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Lack of Empirical Evidence[edit]

The statement "Rationales for not believing in any supernatural deity include the lack of empirical evidence" should read "Rationales for not believing in any supernatural deity include a perceived lack of empirical evidence". The current wording implies that empirical evidence is indeed lacking (an assertion heavily contested by opponents of Atheism) and thus affirms the atheist worldview. This affirmation deviates from Wikipedia's neutrality requirement. Ormr2014 | Talk  13:53, 16 May 2015 (UTC)

Adding "perceived" would make it less neutral i.m.o. It subtly suggests that there actually is empirical evidence, but atheists somehow don't manage to perceive it. The rationale is of course that there is such a lack, otherwise it wouldn't be called a rationale. - DVdm (talk) 14:10, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
Agree with DVdm. Any available evidence for a supernatural deity is indirect (e.g. mystical experience of an individual, holy books, logical reasoning) there is no straightforward empirical evidence that deities exist. Arnoutf (talk) 14:32, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
By stating the atheist rationale "for not believing in any supernatural deity include the lack of empirical evidence", the article is taking a non-neutral position on the issue and affirming there is indeed no "empirical evidence". Calling this a "perceived lack of empirical evidence" in no way implies that such evidence actually exists, it simply puts things in perspective because the purpose of the article is not to argue in favor of atheism but to delineate what atheists believe. This is their belief and calling this a belief instead of affirming it as a fact allows the article to maintain neutrality. Ormr2014 | Talk  20:06, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
By putting in the word "perceived" in front of lack, you suggest there is indeed empirical evidence, only not as such perceived by atheists. That in itself is a non neutral position. Can you provide examples of empirical evidence of deities?
Mind you, no-one is claiming that people believing in deities lack anecdotal or logical evidence (although the validity of such evidence is challenged by atheists, but that is another debate). Arnoutf (talk) 21:03, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict) A real, not merely perceived lack of empirical evidence, is precisely one of the rationales for not believing. Everyone agrees that there is no empirical evidence, which is one of the reasons why, based on non-empirical evidence, theists end up believing, perhaps as opposed to knowing. Actually, "a perceived lack of empirical evidence" would be—in tone—synonym to "an alleged lack of empirical evidence", which i.m.o. is far from neutral—see WP:ALLEGED. - DVdm (talk) 21:26, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
Are you serious? Putting the word "perceived" in front of lack, suggests no such thing. Furthermore, there are many respected scholars who believe there is empirical evidence for God, so saying "Everyone agrees that there is no empirical evidence" is both inaccurate and presumptuous. Consider the following sources:
The first and last source are simply assertions that there is "empirical evidence" for God's existence, which I cited to illustrate that everyone does not agree. The second is a well-known book on Philosophy written by Creighton Peden, wherein he discusses quite a few philosophers and scholars who believe there is empirical evidence for God.
The main problem with this whole "lack of empirical evidence" phrase is that it totally discounts other views about God. For instance, if God is, as many Hindus believe, simply the entire cosmos as a whole, there would certainly be empirical evidence for that, as the cosmos is a physical reality we can clearly see. If, as many modern New Agers assert, we are all gods in our own right, there would also be empirical evidence for this. If we assert that the lightening, ocean or anything physical is a god, there would likewise be empirical evidence.
This is not an argument in favor of the existence of God, simply an appeal for neutrality in an article that is supposed to maintain absolute neutrality. In any event, it wasn't my intention to drag this on or turn it into some sort of crusade. I was just reading random articles, came across this one and felt the wording reflected a bias. Not that big of a deal to me.... Ormr2014 | Talk  23:16, 16 May 2015 (UTC)
The first letter simply claims there is empirical evidence, not what it is. The chapter from the book is talking about the problems with "pure empirical" evidence for God, and as far as I understand it comes to the conclusion that pure empirical evidence without logical assumptions about the nature of God does not suffice/is not convincing. While the movieclip is funny of course the intelligent design movement is problematic on many fronts. Mainly, they scrutinize weaknesses in the mainstream theories, and then conclude that because these theories are not perfect there must be a God. That is deus ex machine reasoning not empirical evidence.
The Hindu believe (which if I follow your description is somewhat comparable to Spinozism) defines the whole problem away to some extent. But following that line of reasoning God becomes identical to the cosmos (or nature) and a thinking and aware deity is no longer needed.
Another point, the word perceived user carelessly can be added to almost everything. Belief in God for example, can be stated to be only perceived belief in God as we will never know whether people truly believe or just claim to do, or even perceive themselves as believer but deep down aren't. Arnoutf (talk) 08:05, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
DvDM is missing the point in the op which is that saying there is a lack of empirical evidence for god is making a point which is pov. The person posting's opinions about whether or not there is such evidence is a different topic altogether.--Equivocasmannus (talk) 04:39, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
Euhm no you perceive the position of DvDM as pov, which in itself is pov (as perceived by me). The word "perceive" really should be used carefully. Arnoutf (talk) 08:07, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
I have reverted your addition. There is no wp:CONSENSUS for this. See also wp:BRD. - DVdm (talk) 09:10, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
And i am reverting the page back. As it stands the article endorses a stance of atheism and violates the neutrality policy.--Equivocasmannus (talk) 10:20, 17 May 2015 (UTC)

Am I missing something, or is all this an argument without any basis whatever? The sentence ""Rationales for not believing in any supernatural deity include the lack of empirical evidence" says that lack of empirical evidence is adduced as a rationale for not believing in any supernatural deity: evidently people who say that lack of empirical evidence is a reason for not believing in a god are giving that as a rationale. If someone uses that as a reason, then that is a rationale used by that person, whether other people agree that there is no empirical evidence or not. A "rationale", in this context, is an argument put forward by someone to support a position, and saying that it is a rationale simply means that: it does not in any way imply acceptance of the premise behind the rationale. In exactly the same way, I could say that one of Hitler's rationales for murdering Jews was that they were an inferior race; that would not in any way indicate that I accept that they are indeed an inferior race: it would simply mean that that was a reason that Hitler put forward. The editor who uses the pseudonym "JamesBWatson" (talk) 10:35, 17 May 2015 (UTC)

It's not that big of a deal and certainly doesn't warrant a long drawn out argument. As opinions (we're all just spouting opinions here), there's some merit in everything said. But JamesBWatson probably made the best argument in this whole discussion. I admit that my perception of the article may have been unintentionally tainted by my personal belief in God... Ormr2014 | Talk  12:36, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
Indeed, that is more or less how I perceived it too(pun intended too), hence my referral to wp:ALLEGED. Cheers - DVdm (talk) 13:17, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
I'm 100% in agreement with JamesBWatson. The article does not say there is no empirical evidence for deities, so there is no need for "perceived". -- Scjessey (talk) 13:19, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
Rationale means explanation, it is a clear contravention of wikipedia policies to state there is a lack of it, saying it's a "rationale" makes the article worse/ However it's obvious from how some users are behaving towards me now that if I revert to a correct version of this page and abide by wikipedia's rules I'll probably be banned because I don't follow their ideology. Sieg heil everyone...Equivocasmannus (talk) 13:43, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
See Godwin's law. - DVdm (talk) 13:46, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
Clever use of a meme there. Did you think any of that response up by yourself?Equivocasmannus (talk) 13:54, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
This is just about ordinary English usage. If I may use a less emotive example, suppose I wash my hands a hundred times a day. We can describe that by saying I do it because of a perceived lack of cleanliness, or we can say that my rationale is a lack of cleanliness. We don't mash the two phrasings together. NebY (talk) 14:45, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
After considering some of the conversation here, I propose: "Rationales for scepticism(3) of any deity(2) include the lack of current(1) empirical evidence[...]"
(1) Our current ability to gather empirical data is limited by modern experimental controls, which is to say our current empirical data reflects our current technological capabilities. Perhaps this suits a neutral stance more effectively?
(2) The wikipedia page on deity already describes the supernatural aspect to the topic. More than that, there are some theistic arguments from naturalism (e.g. variants of Gaia Hypothesis).
(3) A lack of evidence isn't in itself a rationale for nonbelief (see ambivalence). There's a mix of philosophical scepticism mixed in there. To phrase it as scepticism is more accurate and differentiates itself more readily from argument from nonbelief (which is listed later in the sentence). Ephemerance (talk) 17:47, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
"Skepticism of any deity" is not appropriate phrasing, and I'm not sure what "current empirical evidence" is adding; it implies there used to be evidence, or there will be evidence in the future, neither of which make much sense. And yes, a lack of evidence is certainly a "rationale for nonbelief". This does not seem like an improvement to me.   — Jess· Δ 18:34, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
The scepticism phrasing can be tweaked. "Current" is adding a context of time. This is to say there may or may not be empirical evidence available in the future which supports the existence of deities. It makes perfect sense when you understand what empirical data is. An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It does not follow that a lack of evidence is a rationale for nonbelief unless you have a philosophic preference to scepticism.Ephemerance (talk) 18:48, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
Yes, there may or may not be empirical evidence available in the future, but it is not our job to suggest that. That is precisely the point. - DVdm (talk) 19:00, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
It's giving an important context as to our current scientific paradigm. New empirical data is collected all the time (such as with CERN's LHC). The fact is there will be new empirical data produced as technology progresses, but we cannot say one way or the other whether new empirical data will support or reject the concept of deities. Nor can we say whether or not we will experience another paradigm shift (such as Newtonian to quantum physics) which invalidates our current speculations based on current empirical data. I believe there is an important distinction to be made here.Ephemerance (talk) 19:26, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
Again, making important distinctions is not our job. This is an encyclopedia, remember? Face-smile.svg - DVdm (talk) 19:45, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict) The addition of such qualifiers (like scepticism) are neither needed, nor helpful; and again the number of places where we should add it would be endless. For example, do you think we should call people who do not believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster sceptics?
You don't need to call nonbelievers of FSM sceptics, but the rationale for a nonbeliever may be scepticism + no evidence.Ephemerance (talk) 19:26, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
No the world view may be skepticism and within that worldview "no evidence" may be the only rationale. Arnoutf (talk) 19:40, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
If their worldview is scepticism, they are categorically sceptics; that doesn't change the fact that their rationale is still scepticism + no evidence, as may be the case. "No evidence" by itself isn't a rationale. Ephemerance (talk) 22:15, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
The addition of the term current is, again, neither needed nor useful. Of course if there is lack of evidence that reflects to the current situation. We also do not say there is currently no evidence for the existence of Superman, although in some (far fetched) future that may be found. Arnoutf (talk) 19:08, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
Superman isn't a metaphysical concept. It's a completely different category. There are two approaches to a lack of evidence: ambivalence and scepticism. Being ambivalent does not make you an atheist.Ephemerance (talk) 19:26, 17 May 2015 (UTC)
Ambivalence? (=Having two opposing reactions at the same time). How has that to do with lack of evidence? I can imagine agnosticism is an alternative to skepticism. But still the phrase skepticism is not needed in the context of the discussed line.Arnoutf (talk) 19:40, 17 May 2015 (UTC)

Continuation of discussion[edit]

I'd like to re-open this discussion. When I read the sentence in question, I, like Ormr2014, take it to mean that there is indeed a lack of empirical evidence. Perhaps there are contexts where I wouldn't read such constructions in this way, as in JamesBWatson's example, but in this example it really does come across as siding with the view that there is no empirical evidence.

A number of comments above seem to suggest the current phrasing is OK because there really isn't any empirical evidence. Well, maybe there is, and maybe there isn't. But the fact that some editors agree with that point of view does not strike me as a reason for enshrining it in the article. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 06:56, 24 July 2015 (UTC)

I don't get your point. In the discussion above nobody has presented any links to empirical evidence. So if there is any empirical evidence it is probably very obscure; and at best it is not available (to the larger community and therefore for all practical purposes absent). The problem with adding a phrase like "perceived" to this, is that it immediately would transfer to invisible pink unicorns, Russell's teapot and flying spaghetti monsters (for all of which there maybe empirical evidence and maybe there isn't). So what is it exactly that you suggest here? Arnoutf (talk) 07:18, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
There is a great deal of purported empirical evidence for the existence of God. For example, fine-tuning arguments contend that certain features of the universe which permit life are evidence for the existence of God. The Kalaam cosmological argument contends that the beginning of the universe is evidence for the existence of God. Other cosmological arguments contend that change in the natural world is evidence for the existence of God.
Whether any of this is actually evidence for the existence of God is beside the point. So long as there's no expert consensus on these arguments, it would be inappropriate for the Wikipedia article to promote one point of view. (Similarly, even if God doesn't exist, it would be inappropriate to write the article on God to promote the point of view that God does not exist.)
As far as I know, there are no similar disputes about evidence for invisible pink unicorns and the like. But, at any rate, this line of argument strikes me as a prime example of someone inserting their personal religious/anti-religious views as a reason for promoting a POV on the article.
I would like for the sentence in question to refer to a perceived or alleged lack of empirical evidence, since it is a contentious issue whether there is in fact a lack of empirical evidence. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 07:43, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
But all the purported empirical evidence you describe is not, in actual fact, evidence of God. Shouldn't we just report what reliable sources say, not the views of people who don't know what empirical evidence is? ~ Röbin Liönheart (talk) 09:03, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
Per WP:ASSERT, we should not report as fact matters which are subject to serious dispute. That this matter is subject to serious dispute can be readily seen from the articles on fine-tuning arguments and cosmological arguments in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the paragon of a reliable source in the field of philosophy. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 09:37, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
Huh. If we do have a couple reliable sources with sufficiently lax ideas of what constitutes empirical evidence, that does support your case that experts do not have a consensus about a lack of empirical evidence. Perhaps the weasel words were warranted after all. ~ Röbin Liönheart (talk) 10:37, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
Wait a second. The Stanford source (indeed a very reliable source) reports that the fine tuning (empirical) issue is not well understood by modern science; it does not state this lack of scientific understanding is empirical evidence for the existence of God. The cosmological argument is not even claimed to be related to empirical evidence. It is not the source (or it authors) that is lax in construing what empirical evidence is, but the perceiver of that source. (Also we should consider whether any philosophy source has the relevant authority on this specific topic. While philosophy is an important and much undervalued science, empirical it ain't.) Arnoutf (talk) 11:01, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
Could you leave the personal comments aside? Thanks.
The SEP does not say that fine-tuning is evidence for the existence of God, but that's again not what's at stake. What is at stake is whether this is a closed question in philosophy. The SEP article points to various contemporary discussions of the fine-tuning argument. The bibliography cites some specific papers defending the argument - there are many others besides those in the bibliography. Since this isn't a closed question, we shouldn't write as if it is.
There are two main types of cosmological argument discussed in that article, and each makes reference to an empirical fact. In the first case, the fact that the universe exists, and in the second case, the fact that the universe began to exist. That the latter argument involves a posteriori reasoning is specifically discussed in section 5.3.
Philosophy is generally the discipline that deals with arguments for the existence of God, so it seems to me that philosophers are the relevant authorities. In addition, I would dispute that philosophy does not deal with empirical facts. In fact, I have just referred to three different philosophical arguments with empirical premises. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 12:15, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
Yes philosophy is a discipline involved in arguments for existence of God. However philosophical arguments for God tend to be metaphysical or logic and not based on direct empirical evidence. This specific discussion is not about all possible arguments in favour of the existence of God, merely a subset of all possible arguments those based on empirical evidence. (PS WP:KETTLE). Arnoutf (talk) 13:44, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
Arguments based on empirical "evidence".
@Mondegreen What is at stake is merely the statement "Rationales for not believing in any supernatural deity include the lack of empirical evidence..." in this article. Would you be less opposed to it if we just dropped the "the"? ~ Röbin Liönheart (talk) 13:56, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
Removing "the" does makes some sense in my opinion. It takes some of the emphasis and the absoluteness from the claim without changing the contents. Arnoutf (talk) 19:56, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
Well, I would like to change the contents, since I think the present content of the claim is POV. I think dropping the "the" is an improvement, and might do the job. But I do think switching it to "an alleged" is more clear. It says that some atheists allege a lack of empirical evidence - which they do - without endorsing the claim. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 20:57, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
Can you please give an indication how the empirical evidence for the existence of God would look like. Without shared understanding what we consider sufficient empirical evidence this discussion is moot.
In my view (strong) empirical evidence for any phenomenon (including God) should be collected through immediate sensory observation of the claimed phenomenon (i.e. not by spiritual insight, logic or metaphysical reasoning) and should be observable to anyone (not only prophets) who follows the protocol. In other words we would need the actual physical appearance of God to fulfill this demand.
A weaker form of empirical evidence would be a similar observation that can best be explained by assuming the phenomenon, in which the phenomenon is clearly, falsifiably and most parsimoniously defined.
I know of no empirical evidence in favor of God that fulfills even this weaker criterion for empirical evidence (e.g. omnipotence is neither falsifiable nor parsimonious; and more modern ideas like that of a first mover are neither clear nor falsifiable). (note that these requirement are requirement of empirical arguments, not of metaphysical arguments - but since we are only talking about empirical evidence these are the requirements we have to follow). Arnoutf (talk) 21:26, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
I don't see how this line of discussion can lead to anything but original research. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 21:27, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
The conclusion seems fairly clear to me. Modern empiricism requires controlled observations and if not the non-existence of the phenomenon should be assumed. Since we have no direct controlled observations of God there is no empirical evidence for God. The only way you can disagree to that is by using a completely different definition of empirical evidence. But instead of trying to come to a working definition of empirical evidence to use on this talk page, you put in a conversation stopper. That is indeed not helpful. But feel free to try pushing your POV. Arnoutf (talk) 21:34, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
Again, I have to ask you not to insert personal barbs into the discussion, not to mention the edit summaries.
Empirical evidence is simply evidence that comes from sensory experience, rather than from reason alone. That's what the article that you linked says, and it seems to be well sourced. The arguments I linked above all have empirical premises. For example, the fine-tuning argument depends upon our knowledge of the laws of physics, which in turn depends on empirical observation of the physical world. Philosophers who regard the laws of physics as evidence for God are thus relying on alleged empirical evidence.
The question of what counts as good empirical evidence, or under what conditions we should assume the non-existence of something, is irrelevant. There is no need for the Wikipedia article to pass judgment on whether the arguments in question are good arguments. But there is a need to avoid speaking as if it is settled that there is no empirical evidence for God.
Here are two more articles that discuss the role of empirical evidence in arguments for the existence of God. First, here is the IEP's discussion of the design argument. It begins "Design arguments are empirical arguments for the existence of God."
And here is their discussion of natural theology. Relevant excerpts: "[Natural theologians] engage in the perennial questions about God using the sources of evidence that they share by virtue of their common humanity, for example, sensation, reason, science, and history." Then, later: "Natural theology appeals to empirical data and the deliverances of reason to search out, verify, justify, and organize as much truth about God as can be figured out when one limits oneself to just these sources of evidence." Lord Mondegreen (talk) 23:08, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
Sunsets are predicted by both heliocentrism and geocentrism. So the empirical fact that sunsets happen is not empirical evidence for either helio- or geo-. Likewise, if the laws of physics are equally consistent with both the god hypothesis and the no god hypothesis, they provide evidential support to neither and are not "evidence". ~ Röbin Liönheart (talk) 06:26, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Let's do a few steps back. Adding the word alleged or any other to the statement puts emphasis on the fact that the claim made by atheists (lack of empirical evidence) is contested. The main questions in that context would be (1) Does that matter to this article? (2) If so, does the addition of a word like "alleged" solve the problem? and (3) Can we make sure that adding such qualifier does not introduce POV (or at least equal type of POV across the project? My five cents on this are

(1) No it does not matter for this article, as from the context it is sufficiently clear this is an argument made by atheists themselves.

(2) No, adding the word alleged indicates that this is the opinion of atheists (which should already be sufficiently from the context). However adding a qualifier adds associations to this opinion being minority, less valuable or even fringe. To defuse the potential misunderstanding and POV this requires an in depth discussion in the article itself what is exactly meant. That in turn would make the article harder to read and less concise and for that matter introduce (in my opinion) a larger problem than it solves.

(3) No we cannot makes this does not introduce POV in the broader project. If we want to make this neutral we should add similar qualifier to all contested assumptions in similar articles. For example the 2nd line of the Christian article holds the segment " based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth". However there is doubt whether the bible on which Christianity is based is indeed a fair reflection of the life and teachings of Christ (see e.g. the dead seas scrolls and the gospel of Judas). So to avoid POV across the project we must add alleged before "life" and rephrase the fragment as "based on the alleged life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth". To make sure this happens consistently across the project will make many articles harder to read, will raise a lot of protest, and will be almost impossible.

In short, in my view adding the word alleged would not improve the article (question 1), but make it worse in two ways (harder to read, adding a POV which is not similarly applied in other articles making it unbalanced - questions 2 and 3). Therefore in my view such a word should not be added.

PS Much of the arguments provided above start with empirical observations (something not understood by modern science) but from there on follows a logic that tends to end up in reductio ad absurdum. The Stanford source mentioned above debunks a numbers of those type of arguments.

PPS Again Lord Mondegreen read WP:Kettle. From your second post in this thread onwards you have more or less systematically been making personal remarks about my arguments, but have now repeatedly accused me of making personal remarks. Arnoutf (talk) 07:29, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

You say it is sufficiently clear that Wikipedia is not endorsing the argument. But I don't find it clear, and Ormr2014 didn't find it clear. At some point, if a number of people don't find the wording clear, I think we should conclude that it isn't actually that clear.
I don't think the word "alleged" carries the connotation of being minority, less valuable, or fringe. It just carries the connotation of not being a consensus among experts. Since there isn't a consensus among experts, this is a good connotation to have. You also say that such a word would emphasize that the claim is contested. I do not think it would emphasize it. It would simply acknowledge it, which is something that we aren't doing right now.
You worry that my proposal would require us to add similar wording to other articles. To some extent, this is of course true. I take my proposal to be a direct application of WP:YESPOV. Since that is Wikipedia policy, it's going to apply elsewhere; I'm not sure why your concern wouldn't amount to a general concern with Wikipedia's policy. On the other hand, I don't think it's true that it would be necessary to run around adding the word "alleged" willy-nilly to other articles. For example, you are concerned that we would have to say that Christianity is based on "the alleged life ... of Jesus" since many contend that Christianity does not accurately reflect Jesus' life. But that is just to say that Christianity is poorly based on Jesus' life, not that it isn't based on his life at all. And, again, if you have a general concern with having to acknowledge disputes, then that problem comes from Wikipedia policy, not from one particular concern I have with one particular article.
In your postscript, you criticize the arguments that I mentioned as examples of empirical arguments for the existence of God. So does Robin Lionheart. This is exactly what I mean when I talk about original research. The standard for acknowledging a position on Wikipedia, as I understand it, is not whether Wikipedia editors like that position. It's whether that position is defended in reliable sources. Since it is, our assessments of the arguments is irrelevant. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 09:15, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
If we accept the Oxford dictionary as a source for associations with alleged (rather than our personal construal of the word), the negative associations are abundantly clear [2]
Following from your WP:YESPOV argument. The fact in this case is that atheists claim lack of evidence. Not whether there is truly lack of evidence. This is in fact fairly similar to Christian claiming to base their belief on the life of Christ. Not whether this was the true life of Christ.
That there is some discussion indicates something is going on that may fall within the scope of WP:YESPOV (although I argue the proposed solution here adds rather than removes a non neutral POV). In any case, other policies also applyWP:WEASEL abd WP:UNDUE. These would not favour including of the word alleged. In addition, WP:CONSENSUS makes it clear that the editor proposing a change has the burden of achieving consensus, and as long as that is not achieved the change should not be made. So far I am not convinced the arguments for inclusion are any better than the ones in favour of retaining the status quo, so I see no consensus emerging for this change.
Re my postscript. There are literally tons of sources supporting those arguments. Arguments refuting cosmological and fine-tuning reasoning have been made by people like Bertrand Russell Daniel Dennett Steven Weinberg Richard Dawkins and many, many others. Hardly original research on my side therefore. In any case the point is irrelevant as on talk pages original arguments (not meant for direct inclusion in main space) are fine (see Wikipedia:No original research). Arnoutf (talk) 10:50, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
Lord Mondegreen, my point wasn't to say the cosmological argument is a bad argument (although it is). My point was it's an error to say it's based on "empirical evidence". ~ Röbin Liönheart (talk) 11:41, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Lord Mondegreen - if multiple sources claim that there is empirical evidence and its a widespread belief that there is such, it makes little sense to just pretend that's not the case in the article. (talk) 16:24, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
Please note that Lord Mondegreen has not provided a single source that claims there is direct empirical evidence. Nor has anyone in this discussion even suggested it is a widespread belief that there is such. Finally, even if it were the case that such belief is widespread, that would still not matter; there was once widespread belief the world is flat. That did not make it so. Arnoutf (talk) 16:52, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
Arnoutf, I agree when you say that "The fact in this case is that atheists claim lack of evidence. Not whether there is truly lack of evidence." That's why I think that the wording of the article should be changed. As it stands, I think that the article comes across as saying that there is truly a lack of evidence. Since, as you say, that isn't the point, the article should be phrased to make this clear.
You say that WP:WEASEL and WP:UNDUE support your position, but you do not say how they support your position. Regarding WP:WEASEL, I think the proposed phrasing makes it clear that the claim is being made by the atheists who offer the rationale in question. Regarding WP:UNDUE, you do not say why the proposed wording would give undue weight to the theistic POV. I have cited a number of sources which indicate that empirical arguments for the existence of God are taken seriously by philosophers. I don't think I've seen a single source in this discussion, or in the article itself, that says otherwise.
Regarding original research, I understand that comments here can use original arguments. However, the content of the article itself needs to be backed up by sources. And it needs to reflect the state of discussion in the field, not the state of discussion on the Wikipedia talk page. Several unsourced comments here have addressed, not things like whether my sources are reliable, or whether they are a minority view, but whether the sources themselves are correct. That's what I'm calling original research.
If I say that some reliable sources hold that there is empirical evidence for the existence of God, you're free to argue that the source doesn't meet the standards of WP:RS, or that it's a fringe view that shouldn't be given weight, or whatever. And you don't need sources for that. But if you instead argue that those sources are wrong, and you're using that as grounds for deciding what goes in the article, then you're engaging in original research. (If you aren't using it as a grounds for what goes in the article, then such comments are off-topic.) Note also the "Stay objective" line at WP:TALK#USE: "Talk pages are not a place for editors to argue their personal point of view about a controversial issue. They are a place to discuss how the points of view of reliable sources should be included in the article[.]"
Regarding direct evidence, the article doesn't say anything about direct empirical evidence, and I haven't proposed making it say anything about direct empirical evidence. Not all empirical evidence is direct. So, there's no need to set the goalposts there.
Regarding your claim that widespread belief does not entail truth, I agree. But it is not Wikipedia's policy only to acknowledge views that absolutely must be true. The policy is to acknowledge significant views among the relevant experts. Your objection seems more an objection to Wikipedia's policies about NPOV and sources than to anything unique to what I'm saying here. For example, I could say "It doesn't matter if there widespread belief in God! That doesn't mean that God exists!" But, by Wikipedia's policies, this is not a reason for refusing to acknowledge that some people believe in God. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 23:32, 25 July 2015 (UTC)
I largely agree with your summary above. However I do not agree that adding the word "alleged" would be a solution. It is a vague word (alleged by whom, contested by whom, on what grounds) and that should be avoided (per WP:WEASEL). It has clear negative associations (per the Oxford dictionary) and should therefore be avoided per WP:NPOV. The argument (fact) that people believe in God is not very relevant here, as belief has little to do with empirical evidence; and if it would have a place it would be in another article than this one.
More content wise (at the risk of soap boxing ;-). The empirical approaches to find evidence for God adopt a scientific approach. This means the starting point has to be the non-existence of God (Null hypothesis) and this has to be rejected beyond reasonable doubt. In the case of God the distinction direct versus indirect empirical evidence is important. I think we all agree there is no direct empirical evidence. That means that empirical evidence for God is based on indirect empirical evidence (mind you, much empirical evidence is indirect. E.g. the evidence for the Higgs boson is indirect). The problem with indirect evidence is that you will have to use background assumptions and logic to link observations to a hypothesized explanation. Consensus about the assumptions and applied logic is essential. Critics of empirical approaches to prove God point out (in their view) fatal flaws in both assumptions and the applied logic (e.g. replace infinite regress by introducing a God - without explaining where that God comes from). Therefore there is no consensus on the assumptions and logic. Therefor the empirical arguments in favour of God do not meet a central requirement of scientific evidence (George Kenneth Stone, "Evidence in Science"(1966)). Therefore there is no empirical "evidence". (please note that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence - also note that this line of reasoning only applies to empirical evidence; which is the specific topic here) Arnoutf (talk) 09:57, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
Do you think there is some word beside "alleged" that lacks the negative connotations and would do the job? How about "purported" or "perceived"?
WP:WEASEL refers to "vague attribution, where a statement is dressed with authority, yet has no substantial basis." But the point in question is not supposed to be dressed with authority, since the point is to convey that some atheists have said something, not to convey that they're correct. Anyway, the answer to "alleged by whom" is "The people who have that rationale." Again, if there's a problem with saying that some people have contended etc etc, but not saying who those people are, then there's equally a problem with saying "Rationales include..." and not saying whose rationales those are. My proposal isn't going to introduce any new problem along those lines. But, I think, there isn't actually a WP:WEASEL problem with either version of the article. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 10:14, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
You are right "Rationales include" is also vague. Perhaps the solution to both lies there. Would it help to rephrase as (bolded for discussion only) "Rationales of atheists for not believing in deities include the lack of empirical evidence;[15][16] the problem of evil; the argument from inconsistent revelations; the rejection of concepts that cannot be falsified; and the argument from nonbelief.[15][17] ". That would make it clear that the lack of empirical evidence is an atheist argument (and not a general Truth). Could that be a way out? Arnoutf (talk) 10:23, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
I don't think that makes a difference. As WP#WEASEL says, "The examples given above are not automatically weasel words, as they may also be used in the lead section of an article or in a topic sentence of a paragraph, where the article body or the rest of the paragraph supplies attribution." Since the rest of the article goes into more depth on the arguments and supplies specific attribution, it doesn't need to be in the lead.
But I don't think it solves my problem, either. To me, saying "Jim's rationale for not believing in God is the lack of evidence" implies that there is indeed a lack of evidence. In general, people tend not to make references to "the X" unless they think there really is an X, even if they're describing other people's thoughts. For example, I wouldn't say "Sue thought Joe was ugly because of the scar on his face" unless I mean to say that there really is a scar on Joe's face. If there isn't a scar on Joe's face, but Sue thinks there is, then I would find some other way of saying it. Similarly, if we don't mean to say that there really is a lack of empirical evidence, then I don't think we should make references to "the lack of empirical evidence." Lord Mondegreen (talk) 10:39, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
What if we changed it to "Rationales include ... claims of a lack of empirical evidence"? Or "Rationales include ... arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence"? Lord Mondegreen (talk) 10:43, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
That would be problematic, as that suggests that there currently may actually be empirical evidence that should be accepted by atheists. The problem is that the atheist rationales do not deny there are currently arguments based on empirical observation, but they do argue that because of assumptions and logical flaws the inferences leading to the conclusions are flawed. Showing these fallacies provide evidence (or at least shed reasonable doubt) using broadly accepted assumptions and logic that the empirical arguments for God do not constitute evidence in the scientific empirical tradition (the tradition raised by those aiming to give evidence for God). Therefore there is no empirical evidence (in the scientific sense - no claim needed). Arnoutf (talk) 14:54, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
All it suggests is that the question of empirical evidence is a disputed matter. I don't see why your objection wouldn't equally apply to any situation where we try to comply with WP:YESPOV by acknowledging disagreement. If you think there is some relevant difference, could you please explain what it is? Lord Mondegreen (talk) 22:13, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
The problem is that, following the principles of the scientific methods, a claim only becomes evidence if all parties agree to the observations, assumptions and used logic. In direct evidence observations are so dominant that assumptions and logic (almost) necessarily follow. In this case the dispute is about the assumptions and logic. The people aiming to provide proof for the existence of God claim to adopt the scientific method (at least in the empirical approaches) so we should assume there is no evidence until there is consensus it is there. Hence in this case there is a disputed claim of evidence, but following the scientific method the assumption of no evidence should be taken for truth until the dispute is solved. The people looking for evidence for the existence of God cannot have it both way, claiming to provide empirical evidence, while not following the generally accepted rules for what constitutes empirical evidence. Arnoutf (talk) 22:23, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
And we're back to WP:TALK#OBJECTIVE.
Why don't we make an RfC? Proposed wording: "Should the sentence that begins 'Rationales for not believing in deities include the lack of empirical evidence' be changed to begin 'Rationales for not believing in deities include arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence'?" Lord Mondegreen (talk) 22:54, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
Mmmm I may have been to hasty in discarding your second suggestion (arguments). I do oppose the phrasing "claims" for much the same reasons as I oppose the wording "alleged". But I can live with the phrase 'Rationales for not believing in deities include arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence'. Arnoutf (talk) 23:04, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
OK. Would you be OK with me changing it? Lord Mondegreen (talk) 23:07, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
Fine with me. Perhaps let it wait one or two days (as you did with your other suggestion) to allow others to pitch in, if there are still objection. Arnoutf (talk) 23:11, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
Will do. Thanks for bearing with a long and involved discussion. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 23:11, 26 July 2015 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 24 July 2015[edit]

The sentence

The French Revolution, noted for its "unprecedented atheism," witnessed the first major political movement in history to establish the foundations of society on human reason, not divine authority.

should, I think, be removed entirely. The source cited in support of it simply does not defend the claim in this sentence. The closest sentence in the source appears to be

This was the first revolution to be founded on the idea that there is no power in the human mind superior to human reason or human will.

But there are a number of discrepancies between this sentence and the sentence currently in the Wikipedia article. Most importantly, the source says nothing about divine authority. At most, it attributes to the revolutionaries the view that human reason is the most important thing power in the human mind. Since God isn't generally thought thought to be a power of the human mind, the claim in the Wiki article goes well beyond what's in the source. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 07:11, 24 July 2015 (UTC)

I tend to agree on this. Strong claims (especially presented as quotes like "unprecedented atheism" need to align extremely closely to the source. This also goes for extreme black and white claims like "first major political movement in history" as that does not limit itself to modern western history but included all recorded history (Asian, Western Antiquity, Early medieval, etc. etc.). Perhaps we may want to change the line a little to fit the article better though,

This was the first revolution to be founded on the idea that there is no power [either divine or otherwise] in the human mind superior to human reason or human will.

Arnoutf (talk) 20:08, 24 July 2015 (UTC)

Actually, the "unprecedented atheism" phrase is the one thing that does show up in the source - mea culpa for not catching that. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 21:13, 24 July 2015 (UTC)
I've gone ahead and removed it. It would be nice to add a couple sentences at the end of that paragraph expanding on the history of atheism, but I'm not exactly sure what those sentences should be. I just know that this poorly-sourced sentence wasn't it. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 10:22, 26 July 2015 (UTC)
Oops, I hadn't seen this section. I can agree, so I undid my revert. Sorry about this. - DVdm (talk) 15:10, 26 July 2015 (UTC)

The original removal of this sentence was based on a false assumption. The very quote is in the source itself, and the source makes clear the importance of disbelief as a method of political activism and influence in the French Revolution. Instead of removing the sentence, how about just modifying it to better reflect the source? After all, atheism gets tossed into the political ring during the French Revolution for the first time ever. That should definitely be mentioned in one form or another.UBER (talk) 02:46, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

I have modified the sentence as follows:

The French Revolution, noted for its "unprecedented atheism," witnessed the first major political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason.UBER (talk) 02:50, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

What does the sentence, so modified, have to do with atheism? I'm totally down with a mention of the French Revolution, which does seem like an important political moment for atheism, but I wonder if there's a better way of putting it, possibly with a better source.
I also think the current phrasing is somewhat vague, and doesn't exactly convey the nuance of the original quote. What, exactly, was human reason supposed to be supreme over? In the original source, there's a clear qualification: reason was supposed to be supreme over other powers of the human mind. Without the qualification, it's less clear what the sentence is saying, and less clear that it's saying the same thing as the source. Lord Mondegreen (talk) 03:12, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
It is not stated explicitly in the source, but the implication from the first paragraph in page 22 is that belief in the power of reason is a rejection of the supposition that our ideas and thoughts (and all of their consequences, ie. societies) come directly from God or some other supernatural source. So that's how it relates to atheism: the author's basically saying belief in the supremacy of human reason is a feature of atheism.UBER (talk) 03:21, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
The new phrasing is fine with me. - DVdm (talk) 08:15, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

Mid 19th century situation - positivism is missing here, German situation need differentiation[edit]

moved from User talk:DVdm

Hi DVdm, I just saw your revert of my edit at Atheism - on what happened in France, Brazil, Turkey and Germany bwetween 1830 and 1920. Perhaps I can demand a bit of argumentation beyond the simple revert and claim of lack of sources (gave some and can easily give more - read the articles into which I linked...) - as a trained philospher and historian. Reverting is just so easy. Best regards --Olaf Simons (talk) 13:01, 12 August 2015 (UTC)

tell me where you need sources and we get that done if it really is the sources you are missing. --Olaf Simons (talk) 13:06, 12 August 2015 (UTC)
Hi Olaf. I checked the source that you gave and could not find any basis for your claims, like "The strongest force of the mid 19th century... etc". I think that we need sources for such statements. Obviously further discussion does not belong here, but on the article talk page Talk:Atheism. Cheers. - DVdm (talk) 15:15, 12 August 2015 (UTC)

here my edit:

Baron d'Holbach was a prominent figure in the French Enlightenment who is best known for his atheism and for his voluminous writings against religion, the most famous of them being The System of Nature (1770) but also Christianity Unveiled. One goal of the French Revolution was a restructuring and subordination of the clergy with respect to the state through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Attempts to enforce it led to anti-clerical violence and the expulsion of many clergy from France, lasting until the Thermidorian Reaction. The radical Jacobins seized power in 1793, ushering in the Reign of Terror. The Jacobins were deists and introduced the Cult of the Supreme Being as a new French state religion. Some atheists surrounding Jacques Hébert instead sought to establish a Cult of Reason, a form of atheistic pseudo-religion with a goddess personifying reason. The strongest force of the mid 19th century was the positivist movement formulated and propagated by Auguste Comte that led to the establishment of influential positivist societies in France, Britain and Brazil. Positivism was strictly anti-metaphysical - God would not appear in scientific problems so the premise - but by 1848 ready to step beyond atheism. The question whether God existed was, so Comte's deconstruction of the debate, a theological question.[1] Positivism would have to leave this debate and to find out how religion and theology could actually be replaced - by a new Religion of Humanity, a system in which humanity would be the godless supreme being. The establishment of positivist churches eventually divided the movement Comte had founded into a branch interested in positivism strictly as an anti-metaphysical paradigm of the modern sciences and proponents of a world religion of Comtean positivism that influenced the Brazilian and later under Kemal Atatürk the Turkish nation-building process.

The rivaling force of the atheist movement rose in the latter half of the 19th century in a post Hegelian move in Germany with philosophers in the wide range from Arthur Schopenhauer, Ludwig Feuerbach, Max Stirner, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche.[2] Feuerbach was particularily influential with his deconstruction of Christianity and, in his Heidelberg Lectures of 1848, of Religion in the broader spectrum. Marx and Engels formulated a new form of political materialism as the philosophy of Communism, a philosophy that would be most interested in the material base of all living conditions.

  1. ^ Auguste Comte, "Atheism, like theology, discusses insoluble mysteries" [1]
  2. ^ Ray, Matthew Alun (2003). Subjectivity and Irreligion: Atheism and Agnosticism in Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7546-3456-0. Retrieved 2011-04-09. 
I inserted Comte and I slightly revised the statements on the German situation. (Plus: I deleted a statement about the scularisation of Italy that was rather out of place and lacking citation, so the note that was already there). The footnote you objected refers specifically to Comte's position towards atheism. He is a de facto atheist, but not ready to stay in this debate because he considers it to be a theological debate designed to prolong the revolutionary state... You, however, want a footnote for the statement that Positivism is the most influential atheist doctrine of the mid 19th century. I am not quite sure whether books on positivism make this statement. It's cheap and they are not concerned with the general history of atheism. We just do not have a second global movement of that sort in the area. Britain, Brazil, Turkey are interesting candidates of the experiment. You can have secondary literature on each case. The general shift in the sciences towards Positivism - read the Wikipedia articles on this, that will not find any rival anywhere. Marxism becomes politically more important with the Russian Revolution (and stagnates in the sciences); and whom would Lenin attack? the present brand of Austrian German positivists around Ernst Mach with his 1908 book against them. Mach leads to Einstein, and Hawkings but also to the Vienna Circle (this is credited later) - so somehow we have a gap in the 19th century part. Things that are known in the 20th century part do not have their base in the 19th century part. By the way: "Early modern era" - ends around 1800, the section which I revised leads it to the 20th century and I would strongly promote a 19th century headline. If you want a book that says explicity that positivism was the most important mover before Marxism had its political breakthrough - well then I'd recommend: find a more subtle wording. To simply delete - is the simple thing that does not solve the problem I am hinting at. Besides: you deleted more - also my reconfiguration of the German part... It's cheap editing to undo with a click (my view as an administrator on de.wp) --Olaf Simons (talk) 19:36, 12 August 2015 (UTC)

Ancient meaning[edit]

A friend once told me that the original word "Atheos" was used in ancient Greece to describe Christians, on account of the fact that they refused to worship the Greeks' gods. Is this true? It does make sense, since that one meaning of rejecting deities "sanctioned" and supported by the government or society fits quite well with much of the history of both Christianity and Judaism. Even to this day many who practice these religions adamantly refuse to accept anything that suggests some other "God", as supreme being or as the source of creation. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:15, 1 September 2015 (UTC)