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!!!
Replies are closed for this discussion.
Meditation and other routes to shifts in consciousness have nothing to do with woo woo. Meditation is simply a skill that can result in physio/emotional states attainable by the human animal. It is a conscious technique for altering perception. Our perceptions are unconsciously altered constantly by changing stimuli in the environment. Meditation is a tool for exercising some control over an undisciplined mind. There is nothing magic or supernatural about it.
Exactly right. We all suspend belief and enjoy fantasies such as irrationally high hopes. Some of us know what we're doing and others confuse it with reality. They can often be identified by the lower case "t" on a chain around the neck.
Just as trial and error led to many plant-derived pharmaceuticals, therapeutic techniques, developed without science, were found - and they work.
"no credible scientific evidence"
Sure there is... PET Scans, MRIs, EEGs can categorize mental states for depression, anger, elation and meditative states. An individuals interpretation of the experience is purely subjective, but there are certainly crude measures of brain activity that correlate to specific mental states.
"but there are certainly crude measures"
Yes, there are certainly crude measures, however, they are not sophisticated enough to determine if there are thoughts "arising and passing away in consciousness" or mental states such as "the thinker of these thoughts can disappear".
Current technology can only determine where in the brain activity occurs. It is as you say, crude.
they are not sophisticated enough to determine if there are thoughts "arising and passing away in consciousness" or mental states such as "the thinker of these thoughts can disappear".
If these are your parameters, then there is no proof of ANY mental state. The evidence for a meditative state is identical to the evidence for happiness, sadness, fear... These phenomena are validated only by shared experiences and available brain scan/EEG technology. Likewise, the meditative, jealous, agitated, and every other potential mental state.
And it's certainly no "The secret"!
Top athletes have been using visualisation techniques to up their performances for a long time, I place meditation in the same ball park. Yet, scientific experiments have not really discerned what's going on in the case of visualisation, and I've never seen any double blind experiments testing the concept... But certainly not any spiritualism, or moral authority, or eastern religious thingy/philosophy. Only difference between Eastern and Western faiths is our icons live in the clouds and their icons live on earth.
Your continued ad-hominem attacks I have to state yet again and again really serve no purpose in your irrational defence of an incomprehensible definition. It is quite clear that you consider yourself to be far superior to those around you so you don't have to go out of your way to clearly state it.
I could compare the two of us on many levels, educational, intellectual, financial, eloquence, ego, many, many levels that I might surprise you on. However, that would not be a rational, logical, sensible discussion on a mis-definition of a commonly used and understood word.
However, there is a comparison that must be made. That comparison is not between personalities but organisations. The AFA as an organisation has seen it fit to redefine a word that is in common usage thereby causing confusion and misguidance in the Australian community. What right does the AFA have to define the English language? Does it spend millions of dollars on the study of language? Does it spend a paltry $35,000 to study the English language? I would say that it has not spent $35 to study the English language. In comparison, the Oxford English Dictionary draws on a 35 million pound research programme leading to the resulting definitions in its dictionaries. It pays for the right to define the language. It pays for the right to be the arbiter for the English language. And it pays many millions of pounds and employs a slew of professionals in their fields to define the English language. You do not have that right. The AFA does not have that right. You will never have the power of the Oxford English Dictionary and the Oxford University Press to determine our language. And this is just one organisation that has taken upon it to research, fund and define the English language. The AFA is way out of its league when it comes to understanding language, its history and its evolution.
David, despite all your vitriol against me, I believe that I have kept my conversations with you civil and rational. To that end, I am going to make a recommendation to you in good faith to constructively help you and the AFA make the changes that you so desperately seek. You have detailed all the letters, submissions, political representation etc that the AFA has been responsible for. You have gone the right way about promoting atheism and communicated and lobbied the right organisations. With respect to language, however, the AFA has taken it upon itself to be its arbiter. This is clearly not the correct course of action. The AFA needs to lobby and discuss the issues with the organisations responsible for and investing in the study of language and its definition. That is the dictionaries, the encyclopaedias and the university language departments that have invested a great deal of time, money and intellectual effort into defining the language.
I hope that you choose to take careful, measured and thoughtful action to change the definition for atheism in the English language by engaging with the relevant organisations rather than forcing a definition which just ends up confusing everyone.
My sincere regards,