Saturday, August 29, 2015

An incoherent triad

Believers often look at the atheist demand for evidence, as presented by typical atheists, as a shell game.

 I went over this issue with the link to Shadow to Light, but I want to pursue the same argument in a different way.

The question I want to pose is whether these three positions can be held in a simultaneous, coherent way.

1) Belief in God is not justified unless there is evidence for belief in God.

2) Evidence for belief in God is possible. There are things God could have done, and should have done, to provide evidence for his existence. Thus, the absence of evidence is really evidence of absence.

3) God of the gaps arguments are wrong on principle. If we lack a good naturalistic explanation for something, an explanation in terms of God will not increase our understanding of it.

If God provides evidence, no matter what he does, it seems to me that 3 could be used to dismiss the case for his existence. Thus, it seems to me that you can't hold both 2 and 3 together. One of them has to go.

106 comments:

Ilíon said...

"1) Belief in God is not justified unless there is evidence for belief in God."

Sure. But you seem to overlooking the fact that were atheism indeed the truth about the nature of reality, then So What! if someone wants to believe in God without justification, or even contradiction to all available evidence.

As I keep pointing out, the (hypothetical) truth of atheism matters only if atheism is not actually the truth about the nature of reality.

planks length said...

Ahhh, Ilion beat me to it! The word "justified" implies meaning, purpose. But if atheism were true, then we live in an uncaused, purposeless, meaningless existence, which, no matter what we humans do, will ultimately be extinguished in, as Bertrand Russell so eloquently expressed it, "the the vast heat death of the solar system, and … the debris of a universe in ruins." In such a philosophy, nothing is either justified or unjustified.

So why should anyone care whether a person believes in God or not, for whatever reason?

See: atheist courting rituals.

Ilíon said...

PL: "So why should anyone care whether a person believes in God or not, for whatever reason?"

This is why I refer to so-called atheist as, well, "so-called atheists"; this is why I generally put the word in quote marks. This is why (*) I always say that there are precious few, if any, actual atheists in the world.

For, if someone really were an atheist, if he really that believed what he asserts is the truth about the nature of reality really were the truth, then he wouldn't *care* that others believe that the nature of reality is opposite to what it really is. For, in the end, if atheism is indeed the truth about the nature of reality, then it matters not at all that Christians (and Jews) believe a false opposite view; in the end, this false view no more harms them than it benefits them.


(*) This is also why I'm always using the phrase "the truth about the nature of reality" -- for atheism, like Judaism and Christianity, isn't merely a claim about the existence of some entity referred to as 'God'; all three are claims about the very nature of reality.

===========
Here's looking at it from a slightly different angle --

One of the favorite (*) tropes amongst 'atheists' is that "religion" (i.e. Christianity, and to a slightly lesser extent, Judaism) is a "crutch"; that we believe in God only because we're too afraid or too weak to face reality, that believing in God offers us emotional comfort in the face of the Void that will annihilate all things.

So, by their own metaphor, (evangelical) ‘atheists’ are like people who go around kicking cripples’ crutches out from under them.

Which is to say, by their own admission, most ‘atheists’ one encounters are nothing more than assholes – they don’t seek to destroy others’ (according to them) misplaced faith in God because that care about The Truth, but rather because they are just assholes who enjoy destroying what small comfort others have in the face of brutal reality.



(*) I think the only trope more popular with them is that we're "stupid".

Steve Lovell said...

While I agree with Ilion and PL, that atheism is inconsistent with VR's (1), and that that strictly makes the relationship of (2) and (3) rather irrelevant, I don't expect all our atheist interlocutors to accept that. And if they don't, there is certainly some mileage in VR's point.

To make VR's point more concrete: suppose an atheist insists that there isn't enough evidence, and we then point to the evidence of a particular miracle. If they respond by giving Hume's argument that no evidence for a miracle should ever be rationally persuasive, it starts to look like they're playing games:

Atheist: Give me evidence
Theist: Here you go
Atheist: That doesn't count
Theist: Why not?
Atheist: Nothing could ever count
Theist: So why did you ask for something you would never accept had been provided?
Atheist: Because ...

Not all debates go like that, but it seems to me that rather a lot of them do.

entirelyuseless said...

It's not clear to me that these couldn't theoretically all be true, given that "God of the gaps" arguments are defined as relating something directly to God which in principle could have a natural explanation.

There may be some things which in principle could not have a natural explanation, such as the existence of a natural universe, and these are evidence for God which are not "God of the gaps" arguments.

Aragorn said...

God of the gaps is NOT an explanation not because of any epistemological obstinacy on the part of atheists but because the explanation is entirely ad hoc and could be replace by any other "being as explanation" without contradiction and an incomplete induction, besides.

Let's say "fact X" can't be presently explained by naturalism - what does that tell anyone? That God did it? Is it possible that naturalism can explain it but our understanding hasn't caught up? Is it possible that other things could explain it other than naturalism? Placing God as explanation there is entirely ad hoc. One can place a number of hypothetical explanations there other than God - without contradiction.

Crude said...

When people ask for an event or thing which 'cannot in principle be explained naturalistically', they're either bluffing or they don't understand what they're saying.

'Naturalistic explanation' is open to everything from brute facts to super-powerful aliens to otherwise. It's the atheist version of playing 'highest number'.

jdhuey said...

Victor,

It seems to me that you are implying that God (assuming He exists) can only manifest in a way that looks like a natural event. That, I think, would contradict the Omnipotence aspect of God. Instead of earthquakes, lighting and plagues, how about just telling us where Jimmy Hoffa is buried? Or, as someone else suggested, what is Dark Matter.


To me there are two fundamental aspects of a putaive god that have to be fullfilled in order to consider it a god. One is that is a disembodied mind and the other is that it is capable of interacting with any part of the Universe in a significant way. These are necessary but not sufficient conditions - we have to rule out that it isn't the Devil playing a trick.

In order to establish that there is a mind involved we have to be able to communicate with it. Having a small burning bush appear in your living room would demostrate that it was capable of interacting with, at least, a small part of the Universe. Having the bush interact with and observable by any interested third party would preclude that it was just a mental aberration.

Finding out if it is disembodied would be difficult because, to my way of thinking, a 'disembodied mind' is a meaningless concept. But, assuming that God is all knowing, He would be able to explain how that works. Interacting with the Universe is certainly testable in a way that would preclude the possiblility that it was an unrelated natural event. We could also just ask for an explanation of what happened.

So, as far as I can see, there is no difficulty with holding all three of the positions stated. The difficulty is getting a non-existant diety to agree to the simple testing.



Crude said...

It seems to me that you are implying that God (assuming He exists) can only manifest in a way that looks like a natural event.

No. It's that any possible 'manifestation' could, in principle, be framed as naturalistic or not God.

One is that is a disembodied mind

Zeus wasn't a god?

So, as far as I can see, there is no difficulty with holding all three of the positions stated.

Which part established that you were dealing with God, as opposed to 'some joker' or 'a being running a simulation' or otherwise?

Was it the fire hazard in your living room? Was it providing scientific or philosophical explanations, and the assumption you'd either understand or accept them?

You forgot to include the explanation of why what you witness is God in your explanation of how to test for God's existence.

B. Prokop said...

People like jdhuey are so funny! They have no clue as to what they are asking for. In Real Life, the recipients of such revelations as he appears to be requesting are anything but happy about being so. I've already posted the following on the thread "An Interesting Question" (below this one), but it is critically relevant here:

The surest indication that a revelation was genuine would be that it bring nothing but suffering and trials to the recipient. Name me a single person in history who was happy to have been chosen by God for special revelation. Quite the contrary, Peter pleaded with the Lord, "Leave me". Isaiah said "Woe unto me!" when he saw the Lord enthroned upon the Cherubs. Jeremiah repeatedly begged God to leave him alone. So did Ezekiel. Jonah went so far as to try to run away from God!

Since jdhuey brought up the Burning Bush, we can throw Moses into the mix as well. Moses spent several chapters in Exodus trying to convince God that He really ought to look for someone, anyone other than himself to be His special agent.

Even in fiction, the pattern holds. In the first chapter of Perelandra, the narrator (supposedly Lewis himself), upon his first encounter with an angel, has the following reaction:

"My fear now was of another kind. I felt sure the creature was what we call "good," but I wasn't sure whether I liked "goodness" so much as I had supposed. This is a very terrible experience. As long as what you are afraid of is something evil, you may still hope that the good may come to your rescue. But suppose you struggle through to the good and find that it is also dreadful? How if food itself turns out to be the very thing you can't eat, and home is the very place you can't live, and your very comforter the person who makes you uncomfortable? Then indeed, there is no rescue possible: the last card has been played. For a second or two I was nearly in that condition. Here at last was a bit of that world from the beyond the world, which I had always supposed that I loved and desired, breaking through and appearing to my senses: and I didn't like it, I wanted it to go away. I wanted every possible distance, gulf, curtain, and barrier to be placed between it and me." (my emphasis)

Honestly. If jdhuey ever did get his wish granted and received a no-shit undeniable sign from The Almighty, I can assure you he'd be the first to run screaming into the night, not looking back!

Jezu ufam tobie!

jdhuey said...

Crude,

The underlying premise of this thought experiment is that God is real and has offered to do what was necessary to convince me that He was indeed real and God. A flashy drarmatic event like Parsons describe would be, in my opinion, inconclusive. But an ongoing dialog with honest forthcoming information would (again assuming that this really is God) eventually convince all who value evidence and facts and science.

Zeus was considered a god by the ancient Greeks but I suspect that if he and the rest of the pantheon were to show up today, we would not think of them as gods but as some sort of person with strange powers. Think about how people treat Thor in the Avengers franchise - just a hunky guy from Asgard.

The manifestation of the burning bush shows that something that we don't know about exists, the information provided would show that that something is God. QED

I think it is important to point out that when I say that I would be convinced that God is real that I mean that in the same way I can be convinced of any scientific/historical theory - a provisional acceptance that the poffered explanation is the best available subject to future discoveries. I simply would not ever become, I hope, a True Believer (tm).

I certainly lack the expertise that would be needed to definitively identify this entity as God. That is why the information needs to be public, so that people that do have the expertise can pose the right questions. I'm assuming that good questions and good answers would be convincing. If you saw and remember the movie 'Oh! God' with George Burns in the title role, you saw an example of poor questions and even poorer answers.



I'm pretty sure that I don't know what questions to ask that would pin down the

jdhuey said...

Ignore that last partial sentence. It was off screen and escaped being erased.

jdhuey said...

Bob,

Fortunatly, nothing in this thought experiment depends on my personal intestinal fortitude. All that I need to do is review the data and the analysis of experts (perhaps satisfy points of my own curiosity) and then come to a rational decision.

But you are correct, if all I had was a private revelation, I would most likely ignore it. If this vision of God commanded me to go to the Vatican and tell them that the Eucharist is just a cracker, nothing more. I would say, "Screw it. No way. You want it done go do it yourself, Mr. Omnipotence." Then I would go to my doctor to treat the bistering boils.

RDM said...

Three things:

First, and as Crude mentioned, I think that it needs to be made clear that there is absolutely no empirical evidence that could convince someone that God exists if that person did not wish to be so convinced. Indeed, even if God Himself stood at the atheist’s right-hand, the atheist could always claim that it was an alien, or that he was hallucinating, or that strange things happen in a multiverse, and so on. And so, no “gap” could ever be large enough to convince an atheist that did not wish to be convinced, for an alternate explanation, no matter how absurd or feeble, could always be offered by that atheist as an excuse not to believe. And this brings me to my second point.

Second, I think theists need to stop pretending that atheists—or at least the New Atheist types—are acting in good faith or are in any way reasonable when it comes to the evidence for gods. Indeed, theists need to call out atheists for the clear fact that they no little interest in evidence or in reason. Rather, their interest is in provided any excuse or possibility, no matter how feeble, as a reason to avoid that which they wish to avoid. And theists must also loudly proclaim that the proffered “defenses” that atheists offer are as ridiculous as they are unreasonable. After all, consider, as an analogy, a Defense Attorney who offers the following defenses of his client:

1) Your Honor, sure my client was standing beside the victim at the time the event occurred, but the knife just happened to pop into existence uncaused out of nothing into the victim’s chest. My client did nothing.

2) Your Honor, sure my client was the only one in the room when the victim was stabbed fifty times, but in this here multiverse, it was bound to happen that some person somewhere would drop some knives that would bounce off the ground and accidently stab that same person fifty time by accident. This is a perfectly good explanation of the facts. My client is innocent.

3) Your Honor, sure the death in question overwhelming looks like it was planned, and sure I have no explanation to account for it in a naturalistic sense, but just give me more time to work on my client’s defence—say, like another 50 years, just enough time that my client will never be held accountable for his crime—and I promise you that I will find a natural explanation for you.

4) Your Honor, sure it looks like there is a plethora of evidence that points to my client, but may I suggest to you that a more reasonable explanation is that the real culprits are those damn super-aliens.

5) Your Honor, sure fifty people saw my client stab the victim, but I suggest to you that all those people were hallucinating and delusional, and that my client is obviously innocent.

6) Your Honor, there is no explanation for the reason why the knife was found in the victim’s back. It is obviously just a brute fact. Why are we asking ‘why’ questions anyway?

You get the idea…if it’s ridiculous in these cases, it is not much less ridiculous when atheists do it.

And my third point was to explain how “God-of-the-Gaps” reasoning is not only a perfectly valid form of reasoning, but is in no way an argument from ignorance as it is so often portrayed to be…but I’m tired, so I won’t get into this.

Legion of Logic said...

RDM, that was highly entertaining and straight to the point. Thank you very much!

grodrigues said...

Bob Prokop:

"If jdhuey ever did get his wish granted and received a no-shit undeniable sign from The Almighty, I can assure you he'd be the first to run screaming into the night, not looking back!"

I agree with you, but I think we should draw another lesson. If people like Parsons need a magician's trick to be convinced ("Stars aligning and spell out 'I am God'" or some such) then Christians should stop pretending that they are dealing with *rational* people amenable to be convinced by *rational* dialogue. Rational dialogue is about the evidence there is -- Apostles: we *witnessed*; Aquinas: God's existence can be proved in Five ways, etc. -- not some contrived irrational (Shadow to Light's critique is spot on) would-be scenario.

B. Prokop said...

grodrigues,

Thinking about Matthew 12:39 ("An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."), I can see two possible ways of interpreting this saying.

The first is the obvious (and 100% legitimate) literal reading. The Resurrection (an historical, literal, physical fact) is the definitive "evidence" for the truth of Christianity. But there is also a second way of reading this passage...

And that is to look at the story of Jonah itself. Jonah was (as I referenced above) running away from God when he ended up "in the belly of the whale". In Jonah's case, his resurrection, as it were, was a Change of Heart. He had, as they say in AA, hit rock bottom and could fall no further. Jonah's reemergence into the light of day was a spiritual rebirth, a conversion experience, a decision to stop resisting the Voice of God, to cease running away from every sign of Him.

The same goes for us. We can't expect (this side of the Day of Doom) a literal personal resurrection, but we can still choose between denying what's in front of our noses or letting down the self-erected barriers of pride and fear which prevent us from quietly perceiving what God is telling us.

The insistence on some phantasmagorical spectacular, like a laser light show at a rock concert, is frankly childish. Those who insist on such might profit from a meditation on 1 Kings 9:9-13.

And Elijah came to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Elijah answered, "I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." And the LORD said, "Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. (my emphasis)

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

If I did not make myself sufficiently clear, it might help to paraphrase the words of Christ (always a dangerous business!) something like this:

"No sign will ever convince you stubborn people, as long as you are determined to resist. If you jam your fist into your mouth, how can I feed you? If you stop up your ears, how can I sing to you? If you encase yourself in concrete, how can I embrace you?"

Jezu ufam tobie!

jdhuey said...

Bob,

Matthew 7:3-5

B. Prokop said...

Oh, believe me, I am well aware of the log in my own eye. But that does not mean that everyone else's eye is clear!

David Brightly said...

I'm not sure I see the logical connection between (1) and (2), which concern evidence, and (3), which concerns explanation and understanding. One can make the case that they are all false. Against (3) it seems that there are plenty of people for whom non-naturalistic explanations in terms of God do enhance their understanding. Against (2) we can say that a certain conception of God is that he is not a 'being among beings'. Hence evidence for his existence, in the same sense as we have evidence for Obama's existence, is not possible. Finally, against (1), we can say that belief in God may be justified by proof of his existence from first principles. But again this is not evidence in the same sense, etc, etc,

The puzzle seems to be in disentangling evidence, argument, understanding, and belief, and the relations between them.

B. Prokop said...

You make some interesting points, David.

As to (1), there is a fundamental, unbridgeable chasm between strict empiricists and everybody else as to what constitutes "evidence". The empiricist simply refuses to acknowledge that there may exist non-material entities. Often this attitude is by definition. And at the same time, others (myself included) point out that empirical evidence is (again, by definition) limited solely to the natural universe, so you'll never (still, by definition) be able to produce empirical evidence for the supernatural world.

So the biggest problem with (1) is one of definitions. As another example, the materialist often defines the universe along the lines of "everything that exists". Well. If we go that route, then there is (yet again, by definition) no room for the supernatural!

This leads us inevitably to (2), which is basically a logical outcome of the confusion inherent in (1). Once certain categories of evidence are defined out of existence (or, at least declared to be not admissible), then of course to a materialist empiricist, it will appear that there is no evidence for God - because he has defined the concept of evidence to exclude any such.

But I think (3) is actually the crux of the matter here. It exposes the logical incoherence of the atheist demand for some sort of spectacular light show or whatever before he would consider belief. He is essentially demanding a "God of the Gaps" argument whilst simultaneously denying the validity of all such arguments. In other words, "Heads I win - tails you lose."

Jezu ufam tobie!

SteveK said...

"As I keep pointing out, the (hypothetical) truth of atheism matters only if atheism is not actually the truth about the nature of reality."

This is one of those rock-bottom, final points that is worth making. It is one of those final points that undermine everything that might have been resolved in favor of the atheist. If atheism is factually true then nothing of value follows from that fact. If atheism is true then ignoring it in favor of believing what is false is entirely acceptable. Under atheism, it is a fact that each individual determines what is valuable.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor,

If God provides evidence, no matter what he does, it seems to me that 3 could be used to dismiss the case for his existence. Thus, it seems to me that you can't hold both 2 and 3 together. One of them has to go.

This assumes, without argument, that if God provides evidence of His existence, then necessarily it will take the form of a god-of-the-gaps argument. Why would you think that?

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Under atheism, it is a fact that each individual determines what is valuable.

I don't understand why you think that is a consequence of atheism.

Allow me to explain. If you'll please forgive in advance a bad analogy, this sounds to me about as odd as the statement, "Under creationism, it is a fact that Apple iOS is a more secure operating system than Microsoft Windows." If you're reading this and saying to yourself, "Huh? What does creationism have to do with computer security? That isn't even what creationism is about", then you've had the desired reaction. That is exactly how I view the alleged connection between atheism and value: that isn't even what atheism is about. So how you go from atheism to some conclusion about value is a complete mystery.

SteveK said...

Jeffrey,
Technically you're correct, but since so many atheists are naturalists I tend to equate atheism with naturalism.

B. Prokop said...

"it will take the form of a god-of-the-gaps argument. Why would you think that?

Victor thinks that because, in order for any empirical observation to be evidence for God, it necessarily has to be something that has no known natural explanation. That is the very definition of a "God of the Gaps" argument.

So it's not a matter of "why does Victor think that?" but rather that's just what it is.

It's also why I am always pointing out that the atheist's demand for empirical evidence for God is just silly. It's rather like asking, "What is the color of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony?", or "How much does red weigh?" Empirical evidence is (as I wrote in my previous comment) restricted to things within the natural world - by definition.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

B. Prokop,

You must have a different definition of "god-of-the-gaps" argument than I do.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Stevek: I am an atheist and a naturalist and I don't recognize the view you want to saddle me with. So go ahead and equate the two. How does that help your argument?

B. Prokop said...

Jeffery,

So what is your definition?

DougJC said...

Victor,

"If God provides evidence, no matter what he does, it seems to me that 3 could be used to dismiss the case for his existence"

I think jdhuey said it perfectly for me: An ongoing dialog with honest forthcoming information would eventually convince all who value evidence and facts and science. Knowledge is only gained through repetition, patterns can only be seen in streams of data, valuable relationships take time to build.

It's no mystery that artificial neurons are only making progress now that we have supercomputer-like graphics processors. Learning anything with those kinds of structures requires enormous amounts of data processed over and over at incredible speed. Artificial neurons are inspired by and based on biological neurons and the same principle apples. Lots of time and lots of data are what we need to know anything.

There's a flip side here that is important, though. Christianity teaches that the less data you need and the less time you take to believe in God, the more blessed you are. That's a profoundly dangerous approach to take on anything at all-- except God. Why is our universe set up this way if indeed God is real and particularly values belief that takes less data and less time to reach?

David Brightly said...

Bob, suppose we are late 19th century Londoners and we hear stories about a violin-playing consulting detective living in Baker Street called Sherlock Holmes. We both have a pretty good idea how to go about evaluating any evidence for and against his existence. Likewise for the existence of Barack Obama. Virtually all our experience is of material things, virtually all our language is about material things, and we have well-developed ideas as to what they do and don't do. All this we need and use in order to make judgements about the stories we hear about SH and BO. But with regard to putative immaterial entities it seems to me that I am completely in the dark. I utterly lack the wherewithall to make judgements about stories about immaterial things. I can't begin to conceive what evidence for or against the existence of some immaterial entity would be like. So when people talk about evidence for some immaterial entity I suspect they are not using 'evidence' in the narrow sense which I am using here. They are including under 'evidence' some other source of belief of a different kind. But I don't think I am guilty of defining such entities out of existence.

B. Prokop said...

"So when people talk about evidence for some immaterial entity I suspect they are not using 'evidence' in the narrow sense which I am using here. They are including under 'evidence' some other source of belief of a different kind."

Exactly so. You have taken the first steps towards wisdom.

Victor Reppert said...

Jeff: No argument theistic evidence can get anywhere unless something is thought to be going wrong with naturalistic explanation. But, then, it seems always to be open to the atheist so say that there is an unknown naturalistic explanation. This is even going to be the case on the case of "Turn or Burn, This Means You Parsons." It could, after all, be the work of a highly developed, evolved aliens.

How is it possible for atheists to say that the evidence offered by theists is not only not adequate, but actually does not exist?

Secular Outpost said...

B. Prokop: I blogged about the definition of God-of-the-gaps arguments here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2014/07/14/god-of-the-gaps-arguments/

Secular Outpost said...

Victor --

Both theists and atheists can offer ad hoc explanations. Theists can make an ad hoc appeal to God doing / allowing / causing X for an unknown reason. Atheists can make an ad hoc appeal to an unknown naturalistic explanation. While correct, it seems to me that misses the point.

For the sake of argument, let's define distinguish two types of theistic arguments:
1. God-of-the-gaps arguments, i.e., arguments which appeal to a potentially contingent fact about naturalists' current inability to explain X
2. In-principle arguments, i.e., arguments which argue that X is antecedently more probable on theism than on naturalism. For an example of this type of argument, search on "Lowder F-inductive argument from consciousness."

Ilíon said...

DougJC: "There's a flip side here that is important, though. Christianity teaches that the less data you need and the less time you take to believe in God, the more blessed you are. That's a profoundly dangerous approach to take on anything at all-- except God."

And I am sure that we all expect that any second now, the great Jeffery Jay Lowder, that Paragon of Mutual Respect, that Shining Beacon of Civility, will be all over this lie, and its liar.

Oh, come on! Not a one of us expect him even to state that DougJC's assertion is false, much less to denounce it, for we all know that Jeffery Jay Lowder is just a poseur, that he's no more intellectually honest than any other God-denier.

====
That some people succumb to Stockholm Syndrome doesn’t change the facts of what is really going on.

SteveK said...

Jeffery,
"I am an atheist and a naturalist and I don't recognize the view you want to saddle me with."

Doesn't naturalism maintain the view that nature does not create anything with intrinsic value? If so then it seems my statement "each individual determines what is valuable" is accurate.

Ilíon said...

SetveK: "... If so then it seems my statement "each individual determines what is valuable" is accurate."

You have to keep in mind that JJL is playing one of the intellectually dishonest games that atheists/naturalists like to play. Let's call this one "Billions and Billions" --

No matter what statement one explicates of some proposition which inevitably follows from the premises of "naturalism", one can just about guarantee that some (intellectually dishonest) atheist/naturalist will pop up and say, "I am an atheist and a naturalist and I don't recognize the view you want to saddle me with" -- as though *his* logical inconsistency refutes what you have said.

Ilíon said...

... oh, the reason I called this particular game "Billions and Billions" is because it is as though the 'atheist' is saying, "There are billions and billions of Atheisms and Naturalisms, and so *you* are prohibited from making any statements about 'Mere Atheism'"

B. Prokop said...

What's especially amusing about the "Billions and Billions" gambit is the selective way in which it is played. I recall a certain Australian onetime poster to this site, who used to say (with wearisome repetitiveness) that diversity in religious belief was somehow proof of its falseness. But when I responded by pointing out that Vladimir Lenin and Ayn Rand (polar opposites) were both atheists, I was dismissed with the accusation that I was guilty of the tu quoque fallacy.

So in the atheists' mind, it's all right to use diversity in religion as a club, while at the same time using diversity in atheism as a defense against any criticism. (There ought to be an agreed upon Latin term for the "Not Me" logical fallacy.)

Jezu ufam tobie!

Ilíon said...

Nolo meo? (which an online translator claims means "I do not want my")

Ilíon said...

How about "Nolo enim cogitabamus iudicatur", which is "I do not want my idea judged"

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Ilion,

And I am sure that we all expect that any second now, the great Jeffery Jay Lowder, that Paragon of Mutual Respect, that Shining Beacon of Civility, will be all over this lie, and its liar.

What, precisely, is your problem with me? Did I drive my car over your dog? Tell you that your wife is the ugliest woman I've sever seen? Swindle you out of your life's savings?

Secular Outpost said...

Doesn't naturalism maintain the view that nature does not create anything with intrinsic value? If so then it seems my statement "each individual determines what is valuable" is accurate.

To be fair, there are a variety of definitions of naturalism. I subscribe to Draperian naturalism, defined here.

On Draperian naturalism (and probably any other version of naturalism), it is true that there is nothing with intrinsic value which somehow 'got' its intrinsic value from matter or energy (or whatever the ultimate components of matter turn out to be).

It doesn't follow, however, that there is nothing with intrinsic value. In fact, even if all value were subjective, it wouldn't follow that there is nothing with intrinsic value. To say that something is intrinsically valuable is simply to reach a stopping point in value explanations or, in other words, to say that a thing's value isn't derived from the value of something else. That can obviously be the case even if all value were (or is) subjective. See page 16 of my Primer in Religion and Morality.

Related Post: See here for an overview of moral objectivity.

Secular Outpost said...

B Prokop:

What's especially amusing about the "Billions and Billions" gambit is the selective way in which it is played. I recall a certain Australian onetime poster to this site, who used to say (with wearisome repetitiveness) that diversity in religious belief was somehow proof of its falseness. But when I responded by pointing out that Vladimir Lenin and Ayn Rand (polar opposites) were both atheists, I was dismissed with the accusation that I was guilty of the tu quoque fallacy.

So in the atheists' mind, it's all right to use diversity in religion as a club, while at the same time using diversity in atheism as a defense against any criticism. (There ought to be an agreed upon Latin term for the "Not Me" logical fallacy.)


There is a disanalogy between the claims "Diversity in religious belief is evidence against theism" and "Diversity in atheism" is evidence for theism. Theism posits God while atheism denies God. On the assumption that theism is true, that provides us with some reason to expect that: (a) God desires that all moral agents have correct beliefs about Him; and (b) God has the ability to bring about correct beliefs about Him. So theism provides us with at least some reason to expect that there would not be fundamental disagreements over the nature of God which, depending on which religion is true, may well result in billions of people going to Hell. In contrast, if atheism is true, there is no being to ensure that atheists, much less theists, would hold correct beliefs regarding the non-existence of God. So the analogy between theistic diversity and atheistic diversity fails.

Furthermore, while I can appreciate the value of rhetoric as much as anyone else, I think you're exaggerating the relevant disagreement among atheists. Sure, you can find atheists who disagree with one another about politics and economics (such as Lenin vs. Rand), but atheism isn't about politics or economics so the fact that atheists disagree about non-atheistic topics like politics or economics isn't in the least bit surprising.

B. Prokop said...

Secular Outpost "..."

Like I said. Thanks for proving my point.

Secular Outpost said...

Ilion-

You have to keep in mind that JJL is playing one of the intellectually dishonest games that atheists/naturalists like to play. Let's call this one "Billions and Billions" --

No matter what statement one explicates of some proposition which inevitably follows from the premises of "naturalism", one can just about guarantee that some (intellectually dishonest) atheist/naturalist will pop up and say, "I am an atheist and a naturalist and I don't recognize the view you want to saddle me with" -- as though *his* logical inconsistency refutes what you have said.


It is one thing to assert an inconsistency and another to show one. If my views are inconsistent, then it should be easy for you to demonstrate it. For your convenience, I'll quote my definitions here:

atheism = df. the hypothesis that God does not exist. (link)

naturalism = df. the the hypothesis that the universe is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it. (link)

intrinsic value =df. Something is intrinsically valuable if and only if its value is not
derived from something else. For this reason, the expression “non-derivative
value” could be synonymous with “intrinsic value.” “End value” is another
synonym for intrinsic value.
(link)

ontological objectivity = df. A claim is ontologically objective just in case the claim is true by virtue of correspondence to an objective entity or property. (link)

ontologically objective value =df. Something that is good or valuable by virtue of correspondence to an objective entity or property.

With those definitions in mind, please demonstrate the logical contradiction between:

(1) Metaphysical naturalism is true.

and

(2) Intrinsic value exists.

or

(3) Ontologically objective values exist.

Secular Outpost said...

Like I said. Thanks for proving my point.

???

This sort of comment leads me to wonder if you're interested in genuine dialogue or not. If not, please let me know and I'll stop wasting your time and mine.

Secular Outpost said...

Victor:

How is it possible for atheists to say that the evidence offered by theists is not only not adequate, but actually does not exist?

I'm not sure, but then I don't make that claim (which I agree other atheists do make).

In fact, I'll go a step further, if an atheist claims both "there is no evidence for God" and "in principle there cannot be any evidence for God," that does seem to be disingenuous.*

* I'm assuming, which seems reasonable, that God is the sort of thing for which we could have evidence for or against. For example, I'm assuming that the sentence, "God exists," has a truth value and so can be either true or false.

Victor Reppert said...

I want to say, for the record, I think people like Jeff do an enormous service to the whole community of dialogue. It was at his invitation that the first Argument from Reason paper appeared on Internet Infidels.

The question that I am concerned with is whether there is a place for an open forum of debate and dialogue between believers and unbelievers. Some people engage discussion in ways that has a tendency to shut down discussion and polarize believers and nonbelievers. In the spirit of I Pet 3:15, and in the spirit of Lewis's founding of the Oxford Socratic Club, I think it wrong for believers or unbelievers to shut down discussion.

He takes as lot of abuse from more militant types taking the position he takes, and has dealt with it with far more grace than I would have.

SteveK said...

Secular Outpost
"It doesn't follow, however, that there is nothing with intrinsic value."

I'm limiting my comment to natural things and it seems you agree that no natural thing (what I call facts of natural reality) has intrinsic value. Natural facts like natural life, consciousness, humans, rationality, etc. have value only when a human assigns them value. This is subjective.

Some people think rationality is valuable and some don't, hence IIlion's "so what?" response to arguments if indeed naturalism is fact. If naturalism is true nobody is obligated to assign any specific value to that fact and live a certain way.

Victor Reppert said...

I think part of the claim is that there could be evidence for God, but it has to be different in kind from what has been provided, and the fact that it does not exist is evidence of God's absence.

B. Prokop said...

"???"

Can you not see that your claim of "disanalogy" is equivalent to denying that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander?

So theism provides"

Whatever. I am not a "theist" - I am a Christian, and a Catholic. I have explicit and identifiable beliefs, not some mushy "ism" which cannot be nailed down or defined (or defended). You can debate "theism" (whatever the hell that means) with others, but the only creed I'll defend (to the last syllable) is the Nicene. There is no question or ambiguity about what I believe - you can read it in the Catechism.

(It also means that, whatever sins you can accuse Catholics of having committed (past or present), I will be be out in front of you, condemning them even more fiercely, and hopefully before anyone else beats me to it.)

Jezu ufam tobie!

SteveK said...

Furthermore, the way I see it is the only way that a fact about a particular worldview can obligate another to live a certain way is if the obligation itself is also a fact of the worldview. If the obligation is subjectively determined by the individual then there is no obligation to hold onto it when they decide to live differently. Naturalism doesn't have any obligations, except the subjective kind, however Christianity does.

Secular Outpost said...

B Prokop,

Can you not see that your claim of "disanalogy" is equivalent to denying that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander?

The expression "what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander" is applicable when you have a good analogy. The whole point of the rest of my comment was an argument about why that analogy fails. The burden is now upon you to defend the analogy in response to my argument.

If I understand you correctly, you deny that what is true of theism generally is true of Christian theism (or Catholic theism) specifically, and so you dismiss the rest of my comment on those grounds.

Now, what relevance could the Catechism of the Catholic Church possibly have to an evidential argument from religious disagreement against theism? The only conceivable way that it could be relevant would be if it showed that said disagreement is not antecedently much more probable on naturalism than on theism.

But how could it do this? Since we don't know that the Catechism is true, we cannot simply equate Pr(disagreement | theism) with Pr(disagreement | theism & Catechism). Rather, in order to assess the Catechism's effect on Pr(disagreement | theism) we use what Draper calls the Weighted Average Principle (WAP), which gives the following equation:

Pr(disagreement | theism) = Pr(Catechism | theism) x Pr(disagreement | theism & Catechism) + Pr(~Catechism | theism) x Pr(disagreement | theism & ~Catechism).

The higher Pr(Catechism | theism), the closer Pr(disagreement | theism) will be to Pr(disagreement | theism & Catechism). Similarly, the higher Pr(~Catechism | theism), the closer Pr(disagreement | theism) will be to Pr(disagreement | theism & ~Catechism).

So, in other words, for the Catechism to be a relevant response, we need a reason to think that, Pr(Catechism | theism) > Pr(~Catechism | theism). So... why should we think that? I-- along with Protestants, Jews, Muslisms, and any other non-Catholic theists--would really like to know. :)

Secular Outpost said...

SteveK:

Furthermore, the way I see it is the only way that a fact about a particular worldview can obligate another to live a certain way is if the obligation itself is also a fact of the worldview. If the obligation is subjectively determined by the individual then there is no obligation to hold onto it when they decide to live differently. Naturalism doesn't have any obligations, except the subjective kind, however Christianity does.

Again, you assert that there are no obligations if naturalism is true and, again, I think you're begging the question. What we have in assertion is that there can be no obligations if naturalism is true. What we don't have is any good argument for thinking that.

Secular Outpost said...

I'm limiting my comment to natural things and it seems you agree that no natural thing (what I call facts of natural reality) has intrinsic value. Natural facts like natural life, consciousness, humans, rationality, etc. have value only when a human assigns them value. This is subjective.

If that's what you think my position is, then I'm afraid you misunderstood what I wrote. From the fact (if it is a fact) that tiny bits of matter don't have intrinsic value, it doesn't follow that complex combinations of physical matter are not intrinsically valuable. To think otherwise seems to be a textbook example of the fallacy of composition.

Secular Outpost said...

I think part of the claim is that there could be evidence for God, but it has to be different in kind from what has been provided, and the fact that it does not exist is evidence of God's absence.

So the "it has to be different in kind from what has been provided" part is interesting. With that nuance, I'm no longer sure the charge of inconsistency sticks. N.B. I'm not saying there aren't any difficulties (or that there are). I'm simply saying I'm not sure how the charge of inconsistency is supposed to work.

B. Prokop said...

My turn - "???"

Not being a professional philosopher, all those letters and parentheses are just so much gobbledygook to me. Not the way I think. I prefer subject/predicate statements (such as "Christ is risen!")

SteveK said...

Secular Outpost,
"To think otherwise seems to be a textbook example of the fallacy of composition."

Tiny bits of matter are a composition. What natural thing gives a bigger composition its value? You said above that "it is true that there is nothing with intrinsic value which somehow 'got' its intrinsic value from matter or energy".

Is there something other than matter and energy that gave the bigger composition its value?

Secular Outpost said...

Not being a professional philosopher, all those letters and parentheses are just so much gobbledygook to me. Not the way I think. I prefer subject/predicate statements (such as "Christ is risen!")

Fair enough! Getting rid of the mathematical notation, the point is this. Unless there is some antecedent reason on theism to think the Catechism is true, Catholic doctrine doesn't provide a good defeater for the evidential argument from religious disagreement against theism. And since Catholic theism is a version of theism, it follows that Catholic theism cannot be more probable than theism generally (while Catholic theism could be quite a bit less probable than theism generally).

Secular Outpost said...

Also, I should point out that I am also not a professional philosopher and do not have a Ph.D. in philosophy, although I do call myself a philosopher of religion by virtue of my publications.

B. Prokop said...

There is no such animal as "Catholic theism".

DougJC said...

Ilíon,

John 20:29: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed supports my claim that Christianity teaches that the less data/time you need to believe in God, the more blessed you are. I've not heard anyone claim that Thomas was a better person for requiring visual and physical proof to the resurrection, in fact I've heard just the opposite.

When I say "that's a profoundly dangerous approach to take on anything at all-- except God" I mean that Thomas' approach is a far better strategy for reliable knowledge: check and re-check. It works on all forms of knowledge except one seemingly privileged class: belief in God. If God exists, this disparity baffles me.

B. Prokop said...

Doug,

John 20:29 supports nothing of the sort.

The Gospel of John is famous for presenting various sayings and events in a quite singular fashion, often out of sequence from the synoptics. Matthew, Mark, and Luke have, for instance, a narrative about the Transfiguration. John merely states "We have seen his glory" and leaves it at that. Luke places the Descent of the Holy Spirit after the Ascension, while John has Christ saying to the Apostles "Receive the Holy Spirit" on (apparently) Easter Sunday. John appears to have a completely different understanding of the Ascension itself, when he records Jesus saying to Mary Magdalene "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" within hours of His Resurrection. I am forever in awe of the unique perspective and deep insight that John so often brings to things which in the synoptics can seem almost pedestrian.

In like manner, Matthew, Mark, and Luke each relates a version of the "Great Commission" ("Go out into the whole world and make disciples of all men"). And once again, John brings in his own perspective on the matter. In his Gospel, Christ first confirms that the 11 Apostles are eyewitnesses ("You have believed because you have seen me." John 20:29), and then proceeds to command them to spread the Good News, or in John's characteristic wording "Blessed are those who have not seen and believe." (I.e., "You will tell them what you know from firsthand experience, and they who have not had the same privilege will then also believe.")

So no, no, NO! John is in no way saying "that the less data/time you need to believe in God, the more blessed you are". Quite the reverse, in fact. He is saying that through a thorough grounding in Apostolic teaching, those who were not witnesses of Jesus's life and deeds will nevertheless be able to come to Faith.

Jezu ufam tobie!

RDM said...

From the fact (if it is a fact) that tiny bits of matter don't have intrinsic value, it doesn't follow that complex combinations of physical matter are not intrinsically valuable. To think otherwise seems to be a textbook example of the fallacy of composition.

And who, or what, pray tell, determines which complex combinations of physical matter have intrinsic value and which don’t. For example, I hold that the complex combination of physical matter that is in the shape of a ‘cow’ has intrinsic value, but the complex combination of physical matter that is in the shape of a ‘human’ does not. Now, is there any way, on naturalism, to show me that my assessment is wrong or incorrect?

Next, is it really the case that complex combinations of physical matter are intrinsically valuable? Well, consider the following analogy. Imagine a fence picket. One fence picket obviously has no intrinsic value, does it? No. Well, a small structure comprising five fence pickets has no intrinsic value, does it? No. Now, does a struture comprising a hundred thousand fence pickets have intrinsic value? It seems not. And does a hyper ornate and complex structure of fence pickets, with gates, different designs, etc. have any intrinsic value? I cannot see why. Finally, would a structure composed of fence pickets in the shape of a human, with pickets that smashed together to make sounds, and pickets that could move and grasp things, have any intrinsic value? Again, it seems difficult to see why. And so, it seems to me that the naturalist who claims that complex chunks of matter have intrinsic value suffers from the ‘Problem of the Heap’. He wants to claim that some complex chunks of matter have intrinsic value, but his demarcation criteria for which complex chunks do have intrinsic value and which ones don’t is arbitrary and ad hoc, which, thereby, makes his criteria essentially question begging in nature.

Finally, remember that, in this case, it is the naturalist who is claiming that certain complex chunks of matter have intrinsic value, and so the burden of proof is on him to show that that is the case. And until and unless he does so, we can safely disregard his assertion and remain agnostic and unconvinced about his claims.

David Brightly said...

Steve and RD, This is all a bit abstract, so some examples may help. Elemental sodium and chlorine have disvalue for us---sodium is inflammable and chlorine poisonous---but their combination in common salt has positive value. A few pickets are not much use but a decent fence around the garden will keep animals out.

planks length said...

He wants to claim that some complex chunks of matter have intrinsic value, but his demarcation criteria for which complex chunks do have intrinsic value and which ones don’t is arbitrary and ad hoc, which, thereby, makes his criteria essentially question begging in nature.

That's a very interesting sentence. I think you've nailed the "logic" that goes behind most pro-abortion thinking. Arbitrary cutoffs such as 18 weeks or the 2nd trimester or whatever, plus the idea that the fetus must first attain a certain level of development before he/she is worthy of any consideration.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

B. Prokop,

If there's no such thing as Catholic theism and you are a Catholic, then greetings, fellow atheist! :)

B. Prokop said...

My objection is to the word "theist". It is a mushy, wishy-washy, frankly cowardly term signifying nothing meaningful, and certainly nothing useful. I'll take my stand behind the Creed, thank you - a clear, concrete, explicit, specific, and unambiguous affirmation of belief.

The "theist/atheist" dichotomy is akin to the one between anarchy and its opposite. (What is a good word for the opposite of anarchy? Archy? The root word for anarchy is ἀρχή (arkhḗ), the Greek for "source" or "principle") Saying someone is not an anarchist tells you basically nothing about his political philosophy. Is he a democrat? A fascist? A royalist? A theocrat? A communist? A feudalist? A tribal chieftain? A technocrat?

So that is why I oppose ever using the term, on the grounds that it sooner confuses the issue rather than clarifying anything.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Ilíon said...

B.Preachin'It.Brother: "So that is why I oppose ever using the term ["theism"], on the grounds that it sooner confuses the issue rather than clarifying anything."

Exactly.

Whether intentionally (and thus dishonestly) or not, the term "theism" becomes the basis of the God-haters' continual, and false, attempts to lump Classical paganism, for instance, with Judaism and Christrianity. On the basis of the term "theism", 'atheists' (ahem) argue, to the very limited extent that they ever even try to argue, against the God of Abraham by arguing against Zeus. But, in fact, Classical paganism, and indeed most paganisms, lump with atheism, not with Judeo-Christianity: Judeo-Christianity isn't even on the same axis as paganism.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

My objection is to the word "theist". It is a mushy, wishy-washy, frankly cowardly term signifying nothing meaningful, and certainly nothing useful. I'll take my stand behind the Creed, thank you - a clear, concrete, explicit, specific, and unambiguous affirmation of belief.

I'm sure that it's news to Victor that the term "theist" is a "cowardly term signifying nothing meaningful." N.B. You're even more radical than most atheists, for that statement amounts to an expression of noncognitivism, viz., the belief that "Theism is true" does not express a proposition.

I'll sit back and watch you and Victor iron this one out. :)

Ilíon said...

B...What!? "There is no such animal as "Catholic theism"."

I seem to recall that when I had had enough of the Prancing Fool nattering on about "Classical Theism" (*), and so I said, "There is no such religion as 'Classical Theism', nor ever was", that many of you (plural) and you (particular) went a bit wild in your disputing of what I'd said.

Isn't it just the most amazing thing that I always turn out to be right about these things that you (plural) are not yet willing to think about?

(*) and using that nattering as an intellectually dishonest dodge when some God-hater did try to raise a real objection to things he'd say; or using that nattering as his rationale for scorning, well, all Christians, and especially Protestants, as something called "personal theists"

B. Prokop said...

Aww, Ilion. You're dinging me for some statement I made in the past? Next thing I know, you'll be holding Donald Trump accountable for having once (actually, several times) said he likes Hillary Clinton!

But seriously, there are many, many carelessly worded statements I've made over the years on this site that I wish I could go back and edit (unlike yourself, who have never misspoke even once. "We're not worthy, we're not worthy!").

I vaguely recall all that sturm und drang about "Classical Theism". I didn't really understand it then, and I'm not at all sure I do now. One statement I've made repeatedly, which I have zero regrets about, is that if I want to know anything about God, I look to Jesus. ("To have seen me is to have seen the Father.") To me at least, that makes all the argument for and against "Classical Theism" rather irrelevant.

Jezu ufam tobie!

SteveK said...

RDM,
"And who, or what, pray tell, determines which complex combinations of physical matter have intrinsic value and which don’t."

Under naturalism I'm saying value is assigned by the individual each and every time. Apparently that rubbed Jeffrey the wrong way because I'm saddling him with something he doesn't believe. He has yet to respond to these questions.

Ilíon said...

Waaa! No fair remembering my behavior from longer ago than last Tuesday: "... You're even more radical than most atheists, for that statement [to wit: "the word "theist" [is a] term signifying nothing meaningful, and certainly nothing useful"] amounts to an expression of noncognitivism, viz., the belief that "Theism is true" does not express a proposition."

What proposition does the sentence "Theism is true" express? Just this: "The proposition denoted by the term 'theism' is true."

So, what is the proposition denoted by the term 'theism'?

I'm not going to walk Gentle Reader through each step of this in this post, but, ultimately, the proposition denoted by the term 'theism' is this compound-proposition: "EITHER there is rational being who is the Creator of the world, OR there is not a rational being who is the Creator of the world"

Now, certainly, that compound-proposition is true -- it cannot fail to be true -- but, just as B.Prokop said, it "signif[ies] nothing meaningful, and certainly nothing useful"

Ilíon said...

"Aww, Ilion. You're dinging me for some statement I made in the past?"

Not at all! I'm acknowledging that you've grown!

... and reminding you that "you're not worthy!" :-0

B. Prokop said...

"I'm acknowledging that you've grown!"

What?! Have you hacked into my bathroom scale? I knew I should never have trusted those fancy new digital, computerized ones!

Ilíon said...

Waaa! No fair remembering my behavior from longer ago than last Tuesday: "What, precisely, is your problem with me? Did I drive my car over your dog? Tell you that your wife is the ugliest woman I've sever seen? Swindle you out of your life's savings?"

Precisely? Is it precise enough that he's a liar and a hypocrite? and especially the latter part.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

What proposition does the sentence "Theism is true" express? Just this: "The proposition denoted by the term 'theism' is true."

So, what is the proposition denoted by the term 'theism'?


Theism is the belief that God exists.

I'm not going to walk Gentle Reader through each step of this in this post, but, ultimately, the proposition denoted by the term 'theism' is this compound-proposition: "EITHER there is rational being who is the Creator of the world, OR there is not a rational being who is the Creator of the world"

Not according to ordinary usage of the word.

Ilíon said...

Secular Out[]: "From the fact (if it is a fact) that tiny bits of matter don't have intrinsic value, it doesn't follow that complex combinations of physical matter are not intrinsically valuable. To think otherwise seems to be a textbook example of the fallacy of composition"

SteveK: "Tiny bits of matter are a composition. What natural thing gives a bigger composition its value? You said above that "it is true that there is nothing with intrinsic value which somehow 'got' its intrinsic value from matter or energy".

Is there something other than matter and energy that gave the bigger composition its value?
"

SO is demonstrating the textbook example of misapplying the fallacy of composition. But, it's OK, because that is a tradition of long standing with 'atheists'.
===
In any event, aside from that, and no matter whether one acknowledges or denies the reality of God, isn't the concept of "intrinsic value" just a little bit dodgy?

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Precisely? Is it precise enough that he's a liar and a hypocrite? and especially the latter part.

Some would say that I shouldn't spend any more time on this, but I'm going to go ahead and bite. What are you talking about?

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Finally, remember that, in this case, it is the naturalist who is claiming that certain complex chunks of matter have intrinsic value, and so the burden of proof is on him to show that that is the case. And until and unless he does so, we can safely disregard his assertion and remain agnostic and unconvinced about his claims.

This would be a fair statement only if you ignore the dialectical context. Several theists on this site claim that naturalism is logically inconsistent with objective or intrinsic value. In order to refute that claim, all I have to do is show that it is possible for both naturalism to be true and for objective or intrinsic value to exist, which I have done. I don't have to provide demarcation criteria or show that some particular object has value while other does not.

LINK

Ilíon said...

That Great Paragon of "The Discussion" -- whose idea of "discussion" seems to be, "Ban anyone who is too effective in highlighting the vacuity of God-Denial": "Theism is the belief that God exists."

Then why do you people *always* end up trying to equate Zeus, an effect of the Cosmos, with the God, the Creator of the Cosmos, and then try to "argue" against the reality of God by reference ot Zeus? Hell! even the pre-Christian pagan Greeks knew better than that.

Ilíon, of whom, as we were recently informed, you are not worthy: "... ultimately, the proposition denoted by the term 'theism' is this compound-proposition: "EITHER there is rational being who is the Creator of the world, OR there is not a rational being who is the Creator of the world"

I won't even try to understand why I'm wrong, so why waste your time and bandwidth stepping through it: "Not according to ordinary usage of the word."

By what "ordinary usage of the word" can "the word" possibly refer simultaneously to the pantheons of Scandia/Germania, and Rome, and Greece, and Egypt, and Babylon, on the one hand -- every member of which contingently-and-materially either "arose" directly from a Cosmos pre-existing him or was born of gods and/or humans pre-existing him, and this Cosmos itself "arose" from a pre-existing Chaos -- and on the other hand to the non-contingent and non-material Creator-and-Sustainer of the Cosmos?

Know this, Gentle Reader, 'theism' sans qualifier is a term the God-deniers use for its value at disguising their beloved equivocation.

B. Prokop said...

I was searching for the right words as to why I have such a visceral reaction against the word theism, but I think Ilion supplied them for me. Theism is the idiotic notion that YHWH and Zeus can be referred to using the same noun, when in reality they are as unlike as... well, let's just say they are altogether different - no commonality whatsoever.

SteveK said...

Jeffery,
"In order to refute that claim, all I have to do is show that it is possible for both naturalism to be true and for objective or intrinsic value to exist, which I have done."

It's possible you're wrong so I guess I've now refuted your original claim? Not really. It doesn't work that way. Mere logical possibility refutes nothing.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

It's possible you're wrong so I guess I've now refuted your original claim? Not really. It doesn't work that way. Mere logical possibility refutes nothing.

If someone claims X and Y are logically incompatible, all that is necessary to refute such a strong claim is to show how it is possible for X and Y to co-exist. Furthermore, this isn't atheist special pleading. See Alvin Plantinga's Free Will Defense (FWD) against the late J.L. Mackie's logical version of the argument from evil.

In short: Yes, it does that work way.

Ilíon said...

B.Prokop: "Theism is the idiotic notion that YHWH and Zeus can be referred to using the same noun, when in reality they are as unlike as... well, let's just say they are altogether different - no commonality whatsoever."

This indirectly leads us to one of the reasons why I have no patience with "civility". One sees this all the time on this very blog: due to their crippling intellectual Stockholm Syndrome vis-à-vis strident God-hatred, in their zeal to display their “civility” toward the pertetually-offended God-haters (*), one constantly sees "theists" phrasing the issue in terms of whether there exist "a God or gods". In other words, out of fear of "offending" the professionally offended, they have allowed the God-haters to reframe the issue in the very language the God-haters use to equivocate between Zeus and Jehovah.

But, the issue is not whether there exist "a God or gods"; the issue is whether the Creator-God is or is not. Or, to put it in a slightly different way, the issue is whether the Cosmos (and we its members) is the deliberate creation of a mind who logically precedes it, or whether it is not the deliberate creation of a mind. The former is the position of Judeo-Christianity; the latter is the position of atheism. The existence of "gods" is as consistent with atheism as is the existence of human beings (***) – for the difference between "gods" and human beings is one of degree, not of kind.


(*) which, in practice means never saying any truth which the hive-mind of evangelical atheism has decided to suppress (**); the very reason that the things I say strike so many of you non-atheists as "outrageous" is because you were intellectually castrated before you even knew what was going on ... and you were castrated by an earlier generation of so-called Christians who had self-castrated because they valued "dialogue" over truth. Somewhere along the line, at least a century ago, the supposed intellects within Christianity lost their courage in the face of scorn from the likes of such pathetics as Marx and Russell. The *reason* that Plantinga was so "radical" when he came on the scene is because, in effect, he said, "[bad-word] this [bad-word]! Christ is Lord of all, and I don't have to beg permission of his enemies to pre-approve my arguments"

(**) in the end, you can no more be truly civil with the atheists than you can with the politically correct, because *they* are not civil, and are merely using your innate desire to minimize conflict to steam-roll you.

(***) Now, in fact, the existence of human beings is NOT consistent with atheism; but that fact isn't immediately apparent; that fact comes to one's attention only after one has given some critical thought to the logical implications of atheism.

SteveK said...

Jeffery,
"In short: Yes, it does that work way."

Well okay. I guess I did refute your claim.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Well okay. I guess I did refute your claim.

Which claim of logical incompatibility?

DougJC said...

B. Prokop,

"John 20:29 supports nothing of the sort."

In some traditions, perhaps not, and in those traditions I wouldn't make the claim. I take it, then, in your tradition Thomas is seen not as "Doubting Thomas" but as demonstrating almost a laudable sort of skepticism?

However, I think most traditions support my view. For example, going from the commentaries at BibleHub I can't find one that does not.

Ellicott's Commentary: [Thomas] had arrived at conviction by means of the senses, but the higher blessedness was that of those who see by the eye of the spirit and not by that of the body; who base their confidence on the conviction of the faith-faculty, and are independent of the changing phenomena of the senses.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: Thomas had the opportunity of believing without seeing, but rejected it.

Barnes' Notes on the Bible: Jesus here approves the faith of Thomas, but more highly commends the faith of those who should believe without having seen.

Matthew Poole's Commentary: Thou believest that I am risen from the dead upon the testimony of thy senses; thou doest well in that: thou hast seen, thou hast felt me; but it is a more noble faith to believe without any such sensible evidence.

David Brightly said...

Victor asks,

How is it possible for atheists to say that the evidence offered by theists is not only not adequate, but actually does not exist?

One way may be through equivocation on 'evidence'. Bob and I seem to be agreed that there can be no 'narrow evidence' for God, evidence in the same sense as there is evidence for Obama but not for Sherlock. But there could be 'broad evidence' if this is taken to include arguments from first principles (eg, Aquinas), God-of-the-gaps arguments, and JJL's arguments from likelihood. I personally tend not to think of argument as 'evidence', but that is an accident of how I have come to understand the word. Are there any other sources of belief? One possibility, fraught with problems of its own, is knowledge by acquaintance.

If the only evidence for God turns out to be through argument then we are in trouble. Because how compelling we find an argument is going to depend, amongst other things, on how committed we are to its premises, and it's a fact of life that we come to these arguments with a wide spectrum of pre-existing commitments. We are rational enough but it seems the question cannot be rationally decided. Accepting this has interesting social implications.

B. Prokop said...

Doug,

Your references are Protestants all. Protestants in general has a bias against "tradition", in which they include the Witness of the Early Church Fathers. So such interpretations are not surprising, considering the source.

I'll count that as a swing and a miss.

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

"If the only evidence for God turns out to be through argument..."

I know this is not popular in academia, but I hold that the best and most certain evidence for the truth of Christianity is found in the New Testament, the Witness of the Church Fathers, the lives of the saints, the history of the Church, the Sacraments, and the living witness of the Church in the world today.

For Pete's sake, a simple self-educated layperson like myself has engaged in countless debates about the historicity of the Resurrection, both in person and on websites such as this one, and have not only come out on top every single time, but have yet to ever hear presented (not even once!) a decent case contra that cannot be demolished with minimal effort. The solidity and strength of the pro arguments, coupled with the pathetic weakness of all proposed alternative explanations, are what have led me to the (unwilling) conclusion that it takes an active act of will to reject them, and that unbelievers are, as in the words of Saint Paul, "without excuse".

Jezu ufam tobie!

SteveK said...

Jeffery,
Which claim of logical incompatibility?

You resolved the logical incompatibility problem by altering the terms in my argument. Something had to change in order for you to get around the incompatibility problem that I presented. So you changed my understanding of value to something different in order to make compatibility possible. Here's what you wrote

"It is possible for both naturalism to be true and for objective or intrinsic value to exist"

Here 'value' is defined as a more complex composition of materialistic bits. There's no need to back that claim up, you just assert it as a fact and ‘presto’ you've refuted an argument.

So that is what I did to your argument in order to refute your refutation. Our two arguments are logically incompatible, but it's possible they are compatible IF we change the meaning of some of the terms. I won’t do that here but it can be done if someone bothered to spend the time doing it.

Of course this is all wrongheaded.

jdhuey said...

"In any event, aside from that, and no matter whether one acknowledges or denies the reality of God, isn't the concept of "intrinsic value" just a little bit dodgy?"

It pains me beyond belief, but I have to agree with llion. Except I don't think it is a little bit dodgy but very dodgy. As I see it, 'value' is derived only from the interaction of a sentient organism (or a deity) with something else. 'Value' doesn't reside in the thing valued but in the entity that is doing the valuing. The idea that value is somehow a property of a thing, is an example of how we humans project our internal concepts onto the world.

SteveK said...

I agree with that too, jdhuey. Who said otherwise?

B. Prokop said...

"'Value' doesn't reside in the thing valued but in the entity that is doing the valuing. The idea that value is somehow a property of a thing, is an example of how we humans project our internal concepts onto the world."

You need to read Lewis's The Abolition of Man. He spends the first third of the book ("Men Without Chests") absolutely demolishing the idea that value resides within us, and not within the thing being valued.

Jezu ufam tobie!

jdhuey said...

.'Who said otherwise?'

Well, SteveK, I may not understand what Secular Outpost intends with his definition of 'intrinsic value' but it would be better to discard that verbiage altogether. The erroneous idea that gold and silver have intrinsic value has permeated men's minds for eons. So, even if he means the term in some other way, it carries that connotation and can only lead to confusion.

jdhuey said...

Thanks Bob. I down loaded a PDF copy of the book and will peruse it this weekend amidst beer and BBQ.

Ilíon said...

"It pains me beyond belief, but I have to agree with llion."

Growth often involves pain, don't ya know?

Dan Gillson said...

It's "dontcha know," Ilíon. As in " If yer gonna speak Minnesotan, ya better speak it right, dontcha know."

Ilíon said...

^ I'm a Hoosier, with roots in New England and the Carolinas (by way of Illinois) and the Tennessee/Alabama/Mississippi border area, living in Ohio. With all that, and more, going on, I have a dispensation to use a more flexible language.

B. Prokop said...

Like Ilion, I belong to no one section of the US. Born in New Jersey, raised in Arizona, stationed in the Army in California, Texas, and Maryland. Then lived 10 years overseas (Germany, England, Korea), followed by 5 different places in Maryland (Laurel, Crofton, Ellicott City, Columbia, and now Baltimore), plus very strong ties to family in Massachusetts. Vacationed for decades in North Carolina (to the point where it felt like a "second home") and nowadays I spend part of each summer in Vermont. I'm all over the map!

Ilíon said...

"I'm all over the map!"

Diet not working out so well? ;)