Possibilianism is a philosophy which rejects both the diverse claims of traditional theism and the positions of certainty in strong atheism in favor of a middle, exploratory ground.The term was invented by Robbie Parrish, a friend of neuroscientist David Eagleman who defined the term in relation to his book of fiction Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives .
Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of the Supreme Being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with deism, the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism – or gods found in polytheistic religions—a belief in God or in gods without the rejection of revelation as is characteristic of deism.
David Eagleman is an American neuroscientist, author, and science communicator. He teaches as an adjunct professor at Stanford University and is CEO of NeoSensory, a company that develops devices for sensory substitution. He also directs the non-profit Center for Science and Law, which seeks to align the legal system with modern neuroscience. He is known for his work on brain plasticity, time perception, synesthesia, and neurolaw. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and a New York Times bestselling author published in 32 languages. He is the writer and presenter of the Emmy-nominated international television series, The Brain with David Eagleman.
Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, also simply called Sum, is a work of speculative fiction by the neuroscientist David Eagleman. It is in press in 28 languages as of 2016. The Los Angeles Times described it as "teeming, writhing with imagination." Barnes and Noble named it one of the Best Books of 2009.
Asked whether he was an atheist or a religious person on a National Public Radio interview in February 2009, Eagleman replied "I call myself a Possibilian: I'm open to...ideas that we don't have any way of testing right now."In a subsequent interview with the New York Times, Eagleman expanded on the definition:
"Our ignorance of the cosmos is too vast to commit to atheism, and yet we know too much to commit to a particular religion. A third position, agnosticism, is often an uninteresting stance in which a person simply questions whether his traditional religious story (say, a man with a beard on a cloud) is true or not true. But with Possibilianism I'm hoping to define a new position — one that emphasizes the exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities. Possibilianism is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind; it is not interested in committing to any particular story."
Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist."
In a New Yorker profile of Eagleman—entitled "The Possibilian"—Burkhard Bilger wrote:
The New Yorker is an American magazine featuring journalism, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons, and poetry. Started as a weekly in 1925, the magazine is now published 47 times annually, with five of these issues covering two-week spans. Although its reviews and events listings often focus on the cultural life of New York City, The New Yorker has a wide audience outside New York and is read internationally. It is well known for its illustrated and often topical covers, its commentaries on popular culture and eccentric Americana, its attention to modern fiction by the inclusion of short stories and literary reviews, its rigorous fact checking and copy editing, its journalism on politics and social issues, and its single-panel cartoons sprinkled throughout each issue.
Science had taught him to be skeptical of cosmic certainties, [Eagleman] told me. From the unfathomed complexity of brain tissue—"essentially an alien computational material"—to the mystery of dark matter, we know too little about our own minds and the universe around us to insist on strict atheism, he said. "And we know far too much to commit to a particular religious story." Why not revel in the alternatives? Why not imagine ourselves, as he did in Sum, as bits of networked hardware in a cosmic program, or as particles of some celestial organism, or any of a thousand other possibilities, and then test those ideas against the available evidence? "Part of the scientific temperament is this tolerance for holding multiple hypotheses in mind at the same time," he said. "As Voltaire said, uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one."
Dark matter is a form of matter that is thought to account for approximately 85% of the matter in the universe and about a quarter of its total energy density. The majority of dark matter is thought to be non-baryonic in nature, possibly being composed of some as-yet undiscovered subatomic particles. Its presence is implied in a variety of astrophysical observations, including gravitational effects that cannot be explained by accepted theories of gravity unless more matter is present than can be seen. For this reason, most experts think dark matter to be abundant in the universe and to have had a strong influence on its structure and evolution. Dark matter is called dark because it does not appear to interact with observable electromagnetic radiation, such as light, and is thus invisible to the entire electromagnetic spectrum, making it extremely difficult to detect using usual astronomical equipment.
François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plumeVoltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, as well as his advocacy of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and separation of church and state.
An adherent of possibilianism is called a possibilian.The possibilian perspective is distinguished from agnosticism in its active exploration of novel possibilities and its emphasis on the necessity of holding multiple positions at once if there is no available data to privilege one over the others. Eagleman has emphasized that possibilianism reflects the scientific temperament of creativity and intellectual humility in the face of "the known unknowns."
According to the Dallas Morning News and MSNBC, the possibilian concept—including various spellings (e.g. "possibillion") and modifications (e.g. "possibilitarian")—has become popular on the internet.By November 2009, The List Magazine wrote: "Googling 'possibilian', the position Eagleman invented to explain his belief system, throws up the beginnings of a worldwide movement."
Articles about possibilianism have appeared in major news outlets around the globe—for example, in the Daily Monitor of Uganda,The Economic Times of India and New Scientist .
In an article in the New Statesman, the atheist author Philip Pullman declared himself a possibilian,as did Wired magazine founding editor Kevin Kelly in an interview in the LA Times. By April 2011, "close to a thousand Facebook members had switched their religious affiliation to Possibilianism."
Sam Harris (a new atheist) has attacked possibilianism as "intellectually dishonest", and its description of strict atheism as a straw man. Harris writes that the position Eagleman espouses "is, simply, atheism." Harris calls on Eagleman "to admit that “possibilianism,” this middle position of yours, is just a piece of performance art, rather than a serious thesis."In response, Eagleman stated that "[Harris'] braggadocio appears to be emblematic of the neo-atheist posture, and confirms why I don't feel completely at home in that camp." Journalist Steve Volk in the Huffington Post suggested that Harris and Eagleman should be "new allies": "If we're going to get beyond the typical exchanges between new atheists and the religious, I'd argue that it's through figures like Eagleman and Harris that we will find the most productive path: men who are eager to use science while demonstrating a capacity to consider ideas from other areas of human experience and systems of thought."
Irreligion is the absence, indifference to, rejection of, or hostility towards religion. According to the Pew Research Center's 2012 global study of 230 countries and territories, 16% of the world's population is not affiliated with a religion, while 84% are affiliated.
Negative atheism, also called weak atheism and soft atheism, is any type of atheism where a person does not believe in the existence of any deities but does not explicitly assert that there are none. Positive atheism, also called strong atheism and hard atheism, is the form of atheism that additionally asserts that no deities exist.
Samuel Benjamin Harris is an author, public intellectual, blogger, and podcast host primarily known for his criticism of religion. His academic background is in philosophy and cognitive neuroscience. His work touches on a wide range of topics, including rationality, religion, ethics, free will, neuroscience, meditation, philosophy of mind, politics, terrorism, and artificial intelligence. He is described as one of the atheistic "Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse", along with Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett.
The Atheism Tapes is a 2004 BBC television documentary series presented by Jonathan Miller. The material that makes up the series was originally filmed in 2003 for another, more general series, Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief, but was too lengthy for inclusion. Instead, the BBC agreed to create The Atheism Tapes as a supplementary series of six programmes, each consisting of an extended interview with one contributor.
Criticism of atheism is criticism of the concepts, validity, or impact of atheism, including associated political and social implications. Criticisms include positions based on the history of science, findings in the natural sciences, theistic apologetic arguments, arguments pertaining to ethics and morality, the effects of atheism on the individual, or the assumptions that underpin atheism.
The God Delusion is a 2006 book by English biologist Richard Dawkins, a professorial fellow at New College, Oxford and former holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.
Letter to a Christian Nation is a book by Sam Harris, written in response to feedback he received following the publication of his first book The End of Faith. The book is written in the form of an open letter to a Christian in the United States. Harris states that his aim is "to demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms." The book was released in September 2006. In October it entered the New York Times Best Seller list at number seven.
Some movements or sects within traditionally monotheistic or polytheistic religions recognize that it is possible to practice religious faith, spirituality and adherence to tenets without a belief in deities. People with what would be considered religious or spiritual belief in a supernatural controlling power are defined by some as adherents to a religion; the argument that atheism is a religion has been described as a contradiction in terms.
Discrimination against atheists, both at present and historically, includes persecution of and discrimination against people identified as atheists. Discrimination against atheists may also comprise negative attitudes, prejudice, hostility, hatred, fear, or intolerance towards atheists and atheism. Because atheism can be defined in various ways, those discriminated against or persecuted on the grounds of being atheists might not have been considered atheists in a different time or place. 13 Muslim countries officially punish atheism or apostasy by death, while "the overwhelming majority" of the 192 United Nation member countries "at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy".
Implicit atheism and explicit atheism are types of atheism. In George H. Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God, "implicit atheism" is defined as "the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it", while "explicit atheism" is "the absence of theistic belief due to a conscious rejection of it". Explicit atheists have considered the idea of deities and have rejected belief that any exist. Implicit atheists, though they do not themselves maintain a belief in a god or gods, have not rejected the notion or have not considered it further.
Christian atheism is a form of cultural Christianity and ethics system drawing its beliefs and practices from Jesus' life and teachings as recorded in the New Testament Gospels and other sources, whilst rejecting supernatural claims of Christianity.
Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.
Matthew Wade Dillahunty is an American atheist activist. He was the president of the Atheist Community of Austin from 2006 to 2013. He has hosted the Austin-based webcast and cable-access television show The Atheist Experience since 2005, and formerly hosted the live Internet radio show Non-Prophets Radio. He is also the founder of and a contributor to the counter-apologetics encyclopedia Iron Chariots and its subsidiary sites.
Agnostic atheism is a philosophical position that encompasses both atheism and agnosticism. Agnostic atheists are atheistic because they do not hold a belief in the existence of any deity and agnostic because they claim that the existence of a deity is either unknowable in principle or currently unknown in fact.
New Atheism is a term coined in 2006 by the journalist Gary Wolf to describe the positions promoted by some atheists of the twenty-first century. This modern-day atheism is advanced by a group of thinkers and writers who advocate the view that superstition, religion and irrationalism should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever their influence arises in government, education, and politics. According to Richard Ostling, Bertrand Russell, in his 1927 essay Why I Am Not a Christian, put forward similar positions as those espoused by the New Atheists, suggesting that there are no substantive differences between traditional atheism and New Atheism.