Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Interpersonal attraction.

-Interpersonal Attraction-

Interpersonal attraction is the attraction between people which leads to friendships and romantic relationships. In a colloquial sense, interpersonal attraction is related to how much we like, love, dislike, or hate someone. Interpersonal attraction can be thought of as a force acting between two people tending to draw them together, and resisting their separation. According to a personality psychologists' view, interpersonal attraction is a person's qualities that tend to attract by appealing to another person's desires.

When measuring interpersonal attraction, one must refer to the qualities of the attracted as well as the qualities of the attractor to achieve predictive accuracy. The study of interpersonal attraction is a major area of study in social psychology. They suggest that to determine attraction, personality and situation must be taken into account. Repulsion is also a factor in the process of interpersonal attraction, one's conception of "attraction" to another can vary from extreme attraction to extreme repulsion.

Many factors leading to interpersonal attraction have been studied. The most frequently studied are:

Physical attractiveness
Reciprocal liking

Monday, June 25, 2007

Misconceptions and logical fallacies pertaining to randomness.

Popular perceptions of randomness are frequently wrong, based on logical fallacies. The following is an attempt to identify the source of such fallacies and correct the logical errors.

The Gambler's Fallacy.

The gambler's fallacy is a formal fallacy. It is the incorrect belief that the likelihood of a random event can be affected by or predicted from other, independent events.

The gambler's fallacy gets its name from the fact that, where the random event is the throw of a dice or the spin of a roulette wheel, gamblers will risk money on their belief in "a run of luck" or a mistaken understanding of "the law of averages". It often arises because a similarity between random processes is mistakenly interpreted as a predictive relationship between them. (For instance, two fair dice are similar in that they each have the same chances of yielding each number - but they are independent in that they do not actually influence one another.)

A more subtle version of the fallacy is that an "interesting" (non-random looking) outcome is "unlikely" (eg that a sequence of "1,2,3,4,5,6" in a lottery result is less likely than any other individual outcome). Even apart from the debate about what constitutes an "interesting" result, this can be seen as a version of the gambler's fallacy because it is saying that a random event is less likely to occur if the result, taken in conjunction with recent events, will produce an "interesting" pattern.

The gambler's fallacy can be illustrated by considering the repeated toss of a coin. With a fair coin the chances of getting heads are exactly 0.5 (one in two). The chances of it coming up heads twice in a row are 0.5×0.5=0.25 (one in four). The probability of three heads in a row is 0.5×0.5×0.5= 0.125 (one in eight) and so on.

Now suppose that we have just tossed four heads in a row. A believer in the gambler's fallacy might say, "If the next coin flipped were to come up heads, it would generate a run of five successive heads. The probability of a run of five successive heads is (1 / 2)5 = 1 / 32; therefore, the next coin flipped only has a 1 in 32 chance of coming up heads."

This is the fallacious step in the argument. If the coin is fair, then by definition the probability of tails must always be 0.5, never more or less, and the probability of heads must always be 0.5, never less (or more). While a run of five heads is only 1 in 32 (0.03125), it is 1 in 32 before the coin is first tossed. After the first four tosses the results are no longer unknown, so they do not count. The probability of five consecutive heads is the same as four successive heads followed by one tails. Tails is no more likely. In fact, the calculation of the 1 in 32 probability relied on the assumption that heads and tails are equally likely at every step. Each of the two possible outcomes has equal probability no matter how many times the coin has been flipped previously and no matter what the result. Reasoning that it is more likely that the next toss will be a tail than a head due to the past tosses is the fallacy. The fallacy is the idea that a run of luck in the past somehow influences the odds of a bet in the future. This kind of logic would only work, if we had to guess all the tosses' results 'before' they are carried out. Let's say we are gambling on a HHHHH result, that is likely to constitute the significantly lesser chance to succeed.

Here are some other examples:

What is the probability of flipping 21 heads in a row, with a fair coin? (Answer: 1 in 2,097,152 = approximately 0.000000477.) What is the probability of doing it, given that you have already flipped 20 heads in a row? (Answer: 0.5.)

Are you more likely to win the lottery jackpot by choosing the same numbers every time or by choosing different numbers every time? (Answer: Either strategy is equally likely to win.)

Are you more or less likely to win the lottery jackpot by picking the numbers which won last week, or picking numbers at random? (Answer: Either strategy is equally likely to win.)
(This does not mean that all possible choices of numbers within a given lottery are equally good.

While the odds of winning may be the same regardless of which numbers are chosen, the expected payout is not, because of the possibility of having to share that jackpot with other players. A rational gambler might attempt to predict other players' choices and then deliberately avoid these numbers.)

A number is "due"

This argument says that "since all numbers will eventually appear in a random selection, those that have not come up yet are 'due' and thus more likely to come up soon". This logic is only correct if applied to a system where numbers that come up are removed from the system, such as when playing cards are drawn and not returned to the deck. It's true, for example, that once a jack is removed from the deck, the next draw is less likely to be a jack and more likely to be some other card. However, if the jack is returned to the deck, and the deck is thoroughly reshuffled, there is an equal chance of drawing a jack or any other card the next time. The same truth applies to any other case where objects are selected independently and nothing is removed from the system after each event, such as a die roll, coin toss or most lottery number selection schemes. A way to look at it is to note that random processes such as throwing coins don't have memory, making it impossible for past outcomes to affect the present and future.

A number is "cursed"

This argument is almost the reverse of the above, and says that numbers which have come up less often in the past will continue to come up less often in the future. A similar "number is 'blessed'" argument might be made saying that numbers which have come up more often in the past are likely to do so in the future. This logic is only valid if the roll is somehow biased and results don't have equal probabilities — for example, with weighted dice. If we know for certain that the roll is fair, then previous events have no influence over future events.

Note that in nature, unexpected or uncertain events rarely occur with perfectly equal frequencies, so learning which events are likely to have higher probability by observing outcomes makes sense. What is fallacious is to apply this logic to systems which are specially designed so that all outcomes are equally likely — such as dice, roulette wheels, and so on.

Randomness and how it is associated with free will.(Theological Issue)

The word random is used to express lack of order, purpose, cause, or predictability in non-scientific parlance. A random process is a repeating process whose outcomes follow no describable deterministic pattern, but follow a probability distribution.

The term randomness is often used in statistics to signify well defined statistical properties, such as lack of bias or correlation.

Randomness has an important place in science, philosophy, and religion.

Randomness and how it is associated with free will.(Theological Issue)

Randomness has been associated closely with the notion of free will in a number of ways. If a person has free will (as defined by incompatibilists), then his actions will be unpredictable by other people and will contain an element of irreducible indeterminacy. By religious or supernatural conceptions of incompatibilist free will, such human actions may be the only source of randomness in the universe. (According to the naturalistic conception, by contrast, incompatibilist free will arises from pre-existing indeterminacy in physical laws and is not necessarily a unique feature of humans. According to the compatibilist conception, there is no randomness and humans are merely too complex to be easily predicted).

Some theologians have attempted to resolve the apparent contradiction between an omniscient deity, or a first cause, and free will using randomness. Discordians have a strong belief in randomness and unpredictability. Buddhist philosophy states that any event is the result of previous events (karma) and as such there is no such thing as a random event nor a 'first' event.
Martin Luther, the forefather of Protestantism, believed that there was nothing random based on his understanding of the Bible. As an outcome of his understanding of randomness he strongly felt that free will was limited to low level decision making by humans. Therefore, when someone sins against another, decision making is only limited to how one responds preferably through forgiveness and loving actions. He believed based on Biblical scripture that humans cannot will themselves, faith, salvation, sanctification, or other gifts from God. Additionally, the best people could do according to his understanding was not sin but they fall short and free will cannot achieve this objective. Thus, in his view absolute free will and unbounded randomness are severely limited to the point that behaviors may even be patterned or ordered and not random. This is a point emphasized by the field of behavioral psychology.

Further inspection into the origins of Judeo/Christian religion indicates one view that there is a very strict understanding of predestination excluding any possibility of random events. At the time of Christ the Qumran, a tribe outside of Jerusalem by the Dead Sea, had scrolls that documented their very strict deterministic worldview. Elements of this worldview are found in modern Christianity. For example, the King James and NIV Bible tell humans that God knew the believers before the foundations of time, ECC 3 is about God's perfect timing, and Daniel, Ezkiel, and Revelation tell humans that the end state is already determined. Moreover, the Judeo\Christian Bible indicates that there is a purpose to everything which is found in ECC 3 also.

These notions and more in Christianity often lend to a highly deterministic worldview and that the concept of random events is not possible. Especially, if purpose is part of this universe then randomness, by definition, is not possible. This is also a foundation for Intelligent Design which is counter to Evolution that remarks the natural emerges based on random selection.

Donald Knuth, a Stanford computer scientist and Christian commentator, remarks that he finds pseudo-random numbers useful and applies them with purpose. He then extends this thought to God who may use randomness with purpose to allow free will to certain degrees. Knuth believes that God is interested in peoples decisions and limited free will allows a certain degree of decision making. Knuth, based on his understanding of quantum computing and entanglement, comments that God exerts dynamic control over the world without violating any laws of physics suggesting that what appears to be random to humans may not, in fact, be so random.

C.S. Lewis, a 20th century Christian philosopher, discussed free will at length. On the matter of human will, Lewis wrote: "God willed the free will of men and angels in spite of His knowledge that it could lead in some cases to sin and thence to suffering: i.e., He thought freedom worth creating even at that price." In his radio broadcast Lewis indicated that God "gave [humans] free will. He gave them free will because a world of mere automata could never love…" Lewis, believing in free will, had an indirect belief in randomness by setting up a dependency of love on free will.

Matt Ridley, a zoology doctorate and science writer, writes how humans, a paradoxical creature, can be simultaneously free-willed and motivated by instinct and culture. Ridley suggests that experience and genes have interplay. In his writings he explores DNA as a pattern makers template, not as a blueprint for life, and points to causes of free will as consequences to genetic outcomes. Ridley, in his musings, suggests that the evolutionary force he thinks shapes the contents of our genes is the Genome Organizing Device, or GOD. In Ridley's mind GOD is the pattern maker. Thus, Ridley literally defies natural selection indicating that sources of randomness include God and human decision making.

However, when we acknowledged that an Omniscient God exist, I would be right in concluding that God would indeed know our every moves and thoughts, even before it comes to our own understanding or interpretation of our very actions. The causes and reasons would be know to God beforehand. If this is indeed true, then it would be perfectly logical to conclude that free will does not exist. God knows everything ----God knows our thoughts, our deeds(the *how* and *why* we do things), knows to a degree of absolute certainty on our decisions or our reactions in every single possible scenario---- There is no free will.

We could say that if God does not literally interfere with our decisions then our free will still stands. However, I disagree with that statement. When you have an absolute certainty in predicting another individual's actions and thoughts, to you...he is no different from a robot that is already programmed. However, as long as he does not know that you are able to predict his actions and thoughts to a degree of absolute certainty, he would still consider he has free will.

I personally believe that in the eyes of God, everything is destined. But in the eyes of man, destiny is in your own hands.


In philosophy, ontology is the study of being or existence and forms the basic subject matter of metaphysics. It seeks to describe or posit the basic categories and relationships of being or existence to define entities and types of entities within its framework.

Ontology can be said to study conceptions of reality; and, for the sake of distinction, at least to the extent to which its counterpart, epistemology can be represented as being a search for answers to the questions "What do you know?" and "How do you know it?", ontology can be represented as a search for an answer to the question "What are the knowable things?".

Some philosophers, notably of the Platonic school, contend that all nouns refer to entities. Other philosophers contend that some nouns do not name entities but provide a kind of shorthand way of referring to a collection (of either objects or events). In this latter view, mind, instead of referring to an entity, refers to a collection of mental events experienced by a person; society refers to a collection of persons with some shared interactions, and geometry refers to a collection of a specific kind of intellectual activity.

Any ontology must give an account of which words refer to entities, which do not, why, and what categories result. When one applies this process to nouns such as electrons, energy, contract, happiness, time, truth, causality, and God, ontology becomes fundamental to many branches of philosophy.

Ontology has one basic question: "What is there?" Different philosophers provide different answers to this question.

One common approach is to divide the extant entities into groups called "categories". However, these lists of categories are also quite different from one another. It is in this latter sense that ontology is applied to such fields as theology, information science and artificial intelligence.
Further examples of ontological questions include:

What is existence?

Is existence a property?

What does it mean to say something does not exist?

Are sentences expressing the existence or non-existence of something properly called propositions?

What is a physical object? Can one give an account of what it means to say that a physical object exists?

What constitutes the identity of an object?

When does an object go out of existence, as opposed to merely changing?

What features are the essential, as opposed to merely accidental, attributes of a given object?

What are an object's properties or relations and how are they related to the object itself?

What could it mean to say that non-physical objects (such as a time, souls) exist?

Why are we here? Why does anything exist, rather than nothingness? (Though, according to some, these questions may be more in the realm of cosmology.)


Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the ultimate nature of reality, being, and the world. Metaphysics addresses questions that have existed for as long as the human race - many still with no definitive answer. Examples are:

What is the meaning of life?
What is the nature of reality?
What is mankind's place in the universe?
Are colors objective or subjective?
Does the world exist outside the mind?
What is the nature of objects, events, places?

A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into what types of things there are in the world and what relations these things bear to one another. The metaphysician also attempts to clarify the notions by which people understand the world, including existence, objecthood, property, space, time, causality, and possibility.

More recently, the term "metaphysics" has also been used more loosely to refer to "subjects that are beyond the physical world". A "metaphysical bookstore", for instance, is not one that sells books on ontology, but rather one that sells books on spirits, faith healing, crystal power, occultism, and other such topics.

Before the development of modern science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as "natural philosophy"; the term "science" itself meant "knowledge". The Scientific Revolution, however, made natural philosophy an empirical and experimental activity unlike the rest of philosophy, and by the end of the eighteenth century it had begun to be called "science" in order to distinguish it from philosophy. Metaphysics therefore became the philosophical enquiry into subjects beyond the physical world. Natural philosophy and science may still be considered topics of metaphysics, if the definition of "metaphysics" includes empirical explanations.



Ethics "moral philosophy", a major branch of philosophy, is the study of values and customs of a person or group. It covers the analysis and employment of concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, and responsibility. It is divided into three primary areas: meta-ethics (the study of the concept of ethics), normative ethics (the study of how to determine ethical values), and applied ethics (the study of the use of ethical values).

Meta- ethics:
There are two main strands of thought, "non-realism" and "realism," that attempt to explain what ethical values and claims are actually about.

One strand is commonly termed 'non-realism', because it suggests moral values are creations, dependent on people's feelings and goals regarding themselves and others (emotivism or prescriptivism) or on their belief systems (cultural or individual relativism). Despite the name 'non-realist', such theories may see reality as important in shaping the human choice of ethical values. This could occur indirectly by, for example, the evolutionary or developmental shaping of human psychology, or directly through, for example, people assessing and debating the likely consequences of their actions.

Another group of meta-ethical theories, called 'realism', by contrast, hold that moral value is somehow an intrinsic property of the world and that ethical principles are simply discovered or intuited. Under this view, ethical values held by people can at best reflect an independent truth by which their validity must be judged. These theories may be derived from theology or naturalism.

Normative ethics:
Normative ethics bridges the gap between meta-ethics and applied ethics. It is the attempt to arrive at general moral standards that tell us how to judge right from wrong, or good from bad, and how to live moral lives. This may involve articulating the character or good habits that we should acquire, the duties that we should follow, or the consequences of our behaviour on ourselves and others. There are three main approaches to normative ethics.

Normative ethicists who follow the first approach are often called virtue ethicists, and articulate the various virtues or good habits that should be acquired. Aristotle is a pioneer virtue ethicist.

Normative ethicists who follow the second approach are often called deontological ethicists. Immanuel Kant set out a large framework for a deontological normative ethical theory.
Normative ethicists who follow the third approach are often called consequentialists or (specifically in regard to the theory of the greatest good for the greatest number) utilitarians; John Stuart Mill set out a large framework for a utilitarian normative ethics.

Applied ethics:
Bernard Crick in 1982 offered a socially-centred view, that politics was the only applied ethics, that it was how cases were really resolved, and that "political virtues" were in fact necessary in all matters where human morality and interests were destined to clash.

The lines of distinction between meta-ethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics are often blurry. For example, the issue of abortion is an applied ethical topic since it involves a specific type of controversial behavior. But it also depends on more general normative principles, such as the right of self-rule and the right to life, which are litmus tests for determining the morality of that procedure. The issue also rests on metaethical issues such as, "where do rights come from?" and "what kind of beings have rights?"

Another concept which blurs ethics is moral luck. A drunk driver may safely reach home without injuring anyone, or he might accidentally kill a child who runs out into the street while he is driving home. The action of driving while drunk is usually seen as equally wrong in each case, but its dependence on chance affects the degree to which the driver is held responsible.

Determinism, Empiricism, Epistemology.


Determinism is the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition and behavior, decision and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. Determinism may also be defined as the thesis that there is at any instant exactly one physically possible future.


In philosophy generally, empiricism is a theory of knowledge emphasizing the role of experience, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, while discounting the notion of innate ideas.

In the philosophy of science, empiricism is a theory of knowledge which emphasizes those aspects of scientific knowledge that are closely related to experience, especially as formed through deliberate experimental arrangements. It is a fundamental requirement of scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation. Hence, science is considered to be methodologically empirical in nature.

The term "empiricism" has a dual etymology. It derives from a more specific classical Greek and Roman usage of empiric, referring to a physician whose skill derives from practical experience as opposed to instruction in theory.


Epistemology or theory of knowledge is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature, methods, limitations, and validity of knowledge and belief.

Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief, and justification. It also deals with the means of production of knowledge, as well as skepticism about different knowledge claims. In other words, epistemology primarily addresses the following questions:
"What is knowledge?", "How is knowledge acquired?", and "What do people know?".

Sometimes, when people say that they believe in something, what they mean is that they predict that it will prove to be useful or successful in some sense — perhaps someone might "believe in" his or her favorite football team. This is not the kind of belief usually addressed within epistemology. The kind that is dealt with, as such, is where "to believe something" simply means any cognitive content held as true — e.g., to believe that the sky is blue is to think that the proposition, "The sky is blue," is true.

Knowledge implies belief. Consider the statement, "I know P, but I don't believe that P is true." This statement is contradictory. To know P is, among other things, to believe that P is true.

If someone believes something, he or she thinks that it is true, but he or she may be mistaken. This is not the case with knowledge. For example, suppose that Jeff thinks that a particular bridge is safe, and attempts to cross it; unfortunately, the bridge collapses under his weight. We might say that Jeff believed that the bridge was safe, but that his belief was mistaken. It would not be accurate to say that he knew that the bridge was safe, because plainly it was not. For something to count as knowledge, it must actually be true.

Aesthetics, Agnosticism, Atheism.


Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy, which is the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste. Aesthetics is closely associated with the philosophy of art.


Agnosticism means "unknowable," and is the philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims—particularly theological claims regarding metaphysics, afterlife or the existence of God, god(s), deities, or even ultimate reality—is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently unknowable due to the nature of subjective experience.

Agnostics claim either that it is not possible to have absolute or certain knowledge of God or gods; or, alternatively, that while individual certainty may be possible, they personally have no knowledge. Agnosticism in both cases involves some form of skepticism.

Demographic research services normally list agnostics in the same category as atheists and non-religious people, although this can be misleading depending on the number of agnostic theists who identify themselves first as agnostics and second as followers of a particular religion.

Enlightenment philosopher David Hume proved that meaningful statements about the universe are always qualified by some degree of doubt. We fallible human beings cannot obtain absolute certainty except in trivial cases where a statement is true by definition (as in, "all bachelors are unmarried" or "all triangles have three sides"). All rational statements that assert a factual claim about the universe that begin "I believe that ...." are simply shorthand for, "Based on my knowledge, understanding, and interpretation of the prevailing evidence, I tentatively believe that...." For instance, when I say, "I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy," I'm not asserting an absolute truth but a tentative belief based on my interpretation of the assembled evidence. Even though I'll set my alarm clock tonight before retiring because "I believe the sun will rise tomorrow," even that belief is tentative, tempered by a small but finite degree of doubt (the sun might explode; the earth might be shattered in collision with a rogue asteroid or I might die and the sun will never rise for me).

In that light, what sets apart agnosticism from the general skepticism that permeates modern Western philosophy? First, the nature of god is the crux of the issue, not whether god merely exists. So the nature and attributes of god are of foremost concern, not whether he's merely "out there."

Agnosticism maintains that the nature and attributes of god are beyond the grasp of man's finite and limited mind; those divine attributes transcend human comprehension. The concept of God is just too big a subject to wrap our minds around. Humans might apply terms such as those found in the Catholic Encyclopedia that attempt to characterize god, terms such as "infinitely perfect spiritual substance," "omnipotent," "eternal," "incomprehensible," "infinite in intellect and will and in every perfection" but, the agnostic would assert, these terms only underscore the inadequacy of our mental equipment to understand so vast, ephemeral and elusive a concept.

Although some agnostics do not believe in god and are therefore, by definition, also atheists, agnosticism is not a different word for atheism. An agnostic may believe devoutly in god. In fact, many mainstream believers in the West embrace an agnostic creed. As noted above, for instance, Roman Catholic dogma about the nature of God contains many strictures of agnosticism. An agnostic who believes in God despairs of ever fully comprehending what it is he believes in. But some believing agnostics assert that that very absurdity strengthens their belief rather than weakens it.

Bertrand Russell's pamphlet, Why I Am Not a Christian, based on a speech delivered in 1927 and later included in a book of the same title, is considered a classic statement of agnosticism. The essay briefly lays out Russell’s objections to some of the arguments for the existence of God before discussing his moral objections to Christian teachings. He then calls upon his readers to "stand on their own two feet and look fair and square at the world," with a "fearless attitude and a free intelligence."

In 1939, Russell gave a lecture on The existence and nature of God, in which he characterized himself as an agnostic. He said:
The existence and nature of God is a subject of which I can discuss only half. If one arrives at a negative conclusion concerning the first part of the question, the second part of the question does not arise; and my position, as you may have gathered, is a negative one on this matter.

However, later in the same lecture, discussing modern non-anthropomorphic concepts of God, Russell states:
That sort of God is, I think, not one that can actually be disproved, as I think the omnipotent and benevolent creator can.

In Russell's 1947 pamphlet, Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic? (subtitled A Plea For Tolerance In The Face Of New Dogmas), he ruminates on the problem of what to call himself:
As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God.

On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

In his 1953 essay, What Is An Agnostic? Russell states:
An agnostic thinks it impossible to know the truth in matters such as God and the future life with which Christianity and other religions are concerned. Or, if not impossible, at least impossible at the present time.

However, later in the essay, Russell says:
I think that if I heard a voice from the sky predicting all that was going to happen to me during the next twenty-four hours, including events that would have seemed highly improbable, and if all these events then produced to happen, I might perhaps be convinced at least of the existence of some superhuman intelligence.

Note that he didn't say "supreme" or "supernatural" intelligence, as these terms are metaphysically loaded.


Atheism, as a philosophical view, is the position that either affirms the nonexistence of gods or rejects theism. When defined more broadly, atheism is the absence of belief in deities, alternatively called nontheism. Although atheists are commonly assumed to be irreligious, some religions, such as Buddhism, have been characterized as atheistic.

Many self-described atheists are skepticel of all supernatural beings and cite a lack of empirical evidence for the existence of deities. Others argue for atheism on philosophical, social or historical grounds. Although many self-described atheists tend toward secular philosophies such as humanism and naturalism, there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere.

The term atheism originated as a pejorative epithet applied to any person or belief in conflict with established religion. With the spread of freethought, scientific skepticism, and criticism of religion, the term began to gather a more specific meaning and was sometimes used as a self-description by atheists.

The claim that atheism requires faith or unproven assumptions is a common argument leveled against atheists of all stripes. In this form of argument, critics of atheism typically employ the term "faith" in the sense often employed by atheists themselves, meaning a "blind" or unwarranted belief. Faith, often taken to mean, "religious faith", does not inherently involve religion; i.e having faith in the colour of the sky, or the word of a weather-reporter is not religious.

At times, this argument consists of laying the burden of proof on atheism, or in the case of agnostics and weak atheists, laying it on both strong atheism and theism. However, laying the burden of proof on atheism may be difficult because it is impossible to prove a negative. While it might be theoretically possible to one day find reasonably persuasive evidence of the existence of a deity, it is impossible to find evidence of any thing's nonexistence. As such, arguments for strong atheism consist primarily of arguments against theism, which is in keeping with claims that atheism in general is only the lack of a belief rather than a belief itself. Some strong atheists argue that, since they see the burden of proof as being upon theism, they are under no obligation to offer arguments that seek to actively disprove theism. Instead, strong atheism is a default position, like disbelief in Santa Claus, that they feel ought to be held unless and until that burden of proof is shouldered. However, weak atheists and agnostics feel that neither theism nor strong atheism are a proper default position to be taken and hence labelling both theism's and strong atheism's calls for proof to be argumentum ad ignoratiam.

One atheistic response is to emphasize that (weak) atheism is a rejection or lack of belief, not a belief in itself. This argument is often summarized by reference to Don Hirschberg's famous saying, "calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color." Another atheistic response to this argument is to state that the word "faith" in this context, as asserted with respect to theist "belief" verses atheist "belief," means something very different in the two contexts. Faith can mean 'complete confidence in a person or plan, etc.' Faith can also mean 'Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence'. When a theist speaks of his faith, it is argued, he refers to the latter definitions. When he wishes to assert that "atheists have faith, too", the only definition that fits is the first, but his argument implies the latter definitions, nonetheless.

Some people have, in response to this argument, drawn the analogy of Russell's teapot.

Russell's teapot, sometimes called the Celestial Teapot, was an analogy first coined by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), intended to refute the idea that the burden of proof lies upon the sceptic to disprove unfalsifiable claims of religions. In an article entitled "Is There a God?", commissioned (but never published) by Illustrated magazine in 1952, Russell said the following:

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.


Axiology, is the study of value or quality. It is often thought to include ethics and aesthetics—philosophical fields that depend crucially on notions of value—and sometimes it is held to lay the groundwork for these fields, and thus to be similar to value theory and meta-ethics. The term was used in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but in recent decades, value theory has tended to replace it in discussions of the nature of value or goodness in general. One area in which research continues to be pursued is so-called formal axiology, or the attempt to lay out principles regarding value with mathematical rigor.

The term is also used sometimes in economics.