Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Is dialogue between theists and atheists possible?

Well, I would have thought so, but I am starting to wonder. Are we moving toward a society bifurcated on religious grounds, where believers and unbelievers can't even talk to one another in a reasonable fashion?

I have had several conversations with nonbelievers which I have found enjoyable and worthwhile. I remember getting my first discussion with Keith Parsons when I was in seminary, who lived in the same house I did on North Decatur Road in Atlanta. He was using the Bultmann line that modern persons cannot accept miracles, and I responded with Lewis's critique of chronological snobbery. I thought I got the better of that discussion, but I thought he got the better of most of the discussions that followed, because he was already a grad student in philosophy and knew more philosophy than I did at that point. I remember another discussion I had with a fellow graduate student when I got to the University of Illinois. He told me that had an easy time debating with theists, but arguing with me was a good deal more difficult.

Later, I presented a paper at the APA meetings in 1988 which eventually became my first philosophy publication, "Miracles and the Case for Theism."  Apparently my paper inspired an undergraduate student at Claremont-McKenna college to write a paper in response to me (and several other defenders of miracles) called "Miracles and Testability," which he published in an undergraduate philosophy journal. I wrote a response to him, pointing out what I thought was the naive philosophy of science which underlay his paper. I didn't think much more about it until he wrote me, thanking me for my courteous critique and telling me that he had become a Christian in the meantime. What effect my response might had in producing such a conversion I do not know, but I was of course happy to hear about this.

Nevertheless, in thinking about what my goal might be in engaging in philosophical dialogue, I would have to say that what I am doing is not attempting in any way to convert anyone, since conversion involves far more than intellectual assent. If I were to describe what I am trying to do it is to engender intellectual sympathy for what I believe. You may not end up agreeing with me, and we may be very far apart on our positions, but I always hope when we get finished that you will get more of a feel for what it is like to think as I do, and will have more intellectual sympathy and less contempt (if you have any) for what I believe than you came in with.

This doesn't always work, especially when dealing with people who operate from what I call a zero-concession mindset.

Lewis founded the Oxford Socratic Club to follow the argument where it leads on the topic of Christianity. But maybe the Internet is not the place for this sort of thing.

189 comments:

Tony Hoffman said...

VR: "If I were to describe what I am trying to do it is to engender intellectual sympathy for what I believe. You may not end up agreeing with me, and we may be very far apart on our positions, but I always hope when we get finished that you will get more of a feel for what it is like to think as I do, and will have more intellectual sympathy and less contempt (if you have any) for what I believe than you came in with."

This seems like a lie you tell yourself. Among the problems this kind of lying engenders is that you become very boring. And this has led, I believe, to you attracting here the company that you deserve.

If I were you, I'd look inward for the source of your discontent.

Victor Reppert said...

Why do you think that's a lie, and what do you think the truth is instead?

Does this mean that I do, or do not believe what I have said. If I do believe it, it's not a lie, but if I don't believe it, why would I be my primary audience?

And how would you know, unless you've been brain-scanning me or something?

Walter said...

but I always hope when we get finished that you will get more of a feel for what it is like to think as I do, and will have more intellectual sympathy and less contempt (if you have any) for what I believe than you came in with.

Blogs like yours and Randal Rauser's have produced more intellectual sympathy for Christian theism than I had before (since my deconversion). Point being that some of us are affected by your arguments, even though we may rarely or never comment here.

I am not technically an atheist, but I am an unbeliever in both orthodox Christian theism as well as atheistic materialism, and I feel that constructive dialog is still possible...but hard to find on the internet.

joesmarts said...

I see audience on the Internet are divided mainly into two groups -- direct and indirect.

The direct are usually passionate about their perspectives and find it difficult to give any leeway to what others who disagree with them say. They are not interested in discussion. They have an agenda. There is a small portion of this group which can have great conversations, but they're few and far between.

The indirect crowd is where the real conversation takes place. They might not post or comment, but they are engaging the writer's material in an open manner. They are willing to be convinced or nudged against their perspectives. They're usually much less passionate about their views and sometimes lack confidence to defend them. While they are usually unseen and unheard, they soak in the back-and-forth which takes place in the comments.

When I write comments, my comments are not always targeted for the direct crowd. Quite often, I write with the indirect crowd in mind.

unkleE said...

When driving a car, many people behave much more aggressively than they would if face-to-face. I think the same is true on the internet. Plus on the internet no-one knows if you're a dog, or what and who you are, so you can say silly things and feel like you can get away with it.

So courteous productive conversation is more difficult - more extreme and aggressive people can dominate discussions and drive away more thoughtful people.

An additional problem is that some christians know they are right and God's gift to atheists (I think I may have been a bit that way once), and some atheists react to that. In turn, many atheists seem unable to think that anyone can think differently to them and still be sane, so some take the attitude that believers are delusional and should be mocked into changing their views (as if mocking is helpful for people with a mental illness!). So both 'sides' can bring bad attitudes into the discussion.

But if we are judicious, and can put up with the occasional nasty comment, and try to avoid to many of our own, some good discussion is still possible. Just.

I think you achieve that Vic, and at least quite a few of your commenters do the same. It's one of the few blogs I have stayed with for several years now. Thanks.

PS I guess i'm some of the reprehensible company that you are attracting here according to Tony, because it is so boring and dishonest. I guess we'll all just have to live with that! :)

Mark Frank said...

This is the only Christian theist blog I read. I cannot imagine it will change my beliefs but Victor's polite, educated and thoughtful posts make for interesting reading.

Crude said...

Well, I would have thought so, but I am starting to wonder. Are we moving toward a society bifurcated on religious grounds, where believers and unbelievers can't even talk to one another in a reasonable fashion?

Dialogue between atheists and theists is entirely possible. Dialogue between theists and agnostics, irreligious, various other types? Also possible.

Dialogue between theists and the Cult of Gnu? Not really.

You're one of the most reasonable, fair-handed guys online Victor, despite the various disagreements I have with you. It's not atheists that are the problem, it's the particular variety of atheist that has popped up recently.

You can have dialogue with Christians. With Westboro Baptist Church? Not really. Similar situatin.

BeingItself said...

Believe on weak evidence that a dead guy came back to life and you will live with God in ecstasy forever. Otherwise, the creator of the universe will torture you forever.

It's a tall order to make me sympathetic to anyone that believes such infantile nonsense. But this blog pushes me the other way, as the arguments presented are just so feeble.

ingx24 said...

Believe on weak evidence that a dead guy came back to life and you will live with God in ecstasy forever. Otherwise, the creator of the universe will torture you forever.

While this certainly accurately describes Westboro-style fundamentalists and TV evangelists, it bears very little resemblance to what sophisticated Christians like Victor Reppert, Jason Pratt, Bob Prokop, or C. S. Lewis have believed. Try again.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Hi Victor -- I felt a little sad when I read your post because I empathize with where you are coming from.

I do think dialogue between theists and atheists is possible. I've enjoyed reading your blog over the years and have profited greatly from it. Perhaps we could have more targeted interactions between our two blogs?

im-skeptical said...

And along comes Crude to shut down the dialog.

Crude said...

And along comes Crude to shut down the dialog.

Along comes Crude to point out the obvious.

It's entirely possible to have a conversation between atheists and theists generally. Some subgroups of atheists and theists? Not so much.

I'm sure the WBC pretend to bristle when their shortcomings are pointed out too.

John Mitchell said...

I am an agnostic and even i cant have a dialogue with the cult of gnu

BeingItself said...

ingx24,

I summarized orthodox Christianity. What part does The Sophisticate disagree with? And more importantly, what method does The Sophisticate use that leads to different beliefs from her drooling knuckle-dragging co-Christian?

Crude said...

I summarized orthodox Christianity

Not at all.

* The evidence is neither weak nor regarded as weak by the orthodox Christian.

* It's not a 'dead guy', it's God's son.

* That belief isn't nearly sufficient, and it's questionable as to whether it's strictly necessary even in "orthodox Christianity". See the cases of the invincibly ignorant.

* So no, failing to 'do this' doesn't result in hell, and the nature of hell is also open to debate.

I suppose one could argue that the atheist view of the universe is 'suddenly everything sprung into existence from absolutely nothing, uncaused, via magic. Critics are divided on whether the magic then caused the universe to be fine-tuned to support life, or if it just sprouted an infinite number of universes. It did all this in a way that makes design look like a very powerful illusion, but we know this is false, because the random series of events in our brains sometimes tell us it's false.'

See, it's mockery. But here's the thing, BI: when your reflexive reaction to a post like Victor's is to just testily mock everything, you're rather driving home the 'not capable of dialogue' bit.

Yet another casualty of the Cult of Gnu.

Ilíon said...

VR: "Is dialogue between theists and atheists possible? ... Well, I would have thought so, but I am starting to wonder. Are we moving toward a society bifurcated on religious grounds, where believers and unbelievers can't even talk to one another in a reasonable fashion?"

It's logically impossible to have a real dialogue with any person who chooses to engage in unreason/irrationality to protect the ideas or beliefs that are important to him from rational critical evaluation.

With respect to the OP's question, the problem is that *most people* choose to be irrational about one or more things -- and then they quarrel over their cherished belief and its denial, but never argue the case, never test the idea or is denial.

For 'atheists' and 'agnostics', that "sphere of irrationality" always includes "religion", more generally metaphysics, at its core. Assuming that oneself is rational and that one is trying to discuss something that eventually touches upon atheism or atheistic metaphysics with an 'atheist' or 'agnostic' , it is never a question of "With we reach some point where rational examination of the issue becomes logically impossible?" but rather "When will we reach that point?"

BeingItself said...

Crude,

Enlighten me. What are the essentials of orthodox Christianity? What do The Sophisticates, such as yourself and Ilíon believe?

And most importantly, by what reliable method did you come to hold those beliefs? As opposed to the method used by the knuckle dragging co-Christian?

Ilíon said...

VR: "... If I were to describe what I am trying to do it is to engender intellectual sympathy for what I believe. You may not end up agreeing with me, and we may be very far apart on our positions, but I always hope when we get finished that you will get more of a feel for what it is like to think as I do, and will have more intellectual sympathy and less contempt (if you have any) for what I believe than you came in with."

Your problem is that you want to be liked ... by the people who despise everything that is most precious to you, and who tend to think you an idiot (at the charitable extreme) or a liar and a fool (at the uncharitable extreme) for cherishing these things. AND, since you want to be liked by them, you tend to behave toward some of your natural allies similarly to the high-school "loser" who imagines he has a shot at being allowed to sit with the "cool kids" (that is, a "loser" from the perspective of the "cool kids").

Crude said...

BI,

Enlighten me. What are the essentials of orthodox Christianity? What do The Sophisticates, such as yourself and Ilíon believe?

Ilion can speak for himself.

And what, you just got done mocking and threadshitting right out of the gates - but I should take your question seriously? In line with the OP, where's the evidence that you of all people can have anything approaching a reasonable dialogue? Hell, do you even know what such a thing requires?

But really, keep it up. The whole thread is about Victor questioning the possibility of real dialogue between atheists and theists. My response is that non-believers and theists can have plenty of dialogue - but an identifiable subgroup, The Cult of Gnu, cannot handle such a thing.

Please, keep providing more evidence to support my claim.

Ilíon said...

some random fool: "Enlighten me. What are the essentials of orthodox Christianity? What do The Sophisticates, such as yourself and Ilíon believe?"

Ilíon isn't at all a "Sophisticates"; he's a "fundy".

But -- and this is the important part -- he's utterly rational ... unlike the above fool.

ingx24 said...

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?


Empirical science, on the other hand, studies aspects of reality that are observable, predictable, and controllable in order to understand how they work. These are separate realms of inquiry. Science sometimes can weigh in on metaphysical questions: for example, physics and chemistry have shown us the existence of things like atoms, electrons, and quarks, which we would never have been able to discover without observation and experimentation. However, science has its limits, and some people are just unable to recognize them. Certain things, such as God, mathematical objects, the soul, etc., if they exist, are not even in principle discoverable by scientific inquiry, and need to be established by logical argument. There are no experiments or tests we could run that could decide between dualism and materialism, theism and atheism, Platonism and nominalism, and so on - these questions need to be decided by logical argument, and dismissing God, the soul, mathematical objects, etc. by claiming they are not needed to explain the empirical data is committing an embarrassing category mistake. If the arguments lead to dualism, it is no good to say that we don't need to "postulate" irreducible mental properties or substances to "explain" the "data": mental substances/properties will have been established as something that any theory of reality will have to take into account. Similarly, if the arguments lead to accepting numbers, sets, shapes, etc. as objectively existing Platonic entities, it is no good to say that we don't need them to explain any empirical data or that there's no empirical evidence for them: Platonism will have been established, and any theory of reality will have to take mathematical universals into account.

im-skeptical said...

Well, Victor. It appears you have your answer.

toddes said...

BI,

What would count as strong evidence for the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ be?

Interestingly, you appear to be offering a concession by indicating that the evidence is weak instead of the usual, omniscient claim of NO evidence made by certain posters here (and elsewhere).

BeingItself said...

There may be a theist on the planet with whom I could have a constructive dialogue. But until now I have not met one.

Here's why: I can find no common ground from which to start. I have attempted this in the past, and the theist always rejects my proposed starting points, and refuses to offer any of his own.

Take WLC. His starting point is that whatever the ghost in his head tells him is true, then that is true. No evidence or argument could ever in principle persuade him. The ghost in his head trumps everything.

And this is the guy so many theists hold up as the paragon of rationality.

Zach said...

Beingitself WLC is not some random example, but an example of a strain of thought that many Christians reject. Charity would suggest you go to the best of your opponent, not the worst. E.g., Tim McGrew...

BeingItself said...

Toddes,

I could make up thousands of scenarios that would push me toward believing.

Here's one.

Suppose we had a well preserved and well documented vial of Jesus's blood. Then suppose during the Super Bowl Jesus flew down from the clouds and offered up a blood sample. I could add all sorts of details but you get the idea.

Crude said...

And this is the guy so many theists hold up as the paragon of rationality.

Where?

WLC is a guy who many theists hold up as having powerful arguments, and who has done extraordinarily well in his debates with atheists. Your view seems to be, if you can find any perceived flaw in a person's thoughts, you have license to reject their arguments and views wholesale.

How rational is that?

There may be a theist on the planet with whom I could have a constructive dialogue. But until now I have not met one.

Here's why: I can find no common ground from which to start. I have attempted this in the past, and the theist always rejects my proposed starting points, and refuses to offer any of his own.


You're saying no theist you know of has ever offered up 'starting points' from which a discussion can take place? But you just said that WLC offered up a starting point - you just find it silly.

Which is it? Do theists never offer up starting points for conversation, or do they do so and you reject their starting points?

BeingItself said...

Crude,

Can you suggest a starting point or principle?

(The testimony of ghosts you hear in your head would not be good choice. Just sayin')

Crude said...

Can you suggest a starting point or principle?

Can you answer my question?

Is it that theists don't offer their own starting points, or is it that they do and you reject those points?

What's more, please explain how WLC's views about the testimony of the holy spirit factor into his discussion of, say... the Kalam cosmological argument, or the Leibnizian cosmological argument. You've cited the holy spirit bit as a reason you couldn't have a conversation with him - so surely that must factor into his actual arguments, right?

BeingItself said...

"Is it that theists don't offer their own starting points, or is it that they do and you reject those points?"

Both.

"What's more, please explain how WLC's views about the testimony of the holy spirit factor into his discussion of, say... the Kalam cosmological argument"

Craig, by his own admission, could not be dissuaded by any argument.

So right off the bat, I know arguing with Craig would be pointless.

Your turn. Or will you keep shucking and jiving?

ingx24 said...

The evidence for dualism grows as neuroscientific knowledge increases, and it becomes increasingly clear that neuroscience cannot even identify conscious experiences without sneaking them in from phenomenology. This is evidence, and it bears on the philosophical question.

That's a good point - the line between metaphysical and empirical inquiry is often very blurry. I would say that your example is an example of observation providing the resources of metaphysical inquiry - the fact that nothing we observe in the brain resembles anything from our mental lives is part of the "fuel" that makes the mind-body problem so acute. This is similar to how empirical science has put things like quarks and leptons into our metaphysical ontology - it hasn't decided any answers to metaphysical disputes by doing so, but has enriched our ontology for use in future metaphysics.

I hope that makes sense.

Crude said...

Both.

Okay, so the whole 'theists refuse to offer up starting points of their own' bit was a canard. Thanks.

Craig, by his own admission, could not be dissuaded by any argument.

False. Craig can be persuaded on various arguments, even if we grant your interpretation of his 'Holy Spirit' claims. But he nowhere says that he wouldn't reject Kalam, etc, in the face of arguments, owing to the HS.

Again, you're making the move that Craig having a bad starting point on one subject means that you cannot engage in dialogue with him on various other subjects. But Craig nowhere justifies freaking Kalam on the Holy Spirit's testimony. Feel free to quote him saying otherwise.

Your turn. Or will you keep shucking and jiving?

I'm already on record as believing you're utterly incapable of meaningful dialogue, and you've provided evidence of that in this thread.

But for fun ?SUre. Let's start with the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

im-skeptical said...

"That's a good point - the line between metaphysical and empirical inquiry is often very blurry. I would say that your example is an example of observation providing the resources of metaphysical inquiry"

I'd say that directly contradicts what you said earlier: "empirical science is irrelevant to metaphysical issues"

BeingItself said...

I'm in good company when I say the PSR is almost certainly false. Anything else?

Crude said...

I'm in good company when I say the PSR is almost certainly false.

Oh really? Explain why, please. I'd love to hear you reject the need for various phenomena to have a cause or reason.

Please, BI - tell me why you believe in magic.

ingx24 said...

I'd say that directly contradicts what you said earlier: "empirical science is irrelevant to metaphysical issues"

Yeah, I misspoke - what I mean was that empirical science is irrelevant to solving metaphysical issues. I didn't mean that it can't contribute - I just meant that, in the long run, empirical science is not going to settle questions like the existence of God, the problem of universals, or the mind-body problem. These are metaphysical issues and need to be settled by logical argument.

BeingItself said...

Crude,

We still need a starting point.

Crude said...

BI,

We still need a starting point.

Really? I can't expect you to justify rejecting the whole 'things exist or happen for reasons/due to causes' thing?

Now who's shucking and jiving?

BeingItself said...

Crude,

I could make an argument against the PSR, but I would have to make some starting assumptions to do so. I'm not sure you would agree with those.

So, you still need to provide a starting point.

(You seem unaware that the PSR is extremely controversial among philosophers. Weird. The recent book "Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story" makes a good argument against the PSR.)

Crude said...

You seem unaware that the PSR is extremely controversial among philosophers.

What isn't? And just how far do you expect to get with that appeal to authority?

An abundance of philosophers believe in magic? Well hell, I'm powerless when confronted with that tidbit.

So, you still need to provide a starting point.

Ex nihilo, nihil fit? Wait, lemme guess: controversial too?

Just about any 'starting point' can be questioned, and it damn well will if a suitably motivated person knows where it will lead and doesn't like it. But at least we've established something - the whole 'theists don't provide starting points' / 'the starting points they provide are things like 'the holy spirit bears witness to me' ain't the issue.

toddes said...

BI,

"Suppose we had a well preserved and well documented vial of Jesus's blood. Then suppose during the Super Bowl Jesus flew down from the clouds and offered up a blood sample. I could add all sorts of details but you get the idea."

And, given that you reject the concept of miracles, how do you propose the blood sample would be preserved?

I realize your response was most likely just snark but how can you not see the disconnect in this scenario? Your supposedly strong evidence would require Jesus to submit to you before you would consider submitting to Him.

You realize, of course, that if Jesus was to return in the middle of the Super Bowl, it would be too late for you to test your evidence. But again, you weren't being serious. Just reinforcing the gist of Victor's OP.

Ilíon said...

irrationality_itself: "There may be a theist on the planet with whom I could have a constructive dialogue. But until now I have not met one.

Here's why: I can find no common ground from which to start. I have attempted this in the past, and the theist always rejects my proposed starting points, and refuses to offer any of his own.

Take WLC. His starting point is that whatever the ghost in his head tells him is true, then that is true. No evidence or argument could ever in principle persuade him. The ghost in his head trumps everything.

And this is the guy so many theists hold up as the paragon of rationality.
"

And there is demonstrated exactly why one really cannot have a rational discussion that ultimately concerns metaphysics with *any* 'atheist' or 'agnostic' -- for they *all* really do think like this. Not all of them are so constantly nasty about it as this fool is; many of them do make a valiant effort to keep their scorn under control, but it's *always* there. Waiting.

Now, if one does encounter an 'atheist' or 'agnostic' who consciously tries to control his scorn for one's beliefs and one's reasons for holding those beliefs, one can -- to a point -- engage this person in rational discussion about "religion" and God. But, it doesn't matter who he is, or how "nice" and "civil" he has been, if the conversation goes on long enough and arrives at his particular breaking-point, then he will always retreat into irrationality to protect his God-denial, and there is a very strong possibility that he will start talking about "shy daddies" and "ghosts in your head".

The rational man judges another man's rationality by the arguments he makes, regardless of whether he agrees with the conclusions so reached.

The irrational man judges another man's rationality by the conclusions he expresses, regardless of the arguments he may make for them.

When it comes to God-questions, almost every 'atheist' or 'agnostic' you will ever encounter is ultimately going to judge your rationality by the conclusions you express, regardless of any arguments you may make for them.

joesmarts said...

@BeingItself

Crude suggested a starting point. You rejected the starting point. Now, it's your turn to suggest a starting point.

That's how conversation takes place. It's a give and take. It's not simply one person giving and one person taking.

Vocab Malone said...

Yes.

I did a dialogue on this w/2 of my atheist friends:

http://vocabmalone.blogspot.com/2012/03/audiovideo-of-atheists-and-christians.html

BeingItself said...

"And, given that you reject the concept of miracles"

What are you talking about? My scenario involved Jesus flying down from the clouds.

David B Marshall said...

Silliness Itself: It's perfectly obvious to every other non-Gnu poster why this comment is probably true:

"There may be a theist on the planet with whom I could have a constructive dialogue. But until now I have not met one."

The problem is you. No one else. Not Victor Reppert, not William Lane Craig, not Crude. Your arrogance, your nastiness, and your unschoolable ignorance.

The problem is, you are a fool, and do not know it.

You don't need to remain a fool, and I hope you don't. But it is crushingly obvious that you are one now. And the only way out of remaining a fool is eating a very large helping of humble pie.

You are not ready for "dialogue." You need to begin by learning. (If I could make you read and really ingest one book, it might be Confucius' Analects. Though Confucius was also a theist.)

BeingItself said...

We are all fools, Marshall. The game is to work at being less a fool.

Papalinton said...

A wonderful discussion between theists and atheists is in action right now. Surprisingly this is the kind of discussion that must be had. What is being highlighted are the irreconcilable and disparate concepts that underpin the respective worldviews. And there is no better place than the internet for enabling this vital and important discussion.

The great many in the community, with lost voice, are now able to express their justified concern, disquiet and apprehension of the Christian juggernaut that has prescriptively and proscriptively controlled society for so long in its own misbegotten image. One need only to be reminded of the abysmal treatment of threats, hate mail, sackings, ostracism, public hounding handed out by 'loving' Christians to Revs Jerry DeWitt and Theresa McBain, once they advised their communities that they no longer believed. In fact the very reason behind the establishment of the Clergy Project by Dennett et al was exquisitely designed and established precisely to circumvent this modern-day manifestation of the Christian-inspired blood-lusting auto-da-fé, for which Christianity is famously remembered.

The internet has allowed one to divest oneself from this overt expression of Christian 'love' to freely and eruditely voice their different and legitimate concerns against the religious monolith without fear of personal injury or harm at the hands of evangelicals and other fundamentalists that we all know is a real and present danger in the community against atheists.

In the end the truth or otherwise of the Christian mytheme will be repatriated or further condemned by these on-going honest and diverse discussions.

There is a huge and conspicuous underswell within the broader community, demonstrating that the importance and influence of the Christian frame of reference is riding a rapid downward trend. This downward trend is consistently reflected in surveys, polls and research over the past three or four decades. It is now timely that many in the community seem to now feel sufficiently secure to freely express their diametric POV to the primitive and arcane supernatural claim of religious belief. Just as Wolf Blitzer of CNN discovered when interviewing this Oklahoma tornado survivor.

Crude said...

We are all fools, Marshall. The game is to work at being less a fool.

Here's a good way to start: quit BSing about the source of your problems when it comes to dialogue with theists. The thread evidence indicates that, your initial claims to the contrary, the problems seem to lie on your side of that particular fence.

Ditch the Cult of Gnu, admit their shortcomings, and become a better variety of atheist. It's a start.

Chris W said...

Agnostic longtime lurker here. This blog and other smart Christians definitely gave me intellectual sympathy for Christianity and theism in general, and helped me get over my post-deconversion gnu phase. Thanks for that.

Incidentally, some of the regular commenters here have become my favorite internet hate-reads. Especially the bloated, pretentious prose of a certain atheist windbag. Awful yet irresistible. So thanks for that too.

Jim S. said...

June 05, 2013 9:58 AM

I really don't think Victor just "wants to be liked". For many people Christianity is not a live option. Victor is trying to show, with grace and reason, that it is a live option. The general impression some people have of Christianity is not merely that it's false but that it's foolish or insane. Victor is challenging this, and by so doing, is removing a stumbling block to faith.

Papalinton said...

The cult of Gnu, of which I am delighted to be an active member and a logo I wear as a badge of informed reasoning and logic, is one if not the most effective element of the wider naturalist movement in mitigating the long-standing tradition of unchecked religious excess and challenging head-on and robustly the theistically-soaked philosophy underpinning what can only be described as callow superstitious supernaturalist nonsense.

At its core, when you drill right down into bedrock, it is about that which BeingItself notes:

"Believe on weak evidence that a dead guy came back to life and you will live with God in ecstasy forever. Otherwise, the creator of the universe will torture you forever.
It's a tall order to make me sympathetic to anyone that believes such infantile nonsense."


At bottom it is this dead-guy thing that represents the worst of the "zero-concession mindset".
The dialogue between theists and atheists will never be about reconciling this primitive perspective into the modern worldview, no matter how much believers would wish for it. The outcome of the continuing dialogue will be settled through the POV that provides the greater explanatory power in terms of crystallising ALL spheres of knowledge and their relative strengths in contributing to that explanation. The final decision as to which POV provides the more compelling and convincing rationale, a rationale that best accounts for the widest and most comprehensive evidence-based knowledge and understanding available will be determined by the community going forward.

The success or otherwise won't be resolved by this dialogue per se. The measure of the potency and pertinence of the message will be reflected in either maintenance of the status quo or a shift in public sentiment about the alternative truth claims made. At present the trend over the past couple decades is informing us that change is imminent.

im-skeptical said...

This thread is about whether a dialogue is possible. Go back and look at all the comments. Divide them into two groups: those by atheists and those by theists. Which group engages in name-calling? Which group accuses the other of being irrational, unreasonable, fools, incapable of dialogue?

Yeah, those damn atheists. You just can't have a reasonable discussion with them.

Crude said...

Yes, Skep. Divide them into two groups.

One immediately opened up with psychoanalyzing Victor, saying he was lying to himself, that he's boring, and that if he gets insulting company he deserves it.

A couple atheists lamented the state of the dialogue generally.

Another opened up with a complete mockery of Christianity and more than a little complete BS in describing its claims.

Another whined that I defended the possibility of 'dialogue' with atheists - and pointed out that a particular subgroup of atheists had the dialogue problem, just as particular subgroups of Christianity do.

You have reading comprehension problems, Skep.

joesmarts said...

@im-skeptical,

It is unfair to view this thread in isolation from other threads on this blog.

Crude said...

joesmarts,

Even in this thread, you see the Cult of Gnu problems.

Yes, you also see theist problems, with one in particular - one who routinely goes crazy at *other theists* too.

Meanwhile, Skep mournfully cries that I had the audacity to accuse a subset of atheists - you know, the ones headed up by leadership who explicitly endorse mockery and belittling to change minds - as being incapable of dialogue, while expressly defending the ability of theists and atheists and the irreligious generally to HAVE dialogue.

Skep didn't even represent this thread fairly. Which makes me wonder what the point was - it's not as if people can't read through and see the various replies.

joesmarts said...

@Crude

My favorites are the semi-veiled personal attacks. Why is "You're an idiot" considered wrong while "Your beliefs are idiotic" is considered acceptable? I realize the structures are different, but the intended outcome is rarely so.

im-skeptical said...

"It is unfair to view this thread in isolation from other threads on this blog."

I invite you to go back and look. You will find that both groups are guilty to some degree, but one group behaves this way much more than the other.

joesmarts said...

@im-skeptical

It is unnecessary to review other threads. I was simply pointing out that you were being unfair with the data (i.e., being selective).

My interpretation of the data is that it seems to be fairly balanced on the whole. The difference is that theists are more direct in their personal attacks while atheists tend to veil them in some manner. Yet, the end result is the same.

Crude said...

You will find that both groups are guilty to some degree, but one group behaves this way much more than the other.

Yes, I suppose you may think that, Skep.

There's a key difference between 'theists generally' and the Cult of Gnu. Theists, individually, can be jerks who are incapable of reasonable, respectful dialogue. The Cult of Gnu elevates this, effectively, to be a requirement of membership.

The closest theist group that compares to them is the WBC.

toddes said...

We now have concession number two from BI in that miracles are possible.

cl said...

Victor asked, "Well, I would have thought so, but I am starting to wonder. Are we moving toward a society bifurcated on religious grounds, where believers and unbelievers can't even talk to one another in a reasonable fashion?"

And along comes Tony Hoffman at #1 to suggest that, no, it's not possible!

Too hilarious, but, it's actually not. It's sad that the self-proclaimed defenders of reason are really so close-minded and intolerant that dialog between atheists and theists is starting to seem impossible... oh well, we can always focus on the Jeff Lowder's and keep ignoring kooks and loons.

cl said...

BI,

"There may be a theist on the planet with whom I could have a constructive dialogue. But until now I have not met one.

Here's why: I can find no common ground from which to start. I have attempted this in the past, and the theist always rejects my proposed starting points, and refuses to offer any of his own."


Against my better judgment, I'll bite. What are your starting points for common ground between us?

BeingItself said...

"Against my better judgment, I'll bite. What are your starting points for common ground between us?"

We should use the best most reliable methods for finding out what is true.

(I would suggest that as an axiom.)

Papalinton said...

Beingitself
"We should use the best most reliable methods for finding out what is true."

Therein lies the problem of dealing with supernatural hokum and primitive superstition. It centres on the word "true". The Christian use of the word 'Trooth' must necessarily include the unseen, the unknowable, the ineffable, walking on water, the resurrection of a dead body following 3 days of putrefaction in a hot desert clime, talking snakes, talking burning bushes, life spans of 900 years, feeding 5,000 with a couple of fishes and a handful of loaves. If you do not concede these, at least as 'trooth' of Scripture, then you will be charged as not having a 'full' understanding of what is meant by 'trooth'.

Need I go on? These are the foundational 'trooths' of Christianity.
Christians are congenitally incapable of distinguishing what is metaphor, allegory, reality, historical fact, historical fantasy. Period. So all is lumped in under 'trooth'.

Here is an example of the 'trooth' claims of Christian history:

1. In Matthew and Mark :
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
2. In Luke:
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do
Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise (in response to one of the two thieves crucified next to him)
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (last words)"

3. In John:
Woman, behold your son: behold your mother (directed at Mary, the mother of Jesus, either as a self-reference, or as a reference to the beloved disciple and an instruction to the disciple himself)
I thirst (just before a wetted sponge, mentioned by all the Canonical Gospels, is offered)
It is finished (last words)"
[Wiki]

Which of these were the actual last words of Jesus on the cross? Which account is to represent the truth of historical record? Apologetical answer? All of them constitute the 'trooth'.

So the first challenge will be to sort out what is 'truth' and what is 'trooth'. You have your work cut out on this one, Beingitself.

I can think of no better benchmark than:

""The defeater to any private subjective experience is, was, and always will be, sufficient objective evidence. Objective evidence is public evidence, scientific evidence, historical evidence, evidence that convinces reasonable people. Anyone who thinks private subjective experiences count as evidence for the claims of history is not thinking rationally." From the erudite John Loftus.

Unfortunately Christian 'trooth' simply does not comply let alone reach the minimum standard to be considered a 'truth'.

Papalinton said...

The Gnus are simply those that do not allow believers to continue wallowing comfortably in the supernatural swamp. Gnus robustly challenge the woo at source. This challenge only exacerbates and curries the deep internal angst believers already subjectively acknowledge and feel about the increasingly tenuous and highly problematic nature of the 'trooths' of the Christian mytheme.
If you believe as a fact of history that a 3-day old putrescent corpse physically revivified without any biological or physiological damage and to levitate in full physical form with fully functioning testicles into the blue beyond, can you not understand or even appreciate why your claim of fact is considered foolish by the Gnus?

The salient point at issue is that Gnus do not suffer fools gladly. That is the reason Gnus are direct, assertive and determined in their responding to the codswallop that agglomerates under the rubric of Christian theism. For far too long uncritical and complacent deference to all things religious has led to unwarranted and unwanted Christian hegemony. The community is now seeking to redress this thoroughly unhealthy and unseemly imbalance towards a more pluralist and secular exercise of democracy.

The gnus work to effect this change.

joesmarts said...

@BeingItself

You said:
We should use the best most reliable methods for finding out what is true.

You'll have little difficulty gaining acceptance of the statement, but it is not useful because what constitutes the "best most reliable" methods and "true" are going to be serious points of contention.

joesmarts said...

@Papalinton

Food for thought. If you would set aside the mockery and weasel words, that might make your posts a little more palatable. At current, it destroys your credibility and drags down your arguments with it.

ingx24 said...

The problem is that the Gnus attempt to replace Christian theism with a scientistic, misanthropic materialist worldview that (at least implicitly) denies the existence of conscious experience and claims that we're just "moist robots" reacting to stimuli. Such a worldview is unlivable and would cause far more harm to society than any story about a dead guy coming back to life ever could.

BeingItself said...

"You'll have little difficulty gaining acceptance of the statement"

Based on past experience, that's false.

"what constitutes the "best most reliable" methods and "true" are going to be serious points of contention"

One must begin somewhere. And that seems more common a ground than "everything in this arbitrary book is true" or "whatever this old virgin says is true" or "whatever the ghost in my head says is true" or "first, we must kill a goat" and the like.

Crude said...

Based on past experience, that's false.

Which theist regulars on this blog have rejected the starting point of "We should use the best most reliable methods for finding out what is true.", which did not come about from the very points of conflict joesmarts already mentioned?

BeingItself said...

I don't recall. Maybe none. My interaction with theists is not restricted to this place.

Crude said...

I don't recall. Maybe none. My interaction with theists is not restricted to this place.

That's no problem. How about a link to another site where you had this conversation and a theist rejected the claim "We should use the best most reliable methods for finding out what is true."

It happened often enough to dishearten you, after all. Can't be all that rare, eh?

Crude said...

I want to be clear why I'm asking what I am.

I find the idea that theists, as a rule, respond the way you're suggesting they do when it comes to accepting that starting point. Even a presuppositionalist could agree to your terms in principle - they'll just argue about 'reliable guides'.

Are you sure this has really happened, and you're not giving me some patchwork 'general impression you have of theists and you BET they really mean' or suchcrap?

joesmarts said...

@BeingItself

I cannot speak for or against your experience, so I will allow your statement to stand. My experience suggests that few people would starting point you've suggested.

Though, again, what will be problematic about your starting point is that people will disagree one what constitutes "best most reliable" methods. Those are value judgments for which different people will have different ends in mind. Hence, what you consider to be the best and most reliable methods might not mesh well with what I think. What I think might not mesh well with what Crude thinks, or Victor, or anyone else.

So, what I am saying is that your statement on the surface is quite easily agreeable. It seems like a wonderful starting point. However, the devil is in the details though. That's what renders the statement as impractical for a starting point.

I would like to suggest a different starting point. Let's go with the Gricean Maxims. While Grice devised the maxims as explanations of observations as opposed to "rules," I see no reason why they couldn't serve as a foundation to discussion between theists and atheists. They would form the foundation for the discussion allowing us to work toward a common ground. This would require some of us to make changes in our approach to how we discuss issues, but I think it'd serve us better in the long run compared with the mudslinging fest we see today.

ingx24 said...

ingx it would be untrue to say most materialists think consciousness does not exist. Most think it does: the problem is they cannot explain it, describe it, or even identify it.

Sorry, I was a bit unclear: My experience is that most of the most aggressive Cultists of Gnu are, at least implicitly, Dennett-style materialists, although they are much less explicit about it. I've heard so many claims that the "hard problem" of consciousness is just an argument from ignorance, and that a fully-developed neuroscience will dissolve it and show how it really is all just matter in motion. They usually use terms like "information-processing" or "representation" to try to make it seem more plausible, but in the end they are claiming that "the mind is what the brain does" (their favorite slogan) and that explaining all the functions of the brain will explain consciousness. Which is just Dennett-style materialism cloaked in different language.

ingx24 said...

Materialist philosophers tend not to be Dennett-style materialists, but their "solutions" to the problem of consciousness usually amount to postulating an ad-hoc metaphysically necessary (but not logically necessary) identity between mental states and brain states, which in any other context would be almost universally rejected.

BeingItself said...

I like the Gricean Maxims. Especially this one: Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

That will eliminate a great deal of metaphysics from a conversation.

BeingItself said...

And this one: Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).

This has always been my style, but not he style of the delightful Paps.

joesmarts said...

@BeingItself

Be careful about picking out one-liners. The "specific maxim" which you refer to first is subsumed under the "supermaxim" of "Quantity." Grice states the Maxim of Quantity as such, "Try to make your contribution one that is true." Thus, the specific maxim above must be understood within that context. Further, all of these maxims/supermaxims are subsumed by the Cooperative Principle. I am not saying you are necessarily wrong in your understanding, but that we should be careful not to read ideas into what Grice means by "lack adequate evidence."

Also, I must stress something about these maxims. Although Grice worded the maxims are rules, they should not be understood as rules. That is, Grice intended for them to be understood as descriptions of the rules which were already inherent in discussions. He's simply outlining the rules he had observed.

ingx24 said...

I like the Gricean Maxims. Especially this one: Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

That will eliminate a great deal of metaphysics from a conversation.


It sounds like you're begging the question in favor of scientism: assuming that only empirical evidence is acceptable for supporting a position and that logical arguments are worthless. By doing this, you're effectively eliminating anything other than Dennett/Rosenberg/Churchland style materialism before the discussion even begins, which definitely means that you automatically win.

BeingItself said...

"It sounds like you're begging the question in favor of scientism: assuming that only empirical evidence is acceptable for supporting a position and that logical arguments are worthless"

No. I'm not.

All I have in mind is that in order to have a fruitful discussion, both sides must have some general rules in mind. If the rules you agree to happen to eliminate a great deal of mysticism and metaphysics, then you should not have agreed to the rules.

My biggest complaint from interacting with theists and other believers in woo-ish type stuff is they seem to be playing without a net. We need to try and agree on a net.

Crude said...

The Gricean maxims don't help in and of themselves. "Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence"? Great - what qualifies as adequate evidence? Everything from metaphysical argument to testimony to otherwise is going to be fair game in one interpretation. In another interpretation, solipsism rules the day. In still another interpretation, idealism reigns and materialism never gets off the ground.

My biggest complaint from interacting with theists and other believers in woo-ish type stuff is they seem to be playing without a net. We need to try and agree on a net.

No, they're not - you just dislike the net. Hell, you dislike the principle of sufficient reason, and rejecting that is one hell of a lot more 'woo-ish' than anything else.

Your problem is coming across not that as 'you can't have a reasonable and respectful dialogue with theists'. It's that you want to have a discussion that forces them to give up beliefs you dislike, and if such and such rules don't accomplish that (no matter how reasonable they are), they have to be rejected. Surprise! That means you're not after dialogue after all.

Is it really that hard to accept that people can reasonably disagree with you on these issues?

BeingItself said...

"you dislike the principle of sufficient reason"

Crude, it is not about what I like or dislike. It is about what is probably true. Sure, the PSR seems intuitively true. But guess what? Investigation of the world suggests otherwise. See past discussions on Oerter's blog.

The amazing thing about those discussions is that folks want to desperately cling to their intuitions, in the teeth of dis-confirming evidence. Insisting: "This is how the world must work, damn the evidence. My deeply held strong inner feeling is true, come what may."

So I guess I need to throw out another axiom:

If empirical evidence suggests that some deeply held intuition is false, then we should jettison the intuition.

I'm predicting that axiom will not be embraced by many theists.

Crude said...

Crude, it is not about what I like or dislike. It is about what is probably true.

What is 'probably true' is, at best, something we evaluate based n arguments and evidence that proceed from our starting points. But if those starting points allow for or even argue for things you dislike, you yell 'Woo!' and demand everyone go back to the drawing board.

Again, that approach isn't dialogue.

Sure, the PSR seems intuitively true. But guess what? Investigation of the world suggests otherwise.

Guess what? Investigations of the world, at absolute best, get you to a point where you - for whatever reason - simply cannot find or observe a reason. Explanations for the events Oerter discusses are entirely possible. He can reject them for magic if he likes - it doesn't make it any less of 'woo'.

Here's a lesson you need to learn: no one observes the lack of a cause. At the absolute best, we find ourselves unable to see, or maybe even understand, a cause of a given thing or event. But the gap between 'unable to discern a cause' and 'there is no cause' is enormous.

Again, you can embrace magic if you want. Go right ahead. But don't pretend you've 'empirically established there is no cause or explanation' for various phenomena. Empirical evidence being consistent with a claim is not empirical evidence FOR the claim, in and of itself.

BeingItself said...

Just so I understand you: for yourself, no possible experience or observations could convince you that the PSR is probably false?

Crude said...

Just so I understand you: for yourself, no possible experience or observations could convince you that the PSR is probably false?

Where did I say that? I said that no empirical observation ever involves observing the lack of a cause or explanation. At absolute best, you end up with an entity or phenonema for which you do not have an explanation at the moment.

Do YOU dispute this? Are you saying that people literally observe non-causes? Is 'this thing has no cause / no explanation!' an empirical observation? Before you answer, think about what it means to observe a lack of a cause, as opposed to a cause.

BeingItself said...

I agree you cannot observe a lack of a cause. You can only observe and observe and not find one. Just like there may be an invisible dragon in my garage.

What experience(s) or observation(s) would convince you that the PSR is probably false?

Crude said...

I agree you cannot observe a lack of a cause. You can only observe and observe and not find one. Just like there may be an invisible dragon in my garage.

BI, you're embracing the idea that some things occur without explanation or cause by goddamn magic. The person dancing with the invisible dragon in the garage is you.

It's not as if the invisible dragon in the garage needs any explanation or cause, right? ;)

What experience(s) or observation(s) would convince you that the PSR is probably false?

A good argument with solid premises that would rationally compel that exact conclusion.

What experience or observation would convince you that 2 + 2 != 4?

BeingItself said...

Mathematics is an axiomatic system. 2+2=4 is true by definition.

To say that some event E occurs uncaused is not the same as to say E is caused by magic.





Crude said...

Mathematics is an axiomatic system. 2+2=4 is true by definition.

You mean there are ways to discover some truths for which empirical observations are irrelevant, or for which it would be silly to await an empirical observation to overturn?

Fascinating.

To say that some event E occurs uncaused is not the same as to say E is caused by magic.

'E just occurs, there's no explanation or cause or reason' is magic.

It certainly isn't something you can observe, even in principle. It likewise isn't the case that those things which people say are brute facts have no possible explanation - at best, they don't like the possible explanations, or are in the dark.

'Do not say things for which you lack adequate evidence', indeed.

BeingItself said...

I think we have reached an impasse concerning the PSR.

I am comfortable with uncertainty.

For example, I cannot be certain
that there is no dragon in my garage. I have looked and looked, and do not see one. So, I tentatively conclude that there is no dragon there.

Likewise, we have looked and looked for causes of certain quantum events, and cannot find one. So we tentatively conclude that there is no cause. And from that we tentatively conclude that the PSR is false.

You, meanwhile, cling to the PSR, because of a strong inner feeling that it just must must be true. In the teeth of all the dis-confirming evidence. I'm curious. What have you named the invisible dragon in your garage?

Crude said...

I am comfortable with uncertainty.

No, BI. That's precisely what you're not comfortable with. Which is exactly why you need to say the PSR is either false or very likely to be false. Because the PSR is taken to have theistic ramifications, and some possibilities are too spooky to accept.

So it must be false. Not even 'possibly false' - it's very likely false. Via an argument from ignorance.

So, I tentatively conclude that there is no dragon there.

No, BI. You've found your dragon. But you have no explanation for the dragon - actually, no explanations that you like. So, you decide arbitrarily to assume the dragon's presence has no cause or explanation whatsoever.

The dragon just IS, man.

Likewise, we have looked and looked for causes of certain quantum events, and cannot find one. So we tentatively conclude that there is no cause.

Likewise, we have looked and looked for an origin of life, and haven't found one. So we tentatively conclude that life is a brute fact.

Likewise, we have looked and looked for a theory of everything, and haven't found one. So we tentatively conclude that one doesn't exist.

Likewise, we have looked and looked for (insert many phenomena) and haven't found one. So, we tentatively conclude that one doesn't exist.

Magic is useful like that!

You, meanwhile, cling to the PSR, because of a strong inner feeling that it just must must be true.

Oh sure, a strong inner feeling, with absolutely no disconfirming evidence beyond 'there exist some things we have no scientific explanation of right now, and for which a physical explanation or cause may not be possible'. I suppose the many, many explanations and identifications of causes is no evidence for the PSR, eh?

Just remember, BI: the invisible dragon in your garage doesn't need a cause or an explanation. When faced with a problem that doesn't have an obvious physical solution, the rational and scientific thing to do is assume it magically exists without cause or reason.

Sagan weeps for you. ;)

BeingItself said...

Why do you think the PSR is true?

Chris said...

Within space and time, what's the difference between an uncaused cause and a miracle?

ingx24 said...

I'm not referring to materialist philosophers. I'm referring to the Cult of Gnu in general. Obviously, Dennett-style materialism is uncommon among actual philosophers.

BeingItself said...

@Chris - do you mean uncaused event? An uncaused event occurs spontaneously. A miracle is usually meant as an event caused by a supernatural agent.

Zach said...

PSR is not actually that important as a universal generalization. For instance, I could believe that things happen in quantum mechanics without reason or cause.

Crude said...

Why do you think the PSR is true?

For a number of reasons, one being that attempts to deny it ultimately are arbitrary and weak. The strongest 'reason' you've given for denying the PSR has been 'if humans go for a long period of time unable to come up with an empirically decidable explanation/cause for X, then that gives me license to assume X has no explanation/cause'. In fact, to call that weak is an understatement.

Chris,

Within space and time, what's the difference between an uncaused cause and a miracle?

There do seem to be some similarities. Both end inquiry, though a miracle would only end scientific inquiry - brute facts end all inquiry.

BeingItself said...

I believe there is an invisible dragon in my garage for a number of reasons. One being that attempts to deny it ultimately are arbitrary and weak. The strongest 'reason' I've been given for denying the dragon has been 'if humans go for a long period of time unable to detect the dragon, then that gives me license to assume there is no dragon'. In fact, to call that weak is an understatement.

Crude said...

I believe there is an invisible dragon in my garage for a number of reasons.

As I've pointed out repeatedly, BI - the existence of the 'dragon' in this case is not in dispute. What's in dispute is an explanation for the dragon. According to you, a dragon that actually, indisputably exists needs no explanation or cause for its existence. Magic will suffice.

Your response here has been that if humans have gone an arbitrary amount of time without finding a physical explanation or cause for X, then they're justified in assuming that X exists brutely: no explanation, no cause, nothing.

Go ahead, embrace that. And the next time someone tells you that the origin of life, or a physical explanation for consciousness or intentionality, or any other number of things has no physical explanation or cause, remember - that's okay. Because if an arbitrary amount of time has passed with no explanation or cause identified for these things, 'magic' is an acceptable response.

As I said - Sagan wept.

Ilíon said...

Chris: "Within space and time, what's the difference between an uncaused cause and a miracle?"

Are you sure you don't mean an "uncaused event"?

In any event, by definition, miracles are caused ... it's that ultimately they're not cause mechanistically.

Ilíon said...

Zach: "ingx that is tendentious: I work daily with materialistic philosophers in a department and the majority do not subscribe to Dennett's views. They do think consciousness is some kind of natural process, of course, but that is very different from being an eliminativist about it. They do not equate belief in consciousness with belief in phlogiston, and are quite explicit about this."

Zach, you're wrong. To say that “consciousness is some kind of natural process, of course” is exactly to “be[] an eliminativist about it”.

The materialistic philosophers with who you work daily *do* subscribe to Dennett's views … they just don’t want to acknowledge it, even to themselves.

You know, much like Ingx24 doesn’t want to acknowledge:
1) “eliminative materialism” is the only sort of materialism there is;
2) that (western style) atheism and materialism don’t even rise to the level of being two sides of the same coin, but rather are just two ways of focusing on the same set of propositions.

Ingx24: "Materialist philosophers tend not to be Dennett-style materialists, but their "solutions" to the problem of consciousness usually amount to postulating an ad-hoc metaphysically necessary (but not logically necessary) identity between mental states and brain states, which in any other context would be almost universally rejected."

Oh. Do you mean that same ad hoccery to which you appeal as a means of disputing that (western style) atheism *just is* materialism … no matter how logically unshakable was the demonstration that it is?

Ilíon said...

Jim S "I really don't think Victor just "wants to be liked"."

I didn't say that. I said he "want[s] to be liked ... by the people who despise everything that is most precious to" him. I also pointed out that in consequence of that, he behaves in the same manner as every other man has decided to value "civility" above truth ... he ends up being uncivil toward those who will not go alond with the "polite" dishonesty dectated by the false civility.

Jim S "For many people Christianity is not a live option. Victor is trying to show, with grace and reason, that it is a live option."

So, VR is engaging in a form of ad hominem (among other logical fallacies)?

Jim S "The general impression some people have of Christianity is not merely that it's false but that it's foolish or insane. Victor is challenging this, and by so doing, is removing a stumbling block to faith."

It's logically impossible -- therefore utterly impossible -- to "remov[e] a stumbling block to faith" of this sort. Even aside from the fact that such a "stumbling block to faith" is willfully chosen and placed there by the man stumbling over it, this sort is built around a suite of logical fallacies, including the ad hominem fallacy.

You can't logically counter a "negative" ad hominem fallacy by deploying a "positive" ad hominem fallacy, but only by identifying it and *openly refusing* to give it any space.

Ilíon said...

Actually, Sagan -- like all 'Science!' fetishists -- was a huge fan of Magick:

"Consider this claim: as I walk along, time -as measured by my wristwatch or my ageing process -slows down. Also, I shrink in the direction of motion. Also, I get more massive. Who has ever witnessed such a thing? It's easy to dismiss it out of hand. Here's another: matter and antimatter are all the time, throughout the universe, being created from nothing. Here's a third: once in a very great while, your car will spontaneously ooze through the brick wall of your garage and be found the next morning on the street. They're all absurd! But the first is a statement of special relativity, and the other two are consequences of quantum mechanics (vacuum fluctuations and barrier tunnelling,* they're called). Like it or not, that's the way the world is. If you insist it's ridiculous, you'll be forever closed to some of the major findings on the rules that govern the Universe.

*The average waiting time per stochastic ooze is much longer than the age of the Universe since the Big Bang. But, however improbable, in principle it might happen tomorrow.
" -- From The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan

BeingItself said...

"Your response here has been that if humans have gone an arbitrary amount of time without finding a physical explanation or cause for X, then they're justified in assuming that X exists brutely: no explanation, no cause, nothing."

I'm talking about events. Quantum events.

My dragon example adequately shows that the sort of moves you are making here could bused to defend belief in everything and anything.

You are playing without a net, as you always do.

ingx24 said...

Ilion,

There are two general types of materialism. The first type is what David Chalmers calls "Type-A materialism" - the Dennett-style view that all there is to the mind is the production of certain behaviors based on inputs from the environment, and that consciousness (as most people think of it) is a misguided concept based on conceptual confusions and wishful thinking. The second type of materialism is what Chalmers calls "Type-B materialism" - the view that the mental and the physical are conceptually different, but are in reality the same thing. The former is in the end incoherent and refutes itself, and the latter ends up either collapsing into Russellian monism (and therefore ceases to be materialism) or has to appeal to an ad-hoc metaphysically necessary (but not logically necessary) identity between mental and physical processes with no explanation, which would be almost universally rejected in any other domain. It is possible to be a materialist without being an eliminativist - the resulting position just ends up being very questionable and ad-hoc.

And you don't seem to understand that, until about 1960, Western atheism was very rarely materialist - see here. (I do not agree with Feser that putting sensory qualities and final causes back in nature does *anything* to avoid the problem of consciousness, but his point about previous generations of atheists and agnostics still remains.)

Zach said...
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B. Prokop said...

To address the topic of this thread, of course dialogue between a subset of theists and a subset of atheists is possible. (I say subset, because all groups are going to have their crazies (e.g., the so-called Westboro Baptist Church, the gnus), with whom no rational discussion is conceivable.

No "ground rules" are necessary, other than mutual respect and an agreement to not impugn the other's motives, purposefully misread their comments, or use language deemed insulting to either party. Other than that, there is no need for evidentiary rules or going-in assumptions which pre-bake the cake.

But where it may not be possible is on the internet. There it seems all too easy for too many people to fall into the same mindset that explains "road rage" and other similar phenomena. I would imagine that if we were all on something like Skype, the incidence of name-calling, profanity, and insults would drop off dramatically. And if we were actually in a room together face-to-face, we'd likely behave quite decently with each other, despite out differences. (Not always - I recently had an encounter with a scoffer who was as bad as the worst you find on this website.)

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting much of late. I expressed some of my reasons in an e-mail to Victor: "Going over the comments to your latest two postings have really soured me on this sort of discourse. What's happened here? It's like mud wrestling - no, it's worse than that, because mud wrestling might actually have a point. This is just schoolyard taunting and a lot of "So's yer mother" etc. No reflection on you, who have labored heroically to create an island of sanity in an internet sea of poison, but lately even DI is cram full of mind-rotting and character degrading junk. I can't even single out any "chief offenders", the rot is so pervasive. It's got to be some inherent feature in the internet itself. The sort of thing that causes otherwise decent people to curse other drivers out on the road for the slightest of reasons."

B. Prokop said...

Damn! Despite no less than three re-readings, a typo still got through. Should have been "despite our differences" in next-to-last paragraph.

Dan Gillson said...

In his essay "Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man," Peirce attacks the idea that we can distinguish between two sorts of cognitions: ones that are determined (i.e. mediated) by previous cognitions, and ones that refer immediately (as in, "without mediation") to their object, which he calls "intuitions". He further defines "intuitions" as being nearly the same as "premiss not itself a conclusion", which according to my understanding of the PSR, neatly captures the essence of it: the PSR states that we can represent in thought the positive cause or reason for every contingent truth, i.e., we have the faculty to determine which causes or reasons ("premisses" in Peirce's essay) belong exclusively to the realm of objectivity. Peirce makes quite a case against the existence of such a faculty, thereby undermining the validity of the PSR. He builds his case by pointing out that our thinking of cause and effect isn't pure thought, that it is mediated by experience, accretion, signs, i.e., all sorts of things that we would capture under the heading of subjectivity. I find the overall line of argument very convincing, and very similar to the sort of philosophy initiated by Wittgenstein.

ingx24 said...

Crude,

Doesn't Aristotelian hylomorphism claim that matter, when arranged in certain forms, gains ontologically irreducible powers that cannot be explained just by the way the particles are arranged? Doesn't that violate the PSR?

Crude said...

I'm talking about events. Quantum events.

Wonderful. The distinction is irrelevant.

My dragon example adequately shows that the sort of moves you are making here could bused to defend belief in everything and anything.

Your dragon example is an inadequate rhetorical device that says more about you than me. The only move I am making here is this: an inability to currently provide a physical explanation of or reason for X is not evidence that there is no *explanation* or reason for X. Your own reasoning was 'Well, we looked for an explanation and we couldn't find one, so we're justified in believing that no such explanation exists and it's just a brute fact'.

And hey, you're welcome to that. Believe me, the most amusing thing in this entire thread is watching a Cult of Gnu style atheist switch from rah-rahing empirical evidence and reason to borrowing a page straight out of the crappier YEC handbooks. A gnu does whatever what one must to keep the faith. ;)

Crude said...

ingx24,

that cannot be explained just by the way the particles are arranged

The PSR doesn't require that all explanations be 'particle arrangement' or even physical explanations. In fact, that's one reason why it spooks the hell out of BI and others.

ingx24 said...

So if, under Aristotelianism, the emergence of new characteristics cannot be explained by the way particles are arranged along with the laws of physics, how do they emerge? How do new characteristics come out of nowhere when matter takes on certain forms?

Crude said...

ingx24,

So if, under Aristotelianism, the emergence of new characteristics cannot be explained by the way particles are arranged along with the laws of physics, how do they emerge?

They'd probably reject talk of characteristics 'emerging' to begin with. That seems to presuppose a view of nature they're denying. They certainly don't say 'oh it's just a brute fact'.

Again, the PSR doesn't maintain that all events and entities have physical causes / reasons / explanations. Just causes / reasons / explanations.

BeingItself said...

Crude,

If I do my best to detect a dragon in the garage, and cannot find one, am I then justified in believing there probably is no dragon there?

Crude said...

If I do my best to detect a dragon in the garage, and cannot find one, am I then justified in believing there probably is no dragon there?

If you detect the dragon in your garage but fail to find the cause or explanation for it, are you justified in deciding it's just a brute fact?

Notice that the latter more accurately describes your move here, yet you're avoiding that version like the plague. Don't try to deploy a pure rhetorical device on someone who can see right through it.

Karl Grant said...

Welcome back Bob, how was your blogging sabatical?

BeingItself said...

Crude,

If I do my best to detect a dragon in the garage, and cannot find one, am I then justified in believing there probably is no dragon there?

Have the courage to answer the question.

Karl Grant said...

BeingItself,

How about you put your money where your mouth is and answer Crude's question?

Crude said...

BI,

If I do my best to detect a dragon in the garage, and cannot find one, am I then justified in believing there probably is no dragon there?

Let me explain it slowly to you.

The lack of a dragon in your garage entails no brute facts in and of itself.

The presence of a dragon in your garage, but the lack of any explanation or cause, entails brute facts.

Do you understand now why your rhetorical move fails? I know it's hard for you to admit to, but fail it does.

BeingItself said...

Coward.

Crude said...

Are you honestly incapable of seeing the gulf of difference between 'entity X does not exist' and 'entity X exists, and has no explanation or cause'?

In this case, BI, the dragon exists. That's not disputed. We're looking for a cause/explanation for the dragon. You're saying, 'we have found no physical explanation for the dragon. Clearly it has none. Brute fact!' A neat little irrational package with an argument from ignorance bow wrapped around it.

How dare those theists resist this juggernaut of reason. ;)

BeingItself said...

If I were to encounter a dragon in my garage, yes, I would seek out a cause. And even if I could not find one, I would assume a cause exists, because that's how things work at a classical level. We have piles of evidence to justify that inductive conclusion.

But . . . you want to import the way the world works at a classical level into the quantum realm. But we have piles of evidence showing that importation is invalid. That is just not how events occur at the quantum level.

Crude, you are making a common. There is no shame in making mistakes. The shame is when you refuse to admit it.

The PSR seemed rational in the 19th century. But to cling to it in the twenty-first is willful ignorance.

Crude said...

If I were to encounter a dragon in my garage, yes, I would seek out a cause. And even if I could not find one, I would assume a cause exists, because that's how things work at a classical level.

Wonderful. You admit your example was bogus. Progress!

But . . . you want to import the way the world works at a classical level into the quantum realm. But we have piles of evidence showing that importation is invalid. That is just not how events occur at the quantum level.

No, I don't. Where did I say that the quantum level 'works like the classical level'? Nowhere. In fact, I am entirely capable of accepting that the quantum world does *not* work like the classical world. I believe this myself.

But to grant this is not to grant that there is no cause or explanation. There is zero, nada, nyet observation or experiment showing that there is no cause or explanation in the instances we're discussing. At the absolute best, we're in the dark about these causes and explanations - and scientifically, only in the dark about physical causes and explanations. At no point is there ever an observation of a lack of cause - that's impossible in principle. At no point is there a demonstration that there is no cause or explanation, full stop - again, not possible in principle.

You bungled, BI. If you think the only alternative here is a classical explanation, or that I've been endorsing the classical over the quantum, you erred. I've made no such move, and no error.

BeingItself said...

You are more confused than I thought. No, my invisible dragon example still holds. Maybe you need to refresh your memory and re-read that chapter.

In the second to last paragraph above, you are throwing out inductive reasoning. Sorry, I did not realize you were THAT irrational.




Crude said...

You are more confused than I thought. No, my invisible dragon example still holds. Maybe you need to refresh your memory and re-read that chapter.

I forgot the part of the chapter where it was claimed that being unable to find an explanation or cause for a given phenomena meant that clearly none existed and we assume it's magic. ;)

In the second to last paragraph above, you are throwing out inductive reasoning. Sorry, I did not realize you were THAT irrational.

Yeah, here I am pointing out a failure in the 'inductive reasoning' chain whereby an inability to scientifically determine the explanation or cause for X means that X is magical and no cause or explanation for it exists.

BI, here's what's going on here: You've found out that an argument you liked but never really thought about has turned out to actually be hilariously weak. You can keep flailing, but it's not going to improve the situation for you. Embrace the magic if you like - but realize the cost and the reality of the situation surrounding your embrace of it.

This is why I always reject the whole 'Cult of Gnu value science and reason too much' line of criticism. It's plainly evident that they do no such thing. What they like is the illusion and the imagined authority that comes with it. They'll pitch both over the rails the moment it goes somewhere they dislike.

ingx24 said...

My (rudimentary) understanding of QM is that quantum events are not uncaused per se; rather, they are undetermined by physical laws. The outcome of an observation is not determined exclusively by deterministic physical laws; probabilistic laws factor in as well. Just because something is undetermined by prior conditions doesn't mean that it's uncaused - most theists would claim that our actions are not predetermined by physical laws, but this doesn't make our actions uncaused.

Papalinton said...

The PSR has been used so dexterously and artfully that it has been neutered of any value. For theists, the word 'sufficient' includes all manner of woo, such as personal subjective experience.

Sheesh! Gives as a break.

William said...

ingx24:
"
The outcome of an observation is not determined exclusively by deterministic physical laws; probabilistic laws factor in as well.
"

So, would you say that the fact that an emitted particle had a 50% chance of being spin up and 50% of being spin down is a (PSR type) sufficient reason for it to turn out to be spin-up?

Matt DeStefano said...

Not with this lot, Victor.

Crude said...

Not with this lot, Victor.

The funny thing is, most of the theists on this site can demonstrably have productive, even polite discussions with irreligious and agnostics. It's the Cult of Gnu with whom problems routinely surface. Hell, the Cult even feeds on its own.

Section them off to the side with the WBCs and similar, and actual dialogue has a chance at taking place.

im-skeptical said...

There's your number one problem right there.

Matt DeStefano said...

The funny thing is, most of the theists on this site can demonstrably have productive, even polite discussions with irreligious and agnostics. It's the Cult of Gnu with whom problems routinely surface. Hell, the Cult even feeds on its own.

This post so thoroughly demonstrates my own point that one might wonder if Crude was my own sock-puppet.

Compare the combox warriors from your own blog, to those of a blog with a much higher level of expertise - such as Prosblogion. Prosblogion has a pretty high rate of theism per commenter, but they each have a mere fraction of the confidence that Crude, Ilion, and the other Dunning-Krugerites that frequent your blog do.

I've often wondered how much the anonymity of these types of blog filters in. While academia has many faults, one of the blessings of easily identifiable names and regular interaction with the ideological opposition is that there is no room for these snide, immature remarks that one frequently reads on blogs in which anonymity is the norm.

ingx24 said...

Matt,

When Crude refers to the "Cult of Gnu", he is referring to those atheists that are stuck-up, overconfident, and condescending to theists - the ones that have no interest in doing anything but mock believers. Crude is not claiming that atheists in general cause problems.

Matt DeStefano said...

When Crude refers to the "Cult of Gnu", he is referring to those atheists that are stuck-up, overconfident, and condescending to theists - the ones that have no interest in doing anything but mock believers. Crude is not claiming that atheists in general cause problems.

ingx, I appreciate your clarification, but I'm not new to the lingo around here. Still, you won't catch anyone around Prosblogion using the derisive moniker "Cult of the Gnu" to describe any type of atheism. There are over-confident, unskilled people of every persuasion (hint hint).

It doesn't make sense dialectically, especially from Christian theists. It distances the very people you claim to not only want to convince, but the people that arguably need salvation the most. (I have my doubts that people who use "Cult of the Gnu" are actually interested in rational, reasonable discussion - but that's another debate for another time.)

The frequent use of derisive labels against your ideological opponents is evidence that one's own knowledge of a field is inadequate.

For example, in this thread you were repeatedly using "Dennett-type" materialism as a sort of intellectually shallow materialism which you think is related to both Alex Rosenberg's and Paul/Patricia (not clear which you are discussing) Churchland's materialism. These three (four - although P&P agree on so much) have quite different views - and it is a sign that one hasn't bothered to understand them properly when one lumps them together under the same banner.

Richard Marshall asks Dennett in his recent interview about their differences which were apparent at the 'Moving Naturalism Forward' conference: http://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/intuition-pumping/ Or, for instance, see Dennett and the Churchland's on qualia.






ingx24 said...

Matt,

I am not saying that Dennett, Rosenberg, and the Churchlands have the exact same beliefs. I group them together because of the similarities between them - they all make very strong claims against the common-sense conception of the mind, and are (to varying degrees) explicit about the fact that these claims follow from a commitment to a kind of scientism.

Crude said...

Matt,

Compare the combox warriors from your own blog, to those of a blog with a much higher level of expertise - such as Prosblogion. Prosblogion has a pretty high rate of theism per commenter, but they each have a mere fraction of the confidence that Crude, Ilion, and the other Dunning-Krugerites that frequent your blog do.

First off: Confidence? In what? Theism? You don't have to go very far to find Trent or Alex or others expressing very high confidence in theism, or very low confidence in naturalism. Nor do you have to go through many posts to see them absolutely shred what they regard as bad arguments. My confidence in this particular thread has been limited to pointing out that an argument from ignorance to support brute facts is hilariously bad. I've pointed out ways more successful arguments against the PSR can be advanced, and I've said dialog with atheists is possible.

Second: Dunning-Kruger says more about you than me, Matt. Here's another phrase you may want to rely on: cognitive bias. Picture-perfect displayed on your part when you knock *me* for 'confidence', but the various Cult of Gnu in this thread are overlooked without comment - despite their displaying vastly more (misplaced) confidence. But that's something you're either blind to, or you willfully ignore.

Third: You know what Prosblogion also lacks? Generally, Cultists of Gnu.

It doesn't make sense dialectically, especially from Christian theists. It distances the very people you claim to not only want to convince, but the people that arguably need salvation the most.

No, they don't 'need salvation the most'. It's not like it's a commodity that gets more valuable the bigger of a jerk you are.

Moreover, the reason I label the Cult of Gnu as Cult of Gnu is precisely because I believe (with good reason) that sincere dialogue with them is outside the realm of reasonable possibility, and I've marshalled evidence to support my claim. 'Dialectic' concerns don't commit me to seek dialogue with insincere people who are incapable of it, nor is that the only way to convince people.

The frequent use of derisive labels against your ideological opponents is evidence that one's own knowledge of a field is inadequate.

According to what absurd standard?

The ironic thing is, if you really believe this, you believe that the entire spread of the Cult of Gnu has inadequate knowledge of the fields they discuss. 'Frequent use of derisive labels' catches up everyone from Coyne to Dawkins to Myers to most others in the net.

But your mistake is in thinking that the Cult of Gnu are my ideological opponents. That group is comprised of a wide variety of atheists, agnostics, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, statists and otherwise. The Cult, meanwhile, is a far smaller subset of one or two of those groups. I don't use derisive labels on mere ideological opponents. I save that for militants.

Either way, Matt, some advice: when you want to offer up utterly insincere criticisms about the confidence and derisive language of your ideological opponents, it's best not to do so while ignoring the same and worse from your ideological allies, in a thread where that's on display. It makes the hypocrisy and dishonesty shine a tad too bright.

Ilíon said...

some random atheist fool: "Compare the combox warriors from your own blog, to those of a blog with a much higher level of expertise - such as Prosblogion. Prosblogion has a pretty high rate of theism per commenter, but they each have a mere fraction of the confidence that Crude, Ilion, and the other Dunning-Krugerites that frequent your blog do."

Is it *really* necessary to spell out the intellectual dishonesty (and on multpile levels) on display here? But the first and most obvious hypocrisy-with-respect-to-reason is right on the surface, being is his worship of ignorance; and not just any old ignorance, but willfull and studied ignorance, for that is what advances the cause of protecting his God-denial from critical/rational evaluation.

This fool is saying that having confidence that one has reasoned to opinions that accord with reality is really just the proof that one's reasoning was faulty and that the opinions may therefore be discounted by those who find them unwelcome.

Do I not always point out that atheism entails the position that knowledge is impossible?

====
Keep in mind, Gentle Reader, what I earlier told VR was his problem with respect to atheists and has inordinate desire to be liked (or admired/respected) by them. --- It's like with politics: if a 'conservative' wants to be publically well-spoken of by the "liberals", all he has to do is fold on the important matters. Similarly with respect to metaphysics: if one wishes to be publically well-spoken of by the materialists, all one has to do is deny that one's opinions (*), these reasoned-and-believed propositions they wish to deny, are knowable truth.

(*) I'm using 'opinion' in the correct sense, using the vocabulary of an adult, rather than in the degraded/childish manner as most people take the word.

Ilíon said...

ingx24:I am not saying that …

One can never, ever, explain one’s position to those who will not see it.

ingx24 said...

I think that when Papalinton was younger and still a Christian he went forward in time like 40 years and started posting here under the name Ilion

Karl Grant said...

I think that when Papalinton was younger and still a Christian he went forward in time like 40 years and started posting here under the name Ilion

That would actually explain a thing or two.

Matt DeStefano said...

Dunning-Kruger is about confidence in ability, not about epistemic confidence in a proposition. Trent and Alex have their PhD's in philosophy, and are respected specialists in their field. I would be (un)happily surprised to learn that Crude had a PhD in philosophy and was a professor at a respected university. I suspect he is not.

I would be very surprised if Trent and Alex went around calling people part of the 'Cult of the Gnu'. Having attended one of Trent's talks, I have a feeling that this is not part of his repertoire.

Calling out two people is not an exhaustive list of wrong-doing, and I called out Ilion and Crude in particular because I've seen it on display so many times.

I agree with what Prokop wrote about being "in person" or "on Skype" would considerably change the tone of the debate. Comments on a blog are not exactly conducive to civil discussion. It's even worse when you have an anonymous pseudonym. I don't know that you can do anything to fix that, Victor, it's probably just something you have to live with as a blogger.



Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Victor Reppert said...

Quite. I could be a bigger blog cop. I have deliberately chosen not to be one, for the simple reason that I don't want my own sense of what is improper to start controlling the conversation. When I started DI, I actually didn't realize that it came with a combox. But then, I realize that everyone can go over the line on occasion. But some people are really incapable of thinking outside the confines of their own ideology, and think that the louder they yell, the more they will be heard.

I can see someone saying something like "you kicked Papalinton off but you didn't kick Ilion off." Or vice versa.

My theory in maintaining a "free speech zone" here is that everyone can learn what to ignore. One strategy would be to pick out reasonable people who disagree with me on theism and dialogue primarily with them. But I have felt it necessary to call out some of the excesses of what we are calling Gnus, hoping to show that even atheists should start being uncomfortable such excesses. But this attracts people on the pro-gnu side, which in turn brings out the anger in Christian who might not be angered by less ideological atheists.

David B Marshall said...

Matt: Obviously, neither Crude nor yourself lie near the lower end of the intellectual spectrum. So I find it curious that you bring Dunning-Kruger into the discussion. I actually agree with a couple of your points -- I may, for instance, have been harsher to Being Itself than needed, and Crude knows I have sometimes spotted his comments outside the box. But then I see you list Deconstructing Christianity among your favored blogs -- a place where both emotional and the other kind of intelligence tend to be a bit lower than here, I think, and commentary is dominated by not always terribly mature Gnus. So I think Crude's challenge on that score is just. Bit of a "beam in own eye" syndrome, it appears to me.

On Dunning-Kruger, BTW, I find it amusing to see Bertrand Russell quoted for the Wikipedia article:

"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision."

Little "doubt and indecision" is visible in Russell's own Why I am not a Christian. Does that render his critique moot? Certainly what Russell exhibits in that book, is what one also finds in Dawkins and PZ Myers: an apparently irresistible urge to blather dogmatically on subjects they know little about, parlaying genuine expertise in one field, into cult-guru status in others.

I wonder what the name for that syndrome is.

Personally, I think passionate love of truth is more important than graded intelligence, and is also more psychologically healthy to focus on.

Crude said...

Dunning-Kruger is about confidence in ability, not about epistemic confidence in a proposition.

The two are not neatly segregated.

Trent and Alex have their PhD's in philosophy, and are respected specialists in their field.

So? And respected by who? By me, certainly. By Dawkins? Coyne? Myers? Or are they just faithheads worshiping Jeebus who are actually apologists and 'sophisticated theologian' frauds, not actual philosophers much less academics?

I would be very surprised if Trent and Alex went around calling people part of the 'Cult of the Gnu'. Having attended one of Trent's talks, I have a feeling that this is not part of his repertoire.

I cited their confidence, not their rhetoric. Frankly, Pruss and Dougherty walk in different circles than I do, and have different goals. I again note that your concern about rhetoric is shockingly one-sided, and the insincerity is apparent.

Calling out two people is not an exhaustive list of wrong-doing, and I called out Ilion and Crude in particular because I've seen it on display so many times.

Yeah, I refer to a distinct and clear subsection of atheists as the Cult of Gnu, who pride themselves on being as obnoxious, loud and insulting as possible. I point out the unreasonableness of expecting or attempting dialogue with that group, anymore than one can reasonably expect dialogue with the WBC. I do this while saying, right from the start, that various other atheists and irreligious are capable of dialogue.

What you dislike, Matt, is seeing someone show disrespect to your ideological allies. You dislike 'confidence' when it's your opponents who have it, or who defend it. Let us know when you start to condemn Dawkins for his '6.99~ out of 7' certainty that there is no God, or rail against Coyne for his tone (which includes calling John Polkinghorne 'Polkie', among other such nonsense).

Until then, like I said - that hypocrisy and dishonesty shines a tad too bright off you.

Matt DeStefano said...

But then I see you list Deconstructing Christianity among your favored blogs -- a place where both emotional and the other kind of intelligence tend to be a bit lower than here, I think, and commentary is dominated by not always terribly mature Gnus.

I agree with you - that list should not be taken as an endorsement of any sort, but as an indication that I don't check Blogger often enough to bother updating it.

Papalinton said...

Victor
"But I have felt it necessary to call out some of the excesses of what we are calling Gnus, hoping to show that even atheists should start being uncomfortable such excesses."

I cannot recall your calling out any excesses on my part over the past couple years although others on this website have certainly labelled me. Well certainly not directly to me; I cannot honestly recall your ever having been underhanded in that form of sleight or slight. And yes I can honestly say I do not resile from being both robust and direct in what it is I have to communicate.

Funnily enough I have begun to think of myself as Cult of the Gnu [which is really only a pejorative directed at those of us subscribing to New Atheism which supernaturalists have been unable to subjugate into abject deference, that unwarranted demand for humble submission undeserving of respect once offered by dint of convention and tradition toward men of the cloth]. I am happy to be identified as a Gnu if the worst Gnus do is to fire arrows of rhetoric into the blogosphere. Certainly a deal more ethical and moral than Christians blowing up Family Clinics and shooting doctors in church as an expression of their worldview or trying to sneak in creationism [dressed as IDiotism] into the schoolroom by legislative fiat rather than through scientific merit.

The really funny thing about the Gnus that supernaturalists have most difficulty with, is not so much the fact that the supernatural theo-philosophical perspective is robustly challenged as little more than medieval chaff [about which most believers already know but are incapable of divesting so large a part of their lives and personal and psychological capital into the mythos] but because of the assertive and no-nonsense approach Gnus take demonstrating that belief as nonsensical, redolent of an admixture frothing in the cauldron of medieval superstition.

No. Ridicule and satire are the right tools for challenging supernatural superstition. And if that makes me a Gnu, so be it.

As Professor Keith Parsons, a once long-time Christian, notes:

"“A single belly-laugh is worth a thousand syllogisms” said H.L. Mencken. Fundamentalism and fundamentalists should be ridiculed in the media, by comedians, or wherever. You don’t have to worry about fairness, since, as Poe’s Law famously notes, no satire can possibly be more absurd than the real thing. Come on. You just can’t come up with anything more ridiculous than someone who honestly thinks that all human woes stem from an incident in which a talking snake accosted a naked woman in a primeval garden and talked her into eating a piece of fruit. Again, most ridicule would consist of pointedly drawing attention to what they really believe. Nothing could be fairer than that. As a sign admonished on The Simpsons, put the fun back in fundamentalism. Laugh it to death."
SEE HERE.

This is not a case of Gnus having some ideological bent, as most believers here imagine is the case; there is just simply no case here for flogging this ethereal world of supernatural insubstance boasting actual physical powers to cross over into the natural world at whim, as anything more than brain-cage rattle.

ingx24 said...

Papalinton,

The problem is that Gnus lump in anyone who disagrees with their scientistic materialist worldview in with the fundamentalists. If you believe that introspection reveals that there's more to the mind than what can be observed in the brain, you get ridiculed as "unscientific" for believing in things that can't be seen or measured, and accused of engaging in theology and probably believing that the earth is flat and that the sun is a fiery chariot pulled by winged horses. If you think that there might be a good logical case for the existence of God, you get ridiculed for being a superstitious nutjob who's still stuck in the middle ages and believes in talking bushes and corpses that rise after 3 days. If you think that there are truths that science can't discover and that can only be discovered through pure reason, you get labeled as "unscientific" and as opening the door to theology and creationism. You guys are not interested in free thinking; only in spreading your scientistic materialist worldview by ridiculing anyone who doesn't buy into it.

Ilíon said...

ingx12: "I think that when Papalinton was younger and still a Christian he went forward in time like 40 years and started posting here under the name Ilion"

When I treat this fool (see? I've already started) in the manner his manner calls for, he's going to play the hurt ingénue.

Papalinton said...

ingX24
A couple of things:
A 'scientisitic worldview' as you coin it is a product of the sophism you subscribe to. To you, those that engage in scientifically-informed philosophy are scientistic because they simply don't countenance the unsubstantiated nonsense about immaterialism you peddle.

And you are right, I am of the mind that anyone who believes that introspection reveals that there's more to the mind than what can be observed in the brain, is doing little more than rattling their brain-cage. You have to go on and demonstrate what that "more to the mind" is, not just wallow in the miasma of an argument from personal incredulity. You have not articulated what the hypothesis, "more to the mind" addresses, other than an unfounded and groundless 'something' championed by the speculators through their quaint boutique brand of immaterialist philosophy.

And this sort of nonsense: " ..If you think that there are truths that science can't discover and that can only be discovered through pure reason, ..." Tell me what the distinction is between 'reason' and 'pure reason'?

"You guys are not interested in free thinking; ..."
You're not exhibiting free thinking? You exhibiting unchecked, unbridled thinking, the exact same human creative and imaginative process that brought us the unicorn, and faeries at the bottom of the garden, and Cyclops, and talking snakes, and Gulliver's Travels, and Mary Poppins. Nobody in their right mind for one moment believe these creative impulses of the brain are real-life, or discoveries through 'pure reason'.

ingX24 your philosophical musings are not credible in the commonly understood sense of the word. The materialist worldview is doing its own job quite well without my having to peddle it. It stands or falls on the strength of its own validity and evidence. I subscribe to it, on the basis that the evidence is overwhelmingly in its favour and the global trend seems to accord with that stance. Immaterialism, which has been around in its various incantations and stages of morphing is steadily being found to be a generic catch-all for things yet to be adequately articulated within the materialist paradigm rather than a real contender to materialism.

Unbeknown to you and the marvelous illusional capacity of your brain to have you think you are the only person in the world with a mind capable of introspection, you do actually live your life 100% materially. To the materialist, you are a real-live body with a mind. To the supernaturalist as you, apparently you are a mind with a body. And yet accidents at birth, genetic malformations, head contusions, brain injury all reveal that the mind is equally affected by physical damage to indicate the mind is what the brain does. Without a scintilla of scientific doubt brain injury is equally as catastrophic to notions of identity, emotion, thinking, comprehension, personality, character, mood swings, rationality and a host of other qualities and qualia. This is a clear indication that the holistic immaterial mind does not exist above and beyond the material body. If the brain is damaged so too is the mind. The brain is an experiential organ grounded in materialism as is any other part of the body. Whatever the mind is, it seems highly unlikely to wander off into some ethereal surreal immaterialist netherworld, intact, leaving the poor old body to fend for itself.

ingx24 said...

A 'scientisitic worldview' as you coin it is a product of the sophism you subscribe to. To you, those that engage in scientifically-informed philosophy are scientistic because they simply don't countenance the unsubstantiated nonsense about immaterialism you peddle.

You're conflating "scientifically-informed philosophy" with "philosophy that denies the existence of anything science can't discover". You exhibit black-and-white "us vs. them" thinking: either you restrict yourself to science alone, or you're a fundamentalist science-denier. For you, there is no in between. And "immaterialism" (which is a very misleading term, by the way) is hardly "unsubstantiated". If by "unsubstantiated" you mean "unsupported by empirical evidence", I would agree. But I would deny that empirical evidence is the only way to know about things - logical arguments will suffice when empirical evidence is unavailable or impossible.

And you are right, I am of the mind that anyone who believes that introspection reveals that there's more to the mind than what can be observed in the brain, is doing little more than rattling their brain-cage. You have to go on and demonstrate what that "more to the mind" is, not just wallow in the miasma of an argument from personal incredulity. You have not articulated what the hypothesis, "more to the mind" addresses, other than an unfounded and groundless 'something' championed by the speculators through their quaint boutique brand of immaterialist philosophy.

Okay, how about this: What we observe in the brain is electrical impulses and releases of chemicals. What we experience in introspection is thoughts, emotions, mental images, memories, beliefs, desires, sensations, and the like. Because the mind we experience in introspection and the brain we observe empirically have such radically different properties, they cannot be identical unless one of them is a mistaken appearance of the other. Because our own minds are the most certain thing there is ("I think, therefore I am"), if mind and brain are identical, the brain must be a mistaken appearance of the mind, leading to Russellian monism rather than standard materialism. Otherwise, we are left with dualism. The "more to the mind" that I am referring to just is what we experience in introspection.

That good enough for you?


And this sort of nonsense: " ..If you think that there are truths that science can't discover and that can only be discovered through pure reason, ..." Tell me what the distinction is between 'reason' and 'pure reason'?


What I meant is that there are some truths that can only be established by logical argument, and not by empirical evidence or experiments. Of course, being committed to scientism as you are, you will no doubt reject this.

You're not exhibiting free thinking? You exhibiting unchecked, unbridled thinking, the exact same human creative and imaginative process that brought us the unicorn, and faeries at the bottom of the garden, and Cyclops, and talking snakes, and Gulliver's Travels, and Mary Poppins. Nobody in their right mind for one moment believe these creative impulses of the brain are real-life, or discoveries through 'pure reason'.

Are you implying that belief in consciousness in anything other than a functional sense (i.e. having certain abilities to react to stimuli in certain ways) is akin to belief in unicorns and fairies? That's a pretty radical position.

ingx24 said...

ingX24 your philosophical musings are not credible in the commonly understood sense of the word. The materialist worldview is doing its own job quite well without my having to peddle it. It stands or falls on the strength of its own validity and evidence. I subscribe to it, on the basis that the evidence is overwhelmingly in its favour and the global trend seems to accord with that stance. Immaterialism, which has been around in its various incantations and stages of morphing is steadily being found to be a generic catch-all for things yet to be adequately articulated within the materialist paradigm rather than a real contender to materialism.

Again, this is just circular scientistic reasoning: There is no evidence against materialism, because only empirical evidence is allowed to count, and we know only empirical evidence is needed for anything because there is nothing beyond the material world (i.e. materialism is true). Flawless logic.


Unbeknown to you and the marvelous illusional capacity of your brain to have you think you are the only person in the world with a mind capable of introspection, you do actually live your life 100% materially. To the materialist, you are a real-live body with a mind. To the supernaturalist as you, apparently you are a mind with a body. And yet accidents at birth, genetic malformations, head contusions, brain injury all reveal that the mind is equally affected by physical damage to indicate the mind is what the brain does. Without a scintilla of scientific doubt brain injury is equally as catastrophic to notions of identity, emotion, thinking, comprehension, personality, character, mood swings, rationality and a host of other qualities and qualia. This is a clear indication that the holistic immaterial mind does not exist above and beyond the material body. If the brain is damaged so too is the mind. The brain is an experiential organ grounded in materialism as is any other part of the body. Whatever the mind is, it seems highly unlikely to wander off into some ethereal surreal immaterialist netherworld, intact, leaving the poor old body to fend for itself.


People repeating the same "brain damage" argument over and over for 60 years doesn't make it any less irrelevant. Yes, the effects of brain damage do cast some doubt on the hypothesis that the mind continues after the brain has died. It does not establish that all there is to the mind is the activity of the brain. Functional dependence and causal correlation does not entail identity if we have independent reason to doubt identity (which we do), and it is simply astonishing that people just refuse to see this.

B. Prokop said...

"the exact same human creative and imaginative process that brought us the unicorn, and faeries at the bottom of the garden, and Cyclops, and talking snakes, and Gulliver's Travels, and Mary Poppins. Nobody in their right mind for one moment believe these creative impulses of the brain are real-life"

But they are, Mr. Linton, they most certainly are. This is precisely where the atheist materialist, scientistic worldview fails so spectacularly and so thoroughly. Faeries in the garden and Triton blowing his horn over the waves are far closer to the Real World than the sterile, mechanistic, anti-human, obsessive-compulsive hyper-rationality of the gnu (you've embraced the term, so I'll use it) can ever be.

In the anti-utopia of Zamyatin's wonderful novel We (1921), the Timetables of All Railways is considered to be the greatest classic of World Literature, due to its wonderful precision, its objectivity, its complete absence of the imaginative, and its utter truthfulness. The present day reader immediately gets the point, of course.

So Mr. Linton will respond, I'm sure, "But there aren't really any faeries in the garden, no matter how beautiful we may find them!" But that's where he's so tragically wrong. They are there, giving us a glimpse, even if only the smallest, of a window upon That which Is Greater than our Physical Universe. Time and space, matter and energy, all these things are but shadows of the Real World, of which we have no power on own own to ever see, unless It deigns to reveal Itself.

This is where all the wearyingly repetitive demands for "evidence" are ultimately so wide of the mark, and so irrelevant. Anything for which one can produce empirical "evidence" is doomed to be but part of that physical, created universe, and not of the far greater Reality that enfolds it like a mother cradling her infant.

And yes, Zeus, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Ganesha, fairies under the garden, the Rollright Stones... all did become Real - real even in this world - in the Incarnation. This is where the atheists who love to say, "I'm simply atheistic about one more god than you" are so hilariously wrong-headed. 'Cause it's all true.

Crude said...

ingx24,

Again, this is just circular scientistic reasoning: There is no evidence against materialism, because only empirical evidence is allowed to count, and we know only empirical evidence is needed for anything because there is nothing beyond the material world (i.e. materialism is true). Flawless logic.

It's not even particularly "scientistic". Science is entirely compatible with everything from dualism to idealism - nothing in science demands a materialist worldview. (Hell, even scientific realism is the product of philosophical reasoning, to scientific discovery.) Eliminative materialism, oddly enough, doesn't seem to be compatible with it - good luck trying to explain theories and explanations and experiments with no reference to intention.

The Cult of Gnu does not have some grand love of science. They love the authority that comes with being thought of as someone who knows or loves science. Guess what? So do young earth creationists, Intelligent Design proponents, and just about everyone else.

There's a reason why a significant number of the Cult of Gnu leadership are reasonably classified as guys who gave up science years ago (Dawkins, Myers, etc), while the lesser cultists largely seem to only 'follow science' insofar as it's brought up now and then on atheist webpages. I recall Jerry Coyne himself blogged that when he does a post on evolution that has nothing to do with theism or atheism, the pageviews drop like a stone.

Papalinton said...

To ingX24

There evidence for materialism is overwhelming simply because materialism is the predominating state at which our perception, relationship and understanding of the world and our environment make direct contact. Period. To suggest otherwise is obdurate denialism at its most ridiculous.

There is no getting around the fact, no matter how one misconstrues philosophy, brain injury and trauma have direct and causal effect and physical consequences on the host of qualities and qualia that woo-meisters so desperately want to believe are a class of ineffable properties that are separate, independent, disembodied, self-existent, and self-actualizing, that inhabits the inside of the brain. Of course this form of belief is one of those recalcitrant and perniciously uncompromising fixations in contemporary philosophy in the exact same manner that people believed Descartes' 'soul' resided in the pineal gland as the centre of the immaterial persona of the body. The problem of genuine philosophy, scientifically-informed philosophy no less, is to extricate the enormously powerful grip of this wrongheaded belief, bloodied finger-by-bloodied finger, from its own throat. The fingers are moving, slowly and inexorably, allowing philosophy to breathe freely yet again.

ingx24 said...

There evidence for materialism is overwhelming simply because materialism is the predominating state at which our perception, relationship and understanding of the world and our environment make direct contact. Period. To suggest otherwise is obdurate denialism at its most ridiculous.

What? Can you repeat this in english?

There is no getting around the fact, no matter how one misconstrues philosophy, brain injury and trauma have direct and causal effect and physical consequences on the host of qualities and qualia that woo-meisters so desperately want to believe are a class of ineffable properties that are separate, independent, disembodied, self-existent, and self-actualizing, that inhabits the inside of the brain.

Again: Repeating the same "brain damage" objection over and over again does not make it any less invalid. The evidence from neuroscience clearly shows, at minimum, that an embodied mind depends on a properly functioning brain for its own functioning, and that mental states are tightly correlated with brain states. If there was nothing to distinguish brain states from mental states, we would have a powerful case for mind-brain identity as the simplest explanation. But the fact is that we have plenty of reasons to doubt that mental states can be identified with brain states, so the immediate inference from causal correlation to identity fails. It needs to be established, on independent grounds, that the arguments against mind-brain identity theory are unsound, and that they can be identified after all. Only then can we use Occam's Razor to shave off dualism.

Papalinton said...

To Bob [and welcome back]:

"But they are, Mr. Linton, they most certainly are."
What? Real-life or imagination?

"Faeries in the garden and Triton blowing his horn over the waves are far closer to the Real World than the sterile, mechanistic, anti-human, obsessive-compulsive hyper-rationality of the gnu (you've embraced the term, so I'll use it) can ever be."

Why would you say such a silly thing? I too can conjure just as easily conjure up Faeries in the bottom of the garden and triton. It's called ... imagination. In fact right now, I am conjuring up an image in my brain that has three heads, five legs, is sentient and is ambivalent about homosexuality. It is so clear in my brain that I can actually draw this entity. In fact I am using the exact same process that ancient writers' used to write about the weird and wonderful in the the Koran, the Grimm Fairy Tales, Nania, Bible, Jason and the Argonauts. Indeed many of the greatest writers, Gene Roddenberry, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke conjured equally wonderful stories which seem as real as reality. Surely you're not suggesting these writers present a "sterile, mechanistic, anti-human, obsessive-compulsive hyper-rationality of the gnu", dyed-in-the-wool and avowed atheists and materialists that they were?

No Bob. You are beating a drum with torn skin. The noise you are producing simply does not resonate with clarity nor with reality. It is a hotchpotch, an amorphous swirl of mysticism, reality, superstition, imagination, projection, telos; 'an admixture frothing in the cauldron of medieval superstition'. Materialists are simply able to distinguish and acknowledge that which constitutes reality and that which constitutes imagination. That intellectual capacity to make this distinction does not in any way lesson their capacity to engage in imagination. But we actually call it for what it actually is, 'imagination'. Your 'reality' is an imagined one. That's not to say it is wrong. Just ... imaginative, not grounded in reality.

Papalinton said...

ingX24
"If there was nothing to distinguish brain states from mental states, we would have a powerful case for mind-brain identity as the simplest explanation. "

You clearly have yet to read further about mental states being brain states. We know when observing the brain state that when say, the word 'horse' is flashed up on the screen a particular part of the brain neurally fires. When the word 'cheval' is flashed up, no neural firings occur in an English-only speaker. When the word 'cheval' is flashed up to a French-only speaker the exact same cluster of neural firings register to that of the English speaker-only. When the word 'horse' flashed up, no neural firings are registered. When both 'horse' and 'cheval' flashed up, the exact same regions of the brain neurally activated.

So one thing that seems obvious is, whatever it is that constitutes the mind state, it is language-dependent.

So not only is the functioning of the mind state affected by brain trauma or injury, it also utterly relies on the learned medium of language for its communication and its ability to form ideas and use imagination.

But then, all this is just scientism to you.

Sheesh! Give us a break.

Papalinton said...

Corrigendum:
"When both 'horse' and 'cheval' flashed up, the exact same regions of the brain neurally activated."
should read:
"When both 'horse' and 'cheval' flashed up, the exact same regions of the brain neurally activated for the bi-lingual speaker."

ingx24 said...

Papalinton,

Everything you just said is absolutely, completely, 100% irrelevant to the question of materialism vs. dualism. It is absolutely astonishing that you cannot see this. Even if understanding a word is accompanied by neural firings, the experience of seeing and understanding the word (along with whatever mental imagery may accompany that understanding) is invisible to observation. No dualist denies that all mental experiences are accompanied by certain neural firings. What we deny is that mental experiences just are the neural firings. You cannot appeal to Occam's Razor to claim that identity is the simplest explanation, as there are independent reasons to believe that mental states and brain states are not identical. You need metaphysical arguments to establish that mind-brain identity is plausible - only then can Occam's Razor shave off dualism. You cannot just keep appealing to mind-brain correlations or functional dependence, as these things are irrelevant to the debate at hand. The debate is over how to interpret these correlations, not over whether or not these correlations exist.

Papalinton said...

"Everything you just said is absolutely, completely, 100% irrelevant to the question of materialism vs. dualism."

You just keep on believing that, ing, because whatever it is you believe [and wherever you seem to be gleaning your factoids and understanding], it is simply a dogged determination to rationalize away the evidence. I cannot hold a candle against that kind of imaginative thinking or your undoubted expertise in the artful manner by which you "attempt to explain or justify (one's own or another's behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate. [Definition of 'rationalize': All References Library Dictionary]

But then materialism. evidence, fact, proofs are not the stuff of immaterialists. It cramps their belief system. Immaterialism is by its very nature, means nothing and is of no substance. As they say, immaterialists are blinded by the obvious but know everything about the non-existent.

I say, "Knock yourself out".

ingx24 said...

Amazing. When presented with logic that threatens its dogmatic belief that materialism has been essentially proven by science, the Cult of Gnu resorts to accusing its opponents of "rationalizing away the evidence" and doesn't even attempt to deal with the arguments. Absolutely fascinating.

This is why we cannot have reasonable discussions with these people.

Ilíon said...

ingx24: "Amazing. When presented with logic that threatens its dogmatic belief that materialism has been essentially proven by science, the Cult[ist] of Gnu resorts to accusing its opponents of "rationalizing away the evidence" and doesn't even attempt to deal with the arguments. Absolutely fascinating.

This is why we cannot have reasonable discussions with these people.
"

Actually, what's “absolutely fascinating” is the hypocrisy with respect to reason -- the intellectual dishonesty -- of you "nice" and "civil" people, who freak out and viciously attack me (and some of you lie about me) because I normally and habitually point to any behavior of that sort and bluntly call it what it is – regardless of who is doing it or what “team” he plays on.

You people don’t want honesty, you don’t want “reasonable discussions” – you don’t want to correct your faulty reasoning and/or false beliefs, any more than that fellow does (I haven’t looked at the posts immediately prior to this one, but I expect Ingx24 is commenting upon some bilge posted by Papalinton)

ingx24 said...

Ilion,

You're just as bad as Papalinton, if not worse. The only difference is that you're on the opposite team as him - you insult anyone who doesn't agree with you and claim that they're intellectually dishonest or willfully ignorant. Moreover, you subscribe to the same black-and-white thinking that Papalinton does - it's either fundamentalist Christianity or hardcore materialism. There is no in between for you people, and people like me who stray from either extreme get ridiculed for being "intellectually dishonest" (in your case) or "woo-meisters" (in Papalinton's case).

Dan Gillson said...

I love it when Ilíon plays the martyr. He's so innocent and undeserving of all the ire heaped up on him. All he wants to do is to teach others (he does, after all, complain that others are unwilling to learn anything from him) that they're stupid, irrational, illogical, unreasonable, unthinking … it's a wonder why people won't engage him in a nice, civil discussion.

Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Gillson said...

Also, humorously, Ilíon predicted that it would be ingx24 who would end up playing the hurt ingénue ... Ilíon must've been in a rush to steal the part.

Samwell Barnes said...

Give Ilion credit where credit is due:

Tone and mannerisms aside, he tends to be right in a lot of what he says, whereas Papalinton is wrong in almost everything he says.

When Ilion is right, he is very right. When Ilion is wrong, he is disastrously wrong.

Linton is just wrong.

It's disingenuous to lump both of them together.

B. Prokop said...

I agree with Mr. Barnes. What I mostly dislike about Ilion's postings is his gawdawful tone. He's often right in what he has to say (with the notable exceptions of when he strays into opinions on Catholicism or politics - then he is off the deep end). But Mr. Linton is 99.99% wrong, and his overall tone is little if any better than Ilion's.

(Also, Ilion is far more entertaining.)

Crude said...

As someone who Ilion routinely goes bugshit crazy at, I am forced to agree conditionally with Barnes and Prokop.

I won't say 'Ilion is usually right'. I will say that Ilion, at the least, tends to understand and make an effort to understand the philosophy, theology and metaphysics he advances and criticizes. It's there, underneath all the frantic ranting and foppishness.

Linton, meanwhile, knows next to nothing about what he speaks, and has demonstrably lied about what he claims to know - pointlessly. In him, you are dealing with a man whose highest aspiration in life is to be the Salacious B Crumb to Cowboy Hat's Jabba. That's a hell of a thing.

The two aren't comparable intellectually.

There, I've given Ilion his due, and earned myself a passive aggressive response for my trouble. ;)

B. Prokop said...

By the way, "Crude", your pseudonym isn't doing you any good. The NSA has a complete record of all your postings and knows full well your true identity!

Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated!!!

Crude said...

By the way, "Crude", your pseudonym isn't doing you any good. The NSA has a complete record of all your postings and knows full well your true identity!

Please. Midwestern soccer moms are probably low on the NSA's watch list.

Got to go - Sex in the City is on.

Papalinton said...

Oh I'm happy with the responses about my nonintellect, my terrible tone, my 99.9% totally wrong, my 'disastrous' use of ridicule, my 'black and white' hard-core materialism, my aspiration in life to be the Salacious B Crumbmy, my being labelled the 'Cult of Gnu.

There is no doubt direct assault on one's character and person is a clear testament the argument for supernaturalism has come to an end. The pipeline to whatever evidence there was [if one must call it that] has dried up. The resort to vituperative epithets and caricatures so early in the piece are a testament to the inherent poverty of the claims made, claims that can only come into play if one presupposes magic and miracles. Don't get me wrong, I love magic and miracles as much as the next man. I just don't posit them on this side of the reality ledger.

When all said and done, there was never much of an argument for the non-existent since the rise and rise of methodological naturalism as an alternative to the explanatory power of natural theology during the Enlightenment.

End of story really. Only the length of time will determine the inexorable and natural demise of theology as we know and love it today.

B. Prokop said...

Mr. Linton,

Comments about your veracity, your tone, your use of ridicule as a debating tool, etc., are in no way "assaults on [your] character and person" - they refer to your behavior, not you.

And how in the world can an objective description of your on-line persona ever be regarded as a "caricature"? I always thought that caricature meant exaggerating various traits, not just listing them deadpan.

Papalinton said...

Bob
You can evasively justify the attacks any way as you wish. I am happy to wear the personal abuse because the search for truth is a higher imperative and because the level of abuse is an indicator that theists have exhausted the total range of 'evidence' [?] they were able to comfortably fit on the ubiquitous 'head of a pin'.

The Christian mythos is being challenged in this day as it never has been throughout history. In the light of the great investigative and predictive explorations in the suite of modern sciences and allied fields of investigative research, the mythos simply does not accord with the 'truths' [for want of a better and less theology-soaked word] of those sciences, cosmology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, cultural studies etc etc. Religion is and has been a misplaced category of human endeavour that we now know has a perfectly natural and befitting home among the great mythologies of the world. Theology is no longer a 'life science' as it once was, under which philosophy, science etc etc were traditionally sub-sets of religious belief. That convention no longer applies. Theism as an explanatory tool has been logarithmically superseded by other tools of far greater and more explanatory power than ever. The trend going forward seems to be that religion will rightsize in the community to a significantly smaller minority rump in the community, a trend that is currently in progress in the US, following the trend that has been operating in Europe and other places in the Western world for some considerable time.

Ilíon said...

some random liar: "As someone who Ilion routinely goes bugshit crazy at, I am forced to agree conditionally with Barnes and Prokop."

Like so many of those who love to condemn me, hypocritically, no less, this guy is such a liar (along with being a hypocrite, as so many of them are). I don't go "bugshit crazy at" him, not even non-routinely. I try to ignore him, including ignoring most of the lies he spreads about me.

He's "projecting" what he does toward me onto me. You know, the same thing that so many of you do.

Ilíon said...

AmirF: "Give Ilion the credit he deserves:

Tone and mannerisms aside, he tends to be right in a lot of what he says, whereas Papalinton is wrong in almost everything he says.


When Ilion is right, he is very right. The comparison between him and Linton is disingenuous.
"

Thank you, kind sir. Your name is unfamiliar to me ... while this isn't my blog, may I nonetheless say "Welcome"?

"... he tends to be right in a lot of what he says ... When Ilion is right, he is very right."

And, in fact, Ilíon is *always* (*) right.

One of the things about my "tone" that these whingers bitch about is that I don't pretend to false modesty -- *everyone* believes they are right in what they believe, but most people have bought into the false (and tendentious) postmodernist/leftist notion that to expressly say that one's beliefs are true, and that one is therefore right, is a near-capital offence against reason and "civility". And these fools as civility-mongers ... except when they're not, of course.

Plus, they really hate the fact that I *am* right. Apparently, they can't wrap their minds around the fact that I consciously do not stray into my ignorance -- I always make a conscious effort to limit any comment I make to what I kknow.


(*) There was that one time, some years ago now, when I thought I had been wrong. But it turns out that I was mistaken.

"The comparison between him and Linton is disingenuous."

Indeed.

Or, as I might put it when I'm being "harsh", it's intellectually dishonest.

Ilíon said...

Samwell Barnes; "When Ilion is wrong, he is disastrously wrong."

Ah! Apparently 'AmirF' and 'Samwell Barnes' are the same person ... and he decided to modify the 'AmirF' post that that I had noticed (in my inbox) and quoted.

If I were ever wrong, much less "disastrously wrong", about something, why do these girls need to shriek about my "tone"?

If, per impossible, I were ever wrong about something, one could simply show that (*) … and I would correct my thinking.


(*) The nearest these fools come to even trying to do something like that is point to a typo ... and then, on that basis, assert that I am illiterate and/or cannot manage English grammar.

Samwell Barnes said...

I opened up my old email account to check for something, but little did I realize that doing so would cause me to simultaneously log in to my old blogger account (which I don't use anymore). I thought no account was logged in when I clicked the post button. There was no sudden, sleazy desire to modify my post or "change my mask," as it were.


That said, Ilion, for your edification, here are four examples of positions you've taken that have been disastrously wrong: Catholicism being idolatry, classical theism being incompatible with Christianity, classical theism being a "non-existent religion," nuking Mecca being a good idea.


(And "shrieking"? Seriously?)

Dan Gillson said...

Ilíon isn't necessarily wrong about anything, but he certainly isn't right about anything either. His thinking is unsubtle and unnuanced (everything which he disagrees with he calls either "Leftism" or "Postmodernism", like they are one-size-fits-all terms for everything that's wrong with the world), and he lacks the self-awareness to realize that he's the one doing the "shrieking" and "bitching". He is an exemplar of irrationality, insularity, and unsociability. I find his comments deliciously entertaining.

Ilíon said...

VR: "I can see someone saying something like "you kicked Papalinton off but you didn't kick Ilion off." Or vice versa."

Oh, it would be far worse than that. Considering that Mike Darius (for instance) posts more infrrequently than I do, without me, you'd be left with this gaggle of shrieking girls ... who would promptly pick someone else to be the scapegoat for their own collective disfunction.

VR: "But I have felt it necessary to call out some of the excesses of what we are calling Gnus, hoping to show ..."

*They* called themselves 'Gnu' before anyone else did.

Ilíon said...

Samwell Barnes: "When Ilion is wrong, he is disastrously wrong."

Ilíon: "If I were ever wrong, much less "disastrously wrong", about something, why do these girls need to shriek about my "tone"?

If,
per impossible, I were ever wrong about something, one could simply show that (*) … and I would correct my thinking."

Samwell Barnes: "That said, Ilion, for your edification, here are four examples of positions you've taken that have been disastrously wrong: Catholicism being idolatry, classical theism being incompatible with Christianity, classical theism being a "non-existent religion," nuking Mecca being a good idea."

Since I rather suspect that Mr Barnes is beyond edification, this post is not really addressed to him, but rather to anyone who will be edified.

Every one of Mr Barnes' examples of me being "disastrously wrong" is either a misrepresentation or blatantly false. Every one of these claims about me is based upon either:
1) an inability to understand what I have written -- even though, as Mr Gillson, our nuancey-boy, has informed us, I have subtlety nor nuance - which is stupidity;
2) declining to understand what I have written, which is intellectual dishonesty;
3) out-right lying about what I have written, which is, well, out-right lying.

For example, the claim that I took a position of "nuking Mecca being a good idea" comes from one of two sources:
1) a simple-minded and/or intellectually dishonest acceptance of Karl Grant's false assertion about me;
2) a studied refusal to understand -- unless it's simply stupidity -- what I actually wrote here and here about the matter, and possibly combined with reading into what I wrote what Mr Barnes (and Mr Grant, and Mr Gillson) *wanted* me to have written.

So, I wonder, is Mr Barnes stupid, or is he simply a liar?

Ilíon said...

Samwell Barnes: "(And "shrieking"? Seriously?)"

Oh, indeed! Little girls shriek when they get their panties in to twist of their own doing.

Papalinton said...

who