Friday, May 31, 2013

Almost Persuaded. Why?

As a musical accompaniment to this discussion, I am linking to the Louvin Brothers' rendition of the traditional hymn "Almost Persuaded."  A most remarkable singing sensation from the 50s and the early 60s, though nearly forgotten now. Although I like their music, I'm sure I would differ with them theologically. This is from Lewis's Surprised by Joy: 

Then I read Chesterton's Everlasting Man and for the first time saw the whole Christian outline of history set out in a form that seemed to me to make sense. Somehow I contrived not to be too badly shaken. You will remember that I already thought Chesterton the most sensible man alive "apart from his Christianity." Now, I veritably believe, I thought — I didn't of course say; words would have revealed the nonsense — that Christianity itself was very sensible "apart from its Christianity." But I hardly remember, for I had not long finished The Everlasting Man when something far more alarming happened to me. Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. "Rum thing," he went on. "All that stuff of Frazer's about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once." To understand the shattering impact of it, you would need to know the man (who has certainly never since shown any interest in Christianity). If he, the cynic of cynics, the toughest of the toughs, were not-as I would still have put it — "safe," where could I turn? Was there then no escape?

Now, why would an "outsider" like this "hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew" think that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was anywhere near being surprisingly good? Because, in the ancient world, when there is a strong mythological element, you don't find the people who present myth providing lots of times, places and dates. Supernatural claims are not typically embedded in carefully constructed writing aimed at conveying reality. Myths do not occur in recorded history, and stories like Apollonius of Tyana, for example, include things like Apollonius showing up in Nineveh seven centuries after it had been demolished.

89 comments:

BeingItself said...

Why do you think this story by Lewis is true?

Papalinton said...

The ubiquitous parable.

BeingItself said...

Unpersuaded? Why?

I could tell a story of a devoted and committed Christian who after years of studying the reliability of the bible concluded that it was all nonsense.

BeingItself said...

Also, Chesterton made a career of bloviation. I'm not surprised a simpleton like Lewis was influenced by him.

im-skeptical said...

"Now, why would an "outsider" like this "hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew" think that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was anywhere near being surprisingly good?"

I find little reason to believe the truth of this account. People who examine the gospels with a skeptical attitude generally find that they are full of contradictions and unsupported by independent historical facts. This is one of the things that convinces many people that Christianity is bullshit. I think Lewis is lying.

Dan Gillson said...

im-skeptical,

The truth of an account isn't undermined by pointing out that it doesn't conform to a generality. (There us anyways good reason to doubt the validity of your generality.) The trouble with the Gospels is not that they are full of contradictions or unsupported by historical facts, it's that the claims of historical facts that the Gospels make, claims which may or may not be independently verifiable, e.g. Jesus died on a cross outside of Jerusalem, can factor in multiple possible histories. The validity of a historical account is determined partly by the relation to cause and effect in which one stands. If one thinks of human history (effect) as being brought about by God's providence (cause), then the claims of historical facts found in the Gospels are going to confirm just that. The situation is much more tricky than determining whether some is lying or not.

BeingItself said...

Lewis's little yarn is typical of the doltish stories you here from preachers trying to make some lame case. Ravi Zacharias uses this technique relentlessly.

From a psychological POV, it's not a bad strategy. For example, doctors are instructed to convince patients they should get the flu vaccine by saying that everybody else is getting one.

This is not an argument by the doctor, just manipulation. And it works.

I doubt VR is even aware of his own attempt here at manipulation.

David B Marshall said...

Anyone who calls C. S. Lewis a "simpleton" (or himself "Being Itself") is probably a simpleton himself, who fails to understand Lewis. (Or himself.)

"I'm Skeptical, meanwhile, is obviously not skeptical enough of his own thoughtless words. The hard-boiled atheist didn't say "Rum thing, it turns out the New Testament is infallible." All you had to do is read before you ranted.

No wonder skeptics like that don't give their real names.

Karl Grant said...

In addition to what Dan said, the Bible isn't just one book. It's name comes from the Greek words ta biblia, little papyrus books and it is actually a collection of sixty-six books written by about forty authors, in three different languages, on three different continents, over approximately 1600 years. Some of these books are very different in tone and form, for example Psalms is poetry while Deuteronomy is treaty. It needs to be interpreted in this light, you don't read a political treaty the same way you read poetry.

But frankly I am not surprised that they accused Lewis of lying It's Cheap Dogmatic Skeptic Tactic 4:

STUPID, CRAZY LIARS. This trick consists of simple slander.
Anyone who reports anything which displeases the skeptic will be
accused of incompetence, mental illness or dishonesty, or some
combination of the three without a single shred of fact to
support the accusations.

BeingItself said...

On his blog, David B. Marshall wrote:

"If an understanding of God transcends a particular culture, it is much more likely to be true than if it does not."

Really?

So if the belief that celestial observations can predict terrestrial events transcends culture, then that belief is more likely to be true than not.

David B. Marshall, astrologer. And simpleton.

Karl Grant said...

So if the belief that celestial observations can predict terrestrial events transcends culture, then that belief is more likely to be true than not.

So if atheism transcends cultures and nations (which it does) then it is on the same level as astrology. And if science transcends cultures and nations (which it does) it is likely to be a myth.

BeingItself, atheist and skeptic. Proudly shooting himself in the foot since the introduction of Blogger.

BeingItself said...

Karl Grant,

Did I ever claim that cultural transcendence can tell us anything about the truth or falsity of a particular belief?

No. I did not.

I never cease to be amazed how unreasonable believers are.

Karl Grant said...

Did I ever claim that cultural transcendence can tell us anything about the truth or falsity of a particular belief?

No. I did not.


No, instead, you tried to use cultural transcendence to try and mock David Marshall without first checking to see if said tactic could be used against you. But then I ceased to be amazed at how much of a short-sighted asshole your average internet skeptic/atheist is a long time agoe.

BeingItself said...

Karl Grant,

Conversing with someone as dense as you is hopeless.

My tactic cannot be used against atheism, as I never claimed that cultural transcendence is evidence for or against anything at all.

Jesus. You are an idiot.

im-skeptical said...

Dan Gillson,

The fact that there are elements of the gospel stories that are consistent with our understanding of history isn't the issue. The idea that a man might have been crucified isn't the part that skeptical readers have so much trouble with. There are other elements that are much more difficult to reconcile with what we know about the time. Not to mention the fact that the gospel stories don't even agree with themselves, or the many indications that they have been at least partially contrived, and even altered from their original versions.

To say that the evidence for their historicity is surprisingly good, you'd have to abandon your skepticism and ignore all the many reasons to doubt their historicity.


David Marshall,

"All you had to do is read before you ranted."

I did read it. And I didn't believe it. I don't believe any "hard-boiled" atheist would ever find reason to think "that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good" based on any impartial examination of the available evidence.

David B Marshall said...

(A) DM: "If an understanding of God transcends a particular culture, it is much more likely to be true than if it does not."

(B) Silliness Itself:

"So if the belief that celestial observations can predict terrestrial events transcends culture, then that belief is more likely to be true than not.

(C) "David B. Marshall, astrologer. And simpleton."

What you commit here, Silliness, is what logicians call a "non sequitur." B does not follow from A. (Still less C.) Therefore B does not reduce A to the absurd, as you apparently think it ought to.

But of course you just skip over all that stuff in the middle -- we call it "argument" -- that might potentially lead one from A to B to C, were it valid and all that. As I said, you find us simple, because you yourself think simplistically, rather than rationally. Thank you for demonstrating my point.

BeingItself said...

Marshall,

Make the argument. I can't find one on your blog.

David B Marshall said...

You also miss the fact that I cite leading atheists to support (A). So your little flaming arrow actually strikes your (apparent) allies, like Dawkins and Dennett and Carrier, before it strikes me -- were it to strike anyone, which it does not.

David B Marshall said...

Skeptical: OK, you're quoting accurately, this time. But why is it, if Lewis' story is so improbable, that for so much of what Christians affirm about the gospel accounts, we can cite so many atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians, who admit the very same things? Why so often do they admit that what keeps them from Christian faith is not any historical weakness in the gospel accounts, but materialistic dogmas? (I demonstrate both points in Why the Jesus Seminar can't find Jesus, and Grandma Marshall Could.) And why does William Lane Craig regularly win debates on the historicity of the resurrection, even against the sharpest skeptical NT scholars, and even in the eyes of non-Christians?

Not that these points are needed. Lewis was an honest man, and did not tell lies. But they show not just that the anecdote is unsurprising, but that it reflects a general trend.

Karl Grant said...

My tactic cannot be used against atheism, as I never claimed that cultural transcendence is evidence for or against anything at all.

You used So if the belief that celestial observations can predict terrestrial events transcends culture, then that belief is more likely to be true than not to try and mock David. I turned said mockery around on you, plain and simple. So unless you want to claim that you didn't try and mock David with that comment.

Also, you comrade-in-arms Papalinton did make the claim atheism transcends culture on multiple occasions in discussions you often took part in. If you gonna to take David Marshall to task over said statement then in the name of intellectual honesty I want you to take Papalinton to task right here, right now.

David B Marshall said...

SI: "Make the argument. I can't find one on your blog."

You need to learn how to find things on your own.

im-skeptical said...

David Marshall,

"OK, you're quoting accurately, this time." I didn't quote inaccurately the first time. Maybe you should read more carefully.

"... we can cite so many atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians, who admit the very same things?" Who are they? Ex-atheists like Lewis? Sorry, I haven't read your book. Would you care to divulge a bit of it? What evidence have they examined?

"they admit that what keeps them from Christian faith is not any historical weakness in the gospel accounts, but materialistic dogmas?" There are many good reasons to reject Christianity. Materialism is not the least of them. Referring to materialism as dogmatic is just projecting your own religious shortcomings.

"why does William Lane Craig regularly win debates on the historicity of the resurrection" It is much more his debating technique and style than anything to do with logic or factual content that makes people think he won.

BeingItself said...

Marshall,

I cannot find an argument because you never make one. Rather, you just make an assertion:

"If an understanding of God transcends a particular culture, it is much more likely to be true than if it does not."

It is a reasonable inference that you are employing some kind of general principle here: If belief in X transcends a particular culture, then X is more likely to be true than if it does not.

But as Carrier countered, belief that the earth was flat transcended a particular culture.

Your assertion is just stupid. Rather than defend it, and making yourself out to be a fool, just admit your mistake.

David B Marshall said...

Skeptical: I was actually giving you credit in saying you misread Lewis, because the alternatives are bad logic or misrepresenting him. Obviously, saying the gospels are "full of contradictions" in no way undermines the story Lewis told.

Virtually every eminent NT scholar I have read makes concessions (even if not couched that way) that in effect support the essential historicity of the gospels. I give numerous examples.

Of course materialism is often a dogma. If someone says, "X report of a miracle must be false, because miracles don't happen," that is a dogmatic argument, not an empirical one. (Or are you claiming that people who agree with you cannot be dogmatic by definition?) Many such arguments can be found among the works of eminent skeptical NT scholars.

Isn't it a tad patronizing for you to assume you are persuaded by logic and facts, but most other people are just swayed by style?

And if you concede that most people are swayed by poor arguments, why do you assume Lewis was lying? Maybe the man he met just belonged to that irrational majority.

It's a grave thing to accuse someone like C. S. Lewis of being a liar. You have made it evident that not only don't you have any historical evidence for that accusation, you don't even have the vaguest circumstantial evidence for it. Do you lack a sense of shame? Do you go around making unfounded accusations against respected people in your private life? This is something that increasingly concerns me about New Atheists.

David B Marshall said...

SI: You apparently don't know what an argument is. Arguments begin from "premises" and "argue" to "conclusions" based on those premises.

What you just quoted is called a "premise."

I understand that you don't accept that premise. But I also supported it, as pointed out above, by citing Carrier himself, whom I was debating, as well as other "New Atheists." He appealed to the very same premise in one of his books. So in effect, in arguing against that premise, Carrier was arguing against his own printed work.

And so you have actually found at least two arguments in that one post (there are hundreds more, plus my printed materials), even if you failed to recognize them as such, and whether or not you would agree with them, once recognized.

So apparently it's not finding things that gives you trouble, it's recognizing what they are, once found.

Hopefully not even you are so dull as to think that the fact that you disagree with an argument, makes it not an argument. It rather shows that it is one.

BeingItself said...

Marshall,

Can you defend the premise or not? Pointing to an authority will not help.

im-skeptical said...

"Virtually every eminent NT scholar I have read makes concessions (even if not couched that way) that in effect support the essential historicity of the gospels."

What do you mean by essential historicity? Works of fiction often include accounts of real people, places, and events. That doesn't make them essentially historically accurate. I've read plenty of scholarly material that calls much of the gospels into question. Here's a place to start:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_reliability_of_the_Gospels

"Of course materialism is often a dogma. If someone says, "X report of a miracle must be false, because miracles don't happen," that is a dogmatic argument, not an empirical one."

No, it isn't. Dogma is what you are told to believe by some authority. The doctrine of the trinity is dogma. The observation that miracles never happen is empirical. I've never seen one. Nobody has ever seen an event that is unequivocally and unmistakably miraculous.

"Isn't it a tad patronizing for you to assume you are persuaded by logic and facts, but most other people are just swayed by style?"

I didn't say that. If you define the winner of a debate as the one who makes the most logically persuasive argument, then Craig doesn't win as many of them as you think. And maybe Lewis' friend really was persuaded by something other than logic about the historicity of the gospels. But Lewis described him as "the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew". Either way, he's not being honest.

BeingItself said...

Suppose the ancient Greeks believed that the earth was an oblate spheroid, while the rest of the world at the time believed that the earth was a flat disk. Also suppose that the ancient Greeks believed in polytheism, just like the rest of the world.

Then according to Marshall, the Greek's belief in polytheism was more likely true than their belief in a spheroidal earth.

David B. Marshall, flat earther and polytheist. Using his own goofy premise.

Papalinton said...

"Anyone who calls C. S. Lewis a "simpleton" (or himself "Being Itself") is probably a simpleton himself, who fails to understand Lewis. (Or himself.)"

The rejection Lewis's bloviating is not a failing to understand him. On the contrary we understand religious woo only too well.

David B Marshall said...

Skeptical: Again, let me remind you that your claim was that C. S. Lewis was lying, because he told the story of how a hard-bitten atheist admitted in private that Fraser's myth of a dying and rising god "looked as if it had really happened, once."

(a) In my moral universe, you need serious historical evidence before you call a good man a "liar." And C. S. Lewis was a very good man, by almost all accounts.

(b) You do not have any historical evidence Lewis was lying, still less good historical evidence.

(c) Maybe you inhabit a different moral universe. Maybe you inhabit a universe in which one casually accuses people one disagrees with of being "liars for Jesus."

(d) If so, then that's one more small piece of evidence of the moral corruption that atheism so often unfortunately brings.

(e) Lacking genuine evidence, you surmise that because what the atheist is alleged to say seems unlikely to you, therefore the incident could not have taken place, or maybe (grasping for straws) he wasn't so hard-bitten an atheist, after all, and Lewis was lying, again.

(f) Yet you argue subsequently that people are prone, in large numbers, to being fooled into thinking Jesus did rise from the dead. (Which is the hardest part of the "dying and rising god" myth to buy.)

(g) And of course what shocked Lewis was precisely those words, coming from someone he perceived as being so committed to atheism. (But presumably otherwise no fool.)

(h) So on what grounds do you assume that this unnamed atheist could not possibly have likewise been "fooled?" And be so confident in your psychology of an unnamed person that you can call Lewis a liar on that basis?

(i) Obviously, you have no basis whatsoever for the slander.

(i) Your position is thus entirely unjustified, rationally or morally.

(j) And yet, having said something foolish, I perceive that you would rather be dragged through the streets by horses backwards, than admit that what you said was wrong.

Based on this conversation, I think you should do some serious soul-searching. If you look intently at your own motives, you might find reason to call all kinds of things you now believe into question.

As for your casual assumption that you are a better judge (backed up by some Wikipedia page) than C. S. Lewis, the unknown atheist, or myself, of the historicity of the gospels, all I can say is this. I don't know you. But the fact that you appeal to Wikipedia suggests that you are probably not a great literary scholar, as Lewis was, or even a credentialed scholar of the NT, as to some degree I am.

David B Marshall said...

BI: You don't even seem able to follow the thread of an argument. One foolish comment being challenged, you just hop like a frog on a lake full of lily pads to the next, and croak the same old foolish song. Not worth following.

im-skeptical said...

Davis Marshall,

a. I said I thought he was lying. I still think so.

b. I gave my reasons for thinking so.

c. Those reasons are based on my assessment of the likelihood that the story he describes actually occurred, not on his beliefs.

d. If you think atheism brings moral corruption, where is your evidence?

e. Three possibilities: 1. A real logic-driven atheist thinks the evidence for the gospels is really good. 2. He's not so logic driven after all. 3. He doesn't think the evidence is so good after all. Of these three possibilities, #1 is the least likely. That happens to be the one that Lewis described. If either of the other scenarios is true, Lewis was not being truthful. That's why I think Lewis was not being truthful.

f. Not all people are driven by logic. Many are fooled by myths, emotion, cultural bias, etc. In fact, I think it's fair to say that we all are to some extent.

g. Lewis wouldn't have been shocked about someone accepting the same logical reasoning that he did. The shocking thing would be the failure to follow through on that reasoning.

h. If Lewis' atheist was such a person, then he was not the "hard-boiled" atheist that Lewis described. you can't have it both ways.

i. See response to (e).

j. With regard to admitting that I might be wrong, I say it's entirely possible that I'm wrong. I have made an assessment of the probabilities and drawn my conclusion based on that. I find it interesting, though, that you yourself have admitted that the atheist would have to abandon logical and facts to be fooled into believing the historicity of the gospels: "So on what grounds do you assume that this unnamed atheist could not possibly have likewise been "fooled?"" That gives the game away.

The fact that I appealed to Wikipedia is nothing more than an acknowledgement of it as a generally unbiased source that provides a quick overview of the topic. If I provided specific books or articles, it would only provide fodder for claims of bias. For example, from what I have heard you say, your own reading on this topic seems to be limited to theistic scholars. you seem to be utterly unaware of the greater body of work that doesn't see the gospels as "gospel truth".

BeingItself said...

Marshall:

Surrender accepted.

Victor Reppert said...

Oh come now. Lewis was lying for Jesus? Is that the best you guys can do?

The name of the person Lewis was referring to is not mentioned in Surprised by Joy, but is mentioned in Lewis's diary, which was not made public, but has since been published as All My Road Before Me? His name was T. D. Weldon.

This doesn't make the "lying for Jesus" theory look very good.

Papalinton said...

Game. Set. and match.

I-M d. DM 6-4, 6-4, 6-0.

im-skeptical said...

"This doesn't make the "lying for Jesus" theory look very good."

Of the three alternatives I suggested, I think #2 is the most likely. That is, that this atheist isn't the strong, logic-driven atheistic thinker that Lewis makes him out to be. The evidence that I can find of Weldon's atheistic beliefs, apart from Lewis' own description of him, is slim indeed. How would Lewis even know?

Lewis himself seems to fit that category. As far as I know, the only logical reason he ever gave for being an atheist was the problem of evil. He was not a materialist. He believed in the supernatural. He never developed a strong logical framework for atheism. He was looking for an excuse to become a theist.

http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/aah/inniss_8_2.htm

Papalinton said...

TD Weldon might have been 'almost persuaded'. But he never was fully persuaded and remained an atheist. And for believers who think the truth of christianity has been substantiated by Lewis's 'reluctant conversion' to it have been tricked into imagining that. Of course we know Lewis delved deeply into religious reading and philosophy and was persuaded to make the change.

Bart Erhman also researched deeply into biblical studies beginning his life and work as a dyed-in-the-wool christian believer. Ironically, delving into christianity as a historical investigator he has since been entirely persuaded by the evidence only to come away with a diametric conclusion to that of Lewis.

David B Marshall said...

Skeptical: Sorry, you give no reason whatsoever for accusing Lewis of "lying." The claim was that Sheldon was a "hard-boiled atheist," not a "logic-driven" one. (Shall we call that misrepresentation a "lie?" Or shall we only be grossly uncharitable towards Christians?) He was also a classicist, which makes him an expert in the relevant subject.

Nor did I admit that "the atheist would have to abandon logic and facts" to find the gospels historical. I'm arguing from YOUR premises, not mine. By your reasoning, people are vulnerable to such "errors," so you have no reason on Earth but fanaticism to deny that even as a possibility to Lewis' friend.

"For example, from what I have heard you say, your own reading on this topic seems to be limited to theistic scholars. you seem to be utterly unaware of the greater body of work that doesn't see the gospels as "gospel truth"."

Heh. I'm the author of Why the Jesus Seminar can't find Jesus, and Grandma Marshall Could. I also wrote a book rebutting Elaine Pagels and (to a lesser extent) Bart Erhman. There's a good chance I've read more skeptical works on the gospels than any skeptic in this thread.

Nice guess!

David B Marshall said...

By the way, that article Skeptical cites is not exactly overpowering in its critical acumen:

"If it is true that Lewis at one time considered himself an atheist, his ignorance of the subject is a glaring indictment of atheism's failure to educate even its own adherents about the true merits of our position. For instance, in Lewis's The Case for Christianity, he makes this ludicrous statement: 'When I was an Atheist, I had to persuade myself that the whole human race was pretty good fools until about one hundred years ago.' Perhaps C.S. Lewis, the naïve but skeptical student, could labor under the fantasy that there had been no unbelievers until the nineteenth century, but how could the mature, academician Lewis, expert on the subject of religious philosophy, fail to recognize the history of non-belief, which probably stretches back as far as religion itself?"

Patrick Inniss, the author, is making a silly debater's point here, that would not impress a (non-anal) child. Of course Lewis was aware of ancient atheists: he had been reading them for years, and often refers to them in his writings. (Mentioning Lucretius, for instance, in a letter to his father in 1916, at the age of 18.) In 1944, he writes in another letter, "Atheism is as old as Epicurus." "The whole world" here, obviously, means "the vast majority of humanity in all great nations."

The man is clutching at straws, and making a fool of himself in his desperation.

im-skeptical said...

David Marshall,

"The claim was that Sheldon was a "hard-boiled atheist," not a "logic-driven" one."

I stand corrected. So, like Lewis, the guy never espoused a cogent atheistic belief system?

"so you have no reason on Earth but fanaticism to deny that even as a possibility to Lewis' friend."

I said it was a possibility. I even said it was the most likely.

"There's a good chance I've read more skeptical works on the gospels than any skeptic in this thread."

One would hope so. Yet you still seem to regard the historicity of the gospels as a settled matter. "Virtually every eminent NT scholar I have read makes concessions (even if not couched that way) that in effect support the essential historicity of the gospels."

Papalinton said...

" "Virtually every eminent NT scholar I have read makes concessions (even if not couched that way) that in effect support the essential historicity of the gospels.""

Virtually, every ordinary and eminent NT scholar is also a Christian.

The swelling of ranks of eminent secular biblical scholars is largely a contemporary phenomenon, many of whom started out as ardent believers; such as Price, Erhman, Avalos, Loftus etc etc. Of course it was the astounding findings of German biblical textual and literary scholarship, particularly the advent and rise and rise of Higher Criticism as distinct from the conventional 'lower criticism', that split open the contrived syncretism, force-fit harmonization and concocted homogenization that millennia-long apologetical scholarship brought to the fundamentally disparate and disanalogous stories that fortuitously made entry into the christian anthology.

The foundations of the christian mythos have never been settled and judging by contemporary scholarship and the vigour of community debate today it is clearly evident that this is the current state of discourse, be it philosophical. theological, scientific. The christian memeplex was founded in mythology and is returning as so. This is the ineluctable fact of history. Witness the myriad of earlier religions that have reached and passed their use-by date. It is only a matter of time when perhaps humanity, in its homage to its predilection to detecting agency and to imagine teleological intention, even where is none will result in a new religion to 'protect' us from the bad things out there when we begin to explore space. Scientology is the closest real-live example we have of this transition as the terrestrial Jesus is set aside in the toybox.

joesmarts said...

Loftus is an eminent biblical scholar? I was not aware my eyes could open that wide in surprise.

joesmarts said...

@BeingItself / im-skeptical,

Are you two ever skeptical of your own skepticism? That is, do you ever think you take your skepticism too far?

David B Marshall said...

That is a deliciously amusing sentence; thanks for pointing it out, Joe:

"The swelling of ranks of eminent secular biblical scholars is largely a contemporary phenomenon, many of whom started out as ardent believers; such as Price, Erhman, Avalos, Loftus . . . "

Ehrman is, of course, the only one of the four who is an "eminent biblical scholar:" Avalos is mildly eminent, but in a slightly different field, and Price and Loftus just write a lot.

im-skeptical said...

joesmarts,

As it often happens here, when I express disbelief or incredulity about some claim, someone like you comes along and says that I'm not being skeptical. This seems curious to me. I wonder how you would define skepticism. Perhaps "believes whatever you're told"?

Papalinton said...

"Loftus is an eminent biblical scholar? I was not aware my eyes could open that wide in surprise."

Yes it does come as a shock to those who have ideologically constrained their reading to only browse the shelves of apologist contributions. There is no getting around the fact that the influence of religion in the public square is trending downwards. The lessons of history have repeatedly and unequivocally demonstrated the religions don't die, they get forgotten. The Western world is in the vanguard with the jettisoning of Christianity as the benchmark by which the community seeks to set a standard of morally, ethical behaviour and good governance. Just as has been highlighted so dramatically within and through the Catholic Church, left to its own devices, the organisation failed miserably to deal with sustained and malicious abuse of children, over centuries, no doubt.

The truth is, if religion cannot restrain evil, it cannot claim effective power for good. The smoke and mirrors of religious praxis and belief no longer blinker the average Joe and Jill in the street. The earlier historical convention of according gratuitous and uncritical deference to all things religious is no longer acceptable community behaviour.

One that casually dismisses or disregards the work and thoughts of an Erhman or a Price or a Loftus do themselves a great disservice. They do so at their own peril, the result of which will marginalize their contribution in the on-going discourse on public and social issues. One need only to be reminded of the intransigence of religious homophobia and discriminatory opposition to conceding equal rights for good and honest gay members of the community. One need only to witness the intransigence of the religious against those who rightly want to maintain the separation of church and state in a secular democracy, be it IDiotism in the science curriculum in the classroom, or prayers in the legislature, or the pernicious incursion of explicitly tribal religious symbols such as the sculpture of the Decalogue onto civil administration sites.

Be mindful there is a groundswell of change in the community, and for the better.

joesmarts said...

@im-skeptical,

Let's try it this way. Tell me a common argument for the Christian faith which you think seems plausible and reasonable. Then, tell me a common argument against the Christian faith which you think is seriously flawed.

im-skeptical said...

"Let's try it this way. Tell me a common argument for the Christian faith which you think seems plausible and reasonable. Then, tell me a common argument against the Christian faith which you think is seriously flawed."

Sorry, there's nothing plausible about a messiah dying to save me from my sins and then rising from the dead. There's nothing reasonable about an all-powerful supernatural being creating a world that has so much wrong with it and condemning his own creation to eternal anguish for not living up to his standards.

Maybe you're talking about the classical arguments for the existence of god? Most of them seem to depend on assumptions that I don't buy. There's a reason that all these logical arguments for the existence if god are flawed. It's because there is no god. And how can I make such a brazen claim? Evidence.

joesmarts said...

@im-skeptical

You said:
It's because there is no god. And how can I make such a brazen claim? Evidence.

Let's see it.

ingx24 said...

im-skeptical,

Skepticism entails being unwilling to accept a claim, but still being open-minded about it. You are not skeptical. You are a denier.

piet said...

Victor I would be interested to read your theological objections to the hymn you spoke of in your introduction. Thanks.

im-skeptical said...

joesmarts,

"Let's see it."

OK. Here's all the empirical evidence there is for the existence of god: .


ingx24,

"You are a denier."

That's right. I deny that there is any evidence for god, because I've never seen it. I also deny that there are immaterial minds, whether human or godly. Your arguments for such things are simply specious, based entirely on emotions and feelings. I deny that there are miracles because nobody has ever seen one. If you want to call it a miracle when someone's cancer is cured, that's up to you, but it's not areal miracle.

Show me some real evidence, and I'll believe what I see. But until then, I'm happy to be called a denier.

Dan Gillson said...

Fine to deny those things, but you're denying that Lewis's account is true for ideological reasons, which is strange to me. (I am no fan of Lewis, mind you.)

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

" but you're denying that Lewis's account is true for ideological reasons"

I provided my reasoning. It's based on the idea that a real ideological atheist wouldn't likely see convincing evidence that the gospels are historically accurate. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary.

im-skeptical said...

I need to step back a bit. I know that there is a considerable body of scholarly evidence against the the historicity of the gospels, despite David Marshall's denial of it. However, I didn't take into account what Papalinton pointed out - that the vast majority of scholarly material a century ago was exclusively the work of theists, whose bias precluded them from taking a more realistic view of the evidence. So I will grant that a reasonable person could have looked at what was available in that time, in the absence of any good counter arguments, and found it somewhat convincing. I will not grant that a reasonable person could come to the same conclusion today without willfully ignoring the considerable material we now have available.

I regret my mistake.

joesmarts said...

@im-skeptical

You said:
OK. Here's all the empirical evidence there is for the existence of god: .

Let me grant you that there is zero evidence for the existence of a god. How does this warrant the conclusion that there is no god?

You said:
whose bias precluded them from taking a more realistic view of the evidence

How do you know your own biases are not precluding you from taking a realistic view of the evidence? How do you know that you understand things correctly? Have you actually considered these kinds of questions? If so, what have you concluded and how have you come to those conclusions?

You see, from my perspective, I see your prior commits as weighing heavily on your dismissal of Christian claims and reasoning. If we were to wrangle out the "content" of the reasoning and replace it with "neutral" content, I am convinced you would not object to the underlying reasoning. In other words, I see your perspective as being rooted not on skepticism but rather as being deeply committed to the idea that Christianity is not true. This is evidenced by the writing of your posts being soaked in weasel words (e.g., realistic view, willfully ignoring, etc.). Let's move beyond the rhetoric. Let's both admit we're fallible. Let's both admit that our perspectives are not nearly as sound as we'd like. Let's find a common ground on shared humility with a desire to move toward an actual answer. Are you willing to do that? Are is your burning desire to stay committed to your opinion too deeply rooted?

Come, let us reason.

im-skeptical said...

joesmarts,

Sure, we can reason. Of course, I have my biases, as do we all. How do I know my biases are not precluding me from taking a realistic view of the evidence? That's a difficult problem that we all have to deal with.

The way we apply reason to any problem is heavily influenced by what we take to be true a priori. For example, if I want to construct a proof of the Pythagorean theorem, I don't necessarily need to go all the way back to the fundamental axioms of mathematics. I trust that my foundations of understanding are valid, and I can reason at a higher level. So it is with all kinds of reasoning. However, if there is a flaw in the foundation of my understanding, it will affect the outcome of my reasoning process.

When it comes to other things, like the resurrection story, I take a lot of things into account: what the NT says, how it differs from one version to another, including the original and subsequently modified versions, what other sources say, who wrote it, and when, what their motivations might have been, what I know independently about that time in history, my understanding of physics, of human behavior, etc.

As I said, those foundations of understanding may be flawed, may be biased, but they are the things that go into my assessment when I make a judgement about the truth of the story. If you want to convince me that I'm wrong, we probably need to get into those things, but it may not be easy. Can a person rise from the dead? Not according to what I know. Is there another explanation that fits with what I know? Maybe that works better for me.

David Marshall said...

Skeptical: You do, at least, seem to be adjusting your claims somewhat in the fact of new facts; that's a promising sign.

Lewis was fairly aware of skeptical NT scholarship: he deals with it extremely effectively in his essay, "Fernseed and Elephants." That was pretty much old hat in those days; the new stuff, like Price and Carrier's mythicism, was also predicted a hundred years ago by J. Gresham Machen.

im-skeptical said...

David Marshall,

"Lewis was fairly aware of skeptical NT scholarship: he deals with it extremely effectively in his essay ..."

If rejecting all criticism out of hand is dealing with it effectively, he certainly does. His most prominent argument seems to be, Bultmann gave me a bad review, so I dismiss everything he has to say. Not once does he address any specific issue raised by skeptics. Not once does he even consider the idea that the they might have a point.

All I can say is this paper is stunning. It says a lot about his mindset.

David Marshall said...

I don't know what essay you're reading. Lewis certainly did not "reject all criticism out of hand;" he was not an inerracist, and freely admitted (in that essay) that the gospels "may contain errors."

"His most prominent argument seems to be, Bultmann gave me a bad review, so I dismiss everything he has to say."

Huh? What are you talking about? He says nothing of the sort, and never would (he often gave good reviews to people who didn't like his work, like George Orwell): you prove again you don't have the slightest genuine knowledge of C. S. Lewis.

Papalinton said...

" Let me grant you that there is zero evidence for the existence of a god. How does this warrant the conclusion that there is no god?"

The first and foudational rule of logic and intellectual reasoning, 'one does not prove a negative, one must assume a negative.'

im-skeptical said...

A snippet from Lewis (and the whole paper goes rather like this):

"Since then I have watched with some care similar imaginary histories both of my own books and of books by friends whose real history I knew. Reviewers, both friendly and hostile, will dash you off such histories with great confidence; will tell you what public events had directed the author's mind to this or that, what other authors had influenced him, what his overall intention was, what sort of audience he principally addressed, why - and when - he did everything.

Now I must record my impression; then distinct from it, what I can say with certainty. My impression is that in the whole of my experience not one of these guesses has on any one point been right; that the method shows a record of 100 per cent failure. You would expect that by mere chance they would hit as often as the miss. But it is my impression that they do no such thing. I can't remember a single hit. But as I have not kept a careful record my mere impression may be mistaken. What I think I can say with certainty is that they are usually wrong."

joesmarts said...

@im-skeptical

I want to sincerely thank you for your recent response. Too often, when I encounter those of your persuasion and confidence they are unwilling to admit that they could be wrong. The view admittance to that fact as an admittance to being wrong. The two are not equals. You recognize this, and I appreciate that.

Hopefully, going forward, we can build upon this shared humility and have more interesting conversations.

@Papalinton

Logic disagrees.

If P then Q. Not P. Therefore, not Q.

joesmarts said...

@Papalinton

But, if you really want to go down this path, I'll be happy to oblige.

Papalinton has no brain. ;)

im-skeptical said...

"If P then Q. Not P. Therefore, not Q."

Actually, that's invalid logic.

joesmarts said...

@im-skeptical

You are correct. I got it backwards.

If P then Q. Not Q. Therefore, not P.

That's what I get for posting in a rush. Heh.

Papalinton said...

In an earlier comment I noted: " The first and foudational rule of logic and intellectual reasoning, 'one does not prove a negative, one must assume a negative.'"

In substantiation of this universally acknowledged axiom, it is best understood as the very foundation of the rule of law as we rightly acknowledge within a democratic and free society. One is assumed innocent until proven guilty. One assumes the negative, having not killed someone, unless and until the facts concur with committing the crime. What is always central to the debate is the quantity and quality of the evidence, the facts, the proofs that such an act was committed, not the absence of proof. The evidence, the facts, the proofs must be undisputed either beyond a reasonable doubt or proved on the basis of probabilities. In either case one assumes the negative, that is, not guilty.

If a guilty verdict is found it is only by virtue of the strength and integrity of the evidence, the facts, the proofs that that conclusion was reached, not by having to prove the negative. It is all about the quantity and quality of the evidence, the facts, the proofs, not their absence. If a convicted person appeals their sentence it will be on the basis changed evidence whether that appeal succeeds, not the absence of it. Indeed the fundamental premise on which even an appeal is upheld or not is predicated solely on the basis of new or changed evidence, facts and proofs and once again to assume the negative once again, not guilty. There is no presumption on the part of anyone having to prove the negative.

The fundamental premise on which logic and intellectual reasoning is grounded: one does not prove a negative, one must assume a negative. The axiom has withstood the test of time and continues to hold true.

joesmarts said...

@Papalinton

Okay, let me put your principle into practice.

Assumed innocence does not apply to philosophical and/or theological debate.

Negative? Check. Assumed to be true? Check. Burden of proof? You.

It's your battled to lose. Wage carefully.

Papalinton said...

" Assumed innocence does not apply to philosophical and/or theological debate."

Who said it did? Assuming innocence is the universal analogue of assuming the negative. They are the one and same axiom around which the efficacy, relevance and substance of evidence, facts, and proofs that necessitates a change in momentum, sufficient to compel a disruption to the status quo, be it a change from innocence to guilt in the commission of a crime or the sustantive nature of the evidence that underpins research or discovery made, to the extent that to do anything other to effect that change or accept that discovery would be an improper proposition or an inconceivable circumstance to a reasonable person.

That is one thing I try to do, wage carefully. What I do not do is invoke Pascal as the religiose do. The extent and temperature of contemporary discourse on the christian memeplex is evidence beyond any reasonable doubt that the Christian mytheme has never been evidentiarily resolved, acknowledge or accepted. To do so would be to remain a 'flat-earther. There is no evidence for the existence of a jesus-god character that revivified following 3 days of putrefaction in a hot desert clime thence to levitate in full physical form replete with testicles into the blue beyond to who knows where.

Joesmarts, your adherence to a neanderthallic superstitious worldview is compromising your intellectual capacity to apply logic and reasoned thinking.

joesmarts said...

@Papalinton

Assuming the negative is not a valid concept.

Papalinton said...

"Assuming the negative is not a valid concept."

Since when? Not only is it a valid concept it is also a defensible and well-founded condition against which assessment of the evidence or facts or proofs can be properly validated or vindicated. If the evidence is sufficiently compelling, a change occurs. If the evidence is insufficient, the issue or circumstance remains an open case.

The christian mytheme remains an open case despite millennia of investigation and scholarship. Its fundamental premises remain speculative and unsubstantiated. Of Its two closest Abrahamic cohorts, the Jews have never bought into the Christian fable from its inception. For many under the influence of Christianity in the Middle East, and following 600 years of deep reflective introspection, Muslims simply dispensed with the Christian mytheme, resolutely unconvinced of the 'evidence' for its foundational claims established Islam and the Hadith.

Really not much of a testimony in respect of an historically robust claim for evidence or facts or proofs. No. Something else is in play here, and it has nothing to do with evidence, or facts, or proofs. The driver of religious belief is purely anthropological in nature and fully anthropocentric in character.

ingx24 said...

What Papalinton is doing is abusing the concept of the burden of proof: he conflates not rejecting the null hypothesis (the "negative") with accepting it - a classic mistake among rookie statisticians. You don't *assume* the negative; you just don't accept the positive unless given sufficient evidence. The default position in any burden of proof situation is agnosticism/skepticism, not denial.

joesmarts said...

@Papalinton

Everything you say is not true.


@ingx24

Absolutely. I'm pulling his chain by demonstrating the foolishness of the principle he's put forth. How many negative claims, whether I actually accept them or not, do you think I'll need to make before he gets the point?

Papalinton said...

"The default position in any burden of proof situation is agnosticism/skepticism, not denial."

That is true if there were a burden of proof. The burden of proof rests solely with the party making the claim. In the case of the law it is the prosecution. In the case of the Christian mytheme it is those that make the claim.

Who said anything about denial? The position of assuming the negative is not denial. It is an affirmation of the paucity of evidence. There is no simply evidence for some ethereal subliminal disembodied intelligence. Period. To posit an 'intelligent' universe without evidence is to anthropomorphise. Philosophical conjecture is. not. evidence. Philosophical conjecture is proof of logic not proof of fact. To accept philosophical proof as 'fact' is perverse. To posit a God [and only a 'good' god no less] is to analogize an idealized father figure. Nothing more. Period.

The unmistakable classic case of denialism though, is the blood-lusting howl against anyone introducing science into the conversation and branding them as pawns of scientism.

As I re-iterate, scientifically-uniformed philosophy is just plain old theology by another name. This observation is ably supported in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

"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".

To not heed counsel here is to continue to propel oneself into dank irrelevancy. To promote the form of philosophy peddled on this site is to perversely constrain philosophy 'as a handmaiden of theology'. And the Plantingas and Fesers resentfully whine why it is modern philosophy circumvents them. The reason is simple. Mainstream philosophy has relieved itself of the shackles of Christian thought and dogma. It no longer subscribes to the implausible and highly problematic nature of Christian truth claims as a universally acknowledged standard for doing good philosophy.

ingx24 said...

Papalinton,

You just don't get it. You *can't* get it. No one is saying that science is irrelevant to philosophy altogether. What we are saying is that empirical science is irrelevant to metaphysical issues like the existence of God or whether the mind is something separate from the body. People like you simply cannot accept anything that is not empirical evidence, even when empirical evidence is irrelevant or unnecessary. There was once someone on this blog who claimed that the pythagorean theorem had been disproven by general relativity, unable to comprehend that Euclidean geometry is a separate realm of inquiry from empirical science and that the failure of the empirical world to conform to Euclidean geometry is completely irrelevant to the truth of Euclidean geometry (all it shows is that the geometry of the physical world is not Euclidean). That is the same kind of category mistake people make when they claim that things like dualism and theism must be supported by empirical evidence, or that we shouldn't believe in God or the soul because they aren't necessary to explain the empirical data.

im-skeptical said...

ingx24,

"empirical science is irrelevant to metaphysical issues"

That is just plain wrong. You (and others here) act as though metaphysics is separate and distinct from other realms of knowledge. It's not. Physics is subsumed under metaphysics, and any incompatibility you may perceive between them is incoherent bullshit. There is no metaphysical world separate from the one we observe, where things behave according to a different set of laws and rules. That's nothing but fantasy.

ingx24 said...

I don't think you know what metaphysics means.

im-skeptical said...

What I know about it is what I have read in books written by actual philosophers, both atheist and theist.

Crude said...

What I know about it is what I have read in books written by actual philosophers, both atheist and theist.

What philosophy and metaphysics related books have you read that were written by theists? Name the titles, this will be interesting to find out.

Papalinton said...

"What we are saying is that empirical science is irrelevant to metaphysical issues like the existence of God or whether the mind is something separate from the body."

What a load of self-serving codswallop. Get real, ing. Metaphysics is a scrambled egg. Metaphysics is a catch-all for all sorts of undifferentiated flotsam and jetsam. Read the Stanford entry HERE.

Here is the etymological history of the word:

"The word "metaphysics" derives from the Greek words μετά (metá) ("beyond", "upon" or "after") and φυσικά (physiká) ("physics").[7] It was first used as the title for several of Aristotle's works, because they were usually anthologized after the works on physics in complete editions. The prefix meta- ("beyond") indicates that these works come "after" the chapters on physics. However, Aristotle himself did not call the subject of these books "Metaphysics": he referred to it as "first philosophy." The editor of Aristotle's works, Andronicus of Rhodes, is thought to have placed the books on first philosophy right after another work, Physics, and called them τὰ μετὰ τὰ φυσικὰ βιβλία (ta meta ta physika biblia) or "the books that come after the [books on] physics". This was misread by Latin scholiasts, who thought it meant "the science of what is beyond the physical". However, once the name was given, the commentators sought to find intrinsic reasons for its appropriateness. For instance, it was understood to mean "the science of the world beyond nature" (phusis in Greek), that is, the science of the immaterial. Again, it was understood to refer to the chronological or pedagogical order among our philosophical studies, so that the "metaphysical sciences" would mean "those that we study after having mastered the sciences that deal with the physical world" (St. Thomas Aquinas, "In Lib, Boeth. de Trin.", V, 1).
There is a widespread use of the term in current popular literature which replicates this error, i.e. that metaphysical means spiritual non-physical: thus, "metaphysical healing" means healing by means of remedies that are not physical.[8]"
[From the very reliable and formative entry from Wiki, no less]

The bolded notations spells out the kind of nonsense which your misinterpreted and misconstrued use of the word, imagining it meaning something ethereal, immaterial, teleological, something unhinged from reality and exhibiting a separate and independent existence.

If there is anyone who just doesn't get it, it ain't me.

Sheesh! What a dümpfklutz.

ingx24 said...

From Wikipedia:

From Wikipedia:

Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world,[1] although the term is not easily defined.[2] Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:[3]

1. What is there?
2. What is it like?


Words don't necessarily mean the same thing now that they meant 1000 years ago. Try again.

Papalinton said...

That's right, ing. But "Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions ...."

The operative word here is attempts. It attempts to answer but has yet to provide one. The Stanford entry notes all too well the problematic nature of what constitutes 'metaphysics':

"This entry examines a large selection of the problems that have been classified as metaphysical. It does not examine them “for their own sake,” however, but as illustrations of metaphysical problems. (The discussions of these problems in this entry, therefore, are not meant to be in competition with the entries specifically devoted to them.) It considers—and finds no satisfactory answer to—the question, “In virtue of what common feature are these problems classified as metaphysical problems?” It also considers various attempts to show that metaphysics—however defined—is an impossible enterprise."

A foolish errand one must say if 'metaphysics' 'does not properly supervene on and is logically tied back to 'physics' as the Greek philosophers, including Aristotle, intended the use to mean, although he himself was not a user of the word.

Papalinton said...

In follow up that is why there are as many philosophers on one side of the fence as the other. In many respects philosophy is little more than an intellectual game, and especially so if it is not scientifically-informed.

ingx24 said...

Oh dear, where to begin:

First of all, your assertion that metaphysics is nearly impossible to formally define is a red herring, with absolutely no relevance to the question at hand. Most people, when they refer to "metaphysical questions", are referring to questions (like the mind-body problem, the problem of universals, the existence of God, and so forth) that are beyond the scope of empirical science. And that is all that is needed for me to prove my point - there are questions that are not scientific questions, and cannot be answered through observation and experimentation.

Second of all, it sounds like you're confusing "scientifically-informed philosophy" with "scientistic neo-positivism". Just because someone recognizes that there are questions about reality that science can't answer doesn't mean that their philosophy isn't scientifically-informed. You seem to be implying that anyone who isn't a Dennett-style materialist isn't letting science properly inform their philosophy.

im-skeptical said...

"Most people, when they refer to "metaphysical questions", are referring to questions (like the mind-body problem, the problem of universals, the existence of God, and so forth) that are beyond the scope of empirical science."

I don't think that's true. This is what you hear from theists who insist there is a separate realm of reality which is the domain of metaphysics, that can't be touched by science. They are the ones who don't understand what metaphysics is supposed to be. Most modern philosophers don't think of it that way at all, and that includes theistic philosophers, from what I've read. Try reading "The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science" by Burtt.

Incidentally, the mind-body problem is only a problem for believers of unscientific hokum. You'd be hard-pressed to find many cognitive scientists who buy that dualistic crap. Despite claims to the contrary, evidence for the physical nature of the mind is quite strong, and growing every day. Your refusal to accept it is only a problem for you.

ingx24 said...

"Most people, when they refer to "metaphysical questions", are referring to questions (like the mind-body problem, the problem of universals, the existence of God, and so forth) that are beyond the scope of empirical science."

I don't think that's true. This is what you hear from theists who insist there is a separate realm of reality which is the domain of metaphysics, that can't be touched by science. They are the ones who don't understand what metaphysics is supposed to be. Most modern philosophers don't think of it that way at all, and that includes theistic philosophers, from what I've read. Try reading "The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science" by Burtt.


You just refuse to listen. I'm not saying that there's a "separate realm of reality" that is the domain of metaphysics as opposed to the physical world which is the domain of empirical science. What I'm saying is that there are questions that cannot even in principle be answered by the methods of empirical science, and can only be settled through logical argument. The empirical evidence from cognitive science and neuroscience is compatible with every solution to the mind-body problem (dualism, materialism, Russellian panpsychism, hylomorphism, even idealism), and there is no experiment or test that could be done to decide between them. Sure, empirical evidence can help to flesh out a particular theory (in fact dualistic theories have been enriched by neuroscientific evidence, as strange as that may seem to you), but it cannot decide the question one way or another. For that you need metaphysical arguments.

Incidentally, the mind-body problem is only a problem for believers of unscientific hokum. You'd be hard-pressed to find many cognitive scientists who buy that dualistic crap. Despite claims to the contrary, evidence for the physical nature of the mind is quite strong, and growing every day. Your refusal to accept it is only a problem for you.

You should try reading this. This guy is an atheist who nevertheless recognizes that the experiential aspect of the mind (as opposed to the functional aspect, which could at least in principle be accomplished by a physical system) is beyond the scope of cognitive science and neuroscience.

im-skeptical said...

ingx24,

"You should try reading this. This guy is an atheist who nevertheless recognizes that the experiential aspect of the mind (as opposed to the functional aspect, which could at least in principle be accomplished by a physical system) is beyond the scope of cognitive science and neuroscience."

Well, I read it, and it seem s particularly unimpressive. Since he is a dualist in the vein of Nagel, Chalmers asserts without any rational justification that experience can't be explained by physical science. So he insists that it's a "hard problem" that can only be solved by separating experience from that body. What he doesn't seem to realize is that he make the "hard problem" harder by obscuring the explanation. Dualism doesn't explain anything. It only introduces additional complexity into the matter, without ever answering the question. To say that there is some kind of "inner eye" or information processor that does the experiencing that the physical body can't do for itself is not an explanation. It doesn't answer the question of how we experience things. It just puts it off on some magical mysterious shadow entity. It's just mumbo-jumbo.

ingx24 said...

It sounds like you read about 3 pages in and then stopped. Chalmers goes on for like, 15 pages about why a physical explanation of consciousness is impossible: physical explanations are by definition explanations in terms of structure and dynamics, and the problem of consciousness goes beyond structure and dynamics. To remain a materialist, you have to either A) deny that there is any problem of "experience" left over once the functions are explained or B) postulate an ad-hoc metaphysically necessary (but not logically necessary) identity between mental/experiential states and physical states.

im-skeptical said...

ingx24,

We are material beings and we experience the world we live in. To deny that is absurd. You can postulate some kind of ghost that experiences the world on our behalf, but that explains exactly nothing, besides being completely unsupported by any evidence. If you can't imagine how it might be the case, that's a shame, but it's not a problem for me. Thinking like a dualist leads to your problem. It prevents you from accepting a more reality-based view of nature. Try reading Dennett.