It came up in our corner of the table at the Central Oregon Atheists meeting that our Scientific-empiricists and Atheists group needs some organization if they are ever going to be anything other than a self-created outcast splinter group. One of the quick, easy and obvious observations was that this group needs a friendly greeting gesture so we may warmly recognize one another. It should be easily done and a natural gesture, but one that communicates what we are about: Living in obedience to the constraints placed upon us by the natural world we find ourselves embedded within.
After thrashing about for a minute our little subgroup came up with a gesture that seemed to satisfy our criterion. It is the hand brought briefly over the eye, similar to when one is naturally saying hello in the old style tipping of the hat, but in our case with a slight difference. The hand is curved and slightly open, like holding a telescope or binoculars. It is similar to a standard military salute but with the thumb held down and around the eye and relaxed. For only a moment the eye is looking through the open C shape at the other person. After that momentary salute gesture, the hand is brought slowly forward a little and then back down to the waist.
The symbolism of the gesture is that we empiricists are searching for and looking carefully at the reality that is here to be seen. We want to observe what exists and we avoid making overly optimistic projective speculations about what might exist but can never be observed or proven either to exist or not to exist. We choose to not integrate into our perceptions false assumptions based on untestable beliefs. We do not accept beliefs that are not founded in the testable natural world. Instead we want our perceptions to be based on reproducible proofs of the way natural things work. The atheists among us upon not seeing any direct proof that any gods exist choose to believe that none exist.
If a belief, for or against gods existence, works for some individual people we encounter, we accept that belief as a truth that they alone find valid. But for us personally we ask for reproducible and testable proof for the reasons for their belief before we can believe it ourselves. If that proof is not forthcoming upon completing some reasonable test, then we hold back our belief in their observations which led to their belief. If their belief gives them comfort in life situations, we can accept it as a valid proof that the belief works for them, but our belief is limited to their assertion that it gives them comfort, and no more. It offers nothing for us. We realize that their easier life, based on this belief, is paid for with a price of not reacting appropriately to some obvious messages that the world is offering to them and to us. They are choosing not to see all that is available to be seen.
The believers in god and the atheists too are willingly putting artificial constraints upon their own lives and it works for them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For example, a person writing sonnets has some very tight constraints placed upon their thinking, but the end effect is to force the poet to make very careful decisions on what to place within these constraints, and some of humanity’s most valued lessons are constrained within these very tight bonds. Shakespeare’s Sonnets contain considerable wisdom never expressed better in more open-ended formats. If the artificial constraint works for some believer in what to objective observers is un-testable, it may still be useful. For an empiricist it would seem more reasonable to withhold belief in the un-testable until absolutely all reasonable avenues of action had been pursued to their very end.
Sometimes in a difficult situation where people are compelled by circumstance to make a great and dangerous action, they may be able to perform that action with greater likelihood of a successful outcome if they make a prayer to an invisible, unknowable and unverified god. I choose to explore testable reality to the very limit, so I haven’t gotten to the prayers in extremis yet.
This is an outline of the what the Scientific-empiricists and Atheists tend to believe and this newly created salute is a way for them to greet each other and it means:
Empiricists and atheists of the world I welcome and salute you in your quest for clarity.