The ATPI Theory

This stands for Atheism Through Philosophical Ignorance, it is my title for a phenomena, and I would like to highlight it by the following conversation I snipped from an exchange over at Strange Notions.

The first comment is from a character named, kraker jak, the answering comments are from my favorite fighting Thomist, Ye Olde Statistician (also known as science fiction author Michael Flynn. If you are familiar with Aristotelean/Thomistic philosophy, the following exchange is pretty funny!

His first sentence is a quote from someone else:

why there is evil in the world.
Evil is just a word used to describe activities, actions or ideas that people use to describe that which is contrary to their own religious, cultural, ideological, political ,or tribalistic thinking. There is no global understanding or definition of the term or word. I don’t think that there is any such thing as a substance or force of evil per se. be it satanic, spiritual or otherwise.

Then Statistician’s response and the rest of the discussion:

Well, “evil” is defectus boni, a “deficiency in a good.” And the good is what all seek, as we understand when we say, “She is a good archer” or “he is a good doctor.” That is, one is good to the extent that he or she fulfills the aims or goals of life.…

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    Absolutely not! “Evil” is something real, and I do not mean a devil with horns and hooves and a tail. To say that “evil” has no ontological status (as Thomas does) is to deny it’s reality and is an affront to all the victims of evil.

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      Does saying that a pothole is a deficiency in the road somehow demean the victim of a blown tire?

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      They’re not the victims of evil; they are the victims of people committing evil acts against them. To say that evil exists is to say that the emptiness of a glass exists and can be manipulated and put elsewhere… in and of itself.

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        You cannot equate the evil of pain with the emptiness of a glass of wine or any other pleasure. Evil exists as a property. It denotes profound immorality.
        The privation theory is a means to save the goodness of God. But then of course the question arises: If f.i. torture is only the absence of something good, why does God allow privatio evils to exist?

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    Harkening back to what I said about evil earlier, Good as well is just another word, open to interpretation according to one’s own religious, cultural, ideological, philosophical, political ,or tribalistic thinking. There is no global understanding or definition of the word. It seems that it cannot be otherwise unless God really does exist, and these two concepts actually exist on some sort of spiritual, supernatural plane or dimension. And if that is so, then non theists truly have difficulty with that conundrum.

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      So it’s only a matter of culture whether someone is a good doctor? Or someone is a good archer? Or a good scientist?

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        You are equating being skilled or competent with “good”, that is not what I was referring to when I was speaking of the concept or meaning of the word “good” and you know it. Deliberate obfuscation seems to be a particular skill of yours.

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          Don’t blame me. Take it up with Aristotle. [cf. The Nichomachean Ethics] or Aquinas. That is the meaning of the good that underlies all the rest and illustrates that the concept is not entirely beyond your understanding. To pursue the good is to perfect what it means to be… a doctor, an archer, or… a human being. That a human being is a rational animal, our perfection is attained in two ways: perfecting our rational nature and perfecting our animal nature. Perfecting our animal nature is what is involved when we say things like “too much chocolate is bad for you.

          Modern neuroscience has shown that “vulcanizing” [by repetition] neural patterns originating in the more primitive brain structures inhibits neural patterns originating in the neocortex. Hence, pursuit of the good tells us to avoid such things as they impair the perfection of our intellect. etc. etc.

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            Ok…now we have gone beyond the concept of good or evil into “perfection”. Hence Evil is now merely lack of perfection?….whatever that is? Who among us can lay any claim to perfection? The game of checkers is very boring and I don’t wish to play your childish game anymore. Sayonora.

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              Per fectus means something that is “done thoroughly” and is the opposite of de fectus, which falls short of being done. I once had a discussion with a production superintendent in which he claimed that quality was an indefinable and unattainable idea. You can quality yourself out of business, he said. The problem, as here, is considering relatively concrete terms as if they were the fuzzy and inchoate terms of Late Modern discourse.

              I never said anyone was perfect. I used perfect as a verb. And if you are not striving toward perfection then you must necessarily be striving toward imperfection, and I would not wish you to be in charge of manufacture of, say, medical devices.

              “What do you want,” he asked me, “a gold-plated beer can?”
              “Of course not,” I responded. “If it were gold-plated, I would have to reject it.”
              “Say what?”
              “Gold plating is not a perfection of a beer can. If it were to somehow happen, it would be a defect, adding cost without adding value.

Me now:

I have seen this pattern on that site and others for some time now and, in general, everywhere. Notice that kraker jak is so lacking in philosophical acumen, to say nothing of having not having taken Phil 101, that he thinks Statistician is playing a childish game and not simply applying well known (until recently) philosophical arguments. Statistician’s argument was the general way that the Greeks, and Aristotle in particular, viewed virtue and vice, Good and Evil.

It is not a word game or any kind of game, but, I believe, a very good model or explanation of virtue (vice being the lack of virtue).

When I was an atheist I thought it incumbent upon me to be versed in philosophy (a skill I’ve let grow dull over the years) not only as a general rule, but in particularly because I was an atheist and would have to forge my own answers or find someone with some good arguments.

Not so now. And here is the catch. Theology and philosophy share a similar nature whereby doing one is an imitation of doing the other. One who throws out one, usually theology, will be pressed to see value in the other, philosophy.

So to the modern atheist theology and philosophy are the same batch of hot air.

And here is the crux of my ATPI theory. Old fashioned atheism used to be buttressed by philosophical knowledge and practice, it is now buttressed on philosophical ignorance. If you are arguing Good and Evil, in a discussion about religion, you are in a theological/philosophical discussion no matter how many concrete points are brought up. You should know your subject matter at least enough to recognize that your “opponent” is referring to the Ancient Greek notion of Virtue.

Now, it is perfectly justifiable (to a certain extent) to say, “I’m an atheist in that I simply don’t believe and the question doesn’t interest me one way or the other.” Some people don’t have the time or the interest for the subject matter. I think time should be made if you are intelligent enough not to drool on yourself half the time to at least have a working knowledge of the subject matter. At least enough to be able to say, “hold it, are you referring to the Greek notion of Virtue or Good here?” Instead of immersing one’s self in a subject matter of which one is, by one’s own statement and behavior, ill-equipped to have.

Atheism can be just the state of a man without belief. But what I find all around me now are crusading atheists armed only with a vacuum. If all you have is “show me your God!” in your arsenal, you haven’t lost any debate, you are not participating in one at all.

Another article over at Strange Notions was Does the Bible Support Same-Sex Marriage?

Here is a smattering from one poster in only a few posts (note: the person is very sensitive about the subject).

I don’t care what the Bible has to say about gay marriage.

I begin with certain moral premises that I’m no longer willing to argue publicly (because I think arguing about them gives the opposite position too much credit):

I like that one. Here is my translation:

“I declare that your premises are (too stupid, too evil, too whatever I want them to be) not worthy of consideration while mine are to be treated as special pieces of Infallibility giving me the right to merely make assertions while you still have to defend your entire structure through reasoning and logic. I do this by fiat and on no recognizable philosophical grounds ever accepted by humankind ever in its history. I am also the King of England establishing, once again, the dominance of the British people over the civilized world, and this I do with no perceivable military might to possibly back it up.”

Say that quote above in your head but with John Cleese’s voice and its pretty funny, IMHO.

Either way, I don’t care what the Bible has to say about killing children because I already know it’s wrong.

Either way, I don’t care what the Bible has to say about gay sex because I already know gay sex can be a good thing.

I don’t care what the Greeks, Romans, Persians, Indians, Chinese, Germans, Slavs or Native Americans had to say about gay sex. I already know gay sex can be a good thing.


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