Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 27

Thread: Before Darwin, was deism or atheism the most reasonable position?

  1. Top | #1
    Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Sweden
    Posts
    271
    Archived
    5,525
    Total Posts
    5,796
    Rep Power
    46

    Before Darwin, was deism or atheism the most reasonable position?

    "An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: ‘I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.’ I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." - Richard Dawkins

    I think most of who post here agree that in our day and age, given what we know, atheism is the most reasonable position to hold on the god question. No evidence for any gods, evolution explains the many diverse life forms, physics explain many other things, there are psychological and neurological reasons for why supernatural beliefs arise and persist, etc, etc.

    However, back in the 18th and 19th centuries, and actually a lot earlier, educated people knew of the fallacious nature of religious beliefs, but they lacked all the modern knowledge we have, some of which I listed above. Many of these people were deists, for example Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine.

    Do you think that a deistic position was the most reasonable position back then? Or should atheism have been preferred, because, well, there was still no evidence for any gods, even though there were no alternatives either. There are examples of pre-Darwinian atheists, but they are rare. Deism seems to have been much more common.

  2. Top | #2
    Veteran Member skepticalbip's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Searching for reality along the long and winding road
    Posts
    4,248
    Archived
    12,976
    Total Posts
    17,224
    Rep Power
    60
    There are still a lot that we know we don't know plus we know that there are a lot that we don't know yet that we don't know. However, there is no reasonable reason to assume that our lack of knowledge is evidence of a god. It was the same in the past but there was much more social and cultural pressure (not reasoning) to accept some sort of god as the explanation for what we knew that we didn't know.

  3. Top | #3
    Elder Contributor Keith&Co.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Far Western Mass
    Posts
    14,075
    Archived
    24,500
    Total Posts
    38,575
    Rep Power
    69
    Well, my atheism has nothing to do with evolution. I grew up without much heartache expressed about church/evolution incompatability.

    I just got tired of getting platitudes instead of answers for my questions. Or getting blamed for even asking them. Or IOUs for some day in the future when i was going to be an adult, and i would THEN understand. 'But, you're an adult, and you still can't answer the question...?'

    I did not turn to science for an alternate setting for the Q&As, but to other religions. They offer pretty much the same program.

  4. Top | #4
    Veteran Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    1,236
    Archived
    3,946
    Total Posts
    5,182
    Rep Power
    58
    Quote Originally Posted by Keith&Co. View Post
    Well, my atheism has nothing to do with evolution.
    Same here. My atheism isn't much about science. I got no answers to prayers, and going to church gatherings to have my faith "renewed" stopped having that ugly effect. It was a lot of work for me to stay theist for as long as I did (about 20 months). People told me God is there, then God demonstrated he isn't. To be atheist, I just needed a culture that made theism optional.

    Maybe that's the cultural shift roughly around Darwin's time. God made intuitive sense in all ages before secular societies to try to relate with nature by talking to it and asking "please don't squish me", or asking what makes nature do what it does? In the 18th-19th centuries, it was perhaps as much political freedoms as science that finally made God optional. I think he was always optional, it was just hard to see in traditional societies.

  5. Top | #5
    Veteran Member Lion IRC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    3,290
    Rep Power
    15
    Quote Originally Posted by Tammuz View Post
    Do you think that a deistic position was the most reasonable position back then? Or should atheism have been preferred, because, well, there was still no evidence for any gods, even though there were no alternatives either. There are examples of pre-Darwinian atheists, but they are rare. Deism seems to have been much more common.
    We see this contrast in Leibniz versus Newton on the question of whether the laws of nature (God's laws) required an ongoing perpetual miracle to sustain the universe.

  6. Top | #6
    Veteran Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    1,236
    Archived
    3,946
    Total Posts
    5,182
    Rep Power
    58
    Quote Originally Posted by Lion IRC View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Tammuz View Post
    Do you think that a deistic position was the most reasonable position back then? Or should atheism have been preferred, because, well, there was still no evidence for any gods, even though there were no alternatives either. There are examples of pre-Darwinian atheists, but they are rare. Deism seems to have been much more common.
    We see this contrast in Leibniz versus Newton on the question of whether the laws of nature (God's laws) required an ongoing perpetual miracle to sustain the universe.
    Yeah, people of long ago discussed such things. Now we're wondering if there will be a Big Freeze/Heat Death which rather indicates no "ongoing perpetual miracle".

    Being a theist or a deist made sense back in the day. People want explanations and will accept super-vague ones if there's nothing else. Especially after all that tradition from ancient times lending its weight to the word "God" (the only weight it's got).

    "I solved the universe with words". Haha.

  7. Top | #7
    Contributor
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    The North
    Posts
    8,306
    Archived
    9,514
    Total Posts
    17,820
    Rep Power
    42
    The most reasonable position is the correct one (secularism), but before the Scientific Revolution there was no tangible evidence of materialism so most societies went through reasoning like this:

    1) I exist
    2) Something must have caused me to exist
    3) Therefore God

    Realistically, the logic should have looked something like this:

    1) I exist
    2) I have no evidence for why I exist
    3) Therefore I don't know why I exist

    But people are suckers for a compelling story, and throughout history religion was as much a psychological elixir as it was about 'reason'. Basically, the premise that there is anything 'reasonable' about belief or lack thereof is faulty. People who believe don't come to belief through reason, they come to it through emotion and psychological need.

  8. Top | #8
    Veteran Member Cheerful Charlie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Posts
    4,126
    Archived
    3,884
    Total Posts
    8,010
    Rep Power
    54
    Quote Originally Posted by Lion IRC View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Tammuz View Post
    Do you think that a deistic position was the most reasonable position back then? Or should atheism have been preferred, because, well, there was still no evidence for any gods, even though there were no alternatives either. There are examples of pre-Darwinian atheists, but they are rare. Deism seems to have been much more common.
    We see this contrast in Leibniz versus Newton on the question of whether the laws of nature (God's laws) required an ongoing perpetual miracle to sustain the universe.
    Actually both made that claim. In Leibnez's case, he championed occasionalism. Newton thought God intervened to correct planets' orbits from time to time.
    Cheerful Charlie

  9. Top | #9
    Veteran Member Cheerful Charlie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Houston, Texas
    Posts
    4,126
    Archived
    3,884
    Total Posts
    8,010
    Rep Power
    54
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    The most reasonable position is the correct one (secularism), but before the Scientific Revolution there was no tangible evidence of materialism so most societies went through reasoning like this:

    1) I exist
    2) Something must have caused me to exist
    3) Therefore God

    Realistically, the logic should have looked something like this:

    1) I exist
    2) I have no evidence for why I exist
    3) Therefore I don't know why I exist

    But people are suckers for a compelling story, and throughout history religion was as much a psychological elixir as it was about 'reason'. Basically, the premise that there is anything 'reasonable' about belief or lack thereof is faulty. People who believe don't come to belief through reason, they come to it through emotion and psychological need.
    Hesiod - "Theogony" Primal chaos emanated Gaia. From Gaia we got the Titan Gods. Then the Olympian Gods and everything else.

    Primal Chaos seems more like what modern science tells us. And may well have influenced the thinking of the first Greek philosophers who were mostly naturalists. Early Egyptian cosmologies started with not God, but a primal sea, that gave rise to Gods and then the Earth.

    "The world, an entity out of everything, was created by neither gods nor men, but was, is and will be eternally living fire, regularly becoming ignited and regularly becoming extinguished.
    This world . . . ever was, and is, and shall be, ever-living Fire, in measures being kindled and in measure going out."
    - Heraclitus
    Cheerful Charlie

  10. Top | #10
    Veteran Member James Brown's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    2,418
    Archived
    5,844
    Total Posts
    8,262
    Rep Power
    51
    It all comes down to how comfortable you are with "I don't know."

    For some people, it's an impossible position.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •