Thursday, May 6, 2010

International Day of Reason

Today we celebrate the International Day of Reason. I really don't expect this to be a very popular celebration.

Reason requires logic, not necessarily formal mathematical logic, but at least logic in the classical sense of putting your thoughts in order.

Formal mathematical logic has never been rigorously proven valid. Several of the most famous attempts at proving the validity of logic involved the mathematical technique of recursive invocation. Bertrand Russell showed that the use of recursive invocation requires the definition of such a thing as the set of all sets that are not members of themselves which raises the question of whether this set is a member of itself or not. If it is, that proves it isn't. If it isn't, that proves it is. Thus recursive invocation in logic is actually a convoluted form of circularity.

Several more attempts at proving the validity of formal logic were based on attempts to determine the attributes of a premise set that is both complete and consistent, in the mathematical sense. Kurt Godel then proved that the validity of logic itself would render such a premise set impossible.

So we don't really know whether logic is actually valid, that is, necessarily workable in all possible realms of reality, or only a created feature of our universe.

We can all think of a realm in which logic doesn't work: Your dreams, in which you might be able to make a whole pot of coffee with only one teaspoon of water, you might be able to build a multi-lane bridge across the Chesapeake Bay using nothing but recycled Post-it notes, you might be able to feed five thousand hungry people with five biscuits and a couple of sardines, or whatever.

But is dreamland a realm of reality? Well, define it any way you please. If you regard your dreams as real, then obviously logic is not valid by that definition.

But even without the use of formal mathematical logic at least you can put your thoughts in an understandable order. Some folks can't even do that. Almost every presentation I've ever been to, during the Q & A session there's always at least one question-asker who can't see fit to ask the question as briefly as possible and then listen for the answer, but has a personal need to ramble incoherently, yakking over the presenter and leaving no chance for an answer.

In my personal life I stand astraddle of the Episcopal Church and Secular Humanist communities. The Episcopal Church is currently attempting to promote a set of presentations called Living The Questions, which attempts to reconcile Christian doctrine with rational thought, which is impossible. I've been sitting through these sessions and thinking, you know, we'd achieve rational thought much more quickly if we'd follow the Secular Humanist lead and totally abandon the primitive stone-age superstition that the entire universe is being secretly masterminded by an invisible sky-fairy named God who suffers from a chronic three-way identity crisis caled a Holy Trinity.

It looks to me as though the entire notion of a Day of Reason is likely to be forgotten in the wake of a string of conflicting court decisions as to the constitutionality of a National Day of Prayer. It's unlikely that reason will play a part in any of these court decisions.


Jaakko Wallenius said...

The Facebook-page for the International Day of Reason is here:!/pages/The-International-Day-of-Reason/119025068123138?ref=ts

The event-page for this years day is here:

Anonymous said...

Thank you author for an exemplary essay on what Global and American Atheists hope for.
I for one have never converted a single religionist into Atheism.
I imagine a cultist may do so?
To control others thoughts with fear, loathing and even physical restraints is what the worst of the religions do.
Conversely "straddling" Episcopalianism and Secular Humanism seems to me a bridge building voice and lifestyle.
I too cherish my religious friends, attend churches and sing with them. I do not disrupt their prayers. I do not bow my head.
But I have during the past 3 decades as an American Atheist leader confronted government prayer. Such illegal activities must be abated and the FFRF lawsuit should succeed in ending White House Proclamations of promoting the efficacy of such rituals.
And more importantly, we must strive to end the government practice of escalating allegations about any number of deities.
Our Constitution does not contain the word "god."
Capitalizing the word also does not create it into existence.
But goverment McCarthyistic and Red-Baiting people into eqating Atheism with Marxism or Leninism has accomplished a global war and fear in the scientific and reason communities.
While many socialist nations have far less of this fear, the ostracizing of Atheists is a great problem that prevents full and open equality of all in political discourse.
Recent polls rank Atheists dead last in groups voters "would not vote for President.
If the International Day of Reason grows into a movement that unites oppressed Atheists in the land now illegally branded with the motto: "In god We Trust" our dreams will have been realized.
If secular believers support us in our global quest to abate religious violence, religious harm and transform their faith communities into less irrational affinity groups, our author will have succeeded far beyond his doubts.
Our nation, if it did pray, not prey, for a world free from religious violence, can only answer it ourselves.
The alleged deity Jehovah or King James Bible god is an impossible concept. No different than the "gott Mit Uns" god of NAZI German on every soldier belt buckle.
If our nation turns away from government mergers of faith in harm and only prays for help from one another, I shall answer as many Atheists, Agnostics, Deists, Ethical Culturists, Eupraxophists, Humanists, Intellectuals, Materialists, Non-theists, Objectivists, Rationalists, Realists, Scientists, Secularists and Unitarian Universalists are increasingly answering.
Our answer is yes to building heaven on earth together and no to faiths in folly.
Our answer is yes to facts and no to fear and failure.
Our reasoned answers are open to discussion when the hell threats and post mortem heaven bribes are set aside by believers.
World Atheists are not employing such threats and I know of no single Atheist bribing believers out of belief.
Since no alleged deity has answered a single prayer and all world deaths and suffering continues regardless of alleged miracles, I hope every day is an international day of reason so that solutions are thought of instead of the time wasted waiting for an alleged deity to help with anything. 843-926-1750 Larry Carter Center

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