Re: Why atheism beats agnosticism (Was: Re: Contacting God)

Dan Fabulich (
Sat, 25 Apr 1998 01:29:52 -0400


Erik Moeller wrote:
>>1) Axiom. I cannot force someone to do something which is entirely under
>>their control.
>There is no control.
>>2) Observed. It is entirely under the control of the believer to believe
>>or not to believe.
>There is no control.
>>3) Therefore. I cannot force someone to not believe.
>Wrong assumptions, wrong conclusions.
>>4) Observed. It is entirely under the control of the believer to listen
>>to me or not listen to me.
>There is no control.
>>5) Therefore. I cannot force someone to listen to me.
>Wrong assumptions, wrong conclusions.

This is valid. I think you still accept axiom 1 with the provisions
provided; I think you would agree that force is possible if and only if the
coerced are not under control in the given situation. However, you contend
that 2 and 4 are false, and therefore conclusions 3 and 5 are unsound.
Since 2 is less defensible than 4, I'll leave 2 alone for the time being
and focus on 4.

It is difficult, if not impossible, for me to demonstrate my ability to
choose what I believe. After all, I could TELL you that I believe
something differently, but how would you know it empirically? However, I
seem to be able to demonstrate my control over whether I listen to
something or not by, say, turning on or off the television, or by
observably listening or not listening to someone else.

However, this is not a sufficient demonstration. I think we both take it
as an axiom that I am only capable of exercising this form of "control" if
I WANT to do so, and I presume that you would argue that my desires are NOT
under my control. I may listen or not listen only as my desires dictate,
and my desires may be given by circumstances beyond my control.

In this case, I think we are arguing about different definitions of
control. I would say that the ability to choose between alternatives
according to my desires is a suffficient condition to say that I control my
decision. You would disagree, arguing that I do not control my desires,
and it is my desires which dictate my decision; therefore, I do not control
my decision.

I will assume, for the purposes of discussion, my definition of "control,"
which I will set in quotes because it is obviously not agreed upon.

- From a utilitarian moral standpoint, I put forward that "coercion"
(which, according to axiom 1, is characterized by a lack of "control") is
important because people are made fundamentally better off when they get
what they desire, and that "coercion" restricts what people are able to get
for themselves. However, if we assume your definition of control, then
coercion has an ambiguous effect on a person's well-being, even from a
utilitarian standpoint. Coercion is not necessarily wrong, if we accept
your definition.

I put forward that under your definition, the atheist IS coercing the
believer; but that this is irrelevant from a moral standpoint, because
coercion is not necessarily wrong. Whereas, under my definition,
"coercion" is necessarily wrong, but the atheist is not "coercing" the

So we can choose one of either:

2.1) Axiom. Reducing the well-being of others is morally wrong.
2.2) Axiom. A person's well-being is reduced when they cannot get what
they desire.
2.3) Definition. Coercion prevents people from getting what they desire.
2.4) Therefore. Coercion is morally wrong.


2.1) Axiom. Reducing the well-being of others is morally wrong.
2.2) Definition. Coercion does not reduce the well-being of others.
2.3) Therefore. Coercion is not necessarily morally wrong.

Either way, what the atheist is doing is not morally wrong, and that's what
I had originally intended to prove anyway. :)

>Maybe the word 'leader' is too strong. I meant to imply that people have
>centered around Max and his ideas, many of these people absorbing these
>ideas without deeper consideration (they cannot consider them, because
>criticism of the basic ideas is forbidden on this list, and with whom should
>they discuss them if not with the Extropians themselves?).

Other people on other lists; alternately, HERE, to some degree.
(Particularly if we implement that ANTI: tag... Eh? Anybody?) Note that
criticism IS happening as we speak. :)

>I did NOT mean to
>imply that you are all following Max and his 'orders' sheepishly and I
>apologize if it has been understood this way. The right expression is
>probably 'guide', not 'leader'. Would you agree that Max More has been a
>guide for you?

Perhaps, but I have an awful lot of guides in this world. For example, I
had not previously considered the above argument before you made it. My
first reaction was simply to presume that I could demonstrate that you were
wrong by not listening to something. However, upon deeper reflection, I
realized that you had a deeper point, one which was not so easily
disproved. To some extent, I consider you a "guide," for this evening, by
helping me to rethink the question in a way which I had not considered it.

So, yes, I'd say that Max More has been a "guide" for me. However,
considering that you have also been a "guide," this isn't really a
particularly strong claim.

>If I look at the discussion policy here, I get an opposite view. Your
>fundamentals are considered as being simply right and you do not want to
>discuss them.

<sigh> Look, you might try to argue that my desire to discuss them was not
under my control, but the presence of two non-trivial replies to your
postings should sufficiently evince that I DO want to discuss them. I WANT
to discuss them, with you and with others, somewhere else. Is this

>By saying "go to a different list", you do not, as you have
>tried to convince me, just redirect traffic somewhere else. No other list
>but the Extropian mailing list is read by so many Extropians -- this is
>obvious. On the other hand, discussion of Extropian views would be totally
>inappropriate on the transhuman mailing list, as many of the people there
>are not Extropians and have rejected the Extropian ideas long ago. The
>Extropian mailing list is the only list where the fundamentals of Extropy
>can be discussed.

Are you trying to tell me that extropy can be discussed in one place, and
one place only, and that this is it? Please defend this assertion; it is
certainly not self-evident to me.

>>(13 deserves a bit of defense, but only a bit: The "Extropian Principles"
>>document is in version 2.6 last I checked; any part of the document can be
>You could add such a note to the Bible, too, without having to be afraid
>that it would have any effect, because the majority would reject any
>changes. And I bet that the basic Extropian Principles will remain mostly
>unmodified for the next decades.

The Extropy Institute only BEGAN in 1992, and already the "Extropian
Principles" have undergone several revisions. To my knowledge, the
majority of extropians did not reject the changes in each revision. How
can you then claim to know what will happen in the next ten years, which is
more than 150% of its current lifetime???

>>However, we also like to have positive
>>discussions about extropy, in which we aren't defending extropianism from
>>criticism but rather discuss ways to bring extropy about.
>Understandable. That's the missionary role of your cult :-)

As Max pointed out (in a much cruder fashion than I would have liked), you
have in no way proven that extropianism is a cult. I think we're all
anxious to see this proof, ideally in a syllogism like mine. Please
provide some substantial proof that extropianism is a cult or stop making
that assertion.

>Because my mail contained mainly opinion and little facts. It was not
>criticism but critcism of not being allowed to criticize. It was written
>without any source, without any document refered to. I agree that such
>provocative postings should be kept to a minimum. I am opposing your
>non-criticism policy, and I used harsh words to do so.

As I noted, I'm still in favor of an ANTI: tag. Any takers?

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