January 07, 2009
New York Times: Atheists Send a Message, on 800 Buses
An interesting element of the bus slogan is the word “probably,” which would seem to be more suited to an Agnostic Bus Campaign than to an atheist one. Mr. Dawkins, for one, argued that the word should not be there at all.Either there is a god or not.
But the element of doubt was necessary to meet British advertising guidelines, said Tim Bleakley, managing director for sales and marketing at CBS Outdoor in London, which handles advertising for the bus system.For religious people, advertisements saying there is no God “would have been misleading,” Mr. Bleakley said.
To claim that god probably does or does not is to suggest that some evidence has been presented that points to the existence of god. No such evidence has been provided as god is an article of faith.
So, the word "probably" is really more "misleading" than anything whether you're religious or not.
But even assuming agnosticism, the use of the word "probably" errs on the side of the mystic, rather than on the side of reason. But this ad code fellow thinks that such topics are up to your personal opinion. Given that definitive statements in either direction "mislead" people who've formed the contrary opinion, and agnostic statements offend people who have any opinions at all, the more consistent practice would be to disallow any statements about items of faith at all.
Of course, expecting consistency from a subjectivist is as much wishful thinking as those who believe in god.
Posted by: Britton at January 07, 2009 02:22 PM (iKDv0)
"Probable," as a description of claims about reality, does not apply to arbitrary claims. If you assert something, you're obliged to provide evidence for it. If you provide no evidence for it, there is no way to determine if it is true, false, probable, or even possible! (Possible statements even require some SMIDGE of evidence.) Put more directly, arbitrary statements are to be ignored.
You are correct that: the lack of evidence does not disprove the existence of god, it only renders the statement arbitrary as no evidence has been presented. That's IF we assume the skeptical stance on this topic.
I'm not a skeptic, though, so I would cite the entire universe as contradictory evidence for my claim against the existence of any supernatural critters, godly, or otherwise.
Posted by: Flibbert at January 07, 2009 02:52 PM (ErOeR)
There is a human being standing on the surface of Mars right now.
There is absolutely no evidence at all to support this claim.
Some people might be tempted to say that the claim is possible since Human Beings and Mars both exist and people have learned to travel in space and land on things they find there, so someone maybe might have sneaked off of Earth and taken up a spot on the red planet. However, the existence of those various aspects of the claim does not provide a link to reality sufficient to support the claim for any evaluation at all.
If someone came to you with a statement like this, the only response you could give apart from just walking away is to say, "What makes you think that?"
Your goal here is to establish whether or not any given claim is true or false. Some claims, however, lack sufficient evidence to make a determination. The more evidence there is, the closer you come to saying that a statement is "true." With only the smallest bit of evidence, you would say that a statement is possible. With a bit more evidence, you say a claim is probably true. And when every piece of evidence discovered so far supports a claim, you say that the claim is certainly true.
Claims of certainty are not claims against future evidence because all knowledge is contextual. Even claims that are certain may turn out one day to be false, but that does not change their status as knowledge within the context of past understanding.
But arbitrary claims cannot be evaluated. They're just floating nonsense because no one has bothered to try to anchor them to reality.
Posted by: Flibbert at January 07, 2009 03:12 PM (ErOeR)
But hey, I guess if anyone is making any such statements on the sides of buses, it is progress. I can't see that happening here in America.
Posted by: Britton at January 07, 2009 04:01 PM (iKDv0)
Mathematically, since the set of data there is null, there is no probability to calculate. You can't even say there's a 0% probability because that also implies that there is data to consider. A computer calculating it would just return "null." And philosophically, the claim is arbitrary and so it's improper to categorize it with other statements of knowledge by discussing its probability.
On the bright side, though, there are atheist bus signs running in DC. But they weren't as aggressive as the ones in London in my opinion.
Posted by: Flibbert at January 07, 2009 04:14 PM (ErOeR)
Posted by: Britton at January 08, 2009 02:11 AM (iKDv0)
Posted by: Flibbert at January 08, 2009 07:41 AM (xzhy1)
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