Why Does Anything Exist at All and the Problems of Necessity and Probability, The Huffington Post by Tony Sobrado

This article can be found here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/tony-sobrado/philosophy-necessity-probability_b_5045448.html

 

The political grounding of american christianity, The Huffington Post by Tony Sobrado

This article can be found here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/tony-sobrado/america-christianity_b_5044822.html

Atheism in a Socio Economic & Intellectual Context – Tony Sobrado in disucssion with Victor J Stenger

In the late summer of 2013 I did an interview and discussion with the renowned Experimental Physicist Victor J Stenger, Author of the New York Times Best Seller “God: The Failed Hypothesis” as part of my Biggest Questions Podcast Series. The question in hand was “why does anything exist at all”. Unsurprisingly that discussion was rather fascinating and when you have discussed what is possibly the most philosophically loaded question i.e. “why does anything exist at all” with an Experimental Physicist who is also a prominent Atheist then you simply wind down, mentally, with discussing Atheism in a social and intellectual context. And you will find that discussion in the player below.

Making Atheism Plus Viable

Atheism Plus made a stir last summer. In terms of the “movement’s” potential and whether it was needed it left many divided whilst leaving others confused. It was first introduced on the Free Thought Blogs and since then it has been endorsed by various Skeptic and Atheist bloggers whilst causing a ferocious backlash from others in the Atheist community.

Since then, disputes regarding the apparent need or apparent redundancy of Atheism Plus has partly come from a combination of poor research and impatience from its detractors as well as a confused form of articulation, in terms of the language of political discourse and social movements, from its supporters. I ‘m briefly going to review of some of the initial problems found in Atheism Plus from the perspective of political philosophy and ideology; and how and why these problems persist within the context of ideology and political reform. However most importantly I want to argue that when not considered as a political ideology or political philosophy, aspects of Atheism Plus are in fact necessary for the expansion and progression of Atheism itself.

Back to some basics:

When Jen McCreight first proposed Atheism Plus it appeared as the philosophical perspective of Atheism wrapped in the rhetoric of a political movement:

Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

Now admittedly McCreight was loosely putting forward an agenda for combining atheism with political and social issues and not a manifesto. Unfortunately a valid attempt to express general concerns within both the Atheist community itself and politics at large backfired due to the ambiguity and generality of the statements. This is because if on first inspection you thought that in the above statements you could replace “Atheists” with “Conservatives” or “Liberals” don’t worry you were not alone. I, as the majority of political ideologies do, completely condone the fundamental principles behind Atheism Plus but this is not surprising as most people believe that equality and the absence of prejudice is a good thing for who openly subscribes to more inequality and discrimination?

The question of whether we required the perspective of Atheism to be converted into a political philosophy was only beaten by the question of what this would actually entail. On the surface one may have been tempted to think that Atheism Plus, or Political Atheism as I first called it, is about advancing the argument that there is no God in the mainstream political domain. However this is pluralistically inept because both political parties and ideologies with a monolithic message do not exist. This is because politics encompasses a framework of thought that goes beyond a single statement or stand point. The NRA is lobbying group not a political party. Furthermore is there an atheistic perspective on Welfare or Foreign Policy?

To further complicate matters, adding already saturated political concepts such as equality, justice, rationality and evidence to the foray, as many have done, does not help Atheism Plus either because these concepts are also, unsurprisingly, employed by other political ideologies. Perhaps the most profound insight given to us by Atheism Plus, in terms of political Science, is how mainstream politics has become so swamped with loose, generalised conceptual terms that their articulation in any format passes us by without notice due to the sheer acceptance of such terms beyond specific clarification.

I had had a discussion with Richard Carrier earlier this year regarding what I saw as the two central problems of Atheism Plus. This were Atheism as a political philosophy or an unnecessary clone of Secular Humanism. As of yet he neither any other proponent of Atheism Plus has convinced me of what a distinct Atheist perspective on the economy is or how Atheism Plus in itself could rationally lead to more gender or racial equality in society as a whole. Continually anchoring, as some have done, to the position that Atheism Plus can somehow bring a more rational and critical element to policy formation will not work either. This is because for all the inefficient procedures and processes in Government, policy proposals are still scrutinized and critiqued. As unbelievable as this may be for some, economic policy is not formulated via Ben Bernanke’s or Mervin king’s astrological signs. Simply assuming that only Skeptics or Atheists would employ the highest rational scrutiny to policy can be construed as being as arrogant as it is offensive. The points of disagreement between Carrier and myself can clearly be heard in the podcast and its subsequent transcript –
both available on my site, Carrier’s sites and numerous sites dedicated to Atheism Plus and Skepticism.

However carrier presented me with what I believe is not only the most viable aspect of Atheism Plus but its most valuable and unfortunately amongst the hyperbole and controversy it has been overlooked. The point I allude to is that that Atheism Plus is a necessary movement for the sole expansion, and sole expansion only, of Atheism in social terms. In this respect it is not an external political message that one can bring to Washington or Westminster, akin to something as ridiculous as saying “We are Atheists and we demand that all policy is rationally scrutinized and that all are equal”. Instead Atheism Plus can be an internal dialogue within and amongst the Atheist community itself. It is here where Atheism Plus seeks to cater for the different issues that face the Atheist community itself and thus advance Atheism in general.

Instead of having a one size fits all approach where all its members are conflated as atheists, skeptics, rationalists or humanists, Atheism Plus can bring an acute focus to the different needs of some of its atheist members and how to serve these different needs and therefore face the challenges that apply to some but not all Atheists. Moreover this knowledge, accommodation and practicality can allow us, as the atheist community, to further appreciate specific concerns within atheist communities and help provide a better understanding to reach non-atheists is the same social, economic or cultural strata. One very important consideration can illustrate this point. Atheism remains predominantly an educated middle class phenomenon. Now of course individuals without a University education are atheists but they still remain a strong minority. When one considers this pragmatically it is not difficult to see why. By the very historical nature of Atheism, as an intellectual thought, Atheism lends itself to an advanced education in the first place in order to, for example, accidentally stumble upon the classic ideas of Atheism from Ancient Greece onwards and correlation between advanced education and atheism is beard out by social research on the educational level of atheists compared to theists.

Along with this the message of Atheism needs to be specifically tailored for specific groups. For instance the taboo that still occurs in Black, Latin and Mediterranean communities regarding atheism makes the fostering of atheism harder to achieve and then subsequently develop within these communities. This can clearly be applied to other groups who are also atheists but have particular nuances such as working class atheists, single parent atheists, mixed-race atheists, female atheists and homosexual atheists – all of who are identical in terms of atheism or possible atheism but differ drastically in other ways.

Atheism Plus has, in my opinion, nothing distinct to offer Government policy even if one wants to use the “rational evidence” argument; and externally Atheism Plus cannot by itself solve the general problems of racial, sexual and economic inequality as these issues have far more structural causes than the presence or absence of Atheism. However as an internal and self-reflective practice, with its homogenous yet heterogeneous members, Atheism Plus can facilitate a movement that is self-conscious of its diversity and fosters an internal dialogue and progression because the challenges and boundaries affecting atheists are not the same. This makes Atheism Plus an internal social collective and more like a think tank not as an external all-encompassing political party or ideology. This means that engaging with and promoting Atheism uniquely within different social demographics is the key to further expanding the outreach of general Atheism itself.

The Biggest Questions: What is Truth? Massimo Pigliucci in discussion with Tony Sobrado

Truth is a concept that permeates all facets of our everyday life. It would be impossible to operate without at least some conception of “Truth” even if it is based on assumptions. As a concept that categorises, it allows us to separate “True” from “False” statements and erroneous propositions. Yet “Truth” is not a monolithic concept. There are many different versions of truth; and here I don’t mean that people have different versions of the “Truth”; for this is quite clearly obvious – for example when different people believe that X is true whilst others do not etc. What I mean is that that are actually different theories regarding the concept of “Truth” itself and for those who like to claim that objectivity and facts are by definition true will not find solace here for the definitions of “facts” and their accompanying empirical measurement are intertwined with theoretical statements and methodological practices. Therefore if objectivity and facts are not necessary paths to “Truth” what is? Is “Truth” Universal and intrinsic or constructed, relative and subjective? Well the truth is that “Truth” is not that simple!

Massimo Pigliucci is a Philosopher at City University in New York, the Editor in Chief for the Journal of the Philosophy and Theory in Biology and as public intellectual his maintains the popular Philosophy and Skepticism blog “Rationally Speaking”

The Biggest Questions: What Is Truth? Prof. Simon Blackburn in discussion with Tony Sobrado

Truth is a concept that permeates all facets of our everyday life. It would be impossible to operate without at least some conception of “Truth” even if it is based on assumptions. As a concept that categorises, it allows us to separate “True” from “False” statements and erroneous propositions. Yet “Truth” is not a monolithic concept. There are many different versions of truth; and here I don’t mean that people have different versions of the “Truth”; for this is quite clearly obvious – for example when different people believe that X is true whilst others do not etc. What I mean is that that are actually different theories regarding the concept of “Truth” itself and for those who like to claim that objectivity and facts are by definition true will not find solace here for the definitions of “facts” and their accompanying empirical measurement are intertwined with theoretical statements and methodological practices. Therefore if objectivity and facts are not necessary paths to “Truth” what is? Is “Truth” Universal and intrinsic or constructed, relative and subjective? Well the truth is that “Truth” is not that simple!

Simon Blackburn is a Professor of Philosophy and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He is internationally known for his work on Quasi Realism and is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading Philosophers.

The above is taken from Tony Sobrado’s The Biggest Questions Series

The Biggest Questions: Why does anything exist at all? Peter van Inwagen

Perhaps the most profound question that precludes any other form of inquiry is Why Does Anything Exist At All? It is an extremely challenging demand for Philosophers and Scientists alike but is this even a legitimate question in the first place, can it be answered and if so how and what is the role and distinction between necessity and probability.

Peter van Inwagen is The John Cardinal O’Hara Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and the Author of Ontology, Identity, and Modality: Essays in Metaphysics

The Biggest Questions: Why does anything exist at all? Victor J Stenger Interview

Perhaps the most profound question that precludes any other form of inquiry is Why Does Anything Exist At All? It is an extremely challenging demand for Philosophers and Scientists alike but is this even a legitimate question in the first place, can it be answered and if so how and what is the role and distinction between necessity and probability.

Victor J. Stenger is an Experimental Physicist and an Internationally renowned Atheist. He is the Author of The New York Times best seller “God: The Failed Hypothesis”

The Biggest Questions: What is Time? Prof. Julian Barbour Interview

Time, its passing, its measurement and its experience is fundamental to our understanding of existence with regards to both the cosmos and the cognition possessed by our species. Without it, change, order, duration and concepts such as “beginning” and “end” would not be possible to conceive of let alone value. But what is time and how does it exist? Welcome to the bizarre world of time where philosophers and physicists comprehend time in a way that is almost completely divorced from our everyday intuitions of time. According to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity there is no universal simultaneity; all time is relative and thus the past, present and future may all already be existing at once. Others perceive time as an illusion; and when we get down to the quantum level things do not get any clearer.

Julian Barbour is visiting Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford and author of The End of Time and The Discovery of Dynamics. In this fascinating discussion Barbour explains how the measuring and perception of time arises due to shape dynamics and their configurations.

The Biggest Questions: What is Mind and Consciousness? Professor Brian McLaughlin Interview

Consciousness is humanity’s most primary and fundamental experience yet it is also its most elusive. Just what is consciousness? This question has plagued History’s greatest Philosophers and scientists. Subsequently this has produced the most polarised views that include dualism and the soul (that mind and brain are distinct) to the most reductive elements of naturalistic materialism where some even argue that what we experience as consciousness is merely an illusion that arises from modal brain states.

Brian McLauglin is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at Rutgers University. He is the editor of The Oxford handbook of Philosophy of Mind.