I figured I would write some notes in response to a video I watched of ‘Caffeine Corner’ with Steve and Chesh and found I ended up writing almost 11 pages of notes – I figured may as well sort it out and post it as an article.
Before I get accused of bias, I will let you know before I start this article that I am of a similar opinion to Steve and Chesh, and I quite like them both. I have uttered the words that “Steve is one of my favourite internet dickheads” and that “even though he’s a bit of a dick, he’s my kind of a dick”.
I’ve also appeared on a few of Chesh’s streams and I had a blast, she’s quick witted, funny, and if you haven’t checked her streams out you can do so here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFEjRe-s0tO-1YxZ4tdNJIg.
As for David Smalley – The only time I had ever heard of him was from someone using him as an argument from authority around how “atheism is only a lack of belief” and “agnosticism only means without knowledge”.
That said, throughout the stream, he seemed that he was quite a likeable guy, for the most part. I can see why he is a successful podcast host and comedian.
So, you understand that I have a bias towards the argument and potentially the people too. I have tried to provide an objective analysis of the discussion, but I equally understand it might not be as objective as someone who doesn’t know the people.
Below is the video of the Caffeine corner episode. The discussion with David lasted the first 2 hours. I was writing my notes live with a first time watch, and have tried to be specific with time codes (at least after the first 40-50 mins).
There are a few times through this article where I link drop to save time on lengthy discussions I or others have already covered off.
First 30 minutes
TLDR: First 30(or so) minutes is ok.
David has the standard new atheist position which involves very little understanding of epistemology or the history of these words nor their normative use within philosophy.
I do understand David feeling a little ganged up on. Whilst Chesh and Steve have a differing ontological position in relation to “God Exists” they are both of the same position on this topic. Therefore, because there are 2 of arguing for the same position against him, he is already outnumbered. It can be hard to separate his emotions from this sort of feeling. I don’t think he was being ganged up on though, it was just a case of being outnumbered.
I also understand him feeling a little bit like it isn’t so much of a friendly conversation in this part because he does get talked over a few times, but the flip side of that is, he keeps asserting the same thing without listening and has interrupted as well.
This 30 minutes could have benefited a little more questioning and providing perhaps a bit more information on the evolution of the terms over the years, and listing the various definitions of both agnostic and atheist, acknowledging they are valid, and then perhaps an analysis of why some of the definitions are more sound/specific than others.
In fact, it probably needs more of a foundation before any of that.
Next 10 mins
TLDR: It goes a bit off piste and there is more understanding required around epistemic justification.
The conversation moves to a place it doesn’t need to. It focuses on debate. David focuses on Chesh, but what David offers here is a really weak way to debate as well.
“You made the claim, prove it, I am not making a claim, I just don’t believe you or accept your evidence” <– this is not verbatim but this is essentially what he is saying.
He shows that he doesn’t know the difference between the BoP on a claim and a belief position (and yes even a lack of belief position carries some burden). What’s more, it seems like he doesn’t realise “no evidence” “not enough evidence” “not convincing evidence” etc are all claims in themselves that he ought to justify.
There is the common misconception that weak and unconvincing evidence is “not evidence” when actually the bible, anecdotes, testimony ARE evidence, they are just weak and unconvincing. The burden there is to explain why you don’t accept them and to strengthen your position you can even provide evidence as to why you accept something else.
Chesh is right about setting parameters. She is also right you don’t need knowledge or evidence to justify her belief God or gods do not exist. She is not making a Knowledge or Truth claims, she is describing a mental state (belief) and providing the BoP (justification) for that belief.
I try and explain the different BoP on a belief vs a claim in this article:
‘The Burden of Proof – Belief vs Claim – Court Room Analogy‘
I also explain how I can fulfil my BoP as an atheist in this article:
‘Do we Atheists have a Burden of Proof? – Conflated and Misunderstood Terms: Vol 7‘
Another article worth checking out is on Epistemic Justification: https://iep.utm.edu/epi-just/
The short version for anyone not a big reader is:
A Claim is an external statement about some truth in the world. Something that IS the case.
If something IS then you ought to be able to demonstrate it.
A belief is an internal claim about your mental state on what you think MIGHT be the case in the world. It can be with any degree of certainty, it’s just what you think is most likely.
If you have a belief, without the claim of knowledge, then you’re not saying it IS you’re saying you think it most likely.
I know that sounds like I am repeating myself, I just want to be clear that Claim = ‘IS’ and Belief = ‘Think most likely’.
So whilst the BoP on Claim = prove true, the BoP on a belief is to justify it as rational. That is to say, provide your arguments, justify why you think they are sound, make sure you have no strong contradictory evidence against your position and if you have any supporting evidence, all the better.
‘But I only lack belief’ – this is a common phrase that folks think absolves them of the BoP… this is wrong for 2 reasons. All belief positions, even lack of belief positions, carry a BoP to be rational. The second is that, if you say ‘I lack belief in gods’ you’re not answering the proposition ‘God Exists’
“Does (at least one) god Exist?”
“I only lack belief in gods” / ”I lack belief in gods”
That doesn’t really tell us anything, you’re not answering the proposition, you’re giving a read of a psychological state.
I have written an article that describes how we ought to answer a proposition, but instead of all the funky symbolic stuff we often write in (that sometimes I even have to reference what means), I made it simple by using binary. A 1 or a 0. https://www.answers-in-reason.com/philosophy/epistemology/belief/you-wont-believe-this-cmt-vol-12/
Anyway, I think in that 10 minutes Chesh and Steve cover that off, but then David comes back with the agnostic atheist again.
David at this point gets confused because Steve is trying to give the definitions how they are used in philosophy and he seems to still be of the mind of “defending” his definitions.
However, this the conversation still needed to start a more ground up… the conversation is too far along… we should have had a discussion on logic, beliefs and knowledge before we got into a conversation of what agnostic and atheists.
Next 10 mins or so:
TLDR: David makes a good point about utility of the lacktheist definition but circles back round to atheos and defending his position, though does acknolwedge atheism is polysemous.
David makes a good point about the utility of his definition because it is largely well understood. However, as per my post on agnostic atheism (released circa midday Fri 12th Feb) demonstrates, even among agnostic atheists there isn’t a consistent definition.
https://www.answers-in-reason.com/?p=9920 <– if the link isn’t working, its probably because it isn’t released yet.
I understand why David feels you are saying he can’t use the word that way, but this is largely because you’ve started talking past each other (although I am not sure either of you had realised at this point).
David is defending a position and his own personal use, Steve is trying to explain how it is used in philosophy with different belief states etc. He[David] is feeling that you[Steve] are saying he can’t use the word that way, but what has been asserted and partially explained is the foundation of his definitions for his words is a little shakey. However, I do not feel this has been fully explained to him either.
He brings it back to Atheos again and the lack of belief in gods, but it has already been explained to him that this meant someone that didn’t believe in the gods of the state.
Check TrolleyDave’s article: Rockin’ Atheism Part 3: Atheism in Greek Antiquity
The Christians were regarded as atheos, the Christians called pagans atheos. The term has evolved since then, there are many definitions of atheism and atheist, but the one the provides an epistemic answer to a proposition is the most sound.
Check TrolleyDave’s article: Rockin’ Atheism Pt 2: Defining Atheism
He [David] acknowledges dictionaries define it different ways, some as the belief gods do not exist, others as a lack of belief in gods.
This is good, but dictionaries, as was explained to him, are descriptive. They describe how a word is used in a specific context. A university dictionary is likely to have more rigorous academic definitions than say the google dictionary which will describe how the word is used on the internet.
But cool, atheism is polysemous, all definitions are valid, lacktheism has utility as that is how it is commonly understood. The next part should be analysing which definition is the most SOUND.
Next 10 mins
Steve does pull the conversation back to a position in regards to a proposition though, which is needed. David still is trying to not give a direct answer to the proposition.
The conversation seems to be along the lines of:
Steve: “Does God Exist?”
David: “there’s not enough evidence.”
That isn’t answering a proposition, that’s giving part of a justification for whatever your position might be, but we do not know your position is yet.
Rather than answer it, he[David] is saying his entire podcast and career is “built on do nots” – so here it seems that he feels that if he realises how propositions ought to be answered and justified he feels like he has a wasted career or will lose listeners?
Is this a rational reason to maintain a position?
David then complains about the “3 options pick one” – but isn’t your position there are only 2 options? You either do or don’t believe?
Chesh says this herself.
David – yes there is nuance, but you’re going way off topic.
At around 47 mins in David is asked to clarify what he means by lacks belief in god, does he believe the proposition (God Exists) is False or he Suspends Judgement – he fails to answer this just saying he doesn’t believe in God.
Again, we are back to a read of a psychological state rather than an answer to the proposition.
He doesn’t understand how it is ambiguous.
A proposition (p) is dichotomous, it is either true or false.
if p is TRUE then “God Exists”
if p Is FALSE (aka ¬p = TRUE) then “God Does Not Exist”
A belief is binary too, you either believe it or you don’t, he has that part right but has failed to provide a complete answer, only given a read of a psychological state. Beliefs around a proposition are slightly more complex.
What he has done is say “I don’t believe God Exists” meaning he has said he’s not convinced “God Exists is true”, but what do you think about “God Exists is false”? Do you believe “God Does Not Exist” or do you lack belief there too?
The point is when answering a proposition you need to take a belief position around both if it is true and if it is false.
This is what we are talking about with the ambiguity. Just because you do not believe it is true, doesn’t necessarily mean you believe it is false, you could be suspending judgement (agnostic) towards the proposition.
He then gets confused that holding a positive belief means it entails a lack of belief in the opposite proposition. (at least if providing a rational answer, someone could hold contradictory beliefs [point d above] but that is just confusing the matter further).
Steve explains his ambiguity etc with the fish and car example. I think perhaps more time could have been spent here.
Just because you don’t have a car doesn’t mean that you don’t have another method of transport like a bike or truck. Just because you don’t want fish doesn’t mean you want chicken unless you are told you can either have fish or chicken and you said I don’t want fish, even then it doesn’t mean you necessarily want chicken, but you will at least have the chicken over the fish.
Dave goes on to say that it doesn’t matter.
David then brings up another common misconception. That holding a belief is a belief system. It is not.
I believe a bridge will hold my weight when I cross over it. Is that a belief system or a religion? I believe I will wake up tomorrow. Is that a belief system?
He claims that it is a slippery slope? The problem there is, he doesn’t want atheism to be considered a belief is because he thinks that will turn into a belief system that can be compared to a religion. He’s actually the one committing the slippery slope fallacy there.
Again the “holding a belief means you need evidence to prove it true”. No. Holding a belief is to justify it to be rational, but you don’t even have to do that if you don’t care about rationality.
I think Steve should clarify that he doesn’t start with “your position is bullshit” because that will only get someone on the defensive, what he means is (at least I hope) that he will demonstrate all the reasons why their particular position suffers issues and hope he helps them realise their position is bullshit. <– Although to be fair Steve, you do often come in hard and fast (oooerr), so maybe you do outright say that. My experience tends to be you give the conversation a go first before telling the person their position is bullshit.
I agree with David post this bit that it is ineffective to say “your position is bullshit” – he speaks here about having dialectic conversations with theists which I fully support.
In fact, not just with theists, but everyone, we should always try and search for a truth together instead of defending a position.
Circa 59 mins
He now is using agnostic to mean open to information. He’s changed the definition. The problem here is, even if you are absolutely certain of your position, it doesn’t mean you are also closed to information.
He then thinks there is a bait and switch going on… There isn’t.
Paraphrasing “Do you think theists are right that a god exists” – you responded “No they are wrong” and that you are happy to hold that position.
If they are WRONG then you hold the negative position (God does not exist). If you said “I don’t know” – speaking of uncertainty rather than knowledge, you’re saying you suspend judgement and are not sure whether they are right or wrong.
“I think you are wrong” – means the same as “I believe you are wrong” – if someone says “God exists” and you say, “I think you are wrong” that means you think God does not exist. Otherwise, you would say “I am not sure” or “I don’t know”.
But you jump from belief to truth/knowledge claims.
Chesh tries to explain and David still jumps from belief to being a positive claim that needs to be supported by evidence.
We’re back to identity. He[David] identifies as an Atheist even though his position seems to be closer to that of an agnostic, as would normatively be described in philosophy.
David is fair to say his use is that he uses agnosticism to say he doesn’t have knowledge on the topic, but what he is missing is that by saying he only lacks a belief in gods, he is already saying he doesn’t have knowledge.
I think Steve is unfair to say that no-one understands what he[David] is saying here. Many people do understand what he means in the sense “I don’t claim to know either way but I lack belief in gods” – a fairer assessment, and one I know Steve says himself is (and probably meant by his statement), “depending on the definitions you use for both agnostic and atheist you either have a superfluous or nonsensical statement and is ambiguous at least”.
So when he says “I don’t know what you mean” – it would be, perhaps, better to say, “Whilst I understand your use, it is at the very least ambiguous and doesn’t allow me to accurately infer what you do and don’t believe about the proposition ‘God Exists’”.
Bravo Chesh – it is true that if you say that “I think you have a lack of evidence” or “your evidence isn’t good enough” as your entire argument it’s not exactly a rational position to hold, especially if you take the angle that they are wrong.
It would be fairer to be saying “I am not sure if you’re right or wrong on this, I don’t quite find that convincing enough and here are some arguments for why”.
If you want to assert someone is outright wrong, saying their lack of evidence is not enough. Let’s think the Omni-God as described in the bible. There are tonnes of issues with this deity as described much in the way there are problems with square circles. Of course, we can be open to the description being wrong, just like someone might have been trying to describe a dodecagon and came up with square circle.
“I don’t think atheism requires a burden of proof” – Question needs to be asked “what is your understanding of the burden of proof?” then when he gives the “it’s only on the person making a claim” one needs to teach epistemic justification.
Which is part of your Epistemic Responsibility: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvU1A1GbbqE&list=PLtOUOfJi7vrNuuLRMzGlJAvY6yiJChPub&index=19&t=10s
“They wanna make atheism a religion” – stop being so afraid of what others might do David, because right now you appear irrational and are hiding behind a lack of belief as if that absolves you of any epistemic responsibility.
Here’s Ozy on lacktheism and the burden of justification: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdocrgxmpUU&list=PLtOUOfJi7vrPP0x9DjFU2Jpr27m1TftKn&index=45
A good nod to ideological atheists turning atheism into an ideology which with dogmatic approaches like “atheism is only a lack of belief” and “no true atheist would say we have a BoP” and other popular claims we hear from fellow atheists on the internet. It has indeed become almost like a religion.
I don’t really care how many conversations you have had with theists David. This is supposed to be a discussion about the different definitions and how they work within logic…
Its getting more heated now.. and you guys are all talking over each other.
Agreed that places like AA (and the folks that operate it) are dogmatic.
Here David confuses Steve being ok with folks being able to identify themselves how they want, and folks being prescriptive with other uses.
What is interesting is, it seems David and Steve seem to be of the same ontological position. Using the Philosophical definitions, they are both agnostic, and Chesh is the only atheist. Steve hasn’t told you you are not allowed to identify as an agnostic atheist or atheist, but then David tries to assert all agnostics are atheist.
David thinks Steve is sidestepping the conversation. Again, there is talking past each other and getting into semantics. This could have been avoided by starting small and working your way up to the positions without the labels.
We are back to WASP.
I understand David’s frustration here where he feels like he is being laughed at and made fun of… but David, if someone, let’s say a YEC, goes into a circular argument like the earth is 6000 years old because we added up the ages in the bible and it came to roughly that.. and they go round and round asserting that, you end up laughing through lack of substance to their argument, right?
It’s almost a laugh of bewilderment than laughing at you. Like, “fuck, we are still on this part of the topic, why can’t we move past this?”
That said, I do understand how the eye rolls feel, but again consider trying to explain the same thing, or ask the same question and not get a straight answers.
The problem is, the foundation wasn’t set at the beginning of this conversation, and I think you’re still trying to argue for your use, instead of listening to what Steve is trying to say. He is trying to show issues with your use rather than tell you “you can’t use it that way”.
This shows a number of issues with the lacking belief definition of atheism.
“If you lack knowledge of a god how can you worship it?” – WTF? I am face palming so hard right now. I lack knowledge a bridge will definitely hold my weight… “how can you cross the bridge?” is not on my mind. I believe it will hold my weight and can justify it as rationally as possible through means of constructions, purpose, induction etc.. but I am aware that that doesn’t make my belief absolutely (and epistemicly) certain.
Then he goes on to say “a god you don’t know about” – ok.. this is different from having knowledge… I think there is a clear misunderstanding about the difference between things you know, aka information, and things you have knowledge of.
1 hr 19mins
“You said you accept that one definition of atheism is lacking a belief in gods” – yeah, I accept that another definition of atheism is eating cheese sandwiches too. That doesn’t mean I am going to tell everyone else who is eating cheese sandwiches that they are atheists because they are eating cheese sandwiches because of my own personal use. I can tell them under my use they would be called atheists because they are eating cheese sandwiches and maybe my use will catch on and become popular and that will be the new colloquial use for atheist, but I won’t prescribe my use onto others.
Now I get I make an absurd argument here. This obviously isn’t my actual use either, just one I have joked about on stream a few times. The point is, just because Steve accepts that others use the term that way, doesn’t mean he accepts prescriptivism.
Sure, under your definition you might refer to Steve as an “agnostic atheist” but that is not how he identifies. Even if Steve’s use of Agnostic was bullshit, which it isn’t, you shouldn’t be prescriptive with your use.. just like under Steve’s use you’re an agnostic, but he’s happy to refer to you as an atheist.
1 hr 20mins
Steve: “You poo pood logic” – This is a problem with the conversation, you didn’t build the foundation of logic, propositions, beliefs etc in the first place. You started it assuming David understood this stuff. I think this is often why the conversations about this sort of thing go poorly.
Rather than getting into word use, discuss the basic laws of logic, how propositions work, what beliefs are, and how we apply them to propositions. From here we can get a read of their position, and then you can say, under this position you would be known as x in philosophy if it comes round to it.
“I’m a theist cos I don’t believe there’s a god” – you meant to say “I’m a theist cos I don’t believe there’s not a god”
David didn’t mishear, Steve did mis-say that one. Easy to do, I do it on stream all the time, I just don’t think you realised you did it.
“It’s not to say you can’t use this definition it is just to highlight problems with the definition” – spot on Chesh.
“a lack of belief there is no god is a double negative and it is unnecessary” – it’s not a double negative.
When you believe a god exists, you entail a lack of belief in god not existing.
When you believe a god does not exist, you entail a lack of belief in god existing.
When you suspend judgement, you lack belief in god existing and you lack belief in god not existing. You hold a 2nd order belief where you believe you lack belief both ways.
So, it is unnecessary in a way to simply state what you lack belief in if you only lack belief one way because you’re just giving a read of a psychological state rather than providing an epistemic answer to the proposition ‘God Exists’.
See we’re only just getting into how logic works and its starting too far in so I can see why David is confused.
“helped build an atheist community…take down of heroes etc”
So this section went on for a while, I understand what you’re saying David.. but he’s not tricking you with logic, he is trying to help you understand how logic works.. but again, foundational issue.
“I am an actor” – So?
“I’m a stand up comedian” – Is that why your understanding of logic is a joke?*
*I wouldn’t usually qualify a statement like this, but it is intended a banterous jibe and I don’t want you to take this the wrong way David.
“I want to make the world a better place with humanism” – great, but wouldn’t it make the world a better place by making people more rational? And what is rationality? It is, at least in part, reasoning using the rules of logic and probability theory, whist holding consistent and coherent beliefs. So, if we want to be rational, shouldn’t we actually adhere to the rules of logic?
Well done Chesh, you skimmed the BoP on a belief position quite nicely without calling it that… Steve, I think she’s getting better at this than you…
I agree with the toxicity in the community, I prefer talking to theists and agnostics than I do most atheists online these days.
“you said you don’t use logic properly…it’s toxic” – ok David, maybe you guys should have had a private discussion about this before the stream, or you should have spent some time learning the rules of logic so you could understand how it works first.
If you saw someone trying to use a screwdriver to saw down a tree, might you not say they are not using that tool properly? Consider logic a tool, one we have to learn to use properly.
Here’s a handy video on propositional logic and beliefs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAKDRO003jY
“I don’t nee to be taught anything” – that is incredibly arrogant. We all have blind spots on our knowledge. We are often the most confident in things we have very little knowledge of and the more we realise we don’t know the less confident we are in our positions. The reason you are so confident seems to be you have very little epistemological understanding.
Fuck me this is turning into a dumpster fire…
Ok, I mentioned before, there are a few times where you do talk over each other… perhaps this would have worked better with a moderator and someone that unmutes folks for as long as they need, they say “over” and the other person responds to what they have been said.
It would make a less fluid conversation, but I can understand the frustration all round with the interruptions.
“I look at this as different interpretations” – yes, but regardless of how you define the terms, agnostic atheist is not without issues.
Dude, just because you have built a career our of being critical doesn’t make you a critical thinker – but no one claimed you were not. If you were actually applying critical thinking to this conversation you would have at least taken on board how logic actually works, how it is applied, and what people ascribe to these positions, and then you could formulate a reason for why you continue to use yours.
“Did I pause too long” – haha, that was well timed, bravo David. You two (Chesh and Steve) deserved that one.
Local Atheism, Global Agnosticism, net result Agnostic.
No, that isn’t the same as an Agnostic Atheist.
Damn you Steve, I said it first…
Ach, going back into colloquial use whilst they are trying to explain how it is normatively described.
David: “didn’t you say it was impossible to be both an agnostic and an atheist?” – yes and no.. the net result of Local atheism and Global Agnosticism is your net result is you are agnostic towards the proposition “(something like a) god exists”. I can understand how this does cause confusion, and I wonder if the local/global split is in part to do with the colloquial misunderstanding/modifier.
You’re not both atheist and agnostic, you’re just identifying that in regards to the local gods, you believe they don’t exist, but you are agnostic towards the proposition in general. The net result is you’re agnostic.
David: “that’s confusing to me” – I feel you, but you’re stuck on your definitions again and are not taking on board what is being discussed.
He’s [Steve] not genuinely saying that you can being a theistic atheist or an atheistic theist.
What he is saying is, if you allow atheism to be defined as a lack of belief in gods existing, then you have to also allow theism to be defined as a lack of belief in gods not existing, otherwise you are guilty of special pleading (holding folks to 2 different standards).
But if someone lacks belief in gods existing, but doesn’t hold the belief gods do not exist, that means they lack belief both ways, and they end up being a theistic atheist or an atheistic theist, which is a contradiction.
So either way, you’re guilty of a fallacy or a contradiction.
You alluded within the last few minutes you didn’t remember Steve’s WASP argument.
I’ve written similar articles without having first seen his WASP argument even though his had been round for many years before he gave me a kick and said “hey that’s my WASP argument” lol.
David: “I don’t know why that would be a thing” – It’s basic epistemic attitudes in regard to a proposition. A theistic atheist or atheistic theist would not be a thing, it’s a valid use of a reducto ad absurdum to show one how ridiculous the argument actually is.
So this is a good demonstration of why the combination of agnostic theist
using the normative definitions of theist and agnostic is nonsense.
And I think I’ve already explained how other uses it is basically superfluous, right? Because if you hold a belief, you’re not making a knowledge claim so you don’t need to say you’re without knowledge.. and if you’re saying you lack belief in gods, well you can’t have knowledge without belief, so by saying you lack belief in gods you’re already saying you don’t have knowledge, so again it is superfluous.
David: “[Agnostic] is an acknowledgement of missing information” – but if you think everyone is missing that information then it’s superfluous. If no one truly knows if gods exists or not then why don’t we actually deal with the beliefs and justification for them instead of overcomplicating this thing with Knowledge.
Ugh, the agnostic/gnostic box – this box shows a complete LACK of epistemological understanding.
“I don’t believe the general person uses [the words] that way” – that’s fine dude, the average creationists uses evolution to mean “change in kind” and scientific theory to be the same as “an idea”. Appealing to the general person is a bit of an ad populum. You shouldn’t be dumbing yourself down, try and build them up and educate ‘em dude!
“I don’t think this discussion is important enough to even have” – Sure, I mean, logic is only the cornerstone of rationality (not rationality in totality though), so why should we use the rules of logic? It’s not like any of us claim to be rational, right?
Steve: “I don’t know what they mean”
David: “you do though”
Ok, he understands that they lack belief in gods.. what he is saying is, he can’t infer their ontological position from a simple “I lack belief in gods” statement.
Chesh describing how it is used around the world… I agree that it is used that way in general, but folks that do debate online tend to use the lacktheist definition because they are “brought into the tribe” and “corrected” on the use.
But even in the show “community” about an American community college, they discuss religion and the main character describes himself as an agnostic… and they jokingly call him a weak atheist without conviction… so even in America it is clearly still an understood position outside of the circles like the AA and ACA.
Steve: “we have the same position” – aye, the average lackthiest would be described as an agnostic. – Steve isn’t saying that you have to be called an agnostic, just acknowledging you are both fence sitters.
David: “my position is there’s not enough information to believe in gods so I lack belief” – which is fence sitting, just quite an unjustified fence sitting position. He’s not forcing the agnostic label on you, what he is saying is your “agnostic atheism” is exactly the same ontological position as “agnostic” is normatively described as.
David: “you don’t have to be on one side or the other or be on the fence” – This is confusing David, what other rational position is there than believing something is true, believing something is false, or suspending judgement because you’re not sure if it is true or false?
“No its not, if I lack belief in gods I am an atheist” – ok, they were not discussing the actual definition of words… they were talking about attitudes… you believe it is true, you believe it is false, you don’t believe it is true or false… You have said you don’t believe gods don’t exist (in general) so therefore you are that fence sitting position. Call that atheist if you want.. hell, call it turnip time for all I care, but at least acknowledge what & where your actual position is whatever you decide to call it.
^you say you value nuance here you want the broadest definition of atheism possible? I don’t understand why…
Just before 1hr 57 David leaves. I can understand why, the conversation went round in circles for 2 hours and hadn’t actually gone anywhere.
Chesh mentions here that there is a difference between laughing at someone and laughing at the situation… she’s right, this is what I said earlier on about how one just laughs at getting caught in a circular conversation.
At the end of the day, David seemed like a likeable character, thought I don’t think he realised how much he contradicted himself, and was a little sensitive.
He claims to like nuance, yet rejects a nuanced topic for his more simplistic view saying it doesn’t matter.
Overall, the conversation went poorly. I think it was attempted in good faith but didn’t start out right and built from ground up and it almost got to a point of no return.
The stream made sense to me because I understood the topic, but is apparent that the average internet atheist may claim to “understand logic” they don’t really. So I think, for future conversations on this… don’t treat anyone like they are dumb exactly, but appreciate they are likely not only ignorant, but are also unaware of their ignorance thinking they know everything. What needs to be done is tiny steps that leads up to the position needs to be discussed first.
What is a claim? What is a proposition? What is knowledge? What is a belief? What are the rules of logic? etc.
From there if they say thinks like “knowledge is things you know” you need to ask question to realise the difference between information and knowledge, and the link between knowledge and belief.. but they kinda need to come to that realisation on their own as well.
I think Steve and Chesh genuinely want to help people realise this stuff, but they, especially Steve, are so above the average understanding, they’ve forgotten what it is like to not understand, and jump to the part where they discuss the meat of the topic without setting a foundation.
This critique heavily applies to me too. I have often found in debates and discussions online I have had discussions where half way through I realised the person was just ignorant but they were then so frustrated they were not open to starting over.
Perhaps we need to think of a better way to broach the discussion around logic, beliefs and justification, as most people seem so resistant to the information.
Of course, some people are just eristic and don’t want to understand. I didn’t get that feeling from David, but the frustration came through due to all the aforementioned points.
Hopefully this is received as a fair and just critique, and believe me I know it is much easier to be a 3rd party who can pause the video and type out a bunch of thoughts than it is being there in the moment. There is a reason I try to stay away from a live debate. In fact there are a bunch, but that is definitely one of them. I get too confused in my thoughts and it all comes out wrong or I forget what I was trying to say etc.
Posts About Atheism
- Rockin’ Atheism Part 3: Atheism in Greek Antiquity
- Rockin’ Atheism Pt 2: Defining Atheism
- New Atheism and New Atheists w/ Ozymandias Ramses II – SciPhi: 012 [Video]
- “If atheism is true…”
- Atheists, Atheism, and Ambiguity
- In response to Ra’s ‘What is Atheism?’
- Pitfalls of ‘New Atheism’
- Has Atheism Become an Ideology?
- Conflated and Misunderstood Terms – Volume 2: Theism, Atheism, Agnosticism
- Do we Atheists have a Burden of Proof? – Conflated and Misunderstood Terms: Vol 7
- Are we Born Atheist?
- Ontology and the things we lack… (lacktheism or rocktheism?)