What Happened to Common Sense Atheism?

by Luke Muehlhauser on July 17, 2011 in News

Many readers have complained that this blog is now ‘dead’. And if you don’t care for Yudkowsky summaries or link posts, then that’s basically true.

I haven’t had time to write for CSA for months. I wrote all the Yudkowsky posts back in December, and most other substantive posts of late have been guest posts. I’m still posting episodes of the morality podcast, but slowly.

What have I been doing? I’ve been researching and writing articles for Less Wrong, co-running a rationality camp, trying to optimize the Machine Intelligence Research Institute as an organization, and a few other things.

CSA will continue, but I doubt I will invest much more time discussing religion. I’m glad that some people are keeping up ‘the good fight’ and engaging religion directly – it’s because of such people that I avoided the fate of wasting my life serving an imaginary deity - but I’ve moved on to other missions.

I’m also hoping that teaching people about logic and cognitive biases and Bayes and Occam, without mentioning religion at all, will help them come to their own conclusions about the plausibility of their religion.

Anyway, I just wanted to write a quick note to say I’m flattered that so many people miss the old CSA.

But don’t be too sad. A near-identical copy of you might be enjoying the writings of a near-identical copy of me who decided to keep writing about religion on CSA, only ~101030 meters away or in a nearby Everett branch.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Yair July 17, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Everett branches aren’t any distance away; they’re right here. What are away are other Hubble bubbles (cosmic horizons). Although the two may be one and the same thing (see Sean Caroll).

I take it we won’t get to see what Desirism metaethics is, then?

Yair

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a July 17, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Why not encourage more guest-bloggers?

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cl July 17, 2011 at 10:42 pm

CSA will continue, but I doubt I will invest much more time discussing religion. I’m glad that some people are keeping up ‘the good fight’ and engaging religion directly – it’s because of such people that I avoided the fate of wasting my life serving an imaginary deity – but I’ve moved on to other missions.

Ah… the comfort of certainty!

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Cristian July 17, 2011 at 11:30 pm

If there’s no deity, than life is already wasted.

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Colin July 18, 2011 at 12:03 am

“But don’t be too sad. A near-identical copy of you might be enjoying the writings of a near-identical copy of me who decided to keep writing about religion on CSA, only ~101030 meters away or in a nearby Everett branch.”

Gotta love nerd jokes.

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Daniel Almeida July 18, 2011 at 1:29 am

Ah… the comfort of certainty!

Honestly CL- you have some pretty smart things to say when you are serious, as opposed to this childish smear campaign against Luke because he is no longer interested in philosophy of religion. “the comfort of Certainty”… give me a break! Do you honestly believe that he only way to hold a warranted belief is to study it every day until you die? Sorry- but that is impractical and in many cases impossible.

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TK July 18, 2011 at 1:45 am

Why not encourage more guest-bloggers?

^ this.

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Zeb July 18, 2011 at 3:55 am

So, any nominations for a successor to CSA? Unfortunately I barely have time to really engage even one philosophy of religion blog, especially one that updates as often as CSA did and had as many good comments as CSA did. One great solution would be more guest posts for CSA. Make it a collaborative blog curated by Luke. Solicit posts from the CPBD guests and the better commentors. But I don’t see that happening.

So again, what site out there, either pro-theist, anti-theist, or neither, offer the restraint, readability, and community discussion of a quality equal to or greater than CSA? I’ve long wanted to find a theistic companion to CSA, and lately I’ve been impressed by Ed Feser’s blog and cl’s (to those highly unimpressed by cl’s broken-record style here, he seems a lot different on his own blog, and gets a lot of good comments from both sides). As much as I’ve enjoyed Luke’s writing, I’ll miss the comments here more, so where will you all be/where else are you now?

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Leo July 18, 2011 at 5:22 am

If I remmember well, when you took vacations for christmas you said you yad an episode of CPBD with Richard Carrier already recorded. Also, you said you where working on a new Naturalism site.

Can we have that podcast now, and how is the site going?

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Apoteks Salmiak July 18, 2011 at 6:15 am

Please, please, continue podcasting! CPBD podcast was really great. Do you have any plans to do podcasts other than the morality podcast?

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Reginald Selkirk July 18, 2011 at 6:23 am

O Noez! Teh Intertubes is no longer catering to my own personal preferences. I think I will shed a tear, hermetically seal it in a glass vial and sell it on eBay.

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antiplastic July 18, 2011 at 9:48 am

I take it we won’t get to see what Desirism metaethics is, then?

We can say now with certainty what most of us have known for some time: these questions will not be addressed in a forthcoming addition to the FAQ.

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soupsayer July 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Your candor is appreciated, Luke.

I won’t miss religion topics so much. What I do miss is your previous general and broad approach to philosophy – prior to your adoption of that Yud guy’s ideological position (“philosophy isn’t important” and/or “philosophy=cognitive science”).

I hope that you reflect upon the wholesale adoption of that Yud guy’s ideology, and that you aren’t at all constrained from publicly speaking against the Yud because of your position with his organization. Being flexible to change your position, as you often have, is an admirable trait, but it is not one that Yud seems to share – despite it being one of the “commandments” of LW or whatever.

Anyway, to echo some of the other comments above, CPDB is sorely missed. If you could squeeze out one of those every month or two, that would be wonderful. It is fine if the topics shift to AI, robot ethics, naturalism, intelligence bombs, or whatever. Just keep the same thorough, in-depth style and it will continue to be a real service to humanity – for whatever time we might have left before the robopocalypse, climate-change destruction, economic collapse, or other end-times ideas.

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cl July 18, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Daniel Almeida,

Honestly CL- you have some pretty smart things to say when you are serious, as opposed to this childish smear campaign against Luke because he is no longer interested in philosophy of religion.

Aw, what’s the matter? Looks like I struck a nerve! Elsewhere on this blog, Luke ostensibly promotes the eschewing of certainty [cf. all that noise about Bertrand Russel's 10 Commandments], so I’m within reason to criticize him in this regard. I am within reason to criticize his certainty because he holds it despite the existence of several important and unanswered questions strewn across this blog. Anyway, I’m not jesting Luke simply because he’s “no longer interested” in philosophy of religion. I jest Luke because he promotes certainty after just a few short years of skepticism. Remember, he declared philosophy of mind and the existence of God to be “settled issues.” If that strikes you as impartial, cautious skepticism, well… that’s your problem. As for me, I’ll call it what it is.

Do you honestly believe that he only way to hold a warranted belief is to study it every day until you die? Sorry- but that is impractical and in many cases impossible.

No, I don’t believe that, so I have no idea what point you’re trying to make. You didn’t like my comment? Fine. I’ve got an opinion, too.

Zeb,

I’ve long wanted to find a theistic companion to CSA, and lately I’ve been impressed by Ed Feser’s blog and cl’s (to those highly unimpressed by cl’s broken-record style here, he seems a lot different on his own blog, and gets a lot of good comments from both sides).

Thanks Zeb, FWIW, I’ve always learned from your comments and criticisms. You know, though, I find this funny. Not you, Zeb, or what you said, but all those whiners who constantly whine about this so-called “broken-record” bit. You know, people like Rob, Hermes, et al. It strikes me as funny because, in any other context, I’m willing to bet these same people would champion my persistence and dedication towards getting coherent answers and explanations. I mean, it’s not like I’m raising issues that really are settled, no, no, no. Rather, I do what all you people say a rationalist should do: I demand evidence for real-world claims, and I refuse to be stonewalled into silence when those answers are not forthcoming. You all know that if I was on your side and pestering the persimmons out of Bill Craig or Ray Comfort, you’d be loving it!

I mean come on! Many of you are perfectly willing to accept whatever unsupported nonsense comes out of an atheist mouth. And I’m looking especially at the Fyfists here.

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drj July 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Zeb,

Have you checked out John D’s blog? It is a great place. He puts out a lot of posts of the same caliber as his recent guest posts here, though it looks like his religion posts have been going here lately, instead of there. In any case, there’s a treasure trove of high quality, detailed, and methodical posts over there… can spend hours digging through them. Looks like he needs some more people commenting though.

http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com/

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C.L. July 18, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Thanks a bunch Luke.

I left dogmatic Christianity a year and a half ago, after dedicating thirteen years of my life toward it. I stumbled on this web site early on, which led me to others. It has been a great help. Also, your list of fine-hundred debates has been invaluable

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Michael Baldwin July 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Luke,

I think it’s fair enough that you’ve lost interest in philosophy of religion, and I don’t think anyone can really blame you for that. It’s better by far to go for the things that you are passionate about and that interest you rather than pandering to the annoying demands of silly theists like me! ;)

I do still think it’s more than a little bit arrogant of you to claim that atheism is a settled issue, both in this post and at the top of every single page. Losing your desire to study it- fine. Claiming the subject is objectively settled- sorry but no. Maybe if you had thoroughly refuted the kalam, the fine-tuning argument, contingency argument, ontological argument etc, then fair enough. But I still can’t think of one rebuttal to the kalam that you endorsed, except maybe a few comments that its reliance on A Theory was a weakness. Well, whatdoyaknow, Craig happens to have written no less than 4 academic books on the subject of time, not counting the numerous peer-review articles.

The contingency argument doesn’t even rely on A Theory so it won’t cut with that. I’m guessing you’d just posit a multiverse to deal with the fine-tuning which is fair enough but I would argue that for each time you do that you only push the argument back a step. The moral argument is just about the only one you ever ended up dealing with. The rest of them were just thrown into the bin together as “bad explanations”, before a quick command to everyone to read “Theism and Explanation”. That’s fair enough but surely each argument must be dealt with on its own merits? To disregard whole hosts of explanations such as theistic ones a priori would probably end up resulting in terminal confirmation bias.

Furthermore, that book is not the last word on the subject. Timothy O’Connor has of course written an extremely important book, “Theism and Ultimate Explanation”, which would go in direct opposition to Dawes’ conclusions.

So basically what I’m saying is that I completely understand if you lost an interest in something- do what you’re passionate about! But please stop deceptively calling atheism a settled issue, especially when you have not done much of the groundwork required to do so.

/M

T

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Martin July 18, 2011 at 8:42 pm

it’s because of such people that I avoided the fate of wasting my life serving an imaginary deity

Except that atheism is just a LACK of belief! LACK! Atheism makes no positive claims! LACK LACK! LACK!

LACK of belief.

LACK.

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drj July 18, 2011 at 10:49 pm

There’s a difference between claiming an issue is “settled”, and being convinced that one particular position is true – or more probably true than other positions.

The debate about theism and atheism rages on, as it has for thousands of years – so its obviously not settled – there is no consensus, and there probably never will be. But obviously most people here are convinced enough about their own respective positions to stand definitively on one particular side of the debate. So its settled for enough, for them.

Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, and even church goers absolutely move forward with their lives, amazingly enough, despite the fact that philosophical heavy-weights continue to vigorously battle one another over issues that they all essentially take for granted. Are they going to get the same talking too, because the issues are not “settled”?

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Yair July 19, 2011 at 8:52 am

Zeb,

Have you checked out John D’s blog?It is a great place.He puts out a lot of posts of the same caliber as his recent guest posts here, though it looks like his religion posts have been going here lately, instead of there.In any case, there’s a treasure trove of high quality, detailed, and methodical posts over there…can spend hours digging through them.Looks like he needs some more people commenting though.

http://philosophicaldisquisitions.blogspot.com/

JD is excellent. So is “Words, Ideas and Things” (by Garren Hochstetler) IMO.

http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/

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Peter Hurford July 19, 2011 at 10:50 am

So, any nominations for a successor to CSA? Unfortunately I barely have time to really engage even one philosophy of religion blog, especially one that updates as often as CSA did and had as many good comments as CSA did. One great solution would be more guest posts for CSA. Make it a collaborative blog curated by Luke. Solicit posts from the CPBD guests and the better commentors. But I don’t see that happening.

I’d love to see this too.

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Peter Hurford July 19, 2011 at 11:15 am

Also, I’d love to shamefully plug my own blog, http://www.greatplay.net

I hope the writing is good enough to get it off the ground someday, but if not: no harm, no foul?

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mpg July 19, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Good luck with your other ventures Luke.

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Ryan M July 20, 2011 at 1:51 am

Except that atheism is just a LACK of belief! LACK! Atheism makes no positive claims! LACK LACK! LACK!

LACK of belief.

LACK.

If you’re the Martin who started going to Ed Feser’s blog a few months ago I’m wondering if you hold to an A-T metaphysic these days. I assume you did not before.

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Martin July 20, 2011 at 5:42 am

Ryan M,

If you’re the Martin who started going to Ed Feser’s blog a few months ago I’m wondering if you hold to an A-T metaphysic these days. I assume you did not before.

Yep! That’s me! I’m totally agnostic; I don’t hold to anything right now. But I can see the appeal of Thomism. It’s totally new to me so I’ve been obsessed with learning about it recently. I think it blows arguments like Kalam out of the water.

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Luke Muehlhauser July 21, 2011 at 2:31 am

Guest bloggers that fit my tastes are very, very hard to find.

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Samuel Etoou July 22, 2011 at 2:08 am

But won’t you complete your work in “Why Christianity is False”? It can change my life.. if you won’t complete it, could you please send me some links…?

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Garren July 22, 2011 at 6:15 am

Regarding the Theism/Atheism debate being ‘settled,’ there can be a large gap between what’s needed to settle it for an atheist who tries to give the other side’s best arguments a fair shot…and what’s needed to settle it in such a way that no reasonable theist can remain so.

If you take Luke’s attitude to be about the former goalpost, no one needs to get too worked up about the latter.

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daniel almeida July 24, 2011 at 2:38 am

“Aw, what’s the matter? Looks like I struck a nerve!”

Of course, you probably missed my compliment, placed in there explicitly to ensure we’d dialogue under friendlier terms. I’ll make sure I bold it next time.

” Elsewhere on this blog, Luke ostensibly promotes the eschewing of certainty [cf. all that noise about Bertrand Russel's 10 Commandments], so I’m within reason to criticize him in this regard. I am within reason to criticize his certainty because he holds it despite the existence of several important and unanswered questions strewn across this blog. Anyway, I’m not jesting Luke simply because he’s “no longer interested” in philosophy of religion. I jest Luke because he promotes certainty after just a few short years of skepticism. Remember, he declared philosophy of mind and the existence of God to be “settled issues.”

Let me get this straight; You have the right to criticise Luke because he is certain that atheism is true, but yet never puts forth any arguments to prove that he is justified in believing that atheism is true. Well, I’d think that comment was quite supid if he where to make such grand claims and expect every atheist to agree with him on it. But, if he is sharing his personal opinion, than I hardly see how it merits your insults. Of course, I don’t approve of his comments if the former is true- butI see nothing wrong with them if the latter is true. Assuming that he is just a guy with his own opinion that is not meant to represent all atheists everywhere, your reasoning as to why he deserves to be insulted would go somting like this,correct?

1) Luke is not justified in stating his belief that Atheism is true (and his belief that Christianity is wrong)
2) Because Luke isn’t justified in believing that Atheism is true, and thus cannot be justified in believing that Christianity is false.
3) Because Luke doesn’t post responses to important theistic arguments on his blog
3a) Becaue Luke doesn’t know of any arguments that prove theism
3b) Because Luke doesn’t understand any aruments that prove theism
4) People that aren’t justified in being Atheists deserve to be insulted
5) Therefore, Luke deserves to be insulted

I am writing this at 5 in the morning, so don’t be alarmed if I mess something up. Anyhow, there are a few problems with this reasoning. For one thing- It could be the case that Luke knows responses to arguments that prove Theism, but simply does not say or repeat them. This could be because there are too many to post- or he is too busy to post them. However, if you expect him to respond only to the arguments you find compelling, than keep in mind that there are less Atheists than Christians- and they all think different arguments are stronger than others. Plus, Luke has moved on, and is no longr interested in POR.

“You didn’t like my comment? Fine. I’ve got an opinion, too.”

Of course you do. And so does Luke. I just hope he doesn’t try to speak on my behalf- I’m quite comfortable in admitting that I don’t have all the answers.

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Andyman409 July 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Sorry Daniel, I have to disagree with you. Everyone has the right to an opinion- including CL. I don’t think you can make an argument to the contrary.

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