Monday, March 10, 2014

Against the Courtier's Reply response

The objection to the Courtier's Reply response is not to the claim that you can reject a belief without examining all its defenses thoroughly. All of us have limitations on their time and can't spend hours and hours considering every position in detail. What is makes the response problematic is the fact that these people who use it write books trying to get others to agree with them. Look, if I want to reject Mormonism, I don't have to know much about it. If I write a book called The Mormon Delusion, I had bloody well better know a whole lot about Mormonism.

41 comments:

BenYachov said...

The problem is Gnus are too intellectually inferior to figure out this simple concept.

If they weren't then they wouldn't be Gnus now would they?

They would be either rational believers or rational persons who believe there is no God or happen to lack God-belief.

It's not hard.

im-skeptical said...

"Look, if I want to reject Mormonism, I don't have to know much about it. If I write a book called The Mormon Delusion, I had bloody well better know a whole lot about Mormonism."

So Victor, What doesn't Dawkins know about God that you do?

planks length said...

Im-skeptical,

Dawkins (apparently) does not know the following:

"We are dealing here with the vast question as to how we can and cannot know God, how we are related to God and how we can lose him. The arrogance that would make God an object and impose our laboratory conditions upon him is incapable of finding him. For it already implies that we deny God as God by placing ourselves above him, by discarding the whole dimension of love, of interior listening; by no longer acknowledging as real anything but what we can experimentally test and grasp. To think like that is to make oneself God. And to do that is to abase not only God, but the world and oneself too."
(Pope Benedict XVI, emphasis mine)

BeingItself said...

"If I write a book called The Mormon Delusion, I had bloody well better know a whole lot about Mormonism."

Nobody disputes that Mormonism exists.

But it is not possible to 'know' anything about imaginary beings.

planks length said...

Being,

I would hazard a guess that, among other things, Victor is referring to Dawkins's total misrepresentation of the First Way. When he says dumb stuff like, "Well then, who made God?", it becomes screamingly apparent that Dawkins hasn't a clue what the First Way even is, yet he still has the arrogance to dismiss it.

So yes, it becomes totally appropriate to say Dawkins needs to do his homework before sticking his foot in his mouth yet again.

Papalinton said...

Ben, consistent with all the research from surveys and investigations conducted over many decades now decades there is a clear and discernable shift in the community that a gnu day is dawning, a gnu world in which society can no longer see the merit in a reliance on supernatural superstition in meeting the great challenges for humanity going forward.

William said...

Linton,

Very warm and fuzzy and optimistic sounding, your prophetic utterances. It's all sweet futurism til la Terreur arrives...

planks length said...

William,

H.G. Wells made almost identical predictions at the turn of the last century, envisioning an imminent atheist/humanist paradise enveloping the world. He scoffed at anyone who disagreed with him, or even who merely displayed less than his optimism about the future, as being on "the wrong side of history".

What followed was the Hell on Earth that we now call the Twentieth Century.

So much for gnu predictions.

im-skeptical said...

planks,

"Dawkins hasn't a clue what the First Way even is"

Let's see here. Richard Dawkins is one of the most intelligent people on the planet. Could it possibly be the case that you don't understand his argument? Was Bertrand Russell clueless? There are plenty of smart people who don't swallow Thomistic arguments.

planks length said...

"Let's see here. Richard Dawkins is one of the most intelligent people on the planet."

Not conceding this, but if so, big deal. Satan was, by tradition, the most excellent being ever created - the highest of all the angels. A fat lot of good his high intelligence did him.

"Could it possibly be the case that you don't understand his argument?"

No.

"Was Bertrand Russell clueless?"

About the First Way, yes.

"There are plenty of smart people who don't swallow Thomistic arguments."

You don't have to agree with ("swallow") St. Thomas to understand him. Dawkins has amply demonstrated that he doesn't even understand him. Therefore, his rejection of ("not swallowing") his arguments is meaningless, and his belligerence about it is embarrassing.

Victor Reppert said...

PL is correct. I have actually studied both arguments for and against God. This isn't revealed theology or theological dialogue that presupposes belief in God. If that were the case, then I you could argue that I don't have to know all sorts of detailed about theology in order to argue for atheism. On the other hand, if someone dismisses theistic arguments without knowing the first thing about them, or if one shows a lack of familiarity with critical issues relevant to the rationality of belief in the existence of God, such as the well-known Plantingian claim that the existence of God can be properly basic, but one at the same time argues that the belief in God is delusional, then I m justified in arguing that his critique is an ignorant one. If you attack cosmological arguments but you haven't paid enough attention to know that all of these arguments use causal principles that require the universe to have a cause while God need not have a cause (whatever BEGINS TO EXIST must have a cause of its existence), then the critique is severely faulty.

For example, if I am going to argue against Mormonism, then I need to know the teaching of Mormonism. I need to know why someone, for example, might believe that the Angel Moroni gave gold plates to Joseph Smith. I would also have to understand the role of the Mormon "testimony" or the "burning in the bosom" which is often used to justify Mormon belief. Otherwise, I am batting the air. If I want to be critical of Mormonism from a biblical perspective, then I have to understand the Mormon position on the authority of both the Old and New Testaments, and articles of modern revelation such as the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the status of the Mormon President as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.

A critic of Catholicism might think it's a telling point against the Catholic Church to point out all the illegitimate children Popes have had, but it's ignorant to do so if I fail to recognize that whatever infallibility is claimed on behalf of the Papacy, it has nothing to do with the moral rectitude of the Vicars of Christ.

Now, someone could be justified in not being a Catholic of a Mormon without knowing these things, but if I want to have an effective critique of these religious views, then ignorance of them is inexcusable.

If I am talking to a Catholic, and I assume that he must think that his belief in God is a leap of faith not supported by evidence or reasoning, then I deserve to have a Catholic call me on it and point out that Vatican II condemned fideism as heretical.

If I am talking to Jew, and I bring up a Old Testament verses that I believe point to Jesus as the Messiah, then I need to realize that Jews interpret their Scriptures with reference to a long history of Rabbinical interpretation.

If I want to argue that Paley was an idiot, then I had better realize that he never compared the universe to a watch, and I had better, maybe actually READ Natural Theology, as opposed to just assuming that what I heard years ago in Philosophy 101 in an accurate rendition of his argument.

In short, if I want to argue against someone's position, I need to take my head out of my rear end and actually get some information as to why someone might take the positions that I am attacking.

BeingItself said...

planks,

What does Dawkins have to do with the obvious fact that VR has made another really really bad analogy?

Victor Reppert said...

To see my point, get yourself a copy of Anthony Kenny's The Five Ways, and compare it to what Russell said and to what Dawkins said about those same arguments. MInd you, Kenny doesn't buy them, and argues against them. But he makes a serious attempt to understand Aquinas, and Russell and Dawkins do not. It's not a matter of intelligence, of course Russell, at least, was a brilliant man. (Bertrand Russell was a friend of mine, and Richard Dawkins, you're no Bertrand Russell). I read Russell long before anything by the New Atheists was even written, and I have to say that although the guy was a real genius, he had such a lack of intellectual sympathy with things like Christianity which made it impossible to avoid egregious blunders in dealing with them, blunders that I could see through when I was 18. I never got the impression that he thought Christianity was something that he needed to put brilliant mind to work in order to critique in an intelligent manner. It seems to me that you could say of his approach what he said of a claim in the philosophy of mathematics, that it has all the advantages of theft over honest toil. A great misfortune, and an even greater one that a group of leading atheists has taken all of the worst features of Russell, and turned atheism into a popular movement.

im-skeptical said...

Victor,

I understand your point, but I think you refuse to give Dawkins credit he may be due. Let's get back to your criticism of him. You say "these arguments use causal principles that require the universe to have a cause while God need not have a cause (whatever BEGINS TO EXIST must have a cause of its existence)". And you assume that Dawkins is too stupid to understand this. I think Dawkins is too smart to swallow it.

Where do the "causal principles" come from? How do you know they're true? "whatever BEGINS TO EXIST" seems to be a convenient escape clause for a pre-supposed God. I know: God is eternal. God exists outside of time. That's what you claim. But why should there be a special being with special rules? Why can't there be an eternal universe (even if it's nature is not what is apparent to us)? Why can't something exist without a cause, if it's possible for this God? Either everything has a cause, or things can exist without a cause.

The Thomistic argument DEFINITELY does pre-suppose a God, and slants the argument in favor of its pre-supposed conclusion.

planks length said...

"Why can't there be an eternal universe?"

Im-skeptical, all this question proves is that you do not comprehend (note, I did not say agree with) the First Way argument. The universe is a contingent entity. It changes. It requires (by simple logic, not just by Thomism) a cause. This is bedrock basic. One need not be a Thomist, or even a theist. It's simple reasoning, on the order of "A is equal to A".

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

Let's see here. Richard Dawkins is one of the most intelligent people on the planet. Could it possibly be the case that you don't understand his argument? Was Bertrand Russell clueless? There are plenty of smart people who don't swallow Thomistic arguments.

You tried this reasoning on more than one occasion before and it blew up in your face (for example, you have defended James Randi, a high school drop-out, who has an almost identical belief set to Dawkins so I guess plenty of people with less than stellar intellectual achievements don't follow Thomistic thinking either). Plus it is text book example of the bandwagon fallacy; an appeal to the mere fact that opposition to an idea (in this case Thomism) is fashionable in certain circles as evidence that the idea is false. Sorry, But all the popular kids are doing it! does nothing to dispute the fact Dawkins doesn't know what he is talking about on the First Way. For it to count as evidence against Dawkins not understanding what he criticizes you would first have to establish that smart people don't make intellectual mistakes; don't allow emotions to override their ability to use logic and reason; and don't lie to win an argument.

Heh, good fucking luck.

Why can't something exist without a cause, if it's possible for this God? Either everything has a cause, or things can exist without a cause.

Oh, in the centuries since Thomas Aquinas lived I am sooo sure nobody has thought to ask this question before. But first:

Congratulations!

You are free to pursue this rebuttal but if you are agreeing to the statement that things (be it the universe or God) can exist without a cause than you have torpedoed the common atheist talking point "Who made God?" Indeed, when you made the statements Why can't there be an eternal universe (even if it's nature is not what is apparent to us)? Why can't something exist without a cause, if it's possible for this God? you have shown the statement "Who made God?" to be meaningless bullshit. After all, if it is hypocritical for Thomists to posit God as an uncaused entity while saying the universe had to have a cause than it is also hypocritical for an atheist to demand who made God while saying the universe is an uncaused entity. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander after all.

So congratulations! One atheist talking point completely obliterated! But I bet your intellectual hero Dawkins won't be thanking you for making those statements. =)

im-skeptical said...

"The universe is a contingent entity. It changes. It requires (by simple logic, not just by Thomism) a cause."

Prove that the universe is contingent without using Thomistic logic. I've heard all this before. It pre-supposes God. I don't swallow it.

"Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander after all."

And you, Karl, don't realize that that is precisely what Dawkins was arguing, and what I was arguing: "Either everything has a cause, or things can exist without a cause."

planks length said...

"Prove that the universe is contingent without using Thomistic logic."

Im-skeptical, why are you even posting to a website about reason and philosophy with statements like that? One doesn't "prove" things using reason - one "defines" them. And then, you use logic to arrive at conclusions.

Anything that changes is defined as being contingent. Sorry, but you cannot complain about this. You're perfectly free to abandon reason, logic, and rational thought (many people do), but short of that, you must proceed from somewhere to arrive at anything. And for rational thought, that "somewhere" is your defined terms.

You are no more free to re-define "contingent" as you are to re-define the integer.

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

Prove that the universe is contingent without using Thomistic logic. I've heard all this before. It pre-supposes God. I don't swallow it.

You also didn't swallow water boiling has something to do with thermodynamics. Your inability to grasp basic scientific principles does not fill me with confidence about your ability grasp complex philosophical and theological positions.

And you, Karl, don't realize that that is precisely what Dawkins was arguing, and what I was arguing: "Either everything has a cause, or things can exist without a cause."

Oh I realize precisely what is being argued. What you don't realize is that by arguing this Either everything has a cause, or things can exist without a cause. you render the question "Who made God?" irrelevant. I will let Professor Dutch explain it to you:

There are only two possible end states of this process. We either keep on finding higher level laws in an infinite regress, or the process stops someplace. When (if) that happens, we will have laws that exist for their own sake, that have no explanation other than themselves. The multiverse, the hypothesis that the universe consists of an infinite number of universes all with their own physical laws, confronts us with both problems. We will end up saying that our universe just happened to get laws that enable life to evolve (the laws just exist with no higher justification), and then we will still have the problem of explaining why other universes keep getting spawned. Again, we'll either end up with an infinite regress, or things that just are with no higher explanation. If we try to evade the issue by postulating a network or ring of interlocking laws at the base of everything, we will still have to explain why that network of those laws. Either there are higher explanations, or something that just is.

Effectively Dawkins postulates that natural selection just is, without having any deeper cause. Why should natural selection work? Why should it mimic design? Why should it produce order at all? How can any natural random mechanism favor statistical improbability? Why didn't selection result in organisms capable of resisting selection? Why didn't it (shades of Lamarck) produce organisms capable of changing their own genes in response to change? Since most religions postulate deities that are self-explaining, that is, they just are, Dawkins really doesn't come up with any logical improvement. Instead of a deity that just is, Dawkins invokes natural selection that just is.


In other words, when you or Dawkins make these statements you are surrendering the intellectual high ground. You have leveled the playing field, boy. You have stripped atheism of one it's most favorite talking points: "Who made God?" See, this is just one of the reasons professional philosophers and theologians ripped Dawkins a new one when The God Delusion was published.

im-skeptical said...

So who's going to prove that the universe is contingent? Anyone?

planks length said...

"So who's going to prove that the universe is contingent? Anyone?"

I'll bite.

Proof that the universe is contingent: It changes. End of proof.

William said...

An easy one to do without the less intuitive definitions of essentialism, this one, so I'll bite: According to the most common interpretations in physics, quantum mechanics says that many quantum transitions occur in a way that can go one of two ways, unpredictably. Thus, anything governed by quantum mechanical transitions is contingent upon the outcome of unpredictable quantum effects.

im-skeptical said...

"Proof that the universe is contingent: It changes. End of proof."

So you swallow the assumptions of Aquinas that what moves must be moved by another, and that there must be a first mover. Now prove that those assumptions are true.

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

So who's going to prove that the universe is contingent? Anyone?

Why should we? Your esteemed intellectual hero Dawkins, who is one of the most intelligent people on the planet according to you, rendered the need to argue about causes moot. You want to follow in his footsteps and claim there is an eternal universe (even if it's nature is not what is apparent to us)? Fine, but it is a level playing field now boy because if you are allowed to do that than we are allowed to claim there is an eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful Diety (even His full nature is not what is apparent to us) and you can't do a damn thing about it or render your favorite "Who Made God?" argument against it. Unless, of course, you want to argue whither something is contingent or not matters; in which case you will eventually end up undercutting Dawkins, one of the "smartest" men in the world.

Oh by the way Skeppy, this here is another example of a Catch-22 position. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

im-skeptical said...

Williams "proof" is a non sequitur. It doesn't even purport to show that the existence of the universe is contingent on anything.

planks length said...

I'm with Karl on this one. Once you abandon reason and logic, then anything goes. Im-skeptical has repudiated rationality, so it's all Alice in Wonderland from here on out, when playing by his rules. (For those of you with long enough memories, it's kinda like "Calvin Ball".)

im-skeptical said...

"Im-skeptical has repudiated rationality, so it's all Alice in Wonderland from here on out, when playing by his rules."

All I did is ask for proof of what you claim. You are unable to provide it. It's no wonder you think Dawkins is clueless. You're so wrapped up in your Thomistic mumbo-jumbo don't have a clue what real logic is.

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

All I did is ask for proof of what you claim. You are unable to provide it. It's no wonder you think Dawkins is clueless. You're so wrapped up in your Thomistic mumbo-jumbo don't have a clue what real logic is.

Compared to you Planks Length is a veritable logical wizard. Over half the statements you make are riddled with logical fallacies and unproven assumptions. For example, in this very thread, you responded to the charge Dawkins doesn't have a clue about the First Way with the statement Richard Dawkins is one of the most intelligent people on the planet (which is an appeal to authority, just because he held an academic position or did good on an IQ test doesn't make him automatically right) and There are plenty of smart people who don't swallow Thomistic arguments. (which is the bandwagon / appeal to popularity fallacy. Fundamentally, this is no different from saying Most people throughout history believed in a deity of some sort, therefore a deity most likely exists.)

planks length said...

"All I did is ask for proof of what you claim. You are unable to provide it."

Read my previous comments. One does not "prove" a definition - and you ought to know that. Your request is ludicrous and nonsensical. Thus my conclusion that you have eschewed rationality, in favor of ??? (who knows what it is, but it ain't logic).

Logging off until tomorrow. Good night, all.

im-skeptical said...

"One does not "prove" a definition"

No - one merely "defines" God into existence. Sorry, I don't swallow it.

William said...

skep: " It doesn't even purport to show that the existence of the universe is contingent on anything."

Ah, you meant prove that the EXISTENCE of the universe AT ALL is contingent. I merely argued that the STATE of the universe is contingent.

I really would say that no can do that well unless unless you first define what you mean by the universe.

After all, you might define it as something that I would think does not even exist!

im-skeptical said...

"Ah, you meant prove that the EXISTENCE of the universe AT ALL is contingent."

That is what we mean when we speak of Gos as a non-contingent being.

"I really would say that no can do that well unless unless you first define what you mean by the universe.

After all, you might define it as something that I would think does not even exist!"

At least we have some evidence that our universe exists.

im-skeptical said...

Gos = God

planks length said...

HERE is a link to an article demonstrating how it is not religion which is at war with science, but rather atheistic materialism (see especially the concluding section, "The Deeper Problem"). I particularly liked the line "But the actual question [of existence] isn't a question about physics, but about something more basic: metaphysics. A related question would be: how and why is there a universe that physics can study? Obviously, that's not a question that physics can answer, since physics necessarily assumes the prior existence of this universe in order to operate." (emphasis added)

Ephram said...

"Richard Dawkins is one of the most intelligent people on the planet."


...what? Are you being serious? This isn't a joke?


I will say it straight out: Richard Dawkins' only talent is in popular science writing. He has no scientific talent, no philosophical talent, and no talent for analytical thinking in general. Indeed, he manifestly sucks in all three categories.


William Lane Craig is thousands of times superior to Dawkins in terms of raw analytical ability. So is Dr. Reppert. Heck, so are virtually all of the theist commentators on this site. And if The God Delusion is any indication of his intellectual aptitude and breadth of learning (which it is), any one of them would spank Dawkins in a written exchange on the existence of God. Yet, to my mind, none would be worthy of donning the banner of "one of the most intelligent people on the planet," and they would probably loathe the idea of doing so.


Lastly, regarding the Courtier's reply, and in hilarious fashion, Edward Feser (who himself is worth millions of Dawkinses) pretty much put paid to the issue here:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/02/to-louse.html#more



planks length said...

Ephram,

Wow! Thanks so much for that link. Feser absolutely nailed it. It should be required reading for every gnu. (And for every self-styled "skeptic" while we're at it.)

planks length said...

Im-skeptical,

HERE is an article that answers many of your questions in this conversation - especially "Why can't the universe be eternal?" and "Did Bertram Russell misunderstand the First Way argument?" It also explains why the universe is defined as "contingent".

Note I didn't say "proves". You can't prove a definition - any definition. Not in philosophy, not in science, not in mathematics, not in any case. You can only explain (or illustrate) it.

im-skeptical said...

"an article demonstrating how it is not religion which is at war with science, but rather atheistic materialism"

This article is rather vapid, in my opinion. It is full of straw-man arguments, which it is quick to knock down, including the fundamental question it poses. Does the author not know that the question of WHY there is something is a philosophical question and not a scientific one? Of course he does, but that doesn't stop him from blaming science for not having the answer.

Of course he doesn't mention the fact that philosophy doesn't have the answer, either. It only poses the question, and lots of philosophers with different ideas chime in with their opinions. Of course religious believers love to wrap their faith in the mantle of philosophy and claim that THEY have the answers: "God did it!"

BenYachov said...

>The problem is Gnus are too intellectually inferior to figure out this simple concept.

Case in point Skept.;-)

planks length said...

"and claim that THEY have the answers: "God did it!""

Well, I for one am not ashamed to say "God did it", when He actually did. The gnus are trying their mightiest to somehow turn that into an unsayable statement (like calling oneself a liberal during the Reagan years). But when it's called for, you won't find me being squeamish about sayin' it's so.

Your objection to the statement has all the hallmarks of blind intransigence.

toddes said...

"and claim that THEY have the answers: "God did it!""

Because believing that "nothing did it!" is intellectually inane.