Does Naturalistic Atheism Equal Nihilism? Part 2
Two boys named Pete and RePete were sitting in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?
Two boys named Pete and RePete were sitting in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?
Two boys… ah, okay, I think you get the picture.
Previously I debated a Christian apologist on whether or not Naturalistic Atheism equates to nihilism. I proved beyond a reason of a doubt that it did NOT. You can read the original article HERE.
Recently the discussion resurrected itself, even as I was hoping that reason had won out, it was evident that our Christian friend was bent on maintaining his position even as I had thoroughly refuted it. However, refusing to let a Christian define atheism, which is sort of weird when you think about it (imagine an atheist trying to define Christianity and explain to Christians what it is they do and don’t believe), I felt obligated to respond, again, to his additional comments.
This was his response to me stating that I had already proved his hypothesis that naturalistic atheism equates to nihilism wrong (my comments in red):
“Also, I’ve already shown (disproved) that naturalism or atheism leads to any nihilistic view.”
I disagree. All you have given is your subjective opinion on the matter using subjective criteria. You provided no objective basis for meaning outside of your own subjective reasons. Thus, you could create any meaning you desire. But if you can create and change the rules at a whim, then you really aren’t playing a game are you?
“As I showed, quite methodically actually, there is no logical progression from holding a naturalistic worldview to the dismissal of all worldviews, just as there is no correlation between atheism, the rejection of or lack of belief in any god or gods, and the total rejection of all beliefs.”
Maybe I’m misunderstanding you here but I don’t think I ever said that by holding a naturalistic worldview you thus rejected all worldviews. Rather, what I have said is that if you hold to a naturalistic atheistic worldview then no matter what worldview you create for yourself it is ultimately meaningless. You may make believe your own purpose and meaning in your head but outside of yourself it is totally and utterly meaningless and valueless.
“And that’s the end of the debate, because not only have I disproved the claim, but I’ve shown how it is not philosophically tenable.”
Again, I disagree that you have disproved the claim. I don’t think you have even come up with a reasonable defense where I just don’t agree (for example, you could probably give some good reasons why Japan is better than Canada and I would just have to disagree even while recognizing that at least you are making a decent/good case which I disagree with) – I really don’t think you have made any defense. You have just giving subjective reasons for giving yourself a subjective purpose that is only purposeful to the clump of mass called the brain that resides in your head. There is nothing objective about what you have offered.
“It doesn’t matter if others prescribe to nihilistic thought on top of their atheism, the fact is that you can’t get from atheism or naturalism to nihilism, period. Frankly it’s impossible.”
Well, it definitely isn’t impossible like a circle-square is impossible. And actually, I think the conjunction of naturalism and atheism together (remember, I agree that atheism by itself doesn’t necessitate nihilism because atheism by itself isn’t a worldview) is nihilistic and, as you have seen above, other atheists agree.
Thank you for your comments Tristan, I really appreciate them and I think help bring some issues out that I would have never otherwise thought about!
Knowing this Christian is actually a smart guy, and friendly enough to put up with me continually telling me how wrong he is (yeah, one of those atheists), I felt like giving him the benefit of the doubt. I’m not trying to force him to reject his Christianity, but I would appreciate the simple acknowledgment that his hypotheses have been thoroughly refuted and so his position that naturalistic atheism leads to nihilism is invalid. Not knowing whether he honestly doesn’t get it or else simply is relying on his confirmation bias to dictate the terms of the debate, I cannot say. But I felt I had to respond in turn. This is my reply to the above exchange (his comments in blue):
Regarding my affirmation that I disproved that naturalism or atheism (or any combination thereof) equates to any form of nihilism you responded in turn:
“I disagree. All you have given is your subjective opinion on the matter using subjective criteria. You provided no objective basis for meaning outside of your own subjective reasons. Thus, you could create any meaning you desire. But if you can create and change the rules at a whim, then you really aren’t playing a game are you?”
Actually, no, I haven’t given a subjective opinion. I used a proven method of analytical reasoning, an area of literary science (in the field of theory—one of my specializations) and showed via logic that your conclusions do not necessarily follow given the objections I raised.
That’s not a subjective opinion mind you, it’s an objective series of critical deconstructions which show beyond a reason of a doubt that your premise is unsound. I know you disagree, but that’s simply your confirmation bias talking. But I refuted your hypothesis beyond a reason of a doubt. The reason we keep going in circles is that you refuse to acknowledge the defeat, but at the same time refuse to update your theory, therefore there is no progress. And just to be clear the debate is already over.
Meanwhile you claim I have changed the rules and altered the meanings, but I haven’t changed any rules, and I’m extremely (obsessively) specific about my definitions, but even as you accuse me of semantic word games you yourself invoke semantic confusion! By claiming I have simply offered a ‘subjective opinion’ you have changed the rhetorical mode by introducing semantic word play into an otherwise clear and straight forward argument.
Now, if you want to talk about semantics, another area which coincides with English Theory as a discipline (semantics is one branch of semiotics) and the philosophy of language and how it applies to the validity of my atheism I can certainly defend that position (as I do HERE). But while I maintain a standard which seeks to affirm an inferential role of semantics (see coherence theory of truth), you are trying to establish a semantic holism (a known fallacy). I have not resorted to such weak argumentation.
“Rather, what I have said is that if you hold to a naturalistic atheistic worldview then no matter what worldview you create for yourself it is ultimately meaningless. You may make believe your own purpose and meaning in your head but outside of yourself it is totally and utterly meaningless and valueless.”
I addressed this the first time around. The fact that the universe, as governed by the physical laws, is ultimately going to dissipate and that life is ultimately meaningless doesn’t mean we can’t have meaning or purpose (and morals and values coming from ourselves–from our brains–is what the previously discussed neuroscience articles prove).
Notice however, you have changed the subject by introducing moral and ethical concerns into the debate, and that’s fine if you wish to talk about them as separate topics, but as far as nihilism is concerned however which way we come to have values is irrelevant. First you must prove how it is values exist independently, then assuming independent values do exist, how naturalistic atheism would force us to reject them offhand (since that is the implication of nihilistic philosophy). If you can defend the position you take with regard to your prior statements, then I challenge you to do so, otherwise you’re debating a different area of concern. Values and purpose don't give the universe anymore meaning then it already has, although we may find meaning and comfort in formulating morals and values for ourselves (this is strictly a human endeavor).
The fact is, taking into consideration that entropy is undeniable, and that this is the natural way of things, it begs the question: how does this lead to the philosophical concept of nihilism exactly? See, I think you have confused nihilism for some type of description of the ultimate failure to find purpose to the physical laws as we know them or of nature herself. But then you are projecting human values onto a valueless system. Don’t you see that’s a huge mistake?
Nihilism isn’t and ends in of itself, it’s a means, it’s a philosophy created out of sociopolitical turmoil, and one that doesn’t stem from the implications of naturalism, and I proved this with the principle of double effect, if you’ll recall. If applied correctly, the principle reveals that an ultimate meaningless is not necessarily a bad thing–and so there is no reason to reject naturalistic atheism simply because you hold that all things which are meaningless must be rejected on the basis that they are seemingly nihilistic. Nihilism, again, is the rejection of all things because they are *believed to be meaningless and therefore *ought to be rejected. I hope you can see the distinction here. Naturalistic atheism may acknowledge the fact that things are ultimately meaningless given the sort of universe we live in, but (and it's a big BUT) it doesn’t tell you that you *ought to reject morals or values. Again, I hope you can see the difference here.
So that brings me back to my prior point: there is no logical progression from holding a naturalistic worldview to the dismissal of all worldviews. And in order to get naturalism to equate (in any way imaginable) to nihilism you would first have to prove this. But you have not been able to, and so your hypothesis is rendered invalid.
Assuming that you did manage to prove the above, then you still have to show how there is a correlation between atheism—i.e. the rejection of or lack of belief in any god or gods—and the total rejection of all beliefs (e.g. nihilism). Again you have failed to adequately prove this correlation, and therefore, again your hypothesis fails.
This is not a subjective opinion. This is modal logic—an objective analytical technique used to determine the validity of any given claim. Your claims clearly fail the basic test of logic, and therefore are unsound. You either need to revise your theory, or admit that you have lost the battle and learn from it and move on. Simply repeating yourself again and again isn’t going to make your position any more feasible than the first time it was invalidated. I’m sorry to say it so frankly, but it seems to me you’re just flogging a dead horse for no other reason than you have *faith that it’s going to rear up and that you’ll happily ride off into the sunset together.
Now if you want moral values in a naturalistic universe which can be objectively defined, I suggest you read Sam Harris’s new book The Moral Landscape. He explains objective morality and values with regard to the brain far better than I ever could.