Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Debunking the Defeasibility Test

I have added new material to this post.

In this exchange, David Marshall asks for a debate concerning the Outsider Test for Faith, and Peter Boghossian refuses to begin such dialogue in because Marshall does not give an adequate answer to the question "What would it take for you to lose your faith?"

What Boghossian is applying was defined by Matt McCormick as The Defeasibility Test. The claim here is that unless the believer is willing to indicate what kinds of considerations would cause him to lose his faith, discussion is useless and the believer should be regarded as terminally irrational. This has also been endorsed by Loftus.

Now this, to some, has a reasonable ring to it, harking back to Flew's Falsification Challenge. But I am going to argue that the way it is being employed by McCormick and Boghossian is misguided. 

First, I am convinced that there are three factors involved when people make religious decisions. The first is their evaluation of publicly available evidence, evidence that we can all examine. This would be the usual set of reasons we all talk about in the philosophy of religion: the theistic arguments, the problem of evil, the problem of hiddenness, etc. The second factor is one's personal experience. This will differ from person to person and is not available for public inspection. The third is the pragmatics of belief. Some people might be very adversely affected by becoming an atheist, or a theist, and those factors are also relevant for people to consider when they are trying to decide what to believe. 

First of all, suppose someone has indicated that they think that there are good theistic arguments, but they also think they would remain a fideistic believer if those arguments were shown to be faulty. If they are in fact bad arguments, wouldn't showing that this is so be worthwhile? Is the only goal of dialogue conversion to atheism? 

Second, if I am right, not all of the considerations that go into a reasonable person's choice as to whether or not to be a believer are open for public debate. If I, for example, had a direct experience of God, I can't cause you to have one, too. All I can do is testify to my own experience, and you may or may not believe me. 

Plantinga's Purloined Letter example is relevant here. All the public evidence may support the claim that I stole a damaging letter, but I may nevertheless know perfectly well that I didn't steal it.  

Third, not all considerations with respect to one's own beliefs with respect to God are even introspectively obvious.  If we had asked a subsequent de-convert what it would take for them to give up their faith, I am not sure they could have predicted the scenario that led them to change their mind. 

Fourth, some atheists are committed to indefeasibility. Are they terminally irrational?

http://old.richarddawkins.net/discussions/642394-there-can-be-no-evidence-for-god-revisited

It is an important conviction of mine that discussion and defense of what I believe is not primarily aimed at the conversion of my discussion partner. I know perfectly well that reasons on both sides of the issue of something like God are far more complex that what we can encompass in a single discussion. Many of my most gratifying discussions with people with opposing views have largely been taken up with the descriptive task, that is, getting and giving a clearer understanding of the relevant issues and our respective positions than we had going in. 

I remember once giving my first philosophy paper at the Pacific division of the APA. When I returned to the Pacific APA an undergraduate student came up to me and gave me a paper he had written for an undergraduate philosophy journal, which had what I would now recognize as an "internet infidel" flavor to it. I sent him several paragraphs critiquing what I took to be the naive philosophy of science that his paper embodied. I heard nothing from him for  few years, and then received an e-mail indicating that he had become a Christian, and thanking me for my courteous response. Humbling, surely, but I had no idea that this would happen, nor was I especially concerned about trying to convert him. 

I am inclined to agree with Lewis that apologetic discussion is about following the argument where it leads. It is not about judging our opponents, or persuading them. Those sorts of transformations involve  far more than intellectual assent, though assent is involved and reasons are relevant. But I am not going to be trapped in a version of "What arguments do I have to win with you to make you agree with me." Since it hasn't happened, I don't know what I would do if I saw the evidence differently. And neither do you.





 

122 comments:

B. Prokop said...

I've already given my answer to this question some months ago on this website. What would it take for me to disbelieve in Christianity? Answer: Show me the verifiable unresurrected body of Jesus of Nazareth.

Now, what would it take for an atheist to give up his faith? Even Papalinton was willing to answer that challenge, and I commend him for that. Let's hear some others.

Matt DeStefano said...

First of all, suppose someone has indicated that they think that there are good theistic arguments, but they also think they would remain a fideistic believer if those arguments were shown to be faulty. If they are in fact bad arguments, wouldn't showing that this is so be worthwhile? Is the only goal of dialogue conversion to atheism?

The goal of dialogue isn't conversion, it's to have a reasonable, constructive, and worthwhile discussion about the relevant reasons and evidence. If your position isn't defeasible, as McCormick says, "we’re done. There is nothing informative, constructive, or interesting to be found in your contribution to dialogue. Anything you have to say amounts to sophistry."

Like Craig and Wolterstorff, the game has already been decided. No longer playing the role of rational interlocutor (as the partners of Socratic dialogue often play), you've become a defense lawyer for Jesus.

Second, if I am right, not all of the considerations that go into a reasonable person's choice as to whether or not to be a believer are open for public debate. If I, for example, had a direct experience of God, I can't cause you to have one, too. All I can do is testify to my own experience, and you may or may not believe me.

Imagine you are talking to someone who is convinced that he was abducted by aliens. You ask for some evidence that this happened, but all he can do is recount his experience.

Your suggestions that his experience is somehow mistaken or misguided are immediately dismissed, and he quite adamantly maintains that he "knows what he saw."

There's no point in discussing the issue further with this individual. Individual experiences (and especially our memory of those experiences) are incredibly unreliable indicators of reality, and someone who maintains a belief - in spite of evidence to the contrary - based on personal experience is in an absurd position.

Fourth, some atheists are committed to indefeasibility. Are they terminally irrational?

Yes.

Crude said...

It's particularly ironic that Bog would lay down standards like that, when by any measure Bog is a complete freaking fanatic and radical.

The goal of dialogue isn't conversion, it's to have a reasonable, constructive, and worthwhile discussion about the relevant reasons and evidence. If your position isn't defeasible, as McCormick says, "we’re done

This is just plain wrong, Matt. For one thing, if the goal of a dialogue isn't conversion, then there doesn't need to be an answer to the question 'What would it take to get you to convert?' - It's irrelevant. But that's Bog's, and apparently Loftus', standard.

Moreover, the idea that openness to conversion is relevant to dialogue is flimsy. Here's one reason why: someone who can't name what it would take to make them convert from theism/atheism is not saying that nothing could convince them a given argument is wrong, and that's exactly what's needed for a productive conversation. I'd even say that convincing any side that they're right or wrong isn't necessary to make a conversation productive.

There's no point in discussing the issue further with this individual.

You're throwing out your own standard here: you said earlier that the goal of a dialogue isn't conversion, but you're treating the possibility for conversion as the only thing that can possibly make a conversation productive.

Take your pick: is the goal of conversation conversion or not? Because you can't say that conversion is irrelevant to conversation, but that if there's no possibility for conversion, there's no point to conversation.

Anyway, to circle this on back, Bog's a fringer who claims to have spent upwards of 10 (I think) hours a day, every day, for 20 years, trying to deconvert people, and talks on his twitter about how he hopes psychological study rules are changed so sanctioned experiments can be performed on individuals to find ways to get them to become atheists using clinical methods. In other words, the guy comes off as pretty damn irrational.

BeingItself said...

"and those factors are also relevant for people to consider when they are trying to decide what to believe."

This is incomprehensible to me. I could no more decide what I believe than I could decide to be 10 feet tall.

Victor, could you decide right now to believe the moon is made of green cheese?

BenYachov said...

Sorry for the multiple posts and deletions.

Sorry.

Cole said...

What did it take for me to see things differently? Psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, A.A./N.A. meetings, and medication. I also like the arguments from morality and the laws of logic to a Higher Power that is as transcendent as these laws. I guess they could be wrong though. Mostly it has been my experiences of love, compassion, and justice. If you want to say I'm deluded because I go by experiences of a Higher Power of love and compassion then I'm just going to have to disagree. I don't like to use the term faith. This seems to suggest that I can't understand my Higher Power because it's mysterious in it's ways. But I understand love and compassion just fine. I think it's deeper level of understanding though. It's an understanding I have with my heart rather than rational intellct. Using an argument can be for many different things. It depends on the intentions of the heart of the person giving the argument. I don't think anything can change me to believe in a God that violently tortures His Son in a blood sacrifice. That's somehow suppose to demonstrate God's love for me? That makes no sense at all to me. That's not love in my book. It's insanity.

unkleE said...

Is this really so hard?

My answer would be that I cannot conceive of anything that would cause me to give up my belief in God - not because I place faith above reason, but because my belief depends on (among other things) things that are known.

To pick one example, the fact that the universe exists (and that the cosmological argument is true). So for me to disbelieve, the universe would have to not exist, which would be a contradiction, or the cosmological argument would have to be logically invalid, which it isn't.

You could apply the same thinking to my other reasons to believe - humanity, spiritual experience and the gospels - and in each case, something would have to be untrue which is factually true, which could only occur in another universe.

So I can give an answer, but the criteria would involve logical or factual contradictions.

But if you asked me what would shake my faith, I would reply - many things, happens every second day.

Crude said...

Hey, detective Conan fan I see. :)

I've seen some atheists play this game and give unintentionally hilarious response. Like 'If Jesus came down with all of the apostles and this was on live TV with dozens of cameras and he proceeded to cure several amputees on a stage with doctors analyzing the amputees every step of the way before he and all the apostles went back up into the sky and disappeared'.

Syllabus said...

I'm not sure what could make me become an atheist. There are several things that could make me stop being a Christian, though:

1). Conclusive evidence and consensus among reputable scholars that the Gospels are mash-ups of ancient mythology intended to portray a Christ that is just a representation of primal ideas or what not.

2). Along the lines of what Bob already said, the cold, dead, unresurrected body of Jesus of Nazareth, confirmed by the consensus of non-hack historians.

3). Conclusive logical demonstration that the hypostatic union is logically impossible or incoherent.

4). Conclusive logical demonstration that the Holy Trinity is logically impossible or incoherent.

5). Seeing and being able to verify from multiple sources that a human being lived a sinless life.

Among others.

BenYachov said...

I keep miss posting? That sucks!

Well let me try again.

Let me torment Matt just a little bit.

> If your position isn't defeasible, as McCormick says, "we’re done.

What would it take for you Matt to give up your belief a position must be defeasible in order for it to be worthwhile debating?

(This should be entertaining if I can finally get the post right)

Karl Grant said...

Matt,

The goal of dialogue isn't conversion, it's to have a reasonable, constructive, and worthwhile discussion about the relevant reasons and evidence.

Like Crude already said, if the point isn't conversion than why keep asking questions like What would it take for you to lose your faith? Something doesn't click there.

Imagine you are talking to someone who is convinced that he was abducted by aliens. You ask for some evidence that this happened, but all he can do is recount his experience.

So, personal testimony accounts for a lot of things. In a lot of sexual molestation cases the only evidence that something wrong happened is personal testimony. Imagine you were molested as a child, now as an adult you want justice for what happened to you. What evidence is there the event happened? Why nothing but your word and according to you individual experiences (and especially our memory of those experiences) are incredibly unreliable indicators of reality. I guess sexual predators should get free passes.

Or in other words, I am not impressed by your attempt to dismiss anecdotal evidence for ideas that you dislike out of hand. And just out of curiosity, what would be evidence to the contrary in your alien abduction scenario? Did you stalk this man every waking hour of every waking day, keeping an accurate video log of his every movement to ensure that at no point he went missing for a day or two?

im-skeptical said...

Interesting that Victor claims that Dawkins is committed to indefeasibility. As I read that post, he is not saying that no evidence would make him believe. He is saying that you can't come up with the evidence for the things you claim. There's a difference.

Show me a bona fide miracle, and then I'll believe that such things exist.

Crude said...

im-skeptical,

Interesting that Victor claims that Dawkins is committed to indefeasibility.

Where does Victor claim this? The post he linked to was not written by Dawkins.

As I read that post, he is not saying that no evidence would make him believe. He is saying that you can't come up with the evidence for the things you claim. There's a difference.

As you read the post, you're wrong.

Read it again. He is not saying 'I haven't seen any good evidence for God, but if I did I'd change my mind - I just don't see it coming'. He is saying something much stronger, as is PZ Myers.

Show me a bona fide miracle, and then I'll believe that such things exist.

As Myers and Zara would say, any apparent miracle would be considered by them to merely be something unexplained that was awaiting a naturalistic explanation, however obscure or crazy.

Matt DeStefano said...

This is just plain wrong, Matt. For one thing, if the goal of a dialogue isn't conversion, then there doesn't need to be an answer to the question 'What would it take to get you to convert?' - It's irrelevant. But that's Bog's, and apparently Loftus', standard.

Crude, if you had read McCormick's post, you would have noticed that the question isn't "What would get me to convert?" I'll quote him here:

"Are there any considerations, arguments, evidence, or reasons, even hypothetically that could possibly lead me to change my mind about God? Is it even a remotely possible outcome that in carefully and thoughtfully reflecting on the broadest and most even body of evidence that I can grasp, that I would come to think that my current view about God is mistaken? That is to say, is my belief defeasible? "

Now, I don't know Boghossian's standards for debate, but I imagine that he asks this question because someone with a graduate degree ought to have at least a fuzzy idea about what makes their belief defeasible - especially if Prokop, unkleE, and Syllabus have all been forthcoming (although I think Prokop's is a bit ridiculous, but that's another story).

You're throwing out your own standard here: you said earlier that the goal of a dialogue isn't conversion, but you're treating the possibility for conversion as the only thing that can possibly make a conversation productive.

Not at all, I'm saying that if someone refuses to believe that their interpretation of their own experience (or the memory of that experience) could be wrong, then their belief is no longer defeasible. They are no longer interested in having a rational discussion, and I don't see any point in engaging them. Unless, of course, I'm bored on the subway.

What would it take for you Matt to give up your belief a position must be defeasible in order for it to be worthwhile debating?

Holding this belief for discussions about Christianity doesn't mean I hold this belief universally. For instance, I would still debate global skepticism (brain in the vat, Matrix) although I think it's probably indefeasible.

Matt DeStefano said...

Or in other words, I am not impressed by your attempt to dismiss anecdotal evidence for ideas that you dislike out of hand. And just out of curiosity, what would be evidence to the contrary in your alien abduction scenario? Did you stalk this man every waking hour of every waking day, keeping an accurate video log of his every movement to ensure that at no point he went missing for a day or two?

To quote Carl Sagan on this very topic: "Well, it's almost entirely anecdote. Someone says something happened to them, and people can say anything. The fact that someone says something doesn't mean it's true. Doesn't mean they're lying, but it doesn't mean it's true."

(http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/sagan-alien-abduction.html)

If you accept personal testimony at face value, you are forced to believe a lot of wacky things. If we couple this with the prevalence of hallucinations and delusions among human populations, we can see the problem with accepting testimony about fantastic claims. This is why Randi is so busy - people believe a lot of crazy things.

Crude said...

Matt,

Crude, if you had read McCormick's post, you would have noticed that the question isn't "What would get me to convert?" I'll quote him here:

Sure, quote him - but it doesn't affect what I'm saying here. More below.

Not at all, I'm saying that if someone refuses to believe that their interpretation of their own experience (or the memory of that experience) could be wrong, then their belief is no longer defeasible. They are no longer interested in having a rational discussion, and I don't see any point in engaging them.

And again I point out, there is a difference between a belief in God and a given argument for God. Arguments, if they succeed, may prove God's existence or make belief in God's existence more credible for a disinterested third party (as mythical as such a party is.) A person who will never give up their belief in God/!God is not automatically a person who will never admit that a given argument for God is wrong. So if the goal is to get concessions that a given argument is flawed, then superficially a person's unwillingness to give up their atheism or theism is irrelevant.

It's worth remembering that fideism is disconnected from arguments - that's what makes it fideism to begin with.

Either way, notice that you define a productive conversation in terms of "getting a person to admit they're wrong" / "defeating their belief" or at least having the chance at either. That's not a conversation, that's a contest. And hey, contests are great, but let's not confuse the two.

Holding this belief for discussions about Christianity doesn't mean I hold this belief universally. For instance, I would still debate global skepticism (brain in the vat, Matrix) although I think it's probably indefeasible.

Alright. Then what's the difference? Why is it that having a live option to convert someone is the key thing that makes a discussion about religion worthwhile, but this standard drops in another context?

im-skeptical said...

Crude,

"Where does Victor claim this?"

You're right. It was Steve Zara. He said:
"Yahweh in particular has a considerable set of unprovable attributes: omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, infinitude, being beyond time and space, being a necessary origin of things, and so on. None of these attributes could ever be shown to be true using science. Not because science is flawed, but because none of these attributes could ever be shown to be true using any test against reality. How do you measure omnibenevolence, for example?"

He is talking about evidence that can't be shown. Nowhere does he say that he would reject evidence if it were available.

"As Myers and Zara would say, any apparent miracle would be considered by them to merely be something unexplained that was awaiting a naturalistic explanation, however obscure or crazy."

I can't recall seeing a scientific explanation for real events that is more crazy than the supernatural explanation. There's a reason for that.

Crude said...

im-skeptical,

He is talking about evidence that can't be shown. Nowhere does he say that he would reject evidence if it were available.

He defines away the very possibility of evidence in this case.

Did you miss this part?

There can be no evidence for God

Notice: Not "I've seen no evidence for God", not "All the current evidence for God is flawed, but in principle some evidence could come, however unlikely". There can be no evidence for God, period. Zara is speaking against the very idea of there being evidence for God.

This isn't some obscure reading: this post ended up prompting an argument between Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers, since previously Coyne's schtick was that atheists were rational because they, contra theists, would list what evidence would convince them to change their beliefs - and Myers/Zara discarded that very possibility.

There's a reason for that.

Sure: maybe because your belief is, as is said in this thread, indefeasible. Talk of evidence doesn't matter, because in principle you could always imagine an alternate explanation, or hold out for such an explanation.

Just take the next step: "Any explanation, or no explanation at all, would always win out over any explanation that would conclude God's existence" and you've arrived at Zara/Myers' end point.

Syllabus said...

"He is talking about evidence that can't be shown. Nowhere does he say that he would reject evidence if it were available."

And he begs the question while stating it. When he says that, because these things can't be tested against "reality" and are therefore unbelievable, he is assuming a notion of reality that is completely measurable in every instance by science, which rules out the supernatural a priori. Thus, his conclusion - that such things are not real or believable - seems embedded in his premise.

Karl Grant said...

Matt,

To quote Carl Sagan on this very topic: "Well, it's almost entirely anecdote. Someone says something happened to them, and people can say anything. The fact that someone says something doesn't mean it's true. Doesn't mean they're lying, but it doesn't mean it's true."

If you really followed that advice you would be maintaining a neutral, agnostic position on paranormal experience claims; something you have not demonstrated doing in any discussion you have participated in.

If you accept personal testimony at face value, you are forced to believe a lot of wacky things. If we couple this with the prevalence of hallucinations and delusions among human populations, we can see the problem with accepting testimony about fantastic claims.

Prevalence of hallucinations and delusions among human populations? The vast majority of people do not have problems with hallucinations and delusions as far as I know (and no, the simple act of believing in something that you do not does not count as delusional) but since you advanced this positive claim would you care to provide peer-reviewed scientific studies concerning the percentage of people experiencing hallucinations/delusions to the population at large? Should be easy to do if your claims about the prevalence of hallucinations/delusions is like you said.

Then again, how do we know the studies are reliable? People don't just hallucinate about the fantastic, after all (you know, people seeing water in the desert where there is none). Maybe the scientists, who should be experiencing hallucinations and delusions prepotional to the population at large, merely imagined they conducted the study.

This is why Randi is so busy - people believe a lot of crazy things.

Randi is a fraud who didn't finish high school and has absolutely no scientific training. I am not impressed when someone name drops him in a conversation.

BenYachov said...

>Holding this belief for discussions about Christianity doesn't mean I hold this belief universally. For instance, I would still debate global skepticism (brain in the vat, Matrix) although I think it's probably indefeasible.

So what it seems your are saying is you are not consistent with this rule if the topic is anything other than religion or God?

Interesting double think.

Matt DeStefano said...

Either way, notice that you define a productive conversation in terms of "getting a person to admit they're wrong" / "defeating their belief" or at least having the chance at either. That's not a conversation, that's a contest. And hey, contests are great, but let's not confuse the two.

Those aren't my words, and I'm not sure why you are attributing this belief to me. I've already said what I think the "goal" of a conversation is.

If you really followed that advice you would be maintaining a neutral, agnostic position on paranormal experience claims; something you have not demonstrated doing in any discussion you have participated in.

That's absurd, and you can't possibly believe this. After all, we have tons of evidence that these claims of the "paranormal" are usually just charlatans who take advantage of gullible fools.

(http://forums.randi.org/forumdisplay.php?f=43)

Prevalence of hallucinations and delusions among human populations? The vast majority of people do not have problems with hallucinations and delusions as far as I know (and no, the simple act of believing in something that you do not does not count as delusional) but since you advanced this positive claim would you care to provide peer-reviewed scientific studies concerning the percentage of people experiencing hallucinations/delusions to the population at large? Should be easy to do if your claims about the prevalence of hallucinations/delusions is like you said.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21196811

"Both bizarre and non-bizarre DLB are frequently found in the general population, lending support to the psychosis continuum account and need to revise key clinical criteria used to diagnose delusions. The good psychometric properties demonstrated by the CBQ indicate that this measure is a useful tool to investigate the wider continuum of beliefs held in the general population."

Then again, how do we know the studies are reliable? People don't just hallucinate about the fantastic, after all (you know, people seeing water in the desert where there is none). Maybe the scientists, who should be experiencing hallucinations and delusions prepotional to the population at large, merely imagined they conducted the study.

... Really?

Randi is a fraud who didn't finish high school and has absolutely no scientific training. I am not impressed when someone name drops him in a conversation.

Yay, ad hominems!

Matt DeStefano said...

So what it seems your are saying is you are not consistent with this rule if the topic is anything other than religion or God?

I have no idea how you got this from what I said. I'll repeat it again: "Holding this belief for discussions about Christianity doesn't mean I hold this belief universally."

BenYachov said...

additional:

Your approach Matt leads me to think you expect your religious opponent to be defeasible about his beliefs but you get to be indefeasible about yours.

This is a clear double standard.

B. Prokop said...

"Prokop's is a bit ridiculous, but that's another story"

Huh? Why? I thought I was being as straightforward as one could get.

BenYachov said...

>I have no idea how you got this from what I said. I'll repeat it again: "Holding this belief for discussions about Christianity doesn't mean I hold this belief universally."

How is what you just said here NOT an example not being consistent with this rule if the topic is anything other than religion or God or as you say Christianity?

You are playing word games here Matt.

Matt: Obama is the head of the Executive Branch of the Government!

Me: So what you are saying is Obama is in charge?

Matt: No! No! I didn't use those exact words how could you get that impression?

Word games Matt.

BenYachov said...

Matt it's very simple.

Theism makes philosophical case for God & against Materialist reductionism & or metaphysical naturalism.

The Atheist counters the philosophical arguments for God and makes the case for materialism & or naturalism.

One might convince the other or not & at worst both might learn something.

It's not fucking hard son.

BenYachov said...

My Conclusion:

Screw Boghossian's Defeasibility Test it's just a lame excuse not to argue.

Matt DeStefano said...

How is what you just said here NOT an example not being consistent with this rule if the topic is anything other than religion or God or as you say Christianity?


Try re-reading this, again."Holding this belief for discussions about Christianity doesn't mean I hold this belief universally."

This statement does not mean I only hold this view about Christianity (or Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.) - far from it! After all, this standard is also readily apparent when people try to convince me that Obama wasn't born in the US, that Tupac Shakur is still alive, that 9/11 was orchestrated by Bush, that healing crystals work, etc.

im-skeptical said...

"Just take the next step: "Any explanation, or no explanation at all, would always win out over any explanation that would conclude God's existence" and you've arrived at Zara/Myers' end point."

"he is assuming a notion of reality that is completely measurable in every instance by science, which rules out the supernatural a priori. Thus, his conclusion - that such things are not real or believable - seems embedded in his premise."

Here is what he said:
"People become atheists, I suggest, not because of of lack of evidence for gods, but because of lack of evidence for beliefs which are supposed to point to a god, which may seem the same thing but is really quite different. There can be no evidence for a being of ultimate goodness, but a belief in such a being might continue until it is discovered that stories of the acts of such a being were baseless."

And I still say if you can show me well-founded evidence, I'll believe it. The faithful theist, on the other hand, places his faith above any and all evidence to the contrary. That is the nature of faith.

BenYachov said...

>In this exchange, David Marshall asks for a debate concerning the Outsider Test for Faith, and Peter Boghossian refuses to begin such dialogue in because Marshall does not give an adequate answer to the question "What would it take for you to lose your faith?"

BTW what about Atheist Critics of the OTF? Jesse Parrish comes to mind. Does Jesse have to tell us what it would take for him to believe in God before he gives his secular rational reasons why he thinks the OTF is bullshit?

I can postulate the non-existence of any god or that reality is not based on an Unconditional Reality/Ground Being/Classic Theistic God.

I can also conclude Boghossian is way off base here to put it kindly.

cl said...

Matt,

"...if someone refuses to believe that their interpretation of their own experience (or the memory of that experience) could be wrong, then their belief is no longer defeasible. They are no longer interested in having a rational discussion..."

No longer defeasible? Perhaps, but "conversion" or "defeasing" isn't the point according to what you just said.

However, no longer interested in rational discussion? No, Matt, you're kicking illogic there. It doesn't not follow that a convinced person is incapable of rational discussion. It only follows that their position is not defeasible.

After all, Cole falsifies your claim. He just admitted his position is indefeasable, yet, for the past week he's been having rational discussions with quite a few people on across various threads here.

You're wrong, Matt, plain and simple.

BenYachov said...


>Try re-reading this, again."Holding this belief for discussions about Christianity doesn't mean I hold this belief universally."

Yes I get it when it comes to thing that are not religion the Defeasibility Test is out the window for you.

It's still appears inconsistent.

>when people try to convince me that Obama wasn't born in the US, that Tupac Shakur is still alive, that 9/11 was orchestrated by Bush, that healing crystals work, etc.

I am not against refusing to argue with nutjobs. But Boghossian's Defeasibility Test still fails in debating the OTF.

Jesse Parrish thinks OTF is bullshit. He almost made Paps cry with his argument.

He already doesn't believe in God.

It's not hard.

Karl Grant said...

Matt,

That's absurd, and you can't possibly believe this.

I can't possibly believe this? What's wrong with saying 'I don't know if this claim is true or not, I will withhold judgement until more information comes along?' The fact that you think it is crazy to hold a neutral position in response to uncertain claims makes me wonder about your mental fortitude.

After all, we have tons of evidence that these claims of the "paranormal" are usually just charlatans who take advantage of gullible fools.

Tons of evidence? One,Randi's investigation of paranormal claims leaves something to be desired. Which is one of the reasons I consider him to be a fraud. Two, there are frauds in paranormal research? Big friggin surprise, there are frauds in any scientific field. I don't write off global warming because of ClimateGate nor do I write of stemcell research because a high profile Korean researcher got convicted of fraud.

And congratulations on doing research, assuming you did not just copy and paste the link from Randi's website. I saw that study about a year ago, 39% of the participants experiencing DLB is the same thing as saying that 61%, or in other words the majority, did not experience DLB. My point about the majority of people not having problems with hallucinations and delusions still stands, thank you for that confirmation.

And now since you failed to grasp what I was driving at earlier let me spell it out for you, just saying that people experience delusions is not an argument against paranormal claims. You need a second premise that links and restricts the illusion giving power of the brain to paranormal claims, something you don't have because people have illusions about more mundane things (like water in the desert).

Yay, ad hominems!

Not really, I am questioning Randi's credentials to speak as an expert on this subject. The fact that he could not finish a high school physics class and has no formal scientific training does not speak well of his ability to evaluate scientific research into paranormal claims, or any scientific research into any scientific field for that matter.

Syllabus said...

""Yahweh in particular has a considerable set of unprovable attributes: omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, infinitude, being beyond time and space, being a necessary origin of things, and so on. None of these attributes could ever be shown to be true using science. Not because science is flawed, but because none of these attributes could ever be shown to be true using any test against reality. How do you measure omnibenevolence, for example?""

That's the one I was responding to.

"And I still say if you can show me well-founded evidence, I'll believe it."

How would you define evidence?

"The faithful theist, on the other hand, places his faith above any and all evidence to the contrary. That is the nature of faith."

Ahem.... no. Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_4PSgFjtvI&feature=relmfu

Given what I and others above said regarding what would make me reconsider my and their faith, does it really seem that "faithful" theists don't value evidence?

cl said...

Matt,

"Yay, ad hominems!"

How is it "ad hominem" to point out A) Randi's lack of education, and B) Randi's lack of scientific training? The very claims Randi purports to debunk are scientific in nature.

Don't you find it the least bit worrisome how quickly you depart from sound logic when someone criticizes your pastors? Shed the inner fundy!

cl said...

Syllabus,

By "well-founded" evidence, he means "evidence that will convince him." It's purely subjective chicanery.

Syllabus said...

"By "well-founded" evidence, he means "evidence that will convince him." It's purely subjective chicanery."

Well, that certainly might be what he's saying, but I won't make the assumption right off the bat.

BenYachov said...

Let's not get side tracked. I would be the first to say Randi has done some good work exposing frauds even if it is the opinion of some he hasn't convincingly refuted all miracles he's investigated.

OTOH I could in theory take Matt's side against my Anglican brother in Christ Syllabus on the Randi question.

Yet I would still say Boghossian is full of shit here.

Syllabus said...

"OTOH I could in theory take Matt's side against my Anglican brother in Christ Syllabus on the Randi question."

Not sure what you mean.

David B Marshall said...

Victor: I have to correct you on a couple points.

First, I proposed a debate on "faith," not on the OTF. The OTF is John Loftus' schtick.

Second, what you say about the "Defeasibility Test" is your interpretation, colored no doubt by your own interests. My interpretatation is that Bhoghossian is an ill-mannered fanatic who likes to talk about open and civil debate, but is not willing to engage in it. Let the reader peruse the brief exchange, and make up his or her own mind.

BenYachov said...

Sorry Syllabus I meant to say Karl Grant's side.

My bad.

BenYachov said...

So what Marshall says here is a game changer.

We all reacted based on faulty information.

Naughty Victor.;-)

Naughty I say.:D

im-skeptical said...

"Ahem.... no. Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_4PSgFjtvI&feature=relmfu"

So God told you all his secrets and that's the basis of your faith? For some reason, he didn't let me in on it.

"By "well-founded" evidence, he means "evidence that will convince him." It's purely subjective chicanery."

I love the way you turn the tables around. So I'm the one who rejects objective evidence, not you?

"Faith is the evidence of things unseen."

That means things for which we have no evidence other than faith itself.

BenYachov said...

Well it's a "game changer" in that my brilliant observation that even an Atheist can reject OTF doesn't apply here.

I still blame Victor because I don't wish to own up to my own faults.;-)

BenYachov said...

@im-skeptical

>"Faith is the evidence of things unseen."

>That means things for which we have no evidence other than faith itself.

But I am Catholic & I reject the Perspicuity of Scripture doctrine taught by Martin Luther and the reformers.

Can you show me your interpretation is in Line with any of the Popes?

Because until you do you are just giving a self-serving interpretation.

Dude I can "interpret" the Koran to endorse the Deity of Christ.

No Muslim would by it thought.

Syllabus said...

"So God told you all his secrets and that's the basis of your faith? For some reason, he didn't let me in on it."

No, that's not it at all. Faith is based on both reason and revelation. It does, however, in some sense go beyond both. Like any marriage or friendship.

And no, God has not disclosed all of His secrets to me. But there are certain truths that I think can be known about God purely from nature and reason, quite apart from revelation.

And everybody has axioms or first principles that they accept a priori. So, even if faith were just blindly fideistic faith - which it isn't for intellectually competent theists - that would still not necessarily disqualify it. You'd have to provide positive counter-arguments to destroy the other's position.

Which, of course, is in no way saying that you should accept things because I or anyone else here said so. After all, I've been trying to present justifications for my positions, and encouraging you to read up on my claims. So I don't think that it's really acceptable to claim that I'm believing things with no rational justification.

And, as an interesting experiment, how would you define faith? I'll then tell you whether it's a good definition or not (and I think it's fair to say that I, as a person of faith, would be in a better position to be familiar with what faith means than you).

BenYachov said...

BTW FYI

"Faith is the evidence of things unseen."

How do I know this verse doesn't refer to God himself who is unseen in that He is Ineffable and immaterial? But whose existence I can know via philosophical argument which gives me Faith?

Of course your interpretation of this verse moves us toward the Fideist Heresy condemned by the First Vatican Council so why should I accept it?

(I Really wish Atheists in general, including those of good will like Im-skeptical, would stop treating all Christian traditions as if they where all one thing. This one size fits all polemic is so tedious)

cl said...

Syllabus,

I didn't make the assumption right off the bat. It comes from the combination of 1) im-skeptical's history of commenting here, and 2) the fact that I've never once seen an atheist who says "show me a miracle" change their mind. It's usually a schtick, were "bona-fide" means "that which will convince me," and the latter has no objective criteria.

I offer the counter-hypothesis for testing: no matter how many "miracles" you show im-skeptical, his or her atheism will remain. He or she will always try to pick it apart and find some reason to doubt. And of course, that's always possible no matter what the miracle claim.

It's a schtick.

cl said...

im-skeptical,

"So I'm the one who rejects objective evidence, not you?"

Yes, that's correct. I know, for a fact, that "objective" evidence for "miracles" exists, in bounty. I also know that you have the same computer access to this material as I (not to mention books). Yet, you remain an atheist, and you expect us to believe that if we can simply one-up the existing accounts that you'll change your mind.

I say it's a schtick, and furthermore, that if you ARE genuine, you should ask God (presuming you haven't), not us.

Now, if you want to push this, then define "objective" and I'll be more than happy. Anything less is a waste of time.

im-skeptical said...

"I offer the counter-hypothesis for testing: no matter how many "miracles" you show im-skeptical, his or her atheism will remain. He or she will always try to pick it apart and find some reason to doubt. And of course, that's always possible no matter what the miracle claim."

The only problem with your offer is that nobody has ever shown me a miracle. I keep saying I'll believe it if I see it and its not some kind of hoax or illusion. Why do you keep insisting that I won't? Just show me one.

What do I mean by objective? First, I think it would have to be observable by anyone. I don't accept claims by someone who wrote a book (usually for money) saying he witnessed miracles. Second, it would have to stand up to scrutiny. That means skeptical examination leading to the final conclusion that the event actually happened and it defies the laws of physics.

Call it schtick if you like, but I don't think there's anything irrational or unreasonable about what I'm saying here.

Cole said...

Here's one reason why I hold to a belief in a Higher Power. It's because of the existence of moral truths. What follows is a list of some of these truths followed by the Christian response showing the nonsense of the Christian response.

It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter women and children who are innocent of any serious wrong doing.

Unless of course you can work in mysterious ways.


It is morally wrong to provide one's troops with young women captives with the prospect of their being used as sex slaves.

Unless of course you can work in mysterious ways


It is morally wrong to cause people to cannibalize their friends and family.

Unless of course you can work in mysterious ways.


It is morally wrong to practice human sacrifice by torture.

Unless of course you can work in mysterious ways.


It is morally wrong to torment people forever because of their beliefs.

Unless of course you can work in mysterious ways.

cl said...

Sure, I'll get sucked into more fruitless dialog. Why not? What better way to kill fifteen minutes after lunch?

im-skeptical,

See? You're already paving your exit path. Books don't count. Events that aren't observable by the whole world don't count. Must stand up to scrutiny. It's a schtick. Descartes already demonstrated that one can doubt anything except their doubt.

"The only problem with your offer is that nobody has ever shown me a miracle."

I don't understand. Nobody has ever pointed you to a miracle account? Is that what you're saying?

"That means skeptical examination leading to the final conclusion that the event actually happened and it defies the laws of physics."

I've recorded such an event on my blog. I don't write for money. The event flatly violated all known laws of physics. It was observed by others (two in this case). Now, hop on over there, read it, then come back and tell us why you're still not a believer—because I guarantee that's exactly what you're going to do.

My guesses? Doesn't count because we had two beers, or, doesn't count as a "miracle" because it's actually more in line with a "paranormal" claim. But who knows? Maybe you can come up with a more creative denial.

BeingItself said...

cl,

You should study the work of Joe Nickell. The Catholic Church has called him in numerous times to investigate alleged miracles. Every time, he discovers a mundane natural explanation.

Religious enthusiasts, such as yourself, just do not have the intellectual tool kit adequate to evaluate this stuff. But, you could learn.

Start with "Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions and Healing Cures".

Enjoy.

Karl Grant said...

BI,

If religious enthusiasts just do not have the intellectual tool kit adequate to evaluate this stuff than why has the Catholic Church, religious enthusiasts I believe, contracted Joe Nickell numerous times (and they obviously must be satisfied with his work since they keep hiring him) to investigate alleged miracles? Hmm, that implies that religious groups are more than willing to investigate and debunk bogus miracle claims themselves, as opposed to certain armchair atheist wannabe debunkers.

Insults don't work too good when you contradict yourself trying to deliver them.

cl said...

Thanks Karl. BI proved his or herself unworthy of response from me long ago. As you note, nothing but insults. It's funny, because BI seems to actually believe that I'm not skeptical of most "miracle" claims. Oh well, BI can learn, too :)

cl said...

Cole's argument reduced:

God doesn't live up to my moral opinions, therefore doesn't exist.

And yet, it's the *CHRISTIAN* whose response is nonsense!

Matt DeStefano said...

Huh? Why? I thought I was being as straightforward as one could get.

You were straightforward (which I more than appreciate) but I think it's an absurd standard. I don't need to see Tupac Shakur's body in order to believe he's really dead, despite the wild fans and followers who claim he has risen and that they've seen him.

That's another argument entirely, however.

Yes I get it when it comes to thing that are not religion the Defeasibility Test is out the window for you.

Nope, still not getting it. It's not just religion that gets this treatment, but it's not a universal maxim, either.

The fact that you think it is crazy to hold a neutral position in response to uncertain claims makes me wonder about your mental fortitude.

Are you claiming that you are epistemically neutral in regards to alien abductions? You have no reason to suspect that someone might be mistaken in their belief that they were abducted by aliens, probed, and experimented on?

I wonder about my own mental fortitude too. After all, why do I bother responding to claims like this?

My point about the majority of people not having problems with hallucinations and delusions still stands, thank you for that confirmation.

I originally argued that the "prevlance of delusions and hallucinations among human populations" should cast some doubt on paranormal claims. The fact that the majority of human beings do not suffer from these beliefs does nothing to help the case, as the majority of human beings aren't claiming to be abducted by aliens!


im-skeptical said...

cl,

That's an extraordinary event you describe. Video games flew across the room and landed in a stack. I suppose you believe it's not reasonable for me to think that it might not be true. Did you see it yourself, or did they move when you weren't watching? Did you get a picture of it? Could there be any reasonable explanation besides a supernatural one? Could you be mistaken?

Your own account says that your examination of "all the options" consisted of noting that those things didn't fall straight down to the floor. Therefore it must have been a miracle?

Have I proven your point by not swallowing it without some further corroboration?

Matt DeStefano said...

My guesses? Doesn't count because we had two beers, or, doesn't count as a "miracle" because it's actually more in line with a "paranormal" claim. But who knows? Maybe you can come up with a more creative denial.

If miracles are meant to demonstrate God's omnipotence, this doesn't go very far in doing so. In all seriousness, if God is performing these types of miracles - I'm not impressed.

cl said...

"Did you see it yourself, or did they move when you weren't watching?"

Nobody "saw" it, we all heard it. We were all looking at the TV, then heard a weird, electric "zap" sound, then we all saw the games, instantaneously in a different place.

"Did you get a picture of it?"

Yeah, I *TOTALLY* had my camera ready to go, because I just *KNEW* it was going to happen. C'mon. Wouldn't you be more skeptical if I *DID* have a photo? After all, what's the odds of having one's camera ready to go? Can't photos be faked? Etc. I'm sure if I had a photo, some skeptic would take that route: "C'mon cl, it's fishy that you had your camera ready *RIGHT* when this happened..." IOW, heads I win, tails you lose.

"Could there be any reasonable explanation besides a supernatural one? "

That all depends on how one defines "reasonable," doesn't it? I will say this: if there is a "reasonable" explanation, it has not been offered yet.

By the way, do you notice your a priori assumption that a "supernatural" explanation is not reasonable? That's interesting. Very interesting. At any rate, my mind and ears are open. Like I said, feel free to put forth your best "reasonable" explanation. Although, I'd appreciate it if you either do it on my blog, or at least here and there. I want to catalog all the objections in the relevant thread and Victor doesn't have permalinking enabled (which means I can't just link to your individual comments here).

"Could you be mistaken?"

Mistaken that it happened as we described? No. Mistaken that it flatly violated all known laws of physics? No. Mistaken that it was ultimately "miraculous" or "paranormal" or "supernatural?" Sure, but that applies to literally any claim of this type, right?

"Your own account says that your examination of "all the options" consisted of noting that those things didn't fall straight down to the floor. Therefore it must have been a miracle?"

No, that's not it. My account says if this were a "natural" phenomenon, it should have followed "natural" laws. I assert nothing beyond the fact that this episode violated all known laws of physics, which is exactly what skeptics ask for when they ask for evidence of something "miraculous" or "paranormal," as you did upthread.

"Have I proven your point by not swallowing it without some further corroboration?"

Pretty much, but I remain open to hearing what you have to say, and I'm not saying you *SHOULDN'T* scrutinize it. Of course you should. But, if, after scrutiny, you can't provide a "reasonable" explanation, then shouldn't you concede that I've supplied exactly what you asked for?

Karl Grant said...

Matt,

Are you claiming that you are epistemically neutral in regards to alien abductions? You have no reason to suspect that someone might be mistaken in their belief that they were abducted by aliens, probed, and experimented on?

Never said I have no reason to suspect that someone might be mistaken in their belief that they were abducted by aliens. I am merely opposed to making blanket statements or parroting talking points from skeptical websites like you seem to do. I prefer to evaluate cases upon an individual basis after at least attempting to review the evidence first hand, a concept that seems foreign to you despite that being a more scientific approach than copy-and-pasting from Randi's site.

I wonder about my own mental fortitude too. After all, why do I bother responding to claims like this?

Because it makes you feel superior to the ignorant masses, if you will indulge me in a bit of psychoanalysis.

I originally argued that the "prevlance of delusions and hallucinations among human populations" should cast some doubt on paranormal claims.

Again, you fail to address my point about this not really being an argument (where is that second premise I asked you to provide?) or my point about this being a sword that cuts both ways. As Marcello Truzzi, the man who came up with 'Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,' points out there is two types of category errors. Type I error - thinking something special is happening when it really is not - and the Type II error - thinking nothing special is happening when something special, perhaps rare, actually occurs. Who is to say that you are not the delusional one, dismissing paranormal occurrences because it threatens your world view and drags you out of your comfort zone?

Walter said...

In all seriousness, if God is performing these types of miracles - I'm not impressed.

The Holy Ghost must not be a fan of Tomb Raider.

Syllabus said...

"The Holy Ghost must not be a fan of Tomb Raider."

And in all seriousness, one can hardly blame Him.

cl said...

Matt,

"In all seriousness, if God is performing these types of miracles - I'm not impressed."

Of course you're not impressed. Duh!

But, why bother? Instead, why don't you take accountability for the false argument you made earlier in the thread?

cautiouslycurious said...

Can I tell my miracle story?

So, one night I was in my back yard, minding my own business, when all of a sudden, the limbs on all of the trees around me looked like they were dancing. As in, they were swaying all over the place like there was a hurricane. However, I didn’t feel any wind from any direction. Also, it was as silent as the dead of night, so that would rule out pesky animals. Plus, I don’t think that many animals would make every single limb move like that. So, what happened? Was this Gaia trying to communicate with me? How would you explain this naturally?

I'm not saying you *SHOULDN'T* scrutinize it. Of course you should. But, if, after scrutiny, you can't provide a "reasonable" explanation, then shouldn't you concede that you are bad at finding reasonable natural explanations to anecdotes and failure to do so isn’t evidence for the supernatural?

Cole said...

God doesn't live up to my moral opinions, therefore doesn't exist.

This what you said last time about sitting back and letting babies burn to death in fires. You said it was just my opinion. This is the same attitude that motivates atrocities such as what Hitler did. It was only Hitler's opinion that what he did was okay. Therefore we are not allowed to condemn him for his actions. According to you morality is just a matter of opinion. There are no objective metaphysically necessary moral truths. Well, the Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne disagrees. Here is his argument for the existence of broad logically necessary moral truths. Or metaphysically necessary moral truths:



No action can be morally good or bad independently of its
other properties; it is good or bad because it has certain
other non-moral properties. And any other action which had
just those non-moral properties would have the same moral
properties. The conjunction of non-moral properties which
gives rise to the moral property may be a long one or
a short one. It may be that all acts of telling lies are bad, or
it may be that all acts of telling lies in such and such circumstances(the description of which is a long one) are bad. But it must be that if there is a world W in which a certain action A having various non-moral properties is bad,there could not be another world W* which was exactly the same as W in all non-moral respects, but in which A was
not bad. If capital punishment for murder is not bad in one
world, but is bad in another world, there must be some
non-moral difference between the two worlds which makes the moral difference – for example that capital punishment deters people from committing murder in the first world but not in the second world. Moral properties, to use philosophical terminology are supervenient on non-moral properties. And the supervenience must be logical supervenience.
Our concept of the moral is such that it makes no sense to
suppose both that there is a world W in which A is wrong
and a world W* exactly the same as W except that in W* A is good. It follows that there are logically necessary truths
of the form ‘If an action has non-moral properties B, C and D, it is morally good’, ‘If an action has non-moral properties D, E and F, it is morally wrong’ and so on. If there are moral truths, there are necessary moral truths – general principles of morality.

BeingItself said...

cl,

Immediately after your alleged paranormal experience, did you either write down or make a voice recording of the experience? Did the other witnesses do the same? Did you make sure this testimony was independent (that is, you guys did not compare notes)? Did you take a bunch of pictures? Did you take measurements?

If you did not do this minimum amount of work, then lack a rudimentary skeptical tool kit.

.................

Here is my paranormal experience. I came home and the television in the basement was blasting loudly. There is just no way I would have left that TV on like that when I left. So who turned it on? It must have been a ghost.

Or maybe it was something mundane.

cl said...

See what happens? Even attempt to meet a skeptics demands, and the mockers come out in droves.

Terminally irrational. I like that term.

cautiouslycurious said...

Cl,

"See what happens? Even attempt to meet a skeptics demands, and the mockers come out in droves."

I hope you don't think I was insincere. That event really did happen to me and caused me to be quite perplexed (until I found a natural explanation for it). The event happened as described. Can you find a natural explanation for it? If not, do you think that would be evidence for the supernatural?

By the way, I eventually did find a natural explanation for it, but I could have just as easily not have. If that were the case, I doubt I would have discovered the real cause after the fact and I would have been left with an unexplained experience just like you. Which brings us back to the point, does the inability to explain an anecdote constitute any evidence for the supernatural?

cl said...

Fine, I'll bite—even though I know better.

cautiouslycurious,

You act like the two events are analogous. Was yours corroborated by other witnesses? No. Did yours flatly violate the laws of physics? No. Now, had you told me the branches all fell off the tree at the same time when you were talking about the spirits that you believe inhabit your backyard, and that two other people saw this as well, then you'd have something analogous.

But, you don't. Believe me, if this incident happened to me alone, I would never have even brought it up.

"Which brings us back to the point, does the inability to explain an anecdote constitute any evidence for the supernatural?"

That depends who you ask. Why don't you tell me what you think, since you're so "sincere" and all? BTW, what was the natural explanation you eventually concluded as cause?

cl said...

A few more things:

I reject the whole "natural" / "supernatural" dichotomy. There is what is and that's it.

I'm not the one suggesting that unexplained events should constitute evidence for things "supernatural." That would be all the skeptics who make such ludicrous demands. Personally, I think people who take up this schtick are ignorant of philosophy and science. Those who say "show me a miracle and then I'll believe" are asking for GOTG arguments.

cl said...

In case anybody is interested, im-skeptical has proven my point here.

Like I said, just a schtick. The minute you show these people what they ask for, cognitive dissonance creeps in, then they grasp for anything to rationalize it away. This is what I mean when I say this crap is a total waste of time. I even gave im-skeptical the benefit of the doubt, against my better judgment and despite what I said yesterday about seeing no reason to continue accommodating these hardheads. And what happened? He pooped on it.

Terminally irrational, indeed.

Cole said...

cl,

I have a supernatural story for you. One time I decided to get off my medicine and just go by the Bible alone. I figured that all these psychiatrists were full of it. Well, weeks went by and I started pondering all the big issues againg trying to figure it all out. I stayed up for three days thinking about all these things. One thing led to another as the pieces came together and I thought we had ussered in to the new heavens and new earth. I was outside picking leaves off the trees to see if they were sill mortal. I came inside looked on my computer and was recieving some nasty messages from a Muslim on my blog. I got paranoid thinking that the Muslims were comming after me. I called my mom and told her to take me to the hospital. When I got there I couldn't hardly make any sense out of anything. Everything I was saying was comming out all jumbled up. They gave me my medication and sent me home as they told my mom if he keeps acting like this bring him back so we can observe him. Well, when I got home I took my medicine. It's like this peace came over me. I went into the bathroom and looked at myself with my long beard. It seemed as though Christ was incarnating Himself though me. It's like I had all this knowledge in my head and I thought I could just speak a few words to people and heal them. I thought it was the end of the world and Christ was about to return but He was going to do it through me. I went in the next room and sat down and I could see in my mind this diamond on top of my head. Out from this diamond were colors that shined forth before me. They represented different pathways I could go down. They all led to an early grave except one. I had to start taking better care of myself. Well, the meds started taking affect more strongly and I got tired and went to bed. When I woke up I was back to normal.

cautiouslycurious said...

Cl,

“That depends who you ask. Why don't you tell me what you think, since you're so "sincere" and all? BTW, what was the natural explanation you eventually concluded as cause?”

As for what I think about your anecdote. I don’t put too much stock in your two witnesses. I don’t have the ability to ask them questions/hear their side and/or verify any ways you may have influenced (doesn’t have to be conscious, this is the reason why double-blind protocols exist) them to form a certain opinion of the event. Also, I wouldn’t trust your memory of the event either, and if I were you, I still wouldn’t. We know that memory is a fragile process (hence why repeatability is so cherished). This has been studied and you can show people a movie that shows you walking through a grocery store and you see a fallen display (i.e. pyramid of cans all over the floor) and when asked, some people will remember seeing the display upright, and then fall down even when it didn’t. We see certain facts, and then create a narrative to fit those facts. You remembered the movies in one place (how did you verify/test this memory?), and then found them in another, so you created a narrative that explained it. This isn’t really all that different than BI’s example of forgetting to turn the TV off, remembering that you did, and then thinking that there is a ghost that wanted to watch TV.

This also goes to show that if your anecdote relies on an obscure phenomena (like forming a memory of an imagination), then most of the population (and that includes the personal who experienced it), will not be able to explain it. However, it fits in perfectly with what we know about memory. It turns out that people are too confident in their abilities, so adding a dose of skepticism to anyone’s claims (including your own) is the rational thing to do (but you don’t seem to doing that). Now, I happen to be interested in psychology and law so things like eyewitness testimony, how reliable witness’s memories are, how easy it is to influence witnesses, etc. interest me. I may not have had an explanation for it, but that doesn’t make it anymore evidence for the supernatural than being dumbfounded after a magic show.

As for the main topic, these one off events wouldn’t convince me, like I said, they would simply be unexplained experiences and I think anyone using them as evidence for anything is making an argument from personal credulity. They have no predictive power and they can’t be repeated. However, there are many ways to form a supernatural hypothesis that can be tested. Naturally, the type of event required would depend on the claim. If the hypothesis is that God throws hurricanes at Gay Pride Festivals, and then we can test that by holding the same festival in a place that is not prone to hurricanes, say Las Vegas. Now, if a hurricane happened to hit Las Vegas the day of the festival, now that would be an impressive prediction. If the claim is that prayers work, then evidence could have been found for that. If prayers were able to heal terminal illnesses without the aid of medicine, then those would be impressive predictions. If the claim is that revelation works, then evidence could be found for that. If theologians were able to learn things about the world in advance of science, then those would be impressive predictions. Again, it depends on the hypothesis in question.

By the way, it was an optical illusion caused by the reflection of light off of a choppy water surface. It’s okay; it wasn’t my first guess either.

Papalinton said...

Is this really so hard?

The answer is simpler than anyone would imagine. Gods are the ideational catalyst around which most cultures and societies have built up their particular and peculiar origins story, with the Christian origins story being no less so than any other throughout recorded history. The christian story simply happens to be a Western civilization story, as Islam happens to be a Middle Eastern story, and Dao happens to be one of many Eastern stories. Their pattern of develop over time overlap or superimpose each other with an almost extraordinary close fit although their constituent elements and principles may vary due to cultural and societal imperatives. Of course there are some cultural derivations that do not subscribe to a monotheistic or polytheistic god focus and in that regard are belief systems a-theistic in orientation; such as Ancestor Worship in various cultures around the world, where the supernatural spirits are embedded in dead kinfolk rather than in an ethereal entity as is the christian god.

How do we know this?

There are many examples in recent history that we are able to research and follow as they capture and ignite people's imagination in positing some form of rationale for their existence. The clearest and most obvious of these of recent history are of course, Mormonism and Scientology. Each have many millions of adherents around the globe that firmly believe, without equivocation that their perspective is the complete truth. As we compare christianity and islam to the structure of the Mormon origins story, the similarities are unmistakable, not in content but in its developmental history; the locus of its point of origin, the story it tells, the embedment of that story into, and reflects, the contemporary lives of believers, the character and persuasiveness of the shared common belief, and the open-ended nature of the belief system that allows flexibility for reinterpretation when bumped up against future challenges.

The success of the christian model, or of the Buddhist, Islamic or Hindu model, is not that they are any different to that of the Mormon or Scientology model, it is simply that they started a good few centuries earlier and were able to build up a bigger following consistent with the length of their tradition. The success of the christian and islamic models as measured by their relative sizes in comparison with other belief systems is largely due to their energetic proselytizing regime, not because of the truths of their claims. Equally, we must remember that longevity is not a function of or evidence for 'truth'. We know the ancient Egyptian religion lasted well over 2500 to 3000 years before it slowly dwindled into non-practice. Old religions don't die, they get forgotten. Religious truths and that which is claimed as evidence, are wholly bound within, and fully dependent on, the particular frame of reference that the system subscribes to.


CONT.

Papalinton said...

CONT.
Of some interest, is the Chinese government's reaction to the Falun Gong, a religious spiritual movement that began in 1992 and is rapidly spreading throughout the country.
"Li Hongzhi introduced the Teachings of Falun Gong to the public in Changchun, China in 1992. The teachings cover a wide range of topics ranging from spiritual, scientific and moral to metaphysical. Since its inception, Falun Gong has been one of the fastest growing qigong (Pinyin: qìgōng) schools in Chinese history." Wiki

Falun Gong has the markers that characterize the beginnings of religions and spiritual movements; point of origination, a story to tell, etc etc. It is a most interesting contemporary case history of a new religion, still in its infancy, to follow. Here is a useful place to start. Of interest in noting: "It is a discipline in which “assimilation to the highest qualities of the universe—Zhen, Shan, Ren (Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance)—is the foundation of practice." Doesn't sound all that different to christianity.

McCormick's defeasibility test and Loftus's OTF are valid and robust exercises precisely because they so sharply bring into focus and demonstrate the relativity of religious belief and highlight the absence of standards of absolute and universal application. This is the seminal reason there are so many varieties of religion. Of course, when push comes to shove, WL Craig best sums up the religious impulse:

"The person who follows the pursuit of reason unflinchingly toward its end will be atheistic or, at best, agnostic."
Yes, Craig really did say that. The source is here.

""Should a conflict arise between the witness of the Holy Spirit to the fundamental truth of the Christian faith and beliefs based on argument and evidence, then it is the former which must take precedence over the latter, not vice versa." [Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), p. 36.]

""Therefore, when a person refuses to come to Christ it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God's Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God." Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, (Revised edition, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), pp. 35-36.]

It seems theistic arguments are just that - arguments. In the scheme of things, they contribute much less to the commonwealth of knowledge that advances improvement in the human condition going forward, and its role as an operating knowledge base is largely being supplanted by other more compelling spheres of knowledge acquisition, such as Science, that have proven to have a greater level of explanatory power that is accepted far more widely across cultural, social and regional boundaries. Religion is best regarded as illuminating our past and our ineluctable change from methodological theism to methodological naturalism.

Cole said...

The only valid evidence we have for the resurrection is Paul's experience. Because of my experiences that I described above my background beliefs lead me to interpret his experience as something delusional. You don't have to be a violent person just because you have such delusional experiences. I would like to add though that Paul did believe that God was sacrificing His only Son through his torturous beating for blood to cleanse people of their sins. He obviously got this idea from the O.T. when God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Christ did exist. I just think that people overlaid a certain religious interperative grid on what was going on.

Cole said...

I would also like to add that I have a friend who is schizoaffective like me. He's a little worse off than I am. He told me a story one time of how he stood up from the couch and got dizzy and then traveled to another dimension. He won't tell me all the details though. He also likes to meditate. When he does he hears the spirits talking to him. One night there was a guy staying over at his house. As he was sleeping this guy started beating him over the head with a pipe wrenceh. My friend grabbed a knife and held it up to his throat. When he did this he heard the spirits say "let him go". He let the guy go and he took off out the front door. My friend went to the back door and opened it up. As he did he saw a bunch of spheres floating around in the air. These spheres were spirits according to him. These are just some of the things that lead me to believe that Paul was mitaken. My friend is a very strong believer in the supernatural because of these experiences. I can't convince him that these things weren't real. He still believes them.

cl said...

Cole,

Would you mind leaving a comment on my blog with a valid email address? The reason I ask is because I'd like to begin a private dialog with you, if you're willing.

If not, cheers, may you continually take better care of yourself and get healthy, healthy, healthier.

cautiouslycautious,

"This isn’t really all that different than BI’s example of forgetting to turn the TV off, remembering that you did, and then thinking that there is a ghost that wanted to watch TV."

If you really think that, you're either incredibly dull, mentally, a fool, or a dishonest charlatan worthy of mockery. Sorry, but it's the truth. The incident I documented is IN NO WAY comparable to BI's smart-ass comment about forgetting to turn off the TV.

Respond if you want, but, like Paps and BI, you're now in my "not worthy of response" category from here on out.

Best of luck to you.

Matt DeStefano said...

Now, I happen to be interested in psychology and law so things like eyewitness testimony, how reliable witness’s memories are, how easy it is to influence witnesses, etc. interest me. I may not have had an explanation for it, but that doesn’t make it anymore evidence for the supernatural than being dumbfounded after a magic show.

It gets worse. When a person has a strong emotional attachment to a belief (having a personal relationship with the Creator of the cosmos, as well as a free pass to eternal bliss), they will unconsciously skew reality towards affirming their belief. We can see this with fans watching football games who don't react as badly to a poor call for their team as they do against their team - and that's just football. The stakes are quite different when you are protecting a belief as emotional as Christianity.

You might even start to think that mundane, personally inexplicable events are a sign from the God of the universe.

Matt DeStefano said...

Oops, that should be "against the opposing team".

BenYachov said...

>It gets worse. When a person has a strong emotional attachment to a belief (having a personal relationship with the Creator of the cosmos, as well as a free pass to eternal bliss), they will unconsciously skew reality towards affirming their belief.

What emotional attachments drove Antony Flew to become an Aristotelian Theist then? Up until the end he believed in the existence of a God but not an afterlife? He said he had no personal encounter with the creator it came purely from philosophical argument.

Additionally doesn't this also apply to Atheists? Thomas Nagel said openly he doesn't want Theism to be true. Go look it up on the internet what many an Atheist has about the aesthetics of non-belief.

Many don't want to believe there is an inexplicable Transcendent Intelligence at the bottom of reality gilding it along via Providence. They feel it denies them freedom & makes them indebted & obligated to it(which it does).

Given such feelings of cosmic parental rebellion if one sees an actual supernatural event they might still dismiss it away even if it's right in front of them.

Like Emile Zola saying even if he saw people being healed at Lordes he would still not believe.

OTOH IMHO this cheap psychoanalysis of the motives of believers & non-believers alike is just a manifestation intellectual laziness as a substitute to learning real philosophical argument.

It's easier to say you must be crazy then to learn how to argue.

Syllabus said...

"It gets worse. When a person has a strong emotional attachment to a belief (having a personal relationship with the Creator of the cosmos, as well as a free pass to eternal bliss), they will unconsciously skew reality towards affirming their belief. We can see this with fans watching football games who don't react as badly to a poor call for their team as they do against their team - and that's just football. The stakes are quite different when you are protecting a belief as emotional as Christianity.

You might even start to think that mundane, personally inexplicable events are a sign from the God of the universe."

Danger Will Robinson, danger!

So, basically, because a person has a different set of starting assumptions from yours, therefore they're just credulous sheep who will believe anything that gives them psychological comfort? And this is reason enough to dismiss the things they bring up as invalid? That sounds an awful lot like a genetic fallacy.

And, like Ben said, the flip side is equally true. It's a double edged sword.

Karl Grant said...

Matt,

When a person has a strong emotional attachment to a belief (having a personal relationship with the Creator of the cosmos, as well as a free pass to eternal bliss), they will unconsciously skew reality towards affirming their belief. We can see this with fans watching football games who don't react as badly to a poor call for their team as they do against their team - and that's just football. The stakes are quite different when you are protecting a belief as emotional as Christianity.

Double-edged sword Matt, especially since most atheists I run into-yourself included-seem to be driven by emotion first with logic and reason being a distinct second. Just look at the responses from the so called skeptics and freethinkers on this thread to CL's experience. Mockery and ridicule which are petty emotional tactics. Incredibly stupid questions and statements (Do you have video? Make voice recordings? You would think that everybody in this discussion walks around with a full set of recording equipment for the off-chance of something interesting happening to them). And a desire to believe a more mundane explanation, no matter how unlikely and far-fetched.

All because A) it feeds a petty emotional need to make them feel superior to CL or B) the idea that such an experience could be the genuine article makes them uncomfortable for a number of reasons so they attempt to mock it.

And to repeat what Syllabus said, this statement is a borderline textbook example of the genetic fallacy.

BeingItself said...

cl and other creduloids:

Do you guys have any idea how human memory actually works? Did you know that each time you recall an event, the recollection is constructed? Memories degrade, no matter how certain you feel.

This is why I asked for photos and recordings of the witnesses right after. Don't you guys have iPhones? You don't need a bunch of equipment.

Anyway, this has been another great example of the epistemic failure of the superstitious mind.

Syllabus said...

As an example of how people can get an emotional high/attachment out of being an atheist, I present exhibit A... ^^

Karl Grant said...

BI,

Do you guys have any idea how human memory actually works? Did you know that each time you recall an event, the recollection is constructed? Memories degrade, no matter how certain you feel.

No shit, the article I linked to earlier critiquing Randi said as much:

Whether anybody remembers accurately what happened at SRI thirty-three years ago is doubtful at this point. Thirty-three years ago I was twelve years old and shooting stop-motion dinosaur footage as a hobby. If someone were to ask me now to reconstruct the details of how I created a particular shot, I would have to rely on speculation, as my memories have long since faded. I imagine the same is true of the various recollections of the SRI tests.

Don't you guys have iPhones?

I have an older cellphone that does have a camera, no idea what CL has. It really doesn't matter because even if he had taken a photo you would be screaming "Photoshop!" or simply "Fake!" like internet skeptics always do when a photo or video recording of something unusual surfaces on the web. That's how the game is played.

Anyway, this has been another great example of the epistemic failure of the superstitious mind.

And exactly who is emotionally invested in their respective belief system here? =)

cl said...

Cole,

Thanks, I got it, I also deleted the comment to keep your email private business or whatnot... I'll be in touch.

Syllabus said...

"And exactly who is emotionally invested in their respective belief system here? =)"

Precisely.

cl said...

Karl Grant,

"Double-edged sword Matt, especially since most atheists I run into-yourself included-seem to be driven by emotion first with logic and reason being a distinct second."

Amen to that. You can see it in Matt's refusal to take responsibility for the nonsense he spouted upthread. Or in the way he freaked out and pretty much ruined my debate with Peter Hurford all because I had the audacity to suggest the my argument succeeded whether we assume something like the YEC version of creation, or the conventional evolutionary narrative. To be honest I hadn't seen or heard from Matt in a while, and that's the main reason I jumped in this thread. But, any hope of having the "reasonable, constructive, and worthwhile discussion" Matt pays lipservice to in the second comment went promptly out the window. I've noticed that the more time he spends soaking up McCormick's absurdities, the more like McCormick he gets.

I don't have an iPhone, never have. I have a crap phone. Sure, it takes photos, but the thought of taking a photo didn't even cross my mind because anybody who would put stock in a photo of a stack of video games is the real creduloid. Then they'd just accuse me of stacking the photo. And if I had, for whatever reason, managed to record the event—say my buddy installed a webcam in his house 24-7 or something—then they'd just accuse me of editing the video with Final Cut.

Like I said, heads sketpics win, tails cl loses. Terminally. Irrational. Let 'em keep jabbing at me, I've upped the Paps challenge to the Paps / BI / cautiouslycautious challenge (and there are probably a few others I'm forgetting).

Walter said...

And exactly who is emotionally invested in their respective belief system here?

Everyone is biased, doesn't matter if you're an atheist, theist, or agnostic, and we all seek out confirming evidence which supports our position, while tending to eschew or ignore evidence that tends to disconfirm what we currently believe. It's a human flaw that we all should try to overcome.

Had a couple of weird experiences of my own that seemed paranormal, so I definitely would not immediately discount cl's experience, but I would be cautious about presenting that experience as "proof" of divine miracles. (not that cl was doing that)

cautiouslycurious said...

Cl,

Since you are more interested in name-calling rather than discussing the points I brought up, I would have to return the favor in considering you “not worthy of response.”

“Let 'em keep jabbing at me, I've upped the Paps challenge to the Paps / BI / cautiouslycautious challenge (and there are probably a few others I'm forgetting).”

Which challenge is this?

Ben,

“It's easier to say you must be crazy than to learn how to argue.”

No, we’re just trying to get to the root cause of some events. The fact of the matter is that the root causes of some events are more based on the brain rather than the external environment. If you don’t want to discuss this possibility, then you are not prepared to discuss all the possible natural explanations for a given event. We don’t call everyone who opens a book of optical illusions crazy; we simply concede that human perception is flawed. However, there is a certain subset of the population who refuse to acknowledge this fact.

Syllabus said...

"Everyone is biased, doesn't matter if you're an atheist, theist, or agnostic, and we all seek out confirming evidence which supports our position, while tending to eschew or ignore evidence that tends to disconfirm what we currently believe. It's a human flaw that we all should try to overcome.

Had a couple of weird experiences of my own that seemed paranormal, so I definitely would not immediately discount cl's experience, but I would be cautious about presenting that experience as "proof" of divine miracles. (not that cl was doing that)"

I second Walter on this one. The only objectivity is subjectivity made aware of itself.

Cole said...

Well, considering my experiences that I have described, I must interpret Paul's "supernatural" experience of Christ as something delusional. Considering this is the only valid piece of information we have for the ressurrection I simply cannot believe it. Period.

Matt DeStefano said...

OTOH IMHO this cheap psychoanalysis of the motives of believers & non-believers alike is just a manifestation intellectual laziness as a substitute to learning real philosophical argument.


It's not cheap psycho-analysis of believers that I'm after, I'm asking about whether or not we should take our own immediate experience (or testimony about that experience) as evidence for the paranormal.

cl presented some video games flying about a room as "proof" of an event breaking the laws of physics. Sorry, that's not going to cut it anymore than seeing Mary in a piece of toast is going to convince me. Also, he's openly admitted that he had been drinking, he has no photo/video evidence, and there were only two other witnesses (who we don't have an account from). Any normal person is going to be skeptical of such an event.

It's also about realizing the psychological biases at play in our own thinking, and doing our best to curb them. If you have a disposition towards agency in nature, you probably ought to have a way of separating real agency from non-real agency.

Tom Rafferty said...

You may want to consider a different perspective by reading my book "Making Stuff Up Is Unwise"

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1478106123

Matt DeStefano said...

So, basically, because a person has a different set of starting assumptions from yours, therefore they're just credulous sheep who will believe anything that gives them psychological comfort? And this is reason enough to dismiss the things they bring up as invalid? That sounds an awful lot like a genetic fallacy.


You're reading something into my comments that simply wasn't there. I was pointing out that confirmation bias tends to work in over-drive for beliefs that we feel passionately about.

I can give an example from my own biases that I try and account for. I'm a big fan of President Obama's, I think he's a fantastic leader and I worked on his campaign. When I see an article that is critiquing him, I am acutely aware of my own biases creeping in. It takes serious mental effort to curb my own biases and give the article a fair shake.

My belief that President Obama is a good leader is far more emotional than other beliefs I have. I've invested significant time, energy, and effort into campaigning for this man. Being an "Obama-supporter" feels like part of my identity. I feel a kinship with him after reading his auto-biography.

If I didn't realize these biases were present, I'd be in bad shape to make a reasoned, rational opinion on whether or not Obama has been a good president. I'd count the hits, and ignore or explain away the misses. I'd make up excuses for why he's acted in certain ways, and blame many of his mistakes on others around him.

If I know this before I read the article, however, I can do my best to give it a fair analysis.

BenYachov said...

>It's not cheap psycho-analysis of believers that I'm after, I'm asking about whether or not we should take our own immediate experience (or testimony about that experience) as evidence for the paranormal.

Then you should frame your objection better then saying "When a person has a strong emotional attachment to a belief (having a personal relationship with the Creator of the cosmos, as well as a free pass to eternal bliss), they will unconsciously skew reality towards affirming their belief.," cause taken at face value it sure looks like cheap psycho-analysis. But maybe I can't trust my senses?

Syllabus said...

" I was pointing out that confirmation bias tends to work in over-drive for beliefs that we feel passionately about."

If this is what you're saying, then I agree with you. However, the way that you put it in the above quote was a lot more combative and had much more of a "Because of your emotions, you can't be trusted, and you're going to be strongly inclined to be credulous" tone to it than you seem to realize. So, sure, if all you mean is that one needs to acknowledge one's biases to work past them, then that's obviously true. What you said above, though, was more condescending and dismissive than that. So it would probably contribute better to civil conversation to either not use language like that or to accompany it with a clarification.

Matt DeStefano said...

If this is what you're saying, then I agree with you. However, the way that you put it in the above quote was a lot more combative and had much more of a "Because of your emotions, you can't be trusted, and you're going to be strongly inclined to be credulous" tone to it than you seem to realize. So, sure, if all you mean is that one needs to acknowledge one's biases to work past them, then that's obviously true. What you said above, though, was more condescending and dismissive than that. So it would probably contribute better to civil conversation to either not use language like that or to accompany it with a clarification.

There was nothing inflammatory about what I wrote, unless you disagree that Christianity is a belief that invokes a strong sense of emotional attachment.

Karl Grant said...

Walter,

Everyone is biased, doesn't matter if you're an atheist, theist, or agnostic, and we all seek out confirming evidence which supports our position, while tending to eschew or ignore evidence that tends to disconfirm what we currently believe. It's a human flaw that we all should try to overcome.

Thank you, that's what I am driving at.

BenYachov said...

I agree with Walter too.

It had to happen, but he & I agree God is not a human person or unequivocally comparable to one.

But we do disagree on the implications for that but that is another topic for another thread.

Cheers.

im-skeptical said...

cl,

"Like I said, heads sketpics win, tails cl loses."

I offered a plausible and reasonable explanation for your event. I don't know if that's really what occurred, but you should at least examine the possibility, given that you claim to "think critically and examine all the options". Instead you responded with an emotional rant:

"Utterly ridiculous, as in, not even reasonable and not even worth being taken seriously. What you suggest is humanly impossible. In fact, what you suggest is more “miraculous” than the straightforward alternative. So, yeah… thanks for proving my point. Like most every other “skeptic” out there, when you say “show me something that violates the laws of physics and I’ll believe,” it’s just a facade."

So who's really committed to indefeasibility?

Walter said...

I agree with Walter too.

It had to happen...


The fact that you and I agree on something proves there is a God. :-)

Syllabus said...

"There was nothing inflammatory about what I wrote, unless you disagree that Christianity is a belief that invokes a strong sense of emotional attachment."

If you would have distilled it down and said THAT, or said something like what Walter said right off the bat, instead of talking about how Christians are more emotional about their religion than American football fans are about American football, and how this emotional attachment skews their view of reality, and makes them think that "mundane, personally explicable" (all of which was written in a tone that had all sorts of connotations that were less than respectful), then I might be inclined to agree with the statement that you wrote nothing inflammatory. Again, had an explanation accompanied it, I and the other theists here would likely have had no problem with it. But all of us detected a level of condescension or cheap pop-psychological analysis, so, y'know.

BenYachov said...

>he fact that you and I agree on something proves there is a God. :-)

ROTFLOL!!!

God be with you big guy.

Matt DeStefano said...

(all of which was written in a tone that had all sorts of connotations that were less than respectful)

In philosophical circles, we make a big fuss about "charity". Instead of reading a tone in my writing (whatever the hell that means), perhaps you should just read what I write without assuming implicatures or intonations that simply aren't in the text.

You don't think that people are more emotional about their religion than their favorite football team?

cl said...

Matt,

"cl presented some video games flying about a room as "proof" of an event breaking the laws of physics. Sorry, that's not going to cut it anymore than seeing Mary in a piece of toast is going to convince me."

This just proves that your skepticism is of a fundamentally irrational nature. You, Matt, are an ex-fundie who is now a blind skeptic. That you actually attempt to equate my experience with a pattern on some toast exposes the lack of critical thinking going on in your head.

This is seriously, seriously depressing. Gnu atheism is literally ruining people's ability to think critically.

cl said...

im-skeptical,

"I offered a plausible and reasonable explanation for your event. I don't know if that's really what occurred, but you should at least examine the possibility, given that you claim to "think critically and examine all the options"."

No, you didn't. You just pulled something out of your behind because the cognitive dissonance is too strong. If my account is correct, your beliefs are under strong fire, if not falsified outright. So, instead of deal with that, you just made up whatever you could think of.

You are correct to notice a bit of emotion in my response. That's because I was a bit pissed off that I let another skeptic pull my chain again. You're all the same: "gimme gimme gimme, I need some more." It's a shell game and I ain't playin'.

What you suggest is impossible and mockworthy. Nobody ever left the room. All three of us, at the same time, "witnessed" the event. I use scare quotes because the change in position was instantaneous as I described. Nobody really "saw" it. As soon as it happened, all three of us looked at each other and said, "we all just saw that, right?" By "saw" there, I mean "saw" that the games were on the TV one second, then at the leg of the table the next, not that we actually saw the movement, because we didn't.

I know, I know, the cat did it, or some neighbor with a high-tech tool we haven't heard of, or....

What does it matter? Nothing can change your mind. It's a schtick, just like I said in the beginning. Your atheism / skepticism is indefeasible.

Kudos on one thing, though: earlier I proffered that maybe you could come up with a more creative denial, and that you did. I've never heard one as ludicrous as yours yet.

BenYachov said...

I don't care if Matt was being "condescending" but his words taken at face value seemed psycho-analyzing.

Try to work on that please.


Thank you.

Syllabus said...

"You don't think that people are more emotional about their religion than their favorite football team?"

The two are coterminous, in many people I know. And it depends upon the person. I'm far less emotional when I take Eucharist than when I watched the Dutch lose to the Spanish in 2010, and that doesn't reflect upon the sincerity of either my passion for the Oranj or for communion, only upon the nature of the two being different

"Instead of reading a tone in my writing (whatever the hell that means), perhaps you should just read what I write without assuming implicatures or intonations that simply aren't in the text."

Look, I'll stop going on about this if you like, but using language like "free pass to eternal bliss" and "a belief as emotional as Christianity" is very easily read as, like Ben put it, cheap psychoanalysis. As evidenced by the fact that multiple people read it as more or less the same thing. So, yeah. That's all I'll say on that.

BeingItself said...

What is more likely: a stack of video games was teleported across the room by a poltergeist, or cl is just mistaken or lying?

Syllabus said...

"What is more likely: a stack of video games was teleported across the room by a poltergeist, or cl is just mistaken or lying?"

What the hell, I'll feed the troll:

Pr (H | E & B), where H is the hypothesis of cl's, E is cl's testimony and B is background information, will completely depend upon the content of B. Therefore, the argument cannot be settled without determining the contents of B.

BeingItself said...

"the argument cannot be settled without determining the contents of B"

Exactly! And we know a hell of a lot about B. For example, Joe Nickell's lifetime of work, along with James Randi's million dollar challenge.

The background information is that whenever alleged paranormal phenomena are systematically investigated, a mundane explanation is almost always found.

Things are not looking good for you creduloids.

Papalinton said...

Syllabus: "(all of which was written in a tone that had all sorts of connotations that were less than respectful)"

Matt: "In philosophical circles, we make a big fuss about "charity". Instead of reading a tone in my writing (whatever the hell that means), perhaps you should just read what I write without assuming implicatures or intonations that simply aren't in the text."

Reading tone and assuming implicatures and intonations are predicated on our natural predisposition for teleological intentionality. We read agency and intention everywhere, indiscriminately. Even in a simple sentence we are prone to read things into it, whether it is there or not. We read agency and intention where there quite possibly are none [as in the case above of Syllabus reading Matt 'between the line']. Our mind is an agency detection machine, a genetic mechanism that was a beneficial product of human evolution for increasing the chance of species survival. There is little doubt on the research in this area. Teleology has a propensity towards rampancy if left unchecked and disciplined.

The purloining of teleology into the religious impulse is a post-survival cultural development, a consequence of social and cultural changes that occurred when the clear and present danger of living on the African savannah became less and less of a problematic life-and-death issue. Religious belief is fundamentally based on teleology, ascribing purpose and design into nature and natural things, whether warranted or otherwise. Religion is the anthropomorphising or personifying of the natural world and the universe at a time when there were no alternative explanations regardless of whether believers object to the fact.

Whereas religion attributes life and existence to an ineffable and amorphous 'god', since the Enlightenment Science has offered an alternative framework that explains life and existence through the empiricism of basic observation and testable research. The definition of teleology, and the explanation of purpose, from the scientific perspective is founded on research and investigation of cause-and-effect relationships that are demonstrable and open to falsifiability. The definition of teleology from a theistic perspective is the fundamental premise around which theistic claims are built. Purpose and design in theology are unfounded premises.

cl said...

If anyone wants to know the truth, let them pray and ask God, in earnest, as I suggested upthread. None of us can "prove" God to you and any attempt to do so is to take Satan's bait.

Cole said...

cl,

My friend prays all the time. This is one of the times he can hear the spirits speak to him. He thinks "A Course in Miracles" book is the way to go. He layed his hand on it one time and felt energy shoot out the top of his head like a fountain.

BeingItself said...

"If anyone wants to know the truth, let them pray and ask God, in earnest, as I suggested upthread. None of us can "prove" God to you and any attempt to do so is to take Satan's bait."

Awesome! cl has discovered a perfectly reliable way to learn stuff.

cl, I have a 47 digit number on a piece of paper in my desk drawer. Pray about that to learn what it is.

Didn't work? Wow, what a surprise. Another great example of the epistemic failure of the religious mind.

cl said...

Cole,

I'm familiar with Max Freedom Long. Back when I studied the occult I got my hands on as many of his books as I could, along with anything else on Huna. I would advise your friend to stop as soon as possible!

Matt McCormick said...

I’ve read the original post here and I’ve read the provocative thread following. I’m puzzled. As I understand it, the defeasibility test is a simple matter. It’s not about converting anyone to atheism. It’s about whether or not the people engaged in a disagreement about God both meet the minimal requirements for being rational agents. The question is simple, and it applies to both parties: Is there any evidence, real or hypothetical, that could possibly disuade you of the view you currently hold? Could there possibly be any considerations that might lead you to change your mind? I take it as obvious that if someone’s answer is “no,” then he does not meet the minimal requirements for rationality and further discussion is pointless. I’ve read and reread the original post and I honestly don’t see any real objection to the defeasibility test. I see some topic changing, and some open, rhetorical questions. But I don’t see any reason to doubt that the defeasibility question is a fair question, and to be honest, it would appear that for many of the people defending theism here the answer is “no.”

On that note, notice that if someone says, “I have had a profound, direct experience of God, and nothing, even in principle could convince me that it was anything except God,” they are giving the “no” answer. We can certainly allow that people have profound, moving experiences and we can allow, at least in principle, that those count as a kind of experience. But when that experience is alleged to be self-authenticating in this fashion—as William Lane Craig often says—and the experiencer insists that there can be no possibility of that experience being inauthentic, then the rest of us have to conclude that he has left the rationality playing field. There are far too many examples of reasonable, thoughtful people losing their way and getting caught up in some mistaken scheme to be ignored. You’re assuring yourself and the rest of us that you’re special and that your special moment with God, unlike billions of other similar cases in history, is utterly beyond reproach just won’t cut it.

Thanks for discussing this, all.

Matt McCormick
www.provingthenegative.com

David B Marshall said...

Matt: I am wondering what could convince you that 2+2 does not equal 4. Hypothetically.