The Atheist Foundation of Australia defines Atheism as:

 

"the acceptance that there is no credible scientific or factually reliable evidence for the existence of a god, gods or the supernatural"

 

Sam Harris is known to "experiment" with personal meditation experiences. Here is what wikipedia has to say about Sam Harris and "spirituality":

 

"Harris wishes to incorporate spirituality in the domain of human reason. He draws inspiration from the practices of Eastern religion, in particular that of meditation, as described principally by Hindu and Buddhist practitioners. By paying close attention to moment-to-moment conscious experience, Harris suggests, it is possible to make our sense of "self" vanish and thereby uncover a new state of personal well-being."

 

He talks of mind states, of "not-self" and other terms which the AFA call on their forums "woo-woo".

 

The reason that the AFA would reject Sam Harris as an atheist is the last 3 words in their definition: "or the supernatural". They see atheism as rejecting not only god/gods (theo) but also the "supernatural", thereby turning atheism into atheiwoowoosm! They staunchly defend their definition beyond and rational logic. Only recently I have understood why that term is in there in the first place. The AFA are in fact, not an atheist organisation but a skeptics organisation. From their website:

 

" The Atheist Foundation of Australia Inc began in South Australia in 1970 when the members of the Rationalist Association of SA decided that a name change would proclaim their basic philosophy"

 

So it appears that all they did was change their name but not their "clothes". This deceptive behaviour has caused some confusion on their forums but they still staunchly maintain their stance.

 

And the great irony in this whole issue? Sam Harris' books are on their recommended reading list!!!

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I'm very sorry.  Here's the same post without the internet memes in the opening paragraph.  Besides that, and a single erroneous question mark, my example of what defines a scientist makes a sound parallel to my problem with defining you as an atheist. 

 

You call yourself an engineer (ingenium, Latin, cleverness), but the many definitions of that word make your assertion that engineers rely on clearly defined terms less than compelling.  Context and process are important to an outsider's understanding of what you actually do on a daily basis. 

I consider myself a scientist.  I am not currently employed in research, but I am writing papers for peer reviewed scientific journals.  If I never get paid employment in research again, will I still be a scientist?  Can someone with no degree in science be a scientist?  Are creation scientists scientists? 

My use of the word scientist is conditional on the behaviour and approach of a person to the world around them.  Whether or not they have a science degree, a research position or a long list of references to their name is largely irrelevant.  If someone has a non scientific approach, I can't call them a scientist.  This includes anyone who starts with a conclusion and looks exclusively for facts to fit that conclusion.  Creationists are not scientists.  People who believe in unsupported, unfalsifiable aspects of the human mind that anyone not invested in the idea would consider a soul, are not atheists. 

In the case of both scientists and atheists, the processes behind the person's use of a noun are important.

Matt

Thanks for clearing that up Matt! I now understand your point and can respond to it.

 

The point you are making about scientists is exactly the point that I am making about atheists. The definition for a scientist from the Oxford Dictionary is: "a person who is studying or has expert knowledge of one or more of the natural or physical sciences". This definition doesn't of course mention university degrees or anything else. Now, an organisation that is not being completely honest with the community might like to redefine the term scientist as: "a person who has a university degree from a top tier university in one or more of the natural or physical sciences". This severely limits the definition of scientist such that someone that has obtained their degree in the sciences at a "lesser" university or has no degree at all cannot call themselves a scientist. Clearly the Oxford Dictionary definition is inclusive and the latter definition is exclusive and in fact, erroneous as a definition of "scientist". There are professional organisations that will only accept membership from those in the latter definition. That's fine. But they don't seek to redefine the term "scientist" to fit their acceptance criteria - that would be deceitful.

 

But this is exactly what the AFA have done. They only accept atheists that fit their criteria but they have taken it upon themselves to redefine the term "atheist" to fit their criteria. This redefinition is deceitful. If the AFA have acceptance criteria, then they should state clearly what they are but not seek to redefine the commonly understood term "atheism" in order to fit their acceptance criteria.

 

Kind Regards,

 

Vangelis

You'd probably need to go back to the original post in this thread and look at the gigantic straw-man.

I should probably say that the OP's claim to be "excluded from the AFA forums" is bunk too. He's got a valid account there and can post any time he sees fit. If he has ever been excluded (I moderate there, and cannot recall whether he was suspended at any time), it would have been a temporary suspension, such as is handed out for personal abuse by moderators of that site.

 

You could read the whole contentious issue with input from the OP and others here.

 

I apologise to the moderators of this forum for mentioning the matter, but Vangelis has taken the matter to a broader stage, so it behooves me to give truth a chance.

Thanks for the clarification, Mr. Black. I don't know if I said in this thread that I am excluded from the AFA forums. I made the point that Sam Harris is not an atheist according to the AFA definition of atheism.

 

In terms of myself and the AFA forums, I am excluded from posting in all sections bar one. Ostensibly, I am excluded from posting on the AFA forums by being excluded from the vast bulk of the forums.

 

But in this thread I have tried to stick to the original claim that Sam Harris is not an atheist according to the AFA definition of atheism.

Keep redefining, Vangelis. You said you were excluded in the linked post, which is part of this thread.

Your strawman about Harris and the AFA is merely the door through which you continue to rail against a definition that doesn't suit you.

Yes, and I explained how I have been excluded from the AFA forums in my response to you. Did you read it before responding?

 

Show me where the strawman is rather than just using a scattergun effect in your labeling. Have I misquoted the AFA's definition of atheism? Have I misquoted Sam Harris? If I have, I will correct my statements.

 

I have tried to be as open and honest as I possibly can in this discussion. Even in the misdst of David Nicholls' ad-hominem attacks, I have not responded in like manner but tried to keep this discussion factual, logical and rational. So if you can show me where in this thread I have used a strawman argument, I would welcome it.

Why, the very idea that the AFA would reject Sam Harris, on the grounds you state, is a strawman.

 

You have projected a degree of buddhism onto Harris in a manner I find most specious, and then extended this to making AFA decisions on their behalf.

 

Straw twins, perhaps?

 

BTW, you were not excluded: merely confined to the appropriate area of the forums for the discussion of belief.

 

You were still quite free to post. It's all a matter of definition, I suppose.

You continue to use your scattergun effect in your strawman accusations but still do not state which specific quote I have misrepresented. Where have I "projected a degree of Buddhism onto Harris" as you state? I have as far as I know, quoted him verbatim.

 

Again, I ask, specifically, where have I misquoted Sam Harris and where is the strawman?

Here Vangelis quotes a wikipedia article (bolded) and makes a personal observation:

Sam Harris is known to "experiment" with personal meditation experiences. Here is what wikipedia has to say about Sam Harris and "spirituality":

 

"Harris wishes to incorporate spirituality in the domain of human reason. He draws inspiration from the practices of Eastern religion, in particular that of meditation, as described principally by Hindu and Buddhist practitioners. By paying close attention to moment-to-moment conscious experience, Harris suggests, it is possible to make our sense of "self" vanish and thereby uncover a new state of personal well-being."

 

He talks of mind states, of "not-self" and other terms which the AFA call on their forums "woo-woo".

 Okay, it's the AFA you were strawmanning, not Harris: silly me! Your redefinition stands as a strawman, unless you can show that the AFA call mindstates "woo". (Don't bother conflating your "mind exists outside the physical" canard into Harris unless he has actually said that, by the way.) 

 

You seem to be developing an attachment to this, anyhow, Vangelis. I may just leave you to it.

 

Have the last word:

I do believe that the mind can exist without the body as a requirement. Do I have "hard" evidence for this? No. However, there are anecdotal stories of people on the operating table that are clinically dead with no electrical activity, no hearbeat and no breathing that have come back and been able to relate details of what was said and done during the time of clinical death of the patient. Not hard evidence but interesting nonetheless.

I don't intend to defend my position nor convince anyone else of it but I do believe the mind can function separately to the body even though they are currently intricately intertwined with each one being able to affect the other.

Black - "Okay, it's the AFA you were strawmanning, not Harris: silly me! Your redefinition stands as a strawman, unless you can show that the AFA call mindstates "woo"."

 

Alright, so we have ascertained by your own admission that I have not misrepresented or "strawmanned" Sam Harris. Thank-you, I didn't think I had.

 

Now for your new claim that I have "strawmanned" the AFA's definition. I have quoted it verbatim as it appears on the AFA website. How is that a strawman? The conclusions that I draw between the AFA definition of atheism and Sam Harris' statements are from logical deduction based on the AFA's definition of atheism. Again, show me where that conclusion is illogical or irrational.

 

Mind states cannot be measured by any known scientific instrument. Therefore there is "no credible scientific evidence" for them - ie woowoo! No strawman, just a comparison between the AfA's "defintion" and Sam Harris' comments to draw the only logical conclusion. Show me otherwise. Show me the strawman in my statement of the AFA definition.

Hi Park,

 

Meditation has nothing to do with "prayer" which is just some form of communication with an imagined deity. Vipassana meditation (which Sam Harris was doing) could I guess be described as a "self-introspection". In vipassana one just notices everything that arises - usually mental fabrications such as thoughts and feelings.

 

Since there is no scientific instrumentation that can monitor individual thoughts and feelings, there is no credible scientific evidence that they even exist thereby making Sam Harris a non-atheist according to the AFA definition.

 

Regards,

 

Vangelis

Correct. And that is why I'm saying that the definition of atheism should just be left simple like "the denial of the existence of god(s)". The justification of this statement is a discussion that can be had later - it should not form part of the definition otherwise we risk excluding those that should be called atheist.

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