Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lowder on the Pastafarian analogy

Nothing gnu here from Lowder, and believe me that's a compliment.

50 comments:

im-skeptical said...

Jeffery makes two main points:

1. The concept of the FSM is incoherent.

No argument from me there.

2. Theism is a much simpler explanation than P[astsfarianism].

I don't disagree on that point, either, but it seems to me that naturalism is eminently more reasonable than both.

I was talking about lack of evidence when I said there is as much evidence for FSM as there is for any god. That is to say, none. I hope people didn't take my words to mean that I was arguing FOR the existence of FSM.

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

We know you weren't. That's why I labeled your use of the argument as fundamentally dishonest. In other words, you pretend to demand proof for a proposition that you know is bogus and believe to be bogus, and then make the completely illogical leap to saying that since there is no evidence for a non-existent FSM, then there cannot be any for God.

Complete non sequitur. Apples and oranges. And even worse, you know this. You yourself know that the FSM is made up. You also know that believers have amassed over the millenia libraries full of evidence for God. And once again, your refusal (or perhaps just inability) to accept the evidence does not mean the evidence doesn't exist!"

Let me ask you this. Does the fact that O.J. Simpson was acquitted by a jury mean there was no evidence against him? Of course not! It simply means that the jurors did not deem the evidence adequate for a conviction.

im-skeptical said...

"then make the completely illogical leap to saying that since there is no evidence for a non-existent FSM, then there cannot be any for God."

I made no such leap.

"You also know that believers have amassed over the millenia libraries full of evidence for God."

I know that they can't come up with a single shred of evidence that would stand up in court.

Does the fact that O.J. Simpson was acquitted by a jury mean there was no evidence against him? Of course not! It simply means that the jurors did not deem the evidence adequate for a conviction."

Actually, there was plenty of evidence. It means the jurors chose to ignore the real evidence in favor of their feelings and sympathies.

planks length said...

"Actually, there was plenty of evidence. It means the jurors chose to ignore the real evidence in favor of their feelings and sympathies."

MY POINT EXACTLY!"
Look in the mirror, im-skeptical. You yourself, for reasons known best to you, have deemed the evidence inadequate. But what you cannot do is claim that there is no evidence. Like the OJ jurors, you have chosen to not be convinced by it. In both cases, the evidence exists. You seem to be confusing the term "evidence" with the idea "evidence that satisfies me".

grodrigues said...

@planks length:

To say that there is as much evidence -- that is, none -- for the existence of a fictional being invented for the express purpose of mocking, and the existence of a being (speaking analogically), namely God, believed in by literally billions of people, including some the most brilliant minds in the history of mankind, that have amassed a vast library (thousands of volumes?) of evidence and arguments for the case, speaks not only of abysmal ignorance and willful stupidity, but of intellectual dishonesty.

im-skeptical said...

"You seem to be confusing the term "evidence" with the idea "evidence that satisfies me"."

No. You seem to be confusing the term evidence with feelings and sympathies. I repeat: There is no evidence for your God. Only your feelings and sympathies.

Chad Handley said...

Sadly, the comments section of that link is full of atheists defending the FSM.

im-skeptical,

Again, on the definition of evidence that you defend (where p is not evidence for A unless A is the only possible explanation for p), there is no evidence for anything.

im-skeptical said...

"(where p is not evidence for A unless A is the only possible explanation for p"

I didn't say that and I don't believe that.

The bloody glove is evidence of OJ's guilt. However, it is possible that the glove was planted.

Chad Handley said...

Well, if you understand that, then you understand that the origin and orderliness of the universe is evidence for God, even if there are other possible explanations.

So, how can you continue to say there's no evidence for God?

planks length said...

EVIDENCE:

- Existence itself
- Order and predictability in the universe
- A necessary beginning to time
- Requirement for a First Cause
- Fine tuning
- Existence of beauty
- Existence of meaning and purpose
- Existence of Good, Evil, and Morality
- Human consciousness
- The testimony of the Gospels
- The survival and continued growth of Christianity despite 2000 years of attempts to eradicate it (Rome, Gnosticism, Arianism, the Barbarian Invasions, Islam, various schismatics and heretics, the French Revolution, Bolshevism, Nazism, modern secularism, etc.)
- Lourdes
- Fatima
- etc.

Note that there is no requirement whatsoever for you personally, im-skeptical, to be convinced by any of these things. But just as the O.J. jury was not swayed by DNA testimony or the bloody glove (those things nevertheless still being evidence), the fact that you feel the above are not conclusive does not make them something other than evidence.

im-skeptical said...

"So, how can you continue to say there's no evidence for God?"

The issue seems to be a question of what we define as evidence. If I see a house, I know that it was built by someone (because houses are known to be man-made), but I don't know who built it, unless I see some particular thing that indicates who the builder is. If it is part of a development project where all the houses have the same design and the construction company is known, I have evidence to say who the builder is. My conclusion might still not be correct, but the evidence is pretty good.

You see the universe and conclude that it was made by God. But how do you make that conclusion? We don't know that the universe was 'made' at all. That's based on theistic arguments, but there's no real evidence. We have no basis in experience or observation to say "All known universes are God-made, therefore we infer that our particular universe is God-made".

The evidence you refer to is an argument based purely on reasoning (which could be faulty). That isn't what I call real evidence.

Chad Handley said...

The issue seems to be a question of what we define as evidence. If I see a house, I know that it was built by someone (because houses are known to be man-made), but I don't know who built it, unless I see some particular thing that indicates who the builder is.

For the purposes of our discussion, it doesn't matter who the builder is in your analogy. What matters is that there's evidence for a builder of some kind.

That the universe gives the appearance of being designed for life doesn't allow us on its own to conclude the Christian God designed the universe, but it is evidence for the Christian God. It's also evidence for Allah, for the multiverse, and many other hypotheses.

That we cannot from decide from the mere orderliness of the universe which hypothesis best explains it does not mean that the orderliness of the universe isn't evidence for all of the hypotheses in question.

If a murder weapon has three sets of fingerprints on it, we don't have sufficient evidence to convict any one of the three owners of the fingerprints, but we do have evidence that one of those three was the murderer. It would be absurd to suggest that the fingerprints weren't evidence at all, because the fingerprints alone aren't sufficient to identify a single culprit.

You see the universe and conclude that it was made by God. But how do you make that conclusion? We don't know that the universe was 'made' at all.

That the universe is orderly is the evidence that the universe was made. The same data that is evidence that it was made by God is also (obviously)evidence that it was made.

We have no basis in experience or observation to say "All known universes are God-made, therefore we infer that our particular universe is God-made".

But we have plenty of reason to suppose that if an artifact or (to be more neutral) entity has properties that could fall under any value, but those values happen to fall within a narrow range that allows some result x, then that entity or artifact was probably designed for x.

Therefore, if we see that our universe has dozens of properties, like the ratio of the force strength between the strong and weak nuclear force, that have no inherent limitations (the ratio could have been any number), but the property that exists happens to fall within a very narrow range that permits life, we have evidence that the universe was designed for life.

Again, it's also evidence that we live in a multiverse of some kind, but that doesn't change the fact that it's also evidence for theism.

Is it enough evidence to justify belief in God? That's an interesting question. But whether it's evidence at all is not an interesting question. It's a question with an obvious answer: yes, it is evidence.

The evidence you refer to is an argument based purely on reasoning (which could be faulty).

No, the ontological argument would be an argument purely based on reasoning. The cosmological and teleological arguments are based on empirical observations. Certainly, we are drawing conclusions on the basis of those observations, but so is the person who concludes that there is a multiverse on the basis of the same observations. What makes his conclusion evidence-based and the theistic conclusion not evidence-based, other than your purely emotional desire to be able to say "theism has no evidence?"

planks length said...

This punting to a multiverse theory to avoid the problem of observed design and fine tuning is most interesting. The very same proponents of multiverses who complain there there is allegedly no evidence for a Creator will turn around in the very next breath and not only admit that there is no evidence for the existence of any multiverse, but will cheerfully assert that getting such evidence is impossible (since the various hypothesized multiverses do not communicate with each other).

As I said, interesting.

im-skeptical said...

planks, I didn't punt to a multiverse theory. However, you are wrong about your assertion that getting evidence for it (or something beyond our own universe) is impossible.

http://phys.org/news/2010-12-scientists-evidence-universes.html

It's not as outlandish as you imagine.

planks length said...

Hmmm... if you regard "statistically unlikely circular patterns" that "could be" the result of collisions between multiverses (even when the same article admits that "it is rather easy to find a variety of statistically unlikely properties in a large dataset like the CMB"), to be evidence, then perhaps your idea of what constitutes evidence is broader than you think.

If your definition of evidence is such that you can regard the link you referred me to as "evidence", then you ought to be able to admit that the list I provided, or even the 20 arguments in the conversation a few below this one, might deserve the label as well. Not asking you here to be convinced by it (just as the O.J. jurors were not convinced by the evidence that they saw and heard) - just to acknowledge that it is evidence.

im-skeptical said...

planks,

Like I said, my 'evidence' is based on observed facts. (And I didn't comment on how convincing you might find it.) Your 'evidence' is based on armchair reasoning without regard to the observed facts.

Papalinton said...

Chad says, "That the universe gives the appearance of being designed for life ...."

This is the nub of the contention between those that say the universe was specifically designed to support life which itself was created by an external source and those that conclude that the generation of life as we know it was a product of the environmental conditions out of which it was spawned.

One relies on an ancient, primitive historical tradition [specifically the 2,000 year old Goddidit proposition], the other based on much more recent greater knowledge and deeper understanding of the relationship between life and the environmental conditions that generated it [ the 150 year old Darwinian evolution proposition].

The first relies on the notion that life miraculously popped into existence by the actions of an external source [the Adam and Eve of Aquinas' uncaused cause], the other on the notion of the long and arduous grind by which spontaneous generation of organic self-replicating cells from the extant mix of natural chemicals formed over billions of years.

In the main, the battle for understanding is clearly a function of the culture wars. It is a war of ideas between those obdurately persisting in using ancient and primitive folkloric knowledge and texts as the basis for explaining the cosmos, the world, the environment and about us, and those that seek to upgrade the epistemological base of our knowledge and understanding from folklore to science about the cosmos, the world, the environment and about us. It is a momentous paradigm shift with a significant unsettling effect to be sure. But just as evolution slowly ground out a path to Homo sapiens sapiens so too will humanity slowly get there despite those on DI digging in and attempting in vain to shore up the theo-philosophical defensive perimeter.

For the ever increasing many embracing this paradigm shift the FSM in all His Noodliness is emblematic of the relevance and veracity of the classic christian phantasmagoria as the progenitor and ground of all knowledge. It takes a lot of chutzpa to stare down reality, reason and logic in claiming that an ineffable, unknowable, unseen and disembodied spectral numen is the ground of all being. Christian belief in belief and faith is an exceptionally low set bar for what it construes as evidence for its claims.

planks length said...

"without regard to the observed facts"

What? I can't observe order and design? I can't see Good and Evil with my own two eyes? I can't look around and see that things actually exist in the first place? I can't read the New Testament and determine whether or not it meets my own criteria for trustworthiness? I can't experience this present instant as actually existent, and thus conclude there necessarily must be only a finite amount of time in the past for that to be so? I can't perceive my own thought processes and realize that I am conscious (and thus capable of observing anything at all?

Samwell Barnes said...

"To say that there is as much evidence -- that is, none -- for the existence of a fictional being invented for the express purpose of mocking, and the existence of a being (speaking analogically), namely God, believed in by literally billions of people, including some the most brilliant minds in the history of mankind, that have amassed a vast library (thousands of volumes?) of evidence and arguments for the case, speaks not only of abysmal ignorance and willful stupidity, but of intellectual dishonesty."

This quotation is spot on, and I think the dishonesty cuts deeper than most realize, for the Gnus who claim that there isn't a shred of evidence for the existence of God - particularly when God is conceived of in metaphysically robust fashion as Pure Act - not only know that the claim is vacuous, but also know full well that they don't actually know what "evidence" is as a concept. They haven't investigated the topic in any serious detail, and they know it.

Philosophically, a common conception is as follows: "If X increase the probability of proposition Y being true, it is evidence for Y." Or to put it in probabilistic language: If P(Y|X&B)> P(Y|B), where B is simply the background knowledge one has before exposure to X, then X is evidence for Y. All that is required is as increase, however meager it may be.

And on this conception of evidence, there is no visible reason for limiting 'evidence' to 'empirical evidence.' For instance, philosophical arguments themselves can count as pieces of evidence.



It should to be noted, though, that "evidence" shouldn't be confused with "raw data." There is and will always be a subjective element inherent to "evidence." "Evidence" is "evidence for," and "raw data" becomes "evidence for the truth of proposition Y" through an act of interpretation. This explains why, so often, person A and person B are both exposed to the same X, yet A takes X to be evidence for the truth of Y, whereas B either denies that X counts as evidence for Y or takes X to be evidence for the truth of not-Y. Their background beliefs form a psychological fabric into which all data enters to be transformed into evidence, and these psychological backgrounds are vastly different from one another.


Multiply that magnitude of difference by a thousand, and you'll arrive at the reason why I don't prolong the discussion of evidence with Gnus, or the discussion of anything with Gnus: Even IF they accept the correct probabilistic conception of evidence, they will nevertheless deny that your X's have any positive connection whatsoever with Y.

Samwell Barnes said...

*meant to say X "increases"

planks length said...

RE: Samwell Barnes's latest comment.

What he said. Well put!

im-skeptical said...

"God is conceived of in metaphysically robust fashion as Pure Act"

And that's the crux of the biscuit. All you have to do is claim that it's a 'metaphysical' thing and you inoculate yourself from any and all requirement to be consistent with observed reality. Isn't that special. Talk about intellectual dishonesty.

Order in the universe is evidence of God? No it's evidence that physical laws apply.

The world is designed to be suited for us? No, our environment has shaped our evolution to make us suited for the world we find ourselves in.

You see God or God's hand in all kinds of things you look at? That's a hallucination. There's no God there.

Papalinton said...

Plank asserts the evidence for God:
"- Existence itself
- Order and predictability in the universe
- A necessary beginning to time
- Requirement for a First Cause
- Fine tuning
- Existence of beauty
- Existence of meaning and purpose
- Existence of Good, Evil, and Morality
- Human consciousness
- The testimony of the Gospels
- The survival and continued growth of Christianity despite 2000 years of attempts to eradicate it (Rome, Gnosticism, Arianism, the Barbarian Invasions, Islam, various schismatics and heretics, the French Revolution, Bolshevism, Nazism, modern secularism, etc.)
- Lourdes
- Fatima
- etc."


The Australian Aborigine asserts the evidence for the existence of the Great Water Serpent:
- Existence itself
- Order and predictability in the universe
- A necessary beginning to time
- Requirement for a First Cause
- Fine tuning
- Existence of beauty
- Existence of meaning and purpose
- Existence of Good, Evil, and Morality
- Human consciousness
- The testimony of the Keepers of Knowledge and the Tjuringa story stones
- The survival and continued growth of Aboriginal religious beliefs despite 50,000 years of attempts to eradicate it, and most particularly the recent concerted efforts of Catholics, Anglicana and Protestants over the last 200 years to annihilate and bury them
- Uluru
- the Kadaitchja
- etc.

Muslims assert the evidence for Allah:
- Existence itself
- Order and predictability in the universe
- A necessary beginning to time
- Requirement for an uncaused cause
- Fine tuning
- Existence of beauty
- Existence of meaning and purpose
- Existence of Good, Evil, and Morality
- Human consciousness
- The testimony of the Haddith and the truth of the Koran
- The survival and continued rapid growth of Islam despite 1300 years of attempts to eradicate it (Christian infidels, crusades etc.)
- Mecca and the Ka'aba, Allah's Sacred House willed on Earth.
- In the name of Allah, the greatest and last of all Prophets for all time, the Prophet Muhammad.
- etc.

Hindus assert the evidence for the existence of Shiva, Rama and Vishnu:
- Existence itself
- Order and predictability in the universe
- A necessary beginning to time
- Requirement for an originator
- Fine tuning
- Existence of beauty
- Existence of meaning and purpose
- Existence of Good, Evil, and Morality
- Human consciousness
- The testimony of the four sacred Vedas; the Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and the Upanishads.
- The survival and continued growth of Hinduism. Hinduism, the earliest, longest [3,000 years] and closest truth handed down from Heaven; Hinduism IS the Sanātana Dharma, "the eternal law", the the "eternal way beyond human origins."
- The sanctity and holiness of "tirtha", of Kashi in the worship of Shiva worship; Oudh the birthplace of Rama; Mathura where the adult Krishna ruled as king; Kanchipuram where the temple to the divine mother is built in the shape of a yantra, or sacred diagram; Hardiwar (in Uttar Pradesh), where the Ganges River comes to Earth; and Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) the site of Shaivite lingam (sign of Shiva.
- etc."

It's an à la carte setting. Pick your fancy.






Chad Handley said...

Papalinton:

Exactly. There's evidence for all of those hypotheses. But that's not surprising since those hypotheses are so similar.

If you take any 5 materialists, they'll give you 5 pictures of the world that differ as much as the pictures of the world of any 5 people of differing religions. One materialist might be a moral realist who believes in a multiverse. One might be a moral relativist who believes the existence and order of the universe is simply a brute fact. Etc.

Like the 5 theists, the 5 materialists would largely share the same evidence base, and would largely agree on the large-scale characteristics of the universe. They'd differ only in the details.

But, you know... so what?

Martin said...

Skep,

>I know that they can't come up with a single shred of evidence that would stand up in court.

I have yet to hear you provide a single objection to the First Way that isn't completely off point.

Martin said...

Skep,

>All you have to do is claim that it's a 'metaphysical' thing and you inoculate yourself from any and all requirement to be consistent with observed reality.

The two premises of the First Way are entirely consistent with reality. Can non-existent things, like unicorns, cause anything? No. Can something be drivative without there being a source or transmitter? No. You can experiment with both these premises right in your kitchen. Put a glass of water on the table and see if it will turn into ice. Prediction: it won't. Now plug in a lamp into an extension cord that doesn't go anywhere. Will it turn on? Prediction: it won't.

Both premises entirely consistent with reality.

planks length said...

"I know that they can't come up with a single shred of evidence that would stand up in court."

And as I have been pointing out to im-skeptical, "standing up in court" is not a standard by which we ought to be judging evidence. If that were the case, then O.J. Simpson is innocent.

im-skeptical said...

planks,

You are confusing what is allowable evidence with what sways a jury. A court doesn't allow hearsay. So the gospels would not be considered valid evidence. Juries are swayed by emotion and other irrational factors. Just like religious believers.

Samwell Barnes said...

"All you have to do is claim that it's a 'metaphysical' thing and you inoculate yourself from any and all requirement to be consistent with observed reality. Isn't that special. Talk about intellectual dishonesty."

So, apparently all metaphysicians are dishonest, and necessarily so.

im-skeptical said...

Samwell,

"So, apparently all metaphysicians are dishonest, and necessarily so."

Certainly not. Just the ones who see metaphysics as a cover or justification for their supernatural beliefs. Metaphysics should be aligned with reality and with science. And for many philosophers, it is.

Chad Handley said...

We deserve better atheists.

Samwell Barnes said...

"And for many philosophers, it is."

And for many of those philosophers, the metaphysical categories they employ are what lead them to conclude that God is a reality. God is a conclusion, not an assumption. For instance, a number of metaphysicians see all physical entities and physical process as being most reasonably thought of as admixtures of "potency" (potentiality) and "act" (actuality), and this categorization leads inescapably to them concluding the reality of what they term "Pure Actuality" - i.e. God. They may or may not want such a God to exist, but it is not assumed in the arguments themselves, let alone in the innocuous concepts of act and potency.

"Just the ones who see metaphysics as a cover or justification for their supernatural beliefs."

First, what is a "supernatural" belief? Numbers, for instance, if they exist, could certainly be considered "supernatural," and many metaphysicians in fact take numbers to be real parts of the fabric of reality. Are they all a bunch of dishonest blowhards? And further, in a certain sense, all metaphysics just is supernatural. You can't touch or test for things like essences, universals, and so on.

Second, suppose you stumble upon some metaphysicians who believe in God. How, in practice, do you propose to distinguish between those who came to conclude the existence of God via metaphysical reasoning and those who simply assumed His existence at the outset and spent their careers using metaphysics to justify their deep seated desires? There is no principled way to do this, and you end up not being open to the idea of God at all.

Personally, I don't really care about motivation, since God is not a topic on which anyone can really be motivationally neutral - all that matters in the end is whether the arguments in favor or against are any good. If I did care, I wouldn't read anything written by an atheist.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

im-skeptical:

I don't disagree on that point, either, but it seems to me that naturalism is eminently more reasonable than both.

We agree.

I was talking about lack of evidence when I said there is as much evidence for FSM as there is for any god. That is to say, none. I hope people didn't take my words to mean that I was arguing FOR the existence of FSM.

You might be surprised to read what I am about to write, since I am an outspoken atheist:

I wouldn't put things the way you do, that "there is as much evidence for FSM as there is for any god. That is to say, none." First, even if that is or were true, it wouldn't follow that the quantity and quality of evidence against FSM is equal to the quantity and quality of evidence against any other god. Second, the more I study the nature of evidence in the abstract, the more hesitant I am to make the blanket statement "there is no evidence at all for God." Yes, you read that correct.

Why on earth would an outspoken atheist such as myself say that? Three reasons. First, I think it's very hard to defend such a statement. I cannot think of an "in principle" argument for that conclusion, which means you would have to give an empirical argument for it instead. But that, in turn, would require showing that every argument for God's existence fails. That's a time-consuming task at best.

Second, I think way too many people talk about evidence without really thinking deeply about what it means for a piece of data to be evidence. Once a person thinks long and hard about what it means for something to be evidence, they will learn that there is evidence and then there is evidence. Some piece of evidence, e, can be weak evidence for a hypothesis h, strong evidence for h, or somewhere in between. This is why in real life there are many cases where there is weak evidence for H1 but stronger evidence for H2. It may even be the case that most empirical questions are like that, rather than a situation where is zero evidence for H1 and all of the evidence for H2. This leads to my third point.

Third, I think too many theists and atheists are being partisan as they approach the issue of evidence about God. The tendency seems to be a "winner takes all" approach where there are only two options: (1) ALL of the evidence supports theism, or (2) ALL of the evidence supports atheism (or naturalism). But why are those the only two choices? Why can't a theist say this:

"I'll admit that the arguments from evil and divine hiddenness are some evidence for theism, but I think they are outweighed by the evidence from the beginning of the universe, the cosmic fine-tuning of the universe, consciousness, morality, etc."

Likewise, why can't a naturalist say this:

"I'll admit that fine-tuning, libertarian free will, and consciousness are some evidence for theism, but I think they are outweighed by the evidence from the course-tuning of the universe / hostility of the universe to life, biological role (and moral randomness) of pain and pleasure, evolution, mind-brain, dependence, and divine hiddenness."

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

planks-length wrote:

A necessary beginning to time

Can you say more about this? Why is it necessary that time has a beginning? And why is this evidence for God?

Martin said...

Mr Lowder,

Being one of the "good" atheists who actually critically thinks instead of just trying to score points against a political opponent, I find your opinion very valuable (and always have, ever since I discovered Infidels waaaaay back in the 90s).

What do you think about arguments like the First Way and the unmoved mover? Have you dug into these much? Personally, I find them refreshing compared to the fine-tuning and kalam arguments, which I think are controversial at best.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Hi Martin

Being one of the "good" atheists who actually critically thinks instead of just trying to score points against a political opponent, I find your opinion very valuable (and always have, ever since I discovered Infidels waaaaay back in the 90s).

Thanks! I really appreciate that.

What do you think about arguments like the First Way and the unmoved mover? Have you dug into these much? Personally, I find them refreshing compared to the fine-tuning and kalam arguments, which I think are controversial at best.

I haven't though about arguments like the First Way and the unmoved mover nearly as much as I have about arguments like the kalam cosmological argument and the fine-tuning argument. But... I've been persuaded to give them another look. So a few months ago I bought Feser's TLS. And maybe in a few more months I will actually have the time to read it! :)

Samwell Barnes said...

His Aquinas is also great on that score, as it goes into more detail and isn't written in a polemical tone.

Martin said...

Mr Lowder,

I think you need to be aware that Feser will trigger your inner gnu atheist, because he is polemical in that book and mentions some of the culture war things; things I still disagree with him about. So compensate in advance for that reaction. But other than that, he explains things well, and I now think the First Way is....really good. In fact, I've personally witnessed my own explanations of it turn three atheists into theists or semi-theists, and watched as others have essentially gone silent.

These Medieval arguments blow fine-tuning and kalam out of the water and make them look silly, if you ask me. Ironic, considering how off their cosmology was at the time.

Later, you might want to read Feser's Aquinas, which is not polemical and much more academic, and also responds to recent high-level criticisms such as from Anthony Kenny.

Interesting stuff, and as a reviewer on Amazon noted, a breath of fresh air compared to the garbage we've been exposed to lately (like from ID and evangelicals and such).

planks length said...

"Why is it necessary that time has a beginning?"

Because you cannot traverse an infinite series. For time to have no beginning, it must extend infinitely into the past, meaning the present moment (the one you and I are having this blog discussion in) would always and forever remain an infinite amount of time in the future, and never arrived at. Our "now" would never be arrived at.

By the way, there is a way out of this dilemma, but I'm not sure you'd want to go there. It entails denying the reality of our consciousness, and positing that all times are equally present. Essentially, you need to become a Buddhist.

"And why is this evidence for God?"

Because a beginning to time implies a creation, and therefore a Creator. Note: it is not PROOF for God (there are other ways to explain a beginning to time), but only evidence for Him - part of a cumulative picture. Just as fingerprints alone might not prove a suspect's guilt, but fingerprints, plus DNA, plus eyewitness testimony, plus motive, plus security camera footage, etc., etc., well... you get the idea.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Martin wrote:

I think you need to be aware that Feser will trigger your inner gnu atheist, ...

Ha! I don't think I have an inner gnu atheist. No, really. I have my biases, but they include a bias against sloppy argumentation, even when the sloppy arguments are for a conclusion I accept.

Martin said...

Jeffrey,

Good to hear! Either way, I think an intro to Thomism ought to go right to the top of your reading list, and I think that Feser's Aquinas rather than TLS should be the one to read.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

BTW, in case anyone is curious, here is my reading list.

Baron-Cohen, Simon. The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty. (I've already read this, but want to read this again. IMO, this is a must-read.)

Budziszewski, J. What We Can't Not Know

Lofuts, John. The End of Christianity.

---. Why I A an Atheist.

Murray, Michael and Jeffrey Schloss. The Believing Primate.

Oppy, Graham. The Best Argument Against God.

Plantinga, Alvin. Where the Conflict Really Lies. (I've already read this once but want & plan to re-read.)

Rosenberg, Alex. The Atheist's Guide to Reality.

Sabato, Larry J. A More Perfect Consitution. (I've already read this, but want to read it again.)

Silver, Nate. The Signal and the Noise.

Stenger, Victor. The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning.

Sternberg, Ellezer. My Brain Made Me Do it.

Stump, J.B. and Alan G. Padgett. The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity.

Tancredi, Laurence. Hardwired Behavior: What Neuroscience Reveals about Morality.

Truant, Johnny. The Universe Doesn't Give a Flying Fuck About You.

van Inwagen, Peter and Dean Zimmerman. Persons: Human and Divine.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Justice: Rights and Wrongs.

im-skeptical said...

Jeffery,

Thank you for responding. Of course, what constitutes evidence may be a matter of debate and disagreement. I certainly understand what you are saying, but it seems to come down to opinion. A person can claim that anything constitutes evidence in support of whatever position they favor. Then the term becomes essentially meaningless. I made comments about empirical evidence as opposed to strictly logical arguments which are also seen as 'evidence'. I prefer to distinguish between the two.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Ooops. Let a few more out.

Carrier, Richard. Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus.

Christina, Great. Why Are You Atheists so Angry?

Coyne, Jerry. Why Evolution is True.

Enoch, David. Taking Morality Seriously: A Defense of Robust Realism.

Feser, Edward. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism.

Geisler, Norman L. and Frank Turek. I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

Gilson, Tom and Carson Weitnauer. True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of Atheism.

Howson, Colin. Objecting to God.

Loftus, John. The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails.

Meyer, Stephen C. The Signature in the Cell.

Moreland, J.P., Khauldoun A. Sweis, and Chad V. Meister. Debating Christian Theism.

Moser, Paul. The Elusive God.

Sandoval, Chris. Can Christians Prove the Resurrection?

planks length said...

Jeffrey,

Quite a list. At one a week, it would take you a good year to get through them. Might I suggest a few additions?

The Everlasting Man - G.K. Chesterton
God in the Dock - C.S. Lewis
The Figure of Beatrice - Charles Williams
Four Witnesses - Rod Bennett
Lumen Fidei - Popes Benedict XVI and Francis
Evangelii Gaudium - Pope Francis
The Power and the Glory - Graham Greene

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

im-skeptical wrote:

Thank you for responding. Of course, what constitutes evidence may be a matter of debate and disagreement.

I agree.


I certainly understand what you are saying, but it seems to come down to opinion. A person can claim that anything constitutes evidence in support of whatever position they favor.

Sure, people can say anything, but that doesn't mean they are justified when they say it. Many times it is easy to show that something either is or is not evidence for a hypothesis. People may disagree about the strength of the evidence, of course.

This is why, on my blog, when I discuss explanatory (or evidential) arguments for theism or naturalism, I always formally state them, with explicitly stated propositions about the relevant background information and the evidence to be explained.

In my experience, this leads to weak objections dropping out of the conversation very quickly. (People can bring up ad hoc or irrelevant objections, but they are very easily shown to be ad hoc or irrelevant objections.)

What's left are what I will call "serious", genuine areas of disagreement. But so what? That doesn't mean that evidential strength has to be a totally subjective matter. What often happens is one group includes/rejects something from their background information, while the other group does the opposite. Given the same set of background information, however, the options become much more limited.

So, in sum, I must disagree with you that the term "evidence" is or becomes meaningless.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

planks length said...

Might I suggest a few additions?

I very briefly looked at the books on Amazon. I'm not sure I understand why you recommended most of them to me. You know I'm an atheist, not a Catholic, right? :)

planks length said...

That's why.

Papalinton said...

"Exactly. There's evidence for all of those hypotheses. But that's not surprising since those hypotheses are so similar."

So Chad, which is the factual one?

Chad Handley said...

Great posts, Mr. Lowder.