Monday, January 28, 2013

Cumulative Case Apologetics

Explained here.

37 comments:

B. Prokop said...

I especially liked this line in the article:

"However, before an individual evaluates the evidence, it must be acknowledged that a person’s response to an argument will always be influenced by his/her past and present personal history. Hence, it is folly to divorce the objective and subjective nature of evaluating arguments and evidence for God's existence."

The same applies to every other form of acquiring knowledge - even science. In K. Maria D. Lane's excellent book The Geographies of Mars (highest recommendation, by the way), she explains how hypotheses explaining what astronomers observed on Mars at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th Centuries were possible only in the social, political and economic environment of that time. The author goes on (rather convincingly) to demonstrate that all scientific research, to include that going on today, is soaked in its context, and cannot be evaluated without proper regard for said context.

I recall that we had 2 or 3 entire threads devoted to this idea about a year or so ago.

B. Prokop said...

I found it. Here is what I wrote on 25 February 2011 (how time flies!):

You [Victor], if anyone, are well aware that I am the very last person to admit there is anything like a real conflict between Science and Religion. That said, I am also very much opposed to some of the frankly absurd conclusions arrived at by various persons who have a less-than-professional expertise in BOTH fields. I'm thinking not only of scientifically-ignorant Young Earth Creationists, but also of those (primarily atheist) persons who claim an objectivity for Science that it in no way deserves.

With that in mind, I simply have to quote to you a passage from a remarkable book I have stumbled across: Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science, by Jan Golinski, Cambridge University Press, 1998, page ix:

"There is nothing self-evident or inevitable about scientific claims that become established as "truths" in specific times and places. ... Scientific knowledge should be understood primarily as a human product, made with locally situated cultural and material resources, rather than simply the revelation of a pre-given order of nature."

Golinski argues that, while the "Facts" accrued by scientific research may deserve a modicum of trust and be granted a (strictly defined) degree of objectivity, the broader conclusions derived from such knowledge are inextricably part of the prevalent culture and existing power structures. He makes a convincing case.

This has HUGE implications for the OTF. It means that no atheist (or skeptic, or whatever) can claim to stand "outside" of anything, simply by incanting "scientific" tropes under the illusion (dare I say "delusion"?) that such information is inherently objective. The DATA may very well be so (and there are limits even to that), but whatever effects such raw information may have on KNOWLEDGE can never be so. The scientist (or layperson relying on scientific research) will forever be a product of his times, his culture, and his environment. No one is an outsider.

As a very specific illustration of this concept, allow me to draw your attention to a perfectly wonderful book, also by Cambridge University Press, by Maria Lane, Geographies of Mars (2011). The book concerns how astronomers understood Mars throughout history. You might be aware that around the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries, it was widely believed, both by professional astronomers as well as by the public as a whole, that Mars was inhabited by a canal-building intelligent race. Here is what Ms. Lane has to say about that belief. It is well worth a careful read:

"The geopolitical moment in which the inhabited Mars narrative unfolded - dominated as it was by European imperialism and American expansionism - produced an intellectual and social climate in which the view of Mars as an arid, dying, irrigated world peopled by unfathomably advanced beings was really the only interpretation of Mars observations that could plausibly have been accepted by large numbers of Western scientists, writers, and audiences."

My point for bringing this up? Simply this - the widespread assertions by persons who make a habit of conjuring up "Science" (although they are most likely not themselves scientists) with the aim of confining religious thought to a supposed "God of the Gaps", and their claim that "History is on Our Side", are no less a product of the contemporary environment than the now discredited belief in intelligent life on Mars, and will someday be regarded with the same degree of amusement by future generations, who do not share our own particular cultural prejudices and blinders.

ingx24 said...

Slightly off topic, but this is something that's been bugging me for a while, and this is the most recent post so I guess this is the place it's most likely to be seen.

Why do people act as if not believing in God automatically entails not believing in the possibility of an afterlife? Where is the connection? Moreover, why, disregarding the God question, would ceasing to exist after death be more or less likely (a priori) than some kind of consciousness after death? Wouldn't the default position be that we simply don't know what happens after we die?

The only thing I can think of is that atheists assume materialism, i.e. that the mind is nothing more than the activity of the brain. But why? Where is the connection? Why on earth would not believing in God commit you to a position as counterintuitive as materialism?

I ask this because I've seen some atheists act as though it's just obvious that we cease to exist after death, that anyone who says otherwise can only be motivated by fear of nonexistence, and that religion is simply a way of trying to "deny death", as if it's been obvious from the beginning that there's no afterlife.

What the hell? Can someone PLEASE explain this to me?

B. Prokop said...

ingx24,

Good question. The overwhelming mass of humankind throughout history has believed in an afterlife, regardless of religion, culture, or economic condition. The builders of the stone circles in Britain did. Ancient Egyptians did. Why bother continuing the list? Everybody did.

In fact, the percentage of humans who have not believed in an afterlife amounts to a rounding error.

Hmm... The claim that we do not survive our physical deaths appears to be one of those "extraordinary claims" that atheists are always demanding extraordinary evidence for. So where's their evidence? And it had better be pretty damn extraordinary!

ingx24 said...

Their evidence pretty much amounts to arguments for materialism from my experience. And the fact that brain scans won't let you literally see people's thoughts refutes materialism (at least of the reductive kind) in my view.

ingx24 said...

And the fact that brain scans won't let you literally see people's thoughts refutes materialism (at least of the reductive kind) in my view.

To clarify: As far as I am aware, no amount of peeking into the brain will let you *literally* see people's thoughts. Sure, you can predict what their thoughts are if you know the correlations, but for obvious reasons that's not the same as literally seeing thoughts.

Matt DeStefano said...

Their evidence pretty much amounts to arguments for materialism from my experience. And the fact that brain scans won't let you literally see people's thoughts refutes materialism (at least of the reductive kind) in my view.

This is hilarious. Are blind people incapable of thought?

I don't mean to be too harsh, but this is the silliest objection to "materialism" I have ever seen.

William said...

There's also a an entire category difference between reading the mind of someone and being (subjectively) that someone, between knowing what another person is feeling and having that feeling yourself. Mirror neurons notwithstanding. :)

ingx24 said...

Wow, way to completely misunderstand what I said. What I meant is that what you see in brain scans does not resemble anything mental. If you're thinking about, say, a dog, nothing revealed in a brain scan would have anything to do with dogs or anything else.

B. Prokop said...

ingx24,

I think what you are (obliquely) referring to is the huge Problem of Consciousness for the materialist. Am I reading you correctly?

'Cause if so, then you are most correct. The existence of consciousness is damn-near fatal to the materialist mindset. (how appropriate!)

Papalinton said...

I have decoded the secret letters, symbols and scriptures embedded in this article - Accumulative Case Apologetics.

And the equation is:
Accumulative Case Apologetics = Much Ado about Nothing.

Papalinton said...

Bobh and ingx24

You guys need to come up to speed on the recen discoveries that have been made into the nature of consciousness. To be sure, humanity is only at the very beginning of this great journey of exploration.
Burying your head in consecrated sand simply is not a practical way going forward.

To start: Try THIS Snippet.

Or THIS ONE. This video was accessed through the Scientific American website [HERE. In part the accompanying article reads: "Various scholars have tried to explain consciousness in long articles and books, but one neuroscience pioneer has just released an unusual video blog to get the point across. In the sharply filmed and edited production, Joseph LeDoux, a renowned expert on the emotional brain at New York University, interrogates his NYU colleague Ned Block on the nature of consciousness. Block is a professor of philosophy, psychology and neural science and is considered a leading thinker on the subject. The interview ends with a transition into a music video performed by LeDoux’s longstanding band, the Amygdaloids. The whole exercise is a bit quirky, yet it succeeds in explaining consciousness in simple, even entertaining terms."




cautiouslycurious said...

Ing,
"The only thing I can think of is that atheists assume materialism, i.e. that the mind is nothing more than the activity of the brain. But why?"

Because physical phenomena effect qualia. When you have low blood sugar, it effects qualia. When you get hit in the head, it effects qualia. When you ingest certain chemicals, it effects qualia. If the mind is some non-physical entity solely separate from its physical apparatus, then these consequences shouldn't occur. Indeed, what physical action would effect the non-physical?

B. Prokop said...

" Indeed, what physical action would effect the non-physical?"

Such a question might possibly be relevant to a non-Christian religion, but Christianity is centered on the Incarnation. The linkage between the physical and the supernatural is actively proclaimed. The Sacrament of Baptism is a good example. (And one doesn't have to be a Catholic to acknowledge the efficacy of the Sacraments.) The physical pouring of water over a person's head (or, alternatively, the immersion of that person into water) has a literal and very real effect on said person's spiritual state.

Now it's perfectly fine for you to not believe this (as long as you do not profess to be a Christian), but it is pointless to fail to recognize that for the Christian believer there is very much an ongoing interaction between the physical world and the supernatural reality behind that world.

Your difficulties with physical phenomena affecting consciousness simply disappear in light of that understanding.

Martin said...

cautiouslycurious,

>If the mind is some non-physical entity solely separate from its physical apparatus, then these consequences shouldn't occur.

I think this is just obviously false. Even substance dualism is two-way interactionist. The mind can affect the body (and world around it) and the body can affect the mind. If you stub your toe, the dualist would agree that this affects the mind. And altering the brain, which is a part of the body, will obviously affect the mind as well.

Matt DeStefano said...

What I meant is that what you see in brain scans does not resemble anything mental. If you're thinking about, say, a dog, nothing revealed in a brain scan would have anything to do with dogs or anything else.

The fact that you think this should be the case is hysterical. Do you expect to see a small picture of a dog when you look at a brain scan?

(I have a sneaking suspicious I'm being trolled. Kudos, if that's your intention.)

ingx24 said...

The point is that if mental phenomena are indeed physical, you would expect to be able to observe them directly. But as you said, that is patently absurd. Which is exactly the point I'm trying to make.

ingx24 said...

Bob:

What I'm referring to is a generalization of the problems of consciousness and intentionality. The fact that you can't directly observe mental activity by looking at the brain should make it pretty clear that the mind isn't a physical thing. The only way out is to claim that what we think of as "the mind" has no objective existence and is just an appearance of the underlying reality of meaningless chemical reactions inside your skull. But such a claim undermines all rational inquiry, not to mention being completely unlivable.

B. Prokop said...

ingx24,

Oh, I get what you're driving at. But I was mainly answering cautiouslycurious's bald statement that the physical world couldn't have an effect on the "non-physical". True, he phrased it as a question, but his use of the word "indeed" indicated he had most likely pre-judged the answer. so I decided to give him an example of how the two worlds do interact.

William said...

With regard to the original topic: isn't the "cumalative case" thng just the same as giving several different types of arguments for the same overall position, based on the situation and person with whom the dialog occurs?


If so, I can't see this as different from other types of debates I've seen, where several different arguments are given for say global warming, etc. Am I missing something?

cautiouslycurious said...

Bob,
Aren’t Christians supposed to have free will? If I can manipulate your thought processes simply by manipulating your environment, then what does that do to the concept of free will? To keep free will, the mind would have to be able to de-couple from the body at will or somehow not be affected by the physical environment, unless chosen by the individual.

I admit, I was too general in the phrasing. You could propose some explanations that could explain the same exact phenomenon that preclude what I said, but the explanations that come to mind would be non-falsifiable and have no explanatory value. Not to mention, I haven’t ever heard those hypotheses proposed before, so I didn’t bother considering them for the purposes of this discussion. Those could be dismissed under Occam’s Razor. Also, it seems odd to propose a non-physical entity that is capable of being damaged, especially the mind. According to most Christian doctrine, the mind survives the destruction of the body, so this would be inconsistent with Christianity.

B. Prokop said...

"this would be inconsistent with Christianity"

I beg to differ. It is obvious that the mind is frequently damaged or affected by purely physical processes (as in a traumatic brain injury). This is reality. Reality can never be inconsistent with Christianity. As Thomas Aquinas said to Siger of Brabant, there are not two truths but only one.

If a person's understanding of Christianity does not allow him to acknowledge a proven fact, then it is not Christianity that is at fault, but that person's misconceptions.

Papalinton said...

"Now it's perfectly fine for you to not believe this (as long as you do not profess to be a Christian), but it is pointless to fail to recognize that for the Christian believer there is very much an ongoing interaction between the physical world and the supernatural reality behind that world."

This is really dark stuff. And it has about the same level of credibility as why Jews circumcise little boys and some Muslims genitally mutilate little girls, to symbolically and physically enter into a covenant with God that binds one through the 'ongoing interaction between the physical world and the supernatural reality behind that world.'

"..pointless to fail to recognise ..?

This is really embarrassing and intensely discomforting stuff hearing it from an adult. Ignominious for a supposedly educated society to subscribe to.

Speaking of the dark, Arthur Schopenhauer, famed German philosopher noted:

"Religions are like fireflies. They require darkness in order to shine."

Martin said...

Matt DeStefano,

>The fact that you think this should be the case is hysterical. Do you expect to see a small picture of a dog when you look at a brain scan?

I believe he is making the usual law of identity case that is core to the mind/body problem. If A is just B, then A should have all the properties that B does. If A and B have utterly different properties, then A and B are not identical. And in fact ingx24 even specified "reductive" physicalism, which is what identity theory is, which indeed fails the law of identity test. Which is part of the reason why it is dead, I think.

Not sure why you would think that's "trolling."

Matt DeStefano said...

I believe he is making the usual law of identity case that is core to the mind/body problem.

If you think the "law of identity case" is "why can't we see pictures of the thoughts occurring in brains?", you are sorely mistaken. This is just as ridiculous as saying "If pain is just c-fibers firing, then shouldn't we be able to see pain in the c-fibers?"

If A is just B, then A should have all the properties that B does. If A and B have utterly different properties, then A and B are not identical. And in fact ingx24 even specified "reductive" physicalism, which is what identity theory is, which indeed fails the law of identity test. Which is part of the reason why it is dead, I think.

This paragraph illustrates an ignorance of what exactly reduction theories are saying. Here's a starting point for reduction as it applies to biology: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/reduction-biology/

cautiouslycurious said...

Bob,

“Reality can never be inconsistent with Christianity.”

And the conversation just came to a screeching halt.

B. Prokop said...

The Truth hurts, doesn't it?

What's wrong with a Christian saying something like that? Is he expected to believe in something that is not the Truth?

Really... think! The statement is totally reasonable.

grodrigues said...

@Bob Prokop:

You should not take cautiouslycurious' screeds too serious. Just before he made the "screeching halt" point with all pompousness he has written in January 29, 2013 4:11 PM:

"You could propose some explanations that could explain the same exact phenomenon that preclude what I said, but the explanations that come to mind would be non-falsifiable and have no explanatory value. Not to mention, I haven’t ever heard those hypotheses proposed before, so I didn’t bother considering them for the purposes of this discussion. Those could be dismissed under Occam’s Razor."

Self-refuting scientism in all its jaded glory... because metaphysical naturalism is completely falsifiable...

Shrug shoulders.

B. Prokop said...

Thanks, grodrigues. But one really needs to think about cautiouslycurious's comment. The implications are that he expects me (and fellow Christians) to believe things we know and acknowledge to be falsehoods. Now just how does that work?

It's no wonder that people like Loftus and Linton have such bizarre definitions of Faith. Despite their claims to be former Christians, it very much appears that they have no idea whatsoever what it was they claim to have believed in!

cautiouslycurious said...

Bob,
“What's wrong with a Christian saying something like that? Is he expected to believe in something that is not the Truth?”

A Christian is expected to believe in Christianity. If they re-define it to their hearts content to such a degree that nobody would recognize it, then they’re merely playing with words. I essentially said that believing there is no afterlife would be inconsistent with Christianity, and you disagreed with me there. Is there a single sect of Christianity that forgoes that concept? The only way that the concept can’t be inconsistent with reality is if it is amorphous, and that pretty much makes the concept worthless.

Also, I expect Christians to believe in other things as well, you know, God, the resurrection, etc. If you don’t believe these basic things, then I don’t really consider you a Christian. If you claim that these can never be inconsistent with reality, then you’re essentially assuming your position, which is why the conversation ends. Imagine someone saying that the proposition "There is no God" could never be inconsistent with reality, would you waste your time with such a person? So, yes, if these things turn up to not be true, then Christians are expected to believe in something that is not the Truth.

Grodrigues,

“Self-refuting scientism in all its jaded glory... because metaphysical naturalism is completely falsifiable...”

I don’t know how you got this from my comments. Are you saying that non-falsifiable explanations have explanatory value? Or that they can’t be dismissed under Occam’s razor? I’m not exactly sure what you’re disagreeing with here… Also, in this context, metaphysical naturalism would be defined as Plantinga defines it, there simply being no god-like entities. In that case, metaphysical naturalism is falsifiable.

cautiouslycurious said...

Edit:

"Also, in this context, metaphysical naturalism would be defined as Plantinga defines it, there simply being no god-like entities. In that case, metaphysical naturalism is falsifiable."

Scratch this. Wrong context.

B. Prokop said...

"If you don’t believe these basic things [God, the Resurrection, etc.], then I don’t really consider you a Christian."

100% agreement.

" If you claim that these can never be inconsistent with reality, then you’re essentially assuming your position."

No, not at all. but if you are a christian, then how on Earth can you consider such things to be inconsistent with reality? There's no "assumption" going on here. If somehow it were proven to me that there was no God or that the Resurrection did not occur, I would drop Christianity in a heartbeat. But I have carefully thought these things through, over the course of decades, and am convinced of their verity. Therefore, as I said in a previous posting, it is perfectly reasonable for a Christian to say "reality can never be inconsistent with Christianity".

"So, yes, if these things turn up to not be true, then Christians are expected to believe in something that is not the Truth."

You still seem to be under the impression that Christians either do or will believe things they know to be untrue. How is such a thing even possible? Now, that seems to be a conversation stopper!

grodrigues said...

@cautiouslycurious:

"Are you saying that non-falsifiable explanations have explanatory value?"

No that was not what I was saying, but the answer to your question is yes.

"Or that they can’t be dismissed under Occam’s razor?"

No that was not what I was saying, but the answer to your question is yes.

"Also, in this context, metaphysical naturalism would be defined as Plantinga defines it, there simply being no god-like entities. In that case, metaphysical naturalism is falsifiable."

No, it is not.

Once again you show that you do not have the faintest inkling of what you are talking about. No, I have no intentions of educating you.

cautiouslycurious said...

Bob,
“But I have carefully thought these things through, over the course of decades, and am convinced of their verity. Therefore, as I said in a previous posting, it is perfectly reasonable for a Christian to say "reality can never be inconsistent with Christianity".”

Its fine to be convinced of something’s verity, but when you say that it can never be inconsistent with reality, you are also making a claim about what you accept as evidence. You are saying that nothing will make you doubt your beliefs. There is nothing wrong with an atheist saying that they believe in the veracity of the proposition “There is no God,” but if they claimed that the statement “No God existing can **never** be inconsistent with reality,” then they are saying that they will remain an atheist regardless of whatever empirical evidence they encounter (even if it is discovered that a god-like entity exists).

The hypothetical proposed was such that the mind does not survive the body. Is this or is this not consistent with Christian doctrine? I proposed that it was inconsistent due to the major role of the afterlife in Christianity and you said that you “beg to differ.” That Christianity would still be true even if we presume that there is no afterlife, after all, “Reality can never be inconsistent with Christianity.”

Grodrigues,
If you’re not going to contribute to the conversation, I really have no idea why you comment in the first place. Let me take a page out of your book, you’re wrong and I don’t have the desire to educate you.

grodrigues said...

@cautiouslycurious:

"If you’re not going to contribute to the conversation, I really have no idea why you comment in the first place."

You would have a point if you yourself had a faint idea of what you are criticizing.

cautiouslycurious said...

Grodrigues,

Internet protocol would dictate that what you were criticizing was what you were replying to in quotes. However, you have admitted that’s not what you were talking about so the logical conclusion is that you are simply trolling now.

grodrigues said...

@cautiouslycurious:

"Internet protocol would dictate that what you were criticizing was what you were replying to in quotes. However, you have admitted that’s not what you were talking about so the logical conclusion is that you are simply trolling now."

First, you are not telling the exact truth as my admission was not how you describe; second I replied to the questions in the quotes and third, no, it does not follow logically.

We can keep playing this rather futile game of hurling accusations back and forth, and see who quits first out of sheer boredom. As far as I am concerned, dialogue is just that: dialogue, not a one-sided lesson correcting the misconceptions, the ignorance of your criticisms or even pointing out the obvious fact that for all your talk of falsifiability, this is a philosophy blog, discussing what are for the most part, philosophical questions.

You seem to take great pride and joy in showing to the satisfaction of the entire world, that you are an ignoramus (in philosophy, in mathematics and its relation with science, in science itself) and resist learning what your opponents hold. Fine, knock yourself out.