Sunday, April 13, 2014

Atheism is unfalsifiable, and it's the theists' fault

According to this post, from the Axis of Jared.

62 comments:

Heuristics said...

The argument from "if you have never looked into the field you are critiquing then you are justified in assuming that it lacks whatever you need it to lack".

im-skeptical said...

Exactly. It is frustrating to argue with theists who lack a good understanding of science and simply chalk things up to "goddidit" by default.

Ilíon said...

"Atheism is unfalsifiable ..."

Not at all: that there are embodied reasoning beings falsifies what people almost always mean by 'atheism', which is materialism/physicalism/naturalism.

Ilíon said...

After clicking the link ... Goodness! What an infantile (ahem) argument ... on top of being intellectually dishonest.

oozzielionel said...

I am wondering what the criteria would be for a satisfactory answer to "how his power works." On the one hand, it makes sense because naturalism is good at showing how physical process work. On the other hand, how can you honestly hope to apply that to God? As far as a definition, theists have done about as much as can be done and probably more than should be done.

grodrigues said...

@Ilion:

"What an infantile (ahem) argument ..."

That pretty much sums it up.

im-skeptical said...

I'd say that atheism is certainly falsifiable - just show me your God, or solid evidence of him. But then, I realize that whatever concept I might have of your God will be dismissed at once, with theists proclaiming (as they always do) "that's not the God I believe in". And they could never show me anything that would satisfy an atheist' requirement for evidence.

oozzielionel said...

You are in complete control of what will "satisfy" you and what is "solid." So your atheism is not falsifiable.

im-skeptical said...

"You are in complete control of what will "satisfy" you and what is "solid.""

Yes, I am. And I choose not to place faith above reason. What satisfies you just doesn't do it for me.

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

I realize that whatever concept I might have of your God will be dismissed at once,

In other words, you want us to provide evidence for your strawmen as opposed to what we actually believe in. News flash dumbass, you don't get to dictate what your opponents beliefs should and should not be.

And I choose not to place faith above reason

Yeah, that's why you ignored the fact Sam Harris is a neo-con, that scientific and technological development was not halted in the Middle Ages, that Einstein's Theory of Relativity superseded Newtonian Mechanics, etc... Please Skeppy, you put faith over evidence on whole lot of other subjects besides God's existence.

Legion of Logic said...

As far as I'm concerned, atheism is an untenable position up until the moment that they can demonstrate, with evidence, how matter and energy could either appear from absolutely nothing (as in, not a quantum field) or have simply existed for eternity for, you know, some reason.

Until they can do that, naturalism is literally no more scientific or evidence-based than theism, since both incorporate matter and energy existing. And of the two, theism is the only one that actually posits an answer, that there is a deity that does not suffer the limitations of natural systems and is powerful enough to actually be behind creation. The "argument" that matter/energy have just simply always been around is completely absurd.

Far as I'm concerned, deism/theism is the default assumed position, until the burden of proof is met for a coherent naturalistic explanation.

im-skeptical said...

Legion of Logic,

You ask atheists to explain the universe without resorting to physics?

And you should explain God without resorting to faith.

Good luck.


Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

"Legion of Logic" -- I love the name/handle!

"As far as I'm concerned, atheism is an untenable position up until the moment that they can demonstrate, with evidence, how matter and energy could either appear from absolutely nothing (as in, not a quantum field) or have simply existed for eternity for, you know, some reason."

Ask and ye shall receive. Metaphysical naturalism entails that there is a physical universe, whereas theism does not. So the fact that matter exists is evidence favoring metaphysical naturalism over theism, as I've argued here. See also my comment to Keith Parsons here (read the linked comment, not the main body of the post).

BTW, metaphysical naturalists and other atheists are committed to the view that the universe popped into existence out of nothing, despite claims from even some prominent atheist physicists like Stenger and Krauss. This is because such physicists are unintentionally equivocating on the word "nothing." If, for example, the universe originated from a "quantum fluctuation" (whatever that means), then the universe originated from something, not nothing. What metaphysical naturalists and atheists are committed to is the view that God neither caused nor sustains the universe.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

"BTW, metaphysical naturalists and other atheists are committed to the view that the universe popped into existence out of nothing, despite claims from even some prominent atheist physicists like Stenger and Krauss."

This should have been written as:

"BTW, metaphysical naturalists and other atheists are NOT committed to the view that the universe popped into existence out of nothing, despite claims from even some prominent atheist physicists like Stenger and Krauss.

Papalinton said...

Jeff
""BTW, metaphysical naturalists and other atheists are NOT committed to the view that the universe popped into existence out of nothing, despite claims from even some prominent atheist physicists like Stenger and Krauss.


Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think Stenger and Krauss actually do say the universe is made from nothing unless one imagines the huge empty spaces and voids between galaxies, stars, planets, rocks etc is categorized as simply ... nothing. But this apparent 'nothing' does indeed have a positive energy value dubbed 'dark energy' and 'dark matter'. In other words, a soup of energy in which the visible elements of the universe 'float', for want of a better word.

But of course, even the understanding of dark anergy and dark matter can be arrived at without one instance of a goddidit element needing to be inveigled into the equation. And if our current universe was indeed contained within a singularity prior to the rapid expansion of the 'big bang', then the presence or the physicality of that singularity, seems to me not really a condition of this universe being made out of 'nothing'. And we know of the existence of singularities as there are many numbers of black holes that have been discovered in the universe, the centres of which constitute singularities out of which all energy, matter, light etc are drawn into and does not escape. So it seems more probable that the progenitor singularity of this universe may be the obverse of what we see as the other known singularities dotted throughout the universe. In other words this universe may be the singularity of a black hole in another universe.

So it is reasonable to suggest, how many universes to we have to go back before we reach the christian god and the first universe he created ex nihilo?

im-skeptical said...

Papalinton,

You might want to read Krauss: A Universe from Nothing - Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing. A very readable and freely available book.

And it looks like cosmic inflation has empirical evidence to back it up. The implication of this theory (as Krauss explains) is that ours is likely not the only universe, but universes can and do pop into existence from nothing.

http://www.universetoday.com/110360/landmark-discovery-new-results-provide-direct-evidence-for-cosmic-inflation/

Legion of Logic said...

I hate this handle haha, but it is a leftover from some blog or something I had years ago, and I was too ignorant/lazy to change it. Ah well. I really do need to figure out how to change it, or just make a new profile I guess. I'm Kevin on other websites I post on.

I will read your links asap, but in the meantime I am familiar with Krauss' stuff, and as a get-around to God, I have yet to be impressed. That's not to say that the idea of a universe coming from some quantum fart is false, it's just not a good enough explanation. It still doesn't explain why anything exists, only that what did exist changed form.

im-skeptical said...

"It still doesn't explain why anything exists, only that what did exist changed form."

God's existence doesn't explain why God exists. I know, you say he's "necessary", or non-contingent. But if God can be non-contingent, isn't it simpler to forget about God and posit that the physical world itself is non-contingent?

Cale B.T. said...

im-skeptical, you made a claim that Krauss has showed how universes can arise from nothing. Legion of Logic said that the transition from a vacuum state shows a change in form, rather than something popping into existence from nothing. What is your reply to that particular criticism?

I recommend you read astrophysicist Luke Barnes' brief trouncing of Krauss here:

http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/of-nothing/

http://letterstonature.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/more-sweet-nothings/

You also wrote "isn't it simpler to forget about God and posit that the physical world itself is non-contingent?"

I don't think it's true that arguments from contingency are a matter of "arbitrarily conjuring up a terminator to a regress" as Dawkins once put it.

Rather, arguments are advanced in the literature that there are certain things about the universe which entail that it cannot exist necessarily.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

I will read your links asap, but in the meantime I am familiar with Krauss' stuff, and as a get-around to God, I have yet to be impressed. That's not to say that the idea of a universe coming from some quantum fart is false, it's just not a good enough explanation. It still doesn't explain why anything exists, only that what did exist changed form.

Please note that I never endorsed Krauss's theory, assuming I've even represented it correctly. I'm not sure I even *understand* his theory, so I am not in a position to accept or reject it.

im-skeptical said...

Cale,

OK. If you want to equivocate about what constitutes "nothing", then say the universe popped into existence from the "quantum vacuum" if you like. That is the physical world I refer to (as opposed to the particular universe we inhabit, which we all would agree is contingent) that may exist non-contingently, from which our universe arises. If you believe God can exist non-contingently, there is no logical reason that something other than God could exist non-contingently.

Cale B.T. said...

It's not a question of saying "something or other has to exist necessarily and we might as well just arbitrarily pick God."

If that were the case, then you could indeed ask: why can't we pick the cosmos?

If you read the literature, then you will see that we are not being given an arbitrary "choice", but that there are arguments which try to show why the cosmos cannot possibly exist necessarily. Do you see the distinction?

"say the universe popped into existence from the "quantum vacuum" if you like"

Well, this is precisely what is at issue though: whether the phase transition from a vacuum state described by Krauss is "popping into existence from nothing" or the universe going from one state of existence to another. In my view, Krauss's critics have established that it's the latter.

Papalinton said...

Skep
"Papalinton,
You might want to read Krauss: A Universe from Nothing - Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing. A very readable and freely available book"


Yes, I have it, read it. It provides a substantive distillation of all the latest knowledge and understanding from, physics, astronomy, cosmology etc the basis from which his perspective is a balanced working scientific proposition. There is no leap of faith in this book, simply a hard-nosed and congruent crystallization of known facts consistent with the verified evidence. While there may be some nibbling at the edges among colleagues his theory is robust and accounts for most if not all of the known facts.

Papalinton said...

Skep
Here is the latest about COSMIC INFLATION roughly a few weeks ago.

im-skeptical said...

Cale,

Since you aren't presenting the argument yourself, if you identify the literature that I should read, I might get some point that I have not considered.

Crude said...

Cale,

Well, this is precisely what is at issue though: whether the phase transition from a vacuum state described by Krauss is "popping into existence from nothing" or the universe going from one state of existence to another. In my view, Krauss's critics have established that it's the latter.

I think at this point even Krauss admits that 'phase transition from a vacuum state' is not 'popping into existence from nothing' in the way that's relevant to philosophical arguments. On those terms, it expressly is just 'something changing from/coming into existence from something else'. That's not controversial.

Re: arguing the universe as necessary rather than contingent, there are reasons this isn't a terribly popular move among atheist philosophers, etc. For one thing, once you combine 'the universe as a necessary being' with 'what would follow from the universe being necessary / what would need to be true of the universe for it to be necessary', it becomes hard to avoid some form of pantheism. And not 'gosh the universe is great' pantheism, but closer to a full-on religious pantheism or even panentheism, in which case atheism is still out in the cold.

Crude said...

Jeff,

Metaphysical naturalism entails that there is a physical universe, whereas theism does not. So the fact that matter exists is evidence favoring metaphysical naturalism over theism, as I've argued here.

That doesn't seem right at all. First, it seems trivially false when we see the list of theisms on offer (polytheism of the sort that involves Zeus, etc, would swing right against it - those gods were apparently physical beings), and second, 'naturalism' is notoriously hard to define (I always refer to the SEP entry of naturalism to illustrate this.) Third, you'd need to define 'matter' and 'physical universe'.

Regarding three, superficially, it seems like if it were in fact the case that 'physical universe' was required by naturalism, then Krauss' speculations - even such as they are, non-ultimate - would seem to strike against *naturalism*, not theism. After all, there'd be a point at which there was no physical universe, just laws or a system or a force. But if the mere existence of laws or a system or a force is compatible naturalism, then it's hard to see what isn't - you can even get classical theism under an umbrella that big.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Re: arguing the universe as necessary rather than contingent, there are reasons this isn't a terribly popular move among atheist philosophers, etc. For one thing, once you combine 'the universe as a necessary being' with 'what would follow from the universe being necessary / what would need to be true of the universe for it to be necessary', it becomes hard to avoid some form of pantheism. And not 'gosh the universe is great' pantheism, but closer to a full-on religious pantheism or even panentheism, in which case atheism is still out in the cold.

Assume for just a moment that the universe is factually necessary (as opposed to logically necessary, metaphysically necessary, or factually contingent). How do you go from "the universe is factually necessary" to "atheism is still out in the cold."

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Hi Crude,

(What's with Crude as a handle or username, anyway?)

That doesn't seem right at all. First, it seems trivially false when we see the list of theisms on offer (polytheism of the sort that involves Zeus, etc, would swing right against it - those gods were apparently physical beings),

I agree with that there are theisms on offer which entail the existence of gods (lower case 'g') who are/were physical beings. But that point is not of obvious relevance to my argument, which was an evidential argument against God (capital 'G'), not those other types of supernaturalism.

In fact, I can just as easily reformulate my argument as an evidential argument against supernaturalism in general, as opposed to an argument against theism.

Let E = the existence of physical entities, N = metaphysical naturalism, and S = metaphysical supernaturalism.

1'. E is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E) is close to 1.
2'. S is not intrinsically much more probable than N, i.e., Pr(S) is not much greater than Pr(N).
3'. Pr(E | N) =1 > Pr(E | S).
4'. Other evidence held equal, S is probably false, i.e., Pr(S | B & E) < 1/2.

This revised version of the argument brings out the problem for S even more clearly. Although, as you point out, there are versions of supernaturalism (such as polytheism) which entail physical gods, those versions of supernaturalism are still versions of supernaturalism. In other words, things like polytheism entail supernaturalism. But supernaturalism does not entail them, which means that supernaturalism could be true while those sectarian, physical versions of supernaturalism are false. Furthermore, there is no antecedent reason on S to assume that any of the physical versions of supernaturalism (like polytheism) are true. So this objection won't work at all.

Crude said...

Jeff,

Assume for just a moment that the universe is factually necessary (as opposed to logically necessary, metaphysically necessary, or factually contingent). How do you go from "the universe is factually necessary" to "atheism is still out in the cold."

A brief googling tells me that you're talking about a Swinburne conception here, with the 'factually necessary' being a brute fact. If that's accurate, then you're right on back to inexplicable magic, and the issues of metaphysical necessity and contingency are left unresolved.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

and second, 'naturalism' is notoriously hard to define (I always refer to the SEP entry of naturalism to illustrate this.) Third, you'd need to define 'matter' and 'physical universe'.

We've gone back and forth about this before and I still don't see the problem.

Let's replace 'matter' and 'physical universe' which 'natural entities.' Now consider the following definitions.

physical entity: an entity which is either (1) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists today; or (2) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists in the future, which has some sort of nomological or historical connection to the kinds of entities studied by physicists or chemists today.

(I've highlighted (2) because I think it answers your previous concerns about metaphysical naturalism being open-ended.)

causally reducible: X is causally reducible to Y just in case X’s causal powers are entirely explainable in terms of the causal powers of Y.

ontologically reducible: X is ontologically reducible to Y just in case X is nothing but a collection of Ys organized in a certain way.

natural entity: an entity which is either a physical entity or an entity that is ontologically or causally reducible to a physical entity.

nature: the spatio-temporal universe of natural entities.

supernatural person: a person that is not part of nature but can affect nature. Examples of supernatural persons include God, angels, Satan, demons, ghosts, etc.

metaphysical naturalism (hereafter, "N"): the hypothesis that the universe is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it.

theism (hereafter, "T"): the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect person (God) who created the universe.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

A brief googling tells me that you're talking about a Swinburne conception here, with the 'factually necessary' being a brute fact. If that's accurate, then you're right on back to inexplicable magic, and the issues of metaphysical necessity and contingency are left unresolved.

You've summarized your position. Now please explain your reasoning to support it.

Crude said...

Jeff,

I agree with that there are theisms on offer which entail the existence of gods (lower case 'g') who are/were physical beings. But that point is not of obvious relevance to my argument, which was an evidential argument against God (capital 'G'), not those other types of supernaturalism.

Well, yes, I think it's entirely relevant to your argument - since it runs against atheism. I also pointed out the problems with your view re: the God of Classical Theism.

Finally, why are these even 'types of supernaturalism'? I think the natural/supernatural distinction is almost entirely arbitrary here.

This revised version of the argument brings out the problem for S even more clearly.

Not really. In fact, it just highlights the problems you're getting at each and every step.

1'. E is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E) is close to 1.

First, we're right on back to needing to explain what counts as E. Second, if you define E in a restricted way, idealism still exists as a live possibility. Third, I pointed out that if E is defined as matter, etc, then we're in the situation of atheists arguing that naturalism was out and out false in the past.

2'. S is not intrinsically much more probable than N, i.e., Pr(S) is not much greater than Pr(N).

And now we're back to the issue of 'N' being pretty vacuous as a definition, and very little principled difference between S and N in the relevant senses.

3'. Pr(E | N) =1 > Pr(E | S).

A view I've called into question on multiple fronts.

Crude said...

Jeff,

We've gone back and forth about this before and I still don't see the problem.

I'm pretty sure I explained them, but hey, I can do so again. I may have to respond later tonight at one point, I have work to do.

physical entity: an entity which is either (1) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists today; or (2) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists in the future, which has some sort of nomological or historical connection to the kinds of entities studied by physicists or chemists today.

(I've highlighted (2) because I think it answers your previous concerns about metaphysical naturalism being open-ended.)


Why would it? 'Having some kind of historical/nomological connection to what we study today' is absurdly open-ended and lets all of the usual problems obtain.

supernatural person: a person that is not part of nature but can affect nature. Examples of supernatural persons include God, angels, Satan, demons, ghosts, etc.

And we're right on back to various problems. For one, whether these things are or aren't part of nature depends on the attention and scope of physicists and chemists, which itself is a tremendously slippery standard to make use of since it inevitably is tied up in social considerations. Were angels and God 'natural' in Newton's time?

And all of this ignores the historical views that were problematic here - everything from quantum effects to action at a distance to otherwise, at one point historically, could have easily been put into the 'supernatural' pile. Multiverses? Measurement problems? Supposed waveform 'collapse' in general? Action at a distance? Universes being created, period? Weird stuff that sure ran contrary to our views of what nature was defined as or supposed to be. So we just kept changing the definition of nature.

To that end, I think, the damage is done - this is a historical problem, a set of shifts of understanding that has already taken place, and will likely take place again.

Crude said...

Jeff,

You've summarized your position. Now please explain your reasoning to support it.

It's pretty trivial if I have taken the claim of 'factual necessity' correctly - and maybe I didn't.

Swinburne calls God the ultimate brute fact, according to the wikipedia entry. If that's the case, then it seems that - if you're using Swinburne's view, and want to replace 'God' with 'universe' - you're right onto regarding the universe as the ultimate brute fact. And once we're into brute facts - things without explanation, things that 'just are' and are contingent, etc - then we're off into the land of magic.

Crude said...

Jeff,

One more comment for now.

I think biting the bullet and agreeing that 'being material' (or, dare I say it, 'being natural') and theism (polytheism, Mormon conceptions of God, etc) are sufficient to mortally wound atheism, while leaving classical theism untouched. At least, given the embrace of certain cosmological speculations.

If it's agreed that A) the existence of any God or gods means atheism is false, and B) gods can be physical or even natural entities, I think a once-popular move has been to move on to C) but the existence of any God or gods is tremendously unlikely. (See the ultimate Boeing 747 argument with Dawkins.)

But if we're living in the right kinds of multiverse - certainly Tegmark's, or just about any with infinite (or even a sufficiently large number of) universes, with varying initial states, etc - then it seems to follow pretty straightforwardly, all things being equal and putting aside the Classical Theist God for a moment, that gods exist. To accept these universes is to embrace at least polytheism on the spot - gods exist, they shape the world, they judge and create, etc.

They are, at best, very far away for the moment. So, atheism dies, and a strange kind of polytheism replaces it.

Crude said...

I think biting the bullet and agreeing that 'being material' (or, dare I say it, 'being natural') and theism (polytheism, Mormon conceptions of God, etc)

Add on 'are compatible'.

Crude said...

And just tack on one more reply for now...

It doesn't make sense to argue that the physical world must exist on naturalism when naturalists take the physical world to be contingent top to bottom. Contingency means it would have been capable of being different, unto not existing altogether. Calling it 'brute' doesn't make it 'necessary' - so naturalism (though again, I think these words don't cash much to much of anything) could fit well with the non-existence of the physical. This is before noting the wide, wide range of 'natural' or even 'physical' things there could have been, if we're getting that out there with contingency.

There's always more to say, particularly about your list and the original context of it (trying to assemble a kind of historical argument for naturalism, if I recall), but I think this is enough for now.

Bolero Sulo said...

Part of the problem is that the idea of the "supernatural" is usually poorly defined, and so are most conceptions of god. That is why I am sympathetic to a weak ignostic view that says most theists do not explain enough about their conceptions of god for those conceptions to really make sense. I don't think all conceptions of god are incoherent the way some people that believe in ignosticism do, but the overwhelmingly majority of theists assume far more than they should about God's nature. The problem with this is that if a hypothesis isn't clearly defined or coherent then it is impossible to evaluate it. When theists say that naturalism cannot account for some phenomenon but God can they can't just assert that God is a better explanation, they need to explain why that is the case. What about God allows him to explain the situation better than natural explanation? What is God and how does he interact with the world? Saying that's God is omnipotent is meaningless and basically just amounts to saying that it's magic. There is no way to evaluate such a claim because it lacks any substantive content.

Consider a naive version of the Moral Argument

1. Objective Morality could not exist without God

2. Objective Morality exists

3. Therefore, God exists


Almost no Christians that make this argument spend time explaining why God makes Objective Morality possible, they just assert that he is the "law giver" (whatever that means) and that is essentially meaningless. Christians really need to focus on explaining their theology without appealing to nebulous concepts like "transcendence" if they want to claim that their explanations have more explanatory power than naturalistic ones do.

This is also why it is hard to assess the probability that a supernatural event occurred in the past. Take the alleged resurrection of Jesus as an example. Christians demand that naturalists explain how it is that people could have come to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and so on, and they will point out things that reduce the probability of any given natural explanation being true. So if you say that something can be explained by a hallucination or lying they will make arguments about why those explanations might not make sense in this case. What the naturalist says about the resurrection can be evaluated because we understand how such explanations work. The theistic explanation that God raised Jesus from the dead doesn't really explain anything about the story. It just says that God did it , and well, it happened. It has little to no explanatory power at all and is no different from asserting than an incomprehensible scientist living in another dimension raised Jesus from the dead. In order to make the Christian argument work there needs to be a detailed account of what God is and how he interacts with the world. Lacking such an account makes most claims about miracles seem fairly silly to me.

Crude said...

Bolero,

It has little to no explanatory power at all

Once you've conceded that a man was raised from the dead, and this man - previously a miracle worker, etc - is damn well telling you why He was raised from the dead, I think priorities change. It sounds to me like you're looking for 'explanatory power' in the way of a scientific hypothesis, which not only isn't on offer - it's not suggested to begin with.

The rest of your comments, oddly enough, are too vague for me to grapple with. When it comes to, say... criticisms of materialistic explanations of mind, reasons why materialism has a problem and non-materialism (not necessarily 'theism') does not tend to be right up there on offer.

Bolero Sulo said...

>nce you've conceded that a man was raised from the dead, and this man - previously a miracle worker, etc - is damn well telling you why He was raised from the dead, I think priorities change. It sounds to me like you're looking for 'explanatory power' in the way of a scientific hypothesis, which not only isn't on offer - it's not suggested to begin with.


Well, I don't think Jesus rose from the dead. My point is that theists want to argue that there is good reason to believe that he did, and their explanation doesn't really explain the fact any more than magic does. In order for them to get me to accept their "supernatural" explanation it has to have explanatory power that naturalistic explanations do not have, and also has to be explained in a way that is coherent.

>The rest of your comments, oddly enough, are too vague for me to grapple with. When it comes to, say... criticisms of materialistic explanations of mind, reasons why materialism has a problem and non-materialism (not necessarily 'theism') does not tend to be right up there on offer

I'm perfectly willing to accept arguments about things that are self-evident as long as they are rigorous. The problem is that Christians think their theological views are what they are and do not bother to explain them or clarify what they mean because in many cases Christians only care about a small number of Christian doctrines. They might try to work out the theological implications of their views, but they rarely think about what they imply philosophically in the way Aquinas did when he tried to reconcile his beliefs with Aristotelian thinking. Instead they just graft the vague concept of "the supernatural" on top of the natural world and pretend like that is an explanation. Compare the way that David Chalmers deals with the idea of qualia to the way most Christians deal with religious experience and morality and you can get a sense of what I am talking about.

Crude said...

Bolero,

My point is that theists want to argue that there is good reason to believe that he did, and their explanation doesn't really explain the fact any more than magic does. In order for them to get me to accept their "supernatural" explanation it has to have explanatory power that naturalistic explanations do not have, and also has to be explained in a way that is coherent.

Honestly, I don't think most Christians are concerned with the criticism you're offering here, and for good reason. If I understand you correctly, your position is that even if a given event X took place (Jesus rising from the dead), you still demand to have a full-on scientific model for this event, similar to an explanation of 'how a monitor works'.

For Christians, the real work is getting people to acknowledge the event that needs to be explained somehow (Jesus rising from the dead) in the first place. I think the "supernatural" term is irrelevant here - the word has little meaning - but really, once you're willing to cop (Hypothetically, I know you don't believe Jesus rose from the dead) to Christ rising, then it's a matter of looking at which explanations best fit the data we have.

I also wonder if you dismiss scientific explanations this same way, since even (in fact, especially) for the reductionist they get to 'and then you have this fundamental force and there's no explanation for that, it just brutely works, because an explanation for that takes us off in directions that are kind of scary'.

The problem is that Christians think their theological views are what they are and do not bother to explain them or clarify what they mean because in many cases Christians only care about a small number of Christian doctrines.

I think this is a red herring, especially where apologetics is concerned. Most of the philosophers, theologians, etc I know, at least the ones engaged in popular discourse, are usually on the other end of that spectrum - they explain God broadly, rather than specific revelations.

Now maybe you mean you run into Christians who aren't very well-versed in the finer points of doctrine or explanation. I'd grand that, but I think that goes for most people. I think the average person who accepts 'evolutionary theory' would be in trouble if they had to explain it in detail beyond maxims.

Instead they just graft the vague concept of "the supernatural" on top of the natural world and pretend like that is an explanation. Compare the way that David Chalmers deals with the idea of qualia to the way most Christians deal with religious experience and morality and you can get a sense of what I am talking about.

Again, this seems like a 'typical person versus expert' thing. And even Chalmers mostly seems lost with regards to qualia. He has stinging criticisms of one popular way to deal with it, but when it comes to actually resolving the problem he has more of a (unless things changed since I read him) vague inkling and a broad view.

Bolero Sulo said...

>Honestly, I don't think most Christians are concerned with the criticism you're offering here, and for good reason. If I understand you correctly, your position is that even if a given event X took place (Jesus rising from the dead), you still demand to have a full-on scientific model for this event, similar to an explanation of 'how a monitor works'.
I

I'm not sure I'm making myself clear. We can't just "look at the data" because need to think critically about what kinds of explanations can be evaluated in light of it. We have evidence from the past and we want to draw conclusions based on that evidence. Christians think that the evidence suggests Jesus rose from the dead and naturalists think that there is no reason to believe that occurred. In order for the Christian explanation to become more probable Christians need to explain why their theory actually offers us some sort of exploratory power and then tell us why their conception of god fits the theory they have offered. Saying that god did because he's omnipotent and said abracadrba is no different from saying Harry Potter did it. The fact that most Christians haven't thought about the nature of god's interactions with the physical in a systematic is an indictment of their theory and makes it almost impossible to assess it.


> also wonder if you dismiss scientific explanations this same way, since even (in fact, especially) for the reductionist they get to 'and then you have this fundamental force and there's no explanation for that, it just brutely works, because an explanation for that takes us off in directions that are kind of scary'.

Science rarely assumes that something is a brute fact, it constantly works to build models that help us better understand our data. Brute facts exist, but just saying that your explanation is a brute fact is not going to convince everyone, and rightfully so. If you think that naturalistic explanations can be compared to "god did it" because both rely on brute facts on some level you've really misunderstood why people adopt methodological naturalism in the first place. People don't just say that Thor or Odin did it because we know from experience that many of the things we previously misunderstood and attributed to spirits or gods can be modeled using science. Stopping our attempts to figure out what is really going on and just asserting we have reached the end of the line isn't a good epistemic strategy.



>Again, this seems like a 'typical person versus expert' thing. And even Chalmers mostly seems lost with regards to qualia. He has stinging criticisms of one popular way to deal with it, but when it comes to actually resolving the problem he has more of a (unless things changed since I read him) vague inkling and a broad v


I'm not saying he has all the answers, I am saying his treatment of the subject is rigorous in a way that basically all of the Christian apologetic work I have read is not. Christians base a lot of their claims on subjective religious experiences, which is fine, but they do not stop to think about the quality of those experiences or what they imply for non-Christian philosophy. Chalmers and other philosophers with dualist leanings carefully work though the idea of qualia and attempt to tease out complex metaphysical issues to determine what our experiences are, how they work metaphysically, and so on. Both deal with supposedly self-evident claim, but one is rigorous and the other isn't.



Obviously that's just my subjective take and others won't necessarily agree with it. I'm not trying to be unfair to Christian philosophy or apologists, that's just how I see it.

Papalinton said...

Crude says: 'For Christians, the real work is getting people to acknowledge the event that needs to be explained somehow (Jesus rising from the dead) in the first place. I think the "supernatural" term is irrelevant here - the word has little meaning - but really, once you're willing to cop (Hypothetically, I know you don't believe Jesus rose from the dead) to Christ rising, then it's a matter of looking at which explanations best fit the data we have."

This rationale that Crude posits here is no different, qualitatively, to literary experts accepting the reality of Hogwarts or the existence of witches and wizards, and then rationalizing and justifying their cop [hypothetically] by gleaning their facts and proofs from all the Harry Potter volumes, not too dissimilar to theists rationalizing and justifying their rising dead god by delving into the anthology of the bible.

We know this a fact because there are innumerable religious traditions each with their own cache of parochial truths and certitudes. The head-smacking irony of course is that of the three traditions spawned from the common Abrahamic progenitor mythos, not any of the three can reconcile with each other even the most mundane of the litany of claims they individually make. The Jews rejected outright from the very outset any notion of Jesus as Yahweh as one and the same, and even with the benefit of 600 years hindsight, so too did Islam reject outright the most fundamental and central claim of Christianity, that Jesus and Allah were the one-and-the-same 3-in-1 godhead.

So if a billion Muslims can piss on christian trinitarian claims and see the risen christ-God as little more than nonsense, who am I to argue with their decision? It seems perfectly logical and factual to me.

amorbis said...

Crude,

You might be interested to know that Chalmers has more recently moved from mere property dualism to taking substance dualism as a serious possibility. Right now his views are split between panpsychism and substance dualism. I forget which of these two papers he said it in (and I don't have time right now to check), but it was either this one or this one. He might have said it in both of them; I can't remember anymore.

im-skeptical said...

"also wonder if you dismiss scientific explanations this same way, since even (in fact, especially) for the reductionist they get to 'and then you have this fundamental force and there's no explanation for that, it just brutely works, because an explanation for that takes us off in directions that are kind of scary"

Yes, materialists accept gravity and other physical phenomena as brute facts, just as theists accept God as a brute fact. Gravity is observable and measurable. God isn't. That's the difference.

amorbis said...

Here it is, from the first paper:

I think that substance dualism (in its epiphenomenalist and interactionist forms) and
Russellian monism (in its panpsychist and panprotopsychist forms) are the two serious
contenders in the metaphysics of consciousness, at least once one has given
up on standard
physicalism. (I divide my own credence fairly equally between them.)

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Yes, materialists accept gravity and other physical phenomena as brute facts, just as theists accept God as a brute fact."

Wrong, that is *precisely* what (classical) theists consistently do not.

But of course, we cannot count on you on getting anything, no matter how small, right.

BenYachov said...

Remember Grod our buddy Skepo here thinks "Science" has refuted the actuality and potency metaphysical distinction just because Aristotle's view on the mechanics of physical momentum was wrong.

He is no better then the YEC who still thinks the 2nd Law of Thermal-dynamics undermines Evolution.

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

"Remember Grod our buddy Skepo here thinks "Science" has refuted the actuality and potency metaphysical distinction just because Aristotle's view on the mechanics of physical momentum was wrong."

Science has no use for Aristotelian physics (for him, it was physics, not metaphysics), because is has no explanatory or predictive power.


grodrigues,

I realize that classical theists have logical arguments to prove the existence of God. But you don't realize that they all presuppose the existence of God. So yes, they do take God as a brute fact, no matter how much they deny it.


Crude said...

Bolero,

Christians think that the evidence suggests Jesus rose from the dead and naturalists think that there is no reason to believe that occurred. In order for the Christian explanation to become more probable Christians need to explain why their theory actually offers us some sort of exploratory power and then tell us why their conception of god fits the theory they have offered.

And I think this straightforwardly incorrect. You're confusing two issues here: 'providing evidence that Jesus rose from the dead' and 'providing an explanation for the mechanism by which this occurred'. Once the former is established, the question becomes identifying - even broadly - who or what could be responsible, and at that point you've got the testimony of witnesses and people the resurrected person interacted with to go by. You don't need a scientific 'theory of the mechanisms by which God interacts with the world'.

God's omnipotence, by the way, is also argued for philosophically and metaphysically. You don't get that with Harry Potter, etc.

Science rarely assumes that something is a brute fact, it constantly works to build models that help us better understand our data. Brute facts exist,

It doesn't matter if it's 'rarely', especially when brute facts underwrite all naturalistic explanations ultimately - each and every one of them. And it doesn't 'constantly work', since A) there's no scientific establishing of brute facts, B) there can never be, and C) they're never necessary.

And yet the naturalists embrace them. Why is 'abracadabra' A-OK for the naturalist, but not the theist? And the theist doesn't even resort to that - they just do in your (I believe, wrong) perception.

I'm not saying he has all the answers, I am saying his treatment of the subject is rigorous in a way that basically all of the Christian apologetic work I have read is not.

What apologists have you read?

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"I realize that classical theists have logical arguments to prove the existence of God. But you don't realize that they all presuppose the existence of God. So yes, they do take God as a brute fact, no matter how much they deny it."

Even if you were correct in your charge of circularity -- which you are not -- that does *not* mean that classical theists "take God as a brute fact"; in other words, you are *lying*.

BenYachov said...

>Science has no use for Aristotelian physics (for him, it was physics, not metaphysics), because is has no explanatory or predictive power.

ROTFLOL!!!

What a maroon!

Ya see what did I tell ya!

Skepo thinks Metaphysics can be refuted by physics.

Hey Skepo? While you are on a roll can you tell us the atomic weight of Natural Selection?

Just curious.;-)

BenYachov said...

"for him, it was physics, not metaphysics"

This is also a lie. Skepo is repeating an old canard here where he quotes a statement about metaphysics(on actuality and potency) Aristotle makes in his book PHYSICS and tries to imply this means Aristotle made no distinction between the two.

It's like reading one of Richard Dawkins' works where he explains how the 2nd Law of Thermal-dynamics does not undermine Evolution & then concluding Thermal-dynamics must be a species of biological science since it's mentioned in a book on evolutionary biology.

This guy is too stupid to tie his own shoes.

im-skeptical said...

"he quotes a statement about metaphysics(on actuality and potency) Aristotle makes in his book PHYSICS and tries to imply this means Aristotle made no distinction between the two."

You might want to read the paper that Victor posted in response to my statement. Aristotle certainly did make a distinction.

BenYachov said...

>You might want to read the paper that Victor posted in response to my statement. Aristotle certainly did make a distinction.

You are such a liar Skepo.

Skept your the one claiming Aristotle made no distinction between physics and metaphysics & in the past you claimed Science refutes Aristotle's metaphysics.
(Category mistake big time).

At best the ancients had little problem discussing metaphysical topics in books about physics and vice versa.

Heck I've read modern physicists invoke Parmenides in their works it doesn't change the fact you can discuss metaphysics or other sciences in a book primarily about on specific scientific subject.

That still doesn't entitle you to make category mistakes.

Anyone who claims "science" refutes Aristotle's metaphysics is by definition a fucking idiot.

im-skeptical said...

From the paper:

"Aristotle asserts that if there is a type of substance that is unchangeable, then first philosophy would deal with this primarily, since the unchangeable substance would be prior to changeable substance, presumably because the former would be the cause of latter. Theoretical science is more to be desired than practical science, and the theoretical science the most desired is the science occupying the highest genus (dealing with the highest type of substance), that which has the unchangeable as its subject matter, what Aristotle calls first philosophy (hê prôtê philosophia) or theology (theologikê), as opposed to physics, which has the changeable for its subject matter, and mathematics. He writes, "The first science deals with things that both exist separately and are immovable" (hê de prôtê kai peri chôrista kai akinêta) (Metaphysics 6.1; 1026a 15)."

BenYachov said...

How does that quote show Aristotle made no distinction between physics and metaphysics?

It shows the opposite.

im-skeptical said...

"How does that quote show Aristotle made no distinction between physics and metaphysics?

It shows the opposite. "

Ben, learn to read. Did I say Aristotle makes no distinction between physics and metaphysics? I said his notion of "movement" as potency becoming actualized was physics for him, not metaphysics. You somehow twisted that into something I didn't say. It is the Christian theists who blend physics and metaphysics together and call it all metaphysics. When you speak of act and potency, you are talking about metaphysics, but for Aristotle, it was physics.

BenYachov said...

>Ben, learn to read. Did I say Aristotle makes no distinction between physics and metaphysics? I said his notion of "movement" as potency becoming actualized was physics for him, not metaphysics.

You just contradicted yourself & vindicated my accusations. A "potency become actualized" is metaphysics(aka First Philosophy) not physics which refers to the mechanistic description of physical forces. (In Aristotle’s case his erroneous claim physical object’s natural state was stasis & a continuous acting cause was needed to maintain physical movement.) You can’t read, you make up your own terminology and you refuse to go beyond your knee-jerk positivism.

> You somehow twisted that into something I didn't say. It is the Christian theists who blend physics and metaphysics together and call it all metaphysics. When you speak of act and potency, you are talking about metaphysics, but for Aristotle, it was physics.

No your just making up your own shit because you don’t want to own the fact you screwed up when you claimed “potency being made into act” & AT metaphysics in general are refuted by “Science"(which we all know you define in the modern sense of empirical science and verificationism).

You are so full of shit skepo.

Bolero Sulo said...

"And I think this straightforwardly incorrect. You're confusing two issues here: 'providing evidence that Jesus rose from the dead' and 'providing an explanation for the mechanism by which this occurred'. Once the former is established, the question becomes identifying - even broadly - who or what could be responsible, and at that point you've got the testimony of witnesses and people the resurrected person interacted with to go by. You don't need a scientific 'theory of the mechanisms by which God interacts with the world'."

I think the two are related. In order to say that we should think Jesus rose from the dead based on the evidence the resurrection hypothesis has to be more plausible than the alternatives. I think that providing a model of how god interacts with the world and discussing it's explanatory power is a key step if you want to do that. Otherwise the naturalistic explanations are always going to be more convincing because your hypothesis boils down to "it was magic."

"t doesn't matter if it's 'rarely', especially when brute facts underwrite all naturalistic explanations ultimately - each and every one of them. And it doesn't 'constantly work', since A) there's no scientific establishing of brute facts, B) there can never be, and C) they're never necessary"

No, it does matter. I'm not going to assume that something is a brute fact for no reason. As I said before, that a poor epistemic strategy. Obviously something could be a brute fact and then our model won't work, but the fact that science keeps working over and over again is proof that our strategy for uncovering more information is a good one.


>What apologists have you read?

I've read a lot of Christian philosophy and apologetics. I used to be Evangelical and I started getting into philosophy because my atheist friends in college used to mock my beliefs and I didn't really have a good way to answer to them. So I read Plantinga, Swinburne, Craig, and a lot of the other top guys. It ended up getting me more interested in philosophy in general too, and I'm glad that happened. I ended up losing my faith after reading historical books about the resurrection, which should tell you something about what I thought of the evidence.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Crude, please find my response here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2014/04/17/the-nature-of-naturalism/