Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Pragmatics and the burden of proof

Cole: To put it another way, what we would need is evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt. Instead what we have is probable evidence for a probable conclusion for someone rising from the dead.

VR: We require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in court cases because the harm done by a false positive (the conviction of an innocent person) is considered to do more harm than a false negative (letting an innocent person go free). It's a function of the pragmatics of the situation.

Why do we need beyond reasonable doubt for belief in God? Apparently my friend Kelly Clark can make do with less: he's a Christian. Even if we take Pascalian concerns out of the equation (afterlife outcomes), it looks as if there are numerous people for whom the pragmatics work the other way. For example,  they might found the idea of an atheist universe so depressing they don't want to go on, they might receive encouragement from adopting a theistic viewpoint. You might call such people weak, but what do weak people do?
On the face of things "the burden of proof" in these matters might reasonably differ from person to person.

9 comments:

Cole said...

Hey Dr. Reppert,

I think when we are dealing with resurrections we do need evidence beyond reasonable doubt. We are talking of someone rising from the dead here. Different people will assign different probabilities to the evidence. This is why the probabilities involved are either inscrutable (we simply cannot tell what they are) or non-existent (there just aren't any relevant probabilities). Moreover, the existential problem has been solved in my mind. I've said this before but what has helped me is coming to see the fact that life and death are intertwined and not separate. Death is a part of life. If I'm afraid of death then I'm afraid of life. When I embrace death I embrace life. I now accept the fact that I have only so much time to live and that life involves pain and separation. By embracing this I embrace life itself and accept everything about it. Depending on a belief in an afterlife or drowning myself in the moment to avoid pain is to despise reality, which is to despise life itself. I'm choosing to affirm life by confronting my mortality. What matters to me now is to live my days well and as fully as possible. I am converting the terrified, denial-type, relationship to death into something active and positive as I am released from anxieties and fearful responses by embracing death and not repressing it. I'm also losing that fear of wanting to be like somebody else. I want to be me. If I can overcome my anxieties then I can control the mindset with which I respond to the events around me. I'm gaining self-reliance, more patience, and more self-confidence. These are the things the Bible doesn't want you to have. It tells you that your heart is wicked and to not lean on your own understanding. Rather it wants you to turn your life over to God and let Him manage your life for you. In such a position you never grow up. "Without Christ I can do nothing" is what it says. I'm moving in the opposite direction. You cannot get this inner strength from books or a guru. It can only come from you. It's taking time, but I'm slowly weaning myself from dependencies.

Why do we need evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt? One again Alvin Plantinga:

But if my only ground for Christian teaching is its probability with respect to K, and all I know about that probability is that it is greater than .5, then I can’t rationally believe that teaching. Suppose I know that the coin you are about to toss is loaded. I don’t know just how heavily it is loaded, so I don’t know what the probability is that it will come up heads, but I do know that this probability is greater than .5. Under those conditions I do not believe that the next toss of this coin will come up heads. (Of course I also don’t believe that it will come up tails; and I suspect that it will come up heads.) All I know is that it is more likely than not to come up heads; and that’s not sufficient for my sensibly believing that it will. The same goes in this case: if what I know is only that the probability of Christian belief (with respect to K) is greater than .5, I can’t sensibly believe it.

Victor Reppert said...

Why would all of this be normative for anyone besides yourself?

Cole said...

Why shouldn't it be normative for anyone besides myself? It seems to be a solution to the problems with the evidence and the existential anxiety. It seems to be more in line with reality. Times have changed Dr. Reppert. The old structure has collapsed. It's time we wean ourselves off of our dependencies of beings for which there is not sufficient evidence for. We must grow and learn to be ourselves as individuals. I'm not saying don't relate to others. But it's better to do it from a position of power and love instead of fear and isecurity.

Crude said...

I'm also losing that fear of wanting to be like somebody else. I want to be me. If I can overcome my anxieties then I can control the mindset with which I respond to the events around me.

So, you want to be you, not somebody else. Which is why you're changing yourself to be a different person.

Also, everyone should rely on themselves, which means deciding for themselves what to do. Except worship and follow God. Cole says you shouldn't do that and to listen to him. You have to rely on yourself, nothing else. Cole insists.

Brilliant. (That's sarcasm. I say this, because there's a good chance you can't tell it when you see it. ;)

Why shouldn't it be normative for anyone besides myself? It seems to be a solution to the problems with the evidence and the existential anxiety.

So, if a Christian can believe while feeling confident in the evidence and having no existential anxiety, you'd recommend they stay the course? Likewise, if an atheist is worried about the evidence and/or has existential anxiety, and would not if they became Christian, you'd recommend that?

Are you aware of the fact that what makes you feel good is not necessarily the best course of action - certainly not necessarily the best course of action for others, who may feel differently than you? (Not all of us ran around making asses of ourselves trying to prove Christianity. Some, like Plantinga, do a damn good job of it. Which is why you don't seem to realize that you've missed something when you quote him, since Plantinga remains a steadfast Christian. Then again, you demonstrably have a problem understanding most of the guys you quote.)

We must grow and learn to be ourselves as individuals.

Be an individual, think for yourself. Cole will tell you if you're thinking for yourself properly or not. He R smart!

These are the things the Bible doesn't want you to have.

First, these seem to be things you don't want others to have.

Second, according to Dawkins, the very idea of being responsible or culpable for one's own actions is a pipe dream. He's joined by a number of atheists, including Jerry Coyne, Alex Rosenberg, and others who would insist that all your talk of "self-reliance" and "being yourself" is every bit as fanciful, or more fanciful, than God's existence. Unless "rely on yourself" is just another word for "do exactly as you are compelled to do by blind, deterministic forces".

Are you aware that "gaining self-reliance", if you cannot actually rely on yourself, can be stupid? If a nuclear reactor is having a meltdown, Cole is not being smart if he says "I can solve this by myself! I R smart!" and tries to handle it himself. If he's confident he can fix a nuclear reactor when he not only doesn't have the training, but doesn't really have the capacity to receive the training, his "confidence" is another word for "stupidity".

AmirF said...

Crude,

Sans the sprinklings of vitriol here and there, I agree with pretty much everything you've said above. What's left me confused however is the fact that you concluded a couple of threads back that engaging in any sort of online debate with Cole is a futile gesture, probably bad for his mental health, yet you seem to be doing just that here.

Crude said...

AmirF,

yet you seem to be doing just that here.

As I said in the previous thread - I suggested that, and a number of people all insisted that Cole was mentally healthy, or at least healthy enough to be trusted with and capable of rational debate. I figured, what the hell - if everyone insists that he's entirely suitable for debate and discussion here and on these topics, so be it. Apparently I was wrong, eh?

As for the vitriol, I really don't think I'm engaging in anything that is far beyond the norm here. (Admittedly, Victor and, say... Steve Lovell and some others are always far more polite than I am. But that's nothing new - I've always been a typical internet punk once someone got insulting or lecturing. I've always admitted that.)

Cole said...

Crude,

No, I'm learning to be myself. I wouldn't recommened being an atheist or a Christian. What I recommend is to learn to be yourself. Learn to be secure with yourself and gain a proper understanding of your own value and worth so that you can love others from a position of power, love, and security instead of insecurity. I'm not an atheist. I don't even know what an atheist is. There's so many different definitions that I'm confused. I've decided not to commit to any side or cause but myself. This doesn't mean that we become an island and isolate from others. Only that we love each other from a position of power. I just don't like to love others out of fear and insecurity. You misunderstood what I was saying about self-reliance and being secure about ourselves.

BenYachov said...

I don't think he is reasonable enough or stable enough to debate.

I've talked to mentally ill persons before. It's pointless.

Oh & the whole Bride of Christ = gay thingy is daft.

But do what you gotta do Crude.

Cheers man.

cl said...

Victor, I want to hug you:

We require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in court cases because the harm done by a false positive (the conviction of an innocent person) is considered to do more harm than a false negative (letting an innocent person go free).

Nail. On. The. Head. I'd been meaning to write a post about this for a while. There's another important, nay, crucial ramification here. The "beyond reasonable doubt" criteria NECESSARILY MAXIMIZES ERRORS. Therefore, when atheists use this standard, they unwittingly endorse a criteria that maximizes errors.

Also, there are many shades of gray between Plantinga's ".5" and "beyond reasonable doubt."

Lastly, I see that no persuasive answers were forthcoming to your question about normativity, much less any that convince me beyond a reasonable doubt.

:)