Sunday, April 15, 2012

An analysis of the argument from reason

This is a treatment of the argument from reason, which includes a treatment of Hasker's version of the argument. Sometimes I think Bill is one forgotten founding father of the AFR.

57 comments:

Papalinton said...

"Regarding the materialist’s commitments to some knowledge being inferred, Reppert states,
They hold that scientists make rational and mathematical inferences; they must hold that they accept materialism because there is good reason to believe it. Even if we accept the “direct realist” view with respect to physical objects, there is a whole lot of rationally inferred knowledge that no materialist can dare deny, on pain of undermining both science and naturalism.[8]"

This excerpt was taken from Tyler NcNab's website in relation to Hasker's AfR.
While it sounds plausible, even reasonable, such an approach nonetheless makes the silly mistake of differentiating knowledge and thinking from that which are normal functions or elements of the materialist perspective. Rationally inferred knowledge is no more strange to the materialist than any scientific fact. There is no inferred knowledge which undermines either science or naturalism. This is scurrilous nonsense, a quasi-philosophical construct that is of no substantive value outside the seriously implausible and questionable metaphysical nonsense endemic to theology.

The only distinction between rationally inferred knowledge, and rational and mathematical inferences, is one that is both theistically contrived and philosophically naive. Trinitarianism, revivification of dead putrescent corpses, parthenogenesis, are all first premises that are unsupported by the evidence, no matter how generous an interpretation one wishes to overlay. That which is claimed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence, and much of that which passes for christian religious 'knowledge', can only be properly and correctly drawn from its closest and direct antecedents, the range, diversity and collection of mythologies and legends of past civilizations and peoples. There is no causal link between the claims of christian theism and world as explained through naturalism and materialism. Any such claim is in itself a misconceived delsuion.

Zach said...

Papalinton the point in the quote is not as contentious as you make it sound. Just saying that some knowledge is arrived at through rational inference.

Some hard-core empiricists might disagree, but the quote itself says nothing about theism.

Papalinton said...

"Some hard-core empiricists might disagree, but the quote itself says nothing about theism."

Not to make too fine a point, Zach, it is naive to suggest the quote is not about theism. Of course it is! The AfR, which is the point of the discussion and from where I extracted the quote is ALL about atheism.

Obscurantism is not an endearing feature.

B. Prokop said...

"Trinitarianism, revivification of dead putrescent corpses, parthenogenesis, are all first premises that are unsupported by the evidence"

Of course they are!!! that's the whole point. The first "premise" is Pure Revelation, otherwise unimaginable and unknowable to Mankind. (We don't admit this, we proclaim it.) The second two are miracles. You do understand the concept of miracle, don't you? 'Cause I get the feeling you don't. If it's not outside the normal course of nature, it's not a miracle! Once again, this is a huge missing of the mark on your part. Not only are your arrows missing the target, you're not even facing in the right direction.

And please... please, I beg you, go on using language such as "dead putrescent corpses". You probably meant that as some sort of infantile word-baiting, but all you've done is emphasize the majestic nature of the Event. Yes, indeed. The Resurrection was Christ's coming to life once more and forever, having first been tortured, mutilated, killed, buried, and left to rot from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, wrapped in suffocating cloths soaked in 100 pounds of spices specifically used by the Jews of the time to speed up the process of decay. And He wasn't raised up by some other entity... He did it Himself! How much more miraculous can you get?

Your attempted taunts have only added to His Glory. Khristos voskres!

Zach said...

Papalinton: my point was about the exceprt you quoted, not the essay from which you extrated it. We could argue about whether science thinks it ever acquires knowledge through inference alone. But that is not about theism. It is about science.

Victor Reppert said...

But there can be evidence supporting revelation claims. I still maintain that alternative theories, when developed in detail, have severe explanatory problems in explaining the founding of Christianity, and that the same cannot be said of competing religions.

TylerDMcNabb said...

Pap- I might be misunderstanding you but this argument is in regards to non-reductive materialism.

Victor Reppert- Do you have an email that I could contact you at? If you have time, my email is tylerdaltonmcnabb@gmail.com. Thanks!

B. Prokop said...

You are correct, Victor. I hope I didn't come across as implying otherwise. My point is that Papalinton cannot get around the miraculous nature of miracles. I am forever amazed at such objections as "The Virgin Birth cannot have occurred because it goes against the Laws of Nature". Well, of course it does! That's why we call it a miracle. And as Lewis wrote in his book Miracles, the skeptic must fall back to a position of disproving the miraculous, since he cannot just define them out of existence (whilst remaining intellectually honest).

As to your point about historical evidence, you and I are in agreement. I personally believe that the evidential case for the Resurrection is so strong on its own merits, that I would believe in it on those grounds alone.

Walter said...

I would quibble a little and say that the alleged resurrection of Jesus was an event and not a revelation per se. There can be historical evidence supporting a miraculous event, but I don't see how there can be evidence for a revelation if you are not the person who directly received the revelation.

B. Prokop said...

Walter,

I don't understand your objection. Who's calling the Resurrection a revelation?

Walter said...

Perhaps I misunderstood the gist of your comment. It seemed the claim was being made that there could be actual evidence for revelation based on the historical evidence for the resurrection. If that is not what you meant then disregard. I still don't see how there can be empirical evidence to support the claim that God made a revelation to certain individuals in history? If God does not speak to you directly, then at best all you have is anecdotal stories about alleged revelations made to persons other than yourself.

B. Prokop said...

The empirical evidence rests partly on the abject failure of all alternate hypotheses to explain the Resurrection. They all have such gaping holes in them that whole fleets of trucks could be driven through their essential premises. The only hypothesis that stands up to the least scrutiny (and we've already covered this on previous threads) is that Jesus literally rose from the dead and appeared to the Apostles. Every other attempted explanation (the women went to the wrong tomb, Jesus didn't actually die - He was just injured, mass hallucination, myth out of whole cloth, intentional fabrication, it's all "allegory", identical twin stepping in to take Christ's place, there never was any "Jesus" in the first place, etc.) all fail the test.

I find it interesting (and significant) that the Resurrection is the singular miracle that is replete with historical underpinnings, of so strong a nature that even the determined unbeliever cannot dismiss them out of hand. There's no real need for anyone to believe in Adam and Eve (I don't), the Tower of Babel, the Ten Plagues of Egypt, Balaam's ass, or Daniel in the lion's den... but the Resurrection stands proud and alone - the singular event in Human History that bestrides all realms of philosophy, history, knowledge, reason, and human nature itself. The Faith, as I have repeatedly stated here on this website and in many other venues, stands or falls on the Resurrection. It is either "Christ is risen, alleluia!" or utter meaninglessness, nihilism, and despair.

There's your choice, in a nutshell.

Walter said...

It is either "Christ is risen, alleluia!" or utter meaninglessness, nihilism, and despair.

Hardly. You are setting up a false dichotomy where the only two options are Christianity or atheism.

B. Prokop said...

Be honest with yourself, Walter... are you seriously considering any of the other options?

After a lifetime of pondering this very question (I'm 60 years old), I've come to the conclusion that there are only three rational alternatives: Orthodox Christianity, Hinduism, and Marxism-Leninism. Everything else fails big time.

I quite honestly think that all the faux worrying about other religions is nothing more than a last-ditch rear guard action to avoid making a commitment. (In general, that is - perhaps (maybe even probably) not in your individual case.)

Papalinton said...

"The first "premise" is Pure Revelation, otherwise unimaginable and unknowable to Mankind. "

Perhaps we should get something clear here. 'Pure revelation' is nothing other than a 'thought', a process of mentation that can be either, the resultant expression of substance supported by evidence, as in the case of discovering the laws of Newtonian motion, or a thought of insubstantial weight, as in the case of the omni-max qualities of a god[s]. The former is the result of observation and falsification. The latter is the result of mitigating and ameliorating cognitive dissonance of the inexplicable.

Yes, it is true, without 'revelation' virgin births, corpse revivification, parthenogenesis, would be unimaginable and unknowable to mankind. As was Zeus, Horus and Ganesha unimaginable and unknowable to mankind. But simply to imagine them, which is all that revelation is, imagination, does not make them a substantive truth, having a separate and independent existence other than as a meme. And that is all they are; memes. As Mark Twain so elegantly notes, "Religion is believing what you know ain't so."

Virgin births, parthenogenesis, corpse revivification is the stuff of Star Trek, Harry Potter and Narnia. In the National Population Census conducted in Australia in 2005, on the question posed, 'What religion do you identify with?', over 85,000 self-reported as Jedi Knights. As hilarious as that knowledge may be, the 'revelation' that can be drawn from this is that religious belief, be it christian, muslim, pentecostal, is indistinguishable from, and indeed is exactly the same stuff from which Jedi Knights draw their succour.

Trotting out the old and tired 'miracle' trope as a last resort at an attempt to provide an explanation without evidence, is the unmistakable signature that we are now entering shamanic superstitious woo territory. And no appeal to reason and logic, evidence, proofs or facts will suffice in prizing open the shell of the dead giant clam of christian theism.

Walter said...

Be honest with yourself, Walter... are you seriously considering any of the other options?

Deist here. I have already committed to another option.

After a lifetime of pondering this very question (I'm 60 years old), I've come to the conclusion that there are only three rational alternatives: Orthodox Christianity, Hinduism, and Marxism-Leninism. Everything else fails big time.

Really? How about Judaism? What if the Jesus story was false but the Mosaic revelation was true, would you still claim that your life would be utterly meaningless, and filled with nihilism and despair?

Steve Lovell said...

Papa,

Like Zach, I still think you're missing the point of the passage you were citing. The diatribe on miracles is both irrelevant and unbecoming.

In the passage you quote, McNabb is simply pointing out that naturalists are (like everyone else) committed to thinking that some beliefs are the product of reasoning, and are justified beliefs because of that.

You write that McNabb is making the "silly mistake of differentiating knowledge and thinking from that which are normal functions of the materialist perspective".

This is false. He is pointing out that there are some beliefs which can be plausibly thought to be justified without arising from a chain of reasoning (as in "Direct Realism"), but that the naturalist can't plausibly claim this is true of all beliefs. This is not a "silly mistake". It's a fact.

The interesting question is not whether or not the passage you quote is right, but whether the argument that begins with that observation is sound ... a question you have failed to address.

You must have something better. If not your naturalism is in seriously bad shape.

Steve

Papalinton said...

" I still maintain that alternative theories, when developed in detail, have severe explanatory problems in explaining the founding of Christianity, and that the same cannot be said of competing religions."

Insubstantial apologetics writ large, I'm afraid. History tells us the founding of christianity was a 1,000-year long process of massaging and manipulating unintelligible, disparate and dichotomous texts. The seriously flawed attempt at harmonizing often competing and seriously conflicting doctrines was the central feature of that process. The flaws were sufficiently serious that Eastern Orthodoxy simply couldn't abide with the nonsense the Roman Church was peddling, and the inevitable schism resulted. Five hundred years later another schismatic event resulted from the doctrinal mishmash that masquerades as fundamental truths. And to this very day, the central tenets of christianity, as with every other religion, the irreconcilable and papered over foundational ideology that purports to be the universal truth is no more than a cultic obsession to perpetuate the memeplex. At the present the schismatic process is at exponential levels. At last count there were some 20,000 different sects of christianity in the US alone, each declaratively stating they are the one and only real and true path to salvation.

Pathetic really, and a sad indictment on an activity that prides itself on feeding off the credulous and guileless nature of human ignorance.

Victor Reppert said...

I am just stating the conclusion that I have drawn. I haven't defended it here.

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

Steve
"You must have something better. If not your naturalism is in seriously bad shape."

No Steve, not by a long chalk. Naturalism is all there is. Get used to it. It is the foundational requisite for reality. Everything else is a subset of naturalism. Literature, music, theology, mythology, gods, mysticism, important as they may be to some or many, are but embellishments, trinkets in the exchange for knowledge and substance. Naturalism is the linchpin that keeps us connected to reality, keeps our feet steadfast on the ground. Naturalism is the safety line to reality when we fly off out on the astral plane to meet god, or Ganesha, or to ponder the omni-max features of our brain-conjured god, or Superman or Zeus. It is the safety line that returns us to reality after we have finished introspectively gazing at our navels.

I am reminded of the poignant story recounted by Jomo Kenyatta, the first Prime Minister of an independent Kenya: "When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the bible."

Even the hypocrisy of the church was not a match against the reality of naturalism. Christian theism and the bible are but cheap and sordid trinkets easily forgone in the exchange for substance.

Steve Lovell said...

Papa,

You're still not engaging with the argument. It's just a load of irrelevant (and unsupported) assertions. And for the record I didn't say that your naturalism was in bad shape, I said that "If" that's all you've got then your naturalism is in bad shape. So far you've done nothing to show that that isn't all you've got, but it would be unfair for me to draw the conclusion from that alone ... which is why I left it conditional and asserted that "You must have something better".

You give the impression of not reading the things to which you're responding or of willfully misreading them. Hopefully neither of those things is true, but it's certainly the impression I get.

Sad state of affairs.

Steve

Papalinton said...

Steve

"You're still not engaging with the argument."

What is your take then, Steve? Show me where I have yet to engage with the argument. The balance of your comment, .... " It's just a load of irrelevant (and unsupported) assertions. And for the record I didn't say that your naturalism was in bad shape, I said that "If" that's all you've got then your naturalism is in bad shape. So far you've done nothing to show that that isn't all you've got, but it would be unfair for me to draw the conclusion from that alone ... which is why I left it conditional and asserted that "You must have something better".", is bleating. Offer your assessment of the OP.

Your earlier comment: "The interesting question is not whether or not the passage you quote is right, but whether the argument that begins with that observation is sound ... a question you have failed to address", is an understandable equivocal response by which you establish you own question in substitute. It is understandable in the sense that you seem reluctant to offer a response of your own either in support of or against the OP. Is it any wonder that I failed to answer your substituted question?

Your other comment: "You give the impression of not reading the things to which you're responding or of willfully misreading them. Hopefully neither of those things is true, but it's certainly the impression I get" , is a weary-worn apologetical ploy, a word-weazling attempt at saying nothing simply for the purpose of ad hominem. And I'm OK with that. People need to vent on occasion. I still lean in support of my original commentary on the OP. Theists have a tendency to differentiate when no differentiation is warranted simply as a function of having to find justification for supernatural superstition, no matter how tenuous or menial, in the absence of proofs or evidence. And the AfR for theism is one such uninformed and guileless attempt.

A most poignant comment was made at: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/blogs/godless-gross/the-atheist-jamboree-20120416-1x2lw.html#ixzz1sLWhb8VM

"Walter Miller's 'A Canticle for Liebowitz' is a future history of the Earth from after the first nuclear apocalypse until just before the second.
The main setting is a Cathloic Monastery founded in the "dark age" after the war and playing the same role as its forebears, preserving the knowledge of a lost civilisation.
There is much, much, much more.
"The conclusion I draw is that such themes are unavoidable when considering the universe, and what the future may hold, even when taking flights of science fiction fancy."
You can of course take away whatever you want. That's fiction, that is the nature of story; just like the narrative of the bible, the lessons to be drawn are innumerable.
The thing about science fiction is that despite the settings and the technology and so on, what drives the story is the people who inhabit these worlds and use these tools. As they are generally human, it is no surprise that human themes will be explored.
And, Sci Fi is an excellent tool for exploring these concepts - we are thrown into a strange world and the only familiar thing is people mostly like us - they catch our attention,
We get to imagine how they might cope with the challenges that the universe throws up. ie. What we are always doing - coping with the challenges of existence."

Commenter
Geoff Edwards

[Cont]

Papalinton said...

[cont]

And yes, religion, roman catholicism particularly, has the long tradition of preserving the knowledge of a long-lost civilization. And that is a laudable enterprise. And just as is happening in Western Europe, churches have become living museums of a past age. And that too, is a laudable undertaking in society. The Vatican will become the greatest museum of humanity's past dalliances with myth and superstition, just as the catacombs in Italy, the Temple at Karnak and the Valley of the Kings in Egypt draw numerous excited and interested crowds wanting to learn about our past.

But what we are always doing - coping with the challenges of existence, will continue on this Earth or elsewhere in the cosmos with no need or requirement for such a terrestrially contrived belief system tagging along. Humanity will have reached maturity.

Steve Lovell said...

Papa,

You're quite right, I haven't in this thread evaluated the AfR myself. But then since I broadly accept the argument, I'm not especially keen to. I see some difficulties for the argument particularly as presented by Hasker in The Emergent Self, and I've had some long dialogues with Hasker over email about my concerns. In short, while it might not be in evidence here, I have engaged with the argument. If time allows I may try to summarise my thoughts here in a few days (I'm at work now and have commitments over the next few evenings).

You ask me to show where you have failed to engage the argument. My answer is "Thoughout your comments on this thread".

To repeat both my comment and that from Zach, in your original response to the OP you take issue with a particular passage which you quote.

That passage is not saying anything controversial. The argument from reason goes broadly like this:

(1) Any sane view of ourselves includes a commitment to the idea that some beliefs are arrived at through the use of reason and are justified because of that.
(2) For complex reasons naturalism cannot accommodate that commitment. [This is a subconclusion, itself derived from other premises, which I omit here for presentation purposes].
(3) Therefore naturalism has to be rejected. It's either false or "not at sane view of ourselves".

Now, without the extra support for (2) this is a rubbish argument. But it is a valid argument, and premise (1) is surely unobjectionable. But it is premise (1) that is being asserted in the quote you took issue with in that original response. Since then you've made several other assertions about Christianity and religion in generial, and none of them have anything to do with the AfR. Even if the other things you've said were true they wouldn't have helped anyone evaluate the AfR.

When I say that you give the impression of not having read the things you're responding to, this is indeed an ad-hominem. It's not an argument. It's a statement of fact (you do give that impression), and a plea for you to either give a better impression if the impression is misleading or to change your ways if it isn't. Again, so far you're doing neither of these things.

Let me be explicit. In the argument (1) to (3) above ... do you, like any sane opponent of the AfR, accept premise (1) but deny premise (2)? I think you do, even though in your first post it looks like you're trying to dispute (1).

Now, if you want to say something to the point. Stop quibbling with (1), re-read the stuff by McNabb which argues for (2) and let us know here you think those arguments go wrong. Obviously it would help if you did this in a way which gives the impression that you did read McNabb.

Steve

B. Prokop said...

I am glad you have brought up one of my very favorite books, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. One of the three or four truly great works of literature given us by the science fiction genre in the 20th Century.

Miller was a complex and tragic person. He personally participated in the destruction of the great Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, Italy, during the Second World War. Miller never recovered from the overwhelming feelings of guilt this (let's call it what is is) war crime left him with. His last years were a sad downward spiral of untreated depression due to an at-the-time unrecognized disease, post traumatic stress disorder. He ultimately took his own life shortly after his wife died in 1996.

Part of his self-therapy was writing. Leibowitz was his masterwork, and remains as powerful today as the day it was first published. In three parts (which were originally three independently published novelettes), the best is probably the middle section, Fiat Lux - a meditation on the complete insufficiency of science alone to provide any meaningful answers to the most important questions in life. Miller convincingly illustrates through the medium of fiction the Truth that Science without God is a sure recipe for disaster.

Don't get the wrong impression. The novel is not "anti-science". Far from it. But it is most certainly "anti-scientism".

It makes me happy to know you are reading books such as this, Papalinton.

Papalinton said...

Steve
Your comment is one of the best and a most insightful response to my request.

You argument is a very good one and you have alerted me to the presuppositional aspects that one could or should consider relevant to the framing of your argument.

And as you rightly point out, it is with Point 1 about which I do have concern; "(1) Any sane view of ourselves includes a commitment to the idea that some beliefs are arrived at through the use of reason and are justified because of that."

And while I agree with the sentiment and substance of the statement, the statement itself tells only a partial story. Some beliefs are indeed arrived at through the use of reason. But their justification because of that fact, is wholly dependent on the context in and the basis on which the beliefs were formed. Reason alone is insufficient as a basis for justification. Perhaps the following will explain my perspective a little clearer;

"Since classical times a question has remained constant in philosophical debate (which is sometimes seen as a conflict between movements called Platonism and Aristotelianism) concerning the role of reason in confirming truth. People use logic, deduction, and induction, to reach conclusions they think are true. Conclusions reached in this way are considered more certain than sense perceptions on their own.[55] On the other hand, if such reasoned conclusions are only built originally upon a foundation of sense perceptions, then, the argument being considered goes, our most logical conclusions can never be said to be certain because they are built upon the very same fallible perceptions they seek to better.[56]
This leads to the question of what types of first principles, or starting points of reasoning, are available for someone seeking to come to true conclusions. In Greek, "first principles" are archai, "starting points",[57] and the faculty used to perceive them is sometimes referred to in Aristotle[58] and Plato[59] as nous which was close in meaning to awareness" or "consciousness.[60]"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason

It is timely to note the forms of reasoning:[again borrowed from Wiki]
3.4 Logical reasoning methods and argumentation
. 3.4.1 Deductive reasoning
. 3.4.2 Inductive reasoning
. 3.4.3 Abductive reasoning
. 3.4.4 Analogical reasoning
. 3.4.5 Fallacious reasoning

And an extremely comprehensive summary on the problems of using reason alone are found here: [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason]
4 Traditional problems raised concerning reason
. 4.1 Reason versus truth, and "first principles"
. 4.2 Reason versus emotion or passion
. 4.3 Reason versus faith or tradition

And contrary to your Points (2) and (3), naturalism is unaffected by your conclusion. Indeed the substantive character of Naturalism is enhanced by the premise of your argument.

Papalinton said...

Yes, the Canticle is a great read. I read it as part of a Literary Major in my undergraduate years.
But you haven’t responded to the substance of Geoff Edwards comment that I posted. What are your arguments against the view, “ You can of course take away whatever you want. That's fiction, that is the nature of story; just like the narrative of the bible, the lessons to be drawn are innumerable” ?
What are your thoughts on; “ The thing about science fiction is that despite the settings and the technology and so on, what drives the story is the people who inhabit these worlds and use these tools. As they are generally human, it is no surprise that human themes will be explored”?
Edwards’ comment goes straight to the heart of christian theism, the anthropomorphizing of fictive gods and other spectral forces, angels, demons, seraphims etc, that are [putatively] live entities.
 They are just stories.

“His last years were a sad downward spiral of untreated depression due to an at-the-time unrecognized disease, post traumatic stress disorder.”

You can’t use that statement at will. That is reasoning from Naturalism. This is the form of words that I would rightly use, as a naturalist. Your use of it is an act of pious equivocation. One cannot simply jump character, or worldview, at whim. As a declared catholic god-botherer your resort to a naturalist explanation of Miller's demise only spotlights the abject nonsense that is christian theism. This is tantamount to a disgraceful appeal to confirmation bias, writing up the positives and successes as a sign or testament of god’s goodness while downplaying the negatives of suicide as a result of a most unfortunate but naturally occurring happenstance of a downward spiral of untreated depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Oh how convenient that a believer now invokes a naturalist explanation, distancing and shielding the catholic god from any responsibility for the suicide.
God is present at all the good things that happen. Catholics even mendaciously claim that he made the good things happen. All the positive stories abound in god’s good grace. But a different story is told when bad things happen. In fact god has skedaddled, cringing off with his tail between his legs as his absence in the explanation and reasons for Miller’s suicide so clearly indicates, only to pop up again when last rights are administered. Without recourse to any form of religious explanation, it was left to the honesty and integrity of naturalism to report that his suicide was due to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. No mention of any responsibility from a god to help the man who had lived his whole life by the ‘ideals’ and ‘uplifting’ tenets of catholicism, only to find in his hour of need, even the power of the catholic god was useless and underwhelming in preventing his suiciding. Atheists and agnostics have known all along the ineffectual and counterfeit nature of catholic superstitious supernaturalism.
It simply underscores the disingenuous nature of catholic thinking.

B. Prokop said...

?????

Papalinton,

What in the world are you talking about?

Crude said...

Bob,

What in the world are you talking about?

Sensing that Steve is exposing him as having absolutely no clue what he's talking about, and sensing that you are making a good point, he's doing his usual: flipping the **** out and swinging at phantoms, hoping that his nigh-incomprehensible babbling will provide a distraction from the obvious.

Oh, and of course, merely pointing out 'Linton, your comments indicate you have no idea what you're talking about' will be written off as a dirty, rotten theist trick.

Really, Bob. You haven't noticed the pattern yet? Have you ever seen better out of this guy? C'mon.

By the way, welcome back from your admirable lenten fast.

Steve Lovell said...

Papa,

Let's cut to the chase. Do you actually deny premise (1) as I've stated it?

I still don't think you do. I think all you've done is clarify it, and gone some way to justify the use of the word "some" (rather than "all") in the phrase "some of our beliefs are arrived at through the use of reason". The clarification is welcome, but it doesn't amount to an objection.

You also write:
"And contrary to your Points (2) and (3), naturalism is unaffected by your conclusion. Indeed the substantive character of Naturalism is enhanced by the premise of your argument."

But the argument from (1) and (2) to (3) is a perfectly good one ... they aren't all separate points. There is an inference. It is of course dialectically acceptable to reject (2) here and so undermine the inference, but then given the wider context you ought to be telling us why you reject it and saying something against McNabb's/Hasker's arguments for it.

So to literally repeat myself:

"Stop quibbling with (1), re-read the stuff by McNabb which argues for (2) and let us know here you think those arguments go wrong."

Like yesterday, I'm at work again, so my own thoughts on the argument for (2) will have to wait.

B. Prokop said...

"Welcome back from your admirable lenten fast."

Crude,

I'm not so sure about "admirable", but it was a wonderful experience (2nd year in a row), and so mind-clearing that I have decided to do it every Sunday from now on.

Despite Papalinton's laughable characterization of the fast as a "self-imposed closeting from the voices of reason and scientific inquiry", I managed to use the time to finish 38 pages in my forthcoming astronomy textbook, prepare the syllabus for the class in that subject I will be teaching later this year at the local community college, as well as plow (?plough?) my way through a number of books on subjects as diverse as quantum mechanics and soil structure. I guess that doesn't count as "reason and scientific inquiry".

He says by getting off the net for 40 days, I left the world of "reason, logic and evidence". I find that a very revealing comment. I will explain: One of my pastimes (when I'm not exploring the universe at night) is gardening - especially vegetables and herbs (you know, practical stuff). And even though I own a gas tiller, I still prefer (at my age!) to work the soil by hand; using pitchfork, shovel, rake, and hand-tiller. It takes me 3 days to do what I could accomplish in an hour with the gas tiller. But the rewards far outweigh the extra time and sore muscles. I know every inch of the ground I'm working. I know how many worms live under each square yard. I know where the rocks are, and where the good soil is. And since I have been composting religiously (great word) for years, I now have the type of soil that wars have been fought over. When planting time comes (soon now!), I sow the seeds and jump back to avoid being hit by the sprouting plants.

Genesis tells us that Mankind was put on the Earth to till the soil, and there is much wisdom in those words. I wonder, how many atheists do you find among farmers? (I honestly don't know. Has anyone ever polled them specifically?) I think Papalinton's problem, and probably that of most other atheists, is that they think "reason, logic and evidence" exist in a world of ones and zeros, and have isolated themselves from the Real World.

A few months back I was visiting the University of Colorado, and one day there I passed by a table of the university's atheist society, with copies of books by Dawkins, Hitchens, et.al., worshipfully displayed. I had to stifle a laugh so as not to be rude as I walked by, because an admittedly sinful thought came to me when I saw the students sitting there. I said to myself, "What these kids badly need is to get laid!" But later I thought back on that reaction,, and realized I was probably on to something there.

Several times on this website, one atheist or another has accused Christians of being "isolated". But I genuinely think that it is the atheist who is isolated - isolated, that is, from himself, from his body, from his hands, from the soil, from dirt, from the poor and suffering, from everything except the virtual world of the web and their own thought echoed back to themselves by their fellow travelers.

It's no mystery when we see a person struck down by illness, especially a deadly illness, turning to God. The atheist is quick to attribute this to some mythical "fear of death" or of damnation, but I think the likelier explanation is that the sick person is, for perhaps the first time in his life, to a very heightened degree aware of the true relationship between himself and his body. I believe it was Lewis (though it might have been Tolstoy) who wrote "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body - for the time being."

Because if you get away from your computer screen long enough to pay enough attention to reality, you discover (like the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins) that "The world is charged with the grandeur of God".

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

I have 14 acres of beautiful country in a rural residential setting, not 30 minutes from the Capital city of Australia, that I mow, till, plant and work with my hands every day that I am alive. I'm a tree hugger and a nature lover. I see, feel, smell the grandeur of the universe everywhere. And when I die I wont be going to some ridiculous and unsophisticated human contrivance conjured as a heaven where 72 virgins or other spectral numen await me. I will return and become once more the stuff of stars, just as I was for billions of years before my short but enjoyable terrestrial stint as a conscious being.
I have grown and matured beyond the need for imagining a father figure as a necessary requisite to guide me through life. I have no original sin. I was not born sinful. I have no need to pretend that an ancient cannibalistic ritual of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a murdered human being is of any significance other than as a stark reminder of the closeness of our primitive and savage past.

The solace I have experienced from my 14 acres has allowed me to understand my ineradicable relationship to the world, the universe. It has allowed me to understand that to be told my relationship can only be legitimated through some abstruse ritualistic propitiation to a dead blood sacrifice, is just primitive and uncultivated made-up stuff.

Papalinton said...

Steve
"Let's cut to the chase. Do you actually deny premise (1) as I've stated it?"

So you have not understood what I have written in respect of the problematic nature of Premise 1?

No matter

Cheers

B. Prokop said...

Hah! Victor just reminded me via e-mail that the quote I used in my posting, "You don't have a soul. You Are a soul. You have a body, temporarily" (worded correctly here) is from what Papalinton calls a "great read", Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz.

(I think Miller, were he still alive today, would have been amused by my confusing him with Tolstoy - the ultimate compliment for any writer.)

B. Prokop said...

Papalinton,

You may be an exasperating infidel, but 14 acres is a lot of land! I only have one acre, and it keeps me more than busy (and well fed). If I had as much as you, I think even I would pull out the gas tiller.

"I mow, till, plant and work with my hands". See, even without knowing it, you are fulfilling God's plan for your life. But then, He always wins in the end...

Steve Lovell said...

Papa,

I understood all the words, but the overall point is rather less clear.

The most I can see in your comments, particularly given your reticence to answer my plain question, is the idea that perhaps you do accept Premise (1) on certain readings, and not on others. But then you will still need to show how premise (2) is false on the readings of (1) which make it true.

I certainly can't disagree with the idea that it depends what we mean by "reason". After all, if by "reason" we mean "sense perception" then (1) would be true, and (2) might well be false. Alternatively if by "reason" we mean "the ability to know substantive truths through pure thought" then while (2) might be true, (1) would seem harder to accept.

I've been re-reading some of your earlier comments in this thread, and actually I agree with quite a lot of what you've written (and quoted) about the limitations of pure reason. But from the fact that reason has limitations and that some people make outrageous claims for the powers of unaided reason, it doesn't follow that reason is unimportant, and nor does it follow that a more balanced view of what reason can achieve will be something that naturalism can accomodate. The AfR doesn't need a very "thick" notion of reason.

If you think that science involves logical deductions from theory to consequences, which can then be confirmed or disconfirmed, then that's a "thick" enough concept of reason for the AfR to get going.

So I still think you accept premise (1) in all the senses which matter for the AfR.

Steve

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

Anyone up for a discussion of substance in regards to my treatment of AfR (including a discussion on superdupervenience)?;)

Steve Lovell said...

As promised, here is my take on the AfR as presented by Hasker (or at least by McNabb's Hasker). McNabb has the following, which I believe comes from Hasker:

-----
If “necessarily” here is understood as physical necessity, identifying the relevant world is easy: consider the possible world that is physically exactly similar to the present world, but in which the natural laws establishing the psychophysical connections do not obtain. In such a world all the physical facts, and with them the entire physical course of events, are exactly as in the actual world, the complete absence of mentality makes no difference whatever. Similarly, we may consider a possible world physically identical with the actual world, but in which mental properties are redistributed in as bizarre a fashion as one might wish: this world is still indistinguishable from our own in all physical respects.
----

The idea here is that naturalism entails epiphenomenalism. If you scrape off the supervenient layer, the subvenient layer remains exactly as it was, which shows that the supervenient layer wasn't playing any causal role.

I'm not convinced. Suppose someone said against theism "Imagine the world just like it is, except without God". Well, since it carries on just the same, that shows the God wasn't doing anything.

I've seen some atheists argue like this, but most would admit that the argument is completely question begging. You can't bracket God and "leave everything else the same" without assuming from the start that God isn't doing anything.

Likewise, I'm not sure Hasker can legitimately scrape off the supervenient layer while leaving the subvenient layer unchanged.

We're asked to suppose that the "psychophysical laws" in such a scenario are different or simply non-existant. But I'd have thought the naturalist thinks that the psychophysical laws are logical consequences of the physical laws, and that they stand or fall together. You can't have the one set without the other. Surely that's part of what is involved in the supervenience thesis.

The above notwithstanding, I still think the AfR is basically right, I'm just not convinced that Hasker's use of possible worlds and zombies is the best way to demonstrate this.

Steve

Papalinton said...

"Hah! Victor just reminded me via e-mail that the quote I used in my posting, "You don't have a soul. You Are a soul. You have a body, temporarily" (worded correctly here) is from what Papalinton calls a "great read", Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz."

It is a great read. Science fiction is one of my favourite genres. In fact all fiction has an important role in the way we express our culture; science fiction, fantasy, Mills and Boon, mythology, legends. The Ode to Ozymandias, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, The bible, Orpheus and the Underworld are all great fictional works of literature. There is no denying.

And again, of course it is a great read. Like all fiction people love to imagine settings away from their natural setting.

The trouble is, some simply cannot tell when the real natural world steps off and its imaginary doppleganger of the supernatural world starts up.

Papalinton said...

Bob
Yes I have a 5HP petrol tiller and an old Kubota mini-tractor. The tractor is the love of my life, apart from Sally, that is.

Papalinton said...

Steve
"I've been re-reading some of your earlier comments in this thread, and actually I agree with quite a lot of what you've written (and quoted) ....."

i too agree with much that you say. Indeed there is not much that I disagree with what Victor has written. Naturalism is naturalism, full stop. Every man and his dog is a naturalist by simply being a product of evolution on this planet.

The one thing that distinguishes you and I is really pretty marginal in the scheme of things. Your story is heavily dependent on the construction of a [putative] external source, outside of time and space, in response to the realization that you are a living being and not a rock. For my story? I don't. My story is pretty much terrestrial. No complications. They say the truest of stories is that which is the simplest to explain. The chemical composition of a rock is identical to those in my body but by the natural goings-on of physical processes over time a mixture of those same chemicals formed to be self replicating. The process of self-replicating is very well known to occur. Take a very strong mixture of water and salt, and let it dry out very slowly under N, T and P. They will naturally self-replicate into cube formed crystals. Indeed I am made from Iron, Sulphur, Magnesium, carbon, copper, hydrogen, etc etc as is everything else on this planet, bar none. Just arranged differently with different amounts and varying chemicals. That's all.

This is really interesting news: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/04/19/synthetic-xna-molecules-can-evolve-and-store-genetic-information-just-like-dna/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NotRocketScience+%28Not+Exactly+Rocket+Science%29

Papalinton said...

Steve
"The idea here is that naturalism entails epiphenomenalism. If you scrape off the supervenient layer, the subvenient layer remains exactly as it was, which shows that the supervenient layer wasn't playing any causal role."

Epiphenominalism? No I don't think so. There is nothing secondary about naturalism. It is the primary fundament to existence. There is no secondary effect or byproduct that arises from naturalism. Naturalism does causally influence the processes on this planet. And physics clearly demonstrates that the natural causes on this planet are pretty much analogous to what occurs in the universe.

No god to be found, I'm afraid. God can only be 'found' in one's brain circuitry.

Cheers

Steve Lovell said...

Papa,

Just for the record, the bit of me that you quote in your latest here is me summarising Hasker, not me asserting the entailment of epiphenomenalism from naturalism.

Like you I struggle to see that Hasker is demonstrating that entailmentment.

Steve

Papalinton said...

Steve
"Just for the record, the bit of me that you quote in your latest here is me summarising Hasker, not me asserting the entailment of epiphenomenalism from naturalism.

Like you I struggle to see that Hasker is demonstrating that entailment."

You're right. It was a précis of Hasker, but worthy of a response, re epiphenomenon. And yes, I'm not sure he provides a compelling case for it. And for me, pretty much a functional naturalist, it would need to be substantially convincing.

Have you had a chance to read this?
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/04/19/synthetic-xna-molecules-can-evolve-and-store-genetic-information-just-like-dna/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NotRocketScience+%28Not+Exactly+Rocket+Science%29

Cheers

TylerDMcNabb said...

I agree that the zombie scenario did not do a lot to help Hasker's case. However, I do believe if one takes the exclusion principle and the causal closure principle, then one will have to say that the mental is not causally efficacious (for the non-reductive materialist) unless one can make a case for overdetermination. But would not a case of overdetermination seem miraculous? Lowe argues that it would not be miraculous as the reason why there is overdetermination is in virtue of a realized relationship. But a realized relationship occurs in virtue of supervenience, but again, what explains supervenience? Superdupervenience? What explains superdupervenience? This is what I expound in the second section here http://furtheringchristendom.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/the-argumemt-from-reason-part-2-haskers-version-pt-2/

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Tyler,

You quote Kim's statement of the causal closure thesis: "If an event e has a sufficient cause c at t, no event at t distinct from c can be a cause of e (unless this is a genuine case of causal overdetermination)."

If this is the form of that thesis that you want, then since on the supervenience account I have in mind the subvenient and supervenient "causes" are not "distinct", these "other causes" are not excluded by the thesis.

I think it largely depends on what you are imagining supervenience to be. Naturalists who think that there really are additional facts over and above the physical facts, and not merely a different level of description, are in my opinion on weak ground here (though they may have the stronger ground elsewhere).

I think naturalism's best hope is to say the mental "level" is the same stuff described differently. That way there are no separate super(duper)venience laws in play.

If there were, then like you say they'd be pretty seriously problematic.

Perhaps I'm missing something. Feel free to contradict me.

Steve

Steve Lovell said...

Papa,

Can't say I have read the piece you are referencing. I had a glance, but am not sure how it's relevant to the topic at hand.

But perhaps you are just thinking it's an interesting read anyway. We are after all allowed to think about more than one subject at a time!

Steve

TylerDMcNabb said...

Steve, you are arguing my point. :)
This is in regards to a non-reductive materialist and not a reductive materialist.

Papalinton said...

Steve
"I had a glance, but am not sure how it's relevant to the topic at hand."

It relevant in the context of my earlier post about how humans are constructed within the biosphere, and that XNA, a self-replicating string of molecules, capable of storing knowledge and information, has been successfully created in the lab, based on DNA, the foundational structure of the human form. Clearly DNA now no longer falls into the category of an inexplicable miracle case theists like to imagine it.

It is relevant in that to discuss an analysis of the argument from reason seems premature and moot.

My earlier post:
"The one thing that distinguishes you and I is really pretty marginal in the scheme of things. Your story is heavily dependent on the construction of a [putative] external source, outside of time and space, in response to the realization that you are a living being and not a rock. For my story? I don't. My story is pretty much terrestrial. No complications. They say the truest of stories is that which is the simplest to explain. The chemical composition of a rock is identical to those in my body but by the natural goings-on of physical processes over time a mixture of those same chemicals formed to be self replicating. The process of self-replicating is very well known to occur. Take a very strong mixture of water and salt, and let it dry out very slowly under N, T and P. They will naturally self-replicate into cube formed crystals. Indeed I am made from Iron, Sulphur, Magnesium, carbon, copper, hydrogen, etc etc as is everything else on this planet, bar none. Just arranged differently with different amounts and varying chemicals. That's all."

This is really interesting news: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/04/19/synthetic-xna-molecules-can-evolve-and-store-genetic-information-just-like-dna/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NotRocketScience+%28Not+Exactly+Rocket+Science%29

Cheers

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Tyler,

I've lost the dialectic here. Are you saying that the naturalism I'm describing is reductive rather than non-reductive?

If that is what you're saying, then I can see why you'd say that, but I'm not sure that that technically follows. In my head the thin supervenience I describe works in a way similar to some of the consequences of Godel's theorems. If you'd like me to be explict about what I mean here, then do ask.

So, again assuming I read you right, there is presumably some other argument against the "reductive" forms of naturalism?

I'm pretty sure Hasker thinks the same basic argument applies to all the variants.

Steve Lovell said...

Papa,

I can see how the reference links to your earlier comments, but I'm not sure that that makes it relevant to the AfR. ;-)

I think you are tacitly admitting this when you say that such things make discussion of the AfR "premature".

I've no doubt that the discoveries you are pointing at are interesting ones and that they may have some relevance to certain versions of the teleological (design) argument but I don't think such things are a killer even there. After all the molecules being described are precisely the result of "intelligent design". Anyway, I'll not take this any further since it is, I still contend, a red-herring in the context of the AfR.

TylerDMcNabb said...

In a non-reductive materialist view, the mental is not reducible (reductive materialism) to the physical. So yes, there would be a different argument for reductive materialism (which I think is easier to make). In the context of Hasker, Hasker quickly critiques reductive materialism, and then goes on to critique a more plausible view of materialism in a non-reductive view.

Steve Lovell said...

I've been leafing through "The Emergent Self" this evening. Hasker does make some comments about reductive/identity naturalisms (mostly about the relation to functionalism, which he states he finds problematic, but without saying why), but he pretty clearly thinks the AfR works against both reductive and non-reductive forms of the argument:

"It's true that, on either a supervenience view or the kind of token-identity view that Kim might be able to accept, there are psychophysical lawline connections of a sort that Davisdson apparently denies. But this in no way obscures the fact that the mental events have the causal powers they do only in virtue of their physical characteristics". (p.67, emphasis in original)

So isn't Hasker saying that the argument works against the kind of thin supervenience (or identity) theory that I've tried to describe?

There may be other arguments against such views too, but I'm interested in this one!

Dave said...

@Papa
I'm late to the conversation here but I wanted to chime in and point out, without addressing any other points, that just because a process can be explained doesn't mean it wasn't designed. If this argument were applied to the web it would lead us to say that web developers don't exist because we can view the source code and see how the pages work. Simply because we now have a greater scientific understanding of the world around us does not speak to the question of whether or not it was created. It's a mistake (and one that I long made) to think that science is capable of addressing this question. Science can only tell us what normally happens in nature; it cannot tell us whether anything other than nature exists.