically criticeze and replace (or abandon) the rules-beliefs-principles of a certain CS from the standpoint of another, different CS. This kind of epistemic criticism of a CS as a whole from the standpoint of another CS -in the absence of an epistemic viewpoint which radically transcends our epistemic practices- can be viewed as essentially practical in nature, i.e. as a justification which can be understood with reference to certain (presumably very general and fundamental) epistemic purposes or goals that those CS’s have in common. This can provide a sense in which it can be meaningful to say that the rules-principles-basic beliefs of a certain CS can be more successful in fulfilling tose purposes or goals than the rules-principles-basic beliefs of another.

    We have to distinguish the personal from the subjective. There are elements of judgment, I’d say, in the interpretation of evidence; but this doesn’t mean that it’s subjective, it just means it’s just a matter of individual taste.

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