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Joe Provenzano

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Would atheists benefit from a community? Are they maximizing such benefits?


But, I don't believe they would organize 'just one way' - (theists have not), they would still benefit from organization around core concepts. Every moment as unorganized individuals, extends a sub-optimized, limited approach to progress/evolution. Atheists need communities - maybe more than other groups since the current lack of community weakens both individual atheists and the communities in which they live.

Their bibles? The dictionaries of science, ethics and law.

Atheism 2.0 makes good points about what could be gained. I want the benefits communities bring but, there are only religious options within a 25-mile radius of me. I need a 50-mile radius, to encounter an open minded community (Unitarian Universalist) that I can participate in. This is not because I live in the woods... there are close to a million people in that circle. To the degree that I want to participate (engage with like-minded people, celebrate a wedding, funeral or special occasion, host a meaningful discussion, etc.) as a community member, having a single, distant, option is unacceptable.

Such lack of organization is a clear weakness and stunts potential. We can learn from ANY communities... our lack of organization is so apparent. (as Atheist 2.0 discusses)

We need to find our 'Martin Luther', our 'Gandhi", our spark. On one hand, I'm optimistic... but on the other, I fear that I was born to soon. We have not found such fighters because the injustice that occurs (to isolated atheists) is largely invisible and escapes notice relative to the other injustices forced upon groups by the very same powers (politicians, community leaders and church leaders of the status quo).

We did have our leaders (Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, etc...) but, the first priority was the political structures and establishments - we must continue the movement. They gifted us separation of church and state. They would debate and advance the good points of Atheist 2.0. Community 2.0? Atheists need to unite!


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    Jan 24 2012: > Their bibles? The dictionaries of science, ethics and law.

    There are no such dictionaries. What's right, what's lawful, and what's true are matters of dispute.

    > Atheists need to unite!

    Would you get along with someone just because they were atheist? Why not just unite with a group of people with whom you share an interest? Some of them might be atheists.
    • Jan 24 2012: "What's right, what's lawful, and what's true are matters of dispute."

      Can "what's right" be established with a some degree of certainty? The same as what science tells us about the Universe?
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        Jan 24 2012: I used to think so, but the more scientists I talk to, the less I believe that.
        • Jan 25 2012: We will always have people that deny or do not agree with scientific knowledge. However scientific community is making continuous progress toward knowing more about the Universe.

          That does not mean that everything is set in stone. Rather scientific knowledge is evolving into every more accurate reflection of what we observe.

          I think the same is valid for morality and ethics. There exist basic principles that we can conclude from human basic needs?
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        Jan 27 2012: Zdenek, I don't see science as inerrant or continuously progressing. That sounds like an unquestioned Popperian view.

        Then, morality & ethics have been in dispute for thousands of years. I don't even know what progress would mean in ethics & morality since one can't measure success.
        • Jan 27 2012: If I look at what scientists know today about the Universe, evolution, human bodies, physics etc. I see a huge progress and knowledge in any area of scientific exploration.

          I think one of the greatest success so far in terms of ethics is establishment of universal declaration of human rights where almost all countries agreed on basic principles:

          In terms of practical application you can see people in countries in Middle East and elsewhere taking down despotic regime to replace it with democracies in order to be able to improve basic human rights such as freedom of speech.

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        Jan 27 2012: > science

        That is quite different to continuous progress.

        > udhr

        They're not actually universally agreed.
        • Jan 28 2012: If science continues to increase our knowledge and understanding with ever increasing accuracy, is that not a continuous progress?

          "Universal Values

          The core principles of human rights first set out in the UDHR, such as universality, interdependence and indivisibility, equality and non-discrimination, and that human rights simultaneously entail both rights and obligations from duty bearers and rights owners, have been reiterated in numerous international human rights conventions, declarations, and resolutions. Today, all United Nations member States have ratified at least one of the nine core international human rights treaties, and 80 percent have ratified four or more, giving concrete expression to the universality of the UDHR and international human rights."
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          Jan 29 2012: I agree completely.

          I don't think success is that hard to measure either... we could start by just watching the reduction in all the easier to measure violations...
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        Jan 30 2012: Zdenek, progress between 250 years ago and 1 year ago is very different than "Ever increasing accuracy". The former has happened, the latter has not.

        > UDHR

        Just because those who drafted it said the values are universal, does not make them universal.
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          Jan 30 2012: Agree they are not universal despite the title.
          "Rights" are man made concepts.
          Suggest none is absolute. Often they must be balanced against each other.
          Having said that, the UNDHR look pretty good to me and a lot of others.

          If we dropped religious pronouncements that claim absolute moral positions and focused on what promoted the human condition, human happiness it might be a good start. I suggest most would agree with the golden rule.
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          Jan 30 2012: Chris suggest you might be arguing semantics.
          Surely you'd admit we know more about the universe than our ancestors 100,000 year ago, or 10,000 year ago, or a thousand years ago.

          Suggest many high graduate today (those who actually studied) know more about life and the universe from a scientific perspective than anyone alive 2,000 years ago.
        • Jan 31 2012: Chris, science makes small progress daily and large progress each decade.

          "Just because those who drafted it said the values are universal, does not make them universal."

          Yes just writing them down does not make it universal. What makes it universal is the fact that most nations signed that document. Further:

          "Through ratification of international human rights treaties, Governments undertake to put into place domestic measures and legislation compatible with their treaty obligations and duties. The domestic legal system, therefore, provides the principal legal protection of human rights guaranteed under international law. Where domestic legal proceedings fail to address human rights abuses, mechanisms and procedures for individual and group complaints are available at the regional and international levels to help ensure that international human rights standards are indeed respected, implemented, and enforced at the local level."

          GM, basic human rights are based on what every human needs are. While "right" might be a man made concept, it has a very important role in a modern society and humankind progress?

          Otherwise I agree that focusing on human happiness is a good start. Further enable every human to have ability to develop to their full potential is the ultimate goal I think.
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        Feb 1 2012: G M, perhaps it is merely a semantic difference. However it does smell a whiff of "scientism", meaning roughly faith in science. It's something R Feynman and other fine scientists argued against.

        I think the TED audience (myself included) is likely to take claims of scientific progress at face value, or worse to talk about a theoretical model of scientific progress in broad terms rather than looking at the specific facts.

        However there are reasons to doubt scientific claims that can be observed even by people who just read the newspaper and don't actively take part in sceptically examining results. I'm referring to the economics of scientific research.

        Zdenek, sometimes models get worse before they get better. One example is European maps of inland Africa: http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/dishpan.html.

        It's indisputable that 2.5 centuries after discovering the microscope, the conventional wisdom on disease and biology is much more accurate. But there are many instances on a shorter time-scale of false results being widely believed true, or of true results being widely believed false. For example there were several instances of decades-long fraud perpetrated by prominet scientists which recently received international attention.

        The online journal PlosComp Biology would not exist were it true that science makes (forward) progress daily.

        Just to be clear: I am not disputing that "we" know more today than "they" did 2,000 or 200 years ago. Only arguing that scientific progress is not monotonic.
        • Feb 1 2012: Chris, yes I agree that sometimes a scientist will make either intentionally or unintentionally misleading observations, experiments and claims. After all scientists are humans as well. For this reason, it is important for the scientific community to carefully review each experiment and claim in order to minimize mistakes. Sometimes it takes a decade or more before a new theory is accepted.

          Efforts are being made to make data from scientific observations publicly available and the process of selecting scientific papers for publishing in scientific journal more transparent and fair. This will further improve scientific process.

          Yes if you pick a particular theory or scientist you can see a problem but overall I see progress, in some fields it is gradual and in others rapid, toward better understanding. Of course we might never be sure one hundred percent about anything =)

          In terms of early maps of Africa, the article explains that early maps were based on accounts of explorers rather than scientists. Gradually scientific methods of measurements and observations were introduced which lead to accurate maps.

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        Feb 2 2012: Zdenek, it sounds like we are more on the same page now. It's funny, I was talking to a friend who just finished a PhD in geology today and she used the phrases "science is B.S." and "marketing" several times each. Although as you say, we do seem to get somewhere over decades so something about the macro process is effective.

        Before the maps of Africa got better, they got worse. So cartography's progress was non-monotonic.
        • Feb 2 2012: Yes I think we are. =)

          Unfortunately some professors and scientists are not good teachers and that is perhaps where your friend finds frustration with science?

          I find it rather fascinating to hear about technological singularity where, according to this theory, our technology (and science behind it) will evolve in ever increasing speed, resulting in machines taking over their evolution (science?) from us (unless we merge our bodies with technology to keep up).

          Good discussion. take care
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      Jan 25 2012: I'm okay with the dispute. How do you know what your disputing though? I can't believe the answer is to not have a transparent way to express ideas. It doesn't mean they can't change. The meaning of words and ideas are always in dispute but that can be taken to a ridiculous extent as well. My hope is to raise productivity not slow it down.

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