Saturday, September 28, 2013

No evidence?? Really??

A redated post.

On Debunking Christianity Loftus was questioning my claim that there is a boatload of evidence for theism

Exapologist is right of course. I fired off those comments on my blog and then pasted them to the other blog, out of sheer irritation with the "no evidence claim."

In my view, evidence for hypothesis H exists if there is something that is more likely to exist given H than not-h. That is the long and the short of it. There are numerous features of human experience that seem more likely to exist if God exists than if God does not exist. Even if they have possible atheistic explanations, these facts seem to me to make theism more plausible than otherewise. To say that there is NO evidence for theism just means that EVERYTHING in the world is at least as likely given atheism as given theism.

I would not be inclined to say "There is no evidence for theism." and I would not want to say "there is no evidence for atheism." If I were on a website where everyone was implying that atheists were a bunch of idiots and that there is no evidence whatsoever that God does not exist, I could just as truthfully reply that there is a boatload of evidence for atheism. All told, I think the scale points toward theism myself, but not so strongly that I would want to be defending irrationaltiy charges against atheists. (As you may know, I've gotten into some exchanges with people who think that here are really no atheists).

I threw a bunch of stuff out because I thought the discussion up to that point was one-sided and even somewhat ad hominem. I an convinced that a new brand of atheist apologetics is brewing which is doing considerable harm to the quality of debate between our two sides. `

34 comments:

Mark K. Sprengel said...

I went through some of that and much seemed typical, ie extreme skepticism inconsistently applied. Dismissing the historical data as hearsay being one example. Lack of detailed response to the actual issues regarding the difficulty of naturalism accounting for rationality and saying proof of God existing would be God making our ability to believe in God as unshakeable as our belief that we exist. The Who made God? retort being extremely laughable, as if a proper answer has never been given to that. Saying the virgin birth couldnt occur because that never happens in the natural world. Well duh, it's not a normal natural event, but God acting within nature for a definite and unique purpose.

As bad as that was, I've got even less dealing with points raised at my blog with an (ir)rationals groupie.

Victor Reppert said...

I did forget one thing in this post, and that is to point the finger at Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris for dragging the level of discussion on these matters down. Where is J. L. Mackie when you need him?

exapologist said...

I don't see -- I can't see -- how some theists and non-theists can be so "zero-concession" about evidence. Why can't we be honest? Life is too short for this sort of crap. For my part, I want all the help I can get in the search for truth, whether the cooperation and collaboration comes from theists or non-theists.

A message to my non-theistic buddies with full sincerity and respect: prima facie, the universe is a contingent being; prima facie, the fundamental constants are fine-tuned so as to permit the emergence of life; prima facie, consciousness is not reducible to any standard account of the physical. Taken together, they can legitimately used to offer decent support to the hypothesis of theism. Maybe you could add the Moreland/Reppert argument from reason -- I don't know enough about the relevant literature to pretend to know. Against this backdrop, it makes sense to talk about the principle of credulity and religious experience. This isn't shabby inductive or abductive support for some form of theism.

A message to my theistic buddies, with full sincerity and respect: prima facie, the quantity, variety, duration, intensity, and distribution of suffering is unjustified; prima facie, the diverse religions are incompatible with one another; prima facie, it's pretty ambiguous whether or not at least one god exists, and what such a god or gods are like. Taken together, this isn't shabby inductive or abductive support for some sort of non-theistic picture of the universe.

Starting from here, admitting to each other our worries about our one's own position, as well as the strenghts of our friendly interlocutor's position, let's work together to get closer to the truth: no enemies; only collaborators in the exciting search for truth.

exapologist

JD Walters said...

exapologist,

That was a very impressive, concise summary of what is at stake and what kinds of evidence both sides can bring to bear on the case. Admirable.

Mark K. Sprengel said...

Victor,

What's your view of William Lane Craig as a philosopher?

Victor Reppert said...

I know Bill, and I use two of his debates in my introductory philosophy classes. He does have the ability to study a discipline outside his own narrow philosophical interests and have a grasp on what's going on. (Contrast that with that guy who got to #4 on the New York Times best seller list.) His re-development of the Kalam Cosmological Argument stands as an impressive achievement.

At the same time he and I have some differences in philosophical style, and some philosophical differences with him. He's no Alvin Plantinga, but then, no one but Plantinga is Plantinga.

Ilíon said...

Victor Reppert said: I would not be inclined to say "There is no evidence for theism." and I would not want to say "there is no evidence for atheism."
Why would you not want to say "there is no evidence for atheism?"

Merely as a matter of 'evidence' -- that is, disregarding for a moment the content of the question, disregarding for a moment that this is the most important/basic question we can ask, for all the other questions we can ask follow from the answer we give to the question "Does God exist?" -- how could there possibly be 'evidence' *for* a negation? Especially, how can there be 'evidence' for a negation in the manner in which John Loftus of the "Debunking Christianity" blog is using the word (as though there exists any sort of 'evidence' which "speaks for itself")?

To illustrate what I'm getting at, let's change the question from "Is there a God?" to "Does So-and-So have cancer?" Now, we can subject So-and-So to a barrage of tests to attempt to answer the question. But, at best (since, of course, we want the answer to this particular question to be "No.") we can say: "We have found (as of yet) no evidence that So-and-So has cancer" However, unless our knowledge is effectively infinite -- that is, unless we *know* that we know all logically possible ways to test the question -- we cannot categorically state: "We have evidence that So-and-So *does not* have cancer."

What we *can* do is reason (i.e. make arguments, which John Loftus apparently considers to be an invalid source of knowledge) to the tentative conclusion that it is unlikely that So-and-So has cancer.

Or, were the results of the tests different, what we can do is reason that as the evidence is inconsistent with the proposition "So-and-So *does not* have cancer" and is, in fact, consistent with the proposition "So-and-So has cancer," then the negation has been falsified (and the positive verified).

Ilíon said...

exapologist said: "I don't see -- I can't see -- how some theists and non-theists can be so "zero-concession" about evidence. Why can't we be honest? Life is too short for this sort of crap. For my part, I want all the help I can get in the search for truth, whether the cooperation and collaboration comes from theists or non-theists."
Is it really so difficult to grasp that some persons fail to reason reasonably? Shoot, many persons fail (or refuse) to reason resonably about trivial questions and this particular question is far from trivial.

To the question "Is there a God?" there is only one possible answer: either the answer is "Yes," or it is "No;" but it is not "Both 'yes' and 'no'" and it is not "Neither 'yes' nor 'no.'" Further, the question is not merely "far from trivial," but is rather the First Question: all other questions we can ask (and thus all other answers we can give) follow from the the answer we give to the question: "Is there a God?"

As for myself -- I am not a 'theist,' I am a Christian (I'll get to this distinction, shortly) -- if I happen to have what you will consider an attitude of "'zero-concession' about evidence," it may well be because I insist upon reasoning reasonably and so far, in my admittedly limited experience, I haven't found 'atheists,' or 'non-theists' if you prefer, to be so committed. What I mean is, there is sound reason to support the truth of the proposition "There is a God," but in my experience, 'non-theists' either cannot or will not address the reasoning, and, in fact (again, this is my experience; I do not claim that *all* 'non-theists' do this) they invariably resort to un-reason and even anti-reason to "argue" for the denial of the proposition.

One does not reasonably "make concessions" to un-reason, no more that one can reason with un-reason.

I take it you're a 'non-theist;' perhaps you'll be unique in my experience. I certainly hope so.

"A message to my non-theistic buddies with full sincerity and respect: prima facie, the universe is a contingent being; prima facie, the fundamental constants are fine-tuned so as to permit the emergence of life; prima facie, consciousness is not reducible to any standard account of the physical. Taken together, they can legitimately used to offer decent support to the hypothesis of theism. Maybe you could add the Moreland/Reppert argument from reason -- I don't know enough about the relevant literature to pretend to know. Against this backdrop, it makes sense to talk about the principle of credulity and religious experience. This isn't shabby inductive or abductive support for some form of theism."
Now, about my distaste for the term 'theism;' it has to do with the fact that most "theisms" have far more in common with 'atheism' than with Biblical (i.e. Judeo-Christian) 'theism.' You (including the Christians reading this) find that quite a shocking statement, don't you? I dare say have no idea what I'm getting at.

The question "Is there a God?" isn't *merely* a question about theology -- and the fact that you understood that statement exactly as I meant you to understand it is indicative of the issue I'm trying to get at.

Rather, the question "Is there a God?" is the most fundamental question about the nature of reality. As I mentioned above, all other questions we can ask follow from, are determined by, the answer we give to this question. Thus, if we accept the incorrect answer to that most basic question, our understanding of reality is going to become more and more discrepent with respect to actual reality.

Another way one might phrase the question is: "Does reality 'begin' with Mind; or does reality 'begin' with not-mind/non-mind?" Another way one might phrase the question is: "Did a Mind (or Minds) create the Cosmos; or did minds 'arise' from matter?"

Christianity claims that a Mind created the Cosmos; 'atheism' claims that minds "arose" from un-created matter (I'm using 'create' in the sense of "intentionally cause"). But the thing is, most "theisms" agree with 'atheism' that minds "arose" from un-created matter. I am not aware (which doesn't mean there isn't at least one) of any 'pagan' "theism" which agrees with Christianity (i.e. disagrees with 'atheism') on this most basic question.

NOW, turning to the things you enumerate as being support for "some form of theism," I would say: indeed. A non-exhaustive list of "theisms" which fail the test are: the Babylonian cultic systems, the Egyptian cultic systems, the Greco-Roman cultic systems, the Norse-Germanic cultic systems, the Hindu cultic systems, the Buddhist cultic systems (even aside from the fact of officially being 'atheistic'); pretty much most of the religions important in the history of civilization have far more in common with 'atheism' than with Christianity.

To lump all these "theisms" into the same category as Christianity is indicative of lacking an understanding of what one is talking about.

"A message to my theistic buddies, with full sincerity and respect: prima facie, the quantity, variety, duration, intensity, and distribution of suffering is unjustified; prima facie, the diverse religions are incompatible with one another; prima facie, it's pretty ambiguous whether or not at least one god exists, and what such a god or gods are like. Taken together, this isn't shabby inductive or abductive support for some sort of non-theistic picture of the universe."
You're conflating several unlike things (and also engaging in a touch of really sloppy reasoning), and they ... none of them ... have a single thing to do with answering the first question.

"... prima facie, it's pretty ambiguous whether or not at least one god exists ..."
It's not really so ambiguous.

Consider one of the statements you listed as supporting "some form of theism:" "... prima facie, consciousness is not reducible to any standard account of the physical ..." Consider that not only does this fact support "some form of theism," but that it is also diametrically opposed to any form of 'a-theism.'

If 'atheism' is the truth about reality, then the mind, the self, *must* be reducible to matter. To put it more strongly, if 'atheism' is the truth about reality, then *you* do not and cannot exist. But you *do* exist. Therefore, you know that 'atheism' is not the truth about reality. Therefore, you know that the answer to the question "Is there a God?" is "Yes."

To make a bumper-sticker of it: "*You* are the proof that God exists."

JD Walters said...

I don't really place too much stock in the 'irreducibility of consciousness' argument. I DO think that consciousness is more to be expected in a theistic world than a non-theist one, but as far as I'm concerned that theistic world could be thoroughly materialistic as far as any 'souls' or 'minds' are concerned and still be God's Creation.

Francois Tremblay said...

The universe is not a being, you silly Christian, it is a set of existents. Go back to high school.

exapologist said...

To be fair, that really depends on which theory of material composition is true. A universalist (or "allist"), would say that any two or more objects is itself is an object. A nihilist (or "noneist") would say that no two objects compose an object -- there are only simples. Everyone else falls somewhere in between. So if one is convinced that a universalist position, or some relevant intermediate position, is true, then they could legitimately take the universe to be an object.

Perhaps you have an argument for noneism -- or some position short of allism that entails that the universe isn't an object?

onthej said...

Agnosticism seems to be the course of logical reaoning as the debate over theism and non-theism finds ever more evasive circles to imagine. Fact is, there is a way to tell the difference between what one believes to be true and what is actually true. Pontificating stipulations based on evidence or the lack of such results in the mind itself looping through emotional egotistical reactions to the processes of experience and expectations. In other words, everyone has an opinion, so each person has the right to argue any point of view that is wished. But, consider, dividing two points in two, and those two points in two, infinately. Obviously there is an aspect of existence that is impossible to humanly understand through scientific research or any amount of thinking or discussion. This means the very self awareness we have has a source beyond our grasp to comprehend. Thus, we must live by faith in any method we have discovered which alleviates our fears of the unknown. Humble appreciation of those around us, and their right to exist with our help, instead of our disdain in deeming another's life less worthy of a higher purpose than perhaps our own leads naturally to a meeting with God Himself.

BenYachov said...

>message to my theistic buddies, with full sincerity and respect: prima facie, the quantity, variety, duration, intensity, and distribution of suffering is unjustified; prima facie,

That is prima facie an objection to a Theistic Personalist post enlightenment semi-Paley view of God who is concieved of as a moral agent.

It has no meaning as an objection to a Classic Theist who believes God cannot coherently be conceived of as a moral agent thus it is absurd to think of God as something or someone that has to justify Himself & thus justify suffering he is not obligated to stop.

Please learn the lesson that there isn't a one size fits all omni-polemic for Theism.

Just as I can't treat every Atheist Idealist or a Platonic Atheist as if s/he where a reductionist materialist.

Crude said...

prima facie, the quantity, variety, duration, intensity, and distribution of suffering is unjustified; prima facie,

Prima facie, this is nonsense.

Walter said...

It has no meaning as an objection to a Classic Theist who believes God cannot coherently be conceived of as a moral agent thus it is absurd to think of God as something or someone that has to justify Himself & thus justify suffering he is not obligated to stop.

I agree that any deity who created both us and our system of morality would not be bound by those same rules. The reality of human suffering and evil does not rule out the existence of God at all, but it does cast doubt on certain conceptions of God as some anthropomorphic father figure who cries when you cry.

Natural evil fuels my conception of God as remote and impersonal(like Aristotle's Unmoved Mover).

BenYachov said...

>but it does cast doubt on certain conceptions of God as some anthropomorphic father figure who cries when you cry.

Well God isn't thank God literally like that He is infinitely above that. However our experience of him would be of an anthropomorphic father figure since that is our mode of existence & the only way we might experience Him.

>Natural evil fuels my conception of God as remote and impersonal(like Aristotle's Unmoved Mover).

Aristotle's God isn't remote since he is causing all things to be all the time. Paley's stupid "god" is the remote boner who makes the Cosmos then walks away and in theory could commit Divine Suicide & His stupid universe will go on without the upper class twit.

God isn't impersonal He is Transpersonal. The mere act of creation is an act of love since it is the willing of a good.

jdhuey said...

Let's use Victor's criterion for whether or not something is evidence by seeing if it moves the needle on the probability meter:

...prima facie, the universe is a contingent being;

If this item were false (i.e. the universe is not contingent on anything else) then it would certainly move the needle in the negative direction (say to the left).
However, assuming that the universe actually is contingent on something does not move the needle wrt the existence of any type of deity. All that the proposition that the universe is contingent proves is that there is just the absence of negative evidence. All the contingency of the universe implies is that there was some process that caused universe as we see it to come about - per se it says absolutely nothing about what that process was. This fact, if even if true, is not evidence that moves the needle. You really have to bring a lot more information to the party before you can call 'contingency' positive evidence.
For example, in a murder trial, the fact that there is a dead body is not, in and of itself, evidence that the defendant is guilty (for example, the body may have died from natural causes, and the defendant was picked up at random.) The prosecutor has to bring a lot more evidence to the court in order to get a legitimate conviction. On the other hand, if nobody has died, then that is evidence that the defendant is Not Guilty.

prima facie, the fundamental constants are fine-tuned so as to permit the emergence of life;

When you create something as an explanation for the existence of an effect, the mere existence of that effect can not then be used as evidence for the existence of that something. That is just circular. The Greek god Apollo was created to explain how the sun moved across the sky, setting in the West and rising in the East. The fact that the Sun rises and sets is simply not evidence that Apollo exists.
To argue that something called a deity is the cause of the fine tuning of the physical constants is certainly a legitimate conjecture but it is totally invalid to then say that the existence of fine tuning is valid evidence for the existence of something called a deity. Sorry, but the needle doesn't move.

prima facie, consciousness is not reducible to any standard account of the physical.

This is, of course, just the argument from ignorance and is just simply invalid. No needle moving here.
(As an aside, there was a recent development where neurosciencetists have developed a clinical measurement of the brain to determine if it is conscious or not. Now, this doesn't go to explaining just how the brain generates consciousness but that the measurement of consciousness is based strictly on physical measurements is pretty convincing evidence that consciousness is, also, strictly physical. )

Taken together, they can legitimately used to offer decent support to the hypothesis of theism.

Sorry, but there is nothing here that rises to the level of evidence at all. Whatever, your a priori assessment of the probability that the theist hypothesis is true was, it shouldn't change an iota based on these items.

Maybe you could add the Moreland/Reppert argument from reason -- I don't know enough about the relevant literature to pretend to know.

I, also, have to put this one in abeyance until further study.

jdhuey said...

prima facie, the quantity, variety, duration, intensity, and distribution of suffering is unjustified;

I think that this is valid negative evidence (the needle clicks to the left), only for a subset of the suffering seen on Earth and only against a subset of all the possible deities that might exist (the tri-omni deities). For all of the Human caused suffering even the tri-omni gods get a pass because maybe, just maybe, human free will trumps omni-benevolence.

prima facie, the diverse religions are incompatible with one another;

Yep. Just what one would expect if religion is just the creation of human cultures. And, just what one wouldn't expect if there was just one source of all religious experience. (Definite click to the left.)
Part II

prima facie, it's pretty ambiguous whether or not at least one god exists, and what such a god or gods are like. Taken together, this isn't shabby inductive or abductive support for some sort of non-theistic picture of the universe.

Can't disagree at all.

RD Miksa said...

Dear jdhuey,

I don’t mean to be rude, but at the same time, let me be quite forward: I believe that you are confusing a number of issues here—such as mixing simple facts with arguments based on those facts—and furthermore that your conclusions are just incorrect. Let me explain.

First, consider the “Likelihood / Expectation” Principle that Dr. V. Reppert endorses (and which is essentially accepted universally) in order to determine what does or does not count as evidence for a certain hypothesis: evidence for hypothesis H exists if there is something that is more likely to exist given H than not-H. Or, to phrase this principle slightly differently: If a fact/observation is more expected on Hypothesis 1 over Hypothesis 2, then that fact/observation counts as evidence for Hypothesis 1 over Hypothesis 2. And indeed, this principle is obvious: if a criminal’s fingerprints are found on the murder weapon, then this fact counts as evidence for the hypothesis that the criminal is the murderer rather than the hypothesis that he is not, for such a fact would be more expected on the hypothesis that the criminal is the murderer rather than that he is not.

So, in light of this principle, now consider these two hypotheses:

Hypothesis C: Something like Christian theism is true, thus meaning (and note that this is abbreviated) that an immaterial, conscious, intelligent, and greatest conceivable being exists who created and constantly sustains the universe and who wants intelligent rational creations to exist and come to know of His existence through the created order.

Hypothesis N: Atheistic naturalism is true, thus meaning that the natural/physical world is all that exists and that nothing like God, gods, souls, angels, etc. exist. The universe is all that ever was and all that ever will be, and it is not dependent on anything for its existence. Furthermore, the universe neither cares about life or humans beings, nor does the universe know about the existence of life or humans beings.

Continued...

RD Miksa said...

Continued...

Now, with these two hypotheses, consider the various facts that you claimed offered no evidence for theism:

Fact 1: The universe is a contingent being.

As defined by the Philosophy Dictionary, a contingent being is: “Something that does not exist in and of itself but depends for its existence upon some other being.”

Now, in light of the “Likelihood Principle” does this fact provide evidence for Hypothesis C over Hypothesis N? Yes. Why? Because given what being a contingent being means, a universe that is a contingent being would be more expected/likely on a hypothesis that posits that the universe was both created and is constantly sustained in existence—meaning that it is dependent on its existence on something else—then on a hypothesis that the universe independently has always been and will always be without being dependent on anything (Hypothesis N). So the contingency of the universe does indeed provide positive evidence for something like Christian theism. The amount of evidence it provides is debatable, but it provides positive evidence nonetheless.


Fact 2: The fundamental constants are fine-tuned so as to permit the emergence of life.

Now, in light of the “Likelihood Principle” does this fact provide evidence for Hypothesis C over Hypothesis N? Yes. Why? Because given that Hypothesis C posits that God wants rational agents to exist and come to know of His existence, then the fact that the universe is fine-tuned for life would be more expected/likely on such a hypothesis than on a hypothesis that posits both that life is utterly unimportant to the universe and that the universe does not care whether life emerges or not, thus meaning that fine-tuning would not be expected or likely on Hypothesis N. So the fine-tuning of the universe does indeed provide positive evidence for something like Christian theism. The amount of evidence it provides is debatable, but again it provides positive evidence nonetheless.


Fact 3: Consciousness is not reducible to any standard account of the physical/natural.

Now, in light of the “Likelihood Principle” does this fact provide evidence for Hypothesis C over Hypothesis N? Yes. Why? Because given that Hypothesis C posits that a conscious, immaterial, and intelligent agent exists who created all else that exists, then the fact that consciousness is not reducible to the physical/natural more expected/likely on such a hypothesis (given that on this hypothesis a non-physical consciousness already exists and ultimately created all other conscious things) than on a hypothesis that posits that everything, including consciousness, should ultimately be reducible to the physical/natural, thus meaning that the fact that consciousness is not reducible to the physical/natural would not be expected or likely on Hypothesis N. So again, the fact that consciousness is not reducible to the physical/natural does indeed provide positive evidence for something like Christian theism. The amount of evidence it provides is debatable, but again it provides positive evidence nonetheless.

Thus, these facts do provide some positive evidence for the hypothesis that something like Christian theism while simultaneously being positive evidence that the hypothesis of atheistic naturalism is false.

Now, whether these facts also provide evidence for other hypotheses is also possible, but the fact remains that they do provide some evidence for Christian theism (and against atheistic naturalism) regardless of whether they might also provide evidence for some other hypothesis.

Take care,

RD Miksa

ingx24 said...

This is, of course, just the argument from ignorance and is just simply invalid. No needle moving here.
(As an aside, there was a recent development where neurosciencetists have developed a clinical measurement of the brain to determine if it is conscious or not. Now, this doesn't go to explaining just how the brain generates consciousness but that the measurement of consciousness is based strictly on physical measurements is pretty convincing evidence that consciousness is, also, strictly physical. )


Serious conceptual confusions here. I recommend reading this to get an idea of the issues at hand. Correlation does not imply identity or reducibility, and there are *very* good reasons to think that a reduction of consciousness to the physical is logically impossible in principle.

im-skeptical said...

RD,

You present a false dichotomy.

Your hypothesis N certainly does not represent the range of naturalist possibilities, nor even what most naturalists would consider to be the most likely.

But in light of the hypothesis as you stated it, fact 1 would not be true at all, and you would have no basis for claiming that fact 1 is true. In fact, whether hypothesis N is true or not, You have no basis for saying fact 1 is true.

Fact 2 is nothing more than theistic conjecture. One could only accept fact 2 as true if he presupposed theism.

Fact 3 is more woo-laden conjecture. You need to look at the real evidence. You and ingx24 should expand your reading beyond Chalmers and see what's happening in cognitive science.

So these facts, if they were true, would indeed support the theistic hypothesis, but they aren't and they don't.

ingx24 said...

Fact 3 is more woo-laden conjecture. You need to look at the real evidence. You and ingx24 should expand your reading beyond Chalmers and see what's happening in cognitive science.

How many times do I have to ram it through your thick skull that cognitive science is irrelevant to the issue at hand? You can give abstract descriptions of how a cognitive *function* could be performed all day if you want; you'll never get even a millimeter closer to a reductive explanation of how a physical system could actually experience thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. There is a LOGICAL GAP that cannot be crossed even in principle. Nor will you get any closer to explaining how a physical state could *literally* be "about" something in the way that our thoughts are; the closest you'll get to actual "about"-ness in cognitive science is a kind of abstraction or useful fiction that ends up being shorthand for a more detailed explanation in terms of basic physics.

The discussion at hand goes beyond cognitive science; the empirical evidence is irrelevant to it.

Papalinton said...

"The discussion at hand goes beyond cognitive science; the empirical evidence is irrelevant to it."

Straight into the wondrous world of woo-land, scientifically-uninformed philosophy at its pristine. Philosophy must be grounded in evidence, and the most substantive evidence we are privy too is scientific knowledge. Philosophy that does not account for such knowledge is little more than ... theology.

'The rise of the new science [the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17thC] progressively undermines not only the ancient geocentric conception of the cosmos, but, with it, the entire set of presuppositions that had served to constrain and guide philosophical inquiry. The dramatic success of the new science in explaining the natural world, in accounting for a wide variety of phenomena by appeal to a relatively small number of elegant mathematical formulae, promotes philosophy (in the broad sense of the time, which includes natural science) from a handmaiden of theology, constrained by its purposes and methods, to an independent force with the power and authority to challenge the old and construct the new, in the realms both of theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles. See HERE My bolding.

Not heeding this observation simply renders philosophy as little than hot air.

If there is anything to be said about having a "thick skull" it certainly cannot be directed at Im-skeptical. Period.

Zach said...

Someone actually said:
"empirical evidence is irrelevant"

lmao, you know this because you have gazed upon your folksy, scienficially illiterate concepts, compared them (whelp, Martha, brains and thoughts, they just seem different), failed to find a plausible bridge, and declared it logically impossible.

so you have jumped from intuitions and concepts expressly developed by consulting scientifically uninformed thoughts, into a claim about what is LOGICALLY possible.Do you even know what logic is?

you have no clue, you are a Chalmers parrot...you don't even know what you are committing to! lmao.

"empirical evidence is irrelevant"

That should be your letterhead.

Get off your knees, boy, stop quoting from the Book of Chalmers, and read some real philosophy. For that matter, even he (or should I say He) would not say empirical evidence is irrelevant.

B. Prokop said...

I don't often agree with Ing, but I'll stick up for him here, because I think he's on to something. There are times when empirical evidence is very much irrelevant. I learn a great deal about humanity and what it means to exist in this universe by listening to the music of, for instance, Howard Hanson. But ask me to put what it is that I've learned into words, and I'd have to respond with more music. For some Truths, even language itself is, if not irrelevant, then at the least, inappropriate.

I do believe that Ing expressed himself somewhat inelegantly. Probably what he meant to write (mind reading here, so I may be wrong) is that conscious thoughts are inherently unmeasurable. You can track the physical processes within the brain that may accompany such thought, but those processes are not themselves in any way "consubstantial" with said thoughts.

Possibly a bad analogy here, but when I look at a rock, I am not actually seeing the rock, but rather the light that has reflected off of the rock onto my retina. In like manner, when we observe brain functions, we are not observing consciousness, but instead we are measuring activities extraneous (albeit related) to consciousness.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Zach:


You said:

“lmao, you know this because you have gazed upon your folksy, scienficially illiterate concepts, compared them (whelp, Martha, brains and thoughts, they just seem different), failed to find a plausible bridge, and declared it logically impossible.”

I hope that the only thing that you are’ laughing your ass off at’ is yourself and your poor straw-man interpretation of what ingx24 has done. Indeed, for given that what ingx24 (and others)—on his own blog and elsewhere—has actually done is examine certain facts that all scientific practice presupposes as true and requires to be true for its functioning (such as intentionality), and then has formulated actual arguments (deductive and otherwise) to show why these facts are impossible on naturalism/materialism, then it is obvious that your above interpretation of what ingx24 is doing is just a straw-man. So your caricature is just that: a fallacious straw-man caricature. And as such, it is indeed laughable.


You said:

“…so you have jumped from intuitions and concepts expressly developed by consulting scientifically uninformed thoughts, into a claim about what is LOGICALLY possible.”

Actually, as mentioned above, he has observed certain facts that all science presupposes and requires for its functioning, and then formulated actual arguments based on those facts. Stop with the straw-manning!


You said:

“Do you even know what logic is?”

Do you? And I ask this quite seriously, because the amount of fallacies that you have committed in one simple commentary post seems to indicate that your grasp of logic and proper argumentation is weak at best.


You said:

“Get off your knees, boy…”

Stop being a rude and cowardly buffoon.


You said:

“…and read some real philosophy.”

Please follow your own advice. Oh, and as an aside, talk about engaging in the “No True Scotsman” Fallacy. If the philosophy a person is reading does not agree with your presuppositions, it is not “real” philosophy, but if it does, then that’s “real” philosophy. Funny how that works.

Take care,

RD Miksa

ingx24 said...

Zach,

You're an idiot. I referenced the Chalmers paper because it does a good job of explaining why cognitive science cannot establish materialism. It was a shortcut: I didn't feel like typing out a full-length explanation *yet again*, so I just linked to the best one I was aware of.

That said, the logical gap - between (a) explaining the performance of abstract cognitive functions (which could in principle be done by *any* sufficiently sophisticated mechanism) and (b) demonstrating that actual experienced thoughts and emotions are nothing more than physical brain events - is plainly obvious to anyone willing to see it. You yourself have emphasized this in the past: there is a difference between intrinsic and relational properties, and there is a logical gap between them that cannot be closed. Cognitive science works only with relations between mental states; it has nothing to say about their intrinsic, experienced quality. And neuroscience is no better off: no matter how much detail you have about the state of someone's brain, you will never be able to infer, without any prior knowledge of correlations, what that person is thinking or feeling. These are *conceptual* truths, and are not affected by empirical data. You wouldn't accuse someone of making an argument from ignorance if they claimed that empirical science can't show that 2+2=5; the discussion at hand is no different.

im-skeptical said...

Anybody who doesn't agree with insgx24 is an idiot.

No dogma - just logic.

1: ingx24 knows it all.
2: If you don't agree, you're an idiot.
3: The scientific community doesn't agree with ingx24.
4: Therefore, scientists are a bunch of idiots.

QED

B. Prokop said...

Skep,

Trying to keep personalities out of this, I have a question for you:

Are there any instances where empirical evidence is simply "beside the point" (in the sense of not addressing the issue at hand, or of being irrelevant to an understanding)?

SPOILER ALERT: I think there are, such as genuine matters of opinion - for instance, my list of 10 favorite movies as opposed to yours.

im-skeptical said...

"Are there any instances where empirical evidence is simply "beside the point""?

Sure. Matters of faith are probably the best example.

Let's talk about what I'll call 'degrees of knowledge', with respect to a given assertion. Don't get hung up on the terms - this is just for purposes of this discussion.

Certainty - you are certain that the assertion is true.

Belief - you have less that perfect certainty about the assertion, but you have objective reason (evidence or logic) to believe that it's true.

Faith - you hold that something is true without objective reason (may be based on authority or intuition).

Opinion - the matter is not subject to truth assessment - a statement of quality or feeling.

Clearly, matters of opinion need not be based on evidence. Faith-based assertions are not based on evidence by (my) definition. Matters of certainty may not exist at all, unless you can be certain that you know things for certain.

That leaves matters of belief. They should be based on evidence and/or logic. But I would caution you that at the bottom of every logical inference are assumptions, which may or may not be valid.

Mathematics has at its core a set of axioms that are universally accepted as being valid. Thus, a statement like "2 + 2 + 4" is something that you may believe, based on logic derived from a solid foundation.

Thomistic theism has at its core a set of basic assumptions that are not universally accepted, but are in fact a matter of faith. If we leave out, for the moment, any judgement about whether those are actually true, we must conclude that Thomism is a matter of faith, not belief, according to the way I defined it here.

The AFR has at its core the assumption that rationality can't arise from purely material objects. This is a matter of faith, not based on evidence (and in fact contradictory to the evidence). Thus, if you say you believe that mind must be immaterial based on the AFR, you are actually expressing a matter of faith. The logic may be perfectly valid, but the underlying assumption is faith.

To say that evidence is "beside the point" in trying to understand how the mind works is dogmatic drivel.

B. Prokop said...

"Faith - you hold that something is true without objective reason (may be based on authority or intuition)."

Interesting post. I'm glad you included the caveat that these were your own personal definitions, because the one I quoted is certainly not mine. I don't see Faith as having anything to do with specific "beliefs" or even "certainties", but rather regard it as an attitude. Faith is the quality of mind that does not reject (or accept) something, simply because you wish it to be otherwise.

I acquire my Catholic beliefs through a variety of means: reason, authority, evidence, examination of alternatives, history, and yes, Divine Grace. I come to none of these beliefs by Faith. Rather, Faith is what enables me to not decide to abandon Christianity because it might be convenient or fashionable, or because by doing so I could live more selfishly, or through laziness, or to avoid some persecution (which thankfully, I have never personally experienced). Faith tells me to trust my reason. Faith empowers me to not be swept away by the latest fad, but to "keep my cool" and examine new information objectively and in context.

So I would very much disagree with the characterization of Faith being not objective - I regard it as quite the reverse. It is an upholder of objectivity.

Case in point: for years I was spitting-bullets furious with the Church over the abuse scandals. Had I lacked Faith, these could easily caused me to abandon Catholicism. But thanks to it, I was able to eventually realize that the very reason I was so appalled by the inexcusable acts was because of my acceptance of Catholic doctrine. It was my Faith that allowed me in the first place to see these crimes for what they were, and to hate the damage they had done - firstly and primarily to individuals, and collaterally to institutions. Ironically, a lack of Faith would have ultimately trivialized the revelations and lessened the outrage felt.

im-skeptical said...

My use of the term 'faith' was strictly in in the sense of a category of knowledge not based on objective reason. Of course, the term has different meanings.

B. Prokop said...

Right you are!