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Atheist or Intellectual?

I was reading through a magazine last week wherein there was this in response to a reader’s query: “You need to be an intellectual to be an atheist!”.

Is that really so? Then, are all atheists intellectuals?

My friend in the blogworld, Ketan states in his profile that elements of honesty, introspection, analysis go into someone turning an atheist.

That made me wonder: Is it that one who is not an atheist is not honest nor does that one possess the gift of introspection and analysis?

Cannot one be endowed with all that and still be a strong believer in God?

What makes 2 individuals, having the same skills at analysis and ability to ascertain things and their causes, end up with completely different conclusions and yet lets them feel the other person’s conclusion is the wrong one?

  1. August 23, 2009 at 3:42 AM

    First, you need to learn a bit more logic.

    Saying “all A are B” does not imply that “all B are A”, yet you ask rhetorically as if that IS implied.

    All humans are mammals, but not all mammals are humans.

    The proper conclusion from “all A are B” is “some B are A, if A is nonempty”

  2. August 23, 2009 at 9:55 PM

    @Brian:

    “First, you need to learn a bit more logic.”

    You have responded assuming that I am unaware of logical fallacies.

    Just because I asked the question I did does not mean I am not aware of the logical flaw in the statement.

    But, this IS something that has almost become a phenomenon nowadays…. that many people consider themselves to be intellectuals just because they claim themselves to be atheists!

    And hence the question holds good.

  3. August 23, 2009 at 9:58 PM

    Btw, Brian, if I am not wrong, your profile shows a gnomish rogue from WoW… you a regular at playing WoW?

  4. RadhaChandran
    August 25, 2009 at 12:40 PM

    Why atheists are intellectuals is simply because they are not dependenent on any imaginary God.They believe in themselves & depend only on their intelligence.

    All atheists are not intellectuals as there are fools who neither believe in themselves nor God.

    Most of the theists are blind believers of God.They never try to see God within them & others.They are God fearing & their blind belief sometimes makes one to think they act stupid.If one tries to look inside them & spend a few moments for their own good & development,they will come to know the real truth about God or Naure power within them.

  5. August 25, 2009 at 1:11 PM

    @RC

    You have basically called both theists and atheists as fools, having created a third category where God is nothing but nature power or some energy, as described in your posts on your blog.

    “If one tries to look inside them & spend a few moments for their own good & development,they will come to know the real truth about God or Naure power within them.”

    I mean no offense, but your understanding of God is exactly the same idea used by so many ‘bhagwans’ and ‘babajis’ all around the world to get a following… most of them bogus, money-minded crooks.

    Sure, people would like to be reassured that God is within themselves, but pity is that finally they end up calling themselves God and hence another ‘bhagwan’ comes to exist.

  6. August 26, 2009 at 7:51 AM

    Belief in God helps people be slightly humble. People who believe in God are more down to earth! Most of the non believers are brash (to the extant of being rude) and the arrogance clearly shows in their faces, which is not very pleasant! Of course, in both the categories some people would try to cheat and take advantage of others innocence. Or their own innocence!

    BTW, you have been tagged on the topic ‘Fast Furious and Danceable songs’.

    Destination Infinity

  7. August 26, 2009 at 11:33 AM

    Many people who call them thiests are not the one who chose to be one, instead because of fear or habit they pray God. For doing this we dont need any intellectual abilities. But real atheists are one who break this tradition, question and raise honest questions. For this we need honesty, braveness and brain.

  8. August 26, 2009 at 11:43 AM

    Bharathi,

    For blindly saying something doesn’t exist, you don’t need to be an intellectual.

    The very basis of argument by an atheist is “There is no such thing as God, so there is no point in discussing whether he exists or not”.

    Intellectual? Hardly.

    I also find that many people confuse atheism with iconoclastic behavior and agnosticism.

  9. August 26, 2009 at 2:20 PM

    Interestingly, I still haven’t seen a comment which is in answer to my last question in the post. Hmmm… wonder why.

  10. August 26, 2009 at 6:34 PM

    People take a decision based on their beliefs that they accumulate from their experiences. We cant expect two analytical person’s experiences to be same and so they will differ.

    Though I am not an atheist (I am an agnostic) I still feel atheism is better than blind theism. (I respect theism of an enlightened person). In blind theism you rely on other persons directions and fear. But atheists dont want to acept any thing blindly. they want proof. I believe honest atheism will lead you to enlightened theism. I was an atheist for a while.

  11. August 26, 2009 at 9:10 PM

    @Bharathi

    Nicely put.

    Still, I do not agree with the statement that atheists don’t accept anything blindly.

  12. August 27, 2009 at 9:32 AM

    As like fake theists, there are also fake atheists. They thin that is a style. I will agree with you if you speak about them.

  13. August 27, 2009 at 10:12 AM

    I am sure you would.🙂

    But even in many ‘non-fake’ atheists, I find a trait that is disturbing. They do not have the same questioning attitude in other matters as they have on the standpoint of God!

    Talk to them about a nano-pico-quantumo particulate theory or about some speculative theory on how a star 50 million light years away shows some spectral shadings of hydrogen and oxygen, and they will just keep nodding their head as if they understand the whole BS.

    • September 17, 2009 at 3:01 AM

      Why have you taken it as a default position that discovery of some star’s spectrum showing bands corresponding with oxygen or hydrogen as bullshit? Are such stars not present? The Sun itself is pretty much rich in hydrogen, and considering the fact that as any star ages, the nuclear fusion products turn heavier and heavier, it should be no surprise if the Sun also contains oxygen (mass number 16)! BTW, I’d read that the Sun could also contain Iron (atomic number somewhere in 50’s), so oxygen is really a ‘small fry’!😉

  14. August 27, 2009 at 4:42 PM

    It seems you wont give up🙂
    I respect non fake atheists for their honesty and braveness. I really dont mind if they know any technical details on matter.

  15. August 27, 2009 at 4:58 PM

    No I won’t😉

  16. September 17, 2009 at 2:51 AM

    Uh-oh Ambi, for obvious reasons this post is very shocking for me! Well, I was never given an opportunity to explain myself. But then, here I take one.

    What’s the basis of my making that statement–the one you’ve quoted above?

    It’s my personal experience. There was a time I was a believer in God. The three qualities that led me to give up on that belief were the ones I stated.

    What my statement means is not that one possessing those qualities has to definitely turn atheist. But those are minimum necessary conditions.

    I’ll give you an example. Under usual circumstances, malaria can only spread through mosquito bite. So, if a person suffers from malaria, they must’ve definitely been bitten by a mosquito. But that doesn’t mean, all those who’re bitten by mosquitoes will definitely suffer from malaria. Malaria is atheism and mosquito here is elements of honesty, analysis and introspection.

    Personally, I’d respect those people more who believe in God because of rational reasons than those who stop believing in god because of some whim (say, not getting the first rank as was in my post, where you’d commented).

    Isaac Newton was a firm theist, but I respect him a lot, why? Because the extent to which knowledge to mankind was available at that time, what he thought was pretty much rational.

    Likewise, for a child in school, without sufficient scientific knowledge or idea of somewhat mature philosophical arguments, it’s very rational to think of God as the perfect hypothesis to explain the Universe.

    You’ve asked a pertinent question at the end of the post as to what differences lead to different conclusions between people possessing comparable skill set in question?

    That requires two people to start right from fundamental premises they agree upon, and then reach one conclusion after the other, and then see, exactly at which point do they depart. And that’s why I do occasionally enter an argument with intelligent theists as I’d be curious, at what point does their chain of thoughts depart from mine.

    As to your question about understanding of electromagnetic signatures of individual elements (just what I remember is there’s a fixed energy difference between two successive energy levels in any atom, and that’s why the wavelength emited stays constant), I won’t pretend that I understand it all, but nor would such a thing defy my pre-existing knowledge or comprehension of the Universe.

    You never told me I was your blog friend!🙂

  17. September 17, 2009 at 3:04 AM

    Since you mentioned quantum physics, I’d like to add that I only have vague qualitative concepts of it.

    And though, it also sounds pretty supernatural, so to say, it has been pretty successful in predicting the nature of the Universe.

    I’d love to have your views on this post:

    http://ketanpanchal.blogspot.com/2009/03/free-will.html

    TC.

  18. September 17, 2009 at 10:55 AM

    “Uh-oh Ambi, for obvious reasons this post is very shocking for me! Well, I was never given an opportunity to explain myself. But then, here I take one.”

    I was merely quoting you. There is nothing here to explain.

    “Why have you taken it as a default position that discovery of some star’s spectrum showing bands corresponding with oxygen or hydrogen as bullshit?”

    For the same reason that you have taken a default position that you have faith that the claims made our scientists are 100% true.

    • September 17, 2009 at 5:02 PM

      Ambi,

      1. I understand that you were merely quoting me. But can quoting not be done with the knowledge of one being quoted, especially when accessible?

      If I quote your Krishna-post on my blog and wonder to fellow bloggers, why some people think, all nuclear medicine physicians believe in Krishna and astrology?, I’d be sending out a wrong signal to others.

      2. Where did you gather this idea from that I put 100 percent trust in whatever any scientist says? For instance, the author of ‘Krishna-exists’ is a scientist, and I don’t believe his assertions!

      If for the same star whose example you gave, if I were to read that on Sunday it emits exclusively oxygen specific EM waves, hydrogen-specific on Monday, Lithium-specific on Tuesday, Osmium-specific on Wednesday, and henceforth, I wouldn’t have believed it! Or done so with lot of skepticism.

      And by calling that statement bullshit, you’re implying that such a star (which emits hydrogen- and oxygen-specific signals) just cannot exist! None of the scientists are also so confident of their own findings as you are. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been repeating the same experiments again and again, or there wouldn’t have been checks like peer review, and subsequent attempts at confirmation by emulating experiments that produce ‘new’ results.

      If I put trust in something, it’s the methodology of science, not scientists per se.

      When I use the term science, let me be clear, I don’t mean only maths, physics, chemistry biology and their applied counterparts. I also include in it economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, music, etc.

      Because when studied systematically, all of these believe in one fundamental thing–cause-and-effect relationship.

      The methodology of science involves trying to make out cause-and-effect relationships and then on trying to predict using those relations events whose outcomes are unknown from the ‘data’ that’d be available.

      There are gaps in these cause and effect relations but they get filled over time.

      I want to gain knowledge about the Universe. I’ve laid out above the methodology I believe in. If you don’t agree with it, kindly very specifically point out, which other methodology would you like to replace the current one with?

  19. September 17, 2009 at 5:48 PM

    You seem to be too much taken with the term “bull-shit” I used in my comment. Read the entire comment and target the words “speculative theory”. It is those which I termed as I did.

    And no I do not imply anything else other than that we are forced to accept mere “speculation” as “fact”. To believe that phenomena observed using our limited means on this infinitesimal earth, is valid throughout the known universe… is pure ‘scientific’ arrogance.

    Do you really believe that the ‘methodology’ as you speak is not based on faith?
    “None of the scientists are also so confident of their own findings as you are. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been repeating the same experiments again and again, or there wouldn’t have been checks like peer review, and subsequent attempts at confirmation by emulating experiments that produce ‘new’ results.”

    If they are not sure of what they do, then they cannot claim to be an authority in that subject. Logically, they lose the right to question anyone’s authority. But reality is different, isn’t it?

    Do you really believe that the ‘methodology’ as you speak is perfectly based on empirical information and not based on faith?

  20. September 17, 2009 at 5:58 PM

    When you’re talking of ‘faith’, you’re excluding the verifiability and and predictive power of what we term ‘knowledge’. Each time you decide to put on a light switch, you know it will make your light source emit light. You know to a great extent why it happens that way. If something goes wrong and the light source does not turn on, you know because of chain of reasons that science has provided, that something must’ve gone wrong, and that something can be ‘corrected’.

    Speculative theories enjoy merely a status of hypothesis, and not ‘actionable’ knowledge.

    I will be ready to totally agree with you if you point out with other method of acquiring and terming something as knowledge do you want to replace science with?

    I agree, if we set too many philosophical obstacles in path of science, science is not perfect, but which other mode of acquiring knowledge works better for our purposes of satisfying curiosity as well as improving our lives?

  21. September 17, 2009 at 6:47 PM

    Before I get in to a discussion on modes of gaining knowledge, I am curious as to how you feel that science, in its current form, has improved our lives.

  22. September 17, 2009 at 7:53 PM

    How has science improved our lives?

    My answer would again depend upon a few speculations based of written historical accounts and some archeological evidences.

    1. We’re more reassured of the availability of basic necessities of life than in the past. I’ve read at few places that way in the past when agriculture and tool-making were not known to man, uncertainty of finding food was much greater than today. The probability of dying because of starvation was much higher than today. Then, agricultural techniques improved based on empirical observations, irrigation and use of domesticated animals came along. The individual probability of dying because of starvation decreased further. Now, we use fertilizers and more sophisticated techniques like genetic manipulation and probability of dying because of starvation has become infinitesimal for a vast percentage of population. The value of this accomplishment can be best appreciated only by actually visualizing having to go hungry on many nights in succession, and watching family members die because of hunger.

    2. Greater assurance of disease-free survival. There was a time (again, a speculation) a couple used to produce 8-10 children, and only two or three used to survive. So, around 6 children used to die. Again, owing to application of science, such things do not happen. Possibly, in olden days because of such a rampant prevalence of death, family members’ death would’ve been less painful to witness than today.

    But to whatever degree painful, that pain has been obviated today.

    3. A more comfortable life. As compared to worrying for my next meal, or being petrified as to when I’d become a meal of some other animal, I’m interacting with you, and am able to transmit across my ideas and get yours in return, without even seeing you. Though, I’ve not been in the former state, I’m pretty satisfied with what I’m doing right now. This difference has been enabled by application of scientific knowledge.

    I can enlist a few more points, but in my opinion, they won’t be as significant as these.

  23. September 17, 2009 at 9:33 PM

    1) The first thing I saw when I landed in USA and drove out of the airport 7 years ago was a huge billboard saying “Feed the hungry millions”. Homeless people lined up in front of a church on Sundays for food and used dresses. The hazards of our meddling with nature has been shown several times, yet we do the same mistake again and again. DDT, Endosulfan… the list goes on.

    2) There are multitudes of hospitals being opened left and right in the name of charity. New diseases are taking their toll in thousands. Swine flu, Ebola… anyone? People are still dying… where has the problem been solved?

    3) For a dog who sleeps on the side of the road and a human who sleep on a soft bed, fundamentally, what difference does it make? Instead of reaching a place in 2 days, you reach in about 2 hours. What is accomplished by that?

    For what purpose do these things are being put forth as scientific accomplishments?

    P.S. Your disclaimer on the top of your comment doesn’t lend credibility. But more on this later.

  24. September 17, 2009 at 10:34 PM

    1. Of course, food-problem hasn’t been completely solved. But, therein lies the accomplishment of science. That we’ve developed enough resources, and our standard of living has improved so much over time since prehistoric times that we think of food scarcity as a preventable problem. When people dying of starvation or being eaten by an animal was almost as common as people suffering from common cold today, and more importantly, nothing could’ve been done about it because of helplessness, obviously it was taken as a part and parcel of life. And that’s why I’d precisely pointed out–the individual probability of dying because of starvation. When was the last time you’d worried about what will you eat because of unavailability of food anywhere around you? Or worried about if an untamed animal would come and eat you?

    2. A very analogous answer as above. If disease-related mortality hasn’t reduced (according to you), how come life span has improved over the years? What is the case-fatality rate of swine flu? Maybe 1 in 1000. How much was the case fatality rate of malaria a century back? Much higher than today. Again, hospitals are opening because a margin for improved lives is there. Today, because, we can save lives, that’s why we try. In those days, saving lives was not possible. How do you know ebola virus wasn’t present in the past and people were not dying because of it?

    Today, if someone suffers from TB, in all likelihood they’d be cured of it, whereas, in past, it used to imply almost sure death.

    3. Last question you put forth would be answered better by you, except for of course if you don’t sleep on a soft bed. I personally, find it much more comfortable and pleasant sleeping under a fan, not being bitten by mosquitoes.

    Traveling faster reduces the discomfort that is felt during a journey.

    And of course, Ambi, I know what disclaimer I put doesn’t add any value to what I say here, rather only reduces it.

    But I largely know what all arguments can you come up with, and in fact you’ve asked fundamentally the same question by doubting the existence of Newton ‘cuz it falls in the same category of doubting the veracity of documented historical accounts. This condition has come only because only you’ve been asking questions, and I’ve been only answering.🙂

    You’ve not yet answered what you want to replace science with. But I’m giving you your time.

  25. September 17, 2009 at 10:52 PM

    “But I largely know what all arguments can you come up with”

    I doubt it. You have hardly known me for this day… we will see.

    Till now, my goal has only been to show you that we can keep asking questions, but it all comes around and around to the same point.

    Faith.

    What or who do you trust? You have to accept *some* authority… one cannot claim otherwise.

    We are not talking of replacing science… but being really ‘scientific’ in all our analysis.

  26. September 18, 2009 at 12:05 AM

    There is a distinction to be made between baseless faith and trust brought about by predictability and verifiability of a theory. Let’s say, opposite of trust is distrust. When I’ve to believe something, I put in trust/faith to the degree inversely proportional to distrust I’ve to overcome in the process. So obviously, trust and distrust are not countable entities, as in they need not only be absent or present. They’re are at the opposite end of a spectrum, and every proposition would fall somewhere on the the spectrum, but not at any of the extremes. I’ve admitted the possibility that Newton did not exist the way described by historical accounts, but if I try to find reasons for showing distrust, I’ll find none. And more important, I’ll also have to try to find an alternative theory for it, explaining why such an elaborate sham would be developed. Refuting any claim is very easy, but replacing it with a more convincing explanation is difficult. But indeed, if one can come up with a more convincing theory, I’ll accept it.

    In case of Krishna, for me, a much more convincing theory is that Mahabharata is fiction, and no person who could lift a mountain with his little finger existed, irrespective of the name of the person, or location or era. Why? Because I’ve seen people writing fanciful fiction all around me; but I’ve not seen anyone lift a mountain.

    So, if I’ve to assign a truth value to the probable existence of Newton and Krishna the way they’re described. Let’s say I’ll give 10000 x to Newton’s existence and 1 x units to Krishna’s existence.

    Why? As I explained above, I’m hardly having to overcome distrust to believe in Newton’s biography (not because of who is saying, but what is being said), but a lot more in believing Mahabharata’s account.

    For me, the question is not of who I am believing, but of what am I believing. If something departs from my understanding of the world, I’ll be skeptical about it. The degree of skepticism would be proportionate to degree to which theories/claims require jumping along the chain of reasoning as against a step-by-step explanation of things. And, the degree to which each step would be verifiable and with with what predictive value would further govern how much I trust that chain of reasoning.

  27. September 18, 2009 at 9:41 AM

    “no person who could lift a mountain with his little finger existed”

    Forget about whether this happened or not. This is a conclusion based on human logic… do you agree?

    “There is a distinction to be made between baseless faith and trust brought about by predictability and verifiability of a theory.”

    And what if the basis of everything that we know now is based on certain assumptions? What will you say then?

  28. September 18, 2009 at 3:57 PM

    Are you aware of the fundamental axioms which form the basis of modern science?

  29. September 18, 2009 at 11:58 PM

    1. Yes Ambi, my disbelief that no one who could lift a mountain existed at that point in time is based on human logic. And human logic could go wrong, and be limited, that’s why I’ve given that even a probability of 1 x, instead of 0 x.

    2. I’m clubbing your second question (everything we ‘know’ being based on fundamental assumptions) with subsequent question about fundamental axioms of science. If you meant to different things through the two questions, then do let me know.

    Science, and even people in their day-to-day life, incorporate certain hypotheses as ‘knowledge’ in their system of understanding of the world. I’ll enlist a few. Would like you to add a few others you could think of:

    1. We exist; Universe exists.

    2. Our sensory organs, and our brain work in concert to translate ‘absolute reality’ if it exists, into experiences. It is assumed that there’s no distortion of data or its loss, or no generation of new data in the process. Basically, the axiom is that our perception can be used to make an estimate of what ‘reality’ is.

    3. The Earth is part of the Universe. This implies that same constituents that form the Universe, and the same patterns that energy, matter (or whatever else that could exist) behave in the same pattern elsewhere as they do on The Earth.

    4. Mathematics that is applicable on Earth would also be applicable elsewhere. And also that observations that defy purely mathematical calculations can never be made.

    5. There are 7 fundamental laws of conservation, like that of conservation of mass and energy; charge; parity; linear momentum; angular momentum, etc. I don’t know if this number has changed since I read them last.

    But Ambi, if you remember, I’ve commented many comments back that if we set too many philosophical blocks, then science is not perfect. Our discussion would be of value only if you can suggest an improvement in current methodology of science or replace it with an entirely different methodology. If not, then, it should be apparent, we’ve got to work with the best (methodology) we have. Yes, you may also come up with some other methodology that you think is as good as science (not necessarily better) which would satisfy my needs (of satisfying curiosity and making my life more comfortable).

    TC.

  30. September 19, 2009 at 9:27 AM

    Close. But let me simplify… (again, you type too much!🙂 )

    1. Every natural law can be explained by mathematical expression.
    2. Those expressions are valid everywhere in this universe.
    3. The natural laws are simple.

    Every single damn scientific concept we know now is based on these 3 assumptions. We don’t even know how matter and energy came in to being, so we simply start with law of conservation of energy, just assuming energy and matter existed. Scientific faith, eh?

    Now, the second point is this. If you are willing give so many (I see 5 in your reply) concessions for something which is purportedly “faith-free”, I would say it is a bit unfair to take a dogmatic stand and assess every other methodology by these very same rules and not follow them from ‘their’ own base point.

    By the way, science exists… we are just discovering it. We haven’t invented something on our own. Our ‘science’ knowledge is NOT perfect since it keeps changing over time based on perceptions of different ‘scientists’. So, to claim that only this way of discovering the root cause or behavior of natural laws is the best (if not perfect) to the say the least, is elitist and narrow minded.

    You keep making caveats like (not necessarily better), (satisfy my needs), (making my life more comfortable)… I would assume that you do this only because you still want to define what you want to learn and judge what information you get by your own standards, but yet make it look like you are open to new paths. That won’t work, because that will be like a carpenter trying to learn pottery based his own knowledge.

    • September 20, 2009 at 5:58 AM

      Ambi,

      You complain I type too much, and then overlook some significant things I say; that’s not fair!😦

      I’d told you about baseless faith v/s faith, which would be subject to verifiability upon trying to use it to predict outcomes that we won’t know of (predictive value).

      Have I stated even once that scientific methodology is faith-free? Just that faith is not unconditional. If that faith leads us to predicted outcomes contradictory to ones observed, we’d know we’d put faith in wrong premise/proposition/axiom/assumption.

      I’ve dealt with this issue quite in detail in my comments on post–worship.

      There’s no question of elitist attitude here. Firstly, you’ve yet not outlined what other methods of gaining knowledge you’re referring to. Unless and until you do that how do I have any idea, if it does suffer from same or some other drawbacks as ‘science’ or not?

      And Ambi, could you trust me a bit more about my being possibly open to new ideas?

      Okay, I’ll give you reasons why I might be open:

      1. I’m not possessive of ideas. I don’t think of ideas as ‘mine’ or ‘yours’. Otherwise, I would’ve never turned from firm theist to a negative atheist that I’m now. So, what will I gain by proving to you that I’m open to new ideas despite not really being so?

      2. It’s very time-consuming to reply to your questions. Many things are to be repeated here. Am I going to get some prize if you say–“okay Ketan, you’re right! Science is ‘best’!”, which you might not say anyway?

      Again, I’ve dealt with the issue of caveats on ‘worship’. And even if caveats do exist, you mean there shouldn’t be? What are these what you call caveats? Are they not parameters to judge things? If you want to choose between two shirts will you not use parameters (caveats) like whether full-sleeved or half; cotton or synthetic? Unless and until I define what are my requirements how will I decide what’s best for me in the ‘market’ of knowledge systems, when I’ve to buy only one of them?

      “That would be like carpenter trying to learn pottery based (on) his own knowledge”

      What if carpenter is satisfied with his skills, and doesn’t feel deficient at all as all his needs are being fulfilled by his own skills without taking potter’s aid? And add to it the fact that the potter keeps on using carpenter’s finished tools for making his pots, and thus his sustenance? And then the potter accuses carpenter to be elitist for not needing him!😉

  31. September 20, 2009 at 10:09 AM

    Ketan, to be frank, I keep stating that you type too much because I don’t have to be given an explanation at the basic level for everything. I am very well familiar with scientific concepts and theory of logic, which I see in (too much) abundance in your post. And I haven’t overlooked anything… I am in fact connecting several things you have said in several places.

    You have come to the conclusion that modern scientific methodology is the only one where faith is not unconditional or where you have predicted outcomes.

    If you have come to this conclusion AFTER you tried any other methodology, with a sincere, honest, unbiased attempt to understand it and then made your decision, then your claim would be credible. I do not know if you have done it, so I won’t make a judgment.

    “It’s very time-consuming … which you might not say anyway?”

    That’s because you type too much😛. Just kidding.

    If answering my simple questions is time consuming, and it took you 5.5 + couple of years to find, get interested and then get a basic qualification of MBBS, do you think it is logical for you to expect that you will have a simple answer to your often repeated request of “What other new method you have?”, especially when you would still insist on judging it by your own standards and not judge it by its own merit?

    My goal is not to take you down another methodology from basics… and I am not a ‘Guru’ in any manner to do that. I will concede that taking to any new methodology will meed some initial faith, at least in the instructor… but that is valid even for the scientific methodology too. So that’s a non-issue.

    “What if carpenter is satisfied with his skills,… to be elitist for not needing him! ;)”

    If the carpenter doesn’t want to learn pottery, as implied by your reply, in the first place, then what you say is true. In that case, I will take it that you feel that you are satisfied with what you have and don’t think there is anything else that can feel right. Then no point in having this discussion further.

  32. September 20, 2009 at 5:43 PM

    1. No, I haven’t come across any other methodology, and that’s why I’ve asked you to outline it.

    2. Execution of a methodology could be difficult, but outlining should not be. Outlining scientific methodology has never been difficult. So, you outline what methodology you’re talking of, and I’ll try to understand it.

    3. Yes, with my current level of knowledge I wont’t be able answer why did I develop interest in cell biology. Maybe, someday in future, I might or might not be. I can speculate of the reasons, but they’d be unverifiable through induction.

    4. Yes indeed, that’s what I’ve stated–the carpenter is pretty much satisfied with what all skills allow without depending on any other type of skill. But he’d be interested if some other skill serves his purposes better. But for that other skill to supplant carpentry, it should be totally independent of carpentry skills. Because, if you look at your analogy, both the carpenter and potter are claiming to make the same articles (describing the nature of Universe/reality)! And not two different ones! So obviously, either for carpenter’s technique to improve, either a new hybrid technique would have to developed or potter’s technique would’ve to replace it totally.

  33. September 21, 2009 at 10:02 AM

    1. Then your claim that scientific methodology is best, is only because you want to be identified with it and not because you have done your homework on even one other methodology. Perspective is such a beautiful yet deceiving thing.

    2. You didn’t get the point. Even if I were to outline something, you would still be judging it from a standpoint of your own ‘scientific’ standards. That won’t work. I believe that I have already stated in your ‘Worship’ post that I go with the methodology presented in the vedic scriptures.

    3. Is there a purpose why you took to MBBS, then? If you do not know the purpose yet, or believe in no purpose, what makes you think it would keep you going on for the years to come as a profession?

    4. My point was simply this: if you want to learn a skill, you would have to go to a proper teacher. Be it engineering, medicine, accounting or any of the material sciences… you still need a teacher. And that holds true for everything else.

    • September 22, 2009 at 12:13 AM

      Ambi,

      1. What homework you want me to do? I’ve told you I don’t know of any other methodology. You seem to be knowing one, and yet not even attempting to outline it even once. As you’ve determined, I might be intellectually/emotionally/temperamentally incapable of understanding it, but why don’t you try even on my urging for it?

      2. You’re attributing to me things that I never said! Long before I read any science or the philosophy behind its methodology, as a child, if I would be told that steam is produced on heating water, I would know that to ascertain that statement, I would’ve to heat water, and if it would produce steam, the statement would be correct. And if steam would not be produced, the statement would be incorrect. What’s ‘scientific’ about it? And if it is indeed highly scientific, do you really apply very different standards in your daily life?

      Okay, forget water and steam. it sounds too scientific. I’ll give you another scenario.

      10000 years back, a totally illiterate farmer sees that mango tree produces mangoes, which have seeds in them. He eats a mango, and carelessly throws away the seed. A few days later he sees a new sapling exactly where the seed had landed. He goes about his daily chores of collecting wild fruits and eating them. After few years, he sees the sapling grown into a huge tree, which in turn produces mangoes. He hesitantly tastes them, and finds them exactly how he’d tasted them few years back. He starts suspecting that maybe, the seed he’d thrown gave rise to that plant. But he’s not sure. It could after all be a coincidence. So what he does? This time he makes sure to mark places where he throws those seeds. And again, a few years later, he finds new mango trees where he’d thrown the seeds. He concludes mango seeds can give rise to mango trees, which in turn give rise to more mangoes.

      Do you find the above situation untenable? Had the farmer been indoctrinated in methods of science? But he’d set the same standards, and same methodology to learn, and to accept something as truth. Do you have any suggestions for how farmer should’ve dealt with his suspicion?

      Somehow, what we call ‘methodology of science’ coincides a lot with that. And that’s why I have ‘picked it up’.

      3. Where have I stated I don’t know the purpose of joining MBBS?

      4. I’m not a ‘teacher’ of science, merely its practitioner. Why don’t you outline your methodology just as I did? What you call it doesn’t really matter!

  34. September 22, 2009 at 2:06 PM

    You may be frustrated but you didn’t get my point and yet continue to respond as though you are trying to teach a kid with one hypothesis or another.

    If you had fully read through my responses (1 in this blog and 1 in your blog), you would have noticed that I said I follow the methodology laid out in the vedas.

    Let’s start from a question… Who are you?

    • September 22, 2009 at 10:47 PM

      Ambi,

      How would I not get frustrated if you don’t answer a simple question that I’ve asked you at least half a dozen times? What is that methodology that you follow? I never answered curtly saying I I follow scientific methodology. Period! I’ve outlined it. Does saying you follow Vedic methodology even constitute an answer? What point have you made having not answered that question for me to not get it? What hypothesis have I given in my previous response? Did you read my above response? Especially, the last sentence?

      “What you call it (your methodology) doesn’t really matter!”

      For our discussion to move forward, you have to tell me what are its (Vedic methodology’s):

      a. Objectives apart from knowing the truth (if any)

      b. Its basic axioms (if any)

      c. Standards to accept a proposition as truth

      d. Criteria to discard reject a proposition as truth?

      Our discussion here started with attempt to knowing the ‘truth’. So to carry forward this discussion, it becomes obligatory for you to at least answer that much. Without answering that much how do you expect me to understand what are you talking of? If you’ve already put in so much time and effort in your exchanges with me, how would you be harmed if you try to explain, and I don’t understand?

      I’ll answer your question of who/what am/is ‘I’, once you answer my above questions.

  35. September 23, 2009 at 1:25 PM

    Ketan, you need to chill down. Understand this. We cannot demand answers nor are we under any obligation to respond to each other.

    It is purely for the sake of the intellectual exercise I get, that I involve in this discussion and I believe it is the same for you! And shooting out questions in an angry tone isn’t going to help you or me, in any case.

    I will answer just one question, since I consider rest of it in the first paragraph to be irrelevant at this point.

    “Does saying you follow Vedic methodology even constitute an answer?”

    Yes, it does… at least, it did to me. I had assumed that, even though being an atheist, you might have had some basic background on the vedas or general principles of so-called ‘Hinduism’, since you are from India.

    My bad.

    I will respond to your comment by Friday evening, if not earlier, since I am packing up stuff at work in getting ready for my vacation.

  36. September 23, 2009 at 3:32 PM

    Ambi,

    I’ve not demanded any answer of you subjugating your right to not answer. I’d simply stated that specifically to carry on this discussion (somewhat synonymous with intellectual exercise) further, you need to answer those specific four questions. To indulge in this intellectual exercise (with me) is not obligatory, but once you choose to, it wouldn’t make sense to compare two methodologies without ever delineating what one of them means! That was the simple sense in which obligatory was used. I apologize, if you misunderstood it, and felt me to be rude.

    As regards my idea of Vedas, I’d asked a purohit of a very prominent temple in India as to what Vedas had precisely contained. He’d studied the Rigveda completely in details, and about other Vedas, he knew about them summarily.

    He told me, that Rigveda had contained hymns and details of how the certain rites were to be performed, what materials are required, what verses are to be chanted by the purohit, and what by others participating in the rites. You could correct my idea here, if what you know is different from the Purohit’s description.

    Then, I’d asked him specifically, if Vedas contained any philosophy with regard to how one should lead one’s life or the how the Universe came into existence. Again, he said he had not come across any such material, and that the Atharvaveda had contained some recommendations for daily problems, etc. And that it was also the forerunner of Ayurveda.

  37. September 23, 2009 at 3:45 PM

    In tenth standard, one of my class mates used to attend ‘Veda classes’, and I’d asked him something similar (this was when I used to somewhat believe in the existence of God, and also the Hindu theories of soul, karma and rebirth). He said they were asked to memorize certain hymns and also were taught their translations in English. He said some of the hymns had contained stories about fights between gods and devils, and others were in praise of the God, and some that he could not understand.

    I’d also gone through the Wikipedia articles on Vedas, and found their description even less attractive (with regard to description of nature of Universe, God and reality, and outlining moral principles) than that given by the priest and my friend. I’m aware of this possibility that Wikipedia is edited by Westerners also, and their references, though written by Indians also, are written in English, so could be inaccurate.

    If all the followers of Hinduism in India know significantly more about the four Vedas than me, then you could kindly excuse my ignorance, and tell me something about the methodology their authors had followed to arrive at truth, and also correct my false impressions based on what I learned from above three sources.

    Happy vacation!

    TC.

    PS: I wasn’t angry while typing the above comment, otherwise I wouldn’t have asked you the simple, objective questions that I did!🙂

  38. September 23, 2009 at 4:42 PM

    As I said earlier, I assumed you to be familiar with the vedic background.

    That does not mean everyone in India who follow Hinduism know about it. I assumed it only because you are from India and it is highly probable that you might be familiar with some of the vedic teachings. (I might also add that I though that since you are an atheist, you would be aware of them enough to throw in points here and there claiming they are not scientific. I have had lots of discussions with atheists and almost everyone of them is a self-professed expert in vedic teachings.)

    I wouldn’t say what your friend or the purohit told were false but their exposure would have been ritualistic, shall I say? The vedas contain so much information that to master one veda, it takes close to 8 years.

    Did you know that its not just the vedas that make up the ‘vedic scriptures’? There are upanishads (108 of them), 2 itihas (Ramayana and Mahabharata) and 18 puranas. These are considered to be the explanations for the core principles mentioned in the vedas. In addition, there are the vedanta sutras… which are very simple in text, but very complex in explanation and are summary versions of the vedic teachings. But in all schools of vedic philosophy, it is accepted that Vyasadev is the ‘compiler’ (not author) of the vedas.

    I will leave it at this for now. I will continue as and when I get time or once my vacation starts this Friday.

  39. September 29, 2009 at 3:41 PM

    Finally, after four days in to my vacation, I get time to sit and pen down a response.

    I will attempt to answer your questions through some fundamental concepts. And we will start with how knowledge is gained in the vedic method.

    Vedic methodology acknowledges that we are limited in our knowledge gaining capabilities, through direct sense perception, logical inference or historical records. These processes have their uses, but cannot guarantee correct knowledge at all times, especially so when the object they are trying to understand is infinitely complex and our position and capabilities are infinitesimal.

    This understanding is the first prerequisite for what the vedic methodology recognizes as the process of descending knowledge, called ‘Shabda’ or revealed sound, in which perfect knowledge descends from the absolute being, AKA God, who is conscious of all time and space simultaneously.

    This knowledge is passed down through an unbroken line of qualified, unalloyed loving devotees who are bonafide spiritual masters. That line of teachers is commonly known as ‘sampradaya’ or disciplic succession.

    Now comes the question – How can we differentiate what is true Shabda?

    Absolute or perfect knowledge is one that is never subject to change. Contrary to modern scientific methodology where theories are almost always being ‘improved’ upon, there absolutely no place for speculation in the process of shabda. Given that this knowledge comes from, and is basically part of, the absolute being, it is perfect and if someone attempts to change any of that information through speculation, it would inject inherent imperfections in to that knowledge too. So, any speculative changes made in transit would render the knowledge, as well as the person passing it on, as non-authoritative.

    In summary, the objective of the vedic methodology is to know the absolute being. Understanding that the knowledge descends from the absolute being through the line of masters is the only way to progress in this methodology.

    Of course, if a person considers the vedic literature to be imaginative creations of mortals with their inherent defects, then they hold no authoritative value for that person.

    I will stop here for now, since I have given much information for the next round of ‘discussions’.

  40. September 29, 2009 at 11:36 PM

    Hello Ambi!

    Thanks for your response! Am glad you’re aware of the possible limitations of methodology you follow, just like how I know the limitations of the one I follow (sic)!

    Quite honestly, I won’t be able to devote much time to blogging- related activites, including responding on this post.

    So, I’ll have to curtail my discussion on this post at this point.

    I might comment on newer posts, but that too not very frequently.

    And I end this discussion on this note, that there are many people who I respect and value who’re firm theists, so maybe this should address the ‘original issue’ (‘about me’ on my blog profile) that had initiated this discussion/debate/argument.

    Take care.

  41. September 30, 2009 at 8:48 AM

    That’s ok. Hope to have more discussions with you.

    Peace.

  42. truthmerchant
    November 3, 2009 at 9:32 PM

    The ‘progressive Christian’ (sic):

    http://digg.com/d318rnj

    • November 3, 2009 at 10:40 PM

      Ummm… I am not a christian, though many have tried to make me ‘one of the flock’.

      You have made a blanket assumption on religion being anti-intellectual, anti-rational and what not. But I am aware of a trend especially in westerners that when they speak of ‘RELIGION’, they basically talk about Christianity, Islam or Judaism. The eastern schools of thought are basically non-existent to them.

      But… I do not see how your article is relevant to this discussion. Care to explain in simpler words for this simpleton?

  43. Stephen Szczurko
    July 6, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    Hi there Ambi! There is quite a lot of postage (much of which I’ve read, much of which I’ll leave alone since I don’t think they involve me), but I will just try to succinctly answer your last question in the post by saying that: through a combination of genetics and experiences, people invariably have differing dispositions, and thus despite possibly having the same qualities of “honesty, introspection, and analysis” they can come to widely differing conclusions. Thus someone with an irresolute temperament may never fully overcome his fear of death in order to become an atheist, while someone of like-skills (honesty, introspection, and analysis) might readily accept atheism after being too harshly afflicted by the religious doctrines of his parents. It is too difficult to try and define all the numerous experiences and potential causes that lead to the effect of a person being of belief or of non-belief. Check out my own post about atheism if you are interested🙂

  44. July 7, 2010 at 7:21 AM

    Stephen, welcome to my blog and thanks for your comments.

    • Stephen Szczurko
      July 7, 2010 at 11:53 AM

      Yea! Thanks for having me! I’m new to the web-blogging thing so I’m excited to see other peoples stuff!

  45. Prasad
    July 19, 2010 at 7:08 PM

    Ambi!! The conversation between you and Ketan is a treasure!

    Like Sivaji Ganesan & Nagesh’s conversation going vice versa!!
    (Nothing could beat that though!)

    Atheists or Theists, it’s more of an individual’s knowledge..
    Just as simple as Newton’s third law..

  46. July 19, 2010 at 8:19 PM

    Yeah, your ounce of wisdom was the only one missing. Thanks!

  1. September 30, 2009 at 8:50 AM

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