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An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part Three)

March 1, 2016

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 10.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Six)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: March 1, 2016

Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2016

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,536

ISSN 2369-6885

Pat O'Brien.png

Abstract

An interview with Pat O’Brien. He discusses: role of exemplars for movements without direct religious affiliation; relationship with religious belief systems connected to humanist proclivities with secular humanist movements in history; interrelationship of theistic and non-theistic humanisms, and their mutual futures; the importance of the absolute division between church and state; evidences and arguments that make a transcendental being seem impossible, implausible, or unreasonable; and evidences and arguments that might make a transcendental entity possible, plausible, or reasonable.

Keywords: belief system, British Columbia Humanist Association, Center for Inquiry Canada, humanism, Humanist Canada, non-theistic, Pat O’Brien, theistic.

An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part Three)[1],[2],[3]

16. Exemplars manifest themselves under the umbrella of “no religious affiliation,” at least in standard interpretations such as a lack of formal religion. An array of unmentioned artists, columnists, scientists, and writers.[4] What role do exemplars perform for these movements without direct religious affiliation?

Unfortunately we live in a world where the “cult of personality” influences many people. By creating our own “stars” we are better able to communicate our message. But when an existing star such as Ricky Gervais or Bill Nye take up the cause, people listen. Some in our community see this as a bit of a sell out. I disagree, as long as the message is consistent and not dumbed down, using famous people and TV and Movie stars is a very good way to give your message some credibility.

17. Apart from non-theistic – e.g. agnostic, atheistic, deistic, und so weiter – humanisms, plural manifestations, under the banner of Humanism, singular concept, some religious formulations ground themselves, in socio-cultural and ethical life, in belief systems translatable into humanism. An argument articulated by Dr. Susan Hughson, another past president of the British Columbia Humanist Association, in conversation with David Berner about Judaism, which could extend to others, as noted.[5],[6],[7],[8],[9] What relationship do religious belief systems connected to humanist proclivities have with the secular humanist movements in history?

For most of recorded history the concept of an atheist did not exist. It was taken for granted that there was an unseen world inhabited by goblins, ghosts, gods etc. It was not until relatively recently that the idea of a worldview that carried no supernatural baggage was even possible. There were pockets of it, some Greek philosophers are a good example but mostly the world was made up of people who had some kind of supernatural belief. So it was the religious, looking for something more, who began the slow intellectual march towards Humanism, Erasmus is a good example. Today he would be considered a religious person but in his day he had many ideas that did not endear him to either the Catholic or the burgeoning Protestant church. He is considered by many to be the founder of Humanism. Today, most religious Humanists seem to come from the Jewish tradition. Jews have a history of doubt and questioning so this does not come as a surprise, in fact the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University is almost exclusively the product of Jewish Humanists.

18. With respect to their positive or negative interrelationship, the theistic and non-theistic humanisms, how might their mutual futures turn out to you?

If you are talking about theistic Humanism, I find that a contradiction. I don’t use the term as I think it has outlived its usefulness. Either you believe in God and are a theist or you do not and you are an atheist, many atheist adopt the Humanist worldview but Humanism and atheism do not necessarily go together. So I see a conflict between theists and Humanist and so the term Theistic Humanist is meaningless to me.

19. You noted, astutely, the separation of church and state in the United States of America, but not by necessity in Canada.[10] Preaching the Word of Atheism notes the forceful nature of creationism into Canadian schools and bias against atheists in the family court system too.[11] What remains the highest importance about this separation, the absolute division between church and state?

Religion is a personal matter as are family and personal relationships. In a free and democratic society, the only guarantee that you can keep your personal religious beliefs or your family structure or maintain the relationships that are important to you is by keeping government and by extension, laws, out of those areas. When someone tells me that their religion should inform how we are governed my first questions is, which of the thousands of versions of your religion do you want? Which interpretation of you scripture do you want to live under. Religion is something not even the religious can agree on how on earth could we form a societal structure that at its core is purely personal and introspective? The only way to design a society and laws so as to serve the most number of people is to base them on the things we have in common, not those things that divide us and religion is the great divider. The problem we secularists face is that the religious have had it their way for thousands of years. They do not want to give up any ground, this is understandable. But when someone asks for the same rights you have, it is not taking away you rights, many religious people see it this way and we need to fight this notion.

20. Carl Sagan gets quoted a lot. A great science communicator who carved the paths for numerous artists, fellow science communicators, professional scientists, and public intellectuals to express personal wonder for the universe. One quote, attributed to him, became immortalized about extraordinary claims with the need for proportioned evidence, which states, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” even quoted in the CFI Canada updates, for instance.[12],[13] An adaptation from Marcello Truzzi’s quotation, which states, “An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.”[14],[15] You typed one coda sentence, and in other forms throughout the article On Atheists:

Claiming there is an unseen transcendental being who is outside space and time and created the entire universe is a pretty extraordinary claim so the evidence had better be pretty extraordinary.[16]

What evidences and arguments make a transcendental being seem impossible, implausible, or unreasonable to you?

It is not the evidence or arguments for the existence of god that are unreasonable, it is the lack of evidence and sound argument that makes gods highly improbable. I have read dozens of books both for and against, seen dozens of hours of debates with brightest and the best of both sides and after all that I have yet to hear a convincing argument in favour of a god. The arguments in favour of a god could fill an encyclopaedia and after all that human effort, no one has proved anything, every argument seems to end with “well ya gottta have faith”, that to me is an admission of defeat.

21. What evidences and arguments might make a transcendental entity or object with some, most, or all of the traditional “divine attributes” appear possible, plausible, or reasonable to you?[17]

I have given this a lot of thought over the years and every bit of evidence that I can think of that might convince me that there is a god, I can think of a naturalistic explanation. In other words, I honestly cannot think of any evidence that could convince me. But that does not mean there isn’t any, other wise I am guilty of the argument from ignorance fallacy. No, if there really is a god who literally created my mind, then that god would know exactly what kind of evidence could convince me. So if there is a god, the evidence is trivial for it to produce. The fact that this evidence is not forthcoming gives me comfort that there is none. Of course the theists would say “Ya gotta have faith”, and that, QED, is the worst kind of evidence.

Thank you for your time, Mr. O’Brien.

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Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Board Vice-Chair, Center for Inquiry Canada (CFIC/CFI Canada); Past President, Humanist Canada; Past President, British Columbia Humanist Association.

[2] Individual Publication: March 1, 2016 at www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-three Full Issue Publication: May 1, 2016 at www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-three.

[3] Bachelor of Science & Bachelor of Education, Science, Biology, and Education.

[4] Exemplars including, but not limited to, (the late) Dr. Albert Einstein, Ann Druyan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, (the late) Dr. Bertrand Russell, (the late) Betty Friedan, Bill Nye, (the late) Dr. Carl Sagan, Dr. Carol Tavris, Dr. Daniel Dennett, Dr. E.O. Wilson, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, Dr. Gloria Steinem, (the late) Dr. Isaac Asimov, James “The Amazing” Randi, (the late) Dr. Jonas Salk, (the late) June Callwood, Dr. Lawrence Krauss, Margaret Atwood, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, (the late) Dr. Paul Kurtz, (the late) Pearl S. Buck, (the late) Dr. R. Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, Dr. Richard Dawkins, (the late) Simone de Beauvoir, Dr. Steven Weinberg, Dr. Susan Blackmore, and (the late) Dr. Victor J. Stenger.

[5] Please see [David Berner] (2015, April 8). Episode #151, DR. SUE HUGHSON, SHAW TV, David Berner April 8, 2015. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9ukJ1hDcJ0.

[6] Please see Society for Humanistic Judaism (2015). Society for Humanistic Judaism. Retrieved from http://www.shj.org/.

[7] Please see Unitarian Universalist Association (2015). Unitarian Universalist Association. Retrieved from http://www.uua.org/.

[8] Please see Flynn, T. (2012, August 23). What Is Religious Humanism-Really?. Retrieved from http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/what_is_religious_humanism_–_really/.

[9] Too many to provide a comprehensive list of the organizations and individuals involved in this endeavour of theistic humanism.  However, these should provide sufficient information for the ideas contained within this extension and adaptation of humanism for the transformation of standardized theist beliefs and theological concepts.

[10] Please see Egan, D (2007, January 17). Preaching the Word of Atheism. Retrieved from http://thetyee.ca/Life/2007/01/12/Atheism/.

[11] Please see The Vancouver Sun (2006, April 6). 2) No God, no good. When it comes to intolerance, America’s a match for Afghanistan. Retrieved from http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/columnists/story.html?id=92ae2eb3-7d80-42b9-befb-7a207192f1f1&p=3.

[12] Please see CFI Canada (2015, May 12). Critical Links 2015/05/12: CFIC’s Updates and News on Science and Secularism. Retrieved from https://extraordinarybus.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/critical-links-20150512-cfics-updates-and-news-on-science-and-secularism/.

[13] Please see CFI Canada (2015, June 16). Critical Links 2015/06/16 CFIC News and Updates. Retrieved from https://extraordinarybus.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/critical-links-20150616-cfic-news-and-updates/.

[14] Even further backward in the historical record, David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) – Section X, Of Miracles. Part I. – enunciates a synonymic principle, as follows:

Nothing is so convenient as a decisive argument of this kind, which must at least silence the most arrogant bigotry and superstition, and free us from their impertinent solicitations. I flatter myself, that I have discovered an argument of a like nature, which, if just, will, with the wise and learned, be an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion, and consequently, will be useful as long as the world endures. For so long, I presume, will the accounts of miracles and prodigies be found in all history, sacred and profane. Though experience be our only guide in reasoning concerning matters of fact; it must be acknowledged, that this guide is not altogether infallible, but in some cases is apt to lead us into errors. One, who in our climate, should expect better weather in any week of June than in one of December, would reason justly, and conformably to experience; but it is certain, that he may happen, in the event, to find himself mistaken. However, we may observe, that, in such a case, he would have no cause to complain of experience; because it commonly informs us beforehand of the uncertainty, by that contrariety of events, which we may learn from a diligent observation. All effects follow not with like certainty from their supposed causes. Some events are found, in all countries and all ages, to have been constantly conjoined together: Others are found to have been more variable, and sometimes to disappoint our expectations; so that, in our reasonings concerning matter of fact, there are all imaginable degrees of assurance, from the highest certainty to the lowest species of moral evidence. A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence. In such conclusions as are founded on an infallible experience, he expects the event with the last degree of assurance, and regards his past experience as a full proof of the future existence of that event. In other cases, he proceeds with more caution: He weighs the opposite experiments: He considers which side is supported by the greater number of experiments: to that side he inclines, with doubt and hesitation; and when at last he fixes his judgement, the evidence exceeds not what we properly call probability. All probability, then, supposes an opposition of experiments and observations, where the one side is found to overbalance the other, and to produce a degree of evidence, proportioned to the superiority. A hundred instances or experiments on one side, and fifty on another, afford a doubtful expectation of any event; though a hundred uniform experiments, with only one that is contradictory, reasonably beget a pretty strong degree of assurance. In all cases, we must balance the opposite experiments, where they are opposite, and deduct the smaller number from the greater, in order to know the exact force of the superior evidence. [Emphasis, bolded, added.]

Please see Hume, D. (1748). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Section X, Of Miracles. Part I.. Retrieved from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/9662/9662-h/9662-h.htm.

[15] Please see Hume, D. (1748). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Section X, Of Miracles. Part I.. Retrieved from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/9662/9662-h/9662-h.htm.

[16] Please see O’Brien, P. (2014, August 12). On Atheists. Retrieved from http://www.companyofdisciples.com/on-atheists-by-pat-obrien-of-cfi-canada/.

[17] Divine attributes tend to emerge in the theological literature about an architect, creator, or designer to the universe.  Some include all-good, all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, and so on.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal [Online].March 2016; 10(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-three.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2016, March 1). An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part Three). Retrieved from www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-three.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 10.A, March. 2016. <www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-three>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2016. “An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 10.A. www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-three.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 10.A (March 2016). www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-three.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part Three)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 10.A. Available from: <www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-three>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part Three)’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 10.A., www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-three.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 10.A (2016):March. 2016. Web. <www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-three>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Pat O’Brien (Part Three) [Internet]. (2016, March); 10(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-pat-obrien-part-three.

License and Copyright

License

In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.in-sightjournal.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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