Dear Conservative Atheist:
Thank you for your response. I have read many responses to other views and have seen many of your responses. I am especially glad you responded to mine. First let me take your “belief in certain foundational premises” in the order you gave them.
“The scientific method is valid.” I say it is totally unnecessary to believe this. The scientific method proceeds from evidence and generates hypothesis’s that can be proven wrong by results from the natural world. Neither science nor its methods need be based on any belief in its (the scientific method) validity. The data or evidence either support the conclusions generated through the scientific method or they do not. The scientific method is just a way to knowledge and/or truths about the universe that has proven to work very well. The reason that scientists think that the scientific method leads to truths about the universe is because it has a pile of evidence from over about 400 years to support that conclusion. If you look at the history of human attempts to gain knowledge you will see that for most of our civilized existence other methods were used that were not nearly as successful. I think that based on the evidence I am justified in concluding that the scientific method is a valid method for discovering what is true about the universe.
“That scientific conclusions and/or truths exist and are ultimately understandable through proper application of the scientific method.” I say that this is not a belief but an assumption or supposition necessary to carry out any activity in the universe. It is like the ultimate extreme skeptical contention that humans can never know that they truly exist because the information received by our brain is totally disconnected from what is “really” out there. It’s the old brain in a vat argument. To this I ask; what choice do humans have but to assume they can understand a reality outside themselves? How could humans operate in the universe without such an assumption? Just for a moment let’s suppose that scientists and the rest of humanity were deluded and only thought they could understand the truths of the universe while in “reality” they never have and never could? How would things change? I say things would not change at all. We would still be acting and behaving in the universe in the same way. I can think of nothing that would change. So this is not a belief but just the way humans have always needed to operate in order to survive as an element of the natural world. I think the evidence so far suggests that the universe is somewhat understandable to humans and until some experiment produces results that total confound and befuddle science or shows that all or most of the understandings achieved so far are somehow ill founded and don’t make sense I think the conclusion that the universe is somewhat understandable by humans is justified.
“That, for any specific area of inquiry that they choose to pursue, there are undiscovered scientific conclusions and/or truths yet to be found.” This one I find the weakest of all. Again you are confusing a belief with an assumption or supposition. What would happen if this assumption or supposition was incorrect? Nothing! No new conclusions or truths would be found. I can tell you that this happens all the time and yet it has not slowed scientists down a bit. I can also tell you that new truths and conclusions have been found and are found all the time. I don’t think that scientists have to “believe” they might find out new things if past experience (evidence) suggests that this will sometimes be the result of their inquiries. If there ever comes a day when humans continue to inquire into the universe and have no success in discovering new conclusions or truths then I would say you have a point. Until then I think the evidence justifies the conclusion that further inquiry will probably lead to new conclusions and new understandings of what is true about the universe.
Finally I agree totally with your last paragraph. Unproven theories, opinions and educated guesses are not beliefs. Scientists sometimes refer to these opinions or educated guesses as beliefs and that is just what I would like to see end. If you query a scientist about the professed “beliefs” you soon find lots of conditional statements that indicate that the scientist in question holds them very tentatively while looking to future evidence that will end or modify the speculation.
I would also like to address to you personally two things that I would be most interested in hearing your response to.
1. Why do you call yourself a Conservative Atheist? As I know the definition of a conservative it is one who whishes to conserve the status quo because suggested change is perceived to have negative or unforeseen consequences. In other words “let us just keep doing things the way we always have because it has worked so far and to change would probably mean screwing things up.” Liberals on the other hand are for constant change. “If it’s been around for only a little while lets change it or as soon as there is any difficulty with some older way of doing things it should be changed.” “Out with the old in with the new.” For thousands of years humans have pretty much been believers in “God.” All of the self proclaimed conservatives I know believe in god because that is the way it has always been. Belief in god has worked (according to the conservatives) for thousands of years and those who abandon it are fools. If you think I have this wrong just check out the United States Congress and try to find a “conservative” (republican) that does not believe in god. I don’t think you will find more that one or two “liberals” (democrats or independents) that will go on record as atheists. So to me a Conservative Atheist is sort of an oxymoron and I would like to know how you have reconciled it in your mind. It has been my experience in talking to self proclaimed conservatives and liberals that neither truly exists. I have instead found that most people are like me, progressive. Progressives of various degrees (liberal leaning or conservative leaning) think that the best way to deal with the problems encountered in the universe is to keep what has been developed and worked in the past and improve and change it so it works better and is more responsive to changing conditions. I think Sam Harris is one of us and so are you. Why don’t you come out of the closet and drop the conservative moniker.
2. What is with this lame quote you put at the bottom of all your responses? Do you understand your world through little quotes and slogans? Is this what you whish for the rest of us? I have looked at many of your responses and have come to the conclusion that you are much to trusting and “believing” in authority. You seem to have chosen the Republican propaganda over the Democratic propaganda chiefly because it fits better with everything you have been told by the authority figures in you life. I think you need to look through the slogans and propaganda of both parties to sort out truth from fiction. Continually professing generalities like “If you are old and not a conservative, you don’t have a brain” shows a lack of intellectual rigor and a lack of appreciation for the complexity of social conditions humans have to respond to. Dismissing or generalizing large groups of people with labels like Liberal or Conservative while insisting that one program (liberal) only fits the young and another (conservative) only fits the old promotes false stereotypes and a sort of generational warfare. How about slogans separating gender or race? In place of young and old stick in men and women or white and black. See what I mean? Please drop the slogans and examine all the pronouncements of Republicans and Democrats with equal skepticism and do so knowing that your objective analysis will be hindered by your over reliance on the value of authority.