Thursday, September 10, 2015

10 Questions for Materialist Atheists

Here. 

1.      Consider this assertion: Nothing exists but those things with which science can experimentDo you believe this because of scientific reasons, or it is a dogma for you?

2.      Many materialists believe, with Steven Weinberg [1], that the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointlessDo you really believe that everything is pointless? In that case, why do you get up in the night when your child is ill?
3.      Science seems to have discovered many things about the universe and the world around us. But some materialist thinkers, like Stephen Hawking [2], say that objective reality in unknowableDo you believe that scientific discoveries are real, or are they just mental constructs of man? In the second case, why does technology work?
4.      Science has discovered that nature is subject to surprisingly simple laws, if they are expressed in mathematical form. Materialist philosophers believe that there is no need to find an explanation for the existence of the laws. They are just there, with no reason.Do you agree with this assertion? Do you have scientific reasons to believe it, or do you believe it without reason? In other words, is it a dogma for you?
5.      The evolution of living beings takes place through a combination of chance and necessity. Materialists say that this proves that there cannot be design in evolution. In our experiments on artificial life (a branch of computer science that simulates the behavior of living beings with a program) we use a combination of chance and necessity, parallel to that in biological evolution. It is evident that our experiments are designed. Knowing this, do you still affirm that biological evolution is not designed? Do you believe it for scientific reasons, or is it a dogma for you?
6.      Materialism affirms that we are not free, that we are programmed machines, thatwhenever we act or think, we have no option but to act or think as we actually act or thinkAre you a materialist because you have meditated and found reasons for this position, or because you have been programmed to accept it?
7.      Materialists assert that in nature there are only efficient causes, that there are no final causes or purposesYou are a part of nature. How then can you have purposes, how can you set goals and work to achieve them? Or is that just an illusion? In that case,why should we work to achieve anything, if everything is decided beforehand?
8.      Is man just an animal, as materialists say? If we analyze the matter carefully, we can see that the differences between man and the animals are overwhelming [3]. Are you sure that man is just an animal? Why do you believe that? Is it a dogma for you, or do you have reasons to believe it, apart from having read about it?
9.      To come to the conclusion that God does not exist, have you studied carefully the Christian idea of God? Or perhaps, following Richard Dawkins [4], do you think that, as God does not exist, you don’t have to lose your time studying what other people say about Him? In other words: Is the inexistence of God a start point for you, a dogma?
Antony Flew
10.  One of the most important atheist philosophers of the twentieth century (Antony Flew, 1923-2010) changed his mind in 2004 and published a book [5] explaining the reasons for his decisionHave you read Flew’s book, or  will you take care not to read it, so that your atheistic convictions won’t be in danger?

[1] Steven Weinberg, The first three minutes, 1977, Basic Books.
[2] Stephen Hawking, L. Mlodinow, The grand design, 2010, Transworld Digital. Seehttp://populscience.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-grand-design.html
[3] Manuel Alfonseca, Is man just an animal?http://populscience.blogspot.com/2015/06/is-man-just-animal.html
[4] Richard Dawkins, The God delusion, 2008, Mariner Books. Seehttp://populscience.blogspot.com/2014/08/the-dawkins-delusion.html
[5] Antony Flew, There is a God: how the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind, 2008, HarperOne.

43 comments:

John Moore said...

1) False dichotomy. It's not scientific, but not dogma either. It's a position I choose tentatively.

2) The cosmos taken as a whole cannot possibly mean something, because that "something" would have to be separate from the cosmos as a whole, and nothing is separate from the cosmos as a whole. Meaning always depends on context. Within our human context, we have rich lives full of meaning.

3) All knowledge is symbolic, but objective reality is not symbolic - it's "the thing itself." All symbols fail in some way to capture the full meaning of the thing they symbolize. Scientific discoveries are both real and mental constructs.

4) Yes, there's no need to figure out why the laws of nature exist. They are among the foundational assumptions for science. Every worldview is based on certain foundatonal assumptions that are merely assumed. I believe in the laws of nature tentatively, because I want to. Therefore, it's neither scientific, nor without reason, nor dogma.

5) The question is whether a designer was required to set up the conditions for evolution to take place. I see no evidence that a designer was required or even possible, and therefore I tentatively believe no designer existed.

6) Free will does not exist. It's an incoherent concept. By the way, we are not "programmed" either. Being programmed implies a programmer, but there's no need for a cosmic programmer, nor evidence for one. I was caused to believe whatever I believe.

7) The Earth is a solid ball that isn't flowing like a river. Neverthess, there are rivers on Earth that flow. This is not a contradiction. Human motivation works the same way as a river flowing. As water in a river flows downhill, the neuro-electric currents in my brain also flow due to purely natural forces.

8) Humans are unusual animals. We have many similarities with other animals, and also many differences. This is obvious.

9) I don't have any logically persuasive argument about God's existence or non-existence. I refuse to believe in God as a kind of rebellion against religious authority.

10) I have read many books by both Christians and atheists but not Anthony Flew's. Is he a particularly strong authority? If so, I would probably reject him, because as an atheist, I abhor strong authority figures.

B. Prokop said...

"I refuse to believe in God"

It's refreshing to see such honesty. Like I've said multiple times, unbelief has nothing to do with "evidence", argument, or reason - it is an act of the will.

Jezu ufam tobie!

John Moore said...

Same with belief, of course. We can argue and discuss the supposed evidence all we want, but in the end, only the Holy Spirit can convict you. You must submit humbly to God and choose to serve him rather than your own selfish interest.

William said...

"The cosmos taken as a whole cannot possibly mean something, because that "something" would have to be separate from the cosmos as a whole, and nothing is separate from the cosmos as a whole."

JM:

Your assertion above may also imply that the cosmos-as-a-whole cannot be consistently defined at all. Any such definition would (in the same sense you take of "meaning" above) also have to be "separate from the cosmos as a whole." And you said that "nothing is separate from the cosmos as a whole."

So, let's limit ourselves to one galaxy (this one). Can you see meaning here?

grodrigues said...

@John Moore:

"Same with belief, of course."

No, of course *not*. I cannot speak for Bob, but I certainly *deny* that there is any parallel between me and you, "Holy Spirit" babbling notwithstanding. You on the other hand have written "I refuse to believe in God as a kind of rebellion against religious authority.". You have also written "I was caused to believe whatever I believe." so you acknowledge that your refusal is due to factors wholly outside of you and, presumably, ultimately traceable to the Big Bang or whatever boundary, initial conditions on the universe.

We are not in the same boat. Not by a long shot.

Ilíon said...

[Trigger warning -- I am making a *point* here, one that all you "nice" and "civil" people adamantly refuse to see when employ my customarily more subtle approach ]

John Moore: "6) Free will does not exist. It's an incoherent concept. ... I was caused to believe whatever I believe.
9) I don't have any logically persuasive argument about God's existence or non-existence.
"

What a lying piece of shit this 'John Moore' is.

John Moore: "9) ... I refuse to believe in God as a kind of rebellion against religious authority.
10) Is [Flew] a particularly strong authority? If so, I would probably reject him, because as an atheist, I abhor strong authority figures.
"

There is some honesty, at least. It's not that this lying POS doesn't "have any logically persuasive argument about God's existence"; it's that he *refuses* to assent to what reason demands ... because he has "daddy issues".

Chris said...

If free will is an illusion, how can one "refuse" or "choose" in any meaningful way?

B. Prokop said...

Q: "If free will is an illusion, how can one "refuse" or "choose" in any meaningful way?"

A: You can't.

Which is one reason I fail to understand why atheists spend so much time and effort trying to convince others (or even themselves) that atheism is "true". After all, according to them a believer cannot help but believe, and they themselves have no choice but to not believe. Which also means (if you follow the logic to its conclusion) that there is no such thing as either truth or untruth.

I suppose this is a variant (or a spin-off) of the Argument from Reason.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Which is one reason I fail to understand why atheists spend so much time and effort trying to convince others (or even themselves) that atheism is "true". After all, according to them a believer cannot help but believe, and they themselves have no choice but to not believe. Which also means (if you follow the logic to its conclusion) that there is no such thing as either truth or untruth.

Well, not all atheists are determinists. I'm not. I'm what you might call determinism-agnostic: I have no idea if LFW exists or if determinism is true.

But I can easily imagine a determinist reply to your point, a reply which I think is a good one. If determinism means that one's behavior is, well, determined solely by prior causes and effects in a long chain of causes-and-effects, then presenting arguments for atheism and against theism could be thought of as supplying the necessary causes for certain people to become atheists. Sort of like turning a garden hose to water a garden. Once you turn the faucet, the water comes out. Similarly with would-be atheists: once exposed to the right set of causal conditions (in this case, certain arguments), they will become atheists.

Again, I'm not a determinist. But it seems to me this reply shows why it would not be as pointless (as you seem? to suggest) to engage in such behavior.

Of course, if determinism is/were true, it would seem none of that would matter anyway, in the sense that atheists wouldn't have the ability to choose whether to 'spend so much time and effort.' For the 'evangelistic' atheists would be just as determined to engage in their outreach as would their target audience be determined to either agree or not agree with said atheists.

B. Prokop said...

As much as a determinist might like to weasel word his way out of it, the inescapable consequence of a lack of Free Will is the utter extinction of meaning, purpose, good, evil, right, wrong, truth, falsehood, praise and blame (and a host of other things as well). One wouldn't have to wait for Bertrand Russell's heat death of the universe to come face to face with "unyielding despair" - we'd be experiencing it right now.

I take after G.K. Chesterton, in that I have no patience for those who debate the obvious. Grass is green, the sun is hot, and meaning, purpose, and beauty do in fact exist. Therefore, Free Will is not an illusion.

But there (unfortunately) exist people who apparently enjoy denying the self-evident. (There are such things, after all). That is, they freely choose to make assertions that they know damn well aren't true. Determinism is one of those things. I won't spend too much time psychoanalyzing at a distance, but quite possibly the chief motivation for doing so is fear - fear arising from the (likely denied) knowledge that Free Will cannot exist in a purely materialist universe. It requires the existence of immaterial entities. And once you've opened the door to the non material... well, Heavens! Who knows what (Who) might come charging through?

Jezu ufam tobie!

Ilíon said...

B.Prokop: "Q: "If free will is an illusion, how can one "refuse" or "choose" in any meaningful way?"

A: You can't.
"

Exactly.

B.Prokop: "Which is one reason I fail to understand why atheists spend so much time and effort trying to convince others (or even themselves) that atheism is "true"."

They spend so much time trying to "convince" (*) others, and themselves, that atheism is the truth about the nature of reality because they don't themselves actually believe that atheism is the truth about the nature of realty. They spend so much time and effort asserting that "Free will does not exist. It's an incoherent concept" precisely becasue they know that it does and it isn't.

(*) I used scare quotes because the atheistic version of 'convince' generally amounts to "blow-beat"

B.Prokop: "After all, according to them a believer cannot help but believe, and they themselves have no choice but to not believe."

It's not "according to them"; it's according to the logical entailments of atheism. By mis-stating the issue in this way, you have given a certain intellectual hypocrite the opening to try to take you down a rabbit-hole with the totally irrelevant statement that, "Well, not all atheists are determinists" – the meaning of which is: because some God-deniers are incoherent in their God-denial, therefore you cannot discover and/or explicate any of the logical entailments of God-denial.

B.Prokop: "Which also means (if you follow the logic to its conclusion) that there is no such thing as either truth or untruth."

To be more precise, while there may exist true states of affairs, there exist no entities capable of formulating-and-grasping any truth-propositions concerning those hypothetical true states of affairs.

B.Prokop: "I suppose this is a variant (or a spin-off) of the Argument from Reason."

If not of the "weak" version that VR promotes, then certainly it is one of the logical consequences of working through the "strong" version which came to me in a flash before I'd ever heard of VR (and, in fact, I discovered this blog, and bought VR’s book, precisely because I didn’t/couldn’t believe that I was the first person to have realized these logical implications of denying the reality of the Creator).

Ilíon said...

B.Prokop: "But there (unfortunately) exist people who apparently enjoy denying the self-evident. (There are such things, after all). That is, they freely choose to make assertions that they know damn well aren't true. Determinism is one of those things."

True. And, if you’re not careful, you (you personally) may slip up and find yourself using terms such as ‘liar’ and ‘intellectually dishonest’ to describe or denote such persons.

And then you’ll be a meanie beyond the pale, whom all “civil” persons needs must denounce.

B.Prokop: "… but quite possibly the chief motivation for doing so is fear - fear arising from the (likely denied) knowledge that Free Will cannot exist in a purely materialist universe. It requires the existence of immaterial entities. And once you've opened the door to the non material... well, Heavens! Who knows what (Who) might come charging through?"

Freedom of the will (and freedom more generally) can exist only if there are persons/agents who are not determined by existing or pre-existing states of affairs. Notice: I have stated this truth in more general terms than as a statement applying to merely or only to "a purely materialist universe". That is, it’s not strictly the materialism that is the built-in self-refutation of God-denial, it is rather the denial of agent freedom.

So, we human beings find ourselves living as embodied entities in a deterministic (*) material/physical world. And if atheism is indeed the truth about the nature of reality, then this deterministic material/physical world is *all* there is. And, thus, if atheism is indeed the truth about the nature of reality, then our perception of our own freedom and agency is a “perception” of something that does not, and cannot, exist; it is a delusion (**).

Some so-called atheists, being even less concerned with intellectual coherency than the general run, will try to duct-tape “mind” or “consciousness” or some other such concept onto the material/physical world in a vain attempt to side-step the inherent and inescapable determinism of God-denial. But, there is no such thing as “mind” or “consciousness” unless there is an actually existing mind.


(*) At this point, we can expect some intellectually dishonest ‘atheist’, but I repeat myself, to try to appeal to “randomness” to evade the implications of determinism. But “randomness” is just another form of determinism – the (supposed) person whose actions are caused by “randomness” is just as much a slave as the (supposed) person whose actions are caused by “determinism”, and more to be pitied. Well, if there were anyone there to be pitied. Or to do the pitying.

(**) Yet, even to call it a ‘delusion’ presupposes that we are free agents – this is one of the amusing things about God-denial: it can’t even begin talking without first assuming the very things it denies.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

It's not "according to them"; it's according to the logical entailments of atheism. By mis-stating the issue in this way, you have given a certain intellectual hypocrite the opening to try to take you down a rabbit-hole with the totally irrelevant statement that, "Well, not all atheists are determinists" – the meaning of which is: because some God-deniers are incoherent in their God-denial, therefore you cannot discover and/or explicate any of the logical entailments of God-denial.

Ilion, I think I asked you, on another post, for proof of the logical incompatibility of "God does not exist" and "objective moral values and duties do not exist." I don't remember ever getting an answer. If I missed it, please provide the link.

Now you're making another claim of incompatibility, so I will make another request for proof to back it up. What is the proof that "God does not exist" and "determinism is false" are logically incompatible? In the absence of such proof, we can hardly be blamed for rejecting that assertion.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

True. And, if you’re not careful, you (you personally) may slip up and find yourself using terms such as ‘liar’ and ‘intellectually dishonest’ to describe or denote such persons.

And then you’ll be a meanie beyond the pale, whom all “civil” persons needs must denounce.


Take any proposition about anything. Call it P. In general, the following argument is invalid.

(1) P is true.
(2) Therefore, anyone who denies P is a liar or intellectually dishonest.

This is invalid because (2) doesn't follow from (1). Someone who denies P could be honestly mistaken. They also may never have so much as considered whether P is true or not.

Similarly, how do you go from:

(1) God exists

to:

(2) Anyone who denies God exists is a "liar" and "intellectually dishonest"?

Are you ruling out, a priori, the possibility that atheists could be honestly mistaken and the possibility that there are some people who've never even considered the idea of God?

If you're not ruling out these possibilities a priori, then why do you reject these possibilities?

I could be wrong, but I thought Victor joined me in treating these possibilities as real possibilities and so he rejects (2). I'm surprised he hasn't spoken up.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

On the topic of theism/atheism & libertarianism/determinism, it's interesting to note that all 4 possible combinations exist.

(1) Theists who are libertarians (Ilion, B Prokop, and many others)
(2) Theists who are determinists (I think ? Calvinists fall into this category but I am not sure)
(3) Atheists who are libertarians
(4) Atheists who are determinists

Along these lines, it's also interesting to note that atheist philosophers disagree on what LFW would prove, if it exists. Paul Draper argues it's evidence for theism. John Schellenberg, on the other hand, argues it's evidence against theism. See his paper here:

http://philpapers.org/rec/SCHTAF-4

I'm undecided on all of this, so I have no opinion on Schellenberg's argument. Perhaps Victor could write a blog post interacting with it.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Q: "If free will is an illusion, how can one "refuse" or "choose" in any meaningful way?"

A: You can't.


I'm inclined to agree with B Prokop and Ilion. At the very least, this seems like a very intuitive answer to me. But then you have compatibilism and all the arguments for and against.

As I've said before, I'm undecided on all of this.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

B Prokop:

But there (unfortunately) exist people who apparently enjoy denying the self-evident. (There are such things, after all). That is, they freely choose to make assertions that they know damn well aren't true. Determinism is one of those things. I won't spend too much time psychoanalyzing at a distance, but quite possibly the chief motivation for doing so is fear - fear arising from the (likely denied) knowledge that Free Will cannot exist in a purely materialist universe. It requires the existence of immaterial entities. And once you've opened the door to the non material... well, Heavens! Who knows what (Who) might come charging through?

I'll ask you the same question I asked Ilion. Let's suppose both you are right (that determinism is false) and that you are right for the right reasons (determinism is disproven by value, meaning, purpose, etc.).

How do you justify the conclusion that everyone who professes determinism is lying? Again, why can't at least some determinists be merely and honestly mistaken about their determinism?

B. Prokop said...

"Theists who are libertarians (Ilion, B Prokop, and many others)"

I do not consider myself a "theist" (a meaningless, wishy-washy, cowardly term which commits a person to nothing substantive) - I am a Catholic Christian, a descriptive with genuine meat on its bones.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Steve Lovell said...

I'm enjoying JJL's confession that he's undecided about free-will.

Surely, if you're going to decide, the only logical decision would be in favour of the existence of free-will. ;-)

Enjoying this whole thread so far, actually. May contribute more meaningfully if time allows.

John Moore said...

I just want to respond to William's comment and question about what meaning our galaxy might have. For me that's the most interesting point here so far. William is right that we can't really define the cosmos-as-a-whole, according to my argument about symbols. Indeed, there are some things we just can't possibly know.

As for our Milky Way, apparently it "means" the Andromeda galaxy. That's because our galaxy is moving toward Andromeda and a collision in some 4 billion years. The reason I say our Milky Way "means" Andromeda is because I think that's what meaning is - it's some kind of physical movement toward something.

The only meaning we care about, of course, is the kind that affects us human beings in some practical way. Mostly when we talk about meaning, we're referring to the movement of electrical charges in our brains. It's still a physical movement, though. For example:

a) Light bounces off something and goes into my eye.
b) My red receptors are activated and send neural impulses into my visual cortex.
c) Myriad branching impulses flow through my brain activating many functions - object recognition, language, goals and strategies.
d) Eventually this neural energy flows down my arm in the form of a motor output, causing me to reach out and take the apple.

In this example, red means apple because there's an uninterrupted flow of energy from the apple to my meaningful response. This is supposed to demonstrate how meaning is physical movement. In this case the stuff moving is light and neural-electric energy.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Steve, Brilliant. Well-played! :)

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

I do not consider myself a "theist" (a meaningless, wishy-washy, cowardly term which commits a person to nothing substantive) - I am a Catholic Christian, a descriptive with genuine meat on its bones.

That's right; I forgot. We can move B Prokop to category (3), atheists who are libertarians. :)

Victor Reppert said...

It's hard to make sense of the "all of you who disagree with me know, deep down inside, that I'm right." I get it from the Loftus crowd as often as I get it from people like Ilion. And honestly, no pun intended, I have no idea what to make of it. I think it can be a pretty effective propaganda technique, so far as it contributing any content of an argument, I have serious doubts.

On one discussion atheists were claiming that Christians apologists were liars for Jesus. It turned out, though that they were talking about self-deception, not saying what they themselves believed to be false.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

It's hard to make sense of the "all of you who disagree with me know, deep down inside, that I'm right." I get it from the Loftus crowd as often as I get it from people like Ilion. And honestly, no pun intended, I have no idea what to make of it. I think it can be a pretty effective propaganda technique, so far as it contributing any content of an argument, I have serious doubts.

Isn't the proper reply to both groups of people to:

(1) demand evidence in support of their sweeping (universal) generalization; and
(2) reject the claim when said evidence isn't provided?

DougJC said...

"Many materialists believe, with Steven Weinberg [1], that the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless. Do you really believe that everything is pointless? In that case, why do you get up in the night when your child is ill?"

I like John Moore's answer. Calling the universe "pointless" sounds like one is already hinting at a form of dualism where human meaning exists in an ontologically different space from material meaning.

" Materialism affirms that we are not free ... Are you a materialist because you have meditated and found reasons for this position, or because you have been programmed to accept it?

We do what we do, in any given situation, because of the way we are. But since we can't create ourselves, we can't ever be ultimately responsible for the way we are. I have found reasons to believe this, no one has programmed me. However, it is certainly the case that I didn't create myself-- a being who eventually decided to view reason as most important--, that was done before my birth effectively.

" Materialists assert that in nature there are only efficient causes, that there are no final causes or purposes. You are a part of nature. How then can you have purposes, how can you set goals and work to achieve them? Or is that just an illusion?"

It seems reasonable to believe that mind and purpose evolve from non-mind, non-purpose, given the transitional forms we see in nature between pure thermodynamics and sentient life. So I don't find it necessary to claim mind and purpose are illusions.

"Are you sure that man is just an animal?"

Yes, but I suspect man experiences a range, depth and intensity of conscious experience for greater than any primate or life form so far.

"Is the inexistence of God a start point for you, a dogma?"

No, ending point. But I don't claim "God" doesn't exist, but rather I would say any God that requires mind without matter probably doesn't exist (mind needs neural structures), any God that bases obedience on free will doesn't exist (that definition of free will is incoherent), but that still leaves room I think for other, unexpected ideas of God.

"Antony Flew"

I thought Flew became a deist. Even for me, I don't mind granting Aristotle's final causation since clearly something is the unmoved mover at the base of all reality; whatever that it is is just not likely to be anything like a mind in any way (since everything I know leads me to strongly believe mind requires machinery). But I'm not sure if belief in basic particles or waves or strings no matter hhow powerful should be considered a deistic view.

David Brightly said...

Well, I certainly didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition.

What do people make of these questions? Do they amount to genuine inquiry or are they false oppositions---scientific reasoning good, mere dogma bad---put together for rhetorical purposes?

Is this a genuine question or is it a false opposition assembled for rhetorical purposes?

I second Victor's comment regarding propaganda.

planks length said...

I think the first 9 are fair questions, although I would have worded them quite differently. Number 10 I'm not so sure about. I would have preferred it be more generic. Something along the lines of "Have you engaged the works of Christianity's best thinkers, or are you satisfied with tilting against low hanging fruit (such as YECers) and strawmen, so that your atheistic convictions won’t be in danger?"

Chris said...

"....mind requires machinery"

Isn't this the root issue of all these discussions? At the end of the day, "ultimate Reality" is either more like a machine or more like a mind. We have either a "bottom up" philosophy of becoming or a "top down" philosophy of Being.

planks length said...

"....mind requires machinery"

I'd much rather say that "mind uses machinery" to interface with the physical world. So yes, laugh all you want - I really do believe in the Ghost in the Machine.

Dave Duffy said...

"What do people make of these questions?"

If I walked into my office lunchroom on Monday and went through this post with my coworkers on my iPad I wonder what they (the people) would think. I suppose they would listen and interact with the ideas. Maybe I'll try this and see how it goes with a few Ilion, JJL, Bob and VR responses thrown in. I once read a whole chapter of Augustine's Confessions in the lunchroom and no one became hysterical. But, we are all average folks and pretty well like each other.

B. Prokop said...

"I once read a whole chapter of Augustine's Confessions in the lunchroom and no one became hysterical."

Never having been a fan of buttonholing strangers, I've often wondered about good ways to quietly "advertise" my faith in public. A couple of years ago, I decided that, since I do a great deal of my reading in coffee shops where people can see me, I would make an effort to read some obviously Christian book whenever possible, such as God or Nothing by Robert Cardinal Sarah, or When the Church was Young by Marcellino D'Ambrosio. The bigger the title lettering, the better. And if the title contained the word God or Jesus, better yet! You don't need to say a word, and your mere presence is a witness.

My favorite coffee shop, The Daily Grind, also has a "Take a Book, Leave a Book" shelf in it. I often leave the books I've finished there, and they're almost always gone in two or three days.

Jezu ufam tobie!

brownmamba said...

The questionnare seems to be suggesting that there is a problem with the empiricist epistemology deployed by atheists to justify their disbelief in God.(Is it dogma?). I think that if the empricism is too strict, then yes it is self-defeating. However, certain beliefs, such as the belief that Elvis still walks among us, fall into a category which neccesitates empirical evidence for them to be rationally affirmed. Most theists would agree with me here. Unfortunately for them, many religious tenents fall into this category, and given their extraordinary nature, the approriate evidence is lacking. Given my rejection of the soundness of ontological arguments, I contend that the existence of God also falls into such a category.

By arguing that God's existence is entailed by the truth of dualism/falsehood of materialism, theists acknowledge the neccessity of evidence (though indirect), for these positions are empirically verifiable as anything studied by the sciences. As I tried to argue to Steve Hays from Trialblogue, the "Ghost in the Machine" thesis can be verified/falsified by looking for effects on the body (the brain in particulr)that break the laws of physics/biology. If the soul exists and interacts with the body, then such laws would break everytime a person acted. Thus if no effects of this kind are found, (and to my knowledge, none has) then the interactionist thesis is falsified. This point seems to be greatly underappreciated in apologetics circles, as I have not seen this point adequately addressed.

B. Prokop said...

"If the soul exists and interacts with the body, then such laws would break everytime a person acted."

I do not see why this must be so. If the soul/brain/body interface is operating properly, then no laws need be "broken", since the laws (an interesting, anthropomorphic word, if ever there was one) are the simply result of the continuous, seamless interaction. They are what we should expect to see.

"theists acknowledge the neccessity of evidence"

I'm not so sure about the "necessity" of evidence but Catholic Christians (I have no idea who or what a "theist" is) certainly maintain that the preponderance of evidence decisively supports the Gospel, supports the Creed, and supports the Catechism. Whether or not such evidence is "necessary", it is there - in spades.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Jim S. said...

JJL: Thanks for the link to that Schellenberg article, that looks very interesting.

Victor Reppert said...

I am not sure that dualism is an empirical question. The implications of materialism might be such that, if materialism were true, no one would believe anything on the basis of evidence. After all, inference based on evidence logically entails mental causation, but if materialism is true, then all causation is physical, and therefore nonmental causation. Thus the success of science doesn't support materialism, it refutes it. The more evidence we have that science works, the more proof there is that there is real mental causation, which is logically incompatible with materialism.

Is the claim "No one believes anything for a reason" an empirical question? If we look at the world and conclude that that proposition is true, then that would work only if it is possible to reach conclusions on the basis of reasons, which in turn is impossible unless there is mental causation and materialism is false. Science could never reach the conclusion that it is true unless it is prepared to blow itself up and condemn itself and every other human epistemic endeavor as hopelessly irrational.

Dave Duffy said...

"The bigger the title lettering, the better."

Thanks for this insight Bob. I will look out for guys reading a book with large title lettering and maybe ask them about what they are reading. I'm a little gun shy about approaching people and asking questions, but not completely jaded yet. I usually get my coffee at McDonald's and ask for the senior discount. They have a good cup of coffee for under a buck.

"Science could never reach the conclusion that it is true unless it is prepared to blow itself up and condemn itself and every other human epistemic endeavor as hopelessly irrational."

Here is something I might work on to understand. Victor is someone I respect for his blog, so I believe he is saying something important. I just don't understand it.

Ilíon said...

VR: "It's hard to make sense of the "all of you who disagree with me know, deep down inside, that I'm right." I get it from the Loftus crowd as often as I get it from people like Ilion."

So? You're saying that the Loftus crowd never uses the "all of you who disagree with me know, deep down inside, that I'm right" ploy?

VR: "And honestly, no pun intended, I have no idea what to make of it. I think it can be a pretty effective propaganda technique, so far as it contributing any content of an argument, I have serious doubts."

But, looking at it realistically, *you* are doing the very thing you are falsely accusing me of doing.

I present *arguments* ... and you (plural) people who want to dispute what I have said merely deny.

bbigej said...

"The more evidence we have that science works, the more proof there is that there is real mental causation, which is logically incompatible with materialism."

But this argument only holds if your ideas about what the mind and brain are, and how they interact, are true. And that requires a great deal more unpacking than what you've provided here so far.

I'd also be interested in hearing how these ideas hold up in light of mainstream neuroscience, and how philosophically controversial or trivially they are.

Ilíon said...

^ Look at that ^

You *cannon* reason with these people.

wrf3 said...

1. Quantum Mechanics shows that nature is local and unreal. So, scientific reasons.
2. In the long run, the universe will experience heat death. Whether or not that long view is applied to our short lives is solely up to the individual. As one wise person once said, "For the fate of humans and the fate of animals is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and humans have no advantage over the animals; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows whether the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?"
3. Objective reality may be unknowable. We can't escape the fact that our knowledge of the external world is obtained through our senses mediated by our brains. We have no way of knowing that the source of the sense data actually corresponds to "objective" reality. Nevertheless, things appear to work. We take advantage of this, whether it is an indication of the true external reality, or just a happy coincidence.
4. Having raised three children, I'm familiar with the "why?" game. Eventually, the only answer is "because!". "Because" as the reason for the existence of natural laws is just as reasonable as "because" as the reason for the existence of a lawgiver. This ties in with #3. We can't escape our brains and our brains are wired to find meaning in things that might not have meaning.
5. Let's look at quantum mechanics, instead of biology, since the illustration is easier and deals with the same issue. You're by a lighted indoor swimming pool at night. You look up and see the shadows of the ripples of water on the ceiling. A photon leaves the light and hits the water. The photon is either absorbed or reflected back up to the ceiling. Whether or not the photon is absorbed or reflected is completely random. There is absolutely no way for us to know ahead of time what that photon will do until it does it. None at all. Is there purpose behind the behavior of the photon? Why or why not?
6. The answer is "both". Our brains are plastic machines. What we think is a product of how the environment has shaped the neural pathways in our brains. Furthermore, our brains run on the laws of physics. Ultimately, we don't control the laws of physics.
7. See #2. Furthermore, from an artificial intelligence standpoint, we are sophisticated computers with no fixed goals. Some of us choose life, some of us choose death. If a person decides to choose life, then our biology dictates that we eat, drink, obtain shelter, etc. In addition, just because the motion in our brains (electrons through neurons) is controlled by the laws of physics, doesn't mean that the choices don't happen.
8. Man is the animal that has no fixed goals. This is a result of the number and arrangement of axons and neurons in our head. The reason why my Golden Retriever doesn't (often) discuss philosophy with me is because her brain wiring isn't sophisticated enough.
9. I think that God does exist. I also think that Christian apologetics on this subject are horribly, horribly bad, since these questions are so trivially easy to answer from a materialist worldview.
10. Flew converted from atheism to deism, based upon "fine tuning" considerations, i.e. that at some point, a long sequence of improbable events requires outside orchestration. This is an artifact of the way our brains are wired and we know that are brains are not good at dealing with random events. Wildly improbable things can happen. Our brains are wired to find meaning in events and this is why we anthropomorphize what we see in nature. We project ourselves onto objects that are not human. Whether my brilliant Golden Retriever, or Nature itself.

wrf3 said...

An addendum to my #1 above, in case anyone doubts the statement "quantum mechanics is local and unreal", I invite you to read this very recent post on Shtetl-Optimized: Bell inequality violation finally done right".

wrf3 said...

B Prokop wrote: Grass is green, the sun is hot, and meaning, purpose, and beauty do in fact exist. Therefore, Free Will is not an illusion.

That's what Nature has you believing.

I'm reminded of this from Ambrose Bierce:

   "There's no free will," says the philosopher; "To hang is most unjust."
   "There is no free will," assents the officer; "We hang because we must."


Thought is just electrons in motion through networks of neurons (which are, functionally, logic gates) and axons. Your network is not my network, is not your neighbor's network. All of our brains are different. We think differently because of these differences in brain wiring.

B. Prokop also wrote: Which is one reason I fail to understand why atheists spend so much time and effort trying to convince others (or even themselves) that atheism is "true". After all, according to them a believer cannot help but believe, and they themselves have no choice but to not believe.

You need to take into account brain plasticity. The wiring of the brain can be affected by external events. What we experience influences the development of the brain. Our biology forces a level of cooperation among us and larger cooperating groups tend to have better survival characteristics then smaller groups. That's one reason why atheists "evangelize", but it's also one reason why atheists take on the coloration of the larger groups around them.

Which also means (if you follow the logic to its conclusion) that there is no such thing as either truth or untruth.

That doesn't follow. You might believe that the sky is green (≈ 510nm wavelength). But the wavelength of skylight is ≈475 nm.

Manuel Alfonseca said...

DougJC said:

any God that requires mind without matter probably doesn't exist (mind needs neural structures)

This is an unwarranted deduction from the fact that:
1. We know about a single case of mind (ours) and
2. In our case, mind needs neural structures.

Any general deduction made from a single case would be considered risky in any science.