Wednesday, April 18, 2012

More on the AFR

II. C. S. Lewis’s argument, and mine
            In reading John Beversluis’s new edition of C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion, it occurred to me that while I have developed Lewis’s argument a great deal, I have not been as explicit as I might have been in delineating exactly how my argument differs from, and develops his. Of course, Lewis didn’t invent the argument, and it has an important predecessor in Arthur Balfour, the Prime Minister-philosopher of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Lewis’s role was to introduce the argument to a popular audience, and to revise the argument in response to the criticisms of Elizabeth Anscombe.  There have been other important contributors to the argument, in particular William Hasker and Alvin Plantinga.
            At several points along the way I have introduced some structure to the argument that was not originally present in Lewis. I am certainly following Lewis’s fundamental idea in this, but a number of the nuances in the argument are my own. Explicating exactly what I have done on this might be helpful in understanding my argument.      
Naturalism and Supernaturalism
Lewis begins his discussion by distinguishing between naturalism and supernaturalism. A naturalist is someone who thinks that the privilege of “being on its own,” belongs to “the whole show,” in much the way that sovereignty, in a democracy, belongs to the people not to some particular person or group of persons. A supernaturalist thinks that there are certain real things (or One Thing) that have the privilege of existing on their own, and that other objects depend on that for its existence. Further, he distinguished a “strict materialism,” which he thinks can be refuted by the one-line Haldane quote (If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, then I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true, and hence I have no reason for supposing that my brain is made up of atoms.), from naturalism that is not purely materialistic, and must be refuted with a more complex argument. Lewis says that if naturalism is true, there can be no free will, because determinism would be true. He mentions quantum mechanics, but he describes quantum-mechanical indeterminacy as a “threat” to naturalism, in which the “subnatural” can invade nature “from below,” as it were. However, he expresses doubt that this kind of indeterminism will continue to be affirmed by science.
            Because of this, Beversluis responds that his argument against naturalism works, if at all, against deterministic forms of naturalism, and unless the naturalism in question is of the determinist variety, Lewis’s argument is not an argument against that. But does determinism really make a difference? In deterministic forms of naturalism, events are guaranteed by the action of non-rational causes. In non-deterministic forms of naturalism, there is brute chance instead of determinism, but do events ever happen because of reasons? It doesn’t seem as if determinism makes a relevant difference.
            I think Lewis’s exposition of the naturalist-supernaturalist distinction needs some further development for philosophical argumentation today. I ask the question of whether the basic causes of the universe are mentalistic or non-mentalistic. If the basic causes of the universe are non-mentalistic, then if we have a mentalistic explanation, such as “Smith believes in evolution, in part, because the fossil record supports it,” then there has to be some explanation underlying that one which in non-mentalistic cause-and-effect operation of mindless atoms moving in accordance with the laws of nature is what is happening in the final analysis. On the other hand, if we look at those same atoms from the standpoint of theism, we find that those particles have the powers and liabilities they do because God created them that way. Scratch far enough, and you get a mentalistic explanation, not a non-mentalistic one. It is interesting that when you look at what makes something “material” or “natural,” you end up defining “material” in terms of the absence of mental characteristics. If a naturalistic worldview is true, then reason comes late to the party, when a brain of sufficient sophistication develops. Lewis describes his argument as an argument for supernaturalism, which is fine so long as we understand that by supernatural, what we mean is that it has, at bottom, and not a non-mentalistic explanation. Richard Carrier, perhaps the Argument from Reason’s most prolific critic, puts it this way.
Hence, I propose a general rule that covers all and thus distinguishes naturalism from supernaturalism: If naturalism is true, everything mental is caused by the nonmental, whereas if supernaturalism is true, at least one thing is not.
            But what are the characteristic of the mental? I have identified four characteristics of the mental. The first mark of the mental is purpose. For anyone who denies the ultimacy of the mind, an explanation in terms of purposes requires a further nonpurposive explanation to account for the purpose explanation. The second mark is intentionality or aboutness. Genuinely non-mental states are not about anything at all. The third mark is normativity. A normative explanation must be explained in terms of the non-normative, in the mental is not on the ground level of reality. The fourth mark is subjectivity.  There is no inner perspective at the physical level.
            Hence, a naturalistic view has, on my view, three basic elements. One of them is a mechanistic, that is non-mentalistic, basic level of reality. The second is the doctrine of the causal  closure of the physical. This does not require determinism, but what it does require that nothing outside of the physical be in causal connection. The third doctrine, is the doctrine of supervenience. Whatever is not itself physical must in fact, supervene on the physical. Therefore, this conception of reality is one which prohibits skyhooks, that is, anything from a higher level that is not accounted for on the lower level.
            Having laid out these elements, we can proceed to consider what I maintain a naturalistic view has difficulty accounting for. We could begin by looking at what human rationality is, or how it is supposed to manifest itself. Atheists very often perceive themselves has having the more rational view. The claim that, instead of believing things on faith, they look at the evidence and believe only what the evidence supports. But let’s take a look at how this works. If someone, let’s say, believes in evolution because they believe the fossil record supports it, that seems to imply that one set of mental events, those involved in examining and evaluating the fossil evidence, helps to bring about that fact that the person believes in evolution. But, it looks as if, at the basic level of analysis, mental states do not play any role qua mental states. What we have to be calling an instance of mental causation has to in fact be an example of physical causation in which the real causes are in the non-mental supervenience base, not amongst the mental states themselves.
            In fact, Lewis said that all knowledge, apart from the knowledge of our sensations, is inferred from those sensations. This led Beversluis to presume that his argument is essentially committed to the idea that, for example, our knowledge that there is a tree in the quad which I see, is really inferential knowledge. He points out that Lewis doesn’t really defend this view of sensory knowledge as inferential, and it would be odd for him to construct an argument based on this kind of view. But Lewis did not have to take such a strong view of inferential knowledge in order for his argument to work. What he needs, instead, is simply to argue that inferential knowledge is essential to science, since no modern atheist is going to argue that science does not acquire knowledge at all. If you consider the process of doing a mathematical equation, or basing a belief in evolution on the evidence, you will see that if your worldview says that this never happens, then this is certainly a very serious problem. These seem to be clear cases in which one mental event cause another mental event.

52 comments:

Papalinton said...

Three things.

Firstly
"On the other hand, if we look at those same atoms from the standpoint of theism, we find that those particles have the powers and liabilities they do because God created them that way. Scratch far enough, and you get a mentalistic explanation, not a non-mentalistic one."

The unwarranted and unfalsifiable imposition of the 'goddidit' magic wand trick. Sorry Victor, a pejorative response is justified in this instance. To imagine that goddidit does not prove that goddidit. And to imply a mentalistic explanation is indistinguishable with goddidit, is just wishlisting no matter how far one scratches. Scratch far enough along this 'road to nowhere' and one will go mental.

Secondly
"But what are the characteristic of the mental? I have identified four characteristics of the mental. The first mark of the mental is purpose. For anyone who denies the ultimacy of the mind, an explanation in terms of purposes requires a further nonpurposive explanation to account for the purpose explanation. The second mark is intentionality or aboutness. Genuinely non-mental states are not about anything at all. The third mark is normativity. A normative explanation must be explained in terms of the non-normative, in the mental is not on the ground level of reality. The fourth mark is subjectivity. There is no inner perspective at the physical level."

1. purpose
2. intentionality
3. normativity
4. subjectivity

The hallmarks of unadulterated theology. All features founded on emotivism, fully anthropocentric in nature. Applying this proposition to the universe, which theists are apt to do, is simply to extrapolate that the universe is just one big humongous human with purpose of mind, intentional in motive, normative in behaviour and relying solely on the exigencies of the senses. Of course we know from science inquiry that full dependency on the primal intuitive responses of our senses is not by any stretch a reliable marker in the way we relate with the world. Indeed there are countless instances which have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt many truths that are positively counterintuitive.

"In philosophy, normative statements affirm how things should or ought to be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, which actions are right or wrong." [from the All References Library dictionary] Normativity is just an expression of wishful thinking, what ought rather than what is. Is it any wonder theists that hold to this perspective find it exceedingly uncomfortable in incorporating scientific inquiry into their philosophical makeup? To hold such a mental construct is anathema to keeping and maintaining an open mind.

'Normative statements and norms, as well as their meanings, are an integral part of human life. They are fundamental for prioritizing goals and organizing and planning thought, belief, emotion and action and are the basis of much ethical and political discourse.' [from the All References Library dictionary] It should be abundantly clear to even the minimalist thinker that normativity is a wholly-owned and derivative construct of human thinking, a physical process of neural activity in the brain. Each of the 4 points are end states arrived at by a thinking brain. Any minimalist thinker understands they provide no support for a mental-state-of-being that is either independent of or external to physical brain activity.

[Cont.]

Papalinton said...

Cont.
Thirdly
"Hence, a naturalistic view has, on my view, three basic elements. One of them is a mechanistic, that is non-mentalistic, basic level of reality. The second is the doctrine of the causal closure of the physical. This does not require determinism, but what it does require that nothing outside of the physical be in causal connection. The third doctrine, is the doctrine of supervenience. Whatever is not itself physical must in fact, supervene on the physical."

What a contrived, mean spirited and ungenerous perspective of Naturalism. This is the naturalism of theists not of naturalists.
However your note: "What we have to be calling an instance of mental causation has to in fact be an example of physical causation in which the real causes are in the non-mental supervenience base, not amongst the mental states themselves" is a correct statement. Mental states are a function of the brain. The mind is what the brain does. Dead body, dead brain, no thoughts, no mental states, no god. Mental eternity is a ludicrous, unfounded and thoroughly normative item on the 'must be' list of christian theism. Its only reality is that it is made up, a thought bubble.

And in respect of: "In fact, Lewis said that all knowledge, apart from the knowledge of our sensations, is inferred from those sensations", one can only draw the conclusion that Lewis was not in full control of his sensate faculties, having mistakenly or conveniently omitted evidence for counterintuitive knowledge, that would be wrongly inferred from those sensations. No clearer case of this, is the belief in a crowd of controlling and intervening entities that reside, but occasionally do weekend trips, across the natural/supernatural divide.

No, the OP does not compromise naturalism as a viable, robust and valuable philosophical and practical perspective which best makes sense of the world.

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

What a contrived, mean spirited and ungenerous perspective of Naturalism. This is the naturalism of theists not of naturalists.

What specifically do you disagree with in his characterization of (metaphysical) naturalism?

I thought it rather fair.

Steve Lovell said...

Papa,

Me again. I don't have time to read or respond to much in this thread at the moment (same reason as before), but your objection to the definition of naturalism is somewhat peculiar. In short, I'm with Zach again here.

Presumably the reason you object is that your own flavour of naturalism rejects one or more of the three points in VRs definition. Which one(s)?

Even if you do adhere to a different flavour of naturalism that doesn't mean that the AfR is a bad argument (though you are also offering other objections, which I'm not addressing here). Rather it means that the AfR is not an argument against those flavours of naturalism. Of course if someone chose to be a Platonist and still called themselves a naturalist then the AfR probably wouldn't shift their "naturalism". I don't think that's a problem with the argument.

Ilíon said...

"Lewis begins his discussion by distinguishing between naturalism and supernaturalism. A naturalist is someone who ..."

If you mean to contrast the -isms, why muddle things introducing the -ists?

Ilíon said...

"Further, he distinguished a “strict materialism,” ... from naturalism that is not purely materialistic, and must be refuted with a more complex argument. ..."

There is no substantive difference between 'materialism/physicalism' and 'naturalism'. That some folk believe/assert there is a difference is at best the result of not thinking clearly about it, perhaps of refusing to think clearly about it, and at worst of grasping the truth of the matter and still asserting the falsehood.


"... Lewis says that if naturalism is true, there can be no free will, because determinism would be true ..."
Which it to say, if naturalism is the truth about the nature of reality, then *all* events are materially/physically determined by prior material/physical states.
QED: There is no substantive difference between 'materialism/physicalism' and 'naturalism'.

Ilíon said...

"Because of this, Beversluis responds that his argument against naturalism works, if at all, against deterministic forms of naturalism, and unless the naturalism in question is of the determinist variety, Lewis’s argument is not an argument against that. But does determinism really make a difference? In deterministic forms of naturalism, events are guaranteed by the action of non-rational causes. In non-deterministic forms of naturalism, there is brute chance instead of determinism, but do events ever happen because of reasons? It doesn’t seem as if determinism makes a relevant difference."

To assert that one is determined "by chance" -- that is, that one is determined without any cause -- is to assert as great slavery, and as great a denial/repudiation of free-will, as to assert that one is determined by material/physical cause-and-effect.

Jason Pratt said...

Ilion,

It is possible to be a philosophical naturalist and yet not be a physicalist and/or materialist (I'm unsure if there's a distinction there or not however). If one and only one ontological level of reality exists (not dependent upon any other substantially different reality for its existence), that's philosophical naturalism. If that system of reality only appears to be constituted of matter/energy relationships, with those being illusory instead and the real 'nature' of Nature (so to speak) being something else, then materialism/physicalism would be false, yet naturalism would still be true.

For purposes of Lewis' AfR structure this is immaterial, though (pun intended).

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Victor,

(wow this is nostalgic {g})

I've argued at length before in the past that Lewis

1.) is not really interested in 'naturalism' so much in chapter 3 of MaPS (either edition) but 'atheism', which following the common habit of his time he tended to conflate in terminology (which is why his argument in chapter 3 arrives without distinction between pantheism and supernaturalistic theism);

2.) spends no more than a page total arguing against an atheistic determinism (Dr. Bev's and some other critics notwithstanding);

3.) spends the rest of the chapter after the Haldane quote (in the 2nd edition anyway) formulating a version of the AfR where determinism and indeterminism are irrelevant variations of atheism in accounting for human rationality (because his argument is that a hypothesis of atheism results in all human argument being caught in a formal limbo).

The main weakness to his argument is that he neglects to consider whether or not theism formally fails by the same argument. In effect he assumes (rightly enough) that if his argument is correct and if it validly deducts atheism from the option list some type of theism must be true. But if his argument happens to deduct theism too, when the same argument is applied to the hypothesis of theism, then this would be a sign of an undetected problem in his argument.

(I worked hard to restructure and delineate his argument better years ago in Section Two of Sword to the Heart.)

JRP

Papalinton said...

Zach
"What specifically do you disagree with in his characterization of (metaphysical) naturalism?"

The manner in which Reppert presents 'naturalism' is a a pejorative hotchpotch comprising, as he characterises it, one mechanism and two 'doctrines'. Doctrines are what run churches. Doctrines are the stuff around which religious dogma is built and practiced and perpetrated on an unsuspecting community, especially those that are ripe for aggressive and persistent evangelizing, as christianity is mandated to do. From the self-imposed and purposely restricted and narrow band of religious experience, doctrines are the singular and only frame of reference from which the religiose can imagine how their world operates even for others who do not share their worldview. Hardly a scholarly philosophical treatment of naturalism in the more acceptable and learned sense. And I reiterate, this is the 'naturalism' of theists, a theologized version and a caricature at best.

The OP is a disingenuous attempt at offering the reader two propositions from which to make a choice; either the teleological intentionality of the mentalistic choice, or, naughty theologized naturalism. Both are religious interpretations, one bad, naturalism, which no god-botherer would ever consider choosing and, one good, the inward focussed, navel gazing introspection of the mentalistic approach.

Reppert's OP is less than a little honest in its presentation.

Zach said...

Papa let's break it down.

He characterizes naturalism with:
1. No mental properties at the basic level.
2. Physical world is causally closed (any physical effects have physical causes).
3. Any properties that exist supervene on the physical (that is, the physical state of a system completely specifies all its properties).

I don't care what you call the above list (doctrines, beliefs, farts). I am curious what you think is false here. What has he left out, or what has he included that is wrong?

Ilíon said...

Jason Pratt:It is possible to be a philosophical naturalist and yet not be a physicalist and/or materialist.

So, what you’re saying seems to be this: if there are ‘naturalists’ who hold to inconsistent or incoherent propositions concerning the nature or content of ‘naturalism’, then no argument showing either the internal incoherency of ‘naturalism’ or its inconsistency and incompatibility with know truths (for instance, that human persons can know truth) can ever be logically and rationally compelling.

Goodness! Perhaps you should team up with that Parbou or whatever his name was.

Meanwhile, didn’t I just get through gently chiding (once again) VR for confusing the -ists for the –isms?


Jason Pratt:If one and only one ontological level of reality exists (not dependent upon any other substantially different reality for its existence), that's philosophical naturalism.

No; that would be brute reality. The assertion that that is the truth about the nature of reality may be what ‘philosophical naturalism’ is, but the –ism is not the (purported) reality it describes.

Jason Pratt:If that system of reality only appears to be constituted of matter/energy relationships, with those being illusory instead and the real 'nature' of Nature (so to speak) being something else, then materialism/physicalism would be false, yet naturalism would still be true.

Considering that you move between the (inconsistent and/or incoherent) –ists and the (incoherent) –ism without apparently noticing you’re doing so, I’m rather at a loss as to just what you mean to get at.

The best I can make out, you mean something like this –

Janie (because you chose to be one of those “gender inclusive language” traitors to language, reason, truth and morality) is a ‘philosophical naturalist’; that is, Janie asserts that the truth of the nature of reality is such that “one and only one ontological level of reality exists (not dependent upon any other substantially different reality for its existence)”. At the same time, concerning material/physical (alleged) reality, Janie asserts that “the material world” is an illusion, that it is not real, much less is it the sum of reality – that it is a (false) mental construct. Or, to put it more bluntly, Janie asserts that only “the mental” is real, and that the phenomenal world of observation is not real.

Or, to put it yet another way, Jamie’s anemic so-called “philosophical naturalism” amounts to nothing more strenuous that to assert (without visible rationale nor, apparently, definition of terms) that “all that exists is ‘natural’ … and, by the by, there is no God”. Or, if one insists upon attempting to put her “philosophy” into the most generous light possible, Janie asserts the trivial truism that “what exists exists”. Yet, one can be sure that she somehow derives “there is no God” even from that trivial statement.

But, this is a vast twisting of words and meanings, is it not – and all to hold onto, against all logic and reason, what is for the “naturalist”, the non-negotiable assertion that God is not?

But, ‘naturalism’ just is a set of claims about the nature of “nature”, about the nature of “the universe” – about the phenomenal world of observation – to wit, and non-exhaustively, that “nature” – that which we physically observe, count, measure, weigh, etc – exhausts “reality”; that there is nothing “beyond” or “above” or “outside” nor (logically) prior to “nature”.

Janie’s “naturalism” is even more incoherent than actual naturalism itself is, for Janie’s “naturalism” denies the purported primary subject-matter of naturalism. Janie drains “naturalism” of any content, meaning or significance … but hey! she can say in good conscience that she’s no materialist!

Jake Elwood XVI said...

Zach

I think Papa has issues with most of those words and their associations. Maybe to help Papa out, we can use the word 'Postulates' or 'Principles'.

Martin said...

Papalinton,

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes "naturalism" as consisting of physical closure: all physical effects have fully physical causes. In fact, they even use the term "doctrine", just as Victor does:

This led to the widespread acceptance of the doctrine now known as the ‘causal closure’ or the ‘causal completeness’ of the physical realm, according to which all physical effects can be accounted for by basic physical causes...

That's just a basic fact of what "naturalism" is. It's the heart of it, if you will. There is nothing pejorative or theistic about this definition, as you can see for yourself right there in an authoritative source.

Secondly, "supervenience" is another features of naturalism: anything that is apparently non-physical actually just supervenes on the physical. And again, there it is the Stanford article.

As for mechanism, it isn't explicitly mentioned in this article, but it is a historical fact that the Aristotelian view of nature, which involved final causality, was dumped by the early thinkers of the scientific revolution such as Galileo and Descartes. You can read about that right here.

These are three basic features of naturalism which the Stanford Encyclopedia refers to as "doctrines" no less than twelve times. The free dictionary defines "doctrine" as: "A principle or body of principles presented for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific, or philosophic group".

Seems fine to me.

So why exactly do you call this a "contrived, mean spirited and ungenerous perspective of Naturalism", when in fact those are essential to naturalism and without which you really aren't talking about naturalism anymore?

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

Zach
Are you in any form sensitive to or appreciative of the nuances, subtleties and expressions of meaning in language?

"He [Reppert] characterizes naturalism with:
1. No mental properties at the basic level.
2. Physical world is causally closed (any physical effects have physical causes).
3. Any properties that exist supervene on the physical (that is, the physical state of a system completely specifies all its properties)."

No he doesn't. That is not how he characterizes naturalism, at all. Otherwise, this is the manner he would have initially communicated them, just as you have properly and rightly done. What you have posited above is perfectly correct and fine by me. And furthermore, Reppert's definition of naturalism still informs only a partial message, and is somewhat a shortchanging of the general scope of naturalism as widely understood by genuine philosophers interested in seeking the truth. But in the context of Reppert's OP, this is relegated to the position of subtext. The more important focus that Reppert is wishing to impress on the reader is that of 'mechanism' [with all the attendant negative connotations of robotic, unthinking, brainless and automaton overtones that that implies] and of bad doctrine, intoning naturalism as a sort of bad religious idea in the same league as heresy or, blasphemy or impiety. And while it is fine to acknowledge the word 'doctrine' as a set of principles, in the main it is generally acknowledged as a reference primarily in the context of theology. Your rendition above, is to Reppert, chiefly of secondary importance in his OP, and the reason for his employing the lesser idiomatic use of 'doctrine' to define naturalism is to emphasize the bad doctrine notion.

Note: "Often doctrine specifically connotes a corpus of religious dogma as it is promulgated by a church, but not necessarily: doctrine is also used to refer to a principle of law, in the common law traditions, established through a history of past decisions, such as the doctrine of self-defense, or the principle of fair use, or the more narrowly applicable first-sale doctrine." [from the All References Library dictionary]
Notice the examples provided, religion and law.

You see, Zach, I'm free to follow the race to the bottom, should I choose, as Ilion, Yachov and Crude and the other bottom feeders on this website have keenly pursued. But I have chosen not to respond to the diatribe from bible crazies and follow them down that path. I am also free to swing the dead cat of christian theism as I so deem in terms of philosophical and/or science discourse. And while I am free to challenge Reppert as I so chose, Reppert cannot respond in kind. Reppert claims to be a philosopher. I do not. He is the professed philosopher with all of the responsibility, discipline, care and due diligence expected of such standing. To claim oneself as a philosopher is to accept that mandate. When one errs inadvertently or otherwise into the grubby field of Apologetics, I am duly bound to bring that misdemeanor to attention as I have done in this case.

Ilíon said...

"I think Papa has issues with most of those words and their associations. Maybe to help Papa out, we can use the word 'Postulates' or 'Principles'."

Personally, I think the best way to help him is to totally ignore him unless and until he demonstrates that he is willing to be helped. To do anything else seems to me to be acting as an 'enabler'.

Ilíon said...

"... I don't care what you call the above list (doctrines, beliefs, farts). I am curious what you think is false here. What has he left out, or what has he included that is wrong?"

What he thinks is "false" is the true conclusion which come from thinking clearly about the implications and meanings which logically follow from understanding what 'naturalism' is. That true conclusion being "naturalism is not, and cannot be, the truth about the nature of reality."

As with most God-haters, for Papalinton it is "conclusion first, arguments (if any) to follow" and "we God-haters are, ipso facto, smarter and more rational than all you God botherers".

Zach said...

Papa wrote, of my paraphrase of victor:
'That is not how he characterizes naturalism, at all. Otherwise, this is the manner he would have initially communicated them, just as you have properly and rightly done.'

It is how he communicated them, but you didn't see it either because you got hung up on the word 'doctrine, or didn't understand it. My post was a fairly mindless, exact paraphrase, but simply unpacked the meaning of the terms 'supervenience' and 'causal closure' and took away the word 'doctrine.'

Why do I waste my time commenting at this site. It always makes me dumber.

Jason Pratt said...

Zach,

I appreciate Victor's open-door policy, but I'm not much interested in bouncing back and forth between Papa and Ill either.

I could explain to Illíon that I actually agree that someone who holds all of reality to be illusory is being hugely inconsistent (and self-refuting and outright self-contradictory); and that I wasn't talking about that kind of claim; and what I was talking about instead doesn't reduce formally to that.

But I know he'll only pretend I have no idea what the difference is between people and their ideas (quoting nothing from me as evidence for that, although no doubt finding something to quote from me as though that counts as evidence), or other such piffle, while accusing me of being a traitor to reason, language and morality.

So why bother? I have many better things to do with my time. If Victor or Steve Lovell or you or someone who isn't going to straw man me to hell and back (or only to hell apparently) wants to comment on what I wrote--well, I'm unsure how I'm going to distinguish them in my email alerts from anything they're saying to the local Christian and atheist trolls, but I may click on alerts from them just in case.

(There's a reason Bill over at Maverick has a much more intellectually chewy comment section, Victor--and I'm speaking as someone who was rightfully banned from that site myself years ago. Just saying.)

JRP

Zach said...

Jason: good points.

Ilíon said...

truly, a Pratt: "I appreciate Victor's open-door policy, but I'm not much interested in bouncing back and forth between Papa and Ill either."

Perhaps you ought to reconsider your policy of behaving like him by posting pointless denials of things I say. Just a thought.

Victor Reppert said...

We have had good discussions here. Sigh. Maybe I need to start using DI2 more.

But if what someone says isn't worthy of comment, then DNFTT. Find someone worthy of response who has posted.

I don't think Bill V. even allows comments on most of his posts these days.

I said "If theism istrue, then particles have the powers and liabilities they do because God created them that way." If theism is true, then the goddidit explanation is true because, after all, God actually did it. If the butler did it, then there is nothing wrong with saying thebutlerdidit. But if he didn't, then the statement is false. Same with God.

I've had thoughts of closing down and concentrating on writing a new book.

Ilíon said...

whataPratt: "... while accusing me of being a traitor to reason, language and morality."

He intentionally paints himself with the colors of leftism, and they whines when I take him at his word. Look, if you don't want to be taken for a leftist, then don't wear the uniform.

B. Prokop said...

Victor,

Although I would miss your site, if it comes down to a choice between DI and a new book, go for the book! Assuming it builds on your first, then it will make this world a better place. (Not so sure about some of the back-and-forth on this site making anything better...)

Papalinton said...

Victor
"I've had thoughts of closing down and concentrating on writing a new book."

Yes. You are probably right, Victor, it is time to write a book. The unfortunate point of that though is that if its theme is to be some form of defense of the theological worldview, perhaps the horse has bolted. There is nothing left to defend. Every defense argument that has ever been made has already been made. Feser brings nothing new to the table. Plantinga does not provide new and exciting evidence or proofs for the theistic perspective, only a re-interpretation of existing material that has been turned over and over since Aquinas. And even Aquinas's material was built on an earlier pagan model appropriated from Aristotle. So, nothing really new there either.

Will your new book be introducing new and fresh material on the existence of god[s] and verification of the supernatural, a substantive piece of evidence demonstrating a causal link between some aspect of the world we live in, that has the fingerprints of god all over it, such that it cannot or ever be explained in any other way? Or will your book primarily be a new interpretation of the previously known reinterpretations, replete with extensive bibliography of previous ideas?

I'm am sure your book will be a success in believer circles. But I just don't envision it will have much sway on stemming the noticeable trend away from religion. There are just too many holes, discrepancies and disparities in the christian worldview, that it is existentially reliant on Apologetics to paper over them. It has the intellectual rigour of a sieve.

Of one thing you can be assured, the subsequent critical reviews of a published book certainly will not have the intense immediacy that a website carries where spurious ideas are challenged at source. It may give you respite from the instantaneous engagement with commenters, particularly those that see your worldview as deeply problematic, but criticism nonetheless will ensue. And the trend away from theism will continue.

I note your: "But if what someone says isn't worthy of comment, then DNFTT. Find someone worthy of response who has posted."
Thanks for the advice. I have indeed come to the realization that DNFTT is an appropriate strategy. I think I may have already made clear my position on the bottom feeders on this site.

Ilíon said...

^^ The God Lord knows I do my best intentionally to ignore what experience has shown to be a waste of time. But, sometimes, a white-hot beacon of stupid makes it through even the best filters.

Anthony Fleming said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony Fleming said...

Without having read the comments. I still find the AFR as one of the best arguments for a God's existence. At the very least, I find it as a very useful tool to doubt various materialistic metaphysical assumptions. Once such assumptions are doubted (with skepticism) evidences for the existence of a divine being or at least a super-intellect become a lot more persuasive.

Papalinton said...

".... evidences for the existence of a divine being or at least a super-intellect become a lot more persuasive."

Well! Which one? Stop equivocating. And what kind of evidence? Is it the one that physically 'bodily' rose up somewhere into the sky, or an anthropomorphized extrapolation of the human imagination into some super-duper humongous human being [as we are told we are made in the image of god, Imago Dei], a father figure, sitting outside of time and space keeping an eye on the trivial and inconsequential minutiae of our daily lives?

Rather an incongruent and unseemly duty statement or job description for a super-intellect isn't it?
How gauche can the theist testament become?

Anthony Fleming said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anthony Fleming said...

While there may not be a difference between a super-intellect or the divine, I find the differentiation of terms useful so as not to “over-reach.” In terms of evidence: the cosmological constants, the beginning of the universe, epistemological observation of free will, the existence of an unconditioned reality, the existence of morals.

As far as a being just chilling outside of space, well, that doesn't make sense with much of the conception of God I hold to. A first and self-sustaining cause makes much more sense. You shouldn't assume everyone is subscribes to a “paley” type God. As far as Christ's resurrection: I never really saw that as an evidence for God. I think the evidences for God open someone up more to that event than the event open someone up to God. Don't get me wrong, I think from a historical stand-point the questions of the resurrection and the facts surrounding it definitely lead to some real questions. I think that events, like resuscitation, in the medical field make the idea of a resurrection more believable than just a hundred years ago.

Opening up to a super-intellect and opening up to Christianity, I think, are slightly different things. To doubt certain atheistic metaphysical ideas can open someone up to the ideas of a God or at least a super-intellect (which is really just a more neutral term). Affirming certain evidences for God's existence is another thing. Finding out things about this God is still another. Personally, I trust Jesus and therefore I follow him. Do you see a big problem with this?

Papalinton said...

"Personally, I trust Jesus and therefore I follow him. Do you see a big problem with this?"

One can believe whatever one wishes. I say, "Knock yourself out". The problem is when one's predilection for belief in the unnatural interposes that belief in the matter of decision-making in public and social policy.
The only input into public policy discourse must be informed and testable and based on empirical evidence. Decisions based on religious whim and personal preferences simply endangers the process and renders it problematic.

"In terms of evidence: the cosmological constants, the beginning of the universe, epistemological observation of free will, the existence of an unconditioned reality, the existence of morals."

1. The cosmological constants as evidence for a spectral numen is simply reaching for straws. The cosmological constants are empirical elements required to accurately inscribe the formulae for the various laws of physics. To link them to a supernatural anthropomorphized being is to beg the question.

2. The beginning of the universe, the 'big bang'; "Since the acceptance of the Big Bang theory as the dominant physical cosmological paradigm, there have been a variety of reactions by religious groups as to its implications for their respective religious cosmologies." [from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_interpretations_of_the_Big_Bang_theory] Note: by implication only.
Further: "As a theory relevant to the origins of the universe, the Big Bang has significant implications for religion and philosophy. As a result, it has become one of the "liveliest areas" in the discourse on the relation between science and religion. Nonetheless, some physicists such as Paul Davies and Carl Sagan have argued that Big Bang cosmology has made the notion of a creator superfluous." [from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang] Note: Again reference to implication only. No substantive causal link established.

3. Epistemological observation of free will: the latest neuroscientific investigation is demonstrating that the concept of 'free will' is a theological construct.
A new book on the latest findings can be got at : http://www.amazon.com/Free-Will-Sam-Harris/dp/1451683405

A brief synopsis of the book:

"A BELIEF IN FREE WILL touches nearly everything that human beings value. It is difficult to think about law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships, morality—as well as feelings of remorse or personal achievement—without first imagining that every person is the true source of his or her thoughts and actions. And yet the facts tell us that free will is an illusion.
In this enlightening book, Sam Harris argues that this truth about the human mind does not undermine morality or diminish the importance of social and political freedom, but it can and should change the way we think about some of the most important questions in life."

4. The existence of an unconditioned reality; what is an unconditioned reality? What does that even mean in layman's English?

Cont.

Papalinton said...

CONT.


5. The existence of morals; There is countless research information and innumerable studies proving beyond a reasonable doubt that morality is derived from and a function of cultural imperatives and societal mores. Even atheists like me live ethically and moral lives. In fact many studies have shown that atheists live more ethical and moral lives than do christians.

From : http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf

"If religion, prayer, or God-belief hindered criminal behavior, and secularity or atheism
fostered lawlessness, we would expect to find the most religious nations having the lowest
murder rates and the least religious nations having the highest. But we find just the oppo-
site. Murder rates are actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious
nations where belief in God is deep and widespread (Jensen 2006; Paul 2005; Fajnzylber
et al. 2002; Fox and Levin 2000). And within America, the states with the highest mur-
der rates tend to be highly religious, such as Louisiana and Alabama, but the states with
the lowest murder rates tend to be among the least religious in the country, such as Ver-
mont and Oregon (Ellison et al. 2003; Death Penalty Information Center, 2008). Fur-
thermore, although there are some notable exceptions, rates of most violent crimes tend
to be lower in the less religious states and higher in the most religious states (United
States Census Bureau, 2006). Finally, of the top 50 safest cities in the world, nearly all
are in relatively non-religious countries, and of the eight cities within the United States
that make the safest-city list, nearly all are located in the least religious regions of the
country (Mercer Survey, 2008)."

Anthony Fleming said...

Wow....I guess I should become an atheist right now! Looks like God doesn't actually exist.

How much evidence should one require to believe a particular proposition? You say that our beliefs shouldn't dictate public policy. Yet the Christian belief is based on a historical character who is the most influential and controversial the world has ever seen. So, in terms of the Christian belief, it's pretty hard to doubt he didn't live and therefore tough to see that one cannot use what he said in social policy. I mean, is there anything Jesus said that you really disagree with?

Still, how much evidence should one have to believe a particular proposition?

Ok, I really tried to resist the urge on addressing each issue here. To me however, I love how you bring up each scientific idea as if each question is settled. You really don't do much justice to science that way. I like science and I am learning much more about it and trying to learn more about it everyday. Still, in all the time I take learning about these things I don't really see complete “disproof” of Christianity and in some cases and I see affirmation of things Christianity has said.

Secondly, you missed my main point. If I find reason to doubt certain atheistic metaphysics like materialism, then these proofs are more persuasive. In other words, if my skepticism of materialism or of mechanistic ideas are not met then I am more open to non-material causes. That doesn't mean God. One of the smartest atheists I have debated with is not a materialist.

In terms of cosmological constants. Paul Davies (who showed up in your response to the big bang) writes, “. . . the numerical coincidences [necessary for an anthropic universe] could be regarded as evidence of design. The delicate fine-tuning in the values of the constants, necessary so that the various different branches of physics can dovetail so felicitously, might be attributed to God. It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in the numbers, has been rather carefully thought out. Such a conclusion can, of course, only be subjective. In the end it boils down to a question of belief. Is it easier to believe in a cosmic designer than the multiplicity of universes necessary for the weak anthropic principle to work? . . . Perhaps future developments in science will lead to more direct evidence for other universes, but until then, the seemingly miraculous concurrence of numerical values that nature has assigned to her fundamental constants must remain the most compelling evidence for an element of cosmic design.”

The real point is that they could have been otherwise than they were. And no, it is not to beg the question it is to ask the question: if the probabilities for these states are so virtually impossible, then how could they have happened without some intention? I'm not saying it is a slam dunk that doesn't have doubt. I am simply saying the question is far from “set” as you like me to believe.

Of the probabilities of those constants, Penrose took some time to figure the odds of of our universe coming about in the total phase-space volume of possible universes. In regular exponential form: 10^100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000. If this was written in 10 point font it will fill up a large portion of our universe (From New Proofs for the Existence of God). One could bring about string theory of 10^500 universes, but I don't really see how that probabilistically helps the incredibly low probability of our “anthropic” universe.

Anthony Fleming said...

2. Big Bang: Many atheist philosophers use to fight for an infinite universe. Then, when it isn't infinite people fight for a multiverse. When people say those universes would have had a beginning they say, “you can't ask that question, it doesn't mean anything with Quantum.” Ok, well, I know enough about Quantum to know that it does not mean all our laws, matter, energy, and time came from nowhere (remember, I said “all”). Could there be an immaterial cause, without boundaries, that could fulfill the conditions of material causes?

3. Yeah. If I want to read someone's writings on Free Will I will probably avoid Harris. Not to say that his extreme bias makes him wrong on the issue. It's just that I don't find him very trustworthy. I can clearly see that I can do otherwise than I do. The Christian idea has always been that there are some things about our nature and with external events that are beyond our control. Yet, in that light there are things we can make choices on that determine who we are. Much of this is actually quite similar to the soft-determinism that Steven Pinker promotes in The Blank Slate. I understand there is more science on this subject since he published it. Just the same, he talks about decision making processes in our brain that lead us to certain choices. My main problem is that hard determinism seems to undermine implications from scientific findings. Unless someone can differentiate the deterministic quality of our beliefs and our actions, I don't see why we should trust certain inferences people make from scientific findings. Also, no one could blame the theological construct of free will, because they wouldn't have had free will to believe it. If you have a problem with my belief on this one, just know that I don't have the free will to choose whether I believe in free will.

As far as what synopsis of Harris' book. Much of that was covered in Pinker's The Blank Slate. Very interesting stuff.

4. I can believe that atheists can lead moral lives because I believe that people can do something other than they do. As far as your studies: many people take those who have been affected by prison ministries (which are very popular) within those stats. Secondly, I don't think you have a clue of the Biblical view of salvation, changed behavior, and sanctification.

Recognizing an ontological basis for that morality is a different story. I can clearly see there are some things that are always wrong whether we ever believed them to be wrong or not: like raping an infant. Perhaps there are biological processes at work within me that lead me to say that such a thing would always be wrong. Or perhaps there are logical reasons why raping an infant is always wrong and should never be done (regardless of whether a culture accepts it or not). I think it's both! Yet, if I am to recognize, regardless of biology, that certain things are always wrong. If you wan to disagree and say that raping an infant is only a societal or cultural construct then have at it. Ontologically the existence of a God makes the most sense of certain things being always right or wrong.

Anthony Fleming said...

I am now in remorse that I did such long comments. They really don't help the situation. So I will make this short and brief. I you want detail then ask :)

Unconditioned reality is based on a syllogism. Either all reality is conditioned or there is at least one unconditioned reality. You cannot have both and you cannot have neither. If all reality is conditioned then there are a two possibilities: either they are conditioned to the finite or the infinite. The same would apply for potential circular conditions: the conditions are fulfilled in circular to the finite or to the infinite. All of reality cannot be conditioned to the finite because the last condition would not have its conditions filled. It cannot be fulfilled to the infinite because then there would always be need for 1+ more conditions. You could say that the conditions are reciprocal or circular but that doesn't help either. You are faced with the same choice: finite or infinite. For example: lets say A depends on B which is dependent on C which is dependent on A. The difference would be how many conditions is each reality dependent on the other for: finite or infinite? If finite, there must be a last condition. Yet this could not happen in a circle because each condition needs another reality for its condition to be fulfilled. If infinite, then reality is dependent on the other reality for an infinite amount of conditions. This however is unachievable, as each would need +1 more conditions to exist. If not all of reality is not solely conditioned, then there must be at least one unconditioned reality.

Anthony Fleming said...

Also, I happen to find much of Edward Fesser's promotions of the the metaphysics and proofs from Aristotle and Aquinas incredibly compelling. I have been trying to learn more about them. Perhaps Ben Yachov could help me out.

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

"Yet the Christian belief is based on a historical character who is the most influential and controversial the world has ever seen."

You know this sort of nonsense is only thrown a lifebuoy within the christian pond. Judaism has denied the existence of a man-god on this earth ever since first promulgated. Hindus think it a crock of codswallop, and Islam says jesus, and there were 1000s of them, was just an ordinary man[?] and only a prophet at best. No god conception in any of these competing and rival woo beliefs. So trotting out this old tired myopic vision really doesn't cast a credible light on the woomeisters who peddle superstitious supernaturalism as reality.

You know that and I know that. You know it is a whole lot of crock. You reject the tenets of hinduism, or Zoroastrianism as easily as they reject the tenets of your christian theism. Everyone is an atheist to all the other religions. I happen to be an atheist with all of them.

No historical character I'm afraid. Prof Erhman did not make the case for an historical jesus figure in his latest book, "Did Jesus Exist?" Most professional reviews suggests the book simply does not anywhere near reach the standard of scholarship expected of him. And that is a real disappointment. I was expecting a slam dunk for a historical jesus but it did not come.

Anthony Fleming said...

Papalinton...have you studied other world religions? I have read the Upanishads, talked to Hindus and Buddhists, read the Buddha's wisdom, read the Koran, some parts of it many times, and have Jewish friends.

There are messianic Jews. Islam calls Jesus the second greatest of the prophets, the word, and the one who comes back to judge. I have talked to Hindu's who see Jesus as an Avatar. I have talked to Buddhists that see him as an enlightened one. Stop with all the religious boundaries! Gandi said a lot of things about Jesus and how he loved many of his teachings.

"I did once seriously think of embracing the Christian faith", Gandhi told Millie Polak, the wife of one of his earliest disciples. "The gentle figure of Christ, so patient, so kind, so loving, so full of forgiveness that he taught his followers not to retaliate when abused or struck, but to turn the other cheek, I thought it was a beautiful example of the perfect man..."

You attacked my comment as if I was talking about Christianity. I was talking about Jesus. Your not John Loftus, you don't need to act like him. Jesus has influence and respect even in other world religions. Therefore, he is the most influential and controversial character the world has ever seen.

Now, do you think he didn't exist? Do you have a problem with his teachings?

Anthony Fleming said...

Papalinton,

I am really enjoying this conversation but today needs to be a day that I get some serious stuff done. Would you like to continue any of this by email? If not, I will simply have to respond later today.

Otherwise, I am willing to engage you in email on a variety of subjects. If you would like, I would be willing to read a book you recommend if you read one I recommend as well. :) Talk soon.

Papalinton said...

Anthony
"Your not John Loftus, you don't need to act like him."

You seem to have conveniently forgotten Loftus's history and life experiences. He actually lived in the pulpit for decades defending the nonexistence of spectral numens.

No, no email. I see no positive outcome in continuing discourse. A worldview that is ineluctably reliant on a delusory paradigm forged in humanity's infancy is unbefitting and incongruous in the 21stC.

Anthony Fleming said...

"No, no email. I see no positive outcome in continuing discourse. A worldview that is ineluctably reliant on a delusory paradigm forged in humanity's infancy is unbefitting and incongruous in the 21stC."

Your the one who wrote,

"You know this sort of nonsense is only thrown a lifebuoy within the christian pond. Judaism has denied the existence of a man-god on this earth ever since first promulgated. Hindus think it a crock of codswallop, and Islam says jesus, and there were 1000s of them, was just an ordinary man[?] and only a prophet at best."

Which obviously shows, at minimal, that you have a diluted view of what most of the religions and followers of those religions are saying. Just like Loftus.

What about him being a pastor? So what? I know pastors who use to be atheists. One who use to study biology. So what?

Anthony Fleming said...

By the way, now that I think about it. I would be incredibly interested to hear how Hindus think the idea of a man-god is "codswallop." You obviously have no idea what Hinduism is, or Islam, or Judaism. By the way, the first followers of Jesus WERE JEWS!

I think you should stick with your over-generalizations of science.

Anthony Fleming said...

Just so you know, I don't blame you or dislike you for your reactions to my posts. You don't actually have free will. :)

Ilíon said...

"I think you should stick with your over-generalizations of science."

Which is to say, something that doesn't *really* matter ... and for which truth (ot, at least, truth-claims) is not foundational.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, You said the "mental" is characterized by purpose, intentionality or aboutness, normativity, subjectivity.

But animal behavior demonstrates a spectrum exists starting with the behavior of microbes that sometimes chase, trap and eat other microbes, to worms with only a hundred neurons total, to humans with 100 trillion inter-neural connections. Each species seems to have its own purpose, intentionality or aboutness, normativity, subjectivity, or their precursors. Species don't stop moving and doing things, things that make sense for that species.

And the human brain-mind is taking in wholescale scenes at one time. The human sensory and brain-mind system is reacting to those wholescale scenes and words. It's not reacting to individual atoms, it is reacting to wholescale scenes of nature and to wholescale behaviors of other humans with brain-minds. The system is set up to react to large clouds of information gathered and retained in a large brain-mind. That includes brain-mind and sensory recognitions such as it is raining or not raining, and drawing abstractions from such large-scale recognitions, such as A is not non-A.

So I don't see that the ARF proves ANYTHING.

See my blog where I go into detail and demonstrate that philosophical arguments have proven nothing concerning such matters. Click here for Prior Prejudices and the Argument from Reason

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

Vic, To add to my previous comment,

Once all this large scale information and record of past behaviors has been gathered inside the brain-mind that information reacts with other information already in the brain-mind, leading to a continual inner thought-life.

The brain-mind system is also something that works continually, on its own, just as animals continue to creep and crawl, breathe, seek food, and mate on their own.

And once a worldview is acquired or developed, one's mental responses in debate become mental reflexes.

It takes time for biological growth of new memories, responses, neuronal pathways, et al, before people feel comfortable viewing some aspects of their world view in a completely different light.

Though change can be catalyzed via increased personal desires or traumas which seem to loosen or melt or open doors throughout one's world view, encouraging the access of new information and its integration more smoothly into the brain-mind system, without the reflex driven objections that appeared so often before when questions were raised concerning one's world view.

The bottom line is that even in such cases as that, it takes time for biological changes to take place and to rebuild a worldview in ALL OF ITS ASPECTS in the brain-mind after the previous world-view has been died either a quick painful death or the death of a thousand qualifications. In other words it takes time for the brain-mind to rewire. I bet there are biological limits to such a process.

I also bet that once a person has acquired or developed a worldview that the brain-mind has inherent properties of conservation pertaining to that worldview, such that in the vast majority of cases it will move around the mental furniture a bit when questions are posed, but is not likely to tear down the whole house at once, and immediately start to rebuild rebuild another worldview from the ground up, which takes too much brain-mind work, too many new responses to learn or memorize, too many new neural pathways to form in the brain-mind. Hence I bet there is a sort of law of conservation of world views that applies to the brain-mind system upon which one has relied for a long time.

Indeed, we do see that after their 20s, if a person has not converted to Evangelical Protestant Christianity, the chances of them doing so begin to diminish in an exponential fashion for each year afterwards that they do not convert. That was a figure featured in Christianity Today magazine, based on polls taken over the past 200 years.

I invite your readers to read my fuller exposition. Google: "Prior Prejudices and the Argument from Reason"