Saturday, January 09, 2016

Natural theology and God of the Gaps

A redated post.

Is there any theistic argument that can't be accused of being a god-of-the-gaps argument? Is this an all-purpose reply to all natural theology? If so, then it seems that someone who subscribes to these responses would have to say that there couldn't be enough evidence for God's existence--that atheism is unfalsifiable, because anything that might require theistic explanation could be answered by saying that this is just a gap that naturalism hasn't filled quite yet. So if the stars in the sky were to spell out the words "Turn or burn Parsons this means you" (oops I did it again), and Parsons were to turn, he would be guilty of god of the gaps reasoning.

106 comments:

whatthecrap? said...

You are absolutely right Victor. This point really bothers me. I have good a friend who constantly brings up the "god of the gaps" argument (he is a "Bright"). In fact, when you said, "...anything that might require theistic explanation could be answered by saying that this is just a gap that naturalism hasn't filled quite yet." - this is his exact stated belief.

But what I find remarkable is that people who strongly oppose "the god of the gaps" just replace it with "the anything but god...of the gaps." It's a funny sort of cyclical close-mindedness. In other words,

"No matter what happens - I will never consider the possibility that anything could be attributed to God or a god, or anything outside of naturalism."

This is what some might call, "cutting you off at the pass." One line of reasoning is 100% presumed to be false from the start. Meanwhile - the Theist is, of course, open to both possibilities:

A strange phenomenon could either be:
a) A yet unexplained natural event or
b) A possible non-natural or supernatural event.

Naturalism locks a person into possibility "a" without a chance to consider "b".

Now clearly, many theists have rushed to assume God to fill gaps that later better science has revealed to have a natural explanation. These, of course, are the things that the god of the gaps shouters point to as evidence. Past mistakes made by over eager theists hardly proves a point however. But then again - much of the "new atheist" movement is all about the "past failures" of religion and the church.

Just think if the theist argued this way: "All the past failures and mistakes of science means we should just throw it all out." That would be ludicrous.

For atheists "the God of the gaps" trump card has simply replaced what they dislike most about some theist's arguments: The "God" trump card. It's exactly what Chesterton said: "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything."

Anonymous said...

Now clearly, many theists have rushed to assume God to fill gaps that later better science has revealed to have a natural explanation.

How many instances can you think of where scientists have assumed a natural explanation which better theology has revealed to have a supernatural explanation?

SlagleRock said...

Anonymous: Big Bang cosmology comes to mind. Prior to Einstein, scientists argued that nature has always existed and had no beginning. Theologians said it did have a beginning, and since a cause exists independently of its effects, whatever caused nature to exist is, by definition, supernatural. The history of cosmology in the 20th century is largely the history of attempts by scientists to find a loophole to the Big Bang. These scientists often stated explicitly that their motivation was that if the Big Bang is true, it proves that a supernatural cause brought nature into existence. See Robert Jastrow's God and the Astronomers.

Ilíon said...

The mind is "super-natural" ... and so, definitionally, any event caused by a mind has "super-natural" causation.

This is why "scientists" spend so much of their time trying to deny that minds even exist.

Anonymous said...

slaglerock

It was not superior theology that revealed the big bang theory to be probable. It was superior science. Most of the world's religions have proposed different accounts of the origin of the universe. It required science to provide evidence for a specific account.

Ilíon said...

And there (in the reactions of 'anonymous') we have 'a-theological' thinking at its finest.

Anonymous said...

How likely is it that there would actually be evidence of this supposed god?

Ilíon said...

Anonymous,
What do you mean by 'evidence?'

There are several things you *may* mean, but two things you certainly do not mean are reason and logic. I'm making a very negative claim about you -- I want this to be clearly understood. I am claiming that no amount of logical reasoning will ever be acknowledged by you to be evidence: either evidence *for* the existence of God or evidence *against* the denial of the existence of God.

Yes, I'm making a generalization, sight unseen (other than what I assume are three posts by the same anonymous individual), about your attitudes and behaviors -- I am assuming, until shown otherwise, that any differences between the thought processes of you and any other "skeptic" I've ever encountered are too slight to even be noticed. So what?

"So what?" in case you haven't yet encountered this phrase as I (and a few other Christians) use it, is an all-purpose response to any kvetching that folk like you are prone to making about being "judged unjustly," etc. The point of "So what" is to point out the double standard you (plural) seek to employ -- you (plural) want to deny that there exist objective standards of morality and justice, etc; then you (plural) want to whine that somebody done you wrong!


But, getting back to your attempted taunt about 'evidence' ...

Have you even attempted to grapple with the "Argument From Reason" that Mr Reppert presents? Not that it matters, of course, because Mr Reppert is "just doing philosophy" Right? Is that not *your* (singular and plural) all-purpose response?

Mr Reppert tries to reason with you (plural) to bring you to the first acknowledgement: that God exists.

Myself, I'm a bit more ... savage. Rather than try to convince you (plural) to abandon your world-view and adopt ours, I simply destroy your world-view and leave it up to you as to how you will pick up the pieces.

But, of course, I, too, am "just doing philosophy."

In my experience, what you (plural) "skeptics" are demanding is that you be *forced* to accept the reality of God; in effect, you demand of God that he be a psychic and cosmic rapist. You folk do not want to be wooed via sweet reason, you want to be taken, against your wills, by force (how that quite works out logically is a mystery no one will ever fathom).


So. 'Evidence'

In a nut-shell: *You* are the indisputable proof (in contrast to mere 'evidence') that there is a God. If you choose to deny that there exists a God, then you must logically end up denying that you, yourself, exist. But, it is absurd to assert that you, yourself, do not exist; therefore, you know that the denial that God exists is absurd; therefore you know that God exists.

Ilíon said...

[I hope this analogy doesn't fall on its face: I've never actually read any of the relevant literature.]

Christianity is a Jane Austen novel, but "skeptics" reject it as being not worth the read, because it is not a Harlequin "bodice ripper."

John W. Loftus said...

As I said recently when summing up my case against Christianity here: In every case when it comes to the following reasons for adopting my control beliefs the Christian response is pretty much the same. Christians must continually retreat to the position that what they believe is “possible,” or that what they believe is “not impossible.” However, the more that Christians must constantly retreat to what is "possible" rather than to what is “probable” in order to defend their faith, the more their faith is on shaky ground. For this is a tacit admission that instead of the evidence supporting what they believe, they are actually trying to explain the evidence away.

Robert M. Price tells us that for Christian apologists “the controlling presupposition seems to be, ‘If the traditional view cannot be absolutely debunked beyond the shadow of a doubt, if it still might possibly be true, then we are within our rights to continue to believe it.’”

Now let me try to explain how this applies to the god of the gaps reasoning. Many Christians claim that methodological naturalism (MN) has not closed all of the gaps, and if that’s so, they can still believe. According to them so long as there are gaps it hasn’t been shown God doesn’t exist. But the point is that MN has indeed closed numerous gaps because such a method has proven fruitful. Christians must admit that while the MN is indeed fruitful it cannot or should not be used to explain the Biblical miracles or the origin of the universe itself. But when they take this tact they are already admitting the fruitfulness of MN which has had overwhelming success. They have to deny what seems to scientifically literate people what seems undeniable, or the the very minimum, most probable. They must apply a double standard here, for while they accept MN in all other areas of their lives they deny it when it comes to the Bible. Why the double standard?

Other Christian theists faced with the onslaught of science and its method have changed the historic Christian view in which it was believed the gaps are evidence for God's handiwork. Now they are forced into claiming instead that even if the gaps were all closed it wouldn’t undercut their belief since God is behind the structured universe. And while this is true, if God exists, at the same time if all of the gaps are closed there wouldn't be any reason left to believe he does!

So Christian theists either have a double standard, or they have the we can’t beat ‘em join ‘em attitude towards MN. I consider both views to be an admission of the power of MN, and indicative that their only resort is retreating to what’s possible rather than what’s probable.

Cheers.

humwitt said...

Ilion

I was responsible for the first two anonymous posts - too lazy to think up a nickname - but not the third. So at least one of your assumptions was wrong.

I wrote:

It was not superior theology that revealed the big bang theory to be probable. It was superior science. Most of the world's religions have proposed different accounts of the origin of the universe. It required science to provide evidence for a specific account.

You responded that this was

atheological thinking at its finest

Do you mean that some part of what I wrote was not true? If so, which part? Or perhaps it was genuine compliment?

Anonymous said...

'You folk do not want to be wooed via sweet reason, you want to be taken, against your wills, by force..'

You mean that Christians have no forceful arguments?

Anonymous said...

Different Anonymous

I appreciate John’s attempts to show that the Xian is, in modern times perpetually retreating in the face of new scientific discoveries (if I understand him correctly), and as long as God cannot be proven to not exist with an absolute certainty, the Xian will justify her beliefs on that basis.

I do not think it is that desperate. A belief in God coheres with what I believe to be true about the world I live in and science simply cannot tell me whether or not those beliefs are true. For example: Can science tell me if rape is wrong? Can it tell me if playing catch with my son is really good? Can it tell me why I am here? Can it tell me the meaning of existence? Can it tell me why bodies attract one another?

Lewis once said that a story is precisely the sort of thing that you cannot understand until you have heard the whole of it. Trying to discern meaning without some revelation is an utterly hopeless endeavor. The naturalist will beg the question at every turn if he even attempts. To say that life is meaningless begs the question, but saying that it has meaning begs the question. To say that rape is not wrong begs the question, but to say that it is wrong begs the question. If there is objective meaning in life we can never know this by our own efforts. Are we in Act I or Act V?

If one moves from the belief for example in special creation to evolution, it may be argued that a “gap” has been filled. In filling this gap a belief in a God who supposedly creates specially is undermined. But why should my belief that God created the Sun and it revolves around the earth, which sits at the center of the solar system, having been shown false by Copernicus, undermined my belief in God? I don’t recall God telling me that he made the Earth at the center of the solar system. Nor do I recall Him telling me that I must believe that He made man physically special. To be created in the image of God surely does not mean that we look like Him. For those who made that claim didn’t believe that God looked like anything.

had 'nuff said...

John W. Loftus said...

As I said recently when summing up my case against Christianity here: In every case when it comes to the following reasons for adopting my control beliefs the Christian response is pretty much the same. Christians must continually retreat to the position that what they believe is “possible,” or that what they believe is “not impossible.” However, the more that Christians must constantly retreat to what is "possible" rather than to what is “probable” in order to defend their faith, the more their faith is on shaky ground. For this is a tacit admission that instead of the evidence supporting what they believe, they are actually trying to explain the evidence away.

Robert M. Price tells us that for Christian apologists “the controlling presupposition seems to be, ‘If the traditional view cannot be absolutely debunked beyond the shadow of a doubt, if it still might possibly be true, then we are within our rights to continue to believe it.’”

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

There John goes again, stacking the deck and being dishonest. Always the master of the self-excepting fallacy, eh?

For one, he quotes *Price* and not a *Christian* apologist.

Second, if one were to read something like, say, Graham Oppy's Arguing About Gods, then one would note that it is the *atheist* (or, the agnostic) that does what Floftus claims. Time and time again we are met with: "Well, this argument can be rationally doubted, so belief in God doesn't demand rational consent."

In many a atheistic literature we are confronted with the claims that "it is possible that X (morality, meaning, design, etc.,) has a naturalistic explanation, so I need not be forced towards theism."

Indeed, John Loftus has made this claim:

"Even if we need an ultimate moral standard for judging whether we act ethically or not, there is no logical reason why the moral standard might not be found in Judaism, Islam, Liberal Christianity, or even Deism."

See that, there's a *logical possibility* that a ~Christian religion provides the standard. Since no one can show that this is logically beyond doubt, then there's no reason to accept Christianity, even if a form of theism is true.

I, for one, am tired of all these atheists trying to pull fast ones. As if they are so much more intelelctually superior. It is rather quite disingenuous for them to make claims against theists when it is actually them who are guilty of the accusations hurled our way.

properly basic said...

A blogger brought this to my attention and I thought it was funny--->

Bill Watterson, the cartoonist of Calvin and Hobbes, dropped this fine strip:

Calvin: Well, I've decided I do believe in Santa Claus, no matter how preposterous he sounds.

Hobbes: What convinced you?

Calvin: A simple risk analysis. I want presents. Lots of presents. Why risk not getting them over a matter of belief? Heck, I'll believe anything they want.

Hobbes: How cynically enterprising of you.

Calvin: It's the spirit of Christmas.

= )

Ilíon said...

Humwitt: "So at least one of your assumptions was wrong."
Which I clearly identified as such -- based on all the information available to me (but, that being the case, perhaps 'presume' would have been a better word for me to have used than 'assume').

Humwitt: "Or perhaps it was genuine compliment?"
Please don't be telling me that you're one of those folk who just cannot grasp sarcasm: I'd be all but speechless without it.

Humwitt: "Do you mean that some part of what I wrote was not true? If so, which part?"
I mean that *everything* you'd said to that point is utterly irrelevant, which, in one way of looking at these things, is worse than incorrect.

Your thinking, and your first question, and your second response, is a reflection of 'scientism' -- you seem to be operating under the misunderstanding that “Science” = Trvth, that ‘scientific statements’ are ipso facto *true* statements. To put it bluntly (and more than likely, to really put your knickers into a twist): you don't understand the first thing about this "Science" thingie you worship.

Further, you carefully phrased the question so as to make "unanswerable" -- not that it really *is* unanswerable: Slaglerock answered what he (apparently) mistook to be an honestly asked, though perhaps awkwardly phrased, question. But, in fact, the question was carefully phrased to trip-up someone assuming it was honestly asked.

And then, laughably (and, no doubt, a reflection of your scientism), you apparently don't understand that the "Big Bang" hypothesis wasn't accepted by "scientists" on the basis of "better science," but by the fact that the more prominent and influential of the "Steady Staters" finally died off. "Scientists" vehemently opposed and rejected the "Big Bang" hypothesis for a generation (Do you even know that the name of it, "Big Bang," was intended as mockery of the hypothesis and the science supporting it? Do you even care that even now “scientists” would prefer to scrap that hypothesis?).


ps: I don't at all fault you for carefully phrasing your question (we should all do better at carefully phrasing what we think and say); I don't fault you for carefully phrasing it so as to trip-up someone who wasn't carefully attending to what you'd asked. I *do* fault you for asking a dishonest question -- though, of course, in judging the question dishonest, I implicitly assume that even through that gauze of scientism you understood what you were doing.

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "In my experience ... You folk do not want to be wooed via sweet reason, you want to be taken, against your wills, by force ..."

Anonymous: "You mean that Christians have no forceful arguments?"

Come now, you're not really stupid (and even if you were, the rest of us aren't). Everyone can see that you're playing word-games with the word 'force;' it's no doubt an amusing avoidance strategy.

Any argument, not matter how "forceful," can always be denied by simply refusing to admit that the argument is sound and successful ... the denial doesn't have to be logical or even rational, much less intellectually honest.

We are not automatons; we are free agents: we can deny what we see or know to be true; no one can be forced.

Ilíon said...

ProperlyBasic,
Going by that name (and the thumbnail image), I wondered, "WOW! Is that himself, himself?"

But, I suppose not. What would Mr P. be doing in Afghanistan?

But, yes, *all* C&H cartoons were clasics which deserve to be studied for ages.

humwitt said...

Ilion

You appear to prefer exchanging insults to answering questions. Is that the theological mind at work?

Anonymous

Can science tell me if rape is wrong? Can it tell me if playing catch with my son is really good? Can it tell me why I am here? Can it tell me the meaning of existence?

Science cannot answer these questions. But your logic seems to be: science cannot answer this question, therefore God exists - precisely the point of this post.

Science and theology are not the only ways of answering questions. For example, I believe rape is wrong. I don't base this belief on science (you can't derive an ought from an is) but I don't base it on theology either.

Ilíon said...

Humwitt: "You appear to prefer exchanging insults to answering questions. Is that the theological mind at work?"

What a typical 'a-theologist,' "arguing" in typical 'a-theologist' mode. Which is to say, not actually arguing at all -- the idea seems to be to knowingly make a false accusation with the expectation that the other fellow will trip over himself trying to soothe your ruffled feathers.

I don't play that game, dude. While this tactic may have worked for you in the past, it's not gonna work with me.


Humwitt (to one of the Anonymoi): "Science cannot answer these questions. But your logic seems to be: science cannot answer this question, therefore God exists - precisely the point of this post."
[please visualize an overly dramatic rolling of the eyes]

What "Different Anomymous" said is:
"I do not think it [the Christian position] is that desperate [as Mr Loftus wants to suggest]. A belief in God coheres with what I believe to be true about the world I live in and science simply cannot tell me whether or not those beliefs are true. For example: Can science tell me ..."

"Different Anomymous" is making an indirect reference to the "Transcendental Argument." Regardless of Humwitt's misrepresentation (whether intentional or not, one hasn't enough data to know) of what "Different Anomymous" wrote, the logic is not "science cannot answer this question, therefore God exists." Rather, the logic is "These things cannot be adequately and rationally explained if one denies God, but they can be if one affirms God. Therefore and since I cannot but affirm *these* things, then, logically, I must also affirm God."

To put it a slightly different way: I *know* that 'X' has a certain truth-value. By reason, I see/understand that if I affirm 'not-God,' then I not only can no longer rationally ground my knowlege 'X,' but (depending on the content of 'X') I may be logically compelled to affirm 'not-X.' Since I *know* that 'X,' rather than 'not-X,' I therefore *know* that 'God', rather than 'not-God.'


"Science and theology are not the only ways of answering questions."

That's true enough.


"For example, I believe rape is wrong. I don't base this belief on science (you can't derive an ought from an is) but I don't base it on theology either."

1) The point is that you cannot ground this belief in anything more substantial than subjective preferences. Or governmental compulsion. The point is that you, being a God-denier, can never get to *ought*

1a) You don't base it on anything, either; it's just there, hanging from a sky-hook or floating in the aether.

2) 'Science' can't even tell us "is," much less "ought." The strongest 'science' can tell us is "perhaps."

Jim Jordan said...

Mr. Loftus,
What could methodological naturalism tell us about the Big Bang? If time and space did not exist prior to that point, how could it even answer the question?

Your response to "god of the gaps" is merely to insert your own "no god of the gaps" argument. What is the difference?

Ilíon said...

Isn't it interesting that those who insist that there really is a spitting difference between "methodological naturalism" and "philosophical naturalism" are always so vehemently opposed to what we might call "methodological designism," insisting that it is but a badly disguised stalking horse for "philosophical designism?"

Ilíon said...

Jim Jordan: "If time and space did not exist prior to that point ..."

One of the things that comes out of General Relativity is that time isn't real.

Mind you, I'm not arguing either for or against this being the truth. I just pointing out that that's what "science" "says."

If you want to investigate this further, you might try to find a popular-level book about this called: 'A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein' by Palle Yourgrau (I'm not saying this is the only or best treatment; it's what I happened to find in my local library). The author has an earlier book (or monograph) from 1999 which I understand to be far more technical than this book. It's called 'Gödel Meets Einstein: Time Travel in the Gödel Universe.'

From the cover flap of 'A World Without Time':
"It is a widely known but little appreciated fact that Albert Einstein, the twentieth century's greatest physicist, and Kurt Gödel, its greatest logician, were best friends during the last decade and a half of Einstein's life. They walked home together from Princeton's Institure for Advanced Studies every day; they shared ideas about physics, philosophy, politics, and the lost world of German-Austrian science in which they had grown up. What is not widely known is the discovery that grew out of this friendship. In 1949 Gödel published a paper (*) proving that there exist possible worlds described by the theory of relativity in which time, as we ordinarily understand it, does not exist. He went further: if it is absent from those theoretical universes, he showed, time does not exist in our world either. Einstein's great work has not explained time, as most physicusts and philosophers think, but explained it completely away.
.
Einstein recognized Gödel's paper as "an important contribution to the general theory of relativity." Physicists since them have tried without success to find an error in Gödel's physics or a missing element in relativity itself that would rule out world models like Gödel's. Stephen Hawking went so far as to propose an ad hoc modification of the laws of nature -- a "chronology protection conjecture" -- specifically to negate Gödel's contribution to relativity. ...
"

(*) That is, as his contribution to the book: "Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist," dedicated by P.A. Schilpp to Einstein on the occasion of his 70th birthday.

Anonymous said...

Different Anonymous

To Humwitt,

In my post I said, “Trying to discern meaning without some revelation is an utterly hopeless endeavor. The naturalist will beg the question at every turn if he even attempts.”

Could you give me a justification (assuming there is no God) of the claim, “rape is wrong” without begging the question?

Assuming that God does exist, my judgments of value are justified because they are based on objective truths which remain so whether I acknowledge them or not.

Lewis puts it this way in The Abolition of Man, “Those who know the Tao can hold that to call children delightful or old men venerable is not simply to record a psychological fact about our own parental or filial emotions at the moment, but to recognize a quality which demands a certain response from us whether we make it or not. I myself do not enjoy the society of small children: because I speak from within the Tao I recognize this as a defect in myself.”

humwitt said...

Could you give me a justification (assuming there is no God) of the claim, “rape is wrong” without begging the question?

Sure - among other things rape:

rape causes the victim physical and mental pain

forces to the victim to do something without their consent and without the victim having done anything to justify it

risks bringing about an unwanted pregnancy with resulting suffering for the mother and possibly for a future child

What more justification do you need?

Anonymous said...

Different Anonymous

Humwitt,

I didn’t think you would be able to give a justification without begging the question and you haven’t.

1. Why should I believe that mental and physical pain are really BAD?
2. Why is forcing someone to do something without their consent really BAD?
3. Why is suffering BAD?

The justification I need is something that can make the rapist’s actions REALLY WRONG whether I agree with them or not. Morality is not majority rules. Believe it or not there are folks out there who don’t believe that rape is really wrong in any objective way.

All of your answers are predicated on the assumption that human survival is a good thing.
But how can you know that it is? A geocentric view of humanity is not based on knowledge, but rather on conjecture. I as a theist can be open to the fact that there may indeed exist life in the cosmos whose intelligence is as superior to mine as mine is to an ant. But surely you wouldn’t say that it is WRONG for me to wipe out a colony of ants.

Does this cause them pain?
Is it forcing something on them?
Do they suffer?

Somehow you must place more value on the women than you do on the ant. And again there is simply no justification for this. It’s just a matter of opinion.

What if an alien raping a woman amounted to my wiping out a colony of ants?

If you claim that what the alien does in this is WRONG, why is it that my actions against the ants aren’t wrong?

This is why a belief in God makes sense. It is so plainly obvious to you, as plain as the nose on your face, that rape is wrong, and yet you reject the very, no, the only thing that can give your judgment objectivity.

Anonymous said...

If divine command theory is correct, then whether or not it can make certain actions *obectively* wrong, the theory yet entails that nothing is *intrinsically* wrong -- i.e., nothing is right or wrong because of its own nature, but rather because God says it is.

I'm sorry, but that's whacko. And if theism entails that nothing is intrinsically right or wrong, then so much the worse for theism.

properly basic said...

Merry Christmas, to the biggest baddest Doc, Vic Reppert AND the rest of you fine Metaphysicians!

=~B

humwitt said...

I didn’t think you would be able to give a justification without begging the question and you haven’t.

1. Why should I believe that mental and physical pain are really BAD?
2. Why is forcing someone to do something without their consent really BAD?
3. Why is suffering BAD?


This is such an old argument that has been thrashed out a million times over the last four thousand years. Here is one approach:

1) If you don't recognise that suffering (of any kind) is wrong then your moral sensibility is so askew it is not possible to conduct a dialogue with you. It is comparable to someone who is tone deaf or colour blind. How can you explain what tone or colour mean?

2) Introducing a God doesn't help at all. Is the classic problem. Is rape wrong because God says its wrong or does God say its wrong because it is wrong?

But you must be aware of these arguments....

exapologist said...

And a belated Merry Christmas to you, PB -- and to the rest of the fellow bloggers here!

Anonymous said...

Different Anonymous

Humwitt said:

“If you don't recognise that suffering (of any kind) is wrong then your moral sensibility is so askew it is not possible to conduct a dialogue with you.”

The problem is not an inability to recognize suffering as being wrong; the problem is grounding the claim in something that is objective.

1. Suffering cannot be wrong simply because I say that it is.

2. Unless I say that ALL suffering is wrong, I have no way to justify my discriminations. A perfect example of this would be the hunter verses an animal rights activist. There is suffering involve in the killing of a deer (at least sometimes) which is condemned by the animal rights activist and justified by the hunter. While most hunters avoid any suffering possible in the kill, suffering does happen and it doesn’t result in an abandonment of killing deer by the hunter. The animal rights activist on the other hand would assert that the suffering is totally unnecessary. Who is right, the hunter or the animal rights activist and why?

My guess is that you would be ok with my destroying a hornet’s nest (thus killing the hornets) when I see them as a threat. Supposing that there were aliens who have been monitoring us for the last 3,000 years. If they are superior in intelligence to us so as to be compared with our intelligence to the rat, would it be ok for them to use us for experiments, if they viewed us as we view rats? If not, why?

I am assuming that causing a rat to suffer in your view is justified if it will bring about a greater good. I wonder if the rats are ok with it.

“But you must be aware of these arguments…”

The Euthyphro Dilemma is an argument that I am familiar with. It does have a solution in my opinion. Now that doesn’t mean that the solution will eliminate further questions, but it at least gets us into overtime or extra innings. The problem you have (as a naturalist) is the game could never begin, because the rules must always be subjective. You say that, “Introducing a God doesn't help at all.” I completely disagree. God affords us a conversation about objectivity; you on the other hand are hopelessly left with mere subjectivity. I do believe some things are intrinsically wrong and not just because God says that they are wrong. He says that they are wrong, well because there are wrong. God doesn’t and can’t create goodness, just as God doesn’t and can’t create God. God can only be good; He is not free to be bad, just as He is not free to not be God. The problem with this view is that it causes one to wonder why we should render to God worship or reverence for being what He cannot help but be. But anyone who has ever had a baby will recognize that we love them for being what they cannot help but be.

Rayndeon said...

Victor,

There are a number of deductive arguments i.e. the ontological argument (Plantinga's modal version), the argument from contingency (Gale and Pruss in particular), the kalam cosmological argument (without the scientific add-ons), the conceptualist argument, and the moral argument. None of these arguments appeal to "God of the gaps." That doesn't mean that these are good arguments. Indeed, IMO, they are terrible arguments. But, that's a different subject matter.

The only argument that could be offered such a charge, I think, would be the teleological argument.

Now, a few brief comments are in order.

Slaglerock said:

"Prior to Einstein, scientists argued that nature has always existed and had no beginning. Theologians said it did have a beginning, and since a cause exists independently of its effects, whatever caused nature to exist is, by definition, supernatural. The history of cosmology in the 20th century is largely the history of attempts by scientists to find a loophole to the Big Bang. These scientists often stated explicitly that their motivation was that if the Big Bang is true, it proves that a supernatural cause brought nature into existence. See Robert Jastrow's God and the Astronomers."

This is pretty much wrong. As far as I see, naturalists *still* argue that nature always existed. First of all, let's get our cosmology straight. Big Bang cosmology says nothing about whether or not *nature* had a beginning, since BBC addresses the beginning of *this region of spacetime*, which is not necessarily all that there is. And one only finds a beginning under relativistic interpretations of Big Bang cosmology qua the Hawking-Penrose singularity theorems. Of course, everyone knows that general relativity breaks down during the Planck epoch, so we don't really have any real reason to suppose that even *this* region of spacetime definitely began. Furthermore, even supposing that *this region of spacetime* consists of the totality of nature, naturalists would still consistently assert that nature always existed, since there would be not *moments at which nature did not exist.* It would just be that time itself had a beginning, but (obviously enough) did not come into existence, hence, naturalists would still be able to believe that nature always existed and is uncaused. It would simply not have existed for an infinite duration, but a finite one.

And this, of course, is why the Kalam cosmological argument explicitly needs to appeal to *timeless* causation, which is arguably incoherent. But, that's for another time.

Quoth Illion,

"The mind is "super-natural" ... and so, definitionally, any event caused by a mind has "super-natural" causation.

This is why "scientists" spend so much of their time trying to deny that minds even exist."

What would make you suppose that the mind is supernatural? I'm personally not convinced either way, as I'm pretty much agnostic on the very puzzling issue of the philosophy of mind.

"In a nut-shell: *You* are the indisputable proof (in contrast to mere 'evidence') that there is a God. If you choose to deny that there exists a God, then you must logically end up denying that you, yourself, exist. But, it is absurd to assert that you, yourself, do not exist; therefore, you know that the denial that God exists is absurd; therefore you know that God exists."

Um, what? Where do you get the conditional "If S denies that God exists, then S denies that S exists?"

Says had' nuff'

"In many a atheistic literature we are confronted with the claims that "it is possible that X (morality, meaning, design, etc.,) has a naturalistic explanation, so I need not be forced towards theism.""

That seems to be the modus operandi of some atheistic philosophers. But, I don't see most atheistic philosophers moving in that direction. I, as an atheist, am not moving in that direction either. The response to arguments from meaning, fine-tuning, morality, etc is not that they possibly have a naturalistic explanation (although many atheists do point out such possible explanations and perhaps even defend them), but to point out that the data in question does not support theism. For instance, take fine-tuning for instance. The typical response today are of the lines of "There are no probabilities here" "Fine-tuning doesn't provide the probabilities of these constants" "There's no reason to assume a uniform probability distribution" "Renormalizability objections" "Brute facts" etc, etc. It has nothing to do with there being possible naturalistic explanations, but that there is nothing in the data offered that supports theism in the slightest. *That* is the general type of objection offered in most arguments. Namely, that the theist hasn't satisfied their burden: in order for their arguments to work, they need to show a lot more.

Illion continues,

"And then, laughably (and, no doubt, a reflection of your scientism), you apparently don't understand that the "Big Bang" hypothesis wasn't accepted by "scientists" on the basis of "better science," but by the fact that the more prominent and influential of the "Steady Staters" finally died off. "Scientists" vehemently opposed and rejected the "Big Bang" hypothesis for a generation (Do you even know that the name of it, "Big Bang," was intended as mockery of the hypothesis and the science supporting it? Do you even care that even now “scientists” would prefer to scrap that hypothesis?)."

First of all, can we tone down the hubris and the snide remarks? Thanks. First of all, Big Bang cosmology *was* accepted on the basis of better science, and Steady State theory died out *because* of the increasing amount of convincing evidence in favor of BBC. Everyone knows this: there was the cosmic microwave background radiation observations (this was a *big* piece of evidence for Big Bang theory), the convergence of galaxies millions of years into the past, etc. So, I'm puzzled by your comments here.

Secondly, which scientists do you think would wish to scrap Big Bang cosmology?

Says Anon,

"I completely disagree. God affords us a conversation about objectivity; you on the other hand are hopelessly left with mere subjectivity. I do believe some things are intrinsically wrong and not just because God says that they are wrong. He says that they are wrong, well because there are wrong. God doesn’t and can’t create goodness, just as God doesn’t and can’t create God. God can only be good; He is not free to be bad, just as He is not free to not be God."

Anon, I'm puzzled by your comments in this regard. You say that God *does* afford us objective morality, but then you say that this is insofar as that things are wrong *intrinsically*. But, if moral realism is true, things are wrong intrinsically whether or not God exists. The proposition "Rape is morally wrong" would be necessarily true whether or not God existed. Hence, how could the truth of moral realism (as you spelled it out yourself) possibly depend on the existence of God, if things are, as you said, intrinsically good or wrong?

Ilíon said...

Demands Rayndeon (of me): "First of all, can we tone down the hubris and the snide remarks?"

LOL! Listen to you; this is such an amusing trick if one can pull it off!

Are you afraid there is a shortage of the 'hubris' thingie, that you may not get your share? Are you afraid that I'll use up all the snide remarks and there will be none left for you?

If so, I can't completely rule out your fears, limited as I am in my total knowledge. But, I must remark that -- going only by a quick glance at your post, mind you -- it seems to me that you *are* getting your fair-share of both.

Rayndeon said...

@Illion,

"LOL! Listen to you; this is such an amusing trick if one can pull it off!

Are you afraid there is a shortage of the 'hubris' thingie, that you may not get your share? Are you afraid that I'll use up all the snide remarks and there will be none left for you?"

No, I'd just prefer a discussion where we didn't snipe at each other. It's just common courtesy.

"But, I must remark that -- going only by a quick glance at your post, mind you -- it seems to me that you *are* getting your fair-share of both."

Please indicate to me where I have demonstrated hubris or have been snide. I apologize if there is any passage that leads you to believe that I was acting as such, as I did not intend to give such an impression.

Ilíon said...

Humwitt (to "Different Anonymous"): "This is such an old argument that has been thrashed out a million times over the last four thousand years. "

The "thrashing" about is related to the fact that 'atheists' have not and do not and will (in both common senses of the word) not admit the truth of the matter: there *is* an objective morality and it *is* grounded in God.


"Here is one approach:

1) If you don't recognise that suffering (of any kind) is wrong then your moral sensibility is so askew it is not possible to conduct a dialogue with you. It is comparable to someone who is tone deaf or colour blind. How can you explain what tone or colour mean?
"

Surely *this* doesn't go back 4000 years? Personally, I'd be much surprized if it goes back much further than Bertrand Russell. Nevertheless ...

What an amusing vintage this is. A piquant blending of "Why ask why?" (i.e. there is no need to get all thoughty about this!) and "This constant asking after the basis of 'morality' is pointless!" and "This constant asking after the basis of 'morality' is invalid and must stop!" and, prominently, "I'm obviously morally superior (and perhaps more intelligent) than you" ... because, of course, anyone who can even think realizes that we can know the "rightness" or "wrongness" of an act only by the results. And only suffering counts. Oh, and anything else I want to toss into or remove from the mix as the fancy takes me.

There are other hints in the bouquet, but these seem to me the dominent chords.

But for real amusement one cannot top an 'atheist' who admits that his position is that 'morality' is just a word meaning (at best) "personal preference" attempting to decant this heady elixir.


"2) Introducing a God doesn't help at all. Is the classic problem. Is rape wrong because God says its wrong or does God say its wrong because it is wrong?"

As with all paradoxen ;-), the Euthyphro Dilemma/Problem/Paradox arises from a false dilemma.


"But you must be aware of these arguments.... "
???

Ilíon said...

Rayndeon: "No, I'd just prefer a discussion where we didn't snipe at each other. It's just common courtesy."

Oh, I agree completely. It's just that I value other things far higher than I do courtesy; among which are reason, rationality and truth. In my personal experience (and looking at wider history in general), making "nice" the primary value *always* leads to allowing those individuals/groups who are assuredly not "nice" (nor reasonable, nor rational, nor lovers-of-truth) to walk all over oneself and others. I refuse to do this; it is, in fact, an immoral act.

I am horribly sarcastic; I freely admit this. It's a nasty, terrible personal trait, and I'm bad, bad, bad. But there you have it (But which I mean that I am *mostly* satisfied with myself as I am in the context in which I live. I believe I control my sarcasm, properly using it as a tool, rather than the reverse.)

Nevertheless (despite that I am such a terribly defective person), if one pays attention, one may begin to discern a pattern to my sarcasm. I mean, besides that sometimes it is offered purely for the "wicked" humor of a particular remark that has occurred to me ... shoot, sometimes I even say things from *your* perspective, simply because I see the "wicked" humor in it.

It is, in fact, irrationality (*especially* when coupled with the anti-rational attitude "That you disagree with *me* is proof that you are (or your position is) irrational!"), and un-reason, and (apparent or seeming) willful refusal to admit truth that most effectively draws my sarcasm. Don't do these things, and I am likely to be "nice."


Rayndeon: "Please indicate to me where I have demonstrated hubris ...."

You can't see the hubris -- I mean as you are using the term, not as the term really means -- in "calling out" someone else on *anything*?

You are calling me hubristic because I say things like: "This argument you are trying to make is incorrect (i.e. illogical and/or irrational, or factually flawed, etc) ..." or "This claim is factually incorrect ..." and so forth. Yet, this is exactly what you want to do with me ... and using the obvious fact that I am sarcastic as a diversionary tactic.


Rayndeon: "... or have been snide."

Why don't you show, in the first place, where I have been snide? I mock attitides, behaviors, beliefs, claims, etc. None of these things are persons. Once cannot *actually* insult/condescend towards attitides, behaviors, beliefs, claims, etc. One may try to insult or condescend towards a person, but not a thing.

You want to accuse me of snideness and then demand of me to produce an example of you being snide. As I said at the time, I had only quickly glanced at your post, but the overall tone of it seems snide to me (even now that I have read it).

Speaking *at* another person falls within the orbit of snideness, does it not?

Your post is a mixture of: 1) speaking *to* (second-person) another about what he has said; and 2) speaking to the the general reader *about* (third-person) what another has said; and 3) speaking *at* (third-person) other person(s). Now, clearly, speaking *at* another is a subtle variation on 2); more fully, it's an odd combination of 1) and 2) with a dash of condescension to tie it together.

To Mr Reppert, you used 1). Regarding your response to Slaglerock, you used 2), though it sometimes does seem to border on condescention. To me, you used 3). To "Had 'Nuf," you used 3). To me (again), you used 3). To Anon, you used 1). There may even be a pattern to this.

As I said, it's a suble tonal thing. I am more than willing to grant that you have never consciously thought about what it means to speak *at* another, but you do uredastnnd it and its relus, jsut as you udntaenrsd waht you are riadneg at tihs vrey mmneot. Wree I to saepk *at* you, you wluod ieednd and at ocne uerndnastd taht I was ilentiolnanty isutilnng you.


To all and sundry:
It is utterly impossible to *reason* with anyone who refuses to (or, to try to be charitable, does not know how to) abide by the rules of reasoning. When one encounters such a person, one's options are quite limited: 1) ignore that person, 2) "force" that person to think/argue reasonably.

There is, obviously, no way to actually force an unreasonable person to be reasonable. The only tool I can even think of that *might* nudge an unreasonable (yet sane; insane persons are another matter) person back towards reason is to mock the unreason. In a word: sarcasm.

What Raydeon is trying to demand (of me, and of you) is that I/we treat un-reason as though it were reason. Now, of course, it is not *only* 'atheists' who try this trick, but it *is* a very common ploy with them. There is a reason for that, more than likely.



Rayndeon: "... as I did not intend to give such an impression."

I don't doubt that you do not intend to give such an impression. I *also* don't doubt that what you do intend is to employ everyone's natural aversion to interpersonal conflict as a subtle means of tilting the playing field.

I also have no doubt that you cannot see this; nor will see it. I am more than willing to grant you that this intent is "un-conscious" (i.e. we are all accomplished at hiding from ourselves certain things we'd rather not think about). Moreover, I am more than willing to grant you that you have (falsely) learned, in one way or another, that it is actually an affirmation of reason to subtly tilt the playing-field to advantage one side or the other, and that no one has yet informed you otherwise.

All I can do is go by behavior (and the results of that behavior). Since I don't believe that we are automatons, logically I perforce believe that we do what we do because we choose to do it.


Nevertheless, it's like this: *anytime* one tries to reason on a basis of mixed reason and un-reason, the person(s) actually employing the un-reason will "win;" for the person(s) trying to stick to reason have forfeited from the start.

exapologist said...

I'd like to second Rayndeon's points about problems with standard classical and contemporary arguments of natural theology. He does accurately summarize the criticisms in the contemporary philosophy of religion literature (e.g., his remarks on the fine-tuning version of the design argument, on Craig's big bang version of the kalam argument, etc.). Also, I agree with his point about divine command theories of ethics being unable to account for the intrinsic moral rightness and wrongness of various actions (I was the wise-cracking anonymous writer who mentioned this point earlier).

I would be very interested in hearing responses to the criticisms Rayndeon mentions, as I find them persuasive as well.

Anonymous said...

Different Anonymous

“Anon, I'm puzzled by your comments in this regard. You say that God *does* afford us objective morality, but then you say that this is insofar as that things are wrong *intrinsically*. But, if moral realism is true, things are wrong intrinsically whether or not God exists. The proposition "Rape is morally wrong" would be necessarily true whether or not God existed.”

Goodness would not exist without God, nor would God exist without Goodness.
God neither creates nor obeys Goodness, in a sense he is Goodness. It is an essential part of His nature. To talk of Goodness without God is like talking of rape without humans. God gives us a ground for Goodness because it would not exist without Him. Goodness can be seen only where there is a PERSON for it to be good about. So the proposition “rape is wrong” is necessarily true, but Personhood is necessary for Goodness to exist. Please explain what Goodness looks like without a person. Is gravity good? Are stars good? Is dung good? Are PEOPLE good?

exapologist said...

Anon: Why can't goodness exist without God?

Ilíon said...

Exapologist: "Why can't goodness exist without God?"

Because it can't! ;-)

But seriously ... hmmm, that *was* seriously ...

But to explain ... hmmm, "Different Anonymous" *did* already explain the why of it ...

Because 'goodness' is a valuation; and as such, it can exist only if there is a valuer, only if there is a person valuing this or that.

But, when we speak of 'goodness,' we are not speaking of something like "I value vanilla ice cream more than I (or you) value chocolate ice cream," we are speaking of a valuation which exists whether any human person agrees with it, whether any human person is aware of it; indeed, whether any human person even exists.

Rayndeon said...

@Illion,

"Oh, I agree completely. It's just that I value other things far higher than I do courtesy; among which are reason, rationality and truth."

But, surely, it is possible to value reason, rationality, and truth *and* value courtesy just as well? I mean, look at most philosophical articles. The authors (usually) engage in great respect for each other, even when they disagree.

"In my personal experience (and looking at wider history in general), making "nice" the primary value *always* leads to allowing those individuals/groups who are assuredly not "nice" (nor reasonable, nor rational, nor lovers-of-truth) to walk all over oneself and others. I refuse to do this; it is, in fact, an immoral act..."

I agree that can be the case, but I don't see why a lack of courtesy would be elicited in that regard. In dealing with such people, a firm approach may be needed, or inevitably, one may need to ignore the person, or ignore the comments in that regard, or inform the proper authorities.

"You can't see the hubris -- I mean as you are using the term, not as the term really means -- in "calling out" someone else on *anything*?"

Well, no, I cannot. I understand that, in some contexts, to continually point out a person's mistakes, especially in public, is frowned upon. But, I cannot see the hubris in a single request that a person maintain the common courtesy. Such requests are designed to benefit all participating in the discussion.

"You are calling me hubristic because I say things like: "This argument you are trying to make is incorrect (i.e. illogical and/or irrational, or factually flawed, etc) ..." or "This claim is factually incorrect ..." and so forth. Yet, this is exactly what you want to do with me ... and using the obvious fact that I am sarcastic as a diversionary tactic."

Forgive me if you received that impression. I charged with having hubris not because you declared something as factually incorrect, but due to passages such as follows:

"There are several things you *may* mean, but two things you certainly do not mean are reason and logic. I'm making a very negative claim about you -- I want this to be clearly understood. I am claiming that no amount of logical reasoning will ever be acknowledged by you to be evidence: either evidence *for* the existence of God or evidence *against* the denial of the existence of God.

Yes, I'm making a generalization, sight unseen (other than what I assume are three posts by the same anonymous individual), about your attitudes and behaviors -- I am assuming, until shown otherwise, that any differences between the thought processes of you and any other "skeptic" I've ever encountered are too slight to even be noticed. So what?"

"To put it bluntly (and more than likely, to really put your knickers into a twist): you don't understand the first thing about this "Science" thingie you worship.

Further, you carefully phrased the question so as to make "unanswerable" -- not that it really *is* unanswerable: Slaglerock answered what he (apparently) mistook to be an honestly asked, though perhaps awkwardly phrased, question. But, in fact, the question was carefully phrased to trip-up someone assuming it was honestly asked.

And then, laughably (and, no doubt, a reflection of your scientism), you apparently don't understand that the "Big Bang" hypothesis wasn't accepted by "scientists" on the basis of "better science," but by the fact that the more prominent and influential of the "Steady Staters" finally died off."

"Come now, you're not really stupid (and even if you were, the rest of us aren't). Everyone can see that you're playing word-games with the word 'force;' it's no doubt an amusing avoidance strategy.

Any argument, not matter how "forceful," can always be denied by simply refusing to admit that the argument is sound and successful ... the denial doesn't have to be logical or even rational, much less intellectually honest."

"What a typical 'a-theologist,' "arguing" in typical 'a-theologist' mode. Which is to say, not actually arguing at all -- the idea seems to be to knowingly make a false accusation with the expectation that the other fellow will trip over himself trying to soothe your ruffled feathers.

I don't play that game, dude. While this tactic may have worked for you in the past, it's not gonna work with me."

"Why don't you show, in the first place, where I have been snide? I mock attitides, behaviors, beliefs, claims, etc. None of these things are persons. Once cannot *actually* insult/condescend towards attitides, behaviors, beliefs, claims, etc. One may try to insult or condescend towards a person, but not a thing."

To be snide towards the attitude, behavior, claim, and beliefs of a person, when engaged in discussion with them, is to engage in condescension upon the person. There is a difference between a person politely disagreeing with a position i.e. "I do not think that is correct. In my opinion..." and a person insulting their position (and by extension, them) i.e. "What an idiotic position. It's laughable that you actually believe that. What the truth actually is..."

"You want to accuse me of snideness and then demand of me to produce an example of you being snide. As I said at the time, I had only quickly glanced at your post, but the overall tone of it seems snide to me (even now that I have read it)."

I was not demanding anything. I was merely asking. And, I'm not sure how my post is snide.

"Speaking *at* another person falls within the orbit of snideness, does it not?

Your post is a mixture of: 1) speaking *to* (second-person) another about what he has said; and 2) speaking to the the general reader *about* (third-person) what another has said; and 3) speaking *at* (third-person) other person(s). Now, clearly, speaking *at* another is a subtle variation on 2); more fully, it's an odd combination of 1) and 2) with a dash of condescension to tie it together.

To Mr Reppert, you used 1). Regarding your response to Slaglerock, you used 2), though it sometimes does seem to border on condescention. To me, you used 3). To "Had 'Nuf," you used 3). To me (again), you used 3). To Anon, you used 1). There may even be a pattern to this."

That depends on what you mean when you say "speaking at someone." I guess you mean to speak of someone in the third-person? How is that snide, exactly?

For that matter, I don't see where I did that to either you or Had 'Nuff.

"To all and sundry:
It is utterly impossible to *reason* with anyone who refuses to (or, to try to be charitable, does not know how to) abide by the rules of reasoning. When one encounters such a person, one's options are quite limited: 1) ignore that person, 2) "force" that person to think/argue reasonably.

There is, obviously, no way to actually force an unreasonable person to be reasonable. The only tool I can even think of that *might* nudge an unreasonable (yet sane; insane persons are another matter) person back towards reason is to mock the unreason. In a word: sarcasm."

I do not see the need to employ sarcasm in the case of a person that does not know the rules of reasoning. One must, I think, engage with them and try to explain where and how they are wrong. If they *refuse* to understand, then, yes, the conversation is going nowhere. But, then, what would be the point of sarcasm? It would make the person even *more* resilient and ignorant of your attempts, for no one enjoys condescension.

"What Raydeon is trying to demand (of me, and of you) is that I/we treat un-reason as though it were reason. Now, of course, it is not *only* 'atheists' who try this trick, but it *is* a very common ploy with them. There is a reason for that, more than likely."

Not at all, Illion. I'm merely trying to promote common courtesy. And I'm not sure how this counts as a "ploy" or a "trick."

" I *also* don't doubt that what you do intend is to employ everyone's natural aversion to interpersonal conflict as a subtle means of tilting the playing field."

Not at all. I was merely trying to promote common courtesy, so that the discussion would be more civil. I do not see how the promotion of civility is a deceptive device.

"I also have no doubt that you cannot see this; nor will see it. I am more than willing to grant you that this intent is "un-conscious" (i.e. we are all accomplished at hiding from ourselves certain things we'd rather not think about). Moreover, I am more than willing to grant you that you have (falsely) learned, in one way or another, that it is actually an affirmation of reason to subtly tilt the playing-field to advantage one side or the other, and that no one has yet informed you otherwise."

But, I have not attempted to "tilt the playing-field" at all. I have merely tried to promote common courtesy. I do not understand why you would believe otherwise.

"Nevertheless, it's like this: *anytime* one tries to reason on a basis of mixed reason and un-reason, the person(s) actually employing the un-reason will "win;" for the person(s) trying to stick to reason have forfeited from the start."

Then, as I said, the conversation becomes hopeless. At which point, it may simply be best to stop and try again later. Sarcasm will only worsen the problem.

@Different Anon,

"Goodness would not exist without God, nor would God exist without Goodness."

Alright, so you have the conditional "Good exists if and only if God exists."

"God neither creates nor obeys Goodness, in a sense he is Goodness. It is an essential part of His nature."

Alright, it certainly *is* a part of God's nature (by definition), although I don't see in any sense how God *is* goodness.

"To talk of Goodness without God is like talking of rape without humans. God gives us a ground for Goodness because it would not exist without Him."

Once more, how? It would be nonsensical to talk of *concrete instances* (and here, I can tokens, not types of concrete instances) of rape without the instances thereof (trivially enough!), but it would not be nonsensical to talk of rape, *the abstracta*, the property, etc. In possible worlds in which no one is raped, the abstracta "rape" exists and presides nonetheless. It is simply not *exemplified*. There is nothing, in such worlds, *satisfying the conditions of rape*. So, in worlds without God, the abstracta *good* still exists and there can still be *concrete instances* that satisfy the conditions of *good* i.e. something *exemplifies* good.

"Goodness can be seen only where there is a PERSON for it to be good about. So the proposition “rape is wrong” is necessarily true, but Personhood is necessary for Goodness to exist."

Goodness is a property, not the concrete instance thereof. It can't be "seen" anymore than one can see time or see length. One can certainly see the *instances* of such properties, but do not confuse the *instances of such properties* with the properties themselves. For instance, one has the property of "being a unicorn" even though there is nothing that exemplifes it. So, under moral realism, I don't see how there must be a *person* that exemplifies good in order for there to be the *property* "good." Goodness exists (if moral realism is true) whether or not anything exemplifies it.

I'd recommend Wes Morriston's paper "Must There Be a Standard of Moral Goodness Apart from God?", Philosophia Christi, Philosophia Christi,Series 2, Vol. 3, no.1, 127-138. He looks at the issue in detail.

Rayndeon said...

Oops. I meant "Here, I mean tokens, not types" instead of "Here, I can tokens not types."

humwitt said...

Different anonymous

"The problem is not an inability to recognize suffering as being wrong; the problem is grounding the claim in something that is objective.

1. Suffering cannot be wrong simply because I say that it is."


I am not claiming that. I drew an analogy with seeing colours. Things are not red just because I say they are. However, our whole ability to talk about and deal with the concept of colour depends on a common (but not universal) reaction to colours. If someone says that the sky looks red to them or they don't see the difference between red and green you can't disprove it except by reference to what other people say.


"2. Unless I say that ALL suffering is wrong, I have no way to justify my discriminations. A perfect example of this would be the hunter verses an animal rights activist. There is suffering involve in the killing of a deer (at least sometimes) which is condemned by the animal rights activist and justified by the hunter. While most hunters avoid any suffering possible in the kill, suffering does happen and it doesn’t result in an abandonment of killing deer by the hunter. The animal rights activist on the other hand would assert that the suffering is totally unnecessary. Who is right, the hunter or the animal rights activist and why?

My guess is that you would be ok with my destroying a hornet’s nest (thus killing the hornets) when I see them as a threat. Supposing that there were aliens who have been monitoring us for the last 3,000 years. If they are superior in intelligence to us so as to be compared with our intelligence to the rat, would it be ok for them to use us for experiments, if they viewed us as we view rats? If not, why?

I am assuming that causing a rat to suffer in your view is justified if it will bring about a greater good. I wonder if the rats are ok with it."


Yes - morality is subjective to the extent that is depends on common human reactions (just as colour perception relies on common human reactions). And all us who share those reactions have to balance our desire to limit suffering with other considerations - some moral and some more selfish.

"You say that, “Introducing a God doesn't help at all.” I completely disagree. God affords us a conversation about objectivity; you on the other hand are hopelessly left with mere subjectivity."

To the extent that conversations about colours are 'mere subjectivity' - yes the same is true of morals. If I am right, then the fact that you cannot get off the ground in discussing objectivity is just a fact. There is no point in assuming it is false so you can have a conversation about objectivity!

"I do believe some things are intrinsically wrong and not just because God says that they are wrong. He says that they are wrong, well because there are wrong. God doesn’t and can’t create goodness, just as God doesn’t and can’t create God. God can only be good; He is not free to be bad, just as He is not free to not be God. The problem with this view is that it causes one to wonder why we should render to God worship or reverence for being what He cannot help but be. But anyone who has ever had a baby will recognize that we love them for being what they cannot help but be."

This is the classic get out of jail card for atheists. God is 'necessarily' good. This collapses as soon as you try to explore the kind of necessity involved.

Anonymous said...

'But, when we speak of 'goodness,' we are not speaking of something like "I value vanilla ice cream more than I (or you) value chocolate ice cream," we are speaking of a valuation which exists whether any human person agrees with it, whether any human person is aware of it; indeed, whether any human person even exists.'

It is the same with whether or not one football team is better than another.

The Denver Broncos are a worse football team than the New York Patriots.

And this is an objective fact, regardless of whether or not humans exist.

humwitt said...

'But, when we speak of 'goodness,' we are not speaking of something like "I value vanilla ice cream more than I (or you) value chocolate ice cream," we are speaking of a valuation which exists whether any human person agrees with it, whether any human person is aware of it; indeed, whether any human person even exists.'

It is the same with whether or not one football team is better than another.

The Denver Broncos are a worse football team than the New York Patriots.

And this is an objective fact, regardless of whether or not humans exist.


This is a strange example. One sports team is clearly better than another because we have established the criteria for success. And those criteria arise from human agreement.

Are you perhaps saying moral statements are as objective as statements about the height of mountains? If so, I am afraid I just disagree. However, that does not entail going to the other extreme and saying they are as frivolous as taste in ice-cream.

Ilíon said...

It's hard to keep the anonymice straight, isn't it?

Jason Pratt said...

I have waaaaay too many other things to be doing, to add any interjections or comments here (plus I'm kind of late anyway); but I did want to bow down to Ilíon for newly learning that term from him just now... {lol!}{bowing!}

Ilíon said...

Mr Pratt,
You're welcome (and I'm happy to have given you a chuckle).

Earlier, I used 'anonymoi' as the plural for 'anonymous,' but as it was a toss-up.

Anonymous said...

Different Anon,

rayndeon said:

“Goodness exists (if moral realism is true) whether or not anything exemplifies it.”


How could we possibly know that it does exist if it is NEVER exemplified?

How does one KNOW when it is exemplified?

exapologist said...

In the same way we know that:

There is a natural number n such that for any natural number m that has actually been counted, n is greater than m.

is true.

Sometimes we posit entities if they're indispensable. So, for example, we need numbers to do interesting science, and so we posit their existence. But they don't seem reducible to physical entities, as there are infinitely many numbers, and mathematical truths are necessary truths. So we attribute immateriality, infinity, and necessity to the numbers to get the explanatory work done.

In philosophy, at least since Quine, we call this sort of argument an 'indispensability argument'. One can run an indispensability argument for the existence of other abstracta, such as properties, propositions, and possible worlds.

had 'nuff said...

Rayndeon said...

{Snip in response to me, had 'nuff}

>>>>>>>>>>
<<<<<<<<<<
>>>>>>>>>>
<<<<<<<<<<

I think my most economical response would be to point out that my post had a part in a larger context of dialogue (to follow D. Walton, here) of which it should be seen in the light of, viz., a response to the overreaching and self-excepting claims of one John Loftus, a commenter 10th down from the top.

Seen in that larger context I find your response, however illuminating, or true, to be somewhat irrelevant to my post.

Anonymous said...

EA: "So we attribute immateriality, infinity, and necessity to the numbers to get the explanatory work done."

Sept many moral realists (e.g., Shafer-Landau) argue that moral facts do not explain anything. In fact, it seems that we could explain almost any action in non-moral terms, and have a full explanation. So, your response isn't obviously true.

exapologist said...

Hi Anon,

You might be right: perhaps we can't run an indispensability argument to justify the existence of *moral* properties, although I'm currently persuaded that we do. My AOS isn't ethics, so I'm not in a position to judge. My comment was intended as an explanation of how one could justifiedly posit the existence of unexemplified entities *in general* -- i.e., as a way of arguing how such justification is possible in principle.

Rayndeon said...

@Diff. Anon,

"How could we possibly know that it does exist if it is NEVER exemplified?

How does one KNOW when it is exemplified?"

That's irrelevant. The inability to *know* something is irrelevant to a thing's *existence*. There are possible worlds in which there are no minds at all, and yet abstracta persist all the same.

But, even in worlds lacking good altogether, the argument from truthmakers holds true. Hence, abstracta are necessary, and exist in worlds even in worlds where we don't exist or lack the faculties to know them.

"Sept many moral realists (e.g., Shafer-Landau) argue that moral facts do not explain anything. In fact, it seems that we could explain almost any action in non-moral terms, and have a full explanation. So, your response isn't obviously true."

They (under moral realist terms) certainly seem to explain *moral actions*. Moral facts (in conjunction with other facts) explain why good people do what they do, what it *means* for something to be good or bad, etc.

Btw,

@Exapologist

I'm not sure that the indispensability argument does work. And I don't think it shows as much as we need it to show. I think it points in the right direction, in some intuitive sense, but not argumentatively. I think an argument from truthmakers is necessary instead. I'd love to discuss this topic in more detail but I'm afraid that it would be too off-topic.

nobody knows i'm elvis said...

Hey Rayndeon,

Sure, just drop me an email. However, I'd appreciate an admonition to stop blogging and finish a draft of my #$*&^$)# dissertation before Winter Break ends

;-).

Anonymous said...

Different Anon

I agree that, “The inability to *know* something is irrelevant to a thing's *existence*.”

But the abstract posited must be exemplified in order to propose it. Why not say that sajkdfhajkhwfh exists? We don’t know that sajkdfhajkhwfh doesn’t exist. But surely it is unreasonable to randomly posit abstracts without exemplification. To say that goodness exists and we don’t know what it is, nor never could know what it is, is as meaningful as talking about, “sajkdfhajkhwfh.”

Please explain to me what goodness is. And how you base that claim objectivity.

Anonymous said...

Rayndeon said...

"They (under moral realist terms) certainly seem to explain *moral actions*. Moral facts (in conjunction with other facts) explain why good people do what they do, what it *means* for something to be good or bad, etc."

You just issued in tons of moral categories, viz. "good," "bad" "moral action" etc. *Of course* if we allow "good" and "bad" and "moral" into our system, then it makes the job of explaining these via reference to moral principles much easier.

And, yes, I know very well that some (maybe even many) moral realists take moral facts to be explanatory, but some do not.

The point is, a story could be given about Hitler that his immorality explains his evil actions. ...OR, A non-realist might tell this story about Hitler: “Hitler was a very bitter and angry person. Because of various false beliefs about the Jews (most importantly his belief that Jews were responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War I), he found hatred of the Jews to be a satisfying way of releasing his pent-up hostility and anger. His moral beliefs did not place any bounds of restraints on his expression of that hatred” (Thomas Carson, Value and the Good Life, Notre Dame Press, p.194). So, moral posits may, at best, be relevant to explain Hitler’s behavior, they have not been shown to be necessary to explain Hitler’s behavior. In other words, “Moral properties seem to be dispensable for explanatory purposes. Natural properties seem to be doing all the work in the explanations in question” (ibid, p. 98).


Or, a murder could be explained by appealing to two people. One had a knife. He stuck it into another person. The other person died.

Anyway, I am a moral realist myself, but it isn't obvious that moral facts need to explain anything. Many items in our ontology don't explain things. Shoot, I could do ayway with the knife above. I need not reference knives, but atoms and physical reactions.

Rayndeon said...

@Diff. Anon,

"But the abstract posited must be exemplified in order to propose it."

Not at all. Nothing exemplifies the following abstracta for instance:

"Round squares"
"Being a unicorn"
"Being a dragon"
Etc

"Why not say that sajkdfhajkhwfh exists?"

Because "sajkdfhajkkhwfh" is a string of phonetic symbols that fails to refer. The term here, unless you define them, doesn't refer to anything.

All I *can* say however is that there are an uncountable infinitude of abstracta, most of which I'm not even aware of.

"We don’t know that sajkdfhajkhwfh doesn’t exist."

Yes, because the term doesn't mean anything, unless you define it. That's the point of language, to communicate concepts in a conventional framework. We have terms like "unicorn" or "square" and they are nothing more than strings of phonetic symbols, but they *signify* [which we have agreed upon by convention] certain concepts, or more accurately, certain abstracta. So, unless you can define that string of phonetic symbols to refer to some sort of concept or whatever, it doesn't even mean anything in the first place.

Do not confuse a string of symbols for the abstracta itself. All we *can* say is that there are many abstracta that we do not have knowledge of.

But, that doesn't prevent the existence of abstracta at all, since abstracta are necessary, per the argument from truthmakers. What we have here is a communication problem, not a metaphysical one. You throwing out strings of phonetic symbols that fail to refer doesn't disprove anything, I think.

"But surely it is unreasonable to randomly posit abstracts without exemplification."

No, see above. I can randomly posit, for instance, this abstracta: "round squares." Nothing exemplifies that or *can* exemplify that. Or, "purple, polka-dotted dragons." Nothing exemplifies that either.

"To say that goodness exists and we don’t know what it is, nor never could know what it is, is as meaningful as talking about, “sajkdfhajkhwfh.”"

No, it isn't. See above. By the way, if you noticed, I never said that we *actually* do not know what goodness is or could never know what it is, but that in a *possible world* there are persons that do not have knowledge of goodness and yet goodness exists nonetheless, since goodness is a necessary property, since all abstracta are necessary, per the argument from truthmakers.

"Please explain to me what goodness is."

Goodness is that which ought to be.

"And how you base that claim objectivity."

What do you mean here?

@Diff. Anon, redux

Okay, I'll play devil's advocate here for the moral realist, since I'm personally agnostic about the issue here.

"You just issued in tons of moral categories, viz. "good," "bad" "moral action" etc. *Of course* if we allow "good" and "bad" and "moral" into our system, then it makes the job of explaining these via reference to moral principles much easier."

Okay then.

"And, yes, I know very well that some (maybe even many) moral realists take moral facts to be explanatory, but some do not."

Right.

"The point is, a story could be given about Hitler that his immorality explains his evil actions. ...OR, A non-realist might tell this story about Hitler: “Hitler was a very bitter and angry person. Because of various false beliefs about the Jews (most importantly his belief that Jews were responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War I), he found hatred of the Jews to be a satisfying way of releasing his pent-up hostility and anger. His moral beliefs did not place any bounds of restraints on his expression of that hatred” (Thomas Carson, Value and the Good Life, Notre Dame Press, p.194). So, moral posits may, at best, be relevant to explain Hitler’s behavior, they have not been shown to be necessary to explain Hitler’s behavior. In other words, “Moral properties seem to be dispensable for explanatory purposes. Natural properties seem to be doing all the work in the explanations in question” (ibid, p. 98).

Or, a murder could be explained by appealing to two people. One had a knife. He stuck it into another person. The other person died."

I don't see how. That doesn't explain, for instance, why people deplore his behavior. It doesn't explain why we find actions praiseworthy/blameworthy. You raise intriguing and difficult questions, more difficult given that metaethics, let alone ethics, is not my primary field of philosophical study.

"Anyway, I am a moral realist myself, but it isn't obvious that moral facts need to explain anything. Many items in our ontology don't explain things. Shoot, I could do ayway with the knife above. I need not reference knives, but atoms and physical reactions."

But, can that explain, for instance, the symbolic significance of knives? Or the particular fears people have of knives? Or other such things? Perhaps we translate "knives" to "atoms shaped knive-wise" or something. I'm musing over this at the moment.

exapologist said...

Anon 9:11 a.m.:

I think there's a confusion here. Meta-ethicists don't necessarily posit moral facts to explain moral *behavior*; rather, they posit moral facts to explain our *intuitions* that various actions and character traits are good, bad, virtuous, vicious, etc.

So, for example, we reflect on the action mentioned on last night's news, of a man raping a woman, and we find that we have intuitions register that the action is wrong. This gives us prima facie, defeasible evidence that

1. The act of rape is morally wrong.

is *true*. So we follow Quine in putting (1) in logical form to reveal its structure:

1'. Ex(x is an act of rape & x is morally wrong).

So by Quine's criterion of ontological commitment, we're committed to the existence of the entities within the scope of the existential quantifier. So we're committed to the existence of at least one act of rape (the one mentioned on the news), and the existence of the property of moral wrongness. Now it's perfectly legitimate to try to reduce the entities quantified over in (1') to more basic entities. But if you can't, and the data of our intuitions don't go away after further reflection, we're committed to the existence of the property of moral wrongness. So we posit its existence.

So from the fact that moral posits don't explain behavior provides no good reason for shrugging off the need to posit moral facts.

Anonymous said...

Different Anon

So how do you come up with “round squares” without squares or circles?

The abstract is exemplified in part by squares and part in by circles. There is no such thing as a round square. Without exemplification in part we could never posit the abstract. Perhaps I should have said that it must be exemplified in some way. Otherwise how could the idea ever meet us?

If squares and circles were never part of our experience, how could one conceive of a round square?

That’s what I mean when I say that we may as well posit sajkdfhajkhwfh.

All the examples you gave meet us in some way in our world.

“Goodness is that which ought to be.”

What “ought” to be?

(And how you base that claim objectivity).

”What do you mean here?”

I mean how can you know what goodness is in a way that removes personal preference.

Is it good that lions kill and eat? Is this what they “ought” to do? If so, then their killing and eating is goodness exemplified. If they ought not do this, on what basis do you make this assertion?

“By the way, if you noticed, I never said that we *actually* do not know what goodness is or could never know what it is, but that in a *possible world* there are persons that do not have knowledge of goodness and yet goodness exists nonetheless.”

This is exactly my point. There may be a possible world where sajkdfhajkhwfh means something even though we do not have knowledge of it. Sajkdfhajkhwfh could represent an actual abstract in another world; an abstract that we are ignorant of but exists nonetheless. Therefore to talk of goodness (when we do not know what it is) is as meaningful as talking about sajkdfhajkhwfh, which again may exist unaware to us.

Imagine a person in a possible world typing as we do the “string of symbols” GOODNESS, which means to him/her/it what sajkdfhajkhwfh means to us.

If goodness can exist, then it follows that it is possible for sajkdfhajkhwfh to exist.

Rayndeon said...

"So how do you come up with “round squares” without squares or circles?"

Actually, you can't come up with a round square without "square" and "curves."

"The abstract is exemplified in part by squares and part in by circles."

What do you mean that it is exemplified "in part?" An abstracta is either exemplified or not exemplified. To exemplify the abstracta "round square", an object must exemplify both "roundness" and "squareness." An object that does not exemplify both does not exemplify "round square." So, as you say, nothing exemplifies "round square", let alone "in part."

"There is no such thing as a round square."

Right.

"Without exemplification in part we could never posit the abstract. Perhaps I should have said that it must be exemplified in some way."

There is no such thing as exemplification "in part."

"Otherwise how could the idea ever meet us?"

Well, we can simply posit some concept, and it will necessarily correspond to an abstracta, per the argument from truthmakers.

"If squares and circles were never part of our experience, how could one conceive of a round square?"

There are possible worlds in which this is so. In the actual world, probably not. But, why should the epistemic be a problem?

Millions of years ago, people were unaware of the abstacta "I-pod." Should this be taken as an argument against "I-pods" as an abstracta? Of course not.

"That’s what I mean when I say that we may as well posit sajkdfhajkhwfh."

No, the two are disanalogous, as I already explained. "sajkdfhajkhwfh" signifies nothing, unless you define it.

"All the examples you gave meet us in some way in our world."

You mean in which some of the properties exemplified by objects exemplifying those unexemplified abstracta meet i.e. "round squares" exemplify "roundness" and "squareness" both of which are exemplified.

So what? These are the contingent epistemic circumstances under which we live.

"What “ought” to be?
(And how you base that claim objectivity)."

There are many different answers among moral realists. Some moral realists attempt to reduce "oughtness" or do not. I do not know the answer because I am agnostic on the issue. Both moral realists and anti-realists seem to be matched in their respective criticisms of each other. All I know is that introducing a God into the equation solves nothing.

"I mean how can you know what goodness is in a way that removes personal preference.

Is it good that lions kill and eat? Is this what they “ought” to do? If so, then their killing and eating is goodness exemplified.

If they ought not do this, on what basis do you make this assertion?"

I do not know. I am agnostic on the issue of metaethics. There are some things that seem to intuitively fall into the spectrum of evil such as "Rape" universally, regardless of whether or not moral realism or moral anti-realism is true. And by the way, that *is* a major problem for moral realism; how can value judgments be objective?

"This is exactly my point. There may be a possible world where sajkdfhajkhwfh means something even though we do not have knowledge of it."

Sure. That just means that someone defines "sajkdfhajkhwfh"; i.e. something attaches a referent onto the term. Look, all you are pointing out is something purely conventional, namely that some phonetic strings have referents, contingently, and others do not. This does not show anything beyond that we have attached concepts onto some terms and not onto others, conventionally.

"Sajkdfhajkhwfh could represent an actual abstract in another world; an abstract that we are ignorant of but exists nonetheless."

Absolutely. But all that means is that someone defined it that way in that world. You realize that, right? This is a purely linguistic question we are dealing with here, not a metaphysical one.

"Therefore to talk of goodness (when we do not know what it is) is as meaningful as talking about sajkdfhajkhwfh, which again may exist unaware to us."

But, it seems that we *do know* somewhat intuitively what goodness is, or perhaps *what it is not*. We know that goodness is not suffering, that rape is not good, that genocide is not good, etc. This would be true whether or not moral realism or moral anti-realism were true, as virtually all proponents of either of the smörgåsbord of different moral realist/moral anti-realist theories.

Also, the situation is not the same. We *have* conventionally attached a referent onto "goodness." Hence, all discussion proceeds on that assumption. To deny that assumption is not to provide anything of interest, but to simply change the framework, and essentially, change the topic. Essentially, it is to ask "Rather than discussing things in *this* conventional language, let's shift to *that* conventional language."

"Imagine a person in a possible world typing as we do the “string of symbols” GOODNESS, which means to him/her/it what sajkdfhajkhwfh means to us."

Right. Again, as I discussed earlier, so what? This is a linguistic issue here, not a metaphysical one.

"If goodness can exist, then it follows that it is possible for sajkdfhajkhwfh to exist."

Nope, see above. Unless you define "sajkdfhajkhwfh", the situations are dissimilar.

Anonymous said...

Different Anon

I must admit I am confused. You say that, “goodness is what ought to be.” But you do not know if a lion killing and eating exemplifies goodness. But DO you know that rape, suffering, and genocide are not goodness. What makes the woman more important than the antelope? How can you KNOW that suffering is not goodness and not KNOW whether a lion causing an antelope to suffer is or is not goodness? This makes no sense at all.

Rayndeon said...

@Diff. Anon,

"I must admit I am confused. You say that, “goodness is what ought to be.”"

Trivially enough, yes.

"But you do not know if a lion killing and eating exemplifies goodness."

No, I don't not.

"But DO you know that rape, suffering, and genocide are not goodness."

Yes, I do.

"What makes the woman more important than the antelope?"

I don't know.

"How can you KNOW that suffering is not goodness"

Intuitively as well per definition. This is what *everyone* agrees to be not goodness. So, when we point to some state of affairs, apparently we cannot say that a state of affairs involving suffering is good. Because that is how we are using the term "goodness."

"and not KNOW whether a lion causing an antelope to suffer is or is not goodness?"

Because this situation is morally ambiguous. Does the lion "appreciate" his action? Consider that the lion slays to survive. Does this justify the suffering of the antelope?

"This makes no sense at all."

Why would you say that? I'm just pointing out that moral questions are hardly easy. Do you think that there is an easy answer to any of this?

Anonymous said...

DA

“Do you think that there is an easy answer to any of this?”

Of course not, any worldview will have its difficulties.

“Consider that the lion slays to survive. Does this justify the suffering of the antelope?”

I would like for you to tell me, does it?

Rayndeon said...

@Unknown Anon,

(eek! As Illion adroitly said, it *is* difficult to keep up with the anonymous folks.)

"I would like for you to tell me, does it?"

I'm not sure. On one hand we have the suffering of the antelope. But, on the other hand, we have the lion's survival. So, it's the lion's survival versus the antelope's survival. I don't honestly know.

Anonymous said...

Different Anon


Wouldn’t the claim that, “apparently we cannot say that a state of affairs involving suffering is good” now be called into question?

Rayndeon said...

@Diff. Anon,

"Wouldn’t the claim that, “apparently we cannot say that a state of affairs involving suffering is good” now be called into question?"

No. The suffering of the antelope is not good. The point is whether or not there is a morally significant justification of it. For instance, suppose that a man tried to kill your son. Now, it's not good, not a desirable state of affairs that you kill the man either. But, the threat that your son faces is a morally significant reason for you to slay the man. The point is to find out if there are MSRs that justify these instances of suffering. It's the difference between suffering and gratuitous suffering.

Anonymous said...

Different Anon

This is my final comment, thanks for the exchange.

“The point is whether or not there is a morally significant justification of it.”

We would first need to know which is more valuable, the lion or the antelope. That seems to be an unanswerable problem. By your own admission you are not sure why (and I am not sure how you could know if) humans have more value than antelopes. Most of us, when watching a National Geographic documentary, are quite honestly not heavily affected by the death of the antelope. But even if we were, our feelings are subjective.
The man who is not heavily affected by rape, has similar feelings that are subjective. Goodness cannot mean, “what *everyone* agrees to be not goodness.” Nor can we merely define Goodness. Whatever it is it must be so whether we acknowledge it or not.
It must therefore be uncreated. Being uncreated it is objectivity.

Perhaps others will pick up from here.

Anonymous said...

objective, sorry

B. Prokop said...

I have little patience with, and even less interest in, "God of the Gaps" reasoning. Mainly, because I base my Christian faith on rock solid, positive, verifiable evidence, confirming that in AD 33, one Jesus the Christ did rise from the dead after being executed by the Roman authorities and placed in a tomb - dead, dead, dead. (Roman soldiers took no chances with allowing a condemned criminal to escape death. To do so meant themselves taking the place of "the one that got away". Thus the lance thrust into Christ's side (John 19:34).

There is just no getting around this historical fact. Many people have tried to do so, with increasingly absurd alternative theories:

- The Apostles stole the body
- Jesus didn't really die, but merely swooned
- The women went to the wrong tomb
- The Apostles were victims of Mass Hallucination
- The Apostles were engaging in wishful thinking
- The apostles were out-and-out liars
- The story is the result of a mythologizing process which occurred over generations
- The Emperor Constantine altered the Gospels to consolidate his political power
- Jesus never existed; it's all made up
- Jesus had a twin brother
- Jesus was a time traveler
- Jesus was a space alien

Notice how over time the "explanations" grow ever more ridiculous? Anything, literally anything, will serve to avoid facing up to even the possibility that there might just be something to all this "God Talk".

Jezu ufam tobie!

John Mitchell said...

"I base my Christian faith on rock solid, positive, verifiable evidence, confirming that in AD 33, one Jesus the Christ did rise from the dead after being executed by the Roman authorities and placed in a tomb"

I base my Christian faith on old papyri that tell the story that Jesus did rise from the dead after being executed by the Roman authorities and placed in a tomb

B. Prokop said...

Off topic, but it's a dreary, rainy day here in Baltimore, and I'm stuck inside recovering from a really bad fall 2 days ago. (You don't just bounce back from these things when you're in your 60s!) I needed something to lift my spirits, and found it by googling "Black Nazarene" and looking through the first hundred or so images. Anyone foolish enough to think Christianity is "dying" ought to do the same. Wow, just wow!

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

John,

If you took ten seconds to objectively examine those "old papyri", you'd be astonished to learn just how reliable they are. But sadly, I doubt you'll even try. You're too comfortable in your smugly dismissive attitude.

John Mitchell said...

"You're too comfortable in your smugly dismissive attitude."

I'm not dismissive of the Gospels or Christianity, though.

I am dismissive of your overconfidence regarding what happened 2000 years ago...

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "Is there any theistic argument that can't be accused of being a god-of-the-gaps argument?"

Sure. Some just fail as hypotheses. Here's the simple version:

Believer: "The rain is caused by the sky god. Therefore, given what I know about the sky god, if I sacrifice this, the sky god will give us more rain."
Test occurs. No rain reliably falls.
Theistic argument fails.

Then there's this version:

Skeptic: "We can't explain this."
Believer: "I know how to explain it; god."
Skeptic: "How is god a better explanation for this than admitting we can't explain this?"
Believer: "I would now like to talk about something else."

Both could be called god of the gaps arguments -- the first fails by crossing the line from being a "god of the gaps" to a "god of explanation", and the second fails by claiming to be an explanation while providing no explanation. In other words, doggedly remaining a god of the gaps stance.

VR: "Is this an all-purpose reply to all natural theology?"

Depends on what you mean by natural theology. If by natural theology you mean the second scenario above (which is how I'd classify it), then I think it is the correct rebuttal.

VR: "If so, then it seems that someone who subscribes to these responses would have to say that there couldn't be enough evidence for God's existence--that atheism is unfalsifiable, because anything that might require theistic explanation could be answered by saying that this is just a gap that naturalism hasn't filled quite yet."

No. God of the gaps could rise to the level of something that makes a hypothesis (in which case it stops being a god of the gaps argument, but there's nothing wrong with starting there -- after all, lots of good explanations start with this kind of inference).

VR: "So if the stars in the sky were to spell out the words "Turn or burn Parsons this means you" (oops I did it again), and Parsons were to turn, he would be guilty of god of the gaps reasoning."

Yeah, observing something odd isn't exactly what makes for a good explanation. It could be fuel for forming a hypothesis, but if it's just an observation followed by an "explanation" that provides no explanation, then the correct rebuttal remains God of the Gaps.



B. Prokop said...

John,

I apologize if I've misread you. I can't keep track of who's who on this site, especially for those who (like you) have nothing on their profile to alert people as to where they stand on the issues.

Joe Hinman said...

I would love to discuss this but too many comments. I don't thin OA or Modal can be GOTG.

Joe Hinman said...

Cal "natural theology does not mean theology about rain.

Cal Metzger said...

Hinman: "Cal "natural theology does not mean theology about rain."

Yup. Which is why I wrote that my rain scenario "fails by crossing the line from being a "god of the gaps" to a "god of explanation" -- that is, you see, how a god of the gaps argument fails -- by actually testing what it asserts. If it doesn't do that, it remains safely fallacious.





Victor Reppert said...

So, theism can make testable claims if and only if those claims fail. So long as they succeed, they fall into the god of the gaps fallacy?

Heads I win, tails you lose.

Joe Hinman said...

Hinman: "Cal "natural theology does not mean theology about rain."

Yup. Which is why I wrote that my rain scenario "fails by crossing the line from being a "god of the gaps" to a "god of explanation" -- that is, you see, how a god of the gaps argument fails -- by actually testing what it asserts. If it doesn't do that, it remains safely fallacious

>>>I think Dr. R took you out. it's also the case that arguments that turn on logically eliminating alternatives are not Gaotg's. I do that with all my arguments.

Cal Metzger said...

Victor: "So, theism can make testable claims if and only if those claims fail."

No. Where do you think I said that?

Victor: "So long as they succeed, they fall into the god of the gaps fallacy? Heads I win, tails you lose."

What? I think you should re-read what I wrote. I think you're jumping to the (wrong) conclusions by not reading what I wrote more carefully. I would write it a different way but I don't think I can say it much more clearly.

Cal Metzger said...

Hinman: "I think Dr. R took you out."

mKay.

Hinman: " it's also the case that arguments that turn on logically eliminating alternatives are not Gaotg's. I do that with all my arguments."

By Gaotg's I assume you mean god of the gaps arguments - I'm just not sure what the a in your acronym relates to.

So what's your point in relation to what I wrote? I'm just not following what you're saying.

B. Prokop said...

Are you guys still trying to reason with this troll? You ought to have seen by now that he's got the same MO as ol' Skeppy. If you catch him at some fallacy, he blatantly denies ever saying any such thing, despite everyone being able to just scroll up and see where he did. Call him on it, and he complains you're twisting his words - which is rich considering his own serial misinterpretation of literally everything addressed in his direction. I for one ain't respondin' to him any more. I played that game with the Mad Dingo and his sidekick im-gullible, and believe me, there's no percentage in it.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "If you catch him at some fallacy, he blatantly denies ever saying any such thing, despite everyone being able to just scroll up and see where he did."

Um, Victor wrote:
Victor: "So, theism can make testable claims if and only if those claims fail."
I asked him, ""Where do you think I said that?"

Then you pipe in and accuse me of employing a fallacy (the same thing I think VR was saying), and instead of showing me where I said what Victor wrote, you double down and insist that all we need do is "scroll up and see" where I wrote what Victor summarized.

I've been blunt, and I've called out the silliness that populates this sites posts and comments, and for that what looks like the regular denizens here can only pout together-- all without ever quite getting around to locating where it is I've gone wrong.

Hmmmm.

Do you know what I think? Do you know what's really, really, really obvious? That I make you all uncomfortable, and when you can't exactly locate what is that I've done wrong, you stop caring that I haven't done anything wrong so long as you all agree that I make you uncomfortable. From there, it's easy for you all to reassure one another that I've, well, done something wrong (I must have!). And because you all agree that I make you uncomfortable (I mean, that all agree that I must have done something wrong!) you all make excuses for another as you act shabbily toward me.

And I wouldn't care. Except that you all put on this pretense of being respectable intellectuals. But respectable intellectuals don't behave as you guys do. And (for whatever reason), I just can't stop myself from pointing this out.

So if you can't handle that, as I've said in the past -- ban me. But if you're going to keep on writing silly things, and being abusive rather than defend your silliness, then you should expect that these things will be pointed out to you by the likes of me.



Victor Reppert said...

First of all, let us try to unpack this issue a little. Suppose, for example, contrary to what you think, God really does exist, and the reason why, say, a bunch of people who saw Jesus dead saw him alive a few days later, is that God resurrected him. We should, I take it, expect to find a number of mysterious situations that we don't ordinary encounter in ordinary life. We might ask why these things are taking place, and it might look kind of difficult to explain it. But, apparently, for you, its being the true explanation does not prevent it from being a bad explanation.

What you seem to be saying is that whenever there is an inexplicable gap, it is always better to say that we don't know the explanation. What this would mean is that God could perform miracles up the ying-yang but could never give us evidence of his existence. He's omnipotent, he really does exist, but he is, by his very nature, incapable of giving us adequate evidence that he exists. Isn't this an awfully weird, and to my mind, ridiculous position?

Cal Metzger said...

Victor: "So, theism can make testable claims if and only if those claims fail."
Me: "No. Where do you think I said that?"
Victor: "First of all, let us try to unpack this issue a little."

I will take that as an admission that you cannot find me saying what you tried to represent as my argument.

And now I'll move on to the rest of your comment.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "What you seem to be saying is that whenever there is an inexplicable gap, it is always better to say that we don't know the explanation."

Yes, I would say that when we don't have a good explanation, we should recognize that. Recognizing that you don't have a good explanation is the first step. Declaring that you have a good explanation that doesn't explain anything more than saying the phenomena can't be explained is, well, just weird.

VR: "What this would mean is that God could perform miracles up the ying-yang but could never give us evidence of his existence."

No it doesn't. At all. If god wanted us to know god existed, god could show up and introduce himself, the same way that evidence for all good explanations (including you and me) does. God is supposed to be a person, and he is supposed to have introduced himself to a bunch of people in stories, but he doesn't do that anymore because... why? Because stories are better than showing up? What?

VR: "He's omnipotent, he really does exist, but he is, by his very nature, incapable of giving us adequate evidence that he exists. Isn't this an awfully weird, and to my mind, ridiculous position?"

Yes, it's a ridiculous position that a god who is omnipotent would be incapable of giving us evidence of his existence. But there's nothing in my position that could overcome god's supposed omnipotence, for one. And there's also nothing in my position that denies god making himself known in ways all other real things do -- in ways that are reliable, verifiable, and objective. The same ways that you, and I, and everyone else we know, do everyday. And yet, somehow, an omnipotent god is supposed to be incapable of showing us that he exists except for in stories told by men -- the exact same problem that all other things that don't exist in reality have.

Hmm.




Cal Metzger said...

VR: " Suppose, for example, contrary to what you think, God really does exist, and the reason why, say, a bunch of people who saw Jesus dead saw him alive a few days later, is that God resurrected him. We should, I take it, expect to find a number of mysterious situations that we don't ordinary encounter in ordinary life. We might ask why these things are taking place, and it might look kind of difficult to explain it. But, apparently, for you, its being the true explanation does not prevent it from being a bad explanation."

The reason it's a bad explanation is that all the descriptions you give for this supposed god are the same ones that people give when they're telling stories. And in every single previous example we know of, all these excuses you give are the same ones that the story-tellers give us when they try to explain why their story is real even though there's nothing else real about it.

Btw, my saying all this is uncontroversial. It's honest. It needs a good answer. And for all this (wait for it...) I get called a troll around here.

Hmmmmm.

Victor Reppert said...

I am trying to give you reasons why I think that is where your position is going. If I have to clarify a statement, that is not an admission that my statement was mistaken.

Trying to win "talking points" strikes me as a counterproductive procedure. When you do this sort of thing, it makes it easier to understand some of the testy responses of the theists on this site.

Victor Reppert said...

Even when they are telling true stories? There are important differences between the Christian story and other stories. Don't you have to assume that all stories are false before you conclude that this story is false. And isn't that a classic example of begging the question?

Hugo Pelland said...

(serious typos fixed)

Victor Reppert said...
"Suppose, for example, contrary to what you think, God really does exist, and the reason why, say, a bunch of people who saw Jesus dead saw him alive a few days later, is that God resurrected him. We should, I take it, expect to find a number of mysterious situations that we don't ordinary encounter in ordinary life. We might ask why these things are taking place, and it might look kind of difficult to explain it."

Even if we had good reasons to believe that Jesus was seen dead, and then not-dead, this does not prove the existence of a god, or specifically God, at all. It's yet another case of 'I don't know how this happen; I cannot think of anything else but God. Hence, God did it'

"What this would mean is that God could perform miracles up the ying-yang but could never give us evidence of his existence. He's omnipotent, he really does exist, but he is, by his very nature, incapable of giving us adequate evidence that he exists. Isn't this an awfully weird, and to my mind, ridiculous position?"

This is exactly what it means yes. And yes, you do believe in awfully weird, ridiculous positions it seems, because that's the implication of your beliefs Victor. Well, I think, really not sure... because I don't know how literal you take the Jesus story is. I only know about (some of) your philosophical positions on God, based on arguments such as the AfR, which I disagree with but are is at all ridiculous.

"There are important differences between the Christian story and other stories"
Wait, what... LOL!

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "I am trying to give you reasons why I think that is where your position is going. If I have to clarify a statement, that is not an admission that my statement was mistaken."

And by pointing out where you have misrepresented my position, and asking you to re-examine what I have said, I am trying to give you reasons to reconsider what seem like, frankly, knee-jerk responses to my comments.

VR: "Trying to win "talking points" strikes me as a counterproductive procedure. When you do this sort of thing, it makes it easier to understand some of the testy responses of the theists on this site."

I don't consider pointing out where one's position has been misrepresented trying to win talking points. I consider that dialogue.

John Mitchell said...

"John,

I apologize if I've misread you. I can't keep track of who's who on this site, especially for those who (like you) have nothing on their profile to alert people as to where they stand on the issues."

I guess i am an odd bird.

I am open to the existence of God, i think there are numerous was in which a serious case for God can be made.
I have no time for the despicable 'New-Atheist'-'movement' and the people that still see themselves as part of it. These people seem to me to be neurotic idiots that espouse an attitude of intellectual barbarism.

In this way, i have nothing against Christianity or Christians.
But if you want to tell me that the rational person has to, on pain or irrationality, accept that a man, 2000 years ago, walked out of his grave after being dead, i can only shake my head in amazement.

B. Prokop said...

John,

Thanks for the response.

I'm curious about your last sentence. There are basically three parts to it:

1. "the rational person has to, on pain or irrationality, [ought to] accept"

Allow me to elaborate. First, kindly re-read my posting above from January 09, 2016 1:34 PM. My point is that before someone can rationally reject (Note I am not yet saying "accept") the Gospel narrative of the Resurrection, he must first have a rational and credible alternative explanation of what was reported to have happened, that can stand up to scrutiny. I maintain that no one has ever succeeded in doing so. I also maintain that taking the narratives to be reliably true has survived the most exacting scrutiny, many times over. This in not, as so many gnus claim, a sign of "blind faith" or a preconceived outcome, but rather the result of a thorough and objective examination of the evidence. A good summary of this process can be found in Timothy McGrew's series of lectures on the veracity of the New Testament. (I realize that listening to them all would take more than 8 hours, but you can hardly expect such a topic to be covered in a single tweet now, can you?)

2. "that a man, 2000 years ago, walked out of [H]is grave after being dead"

What part of that is so incredible? That Jesus was a man? That the Resurrection occurred 2000 years ago? (Would it make any difference if it were 5000 years, or 50?) Is it the idea that the miraculous can occur at all? (Because if that's your objection, then I would be justified in accusing you of "reasoning" from a preconceived outcome.)

Also, the very wording "walked out of [H]is grave after being dead" indicates to me that you have grave misconceptions about what the Resurrection actually is. It was not simply a return to life from death (although it does include that), but rather a New Creation. The return to life is actually the smallest and least significant part of that event. Jesus did not simply stop being dead (as in the case of Lazarus), but rather initiated a new mode of being.

3. "I can only shake my head in amazement"

As can we all. The Resurrection is quite literally amazing - as it should be.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "Even when they are telling true stories?"

I am not sure what of my statements you are referring to.

VR: "There are important differences between the Christian story and other stories."

Differences? Sure. Important? In order to believe that you'd have to be indoctrinated in Christian dogma. That's what some good coursework in comparative religions, study of Antiquity, languages, and History all give you -- the realization that Christianity resembles other successful cults in every meaningful way.

VR: "Don't you have to assume that all stories are false before you conclude that this story is false."

No. I can observe that reality is always consistent with itself, and investigate stories based on this.

VR: "And isn't that a classic example of begging the question?"

No. I can evaluate any story based on the observable fact that reality is always consistent with itself, and b) the evidence. No question begging necessary to determine that the supernatural events of the NT are just stories.

It seems to me that you (and some other believers like you, but not all) start out with a foundational premise that there must be something else out there, outside reality, and all of your other inquiries flow from that certainty. I've found that if you don't beg that question (that there must be something else out there, outside reality), then the world makes so much more sense.


John Mitchell said...

"My point is that before someone can rationally reject the Gospel narrative of the Resurrection, he must first have a rational and credible alternative explanation of what was reported to have happened, that can stand up to scrutiny. I maintain that no one has ever succeeded in doing so"

I completely disagree.
There simply is no fact entailed by a story about an empty tomb.
The earliest account, Mark, stops with the women fleeing from the tomb and it is said they told noone. This was so bothersome to scribes that they not only added verses to it but changed the story.
But it did not seem to bother the author of Mark that his gospel contained no post-mortem appearances.
Yes i agree, people had visions of Jesus, as they have today but we dont now who and when and what kind of visions and we definitely have no reason to believe these people were martyrs or anything. There is nothing to explain because we don't know what actually happened.

Christians love to praise the gospels as 'early accounts' of the life of Jesus but they completely ignore the clues we can draw from the omissions of the first Gospel.

I dont think you can trust later accounts that add crucial elements to a story that the earliest writer could impossibly thought to be unnecessary to include.
And if later writers have to change the earliest account in order to proceed with the story, everything they add to it is really dubious.


I don't know what happened but that does not bother me, why should it ?



"A good summary of this process can be found in Timothy McGrew's series of lectures on the veracity of the New Testament"

I might listen to some of it. I think highly of Tim McGrew. He seems to be very competent in probability theory and his writings in epistemology are quite interesting (the little bit that i know of)
The article of him and Lydia McGrew in the Blackwell Companion arguing for the resurrection seems to me to be a flawless exercise in Bayesian reasoning concerning history but the 'facts' they take for granted see to me to be dubious.


"Is it the idea that the miraculous can occur at all?"

No.


"Also, the very wording "walked out of [H]is grave after being dead" indicates to me that you have grave misconceptions about what the Resurrection actually is. It was not simply a return to life from death"

I did not even attempt to capture at all the importance and meaning the resurrection would have, if it were true.
I just alluded to the fact that it is claimed that Jesus left his tomb.



"The Resurrection is quite literally amazing - as it should be."


Do you think it is more amazing than the creation of the universe itself or the Son becoming fully human in the first place??

I can't see how.

B. Prokop said...

"The earliest account, Mark"

This is the opinion of some scholars. Notably, St. Jerome (who probably knew more about the New Testament than any other person in all of history) is not one of them. He put Matthew first, and I concur with his judgement. So did St. Thomas Aquinas. And in any case, the women in Mark were fleeing from an empty tomb.

But it did not seem to bother the author of Mark that his gospel contained no post-mortem appearances.

And why should it? That was not his purpose. Mark also contains no account of the birth of Jesus. Do you therefore assume that Jesus was not born?

the omissions of the first Gospel"

Again, I believe the order of composition for the Gospels to be first Matthew, then either Mark or Luke, and finally John. I could go with either Luke then Mark, or Mark then Luke.

"Do you think it is more amazing than the creation of the universe itself or the Son becoming fully human in the first place??"

Yes, I do.

Jezu ufam tobie!

John Mitchell said...

"This is the opinion of some scholars."

I guess it is the majority opinion but that does not matter much.
I think there are good reasons to think it is the first.



"Mark also contains no account of the birth of Jesus. Do you therefore assume that Jesus was not born?"

No, i think that the author of Mark sees no reason to narrate Jesus' birth because he believed that it was an ordinary event not worth narrating.
Do you honestly think that the author of Mark, fully aware of the story of the Great Commission, thought:
"The risen Son of God telling his followers to disciple the whole world? That's not really that important"


"Again, I believe the order of composition for the Gospels to be first Matthew, then either Mark or Luke, and finally John"

This view is maybe broadly defensible but i can not see how this is the most plausible rather than one that is born out of necessity.
Mark not only omits important elements, it stops before the most essential elements are narrated which gives good reason to think that the additional elements are later inventions.
Also, if Matthew already told the fuller story, why do we find these forged endings ??
It seems unnecessary to put these words into somebody's mouth if a more sufficient account was already in circulation.

"Yes, I do."

Interesting.

B. Prokop said...

Do you honestly think that the author of Mark ... thought ... "That's not really that important?"

You're asking the wrong question. It's not that Mark didn't think these things important, it's just that they weren't what he wanted to write about. All four of the Evangelists had very specific theological points they wished to make, and arranged the selection and presentation of their material to suit their purposes.

"why do we find these forged endings?"

Why do you call them forged? First of all, we do not know the story of how they were appended to the rest of Mark. It's entirely probable that they were part of the original design of the Gospel, just written by another hand. There are several other books in the New Testament with multiple writers - why not Mark? Alternatively, they may be a "Reader's Digest" version of an original longer ending, now lost. Or it may simply be that the last few lines were penned after a space of some time, and Mark's style had developed in the interim. (Do the songs on Magical Mystery Tour sound like they were composed by the same people who wrote A Hard Day's Night? Yet they were.)

You're creating difficulties where none are necessary.

"Interesting"

It is indeed interesting. The Resurrection of Christ is the single most significant event in the history of the Macrocosmic All*. It is the "Eighth Day of Creation", relegating everything that went before to mere prologue. Nothing, literally nothing is the same afterwards. St. Paul hinted at this when he wrote that all creation was "groaning" in anticipation of the revelation of the Son of God.

And in the end of ends, that is why this is not some mere intellectual game. Once the Resurrection is acknowledged as Fact, then all else pales in comparison to it and has to be evaluated in light of it. Our response to it is more important than our careers, our politics, our families, our country, our very lives.. more important than anything you can think of.

* A Phrase coined by the good Edward E. Smith, author of The Lensman Series

Jezu ufam tobie!

Hugo Pelland said...

B. Prokop said...

The Resurrection of Christ is the single most significant event in the history of the Macrocosmic All*. It is the "Eighth Day of Creation", relegating everything that went before to mere prologue. Nothing, literally nothing is the same afterwards [...] Once the Resurrection is acknowledged as Fact, then all else pales in comparison to it and has to be evaluated in light of it. Our response to it is more important than our careers, our politics, our families, our country, our very lives.. more important than anything you can think of.

This is fascinating; please keep the comments going; 100 is not nearly enough.

B. Prokop said...

Hugo,

I appreciate your adding bold text to my comment, and have no objection to it. But I fail to see what point you were attempting to make by doing so.

Gyan said...

Prokop,
Granted that a man stood up and walked after being dead 2000 years ago.

But how does that show that this man was God?
Or that this event was connected with God?

Gyan said...

Rayndeon,
I appreciate your comments on the Big Bang theory. Properly understood, the theory is just a scientific theory that is neutral in the theism wars. It does not support theism at all. Since all the Big Bang theory reveals is that some billion years ago, the known universe had a much smaller size.

Of course, philosophy can question that science can treat of Universe at all. That Universe is a proper subject for scientific investigations. The way I see it, general relativity can speak of and calculate local geometry but to speak of and calculate geometry of the Universe is a bit of presumption.

Victor Reppert said...

Obviously anyone who thinks that God exists doesn't think that God exists outsider reality. Rather, he thinks that God is part of reality, and the creator of the rest of it.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2016/02/06/when-are-theistic-arguments-god-of-the-gaps-arguments/