Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Steve Hays on some implications of combining the multiverse with ECREE


Here. Another line on multiverse arguments., which I think complements one that I linked to from Graham a couple of weeks back.

I suppose, if the multiverse is true, then Jesus did rise from the dead. Just not in this universe! On the other hand, why not?

354 comments:

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Angra Mainyu said...

But even if Jesus would resurrect in another universe, I'm not sure what your point is. Could you clarify that, please?

I mean, assuming that kind of multiverse (i.e., the one you seem to be describing), then there is a universe in which Jesus claimed that he would be betrayed by Judas, but was not betrayed by him or by anyone else, a universe in which Jesus tried to walk on water by failed, whereas another religious leader actually succeeded, a universe in which I died and resurrected, a universe where Sathya Sai Baba said he would manifest objects and they actually appeared every single time he claimed so (and he is still alive), a universe in which every single Christian was killed and every copy of the Bible is destroyed when the Earth is hit by a big asteroid or a comet a few centuries ago, a universe where what we would understand as freak accidents result in the complete invasion of Europe by Muslim armies in the Middle Ages, eventually leading to the end of Christianity and Judaism while Islam endures and is strong, etc.

Of course, a Christian might claim that even if there is a multiverse, it's not of that kind. The reply above is just about the kind of universe you seem to be describing.

Crude said...

Steve's express point is that in some multiverse instances, nothing's really extraordinary. Rather, it's extraordinary like there being a lottery winner in a lottery - possibly low odds, but the fact that there's a winner (maybe even the fact that you are the winner) still isn't extraordinary.

It'd depend on the type of multiverse being posited, but 'infinite number with the right kinds of variation' would do the trick.

steve said...

Angra Mainyu said...

"But even if Jesus would resurrect in another universe, I'm not sure what your point is. Could you clarify that, please?"

It makes a hash of facile, simplistic appeals to probability to stack the deck against the Resurrection or other miracles. What's the prior probability of a resurrection given a multiverse?

Sure, that places the Resurrection in a different theological framework, but it also places atheistic objections in a very different framework as well.

Angra Mainyu said...

steve said:

"It makes a hash of facile, simplistic appeals to probability to stack the deck against the Resurrection or other miracles. What's the prior probability of a resurrection given a multiverse? 

Sure, that places the Resurrection in a different theological framework, but it also places atheistic objections in a very different framework as well."

A couple of points:

1. I was asking what Victor Reppert's point was, by means of the Jesus example. I still do not know, but given my examples above, it seems pretty clear that such a multiverse would be a serious problem for Christianity (not that I think it's not too problematic already, but it adds even more available objections).
I would still like to ask him what he was trying to get at.

2. I don't have a number for that probability, but if the claim is that a given person resurrected, of course the answer is that it's extremely improbable. I see no reason to give it a higher prior probability than I do today. Based on what we observe, humans die and stay dead. They do not come back – not even preachers who claim that they will.
Yes, some people in some other planets should assign a different probability, but that's not a problem for us (at most, it's a problem for them).

The fact that something like a resurrection happens somewhere, or even that infinitely many such things happen, does not mean or even suggest that one should give the event 'Jesus resurrected' a high prior probability, as far as I can tell.

But purely for example, let's say that our universe has infinite volume, and infinitely many galaxies; more precisely, [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse#Tegmark.27s_classification]a level one multiverse in Tegmark's classification[/url]; we don't need parallel universes for that.

If that is the case, then to the best of our knowledge, there are infinitely many instances in which a large rock (similar to the one that hit the dinosaurs) is on a collision course with a planet, but quantum-tunnels out of it, without touching the planet.

Now, if our universe is like that, and we detect a rock like that headed our way, what's the prior that, if we do nothing, the rock will just quantum-tunnel, and we will survive?

A proper assessment is that the probability is astronomically slim: we better do our best to deflect the asteroid, and not count on its quantum-tunneling out of harms way, even if such quantum-tunneling events happen infinitely many times in the whole universe.

Why would a multiverse be any different? Do you have any specific multiverse in mind?

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude said:

"Steve's express point is that in some multiverse instances, nothing's really extraordinary. Rather, it's extraordinary like there being a lottery winner in a lottery - possibly low odds, but the fact that there's a winner (maybe even the fact that you are the winner) still isn't extraordinary.

It'd depend on the type of multiverse being posited, but 'infinite number with the right kinds of variation' would do the trick. "

It depends on what you mean by 'extraordinary' and what kind of universe I suppose, but I was asking about the point about Jesus.

Crude said...

The fact that something like a resurrection happens somewhere, or even that infinitely many such things happen, does not mean or even suggest that one should give the event 'Jesus resurrected' a high prior probability, as far as I can tell.

I think one good way to get to the heart of Steve's point may be to put it like this.

Is event X taking place an extraordinary event, if it takes place an in an infinite multiverse where such an event is mathematically guaranteed to take place in some universes?

A proper assessment is that the probability is astronomically slim: we better do our best to deflect the asteroid, and not count on its quantum-tunneling out of harms way, even if such quantum-tunneling events happen infinitely many times in the whole universe.

You're talking about an event that has yet to take place, comparing it with an event that did take place. I don't think that works perfectly well.

I don't have a number for that probability, but if the claim is that a given person resurrected, of course the answer is that it's extremely improbable.

It's extremely improbable given some serious assumptions about the conditions. Even going with your quantum tunneling example, one of the fallouts from many multiverse theories is the reality of simulated/designed universes. In that case, if the programmer wants the asteroid to quantum tunnel, it's not very unlikely at all.

I think Victor's point is that, once you start playing around with multiverses, a lot of odds talk becomes obscure and difficult to figure out. I think it would need to be unpacked more, but yeah, there's some serious trouble for standard atheist apologetics once you begin playing with multiverses of certain kinds.

steve said...

Angra Mainyu said...

"I still do not know, but given my examples above, it seems pretty clear that such a multiverse would be a serious problem for Christianity (not that I think it's not too problematic already, but it adds even more available objections)."

You're missing the point. I'm not arguing from Christian premises (although some Christians believe in a multiverse). Rather, I'm combining two positions which atheists commonly share. Many atheists subscribe to Sagan's motto as well as the theory of the multiverse.

Yes, you can say the multiverse would be a serious problem for Christianity, but it would also be a serious problem for folks like Loftus who say we should "think exclusively in terms of probabilities."

"The fact that something like a resurrection happens somewhere, or even that infinitely many such things happen, does not mean or even suggest that one should give the event 'Jesus resurrected' a high prior probability, as far as I can tell."

You fail to grasp the issue. Given the multiverse, you can't say the Resurrection is "extremely improbable." To the contrary, given that presupposition, the Resurrection is inevitable. It may not be inevitable in *our* slice of the multiverse, but it's bound to happen.

The question is whether atheists are consistent. If you plug Sagan's evidentiary motto into the multiverse, what's extraordinary?

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude said: "I think one good way to get to the heart of Steve's point may be to put it like this.

Is event X taking place an extraordinary event, if it takes place an in an infinite multiverse where such an event is mathematically guaranteed to take place in some universes?"

It might or might not be, if I go by my intuitive grasp of the word 'extraordinary', depending on the event.

For instance, let's say that our universe has infinitely many galaxies. Then (regardless of whether there are also parallel universes), to the best of our knowledge, a big rock (kind of like the one that hit the Earth at the end of the Cretaceous Era) heading to an Earth-sized planet but quantum-tunnelling without hitting it is an event that happens infinitely many times.

However, it's still extraordinary as I understand the word.

Granted, someone might use the word 'extraordinary' differently, but regardless of whether we call it 'extraordinary', if we detect an asteroid like that coming our way, we should deem it extremely improbable that it will quantum-tunnel like that. So improbable that we might as well behave as if it were guaranteed that it will not happen. We should try to divert the asteroid, and we should try equally hard regardless of whether we have concluded the universe has infinitely many or finitely many galaxies.

Multiverse hypotheses only complicate the scenarios, but the points here are that "guaranteed" occurrence according to science (i.e., probability 1 according to our best theory) does not suggest that an event of that kind is not extraordinary as I understand the word 'extraordinary', and much more importantly, and however one understands the word 'extraordinary', that such "guaranteed" occurrence somewhere (universe, planet, galaxy, whatever) does not imply that we should refrain from deeming the event extremely improbable (that depends on what the event is; in some cases, we should in fact deem it extremely improbable).

Crude said: "You're talking about an event that has yet to take place, comparing it with an event that did take place. I don't think that works perfectly well."

There is no relevant difference in this case, regarding the probabilistic assessment.
Still, one can construct a more complicated scenario if you like, but it's an unnecessary complication.

So, let's complicate the scenario:

Let's say that the event happens 200 years into the future. There is a gigantic space telescope that allows human scientists to take a look at more or less nearby stars, and see planets and even asteroids (say, hundreds of big mirrors built in space combining their power).
So, scientists detect not only the asteroid heading towards Earth, but another one heading towards an Earth-sized planet 20 light years away. Also, if no quantum-tunnel occurs, and nothing else diverts it, the asteroid already hit, 10 years ago. There are no other planets or any objects nearby on a collision course (say they can detect that; I can construct a more complicated scenario to deal with details if you insist).

It's clear that just as the scientists should assess that it's extremely improbable that the asteroid with quantum-tunnel sparing the Earth (so, they better divert it), they should similarly assess it's extremely improbable that the other asteroid quantum-tunnel and spared the other planet. They should expect the other planet to have been hit. Moreover, even if they can't be sure that the asteroid won't be stopped by something else (say, collision with another asteroid), they still should conclude that it did not quantum-tunnel out of the way (let's assume that physics 200 years from now does not contradict our present-day understanding of quantum-tunnelling).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude said: "It's extremely improbable given some serious assumptions about the conditions. Even going with your quantum tunneling example, one of the fallouts from many multiverse theories is the reality of simulated/designed universes. In that case, if the programmer wants the asteroid to quantum tunnel, it's not very unlikely at all.

I think Victor's point is that, once you start playing around with multiverses, a lot of odds talk becomes obscure and difficult to figure out. I think it would need to be unpacked more, but yeah, there's some serious trouble for standard atheist apologetics once you begin playing with multiverses of certain kinds."
Okay, a couple of points for now:

1. It's extremely improbable as a prior, given our present-day epistemic position, plus perhaps the conclusion that there is such infinite multiverse, or universe for that matter (well, I'd say it's also extremely improbable as a final probability, but that's a matter for another discussion).

2. It's not clear that simulated/designed universes are a conclusion (it depends on what's nomologically possible in the multiverse), and in any case, that does not seem to warrant the conclusion. Are, perhaps, probable? And even if probable, why should we change the assessment that it's extremely improbable that it will quantum-tunnel? That there is a designer does not seem to do it.
But moreover, even in more extreme scenarios, it seems that that conclusion would not be warranted.
For example, let's say that in the future, people witness that some villainous scientists do make brains in vats, put them into simulations, etc.
Eventually, they get arrested, tossed in prison, etc., and then the incoming asteroid is detected.
Should those people not assess that, due to the possible scenario in which they are brains in vats and the vat owner might be into quantum-tunnelling special effects, the probability that the incoming rock will quantum-tunnel is not extremely low?
The answer appears clearly negative.
But why should then the assessment be different if, instead of the certainty that some people have been hapless brains in bats, they have the belief that there is a multiverse?
At the very least, you would need a lot of additional hypotheses to the multiverse hypotheses, which are not part of any present-day multiverse theory (not that I believe in a multiverse; I have no idea whether there is one, so I make no claims one way or another).

Crude said...

For instance, let's say that our universe has infinitely many galaxies. Then (regardless of whether there are also parallel universes), to the best of our knowledge, a big rock (kind of like the one that hit the Earth at the end of the Cretaceous Era) heading to an Earth-sized planet but quantum-tunnelling without hitting it is an event that happens infinitely many times.

However, it's still extraordinary as I understand the word.


If you play with the word enough, my existence itself is an extraordinary event - it's certainly unfathomably unlikely. Does establishing my existence require extraordinary evidence then?

Again, I think you're only backing up Steve's point here - the multiverse makes a lot of things that are 'extraordinary', certain to take place. Even certain to take place an infinite numbers of times. Sagan's maxim, for whatever intuitive appeal it has, largely has it in the context of a single rational universe.

I think the giveaway here is you keep qualifying your statement with 'given my understanding of the word extraordinary'. Sure, modifying one's definition and take on extraordinary may let you continue to use it, but it's still wreaking havoc on the common sense of it.

There is no relevant difference in this case, regarding the probabilistic assessment.

Your example still is making reference to a future event in essence - the asteroid '20 light years away' may have already hit, but from their perspective, it did not.

Imagine you have an asteroid now flying away from earth, but its path indicates that it had to have passed directly through the planet given its course. Yet the planet shows no evidence of impact, of course.

Situations and perspectives, not to mention available evidence in principle, changes between an event in the future and an event in the past.

Angra Mainyu said...


steve said: "You're missing the point. I'm not arguing from Christian premises (although some Christians believe in a multiverse). Rather, I'm combining two positions which atheists commonly share. Many atheists subscribe to Sagan's motto as well as the theory of the multiverse. "

I'm afraid that you're missing the point of that part of my reply (and, indeed, the only question I had raised earlier), which was about Victor Reppert's comment about Jesus' resurrection.

Still, now I've addressed your point as well.

steve said: "Yes, you can say the multiverse would be a serious problem for Christianity, but it would also be a serious problem for folks like Loftus who say we should "think exclusively in terms of probabilities."

While I'm not proposing the same epistemic theory as Loftus', your objection appears unwarranted. You seem to be under the impression that one cannot make probabilistic assessments if there is a multiverse, or that kind of multiverse. But you've not given any good reason to believe so, as far as one can tell.

steve said: "You fail to grasp the issue. Given the multiverse, you can't say the Resurrection is "extremely improbable." To the contrary, given that presupposition, the Resurrection is inevitable. It may not be inevitable in *our* slice of the multiverse, but it's bound to happen."

You seem to be conflating the probability that the resurrection of Jesus happened on our planet in our universe with the probability that somewhere, a doppelganger of Jesus resurrected.

The fact is that you've provided no reason to think that in the multiverse hypothesis, we shouldn't still give an extremely low prior to the probability that Jesus resurrected in our universe, and in fact it seems pretty clear that we should indeed give it such a low probability (unless your specific multiverse hypotheses makes specific instances of resurrections probable).

But to make the matter clearer: your objection appears to be based on the fact that some resurrection happens in some other universe.

So, let's say that our universe has infinitely many galaxies (no need for parallel universe, though no need to deny them, either), and our understanding of quantum tunneling is [roughly, at least] correct. I can still say that the probability that, some day, my neighbor quantum-tunnelled throw my wall, and then back to his place, is so low that I can dismiss it as a serious alternative, even though infinitely many doppelgangers of my neighbor did so on infinitely many other planets.

Now, you can say that the resurrection of Jesus (or some doppelganger, depending on the kind of multiverse and some issues of identity) is bound to have happened, but that is not a problem for the atheist at all.

steve says: "The question is whether atheists are consistent. If you plug Sagan's evidentiary motto into the multiverse, what's extraordinary?"
As I explained above, by my usual understanding of the words, a claim that Jesus or my ant resurrected, or that my neighbor quantum-tunneled into my room, would be extraordinary claims, even assuming infinitely many galaxies and/or universes (according to present-day physics theories) in which duplicates of such events happen infinitely many times.
But regardless of whether it's called 'extraordinary' (I guess someone might use 'extraordinary' differently), the point is that if someone makes such claims, we ought to deem them extremely improbable (as a prior, at least).

Crude said...

1. It's extremely improbable as a prior, given our present-day epistemic position, plus perhaps the conclusion that there is such infinite multiverse, or universe for that matter (well, I'd say it's also extremely improbable as a final probability, but that's a matter for another discussion).

No, it's not clearly 'extremely improbably as a prior', precisely because an infinite multiverse with the right variance introduces a tremendous array of new possibilities to the mix, even before considering the God of classical theism directly. Even without that consideration, the introduction of an infinite number of chances with the right amount of variance makes it so you can't immediately tell just what sort of universe you should expect to end up in.

2. It's not clear that simulated/designed universes are a conclusion (it depends on what's nomologically possible in the multiverse), and in any case, that does not seem to warrant the conclusion. Are, perhaps, probable? And even if probable, why should we change the assessment that it's extremely improbable that it will quantum-tunnel? That there is a designer does not seem to do it.

You're going to find a considerable number of scientists who take the simulated/designer universe speculations in a multiverse context seriously - Brian Greene, Martin Rees, Paul Davies, etc.

At the very least, you would need a lot of additional hypotheses to the multiverse hypotheses, which are not part of any present-day multiverse theory (not that I believe in a multiverse; I have no idea whether there is one, so I make no claims one way or another).

They fall out of multiverse theories as certainties given some popular metaphysical positions and the right variance in terms of constraint, and arguably it becomes more likely than not that we're living in a simulation on some arguments (Paul Davies' take on the Tegmark level 4 multiverse hypothesis, Nick Bostrom's simulation argument, etc.)

Eventually, they get arrested, tossed in prison, etc., and then the incoming asteroid is detected.
Should those people not assess that, due to the possible scenario in which they are brains in vats and the vat owner might be into quantum-tunnelling special effects, the probability that the incoming rock will quantum-tunnel is not extremely low?


You're asking me, in essence, if there were suitably demonstrable evidence that simulated universes existed and that they themselves could in principle exist in such a universe - complete with scientists who regularly did things to such simulations like make the supposedly wildly improbably come to pass - their odds evaluation should change when it comes to ascertaining whether or not the wildly improbable did or will come to pass.

I think the answer is clearly 'yes'. Keep in mind, the options here aren't just 'decide that the odds are low' or 'decide that the odds are high'. There's also 'decide that the odds are ultimately inscrutable.'

Crude said...

Now, you can say that the resurrection of Jesus (or some doppelganger, depending on the kind of multiverse and some issues of identity) is bound to have happened, but that is not a problem for the atheist at all.

No, I think this is a tremendous problem for the atheist. And I think it happens to illustrate just how much atheism has been forced to change in response to modern scientific and technological developments.

Try saying the following out loud: "The fact that resurrections take place, and in fact an infinite number of taken place, is no problem for atheism." Ask yourself if it sounds at all silly. Now, I have no doubt that you can do away with a lot of prior commitments that were had on atheism, and 'update' atheism accordingly. But I think this, and other situations, is a case where the updating starts to make atheism seem downright meaningless, not to mention historically battered.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude said: "If you play with the word enough, my existence itself is an extraordinary event - it's certainly unfathomably unlikely. Does establishing my existence require extraordinary evidence then? "

When I assess probability, even prior, I use what I already know about the universe. For instance, if I toss a new dice, the prior I give to a 6 is 1/6. Obviously, I'm using my knowledge about dice to come up with that prior (it's not a 'prior to everything').

Now, given that I'm assessing whether you exist after I've already talked to you, surely the probability is almost one. And if someone had told me that a guy who goes by the name 'Crude' posts on Victor Reppert's blog, I would have said that's likely or not depending on factors such as who makes the claim, context, etc.

Intuitively, the word 'extraordinary' does not apply to your existence. But then again, if you use the word differently, that's not a difficulty for my perspective.

Crude says: "Again, I think you're only backing up Steve's point here - the multiverse makes a lot of things that are 'extraordinary', certain to take place. Even certain to take place an infinite numbers of times. Sagan's maxim, for whatever intuitive appeal it has, largely has it in the context of a single rational universe. "
1. Actually, if we have a single universe with infinitely many galaxies, we have those events happening infinitely many times as well. Since that seems to be the crux of steve's (and your) argument, I'll consider that universe to simplify.

2. If you think that the meaning of the word 'extraordinary' that is used by Sagan and others is such that if there are infinitely many galaxies, then just because a big rock quantum-tunnelling through a planet happens infinitely many times, it would not be an extraordinary event if such thing were to happen to us, then I disagree with you about the meaning of 'extraordinary'.
But even if that were the case, the fact is that we should deem extraordinarily improbable, if we detect a big rock coming our way, that it would quantum-tunnel through our planet. So, one might as well ditch the word 'extraordinary' if you dislike it, but the extremely low probability assessment remains.

3. Similarly, and to use an example from the past, if you think that the meaning of the word 'extraordinary' that is used by Sagan and others is such that if there are infinitely many galaxies and a doppelganger of my neighbor quantum-tunnels into the room of doppelganger of me infinitely many times, then it would not be an extraordinary event if, say, my neighbor had actually quantum-tunnelled into my room, then I disagree with you about the meaning of 'extraordinary'.
But even if that were the case, the fact is that I should deem it extraordinarily improbable that my neighbor did so. So, one might as well ditch the word 'extraordinary' if you dislike it, but the extremely low probability assessment remains.

Crude: "I think the giveaway here is you keep qualifying your statement with 'given my understanding of the word extraordinary'. Sure, modifying one's definition and take on extraordinary may let you continue to use it, but it's still wreaking havoc on the common sense of it."

Actually, I'm using that word consistently; I don't know that you are, but the qualifications were meant to avoid nitpicking over the meaning of that word, which is a side issue given that the probabilistic assessments should remain.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Your example still is making reference to a future event in essence - the asteroid '20 light years away' may have already hit, but from their perspective, it did not."

Actually, it was a past event, it's just that they'd not seen yet. Given that, as I pointed out, it's irrelevant in this case (i.e., with regard to this objection) whether those events are past or future, there was no need for me to present another scenario, but I did so just anyway, meeting your requirement, though there was no need for that.


Let's say that the universe is infinite, and infinitely many times, there is a doppelganger of my neighbor who quantum-tunnels into the room of a doppelganger of me, and then quantum-tunnels out of it.
If someone told me that that's happened to me, and that my neighbor was in my room due to quantum-tunneling some time before last January, I would say that that's extremely improbable. In fact, it's so improbable that I would rule it out as a serious option, just as I would if the number of galaxies is finite.

Crude: "Imagine you have an asteroid now flying away from earth, but its path indicates that it had to have passed directly through the planet given its course. Yet the planet shows no evidence of impact, of course.

Situations and perspectives, not to mention available evidence in principle, changes between an event in the future and an event in the past. "

What happens in that case is that being in the future, you have evidence that you wouldn't have had in the past; so, of course you can construct a scenario in which the relevant evidence changes. My point, however, was that in this context (i.e., as a rebuttal to the objection to probabilistic assessments based on mathematical certainty according to our best model, etc.), whether it happened in the past or in the future makes no difference.

But I added scenarios in the past as well.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude said: "No, it's not clearly 'extremely improbably as a prior', precisely because an infinite multiverse with the right variance introduces a tremendous array of new possibilities to the mix, even before considering the God of classical theism directly. Even without that consideration, the introduction of an infinite number of chances with the right amount of variance makes it so you can't immediately tell just what sort of universe you should expect to end up in. "

Obviously, if you set up the multiverse specifically for your conclusion, you'll get it. But I've said enough on this, and I can't compete with you for the last word (too much on my plate).

Crude said: "You're going to find a considerable number of scientists who take the simulated/designer universe speculations in a multiverse context seriously - Brian Greene, Martin Rees, Paul Davies, etc."

Regardless, there is no knowledge that that is possible; we just don't know. But if we're going with their assessments, surely they won't change their assessment of the utter improbability of the rock quantum-tunnelling, or my neighbor doing so. Not that there seems to be any good reason to change it.


Crude: "They fall out of multiverse theories as certainties given some popular metaphysical positions and the right variance in terms of constraint, and arguably it becomes more likely than not that we're living in a simulation on some arguments (Paul Davies' take on the Tegmark level 4 multiverse hypothesis, Nick Bostrom's simulation argument, etc.)"

I disagree with those arguments. If you want to press one, it's going to take a lot of time, but okay, at least it's better than going back and forth.

Of course, if we go by their assessments, surely they won't change their assessment of the utter improbability of the rock quantum-tunnelling, or my neighbor doing so. Not that there seems to be any good reason to change it.

Crude: "You're asking me, in essence, if there were suitably demonstrable evidence that simulated universes existed and that they themselves could in principle exist in such a universe - complete with scientists who regularly did things to such simulations like make the supposedly wildly improbably come to pass - their odds evaluation should change when it comes to ascertaining whether or not the wildly improbable did or will come to pass.

I think the answer is clearly 'yes'. Keep in mind, the options here aren't just 'decide that the odds are low' or 'decide that the odds are high'. There's also 'decide that the odds are ultimately inscrutable.' "

I'm asking whether they should make any significant change just because of it. I already showed a case in which they shouldn't, and you haven't provided any good reason to think that they should in the infinite universe case, or the multiverse case (unless, of course, you rig the scenario for that result).

Angra Mainyu said...



Crude said: "No, I think this is a tremendous problem for the atheist. And I think it happens to illustrate just how much atheism has been forced to change in response to modern scientific and technological developments.

Try saying the following out loud: "The fact that resurrections take place, and in fact an infinite number of taken place, is no problem for atheism." Ask yourself if it sounds at all silly. Now, I have no doubt that you can do away with a lot of prior commitments that were had on atheism, and 'update' atheism accordingly. But I think this, and other situations, is a case where the updating starts to make atheism seem downright meaningless, not to mention historically battered."

No, if there is a multiverse like the one described by Victor Reppert in the OP, this is a tremendous problem for Christianity, for the reasons I explained earlier (not that it needs more problems, but that aside).

On the other hand, obviously, that would not be a problem for atheism. It's so obvious that I don't understand why you think your challenge to say it out loud is problematic for me, or would pose an actual challenge to my beliefs, which of course need no upgrade just by stating what's been obvious to me for a very long time (I can't even remember how long).

So, let me say it since you insist: If there is a multiverse like the one described in the OP, the fact that infinitely many resurrections take place is no problem for atheism. Obviously. .

It's funny that you mention updates, given that the Earth moves, humans evolved from other animals over millions of years, there was no universal flood, no parting of the Red Sea, etc., and different Christianities upgraded once and again their actual beliefs (yes, they will say it was a wrong reading, not the dogma, etc.).

Crude said...

Now, given that I'm assessing whether you exist after I've already talked to you, surely the probability is almost one. And if someone had told me that a guy who goes by the name 'Crude' posts on Victor Reppert's blog, I would have said that's likely or not depending on factors such as who makes the claim, context, etc.

Intuitively, the word 'extraordinary' does not apply to your existence. But then again, if you use the word differently, that's not a difficulty for my perspective.


What you're missing here is that the old adage is: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." But if you're going just by the sheer probablistic likelihood, then my existence is incredibly unlikely. The fact that the probability that I exist is, upon investigation, 'almost 1' doesn't speak to the adage: are you going to say that establishing my existence resulted from extraordinary evidence, because it was an extraordinary claim?

You say, 'intuitively no', but really, if intuition's the primary force you're bringing to the table here, it's not all that much.

So, one might as well ditch the word 'extraordinary' if you dislike it, but the extremely low probability assessment remains.

Except you don't really have an 'extremely low probability assessment' in the proper sense. It's happening with certainty on the model in question. In fact, it's happening an infinite number of times. Granted, quite a lot of coincidences (let's put aside designer intention for a moment) need to have happened in order for it to take place - but the same holds true for my existence, or yours, or just about any other particular event in context.

Actually, I'm using that word consistently; I don't know that you are, but the qualifications were meant to avoid nitpicking over the meaning of that word, which is a side issue given that the probabilistic assessments should remain.

When I say you're not using the word consistently, I'm not talking about internally consistent of 'you keep using the same definition that is specific to you', but inconsistent in the sense of that your definition - I think pretty obviously - runs against the common and original intent with regards to the extraordinary claims quote.

My point, however, was that in this context (i.e., as a rebuttal to the objection to probabilistic assessments based on mathematical certainty according to our best model, etc.), whether it happened in the past or in the future makes no difference.

Well, you've conceded the obvious point that when you have an event that has happened in the past you're dealing with a different situation in terms of investigation and evidence than you would for an event that took place in the future, so that's fine enough by me.

You also mention that if someone made a claim about a quantum tunneling event, you wouldn't investigate it because you deem it to be improbable. But investigating the claim is precisely the thing that may turn up evidence that make the improbable event be deemed more likely. More than that, if you're living in an infinite multiverse with the right variance in conditions between each, you're going to already be opening the door to possibilities and scenarios that may affect the likelihood of such an event coming to pass whose odds are higher than you'd expect or otherwise are inscrutable.

Regardless, the point remains that when you're dealing with an infinite universe where anything possible occurs an infinite number of times, I maintain that it wreaks havoc on the traditional claim of 'extraordinary claims'. You seem to be saying 'Okay, fine, maybe it's not extraordinary - it is for me given the particular tweaked definition of extraordinary I use - but I still think the odds are low.'

Crude said...

Obviously, if you set up the multiverse specifically for your conclusion, you'll get it. But I've said enough on this, and I can't compete with you for the last word (too much on my plate).

I'm not setting the multiverse up in that way, I'm pointing out some popular speculations from physicists about what may in fact follow given some varieties of multiverse. I don't need to do any setting up here - Brian Greene and the rest have done it for me.

Regardless, there is no knowledge that that is possible; we just don't know. But if we're going with their assessments, surely they won't change their assessment of the utter improbability of the rock quantum-tunnelling, or my neighbor doing so.

Whether or not it's possible is going to come down to metaphysics. I'll grant you that someone who denies materialist functionalism will therefore say such simulations are impossible - but that's not exactly a popular atheist move. Moreover, the contextual improbability of 'quantum tunneling', etc, is attached to the assumption that the relevant events being, in every incident, independent of any agent-based direction. But insofar as various arguments open that to doubt, the improbability becomes subject to doubt as well.

I'm asking whether they should make any significant change just because of it. I already showed a case in which they shouldn't, and you haven't provided any good reason to think that they should in the infinite universe case, or the multiverse case (unless, of course, you rig the scenario for that result).

Again, I haven't rigged the scenario. I'm making reference to some pretty bland and common speculation from Davies, Greene, Rees and more. Even saying 'well that's assuming such simulations are possible' doesn't work the way you want here, since that would just go towards my third option - rendering the odds inscrutable based on the new considerations provided by a multiverse scenario.

No, if there is a multiverse like the one described by Victor Reppert in the OP, this is a tremendous problem for Christianity, for the reasons I explained earlier (not that it needs more problems, but that aside).

Not really, since Victor hardly described much of a multiverse anyway. Further, theism is entirely compatible with a multiverse in general, as is Christianity - this isn't even a new scenario for Christians.

So, let me say it since you insist:

I said to say it out loud, I wasn't asking you to type it in - and even that was simply to emphasize how bizarre it sounds, compared to the claims of atheists historically.

It's funny that you mention updates, given that the Earth moves, humans evolved from other animals over millions of years, there was no universal flood, no parting of the Red Sea, etc., and different Christianities upgraded once and again their actual beliefs

Not a single one of those is an issue for theism itself, or the historical commitments of theism. I'd argue that for Christianity specifically, not a single one of those updates mattered (Red Sea hasn't been updated).

But even if you insist that they were, that doesn't affect my claim that atheism has not only been updated, but really, has been updated in far more extreme ways - which is pretty remarkable when you consider that Christianity is a specific religion with far, far more claims in extant than you'd think there would have been for atheism. Whether you're talking about the universe age, the possibility of resurrections taking place whatsoever, the possibility of created universes, etc, those are some damn major revisions to a view that's rather short on claims.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "What you're missing here is that the old adage is: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." But if you're going just by the sheer probablistic likelihood, then my existence is incredibly unlikely. The fact that the probability that I exist is, upon investigation, 'almost 1' doesn't speak to the adage: are you going to say that establishing my existence resulted from extraordinary evidence, because it was an extraordinary claim?"

No, you're missing my point here.
It's not that the probability that you exist is almost 1 upon investigation. It's that the prior is almost one, if I'm assessing the claim now, because the 'prior' is not prior to everything; the prior is based on an agent's epistemic position.
That's why I can say that my prior for a 6 in the dice case is 1/6.

Now, if someone tells me that there is a guy who posts under the nickname 'crude', etc., my prior won't be almost 1, but surely not extraordinarily low.

If I see a not particularly amazing-looking robot in front of me and it asserts that it was built by aliens who live on a planet orbiting a start in such-and-such location (it's about 150 light years from Earth, though it's identified with reference to other stars), I rationally give the claim a very low prior.

If an alien who lives on a planet orbiting a start in such-and-such location about 150 light years from Earth on a planet orbiting a start in such-and-such location encounters a similar robot, which asserts that it was built by aliens who on a planet orbiting a start in such-and-such location (just the alien's planet), and the alien is used to finding that kind of robot, she will rationally give the claim a very high prior.

That's what actually matters. As for whether the claims are extraordinary, by my understanding of the words, the claim made by the robot I encounter is extraordinary from the perspective of someone in my epistemic position, whereas the claim made by the robot the alien encounters is not extraordinary from the perspective of someone in the alien's epistemic position (let's posit the alien has a mind similar to a human mind, to simplify).


Crude: "You say, 'intuitively no', but really, if intuition's the primary force you're bringing to the table here, it's not all that much. "
I've given argument that should persuade a rational person who understands the word 'extraordinary' in this context as I do.
For others, I still have given arguments that should persuade them about the probabilistic assessments. That's a lot.

Crude: "Except you don't really have an 'extremely low probability assessment' in the proper sense. It's happening with certainty on the model in question. In fact, it's happening an infinite number of times. Granted, quite a lot of coincidences (let's put aside designer intention for a moment) need to have happened in order for it to take place - but the same holds true for my existence, or yours, or just about any other particular event in context."
No, you're wrong; that's not how one should assess probability, though as before, I can't compete for you for the last word, so you'll win that.

Anyway, the fact that (assuming present-day knowledge of science + infinitely many galaxies) there are (for instance) infinitely many instances of a doppelganger of my neighbor quantum tunneling into the room of a doppelganger of mine does not change the fact that the probability that my neighbor quantum tunneled into my room is extremely low, and that's the rational probabilistic assessment from my epistemic perspective given those assumptions.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "When I say you're not using the word consistently, I'm not talking about internally consistent of 'you keep using the same definition that is specific to you', but inconsistent in the sense of that your definition - I think pretty obviously - runs against the common and original intent with regards to the extraordinary claims quote."

Actually, I disagree with that claim of yours; I use the word 'extraordinary' as I understand it, and I learned to use it (like everyone else) by actually encounter it when others use it.
But in any event, it's beside the point when it comes to my objections to the objection to the probabilistic assessments in question.


Crude: "Well, you've conceded the obvious point that when you have an event that has happened in the past you're dealing with a different situation in terms of investigation and evidence than you would for an event that took place in the future, so that's fine enough by me."
I have to reject that. The claim that I have 'conceded the obvious point' suggests that you scored a point against me, whereas in reality you did nothing of the sort, since I didn't change my position.
Moreover, I never said that when you have an event that has happened in the past you're dealing with a different situation in terms of investigation and evidence than you would for an event that took place in the future.
As a general claim (i.e., a claim that whether it's already happened always makes a difference), that is unwarranted, and also (given my example about the asteroid in the other solar system) false. What happens is that in some cases, you have different evidence, which may be linked to whether it's happened or not.

Crude: "You also mention that if someone made a claim about a quantum tunneling event, you wouldn't investigate it because you deem it to be improbable. But investigating the claim is precisely the thing that may turn up evidence that make the improbable event be deemed more likely. More than that, if you're living in an infinite multiverse with the right variance in conditions between each, you're going to already be opening the door to possibilities and scenarios that may affect the likelihood of such an event coming to pass whose odds are higher than you'd expect or otherwise are inscrutable."

If you set up the multiverse to your convenience, anything can happen.
However, the objection was that because at least one (or even infinitely many) event of a certain kind is mathematically certain to happen, then one ought not to say that a specific event in such category is improbable. That is wrong, as I have shown.

Moreover, if we learn that the universe has almost certainly infinitely many galaxies, I still ought to assess that the claim that my neighbor quantum tunneled into my room is extremely improbable (even though infinitely many events of that kind do happen), and given only the bare claim (i.e., nothing else that leads me to suspect it happened), I should reject it as too improbable to be taken seriously.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Regardless, the point remains that when you're dealing with an infinite universe where anything possible occurs an infinite number of times, I maintain that it wreaks havoc on the traditional claim of 'extraordinary claims'. You seem to be saying 'Okay, fine, maybe it's not extraordinary - it is for me given the particular tweaked definition of extraordinary I use - but I still think the odds are low.'"

No, what I'm saying (among other things) is:

a. As I understand the word 'extraordinary claims' (which is my intuitive grasp of the term as I learned it from others), the claim that such-and-such claims are extraordinary is unaffected.
b. If you use the word differently, whatever; the fact remains that such claims are extraordinarily improbable a priori (and, of course, from our epistemic perspective).
c. Even under the assumption that my understanding of the word is incorrect (but I see no good reason to suspect so), also whatever; the fact remains that such claims are extraordinarily improbable a priori (and, of course, from our epistemic perspective).

Crude: "I'm not setting the multiverse up in that way, I'm pointing out some popular speculations from physicists about what may in fact follow given some varieties of multiverse. I don't need to do any setting up here - Brian Greene and the rest have done it for me."

You should distinguish between speculation and what we know is the case if something like the MWI of Quantum Mechanics is true.

Crude: "Whether or not it's possible is going to come down to metaphysics. I'll grant you that someone who denies materialist functionalism will therefore say such simulations are impossible - but that's not exactly a popular atheist move. Moreover, the contextual improbability of 'quantum tunneling', etc, is attached to the assumption that the relevant events being, in every incident, independent of any agent-based direction. But insofar as various arguments open that to doubt, the improbability becomes subject to doubt as well. "

My point is about nomological possibilities in that multiverse, not metaphysical possibilities.
Anyway, with regard to quantum tunneling, I'm talking about what we know about quantum-tunnelling, which seems good enough to conclude that something like the examples I gave happen infinitely many times in a universe like ours, since actions by alien scientists and whatnot aren't going to change that in any significant way (i.e., it's still infinitely many instances in which no direction is involved); in other words, it does not have to be that every event of quantum-tunnel is not directed. It's enough that they're normally not so (though frankly, I do not know how aliens could direct that, but I guess you might come up with God or something).

And if you're suggesting that God would block infinitely many instances of quantum-tunneling like the ones I described or something like that, I'd say that's extremely unlikely, since it rejects science (which posits so, with good evidence, under the assumption of infinitely many galaxies) and puts a theistic claim instead. Still, not the place for a full discussion on theism, but in any case, those of us who do not make such theistic claims should make the same probabilistic assessments I mentioned (and the objection is one to the claim by atheists), as much in the universe with infinitely many galaxies as in the one with finitely many ones.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Not really, since Victor hardly described much of a multiverse anyway. Further, theism is entirely compatible with a multiverse in general, as is Christianity - this isn't even a new scenario for Christians."

Again, let me point out that, going by the description in the OP (partly implicit, but there was enough to get that he was basing that on claims that everything that can happen according to some model, happens in some universe), Jesus did not resurrect in this universe, but did in another one. And yet in another one, said he would be betrayed by a disciple, but never was betrayed. In another one, Islamic prayers are often answered. But no prayers from any other religion are. And so on.

Crude: "I said to say it out loud, I wasn't asking you to type it in - and even that was simply to emphasize how bizarre it sounds, compared to the claims of atheists historically."
What's the point in my saying so here?
It's puzzling, but okay. I just said it. It does not sound remotely odd to me.
I don't know what atheists you're talking about. There are atheists who make some odd claims. Others, not so much. But in any case, I do not see the difficulty for me.

Crude: "Not a single one of those is an issue for theism itself, or the historical commitments of theism. I'd argue that for Christianity specifically, not a single one of those updates mattered (Red Sea hasn't been updated)."

1. I said for Christianity, not for theism.
2. I disagree about whether the updates mattered (or rather would have mattered to people assessing the matter from an epistemically sound perspective; in practice they mattered to some people, not to others).
3. Actually, different versions of Christianity updated different parts. I know Christians to whom it's pretty obvious that there was no parting of the Red Sea, whereas others insist on it. Then again, others insist on Young Earth Creationism and Flood Geology.
So, different people, different upgrades.


Crude: "But even if you insist that they were, that doesn't affect my claim that atheism has not only been updated, but really, has been updated in far more extreme ways - which is pretty remarkable when you consider that Christianity is a specific religion with far, far more claims in extant than you'd think there would have been for atheism. Whether you're talking about the universe age, the possibility of resurrections taking place whatsoever, the possibility of created universes, etc, those are some damn major revisions to a view that's rather short on claims. "

Different people update their beliefs in different ways. I didn't need to, in this case. But it's not as if this particular update would raise any difficulty for atheism (though there are different concepts of 'atheism', none seems threatened by that).
There is a crucial difference, though. An atheist may be mistaken about some claims, and that's not a problem for atheism. On the other hand, Christians traditionally claim that the Bible is the word of an infallible and honest person. Errors in the Bible, "upgrades" and the like are, on their own, a significant problem for Christianity.

Crude said...

A bit short on time here, so let me focus on some key points.

Again, let me point out that, going by the description in the OP (partly implicit, but there was enough to get that he was basing that on claims that everything that can happen according to some model, happens in some universe), Jesus did not resurrect in this universe, but did in another one.

That's not what the OP says. Really, there's not much there to go on - I read Victor as saying that in some multiverse scenarios, Christ's resurrection did happen in some universes, didn't in other universes. But we may well be in the universe where it did happen.

It's puzzling, but okay. I just said it. It does not sound remotely odd to me.

Great, you're immune to the obviousness of this problem. Like I said, the point of saying 'say it out loud' wasn't that something magical would happen, it was just another way to stress the absurdity of the claim.

Different people update their beliefs in different ways.

Except I'm talking about the development of an idea, not merely the thoughts of a single person. If that's the case, then all your objections to Christianity are answered the same way.

On the other hand, Christians traditionally claim that the Bible is the word of an infallible and honest person. Errors in the Bible, "upgrades" and the like are, on their own, a significant problem for Christianity.

Not whatsoever, since the 'errors' are argued to be in regards to the interpretation, not the Bible.

You should distinguish between speculation and what we know is the case if something like the MWI of Quantum Mechanics is true.

I'm pointing out what logically follows given the conjunction of certain claims about minds and certain claims about multiverses. I didn't make reference QM interpretations, though I do recall David Deutsch boosting the Omega Point of all things in conjunction with that version of a multiverse.

If you want to deny that minds or universes can be simulated, you're going to have to deny a pretty popular naturalist view of the mind. Go for it - I deny it myself.

since it rejects science (which posits so, with good evidence, under the assumption of infinitely many galaxies) and puts a theistic claim instead.

It does no such thing, since science is utterly silent on the classical theist God's existence or non-existence, and equally silent on gods of this particular type being active.

Moreover, if we learn that the universe has almost certainly infinitely many galaxies, I still ought to assess that the claim that my neighbor quantum tunneled into my room is extremely improbable (even though infinitely many events of that kind do happen), and given only the bare claim (i.e., nothing else that leads me to suspect it happened), I should reject it as too improbable to be taken seriously.

You said previously that you could render that scenario as not even being worth investigating because you know the odds are small. Are you now retracting that and saying that investigation could provide their scenario to be more likely than you thought?

Crude said...

I'll add this on.

in other words, it does not have to be that every event of quantum-tunnel is not directed. It's enough that they're normally not so (though frankly, I do not know how aliens could direct that, but I guess you might come up with God or something).

As far as science can tell, there's no way to 'normally' determine whether they're directed by gods, God, aliens or anything else. The closest we can get is various models with an eye on correlations and biases of accountable causes, but once you start talking simulations, God, gods, and aliens, you're off into the land of metaphysical speculation in either the positive or negative sense. Science doesn't do that sort of detection.

But once you're in that metaphysics land, positing infinite multiverses of the right kind, you're introducing a different spin to the mix. You can't just assume 'well, in the majority of universes the tunneling events are undirected' in and of itself - you'll have to be arguing for that, especially once you start factoring in designed and simulated universes. Doubly so since those universes can stack (simulations within simulations), in principle without limits themselves.

That's just one reason why playing with multiverses metaphysically plays a role in making various calculations and assumptions inscrutable. Hell, the very prospect of designer universes of either the kind Gribbin speculates about or the simulated variety is enough to establish an old kind of theism itself - good old fashioned polytheistic paganism, as it'd be regarded in any other age.

Papalinton said...

Steve says: "Many atheists subscribe to Sagan's motto as well as the theory of the multiverse."

and: "The question is whether atheists are consistent. If you plug Sagan's evidentiary motto into the multiverse, what's extraordinary?"

It is perfectly appropriate to subscribe to Sagan's motto as you call it, because it is predicated on explanation in this universe, while simultaneously entertaining the notion of a multiverse. The multiverse proposition is a mathematical possibility but we know little of the probabilities for its existence at this juncture of scientific knowledge. And you are correct, if the likelihood of a multiverse becomes more probable going forward then Sagan's motto applied within a multiverse would be moot. Nothing would be extraordinary.

But in terms of this universe, the positing of a supernatural world replete with [putatively] live entities capable of crossing the natural/supernatural divide [an event horizon so to speak] and intervene in the laws of nature [or the laws of physics, take your pick], is indeed an extraordinary claim. Nothing has yet signaled an anomaly or indicated the presence of anything for which a conscious force is the best explanation.

The differentiation between the natural and the supernatural is the primal conception that resulted in the cleaving of science from theology:

"The Enlightenment begins with the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The rise of the new science progressively undermines not only the ancient geocentric conception of the cosmos, but, with it, the entire set of presuppositions that had served to constrain and guide philosophical inquiry. The dramatic success of the new science in explaining the natural world, in accounting for a wide variety of phenomena by appeal to a relatively small number of elegant mathematical formulae, promotes philosophy (in the broad sense of the time, which includes natural science) from a handmaiden of theology, constrained by its purposes and methods, to an independent force with the power and authority to challenge the old and construct the new, in the realms both of theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles." [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy] HERE

I think the idea of Sagan's ECREE being rendered questionable at this point is simply jumping the gun, given what we don't know about a multiverse. However the multiverse proposition turns out, that does not mitigate the demand, right here and now, to prove the resurrection indeed occurred and that it is, as WLC would put it, the best explanation. No such evidence has been forthcoming. Not even Erhman is convinced the resurrection ever happened. And he as anyone, ought to know. The theological explanation is implausible at best.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "That's not what the OP says. Really, there's not much there to go on - I read Victor as saying that in some multiverse scenarios, Christ's resurrection did happen in some universes, didn't in other universes. But we may well be in the universe where it did happen."
He has not replied (yet) to my request for clarification, but that's not what the OP says, literally.
Still, let's go with that. The point remains that in that kind of universe, he would be betrayed by a disciple, but never was betrayed. In another one, Islamic prayers are often answered. But no prayers from any other religion are. And in another one, only prayers to the Olympians work. And in another one, an Indian Guru claims that, say, he can make some small object just appear, and when he says 'appear' (or something like that), well, they do appear. Moreover, the Guru never grows old. And so on.

Crude: "Great, you're immune to the obviousness of this problem. Like I said, the point of saying 'say it out loud' wasn't that something magical would happen, it was just another way to stress the absurdity of the claim."

No, there is nothing remotely absurd about it. Your assertiveness and persistence (i.e., in the end, you'll get the last word) are useful apologetic tactics, but they don't make your position any less wrong.

Crude: "Except I'm talking about the development of an idea, not merely the thoughts of a single person. If that's the case, then all your objections to Christianity are answered the same way."

No, definitely not all of my objections.
Purely for example, pretty much all traditional versions of Christianity claim or claimed that their book is inspired, and even most of them claimed it to be infallible.
When more and more errors are found, coming up with reinterpretations according to which the errors aren't really errors but allegedly misreadings require a lot of mental gymnastics, and really bad probabilistic assessments, or alternatively they claim that the Bible does contain errors, but it's partly inspired; that results in other lines of mental gymnastics.

But that aside, if you're going to talk about 'the development of an idea' independently of the many different versions of Christianity, how would you go about assessing which beliefs have been upgraded?
For instance, the parting of the Red Sea has been rejected by some, but not by others. The same goes for the claim of a young Earth. How do you tell that the Red Sea wasn't updated, but the other one was (if it was)?

Crude: "Not whatsoever, since the 'errors' are argued to be in regards to the interpretation, not the Bible."

That's one of the set of lines of mental gymnastics. Another one says that the Bible is indeed mistaken, but somehow that those errors are irrelevant (e.g., by rejecting part of the Bible). Still, I would ask you for your particular way of choosing which ones were upgraded, based on scientific findings, or any other reasons, like moral ones (e.g., regarding Yahweh's commands to commit genocide, or to burn to death a woman in ancient Israel if she was both a prostitute and the daughter of a priest, etc.)

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "As far as science can tell, there's no way to 'normally' determine whether they're directed by gods, God, aliens or anything else. The closest we can get is various models with an eye on correlations and biases of accountable causes, but once you start talking simulations, God, gods, and aliens, you're off into the land of metaphysical speculation in either the positive or negative sense. Science doesn't do that sort of detection."

Someone might as well say that science can't tell whether the Earth is older than 10000 years, or a deceitful demon just planted fossils and the like. The point is that what science can do is reject some hypotheses beyond a reasonable doubt.

The point is that objecting on the suggestion that quantum tunneling does not occur at large scales because maybe some agent is behind all or most instances of quantum tunneling, so it won't allow that to happen, is akin to, say, suggesting (as live options, at least) that maybe evolution does not happen beyond a certain level (say, 'kinds') because evolution is directed by an agent, or that the speed of light (and a zillion other things) may have changed in the past so the universe is young, and so on.

Side note: Aliens aren't metaphysical speculation, even if they're speculation.


Crude: "But once you're in that metaphysics land, positing infinite multiverses of the right kind, you're introducing a different spin to the mix. You can't just assume 'well, in the majority of universes the tunneling events are undirected' in and of itself - you'll have to be arguing for that, especially once you start factoring in designed and simulated universes. Doubly so since those universes can stack (simulations within simulations), in principle without limits themselves."

Again, you may set up the multiverses as you like, and eventually in some of them you'll get the results you like. If you want to show that real multiverse theories would have that result, please go ahead (you'll probably need hundreds of posts to explain, but if you prefer to do it elsewhere, that's fine with me too).
As for steve's argument, it is not at all like that, as you explained before, when you said. "I think one good way to get to the heart of Steve's point may be to put it like this.

Is event X taking place an extraordinary event, if it takes place an in an infinite multiverse where such an event is mathematically guaranteed to take place in some universes? "

While I came to this thread only to ask about the Jesus example (before you and steve raised other issues), as of now I've already presented enough arguments, examples, etc., to show that that objection (and related ones) has no bite (i.e., to someone assessing the matter rationally; the objection might still be an effective piece of apologetics), so I'll leave it at that for now.

steve said...

Angra Mainyu said...

“While I'm not proposing the same epistemic theory as Loftus', your objection appears unwarranted. You seem to be under the impression that one cannot make probabilistic assessments if there is a multiverse, or that kind of multiverse. But you've not given any good reason to believe so, as far as one can tell.”

Give us the prior probability of a miracle in the multiverse, and demonstrate how you derive that figure. Then compare the prior probability of a miracle in a multiverse with the prior probability of a non-miracle in a multiverse.

“You seem to be conflating the probability that the resurrection of Jesus happened on our planet in our universe with the probability that somewhere, a doppelganger of Jesus resurrected.”

You’re confused. I haven’t cited the multiverse to leverage the probability of the Resurrection in our particular subset of the multiverse. Make an effort to focus on the actual argument.

Also, doppelganger is the wrong term. Try “counterpart.”

“The fact is that you've provided no reason to think that in the multiverse hypothesis, we shouldn't still give an extremely low prior to the probability that Jesus resurrected in our universe, and in fact it seems pretty clear that we should indeed give it such a low probability (unless your specific multiverse hypotheses makes specific instances of resurrections probable).”

Actually, I have given the reason. The fact that you’re logically challenged is not my responsibility.

“So, let's say that our universe has infinitely many galaxies (no need for parallel universe, though no need to deny them, either), and our understanding of quantum tunneling is [roughly, at least] correct. I can still say that the probability that, some day, my neighbor quantum-tunnelled throw my wall, and then back to his place, is so low that I can dismiss it as a serious alternative, even though infinitely many doppelgangers of my neighbor did so on infinitely many other planets.”

The probability of it happening in any particular subset of the multiverse is a red herring. Try to follow the actual state of the argument.

“Now, you can say that the resurrection of Jesus (or some doppelganger, depending on the kind of multiverse and some issues of identity) is bound to have happened, but that is not a problem for the atheist at all.”

It’s obviously a problem for an atheist if they say, a la Sagan, that the Resurrection is too extraordinary to have any realistic chance of ever happening.

“No, if there is a multiverse like the one described by Victor Reppert in the OP, this is a tremendous problem for Christianity, for the reasons I explained earlier (not that it needs more problems, but that aside).”

Since you’re chronically forgetful, I’d remind you once again that my argument isn’t predicated on the theological orthodoxy of the multiverse. Rather, my argument trades on popular atheistic assumptions. Try hard to absorb that rudimentary distinction. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

However, since you continue to broach this irrelevant objection, I’d point out that there are Christians like Don Page and Jeff Zweerink who think a multiverse is compatible with Christian theology.

BenYachov said...

>When more and more errors are found, coming up with reinterpretations according to which the errors

Actually some of these different readings are ancient. For example both Philo who was born before Christ and later Augustine interpreted Genesis 2:4 to mean the Universe was created all at once & thus the six days where symbolic not literal. This was long before science suggested an Old Earth.

Indeed Augustine's principle of granting the primacy of Science in interpreting Scripture became the norm for the Church.

>or alternatively they claim that the Bible does contain errors,

Actually going back too Augustine the idea that texts could be corrupted in small detail in their transmission was excepted.

So it's not a new concept.

>Still, I would ask you for your particular way of choosing which ones were upgraded, based on scientific findings, or any other reasons, like moral ones (e.g., regarding Yahweh's commands to commit genocide, or to burn to death a woman in ancient Israel if she was both a prostitute and the daughter of a priest, etc.)

So you are a Protestant Atheist? That is so cute!!!!! Your an Atheist who believes in the Reformation doctrines of Private Interpretation & the Perspicuity of Scripture(as opposed to believing in Bible, Tradition and Church which Catholics like Crude and Myself believe).

What will you give me next? An metaphysical naturalist who believes Sacraments work Ex opere operato? Perhaps an Agnostic Skeptic who believes in Transubstantiation?

As too "moral problem" there are no reports in the Talmud of gays being executed for homosexuality indeed it is likely that it is impossible to do so given the legal requirements.

Philo reported that the Israelites did spare the Meridianite Male infants and young children. Thought the later Mishna says they where killed.

Fundamentalist Christianity is a modern phenomena not an ancient one.

Get the fuck over it loser.

The problem with you Gnus is that you can't think of any Christianity beyond modern fundamentalism. I suspect it's because you guys being so philosophically illiterate can't formulate a philosophical defense of either naturalism or materialism to save your lives. So you find the smallest kid on the block and pick on him.

It's pathetic!

BenYachov said...

Good grief steve's argument here is simplicity itself.

These are the implications of postulating a multiverse.

Things that are not true in our particular space time continuum can be true in at least one other.

Thus rather then helping Atheism(like explaining away fine tuning) a case can be made it makes it more improbable.

Why is that hard?

Angra Mainyu said...

Ben Yachov said: "Actually some of these different readings are ancient. For example both Philo who was born before Christ and later Augustine interpreted Genesis 2:4 to mean the Universe was created all at once & thus the six days where symbolic not literal. This was long before science suggested an Old Earth."
Yes, there were also ancient readings that had nothing to do with Pauline Christianity. That's not my point. The point is that they had a certain set of religious beliefs, including usually accepted interpretation of the texts, and they had to come up with reinterpretations in response to errors.

True, some of those reinterpretations were similar to those proposed by a few long before, and previously abandoned. In some cases, they could just bring back abandoned interpretations, but surely that wasn't always the case. And other interpretations are completely new.
But the main point remains that they kept reacting to evidence that contradicted their religious beliefs (and yes, those were religious beliefs), and kept adapting them accordingly.

Ben Yachov: "Indeed Augustine's principle of granting the primacy of Science in interpreting Scripture became the norm for the Church."
What Church?
But for example, let's take a look at the official position of the RCC of the past on the issue of whether the Earth moves.

http://web.archive.org/web/20070930013053/http://astro.wcupa.edu/mgagne/ess362/resources/finocchiaro.html#indexdecree

Most Christians interpreted the text like that. Then, views changed overtime, in response to evidence contradicting Christian traditional claims. The same goes for other matters, like evolution. Or the Flood. Or the Parting of the Red Sea (of course, that depends on the version of Christianity; some changed some stuff; others changed other stuff).

Ben Yachov: "Actually going back too Augustine the idea that texts could be corrupted in small detail in their transmission was excepted.

So it's not a new concept. "
It's an idea that contradicts their religious claims, even if not the claims of everyone in the past with respect to those reinterpreting the text with respect to the interpretation previously accepted.
Incidentally, the acceptance of errors isn't limited to small details. Some Christians have accepted much more pervasive errors.

Ben Yachov: "So you are a Protestant Atheist? That is so cute!!!!! Your an Atheist who believes in the Reformation doctrines of Private Interpretation & the Perspicuity of Scripture(as opposed to believing in Bible, Tradition and Church which Catholics like Crude and Myself believe).

What will you give me next? An metaphysical naturalist who believes Sacraments work Ex opere operato? Perhaps an Agnostic Skeptic who believes in Transubstantiation? "

No, obviously you grossly misrepresent my words. I was asking Crude about his particular way of choosing which ones were upgraded, based on scientific findings, or any other reasons, like moral ones (e.g., regarding Yahweh's commands to commit genocide, or to burn to death a woman in ancient Israel if she was both a prostitute and the daughter of a priest, etc.).


Ben Yachov: "As too "moral problem" there are no reports in the Talmud of gays being executed for homosexuality indeed it is likely that it is impossible to do so given the legal requirements. "

That is irrelevant. I was asking Crude about his way of choosing which ones were upgraded, for one reason or another.
If you want to talk about the morality, reasonableness, etc., of some OT commands, I would recommend that you take a look at Randal Rauser's post here, and my exchange with him, especially the part about Mosaic laws like burning the prostitute in question.

BenYachov said...

Let me help you out Angra Mainyu.

Let me play Devil's advocate(pun so intended).

You could argue that the immutable laws of physics are the same across the multiverse and thus any neo-Humean argument you might venture to attack miracles as violations of those immutable laws apply there thus it is not possible for there to be a universe where Jesus rises from the dead.

(Of course this argument is not immune to criticism but at least it's a start but at least it is better then you pretending steve's argument is an argument for the resurrection or miracles or the truth of the Bible. Somebody has to actually make a philosophical case for Atheism since Gnus don't seem to want too. It's pathetic it has to be a Theistic Thomist like Moi)

Angra Mainyu said...


Ben Yachov: "Fundamentalist Christianity is a modern phenomena not an ancient one. "
Religious Christian belief that the Flood happened is not modern.
Religious Christian belief that humans did not evolve is not modern.
Religious Christian belief that Adam was created before Eve, and she was created from one of his ribs, is not modern.
Religious Christian belief that a morally good creator commanded to the ancient Hebrews (for instance) that a prostitute who is the daughter of a priest be burned to death is not modern.
Religious Christian belief that there is an eternal hell of actual torment (by fire or other means) is not modern.
And a very long etc.

Ben Yachov: "Get the fuck over it loser."
Excellent argumentation.

Ben Yachov: "The problem with you Gnus is that you can't think of any Christianity beyond modern fundamentalism. I suspect it's because you guys being so philosophically illiterate can't formulate a philosophical defense of either naturalism or materialism to save your lives. "
No, the problem is your attributing me beliefs, attitudes, etc., that I do not have, and for no good reason.
I'm not entirely sure what 'naturalism' or 'materialism' even mean (definitions are a difficulty for me), so in particular, I subscribe to neither.

Ben Yachov: "So you find the smallest kid on the block and pick on him.

It's pathetic! "
Yes, that would explain the frequency with which I "pick" on arguments raised by prominent theist philosophers.
But nice ad-hominem.


Ben Yachov: "Good grief steve's argument here is simplicity itself.

These are the implications of postulating a multiverse.

Things that are not true in our particular space time continuum can be true in at least one other.

Thus rather then helping Atheism(like explaining away fine tuning) a case can be made it makes it more improbable.

Why is that hard? "
I already explained carefully why his argument fails, and why the multiverse in question adds many new problems for Christianity.
The fact that you're unable to understand it (perhaps, faith is getting in the way of reason) does not change that.

Angra Mainyu said...

steve said: "Give us the prior probability of a miracle in the multiverse, and demonstrate how you derive that figure. Then compare the prior probability of a miracle in a multiverse with the prior probability of a non-miracle in a multiverse. "

What's a miracle?
Regardless, that's not the point. You're still asking the wrong question, assuming a burden on the atheist that is the atheist does not have.
I already explained that I can tell that the probability that my neighbor passed through the wall and was in my room is negligibly slim, given my epistemic position. That does not change if I come to believe that the universe has infinitely many galaxies in which infinitely many instances of doppelgangers of my neighbor pass through the walls of infinitely many doppelgangers of me.

The usual probabilistic assessments that we make are not the same as the probabilistic assessments in the context of a particular model. In most cases, we can't apply the model, for reasons such as insufficient information or limited computing capability (i.e., not even close to be enough), but that's not the point.

The point is that I can rightfully assess - and should assess - that the prior that my neighbor did that is extremely low. The same goes for the prior that some religious leader in our past, in our planet and our universe, resurrected. It's even smaller if the claim is about Jesus.

steve: "You’re confused. I haven’t cited the multiverse to leverage the probability of the Resurrection in our particular subset of the multiverse. Make an effort to focus on the actual argument."
No, you're confused. I did not accuse you of that. I showed why your arguments fail. But this is getting repetitive, so I will refer you and readers to our previous exchange.
I acknowledge that your persistence and apparent confidence make you a good apologist, though. However, that does not make your position any less mistaken.

steve: "Also, doppelganger is the wrong term. Try “counterpart.”"
It depends on what you mean by those words, and the type of universe or multiverse we're talking about, but the point was clear anyway. At least, to those without a previous commitment to the belief that I'm wrong.


steve: "Actually, I have given the reason. The fact that you’re logically challenged is not my responsibility."
That's obviously not a fact, but then, it's obvious to someone who's being rational about the matter and is familiar with my argumentation.
I would recommend interested readers to take a careful look at our exchange.

steve: "The probability of it happening in any particular subset of the multiverse is a red herring. Try to follow the actual state of the argument. "
I would recommend interested readers to take a careful look at our exchange.

steve: "It’s obviously a problem for an atheist if they say, a la Sagan, that the Resurrection is too extraordinary to have any realistic chance of ever happening. "
I would recommend interested readers to take a careful look at our exchange, as well as my exchange with Crude.

Angra Mainyu said...

steve: "Since you’re chronically forgetful, I’d remind you once again that my argument isn’t predicated on the theological orthodoxy of the multiverse. Rather, my argument trades on popular atheistic assumptions. Try hard to absorb that rudimentary distinction. It shouldn’t be that difficult."
Obviously, I've not forgotten anything. But you're ignoring my reply to you. I would recommend interested readers to take a careful look at our exchange.
Incidentally, since you're so confident in your points, how about you post a link to this discussion in your own blog?
Surely, you would only be strengthening your case, getting more readers to read how you defeated the objections of an atheist, right?

steve: "However, since you continue to broach this irrelevant objection, I’d point out that there are Christians like Don Page and Jeff Zweerink who think a multiverse is compatible with Christian theology. "
Perhaps, in the sense that you can keep coming up with ridiculously improbable reinterpretations that would make it look compatible.
But for more on the problems that that would create for Christianity, I would recommend interested readers to take a careful look at my initial post in this thread, plus a few others.

BenYachov said...

Wow you are bad at this.

>e point is that they had a certain set of religious beliefs, including usually accepted interpretation of the texts, and they had to come up with reinterpretations in response to errors.

So what? News flash Catholics don't believe Scripture is clear and at best there are 7 verses in the whole Bible that have been given an infallible interpretation by the Church.

Young Earth Interpretations of Genesis aren't any of them.

Get the F-word over it.

>But for example, let's take a look at the official position of the RCC of the past on the issue of whether the Earth moves.

I've already had this debate with Atheist philosopher Jesse Parrish.
IT was pleasure since he was very smart. But he made the same mistakes about Galileo you are making & had to walk it back.

here

>It's an idea that contradicts their religious claims,

Unless it an interpretation give by the Unanimous Consent fromm the Church Fathers, the Pope or an Eccumenical Council I should care why?

What part of "I am Catholic not a Fundamentalist Protestant" do you not get?

>That is irrelevant. I was asking Crude about his way of choosing which ones were upgraded,

Crude is a Faithful orthodox Catholic. Why would he put his own ideas above the Church against Church teaching?

Wow you are bad at this!

>I would recommend that you take a look at Randal Rauser's post here,

Oh Because a liberal Evangelical Protestant has the same presuppositions in interpreting Scripture as an orthodox Catholic right? NOT!!!!!!!

Plueez!!!!!

BenYachov said...

>like moral ones (e.g., regarding Yahweh's commands to commit genocide,

We don't know they where literal. OTOH if they where the Fathers & Church taught only via a Public Revelation can such an act be done. Since all public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle the point is moot.

>or to burn to death a woman in ancient Israel if she was both a prostitute and the daughter of a priest, etc.).

Rabbinic Tradition teaches a Sanhedrin that puts to death more then one person per 70 years is murderous.

Jewish Tradition taught not to hand out the death penalty so freely. There is no reason to believe the Jews intended to literally apply this law.

Also tradition taught you can drug any criminal about to be executed to reduce their pain.

I still don't believe in Scripture alone without tradition numb nuts!

BenYachov said...

>Religious Christian belief that the Flood happened is not modern.

Why can't I believe the flood was local not global? In the 19th century the Vatican intelligencia believed that.

>Religious Christian belief that humans did not evolve is not modern.

Rather the idea evolution is not compatible with Christianity. The Vatican excepted evolution.

>Religious Christian belief that Adam was created before Eve, and she was created from one of his ribs, is not modern.

There is no reason why we can't believe God infused a hominid animal with a soul. Augustine believed animals changed their form over time. It's not remarkable.

>Religious Christian belief that a morally good creator commanded to the ancient Hebrews (for instance) that a prostitute who is the daughter of a priest be burned to death is not modern.

We don't know it was meant to be taken literally. Rabbinic Tradition was strongly against the death penalty.

>Religious Christian belief that there is an eternal hell of actual torment (by fire or other means) is not modern.

Most Medieval mystics I've read say Hell is spiritual pain.

>I'm not entirely sure what 'naturalism' or 'materialism' even mean (definitions are a difficulty for me), so in particular, I subscribe to neither.

They are philosophical terms. This is a philosophy blog. You are unfit to argue Atheism here then.

steve said...

Angra Mainyu said...

“What's a miracle? Regardless, that's not the point.”

Of course that’s the point. That’s the point of Sagan’s motto, which summarizes Hume. “Extraordinary” in reference to what? What’s the frame of reference? What’s (allegedly) “extraordinary” in a universe is very different if we shift to a multiverse.

And, indeed, the definition of “miracle” is different given a multiverse scenario.

“You're still asking the wrong question, assuming a burden on the atheist that is the atheist does not have.”

i) This is another facile fallacy that shallow-minded atheists are fond of. But both sides have a burden of proof.

ii) Moreover, to remind you once again, given your chronic forgetfulness, I’m arguing from atheistic premises. Many atheists believe in the multiverse. Indeed, many atheists believe in the multiverse because they think that undercuts some traditional theistic proofs.

iii) And, yes, if you’re going to claim (as you’ve done), that the prior probability of a resurrection is “extremely low” even in the multiverse, then you automatically shoulder a burden of proof.

“I already explained that I can tell that the probability that my neighbor passed through the wall and was in my room is negligibly slim, given my epistemic position.”

You keep trotting out that irrelevant illustration, even though the irrelevancy of the illustration has been explained to you. You don’t have any back-up arguments for your position. So you just keep repeating the same stale arguments you used the first time around.

“The point is that I can rightfully assess - and should assess - that the prior that my neighbor did that is extremely low. The same goes for the prior that some religious leader in our past, in our planet and our universe, resurrected. It's even smaller if the claim is about Jesus.”

You’re treating the prior probability of a miracle as if that’s analogous to the prior probability of a particular license plate. But atheists don’t think the resurrection is “extraordinary” in the same sense that a particular license plate number is extraordinary.

“But this is getting repetitive.”

That’s because you’re incapable of advancing the argument.

“At least, to those without a previous commitment to the belief that I'm wrong.”

Precommitment to the belief that Angra Mainyu is wrong is always a safe bet. You can bank on that.

“I would recommend interested readers to take a careful look at our exchange, as well as my exchange with Crude.”

I’d second that recommendation inasmuch as Crude easily bested you.

However, you don’t even grasp the standard atheist argument. Atheists typically argue that miracles are “extraordinary” in the sense of being so overwhelmingly unlikely that there’s no reason to think they ever take place. Testimonial evidence can never overcome the daunting presumption to the contrary. That’s Hume’s influential framework, popularized by Sagan’s catchy motto.

If, by contrast, a multiverse renders the same events inevitable, then that’s a completely different scenario. And that radically changes the odds. Try to keep up with your own side of the argument.

“Perhaps, in the sense that you can keep coming up with ridiculously improbable reinterpretations that would make it look compatible.”

Since you obviously haven’t acquainted yourself with what Don Page or Jeff Zweerink have written on the subject (btw Page’s material is freely available online), you’re in no position to characterize it as you have. But that nicely illustrates the propensity of atheists to make confident assessments based on sheer ignorance.

William said...

More than likely, all here may agree that 1) in a multiverse, a resurrection is possible, but that 2) looking at our planet alone, the probability of a resurrection is very low.

One side seems to be emphasizing point (1) the other (2). Can we agree that 1 and 2 are both true, or not?

BenYachov said...

steve

This guy is an idiot. He doesn't know the difference between a Traditional Catholic like me from a Baptist Fundie from a Reformed Calvinist guy like you.

Worst he doesn't know philosophy from the part of his body that excretes waste.

I think we have another Paps.

BenYachov said...

>I already explained carefully why his argument fails,

I haven't seen you once show how Atheism can be true in light of this argument.

You have been treating it as a argument for Christianity not a polemic of Atheism.

>and why the multiverse in question adds many new problems for Christianity.

Some versions of a multiverse could do that. So what?

>The fact that you're unable to understand it (perhaps, faith is getting in the way of reason) does not change that.

No it's that you are a fucking idiot who doesn't even know about Atheist philosophical terms(like materialism, Naturalism) yet you are wasting everyone's time with your ignorant blather and irrelevant anti-fundamentalist polemics.

ozero91 said...

Everybody take a chill pill. Have you guys checked Angra's blog? I think he knows philosophy. I also think the discussion was going fine until the whole "mental gymnastics" tangent.

BenYachov said...

>Everybody take a chill pill. Have you guys checked Angra's blog? I think he knows philosophy. I also think the discussion was going fine until the whole "mental gymnastics" tangent.

Then he is disingenuous feigning ignorance of "naturalism" when he follows a blog with that title and materialism.

That's worst.

BenYachov said...

Also it is clear he doesn't want to address the implications of steve's argument.

He wants to pretend steve is trying to use the multiverse as an argument for the truth of Christianity.

When it is clear he is using it as a polemic against Atheism and Sagan's argument against miracles.

It's not hard.

ozero91 said...

So, the point of all this is that, given a multiverse, the atheist would have to change his/her remark from "The resurrection is unlikely." to "The resurrection is unlikely, but was bound to happen in some universe."

Crude said...

Still, let's go with that. The point remains that in that kind of universe, he would be betrayed by a disciple, but never was betrayed. In another one, Islamic prayers are often answered. But no prayers from any other religion are. And in another one, only prayers to the Olympians work. And in another one, an Indian Guru claims that, say, he can make some small object just appear, and when he says 'appear' (or something like that), well, they do appear. Moreover, the Guru never grows old. And so on.

You're describing a multiverse set where prayers to the Olympians work, Islamic prayers work, indian gurus make small objects appear, etc.

In other words, you're describing a universe where atheism is false and gods do exist - apparently, you're doing so even while dropping my additional point about simulated and created universes. Like I said, you should really come to grips with why this is a considerable problem for the vast majority of atheistic thought.

No, there is nothing remotely absurd about it.

It's self-evidently absurd to regard a multiverse where 'miracles' take place in abundance, up to and including regularly answered prayer in various worlds, as non-problematic for atheism as it has been conceived for years. It's likewise self-evidently absurd to not regard powerful beings creating universes directly or through simulation as not a problem for atheism.

You keep going off on 'apologetics tactics', but repeatedly pointing out one side's absurdity has nothing to do with apologetics or religion specifically. It's just highlighting a defect in the opponent's reasoning.

No, definitely not all of my objections.

Yes, all your objections, precisely because you're making the move of 'well to heck with what was traditionally said - all that matters here is what I, personally, say'. Now, your talk of 'traditional Christianity' is wrong anyway, but by your standard that means nothing at all - all that matters is what one atheist/Christian in particular says.

Crude said...

The point is that objecting on the suggestion that quantum tunneling does not occur at large scales because maybe some agent is behind all or most instances of quantum tunneling, so it won't allow that to happen,

That's not what I said. I said that there's no way for science to determine that such and such was 'random'/'unguided' in an ultimate sense, or even a sufficiently qualified non-ultimate sense. You made reference to science showing that such and such random events are not directed in any sense whatsoever - I was pointing out, that's not science, even while pointing out that science can engage in talk of correlations, biases, etc, in a limited sense. But that limited sense doesn't get you anywhere near 'guided' or 'unguided'.

Side note: Aliens aren't metaphysical speculation, even if they're speculation.

Yes, they are metaphysical speculation given this particular context.

Again, you may set up the multiverses as you like, and eventually in some of them you'll get the results you like.

One more time: it's not me 'setting up the multiverses as I like'. The speculation I'm engaged in here isn't novel to me - it's been discussed by everyone from Brian Greene to Paul Davies to Martin Rees to otherwise. Brian Greene's latest book on the multiverse has an entire chapter devoted to created/simulated universes - that alone should be enough to give you pause.

Regardless, even on the subject of resurrections - you're in the position of saying that universes abound where prayers are answered, miracles take place, resurrections take place, etc. You're avoiding the simulation and creation talk like mad. And all this is on a quasi-'naturalistic' multiverse scenario.

Yeah, you can keep insisting (I suppose you learned something from the apologists you like to refer to) that you showed steve wrong. I'll just point out it's evident that has to go through some serious contortions once multiverse talk is on the scene, and really, all anyone has to do is look at your own arguments to see as much.

Crude said...

William,

More than likely, all here may agree that 1) in a multiverse, a resurrection is possible, but that 2) looking at our planet alone, the probability of a resurrection is very low.

One side seems to be emphasizing point (1) the other (2). Can we agree that 1 and 2 are both true, or not?


You know, I actually think this is incorrect. I think 2 would have to be qualified in terms of what assumptions are being made, and I think multiverse scenarios introduce twists that help to make 2's odds inscrutable, even given some common and traditionally non-theistic assumptions.

ozero,

So, the point of all this is that, given a multiverse, the atheist would have to change his/her remark from "The resurrection is unlikely." to "The resurrection is unlikely, but was bound to happen in some universe."

Well, more than that. I think steve's point was that, given a multiverse, resurrections and all other manner of things take place with regularity and are no longer really extraordinary. I'd add on the point that multiverses introduce factors to nature that arguably make 'likely' or 'unlikely' talk inscrutable in a major sense.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude said: "You're describing a multiverse set where prayers to the Olympians work, Islamic prayers work, indian gurus make small objects appear, etc.

In other words, you're describing a universe where atheism is false and gods do exist - apparently, you're doing so even while dropping my additional point about simulated and created universes. Like I said, you should really come to grips with why this is a considerable problem for the vast majority of atheistic thought. "
No, the 'in other words' does not follow from my point.
Whatever you mean by 'gods' (the ambiguity of the words is at this point relevant), the point is not that someone responds to the prayers, but that they work (i.e., what is requested comes about).

Crude said: "It's self-evidently absurd to regard a multiverse where 'miracles' take place in abundance, up to and including regularly answered prayer in various worlds, as non-problematic for atheism as it has been conceived for years. It's likewise self-evidently absurd to not regard powerful beings creating universes directly or through simulation as not a problem for atheism."

The prayers were not answered. They're just successful. For that matter, if our universe is infinite, there will be some place where (as far as we know) things like that do happen. But there is no assumption of intentionality behind the results.

As for the simulation of universes, whether that's a problem for atheism depends on both the definition of 'atheism' (obviously; the word is useful to a point, but in this context, its ambiguity has become relevant) and what kind of simulation we're talking about.

In any event, I was not talking about such simulations.

Crude: "You keep going off on 'apologetics tactics', but repeatedly pointing out one side's absurdity has nothing to do with apologetics or religion specifically. It's just highlighting a defect in the opponent's reasoning."
But you're not pointing out any absurdity on my side, since there is none. You falsely claim so. That's your error, but what's a good apologetic tactic is your persistence on that, and your assertiveness. The same goes for Ben Yachov and steve.
Another effective tactic is numbers. I'm clearly outnumbered, and even trying to correct the misrepresentations of my position is costing me too much time.

I had stopped posting here to a considerable extent due to our previous exchange, realizing it was not possible to handle those tactics in a reasonable amount of time. But I posted in this thread because I thought that asking a question wouldn't result in the same. My mistake for posting.. I will get eventually (not long now) out of this thread, and you and the others will get the last word, and will have successfully persuaded those not following the discussion carefully and/or not being rational about it.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "That's not what I said. I said that there's no way for science to determine that such and such was 'random'/'unguided' in an ultimate sense, or even a sufficiently qualified non-ultimate sense. You made reference to science showing that such and such random events are not directed in any sense whatsoever - I was pointing out, that's not science, even while pointing out that science can engage in talk of correlations, biases, etc, in a limited sense. But that limited sense doesn't get you anywhere near 'guided' or 'unguided'."

Actually, you came up with the claim that the contextual probability (which only "assumed" present-day science) depended on every incident being non-directed; I just didn't agree with the claim that all of them had to be like that.


Crude: "Yes, they are metaphysical speculation given this particular context."
No. I introduced the aliens, and they're not like that.

Crude: "One more time: it's not me 'setting up the multiverses as I like'. The speculation I'm engaged in here isn't novel to me - it's been discussed by everyone from Brian Greene to Paul Davies to Martin Rees to otherwise. Brian Greene's latest book on the multiverse has an entire chapter devoted to created/simulated universes - that alone should be enough to give you pause."
One more time, you are.
Once again, there is a difference between tentative speculation by some scientists and what their theories actually posit.
Once again, if you want to say that actual multiverse proposals imply that, or even make it probable, please show your work.
Once again, if we go by their speculation, evidently the extremely improbable events I mentioned remain extremely improbable.


Crude: "Regardless, even on the subject of resurrections - you're in the position of saying that universes abound where prayers are answered, miracles take place, resurrections take place, etc. You're avoiding the simulation and creation talk like mad. And all this is on a quasi-'naturalistic' multiverse scenario."
No, once again you're in the position of grossly misrepresenting my position.
Once again, I make no claim that there is a multiverse.
Also, I do not know what a 'miracle' is. The ambiguity of the word has become quite relevant in this context.
Also, I'm not avoiding the simulation. I already addressed those claims of yours carefully enough for a rational and interested reader. Good apologetic tactics, but I will refer interested readers to the exchange; I would also warn all readers about the persistence misrepresentation of what I say.


Crude: "Yeah, you can keep insisting (I suppose you learned something from the apologists you like to refer to) that you showed steve wrong. I'll just point out it's evident that has to go through some serious contortions once multiverse talk is on the scene, and really, all anyone has to do is look at your own arguments to see as much."
No, you will not 'point out', but falsely claim that.
It's apparent to a reader who is both careful and rational that I have defeated that argument.

But I will also recommend interested readers to take a look at my arguments, and yours (well, and generally, to this thread as a whole).

Angra Mainyu said...


steve said: "Of course that’s the point. That’s the point of Sagan’s motto, which summarizes Hume. “Extraordinary” in reference to what? What’s the frame of reference? What’s (allegedly) “extraordinary” in a universe is very different if we shift to a multiverse."

You brought up the word 'miracle', and its ambiguity has become relevant.

But your continuous misrepresentation of my position, your constant attacks, etc., combined with those of others, have been successful in driving me away. I recognize I do not have more time for replying to endless irrational hostility, etc., so I'm getting out of here (I came here with the intention of talking to someone interested in doing philosophy, not religion).

You can bash me some more after that, obviously.
Still, if someone reads the exchange carefully and rationally, they will realize that your argument is no good.

Chris said...

Honest question here - apologies if it's stupid. But I'm curious, how does a multiverse change the probabilities that the Resurrection occurred in our universe? The fact that it happens an infinite number of times in infinite universes seems like it might just mean that the probability that it happened here is exactly the same as it was before, whatever that probability may be, though presumably it is low (and low even if the Resurrection is true). In short, paradoxically, the multiverse has •no• effect on •any• probability in any particular universe.

The same for ECREE; it would remain as 'valid' as before. Everything might be 'ordinary' on a multiversal scale, but any particular event could/would still be extraordinary in any particular universe. (For instance, wouldn't the Resurrection still be an extraordinary event if it were true in this universe, even if there were a multiverse?) The probability that a die will come up six would still be 1/6 even though there would be infinite universes where dice come up six every single time. If we had an extraordinary claim here that a die always came up six, wouldn't we still be justified in thinking that either the die was rigged or that the claim was false on its face? In the universes where dice always came up six as a matter of experience, sentient beings there would be justified in being skeptical - of demanding extraordinary evidence - to any claim that a die came up as 1 (or always came up as 1, if you prefer).

Or would all probabilities for everything become philosophically (or even mathematically) meaningless?

William said...

Chris:

"In short, paradoxically, the multiverse has •no• effect on •any• probability in any particular universe. "

Yes, excellent point. In fact, I don't think that it helps the anthropic principle be any better as an explanation in our world either-- like in Davidson's possible worlds, whether other worlds exist or not does not help us with any net understanding of why events in this specific world are as they are.

For example, it doesn't actually matter whether it is merely that the gravitational constant _could_ have been different, versus that it _is_ different in other universes.

The need or lack of need to explain why the gravitational constant is _as it is here and now_ does not really change, in my opinion.

steve said...

ozero91 said...

“So, the point of all this is that, given a multiverse, the atheist would have to change his/her remark from ‘The resurrection is unlikely.’ to ‘The resurrection is unlikely, but was bound to happen in some universe.’"

No, that’s not the typical atheist objection to miracles. The typical atheist objection isn’t merely that the resurrection (or some other miracle) is “unlikely.” Rather, the typical atheist objection is that a miracle (e.g. the resurrection) is so extraordinary, so vanishingly improbable, that any reported miracle is, by definition, unbelievable. You are never rationally justified in believing a miracle occurred.

That’s how the burden of proof is weighted in the typical atheist objection to miracles.

So the multiverse forces the atheist to make a concession that’s the opposite of his typical position. Given the multiverse, presumptive scepticism about miracles is unjustified, for the occurrence of some miracles is inevitable under that scenario. That’s a complete about-face.

BenYachov said...

@steve

Wasn't the classical(as opposed to the typical) objection that is was somehow impossible given "immutable physical laws"?

Just curious.

steve said...

Chris said...

“Honest question here - apologies if it's stupid. But I'm curious, how does a multiverse change the probabilities that the Resurrection occurred in our universe? The fact that it happens an infinite number of times in infinite universes seems like it might just mean that the probability that it happened here is exactly the same as it was before, whatever that probability may be, though presumably it is low (and low even if the Resurrection is true). In short, paradoxically, the multiverse has •no• effect on •any• probability in any particular universe. The same for ECREE; it would remain as 'valid' as before. Everything might be 'ordinary' on a multiversal scale, but any particular event could/would still be extraordinary in any particular universe. (For instance, wouldn't the Resurrection still be an extraordinary event if it were true in this universe, even if there were a multiverse?) The probability that a die will come up six would still be 1/6 even though there would be infinite universes where dice come up six every single time. If we had an extraordinary claim here that a die always came up six, wouldn't we still be justified in thinking that either the die was rigged or that the claim was false on its face? In the universes where dice always came up six as a matter of experience, sentient beings there would be justified in being skeptical - of demanding extraordinary evidence - to any claim that a die came up as 1 (or always came up as 1, if you prefer).”

That’s the wrong way to frame the issue. Atheists typically argue that miracles don’t happen *at all*. They don’t happen at *any* time or place. They treat reported miracles as unbelievable by definition. That’s the benchmark. That’s the point of contrast.

Put another way, it concerns the nature of reality. Do miracles happen in the real world? Assuming there is just one universe, atheists claim it’s hopelessly unlikely that miracles happen.

If, however, we grant the multiverse (and this is something many atheists affirm), then miracles do happen in the real world. Indeed, miracles are bound to happen.

There’s a fundamental difference between saying miracles never happen in the real world and saying miracles do happen (indeed, must happen) in the real world.

So there are now two different questions: what’s the probability that a miracle will happen in the multiverse? And what’s the probability that a miracle will happen in any particular subset of the multiverse? Even if an atheist were to contend that miracles are still improbable in any given universe, there’s been a fundamental shift in the argument.

At that point we’re no longer discussing *whether* miracles occur. Given the multiverse, their occurrence is also a given. Now we’re discussing the frequency of their occurrence. When or where they occur in the multiverse. So the ground has shifted in the atheist argument.

Moreover, how would you know in advance that you’re not living in one of those subsets of the multiverse where one or more miracles occur? Why would you demand extraordinary evidence for the occurrence of something you know actually happens on a regular basis? How is it still extraordinary to claim that something we know happens…happens? How are you defining “extraordinary” at that point?

To take a comparison, suppose it’s inevitable that miracles happen on earth, although we don’t know ahead of time where on earth they happen. There may be no antecedent reason to think they take place in Paraguay, but by the same token, there’s no antecedent reason to think they don’t take place in Paraguay.

William said...

Steve, you are right only if "an infinity of universes" means "an infinity including the reality of anything I can think about."

That does not follow from infinity.

A "real infinity" of points between 0 and 1 in the real numbers would not make any point in that segment be of value 2.

So a actual multiverse would still leave us needing to concede the possibility of a specific miracles before they it can be believed. (I personally think that most historical miracles are at least possible, whether or not they were actual, but others may reasonably disagree).

steve said...

Angra Mainyu said...

“You brought up the word 'miracle', and its ambiguity has become relevant.”

Do you really need that much coaching? What do you think Sagan is referring to when he mentions “extraordinary claims”? Obviously he has miracles in mind. Indeed, he’s defining what he means by a miracle. A would-be event which is so extraordinary that it demands extraordinary evidence to credit the claim.

So the onus is not on me to define “miracle” or “extraordinary.” That’s up to Sagan or those who endorse his slogan.

“But your continuous misrepresentation of my position, your constant attacks, etc., combined with those of others, have been successful in driving me away…”

Life is full of little tragedies like this. How shall we ever cope?

“I recognize I do not have more time for replying to endless irrational hostility, etc., so I'm getting out of here (I came here with the intention of talking to someone interested in doing philosophy, not religion).”

Your problem is not that you have a hard time trying understanding the argument, but that you try hard not to understand the argument.

steve said...

William said...

"Steve, you are right only if 'an infinity of universes' means 'an infinity including the reality of anything I can think about.'"

A multiverse isn't simply "an infinity of universes," but a world ensemble of concrete alternate possibilities.

ozero91 said...

Off-topic: Is the "universe" an abstract or a concrete object?

Chris said...

Steve said, "There’s a fundamental difference between saying miracles never happen in the real world and saying miracles do happen (indeed, must happen) in the real world...Even if an atheist were to contend that miracles are still improbable in any given universe, there’s been a fundamental shift in the argument."

I agree with this. An atheist cannot use an infinite multiverse argument against miracles, although it is my (admittedly limited) understanding of multiverse theory that there is not actually an infinite number of universes, only an extraordinarily large number (10 to the 500th power, iirc) of universes, which would seem to bring the multiverse argument back in play, since the atheist could deny miracles in all universes, as the usual 'violations of fundamental laws', etc.

Crude said...

Ben,

Wasn't the classical(as opposed to the typical) objection that is was somehow impossible given "immutable physical laws"?

Just curious.


I know you directed this at Steve, but I believe that's correct. It's also another instance of science messing with historical atheist apologetics. So what was once impossible is now very unlikely, and is in turn absolutely happening but just not here. Maybe.

More later.

Chris said...

Another question: are we talking multiverse or many worlds here? This: "a world ensemble of concrete alternate possibilities" sounds like many worlds.

ozero91 said...

I think one of Angra's points is in need of further investigation, and that is the definition of multiverse. I think one side is defining it as a collection where all logically possible universes exist, and the other side seems to define it as a collection of universes that is enough to explains fine tuning.

cautiouslycurious said...

Steve,
"What do you think Sagan is referring to when he mentions “extraordinary claims”? Obviously he has miracles in mind."

Which is exactly why he used it in reference to extraterrestial life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKXmjn3G_xQ

Crude said...

Chris,

An atheist cannot use an infinite multiverse argument against miracles, although it is my (admittedly limited) understanding of multiverse theory that there is not actually an infinite number of universes, only an extraordinarily large number (10 to the 500th power, iirc) of universes, which would seem to bring the multiverse argument back in play, since the atheist could deny miracles in all universes, as the usual 'violations of fundamental laws', etc.

There's multiple multiverse theories in play, and some of them (apparently the most popular ones) are in fact infinite.

Papalinton said...

Give over Ben. Angra has whipped your ass. Accept it.

Crude said...

Whatever you mean by 'gods' (the ambiguity of the words is at this point relevant), the point is not that someone responds to the prayers, but that they work (i.e., what is requested comes about).

What I mean by 'gods' is pretty much the age-old meaning. As for your reply, first someone does respond to prayers in some areas given the multiverse, and really - do you think 'prayer works' is even an improvement for your case regarding what I'm discussing here?

The prayers were not answered. They're just successful.

First, I'll again note that on the multiverse, 'prayers were answered by an agent' is a live option, and indeed a certain option given some pretty common, basic speculations about the realm of what's possible given infinite attempts and varying initial condition.

Second, are you really going to tell me that even in an ideal case where prayers are always answered, there is no inference to intentionality in play? Really?

But you're not pointing out any absurdity on my side, since there is none.

I am pointing out absurdity on your side - you are, in good apologetic form, refusing to admit it and obfuscating. I can appreciate why you accuse people of underhanded discussion methods - you're apparently intimately familiar with them.

As for 'numbers', that's always an issue in any discussion. You're hardly being mobbed here, but you're certainly textwalling in response - another tactic.

Actually, you came up with the claim that the contextual probability (which only "assumed" present-day science) depended on every incident being non-directed; I

No, I was replying to your claim about science's ability, as science, to make inferences about the presence or lack of God's (or some other powerful being's) guidance in nature.

One more time, you are.

One more time, I'm not.

Argue with Greene. Argue with Davies. Argue with Martin Rees, and more. Hell, argue with Tegmark, since Davies engaged him on this and he more or less punted.

It's apparent to a reader who is both careful and rational that I have defeated that argument.

Apparently, we're in one of those universes where Angra Mainyu is either deluded, or incapable of admitting problems with his reasoning. I'm not sure what the odds are on that universe, but I gotta go where the evidence points.

Angra Mainyu said...

I will reply once again to some of Crude's points, but I won't be posting in this blog any longer after these posts; no time for dealing with this kind of responses, and not much interest (what I'm doing here is essentially defending myself, not discussing anything interesting; in retrospect, I shouldn't have even asked a question).

Crude: "What I mean by 'gods' is pretty much the age-old meaning."

There is no 'age-old meaning'; there are different, similar usages. If someone asks what a car is, the answer is simple: point at that car, the other car, etc., and they get the meaning. There are no gods around to point to, so people learn by means of pointing to entities called that in fiction and/or religions. Given that different people are given vastly different examples, given that there are no actual examples 'out there' that people can use to settle the matter, and no 'god-detecting' mechanism, a lot of interpersonal variation in usage is to be expected.
And that's what one encounters. The same goes for vernacular usages of words such as 'magic', 'supernatural', 'natural', 'atheist', and even 'God'.

That does not make the words useless; there is interpersonal variation in usage in most words after all. But it makes them inadequate in cases in which precision is required to separate the different scenarios.

Crude: "As for your reply, first someone does respond to prayers in some areas given the multiverse, and really - do you think 'prayer works' is even an improvement for your case regarding what I'm discussing here? ""

Like an alien with advanced tech? For that matter, a human with advanced tech might reply to a few prayers, pretending to be something she's not. But so what?
But it's not a case of someone with the power to always reply to the prayers of one religion, as I described, nothing like 'God', or even like gods, under most conceptions of the term (if you include advanced aliens, post-humans who changed themselves, etc., then whatever, but that's just your particular usage of the word).

Look, one of my reply to all of your posts/attacks was not clear enough on the matter that there wasn't actual intention behind the replies, so my mistake (not easy to debate when someone who uses apologetic tactics and insist on his nonsense), but I've made it very clear now that I'm not talking about intent, and certainly not about the kind of entity described by any religion.

Crude: "First, I'll again note that on the multiverse, 'prayers were answered by an agent' is a live option, and indeed a certain option given some pretty common, basic speculations about the realm of what's possible given infinite attempts and varying initial condition."

I will again point out that you can rig the scenario as you like, but there is nothing to suggest that under the conditions posited by multiverse hypotheses there would be souls or any other disembodied beings (not any more than in our universe, and certainly it's not a commitment of those theories), and that even in cases of intervention, the entities in question would qualify as advanced aliens (mortal, limited, etc.).
If you want to call that 'gods', whatever. Your terminology. Not a problem for me.

Angra Mainyu said...

I will reply once again to some of Crude's points, but I won't be posting in this blog any longer after these posts; no time for dealing with this kind of responses, and not much interest (what I'm doing here is essentially defending myself, not discussing anything interesting; in retrospect, I shouldn't have even asked a question).

Crude: "What I mean by 'gods' is pretty much the age-old meaning."

There is no 'age-old meaning'; there are different, similar usages. If someone asks what a car is, the answer is simple: point at that car, the other car, etc., and they get the meaning. There are no gods around to point to, so people learn by means of pointing to entities called that in fiction and/or religions. Given that different people are given vastly different examples, given that there are no actual examples 'out there' that people can use to settle the matter, and no 'god-detecting' mechanism, a lot of interpersonal variation in usage is to be expected.
And that's what one encounters. The same goes for vernacular usages of words such as 'magic', 'supernatural', 'natural', 'atheist', and even 'God'.

That does not make the words useless; there is interpersonal variation in usage in most words after all. But it makes them inadequate in cases in which precision is required to separate the different scenarios.

Crude: "As for your reply, first someone does respond to prayers in some areas given the multiverse, and really - do you think 'prayer works' is even an improvement for your case regarding what I'm discussing here? ""

Like an alien with advanced tech? For that matter, a human with advanced tech might reply to a few prayers, pretending to be something she's not. But so what?
But it's not a case of someone with the power to always reply to the prayers of one religion, as I described, nothing like 'God', or even like gods, under most conceptions of the term (if you include advanced aliens, post-humans who changed themselves, etc., then whatever, but that's just your particular usage of the word).

Look, one of my reply to all of your posts/attacks was not clear enough on the matter that there wasn't actual intention behind the replies, so my mistake (not easy to debate when someone who uses apologetic tactics and insist on his nonsense), but I've made it very clear now that I'm not talking about intent, and certainly not about the kind of entity described by any religion.

Crude: "First, I'll again note that on the multiverse, 'prayers were answered by an agent' is a live option, and indeed a certain option given some pretty common, basic speculations about the realm of what's possible given infinite attempts and varying initial condition."

I will again point out that you can rig the scenario as you like, but there is nothing to suggest that under the conditions posited by multiverse hypotheses there would be souls or any other disembodied beings (not any more than in our universe, and certainly it's not a commitment of those theories), and that even in cases of intervention, the entities in question would qualify as advanced aliens (mortal, limited, etc.).
If you want to call that 'gods', whatever. Your terminology. Not a problem for me.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Second, are you really going to tell me that even in an ideal case where prayers are always answered, there is no inference to intentionality in play? Really? "
Obviously, I'm not going to tell you that there would be no inference to intentionality on the part of the hapless people who are exposed to such conditions.
You do not seem to have understood some of the consequences of an infinite universe with the rules we know and infinitely many galaxies (we don't even need parallel universes for that); if there are such galaxies, then even completely random shots of darts (with zero intent behind them, just following certain distribution) will result in that kind of events, and infinitely many times.

Crude: "I am pointing out absurdity on your side - you are, in good apologetic form, refusing to admit it and obfuscating. I can appreciate why you accuse people of underhanded discussion methods - you're apparently intimately familiar with them. "
No, you're falsely claiming absurdity on my part, though you probably do not realize that.
As for your methods, your hostility started from the beginning, and so did your apologetic methods.
However, I did not say that you were deliberately obfuscating, deploy tactics that are confusing people, etc.; you may well irrationally fail to realize that you're confusing people, and attacking me for no good reason.

It's a shame because you're a very intelligent person, but you're not interested in learning; you believe you're right no matter how wrong you are, and you cause a lot of damage spreading your arguments. No matter, clearly this is not the place for me to be, so I'll get out of here after these posts, and you can continue defaming me, misrepresenting what I said, and confusing people. I acknowledge I have no time to deal with you.

Crude: "As for 'numbers', that's always an issue in any discussion. You're hardly being mobbed here, but you're certainly textwalling in response - another tactic. "

I'm not 'textwalling'; it takes much fewer words to attack a person, or to raise a thoughtless attack that misrepresents a position, etc., than to explain all that's wrong with the claims and arguments in question. It makes it far more difficult for me to reply, since in order to deal with a line of your attacks, I need several at least.

Crude: "Apparently, we're in one of those universes where Angra Mainyu is either deluded, or incapable of admitting problems with his reasoning. I'm not sure what the odds are on that universe, but I gotta go where the evidence points."

I'm afraid you fail to go where the evidence goes. Granted, you believe you are, perhaps because your religion gets in the way of rational thinking. Not that you'll realize it, despite the fact that you obviously have the intelligence for that. Maybe it's faith getting in the way, but that might not be all that there is. Perhaps, you're also reacting to what you instinctively perceive as a challenge to your reputation here (a common human reaction, in my view). But regardless of the causes of your attitude, it's a shame.

Anyway, now I'm leaving, so fire away (not that you'd stop firing, anyway).

Victor Reppert said...

Angra, from what I have seen over at Secular Outpost, is a serious interlocutor. Some of you may have gotten a little trigger-happy.

steve said...

cautiouslycurious said...

"Which is exactly why he used it in reference to extraterrestial life."

That's not all he applies it to by any means. In The Demon-Haunted World, Sagan applies his evidential criterion to miraculous and paranormal claims.

Angra Mainyu said...

Victor,

Thank you.

While I'm leaving since I don't think my staying would be constructive (at this point there's probably too much bad blood for that already), I do appreciate your reply.

Take care,
Angra,

BenYachov said...

>Angra, from what I have seen over at Secular Outpost, is a serious interlocutor. Some of you may have gotten a little trigger-happy.

What I saw was a disingenuous person who apparently responds to arguments he can't answer by feigning ignorance. Otherwise he makes broad appeals to the ambiguity of language when put on the defense but appeals to specifics when he tries to go on offensive.

His profile says he reads Stephen Law's blog & one called Naturalistic Atheism & he has the nerve to claim he doesn't know the definitions of either naturalism or materialism?

Good grief!

Sorry Victor but if this guy has any ability to argue coherently or rationally he has kept it quite hidden.

He is just a more whiny version of Paps nothing more.

Crude said...

Ben,

He is just a more whiny version of Paps nothing more.

I disagree. I think he's BSing considerably and is engaged in the usual blog-theatrics, but he actually presents arguments, shows a grasp of the discussion taking place and does contribute. Whatever faults he has, I'll still grant that immediately.

Clearly I think little of some particulars of some of his arguments and his antics here, but put him against the man you compared him to and he's golden thus far.

BenYachov said...

I don't know Crude. I don't see much difference between them.
If he is as you say he hides it well.

He said:
>I'm not entirely sure what 'naturalism' or 'materialism' even mean (definitions are a difficulty for me), so in particular, I subscribe to neither.

He reads like a relativist on crack (except when you disagree with his fundamentalist interpretations on Scripture then he insists those interpretations are the only meanings) refusing to settle on any particular defined term & even rejecting them outright.

He refuses to deal with any specific definition of a miracle or definition of gods.

What is the point to him?

Anyway good job you and steve.

Cheers man.

Angra Mainyu said...

I wasn't planning to come back, but given how the accusations persist, I will give a brief reply; still, for those interested in knowing who's right, I can only recommend reading the exchange carefully.

Yachov: "What I saw was a disingenuous person who apparently responds to arguments he can't answer by feigning ignorance. Otherwise he makes broad appeals to the ambiguity of language when put on the defense but appeals to specifics when he tries to go on offensive.

His profile says he reads Stephen Law's blog & one called Naturalistic Atheism & he has the nerve to claim he doesn't know the definitions of either naturalism or materialism?

Good grief! "

That is a false claim about what I said. I never said I had not encountered definitions. I said "I'm not entirely sure what 'naturalism' or 'materialism' even mean (definitions are a difficulty for me), so in particular, I subscribe to neither."


There are different definitions. I do not find them clear, or I do not find them to reflect common examples of so-called 'material' or 'natural' stuff. I take no stance on them.

Yachov: "Sorry Victor but if this guy has any ability to argue coherently or rationally he has kept it quite hidden."

I would recommend readers to take a close look at this exchange, or perhaps at some of my posts at other blogs, if they're familiar with them.
I'm not going to post links not to be accused of self-promotion, but given how I've been accused, I would suggest for those who want to consider more evidence to take a look at my as far as I know last post in my [archive] blog - or earlier posts, if they prefer, but the last one is better.

Yachov: "He reads like a relativist on crack (except when you disagree with his fundamentalist interpretations on Scripture then he insists those interpretations are the only meanings) refusing to settle on any particular defined term & even rejecting them outright.

He refuses to deal with any specific definition of a miracle or definition of gods."

That's not true.

1. The relativist claim (relativist about what?) is baseless; nothing I said in this thread suggests any kind of relativism.
2. I have no fundamentalist interpretations of scripture; I just don't adjust interpretations to save religious commitments, since I have none. So, I follow the evidence.
3. I would have dealt with specific definitions of 'gods' or 'miracles', if they had been given. I essentially pointed out that the vagueness of the words was showing, in this context.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Clearly I think little of some particulars of some of his arguments and his antics here, but put him against the man you compared him to and he's golden thus far. "

Obviously I reject the disparaging word 'antics', but I do concede you're also less insulting and hostile than Yachov or Hays, and a much better debater.

On the issue of 'antics', I would recommend readers (and you, if you ever wanted to) to take a look at both the tone and content of what I was replying to, including when you opened up with "I think the giveaway here is you keep qualifying your statement with 'given my understanding of the word extraordinary'. Sure, modifying one's definition and take on extraordinary may let you continue to use it, but it's still wreaking havoc on the common sense of it.", plus stronger accusations by others.

Crude said...

I'll reply more later - busy night - but yes, I stand by what I said with regards to 'extraordinary'. I think Steve was taking aim at a particular and very common conception regarding 'extraordinary claims', and pointing out the problems that follow with extraordinary talk given the varieties of multiverse in question. That talk of 'extraordinary' is pretty key to Steve's point, and at the same time it's pretty easy to alter the meaning of that word perpetually.

William said...

Angra: do you think that, under Tegmark's Level 4 multiverse speculations, there are worlds where any arbitrary concept of God exists in reality (in those universes)or not?

Matt DeStefano said...

Angra: I wasn't planning to come back, but given how the accusations persist, I will give a brief reply; still, for those interested in knowing who's right, I can only recommend reading the exchange carefully.


As one of those readers, you've done an admirable job at staying both civil and correcting misunderstandings. It's refreshing to see some civil and serious discussion on this blog, even while (attempting) to engage the peanut gallery.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude,

My comment in my immediately previous post was not about your substantive claims on the meaning of 'extraordinary claims'. I stand by what I said on substantive issues, but I addressed that matter earlier so I'll leave it at that.
Anyway, my comment in my immediately previous post was about the 'giveaway' comment, the comment about modifying one's definition, the comment (also in that post) about 'play with the word' etc., after which things continued to escalate.

Regarding the substantive issue, you'll post more later, but I'm afraid I probably won't.
I might post in order to defend myself from new charges, insults, or something of that sort (hopefully not), but this debate has already taken me too much time and it's been too taxing, and I've already made my points on substantive matters sufficiently clearly anyway, so unless I see any new claims or arguments (rather than more debate on the previous ones), I do not think I'll be posting anymore.

Angra Mainyu said...

William "Angra: do you think that, under Tegmark's Level 4 multiverse speculations, there are worlds where any arbitrary concept of God exists in reality (in those universes)or not?"

As I mentioned, I prefer to avoid further substantive issues since I'm kinda leaving, but since your question seems new, I'll address it now:

While the wording of your question leaves room for nitpicking, it seems to me that you're asking whether I think that in such multiverse, any entity matching any such arbitrary concept of 'God' would exist (i.e., you clearly do not seem to be asking whether the concepts exist, but let me know if I got it wrong).

So, my answer to the question is that if that kind of multiverse is consistent (else, it's a moot point; I've not studied the matter enough to take a stance on whether it's consistent; AFAIK, the matter is debated among some physicists), the answer is no.

One sufficient reason for my position is that there appear to be different arbitrary concepts of 'God' (or 'god') that, while they're not self-contradictory as far as one can tell, they do contradict each other.
More precisely, there appear to be pairs of concepts G1 and G2 such that "There exists an entity F such that F is a G1" is not contradictory, "There exists an entity L such that L is a G2" is not contradictory, but "There exist entities F and L such that F is a G1, and L is a G2" is a contradiction. That is so regardless of what kind of multiverse there is, just by the concepts G1 and G2.

Angra Mainyu said...

Matt,

Thank you very much for the comment.

Crude said...

More precisely, there appear to be pairs of concepts G1 and G2 such that "There exists an entity F such that F is a G1" is not contradictory, "There exists an entity L such that L is a G2" is not contradictory, but "There exist entities F and L such that F is a G1, and L is a G2" is a contradiction. That is so regardless of what kind of multiverse there is, just by the concepts G1 and G2.

You're going to have to get a lot more detailed than that, because frankly - unless we've now hit a point where gods like Zeus, Ares, etc are no longer taken to be gods (despite an incredible amount of atheist treatment of them as gods) - the existence of multiple gods does not suffice to make one being 'no longer god'. Not even multiple creator gods.

Now, granted, you can't have two omnipotent, omniscient gods instantiated at once, for example. But gods aren't required to be omniscient or omnipotent to be gods (see: Zeus). Furthermore, 'gods' of that type are a more general class of being - a god that meets the relevant threshold (various powers, capabilities, etc) is a god, even if it's not part of any current revealed religion. But with Tegmark's level 4 multiverse, those beings exist. In fact, they exist in abundance, and arguably any universe with sentient beings is more likely than not to be in a created universe than a non-created universe since you can stack simulations.

So for Tegmark's universe, yes, you've got gods all over the place - it's a polytheistic concept, even if no one really likes to admit it. Not in the sense that it was thought up to bring any gods onto the scene, but certainly in the sense that, if taken seriously, gods naturally fall out of the concept.

And I'd argue, this is going on for lower 'levels' of multiverse theories as well, given otherwise non-theistic assumptions and models.

Papalinton said...

Matt DeStefano
"As one of those readers, you've done an admirable job at staying both civil and correcting misunderstandings. It's refreshing to see some civil and serious discussion on this blog, even while (attempting) to engage the peanut gallery."

I agree with the superlative manner that Angra Mainyu has conducted the prosecution of his argument. His civility, and quiet reasoned nature is a beacon among the spirit-filled shadow followers.

Crude said...

By the way, Angra. Quick hypothetical question.

Let's say you're having a discussion with someone online. They're soundly, angrily, snottily condemning an idea you're advancing. Someone asks them to sum up the idea you're talking about in their own words. They reply, and it's discovered that their reply was actually plagiarized practically in its entirety from a website, with some minor alterations made.

Would you conclude anything about their intellectual honesty, their capability, and their worthiness of discussing anything with based on that event?

Thank you.

B. Prokop said...

What is extraordinary to me, as a person in almost daily contact with professional figures in the astronomical community (in my capacity as president of the Howard Astronomical League), is how persons outside of the profession have so completely misunderstood (and misused) the multiverse concept.

The multiverse idea is a mathematical construct employed to get by otherwise insurmountable difficulties related to "Fine Tuning" - the fact that the observable universe is balanced on a knife's edge of improbabilities necessary for our very existence. It is nothing more than a gigantic "fudge factor" thrown into cosmological discussions to prevent them from foundering on this issue. It's kind of like Jerusalem in the Middle East negotiations, along the lines of "Let's all agree to table this issue for now, and move along to something we can actually settle."

Interestingly enough, nearly 100% of peer-respected cosmologists will maintain that the actual existence of other universes is inherently unprovable. That alone makes the entire concept a-scientific. (To be "scientific", a theory must be capable of being disproven.)

Aside: There are a small number of cosmologists, such as Matthew Kleban of New York University and Matthew Johnson of the Perimeter Institute of theoretical Physics, who believe the concept is provable, and have recently proposed ways of doing so. But they are in a minority. I personally hope they are correct, since I find the multiverse concept to be "really cool".

Zach said...

The multiverse idea is a mathematical construct employed to get by otherwise insurmountable difficulties related to "Fine Tuning"

So you are saying that in the first proposal of the MV in physics, that it was explicitly used to avoid Fine Tuning arguments? Reference? I find this very hard to believe, but would be pleasantly surprised if it were true.

Zach said...

Angra Mainyu sorry this used to be a good blog, where you would have had more productive discussion that didn't immediately get consumed by people wanting to be right rather than find the truth. I wish I could recommend a blog that wasn't like this, but they are short-lived and unpopular.

Dan Gillson said...

Zach,

Bob's point wasn't that MV theory is employed to avoid Fine Tuning arguments; merely that MV theory is a 'placeholder' explanans for the improbability of the existence of life. (As in, it is an answer to the question, "Why do we exist?")

B. Prokop said...

Zach,

Do some research on the Anthropic Principle. You'll find your linkage there.

And no, I did not say anything about "first proposals". I am referring to how it is used currently. Note my use of the present tense throughout.

If you want to talk about "first proposals" you need to go back into the history of science fiction. An early example of the multiverse concept was Murray Leinster's Sidewise in Time (1934). The great E.E. Smith developed the idea extensively in his Lensman series (1937-48). Specifically, he imagined another universe in which the speed of light was higher than in ours. An object brought from that universe into ours would therefore possess infinite mass. He used it as a weapon in his novel Children of the Lens.

BenYachov said...

You are full of shit Angra.

>That is a false claim about what I said. I never said I had not encountered definitions. I said "I'm not entirely sure what 'naturalism' or 'materialism' even mean (definitions are a difficulty for me), so in particular, I subscribe to neither."

In other words when you are on the defensive you feign ignorance etc. Just as I said. I see nothing here that you have written to change my mind.

>There are different definitions. I do not find them clear, or I do not find them to reflect common examples of so-called 'material' or 'natural' stuff. I take no stance on them.

That is not what you originally said. You said “I'm not entirely sure what 'naturalism' or 'materialism' even mean (definitions are a difficulty for me)”. Without definitions rational conversation is not possible. Even if I don’t agree with a particular definition I can for the sake of argument use it & if possible argue around it. People who feign ignorance of a term are just trying to avoid an inconvenient argument. I have much sympathy for those who are truly ignorant but not those who clearly fake it.

>I'm not going to post links not to be accused of self-promotion, but given how I've been accused, I would suggest for those who want to consider more evidence ….

Talk is cheap buddy. Either bring your A Game & alleged knowledge or go home. I haven’t seen that just a lot of girlie whining.

>That's not true.

It is IMHO.

>1. The relativist claim (relativist about what?) is baseless; nothing I said in this thread suggests any kind of relativism.

Linguistic relativism. You treat all terms & definitions ambiguously and refuse to make an effort to learn how your opponent is using them. Gods, miracles, etc. Your counter argument is then summed as “Well there are other definitions for the terms you are using so your argument is invalid & thus I have refuted it”.

So there is no way to have a rational conversation with this type of bullshit. I doubt you will change.

BenYachov said...

>2. I have no fundamentalist interpretations of scripture;

Clearly you do. You believe the penalty for the daughters of Cohen found guilty of pagan ritual prostitution proscribed in the Torah (i.e. burning) is to be taken straight forwardly without the filter of Tradition or Authority(which teaches us to avoid the death penalty). Your whole moral objection to that penalty relies on such a reading. A
method of reading Scripture historic Judaism, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy reject. A method that did not see the light of day in Christendom till post Reformation times.

This is one example of many. But one will do.

>I just don't adjust interpretations to save religious commitments, since I have none. So, I follow the evidence.

The idea Christians “adjust interpretation to save religious commitments” is predicated on the idea the straight forward reading of Scripture (called literal by Augustine or Pishat by the Rabbis) is the only legitimate one. Historically that is not true. Even if God doesn’t exist it is not true. You have given no evidence Scripture must be given a straight forward reading. You treat the Scripture here according to the Reformation doctrine of Perspicuity & you do that while arguing with two Catholics(Crude and myself). Also you use Perspicuity in a manner I’m sure even Reformed dudes like steve might retch at.

This is a further example of your fundamentalism.

>3. I would have dealt with specific definitions of 'gods' or 'miracles', if they had been given. I essentially pointed out that the vagueness of the words was showing, in this context.

Now you want definitions? Make up your mind Gnu boy!

Crude as he has done in the past was content to use the pagan definition of “gods”. That is the definition he used. Steve sought to use what he believed Sagan’s definition of miracles. But your response? “Well there are different definitions? So I can dismiss your argument because the terms you are using can be defined differently”.

Crude is right you are a first class bullshiter.

My low opinion of you remains unchanged.

BenYachov said...

One last bit.

Your the guy who brought up alleged Scriptural errors in a discussion on multiverses vs extraordinary claims of miracles.

Not I.

Dan Gillson said...

I have this strange intuition that this dialogue is missing certain ingredients of a good discussion. . .

Zach said...

Ah ok bob so you weren't saying it was employed to get around things, but that it is used that way by some people nowadays.

I know Everett's many worlds interpretation of QM was not, and typically hasn't been, used that way. It's just the most natural perspective for those that want to say that the evolution of the quantum system doesn't fundamentally change, that it is Schrödinger all the way down.

It was just one more of many positions in QM interpretation, not spawned or used for any God arguments or 'anthropic principle' (I am very familiar with, but avoid because it is the hallmark of an intellectual couch potato).

Many worlds it was just another weird QM interpretation, ironically probably the most vanilla mathematically, but the most extravagant metaphysically. So maybe you would say such a view isn't a multiverse theory.

BenYachov said...

>I have this strange intuition that this dialogue is missing certain ingredients of a good discussion. . .

Someone I suppose has to be the adult so I will admit my failings it was wrong to say "get the fuck over it" to Zoroastrian devil boy.

I should have left out the word "fuck".

But other then that I have have lost what is left of my fragile patience.

Zach said...

I have this strange intuition that this dialogue is missing certain ingredients of a good discussion.

lol welcome to DI. It's where you will learn cutting edge trolling theory, not much else.

Dan Gillson said...

Ben, my friend, you just need to spend a week totally blissed out. Try practicing some transcendental meditation and eating some good 'shrooms. Maybe spend an afternoon in a K-hole. You'll come back and your patience will be unflappable. ;-)

BenYachov said...

Well as a Catholic I can't in good conscience practice TM the Holy Church councils against it.

OTOH Contemplative Prayer is an acceptable alternative. It has features like TM in that you empty your thoughts using a sacred word but unlike TM one keeps an active will focused on Love of God.

With that modification I thank your for your advice and shall consider it.

Those who fight monsters run the risk of becoming them.

Substitute monsters with Gnus & that is still good advice.

Dan Gillson said...

I'm just kidding around, man--you know, being coy and all that. :-P

BenYachov said...

It's still good advice.

BenYachov said...

Of course I would substitute "shrooms" with Hotwings and Kaluha with milk and Ranch dressing for the wings.

Angra Mainyu said...

I guess I'm doomed to stay for a while.

Crude, regarding gods and Tegmark's universe.

1. Gods do not form just a category. They form many fuzzy ones, depending on the various usages of the word.

2. The question that William asked was about all concepts, not just a few. Moreover, there is no need to include omnipotence in the definition. It suffices, for instance, to make each of them the creator of all other concrete beings (not that I would call abstracta 'beings', but to avoid side issues), directly or by indirect means (e.g., by creating something that will cause something, etc.), or to make one of them immortal and the other capable of annihilating anything that exists, etc. (and, of course, give them some properties to distinguish the two, like making one morally good and the other not, etc.)

3. Your contention that a being beyond certain threshold of power is a god needs defending under many conceptions of 'god'. Let's consider some examples:

a. Arguably archangel Michael, or maybe Lucifer (assuming some more or less usual Christian world) is more powerful than, say, Loki. But Loki is generally called a god, so it seems that Loki does not meet the threshold if those archangels do not meet the threshold, and then he's a god for some other reason.
But then, what makes you think that there is a threshold met by, say, Zeus?
Alternatively, you might say that Lucifer and Michael are less powerful than Loki because of the presence of a more powerful being Yahweh. I don't know about that; Loki still seems pretty puny, there are more powerful beings, etc.

b. Q (from 'Star Trek') seems to have greater power than most entities we find in polytheistic religions and which are called 'gods' in English, these days. Yet, Q does not qualify, by most people's usage of the terms. So, if there is a condition in terms of various powers, capabilities, etc., it seems to me most entities usually called 'gods' do not meet it.

4. Your contention that beings that reach that level exist in Tegmark's level 4 multiverse is not clear, either. Tegmark's updated hypothesis seems to be (from the Wikipedia article) "that only Godel-complete (fully decidable) mathematical structures have physical existence. This drastically shrinks the Level IV multiverse, essentially placing an upper limit on complexity, and may have the attractive side effect of explaining the relative simplicity of our universe."
But how do you know that fully decidable mathematical structures give you entities that match the (or rather, one of the several more or less common) criteria for 'gods'?

5. In any event, as I explained, I was addressing William's question, and my answer was correct.

Leaving all of that aside, if it turns out that some versions of the multiverse contain many entities that are regarded as 'gods' under some usual sense(s) of the term, then clearly, if such multiverse exists, then in that sense of the term, many gods exist. Then, under that/those conception of 'gods', atheism is false, monotheism is false, and plausibly (for various reasons, though that would require arguments) all theistic religions so far are false.
Now, given that I have no good reason to think that a multiverse with such implications exist, that does not require me to update any beliefs. But of course, if I see sufficient evidence supporting such multiverse, then I would adapt my beliefs accordingly.

Angra Mainyu said...


To all readers:

Yachov continues to defame me, grossly misrepresenting my position, raising both unwarranted and false accusations against me, etc.
If you're going to take a stance on whether the charges are true, I would ask you to take a careful look at my posts, his replies, etc., before you do so.

Yachov: "Clearly you do. You believe the penalty for the daughters of Cohen found guilty of pagan ritual prostitution proscribed in the Torah (i.e. burning) is to be taken straight forwardly without the filter of Tradition or Authority(which teaches us to avoid the death penalty). Your whole moral objection to that penalty relies on such a reading. A
method of reading Scripture historic Judaism, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy reject. A method that did not see the light of day in Christendom till post Reformation times."

False.
My position on that matter is that many of the actions of Yahweh, as described in the Bible (like his command to burn those women to death) are immoral, and so were the actions of those who would accept that command willingly.
Do you claim that Yahweh did not give the ancient Hebrews the command to burn a woman who was both a prostitute and the daughter of a priest to death?


Yachov: "The idea Christians “adjust interpretation to save religious commitments” is predicated on the idea the straight forward reading of Scripture (called literal by Augustine or Pishat by the Rabbis) is the only legitimate one. "
No, it's a historical fact. Many of the changes go hand in hand with the finding of new evidence, or with new moral assessments.

Yachov: "Now you want definitions? Make up your mind Gnu boy! "
That suggests that somehow I said or suggested otherwise (the 'make up your mind') part. That's a gross misrepresentation of my position.


Yachov: "Crude is right you are a first class bullshiter.

My low opinion of you remains unchanged. "

To all readers: I would ask you to please not take Yachov's falsehoods as truths, and if you're interested in what's actually going on, read the exchanges carefully.

Angra Mainyu said...

For those interested on the issue 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence', in a nutshell (only two posts are needed) my take is as follows:

What does 'extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence' mean?
Is it true?

It may well be that different people use that expression in different ways, and some of them in ways in which it's not true, or problematic in combination with other claims they make, etc. This is not a particular trait of this particular expression, though; the same happens with a number of other terms, sentences, etc.

In any case, what I will address here is a usage that I think is reasonably common, and under which ECREE is also correct.

So, let's begin:

Carl Sagan claimed that ECREE, and applied that idea with regard to the claim made by a few people that they had been abducted by extraterrestrials.[1]

In my assessment, a reasonable understanding of ECREE is that a claim with a very low prior probability requires evidence that (together) also has a very low prior probability, in order to warrant acceptance. That principle is true, though somewhat vague given that the probability is not specified, but that's alright, since we usually do not put numbers in probabilistic assessments, anyway, and since it's a general guiding principle, not an attempt to give a formal procedure.

So, if the evidence is something that does not have a very low prior, then it's not going to make something with a very low prior probable after factoring it in.
For instance, if H is all of our evidence for G, the prior of G is less than 1/100000, and the prior of H is, say, 1/1000, then the probability of G given H will not be greater than 1/1000.

Now, there are a few things in need of clarification, at least under the previous understanding of the matter, such as what counts as 'prior' probability.

Let's consider one of Sagan's examples in greater detail:

Let's say that, as a matter of fact, some people who claim to have been abducted by aliens have been abducted by aliens. That does not change the fact that the claim is extraordinary, in the sense that someone who hears that claim ought to give it a very low prior probability...unless, of course, the someone in question is (for instance) one of the aliens carrying out the abductions.

The point here is that the prior probability is not 'prior to everything', but ought to be evaluated from a certain epistemic position. If Joe claims to have been abducted by aliens, I ought to give it a very low prior, but that is not so for the aliens who abducted him.

Similarly, if I have a new dice (I just bought it), toss it, and without looking at the result, I say that the probability that it's a 5 is 1/6 (let's say I know it landed on one of its faces, to avoid complications), I'm making that assessment from my epistemic perspective, given what I know about dice, etc.; moreover, someone who knows that the dice is a special dice and has a '5' over 2 faces, should say that the probability is 1/3 (as long as she knows that it's a balance dice), and so on.

So, the prior, even when it comes to intuitive probabilistic assessments, are based on some (also intuitive, of course) probability space that contains some information – some background, if you like, which depends on the epistemic position of the subject making the probabilistic assessment.

Angra Mainyu said...

Now, someone might be worried that this might be problematic. After all, different humans are in different epistemic positions, even if very similar ones. How can then we discuss, say, the prior probability?

That is usually not a problem, for (at least) the following reasons:

1. Actually, in many cases, the epistemic situations of the different people assessing the evidence are very close to each other, in relation to the matter at hand. Moreover, probabilistic assessments are usually not given exact numbers, but are also vague (e.g., 'probable', 'very probable', 'extremely probable', perhaps even 'so probable that we can be confident beyond a reasonable doubt'), and so on.

2. Different people may agree to consider the evidence from a certain base epistemic position, leaving aside other elements. That position also is somewhat vague, but usually that is not problematic, again given that different people assessing the matter are making the assessments from a sufficiently similar epistemic position.

For instance, a group of scientists may decide to consider some pieces of evidence available to all of them, disregarding some personal experiences that some of them may have had, and which, if incorporated into the background, may well result in different assessments.
Of course, adopting a different epistemic position like that may well be difficult in some cases, but generally speaking, it's to some extent usually doable. [2]

Granted, it might be that, sometimes, the people discussing the probability of an event are having trouble finding a common ground from which to make the assessments. But that's only a general difficulty in discussing assessments of some claims, not a problem for the 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence' principle.


[1]
Sources:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/sagan-alien-abduction.htm
https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan

[2]
That's also similar to a way in which we may revise some of our own beliefs, by removing them from the background for the purposes of reassessing their probability, based on other beliefs we have.

BenYachov said...


>Yachov continues to defame me, grossly misrepresenting my position, raising both unwarranted and false accusations against me, etc.

Nonsense you confirm my charges.

>My position on that matter is that many of the actions of Yahweh, as described in the Bible (like his command to burn those women to death) are immoral,

Which is only a reasonable objection if one hold to your fundamentalist interpretive assumptions.

To call it immoral in light of tradition is the same as calling Christ "immoral" for suggesting it is better to commit self-mutilation by poking out one's eyes or cutting off their hands to avoid immorality. Except Tradition has taught self-mutilation is immoral & forbidden and tradition further teaches Christ was not meant to be taken literally when he said "If your right eye offends thee pluck it out"...etc

So you are still reading Scripture in a fundamentalist manner.

>Do you claim that Yahweh did not give the ancient Hebrews the command to burn a woman who was both a prostitute and the daughter of a priest to death?

I don't deny Christ said "If thy right eye offend thee pluck it out..." but since I don't hold your Neo-Reformation assumptions but historic Christian & Jewish ones I don't feel compelled to put the literalistic out of my arse liek you do.

In a like manner I have good reason via Jewish Tradition to believe this law was not meant to be applied literally.

I don't believe in sola scriptura, perspicuity like you do.

If God does not really exist I still have no reason based on what I know to believe these texts where meant literally.

>No, it's a historical fact. Many of the changes go hand in hand with the finding of new evidence, or with new moral assessments.

You have offered no evidence the command to burn the daughters of Cohen who practice Prostitution was meant literally anymore then Christ's "Command" to pluck out one's eye.

Again you assume a fundamentalist view is the default.

>That suggests that somehow I said or suggested otherwise (the 'make up your mind') part. That's a gross misrepresentation of my position.

I can't discern your position you are all over the place.

Thought I will say post November 29, 2012 12:49 PM was a vast improvement. I would agree with 99% of it.

Angra Mainyu said...

To all readers:

This post and the next one are part of is my defense against some more of Yachov's accusations.

Yachov: "In other words when you are on the defensive you feign ignorance etc. Just as I said. I see nothing here that you have written to change my mind."

I wouldn't hope to change the mind of someone who continues attacking me with unwarranted and false claims, continues to badly misrepresent what I said, puts words into my mouth, etc.; given that I've been constantly accused, I'm posting in self-defense, to try to reduce the risk that his false claims will stick in the minds of many of the readers.

Yachov: "That is not what you originally said."
I recommend readers to take a look at the exchange. What I originally said was “I'm not entirely sure what 'naturalism' or 'materialism' even mean (definitions are a difficulty for me)”. After Yachov grossly misrepresented what I said, I provided further clarification.

Yachov: "Without definitions rational conversation is not possible."
Actually, in the case of most terms of colloquial usage, no definitions are needed, as we already know how to use them. But it's true that in many cases, in philosophy, terms like 'natural', 'material', 'gods', 'miracle', etc., need a (clear) definition, else people end up talking past each other.
Yachov accused me and insulted me, but did not provide such definition of 'natural' or 'material' before launching his attack.

Yachov: "Even if I don’t agree with a particular definition I can for the sake of argument use it & if possible argue around it. People who feign ignorance of a term are just trying to avoid an inconvenient argument. I have much sympathy for those who are truly ignorant but not those who clearly fake it."

I did not feign ignorance about anything. Yachov's claim is false, and unwarranted given the evidence available to him, which is this exchange. Fortunately, it's all on record, so those of you who want to know who is telling the truth can just read it.

Yachov: "Talk is cheap buddy. Either bring your A Game & alleged knowledge or go home. I haven’t seen that just a lot of girlie whining."

I actually debate the best I can, but in case someone likes to see even more evidence about whether I have any ability to argue coherently or rationally, I just let them know where they could find some. Alternatively, they may search for my posts on a number of other blogs, like The Secular Outpost, ex-apologist's blog, Randal Rauser's blog, or Philosophical Disquisitions.

Angra Mainyu said...


Yachov: "Linguistic relativism. You treat all terms & definitions ambiguously and refuse to make an effort to learn how your opponent is using them. Gods, miracles, etc. Your counter argument is then summed as “Well there are other definitions for the terms you are using so your argument is invalid & thus I have refuted it”.

So there is no way to have a rational conversation with this type of bullshit. I doubt you will change."
His claims are false.

1. While my position is that there is some degree of interpersonal variation in the usage of most terms to describe the world around that, those differences are minimal in most cases, and there is no need for definitions; in fact, my position is not what I would call 'linguistic relativism' in any usual sense of the term.

2. In the cases of terms like 'gods', 'miracles', 'supernatural', 'atheism', etc., differences are much greater than in ordinary terms like 'car', 'plane', 'horse', etc.; that does not make them always useless; for instance, they may well be enough in the context of talk about a TV show (e.g., "the main characters were attacked by supernatural beings"), but in many cases, not enough for philosophy. That's when definitions are required.

3. I never claimed that his argument is invalid or that I had refuted it because other people use words differently.

4. I never refused to accept a definition.

Let us see what actually happened:

Yachov's accusation was:
""The problem with you Gnus is that you can't think of any Christianity beyond modern fundamentalism.  I suspect it's because you guys being so philosophically illiterate can't formulate a philosophical defense of either naturalism or materialism to save your lives. " >

In addition to the unwarranted insults, please take into consideration that his attack did not include a definition of your terms, or any reason as to why I should even be interested in defending either naturalism or materialism, under his usage of the terms.

I replied: "No, the problem is your attributing me beliefs, attitudes, etc., that I do not have, and for no good reason. 
I'm not entirely sure what 'naturalism' or 'materialism' even mean (definitions are a difficulty for me), so in particular, I subscribe to neither."

Yachov replied: "They are philosophical terms. This is a philosophy blog. You are unfit to argue Atheism here then.", and then he brought up the issue again, repeatedly.

Among other insults, unwarranted and false accusations against me, etc., he called me a fucking idiot who doesn't even know about Atheist philosophical terms (like materialism, Naturalism) yet you are wasting everyone's time with your ignorant blather and irrelevant anti-fundamentalist polemics.

I would ask those interested in the truth to take a look at our exchange, and reach their own conclusions.

Chris said...

To take a biblical text literally doesn't necessarily make one a fundamentalist. Fundamentalism is about doctrinal correctness, not merely scriptural literalism, although fundamentalists are often (usually?) literalists. Christian fundamentalists believe the bible is •inerrant• (among other things, of course) - but that may or may not include strict literalism.

A stringently doctrinal Catholic can be a fundamentalist even while not accepting sola scriptura.

Angra Mainyu said...

Yachov: "Nonsense you confirm my charges."

I would ask interested readers to take a look, and rationally conclude that his charges are all unfounded.


Yachov: "Which is only a reasonable objection if one hold to your fundamentalist interpretive assumptions."

No.
My point is that the behavior in question, as described in the Bible, is immoral. Clearly, one does not need to have a fundamentalist interpretation in order to conclude that the Bible describes Yahweh commanding Moses and the Hebrews who can enforce the law to burn to death a woman who is both a prostitute and the daughter of a priest.

Yachov: "To call it immoral in light of tradition is the same as calling Christ "immoral" for suggesting it is better to commit self-mutilation by poking out one's eyes or cutting off their hands to avoid immorality. Except Tradition has taught self-mutilation is immoral & forbidden and tradition further teaches Christ was not meant to be taken literally when he said "If your right eye offends thee pluck it out"...etc

So you are still reading Scripture in a fundamentalist manner."

No, I understand the commands given in the OT were meant to be interpreted literally.
That is the same interpretation accepted by the vast majority of Christians for the vast majority of time Christianity has been around, so the claim that it's a 'fundamentalist' interpretation is not true.

Me: "Do you claim that Yahweh did not give the ancient Hebrews the command to burn a woman who was both a prostitute and the daughter of a priest to death?"

Yachov: "I don't deny Christ said "If thy right eye offend thee pluck it out..." but since I don't hold your Neo-Reformation assumptions but historic Christian & Jewish ones I don't feel compelled to put the literalistic out of my arse liek you do.

In a like manner I have good reason via Jewish Tradition to believe this law was not meant to be applied literally. "

Yachov provided no evidence that the command burn those women to death was not meant to be applied literally. The same goes for other commands to stone or burn people to death.


Yachov: "If God does not really exist I still have no reason based on what I know to believe these texts where meant literally."

Normally, books of laws are meant to be understood literally. So, those claiming otherwise have a burden of providing evidence for that kind of claim. I'm just going by the usual understanding of the text, as people have understood it for many centuries, and still do today.

B. Prokop said...

Angra,

I have no idea whether or not Ben is being unfair to you, since you are repeatedly committing the cardinal sin of blog posting, which is writing way too much. As a rule, I almost never read anyone's posting that is over, say, 15-20 lines long (unless I am really interested, which is seldom). And running on to several consecutive postings is no help. Most of us just scroll down until they see someone else's name.

Try tightening up your thoughts if you expect to get any respect here.

Occasionally even I will break this rule, but people know that when I do, it's for good reason.

Tony Hoffman said...

Wow. Just got through reading most of Angra's comments.

Angra, a truly awesome performance both in terms of content (I learned a great deal) and superhuman restraint.

I think you need worry little about the attacks on you here; in my experience reading here, those who have acted like hyenas seem to not be able to act otherwise, and their characters are quickly revealed wherever they go.

Thanks again for your time and patience here.

BenYachov said...

>My point is that the behavior in question, as described in the Bible, is immoral. Clearly, one does not need to have a fundamentalist interpretation in order to conclude that the Bible describes Yahweh commanding Moses and the Hebrews who can enforce the law to burn to death a woman who is both a prostitute and the daughter of a priest.

Which is still about as meaningful as claiming Christ was immoral for suggesting "if your right eye offends thee".

You are just repeating yourself.

>No, I understand the commands given in the OT were meant to be interpreted literally.

By what authority do you claim that is the interpretation? Well?

>That is the same interpretation accepted by the vast majority of Christians for the vast majority of time Christianity has been around, so the claim that it's a 'fundamentalist' interpretation is not true.

That is a very broad claim which you provide no evidence for but like a hypocrite you will turn around & demand it of me. Also as a Catholic I am not going to consider the opinions of the rabble willy nilly outside of how tradition tells us to interpret Scripture.

>Yachov provided no evidence that the command burn those women to death was not meant to be applied literally. The same goes for other commands to stone or burn people to death.

See what I mean?

>Normally, books of laws are meant to be understood literally. So, those claiming otherwise have a burden of providing evidence for that kind of claim.

Sorry but the burden of proof is on you to show me where Scripture says it is always clear? Always to be intepreted privaltly without authority and the Sole rule of faith appart from tradition.

Good luck with that.

>I'm just going by the usual understanding of the text, as people have understood it for many centuries, and still do today.

You are going by the opinions of later Christian commentators regardless if they are Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox & you are not citing any specifically but like a hypocrite you chid me for not "giving evidence".

As a Catholic I should be moved by this why?

I noticed you haven't made any reference to Jewish commentators? These laws where originally theirs.

Can't help notice the ommission.

Angra Mainyu said...


So, let's take a closer look at the claim that the commands to burn to death a woman who was both a prostitute and the daughter of a priest were not meant to be taken literally.

At first glance, the claim looks very improbable. Usually, books of laws are taken literally indeed.

If we take a look at the Wikipedia article on the matter (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_and_corporal_punishment_%28Judaism%29#The_four_types_of_capital_punishment), we see that modern Rabbi's keep saying that those ancient laws were concerned about the difficulty of application, required considerable standards of evidence, etc., and of course they focus on, say, executing a murderer – not sexual 'crimes'.

But there is not a hint that the commands were not to be taken literally.
As an interesting side point, the list of cases of death penalty given by Maimonides includes burning to death the daughter of a priest who commits adultery completed the second stage of marriage, rather than the case of the daughter of a priest who is a prostitute.

Different translations give some variants, but there is no suggestion of a non-literal interpretation.

Granted, someone might claim that the Wikipedia article is mistaken, or Maimonides was. But again, where it the evidence?
Why should one move aside from the usual interpretation of laws, which is the literal one?

So far, Yachov has provided no good reasons to even suspect that the commands where not meant to be taken literally; the claim remains extremely improbable.

Angra Mainyu said...

Another Wikipedia article, about part of the Torah:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emor

The article says "The daughter of a priest who became a harlot was to be executed."

This is an article about Jewish Law, not about fundamentalist Christianity.

Again, someone might claim that that interpretation is mistaken.
However, I see no good reason to buy those claims. Yachov surely provided none.
In addition, this adds more and more evidence that the interpretation that the commands in question were to be taken literally is not one supported only by fundamentalists (moreover, it's the usual interpretation).

Angra Mainyu said...

B. Prokop: "Angra,

I have no idea whether or not Ben is being unfair to you, since you are repeatedly committing the cardinal sin of blog posting, which is writing way too much. As a rule, I almost never read anyone's posting that is over, say, 15-20 lines long (unless I am really interested, which is seldom). And running on to several consecutive postings is no help. Most of us just scroll down until they see someone else's name.

Try tightening up your thoughts if you expect to get any respect here.

Occasionally even I will break this rule, but people know that when I do, it's for good reason. "

A few points (hopefully short enough for your time availability and interest):

1. As I have explained earlier, defending oneself against accusations takes a lot longer than just misrepresenting my claims and accusing away. I prefer to provide a conclusive defense, showing beyond any reasonable doubt that I'm not guilty, at least to those interested enough to read (if any). I know most people will not read it, but at least it's on the record in case someone wants to, and in any case I have no other defense means.

2. I know that I already have some respect from some of the readers, though I wouldn't expect to have much of it. I do not actually expect to get any respect beyond what I already may have, but at least I hope to reduce the amount of disrespect that the accusations will cause, and I would say that at least I have a non-negligible shot at that (i.e., this is not about gaining respect, but about gaining a bit less disrespect and hatred than I would without defenses).

3. I've seen enough character assassination on the net to want to defend myself. It's true that most people will not follow the case against me and my defense, but at least, perhaps the fact that I keep defending myself will give some people pause before they condemn me; in any case, they're always welcome to read my defense if they so choose.

Angra Mainyu said...

Tony,

Thank you for your comment as well.

B. Prokop said...

"I've seen enough character assassination on the net to want to defend myself."

Naw... seeing such should have made you not care about defending yourself. Otherwise, that's all you'd be doing.

But honestly, shorter is better - way better.

BenYachov said...

@Angria

You are still bad at this.

>So, let's take a closer look at the claim that the commands to burn to death a woman who was both a prostitute and the daughter of a priest were not meant to be taken literally.

Rather it was not meant to be literally enforced.

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/life/Life_Events/Death_and_Mourning/About_Death_and_Mourning/Death_Penalty.shtml

QUOTE"throughout the Talmudic literature, this whole subject is viewed with unease, so much so that according to the rules stated in that literature the death penalty could hardly ever have been imposed."

>But there is not a hint that the commands were not to be taken literally.

From the same article you cite from the wiki:
"A Sanhedrin that puts a man to death once in seven years is called destructive. Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah says: a Sanhedrin that puts a man to death even once in seventy years. Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Tarfon say: Had we been in the Sanhedrin none would ever have been put to death. Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel says: they would have multiplied shedders of blood in Israel. (Mishnah, Makkot 1:10)."

Ya miss that part? If we are not suppose to put people to death in the first place according to Tradition then how can it be taken literally?

>As an interesting side point, the list of cases of death penalty given by Maimonides includes burning to death the daughter of a priest who commits adultery completed the second stage of marriage, rather than the case of the daughter of a priest who is a prostitute.

So what? The Talmud discusses wither or not having sex with a girl under 3 years old legally constitutes intercourse & wither or not she could be married by intercourse. White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis cite this as "proof" Judaism authorizes pedophilia. Google it sometime! But I have personally read elsewhere, the Talmud condemn in the strongest possible terms(saying offenders will go to Hell or must die at God's Hand in a flood) persons who marry girls who have not reached Puberty & or molest them sexually without intercourse.

As one Rabbi (Gil Student was his name)pointed out it was common to discuss all aspects of a text or a feature of Jewish Law even if it had no practical application.

So your assumption that discussing the implications of a Peshat application of this Law by Maimonides constitutes a "literal interpretation" is weak sauce.

>Granted, someone might claim that the Wikipedia article is mistaken, or Maimonides was. But again, where it the evidence?
Why should one move aside from the usual interpretation of laws, which is the literal one?

Again why is Sola Scriptura & Perspecuity the default view here and where is your evidence from Scripture? Where is your proof?

Well?

>So far, Yachov has provided no good reasons to even suspect that the commands where not meant to be taken literally; the claim remains extremely improbable.

The Wiki article you linked too says otherwise & I cited above and it wasn't citing modern Rabbis but the Talmud which where ancient Rabbis.

>The article says "The daughter of a priest who became a harlot was to be executed."

Yes according to the din of Pishat interpretation. Just as a man who gives his Three year old daughter over to a man to have sex with her so they may have "Marriage threw intercourse" creates a valid Jewish Marriage. But so what?

That doesn't mean Judaism teaches you should actually do that! Indeed Rabbi Jahudah the Prince said if you do that God will blot you name from the Book of Life.

So I am not impressed.

BenYachov said...

This reminds me of the passage in the Torah that says if a Woman Castrates a man who is fighting her husband to her they must be "cut off her hand without pity."

There is a host of Rabbinic literature that teaches the praise "cut off hand without pity" is a euphemism for give a heavy fine.

Also a host of literature that says if anyone applies this law literally (cuts off some poor woman's hand) deserves death by Chenek.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Angra -- I have read the entire exchange in the combox. I'm disappointed (but not surprised) by the adversarial, abusive tone I've seen from some of the people who've responded to you. I think you did fine, both in terms of content and tone.

I wouldn't worry about what they might think. Anyone who is open-minded can easily find your writings and see that you are reasonable. I think most people can tell when someone has to rely upon insults and other forms of verbal abuse, instead of arguments.

BenYachov said...

Now as I said to Dan he who fights Gnus is in danger of becoming one.

So my conscious tells me to concede the following. Using foul language directed at Angra when he did not do it too me was wrong. Insulting him was wrong. Attacking his honesty was wrong. Attacking his compotence was wrong. Comparing him to Paps was wrong.

I over reacted & treated him very badly.

I am sorry.

But my charge of him interpreting Scripture in a fundamentalistic manner stands. He might not consider himself one but by Catholic standards the man has a fundie view of scriptures.

Crude said...

Angra,

Gods do not form just a category. They form many fuzzy ones, depending on the various usages of the word.

Well, no. There's more than one category of god/God, granted - but multiple categories are quite clear.

It suffices, for instance, to make each of them the creator of all other concrete beings

Not necessary. See, again, the gods of paganism and polytheism.

But then, what makes you think that there is a threshold met by, say, Zeus?

I'm saying that both Zeus and Loki are uncritically accepted by most people to be gods, and indeed for theism to be true of they exist. You say that Michael is more powerful than Loki - but that's not at all clear.

Here's an example of a typical threshold I think one could and would use to establish a god: a being who is capable of creating populated planets and worlds like our own.

Q (from 'Star Trek') seems to have greater power than most entities we find in polytheistic religions and which are called 'gods' in English, these days. Yet, Q does not qualify, by most people's usage of the terms.

You're going to have to back that up. You say Q doesn't qualify by most people's use of the terms. First, I'd ask how you know this. Second, I'd ask why? And I think the answer here is clear: 'because they call him an alien in Star Trek, not a god.' And it's not really considered beyond that point.

But how do you know that fully decidable mathematical structures give you entities that match the (or rather, one of the several more or less common) criteria for 'gods'?

If someone accepts a metaphysical view such that minds can be simulated - and I'll point out again that this is a very common view - then the results I'm talking about with Tegmark (at the least - it's not limited to Tegmark) play out, and one form of theism is true / atheism is false.

Now, given that I have no good reason to think that a multiverse with such implications exist,

Let's be clear here, Angra. Are you telling me that:

A) There is no good reason to believe that human minds can be simulated? I'd actually agree with you here, but I think you're going to find yourself in an extreme minority of modern atheists - which you're welcome to be.

B) There's no good reason to accept Tegmark's multiverse, or any infinite universe or multiverse? (Again, if A goes through, it's not just Tegmark's universe where this comes up.)

The way I see it, those are your only two options for avoiding the conclusion I've stated here. In fact, B doesn't even get you completely off the hook, because then it's an issue of it happening in our universe (see David Deutsch / Frank Tipler for a solitary, extreme example of the sort of example I'm discussing - and I think Deutsch's claim that his OP wouldn't be god fails even by your own standards.) But ultimately, the only avenues I see for you are denying that minds could be simulated, or denying infinite/sufficiently large multiverses.

If you deny neither, you're into the land of (very odd) theism.

Crude said...

A quick add-on to that last reply.

Obviously, simulations aren't required, but they're the obvious go to - and they become the most relevant in Tegmark's scenario, since his is extremely broad in terms of variables. It's less clear if they're viable in other multiverse scenarios: again, I refer to John Gribbin's book on this subject where he argues not only that non-simulated universes are created by powerful intelligent beings, but also (if I recall right) that they outnumber the non-created universes that contain intelligent beings, for one side of this view.

steve said...

Just a small point on the question of tone: the fact that we have a number of atheists dropping by to lend Angra moral support and act as character witnesses on his behalf is hardy a disinterested endorsement. This is partisan support for one of their teammates. It's just a case of atheists praising their own kind. Big deal. The compliments simply mirror their ideological loyalties.

Crude said...

Steve,

Yeah, with regards to moral support, I'm waiting to see if Angra - or any of the other atheists - are going to answer my question about plagiarism. I have the funny feeling that all the talk of debate tone and the requirements for a good discussion have the line drawn there. Those are requirements for Other People.

BenYachov said...

steve

Oh I do believe with some of them it is rah rah rah go Atheists. But I won't name names.

But then there is Victor & Crude.

But Angra showed me I was unfair to him.

He made a good argument and good defense and showed in many areas I was negligent & jumped the gun.

Then there was the cursing at him when he didn't do that to me.

What have I been saying to the Gnus? Learn rational argument.

I told him to bring his A Game so he brought it.

Of course I still find his understanding of how to use Scripture wanting because it's not Catholic or Jewish.

It's kinda of Protestant but not even one you would recognize being a militant Reformed type guy.

(BTW are you a Reformed Dispensationalist Steve? Just courious)

Anyway if this post of yourswas meant as some type of support even if political.

I thank you for the props!

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

Of course being cruel & unjust to Angra & labeling him a Gnu when he may not be one or answering him with ridicule simply because I disagree with him. Mocking him and insulting him. Is treating him no different then how Dawkins says all Theists should be treated or how guys like Myers treat them on a regular basis.

So my question to the peanut gallery is is this how you want to talk to us? Is this how you want a conversation?

Because it will only serve to temp us to respond in kind and like with the case of poor Angra there will be friendly fire and innocents will get caught in it.

This doesn't excuse me being a dick & again I am sorry Angra.

But I think you Dawkins fanboz need to think about it.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Crude wrote:

By the way, Angra. Quick hypothetical question.

Let's say you're having a discussion with someone online. They're soundly, angrily, snottily condemning an idea you're advancing. Someone asks them to sum up the idea you're talking about in their own words. They reply, and it's discovered that their reply was actually plagiarized practically in its entirety from a website, with some minor alterations made.

Would you conclude anything about their intellectual honesty, their capability, and their worthiness of discussing anything with based on that event?


I can't help but wonder if this more than a hypothetical question, but I'll answer regardless.

If I asked someone to summarize an idea in their own words and they plagiarized another website (that was not their own), I would consider that dishonest. At best, they were being lazy and copied-and-pasted something they understood but didn't feel like summarizing in their own words. At worst, they didn't understand the material well enough to come up with their own summary. This is what I would say about anyone, regardless of whether they are an atheist, theist, agnostic, noncognitivist, etc.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Ben wrote:

But I think you Dawkins fanboz need to think about it.

I'm going to interpret this as not directed to me, since I am not a "fanboz" of Dawkins.

In terms of parity between dialectical opponents, I think you are right to say that new atheists who rely upon ridicule and abuse cannot consistently expect theists to treat them with respect.

For what it's worth, I wish that no one took an adversarial approach to important issues.

Crude said...

In terms of parity between dialectical opponents, I think you are right to say that new atheists who rely upon ridicule and abuse cannot consistently expect theists to treat them with respect.

Well, it's good to see that said. I would also add, however, that someone who tolerates or encourages that ridicule should not expect to receive respect either, even if they superficially behave themselves in the presence of theists. Playing good cop / bad cop with that sort of thing is dishonest.

Crude said...

Jeff,

If I asked someone to summarize an idea in their own words and they plagiarized another website (that was not their own), I would consider that dishonest.

Wonderful. See, I happen to agree.

Matt DeStefano said...

Just a small point on the question of tone: the fact that we have a number of atheists dropping by to lend Angra moral support and act as character witnesses on his behalf is hardy a disinterested endorsement. This is partisan support for one of their teammates. It's just a case of atheists praising their own kind. Big deal. The compliments simply mirror their ideological loyalties.

Any impartial observer could tell that Angra has been civil, respectable, and patient in dealing with the peanut gallery who have stumbled over themselves to go about insulting him.

I'm no stranger to vitriol, but the behavior by Crude and especially Yachov is ridiculous (although, as Jeff said, unsurprising). So you don't think I'm playing the partisan game, I'll say that there are several Christian commenters here (B. Prokop and Victor, probably others that are slipping my mind at the moment) who have always behaved admirably.

Likewise, there are many atheist commenters on other blogs (DC, for example) who are spitting images of the type of idiocy that we saw in this thread. Trolls are trolls, despite their religious affiliation.

Angra Mainyu said...

More evidence on the issue of whether the command to burn a woman to death if she was a prostitute (or, perhaps, an adulteress; there are different versions) and the daughter of a priest was not meant to be taken literally, and whether it was traditionally taken literally.

Now, given that that was a book of law, clearly the usual case is that the commands are in fact literal, so as I pointed out, the claim that that wasn't so appears very unlikely a priori.

Moreover, I've provided evidence by a few different Jewish sources showing that they did and do interpret the text in the sense that those commands were meant to be applied (i.e., literally), even if they argue that they were rarely applied, or in one way or another argue that they were just (notice that that is a different matter; my point here is about whether the commands were to be taken literally, and about how they were taken historically).

Now, I will provide a Catholic link as well.
Before I do that, two points:

1. It's not that I believe that somehow the RCC is on average any better at interpretation than alternatives, but Yachov has made clear that he is a Catholic.

2. It's interesting that, while they try to justify the commands (I disagree with their attempts at justifying them of course, but that's not the point I'm trying to make here), they do not claim or even suggest that they were not meant to be taken literally; on the contrary, they accept that they were so meant:

http://newapologia.com/why-punishment-death-for-breaking-old-testament-laws/

Also, from the (Old) Catholic Encyclopedia:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09071a.htm

While that particular Catholic Encyclopedia entry does not comment on that command specifically, it does not even hint at a non-literal interpretation of any of the OT laws, and further attempts to justify the command to commit genocide as well.
But if the commands to commit genocide were meant to be interpreted literally, then why not the command to burn a woman to death if she engaged in the aforementioned behavior while being the daughter of a priest?
But moreover, they literally interpret and attempt to defend the command given in Exodus 21: 5-6 that in some circumstances, a slave shall be very painfully marked in his ear and made a slave forever, etc.; again, it's pretty clear that they did not interpret the prostitute's case in a figurative manner, either.

Another entry, this one interpreting some of the commands about stoning people to death literally:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14308a.htm

Why would the commands involving burning, or other commands involving stoning, be interpreted differently?
Btw, I would also assess that Yahweh's behavior (as described in the Bible), when he commands that (among other cases) a woman who got married with a man who didn't know she was not a virgin, be stoned to death, is immoral, and in any case, that those who willingly accepted and followed that command behaved immorally in doing so. But anyhow, let's go back to the issue of literal vs. non-literal interpretation of those commands.

Another piece of evidence: a Catholic priest gives his defense of Old Testament laws, without even a hint of a suggestion that they weren't meant to be taken literally:

http://www.umdcatholic.org/Northern%20Cross/OldTestamentLaws.pdf

Crude said...

I'm no stranger to vitriol, but the behavior by Crude and especially Yachov is ridiculous

Ahahahahaha.

Oh really? Can you please show me the 'ridiculous vitriol' I engaged in with Angra? The strongest thing I've done in this conversation is accuse him of playing with words and concepts, and when he accused me of 'apologetics tactics', I argued that the meaning of that slur applied more to him.

When Angra was being called ignorant and worse, I said that I thought he was bullshitting to a degree, but that he clearly had a grasp of what he was talking about and was giving serious contributions to the discussion.

That, Matt, is the extent of my performance in this conversation with Angra. If you call that vitriol that has reached ridiculous levels, all I can ask is - just what do you call this?

I think any attempt to describe my exchange here as vitriolic, much less ridiculously vitriolic, is going to say far more about you than it does about me.

Angra Mainyu said...


B. Prokov said: "Naw... seeing such should have made you not care about defending yourself. Otherwise, that's all you'd be doing."

Actually, my reaction was to try to avoid places in which that is done, and instead when I post do it elsewhere, when I think the chances of that are lower. As a result, I usually don't have to spend time defending myself (i.e., since there is no attack).

However, if and when I'm in that position, I do want to defend myself, to reduce the spread of the negative depictions at least to some extent if I can.

Angra Mainyu said...

Jeffery,

Thanks for that reply. I don't care much about what some of my attackers think about me, but I'm slightly concerned about their potential capability to spread their smear.

Not posting under my own name is of course an advantage that allows me to handle such attacks better, but still, that only works to some extent.

I'm still the one posting and being attacked (and internet anonymity is not perfect, anyway).

Matt DeStefano said...

For what it's worth, I wish that no one took an adversarial approach to important issues.

I've noticed that the combination of anonymity and the internet seem to inspire the adversarial approach.

Angra Mainyu said...


Matt DeSteffano "Likewise, there are many atheist commenters on other blogs (DC, for example) who are spitting images of the type of idiocy that we saw in this thread."

Indeed. While I'm not familiar with PG discussions at DC, I have actually left some atheists blogs for good due to the vitriol and constant attacks on pretty much anyone (and also, after spending a lot of time defending myself instead of being able to discuss substantive matters).

I'm not naming names precisely to reduce the chance of more trouble (but to be clear, I'm not talking about any of the blogs I've mentioned in this thread)

William said...

Angra: Thus is interesting. But I think you are avoiding the implications of a multivese if we simultaneously hold to our usual notions of truth, which is that we evaluate our truths relative to our local universe, not relative a hypothetical one 10**10**100 universes away.

Thus, if I say there are no unicorns, that is true (pragmatically speaking) even if there are a million real unicorns in another universe, or even if there are simply none anywhere within my relativistic light cone of knowable information.

So, what I'd prefer is if you could re-answer the question considering that we may look at each universe in the Tegmark IV multiverse as having its own largest possible star, its own greatest possible good or being.

In that circumstance, are there in the Tegmark Level 4 multiverse of universes worlds that have what practitioners of popular religions on Earth would consider miracles, or the supernatural, or God, within the bounds of those possible worlds? Or are such things impossible to you?

Angra Mainyu said...

Ben Yachov: "I am sorry Angra."

Sorry, I'd missed that post of yours when I posted my reply on November 29, 2012 6:35 PM.

Apology accepted.

On the substantive issue of scripture: "But my charge of him interpreting Scripture in a fundamentalistic manner stands. He might not consider himself one but by Catholic standards the man has a fundie view of scriptures."

Two points:

1. There is a difference between taking a fundamentalist approach to interpreting the Bible, and agreeing with some fundamentalists about the intent of some or even most of the writers of the Bible, in terms of whether some passages was meant to be interpreted literally.
While I probably agree with them on whether some passages were meant to be interpreted literally more often than I agree with the present-day views of the Catholic Church on that, my reasoning and way to get there is not theirs, and certainly I do not agree with many of their claims (e.g., the Rapture? no way).

2. I stand by what I said about the interpretation of the command to burn that woman to death in the OT. In fact, it seems that that's also the interpretation prevalent among Catholics (I presented some evidence already); their reply seems to be to argue that the commands were not immoral and that they were rarely applied with strict conditions for evidence, rather than to deny that they were meant to be taken literally.

Tony Hoffman said...

Steve: "This is partisan support for one of their teammates. It's just a case of atheists praising their own kind. Big deal. The compliments simply mirror their ideological loyalties."

False. By any objective standard (insults, misrepresentations, taunts, etc.) some theists here have simply embarrassed themselves. Your only recourse would be to rationalize that the invective thrown by the theists was somehow "deserved" or justified (which again, it was clearly not), but even then you'd be simply trying to explain the startling difference in the quantities of those things I describe.

What is both fascinating and disturbing is your inability to see or acknowledge this obvious fact.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "By the way, Angra. Quick hypothetical question.

Let's say you're having a discussion with someone online. They're soundly, angrily, snottily condemning an idea you're advancing. Someone asks them to sum up the idea you're talking about in their own words. They reply, and it's discovered that their reply was actually plagiarized practically in its entirety from a website, with some minor alterations made.

Would you conclude anything about their intellectual honesty, their capability, and their worthiness of discussing anything with based on that event?

Thank you."
I will address your scenario and question below, but first let me ask one question too:

Are you thinking about any particular incident?

Anyway, let's tackle the matter.

Does someone ask them to sum up the idea they are talking about (looks like that in context, but just to be sure), or the one I am talking?

Assuming it's the idea that they were talking about, and assuming that my opponent claimed that the ideas (or more precisely, the specific answers) were actually hers, I would consider at least the following options:

1. My opponent plagiarized the answer.
2. My opponent wrote that earlier, and posted it on that website, perhaps under a different nickname. Later, she introduced some modifications to make her points better, shorter, clearer, etc.
3. My opponent wrote that earlier, and someone from that website plagiarized her.
4. If what she wrote is very short, then perhaps two people came up with the same idea, and wrote it similarly.
5. There might be other 'live' options (or some of the above might not be live even before further study of the evidence) depending on a number of variables about the specific case.

Still, your description tends to suggest 4. is very improbable, and let's leave 5. aside.
I've seen cases of 2., and I don't know about 3., so I would be cautious about reaching conclusions about her with that amount of information. Also, I would perhaps (again, it depends on the case, etc.) ask them to explain themselves; regardless of what they reply (if at all), that gives me more information.

That said, you say that it's 'discovered' that their reply was plagiarized, so let's say I can establish it's 1.

In that case, I would still need more information, but tentatively, my answers to your questions would be:

a. I would then conclude that they're not being intellectually honest, of course. How frequent that behavior would be, I wouldn't know, but let's say that I would not be betting on an isolated incident.
In any case, if I'm sufficiently interested on the matter, I would take a closer look later, trying to find out more about their character.

b. I would not be able to reach a conclusion about their capability based on a conclusion about dishonesty. I don't know of any significant statistical connection between honesty and intellectual capability, nor do I have anecdotal evidence supporting such a connection, one way or another.

c. That would depend on a number of factors, such as whether I think I can still debunk a bad idea in a public forum, which may be worth my time regardless of the intellectual honesty of my opponent, or whether they're raising accusations against me (in which case I might like to keep replying in self-defense), etc.

That said, as I said before, I would need more info to be sure about how to react; there are many variables at play, which might be relevant.

Crude said...

Angra,

What a very thorough reply. No, I don't think we need to get further into the specifics - I think your answer will suffice for the purposes of my curiosity on that topic. Thank you.

BenYachov said...

Angra

You are still bad at this. BTW did you read my apology for abusing you?

>Now, given that that was a book of law, clearly the usual case is that the commands are in fact literal, so as I pointed out, the claim that that wasn't so appears very unlikely a priori.

Why should grant this presupposition? It's not a Jewish one nor Catholic one. It looks Protestant.

>Moreover, I've provided evidence by a few different Jewish sources showing that they did and do interpret the text in the sense that those commands were meant to be applied (i.e., literally), even if they argue that they were rarely applied, or in one way or another argue that they were just (notice that that is a different matter; my point here is about whether the commands were to be taken literally, and about how they were taken historically).

Sorry no. If I don't literally cut off my hand if I touch myself sinfully then I am not literally following the council of Jesus. If nobody is burned to death(that is pouring molten lead down their gullet) because in principle the Law can't be applied then it is not literal.

>1. It's not that I believe that somehow the RCC is on average any better at interpretation than alternatives, but Yachov has made clear that he is a Catholic.

Except I believe as a Catholic Scripture was given to the Church and it cannot be lawfully interpreted save by a Church. Either the Old Testament Church or the New. If you wish to believe the Scripture was made up by men that is fine. But if you wish to prove to me these texts are immoral you may only do so within the framework of how it is used by the Church. So far you have just given me your interpretation & by definition I dismiss it since it is private interpretation.


>2. It's interesting that, while they try to justify the commands (I disagree with their attempts at justifying them of course, but that's not the point I'm trying to make here), they do not claim or even suggest that they were not meant to be taken literally; on the contrary, they accept that they were so meant:

>http://newapologia.com/why-punishment-death-for-breaking-old-testament-laws/

Are you objecting to the death penalty in general or the punishment of burning? Or the killing of Priest daughters who commit immorality? Because I see a general defense of Capital punisment but nothing on burning or that the burning punishment was taken literally. So you argument from silence works against you.

Additionally the same Catholic Encylopedia says "Under the Empire, in the third century, the punishment of burning alive was enacted by the State against witches who compassed another person's death through their enchantments (Julius Paulus, "Sent.", V, 23, 17). The ecclesiastical legislation followed a similar but milder course."

No mention of it coming from Scripture. Indeed the punishment for witchcraft in the OT if you take it literally was hanging. So clearly this was a secular origin of the punisment that came from the pagan Roman Empire.


see here
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15674a.htm

BenYachov said...

It appears you did see my apology.

>While that particular Catholic Encyclopedia entry does not comment on that command specifically,

You are grasping at straws then & trying to shift the argument to wither or not the death penalty is upheld by scripture. That is a different kettle of fish

>and further attempts to justify the command to commit genocide as well.

Excuse me but way early on in this conversation I already said the Church Fathers took the Haram passages literally but stipulated only a public revelation could command this activity but with the death of the last Apostle that is not possible. Still THE NT CHURCH has never infallibly ruled this is in fact the meaning. The OT Church OTOH via the Rabbis taught persons who either fleed or accepted the & Laws of Noah where spared. So again not literal.

>But if the commands to commit genocide were meant to be interpreted literally, then why not the command to burn a woman to death if she engaged in the aforementioned behavior while being the daughter of a priest?

You are assuming the Commands where interpreted uniformally like a modern code of Law. Why should we assume this of an ancient near east one? By your logic because the command to "cut off the hand" was not literal no law was.

>Another entry, this one interpreting some of the commands about stoning people to death literally:

>http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14308a.htm

It's wrong of course since Jewish Tradition teaches Stoning(see the wiki article you cited earlier) was pushing someone off a two story height to land on a pile of rocks to break your neck. If you survived the Fall two men stood by with a heavy rock to clobber you & put you out of your misery. This is hinted in the NT since when they tried to Stone Jesus at Calpernum the texts says they tried to "throw him off a cliff". Then there was the martydom of St James the Less who was Stone and thrown off the roof of the Temple.

BenYachov said...

>Why would the commands involving burning, or other commands involving stoning, be interpreted differently?

A better question is why you believe the whole of Judeo-Christianity uses Protestant Fundandmentalist interpretive hermunetics when they read the Bible & insist on treat those of us who in that manner?

Perspecuity is a false doctrine. The Bible is not clear. Get over it! You will not win over a Catholic with such Protestant tripe.

Btw, I would also assess that Yahweh's behavior (as described in the Bible), when he commands that (among other cases) a woman who got married with a man who didn't know she was not a virgin, be stoned to death, is immoral, and in any case, that those who willingly accepted and followed that command behaved immorally in doing so. But anyhow, let's go back to the issue of literal vs. non-literal interpretation of those commands.

If you are not going to cite specific verses I can look up & see how the OT Church or the New interpreted them till then I can't help you. You really have to accept the fact Fundamentalism is not the same as mere orthodoxy.


>Another piece of evidence: a Catholic priest gives his defense of Old Testament laws, without even a hint of a suggestion that they weren't meant to be taken literally:

http://www.umdcatholic.org/Northern%20Cross/OldTestamentLaws.pdf

This article discusses why we are not under the old law. Did you really read it? Because it doesn't even address the issues we discussed.

There I did this without insulting your or impuning you integrity & I still say you are bad at this.

Sorry.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Well, no. There's more than one category of god/God, granted - but multiple categories are quite clear."

I think they're mostly fuzzy, given the lack of actual entities that used as a model when learning the meaning of such words (i.e., fictional or religious examples are used), plus the lack of precise definitions, plus the lack of a priori knowledge, etc.
But I think this is a matter for another moment.

Crude: "Not necessary. See, again, the gods of paganism and polytheism."

I saw them, but that's not what I'm talking about.
My point is that (for instance) if we define an entity E as being, say, a g1-god iff E is morally good, and the creator of all agents but herself, and a g2-god iff E is not morally good, and was not created by any other agent, there cannot be both a g1-god and a g2-god.
Granted, there might be a problem with those definitions, but it's not obvious, and one can find other definitions like that.


Crude: "I'm saying that both Zeus and Loki are uncritically accepted by most people to be gods, and indeed for theism to be true of they exist. You say that Michael is more powerful than Loki - but that's not at all clear."
If you say that that's not clear at least in the case of Michael, then okay.
Then, it's not clear whether Michael is more powerful than Loki, and yet Loki is uncritically accepted as a god, but Michael is uncritically accepted as a non-god (in both cases, by most people), which suggests that it's not Loki's power what is considered a sufficient condition for his godhood.

Granted, you may say that there are still sufficient conditions in terms of powers and capabilities, and alternative conditions in terms of something else; I do not know, but the claim seems still not convincing to me (i.e., maybe, but maybe not; why should one think that that is the case?).

Now, with regard to Q, it seems to me that what matters is also what kind of universe they're in.

Crude: "You're going to have to back that up. You say Q doesn't qualify by most people's use of the terms. First, I'd ask how you know this. Second, I'd ask why? And I think the answer here is clear: 'because they call him an alien in Star Trek, not a god.' And it's not really considered beyond that point."
As in the case of Loki, or Michael, I'd said based on anecdotal evidence.
The people who wrote Star Trek, and at least in my experience many others uncritically do not consider him a god. But it's true that there are different usages of 'god', and it seems given your reply that some people might use 'god' in a way that counts him in (e.g., perhaps you).

Let's test that a bit: let's say that omnipotence is coherent, and there is an omnipotent being, who creates many other beings, including some with the powers of the Q. Would you say that polytheism is true, or monotheism?

In other words, if you believe in Yahweh's existence, let's say that Yahweh creates beings as powerful as Q. Would that mean that polytheism would be true, instead of monotheism?
And if you think that that's metaphysically impossible, would you conclude that it's metaphysically impossible for Yahweh to create archangels with Q-like powers? (Of course, there are different usages, but if you're making a case that such-and-such conditions would imply theism, I'd say let's first clarify what's meant by that).

BenYachov said...

@Angra

To sum.

>1. There is a difference between taking a fundamentalist approach to interpreting the Bible, and agreeing with some fundamentalists about the intent of some or even most of the writers of the Bible, in terms of whether some passages was meant to be interpreted literally.

The problem with this of course is when you talk to a non-Fundamentalist you have to put on the hat of a fundamentalist apologist & to defend the fundamentalist interpretation before you can use your Atheist polemics that assume a fundamentalist understanding.

I'm sorry but that is self-defeating even if god does not exist. Yo have to do twice the work. One as a fundamentalist apologist and one as an Atheist.

>While I probably agree with them on whether some passages were meant to be interpreted literally more often than I agree with the present-day views of the Catholic Church on that, my reasoning and way to get there is not theirs, and certainly I do not agree with many of their claims (e.g., the Rapture? no way).

But your reasoning begs the question since I assume as a Catholic it must be interpreted in the Framework of Tradition & Church not privately. Again same problem above. You are putting on the hat of a fundamentalist apologist.

>2. I stand by what I said about the interpretation of the command to burn that woman to death in the OT. In fact, it seems that that's also the interpretation prevalent among Catholics (I presented some evidence already);

I'm afraid not. You showed a general defense of the death penalty from Catholic sources & I already admitted up front the Fathers took the Haraam passages literally with caveats & I showed burning witches came from 3rd century pagan roman law not the OT which if taken literally commands hanging witches.

I've read the Talmud & how the Rabbis built a fence around the Torah & studied Judaism to suppliment my Catholicsm. You are stuck reading Scripture after the manner of the Protestants you have debated. It won't work on Catholics. You must accept this.


>their reply seems to be to argue that the commands were not immoral and that they were rarely applied with strict conditions for evidence, rather than to deny that they were meant to be taken literally.

An argument from silence is still not convincing my friend & your inferences are based on silence. I've studied Jewish & Catholic tradition and the tradition of interpreting Scipture & applying it. I believe the Bible must be used with those rules or it is incomplete. You have a good polemic for someone who believes in Scrpture alone interpreted privatly like the Protestants. But I am still Catholic & so is Crude. You can't argue with Catholics as if they where Protestants. First is pisses some of us off(like moi) & second in principle it can't work.

steve said...

Matt DeStefano said...

“Any impartial observer could tell…”

Except for the awkward little fact that you yourself far from being an impartial observer. You gave The End of Christianity 5 stars, and you’re a fawning student of your atheist phil. prof.

“I'm no stranger to vitriol, but the behavior by Crude and especially Yachov is ridiculous (although, as Jeff said, unsurprising)…”

Ben has softened his tone. As for Crude, he’s been carefully arguing for his position. Nothing “ridiculous” or “vitriolic” about his performance.

“So you don't think I'm playing the partisan game…”

Since when does someone playing a partisan game fess up?

“…I'll say that there are several Christian commenters here (B. Prokop and Victor, probably others that are slipping my mind at the moment) who have always behaved admirably.”

Not so coincidentally, you prefer Christian commenters who say nice things about atheists.

“Likewise, there are many atheist commenters on other blogs (DC, for example) who are spitting images of the type of idiocy that we saw in this thread. Trolls are trolls, despite their religious affiliation.”

Striking how you mention the “commenters” at DC but stop short of remarking about some of the contributors–beginning with Loftus.

“I've noticed that the combination of anonymity and the internet seem to inspire the adversarial approach.”

I, for one, am not anonymous.

Tony Hoffman said...

“False. By any objective standard (insults, misrepresentations, taunts, etc.) some theists here have simply embarrassed themselves.”

I stand by everything I say. And Crude has said nothing to embarrass himself. Ben has used some colorful language, but it’s not as if atheists have a different vocabulary. So I’m not impressed with your double standard.

“Your only recourse would be to rationalize that the invective thrown by the theists was somehow ‘deserved’ or justified (which again, it was clearly not)…”

Sometimes it’s justifiable to call a spade a spade.

“…but even then you'd be simply trying to explain the startling difference in the quantities of those things I describe.”

Some atheists like Jeff Lowder are very concerned about the public image of atheism. So they adopt a certain tone for public consumption. It’s part of the sales pitch. Project a sociable, handholding image of atheism.

“What is both fascinating and disturbing is your inability to see or acknowledge this obvious fact.”

I’m not taken in by an atheist PR campaign. Sorry to disappoint you.

B. Prokop said...

Steve writes, "Not so coincidentally, you prefer Christian commenters who say nice things about atheists."

Well... not always. I still hold Papalinton accountable for his support of disrupting ongoing worship services in the name of some personal political cause. He has yet to repudiate this stance, which in my books puts him on the same level as the self-styled Westboro Baptist Church. Wonderful company he keeps there.

BenYachov said...

@Angra

additional problems.

1. The Catholic Church has only infallible ruled on the meaning of about 7 verse in the Bible. None of the ones we discussed are any of them.

2. In Principle these Laws applied to the Old Testament Commonwealth which no longer exists so there is no point for the Holy Church to rule on their meaning & they are superseded by the New Law so that is like asking the modern Supreme Court to rule on the ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION AND PERPETUAL UNION.

3. The Remnants of the Jewish OT rulings & traditions showed these laws where often not taken literally and tradition forbade some of them from being taken literally. Like with "cut off the hand". In principle they where to be applied humanly.

4. Granted sometimes in history the Law was not applied as it should have been. Sometimes Jews & later Christians did not live up to the ideal. The Adulterous in the NT was not dealt with according to the Oral Law & or a fundamentalist interpretation of the Torah alone.

5. From the encylopedia Judaica

Ba case is reported from the last days of the Second Temple, where a guilty daughter of a priest was actually burned on a pyre. However, the reporter of the case stated that he had witnessed it during his minority; and as the testimony of a minor is not valid, no rule of procedure could be based thereon. Indeed, the Rabbis declared that a court ordering such an execution was ignorant of traditional law, and a later teacher was of opinion that the court referred to consisted of dissenting Sadducees.
END QUOTE

Of course Traditional Law would have moved them not to kill her. but Scrupture does say there can a time in Israel people did what was right in their own eyes.

BenYachov said...

I trust the Jewish interpretation of their own Laws given to them.

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4005-capital-punishment

QUOTE"Messianic days (, Sanh. 51b; Yeb. 45a) or for the satisfaction accruing from study (, ib.). In this department there are therefore some laws which are mere legal opinions or theoretic ratiocinations which were never applied in practise. Such, for example, are the laws relating to the "rebellious son" and to "communal apostasy" (Tosef., Sanh. xi. 6, xiv. 1; Sanh. 71a). However, the bulk of rabbinic rules, even those concerning capital punishment, bear the stamp of great antiquity, inasmuch as they are based on actual precedent or on old traditional interpretation."END QUOTE

QUOTE"m, if not to abolish it altogether. That capital punishment was a rare occurrence in the latter days of the Jewish commonwealth is patent from the statement in the Mishnah that a court was stigmatized as "murderous" if it condemned to death more than one human being in the course of seven years. Indeed, Eleazar b. Azariah applied the same epithet to a court that executed more than one man in every seventy years; and his famous colleagues, Tryphon and Akiba, openly avowed their opposition to capital punishment,"END QUOTE

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "If someone accepts a metaphysical view such that minds can be simulated - and I'll point out again that this is a very common view - then the results I'm talking about with Tegmark (at the least - it's not limited to Tegmark) play out, and one form of theism is true / atheism is false. "
I do not know that, given that I do not know your criterion or criteria for gods (and thus, for theism), or what kind of minds can be simulated according to that view that you mention (I'm not sure that's metaphysical or just speculative; I take no stance at this point).

As I mentioned, words like 'theism' and 'atheism' are useful in many contexts without definition, but given their vagueness, when assessing a number of philosophical views, definitions are often required.

Under some definitions of 'theism', and 'atheism', if B is true and that's all there is (i.e., one of those multiverses, and nothing beyond that), it seems to me that theism would be false. But then again, it might be that, under the definition you're considering, at least some of those infinite universes and/or multiverses would make theism true.

I would need more information about the way you're using 'gods' to know. If you do not have a definition, then maybe more scenarios/questions will help me grasp the usage in question better.
On that note, let me ask you a question.
Would you say that if any of the multiverses you're talking about actually exists, then polytheism is true, there are infinitely many gods, and hence monotheism is false?


Crude: "Let's be clear here, Angra. Are you telling me that:

A) There is no good reason to believe that human minds can be simulated? I'd actually agree with you here, but I think you're going to find yourself in an extreme minority of modern atheists - which you're welcome to be.

B) There's no good reason to accept Tegmark's multiverse, or any infinite universe or multiverse? (Again, if A goes through, it's not just Tegmark's universe where this comes up.)"

A) The definition of 'simulation' is no clear to me, so it's hard to take a stance on whether minds can be simulated; I do not think human minds are in any way special in a metaphysical or nomological sense (sure, there are psychological differences between different species, but that's not the point), so the answer would apply to human minds if it applies to others.

That said, it's not at all clear that simulations are enough for gods to exist, under any regular concept of gods, and I would have to ask about yours. For example, let's consider the holodeck (Star Trek). Holodecks are built by humans and some other, similar beings. Usually, characters aren't conscious. But after some technological development, ship computers are capable, it seems, of making self-aware holodeck characters. Yet, people uncritically would not call any of the humans, robots, computers, etc., on board the Enterprise or similar ships, a god.
Perhaps, you have other kinds of simulations in mind, or would consider them gods (less likely, but just asking)?
Please clarify.

B) I would say that there is no good reason at this point to accept Tegmark's universe, though I cannot tell that Tegmark and others ought to reject it, either; I do not know enough.
As for a universe with infinitely many galaxies, that appears more plausible to me, though not enough to conclude that that's the case. Some people may have enough info to take a stronger stance; I do not know.
As for the many worlds interpretation, I take no stance, at least not yet. I don't deny that others with better information about QM might be in a better position to do so.
I do not see why any of that would result in gods; maybe I would more details about what you mean by 'god' if I am to make an assessment.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "The way I see it, those are your only two options for avoiding the conclusion I've stated here. In fact, B doesn't even get you completely off the hook, because then it's an issue of it happening in our universe (see David Deutsch / Frank Tipler for a solitary, extreme example of the sort of example I'm discussing - and I think Deutsch's claim that his OP wouldn't be god fails even by your own standards.) But ultimately, the only avenues I see for you are denying that minds could be simulated, or denying infinite/sufficiently large multiverses.

If you deny neither, you're into the land of (very odd) theism."
If I neither affirm nor deny either A or B, that would not make me a theist, regardless of your usage of the word 'god'. It might or might not make me an agnostic; I do not deny that others are in an epistemic position to tell, but now the vagueness of the concept of 'agnostic' begins to be relevant.

In any case, as I mentioned, I do not know that, say, affirming one would make me a theist (e.g., self-aware beings in holodecks).

Crude said...

Angra,

I think they're mostly fuzzy, given the lack of actual entities that used as a model when learning the meaning of such words (i.e., fictional or religious examples are used), plus the lack of precise definitions, plus the lack of a priori knowledge, etc.

Lack of actual entities in what sense? They're certainly described thoroughly enough to easily categorize and recognize. Sure, you can get into fuzzier areas, but for my purposes the categories are far more clear.

My point is that (for instance) if we define an entity E as being, say, a g1-god iff E is morally good, and the creator of all agents but herself, and a g2-god iff E is not morally good, and was not created by any other agent, there cannot be both a g1-god and a g2-god.
Granted, there might be a problem with those definitions, but it's not obvious, and one can find other definitions like that.


Like I said, there are multiple definitions of God/gods, and for several, it's easy to both apply them and for them to be instantiated in a non-contradictory sense. I think here you're mistaking the fact of godhood with particular attributions by a given faith. The general concepts of God/gods will suffice.

Then, it's not clear whether Michael is more powerful than Loki, and yet Loki is uncritically accepted as a god, but Michael is uncritically accepted as a non-god (in both cases, by most people), which suggests that it's not Loki's power what is considered a sufficient condition for his godhood.

Michael is uncritically accepted as a non-god within the Christian tradition - but I'm not working within the Christian tradition exclusively anyway.

I'm making a pretty basic, and I believe 'if it were outside this context, non-controversial' claim - powerful beings capable of (for example) creating worlds filled with agents, having control over them - even incomplete control - would be regarded as the stuff of gods and godhood by most people historically, and even nowadays.

Now, keep in mind what you have to affirm to deny what I'm saying - that there can be powerful beings creating worlds, and yet they're not gods. I think that is going to be extremely easy to establish as a direct about face from atheism throughout the ages, and a recent one at that.

The people who wrote Star Trek, and at least in my experience many others uncritically do not consider him a god. But it's true that there are different usages of 'god', and it seems given your reply that some people might use 'god' in a way that counts him in (e.g., perhaps you).

Keep in mind one obvious reason Q wouldn't be regarded as a god (just how powerful Q is, by the way, I forget offhand) - because it was a series made in a heavily Christian-influenced culture, for which 'God' was roughly approximating a particular definition. Here's another way of thinking about it: if they went in the other direction and simply said Q was a god, and kept all the details the same, would there have been any inconsistencies in the story? I think the answer is 'no', especially if they expressly compared Q to a pagan god.

Let's test that a bit: let's say that omnipotence is coherent, and there is an omnipotent being, who creates many other beings, including some with the powers of the Q. Would you say that polytheism is true, or monotheism?

False choice. If the omnipotent being was the God of classical theism, I'd say there was only one big-G God. (And necessarily, there'd have to be only one.) If that God created Zeus-like beings, then we're into a kind of henotheism or monolotry.

And if you think that that's metaphysically impossible, would you conclude that it's metaphysically impossible for Yahweh to create archangels with Q-like powers?

Why would I think it's metaphysically impossible? Again, I'm thin on my knowledge of Q's powers - some specific ones (but no relevant ones) may be off on their own problems. Say, time travel.

BenYachov said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crude said...

Under some definitions of 'theism', and 'atheism', if B is true and that's all there is (i.e., one of those multiverses, and nothing beyond that), it seems to me that theism would be false. But then again, it might be that, under the definition you're considering, at least some of those infinite universes and/or multiverses would make theism true.

Well, 'and that's all there is' is a whole other subject. The issue here is that the definition I'm considering isn't very novel - it's age-old, and still in common use. Anyone who regards Zeus as a god is essentially using it.

But hey, you're saying that under some definitions atheism may be false and theism may be true, so there's at least that.

Would you say that if any of the multiverses you're talking about actually exists, then polytheism is true, there are infinitely many gods, and hence monotheism is false?

It's more complicated, for several reasons.

A) I'm not convinced simulations or creation of the relevant type is actually possible. (Not a 'materialist'.)

B) I'm a classical theist, which I think impacts any multiverse talk - even if it's positive, there may be other considerations beyond the purely formal that go into their creation.

C) Regarding whether monotheism would be false, I explained my view on that in a previous reply you haven't seen as of writing this - I think it should suffice.

That said, it's not at all clear that simulations are enough for gods to exist, under any regular concept of gods, and I would have to ask about yours.

I think those regular concepts of gods are precisely what would make such simulations suffice. An agent creating a simulated universe a la Bostrom (to use one example) would be a creator with power over those creations that made Zeus look like a wasp.

I do not see why any of that would result in gods; maybe I would more details about what you mean by 'god' if I am to make an assessment.

I already gave some examples and standards. What is wrong with them?

If I neither affirm nor deny either A or B, that would not make me a theist, regardless of your usage of the word 'god'.

Sure, but like I said, there's a tremendous number of people who accept A, quite a lot of people who accept B, and considerable overlap between the two.

I'm only touching on the tip of the iceberg these considerations pose for atheism.

Matt DeStefano said...

steve,

Except for the awkward little fact that you yourself far from being an impartial observer. You gave The End of Christianity 5 stars, and you’re a fawning student of your atheist phil. prof.


So, I have close associations with a professor whose work I admire, and I gave an atheist book a good review. Therefore, I can't be objective about this situation?

That's absolutely absurd.

Striking how you mention the “commenters” at DC but stop short of remarking about some of the contributors–beginning with Loftus.

I HAVE called out specific bloggers from DC before on this blog, but I don't need to regurgitate the specifics to prove my credentials as willing to be "bi-partisan".

Not so coincidentally, you prefer Christian commenters who say nice things about atheists.

... so? Do you prefer atheists that say nasty things about Christians? What kind of a statement is that?


Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Steve Hays wrote:

Some atheists like Jeff Lowder are very concerned about the public image of atheism. So they adopt a certain tone for public consumption. It’s part of the sales pitch. Project a sociable, handholding image of atheism.

It is interesting how some people think they know the thoughts of another person well enough that they claim to know why others do what they do.

Syllabus said...

You can't argue with Catholics as if they where Protestants. First is pisses some of us off(like moi) & second in principle it can't work.

Hell, you can't even argue with many Protestants like "Protestants". Protestant =/= fundie, though they are co-equal in the thought of many people.

BenYachov said...

@Matt

I was a dick to Angra. He showed me I was a dick. I owned my mistake. I apologized & he forgave me.

My problem I was so gunho to attack I didn't read him carefully.

But I maned up.

Now there is you.

Don't you have something to say to Crude?

BenYachov said...

Syllabus is a High Church Anglican so his view of Scripture is closer to the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or Jewish one.

Angra Mainyu said...

William: "Angra: Thus is interesting. But I think you are avoiding the implications of a multivese if we simultaneously hold to our usual notions of truth, which is that we evaluate our truths relative to our local universe, not relative a hypothetical one 10**10**100 universes away.

Thus, if I say there are no unicorns, that is true (pragmatically speaking) even if there are a million real unicorns in another universe, or even if there are simply none anywhere within my relativistic light cone of knowable information. "
While I would say that the implicit conditions in our statements (in particular what they're relative to; I'm not sure I would use 'truth' in that context, but not the point here) depends on context.
While you may well be right that more of our statements are relative to our universe, in the particular context of philosophy of religion (and a number of other philosophical contexts), that is usually not the case.
So, I would say I was going with what's usual in philosophy of religion.

Also, the question was about arbitrary concepts of gods, and some of those concepts are about entities whose actions cannot be limited to one universe.

But I'll try to assess the matter considering your clarification:

William: "So, what I'd prefer is if you could re-answer the question considering that we may look at each universe in the Tegmark IV multiverse as having its own largest possible star, its own greatest possible good or being."

Okay, it's a very difficult question to me; I'm afraid I do not know.
But I can say the following:

1. I'm not sure whether Tegmark IV multiverse is coherent. He seems to have amended it in response to coherence concerns.

2. Going by the modified version, I do not know whether those localized 'greatest possible beings' are coherent, and if they are, whether all of those can exist in "Godel-complete (fully decidable) mathematical structures have physical existence. " (from the Wikipedia article on Tegmark's hypothesis).

3. There might be a counting problem as well. There might in a sense be more such concepts than structures of that kind.

4. So, I'm afraid I do not know.
If, however, none of the previous points precludes it, then it seems plausible to me that there would be such beings. Given that we're making this assessments relative to universes, then it seems to me that by some more or less common conceptions of 'god' and 'God', there would be infinitely many universes in which theism would be true, and infinitely many in which atheism would be true.
On the other hand, that would not entail that theism is true in the sense defined by Swinburne or similar ones (I'm assuming here that omnipotence, omniscience, etc., are coherent), though assuming a level 4 multiverse as background evidence would surely have an impact on the discussion of some arguments for or against theism. But that's another matter.

BenYachov said...

@steve

Matt wrote:
>I HAVE called out specific bloggers from DC before on this blog, but I don't need to regurgitate the specifics to prove my credentials as willing to be "bi-partisan".

I seem to remember though my memory is fuzzy he has done this.

I'm not sure he has done it enough to earn the label "bi-partisan" I won't judge but he has done it.

steve said...

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

"It is interesting how some people think they know the thoughts of another person well enough that they claim to know why others do what they do."

It doesn't take a mind-reader, Jeff. You've done enough posts at The Secular Outpost where you tip your hand.

BenYachov said...

@Angra

Question: Do you know the difference between Classic Theism, Theistic Personalism and or the Pagan view of "gods"?

I note Crude is referring to pagan gods in this multivariate scenario.

If not here is a link to educate you.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/07/classical-theism-roundup.html

Warning it's not light reading.

steve said...

Matt DeStefano said...

"So, I have close associations with a professor whose work I admire..."

Blind admiration.

"...and I gave an atheist book a good review."

You gave a hack atheist book 5 stars.

"Therefore, I can't be objective about this situation?"

That's right, Matt, you're not objective.

"That's absolutely absurd."

In the nature of the case, somebody like yourself who lacks critical detachment will be oblivious to his deficiency in that dept.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Steve wrote:

It doesn't take a mind-reader, Jeff. You've done enough posts at The Secular Outpost where you tip your hand.

False. I've tried to convince others to fix their tone by appealing to PR-type considerations. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I am respectful to just about everyone. If you discount my testimony about my own motives, then that would be mind-reading. You would be claiming that I do X because of Y, when I have explicitly said that Y is not the reason I do X.

BenYachov said...


Jeff Lowery said.

>I am not a Dawkins Fanboy

>In terms of parity between dialectical opponents, I think you are right to say that new atheists who rely upon ridicule and abuse cannot consistently expect theists to treat them with respect.

I'm late to this but I also agree with you.

BenYachov said...

BTW Jeff you are arguing the wrong thing with steve.

He is what you do.

Jeff wrote:
>Some atheists like Jeff Lowder are very concerned about the public image of atheism. So they adopt a certain tone for public consumption. It’s part of the sales pitch. Project a sociable, handholding image of atheism.

Then every Atheist should make the effort to project this image. Especially here on this blog.

After all wouldn't that make life more pleasant?

So if they are secretly hating or being contemptuous of Christians in the dark corners of their minds well who is gonna know about it?

Speaking personally if Gnus did even this I would be happy about it.

It would eb a step up.

Crude said...

Jeff,

False. I've tried to convince others to fix their tone by appealing to PR-type considerations. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I am respectful to just about everyone. If you discount my testimony about my own motives, then that would be mind-reading. You would be claiming that I do X because of Y, when I have explicitly said that Y is not the reason I do X.

I've gotten in some drawn out fights with Steve, so it's not like I'm just backing him up here. Also, I don't follow your posts much at SO. So I'm going to be conditional with what I say.

Two things to consider: one, if you endorse changing tone 'because of PR reasons', and those are the primary or overriding reasons, then I have to say - that's insincere. If PR concerns are primary, there's another thing you're saying without outright saying it: "If it won't impact the PR of atheism, go for it." or "If you can get away with it, go for it." I'm not going to accuse you of only saying what you say for those reasons, but what you said here at least triggers a worry with me, precisely because I've seen similar advanced by others.

Second, you accuse Steve of mind-reading - but that's not the only thing that can be going on here. A person's own testimony on a particular question is not the only available bit of evidence that can be used to gauge a person's mind - you can also glean a lot from their other candid writings. If I suspect someone is being deceptive, their saying 'I'm not being deceptive!' doesn't leave me with mind-reading as my only recourse for thinking otherwise of their thoughts.

Angra Mainyu said...


BenYachov:

"BTW did you read my apology for abusing you?"
Yes, but not before I posted the reply to the post you're now replying to.

As I said in an earlier post, "Sorry, I'd missed that post of yours when I posted my reply on November 29, 2012 6:35 PM."

But then you too missed my reply saying that when you posted the reply I'm now replying to, and only saw them in a later post. Anyway, on to other issues:

BenYachov: "Why should grant this presupposition? It's not a Jewish one nor Catholic one. It looks Protestant. "

That is not a presupposition at all. It's just an assessment based on what I (and all of us, probably) know, namely that we can find a zillion examples of laws in which the commands are meant to be taken literally, and I've yet to find one in which that is not the case.

So, if someone claims that this particular law was not meant to be taken literally, I ought to give it a very low prior. And so would others who have seen similar evidence (probably all of us, but if not, please take a look at laws in general, and try to find many clear cases in which the legal commands were not meant to be taken literally).

BenYachov: "Sorry no. If I don't literally cut off my hand if I touch myself sinfully then I am not literally following the council of Jesus. If nobody is burned to death(that is pouring molten lead down their gullet) because in principle the Law can't be applied then it is not literal. "

While the claim is that, today, no one is in a position to apply such laws, the fact of the matter is that they were applied, even if the cases were not frequent, and they were applied because they were interpreted as (of course) literal.

If you want to say that there were very strict standards of proof, that's debatable comparing them to today's standards, but not the point here: Even if infrequent due to probatory difficulties, the fact that they were actually applied shows that they were interpreted literally.

Angra Mainyu said...

BenYachov: "Except I believe as a Catholic Scripture was given to the Church and it cannot be lawfully interpreted save by a Church. Either the Old Testament Church or the New. If you wish to believe the Scripture was made up by men that is fine. But if you wish to prove to me these texts are immoral you may only do so within the framework of how it is used by the Church. "
A few points:

1. I said I did not believe that somehow the RCC is better, etc.; I know you do, which is why I used Catholic examples; I also used Jewish examples, because you mentioned Jewish sources as well.

2. I do not 'wish to believe'. I believe, and would believe it even if I wished otherwise. But that aside, given that the RCC claims that the texts are not immoral, if I accept all Catholic claims about it, I can't show that they (unless I could show a contradiction; but my argument was not that).

3. In this thread, I was not trying to persuade you that the command was immoral. I was replying to the claims that I was misinterpreting the text, and that my moral assessment was based on a fundamentalist interpretation of it.

BenYachov: "Are you objecting to the death penalty in general or the punishment of burning? Or the killing of Priest daughters who commit immorality? Because I see a general defense of Capital punisment but nothing on burning or that the burning punishment was taken literally. So you argument from silence works against you. "

I'm saying that they make a general point about the reasons for punishments that are usually objected to, without even suggesting that some of them were not meant to be taken literally, but accepting otherwise without making an exception. In context, you shouldn't understand their silence on that specific punishment as not supporting my position.

Also, there is more context, like other sources, including Jewish, other Christian, and other Catholic sources.

BenYachov: "No mention of it coming from Scripture. Indeed the punishment for witchcraft in the OT if you take it literally was hanging. So clearly this was a secular origin of the punisment that came from the pagan Roman Empire."

The Catholic Encyclopedia, and other Catholic sources I mentioned:

a. Acknowledge the punishment of stoning to death as biblical.
b. Make general references to the death penalty in the OT, without suggesting even that some of those commands were not meant to be taken literally.

Moreover, the command in question was alongside a number of other commands, all of which were meant to be taken literally.

In short, there is no indication at all of a non-literal interpretation, and pretty clear reasons to conclude that it was literal. That is also what Jewish sources say.

Ben Yachov: "You are assuming the Commands where interpreted uniformally like a modern code of Law. Why should we assume this of an ancient near east one? By your logic because the command to "cut off the hand" was not literal no law was."

1. Actually, I'm not assuming, but assessing that commands in a code of law ought to be interpreted literally, whether the code is old or new, unless we have specific reasons to think otherwise, and given that that is the norm in codes of law.

2. The point about genocide is that even those commands were meant literally, so why not the others?
Still, it's not a crucial point, but more piling on more and more evidence.

3. Moreover, this specific commands were part of a code of law, and were surrounded by other commands that were taken literally.

4. In fact, ancient Hebrews did apply the commands, even if allegedly infrequently.

Angra Mainyu said...

BenYachov: "It's wrong of course since Jewish Tradition teaches Stoning(see the wiki article you cited earlier) was pushing someone off a two story height to land on a pile of rocks to break your neck. If you survived the Fall two men stood by with a heavy rock to clobber you & put you out of your misery. This is hinted in the NT since when they tried to Stone Jesus at Calpernum the texts says they tried to "throw him off a cliff". Then there was the martydom of St James the Less who was Stone and thrown off the roof of the Temple."

But that's not wrong. There are different styles of stoning, but it's clearly literal. And burning people to death can be done in different ways too. But it's still literal (i.e., people were actually burned to death).

BenYachov: "This article discusses why we are not under the old law. Did you really read it? Because it doesn't even address the issues we discussed."
I read it. Again, I used it as another piece of evidence, in context. As I said, a Catholic priest gives his defense of Old Testament laws, without even a hint of a suggestion that they weren't meant to be taken literally.


BenYachov: "

>1. There is a difference between taking a fundamentalist approach to interpreting the Bible, and agreeing with some fundamentalists about the intent of some or even most of the writers of the Bible, in terms of whether some passages was meant to be interpreted literally.

The problem with this of course is when you talk to a non-Fundamentalist you have to put on the hat of a fundamentalist apologist & to defend the fundamentalist interpretation before you can use your Atheist polemics that assume a fundamentalist understanding.

I'm sorry but that is self-defeating even if god does not exist. Yo have to do twice the work. One as a fundamentalist apologist and one as an Atheist."
That does not follow, and it's actually not true that I assume a fundamentalist understanding.

Again, there is a difference between taking a fundamentalist approach to interpreting the Bible, and agreeing with some fundamentalists about the intent of some or even most of the writers of the Bible, in terms of whether some passages was meant to be interpreted literally.

Ben Yachov: "But your reasoning begs the question since I assume as a Catholic it must be interpreted in the Framework of Tradition & Church not privately. Again same problem above. You are putting on the hat of a fundamentalist apologist."
No, that's equating a normal approach to interpreting a text to 'the hat of a fundamentalist apologist.'

Any person who approaches the texts without a previous Catholic religious assumption or similar will not understand that they should interpret texts from the OT based of traditions (capitalized or not) from many centuries later. Those traditions, of course, can still provide evidence of some ancient interpretation, and in context, they might provide clues as to the original interpretation. But nothing more.

That is not a fundamentalist approach to the text. That's the ordinary approach any human normally has towards any text. It's the approach of any scholar who is doing history, not theology.
Essentially, you're implying that people who do not take a Catholic religious commitment, or a similar religious commitment, before approaching the question of meaning, is putting on ' the hat of a fundamentalist apologist' and defending a fundamentalist interpretation. That's just mistaken.

Angra Mainyu said...


Ben Yachov: "I'm afraid not. You showed a general defense of the death penalty from Catholic sources & I already admitted up front the Fathers took the Haraam passages literally with caveats & I showed burning witches came from 3rd century pagan roman law not the OT which if taken literally commands hanging witches.

I've read the Talmud & how the Rabbis built a fence around the Torah & studied Judaism to suppliment my Catholicsm. You are stuck reading Scripture after the manner of the Protestants you have debated. It won't work on Catholics. You must accept this."
Regardless of whether it would have any effect on you (people hardly ever persuade their interlocutors in these kind of debates, if ever, in my experience), I stand by my arguments. I would suggest interested readers to go over the exchange, and reach their own conclusions.
Ben Yachov: "This is another reason I can't relate to this fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture some Atheist employ. Without Tradition you don't have the full Word of God."
The 'fundamentalist' claim is false. What you should keep in mind is that atheists, as well as historians, Buddhists, and generally anyone not doing religion, approaches the text not as an inspired one, but as any other text. There is nothing fundamentalist about that.
Now, if it turns out that in some cases, fundamentalists get the interpretation right as well, so be it. But it does not make my approach fundamentalist. I approach the text as I would approach any other text.

Ben Yachov: "I trust the Jewish interpretation of their own Laws given to them."
While I do not see why some Jewish scholar would be better than non-Jewish scholars interpreting a book written by some ancient Hebrews, let's see.

Ben Yachov: "http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4005-capital-punishment

QUOTE"Messianic days (, Sanh. 51b; Yeb. 45a) or for the satisfaction accruing from study (, ib.). In this department there are therefore some laws which are mere legal opinions or theoretic ratiocinations which were never applied in practise. Such, for example, are the laws relating to the "rebellious son" and to "communal apostasy" (Tosef., Sanh. xi. 6, xiv. 1; Sanh. 71a). However, the bulk of rabbinic rules, even those concerning capital punishment, bear the stamp of great antiquity, inasmuch as they are based on actual precedent or on old traditional interpretation."END QUOTE

QUOTE"m, if not to abolish it altogether. That capital punishment was a rare occurrence in the latter days of the Jewish commonwealth is patent from the statement in the Mishnah that a court was stigmatized as "murderous" if it condemned to death more than one human being in the course of seven years. Indeed, Eleazar b. Azariah applied the same epithet to a court that executed more than one man in every seventy years; and his famous colleagues, Tryphon and Akiba, openly avowed their opposition to capital punishment,"END QUOTE

My points are unaffected. I'm not suggesting that the punishment was frequent. I'm saying that, according to the Bible, Yahweh commanded that a woman who was the daughter of a priest and a prostitute, be burned to death (At least, going by most biblical translations; some translations talk about a woman who committed adultery at some stage in her marriage, and was the daughter of a priest; but it's literal one way or another).

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Lack of actual entities in what sense? They're certainly described thoroughly enough to easily categorize and recognize. Sure, you can get into fuzzier areas, but for my purposes the categories are far more clear."

For instance, when we learn the meaning of words like 'car', or 'horse', etc., we can take a look at those things, and get a lot of information in that way. Also, the examples people encounter are very similar. While that does not guarantee exact matches between the usage of different people, it keeps the degree of fuzziness generally low.
Still, there is still some fuzziness.
For instance, there may be some three-wheelers that some people [all competent English speakers] would qualify as 'cars' and some would not, despite a lack of error on the analysis of the properties of those things, like size, shape, speed, etc. (side note: As a result, it seems to me that there is no objective fact of the matter as to whether the object is a car).

A solution in such cases (and others) would be to provide a definition, which might be required in legal settings (i.e., a definition of 'car' in the law might be needed); whether that definition also results in a more precise general usage later depends on many factors, but not the point here.
The same would go for 'horse', if we consider (for instance) hypothetical (but doable) genetically modified animals.

As for 'gods', 'supernatural', and the like, the situation is different, because:

a. There are comparatively fewer examples most people have dealt with.
b. Those examples are from fiction or different religions, and are sometimes quite different from one another.
c. Those examples are only defined to a point; different people may 'fill in the blanks' differently, so to speak, depending on a number of other beliefs they may have, and end up picking up different cues to godhood, supernaturalness, etc.

There is another problem: regardless of how fuzzy they actually are, the matter becomes a problem in many philosophical discussions.
Of course, that might happen in other cases too, even when there are such entities to check to some extent (e.g., planets), and then people involved in the discussions would try to settle for a definition (problematic in some cases), so this kind of difficulty is by no means limited to 'gods', 'supernatural', and the like.
All I'm saying is that it happens rather often with regard to those terms, and in the context of philosophical discussions (there is usually no similar problem if people are talking about a TV show, unless they're philosophizing about the events depicted in it).

Crude: "Like I said, there are multiple definitions of God/gods, and for several, it's easy to both apply them and for them to be instantiated in a non-contradictory sense. I think here you're mistaking the fact of godhood with particular attributions by a given faith. The general concepts of God/gods will suffice."
It seems to me that you're missing the context of my reply to William, in which I mentioned the G1 and G2 examples, about which you later asked for greater details and argumentation.
His question was whether I thought that in a Tegmark level 4 multiverse, there are worlds where any arbitrary concept of God exists in reality (in those universes)or not?"

I took the question to be about not self-contradictory concepts, but my answer was negative for the reasons I explained (i.e., the question was whether all would exist, not whether some would exist).

Later, William posted again, clarifying his question, and I addressed it again.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Crude,

As conditional or hypothetical points, I agree with both of your points. I don't think they are applicable to my case, however. My primary reasons for encouraging atheists to be more civil with theists is that I think it's the right thing to do and it is how I want to be treated. I recognize that not every feels or thinks the same way I do, so I offered a purely pragmatic reason (PR considerations) when trying to convince other atheists to be more civil.

Jeff

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Michael is uncritically accepted as a non-god within the Christian tradition - but I'm not working within the Christian tradition exclusively anyway."
Granted, but you're going by (apparently) some concept of god, and I was going with the usual uncritical acceptance as a guide to that concept, given that you seemed to use it too.
Anyway, it's true that most people accepting it as such are Christian (or Muslim, or Jewish), though, but I don't have at the moment evidence on Michael from many non-Christian, non-Muslim, etc., sources.

That said, going by what you now say, according to the concept of 'god' that you are using, Michael might be a god, and so if he exists as described by Catholicism or another version of Christianity, polytheism is true.


Crude: "I'm making a pretty basic, and I believe 'if it were outside this context, non-controversial' claim - powerful beings capable of (for example) creating worlds filled with agents, having control over them - even incomplete control - would be regarded as the stuff of gods and godhood by most people historically, and even nowadays."

I'm not sure about that. I think that that may very well depend on other features of the world those beings inhabited (at least, in the 'nowadays' case; I'm not sure about past uses, especially not before the word 'gods' existed, since translations may not be accurate at all), as well as other features of those beings themselves.

For example, let's say that an omnimax entity (assuming coherence) exists, and creates entities who can create worlds filled with other entities. Would those creatures be gods, according to the usage you propose? Would monotheism be false?

I do not know what the majority of people would say.

But I think a more extreme example is the holodeck one. What if people in the Federation can create simulations and put self-aware agents in there, given some of those agents Q-like powers within the simulation, but no power to leave it?
Would those simulated beings be gods, even though a puny human can just switch off their powers, or delete them, without their being able to do anything about it?
Would those humans be gods because they can make the simulation?

I recognize that your usage of the word 'god' might be too different from mine to give the same answer in this case, but my intuitive grasp of that word would tell me that they're not gods.

Crude: "Now, keep in mind what you have to affirm to deny what I'm saying - that there can be powerful beings creating worlds, and yet they're not gods. I think that is going to be extremely easy to establish as a direct about face from atheism throughout the ages, and a recent one at that."

As I mentioned, considering simulations and powers within the simulations, that does not seem to be that big of a threat to me, but then again, as I mentioned this may well be within the context of the differences in usage; what do I know?

Still, let me put it also into perspective. Are you suggesting that if God creates sufficiently powerful beings, that defeats monotheism? (or that he can't create them?).
Of course, at the end of the day, we're arguing over definitions, not over what kind of entity would exist (not in this particular part of our discussion).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Michael is uncritically accepted as a non-god within the Christian tradition - but I'm not working within the Christian tradition exclusively anyway."
Granted, but you're going by (apparently) some concept of god, and I was going with the usual uncritical acceptance as a guide to that concept, given that you seemed to use it too.
Anyway, it's true that most people accepting it as such are Christian (or Muslim, or Jewish), though, but I don't have at the moment evidence on Michael from many non-Christian, non-Muslim, etc., sources.

That said, going by what you now say, according to the concept of 'god' that you are using, Michael might be a god, and so if he exists as described by Catholicism or another version of Christianity, polytheism is true.


Crude: "I'm making a pretty basic, and I believe 'if it were outside this context, non-controversial' claim - powerful beings capable of (for example) creating worlds filled with agents, having control over them - even incomplete control - would be regarded as the stuff of gods and godhood by most people historically, and even nowadays."

I'm not sure about that. I think that that may very well depend on other features of the world those beings inhabited (at least, in the 'nowadays' case; I'm not sure about past uses, especially not before the word 'gods' existed, since translations may not be accurate at all), as well as other features of those beings themselves.

For example, let's say that an omnimax entity (assuming coherence) exists, and creates entities who can create worlds filled with other entities. Would those creatures be gods, according to the usage you propose? Would monotheism be false?

I do not know what the majority of people would say.

But I think a more extreme example is the holodeck one. What if people in the Federation can create simulations and put self-aware agents in there, given some of those agents Q-like powers within the simulation, but no power to leave it?
Would those simulated beings be gods, even though a puny human can just switch off their powers, or delete them, without their being able to do anything about it?
Would those humans be gods because they can make the simulation?

I recognize that your usage of the word 'god' might be too different from mine to give the same answer in this case, but my intuitive grasp of that word would tell me that they're not gods.

Crude: "Now, keep in mind what you have to affirm to deny what I'm saying - that there can be powerful beings creating worlds, and yet they're not gods. I think that is going to be extremely easy to establish as a direct about face from atheism throughout the ages, and a recent one at that."

As I mentioned, considering simulations and powers within the simulations, that does not seem to be that big of a threat to me, but then again, as I mentioned this may well be within the context of the differences in usage; what do I know?

Still, let me put it also into perspective. Are you suggesting that if God creates sufficiently powerful beings, that defeats monotheism? (or that he can't create them?).
Of course, at the end of the day, we're arguing over definitions, not over what kind of entity would exist (not in this particular part of our discussion).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Keep in mind one obvious reason Q wouldn't be regarded as a god (just how powerful Q is, by the way, I forget offhand) - because it was a series made in a heavily Christian-influenced culture, for which 'God' was roughly approximating a particular definition. Here's another way of thinking about it: if they went in the other direction and simply said Q was a god, and kept all the details the same, would there have been any inconsistencies in the story? I think the answer is 'no', especially if they expressly compared Q to a pagan god."
A different usage of the word 'god' would not have created inconsistencies (though there were unrelated inconsistencies, but as often in religion, they were explained away :D).
On the other hand, the same applies in the other direction; for instance, modify a movie involving Zeus and other Olympians, don't call them 'gods', and you introduce no inconsistency.

How powerful was Q?

I'm not an expert, but as I recall, his power was limited by that of the continuum, which was like a collective of Q, and all of them together could even kill that particular (or any other particular) Q.
Other than that, he (or any other Q) could teleport wherever or whenever he wanted, do the same to others, change the constant of gravity or any other (i.e., make the universe work however he pleased), and generally manipulate space and time pretty much at will, create parallel realities, etc.; it was immune to phasers or any other weapon made by humans or any other civilization that uses ships, etc.

Crude: "False choice. If the omnipotent being was the God of classical theism, I'd say there was only one big-G God. (And necessarily, there'd have to be only one.) If that God created Zeus-like beings, then we're into a kind of henotheism or monolotry."

No, the choice is correct.

If the concept of 'god' that you are using is such that, if a being reaches a certain level of power (say, like Q), then that being is a god, then even if the God of classical theism (assuming for the sake of the argument both coherence and a single concept) existed, the other entities would match the criterion, so there would be many gods, even if there is one capitalized God.

Crude: "Why would I think it's metaphysically impossible? Again, I'm thin on my knowledge of Q's powers - some specific ones (but no relevant ones) may be off on their own problems. Say, time travel."
Yes, time travel is a problem...faster than light transmission of information if time is relative is a problem too, and that's a problem for Star Trek in general.
But let's remove the impossible ones.
The point is the following: if there is a level P of power such that any entity with level of power P or greater is a god under your conception of 'god', then if God creates 100 beings with level of power P, there are 101 gods, God and his 101 creatures, and according to that conception of 'god', monotheism is false...not that there is anything interesting to it; it's just a matter of definitions, so kind of 'meh'.

Crude said...

As for 'gods', 'supernatural', and the like, the situation is different, because:

I disagree, and frankly, I think most atheists would (prior to this argument) disagree. You can find a number of popular sayings about how atheists don't believe in any gods, period, with an emphasis on rejecting all the various gods.

I think there is a clear and historical sense - again, clear enough for my purposes - regarding what would qualify as a god. I will say I noticed you distanced yourself from 'materialist' or 'natural/supernatural' talk if I read you right, and I respect that - I do the same myself. But I think here, for the discussion's sake, it's not nearly as troublesome to discuss gods as you're making it out to be.

I took the question to be about not self-contradictory concepts, but my answer was negative for the reasons I explained (i.e., the question was whether all would exist, not whether some would exist).

Alright, so accent on the 'all'. Got it.

For example, let's say that an omnimax entity (assuming coherence) exists, and creates entities who can create worlds filled with other entities. Would those creatures be gods, according to the usage you propose? Would monotheism be false?

Classical theism would be true, but monotheism would technically be false, yes - given the perspective I'm talking about. But I also think monotheism would be false in a way that wouldn't disrupt just about any monotheistic religion.

The situation is different for an atheist. To put it in perspective, 'Theism is true' can, technically, be achieved with a variety of particular gods existing. On the flipside, 'atheism is true' can't suffer a single god existing.

But I think a more extreme example is the holodeck one.

It's an extreme example, and I could answer it. But the problem is, I don't need to answer it, because granting the right kind of multiverses and the simulation (or creation) possibility, you're going to get starker examples than that.

Still, let me put it also into perspective. Are you suggesting that if God creates sufficiently powerful beings, that defeats monotheism? (or that he can't create them?).

You don't even need God to directly create said beings. Does it defeat monotheism? In a sense - I pointed you at two definitions I think work better. It wouldn't defeat classical theism, however. Nor would it cause much trouble with any major religion, including Catholicism, granting certain caveats.

On the other hand, the same applies in the other direction; for instance, modify a movie involving Zeus and other Olympians, don't call them 'gods', and you introduce no inconsistency.

You're going to have to do a lot, and I mean a lot, of atheist history and attitudes, even up to the modern day, to make that change. And there's a very big penalty aside from the consistency change that you incur by saying 'Alright, okay, Zeus and all these gods weren't really gods'.

No, the choice is correct.

It's a false choice. Looks up the words I told you, plus polytheism, to see why. My definitions fit better than yours for the situation being described.

The point is the following: if there is a level P of power such that any entity with level of power P or greater is a god under your conception of 'god', then if God creates 100 beings with level of power P, there are 101 gods, God and his 101 creatures, and according to that conception of 'god', monotheism is false

Sure, I'll bite that bullet, with the caveat that classical theism would still be (or could, if you want to stay skeptical) true. Atheism, however, would certainly be false. Theism can withstand an infinite number of gods, obviously. Atheism can't stand 1.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Well, 'and that's all there is' is a whole other subject. The issue here is that the definition I'm considering isn't very novel - it's age-old, and still in common use. Anyone who regards Zeus as a god is essentially using it."
I still do not see any good evidence of that (see my examples), but again, it's a matter of definitions, not ontology.

Crude: "But hey, you're saying that under some definitions atheism may be false and theism may be true, so there's at least that."
That gives the impression of suggesting a concession or change of mind on my part, on any ontological issue. It is not, but a matter of language (not even a change of mind on that at this point, though I'm not yet sure how you might be using the word).

Also, the 'might' should be considered in light of my reservations about a multiverse hypothesis that you've not fleshed out (and present day physics models are also unclear on the issue, since they do not have a model of minds).


Crude: "It's more complicated, for several reasons.

A) I'm not convinced simulations or creation of the relevant type is actually possible. (Not a 'materialist'.)

B) I'm a classical theist, which I think impacts any multiverse talk - even if it's positive, there may be other considerations beyond the purely formal that go into their creation.

C) Regarding whether monotheism would be false, I explained my view on that in a previous reply you haven't seen as of writing this - I think it should suffice."
A) I'm still not sure what simulations would count as 'relevant', or how 'materialism' would either enable or prevent them. For instance, would self-aware agents in holodecks, brains in vats, and V-World from "Caprica" (if you know that one) count?

B) I'm not sure what you're getting at here.

C) For reasons I explained in my replied to that one, my conclusion would be that yes, in that sense monotheism is false.


Crude: "I think those regular concepts of gods are precisely what would make such simulations suffice. An agent creating a simulated universe a la Bostrom (to use one example) would be a creator with power over those creations that made Zeus look like a wasp."
A couple of points:

1. My point was that it's not at all clear that simulations are enough for gods to exist, under any regular concept of gods, and I would have to ask about yours. For instance, the holodeck example does not seem to have gods (if that counts as a relevant simulations; if not, I would like to ask about which simulations would be relevant).

2. I do not know that Bostrom's simulation is nomologically possible, and I do not see how either infinitely many galaxies, or even a number of multiverse models, would entail that it is.
3. If beings descended from humans were to simulate such a universe, but they were still incapable of escaping death with their own universe, or even being killed by a bomb or something, I don't think they would qualify as 'gods' under most concepts. They would still be flesh and blood, without even the powers of, say, the Hulk in their universe, even if they could show off in the simulation.


Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "I already gave some examples and standards. What is wrong with them? "
They're not sufficient cases for me to grasp your usage, especially in line of the difficulties I've been mentioning.

For instance, my conclusion is that if those beings exist (as explain), monotheism is false by the conception you're defending. But you say that that is not the case.
Also, you mentioned beings that would be more powerful than Zeus, but it seems to me that they wouldn't be. Perhaps, we're assessing power differently?

In any case, one would generally need more cases to grasp a concept. How about the human creators of the holodeck, or some of their holodeck creations? Would they count as gods?


Crude: "Sure, but like I said, there's a tremendous number of people who accept A, quite a lot of people who accept B, and considerable overlap between the two.

I'm only touching on the tip of the iceberg these considerations pose for atheism."
I've replied to them as well, but here I was pointing out lack of denial of either of those would not make me a theist under any definition.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "I disagree, and frankly, I think most atheists would (prior to this argument) disagree. You can find a number of popular sayings about how atheists don't believe in any gods, period, with an emphasis on rejecting all the various gods."

I disagree, for the reasons I've been given, about the vagueness of terms.
I do not disagree about whether most atheists would likely disagree. But then, I do not have to go with the majority. In my experience, however, the degree of ambiguity shows very frequently, and has been showing in this discussion for a while.

Crude: "I think there is a clear and historical sense - again, clear enough for my purposes - regarding what would qualify as a god. I will say I noticed you distanced yourself from 'materialist' or 'natural/supernatural' talk if I read you right, and I respect that - I do the same myself. But I think here, for the discussion's sake, it's not nearly as troublesome to discuss gods as you're making it out to be."

I think that that depends on context. In the context of discussing a TV show, it's probably just fine. In the context of folk religion, there will be different concepts, but I doubt they'd even notice, since they're not going to run into one of those beings, and they're not going to make sophisticated arguments about them, either.

On the other hand, when it comes to philosophical discussions, the ambiguity and interpersonal disagreement in usage shows, as it's showing here.


Crude: "Classical theism would be true, but monotheism would technically be false, yes - given the perspective I'm talking about. But I also think monotheism would be false in a way that wouldn't disrupt just about any monotheistic religion.

The situation is different for an atheist. To put it in perspective, 'Theism is true' can, technically, be achieved with a variety of particular gods existing. On the flipside, 'atheism is true' can't suffer a single god existing."

Actually, I think the situation would not disrupt most versions of atheism much, at least if some kind of simulations exist.

For instance, if there are holodecks run by human-like beings, I do not see how most versions of atheism would be disrupted.
Moreover, even if there are some powerful beings on some parallel universe, but no being in our universe has the power to transmit information faster than light (and those beings cannot get in, either).

In any case, it seems they would not be a problem for daily life assessments (else, that would be a defeater for beliefs in those theories, atheism aside), and surely not for my views (I accept the label 'atheist' as long as not much precision is needed, since it gives a rough impression of many of my views; but taking that too far is problematic, precisely because conceptions of gods become problematic when pushing the issue, like in this discussion).

As for monotheistic religions, introducing such entities would require more rewriting and adapting, though most of the required changes have already been introduced (though acceptance of the multiverse in which, say, a counterpart of Jesus says he will be betrayed but isn't, etc., and all infinitely many cases, would create a zillion new problems for Christianity (similar ones for Islam, etc.), but that aside).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "It's an extreme example, and I could answer it. But the problem is, I don't need to answer it, because granting the right kind of multiverses and the simulation (or creation) possibility, you're going to get starker examples than that."

Two points for now:

1. I was using the holodeck example also to ask about your conception of 'gods'; a lack of reply makes it more difficult for me to understand what you mean.

2. I would need more information about what kind of simulation counts (i.e., why not the Star Trek one?), and how you derive the conclusion of more extreme examples (in particular, from which actual multiverse or infinite universe hypotheses).


Crude: "You're going to have to do a lot, and I mean a lot, of atheist history and attitudes, even up to the modern day, to make that change. And there's a very big penalty aside from the consistency change that you incur by saying 'Alright, okay, Zeus and all these gods weren't really gods'."
In that sense, you would have trouble (e.g., with the fans) saying 'okay, Q was indeed a god', and making it official. I was talking about consistency.

But generally speaking, the point I'm getting at is that one can make TV shows and movies showing entities of similar power to that of Zeus and not call them 'gods', and that's no problem; it seems to me people don't usually say 'those are gods'...and that's different if it's set up in an environment in which those terms are used. For instance, they talk about gods, demons, supernatural, etc., on 'Supernatural', or 'Buffy', etc., but not on 'Star Trek'; it's not only about level of powers, but kind of the 'feel' of the environment, it seems to me.

BenYachov said...


@Angra
>That is not a presupposition at all. It's just an assessment based on what I (and all of us, probably) know, namely that we can find a zillion examples of laws in which the commands are meant to be taken literally, and I've yet to find one in which that is not the case.

Sorry it clearly is a non-Catholic & non-Jewish presupposition on how Scripture should be interpreted. You have given me no reason to accept it.

>So, if someone claims that this particular law was not meant to be taken literally, I ought to give it a very low prior.

Rather if I am going to debate a Muslim on the Koran I know he is not going to be moved by my private interpretation of his sacred text if I ignore Hadiths and Muslin Tradition also if he is let us say a Sunni he is not going to be moved by my Shia interpretations.

>While the claim is that, today, no one is in a position to apply such laws, the fact of the matter is that they were applied, even if the cases were not frequent, and they were applied because they were interpreted as (of course) literal.

If they where not meant to be applied literally via tradition then applying them literally in error is a misuse. That heretics interpret some verses literally in error is trivial.

BenYachov said...

> If you want to say that there were very strict standards of proof, that's debatable comparing them to today's standards, but not the point here: Even if infrequent due to probatory difficulties, the fact that they were actually applied shows that they were interpreted literally.

Now you are confusing the issue. As a Catholic I certainly believe the Bible can be interpreted in error and applied erroneously. Any law can be. Joan of Arc was a victim of a tribunal that willfully misinterpreted Canon Law to put her to death for political purposes. But you have not shown me your interpretation is the authoritative one.

>. I said I did not believe that somehow the RCC is better, etc.; I know you do, which is why I used Catholic examples; I also used Jewish examples, because you mentioned Jewish sources as well.

But you haven’t used them correctly.

>But that aside, given that the RCC claims that the texts are not immoral, if I accept all Catholic claims about it, I can't show that they (unless I could show a contradiction; but my argument was not that).

Angna you keep ignoring my argument. You treat the texts perspicuously. I A priori reject that concept.

3. In this thread, I was not trying to persuade you that the command was immoral. I was replying to the claims that I was misinterpreting the text, and that my moral assessment was based on a fundamentalist interpretation of it.

The charge stands since you are not giving me a Catholic or Jewish interpretation of the text via the authority of either the OT Church or the New. You are giving me opinions and interpretations & I am giving you counter ones and we will stalemate each other forever. Which is why the Church teaches the Bible is not to be interpreted privatly. God did not give Scripture alone and Jews and later Catholics did not take it alone.


>I'm saying that they make a general point about the reasons for punishments that are usually objected to, without even suggesting that some of them were not meant to be taken literally, but accepting otherwise without making an exception. In context, you shouldn't understand their silence on that specific punishment as not supporting my position.

Logically I understand silence as silence. No position should be taken till the Church Authority has ruled on it. What you are giving me is not a Catholic or Jewish view.

>Acknowledge the punishment of stoning to death as biblical.
>Moreover, the command in question was alongside a number of other commands, all of which were meant to be taken literally.

Where does Scripture teach if a “literal” Command is alongside other Commands it must also be taken literally? Where is this novel doctrine of yours taught? By the rules Halakah employing Dat,Pishat, Drash and Midrash justify this claim of yours while you are at it employ Augustine’s rules for interpretation. Finally show me either the OT or NT Church Authority taught this doctrine of yours?

Angra Mainyu said...


Ben Yachov: "
@Angra

Question: Do you know the difference between Classic Theism, Theistic Personalism and or the Pagan view of "gods"?

I note Crude is referring to pagan gods in this multivariate scenario.

If not here is a link to educate you.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/07/classical-theism-roundup.html

Warning it's not light reading. "

I'm familiar with different concepts of 'god' and 'God'. What the author classifies as 'theistic personalism' actually includes more than one concept.

But yes, I do realize that Crude is aiming at a pagan concept. My disagreement with him is about the extent to which there is or isn't universality. I do not think that there is a pagan concept, but many, which overlap to some extent, but not enough in this context, which causes difficulties.

BenYachov said...

>In short, there is no indication at all of a non-literal interpretation, and pretty clear reasons to conclude that it was literal. That is also what Jewish sources say.

You haven’t given me any Jewish sources that endorce your view on how Scripture should be interpreted. I showed how you misused them and why we should doubt your interpretation of them. I showed a source misapplying the Law but I never claimed Scripture can’t be misinterpreted or misapplied. The fact that it can be justfies Catholic rejection of private interpretation.

> 1. Actually, I'm not assuming, but assessing that commands in a code of law ought to be interpreted literally, whether the code is old or new, unless we have specific reasons to think otherwise, and given that that is the norm in codes of law.

No you are giving me you novel rules on how scripture should be used but not either Catholic or Jewish rules on how it is to be used. Thus you are assuming the doctrines of private interpretation & perspicuity.


>But that's not wrong. There are different styles of stoning, but it's clearly literal. And burning people to death can be done in different ways too. But it's still literal (i.e., people were actually burned to death).

Again are you objecting to the death penalty in principle or the method? Because I was under the impression from Atheists I have argued with in the past that it is the cruel method they objected too. Being pushed off a two story height is a quick death. Even being forced to intake hot lead is a painful but quick death. Burning at the stack is a slow death. As is throwing rocks at someone till they die. So they are not literal according to the general literal understanding of atheists. The Oral Torah allows persons to be drugged to reduce their pain. So if your argument here is the death penalty is always wrong we are not having the same conversation.

BenYachov said...

>I read it. Again, I used it as another piece of evidence, in context. As I said, a Catholic priest gives his defense of Old Testament laws, without even a hint of a suggestion that they weren't meant to be taken literally.

Unless you cite a specific I still don’t see it.

>That does not follow, and it's actually not true that I assume a fundamentalist understanding.

But the point is it is not a Catholic or a Jewish one. It is one that mandates all verses of Law be interpreted literally. But there is no Tradition Church or Halakah ruling to back up this claim. It is a private interpretation that mandates the literal thus it resembles the Fundamentalist Protestant view.

>Again, there is a difference between taking a fundamentalist approach to interpreting the Bible, and agreeing with some fundamentalists about the intent of some or even most of the writers of the Bible, in terms of whether some passages was meant to be interpreted literally.

But Fundamentalism is heresy. So you agree with heretics. That’s fine but by definition I must then reject your interpretation.

>Any person who approaches the texts without a previous Catholic religious assumption or similar will not understand that they should interpret texts from the OT based of traditions (capitalized or not) from many centuries later.

Naturally which is why private interpretation is wrong and the OT says the Torah was to be interpreted by the Priests(who would ideally know the tradition) not the individual.

>Those traditions, of course, can still provide evidence of some ancient interpretation, and in context, they might provide clues as to the original interpretation. But nothing more.

Every Fundamentalist I have ever debated has said what you have said in rejecting tradition and championing private interpretation.

> That is not a fundamentalist approach to the text. That's the ordinary approach any human normally has towards any text. It's the approach of any scholar who is doing history, not theology.

Catholic & Orthodox Jews don’t believe Scripture was meant to be interpreted by the ordinary average Joe. Fundamentalist Protestants do so thus yours is a fundamentalist view. Secular Scholars may not believe Scripture was written by God but they would study tradition to see how the Jews understood their sacred text. That is the only understanding that counts.

BenYachov said...

>Essentially, you're implying that people who do not take a Catholic religious commitment, or a similar religious commitment, before approaching the question of meaning, is putting on ' the hat of a fundamentalist apologist' and defending a fundamentalist interpretation. That's just mistaken.

Rather I see Scripture as a Catholic and Jewish document and I interpret it in that framework. You are like a non-American telling Americans what the Constitutional Laws mean. Well you opinion is interesting but the Supreme Court and the Government have primacy over you.
So does the Pope and or the Sanhedren. So you really can’t win this argument in principle. You can at best concede Catholic have a particular interpretation of Scripture different from mine.

> Regardless of whether it would have any effect on you (people hardly ever persuade their interlocutors in these kind of debates, if ever, in my experience), I stand by my arguments. I would suggest interested readers to go over the exchange, and reach their own conclusions.


I agree since I am confident in my arguments & my knowledge of Judaism and Catholicism * I think your lack of knowledge is self evident though I thank you for the discussion.

> The 'fundamentalist' claim is false. What you should keep in mind is that atheists, as well as historians, Buddhists, and generally anyone not doing religion, approaches the text not as an inspired one, but as any other text.

I do the same with the Koran. But unlike you if you will forgive me I have learned it is futile to interpret the Koran my way apart from a knowledge of Muslim Tradition, traditions of a particular sect and the Hadiths. The Muslims themselves are not impressed.

BenYachov said...

>Now, if it turns out that in some cases, fundamentalists get the interpretation right as well, so be it. But it does not make my approach fundamentalist. I approach the text as I would approach any other text.

Pretty much it does. Since you are taking sides between sects over the interpretation of their sacred document. You side with the Prots. So before you can convince me to be an Atheist you must convert me to Protestantism then give your Atheist polemics against the Protestant interpretation of Scripture. Yeh good luck showing me Sola Scriptura is biblical.

Ben Yachov: "I trust the Jewish interpretation of their own Laws given to them."
While I do not see why some Jewish scholar would be better than non-Jewish scholars interpreting a book written by some ancient Hebrews, let's see.

Ben Yachov: "http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4005-capital-punishment

QUOTE"Messianic days (, Sanh. 51b; Yeb. 45a) or for the satisfaction accruing from study (, ib.). In this department there are therefore some laws which are mere legal opinions or theoretic ratiocinations which were never applied in practise. Such, for example, are the laws relating to the "rebellious son" and to "communal apostasy" (Tosef., Sanh. xi. 6, xiv. 1; Sanh. 71a). However, the bulk of rabbinic rules, even those concerning capital punishment, bear the stamp of great antiquity, inasmuch as they are based on actual precedent or on old traditional interpretation."END QUOTE

QUOTE"m, if not to abolish it altogether. That capital punishment was a rare occurrence in the latter days of the Jewish commonwealth is patent from the statement in the Mishnah that a court was stigmatized as "murderous" if it condemned to death more than one human being in the course of seven years. Indeed, Eleazar b. Azariah applied the same epithet to a court that executed more than one man in every seventy years; and his famous colleagues, Tryphon and Akiba, openly avowed their opposition to capital punishment,"END QUOTE

>My points are unaffected. I'm not suggesting that the punishment was frequent. I'm saying that, according to the Bible, Yahweh commanded that a woman who was the daughter of a priest and a prostitute, be burned to death (At least, going by most biblical translations; some translations talk about a woman who committed adultery at some stage in her marriage, and was the daughter of a priest; but it's literal one way or another).

Rather according too your interpretation of the Bible. Certainly the daughter of a Priest deserved divine punishment for her sins. But that doesn’t mean it was supposed to be done literally.

Crude said...

That gives the impression of suggesting a concession or change of mind on my part, on any ontological issue. It is not, but a matter of language (not even a change of mind on that at this point, though I'm not yet sure how you might be using the word).

How is it giving an impression of a concession, when what I said was that you're saying that theism may be true, and atheism may be false, given the conjunction of topics I'm discussing? You can't accuse me of changing your words here - I was expressing relief that you admitted this possibility was truly in play. That usually takes an awful lot of hammering to get at.

Also, the 'might' should be considered in light of my reservations about a multiverse hypothesis that you've not fleshed out (and present day physics models are also unclear on the issue, since they do not have a model of minds).

Sure, but your reservations actually don't matter much here, since we're accepting some things for the sake of argument.

A) I'm still not sure what simulations would count as 'relevant', or how 'materialism' would either enable or prevent them. For instance, would self-aware agents in holodecks, brains in vats, and V-World from "Caprica" (if you know that one) count?

Never saw Caprica. Brains in vats would need a lot more explanation. Self-aware agents in holodecks, I replied to - you're replying so much that I can't tell what you've read.

B) I'm not sure what you're getting at here.

I'm saying that for a classical theist, a multiverse could conceivably exist, but that multiverse would have God's will (putting it loosely) to deal with as a factor to determine what, if anything, shows up in those multiverses. The atheist obviously has no such constraints on the model.

C) For reasons I explained in my replied to that one, my conclusion would be that yes, in that sense monotheism is false.

I already replied to this. Again, not sure you saw it.

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