Monday, April 29, 2013

The hiddenness of God

This discussion, by Loftus, explains a typical atheist response on what good evidence for theism would look like to them. What it does is raise the whole issue of the hiddenness of God. Even if we think there are good reasons to believe there is a God, there are things God could have done to make it more evidence, so that we could more confidently assert that nonbelievers are all irrational. Michael Rea has a nice paper in response to this problem.

Here's a quote from it:

That’s one way of pitching the idea that divine hiddenness might help to preserve our freedom. But here’s another: Suppose Bill Gates were to go back on the dating scene. Wouldn’t it be natural for him to want to be with someone who would love him for himself rather than for his resources? Yet wouldn’t it also be natural for him to worry that even the most virtuous of prospective dating partners would find it difficult to avoid having her judgment clouded by the prospect of living in unimaginable wealth? The worry wouldn’t be that there would be anything coercive about his impressive circumstances; rather, it’s that a certain kind of
genuineness in a person’s response to him is made vastly more difficult by those circumstances. But, of
course, Bill Gates’s impressiveness pales in comparison with God’s; and, unlike Gates, God’s resources
and intrinsic nature are so incredibly impressive as to be not only overwhelmingly and unimaginably
beautiful but also overwhelmingly and unimaginably terrifying. Viewed in this light, it is easy to suppose that God must hide from us if he wants to allow us to develop the right sort of nonself-interested love for him.


This isn't about Loftus and his personality, but the issue at hand, please.

65 comments:

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

Anyone got any book recommendations on the Hiddenness Problem? I'd like to read up on it.

Martin said...

Dr Evangelicus

Try: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0521006104/ref=redir_mdp_mobile

Walter said...

Viewed in this light, it is easy to suppose that God must hide from us if he wants to allow us to develop the right sort of nonself-interested love for him.

I have to agree with Zach's comment.

According to Christian theology, God has directly revealed himself to a number of special people throughout history. Was God not afraid that Moses or Paul would only develop a self-interested love for him?

Rea's argument might be useful for a deist who believes that God never directly reveals himself.

finney said...

But this makes no sense. Why else would you love God except because God is GOD?

Rasmus Møller said...

AFAIK He did present Himself as a jewish carpenter dying on a cross for our sins.

He showed us His Love first.

He made me desire His Love.

Isn't everything else secondary?

jdhuey said...

That is a very bad analogy - it simply does not capture any of the features of the situation. Closer, I think, would be if you are approached by a lawyer claiming that he is a close associate of Bill Gates and that Bill is in love with you and wants to marry you as soon as his divorce is final. Also, to demonstrate that you love him back, he wants you to give the lawyer 10% of your paycheck. Bill Gates can't contact you directly but your given a special phone that your are assured is a direct line to Bill - just get down on your knees and tell Bill what you want and how much you love him (ignore the fact that the phone never makes a peep back and is in fact just an empty tin can with string dangling from it.

Now, you can ask about the whole issue of the hiddenness of Bill (or God). Does he not show himself because he wants your love of him to be for the right reasons or is it because the Bill Gates that supposedly wants to marry you simply doesn't exist and the whole this is just a scam?

B. Prokop said...

Not really sure whether I wish to say much on this thread. Consider this posting a sort of drive-by shooting, if you will. The problem is, I personally have never experienced any "hiddenness" problem. God's presence has always been pretty damn obvious to me, for as far back as I can remember. I can't not see Him. In fact, I have to strain to understand how certain others have such a difficulty in seeing what to me seems as obvious as daylight.

So that's it. Just wanted to put in a marker here. The only question I might throw out here is how is it that some people think God is "hidden" and others see Him everywhere? (For myself, I look at a weed or a stone and I see God's handiwork, I pass a person in the street and I see the Image of Christ, I observe a star and perceive Creation.) The answer is definitely not Loftus's "Insider Thesis" (trademark), because for me this sense of seeing Him long preceded any religious training I ever got. I'll be reading what you all say, but may not respond.

Crude said...

I'll say something along Bob's lines. I don't have this 'Divine Hiddenness' problem either, and apparently, a lot of people don't. I think problems like these ultimately melt into not 'If God exists, He should make it clear' full stop - it's clear to a lot of people. It's more 'If God exists, He should make it clear to me personally, given my personal standards of evidence'.

So someone like me is convinced by various arguments, evidence, reasoning, etc. Jerry Coyne? Jerry Coyne requires a 900 foot Jesus throwing S'mores at starving children in Africa, submitting himself to a thorough interview, several blood samples and an MRI scan. (I exaggerate, but not by all that much.)

Martin said...

Bob and Crude,

>In fact, I have to strain to understand how certain others have such a difficulty in seeing what to me seems as obvious as daylight.

Although I'm still agnostic, on some days I might say that I lean slightly towards intellectual "non-religious" theism. The missing piece of the puzzle for me is exactly what you speak of: seeing God.

I don't know if I do or not.

Can you describe what you think when you see something and see God behind it? Can you diagram it like this?

1. I see X
2. I think, "X must be Y"
3. Therefore Z

Or something?

I'm very interested in this missing puzzle piece for myself. Maybe it's like those obnoxious magic eye posters, and if someone can just tell me what angle to look at it from, it will finally pop out for me.

Thanks!

Crude said...

Martin,

Can you describe what you think when you see something and see God behind it?

That makes it sound like I experience event X which I classify as miraculous and therefore see God as an explanation. That doesn't really go on with me - I haven't had any road to Damascus kinds of experiences, or 'clearly God was behind this particular moment in my daily life' situations. (There are moments where I expect it, where I feel comfortable with that explanation, but those are merely consistent with my views.) I know that quite a lot of people claim to experience these kinds of things - I think David Marshall has talked about it - but for me personally, it either doesn't happen or I don't notice it.

Also, for me, there are layers to it. If, say... tomorrow Christ's body was delivered and Christianity was thereby falsified, I'd still believe in God. I think anyone who accepts philosophical arguments or reasoning to God's existence automatically has what you seem to call 'non-religious theism' going on, as part of a layer beneath their religious theism. Likewise people who treat their theism as a basic belief.

B. Prokop said...

Martin,

Here is how one sees God:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VHGaoQVVlAc

It's all true.

Martin said...

OK, but can you still describe these layers, or what exactly your experience is like? I'm not asking for miracles or anything extraordinary.

Robert Gressis tried to answer a similar request from an atheist here. Can you do something similar for your own experience? I'm very interested in hearing how I could maybe "see the sailbot" in the magic eye poster as well... :)

BeingItself said...

What an idiotic analogy.

The question is not why does God hide his awesomeness from us - but rather why God seems to hide his existence from us.

That analogy is pathetic.

Martin said...

>rather why God seems to hide his existence from us.

The same basic idea applies. What if your mother teaches you not to reach into the cookie jar, and then goes around the corner and watches you to see if you will do it or not, and you can clearly see her watching you? Do you reach into the cookie jar? No, because you are waiting for her to leave.

Ergo, you choose not to reach into the cookie jar not because it is the right thing to do, but only because you know your mother is right there watching you.

Idiot.

Crude said...

Martin,

OK, but can you still describe these layers, or what exactly your experience is like? I'm not asking for miracles or anything extraordinary.

Sure, that's more straightforward, if experience just means 'reasons I believe'. I can't be exhaust, but I can give some examples.

The universe fundamentally seems like the project of a mind - the laws, the order, the regularity, etc. I think this is a different argument and approach than the Fifth way, but the Five Ways are up there as well. David Marshall's arguments about the seeming near-universality of the recognition of God play into this (He's the Christ the Tao blogger, for reference.) The various assortment of classical theist metaphysical/philosophical arguments. Kalam, to a point. Human technology progress and modern assumptions about future technological capability, though this goes off into a different direction from classical theism.

Arguments and views and even basic beliefs on that level just bolster a fundamental belief in a broad, non-religious view of God's existence. The lack of good arguments against that broad, non-religious view of God's existence plays a role too. (Problem of Evil, even divine hiddenness, doesn't really touch that.)

On the next layer, you have the specific arguments and evidences of Christianity, of acceptance of revelation, of the authority of the Church, etc, etc.

This is a murky info-dump I know, but hopefully it helps you see what I mean.

I'd also add that, when it comes to the argument from hiddenness specifically, the issue for me isn't right just 'God is so obvious that he's not hidden', but 'I easily see why God wouldn't bother meeting the standard of Jerry Coyne in terms of being obvious, and I also understand why the hiddenness argument in principle would never be eradicated even if He did'. Like I said, the hiddenness view isn't really 'Why is God's existence so damn impossible to notice' but 'Why does God not meet my personal standard of obviousness', which is a damn different thing.

im-skeptical said...

'Why does God not meet my personal standard of obviousness'

My personal standard is: Can I see any non-ambiguous evidence at all?

Many have asked. Only those who believe hear some kind of reply.

Martin said...

>My personal standard is: Can I see any non-ambiguous evidence at all?

But what counts as "ambiguous" is different for everyone. Many atheists have admitted that even if God spelled his name out in the sky that they still wouldn't believe.

This is why understanding the classical arguments can help one "step into the shoes" a bit of a believer. Just a bit. I was just farting around with Aquinas' Fifth Way and made a shitty infographic about it.

So one could see the directedness of things in nature as "goals", and "goals" can only come from a mind.

I can sort of see it, but I can sort of see how one could dismiss it as well.

I'm truly on the fence.

Victor Reppert said...

If God reveals his existence to us, how could he fail to reveal his attributes to us. If in order to be God you have to be omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good, then the more God makes that evident, the more he also makes it evident that he has that kind of power, knowledge and goodness.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

Sure people have their reasons for seeing the evidence. What we typically hear is something like: See the beautiful sunset? That's all the proof I need. But to me it simply means we have an affinity for the world we live in.

Or this one: The exquisite design of creatures could only have been made by God. But evolution accounts for that apparent design very nicely.

Those things are not unambiguous. So if Coyne says he'd like to see something more spectacular, he's saying he wants evidence that can't be mistaken or accounted for by ordinary means. It's not that he's arrogantly holding to some ridiculous standard.

Crude said...

So if Coyne says he'd like to see something more spectacular, he's saying he wants evidence that can't be mistaken or accounted for by ordinary means. It's not that he's arrogantly holding to some ridiculous standard.

By Coyne's own admission, the evidence he requests is ambiguous in the relevant sense - he admits that, in principle, it could be accounted for by some other means. 'It was a very powerful alien.' 'It was a delusion.' 'It was a supreme trick.' 'It was a delusion.' 'I am insane.'

His standard is arbitrary and subjective. That's really not in dispute. And you know what? It's fine, as far as it goes. The problem is that if arbitrary, subjective standards of evidence are acceptable, then every theist in the world is rational in holding their beliefs. Coyne demands a 900 foot Jesus performing for a talent show. Someone else demands scientific evidence that the universe is past-finite. Someone else demands evidence that biology is based on a coded language.

The very idea of unambiguous evidence for God is absurd. Even the resurrection, in principle, could be real yet performed by someone else. I recall that one of the early anti-apologetic moves was apparently not to deny the resurrection, but insist it was magic or wicked in origin. Toss in 'powerful aliens' and welcome to your eternal ambiguity.

im-skeptical said...

"welcome to your eternal ambiguity"

It's a good point, but I would add that (according to atheists) the evidence is always ambiguous because it isn't real. It shouldn't have to be that way. God could settle the issue once and for all if only he chose to do so. Just let the whole world know for certain. And while he's at it, he could also declare which religion (or religions), if any, is the one for people to follow. Just tell us in a way that makes it clear. To everyone.

Crude said...

It's a good point, but I would add that (according to atheists) the evidence is always ambiguous because it isn't real.

You don't understand. Coyne, for all of the evidence he asked for, admits it's ultimately ambiguous. It's precisely why he said his belief in God, even in those cases, would be provisional. In principle, it could be explained another way.

It shouldn't have to be that way. God could settle the issue once and for all if only he chose to do so.

Then don't you regard it as odd that Coyne isn't asking for that evidence? He demands evidence for provisional belief. He demands *ambiguous* evidence. It just has to be ambiguous evidence of the kind he likes.

The problem is not 'with the evidence available'. It's with evidence for this claim, in principle.

When you ask for evidence that makes everyone believe, you're making a mistake - any evidence you could ask for will always be, in principle, explicable in another way. If instead you're asking why not make everyone believe, then evidence is irrelevant - you want God to change everyone's minds by force.

Life is uncertain. Best accept that.

im-skeptical said...

Crude,

"you want God to change everyone's minds by force"

No, I just need evidence. If god gave me a rational mind that needs good reason to believe, he should understand why I feel the way I do. He could do more. He's done it for others, supposedly.

Crude said...

No, I just need evidence. If god gave me a rational mind that needs good reason to believe, he should understand why I feel the way I do. He could do more. He's done it for others, supposedly.

I don't know your psychology, so I won't evaluate it. I do note that it's a live possibility the problem is on your end.

I mean, you just demanded unambiguous evidence and thought that was reasonable. But unambiguous evidence cannot be provided. At that point it's about arguing over the standards for unambiguous evidence, or going whole hog and saying (like Shermer and Myers) that no evidence is possible. In which case the problem isn't about evidence after all.

im-skeptical said...

"you just demanded unambiguous evidence and thought that was reasonable."

Yes I do.

"But unambiguous evidence cannot be provided."

If it doesn't exist.

"or going whole hog and saying (like Shermer and Myers) that no evidence is possible."

I say it is possible - or it should be. He did it for others, right?

Crude said...

If it doesn't exist.

No. The fact that Jerry Coyne admits that his belief in God would be provisional, even if his standards of evidence were met.

Let's play a game. Tell me what the evidence for God's existence could be, such that I could not, in principle, attribute that evidence to:

Non-God but unknown sources.
Powerful aliens.
A delusion.
A supreme trick.
Mental illness on your part.

Go ahead. Try it. Hint: saying "Okay you could attribute that to aliens but I think that would be a bad move" is to admit the evidence in question is, in a relevant way, ambiguous.

I say it is possible - or it should be. He did it for others, right?

No, He didn't. He provided evidence for others that was sufficient to have them believe. The evidence was never unambiguous in the relevant sense.

Look, do you understand what it means for the evidence to be ambiguous? Do you understand what the 'provisional' in Coyne's 'provisional belief' is? Do you understand Shermer is saying that any evidence you present to him, he will attribute to aliens at best?

Martin said...

>No, I just need evidence.

I just linked to some, and you glided right over it to start talking about the complexity of organisms that ID people always talk about.

We both know that ID arguments don't work, but you should examine the classical arguments instead, from Augustin, Anselm, Aquinas, etc. The link I gave you above is one such example.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

Sorry, but the argument as presented is not convincing.

You show how a billiard ball can be aimed intentionally, then state "So unintelligent matter cannot "aim" at any specific goals or end results unless directed so by an intelligence." That doesn't follow from what was said. Then you go on to show examples of exactly what you said wasn't possible, but insist that only an intelligence could make it happen.

The argument says, in essence, that nothing at all can happen unless by intention of some agent. You have to show that that's true, and you haven't even come close.

Martin said...

Here is Copleston's explanation of the Fifth Way from his amazing 9 volume history of philosophy:

"St Thomas argues that we behold inorganic objects operating for an end, and as this happens always or very frequently, it cannot proceed from chance, but must be the result of intention. But inorganic objects are without knowledge: they cannot, then tend towards an end unless they are directed by someone who is intelligent and possessed of knowledge, as 'the arrow is directed by the archer.'"

im-skeptical said...

"it cannot proceed from chance, but must be the result of intention"

Same thing. An assertion is made but not substantiated.

That's typically the case with these classical arguments. You basically have to assume the conclusion of the argument as a premise. Which makes it a circular argument. That's why an argument like this doesn't persuade so many people. It only works for people who have already swallowed the kool-aid.

Martin said...

1. The electron orbits the atom by A) chance, or B) intention
2. Not A
3. Therefore, B

This argument is logically valid disjunction. So the only question is the premises.

The reason for premise 2: if it were by chance, then it would be a different effect every time. Sometimes the electron would orbit an atom. Sometimes it would stick to neutrons. Sometimes it would stick to protons. Sometimes it would fire off at light speed through the galaxy. It would do something different every time. But they don't. They either orbit atoms, or if they wander loose they "try" to seek an atom to begin orbiting.

To refute the argument, you need to show a third option in premise 1, or show why chance could result in the same effect every single time.

im-skeptical said...

C) nature.

Why does a river flow to the sea? It isn't chance. It isn't intention. It's gravity.

Martin said...

>Gravity

But that just pushes it back a step. Feser even brings this up in TLS: the Moon orbits the Earth regularly, but does not go out to Mars and then come back, and then stop for five minutes before orbiting the Earth again. Yes, gravity is the explanation behind the regularity, but that there is regularity is the point. So the Moon "points to" the end of orbiting the Earth, rather than doing various random things.

This is why you should read these things, rather than commenting on blogs.

im-skeptical said...

"But that just pushes it back a step."

Go back to 9:29 PM and replay the discussion from there.

It's Feser presupposes the existence of some intelligence who causes things to "point" toward their goals in making the argument that God must be the one who does all this. It's still a circular argument. In my opinion, it doesn't merit serious discussion.

But I know, those who have drunk the kool-aid will find it compelling despite the lack of logical validity. So we could go on and on about it without ever without ever getting anywhere. I'd rather let it rest.

John W. Loftus said...

I think there is a counter-argument here. You argue God must hide himself. You also argue God knows the appropriate distance to keep so people can still reasonably choose to believe.

Well then, I have argued there isn't a bad "personal" reason to reject the faith of your God:

http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/search/label/argument%20from%20ignorance

I made this argument in four parts. Read them in reverse chronological order.

What then of your claim that God hides himself appropriately so we can still reasonably choose to believe in him?

B. Prokop said...

Wow. I've kept my "promise to self" to largely stay out of this one! Here is my (possibly) final contribution to the thread:

"Honest questions are never offensive to God, but freely chosen or self-centered disbelief reveals an inner bitterness..." (Rev.) Peter John Cameron, O.P.

Years of reading Dangerous Idea have convinced me of the truth of that statement.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

My point is not so much that the Fifth Way is sound, but rather that you may be blinding yourself to the evidence that is there. You may be looking for miracles, but there is no reason that the evidence for an intelligence behind the workings of the universe must manifest itself as a breaking of the rules.

im-skeptical said...

"you may be blinding yourself to the evidence"

It's so easy for some. They see evidence everywhere they look. I see a world where everything can be explained without reference to god. If he wants me to believe in him, he needs to show me more. It's that simple.

Martin said...

> I see a world where everything can be explained without reference to god.

I gave an argument earlier that things point towards goals by A) chance, or B) intention, and that A is not an option because it would result in a different outcome every time, and that therefore B.

Your only response was:

>Feser presupposes the existence of some intelligence who causes things to "point" toward their goals in making the argument that God must be the one who does all this.

That doesn't address any portion of the argument presented, which goes a long way towards supporting my point that perhaps the evidence is there, but you can't see it because you've already made up your mind.

That is in fact one possible answer to the hiddeness of God, as Bob and Crude say above: he isn't hidden at all.

Perhaps. I'm open to it. Are you? I have my doubts...





im-skeptical said...

Martin,

Let's just say that you buy the argument and I don't. I don't see any point in debating that, because we have both staked out our positions, and it won't go anywhere. The whole teleological bit is for people who believe it, and meaningless to those who don't.

Martin said...

I never said I buy it. I have repeatedly stated that I am agnostic.

But the argument may be one of the keys to finding out IF God is even hidden at all, like Crude and Bob say he isn't.

What I do note is that I provided a logical argument, and you go off on tangents when I ask for a response, but you still just say "Nope!" to the conclusion. But without denying one of the premises, you have no basis for denying the conclusion.

Which only underscores my earlier point: are you sure that God's existence isn't hidden in plain sight, and you are just shutting your eyes? Because I'm not sure of that for myself at all. A little skepticism here would be good...

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

Let me repeat. I didn't accept the premise to your original argument because it says that things can't fulfill a role (as in a river flowing to the sea) without being directed toward that role by an intelligence. I don't buy that, and you didn't prove it. I said gravity is what makes the river flow down to the sea, and you said that's just putting the intelligent direction at a different level. I said your argument assumes intelligent direction (which could only be god) to prove that there is a god who is performing this intelligent direction. It's a circular argument. I have logically refuted your argument, and you say that I haven't addressed it at all. That's why this is all pointless. No matter what I say no matter what logic I use, you will reject it. So let's just let it rest.

B. Prokop said...

(Channeling Ilion here) Translation:

"I've been beaten in this argument, but can't bear the thought of admitting it, so ple-e-e-ease leave me alone!"

What "im-skeptical" is championing is the idea of turtles all the way down. It's a great argument, being undefeatable by definition.

im-skeptical said...

Bob,

So you agree that I didn't refute Martin? Where's his answer to what I said? The circular logic of his argument is fine with you? The only way I can argue with you guys is to drink the kool-aid, accept that the rules of logic don't apply, and say If I don't think about it, it all makes sense (sort of). This really is a waste of time.

Crude said...

What they're telling you, skep, is that you're not even understanding the argument as it's laid out, and what you think is a refutation clearly isn't.

I have to admire Martin's attempt though. I knew this would be fun to watch.

im-skeptical said...

"I knew this would be fun to watch."

I'm sure you did. Tell me, how does this argument not presuppose an intelligence who is doing all this 'pointing'? If you don't think I understand, what part of it have I got wrong? Can you explain it coherently?

Martin said...

>What they're telling you, skep, is that you're not even understanding the argument as it's laid out, and what you think is a refutation clearly isn't.

That's always the problem with im-skeptical. If he objected to the arguments for good reasons, I would have no beef. For example, I worked trying to get a guy on another forum to understand Aquinas' metaphysics properly, and finally, after much pain on my part, he did. Then, he found an alternate metaphysic that was opposed to Thomism.

Fair enough!

I literally had zero issue with him after that point. He presented his alternate metaphysic on the forum, and I had nothing to say to him anymore. He understood the Thomistic arguments correctly, how they work, and that they are metaphysical and not physical, etc. My job was done. He provided good (or at least proper) objections.

But im-skeptical rejects the arguments for very, very bad reasons before he's even given them a fair hearing. Part of the problem is exactly what Feser says in his Road From Atheism article:

"...to understand someone, it’s not enough to sit there tapping your foot while he talks. You’ve got to listen, rather than merely waiting for a pause so that you can insert the response you’d already formulated before he even opened his mouth. And when you’re a young man who thinks he’s got the religious question all figured out, you’re in little mood to listen..."

Everyone, especially im-skeptical, could benefit from learning DH7 argumenation:

"If you’re interested in being on the right side of disputes, you will refute your opponents’ arguments. But if you’re interested in producing truth, you will fix your opponents’ arguments for them. To win, you must fight not only the creature you encounter; you must fight the most horrible thing that can be constructed from its corpse. But of course this takes the most effort of all."

And effort, I think, is the core problem. It's just easy and produces good feelings to think that your opponent is easily refuted without doing hardly any work at all. That's why the "new" atheists are convinced that the top philosophers of two thousand years of thought made obvious and silly logical errors that no one has noticed until the new atheists came along.

A form of arrogance, I think.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

You still haven't answered my objection. please explain how it's not a circular argument. Instead of taking pot-shots at me, please tell me, how does this argument not presuppose an intelligence who is doing all this 'pointing'? If you don't think I understand, what part of it have I got wrong? Can you explain it coherently?

I don't think so, because you have made absolutely no effort to address my objections to the argument. It's nice that you worked so hard getting that other guy to understand, but I see no evidence that you are even willing to say to me "here's what's wrong with your argument..."

B. Prokop said...

This thread was originally about the supposed problem of "hiddenness", and there have been some interesting responses. The fundamental problem with the ideologically rigid atheist perspective is that it presupposes the outcome before the discussion even begins. ("Give me evidence," they shout, but never stop to consider that there might be a two-way street here.)

I think Isaiah wrote something very pertinent to this discussion: "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near." (Isaiah 55:6, KJV) I see the very opposite in play in many postings here - a tightly shut mind, clenched fists, closed eyes and fingers in ears while shouting, lest one hear anything. So is it any wonder if they can't perceive what is right in front of their noses?

Im-skeptical complains, "This really is a waste of time." Yes, he is unfortunately right. With that attitude, it certainly is. Just don't blame it on those trying to get through to you.

Martin said...

>how does this argument not presuppose an intelligence who is doing all this 'pointing'?

* Inorganic objects are no intelligent and thus cannot have goals

You don't need to presuppose God in order to believe that.

* Inorganic objects do have goals

You don't need to presuppose God in order to believe that.

And with those two premises flows the conclusion that there must be an intelligence somewhere outside the object guiding it to its goals.

im-skeptical said...

"* Inorganic objects are no intelligent and thus cannot have goals

You don't need to presuppose God in order to believe that.

* Inorganic objects do have goals

You don't need to presuppose God in order to believe that."

Finally, an attempt to address what I said. That's a good start.

So let's see. The first and second statements don't agree with each other: cannot have goals - do have goals. I think what you meant to say in the first one is that these objects have no goals of their own, right? The second statement clearly implies that goals are imposed on them by an intelligent agent, since they can't have goals of their own, right? But you say it doesn't have to be God. Ok, so we presuppose an intelligent agent (that doesn't have to be God) that makes everything happen - electrons orbiting their nuclei, etc - that provides the goals all these things have. Are we in agreement so far or do I not understand? Then the conclusion says (surprise, surprise) there must be intelligent agent (and I'll give you three guesses who it is). I say it's a circular argument. What have I missed?

Martin said...

>think what you meant to say in the first one is that these objects have no goals of their own, right?

Good point. Those are contradictory premises.

Rather:

(1) Everything that has goals is either A) intelligent, or B) is guided by intelligence

(2) Inorganic objects have goals (e.g. electrons always "try" to orbit atoms)

(3) Therefore, inorganic objects are either A) intelligent, or B) guided by intelligence

(4) Inorganic objects are not intelligent

(5) Therefore, inorganic objects are guided by intelligence

The only ones that can possibly presuppose a guiding intelligence are (1), (2), and (4), since (3) and (5) are conclusions that follow from them and not themselves premises.

(1) does not involve the presupposition that intelligence is guiding anything towards goals, since it is only a conditional. It says that IF something has a goal, then intelligence is involved either internally or externally. But it does not say whether anything does have a goal or not.

(2) does not involve the presupposition that intelligence is guiding anything, since it only says that when we look around us, we see that inorganic objects have goals. Whether goals require intelligence or not is not a presupposition of this premise by itself.

And (4) does not presuppose a guiding intelligence, since it simply says that inorganic objects are not intelligent.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

OK, a new formulation of the argument. In this case I would have to take issue with (2) because, the mere fact that objects exhibit behavior does not imply that those objects have goals (at least, to my way of thinking). An electron within a bar of gold does not have to orbit an atom. It can move around. (That's what we call conductivity.) Electrons simply obey physical laws. You may see that as being directed toward a goal, but surely there's no intelligence to it. If you think there is an intelligence to it, then I would have to say again that you are making a presupposition.

Martin said...

>I would have to take issue with (2) because, the mere fact that objects exhibit behavior does not imply that those objects have goals

I was under the impression that you were claiming the argument was guilty of begging the question, which is what I addressed.

Since you now simply take issue with the truth/falsity of one of the premises, am I to understand that you now agree that the argument is not guilty of such?

im-skeptical said...

"I was under the impression that you were claiming the argument was guilty of begging the question, which is what I addressed.

Since you now simply take issue with the truth/falsity of one of the premises, am I to understand that you now agree that the argument is not guilty of such?"

This is a different argument, so forgive me if don't make that same analysis of it. Because (2) makes the claim that all things have goals, so my first reaction is that it's not true. This one does lead directly to the conclusion that an intelligent agent directs all things.

I would note that in this formulation of the argument, if you accept that (2) is true, you have already assumed that this intelligent agent is at work, because if it were not the case, not all things would have a goal. So even though the argument doesn't directly say it, it still makes the assumption that leads inevitably to the conclusion.

The bottom line is that you don't observe that everything has a goal (I sure don't). You believe that everything has a goal for one reason only: because you believe there's a God the directs everything. If it wasn't for that belief in God, you couldn't make this argument.

Martin said...

>because you believe there's a God the directs everything

I've told you, I don't know how many times, that I'm agnostic non-theist.

Not to mention, speculation about motives has zero to do with the argument's soundness, and is a form of ad hominem. Talking about why I do or do not believe whatever it is you think I believe is a distraction.

>Because (2) makes the claim that all things have goals, so my first reaction is that it's not true.

Set (2) aside for the moment.

What about (4)? "Inorganic objects are not intelligent." I'll go out on a limb here and guess that you probably think that one is true. Please tell me if I'm wrong about that.

So of the three premises, (2) is set aside for the moment, and you presumably accept (4) as true.

What about (1)?

I bet you agree with this: Evolution has no specific end result or goal, because it is not an intelligent process and is not guided by an intelligent process.

If so, then you must agree with the logical formulation of that statement: If something is not intelligent nor guided by an intelligent agent, then it has no goals (specific end results).

And agreeing with that entails agreeing with the contraposition of the conditional. These two statements are logically equivalent contrapositions of each other. It is not possible to accept one and reject the other:

If X then Y
If not Y then not X

So if you agree with the first statement (and the logical formulation), then you agree with the contraposition as well:

If something has a goal, then it is either intelligent or guided by an intelligent process.

Yes?

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

I accept (1).

I'm not sure (4) is true. I can conceive of an inorganic object that has intelligence. I don't know if such a thing exists, but I think it could.

I don't accept (2).

"If so, then you must agree with the logical formulation of that statement: If something is not intelligent nor guided by an intelligent agent, then it has no goals (specific end results)."

Correct. I accept that, and I also believe that many things in fact are not directed toward any goal.

Martin said...

> I can conceive of an inorganic object that has intelligence. I don't know if such a thing exists, but I think it could.

The premise does not say such things cannot exist (you're right; perhaps there are robots or whatever). It simply says that objects like electrons, seeds, rocks, rivers, etc are not intelligent.

I'm going to assume that you accept that.

So you accept (1) and (4), then?

im-skeptical said...

Ok, I accept (1) and (4) with the provision that we're talking about simple things like electrons or rocks.

Martin said...

So this argument is logically valid. The only way to reject the conclusion is to reject one of the premises. You accept (1) and (4), and reject (2).

Far be it for me to convince you that (2) is true and that is not my intention. The point rather is to give you a glimpse over to the other side.

Temporarily, put on your theist cap and see acorns trending towards a specific end result: becoming oak trees.

See electrons trending towards a specific end result: orbiting atoms but never clumping with other electrons or sticking to neutrons.

See rivers with specific end results: draining the highlands into the ocean, which evaporates, rains, and begins the process all over again.

See the Moon with its specific end result: orbiting the Earth, but never galavanting around Jupiter, stopping for a bit, and the coming back again.

See photons with their specific end result: showing both wave and particle characteristics when shot through a double slit, but never NOT showing that characteristic, or some other characteristic.

All these things tending towards specific effects, rather than just any effect. Unlike unguided evolution, which has no specific end result.

Do you see nopw how one can see God in the world without needing such things as him writing his name in the stars or miraculously curing an amputee?

im-skeptical said...

"Temporarily, put on your theist cap and see acorns trending towards a specific end result: becoming oak trees.
...
Do you see nopw how one can see God in the world without needing such things as him writing his name in the stars or miraculously curing an amputee?"

Sure, I could see that all along. The point I made is that you must be wearing that theist hat. If you believe God is behind everything, you see God everywhere. But if you don't already believe that, then you have no reason to see God everywhere, and you presumably don't. At least I don't.

Martin said...

>If you believe God is behind everything, you see God everywhere.

That's precisely not the point. You don't need to believe in God to see objects operating for specific results, like the ones I just illustrated. But IF you see those specific results being generated, then coupled with the other two premises you accept, God results.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

This 'end result' you refer to is a teleological attribute of things. It could only come from the 'agent' that has some kind of intent in directing those things. Therefore, it is inherently a theistic concept. An atheist would have no reason to see purpose in things, or to see any kind of goal toward which things strive. The river flows to the sea because of gravity. Nothing more.

Not trying to be difficult. Just hoping that you might be able to see things from another perspective.

Martin said...

You've made two points here.

1. Final causality inherently includes the idea of God, so one must already believe in God in order to believe in final causality

Aristotle didnt think so. He thought that that is just the way nature is. More to the point, premise (2) only involves God when coupled with premise (1). (2) only says that there is causal regularity. It does not say what the reason for that is. The premise "Socrates is a man" does not contain mortality until coupled with "All men are mortal". This is how all deductive arguments work.

2. Gravity explains why rivers run down hill

But this only appeals to further causal regularity. Namely, that gravitons (or Higgs, or whatever the answer turns out to be) have a specific end result: attraction of mass. They never repel, or cause electricity, or burst into flames. They have a specific end result.