Sunday, November 08, 2015

Ridiculousness is in the eye of the beholder

CM: But your religious beliefs are ridiculous. Demanding that others treat them not marginalize them because.... is special pleading. No thank you.

VR: True and false, correct and incorrect, these are objective categories. Ridiculousness is in the eye of the beholder. Truths can be ridiculous to some people. People who are worried about the opinions of others are influenced by ridicule. But such worries about how strongly others disapprove of what you believe is a bad motive for belief-formation. If Einstein had been more worried about that than he was he would have stayed in his patent office, and we would never have gotten the theory of relativity.

20 comments:

Hugo Pelland said...

Great words Victor. And those of us who reject supernatural beliefs do so despite strong oppositions from the vast majority of humans, both present and past. Why worry that billions believe in gods, afterlife, immaterial souls, miracles and so on... they can still all be wrong; and I think they are because their claims don't meet the burden of proof. Or sometimes they are just ridiculous.

Miguel said...

I don't think it's very wise to say a certain belief is "ridiculous" unless one can show how it's very implausible, ad-hoc or baseless. And I don't think this has been done with Christianity.

B. Prokop said...

I will cheerfully glory in my Faith's "ridiculousness".

"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish [a.k.a., ridiculous] the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly [a.k.a., ridiculousness] of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.
(1 Corinthians 1:19-23)

Legion of Logic said...

Given that there has been no valid reason proposed to believe in a naturalistic explanation for the existence of matter/energy, I find it ridiculous when atheists call my beliefs ridiculous. I lump atheism with flat earth belief, Bigfoot, Caitlyn Jenner being an actual woman...they could be true, but not only is there no evidence to support them, there is contradictory evidence.

People need to demonstrate they can actually perceive reality over their ideology before I will be even remotely concerned if they find my beliefs ridiculous.

Hugo Pelland said...

"Given that there has been no valid reason proposed to believe in a naturalistic explanation for the existence of matter/energy"
There is no reason to believe any explanation...

Victor Reppert said...

So, why do matter and energy exist?

Hugo Pelland said...

I don't know, do you?

Cal Metzger said...

Reppert: "True and false, correct and incorrect, these are objective categories."

If you mean that some things being true or false, correct or incorrect, can be determined by evidence, then I agree.

Reppert: "Ridiculousness is in the eye of the beholder."

Well, not really. I think we can all agree that it's ridiculous to jump off a 10 story building because you hope this time gravity will have no effect. I think we can all agree that it's ridiculous to claim the earth is flat. I think we can all agree that it's ridiculous to claim that owls don't exist.

Reppert: "Truths can be ridiculous to some people."

By this I assume you mean that some facts about reality are counter-intuitive. If that is what you mean, then I agree.

Reppert: "People who are worried about the opinions of others are influenced by ridicule. But such worries about how strongly others disapprove of what you believe is a bad motive for belief-formation."

Well, it's a decent heurisitic, though, isn't it? Of course conventional wisdom should be challenged, and of course social influences about what we "should" believe need to be minimized. But you seem to ignore the real problem for the beliefs that you hold that can be so easily ridiculed -- and that is that those (obviously false) beliefs provide you with some comfort or solace, and this is why you hold them. Ridicule can help by stripping away the social and psychological benefits that a false belief provided, and expose it for what it is -- false.

Reppert: "If Einstein had been more worried about that than he was he would have stayed in his patent office, and we would never have gotten the theory of relativity."

Einstein undertook the opposite of what the religious undertake -- he sought ways to expose his thinking to the real world (physics!), and he was ingenious enough to propose ways in which they could be tested.

On another note:

Reppert: "So, why do matter and energy exist?"
Hugo Pelland:"I don't know, do you?"

I, too, would like to see you answer this.

Gyan said...

Legion of Logic
"no valid reason proposed to believe in a naturalistic explanation for the existence of matter/energy"

It is not possible for sciences to provide an explanation for the existence of their subject matter. The sciences presume their subject matter. Thus, physics must assume that the universe along with its matter/energy exists. Sciences are inquiry into the nature of things and thus they must assume the things.

On the idealism-which can not serve as foundation for science., a quote from Fr Jaki:
"Does man create reality by having ideas about it, or do ideas depend upon man's registering reality?"

Victor Reppert said...

The question I posed has to do with the question of whether matter and energy exist contingently or non-contingently. One reason for thinking that the existence of matter and energy is contingent has to do with the scientific evidence that matter and energy had a beginning point in time.

Could matter and energy have failed to exist?

Hugo Pelland said...

"the scientific evidence that matter and energy had a beginning point in time"
Not true.

"Could matter and energy have failed to exist?"
Again, I don't know, do you?

Victor Reppert said...

Reppert: "Ridiculousness is in the eye of the beholder."

CM: Well, not really. I think we can all agree that it's ridiculous to jump off a 10 story building because you hope this time gravity will have no effect. I think we can all agree that it's ridiculous to claim the earth is flat. I think we can all agree that it's ridiculous to claim that owls don't exist.

VR: If we agree that it's ridiculous, then no one needs to debate it. When there are leading scientists and philosophers who do believe it, you need to do more than just laugh.

Reppert: "People who are worried about the opinions of others are influenced by ridicule. But such worries about how strongly others disapprove of what you believe is a bad motive for belief-formation."

CM: Well, it's a decent heurisitic, though, isn't it? Of course conventional wisdom should be challenged, and of course social influences about what we "should" believe need to be minimized. But you seem to ignore the real problem for the beliefs that you hold that can be so easily ridiculed -- and that is that those (obviously false) beliefs provide you with some comfort or solace, and this is why you hold them. Ridicule can help by stripping away the social and psychological benefits that a false belief provided, and expose it for what it is -- false.

VR: But whether these positions are obviously false is exactly what is at issue, so it begs the question to assume that it is really in fact ridiculous.


CM (again) and that is that those (obviously false) beliefs provide you with some comfort or solace, and this is why you hold them.

VR: All beliefs on this kind of an issue provide their holders with some comfort and solace, or at least we can speculate that they do. But the idea that everyone would be a Christian if they just ignored evidence and followed their wishes is patently false. Here is C. S. Lewis talking about his days as an atheist:

The pessimism, or cowardice, which would prefer nonexistence itself to even the mildest unhappiness was thus merely the generalization of all these pusillanimous perferences. And it remains true that I have almost all my life, been quite unable to feel that horror of nonentity, of annihilation, which, say, Dr. Johnson felt so strongly. I felt it for the first time only in 1947. But that was after I had long been reconverted and thus begun to know what life really is and what would have been lost by missing it. (Surprised by Joy, 117).

Or here:There was one way in which the world, as … rationalism taught me to see it, gratified my wishes. It might be grim and deadly but at least it was free from the Christian God. Some people (not all) will find it hard to understand why this seemed to me such an overwhelming advantage… I was, as you may remember, one whose negative demands were more violent than his positive, far more eager to escape pain than to achieve happiness, and feeling it something of an outrage that I had been created without my own permission. To such a craven the materialist’s universe had the enormous attraction that it offered you limited liabilities. No strictly infinite disaster could overtake you in it. Death ended all. And if ever finite disaster proved greater than one wished to bear suicide would always be possible. The horror of the Christian universe was that it had no door marked Exit.

SURPRISED BY JOY (HARCOURT BRACE JOVANOVICH: 1955), 171.

Cal Metzger said...

Reppert; "VR: If we agree that it's ridiculous, then no one needs to debate it. When there are leading scientists and philosophers who do believe it, you need to do more than just laugh."

Well, no. These "leading scientists and philosophers" you speak of have an invitation to do more -- by showing us why their ridiculous beliefs are not indeed ridiculous. Your pointing out that these "leading scientists and philosophers" agree with each other is just the same as pointing out that a bunch of courtiers assure one another that the emperor's clothing is indeed embroidered impeccably. Ridicule merely exposes when there is no evidence, only a courtly consensus (supported by common psychological needs, social cohesion, and group dynamics).

Reppert: "VR: But whether these positions are obviously false is exactly what is at issue, so it begs the question to assume that it is really in fact ridiculous."

That is actually a ridiculous thing to say. It is ridiculous to claim that an immortal god who is one and three impregnates a virgin to give birth to himself so he can have himself killed so he can live again (?!?) to forgive himself for what he created his beings to do according to all his plans, etc. There is no point at which all that could not be considered ridiculous. What needs to be done is to show that while it's all ridiculous, somehow it's all true. Rather than demonstrate that the claptrap that barbaric stories bind one to defend, you want to argue about ridiculous. This is like the courtier who says, "But what is clothing, really?" when the obvious is brought to his attention (which is most efficiently done through ridicule).

Reppert: "Here is C. S. Lewis talking about his days as an atheist:"

Yeah, I don't know who apologists think they're fooling when they step forward and try to solemnly, double dog declare that imagining living forever surrounded by the ones they love is so much more chilling than their existence ending in a universe that doesn't seem to care. Because I sure as heck don't buy that one.



Cal Metzger said...

Reppert: "Could matter and energy have failed to exist?"
Pelland: "Again, I don't know, do you?"

I look forward to a meaningful answer to this question.

Victor Reppert said...

Oh but it's not just apologists.

“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning - the Christian meaning, they insisted - of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.”


― Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)”


― Thomas Nagel

Victor Reppert said...

Here's a quote from Edward Feser:

It is true that a fear of death, a craving for cosmic justice, and a desire to see our lives as meaningful can lead us to want to believe that we have immortal souls specially created by a God who will reward or punish us for our deeds in this life. But it is no less true that a desire to be free of traditional moral standards, and a fear of certain (real or imagined) political and social consequences of the truth of religious belief, can also lead us to want to believe that we are just clever animals with no purpose to our lives other than the purposes we choose to give them, and that there is no cosmic judge who will punish us for disobeying an objective moral law. - See more at: http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2012/12/26/why-dont-atheists-want-there-to-be-a-god/#sthash.Vv6LoHAE.dpuf

Victor Reppert said...

CM: I don't know who apologists think they're fooling when they step forward and try to solemnly, double dog declare that imagining living forever surrounded by the ones they love is so much more chilling than their existence ending in a universe that doesn't seem to care. Because I sure as heck don't buy that one.

VR: But the doctrine of heaven isn't all there is to it, is there? First off, the belief that there is a heaven doesn't guarantee that we are sure to enjoy it. Admittedly there are some Christians who think they are eternally secure, but a lot of them think they could end up being lost eternally.

Second, most people, especially the younger among us, deal with death by not thinking about it. Christianity tells you that you have a chance to live forever with God, but that's going to be a long time in the future. It also tells you that if you want to get laid tonight you can't (if you want to remain in God's will), unless you are married to your prospective bed partner. If you have done wrong, you have to repent of that wrong, which means you have to reverse your course of action and accept consequences for having done wrong. Forgiveness doesn't imply that your actions lack consequences, and that there won't be a painful process you have to go through to reverse the effects of sin in your life. That isn't fun at all, and it isn't supposed to be. It means that someone in control of the universe has laid down rules of proper conduct which you have almost certainly broken, and as your maker he has the right to lay those rules down and expect you to obey them. You don't own yourself. Whose life is it anyway? Not yours! If you go to heaven, you don't reign there, God does. Milton's Satan said that it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven, or was that Christopher Hitchens? Do you never have thoughts like that? Really???? You don't have any of what Nagel called the Fear of Religion?

I sure as heck don't buy THAT one. If you'll buy that, I've got some oceanfront property in Arizona, from my front porch you can see the sea.

Victor Reppert said...

Well, is there a contradiction in the idea that the universe does not exist? If not, why assume that the universe is not contingent?

Gyan said...

VR,
"the scientific evidence that matter and energy had a beginning point in time."
1) There is no such scientific evidence
2) There could not be such an evidence.
Physics requires a universe already existing and is not competent to speak of origin of the universe including of matter/energy.
Physics is an empirical science but origin of the universe is NOT an empirical event. Nobody could have witnessed the origin of the universe, even in principle.

Gyan said...

VR,
Contingency of particular things is a metaphysical idea and is opposed by metaphysical fatalism (the idea is contingency does not exist).
It is not an empirical idea and thus science can not pronounce whether the existing things or state of affairs are contingent or not.