Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A critique of the AFr

Apparently this was written by Charles Echelbarger of SUNY Oswego, though it never quite says anywhere. 


But I wonder how he handles my "Steve" case? 


If you were to meet a person, call him Steve, who could argue with great cogency for every position he held, you might be inclined to consider him a very rational person. However, suppose that on all disputed questions Steve rolled dice to fix his positions permanently and then used his reasoning abilities only to generate the best-available arguments for those beliefs selected in the above-mentioned random method. I think that such a discovery would prompt you to withdraw from him the honorific title “rational.” Clearly, we cannot answer the question of whether or not a person is rational in a manner that leaves entirely out of account the question of how his or her beliefs are produced and sustained.

It seems to me that how beliefs are produced and sustained is crucial to assessing whether someone is rational. If it is a consequence of the fact that everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate that reasons never really affect the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event, then there has to be something wrong with a world-view according to which everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate.

107 comments:

Matteo said...

One of the interesting ironies concerning those who don't believe in free will for allegedly "scientific" reasons, is that such people effectively are professing belief in a particularly deep form of Astrology, since Astrology is, in essence, the idea that the positions and motions of inanimate objects determines ones actions and destiny.

Whether the "true" causes of things are planets and stars--or atoms for our modern Astrologer--really makes little difference.

William said...

quoting the paper:

"
To say that the inference was rational is a normative assessment,
not a causal explanation, not even if beliefs should happen to be irreducibly
mental phenomena and not even if there were an irreducibly mental sort of
causation that operates in some psychological contexts.
"

I think that invoking normativity to explain logic is begging the question, though I'd have to think it through to show how.

cl said...

Vic,

Quite interesting. I have one minor gripe, more semantic than anything, and I hope you don't mind my under-qualified criticism:

"It seems to me that how beliefs are produced and sustained is crucial to assessing whether someone is rational."

I would say that how beliefs are produced and sustained is crucial to assessing the degree to which someone is rational. The previous wording suggests a Boolean state of affairs, by which a person is either rational or not. I think rationality falls along a spectrum, such that the same person can be both rational and irrational in varying circumstances.

"If it is a consequence of the fact that everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate that reasons never really affect the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event, then there has to be something wrong with a world-view according to which everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate."

Now that's got me thinking: it seems the very notion of "rational choice" might be to some degree at odds with the determinism many atheists and materialist advocate. If our decisions are merely the unavoidable outcome of physics, does it make sense to say that any of them are truly rational? Or, does "rational choice" become mere illusion?

Gimli 4 the West said...

If mathematics is always rational and people in Mongolia and Peru and Canada working on the same question can arrive at the same answer every time, would the ability to do mathematics qualify someone as being rational? Why can people who reason through a math equation become so irrational when working through a worldview?

cl said...

Matteo,

I did not notice your comment the first time around. Well said.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, I really don't understand why you think yours is a good argumnent. In the first place you grossly mischaracterize what skeptics are saying.

Lets say you have a tool that is damaged to some degree. Let’s say it’s a circular saw and the blade is in need of sharpening, or even worse, needs thrown away.

Can you still cut timber? Yes or no?

Now let’s say you have no other tool that will do the job better.

What to to?

I find it to be an impossible argument to say that our brains are completely and utterly untrustworthy given evolution. THAT”S the argument you have to make, and it cannot be made.

What to do?

Given that we know from all scientific studies that we are not all that rational, then we can know this much, that we are not all that rational. And yet this is the only tool in our toolbox. So we must use it to find our way. And since this is the case we can only trust the sciences to light our path.

What am I missing?

Nothing.

John W. Loftus said...

You're only recourse is to deny evolution, to denigrate the sciences.

Jerry Coyne wrote:

"Every day, hundreds of observations and experiments pour into the hopper of the scientific literature. Many of them don't have much to do with evolution - they're observations about he details of physiology, biochemistry, development, and so on - but many of them do. And every fact that has something to do with evolution confirms its truth. Every fossil that we find, every DNA molecule that we sequence, every organ system that we dissect, supports the idea that species evolved from common ancestors. Despite innumerable possible observations that could prove evolution untrue, we don't have a single one. We don't find mammals in Precambrian rocks, humans in the same layers as dinosaurs, or any other fossils out of evolutionary order. DNA sequencing supports the evolutionary relationships of species originally deduced from the fossil record. And, as natural selection predicts, we find no species with adaptations that only benefit a different species. We do find dead genes and vestigial organs, incomprehensible under the idea of special creation. Despite a million chances to be wrong, evolution always comes up right. That is as close as we can get to a scientific truth." -Why Evolution Is True

Dawkins wrote;

"Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eyewitnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips...continue the list as long as desired...It didn't have to be true, but it is. We know this because a rising flood of evidence supports it. Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it. No reputable scientist disputes it, and no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it." - Greatest Show on Earth (pp. 8-9).

John W. Loftus said...

Vic, I have written a a lot of material on this topic, including what the authors said in the first few chapters in "The Christian Delusion"

See here. If nothing else skim through the titles of these posts. I've reviewed books and listed further books to read.

The fact that none of us is entirely rational is a fact, except that those of us who know this about ourselves are more likely than not to not trust our whims or anecdotal evidence or that which we prefer to be true. We would demand hard cold evidence whenever we can. And this data should make us all skeptical--all of us. Skepticism is a filter we use to strain out good ideas from the bad so we cannot dispense with it or become skeptical of that filter.

What to do?

Trust the sciences.

The alternative?

Denigrate them.

One Brow said...

If it is a consequence of the fact that everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate that reasons never really affect the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event, then there has to be something wrong with a world-view according to which everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate.

By contrast, if the reasons (I assume you mean something similar to motivations) are aggregrate collections of phenomena that we describe with simplifying terminology, then it would make perfect sense to say that aggregate collections of physical phenomenon with share specific characteristics show a tendency to interact with other objects according to the characteristics shared, even when such tendency can result in an aggregate phenomenon we identify as "a world-view".

cl said...

Loftus,

It would help if you actually ENGAGED with the argument here. This is not a choice between lesser of two evils as you frequently misconstrue ["Now let’s say you have no other tool that will do the job better"], nor is it a matter of whether our brains are "completely and utterly untrustworthy." You wrote,

"You're only recourse is to deny evolution, to denigrate the sciences."

Of course, that is false, and your only recourse is to denigrate those who disagree with you on this issue--or even question you on this issue--as "denigrators" of science. IOW, classic poisoning of the well, fallacy 101.

It's old John, really, really old. Presuming you're primary interest is the pursuit of truth as opposed to the propagation of anti-Christian rhetoric, you need to actually engage with the argument.

Anonymous said...

You're only recourse is to deny evolution, to denigrate the sciences.

Nothing in the AFR mandates denying evolution, you twit.

John W. Loftus said...

There really is no argument that actually deals with what skeptics think.

So why bother engaging it?

That's my position.

Until philosophers deal with the sciences there is nothing to do but remind them of the sciences.

John W. Loftus said...

All we have is a straw man argument.

So there is no reason to engage it.

the best response is to inform the their what we know from the sciences.

I'm not hopeful even that will work.

Anonymous said...

Excuse my ignorance, Loftus, but couldn't one just deny evolution of the atheistic variety, not evolution per se?

And I don't think your analogy is quite right. As a smart person who explained the whole thing to me put it, the situation's more like running across a French-to-English dictionary in the desert. You trust that dictionary because you believe it was written by a person who understood both French and English. But you wouldn't trust that dictionary if you were to find out that it was accidentally assembled when a tornado hit a printing press.

Anonymous said...

Vic, I really don't understand why you think yours is a good argumnent.

You don't even understand the argument, John. Which is why you're blathering and saying "strawman" and talking about denying evolution, even though the AFR does not require denying evolution, much less denigrating science.

Now, shhhh. Be silent, and go read and learn. Atheism will be fine without the would-be King Twit embarrassing them in yet another thread.

GearHedEd said...

Victor said,

"...suppose that on all disputed questions Steve rolled dice to fix his positions permanently and then used his reasoning abilities only to generate the best-available arguments for those beliefs..."

Gee, that sounds suspiciously like the way religion formed...

John W. Loftus said...

Ever since I became an atheist the same Christians who thought I was educated and informed and intelligent now repeatedly say I am ignorant, uniformed, and stupid.

What happened?

;-)

GearHedEd said...

You shat in their cornflakes, John.

Now they're angry.

John W. Loftus said...

My point is that if evolution is the case we can still trust our reasoning abilities even though they are sometimes inadequate. In fact, this is what we would expect to find given that we have an evolved three tiered brain built on top of each other. That we do reason adequately enough is no reason to think we need a god for what we do with our brains.

Does this disprove Vic's argument?

NO, not at all.

But then before a believer will consider his faith to be improbable I must show him that's it's impossible, and THAT is an utterly unreasonable request.

cl said...

Loftus,

"There really is no argument that actually deals with what skeptics think."

Denial is not a valid response.

"All we have is a straw man argument."

Naked assertion is not a valid response.

"My point is that if evolution is the case we can still trust our reasoning abilities even though they are sometimes inadequate."

The trustworthiness of our reasoning abilities has no bearing on the AFR, which makes your remarks irrelevant to Vic's topic. Irrelevant remarks are not valid responses.

"Does this disprove Vic's argument? NO, not at all."

BINGO! That's correct, which prompts me to wonder: what in the world is your motive for posting, if, by your own concession, your posts do not engage Vic's topic? I suspect that you're simply up to that same old business of propagating anti-Christian rhetoric.

"...before a believer will consider his faith to be improbable I must show him that's it's impossible, and THAT is an utterly unreasonable request."

False. I am a believer, and I do not require that you show my faith impossible. Rather, among other things, I require sound arguments, valid inferences from empirical evidence, and--most importantly--consistency in one's claims. I have already shown several instances of your failures in these regards [http://thewarfareismental.wordpress.com/category/john-w-loftus/].

So, keep huffing and puffing and poisoning the well if you wish, but in my experience, this tends only to persuade those already persuaded.

Thrasymachus said...

Victor:

I don't pretend to have followed previous discussion on the AFR, so forgive if this is jejune, but:

I don't think Steve is sufficiently close to what materialists think. We certainly would think it irrational to go "I shall defend whatever beliefs I select by random lot". Yet that wouldn't be sufficient to show that all beliefs would be similarly irrational if materialism.

Even though our mental phenomena supervene on physical phenomena in a manner that isn't plastic to epistemic normativity, we can still judge those mental states that 'match up' to our epistemic norms. If our Steve finds himself in the right environment etc. we can call him rational, even if his beliefs are ultimately consequent of all manner of things outside his control. It may open the door to Proper functionalism, and it may mean we should be hesitant to be too confident of anyone's rationality (or not), but those aren't too costly to an atheologian.

Steve Lovell said...

I'm going to refrain from commenting on this post. It might get too confusing. I'd just like to point out that I don't pick my beliefs at random!

One Brow said...

Thrasymachus,

I never even considered the possibility that Dr. Reppert meant our beliefs were randomly acquired. For one thing, that would be basically anti-naturalistic. Ture randomness occurs at the quantum level, but seldom above that, for a naturalist. I'm sure he was just refering to the aspect that at a base level, the processes have no intention to be rational. Of course, since processes operate at more levels than just the base level, it's not a very cogent argument, but its not inaccurate.

Victor Reppert said...

The Steve argument is not a version of the argument from reason, or an accurate reflection of what materialists must believe.

The Steve argument is an argument against people who claim, like Anscombe, and Keith Parsons, and Echelbarger, that it doesn't matter whether reasons play a causal role in the production of beliefs. In other words, some people have defended naturalism against the AFR by arguing that reasons don't need to play a causal role.

But other naturalists have argued that there can be real mental causation in a physicalist world. In fact, Jaegwon Kim has posed the problem of mental causation to non-reductive physicalism, and most non-reductive physicalists have tried to solve the problem, not deny it.

The point of my post here is to try to address Echelbarger's attempt to deny the necessity of mental causation in rational inference. It is not an attempt to characterize what most naturalists would want to defend.

woodchuck64 said...

Victor,

However, suppose that on all disputed questions Steve rolled dice to fix his positions permanently and then used his reasoning abilities only to generate the best-available arguments for those beliefs selected in the above-mentioned random method.

"Disputed questions" has to mean questions on which there are conflicting but equally rational answers with absolutely no way to logically or evidentially resolve them (otherwise Steve can be found to be acting irrationally by pursuing both questions in detail with him). But if they are indeed equally disputed questions, it's irrational to claim one particular answer is true and the other answer false. Steve can roll the dice, but if he's supposed to appear rational, he can't fix his position or the jig is up, it seems to me.

For example, let's say we have two excellent but conflicting medical research studies showing that orange juice is good for the liver and harms the liver, respectively. Can we claim anything, rationally, without more studies? I don't think so. In sticking to one study as authoritative and dismissing the other, irrationality then becomes obvious.

For larger issues, like 'does God exist', I think it's practically impossible to assess Steve's rationality solely on the basis of that one position since the arguments pro and con are so numerous (and indeed, don't atheists and theists alike at least suspect the other of basing beliefs on something other than reason?).

In all cases that I can think of, we can discern that Steve is not rational eventually, and that's because he's using dice for his beliefs. Rational people base beliefs on reason. So I'm inclined to agree with the essay that "rational" is a normative assessment, not a causal explanation.

Clayton said...

"The Steve argument is an argument against people who claim, like Anscombe, and Keith Parsons, and Echelbarger, that it doesn't matter whether reasons play a causal role in the production of beliefs."

To be fair to them, don't they often say that to be rational or justified in believing, you have to be aware of reasons or have them in mind? It's not clear that your example threatens these views on which the relation between reasons and what the reasons is justified is non-causal and isn't a relation that holds in your example. (Not that I think these views are right, mind you, but I don't think our options are limited to denying your intuitions about the example and accepting a causalist story about how reasons justify.)

I eat atheists for breakfast said...

'But then before a believer will consider his faith to be improbable I must show him that's it's impossible, and THAT is an utterly unreasonable request.'

It certainly is, but you never show them to be even improbable. That's the problem.

I eat atheists for breakfast said...

'My point is that if evolution is the case we can still trust our reasoning abilities even though they are sometimes inadequate.'

The point about Plantinga's/Reppert's evo + nat. args is that they jointly imply that for every belief you have, it is probably false. Atheism is one of your beliefs, so it is pobably false. But you lack the logical acumen to see this.

Papalinton said...

@ cl
"False. I am a believer, and I do not require that you show my faith impossible. Rather, among other things, I require sound arguments, valid inferences from empirical evidence, and--most importantly--consistency in one's claims. I have already shown several instances of your failures in these regards [http://thewarfareismental.wordpress.com/category/john-w-loftus/]."

cl, let's go back one step and ask, what is your 'valid inferences from empirical evidence' that demonstrates that a ghost put a bun in Mary's oven? And please don't quote the bible as evidence.
Again, talk to me about the 'talking snake'. And again don't quote the bible.

Tell me cl, after the flood wiped out every man, woman and child and animal that ever lived, apart from those on the ark, who did Noah's kids marry to re-populate the world? A great case of mother and sister incest, one could validly infer, methinks.

Anonymous said...

cl, let's go back one step and ask, what is your 'valid inferences from empirical evidence' that demonstrates that a ghost put a bun in Mary's oven? And please don't quote the bible as evidence.
Again, talk to me about the 'talking snake'. And again don't quote the bible.


Please give me a valid inference from empirical evidence that cl said in this thread that he made a valid inference from empirical evidence. Also, don't use this thread or any source which makes reference to it.

Papalinton said...

Victor
"If it is a consequence of the fact that everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate that reasons never really affect the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event, then there has to be something wrong with a world-view according to which everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate."

PapaL
Victor, this statement is as circular as a dog chasing its tail. And we know from great work done in the psycho-, socio- and neuroscientific areas of research that the attribution of teleological functioning to the universe is at most, a descriptive and explanatory format by which earlier homo sapiens were able to relate to their world, through analogy. As a person gets angry, so did the gods get angry; just as people can love so did gods love. Teleological intentionality is simply the extrapolation of human-experienced emotions, feelings, passions, sentiment, intuition and instinct used to provide some semblance of meaning to a fascinating and perhaps an inexplicably dangerous world in which people seemed to needlessly die, were eaten by lions, swept away in floods, struck by lightning, or suffered an epileptic seizure.

For you to intuit that 'there has to be something wrong with a world-view according to which everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate", is to acquiesce to, or be governed by the very same innate primal urge or desire to extrapolate those predisposed human emotions and feelings to explain the inexplicable. The invoking of teleological intentionality to a perfectly natural universe and world is an argument from personal incredulity. Nothing more, nothing less.

Papalinton said...

Hi Anonymous
"Please give me a valid inference from empirical evidence that cl said in this thread that he made a valid inference from empirical evidence."

Exactly, he didn't. And he doesn't. and in defending the christian mythos it is unlikely he will ever be able to.

Anonymous said...

In this thread: Papsmear showing he doesn't even understand what Victor means by teleology, and accuses others of arguing from personal incredulity while engaging in it in his very post.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, he didn't. And he doesn't. and in defending the christian mythos it is unlikely he will ever be able to.

Read it again, genius.

Papalinton said...

"Papsmear"

I guess disrespect is de rigeur for theists.

Anonymous said...

I guess disrespect is de rigeur for theists.

Oh gee because you're being so respectful to both theists generally and specifically?

Man up, papsmear. Don't dish what you can't take. And try using some reason and logic for a change.

Papalinton said...

Anonymous says, "In this thread: Papsmear showing he doesn't even understand what Victor means by teleology, ...."

What does Victor mean by 'teleology' that I don't understand?

Anonymous said...

What does Victor mean by 'teleology' that I don't understand?

Hint: It's got nothing to do with speculating that dark clouds feel angry or anthropomorphizing animals. It involves claims about what comprises the material world at base, about intentionality and "aboutness", what constitutes both having a belief and arriving at a belief reasonably, directedness, final causality.

Clayton said...

By John arguing that science is the only thing we have in our tool box to figure things out is egregiously question begging against theism, I hope I am not the only person to see that. His naturalism, by assuming that science is the only way, makes it impossible for theism to exist by definition. ANy problems there?

Papalinton said...

@ Anonymous
"reason and logic" ? Since when has a christian let reason and logic get in the road of 'faith' or 'belief'?

Putting reason and logic into the same sentence as christian belief is a statement going straight off to be processed and packaged at the Oxymoron factory. What a clanger.

Anonymous said...

"reason and logic" ? Since when has a christian let reason and logic get in the road of 'faith' or 'belief'?

You wouldn't know reason or logic, and most likely faith, if it elbowed you and said "words like clanger are for 70 year old aussies", Papsmear.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

Anonymous

It would be helpful if you would stop your rudeness. It would also help if you apologised.

I have not appreciated Papalinton at times rude tones style but your denigration is becoming far worse then his. Please stop, you demean us all.

Victor Reppert said...

Please, can the name calling.

cl said...

Papalinton,

Victor's blog isn't a place to attack those whom you think you have the intellectual high ground on. The AFR is our current topic, not why I'm a Christian. If you wish to question the reasoning behind my beliefs, feel free to do so on my blog. If you are sincere in your interest, I believe you'll show. If you don't, I'll take that as evidence you simply wished to attack those whom you think you have the intellectual high ground on.

John W. Loftus said...

You want a refutation on your own grounds? Okay.

Anonymous said...

I have not appreciated Papalinton at times rude tones style but your denigration is becoming far worse then his. Please stop, you demean us all.

No, I really don't. You, on the other hand, do contribute to demeaning us all. Papalinton's rudeness and name calling, you put up with. You and others engage him while ignoring his every insult (ghosts putting buns in ovens), but someone calls him a name or bluntly points out he has poor reasoning skills, he whines like a brat, and suddenly I'm going too far?

Stop tolerating people like Papalinton. Stop ignoring their insults, their slander, their mockery. Demand courtesy and respect as a price to be paid for intellectual engagement. Or, please, keep your hypocrisy (even "hypocrisy in the name of looking like a gracious Christian rather than as someone enabling this sort of crap") to yourself.

cl said...

Not that I've never succumbed to a mud-slinging war, but there's an old saying in the blogosphere, guys: don't feed the... you know the rest. It takes two to tango, every time. If Papalinton--or anyone else for that matter--comments primarily out of the desire to attack, counter-attack only seems likely to further encourage him. However, if we thwart an attacker's desire by refusing to counter-attack, they won't get any reward, and there's a good chance they'll go somewhere else. Think about it. Aikido in the blogosphere, not karate.

Loftus,

What do you see as the relevance between Law's post, the AFR, and Vic's "Steve" example? It may be the case that you have discovered something we've overlooked, but we'll never know if you don't explain.

Crude said...

Reading over Stephen Law's argument. Some comments.

My suggestion is that we can know a priori, just by reflecting on the matter, that if something is a belief that, solely in combination with a strong desire for water, typically results in such a human walking five miles to the south, then it is quite likely to be the belief that there’s water five miles to the south (or the belief that there’s reachable water thataway [pointing south] or whatever).

But part of Plantinga's point, as I've understood it, is that all that can be selected for by natural selection are actions: In this case, when requiring it, the act of finding and drinking some water. Neither desire nor belief matters directly. In fact, you could conceivably remove belief or desire altogether* - all you need is the adaptive behavior. Trying to get by this with an a priori seems dubious (Law himself seems to grant this), and I'm not sure the a priori as stated can even dent the point Plantinga is making.

(* Consider just how many organisms there are in nature, and how many selectable acts they engage in. Now, how many of those acts are plausibly associated with any belief at all, much less a true belief? Does E.Coli have beliefs? If E.Coli does something that harms itself, is it operating under a false belief or bad desire? If we admit it's implausible that E.Coli and many other organisms have beliefs, then we're showing how a tremendous number of actions - some of them quite complicated - can be engaged in, and selected for, while "blind". Beliefs and desires, much less true beliefs, simply don't matter in those contexts. If the plain question of whether or not a belief or desire is even had means nothing to NS, then it seems to me the truth or falsity or rationality won't matter either. At the end of the day, only the act matters.)

cl said...

Crude,

I still don't see any relation between Law's post, the AFR, and Vic's "Steve" example, so may all forgive me if this comment seems a little misplaced, but I tend to agree with you that the a priori seems dubious. Then again, and not to be insulting or anything, but Law's post was a bit of slog, so it's possible that I've given it short thrift in my desire for the "quick and dirty" answer.

Your remarks about E.Coli resonate with me. I was thinking along those same lines in response to the article Vic linked to in this post. Materialists and atheists often allege that man is "just another animal," nothing "special" over the rest, simply more intelligent. Okay, well... can E.Coli be rational? One might be tempted to say no on account of the fact that E.Coli lack brains. What about a dog? A monkey? The latter have brains, yet... who would really categorize them as rational agents? If "everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate," why grant humans a free pass for rationality? If all that we are is determined by prior causal events over which we have no control, can we rightly categorize ourselves as rational?

If nothing else, I think it's a fascinating question.

Crude said...

Actually, there's something I want to tack on to Law's response to the EAAN.

What's being offered in counter to the EAAN is an a priori about mental constraints: That in the case of any singular desire for X prompting action A, A was undertaken on the belief that it would lead to X. I think there are numerous problems with granting this as an a priori, but oddly enough I think the person who would have the most to lose by even attempting to employ it is the naturalist.

One of the reasons natural selection based explanations are supposed to appeal to naturalists (and not appeal to non-naturalists) is the claim that evolution is unguided: Humanity or the human-like, for example, were very unlikely to evolve. But the more built-in direction one adds to evolution, the more teleological it starts to seem (See Conway Morris on convergence, for example.) ID proponents refer to this sort of thing as front-loaded evolution.

But insofar as anyone tweaks evolution to have certain guaranteed or extremely likely results, they are diminishing the "unguided" part of (what was once naturalistic) evolution. Law's argument is saying "There is something about belief, desire, thought and evolution, such that - insofar as minds will develop in an evolutionary scenario - evolution is vastly more likely to produce agents with reliable minds as opposed to unreliable."

The problem is, putting it that way highlights the problem: To answer Plantinga's EAAN by setting conditions such that evolution is rigged to produce (when beliefs, thoughts, desires, etc are concerned) rational agents and true beliefs, is to answer the EAAN by imparting teleology to evolution. But to the degree a person regards evolution as teleological, they are abandoning their naturalism.

Just a thought.

Crude said...

cl,

If all that we are is determined by prior causal events over which we have no control, can we rightly categorize ourselves as rational?

Jerry Coyne had this to say, on the subject of determinism and minds. After stating that he was a materialist and didn't believe in free will:

Nevertheless, like all humans I prefer to think that I can make my own decisions. I decided to adopt an uneasy compromise, believing that there’s no such thing as free will but acting as if there were. And I decided to stop thinking about the issue, deliberately avoiding the huge philosophical literature on free will.

I think it's worth noting that one of the better known internet atheist evangelists, when coming upon the problem of free will, rationality, and determinism, has developed a strategy for dealing with it: Cognitive dissonance, and willful ignorance. And that's not me psychoanalyzing him - that's his move by his own admission.

cl said...

Crude,

Hmmm... interesting indeed. You wrote:

Law's argument is saying "There is something about belief, desire, thought and evolution, such that - insofar as minds will develop in an evolutionary scenario - evolution is vastly more likely to produce agents with reliable minds as opposed to unreliable."

Presuming that's an accurate paraphrase of Law's argument--and thus far I would agree that it is--I don't really see that this necessarily imparts any degree of teleology to evolution. It seems to me that when it comes to evolution, an atheist could simply assert that we're dealing with something like the illusion of teleology, much like some folks think of free will. I don't see that the claim, "evolution selects for X" [where X is some combination of survival / reproduction enhancing factors] entails teleology, or that it would be fairly classifiable as "rigged" in any way. Wouldn't any appearance of teleology boil down to something like brute fact, in the sense that creatures with superior qualities simply persist?

Also, some people deny that evolution is "unguided." In fact a commenter in Law's thread raised that objection. Not sure where that leads in our discussion, but, just thought I'd throw it out there.

Although, consider this: let's say that Hondas ended up vastly outliving all other cars, such that in another 100 years they are clearly the dominant form of automobile on Earth. Then, imagine that all humans suddenly disappeared from the face of the Earth. Next, imagine that an alien race comes to Earth, and begins investigating all these automobiles and making evaluations about them. They see vast junkyards of failed cars, and thriving Hondas. Wouldn't it be absurd for them to deny that "real teleology" was responsible for the proliferation of Hondas, that Hondas were built last? IOW, wouldn't it be absurd for them to suggest what I just suggested: that evolution via natural selection carries only the illusion of teleology? Of course, you and I know that all cars are the products of real teleology, but the aliens wouldn't know that. At least, not at first.

Sorry if that last paragraph is an entirely incoherent ramble; it's a bit late, and I've been up a while. Also, thank you for the very telling counterpoint re Coyne. I agree with you completely, and it does not surprise me one bit that Loftus didn't give us that.

Papalinton said...

Hi Anonymous
Please don't go apoplectic. Blowing a gasket, while a little droll, isn't really needed to make a point.

You say, "You and others engage him while ignoring his every insult (ghosts putting buns in ovens), ...."

Not an insult, Anon. I simply wished to draw notice, by using contemporary imagery to denote that 'visitant impregnation' simply does not have any special powers or magic for its alleged occurrence, any more than any other combination of words.

A was also a remark absolutely pertinent to the notion of AFR. How does a ghost put a bun in the oven under the aegis of the Argument from Reason?

I would suggest a perfectly legitimate question to challenge its veracity and to question the 'reasons' proffered for such an occurrence to occur.

Crude said...

cl,

Also, some people deny that evolution is "unguided." In fact a commenter in Law's thread raised that objection. Not sure where that leads in our discussion, but, just thought I'd throw it out there.

The commenter in the thread was pointing out that natural selection is a kind of guidance (evolution isn't just 'randomness + time' - filtering out unfit variation plays a key role.)

But a key difference is this: What is 'fit' is supposed to be entirely contextual. Sometimes a small size is more fit. Sometimes a larger size is more fit. Sometimes moving slow, sometimes moving fast. There's not supposed to be a set, static 'target' that reliably obtains. If it were argued that humanity or the human-like were an inevitable outcome - something that either evolution, laws of nature, or a combination made a reliable result of the evolutionary process (similar to convergent results) - that would be needed to be explained.

More on that below.

Wouldn't any appearance of teleology boil down to something like brute fact, in the sense that creatures with superior qualities simply persist?

I don't see how any appearance of teleology would 'boil down' to a brute fact in and of itself. Maybe you could argue that any appearance of teleology would at best be that: An appearance in need of an explanation, and open to several. Creatures with "superior qualities" are supposed to be explained at least in large part by natural selection. (Let's put aside for now doubts about that, ranging from Lynn Margulis' to Jerry Fodor's.)

But Law (and I suggest, a number of others who respond to the EAAN) is arguing that true beliefs and rationality are a reliable target of evolution, such that it's likely to very likely that any given population capable of forming beliefs or reasoning will do so accurately. That he's doing this by way of an unconvincing a priori isn't the point: He's arguing that the state of the universe is such that it is greatly biased in favor of, whenever minds show up, making those minds rational and likely to hold true beliefs. He's putting direction (mental direction!) into evolution, of a targeted sort. (If he were just giving a hypothetical scenario he could imagine that resulted in humans having true beliefs, Plantinga could fire back 100 more where they did not and we'd be back at square one. Law's going after something much stronger.)

As for the Honda example, I agree with you that certainly the aliens should conclude actual teleology. Then again, I've run into people who insisted that, if we came across an alien spaceship on a barren planet, we wouldn't be able to infer design. Go figure.

Papalinton said...

@ cl
"Victor's blog isn't a place to attack those whom you think you have the intellectual high ground on. The AFR is our current topic, not why I'm a Christian."


PapaL
I don't attack people, I attack their beliefs, assumptions, and modes of thought. And I would have thought that your being a christian, for all the reasons you trot out, are precisely the stuff of the AFR. And in respect of Victor's 'Steve case' I would have thought the somewhat blanket statement and indiscriminate exercise of positing teleological intentionality to a putatively designed and consciously formed universe, would be the bread and butter of AFR.

And just as John Loftus has smartly and cleverly linked with Stephen Law's remarks on Plantinga's EAAN perspective, what were once considered 'cogent' theistic arguments are now proving to far less than they claim. Quality, substantive arguments, no longer subjected to steak [pardon the pun, should read 'stake'] burning, or garroting, are now cutting a swathe through the once dominant Apologetical domain. And all this can be addressed under the rubric of 'AFR'.

Crude said...

To get back to the OP,

It seems to me that how beliefs are produced and sustained is crucial to assessing whether someone is rational. If it is a consequence of the fact that everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate that reasons never really affect the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event, then there has to be something wrong with a world-view according to which everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate.

I suppose it's like programming an automaton to move a pen so that "2 + 2 = 4". Did the automaton just "do addition"? Does it really "think that 2 + 2 = 4"? What if you program it to write gibberish, but you take the gibberish to symbolize "2 + 2 = 4"?

Victor Reppert said...

I need to go back over what the Steve argument is. It is a response to the "anti-causal" reply to the argument from reason, or, more particularly, the problem of mental causation. Actually, it's one of a few arguments I use against this position, which goes back to Anscombe's critique of Lewis. I have to give kudos to Clayton for keeping focused on what this post is about.

The Steve argument is an illustration of the fact that when we say that someone is rational, we are saying that evidential relationships are relevant to the actual occurrence of beliefs as psychological events. In particular, when we try to explain why we are rational in believing something, we make counterfactual claims about the relationship between evidence and our beliefs, such as "If the evidence for evolution weren't so strong, I wouldn't believe in it." A typical way in which people impugn the rationality of others is to say that smart people believe things for not-so-smart reasons, and then use their reasoning powers to justify what they have already committed themselves emotionally to believe. In fact, people like Loftus very often charge that Christians are something like Steve; that is, they for a belief in Christianity through processes that could just as easily produce a false belief as a true belief, and then find whatever arguments they can to undergird those beliefs which were really reached in a non-truth-conducive way.

But what we are saying when we say we believe something for a good reason is that the presence of reasons is relevant to the production of our beliefs, that, unlike those benighted folks over there, we have actually paid attention to the evidence and are following it wherever it leads, whether it makes us feel good or not.

But what that means is that evidential relationships are relevant to what beliefs we hold, and therefore, what states our brains get themselves into. But evidential and logical relationships are abstract states. They are not physical things, and they do not have particular locations in space and time. Yet they are, apparently, causally relevant to the beliefs we form. Or, at least they can be.

But these same people will say that the mind is the brain, and that what goes on in the brain is simply physical causation playing itself out. Abstract objects don't, they say, cause anything to happen in the brain, since the brain is a physical system and events in the brain are caused just like any other events. It's just the laws of physics playing themselves out.

Lewis wrote: But even if grounds do exist, what exactly have they got to do with the actual occurrence
of the belief as a psychological event? If it is an event it must be caused. It must in fact
be simply one link in a causal chain which stretches back to the beginning and forward to
the end of time. How could such a trifle as lack of logical grounds prevent the belief’s occurrence or how could the existence of grounds promote it? (1960b: 20)

(1960b) Miracles: A Preliminary Study, 2nd edn. (London: Fontana, 1974)

It seems to me that this points to something paradoxical in the naturalist's view of reasoning.

cl said...

Papalinton,

I would have thought that your being a christian, for all the reasons you trot out, are precisely the stuff of the AFR.

Comments like this are precisely why I ask you to stay on topic. The AFR is not related to "the reasons I trot out," at all. In your zeal to attack the beliefs of those you fancy yourself on the intellectual highground to, you are overlooking the entire point of Vic's post. As I said, if this is just about attack for you, then... on to the next. If this is about learning, then... prove it by asking pertinent, respectful questions.

in respect of Victor's 'Steve case' I would have thought the somewhat blanket statement and indiscriminate exercise of positing teleological intentionality to a putatively designed and consciously formed universe, would be the bread and butter of AFR.

I take this as further evidence that you aren't even trying to follow the discussion.

...what were once considered 'cogent' theistic arguments are now proving to far less than they claim.

Mere assertion is not a valid disproof of any argument, whether from yourself or John W. Loftus. If you or John W. Loftus wish to labor under the illusion otherwise, well... there's nothing I can do about that.

Papalinton said...

@ cl
Why do you consistently cleave off or put a boundary around your belief system from challenge and criticism of it. What Victor Reppert is attempting to do is to establish some form of rationale, which is all it is, to try and surround the spurious 'reality' of the christian perspective in some aura of legitimacy.

In doing so he is simply not addressing the fundamental delusion of the story itself. He is attempting to build a wall around it in the effort to 'protect' it from the very reason and logic he now uses in collateral and peripheral arguments. The fundamental story is that which needs to be challenged.

BenYachov said...

cl

You will have to forgive Paps. Unless religion is framed exclusively and solely the way Richard Dawkins frames it in the GOD DELUSION Paps gets mad.

OTOH I think he is just upset cause his aunt or whatever bought him a Wii instead of an 360 or a Playstation 3 for winter solstice. How uncool is that?

cl said...

Papalinton,

"Why do you consistently cleave off or put a boundary around your belief system from challenge and criticism of it."

I don't. Contrary, in this thread at March 23, 2011 7:47 PM, I welcomed you to my blog to question my beliefs. You have not taken me up, so I can only assume your primary interest is to attack and denigrate.

"What Victor Reppert is attempting to do is to establish some form of rationale, which is all it is, to try and surround the spurious 'reality' of the christian perspective in some aura of legitimacy."

Assertion of Vic's motive is not a valid proof of anything.

"In doing so he is simply not addressing the fundamental delusion of the story itself."

Assertion of delusion is not a valid proof of anything.

"The fundamental story is that which needs to be challenged."

Like I said, you're more than welcomed at my blog. If you speak in earnest, I believe you'll show up. If not, well... continue in "attack and denigrate" mode. Just know I won't be responding.

Blue Devil Knight said...

With a couple of caveats, I believe the following is true:
If it is a consequence of the fact that everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate that reasons never really affect the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event, then there has to be something wrong with a world-view according to which everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate.

The problem, other than the German style of writing in that sentence, is that the conditional is true because most naturalists would say the antecedent is false.

Anonymous said...

Some ignoramus said: "who did Noah's kids marry to re-populate the world?"

Um, gee, could it have been... their wives!?! Admit it, your knowledge of Noah comes entirely from that joke where he's golfing with Moses and they hit a water hazard, right? Are you sure you're not just pretending to be an unbeliever to make real atheists look bad?

Anonymous said...

BDK:
"If it is a consequence of the fact that everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate that reasons never really affect the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event,
then there has to be something wrong with a world-view according to which everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate.
"


So to spiff up the antecedent to be easier to agree with:


If it is a consequence of the fact that everything in the universe occurs [SOLELY AND DIRECTLY] as a result of [ONLY] the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate that reasons never really affect the actual occurrence of belief as a psychological event,
then there has to be something wrong with a world-view according to which everything in the universe occurs as a result of the motions of a fundamentally non-teleological substrate.

Papalinton said...

Hey Anonymous
Did you know Adam did not have a navel? Did you also know that Eve did not have a navel? And did you also know that Adam's blood and genome type were identical to Eve's, given current knowledge and understanding. I wonder what their kids looked like, given the parents were ostensibly twins?

Doesn't that make you wonder? even just a little bit?

Papalinton said...

Hi Anonymous
"Admit it, your knowledge of Noah comes entirely ..."

You forget Anonymous, I was a card carrying fundie. Born, baptised, Sunday school, confirmed, readings of bands and married in a church. I would know more now than you've will ever know about the bible as I made it my business to know why it was that I came to the exact decision you make about Islam, or Hinduism, or Jehovah's Witness. The unformed and eternally embryonic nature of christian theism was simply incapable of providing a thinking person anything beyond the juvenile and callow experiences of the emotive self. It is a comforting worldview that hardly moved outside the personal, self-experienced metaphysic realm of the id, that part of the mind in which innate instinctive impulses and primary processes are manifest. Theism is a retrogressive dabbling of the primal and inborn intuitions that form part of humankind's basic make-up. This dabbling simply builds on and consolidates, and seeks only to yield to those primal and unmellowed urges. Theism was humankind's first attempt at trying to make sense of the world, the cosmos, and our relationship in it.
While you have stuck to the only book on your library shelf I have added so many and varied texts alongside the bible. The inbred and clubbish view of the christian world, is precisely that, a clubbish, segregation-ally insulated homogenous monoculture in which people who do not declare that they can only get to heaven through jesus are filtered out and discarded. In a modern society, that street-gang mentality is simply unacceptable.

BenYachov said...

Paps says:
>I was a card carrying fundie.

...and you still are except you now lack god belief.

Papalinton said...

Thank you Ben.
I accept the compliment.
Cheers

BenYachov said...

You think it's a compliment to be called ignorant, anti-historical mindlessly dogmatic, unlearned, anti-scientific and anti-intellectual?


Okay.....

You are so void of the ravages of mere intelligence.

BenYachov said...

Additional:

Like your fundie religious brethren you also believe acting like a dick to people while pretending you know it all(till you are called out on it and exposed then you change the subject) will somehow win converts and convince others?

You have zero chance of converting me to your brand of Atheism. Not because I am immune to logical persuasion towards other views but for the simple fact you don't make any logical arguments to move me in the first place.

You clearly once held to your religion on blind mindless faith & it is equally clear your hold your present belief system in an identical manner.

Why are you even here? What have you to possibility offer any of us?

What good are you if any?

Papalinton said...

Hi Ben Yachov
"You have zero chance of converting me to your brand of Atheism."

PapaL
Nuff said.

Ben Y
"You clearly once held to your religion on blind mindless faith & it is equally clear your hold your present belief system in an identical manner."

PapaL
And a psychoanalyst, to boot. Well at least you do use science when it suits you. But unfortunately in this case, it is a misconstrued use of science pretty much as theists are apt to do with blinding regularity.

What is particularly interesting Ben, you say, 'You have zero chance of converting me to your brand of Atheism' and then in the very same breath you say, 'You clearly once held to your religion on blind mindless faith'. Tell me again Ben, I want to hear you say it again, who is it that holds their 'religion on blind and mindless faith'?
I'm the one who changed, through reason and logic to a different frame of reference, to one that is not tethered to the mindset of 1st C primitives. I refused to live as a goat stacked out in a pasture at the end of a length of rope allowing for grazing within a defined radius.

BenYachov said...

>Hi Ben Yachov
"You have zero chance of converting me to your brand of Atheism."

>PapaL
Nuff said.

You left out "Not because I am immune to logical persuasion towards other views but for the simple fact you don't make any logical arguments to move me in the first place."

Wow! Major quote me out of context!

When you where a religious fundie where you a liar for Jesus too?

>And a psychoanalyst, to boot.

You haven't been acting as a psychoanalyst?

Hypocrite much?

Typical Fundie.

BenYachov said...

>I'm the one who changed, through reason and logic to a different frame of reference,

I would believe you if you actually made at least one logical argument. Just one.

But you haven't. Even BDK has said so about your non-argument against Classic Theism back on the other thread.

So really why are you here? What's the point of you?

Papalinton said...

Hi Ben
Ben, "You have zero chance of converting me to your brand of Atheism." is the factual nub of your statement. Any fool can add a postscript as a way of mitigating the starkness of the intended message. Your following, "Not because I am immune to logical persuasion towards other views but for the simple fact you don't make any logical arguments to move me in the first place." has about as much impact as hitting a rock with a feather. Indeed there is nothing, that is, *nothing* of logical persuasion to which you would be open to. You have been boxed so much around the head by theism that you are suffering from leather poisoning. But I still offer you the following for your consideration:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=folTvNDL08A&feature=player_embedded

Cheers

Jake Elwood XVI said...

"I'm the one who changed, through reason and logic to a different frame of reference, to one that is not tethered to the mindset of 1st C primitives. I refused to live as a goat stacked out in a pasture at the end of a length of rope allowing for grazing within a defined radius."

Come on Papalinton, you were a teacher once. You would have studied some child (adolescent) psychology in your teacher training? This on top of the years of experience with teaching children would surely have hinted that some one who uses such emotive language is acting with more than just (if not in an absence of) reason and logic.

You make a good point about adam and eve but your inability to accept a rib at your Noah's kids statement makes me to continue to reflect on the barriers to learning. I think I may have a phd topic here.

Indeed your argument are just appeals to the emotive, "You have been boxed so much around the head by theism that you are suffering from leather poisoning."

I often wonder how you would have dealt with students who displayed your attitude to the opinions of others.

Surely at your stage of life you should be travelling around our great country with a 4WD towing a big caravan rather then getting heated up at theists. The missus and I hope to follow some of Les Hiddins, the Leylands and Malcolm Douglas televised adventures. :-)

Anonymous said...

Some troll bragged: "I would know more now than you've[sic] will ever know about the bible"

Yeah, you would — if you'd actually, y'know, read it or anything. In the meantime, we all bow to your superior Biblical knowledge that didn't even understand that Noah's sons were married. Oh, wait, sorry... actually, we're all doubled over laughing. Have fun trolling.

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

Hi jake Elwood XVI
"Indeed your argument are just appeals to the emotive, "You have been boxed so much around the head by theism that you are suffering from leather poisoning."

Yes, Jake, I was somewhat a bit over the top when I penned that little bit above. Call it an indulgence with a little selfishness thrown in.

Jake you say," You make a good point about adam and eve but your inability to accept a rib at your Noah's kids statement makes me to continue to reflect on the barriers to learning."

I say, Jake, I'm not sure what those barriers to your learning might be. Only you would be able to assess that.
Oh! You were talking about *my* barriers to learning. If you feel there is something of worth in my attitude to the Noah's kids comments for a PhD, I say knock yourself out; go for it. I would very much look forward to reading the thesis through which a christian theist steps outside the theological domain and actually utilizes the tools of investigative science to determine the context of attitude to Noah's kids as a barrier to learning. Unless of course, that thesis is forwarded through a bible seminary for assessment written as an Apologetical treatise. Then I would really have to stretch that interest.

Cheers

Papalinton said...

Hi Anonymous
"In the meantime, we all bow to your superior Biblical knowledge that didn't even understand that Noah's sons were married."

Don't get all frenzied Anonymous. Don't take it all so serious as if I was badmouthing your sacred book [which really deserves to be as you do the Koran, the Veda, etc]. The point of the Noah comment was that ... IT IS ONLY A LEGEND, a myth, a fable, a village tale, a contrivance to make those born after the flood to be, to feel special, but only if they chose god. Otherwise, allegorically, something bad will happen to them as what happened to those people before the flood on whom god practiced gratuitous genocide.

So, no amount of snide comment, rancour or feigned slighting, will make the Noah mythos any truer.

BenYachov said...

Paps cut the bulls*** you clearly misquoted me on purpose. So when you "believed in god(s)" did you think lying for Jesus was ok? Because you seem to believe it is still ok to lie.

>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=folTvNDL08A&feature=player_embedded

I'm not a young Earth creationist fundamentalist Paps I'm a Catholic & Thomist. Why is that still unclear to you? I accept science so I don't see what your video has to do with anything?

Plus I've read Atheist Philosopher's Dave Stove's criticism of Popper so I'm not impressed by your one sided limited knowledge of the philosophy of science.

You new fuundie doctrine that Empiricism alone as the sole meaningful means of knowledge cannot be proven via empiricism thus it is false by it's own standard's. You don't have to believe in God to see this fatal flaw.
AJ Flew abandoned Positivism back in the 50's at the height of his Atheism. Long before becoming an Aristotelian Theist(superficially called a Deist by philosophical plebs like yourself). So why should I embrace it? By Faith alone? Why?

Pap you have moved from a simplistic fundie religious faith to an equally simplistic fundie atheism. You have to move beyond pablum of THE GOD DELUSION if you want me to take you seriously.

But then again that would also entail good will, the principle of charity and an open minded respectful exchange of ideas. Learning philosophy & metaphysics. In that area you have the maturity & learning of a High School 14 year old.
So again what is the point of you?

Papalinton said...

Hi Ben Yachov
I don't give two hoots whether you take me seriously or not, Ben.
Remember, you are the one that believes in fairies, and demons and gods, and the supernatural, and the 'physical reality' of metaphysics. You're the one one touched by godism. You're the one 'Waiting for Godot'.
One need not be manacled to the supernatural to enjoy a good meaningful life on earth. I know, because I am living it, without the god-shaped vacuum in my brain.

Ben you say, "You don't have to believe in God to see this fatal flaw."

I say, true. But you have to believe in god to live the fatal flaw. Five billion other people live a perfectly good life without even a sniff of christian theism cluttering their mind.

BenYachov said...

>you are the one that believes in fairies, and demons and gods,

No I am an absolute strong Atheist in regards to the existence of the above hypothetical isolani entities.

I tried to explain to you what I believe but you refused to learn. Thus you have no rational foundation for an intelligent critique of it. Your one size fits all New Atheist fundie polemic is irrational. I could deny God tomorrow and I would still believe this.

>and the supernatural, and the 'physical reality' of metaphysics.

I may have mentioned this in the past maybe over at Biologos but I don't equate "metaphysics" with Magic. I use the philosophical definition of "That which is beyond physics". Thus logically a an atheist philosopher who argues for metaphysical naturalism is doing metaphysics.

It's not hard but you refuse to go beyond your narrow new found fundamentalism and think.

>I don't give two hoots whether you take me seriously or not, Ben.

No anybody else for that matter which is why you have no chance of convincing me. You are the problem. Fix yourself or continue to act in a foolish manner.

BenYachov said...

>I say, true. But you have to believe in god to live the fatal flaw. Five billion other people live a perfectly good life without even a sniff of christian theism cluttering their mind.

Any Thomist worth his salt will tell you humans apart from Divine Grace can preform Natural Good works and enjoy natural goods in this world so what you say is unremarkable to me. Of course there are happy non-Christians. Duh!
I don't advocate spreading Catholic Christianity on the grounds of making people merely naturally happy(though that is often a common side effect). I advocate because I believe it it true and metaphysically, existentially and spiritually beneficial to their souls. If someone doesn't want to convert I simply pray for them & move on.

You OTOH seem to have a problem moving on from the "god" you rejected.

Why is that & again what good are you?

Gregory said...

I don't think it's necessary for AFR proponents to spell out the exact processes involved in belief formation, the necessity of memory, the apprehension of logical relationships, the nature of "sound" conclusions, the verities or vagaries of sense perception, etc., in order to first make the argument.

We have two general, competing metaphysical notions of what "reality" is. And we also have implications that bear upon our notion of "rationality". Let's call one view "metaphysical naturalism" (i.e. "MN" hereafter) and the other one "metaphysical non-naturalism".

If we accept "MN" as our starting point, then we are committed to the adoption of "physicalism" and "nomological necessity" as core tenets of this theory. At least, all "MN" proponents I am familiar with take this position. That being the case--whatever "beliefs" should happen to be--they [beliefs] are strictly determined/caused by the state of physics and chemistry within the natural environment, in general, and within human biology, in particular.

Therefore, while granting this assumption, a person who has a "belief" in God is no more or less "rational" than the person who lacks a "belief" in God since "nature" is no respecter of persons. Whatever disagreements or agreements we might have with each other are, logically speaking, arranged by the "inviolable" laws of nature. In the case of "MN", there is no longer the possibility of adjudicating the rationality of one persons psychological disposition/state and mental capacity from anyone else's. All mental states, or mental non-states, are equally valid...having arisen from the same source (i.e. "nature"). Consequently, all disputation and argumentation--qua "reasoning" and "inference"--is rendered meaniningless.

Physically, psychologically and rationally speaking, we would have to concur with Popeye:

"I yem what I yem and that's all that I yem"

Note: a corncob pipe helps with proper Popeyean annunciation.

Now, suppose that there were a half dozen cars lined up and I was told that only one of them had an engine that worked. Now, if the first car hood I looked under had no engine at all, then it's not necessary that I know which of the remaining cars has the engine....or why. What I do know is that this car, in particular, will not run.

That's what I think the AFR proponents should keep in mind.

Gregory said...

This is also a reason I have for rejecting all forms of determinism (compatibilist or otherwise).

If a person is set on a preordained course from the outset, then there is no longer a possibility for debate. Or, rather, all "debates" are fixed by whatever "causal" story...I mean "theory"...the determinist cooks up. Sorry...I mean to say: by whatever causal railroad track his train happens to be riding on.

The fact that a determinist will attempt to rebut me is proof that the determinist doesn't buy into his own story.

One Brow said...

All mental states, or mental non-states, are equally valid...having arisen from the same source (i.e. "nature"). Consequently, all disputation and argumentation--qua "reasoning" and "inference"--is rendered meaniningless.

That's a curious definition of valid. States can arise from the same source yet not be equally reflective of reality, so I would say they are still not equally valid.

The fact that a determinist will attempt to rebut me is proof that the determinist doesn't buy into his own story.

Unless I consider this rebuttal, the possibility you will read is, to be equally determined. Further, since determinists accept the notion that outside informaiton can have an effect, such efforts are not necessarily wasted.

Al Moritz said...

Hi Ben Yachov
"You have zero chance of converting me to your brand of Atheism."

PapaL
Nuff said.


I am with Ben here, When I read your answer, Papalinton, I immediately realized that you had misunderstood him. I would have no problem being converted to atheism either, but not to your brand of atheism, which is unthinking, snide and just hilarious in its view of theism. When I read the following from you, I had to laugh out loud because it was so ludicrous:

Theism is a retrogressive dabbling of the primal and inborn intuitions that form part of humankind's basic make-up. This dabbling simply builds on and consolidates, and seeks only to yield to those primal and unmellowed urges. Theism was humankind's first attempt at trying to make sense of the world, the cosmos, and our relationship in it.

I have thought long and hard about all the arguments for and against atheism, much more thoroughly and with much less confirmation bias than the vast majority of atheists (though not all) will ever do in their lifetime, and I am still not convinced. Below the attractive surface I find the arguments for atheism rather weak.

If atheism really had the arguments on its side -- for me this requires naturalism to be acceptable --, I would easily go for it. I am looking for truth, not comfort. After all, I had such an open mind that I not only switched from an ID position to a full embrace of evolution, but also was convinced by the evidence that it is highly likely that the origin of life had natural causes. I even wrote an article on the research in the field that is now one of the leading articles on the issue on the web (google to find out):

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/originoflife.html

BenYachov said...

@Al Moritz,

There is a saying in the Middle East. If you are going to go to Hell for adultery or fornication at least make sure you where not with an ugly woman.

If I was going to go to Hell for being an Atheist(not that I believe all Atheists automatically go to Hell but that is off topic).

I at least wouldn't want to be an idiot for all eternity as well.

Why add insult to injury?

Al Moritz said...

at least wouldn't want to be an idiot for all eternity as well.

Why add insult to injury?


I agree. I would want to be an atheist on solid intellectual grounds. But these just aren't there, in my view. So why should I choose a weak position just for the fun of it and then risk eternal life as well?

Al Moritz said...

Ben says:

I'm not a young Earth creationist fundamentalist Paps I'm a Catholic & Thomist. Why is that still unclear to you? I accept science so I don't see what your video has to do with anything?

Precisely. Papalinton is under the delusion that all Christians are enemies of science and deny its findings. Shows again how little he knows about religion beyond his narrow fundie background. I am also a Catholic, and the alleged conflict between religion and science never happened for me. If I would have been a fundie, I might be an atheist now too -- or I would never have become a scientist in the first place. But fortunately I am no fundie. Too bad for Papalinton that he was, and as Ben points out, he firmly remains a fundie in his attitude but now just without God-belief.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The Loftus Effect. Dogmatic know-it-all-ism transcends ontological commitments.

Some of the most offputting atheists were previously creationists with a fetish for extreme abortion posters.

Many exceptions to that I'm joking ot some degree.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I share the sadness and frustration, sometimes, for extremely smart people using great intellectual talent on picayune theological issues. Just give it up, devote that intellect to something that isn't superstitious nonsense. Part of me is very sympathetic to that. In practice, I find that attitude isn't particuarly productive when dealing with people that aren't disbelievers. It evokes anger, or hurt feelings, often both, and is anti-intellectual at some level.

Obviously, people can be rational Christians. Most these arguments we have are like shooting spitballs at a submarine. Once someone is locked into their submarine, and comfortable in it, the spitballs don't do all that much and it becomes easier and easier to absorb their impact.

Just as Christians can't, based purely on evidence and reason, pull me inexorably into their vessle, the same goes in the other direction. This implies that each side is rational, one or both is wrong, but logic, evidence, persuasion are not sufficient to settle the matter. Ultimately we have fundamentally different convictions about what a reasonable model of the world looks like, and this includes biases about what types of explanations are your default mode of explanation, and what types of claims do you require more or less evidence for.

I do tend to be suspicious of religious worldviews, partly because capricious and unreliable psychosocial factors are clearly such a major factor in forming them, in setting up people's priors. And folks in different cultures end up with contradictory, sometimes violently antagonistic, beliefs about religious matters. It just seems reasonable that these beliefs are ancient superstitions run amok, perhaps aided and abetted by brains that find patterns and intentions where none actually reside (this was actually lauded by Dembski in his ridiculous explanatory filter).

The above isn't a deductive argument against religious belief, but within my submarine is one quite natural way to view things. It's an asymmetry I can point to to make me feel secure in my vessel (after all, the intersection of all rational belief systems is pretty much science, not any particular religious system). But then religious folks can point to morality, and have a strong belief that people in my vessel have got nothin' on that front while they have an intuitive upper hand (and I would have to admit they are probably right, at an intuitive level).

My point is that argument can only take us so far. There are deep differences about what overall cumulative worldview looks most reasonable and palatable. Beliefs that would make me recoil in skepticism might be accepted blithely by others. Beliefs that strike you as morally repugnant can be accepted with a shrug by me.

Must sleep, this may not make sense it is late.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Metaphor: our epistemic situation is not one of sitting atop a fixed pyramid, but fighting to stay afloat on a bunch of wooden rafts tethered together in an unruly sea (some of the rafts are more seaworthy than others, and different overall worldviews tend to have different secure rafts: for theists morality seems more secure (right now) than for the naturalist)).


The atheist ex-christian has cut away a few rafts because they were actually hurting his navigation ability, not helping it. That's a completely unbiased description of atheism.

OK for reals time for bed work is very busy right now! (Note my boss was on the Daily Show today...Miguel Nicolelis talking about his book Beyond Boundaries).

OK it's really sleepy time I will regret staying up this dang late eating chocolate....

BenYachov said...

Well said BDK.

Al Moritz said...

Yes, Ben, there is quite a bit that I can agree with in these posts by BDK, though of course not all of it. Papalinton could learn a lot from BDK's rationality, which might help him transcend his simplistic atheist dogmatism.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Seeing this in the light of morning, hope it was clear my "completey unbiased" bit was a joke.

BenYachov said...

No worries BDK. It's all good in da hood.

Papalinton said...

"There is a saying in the Middle East. If you are going to go to Hell for adultery or fornication at least make sure you where not with an ugly woman."

This is precisely why catholics are incapable of understanding the misogeny that underlies the very basis of their 'classical' rendition of christianity. They are oblivious of the highly discriminatory and personally objectionable nature of keeping 'women in their place'. Simply the 'tradition' of the hierarchy of the organisation is a testament to the institutionalised hegemony of misogeny Another systemic failure under the banner of the AFR.

Papalinton said...

@ Al Moritz
"If I would have been a fundie, I might be an atheist now too -- or I would never have become a scientist in the first place. But fortunately I am no fundie."

Just another misguided wretch unable to help or control himself from 'lying for jesus'. To suggest you might have been persuaded is verbal swill that simply floats atop the mire of congnitive dissonance.

Al, if you do not use the tools of science, the investigative tools, then you are just another religious scientist capable of partitioning off the godism bits from any form of scrutiny. Nothing more, nothing less. But let me assure you, should you try, even one scintilla, attempt to inveigle some theistic interpretation for any scientific publication you might present for peer review, your reputation as a scientist would be compromised. Compartmentalization is a common condition for scientists who have an indisciplined penchant for theism. They can still do good science, but says absolutely nothing about the veracity or efficacy of religion. Such nonsense is purely a personal cultural artfice in one's own life.
Sheesh

BenYachov said...

"I would have no problem being converted to atheism either, but not to {Paps'] brand of atheism, which is unthinking, snide and just hilarious..."

You have nothing to teach any of us Paps. Your not a thinking individual.Not any Atheist or Theist has anything to learn from you. For an ex-teacher that is pretty pathetic.

Anonymous said...

At April 01, 2011 5:47 AM , Papalinton said [...]

Oh, April 1! Now I get it, ha-ha, good one!

Steven Carr said...

'If you were to meet a person, call him Steve, who could argue with great cogency for every position he held, you might be inclined to consider him a very rational person.'


I see that Victor believes you can argue 'with great cogency' for the position that the best way to form a belief is to roll dice.

And then claims there are no arguments for the position that the best way to form a belief is to roll dice.

As always, his arguments contradict his premises - that somebody can argue with great cognecy for his belief tht you should roll dice to decid your position.

As Victor's argument contains a huge self-contradiction, it comes into the 'not worth looking at by professional philosophers' class of arguments.

Al Moritz said...

Just another misguided wretch unable to help or control himself from 'lying for jesus'. To suggest you might have been persuaded is verbal swill that simply floats atop the mire of congnitive dissonance.

Of course you would say that, Papalinton, that was entirely predictable. Its correspondence to the truth is a different issue.

Papalinton said...

Al Moritz

PapaL: Just another misguided wretch unable to help or control himself from 'lying for jesus'. To suggest you might have been persuaded is verbal swill that simply floats atop the mire of congnitive dissonance.

Al: Of course you would say that, Papalinton, that was entirely predictable. Its correspondence to the truth is a different issue.

PapaL
Don't obfuscate, Al. The substance of my commentary was not the point you responded to above. Rather it was the next paragraph; namely:

"Al, if you do not use the tools of science, the investigative tools, then you are just another religious scientist capable of partitioning off the godism bits from any form of scrutiny. Nothing more, nothing less. But let me assure you, should you try, even one scintilla, attempt to inveigle some theistic interpretation for any scientific publication you might present for peer review, your reputation as a scientist would be compromised. Compartmentalization is a common condition for scientists who have an indisciplined penchant for theism. They can still do good science, but says absolutely nothing about the veracity or efficacy of religion. Such nonsense is purely a personal cultural artfice in one's own life."

How do you reconcile theism with scientific discourse without resorting to 'compartmentalization'? My question to you is just as relevant to a scientist who happens to also containerize his/her Islamic bent, or the Hindu scientist who believes in turtles all the way down. I maintain, scientists can do good science regardless of their theistic disposition, because is irrelevant to and unnecessary for good science.

Edward T. Babinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, you wrote, "However, suppose that on all disputed questions Steve rolled dice to fix his positions permanently."

RESPONSE: No brain-mind functions purely like tossing dice. Though I bet some interesting things happen at the earliest stages of neuron formation and sensation development in the womb and in babies, probably a lot of sensations get weeded out via feedback mechanisms so that they eventually develop in a way that functions in the world, makes sense out of it. We know that lots of neurons die from birth onwards (probably due to lack of feedback of particular neuronal pathways/connections). If they didn't, I suppose the brain-mind probably wouldn't be able to make much sense of anything at all, not if all neuronal connections remained in tact from birth onwards.

You talk about the sub-stratum, but it's not irrational, just non-rational. Atoms are not rational, which is different from irrational. That's about all one can say or needs to say about that. That doesn't mean rationality cannot arise in a brain-mind system that takes in enormous loads of sensory data on a far more comprehensive and larger level than the purely "atomic" level. We learn how to react to nature and other brain-minds on a macrolevel. Reasoning has to evolve. Reasoning is simply a word for our ability to distinguish between things, combined with memory and foresight that makes better distinctions in time as well as space.

How are beliefs produced and sustained? That is a crucial question. You think you know how? Have you studied the evolutionary history of the brain-mind? Or the development of the brain-mind from embryo to adult? Cognitive science? Etc.?

BenYachov said...

>The substance of my commentary...

Since when have any of your posts contain substance?

Where is this substance? One the same planet as the Pink Unicorn & the FSM?