Aron Ra has finally become a Rock Atheist (RA). What is a Rock Atheist you ask? Well, specifically a RA is someone who believes that rocks are atheist, but RA’s also believe that my left toe is an atheist, your dog is an atheist, quarks are atheist, your phone is an atheist…literally everything in the entire universe is an atheist to them except a few billion people who believe one or more Gods exist. And yes, that would also include the universe itself.
To Aron Ra, the universe is an atheist.
Let’s just for a moment ponder this shall we? Aron has adopted a position generally only asserted by a very small number of atheist activists most of which have little to no actual understanding of philosophy.
Their argument goes something along the lines of:
p1) Anything that “lack a belief God(s) exists” in an atheist.
p2) Rocks lack a belief God(s) exist.
C) Rocks are atheist
Logically, that is valid since anything that lacks a belief in God is an atheist, and rocks lack a belief in God, then rocks are an atheist. What Aron and other RA’s don’t seem to bother to ask themselves is if the argument is sound. Remember, validity only goes to the structure of the argument such that the conclusion must follow *IF* the premises are true. An argument is only sound if and only if the argument is valid *AND* the premises are true.
Given p1 as a proposition:
p=”Anything that “lack a belief God(s) exists” in an atheist”
That proposition is either True or False. Aron assumes p here must be true. That anything (including rocks, quarks, and the universe) that “lacks a belief God(s) exists” is an atheist. I have already explained to Aron before that this premise is false as *I* lack a belief and I am not atheist and it only takes a single instance of a defeater to show it is a false proposition. Now, of course Aron can argue I’m just wrong about my own position, perhaps even call me “dishonest” about my position, or maybe even charge me with outright lying, however, I would charge that would violate the cooperative principle and that he isn’t coming to the table to have a rational nor reasonable discussion if that is his accusations. I also have explained how “Theological Noncognitivists” also “lack a belief”, but can not be atheist as one is a noncognitivist position and the other is a cognitivist position. It completely epistemically invalidates the entire “theological noncognitivists” position by shoehorning them in the category of “atheism”. (Cognitivist here meaning that someone who accepts the proposition p=”God exists” can be either T or F, or in other words is cognitively meaningful and truth apt.)
“All theists, atheists, and agnostics are cognitivists” – Dr. Theodore M. Drange (Atheism, Agnosticism, Noncognitivism (1998)
This obviously creates a category error by trying to place a noncognitivist position into a category that is a cognitivist one.
“You are a theist if and only if you say that the proposition is true or probably true, you are an atheist if and only if you say that it is false or probably false, and you are an agnostic if and only if you understand what the proposition is, but resist giving either answer, and support your resistance by saying, “The evidence is insufficient” (or words to that effect).”
This is the position that I adopt. It is as I tried to explain to Aron for years is the most widely held understanding of these terms in philosophy…one of the reasons being to avoid such things as category errors or apparent absurdities as having rocks as atheists.¹
“An agnostic could also be an atheist if the term “atheist” were defined more broadly, for example, as anyone who lacks a belief in God, or who classifies the proposition that God exists as anything other than true. Such a definition is recommended by George H. Smith in his book Atheism: the Case Against God. Other writers who support the definition are cited in Michael Martin’s book Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. According to this usage, people would be “atheists” even if they answer the question whether it is true that God exists with “no one knows.” This is a departure from the most common use of the word “atheist” in ordinary language, which is in itself an important reason to avoid it. Another reason is that infants and fetuses have no belief in God, yet it would be perverse to say that they are all atheists.”
It would be “perverse” to say infants and fetuses are atheist merely because they have no belief in God, just as it would be perverse to say “rocks are atheists”.
Drange’s usages of terms:
“A noncognitivist is someone who declares that the sentence does not express any proposition at all.
A theist is someone who allows that the sentence expresses a proposition and who classifies the proposition as true or probably true.
An atheist is someone who allows that the sentence expresses a proposition and who classifies the proposition as false or probably false.
An agnostic is someone who allows that the sentence expresses a proposition, and who grants that he/she knows what that proposition is, but who is noncommittal about its truth or falsity on the grounds of insufficient evidence.”
Of course Aron doesn’t have to agree to these terms. Drange isn’t submitting them as a prescriptivist, merely he puts them forth as what is inline with most common understandings of these terms in philosophy. Again, Aron doesn’t have to adopt them and can believe “rocks are atheist”, but what he can’t rationally do is ignore the evidence provided that there are, in fact, other usages of terms which makes p1) false as given these definitions “p1) Anything that “lack a belief God(s) exists” in an atheist.” is false. Aron would have to somehow define a “noncognitivist” vastly different than “someone who declares that the sentence does not express any proposition at all.” in order to try to avoid the category error using his usages of term since he affirms atheism would be anything that “lacks a belief” that the proposition is true..thus he would rationally have to accept atheism is clearly a cognitivist position even in the negative case (lack of belief). Aron would have to also give an actual argument as to why his definition should be adopted for the argument rather than Dr. Drange’s (which are ostensibly similar to mine).
Moving on to p2) we have “p2) Rocks lack a belief God(s) exist”. This is even more problematic as “lack a belief” would be a psychological state. Typically it would be not merely not possessing a particular property, but epistemically someone is not convinced that the proposition is true…but even just asserting atheism as “lack of belief” seems to imply some type of attempt at evaluation of the proposition rather than merely an object not having a specific property or characteristic. Aron has also said that atheism means you are not convinced of the proposition of theism p=”God exist” is true. RA’s often argue that atheism is merely not being convinced of theist claims. Does it make sense to say rocks are not convinced of theist claims? To be convinced something must have the ability to be convinced and failing to do so requires some cognitive thought process.
A more specific example perhaps would be defining ‘vegan’ as anything that doesn’t eat meat or animal products, rather than defining vegan as someone who practices veganism as the abstinence from using animal products in their diet. Veganism is commonly understood as the practice of a particular restriction of diet, and ‘vegan’ is someone who adheres to those restrictions. Would Aron think it makes sense to say rocks are vegan merely because they do not eat meat nor animal products? If he defines atheism in such a way as atheist “lack a belief”, would he balk at defining ‘vegan’ in the negative as “lacks eating meat”? By defining things so broadly these terms lose any real functional descriptive value as now rocks, quarks, and the universe are all vegan too! This may please Cosmic Skeptic perhaps (he is a very outspoken atheist vegan), but actually I would guess that even he would probably think calling rocks vegan is pretty silly…because it is, but so is claiming that “rocks are atheist”.
¹ I do diverge from Drange here as I argue that “the evidence is insufficient” is vacuous and insufficient as a justification to suspend judgement as I can determine deductively that is the case merely by the person’s elocution of claiming to be “agnostic” towards the proposition. It is self-evident they feel the evidence is insufficient or they would be convinced. If they were convinced they would be theist, but since they are not convinced as they are not theist and they have abstained from forming a judgment on the proposition. A more proper justification would be to explain why the person finds the evidence insufficient. If one actually believes there is insufficient evidence as in “Empirical agnosticism” or “weak agnosticism” merely saying one is an “Empirical agnosticism” implies one holds there is insufficient evidence which is not sufficient justification why one finds the evidence insufficient. It would be akin for a theist to argue they are justified to believe God exists merely because they are convinced God exists.