Friday, February 25, 2011

Bob Prokop on Science and Objectivity

Victor,

You, if anyone, are well aware that I am the very last person to admit there is anything like a real conflict between Science and Religion. That said, I am also very much opposed to some of the frankly absurd conclusions arrived at by various persons who have a less-than-professional expertise in BOTH fields. I'm thinking not only of scientifically-ignorant Young Earth Creationists, but also of those (primarily atheist) persons who claim an objectivity for Science that it in no way deserves.

With that in mind, I simply have to quote to you a passage from a remarkable book I have stumbled across: "Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science", by Jan Golinski, Cambridge University Press, 1998, page ix:

"There is nothing self-evident or inevitable about scientific claims that become established as "truths" in specific times and places. ... Scientific knowledge should be understood primarily as a human product, made with locally situated cultural and material resources, rather than simply the revelation of a pre-given order of nature."

Golinski argues that, while the "Facts" accrued by scientific research may deserve a modicum of trust and be granted a (strictly defined) degree of objectivity, the broader conclusions derived from such knowledge are inextricably part of the prevalent culture and existing power structures. He makes a convincing case.

This has HUGE implications for the OTF. It means that no atheist (or skeptic, or whatever) can claim to stand "outside" of anything, simply by incanting "scientific" tropes under the illusion (dare I say "delusion"?) that such information is inherently objective. The DATA may very well be so (and there are limits even to that), but whatever effects such raw information may have on KNOWLEDGE can never be so. The scientist (or layperson relying on scientific research) will forever be a product of his times, his culture, and his environment. No one is an outsider.

As a very specific illustration of this concept, allow me to draw your attention to a perfectly wonderful book, also by Cambridge University Press, by Maria Lane, "Geographies of Mars" (2011). The book concerns how astronomers understood Mars throughout history. You might be aware that around the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries, it was widely believed, both by professional astronomers as well as by the public as a whole, that Mars was inhabited by a canal-building intelligent race. Here is what Ms. Lane has to say about that belief. It is well worth a careful read:

"The geopolitical moment in which the inhabited Mars narrative unfolded - dominated as it was by European imperialism and American expansionism - produced an intellectual and social climate in which the view of Mars as an arid, dying, irrigated world peopled by unfathomably advanced beings was really the only interpretation of Mars observations that could plausibly have been accepted by large numbers of Western scientists, writers, and audiences."

My point for bringing this up? Simply this - the widespread assertions by persons who make a habit of conjuring up "Science" (although they are most likely not themselves scientists) with the aim of confining religious thought to a supposed "God of the Gaps", and their claim that "History is on Our Side", are no less a product of the contemporary environment than the now discredited belief in intelligent life on Mars, and will someday be regarded with the same degree of amusement by future generations, who do not share our own particular cultural prejudices and blinders.

       Bob

142 comments:

Doctor Logic said...

This letter smacks of "scorched earth", postmodernist anti-intellectualism.

What disgusts me about the sort of rhetoric here is the suggestion that science doesn't advance, or that science is a form of pop cultural entertainment that doesn't deserve our trust.

99% of our knowledge about the world comes from science. The most reliable knowledge we have is scientific. Did a modicum of trust get us to the Moon or eliminate smallpox?!

Science has vastly improved our lives. The Bible never taught us a damn thing.

Christian apologists are more than happy to throw science under the bus if it will save their religion by making scientific inquiry look as arbitrary as the spiritual prejudice that lies at the core of their worldview.

Oh, if only science could be reduced to mere recordkeeping and endless data gathering like in the good old days of the scholastics. Then, there would indeed be no conflict between science and religion. This is what Bob really meant when he said there was no conflict, but, Bob, data collecting isn't science! There is a real conflict between real science and religion.

Science is about control and the elimination of bias, so we can see the world as it really is. Religion is the opposite: it's about the maximization of bias and amplification of prejudiuce and preconception. Science and religion are mortal enemies.

Anonymous said...

"Science has vastly improved our lives. The Bible never taught us a damn thing."

The Bible has vastly improved my life. It teaches me how to stick close to God. If you are disappointed its not a science textbook, then maybe you should broaden your mind a little. There are more important things in life than science.

And what on earth is 'science' anyway? If you just mean reasoning logically and folloing the evidence, then I'm all for it.

"Science is about control and the elimination of bias, so we can see the world as it really is."

This is borderline mystical. Studying science grants us a perception which bypasses our sense-data? Also, if you are determined to eliminate bia then you have a bias against bias. Self-undermining.

"99% of our knowledge about the world comes from science. The most reliable knowledge we have is scientific. Did a modicum of trust get us to the Moon or eliminate smallpox?!"

And 100% of our knowledge of the world is philosophical, since philosophy is prior to science!

But no-one denies that science works (smallpox etc.), what Bob is attacking are the theoretical posits scientists make - they are alarmingly susceptible to fads and flights of fancy.

Bob Prokop said...

"Dr. Logic",

I still fail to understand how you can employ that moniker with a straight face. Everything you wrote in your comment does nothing more than provide yet more evidence for my thesis. You obviously read the posting, but brought along with you your own prejudices and blinders, and saw only what you wanted (or perhaps expected) to see.

Of course science does not "deserve" our trust, any more than our government or my church does. We are dealing with human beings here, who have the same weaknesses and failings that I can so easily see in myself.

(Warning: I'm going to ramble a bit here, but I want to get a lot of points in with my morning coffee.)

As a professional analyst of the Soviet Union for some decades, I learned extensively about the history of scientific research in that country, to include the infamous Lysenko period, where no conclusions were allowed to be drawn in genetics that might conflict with the party line. And you don't have to look to totalitarian societies to see the same dynamics at work. In our own country, the Bush administration routinely manipulated, suppressed, and spun data to push its own line on (i.e., against) global climate change. Corporations such as oil companies brazenly distort data to hide the ecological damage their activities are causing. And don't get me started on the food industry, which does everything in its power to selectively use data to promote its "health" messages.

So no, even the data itself does not exsist in some idealistic values-free Zone of Objectivity. Quite often, we have to consider the source.

But when it comes to big-picture conclusions drawn from that data, now we are entirely within the realm of the greater environment (spanning everything from the small scale of the interpersonal dynamics withing the individual research unit to contemporary culture as a whole). There's just no escaping it. This is neither a bad nor a good thing - it just is!

Now my own expertise happens to be in astronomy, so forgive me for using a lot of examples from that field. Might I suggest reading the (short) book "How I killed Pluto, and Why it had it Coming" by Mike Brown, a quite readable and frankly hilarious account of the politics, personalities, shenanigans, skullduggery, and at times even borderline criminality that surrounded the decision to demote Pluto from the status of "planet". This is a perfect example of how, even when absolutely no one contests the actual data involved, the issues of "World View" that might be affected by such information are the furthest thing possible from objectivity.

I could go on, but this post is getting too long as it is. My point is in no way to denigrate science. (I love my healthy teeth, thanks to the science of dentistry!) But let's not endow it with properties (such as objectivity) which it does not deserve.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

The Bible has vastly improved my life. It teaches me how to stick close to God.

And Harry Potter taught me how to cast spells.

You're not closer to God in any way that you can detect or measure. And I'm not any closer to being a wizard.

Studying science grants us a perception which bypasses our sense-data?

Yes. Inference from sense data isn't the same thing as sense data.

if you are determined to eliminate bias then you have a bias against bias. Self-undermining.

I'm talking about anti-rational bias. Science is just an extension of rationality.

But your belief in God is not rational. When you claim to see or sense God, it's an anti rational illusion. You count the hits and ignore the misses. You don't try to control for cognitive illusions. That's why theologians say that scientific tests for God won't work. If you try to eliminate cognitive illusions that would make you see God even if he didn't exist, then you won't see God anymore.

But no-one denies that science works (smallpox etc.), what Bob is attacking are the theoretical posits scientists make - they are alarmingly susceptible to fads and flights of fancy.

That's not how this letter comes off.

GREV said...

Love these comments about Science being some sort of great System that is impervious to manipulation by self-serving people.

Good post Bob.

Science Doctor Logic, arose from the belief in reason that was embraced by Christian theism and its followers. If you are as into Logic as you claim to be try reading The Victory of Reason.

As one reviewer says of the book -- "A bracing antidote to the secularist smog that chokes education today."

GREV said...

"The Bible never taught us a damn thing."

So .... all the literature ... all the artwork .... all the ... list goes on .... that have been and continue to be inspired by our reading of the Bible is Nothing?
Or to quote "a damn thing".

Such a statement comes very close to disqualifying the person making such a statement from being taken seriously. I would hope it was a statement made in haste.

Don't believe what is in the Bible? Fine. I get that. Offer such a statement like the above as factual. I shake my head in amazement.

Anonymous said...

"You're not closer to God in any way that you can detect or measure."

I certainly can: I know when I am close to him and when I am suffering from hardness of heart, etc. This is part and parcel of the Christian's spiritual life.

"Yes. Inference from sense data isn't the same thing as sense data."

I agree with this.

"When you claim to see or sense God, it's an anti rational illusion. You count the hits and ignore the misses. You don't try to control for cognitive illusions."

Well, as I said, sometimes I am close to God (a hit?), sometimes I feel far away (a miss?).

I'm not sure how I can control for cognitive illusions in my case.

"If you try to eliminate cognitive illusions that would make you see God even if he didn't exist, then you won't see God anymore."

But this is problematic because those 'cognitive illusions' might be precisely those which faculties which God created to permit knowledge/experience of him.

Bob Prokop said...

Keeping to the subject of Objectivity, a good case study in point is what happened to Darwinism. "The Origin of Species" is a wonderful first draft of a theory drawing together actual observations. But we have to keep in mind that the conclusion that species originated through a process of evolution (although subsequently borne out by further observation) was originally a product of its time. The concept fit in neatly with the Imperialist Era, and "Survival of the Fittest" provided a convenient justification for the ongoing colonization of Africa and South Asia, with all its attendant horrors. At no other period in history would Darwin's theory have received the favorable reception that it did. In fact, the geopolitics of the Victorian era practically demanded such an idea!

After some unfortunate words spoken in the 20th Century on both sides of the debate, we have finally arrived at a point where no rational person (either a professional biologist or a layman) should have any cause to prevent him from simultaneously accepting evolution as a Proven Fact, whilst maintaining an untroubled faith in God. The only people keeping the bogus controversy alive are the partisan fanatics on both sides - the YEC crazies and the New Atheist fundamentalists. Neither side can lay hold to even the faintest claim of objectivity.

(And PLEASE, do not allow this thread to degenerate into a fruitless debate about evolution! There's nothing new to say by ANYONE on that subject. Let's focus here!)

Bob Prokop said...

Similarly, the "Outsider Test for Faith" is a natural product of our own current cultural environment - the post-colonial age of the end of white male dominance and consequent rise of multiculturalism. We are taught from our earliest ages to "think outside the box", to mistrust our own upbringing, and to avoid Eurocentrism like the plague in history, literature, and the arts. This is neither a Good nor a Bad Thing, it just is.

This results in a Perfect Storm in the intellectual climate, practically demanding an OTF. I personally happen to welcome the OTF (although I vehemently deny that anyone can ever truly be an outsider in anything). I note that Christianity wins every time the OTF is properly done (see G.K. Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man").

But again, it is impossible to understand its implications without recognizing its cultural dependencies, and complete failure at objectivity.

Steven said...

Bob,

As an astronomer myself, I find your characterization of Pluto's "demotion" rather disingenuous. You are right that there was (and still is) a whole lot of political meandering both inside and outside the astronomical community, but this has less to do with "worldviews" and more to do with a sort of intellectual and conceptual conservatism about what criteria defines a planet, which has absolutely nothing to do with the scientific theories we have that govern how we treat such bodies.

In other words, the controversy over what we define to be a planet has become a cultural one, largely due to the historical context that the term planet has, but what we call a planet has no bearing on how we treat these objects within a purely scientific context.

As for your contention that Doc Logic's response only proves your point, I have to take serious issue with that. I don't deny that cultural context can often influence scientific theory development, not to mention the politics internal to science itself, however paradigm shifts in science do occur and they don't happen because the cultural context allows it, they happen because the data demands it, quantum theory is just one example of that.

Furthermore, your post-modernism undermines your own theism as well. By making science into a cultural construct, not only are you promoting a belief that arsenic won't kill you if you don't belief in the chemistry that tells us why it will, you're also promoting the belief that your own particular proclivities toward God are nothing more than cultural constructs that are just as easily cast aside under different social and cultural conditions. Scorched-earth, indeed.

Doctor Logic said...

Me: "If you try to eliminate cognitive illusions that would make you see God even if he didn't exist, then you won't see God anymore."

Anonymous: But this is problematic because those 'cognitive illusions' might be precisely those which faculties which God created to permit knowledge/experience of him.


The prosecution rests.

You essentially admit that as soon as we try to correct for our biases, God disappears. When you adopt the assumption that your cognitive biases are messages from God and shouldn't be corrected, you trap yourself in a self-reinforcing delusion. Do this if you must, but don't pretend reason is on your side.

Doctor Logic said...

GREV,

So .... all the literature ... all the artwork .... all the ... list goes on .... that have been and continue to be inspired by our reading of the Bible is Nothing?

It's art. It's not knowledge. By that standard, we learn from Harry Potter, too. Or from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

Steven said...

Bob,

Just because some discoveries are made because the time is "right" for them to be made, doesn't mean that the findings themselves are strongly hindered by subjectivity (they can be, but this is not necessarily the case). I don't deny that it can take a certain frame of mind to see problems in a different light to find a solution, but that doesn't necessarily imply a hopeless subjectivity. Some problems are much easier to solve in spherical coordinates than they are in cartesian coordinates, does that change in perspective make the solutions subjective and therefore questionable?

Soring said...

Bob,

Of course science does not "deserve" our trust, any more than our government or my church does.

Science never demands or expects our trust. It demands and expects our skepticism.

Scientists constantly are looking for ways to disprove their theories.

Unfortunately I don't know your qualifications or ability to comment on science above and beyond this post but purely based on this post and the reply to Dr. Logic, I don't think you have a good understanding of scientific percepts.

In your posts you are citing examples on how non-scientists, politicians, demagogues, marketers, etc. have suppressed and manipulated scientific data for their own purpose. Unfortunately, you are confusing that manipulation of scientific data with the scientific process itself which leads me to my previously stated conclusion: you do not have a good understanding of scientific percepts.

To my previous list of manipulators of scientific data and conclusions you could easily add religious authority figures who routinely cherry pick scientific facts (usually out of context) when those facts seem to support their unsupportable beliefs or try to suppress or deride scientific data when they can't manipulate it.

In my opinion, one of the key factors that enable this type of manipulation is the lack of critical thinking skills that is rampant in society. Religion is the antithesis of critical thinking and a strong cause of the lack of critical thinking education in the USA.

You are also confusing speculation based on scientific conclusions with science itself. Any speculative conclusions that were drawn based on solid astronomical data about the Mars canals were just that: speculations. They in no way deflected or detracted from the findings which were available to the scientific community and formed the basis for a continuous stream of discoveries about Mars.

Imagination is a wonderful quality of the human mind and a big factor in our advancement as a species. That is as long as we don't confuse imagination and flights of fancy with facts. I am an avid fan of science fiction and well written fantasy novels but I don't confuse what I read with facts.

Soring

Doctor Logic said...

Bob,

The concept fit in neatly with the Imperialist Era, and "Survival of the Fittest" provided a convenient justification for the ongoing colonization of Africa and South Asia, with all its attendant horrors. At no other period in history would Darwin's theory have received the favorable reception that it did.

I think this is nonsense. To be sure, culture and personality has an effect on scientific development. Geocentrism was held back by the fear the church inspired in anyone who might dare to theorize about how the universe worked.

But your suggestion is that if Darwin hadn't been born, we would not believe in evolution today. That's nonsense. The evidence is overwhelming, and biology doesn't make sense in the absence of evolution. Maybe you mean that evolutionary biology might not have become accepted until 1900, but even that's a stretch.

After some unfortunate words spoken in the 20th Century on both sides of the debate, we have finally arrived at a point where no rational person (either a professional biologist or a layman) should have any cause to prevent him from simultaneously accepting evolution as a Proven Fact, whilst maintaining an untroubled faith in God.

If a man accepts evolution as a proven fact (which it is, right?), then he should be very troubled by the incompatibility of evolution and Christian faith.

Evolution places a lot of constraints on the way things can be. There are far fewer worlds that could evolve than there are worlds that can be designed. Any condition that evolution is unable to reach is easily reachable with a god. God can make any combination of animals, out of any substance, and without the need for any ecological balance. For example, there's no need for animals to reproduce at all, let alone have common ancestry.

So of the countless possible worlds in which we might have found ourselves, we find ourselves in one of those rare worlds that looks accidentally evolved. No one who understands probability can think this has no bearing on the Christian belief in a designer.

Anonymous said...

"You essentially admit that as soon as we try to correct for our biases, God disappears. When you adopt the assumption that your cognitive biases are messages from God and shouldn't be corrected, you trap yourself in a self-reinforcing delusion. Do this if you must, but don't pretend reason is on your side."

Eh? I'm not adopting that assumption; that is the claim which is up for grabs. You claimed it was anti-rational, so presumably you can offer evidence for this, and I was offering a problem for any attempt to undermine the evidential force of religious experience via 'eliminating cognitive illusion'.

Take a hypothetical case:

Suppose human beings, whenever they enter a building with church architecture, have a certain religious experience.

The skeptic might say: You ignorant troglodytes! This shows nothing! They only have those religious experiences because they are seeing church architecture!

The believer could say: Well sure, but how do you know that God hasn't decided that it is by viewing church architecture that people come to experience him?

So this rebuts the skeptic and the force of the religious experience remains.

Tony Hoffman said...

Hey, Dr. Logic -- good to come across your postings. I have to say that the only thing I regret about being kicked off of Thinking Christian is your (and David Ellis's) guest appearances.

Keep up the fight. Your comments are, as always, a pleasure to read.

Tony Hoffman said...

"Well sure, but how do you know that God hasn't decided that it is by viewing church architecture that people come to experience him?"

Occam's razor.

If you don't care to think from probabilities, and won't employ the process of scientific thinking, you are free to believe in any logical possibility. You  are not free, however, to call yourself rational by fancying anything that is untestable and not impossible, at least not without folks like me calling you on it.

Anonymous said...

Science never demands or expects our trust. It demands and expects our skepticism.

Scientists constantly are looking for ways to disprove their theories.


Anthropomorphizing science, check.

Deifying scientists, check.

"Science" demands nothing. It is a tool, not a person. Scientists have a track record of ignoring or downplaying what is inconvenient for their theories. They are quite human, I assure you.

Bob is right. Science is useful, but the use is limited and largely irrelevant on the question of God, outside of YECisms. Insofar as science reveals an orderly, rational universe, the case for God is only bolstered, not diminished.

Which is why it continues to be used for theistic apologetics quite often.

Karl Grant said...

Doctor Logic,

Science has vastly improved our lives. The Bible never taught us a damn thing.

That statement flies in the face of evidence. The Bible has actually been of great value to the fields of history and archeology. Take the Hittites for example. They were once thought to be a Biblical legend, until their capital and records were discovered at Bogazkoy, Turkey. Or how it was once claimed there was no Assyrian king named Sargon as recorded in Isaiah 20:1 because that name was not known in any other record. Guess what? Sargon's palace was discovered in Khorsabad, Iraq awhile ago. There is just two examples and Biblical archaeology is a respectable academic field.


It's art. It's not knowledge. By that standard, we learn from Harry Potter, too. Or from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

Art is knowledge, there is a reason we have art degrees in college. And we learn from reading Harry Potter. Ever heard the expression that 'art is the canvas of the soul?' By reading Harry Potter we learn a great deal about JK Rowling's mindset, ethics, so on. Same thing from the Book of the Dead, haven't you ever heard of cultural anthropology? Wouldn't they consider the Book of the Dead to provide insight to Ancient Egyptian culture and beliefs?

Anonymous said...

Evolution places a lot of constraints on the way things can be. There are far fewer worlds that could evolve than there are worlds that can be designed.

Except evolution is a design method, so...

Anonymous said...

"Occam's razor.

If you don't care to think from probabilities, and won't employ the process of scientific thinking, you are free to believe in any logical possibility. You are not free, however, to call yourself rational by fancying anything that is untestable and not impossible, at least not without folks like me calling you on it."

Why would you think I deny any of this?

Does the ceteris paribus strength of occam's razor undermine the strength of seeming that religious experiences provide? Most Christians don't think so, and they are the ones that have them.

GREV said...

Me: So .... all the literature ... all the artwork .... all the ... list goes on .... that have been and continue to be inspired by our reading of the Bible is Nothing?

Doctor Logic -- It's art. It's not knowledge. By that standard, we learn from Harry Potter, too. Or from the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

Since you cannot it seems do the Logical work of extending the statement I made to grapple with the History of how the Bible has inspired in ALL aspects of life.

Then I commend you to your unwillingness to deal with reality.

Try Victory Over Reason for starters should you ever want to possibly challenge your postivistic, ratitonalistic or whatever outlook you choose to call it. Looks somewhat look Comte to me. Accept his was a more interesting read.

I hope you are at least consistent and define yourself as a global strong proponent of naturalism with a belief in scientism that is very rigid.

I hope at least those terms do not call for definition.

Since you believe in Logic -- so called -- at least be consistent.

GREV said...

Doctor Logic -- If you don't care to think from probabilities, and won't employ the process of scientific thinking, you are free to believe in any logical possibility. You are not free, however, to call yourself rational by fancying anything that is untestable and not impossible, at least not without folks like me calling you on it.


-- Maybe I missed something but I think even a surface level reading of science tells us that there are things that are not testable.

So, your proud claim to be rational is again called into question.

Fordi said...

>"Science is about control and the elimination of bias, so we can see the world as it really is."

>This is borderline mystical. Studying science grants us a perception which bypasses our sense-data? Also, if you are determined to eliminate bia then you have a bias against bias. Self-undermining.

Wow. This is just fractally wrong. Elimination of bias by control of variables is not "borderline mystical". It seems that way because you are ignorant of the process by which bias is eliminated - but don't confuse your vague understanding of the scientific method for your vague understanding of mysticism; one of these things is actually discoverable.

"Biased against bias"? I can't even dignify that with a response; you have to already know you're being intentionally thick, because you obviously understand English sufficiently to form sentences.

I'm not even saying there aren't valid arguments against strict materialism - but these arguments? These are stupid, to the point of deserving ridicule. Learn from your fail.

Alex Dalton said...

"99% of our knowledge about the world comes from science...Science has vastly improved our lives. The Bible never taught us a damn thing."

I love seeing stuff like this. I mean I'm sure it makes atheists feel better to say it, but if this sort of polemic is supposed to be effective against the theist, it is mind-boggling. On theism, science is the use of our God-given reasoning abilities to better understand our God-given, God-ordered creation. So we thank God for these things.

Further, atheists act like atheists *as a group* branched off and found another superior way of reasoning. That really makes me laugh. AFAIK, atheists, as a group haven't done much throughout history, and the legacy of theistic scientists is obviously superior.

So, thank you God for science, reasoning and all that. And I'm sorry these ungrateful atheists want to take credit for the miraculosu abilities you've given them, and the utterly awe-inspiring miraculous world you've created for us to understand and control for our own benefit, to a degree.

Victor Reppert said...

Bob Prokop has informed me that he is having trouble with his computer. He can't access this site for a day or two.

Duke York said...

"AFAIK, atheists, as a group haven't done much throughout history, and the legacy of theistic scientists is obviously superior."

Your point is specious.

Before around a hundred years ago, openly professing atheism could get you killed at the worst or socially ostracized at the best.

If those scientists had been atheists and had spoke their convictions, we would never have heard of them.

And really? You're talking to your invisible friend in public? Let me tell you what your invisible friend ordered you to do when you claim he was here:

"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Matthew 6:5-6

If you're going to claim to worship him, you have to do what he says.

Duke

Alex Dalton said...

Duke - thx for reinforcing my point. The superiority of scientific atheism has yet to be established. Further, the New Atheism, though it worships at the altar of science, doesn't seem to promote its actual practice. You dawkins fans should ditch the philosophy major and go study fungus. Oh wait - then u would not be as good at arguing against theism. Real science doesn't really help u there. And about praying in public, I was kidding and making a rhetorical point - I.e. that comment was not literally addressed to God.

cl said...

Bob Proskop,

"Golinski argues that, while the "Facts" accrued by scientific research may deserve a modicum of trust and be granted a (strictly defined) degree of objectivity, the broader conclusions derived from such knowledge are inextricably part of the prevalent culture and existing power structures. He makes a convincing case."

"This has HUGE implications for the OTF. It means that no atheist (or skeptic, or whatever) can claim to stand "outside" of anything, simply by incanting "scientific" tropes under the illusion (dare I say "delusion"?) that such information is inherently objective. The DATA may very well be so (and there are limits even to that), but whatever effects such raw information may have on KNOWLEDGE can never be so. The scientist (or layperson relying on scientific research) will forever be a product of his times, his culture, and his environment. No one is an outsider."


If you can get Loftus to agree to this simple truth, I'll buy pizza--and beer, if you wish.

Doctor Logic,

"Science has vastly improved our lives. The Bible never taught us a damn thing."

How do you reconcile blatant cherrypicking and false claims with the assertion that you are a "doctor" of logic?

unkleE said...

Dr Logic said: "99% of our knowledge about the world comes from science."
I don't think that is true. 99% of my knowledge of the world comes from my senses, and the scientific method never comes into it. Think of all the millions of pieces of sense data I receive every day, and how few of them are scientific in the true sense, and many of them probably never could be.

"You're not closer to God in any way that you can detect or measure."
And this statement is unfortunate. Why not add "In my opinion ..." rather than state as a fact what you cannot possibly know? Christians have been claiming certainty for years, and instead of unbelievers demonstrating humility, they join them in overstatement! Such over-statement is a discussion killer. I also think it is erroneous, and can be shown to be, but it is difficult to see how discussing it would have any value when up against such unjustified certainty.

Best wishes.

Steven said...

Cl,

When you folks can show that your contention that we should be skeptical of skepticism is coherent and not circular, then we'll take you argument seriously.

The scientist (or layperson relying on scientific research) will forever be a product of his times, his culture, and his environment. No one is an outsider.

This is not an argument against a skeptical position. This is a warning that we need to be concerned about all the conclusions that we draw, and that is a statement that we all agree on, even Loftus. We can never really get outside our own minds, and therefore we need to be skeptical even of our own conclusions. The OTF, due to its empirical nature, is not a perfect test, but no empirical test ever is, but that doesn't mean that we can't draw probable conclusions from it.

So the theist either has to produce enough empirical evidence to overwhelm empirical skepticism and the proven, well confirmed (though imperfect) process associated with it, or it has to show that God is logically necessary.

It really is as simple as that. You and Bob and Victor and every other theist can complain about this problem all you want, but no amount of trying to refocus the debate on any biases that your interlocutors might have will change this. We already acknowledge that we have biases, and these biases are why we are skeptical in the first place.

Tony Hoffman said...

"Why would you think I deny any of this?"

Because you proposed adding "because that's what God wants" onto a simpler explanation. Do you understand what Occam's Razor entails?

"Does the ceteris paribus strength of occam's razor undermine the strength of seeming that religious experiences provide? Most Christians don't think so, and they are the ones that have them."

I don't understand your first sentence. (I studied Latin and know full well what ceteris paribus means, but the entire sentence just doesn't make sense as written -- "strength of seeming?"

Victor Reppert said...

I think Bob's point has to be modified in certain ways, in that I think that science has the means to eventually correct its biases and mistakes over time. It is a human enterprise, subject to peer pressures and what not, but eventually it has the ability to snap out of its biases. Take, for example, the behaviorist phenomenon in psychology. I remember when I was an undergraduate that the entire psychology department at ASU was one big rat lab. Eventually this broke down, and now this period of the history of psychology is made fun of. But you would have been made fun of in those days if you thought behaviorism wasn't the wave of the future. Sometimes science gets out of a rut simply because the major figures keeping it in that rut die off.

In short, I would say that science has ways of moving in the direction of objectivity, but the wheels of the science gods may move more slowly than most people realize. Hence a strong apparent consensus in the scientific community may represent nothing more than a passing phase, not a guarantee that science has reached genuine certainty.

I'm not saying Bob would deny this. I do think what you have to say that science, as a intersubjective human enterprise, moves in the direction of objectivity, though it never achieves complete objectivity.

cl said...

Steven,

Are you confusing me with somebody else, or perhaps responding to a comment I made elsewhere? I ask because your remark seems "out in left field," if you will. Nonetheless, I'll play:

"This is a warning that we need to be concerned about all the conclusions that we draw, and that is a statement that we all agree on, even Loftus."

Loftus would of course *say* that he agrees, but in practice, he is not too concerned about the conclusions he draws. For example, he claims we should all demand positive evidence for that which we accept as true, yet he also tells us science has shown there was no Exodus, while supplying no positive evidence whatsoever, and ignoring positive evidence that challenges his claim. IOW, he commits there same fallacies of "arguing from the gaps" and cherrypicking that he derides believers for. Does that seem like "concern" about his own conclusions to you? I've got plenty of other examples on my blog.

"The OTF, due to its empirical nature, is not a perfect test, but no empirical test ever is, but that doesn't mean that we can't draw probable conclusions from it."

Where have I said otherwise?

"...[the theist] has to show that God is logically necessary."

Do you have a response to Aristotle's argument from kinesis that *doesn't* amount to handwaving? If so, I'm all ears. If not, consider it shown.

"You and Bob and Victor and every other theist can complain about this problem all you want, but no amount of trying to refocus the debate on any biases that your interlocutors might have will change this."

What problem do you allege I complain about, and on what grounds do you claim I'm trying to refocus the debate? Would you care to cite something specific that I said?

Duke York said...

"Duke - thx for reinforcing my point. The superiority of scientific atheism has yet to be established."

Wait -- your point was that religions survive through social and physical force?

I've got to start reading more carefully.

"The superiority of scientific atheism has yet to be established. "

As someone alive now, you will have a longer, healthier life, with more free time to spend on pleasurable activities, and are far less likely to live in slavery or serfdom than someone who lived during the thousand or so years Christianity ruled the West. I (and most atheists) would say this at least suggests the superiority of the secular, scientific world view.

And science is predicated on Christianity? That doesn't make sense either. 3500 years after Abraham, 1700 years after Jesus, Newton published the Principia. Three hundred years after that (or so) we have all the goods described above. To me (and to most atheists, I'd guess) that timing seems to indicate that something was retarding progress, and religion was the most powerful force in culture during that time, it is the most likely place to lay the blame.

Alex Dalton said...

Duke: Wait -- your point was that religions survive through social and physical force?

Alex: Nowhere do I even hint at such a thing.

Duke: I've got to start reading more carefully.

Alex: I agree.

Duke: As someone alive now, you will have a longer, healthier life, with more free time to spend on pleasurable activities, and are far less likely to live in slavery or serfdom than someone who lived during the thousand or so years Christianity ruled the West. I (and most atheists) would say this at least suggests the superiority of the secular, scientific world view.

Alex: Right, because we have evidence that Atheism helps you live longer, healthier, and happier, and was the major impetus for the advance of personal freedom in civilization. Only, I haven't seen it. I'll trust that you can point me in the right direction though.

Duke: And science is predicated on Christianity? That doesn't make sense either.

Alex: First, what exactly does that even mean? Second, where do I say anything of the sort? Please show me. Again, I agree with your statement to the effect that you need to start reading more carefully.

Duke: 3500 years after Abraham, 1700 years after Jesus, Newton published the Principia. Three hundred years after that (or so) we have all the goods described above. To me (and to most atheists, I'd guess) that timing seems to indicate that something was retarding progress, and religion was the most powerful force in culture during that time, it is the most likely place to lay the blame.

Alex: Is this an argument? How does it go exactly?

1. Religion has existed for a long time as a powerful cultural force.

2. During certain segments of that time, there was not significant scientific progress.

3. Therefore, it was most likely religion that was "retarding" the progress of science.

If that horrible monstrosity is not the argument you are making, please revise it according to your intentions and present it. I'd be glad to consider it.

Duke York said...

Oh, why not? I was going to let this go, but I think I'll keep posting. It's sometime fun to satisfy the whims of blow-hards such as yourself, Alex.

P1) Religion existed as a powerful social force for thousands of years.

P2) Religion is either neutral to, advantageous to, or disadvantageous to the advancement of science.

P3) Science, when it advances, advances very rapidly and in an obvious manner.

P4) Science has never advanced to the same degree it has in the past three hundred years.

From (P4) and (P1)
C1) Religion existed without science for thousands of years.

From (C1) and (P2)
C2) Religion is not advantageous to science.

P5) Religion maintains its social status through force, either physical (pogroms, forced conversion, whipping of children), social (loss of status, trading opportunities, and employment) and threatened (hell, karma, bad re-incarnations).

P6) Religion targets people who question the current social order.

P7) Religions make or have made claims about the physical world, including but not limited to the age of the earth, the orbits of planets and the trajectory of cannon-balls, the origins of disease, the nature of human thought, the origin of the physical constants, the origin of life and species, and many other things.

P8) When claims are made by religion, they become part of religion's social order.

P9) Claims about the physical world are more often wrong than right.

P10) Science can only advance by discarding false claims.

P11) Force directed against an endeavor is disadvantageous to that endeavor.

From (P10), (P7), (P8) and (P9)
C3) Scientists or proto-scientists are a threat to religions' social order.

From (C3), (P5), (P6), (P11)

C4) Religion is disavantageous to science.

There. I know it's not perfect, and I know you'll use it as an opportunity to feel smugly superior to me, Alex, but I've done what you asked.

Duke

cl said...

What is it with atheists and name-calling these days? Are those that indulge this technique all reading from the same script or what?

Duke York,

"I know it's not perfect, and I know you'll use it as an opportunity to feel smugly superior to me, Alex, but I've done what you asked. "

I disagree. It's not that it's "not perfect," it isn't even valid or sound. Moreover, you personify religion, and that's an error. No offense, but your argument is a mess!

Alex Dalton said...

Duke - I have nothing against you. And rather than ridicule you, I'm impressed with the job you did. You seem like a bright guy to me, but what do I know? We disagree, but let's take the opportunity to jettison the personal elements and the put-downs. I apologize if I've offended you. I can be a jerk, especially when arguing. I think it only makes discussions harder and certainly makes them less enjoyable so I'll try to just respectfully disagree w/o all the bluster and sarcasm.

Where is the evidence for P3) coming from? What historians of science claim that science advances rapidly and in an obvious manner? And what is "rapidly" and why is this good? Repeatability seems to be a scientific value that properly mitigates against rapid acceptance of novel theories. I can think of men like Kuhn who see the history of scientific paradigm shifts in terms of initial and sometimes prolonged resistance to anamolous data that eventually accumulates to the point of collapse of the previous paradigm. Many disagree with Kuhn's views on various points but I've never seen a historian of science describe scientific change in the terms you use.

C2 doesn't follow from C1 and P2 because it simply is not the case that if a certain social force IS advantageous to scientific practice, that scientific practice will automatically flourish during the time of this significant social force. There are many reasons: a) We could have other social, economic, and political factors working against science at the same time b) the natural rate of accumulation of human knowledge may simply not have reached a certain pivotal apex from which scientific knowledge could then exponentially grow as it has in modern times c) historical contingencies - men with the means and ability to cause certain significant quantum leaps in scientific knowledge may simply have not yet come along d) because a social force is *advantageous* to science does not mean it will intimately *concern* itself with scientific pursuit. A certain economic philosophy of a certain country might be ideal for funding the most costly, yet potentially beneficial, scientific pursuits, and thus be advantageous to science *if* the people of this country are so inclined. But perhaps they prefer to spend their money on grand architectural projects that attract tourist. e) religion's existence w/o science could simply be due to the fact that science may not have been deemed advantageous to religion.

Alex Dalton said...

P5) is easy to reject as it just looks like hysterical speculation, but I invite you to provide the evidence for it. P6) seems like a similarly unevidenced hysterical generalization, but I invite you to support it. P7) is too vague to be of any use; various different versions of various different religions make various different claims. Sure, we can lump them all in together and make a "more wrong than right" claim, but this is essentially meaningless. We could take all of the scientific claims of all time and do the same. P8) looks like a hasty generalization with regards to religious claims about properly scientific facts. Other than marginal groups like YEC propagandists, I rarely encounter religious believers who even mention, let alone manifest significant social behavior conditioned by, such properly scientific knowledge. P9) seems to beg the question, but clearly applies to scientific claims regardless. P10) is obviously false. Though discarding of false claims is important, it is not necessary or possible in any absolute sense. Science can and only does advance by accumulating true claims in the midst of all sorts of false claims (*some* of which are discarded), and I'm sure you'd agree that 10,000 years from now, many of our current scientific claims will be seen as false, though they may have been held for long periods of time during the otherwise forward advancement of scientific knowledge. In theory, false claims of certain types of *religion* can actually even be conducive to scientific advancement. If religion falsely claims that the origin of life is scientifically inexplicable and lists various reasons revolving around current obstacles in abiogenesis research, this can be a major impetus for a enquiry into these areas. From what I've read, a young Darwin was very interested in Paley's arguments and Natural Theology in general, and they were very much an impetus for his own theorizing, even if he came to radically different conclusions.

bedtime for me....

Papalinton said...

Dr Logic, you are the voice of reason and sensibility on this thread. All else is denial, obfuscation, personal revelation, supernatural hyperbole and plain downright superstition.

The only rationale that can account for the myriad of religions is that it is a metaphysic construct that is, in totality, brain and mind bound. The only rationale that can account for the myriad of religions so systemically congruent to particular cultures, is because they are wholly and solely, constructs of that society or community. The only rationale that accounts for the competing and/or the disparate nature of the myriad of religions, is that they developed independently of each other as indeed a culture is constructed by individual communities, in the attempt to make sense of the world though their own eyes. The historical spread of the christianities was never because of their purported 'self-evident trooth', it was spread only through the annihilation or destruction of a previously held religion of the defeated community. History is always written by the victors. However, whether it is acknowledged or not [a view that is irrelevant to the outcome], the end of religion, as we know it, is happening. It is inexorably losing ground to reason and fact. And the history of the christianities will be rewritten as the rump of a minority section of the wider community into the future. The trends are palpable. Yes, it will be a three steps forward and two steps back, in the progress towards a more balanced global population, but we are witnessing right now, how religion is being challenged and tested as never before.

You can try to put on the brakes. You can try to throw out the anchor. However, no amount of obfuscation, no amount of science bashing, no amount of deflection, is going to change the outcome. Jan Golinski's efforts [another of the ill-considered accommodationists, attempting to inveigle the 'bona fides' of religion through the backdoor, into the public domain by bashing science], are not going to work. It is religion that must change, just as John Spong says it.

Get over it Bob Prokop. All this is rearguard bluster. The horse has bolted.

Sheesh

Duke York said...

"We disagree, but let's take the opportunity to jettison the personal elements and the put-downs."

Agreed! This should be fun!

"I apologize if I've offended you. I can be a jerk, especially when arguing."

I sincerely apologize to you, as well. I can be a jerk in these things, too.

On to the arguments!

"Where is the evidence for P3) coming from?"

I'm sorry. I assumed you'd agreed to that when you didn't challenge it in my first argument.

To answer the question directly, the evidence comes from the study of technological advancement. Let's take, as a metric, life expectancy.

(Should I defend this choice? Sure. Life expectancy, while it ignores several key technologies, calls on many others (biology, anatomy, agronomy, transportation), and it's a good bellwether, since it has strong encouragements for people to advance it before other metric, because it involves the survival of children and the continuation of one's own life).

I'm going to take these numbers from Wikipedia. While I know it's not the best source, I'm not going to schlep down to the library on a February Sunday for an internet argument ^_^.

From the Upper Paleolithic to "Early Modern Britain", life expectancy stayed roughly the same, at around 30 years old. "Early Modern Britain" is an out-lier, with an expectancy of 40.

From "Early Twentieth Century" to "Current World Average" is a doubling, form 30-45 to 67.2. In one hundred years, life expectancy doubled, as opposed to staying roughly constant in the previous 12,000 years.

It seems to me this can only be explained by positing that when technology advances, it advances very rapidly. Do you have another explanation?

"And what is "rapidly" and why is this good?"

Never said it was good! That's not part of my argument.

However, if you seriously question that the rapid advancement of technology is good, you shouldn't be having internet discussions until the 3000 CE. ^_^

"C2 doesn't follow from C1 and P2 because it simply is not the case that if a certain social force IS advantageous to scientific practice, that scientific practice will automatically flourish during the time of this significant social force"

It's not automatic, no, but we can draw conclusions from what we see in the world.

It's take the converse of (C2), that Judeo-Christian religion is advantageous to science. That means for roughly 40 centuries, science was in fertile ground and was thwarted by other social forces.

This doesn't work for me, especially since the societies dominated by Judeo-Christian religions were doing much work with the same social cost as science (such as arts, literature and warfare), work that would also benefit from the advancement or science.

It seems you're postulating a mish-mash of other social forces that retard science, so you don't have to fault the one social force that is more-or-less constant throughout those 40 centuries: religion.

Duke York said...

"P5) is easy to reject as it just looks like hysterical speculation, but I invite you to provide the evidence for it. "

I'm sorry, but you rejecting (P5) as hysterical speculation seems like hysterical blindess to me.

The premise we're discussing is that religion uses physical, social and threatened force to maintain social dominance. I already gave example in the premise, but I'll expand.

Physical Force:

Pogroms and Massacres of Heretics

Let's start with an oldy but a goody. Exodus 32:19-29

" 19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.

21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. 26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

27 Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”"


Shortened due to length...

Duke York said...

Continued from previous post on uses of force by religion...

Skipping over quite a few incidences, I'd like to settle next on the Albigensian Crusade. This wasn't one of the crusades against the big, bad Muslims that modern Christians like to defend as necessary. This one was launched against the Cathars, a group that even the Church says was peaceful and physically not threatening. They even believed that Christ was a deity! (Although I'm not sure where they fell on the fully-man, fully-good, fully-both spectrum).

They were a threat to people's "souls", though (and, one suspects, to the power and influence of the Church), so they must die.

I like to bring this one up because it's the origin of the phrase "Kill them all, God will know his own." It comes from when the crusaders captured a town and were unable to determine which people were Catholic and which Cathar. They ended up killing all 20,000 people in the town, since, after all, they weren't really hurting the Catholics.

Continued in a later post...

Duke York said...

Let's leap ahead to World War Two. Look at this writing by Hitler about the Jews:

I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. . . .

I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuternomy 17 [:10 ff.]) in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: "what they teach you in accord with the Law of the Lord." Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people's obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way the pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew 16 {:18], "You are Peter," etc, inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the Word of God, and therefore he forfeited the righ to teach.

I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let they stay at home. . . If you princes and nobles do not close the road legally to such exploiters, then some troop ought to ride against them, for they will learn from this pamphlet what the Jews are and how to handle them and that they ought not to be protected. You ought not, you cannot protect them, unless in the eyes of God you want to share all their abomination.

I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God's blessing in a good and worthy cause.

I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen 3[:19]). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants."


Ooops! Sorry! I got the wrong German-speaking megalomaniac! That was Martin Luther, founder of one of the major branches of Christianity, not Hitler.

Would you like more examples?

For now, I'll leave off of Pogroms.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

The believer could say: Well sure, but how do you know that God hasn't decided that it is by viewing church architecture that people come to experience him?

So this rebuts the skeptic and the force of the religious experience remains.


No, it doesn't rebut the skeptic.

You don't rebut an argument when there is a mere possibility you are right, no matter how improbable. Christians are making the claim that God is acting on them, so they have the burden of proof. That means you have to show the the feelings people are having are caused by God, and aren't just feelings they would have even if God didn't exist. That means doing controlled experiments.

The more I engage in these debates, the more I come to realize that Christians are cognitively crippled by bias. Christians don't just fail to systematically eliminate bias, they systematically eschew the elimination of bias. They know that eliminating bias will eliminate their faith.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

The Bible has actually been of great value to the fields of history and archeology.

Point accepted. There are indeed a lot of historical facts and things we can learn about the way people lived. There's are also a lot of things in it that are untrue.

Doctor Logic said...

Anonymous,

Except evolution is a design method, so...

Gaah! It burnses!

Evolutionary algorithms are indeed a design technique. It's a technique that is used when we don't know how else to design.

When we use evolutionary algorithms to design stuff, we create a utility function that makes useful solutions survive. We get survival of the fittest for the designer's utility.

But unguided evolution just implements survival of the fittest for survival period. And that's what we see.

Again, it's not enough to say that God is possible, or that God is consistent with what we see. You have to make the case that God is the most likely cause, and that doesn't work. Of all the ways God could have designed the world, he chose the one way that's consistent with unguided evolution?!!

The odds against this are overwhelming. If I draw cards from a deck and get 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 of clubs, it's possible the deck is shuffled, but extremely unlikely. There's only one way the deck could be if sorted, and that's the way we found it.

Doctor Logic said...

Tony, Papalinton,

Thanks!

Duke York said...

You ask for evidence that religion challenges people who question the established social order.

Really? You question this? There's just too much evidence to pick from!

Look at the US civil war: the Confederate States were explicit Christian, and the abolutionists were challenging their established order.

Look at the Civil Rights struggle: the KKK was explicitly Christian and the activists were challenging their social structure.

Look at the Suffragist Movement in the US. The opposition to it was explicitly Christian, and the suffragists were trying to change the social structure.

Now, I admit this is circumstantial. Perhaps the entrenched power structrues saw a threat to their power and reached out at random, and just happened to grab religion as a cudgel to batter the uppity blacks and women. Sure, that's logically possible.

If you believe it, though, I think you're indulging in poor, biased thinking.

Want to prove me wrong? You do some research. Show some time when

1) There was a major social upheaval

2) Religion was on the side in favor of the change

and

3) There was no corresponding reactionary religious force on the other side.

The one I might be able to argue for is the fall of Communism in Russia and the old Soviet Union, and that's only if you say that Marxism isn't a religion.

Now, you're questioned my premise 7, which says that religions make claims about the physical world. You also say that this is true, but only in the case of things like Young Earth Creationists.

Let me ask: do you believe in an immaterial soul? Then you are making a claim about the physical world.

Do you think your god created the big bang and set the physical constatns? Then you are making a claim about the physical world.

Do you think your god communicated with anyone, ever? That you know about it now? Then you are making claims about the physical world.

The only way a religion could avoid making claims about the physical world is through perfect Deism. I will gladly exclude such religions from my thesis.

(P8) is a weak point in my argument, I grant you. I can only say that we've seen religions attempt to defend the statements they make about the natural world with similar techniques they've used to defend their dogmas.

(P9) is a simple fact of grammar and logic. Because of how language works, we can say far more false sentences than true. This is so obvious, I won't take the time to prove it.

"P10) is obviously false. "

Alright, now that I see your line of thinking, let me rephrase the (P10)

P10) Science can only advance by categorizing statements as more or less in accord with the physical world, and will often discard some statements as so out of accord with the physical world we can call them, in conventional language, "false", although we make keep them as inspiration, estimations or intuition pumps.

Duke York said...

"I'm sure you'd agree that 10,000 years from now, many of our current scientific claims will be seen as false, though they may have been held for long periods of time during the otherwise forward advancement of scientific knowledge."

No, I don't agree with that at all. The list of our scientific claims that are out-and-out false (by which I mean "completely out of accord under any set of observations") will be vanishingly small and perhaps empty.

I'll grant you, though, that our currently theories are incomplete and need to be refined, and 10,000 years will increase their completion and refine them further.

False, though? In the sense of "out of accord with the physical world as we understand it"? No, none of our scientific facts are false in that sense.

To make it more clear: Newtonian mechanics is not "false". It is simply an approximation of Einsteinian mechanics and Quantum Mechanics that breaks down in a few cases.

Our current scientific theories will be seen as "true" (that is "in accord with the physical world under the conditions we can now observe it") because they are "true" under that definition.

Duke

Duke York said...

" Moreover, you personify religion, and that's an error."

Fine. Grep "People who use Religious Authority" for "Religion".

"No offense, but your argument is a mess!"

Internet trolling at its best!

GREV said...

Oh how convenient -- Chrisitans are cognitively crippled by bias ...

Then why bother engaging us cripples?

And your bias viewpoints do not cripple you? Scientism and all that other fun stuff that demands a closed system because the alternative might be uncomfortable?

GREV said...

Papalinton -- I see your back with more of your isn't it obvious.....

Ramble away.

GREV said...

Doctor Logic -- Again, it's not enough to say that God is possible, or that God is consistent with what we see. You have to make the case that God is the most likely cause, and that doesn't work. Of all the ways God could have designed the world, he chose the one way that's consistent with unguided evolution?!!"

For someone who prides himself on Logic it amazes me that the obvious other logical choice is that the idea that is God can act whatever way God decides to act.

That seems a Logical choice given the difference between the idea of God and the Creation.

But I guess I am just a cognitive cripple .... Who identifies with the majority viewpoint in belieiving in a theistic outlook.

So, I guess a lot of work is needed to convince a lot of cripples.

GREV said...

Lest someone think I am old and cranky -- I continue to enjoy good discussions but ones that actually take note of the history and facts that are at the heart of the matter.

And when people have the complete lack of respect to say the Bible teaches nothing or .... whatever else you want to add then my desire to engage in any lengthy discussion disappears.

Newsflash -- hardcore materialism and/or naturalism is the Minority viewpoint.

Your task to win the day is far more difficult then mine. You might be right but you have the harder task.

Alex Dalton said...

In defending P3) you hypothesize that increase in life expectancy is correlated with technological advancement. I have no reason to disagree with that. The problem is P3) is about science in general, advancing rapidly, and in an obvious manner. Firstly, taking one aspect of science (technological advancement) and showing a rapid growth period will clearly *not* make this argument. This is the problem with vague statements about “science” such as P3). You should define what you mean by “science”; if it is some sort of claim about *proper* science via *the* “scientific method” (which you’re seeing as first practiced by someone like Bacon or Galileo – as many do), then your argument pretty much dissolves as science proper could only have advanced recently, since its methodological inception is fairly recent. Secondly, the argumentative strategy here makes no sense. You try to show me that when science advances, it advances rapidly, by showing me that life expectancy advances rapidly along with rapid technological advancement? The latter simply does not support the former, and is unnecessary. All you have to show me is the science advancing and we don’t need allegedly correlated real-world benefits alongside this to see that. Thirdly, the length of time it took for technology to advance - whether or not there has been a recent catalyst in the industrial revolution, global wars, etc. – is actually an argument AGAINST P3). Technology has been advancing since the fist-hatchet of homo habilis. Sure, “science” has advanced rapidly very recently. There are all sorts of reason for that, but science has also advanced very slowly at times. So the statement that “Science, when it advances, advances very rapidly and in an obvious manner”, particuarly when focusing on technology, just seems obviously false.

Duke: However, if you seriously question that the rapid advancement of technology is good, you shouldn't be having internet discussions until the 3000 CE. ^_^

Alex: Well, I was talking about science in general, not technology (as stated in your premise). It is a good thing that scientific theories are tested repeatedly and firmly established over time, and not just instantly embraced. Indeed, this is why we praise our best theories like General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. But the same can be said for technology – it depends on where the technology develops and what it is, doesn’t it? Do we want rapid advancement of uranium enrichment technology in Iran? Do we want laser guns and light sabers in the hands of Congo military? Doubtful.

Alex Dalton said...

Duke: That means for roughly 40 centuries, science was in fertile ground and was thwarted by other social forces.This doesn't work for me, especially since the societies dominated by Judeo-Christian religions were doing much work with the same social cost as science (such as arts, literature and warfare), work that would also benefit from the advancement or science.

Alex: You just made a great point against your argument. Since the arts, literature, and warfare of these societies was inherently bound up with their religious ideals, and you hypothesize that science would benefit their flourishing, the religious aspect was probably *not* what was hindering what would have been so helpful to propagating that very same religious worldview. But its not just other social forces - but social, economic, political, and contingent historical circumstances - or the LACK thereof - necessity being the mother of invention. For instance, the historical contingency of WWII was a major impetus for funding of modern physics to enhance national defense.

You yourself say “we can draw conclusions from what we see in the world”. Exactly. If we look at the broad history of modern technological advancement (which you’re focusing on), we see that, contrary to your argument, from the 1700’s until now, religion was not a hindering force at all. Religion was in no discernable way a hindrance to Newcomen’s steam engine, Cugnot’s steam wagon, Hahn’s calculator, Bushnell’s submarine, Watt’s copying press, Cartwright’s mechanical loom, Chappe’s Telegraph, Volta’s battery, Trevethick’s locomotive, the printing press, Faraday’s electric motor, water turbines, public railway lines, the gas engine, the diesel engine, the automobile, the telephone, flight, the assembly line, the electron microscope, the computer, fibre optics, satellites, space travel, microprocessors, or the internet. If it was, please make the case.

Now I’ll leave it here. There is a LOT more that we disagree on obviously. But this thread is going to get scarily large and time-consuming if we don’t narrow it down a bit. If there are some key things you think we should hit on in your argument let me know. Just responding to it chunk by chunk like this is going to make me a neglectful dad if we keep going. We’re going to get into one of those situations where one or the other has to duck out because of lack of endurance, and I am enjoying our convo and finding it challenging, so I don't want it to go that route. Again, great posts and I'm glad we're now on better terms for the exchange.

Duke York said...

"Since the arts, literature, and warfare of these societies was inherently bound up with their religious ideals, and you hypothesize that science would benefit their flourishing, the religious aspect was probably *not* what was hindering what would have been so helpful to propagating that very same religious worldview."

I see what you're saying, and it's a good point. Unfortunately, it's very possible to do arts, literature and warfare in ways that do not challenge the social structure and therefore threaten religion. In my thesis, which I like but which I'm willing to discard if proven wrong, scientific advancement is unique in human endeavors because it is inherently about challenging accepted ideas.

(Notice, I'm not saying it's impossible to do art, literature and even warfare in a way that challenges the social structure; some of the best of each has been used that way. But if you try to do science in such as way that it confirms the pre-existing social structure, it becomes pseudo-science. Biology is particularly susceptible to this, having given us both creationism and Lysenkoism.
Or however you spell that.)

You also bring up a good point that I am conflating "Science" and "Technology". I admit that is a weakness of my argument, and I'll only defend it by saying that, if science and technology are two different things, they are very closely linked: too poor a technique (the root of "technology") will limit what science you can do, and too poor science will limit the advancement of your techniques.

"[W]e see that, contrary to your argument, from the 1700’s until now, religion was not a hindering force at all."

Actually, this is the real meat of my argument; everything else has been an appetizer for this argument. Since we've spent so long on the thread, I'll summarize.

In the 1700, religion underwent a massive down-sizing in power because of, among other things, the horrors of the Thirty Year's War. This, combined with the fertile ecumenicalism possible in the new world, allowed science to get a foothold and become a social force of its own right.

This is why technology and science advanced quickly in Northern Europe and Great Britain -- they were quicker to discard the shackles of the church, since their own Protestant denominations were weaker than the Roman Catholic that dominated the religious life of Southern Europe.

This is also why there appears to be a correlation between the rise of science and the rise of atheism. It's not that atheism causes science (or even that science causes atheism, although there appears to be some causation in that direction). It's that the same people that will threaten you with agonizing torture for saying you don't believe in their god will also threaten you with torture for saying the earth goes around the sun.

"Now I’ll leave it here. There is a LOT more that we disagree on obviously. But this thread is going to get scarily large and time-consuming... Again, great posts and I'm glad we're now on better terms for the exchange."

(Not the best edit of your quote. Sorry!)

Agreed, though! Thanks for the challenging discussion!

Duke

GREV said...

Duke and Alex -- most interesting.

Thanks for setting a good standard and providing much to reflect on. The English evangelist John Wesley once admonished his fellow preachers to learn from the opposition. Good advice.

Bob Prokop said...

"Dr. Logic",

You wrote: "But your suggestion is that if Darwin hadn't been born, we would not believe in evolution today. That's nonsense."

That wasn't my suggestion at all. Not in the least. What I DID say (read my posting again), and still stand by, is that had Darwin lived in any other period of history, he would not have received the favorable reception that he did. His theory and the contemporary political/social environment were made for each other!

It almost as if "if Darwin didn't exist, we would have had to invent him!"

(And please, please don't misinterpret me. I am a firm believer in the biological fact of evolution. What I object to is the pseudoscientific faux philosophical interpretations of evolution made by certain parties.)

Bob Prokop said...

Soring,

Now that my my computer has been de-virused, I can respond to some of these postings! I'll start with yours. You wrote: "Science never demands or expects our trust." Those are your words, but when I wrote "science does not deserve our trust, any more than our government or my church does", I was responding to this by the self-styled Dr. Logic in the very first post: "What disgusts me about the sort of rhetoric here is the suggestion that science ... doesn't deserve our trust." So yes, there are folks out there who are very much demanding that we trust science.

And when you write, "you are citing examples on how non-scientists, politicians, demagogues, marketers, etc. have suppressed and manipulated scientific data for their own purpose", you do nothing but provide yet more evidence for my thesis, which is that science is a human construct and a human activity, and therefore subject to the same shortcomings and foibles as every other human endeavor. It is utterly impossible to somehow separate "pure" science from its very human origins and usages. We simply don't live in such a world. EVERYTHING we as human beings put our fingers on will INEVITABLY be tainted by the consequences of our fallen state. And if you object to such Catholic terminology, let me re-phrase it in completely secular terms: The human element will forever be present in everything we do, and nothing we come into contact with remains unaffected by our interactions with it.

Doctor Logic said...

Bob,

And please, please don't misinterpret me. I am a firm believer in the biological fact of evolution. What I object to is the pseudoscientific faux philosophical interpretations of evolution made by certain parties.

Then be specific, because what you're saying comes off as anti-intellectualism. As a dismissal of science in general.

Are you now saying that science is trustworthy?

If so, what is it you're really objecting to? Is it the inference from the fact of evolution to the belief that there's no designer?

Doctor Logic said...

GREV,

For someone who prides himself on Logic it amazes me that the obvious other logical choice is that the idea that is God can act whatever way God decides to act.

Sigh.

"Don't you realize that physics can act in any way that physics actually acts?"

Can you see how vacuous this sort of statement is?

Take any event in history that you think is a sign of God, and I can answer that physics did it because physics can (in principle) act in ways that we have never observed before. We don't know all of physics, so who knows what we might observe next?

But I think you would (rightfully) object to this by saying that we can't explain an event in terms of physical laws that haven't yet been discovered. A physical event that hasn't been explained (i.e., predicted) by a known law of physics is an unexplained event.

So why do you think it is acceptable to pull the same maneuver on us by saying that "God does whatever God does"?

Doctor Logic said...

GREV,

God could indeed be explanatory of events in history (e.g., using evolution to create us), if you had a predictive model of God that made those historical events more likely than not. But you don't have a model of God that predicts this. You're just working backwards without ever working forwards.

Physics works backwards from observations, but then it works forwards with predictions, and that's why physics isn't just a complete waste of time.

Doctor Logic said...

GREV,

Consider a specific example. Will God magically poof a bowl of spaghetti in front of me in the next 5 minutes?

There are countless possibilities for what God would do. He could do nothing and let physics run its course, give me my spaghetti, give me Cocoa Puffs, give me marshmallows, zap me with lightning, make a tiger eat me, resurrect my dog, etc etc. God has the power to do all of these, but what are the odds?

Any theist who claims the odds of God giving me a specific thing (like a bowl of spaghetti) are better than 1 in a billion is lying. Theists know that the odds of God taking any one an action that deviates from normal physics are infinitesimal. Otherwise they would cancel their dinner plans and wait for their spaghetti to show up.

But theists violate the law of contradiction when they simultaneously ascribe larger probabilities to acts of God in the past than in the future. This is why they give credence to unsubstantiated stories about past events appear in the news.

If the odds of a divine event occurring in the future are 1 in N, then the odds that an alleged past event was caused by God are also 1 in N. Of course, the evidence required to believe despite these odds is attainable in principle by collecting sufficient evidence (assuming the event actually occurred).

But you don't have a model of how God decides, so you'll never be able to test your theory, and never be able to substantiate a claim of divine intervention.

In the case of evolution, there are countless ways God could have designed the universe. A tiny subset of those ways look like unguided evolution. You can't honestly tell me that you saw evolution coming, because theists have fought tooth and nail to prevent the teaching of evolution in schools. They know it's not compatible.

Tony Hoffman said...

Prokop: "So yes, there are folks out there who are very much demanding that we trust science."

I remain confused about your position, because you seem to be saying that we should not trust science because, like all human endeavors, it is subject to human foibles. But that's simply an irresponsible thing to say. It's like advising someone who tests positive for a fatal illness from a test that has a 99% detection rate that "you shouldn't seek treatment because you can't trust that test."

Two questions for you: 1) what provides us with a more accurate and meaningful description of reality than the scientific process?, and 2) do you really think that  you can create a reasonably complete list where religious knowledge overturns scientific knowledge at approximately the same rate that the reverse occurs?

GREV said...

Doctor Logic -- "Don't you realize that physics can act in any way that physics actually acts?"

I can equally say sigh to that.

You locate all things in physical laws. A strong naturalist then? Unless I am mistaken, you have yet to answer that.

Fine I hold that there is a law giver who sustains the Universe wherein which these laws unfold to the creation and maintenance of the wonder that is this Creation.

GREV said...

"But you don't have a model of how God decides, so you'll never be able to test your theory, and never be able to substantiate a claim of divine intervention."

If God is reduciable to a theory then your demand or claim made for a model might be credible. But a God reducible to a theory is not credible.

God Creator -- Creation made by this Creator. God as Creator is not testable by us.

Seek all your answers in what you see. As it crumbles may it hopefully inspire you. Such an approach does nothing to inspire me.

Tony Hoffman said...

 GREV: "God as Creator is not testable by us."

And if you were merely a deist then we would have no quibble. But I gather you are a theist, and I believe this entails more than creation. Theists believe that God interacts with his creation. 

So, which is it? Are you a deist, or do you think God interacts with his creation?

Doctor Logic said...

Bob, GREV,

(expletive deleted)

Go back and read what I wrote.

I was saying that it is NOT appropriate for me to respond that "I can answer that physics did it because physics can (in principle) act in ways that we have never observed before".

Yet both of you responded as if I endorsed this sort of "argument". I am totally against this sort of "argument", as I explained when I said you would rightfully refuse to accept it.

So, unless you're both contradicting yourselves, you both agree with me: I can't just devise a label for theory I don't have (e.g., "God" or "Ultimate Theory Of Physics") and claim explanatory power for the label just by virtue of possibility that a compatible theory exists.

Having a theory means being able to make predictions. If you don't have predictions, you don't have a model.

Theistic evolution is a joke because you have no reason to privilege evolution over the infinity of alternative universes God could have created. In the absence of a specific model, we should distribute the probability across all the kinds of universes God would make.

GREV said...

"In the case of evolution, there are countless ways God could have designed the universe. A tiny subset of those ways look like unguided evolution. You can't honestly tell me that you saw evolution coming, because theists have fought tooth and nail to prevent the teaching of evolution in schools. They know it's not compatible."



What I see is God as Creator.

What I see is -- Science tests and revises or removes theories that do not explain the physical.

What I see is primarily the American Fundamentalist arm of the Faith continuing to oppose the teaching of evolution so the charge that theists (in general) oppose is not Valid.

What I see is God as sustainer of what He Created and Science given the task of exploring that Creation. When Scientists think they have discovered the means to remove God by such explorations they are in error as eminent scientists such as Francisco Ayala have pointed out.

So Science does not threaten me but it fascinates me. What it may bring is what it may bring. When scientists step out of their realm to make metanarrative statements about the whole story they are on slippery ground.

And I wish scientists would be honest and admit to the religious influences on their pronouncements. Be it theistic, Pagan or Pantheistic.

I look forward to a new read by a physicist called The Purpose Guided Universe -- Believing in Einstein, Darwin and God

GREV said...

"Theistic evolution is a joke because you have no reason to privilege evolution over the infinity of alternative universes God could have created."

I wish people would deal with the universe we live in.

Papalinton said...

GREV
"What I see is God as Creator."

No GREV, you *imagine* god as creator. nothing more, nothing less.

GREV said...

"Consider a specific example. Will God magically poof a bowl of spaghetti in front of me in the next 5 minutes? "

Consider history -- God has chosen to work now through the efforts of people. The Church refers to this it seems as being being the hands and feet of Jesus. Leaving to God His choice to act in our lives as God decides.

And if that means supernatural intervention so be it.

George Mueller when he ran his orphanges in England believed God would work through the efforts of people to supply food every morning for his kids.

And people did.

The odds are according to God and His will in how He acts to sustain His creation. The odds are not reducible to a testable theory because that then makes God a mere projection of our theories.

GREV said...

"No GREV, you *imagine* god as creator. nothing more, nothing less."

So ... Freudian wish projection or whatever the nonsense was that Freud dreamed up.

GREV said...

So, which is it? Are you a deist, or do you think God interacts with his creation?

I am a Christian and a Pastor who holds to God interacting with His Creation.

Quibble Away ....

GREV said...

"Can you see how vacuous this sort of statement is?"

See the point but it remains for me that God as Creator is not testable by a model. Laws of Physics are bound do not try to equate the two.

I hold it is an untenable equation that is done to bring God down to a level we want.

GREV said...

" I can't just devise a label for theory I don't have (e.g., "God" or "Ultimate Theory Of Physics") and claim explanatory power for the label just by virtue of possibility that a compatible theory exists."

I try not to devise a label and deal with evidence that I have.

God has given some disclosure but not all. Either one is satisfied with that or not.

Science seeks to understand the world as we see it. I work with that.

Tony Hoffman said...

Me: "So, which is it? Are you a deist, or do you think God interacts with his creation?"

GREV: "I am a Christian and a Pastor who holds to God interacting with His Creation. Quibble Away ...."

Okay, my quibble is that unless you would like to provide us with that which you steadfastly avoid (a prediction), that you believe that God interacts with his creation appears to be a superfluous, or what I prefer to call meaningless, conception. I would suggest to you that your position is indistinguishable from that of a deist, and that unless you can offer how it is that your model for a theistic God better explains (basically, predicts, but I'm open to other methods you could suggest) reality then you appear to believe in a version of reality that could not persuade others.

Robert Hagedorn said...

A dangerous idea? Do a search: The First Scandal.

GREV said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GREV said...

God interacts -- where do we start?

Jesus -- enfleshment. God visiting and redeeming His people in answer to the hope of the people.

Continuing presence. Reality finds sustaining life in the continuing presence of God in the Spirit both in His people and in General through the Sustaining Grace of God in the world itself. Or as said in one of the prophetic writings that the rain falls on the Just and the Unjust.

GREV said...

I do not depend on my explanations to persuade anyone. Only God persuades.

GREV said...

But it seems we are getting away from Science and Objectivity.

GREV said...

Science is objective when it investigates the form of life but is it objective when it seeks to make pronouncements about the why of existence?

Trying to get back on track?

Jim McCosh said...

We've addressed some of the issues surrounding scientism here

http://saintsandsceptics.blogspot.com/2011/02/can-science-save-world.html

The blog is a "dry run" for a Saints and Sceptics apologetics website and minsistry. The website should go online soon. We'd appreciate any thoughts, insight, comments, ideas, advice, and of course ,help

Jim

GREV said...

Thanks Jim!

Will look it up.

Final reference to demands for a model regarding God -- No.

God is not reducible to a model nor testable by a model. Our desire to understand God is limited by the fraility of our status as creatures. Sorry if that bugs anyone.

GREV said...

Should have added that the language of Science cannot define God.

Rather the language of Science helps us in the adventure of understanding God's creation.

Christian theists who are scientists I believe have no problem with this.

Papalinton said...

GREV
"God is not reducible to a model nor testable by a model. "

How did you arrive at that 'fact'? [factoid, actually]
From which evidentiary source did you use to make such a universal acclamation?
Please don't tell me from scripture.

Papalinton said...

GREV
"Rather the language of Science helps us in the adventure of understanding God's creation.

Christian theists who are scientists I believe have no problem with this."

This is what psychoanalysts call, 'compartmentalization'. It is the wonderful capacity for the brain and mind state to hold two differing and cognitively disparate concepts conjointly. It is formed within the mind-state in regions related to that associated with dissociative disorders.

Each day the sciences are telling us more of the functional flexibility of the brain to accommodate such precepts. Needless to say, it's all in the mind.

Cheers

cl said...

Duke York,

"Internet trolling at its best!"

So name-calling is all you've got to say in defense of your unsound, invalid argument? Suit yourself, but I think you owe it to yourself to be skeptical of yourself and try to see your own argument from the outside here. Consider:

"Never said it was good! That's not part of my argument."

Unless you want to argue that "superior" does not entail "good," yes, you did:

"The superiority of scientific atheism has yet to be established." [Alex Dalton]

"As someone alive now, you will have a longer, healthier life, with more free time to spend on pleasurable activities, and are far less likely to live in slavery or serfdom than someone who lived during the thousand or so years Christianity ruled the West. I (and most atheists) would say this at least suggests the superiority of the secular, scientific world view. "


How can something be "superior" but not "good?" Also, earlier, as fodder for your point that religion dominates through social force, you wrote:

"Look at the US civil war: the Confederate States were explicit Christian, and the abolutionists were challenging their established order."

Yet, you neglect to mention the fact that the abolitionists were primarily Christian. Now, I've abandoned all hope of you admitting to any error here, but can you at least see why I'm skeptical of your argument?

Papalinton said...

@ cl
Duke York: "Look at the US civil war: the Confederate States were explicit Christian, and the abolutionists were challenging their established order."

cl: Yet, you neglect to mention the fact that the abolitionists were primarily Christian."


PapaL
All under the command of Lincoln, no more than a deist if not an atheist. A man who eschewed the christianities as one would a plague. The Unionists saw the abhorrence of slavery not because of, but in spite of their religious belief. They knew it was ... just ... plain .... wrong, no matter what religion was professed. Indeed the progressives of the churches of the day invariably came from the north. And it was the 'secular' values they held that came to the fore, just as Unitarianism does today.

cl whatever drivel you are espousing, please desist.

Papalinton said...

GREV
Has it ever occurred to you, you are taking money from your parishioners under false pretenses? Does it not embarrass you to stand in the pulpit and throw your own particular spin on scripture and pass it off as your purported god[s] words? Don't you get sick of the hypocrisy?

What does it feel like perpetuating a myth as did the high priests in the Jovian temple, or the temple at Delphi?

Just interested.

GREV said...

Papalinton -- continue to ramble.

Knowledge is obtainable and knowable by means other then through worship of the Creature.

And please continue your narrow mindedness in dismissing all the history and writing of what we call "First Philosophy" that speaks of things other then what we see. That helps to ground my assertions that the idea of God is not reducible to a model.

And yes, the Scripture proclaims that. A wholly acceptable and sensible idea that for God to be God, God cannot be reducible to a model.

Can you bear to read any critiques of Naturalism? Your evangelical devotion to your religion/Naturalism suggests otherwise. If wrong I retract but your devotion suggests you are not open to considering anything other then a closed system as your worldview.

Fine, but a very good literature suggests you might be dead wrong.

And by the way, a lot of literature is suggesting that the Spiritual is not just a product solely of the Brain. And by the way, if God created; why would the Brain not show reactions when Spiritual ideas are thought about. Nothing new there.

Oh, I am quite happy to speak of eternal life in Christ the Son. Don't consider it hyprocrisy at all.

As I said elsewhere the writers in the 1800's like Comte and others make a more interesting case against faith then you do.

Anonymous said...

"That means you have to show the the feelings people are having are caused by God, and aren't just feelings they would have even if God didn't exist. That means doing controlled experiments."

An idiotic demand.

We can't turn God on and off - he is either there or he isn't. And how else do you propose we control?

The more atheism I read, the more I am convinced that their hearts and minds are darkened - in their fear and hatred of God they grasp at straws and pin their whole weight on them.

Anonymous said...

More idiocy from Dr. Logic:

"Having a theory means being able to make predictions. If you don't have predictions, you don't have a model."

False. Having a theory means being able to explain.

Even more idiocy from the great Dr. L:

"Of all the ways God could have designed the world, he chose the one way that's consistent with unguided evolution?!!

The odds against this are overwhelming. If I draw cards from a deck and get 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 of clubs, it's possible the deck is shuffled, but extremely unlikely. There's only one way the deck could be if sorted, and that's the way we found it."

Bad reasoning - any draw from the deck is improbable. So no matter what God does we can infer: it was unlikely that God should have done that, therefore, he prob. doesn't exist? Absurd.

What is wrong with atheists? Can't they think and reason logically?

GREV said...

Oh ... other evidence is the limited manuscript evidence from early writers who make use of rational arguments and other testimony to tell us there are good reasons to believe.

But this is getting off topic.

GREV said...

As used to be said on that famous TY show --And Now for Something Completely Different --

"Oliver Wendell Holmes, Senior, was a doctor. As such he was very interested in the use of ether. In order to know how his patients felt under its influence, he once had a dose administered to himself. As he was going under, in a dreamy state, a profound thought came to him. He believed that he had suddenly grasped the key to all the mysteries of the universe. When he regained consciousness, however, he was unable to remember what the insight was. Because of the great importance this thought would be to mankind, Holmes arranged to have himself given either again. This time he had a stenographer present to take down the great thought. The either was administered, and sure enough, just before passing out the insight reappeared. He mumbled the words, the stenographer took them down, and he went to sleep confident in the knowledge that he had succeeded. Upon awakening, he turned eagerly to the stenographer and asked her to read what he had uttered. This is what she read: "The entire universe is permeated with a strong odor of turpentine."

Bits & Pieces, November 12, 1992, pp. 20- 22."

Tony Hoffman said...

GREV: "I do not depend on my explanations to persuade anyone. Only God persuades."

Then what in the world are you doing commenting on a blog?

GREV: "God is not reducible to a model nor testable by a model. Our desire to understand God is limited by the fraility of our status as creatures. Sorry if that bugs anyone."

Well, that and your comment above don't bug me per se, but it certainly takes away any motivation I might have to discuss the issue with you. It appears your mind is closed, and you just know what you know, and you are incapable of providing arguments for what you know. Not much reason for me to linger here any longer.

Cheers.

Warren said...

I wouldn't have believed it possible, but Papageno (or whatever) actually makes Loftus look good.

I'm unsubscribing from this thread until Loftus comes back.

GREV said...

GREV: "I do not depend on my explanations to persuade anyone. Only God persuades."

Then what in the world are you doing commenting on a blog?

The same reason anyone does. To think through things.

I depend on God to persuade.

My mandate is to set forth to people who want to talk a defence of the faith. And to discuss the Yankees even.

But if I believe Human reason is marred by the Fall then there is only so far that Reason can take a person.

The one who truly has a Closed Mind is the One who sets their Faith in the Power of Human Reason Alone.

Humanity tried that during the Enlightenment and it Failed.

GREV said...

Curious ...... over against Mr. Hoffman's charge I cannot provide reasons is the repeated comments of people who know me that I can teach.

I am actually refining a course entitled On The Question of God for offer in the Fall of 2011.

The issue Mr. Hoffman is -- I will not meet you on your field where Human Reason reigns supreme. And God and the Supernatural are not allowed but must be argued in.

The majority viewpoint is that God and the Supernatural are believeable ideas. You and your crowd have the harder road to prove why they are not.

History I believe argues quite forcefully that to trust in Human Reason is Folly. God redeems our reasoning capacities. Until then Reason alone is not enough.

cl said...

Papalinton,

"cl whatever drivel you are espousing, please desist."

Are you kidding me? In contrast to the way you rant on and on and on with assertion after assertion after assertion, I kept it short and sweet, and more or less limited to fact. The abolitionists were primarily Christian people, and this does not fit neatly into Duke York's argument.

Prove me wrong, if you can. Don't just assert "drivel" and call it a day.

Anonymous said...

Internet atheism s fast becoming a joke.

GREV said...

I love this long quotation from God's Undertaker:Has Science Buried God? -- by John Lennox:

“Thus, when theists claim that there is Someone who stands in the same relationship to the universe .... and that that Someone has revealed why the universe was created, they are not abandoning reason, rationality and evidence at all. They are simply claiming that there are certain questions which unaided reason cannot answer and to answer them we need another source of information – in this instance, revelation from God, to understand and evaluate which, reason is essential. It was in this spirit that Francis Bacon talked of God's Two Books – the Book of Nature and the Bible. Reason, rationality and evidence apply to both.” Page 44

Please note that rationality -- not rationalism which is a dogma – is being discussed here. Someone who holds to the standard of Human Reason alone can be said to be an adherent of rationalism.

Here is another gem: (Page 43)

“It is one thing to suggest that science cannot answer questions of ultimate purpose. It is quite another to dismiss purpose itself as an illusion because science cannot deal with it. And yet, Atkins is simply taking his materialism to its logical conclusion – or perhaps not quite. After all, the existence of a dunghill presupposes the existence of creatures capable of making dung! .....
But what destroys scientism completely is the fatal flaw of self-contradiction that runs through it. Scientism does not need to be refuted by external argument: it self destructs. It suffers the same fate as in earlier times did the verification principle that was at the heart of logical-positivism. For , the statement that only science can lead to truth is itself not deduced from science. It is not a scientific statement but rather a statement about science, that is, a metascientific statement. Therefore, if scientism's basic principle is true, the statement is expressing scientism must be false. Scientism refutes itself. Hence it is incoherent. “

Not only is scientism incoherent but materialism, taken to its logical conclusions or not, is completely uninspiring.

Hence another reason Atheism fails to persuade and its attempts to hijack Science not laudable at all.

Tony Hoffman said...

CL: "Are you kidding me?... I kept it short and sweet, and more or less limited to fact. The abolitionists were primarily Christian people, and this does not fit neatly into Duke York's argument."

LOL. During a time when pretty much everybody was required to identify themselves with Christianity your statement above is fatuous. The uncomfortable truth for Christians is that denominations split on the slavery issue, with both sides pointing to the Bible to justify their position. Rather than a feather in the cap of Christianity, the moral argument (that morality changes with time and across societies, and that Christians have obviously had to re-interpret the Bible to accommodate these shifts) unmasks what many Christians would like to think is an argument for their belief – the lie that Christian morality is objective.

GREV said...

"During a time when pretty much everybody was required to identify themselves with Christianity your statement above is fatuous"

Now there is pretty much a fatuous statement that identifying with something makes you something.

And please if you are going to bother replying don't bring up the Red Herring called the No True Scotchman's Fallacy I believe it is called. An Atheist tried that on me before and when I called them on it they never replied.

Tony Hoffman said...

GREV: "Now there is pretty much a fatuous statement that identifying with something makes you something."

Re-read what I said. And maybe you should look up the word fatuous as well. You're objection is incoherent.

GREV: "And please if you are going to bother replying don't bring up the Red Herring called the No True Scotchman's Fallacy I believe it is called."

Um, a red herring is a diversion. No true Scottsman is a fallacy. You should try and straighten out your terminology; I think that goes a long way in straightening out one's thinking.

GREV: "An Atheist tried that on me before and when I called them on it they never replied."

Yup. I'll bet that's exactly what happened.

GREV said...

Tony -- I re read your statement the point stands. You cite everyone calling themselves Christians as a testimony against the truth of the message and objective morality.

Calling yourself something and living by it are two different things. So, the point is quite coherent it seems.

GREV said...

What I was referring to in the wrong use of the Scotchman's Fallacy is that the claim is made that no true morality can exist because of conflicting claims to support of slavery by Christians.

I should not have brought it up because the circumstances behind the first use are unclear to me and more reflection should have been used.

Christ refedined societal norms in his time and Paul expected people to see beyond who they were to their oneness in Christ.

These claims it seems to me stand above the claim that No True Christian should can oppose or No True Christian can support slavery.

One is not to do evil to a person created in the image of God. In that people supported slavery they were wrong. The Scripture called people to see beyond status and status should have changed more quickly.

Funny thing -- it took the rise of capitalism on church estates to offer the chance to be rid of slavery. See the Victory of Reason for that.

It was the Classical Greek and Roman culture so beloved by Humanists that depended on Slavery. And that was transferred into backwater feudal states like Spain for instance.

GREV said...

I believe that Fallacy would say that I cannot argue that Christians are held to a certain standard of behaviour and if one does not do so their faith is questioned.

Well the words of the founder give one license to do so. By the fruits/life of the person you shall know the person. By the love the disciples have for one another they shall be known.

GREV said...

Hey I freely admit I have more reading to do.

cl said...

Tony Hoffman,

"LOL. During a time when pretty much everybody was required to identify themselves with Christianity your statement above is fatuous."

No, Duke York's claim is fatuous. I merely brought to our attention the fact that makes this so. You've spun this whole thing into the context of "the argument from Christian morality" when that was never even the issue. IOW, you're way out in left field. Think about it.

Papalinton said...

GREV

This not me talking. This one of your compatriots, a dyed-in-wool, high ranking theologian, with a strong grip on all that goes for christian theology and Apologetics.

John Spong notes, "If the resurrection of jesus cannot be believed except by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the gospels, then christianity is doomed."

GREV said...

Papalinton -- now that is amusing. Thanks for the laugh. Made my night.

Calling Spong a theologian.

Absolutely love the word verification on this ... wait for it.... expert.

Tony Hoffman said...

CL: "No, Duke York's claim is fatuous. I merely brought to our attention the fact that makes this so. You've spun this whole thing into the context of "the argument from Christian morality" when that was never even the issue. IOW, you're way out in left field. Think about it."

I believe Duke York's claim was that religious believers are often on the side of an entrenched interest. This is true of slavery, as it is many other issues that undergo social change. But if your point is that religious believers are usually on both sides of the argument, then I think that you, and I, and Duke York all agree.

I don't know why it was brought up in the first place, and I don't have the energy to go and follow the thread that began the conversation. I think that this thread is running it's course, however, and unless anybody wants to say something that I can't resist responding to I'm going to sign off. I believe there a number of unanswered questions I was waiting for, but I'm starting to lose track of what even those were.

Cheers.

Tony Hoffman said...

GREV: "Papalinton -- now that is amusing. Thanks for the laugh. Made my night. Calling Spong a theologian."

Sorry, can't resist.

GREV, up there, what you did with Spong, now that's a no True Scottsman.

Papalinton said...

Hi Tony
"GREV, up there, what you did with Spong, now that's a no True Scottsman."

Yes, it is always incredulous what theists do, and also what they do to each other. Everyone a heretic to each other, the moment there is even the slightest of difference. GREV even casts doubt on Spong being a theologian. Who needs enemies when you have christian friends. They turn on each other like a pack of rats the moment one thinks they smell a conspiracy. But then church history is filled with a litany of once respected theologians suddenly branded a heretic. Such behaviour is characteristic of an enclosed viewpoint of the contrived world they live in, not unlike the internecine squabbles we know about the mafia and their 'family'. If Spong lived a few centuries ago, I have almost a 100% notion of which barbeque setting he would have been the main crowd-drawing attraction.

You will also note how GREV is at ease in putting words into my mouth. I did not call Spong an expert, but apparently GREV says I did.

Cheers

GREV said...

Tony -- thanks for the point will reference and consider.

GREV said...

Papalinton -- said I loved the word verification -- expert -- not that anyone was calling him an expert.

Now do I consider him an expert -- No I consider him an apostate.

There is a big difference between heretic and aspostate and anyone with the slighest interest in wanting to know the difference should know that.

And you have No idea of the differences I am willing to allow. So you need to watch your ill-considered opinions.

Spong is free to Believe what he wants -- reference Voltaire and Roger Willoiams -- so your remarks about how I might participate in a Middle Ages BBQ are odious but seem to fit the style of contempt that you have for theists. Note I said the word might but even bringing such an idea in is repugnant.

But I expect nothing less.

GREV said...

Tony -- if I believe there remains a standard of Objective Truth that someone like Spong willingly violates and still seeks to be considered Christian -- his claim I am assessing not mine -- then no I don't believe I committed that Fallacy.

My assertion revolves around a claim there is a knowable truth and Spong has willingly departed from it.

A claim that Truth is Knowable in Christ and God will judge those who violaate that Truth is a Logical one that revolves around certain standards laid forth in Scripture.

Whether anyone wants to accept these claims is another story.

GREV said...

Papalinton -- high ranking theologian, with a strong grip on all that goes for christian theology and Apologetics."
February 28, 2011 5:51 PM

Sounds like making a claim for Spong being an EXPERT to me.

But what do I know,according to another one who posts -- us Christians are just cognitive cripples ...crippled by our biases.

What biases cripple you?

GREV said...

for the sake of clarity -- Willoiams should be Williams. Roger Williams was a leading dissenter in the early years of the American colonies.

Reference -- March 01, 2011 5:00 AM
Post

Papalinton said...

GREV
" ... so your remarks about how I might participate in a Middle Ages BBQ are odious but seem to fit the style of contempt that you have for theists. Note I said the word might but even bringing such an idea in is repugnant."

I was simply stating the facts as history shows us. Steak-burning [sorry for the pun, should be 'stake'] was de rigeur for the religious for many centuries. It might be abhorrent to you, GREV, but 'divine' murder was casually practiced by the faith you profess. You cannot deny history, just as christian Germany, the founding home of the Protestant Reformation, cannot deny the holocaust.

GREV said...

Papalinton -- newsflash -- for you and others -- as evil and abhorent that burning at the stake was it was not as prevalent as you and others seem to want it to be.

Rodney Stark and others have done the historical research. Try getting the whole picture.

GREV said...

So I don't deny history I just take issue with the careless use of facts by people who want only to further whatever ends are achieved by being careless with the facts.

Want to be careful? Then a more charitable discussion can always be had.

Papalinton said...

GREV
"Rodney Stark and others have done the historical research."

Stark is a world renowned apologist, militant, others would say; an activist that has pushing the syncretic perspective of the christianities for a long time. All that he writes is 'unapologetically' [pardon the pun] prescribed by the boundaries of christian theism. Even his Baylor Religious Survey is little other than placing spin on the trends of religious belief in the US.

Stark conveniently ignores the following point:

"Why did the medieval Church suppress freethinkers who dared to challenge orthodoxy? Because, as a leading historic example of undiluted religion, it was necessarily an institution of undiluted authoritarianism. It saw itself as the intermediary between God and hopelessly fallen man, who could not aspire to rise without its intercession. Its orthodoxy was literally the word of God; any deviation spurned God’s earthly agency, thereby the divinity itself—and was, consequently, profoundly intolerable. Where men possess no capacity to ameliorate their earthly lot—much less save themselves—and are utterly dependent on God’s Church, any criticism of it is an assault on the deity and undermines the sole institution capable of bringing men redemption. To tolerate independence of thought, given men’s loathsome essence, is to tolerate inevitable spiritual sedition. For man to be saved from his ineradicably sinful nature, his mind must be shackled."
Andrew Bernstein
http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2006-winter/tragedy-of-theology.asp


This was the underlying catholic philosophy that sought to justify 'pious' murder.

You say, "it was not as prevalent as you and others seem to want it to be."
GREV, what is the magic number to distinguish the 'not as prevalent'? 10,000? 50,000? 100,000? Remember total global population was less than 20% of today's population. Your groveling to Stark to mitigate the horrors of 'pious' murder is simply .... unchristian. And it is ugly.

Talk about hands over ears, close eyes and shout La-la-la-la.

Sheesh

Alex Dalton said...

Hey Duke...been a bit busy lately. Will drop in when I can...

Duke: In my thesis, which I like but which I'm willing to discard if proven wrong, scientific advancement is unique in human endeavors because it is inherently about challenging accepted ideas.

Alex: I think this needs to be alot more nuanced. Firstly, this is more of a philosophical (Popperian) view of how science ought to ideally proceed. And its not that I disagree with it, the history of scientific acheivement has not always proceeded in this manner though. Ultimately it is up to individual scientists to adopt this spirit, but often scientists or groups of scientists see value in continuing to articulate a particular paradigm despite a contrary consensus. Further, after a certain theory has proven itself enough through multiple independent tests and is widely accepted, you'll be hard-pressed to find the consensus continually spending their time questioning it, unless something truly anomalous surfaces. If science was only inherently about challenging accepted ideas, you'd never have a firm knowledge base to build on top of and there would be no progress. Its important not to confuse science with philosophical skepticism, which truly questions everything.

Duke:
This is why technology and science advanced quickly in Northern Europe and Great Britain -- they were quicker to discard the shackles of the church, since their own Protestant denominations were weaker than the Roman Catholic that dominated the religious life of Southern Europe.

Alex: Protestants doing science doesn't aid your argument though. All that would show is that certain types of religion are better at fostering the advance of science, which I don't think any reasonable person would disagree with.

Duke: This is also why there appears to be a correlation between the rise of science and the rise of atheism. It's not that atheism causes science (or even that science causes atheism, although there appears to be some causation in that direction). It's that the same people that will threaten you with agonizing torture for saying you don't believe in their god will also threaten you with torture for saying the earth goes around the sun.

Alex: If you're referencing the Galileo afair, IMO, it is a better example of a) another conflict among the explicitly religious, not between men of faith and a scientific atheism and b) conflict with the reigning *philosophical* paradigm, and its Aristotelian notion of the fixity of the heavens - the initial controversy sparking up with Cesare Cremonini, professor of philosophy at Pudaa.

All that I can contribute for now...Off to bed. Good chatting with you again.

GREV said...

Papalinton -- not only do you ramble but you twist. Since you seem either unwilling or incapapble of making logical extentsions to points because it does not serve your purposes then further conversation seems pointless.

I said I do not deny history which means to a person who is supposedly a logical thinker that I grovel to no one's point of view.

Then maybe I have answered the above point. That you have no interest in logical thinking and reasonable responses when it does not serve your point of view.

Which further myths do you buy into? The standard myth regarding Galileo and the standard myth regarding the Huxley - Wilberforce Debate?

Are you that into the religion - science conflict myth that you buy into those also? Note, but this seems to be pointless, that I deny the standard myth and not the fact of conflict.

I know -- unrelated -- but given your twisting of the other stuff it seems plausible you buy into those also.

GREV said...

Papalinton -- saying the murders are abhorent -- is not mitigating them. Not only do you ramble but your accusations grow increasingly strange. Do you hate the Christian viewpoint that much?

Stark's research and the others who have worked on this was done to show the reality of the picture which I am interested in.

Papalinton said...

GREV
I wish sometimes I could feel hate. But it is not in my nature.
The christian worldview is simply wrong. It is tribal, gang-like in its structure, each social enclave with its communitarian club-house in which club meetings are held every weekend.

Christians simply refuse to take responsibility for its own history. Stark is one such apologist. Someone like a Phil Zuckerman provides a much more nuanced state of the nonsense that is religion. His research into the Scandinavian countries are a clear testament that all that makes for improved living conditions for communities have no need for a god to be a component of the social structure except at the very margins in maintaining the national estate in the great buildings and monuments built centuries ago when human acquiescence to supernatural superstition and spirit worship was a central element in everyday existence. The world is slowly awakening from its slumber about the extra-natural or supernatural. People are growing up.

Alex Dalton said...

Papa writes:

I wish sometimes I could feel hate. But it is not in my nature.
The christian worldview is simply wrong. It is tribal, gang-like in its structure, each social enclave with its communitarian club-house in which club meetings are held every weekend.

Alex: Right, Christianity is false because it has a certain social structure. Sad thing for Papa's notions here is that skepticism/atheism is very obviously taking on a social structure and function increasingly similar to that of religion.

Papa: The world is slowly awakening from its slumber about the extra-natural or supernatural. People are growing up.

Alex: Have any sociological data to back that up?

Papalinton said...

@ Alex
"Alex: Have any sociological data to back that up?"

Yep, increasingly. The next ARIS due shortly should continue to underpin the trends.

Cheers

Papalinton said...

Hi Alex
You may want to read this:


http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/paul07/paul07_index.html

Cheers

B. Prokop said...

Papalinton,

You wrote: "The world is slowly awakening from its slumber about the extra-natural or supernatural. People are growing up."

Thank you, thank you, thank you! You just provided the smoking gun evidence, validating the last paragraph of my original post. (You should read it again before responding.)

We make a great team!

Alex Dalton said...

Papa - link doesn't work for me...I looked around the general website though - saw alot of bragging about how "we are a group of intellectuals" and other such nonsense. I saw Dawkins name on an article or two. If any publication allows Richard Dawkins to write outside his field of biology, it is probably not going to be something I'm impressed with.

Anyway, still waiting for the data.

Papalinton said...

Alex
Copy and paste the web site into your 'explorer' window.

It workd fine.. I just tried it.

Cheers

Papalinton said...

Bob Prokop
"Thank you, thank you, thank you! You just provided the smoking gun evidence, validating the last paragraph of my original post. (You should read it again before responding.)"

The next ARIS survey should determine who's perspective is being reflected, Bob.

Cheers

B. Prokop said...

So... you're going to fall back on the Argumentum ad Populum? You do realize that's on the list of logical fallacies, right?

Doug said...

Funny that Papa Linton should post a link to something by Gregory Paul... I would have thought that he wouldn't have found his voice since the smackdown he received for his previous "paper"...

In brief, his method was cherry-picking, question-begging, and avoiding useful things like statistical analysis.

Rather than improve his credibility, edge.org's just plummeted by "publishing" him.