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An Atheist's Creed


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We need to be cautious not to turn this into another discussion on the source of morality. :)

 

 

The creed definitely resonates.

 

I believe in the power of science and reason and rationality to further deepen our understanding of everything around us and to eventually overcome superstition and erase the petty divisions sown by religion, race, ethnicity, and nationality.

 

I am in awe of the beauty, vastness, and complexity of nature and the universe, and the fact that all arose purely by the working of natural laws.

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Seems like its a good creed. Its missing direct mention of morality though. I do think that a proper atheist's creed should mention how the atheist chooses his moral codes.

 

Why, is there only one option? Is this going to set up an atheist schism?

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Seems like its a good creed. Its missing direct mention of morality though. I do think that a proper atheist's creed should mention how the atheist chooses his moral codes.

 

My morals are born of my humanism, not my atheism. My own belief in science, nature and rationality are born of my skepticism, not my atheism. IMO this creed attempts to make atheism more than it is when it is really nothing more than a description of people that are not theist. Atheism is not about the dogma or belief systems of atheists so there is no need for a creed.

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I have to agree with doG here. Even though many of the words in the piece were resonant with me, doG has more accurately framed the issue with his post above.

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The fact that everything is governed by the natural laws (it does seem so, also in my opinion) always seems to conflict with the fact that I feel that I am able to make my own choices.

 

Sometimes I think I am only observing myself making those choices.

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My morals are born of my humanism, not my atheism. My own belief in science, nature and rationality are born of my skepticism, not my atheism. IMO this creed attempts to make atheism more than it is when it is really nothing more than a description of people that are not theist. Atheism is not about the dogma or belief systems of atheists so there is no need for a creed.

I agree with this.

 

I think the term 'atheist' is a pretty meaningless one insofar as is it meaningless to label someone for what they are not, or for what they do not have, because if you once choose to do so, the list of terms is potentially endless and therefore meaningless.

 

More important, such negative labels carry connotations and to attempt define a person by what they are not or do not have is simply a way of defining an outgroup, i.e. somebody who 'is not one of us' and that's always a bad road to go down.

 

As Sam Harris says, what do you call a person who does not belive in astrology, or somebody who is not a physicist? Nobody wakes up each morning reminding themselves of what they are not in order to define who they are. It's backwards and foolish.

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This Atheists Creed is incredibly weak, and makes no attempt to explain itself or define its terms.

 

For example "I believe in a purely material universe that conforms to naturalistic laws and principles", but what it "purely material"? What defines a law to be "natural"?

 

Or how about the mutual incompatibility of the phrases:

 

"I believe in kindness, love, and the human spirit and their ability to overcome challenges and adversity and to create a better world."

 

and

 

"I believe in the necessity for credible and objective evidence to sustain any belief and thus deny, because of the absence of such evidence, the existence of each and every aspect of the supernatural."

 

Surely anyone know calls themselves an atheists must reject such unprovable notions as "love".

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Surely anyone know calls themselves an atheists must reject such unprovable notions as "love".

 

The analogy doesn't quite hold, as those people who choose not to believe the same things that theists do are not simultaneously positing that "love" is what sprang everything into existence, nor that "love" is the controlling factor in all of the universe's mechanisms, or the source of morality, or whatever other silly things get attributed to the god concept.

 

Further, while the notion of love is often difficult to define, it clearly has both a neurobiological and social basis.

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The analogy doesn't quite hold, as those people who choose not to believe the same things that theists do are not simultaneously positing that "love" is what sprang everything into existence, nor that "love" is the controlling factor in all of the universe's mechanisms, or the source of morality, or whatever other silly things get attributed to the god concept.

 

That has absolutely no relevance. It doesn't matter what we claim it does or does not do; it is an ill-defined, unscientific notion that cannot be proven to exist. So by the same principles that atheists claim to uphold, they should be dismissing it as fantasy.

 

Further, while the notion of love is often difficult to define, it clearly has both a neurobiological and social basis.

 

Clearly? Evidence please? And evidence of hormonal secretions is not sufficient.

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So by the same principles that atheists claim to uphold, they should be dismissing it as fantasy.

 

Perhaps you didn't notice that the topic is about an atheists creed, not a creed of all atheists. Maybe the author of the creed should dismiss it as fantasy but there is no validity in claiming this is should be true for all atheists is there?

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Surely anyone know calls themselves an atheists must reject such unprovable notions as "love".

 

Love is only provable through agreement, subject to social contract, and even then it can be only one-sided, though it is still a valid phenomenon for an atheist. It does not require a supernatural component.

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Surely anyone know calls themselves an atheists must reject such unprovable notions as "love".
No. Whilst lover per se is not observable, it has directly observable and measureable effects, on chemistry, physiological activity, perception and behaviour.

 

To reject the existence of 'love' because you can't see it would be like rejecting the existence of a planet because you can't see it, even though you can directly measure the effects of its presence on the bodies around it.

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'ATHEISM: - the theory or belief that God does not exist'. (Oxford Dic)

 

Thats all really - I agree with doG, there can be no creed for this, you can believe all sorts of things, the word only pertains to ones belief (or not) in a deity.

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It does not require a supernatural component.

 

Yes it does. Otherwise it is just a secretion of hormones. Love is supposed to transcend physicality, and is therefore spiritual.

 

No. Whilst lover per se is not observable, it has directly observable and measureable effects, on chemistry, physiological activity, perception and behaviour.

 

But how do you show that this is the consequence of 'love' and not the consequence of lust and/or friendship? You can't! The existence of love is an unscientific premise, and therefore must be expunged from the atheist worldview.

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Love is supposed to transcend physicality, and is therefore spiritual.

 

In the spirit of science, can you PROVE that?

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Yes it does. Otherwise it is just a secretion of hormones. Love is supposed to transcend physicality, and is therefore spiritual.
By whose definition?

 

But how do you show that this is the consequence of 'love' and not the consequence of lust and/or friendship? You can't!
What is the point of asking a question if you are going to insert your own answer?

 

If you were in fact interested, my answer would be because the responses, both physiological and psychological can be differentiated. Friendship evokes some similar responses, but not all those a/w love and not to the same degree. Lust evokes a whole different set of responses that are not a/w the presentation of a particular individual.

The existence of love is an unscientific premise, and therefore must be expunged from the atheist worldview.
The effects of love are entirely observable and reproducable and thus the premise of love is reasonable.

 

Your assertion of the atheist position as; 'if it cannot be seen an atheist cannot accept its existence' is not. By that argument we would also have to reject the idea of air, even though we can observe its effects.

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Yes it does. Otherwise it is just a secretion of hormones. Love is supposed to transcend physicality, and is therefore spiritual.

 

'LOVE:1- Intense feeling of deep affection or fondness for a person or a thing; great liking. 2-Sexual Passion. 3.etc.. ' (Oxford Dic)

 

Nothing supernatural about it in the dictionary definition.

 

 

PS -

Infact there are well over 10 different listings. The Ancient Greeks had several words to cover our different uses of the word love. For instance (excuse greek spelling) AGAPE - meaning an unconditional fatherly love. EROS - meaning the luuuv between a man and a woman sexually. PHILLIA (sp??) - which was brother and sister love (NOT erotic obviously) or love for your close friends.

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The effects of love are entirely observable and reproducable and thus the premise of love is reasonable.

 

All right then. Please describe the physical manifestations (ie. the signal) of love and then explain to me why it is distinguishable from other explanations (ie. the backgrounds) like friendship and lust?

 

Only then will you have a working scientific description. And until you do, atheists should be steering clear of unevidenced imaginary concepts.

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Further, while the notion of love is often difficult to define, it clearly has both a neurobiological and social basis.

Clearly? Evidence please? And evidence of hormonal secretions is not sufficient.

All right then. Please describe the physical manifestations (ie. the signal) of love and then explain to me why it is distinguishable from other explanations (ie. the backgrounds) like friendship and lust?
Ok, but you cannot ignore the role of neuroendocrinology when discussing affective-motivational states. It’s one of the main lines of communication between the brain and the body. It’s like being asked to describe how a car works, but told not to mention the clutch or transmission. Nevertheless, I will try to limit it.

 

Falling in (romantic) love, although positive and highly desirable, is differentiated from making a new friend by the fact that it is highly arousing and quite stressful. In the early stages of a romantic relationship, cortisol levels are elevated significantly in both males and females (compared to controls) and testosterone levels drop significantly in males, but elevate significantly in females. Levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) are also significantly lower in males (Marazziti & Canale, 2004).

 

These differences are no longer apparent after a period of 12 to 18 months and Marazziti & Canale note that “This finding would suggest that the hormonal changes which we observed are reversible, state-dependent and probably related to some physical and/or psychological features typically associated with falling in love.”. They go on: “ In conclusion, our study would suggest that falling in love represents a ‘‘physiological’’ and transient condition which is characterized (or underlaid) by peculiar hormonal patterns, one of which, involving testosterone, seems to show a sex related specificity.” So falling in love appears to be associated with a particular pattern of hormonal activity. This in itself should allow for prediction and replication.

 

Nevertheless, there is further evidence from fMRI studies which show activity in a number of cortical and subcortical areas on presentation of images of the participant’s beloved, namely the right ventral tegmental area and the right postero-dorsal body and medial caudate nucleus (Aron, Fisher, Mashek, Strong, Li and Brown, 2005). These areas are associated with reward, particularly the ventral tegmental area. Aron et al. also show a correlation between degree of activity in the insula and cingulate/retrosplenial cortex when looking at an image of a romantic partner and length of time in a relationship. They note that “One brain region showed greater activation the shorter the length of time in love: the left posterior cingulate cortex/retrosplenial cortex region.”

 

Bartels and Zeki (2000) also conducted an fMRI study comparing the responses of participants who were deeply in love, to images of their partners and of three friends of similar age, sex and duration of relationship as their partners. Their results show a significant difference in the pattern of activity between presentation of images of friends and lovers. Bartels and Zeki note that the cortical and sub-cortical areas involved are large and they acknowledge the probability of significant overlap. Nevertheless, they state that “What seems to be certain is that, even allowing for possible overlap, the pattern of activation obtained here was nevertheless unique, both in the identity and combination of sites involved.

 

Ortigue, Bianchi-Demicheli, Hamilton & Grafton (2007) conducted an event related fMRI study which involved priming the participants by presenting them with a short duration (sub-threshold) stimulus (the name of their lover, a good friend or a passionate hobby). The subliminal stimuli were presented before a word, a non-word or a blank. Participant had to perform a lexical decision task in which they were required to decide whether what they had seen was a word or not.

 

There were two measures. One was a behavioural measure (response latency) the other was the fMRI. Results show that presentation of the lover and passionate hobby primes both improved response times whereas the friend prime had no effect. Of interest are the fMRI results, which show that presentation of the beloved’s name (as opposed to the friend or passionate hobby primes) “specifically recruited brain areas involved in abstract representations of others and the self, in addition to motivation circuits shared with other sources of passion.” Ortigue et al. go to suggest that “...love, as a subliminal prime, involves a specific neural network that surpasses a dopaminergic-motivation system.

 

This idea of a unique and specific pattern of neurological activity denoting romantic love is echoed by Zeki (2007) who, in a review of the literature observes that “These studies showed that, when we look at the face of someone we are deeply, passionately and hopelessly in love with, a limited number of areas in the brain are especially engaged.” It is also echoed by Esch and Stefano (2005) who note that “Love activates specific regions in the reward system, ... and includes a suppression of activity in neural pathways associated with the critical social assessment of other people and with negative emotions.”

 

Zeki (2007) also notes that the literature also shows a pattern of neural deactivation associated with the ‘madness’ of romantic love, which is concordant with the results from Bartels & Zeki, (2000) which also showed a specific pattern of deactivation. This deactivation is at least partly explained by Esch and Stefano, who observe that “Deactivations are also of interest, since emotions are likely to be the product of both increases and decreases of activities in specialized regions. An overall but slight decrease in right hemisphere activity, i.e., asymmetry, particularly in prefrontal and limbic regions (including amygdala), can be stated for love”. Again, a very specific neurological response.

 

Further Event Related Potential (ERP) comparisons of neural responses to images of romantic lovers and friends show significant differences in Late Positive Potentials (LPPs) between people presented with an image of their beloved, a friend and a beautiful stranger. LPPs were significantly larger in response to the image of the participant’s lover than to the other emotionally significant faces (Langeslag, Jansma, Franken & Van Strien, 2007). This study also involved participants in the fairly early stages of love. The mean duration of the participant’s relationships was 12.6 months.

 

Langeslag et al. controlled for attractiveness by presenting their participants with a beautiful, but unknown (to the participants) face. They note however that whilst: “Objectively, this face was indeed more beautiful than the faces of the beloved and friends, as indicated by the ratings of the separate sample of men and women. The infatuated participants, however, perceived their beloved as most beautiful.

 

This is further evidence of a perceptual/behavioural characteristic unique to the condition of love. There are studies that have involved photographing the partners of people in love. These images are digitally altered to be more or less attractive incrementally so the result is a series of 5 or 7 images ranging from unattractive to very attractive (as rated by an objective panel), with the original in the middle. If this series is presented to the person in love, with the request that he or she should select the original image, that person will almost invariably choose an image from higher up the scale, towards the more attractive end.

 

This phenomenon does not occur when an individual is presented with similarly altered series of images of friends and is directly the result of the suppression (deactivation) of activity in neural pathways associated with the critical social assessment of other people and with negative emotions discussed by Esch and Stefano (2005). Love is literally blind and people in love do not, or cannot see flaws in their lovers. Even in later stages of the relationship, they are less likely to see flaws (either physical or behavioural) than objective others (reference missing).

 

So, there are very specific and different patterns of neurological and hormonal activity associated with romantic love, maternal love and friendship. As stated by Esch and Stefano (2005) “... friendship and love share common CNS features, even in physiology. However, they are not the same: Friendship, in general, seems not to be coupled to love, that is, friendship shows distinct neural and neuroanatomic activity patterns – and vice versa.

 

Lust, on the other hand, is a more universal system of basic arousal that does not involve the same areas of the brain as romantic love and friendship. Although romantic love does include the areas associated with lust, friendship and maternal love do not. In other words, lust is a state of basic sexual arousal that, although a necessary condition for romantic love, is not sufficient, and is not present in maternal love or friendship. Evidence for this can be found in the review by Zeki (2007), which shows that activation of the hypothalamus is present with both romantic feelings and sexual arousal, but not with maternal love. Activation of the hypothalamus may therefore constitute the ‘lust’ component present in romantic love, but not in maternal attachment or friendship.

 

I’ll end with a quote by Bartels & Zeki, from their study in 2000 as it seems to sum things up nicely. “By showing that a unique set of interconnected areas becomes active when humans view the face of someone who elicits a unique and characteristic set of emotions, we have shown that underlying one of the richest experiences of mankind is a functionally specialised system of the brain. It is perhaps surprising that so complex and overwhelming a sentiment should correlate differentially with activity in such restricted regions of the brain, and fascinating to reflect that the face that launched a thousand ships should have done so through such a limited expanse of cortex.” (bold added).

 

I think I have fulfilled your request to describe the physical (neurological and endocrinological) manifestations of romantic love and also shown how it is distinguishable from other phenomena like friendship and lust.

 

It took some time and effort to put together, so in return, perhaps you would do me the courtesy of presenting your evidence for the proposition that:

Love is supposed to transcend physicality, and is therefore spiritual.

 

 

 

 

References:

 

Aron, A., Fisher, H., Mashek, D. J., Strong, G., Li, H. and Brown, L. L. (2005). Reward, Motivation, and Emotion Systems Associated With Early-Stage Intense Romantic Love. Journal of Neurophysiology. 94: 327-337.

 

Bartels, A. & Zeki, S. (2000). The Neural basis of Romantic Love.Neuro Report. 11, (17): 3829-3834.

 

Esch, T. and Stefano, G. B. (2005). The Neurobiology of Love. Neuroendocrinology Letters. 26 (3): 175-192.

 

Langeslag, S. J., Jansma, B. M., Franken I. H. and Van Strien, J. W. (2007) Event-related potential responses to love-related facial stimuli. Biological Psychology. 76: 109–115.

 

Marazziti, D. and Canale, D. (2004). Hormonal Changes When Falling in Love. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 29: 931-936.

 

Ortigue, S., Bianchi-Demicheli, F., Hamilton, A. F. and Grafton, S. T. (2007). The Neural basis of Love: An Event-Related Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study. Journal of Cognitive neuroscience. 19 (7): 1218-1230.

 

Zeki, S (2007) The neurobiology of Love. FEBS Letters. 581: 2575–2579.

 

.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I thought you folks might be interested in reading An Atheist's Creed, by physicist Mano Singham. It's a remarkable piece.

 

Remarkable for its blindness in his own beliefs. >:D

 

"This use is in stark contrast to the way that the word is used by religious people. They not only believe things for which there is little or no evidence or reason, but even in spite of evidence to the contrary, and defying reason.

 

Some religious apologists try to exploit the fact that the same word belief is used in both situations to suggest that atheism is as much an irrational act of faith as belief in god. This is sophistry and is simply false.

 

An Atheist's Creed

 

I believe in a purely material universe that conforms to naturalistic laws and principles."

 

There is no scientific evidence or reason for the "purely" or that "naturalistic laws" exclude deity. So he is using "belief" just like he says religious people do, but denies doing it.

 

Sorry, but atheism is a belief as much as belief in the existence of deity. Neither need by an "irrational" act. However, considering the nature of science and, particularly Methodological Materialism, saying that atheism is not in the same category as belief in deity is irrational.

 

The creed definitely resonates.

 

"I am in awe of the beauty, vastness, and complexity of nature and the universe, and the fact that all arose purely by the working of natural laws. "

 

But that "fact" isn't fact. He cannot say "purely". Because we don't know if deity is necessary for those natural laws to work. Doesn't anyone read Darwin?

 

"The only distinct meaning of the word 'natural' is stated, fixed, or settled; since what is natural as much requires and presupposes an intelligent agent to render it so, i.e., to effect it continually or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous does to effect it for once." Butler: Analogy of Revealed Religion.

 

There is no scientific experiment that will show this hypothesis to be wrong. Until there is, Singham has stated the basic statement of faith of atheism -- without evidence or reason.

 

It's OK to have that faith. But to try to con us that it is not a faith is unacceptable.

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But that "fact" isn't fact. He cannot say "purely". Because we don't know if deity is necessary for those natural laws to work. Doesn't anyone read Darwin?

Yes, I have. I simply said that it resonated, but you will find that a great many other points were made about the piece after my post.

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