Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Twitter Exchange between Jeff Lowder and Peter Boghossian about my two posts

Here.  I am afraid Boghossian has no idea, and wants to have no idea, what I am talking about. Of course I didn't say his teaching methods were modeled after the professor in God is Not Dead. He needs a course in basic reading comprehension if he thinks that. What I said was that having a course at a public university that brings up religious issues, and in that course makes it evident that if they have certain religious views and express them in the course, they cannot get a passing grade, or will not have the same chance to get a passing grade as those who adopt another religious perspective, then serious questions from the point of view of the Establishment Clause have to be raised.

168 comments:

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "What I said was that having a course at a public university that brings up religious issues..."

Brings up religious issues? What are "religious issues" that they need to be handled with special care at a university?

Seriously. Why are religious views to be privileged at a university?

VR: "... and in that course makes it evident that if they have certain religious views and express them in the course, they cannot get a passing grade..."

The same is true of Biology class, where writing "God did it" may express a certain religious view, but does not indicate that the student understands the material. So, why is religion special when it comes to exempting oneself from mastering the material?

VR: "...or will not have the same chance to get a passing grade as those who adopt another religious perspective..."

Can you please cite something that makes you think the above is true -- what religious perspective do you think would give someone a better chance of getting a passing grade in Boghossian's course?

VR: "...then serious questions from the point of view of the Establishment Clause have to be raised."

Unless you think that "no religion" is a religion, then I can't see how.

I think that you are confused about the fact that challenging religion, and calling religion bunk, is not a religion, nor is it a religious belief.

William said...

"I think that you are confused about the fact that challenging religion, and calling religion bunk, is not a religion, nor is it a religious belief."

Grading based even slightly on religious belief or its lack at the end of the course fails the Lemon test, FWIW.

Legion of Logic said...

"I think that you are confused about the fact that challenging religion, and calling religion bunk, is not a religion, nor is it a religious belief."

To the extent that a teacher at a public university advocates for atheism in their capacity as a teacher, it violates any clause that advocating for Christianity would. Once you start actively pushing for atheism, it has transcended a mere "lack of belief". That's why I call myself a Christian and not an aleprechaunist - my identity is defined by what I believe, not what I don't believe.

Legion of Logic said...

Boghossian having the audacity to call others intellectually immature is hilarious. I wonder if he realizes his adult table has pictures of Disney princesses on it?

Victor Reppert said...

Translation: You can't shove your religion down my throat, because that violates the establishment clause. But I can shove atheism down your throat, because it is not a religion, but is instead an unreligion.

Got it. I don't think that's even a million miles from what the founders intended when they wrote the Establishment Clause.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

I'm no constitutional scholar or attorney, but it's my understanding that a lot of success church-state separation advocates have had litigating (in U.S. courts) is based upon the idea that the Establishment Clause entails that the government cannot favor belief over nonbelief. Whether you agree or disagree with that interpretation of the Establishment Clause, that principle / legal doctrine / legal precedent has been the foundation for rulings ranging from school prayer to Ten Commandments displays.

So, for the sake of argument, let's assume that that interpretation of the Establishment Clause is correct. As a question of law, it would seem to follow that it is just as constitutionally impermissible for the government to favor nonbelief over belief. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

So the only question would be a question of fact. Does Boghossian's course in fact constitute government preference of nonbelief over belief? I fear it does precisely that, but to be fair to Boghossian I tried to get his side of the story. I sent a follow-up tweet to Boghossian in an attempt to get him to address this question directly, but he ignored me.

That's his right to do so, of course, but it doesn't make him look good. Even if one thinks that religious claims don't deserve serious conversation at the adults' table, it would still be the case that alleged Establishment Clause violations do deserve serious conversation at the adults' table. And right now the person missing from that adults' table is Peter Boghossian. Will he join us?

Ape in a Cape said...

Very well articulated, Jeffery. I completely concur.

Cal Metzger said...

Lowder: "As a question of law, it would seem to follow that it is just as constitutionally impermissible for the government to favor nonbelief over belief. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. / So the only question would be a question of fact."

Well, for starters, and as a matter of fact, atheism is not a religion.

The confusion regarding the Constitution and atheism being regarded as a religion seems to stem from the fact that the courts have ruled that the same right for religious adherents to gather in groups can't be denied to those who wish to form a group whose views are only to reject all religious claims. That is where the goose and gander rules apply -- otherwise, religious belief would be privileged over the right to not express religious belief, and this is clearly a) not in the Constitution, and b) widely accepted as sound policy.

There's a part of me that think that Boghossian is pushing these buttons on purpose, because, I suppose, he would like the showdown. In other words, I think he feels (and he could be right) that his course could not only pass the Lemon test, and that the publicity around the court case would illuminate things in his favor. And I can certainly imagine how it is that he might feel this way.

The Lemon Test: ""A government policy or practice does NOT violate the Establishment Clause if: First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion."."

For the first part, Boghossian's courses has a secular purpose -- that of promoting critical thinking, which is a foundation for civil participation -- this is the same rationale behind public education. The critical thinking skills that his course teaches can be used to reject all unsupported beliefs (which I think most would agree is a good thing), and his course makes no distinction on religious grounds as to which these skills should apply. So, I can see a solid defense on part one of the test.

Two is where Boghossian's course seems to have the biggest Constitutional problem. He is straightforward in how he markets his course, and that its primary purpose is to equip one with the skills to reject all faith-based claims. But do those who want to charge Boghossian with violating the 1st Amendment really want to argue that the teaching of critical thinking skills inhibits the practice of religion?

I don't think there's a problem for Boghossian's course on the third part, although I suppose one could say that by primarily targeting faith-based beliefs (as opposed to all unsupported beliefs), Boghossian is excessively entangling the government with religion. And one could say that by engaging with religious adherents, etc., that Boghossian is excessively entangling the government with religion. Still, I think this would be arguable under the purpose found in the 1st part of the Lemon Test.


Crude said...

Two is where Boghossian's course seems to have the biggest Constitutional problem. He is straightforward in how he markets his course, and that its primary purpose is to equip one with the skills to reject all faith-based claims. But do those who want to charge Boghossian with violating the 1st Amendment really want to argue that the teaching of critical thinking skills inhibits the practice of religion?

This is an awful lot like someone defending scientology's e-meters by asking whether people really wish to oppose helping people with mental illness receive treatment. Scientologists may smirk happily at the description, but every other onlooker just goes 'Wow, you're completely full of shit.'

PeteBog's course doesn't promote critical thinking - it merely promotes atheism, and a virulent strain of it at that. Wonderful, said atheists love to identify atheism with critical thinking, in the typical display of mental masturbation. But a basic application of actual critical thinking does wonders for dismantling PeteBog's defenses of his course. The ability to bullshit != critical thought.

And if you want to argue that 'religious issues' shouldn't be handled uniquely, by all means, let's play that game. We'll have atheist children in public schools memorizing prayers and believing in creationism within a decade. (We merely taught both sides of the issue, you see, and we framed it as secular in an idiosyncratic way!) You may reply, exasperatedly, 'But maybe they'll be praying to Allah!' To which this Catholic replies, if you're looking to use the state to advance atheism, I - and I suspect many others - will opt for mutually assured oppression rather than privilege your position.

Put more concisely, Cal - get over your childhood grief at Christianity. And while you're at it: it's obvious to most people that New Atheism is, in fact, both a religion and a collection of claims that most atheists can't defend if they tried. A decade of this mantra to the contrary hasn't even convinced the bulk of the irreligious, to say nothing of everyone else in the world.

Really, to see atheists still stroking it to anti-Christian fantasies even in the current state of the world is amazing.

B. Prokop said...

"Well, for starters, and as a matter of fact, atheism is not a religion."

Total BS. When atheists like Boghossian advocate for street evangelists to go out and convert religious folks to atheism.. that's a religion!

And then there's this, from Hitchens, writing about himself at the age of nine: "I simply knew, almost as if I had privileged access to a higher authority, that my teacher [in asserting that the world was designed] had managed to get everything wrong."

And here's Mark Shea's commentary on that passage: What is marvelous is how nakedly Hitchens reveals his own atheist convictions to be entirely faith-based and - what is more - based on faith in a mystical epiphany to a nine-year-old boy. All the massive artillery of his adult wit and eloquence is, in the final analysis, ranked and ranged to protect that boy and his emotional epiphany. In contrast, all Christ asks of us is to have hearts like children, not minds like children. St. Thomas's faith was childlike; his intellect was formidably adult. Hitchens, in contrast, demands we reject St. Thomas's fifth demonstration of the existence of God - because a nine-year-old boy had a really strong feeling once half-a-century ago.

Atheism not a religion? Please!

Jezu ufam tobie!

Joe Hinman said...

Put more concisely, Cal - get over your childhood grief at Christianity. And while you're at it: it's obvious to most people that New Atheism is, in fact, both a religion and a collection of claims that most atheists can't defend if they tried. A decade of this mantra to the contrary hasn't even convinced the bulk of the irreligious, to say nothing of everyone else in the world.

I started a blog called Atheist watch withy the simple and humble shaming the atheists into not being jerks by arguing that they are a hate group, I was careful to make all kids of caveats about 'not all of them." Then told me that matter so I stopped. Running that blogvsincev2010 I think done as good job of proving that new atheism, despite their objections, is movement and to some extent it thrives on hate as an organizing tool. I also have developed analysis about atheists rhetorical strategy being Orwellian, I think it is.

The atheists on carm finally stopped insisting that it's not movement when I quoted 15 of their leaders saying "I am worried about the movement." Boghossian Has appeared in three articles on AW., The fist one he advocated putting Christians in mental institutions, I differ from Dr Reppert even I respect his approach, I don't see the point in talking to a persecuter. MLK did not try sit down with the KKK.

Joe Hinman said...

"Well, for starters, and as a matter of fact, atheism is not a religion."

Total BS. When atheists like Boghossian advocate for street evangelists to go out and convert religious folks to atheism.. that's a religion!


I think atheism occupies a complex nitch, here I mean New atheism the movement. It fits my definition of religion. that's if you accept my definition, kit is religions do three things. they don't have to have deity, but they do define the human problematic. what's the big problem? or Christians it's sin, fallen nature. For atheists is religion. They offer an ultimate transformation that resolves the problematic, salvation for Christians, wising up and being secular for atheists. they have as means of mediating they transformation, Christians kit's prayer, and ritual. for atheists is mocking Christians and putting don religion.,

incidentally my view on religion from Neil McFarland who taught my religion in a global perspective class at Perkins.

I. human problematic defined

II. mediate transformation

III. transformation

Joe Hinman said...

For the first part, Boghossian's courses has a secular purpose -- that of promoting critical thinking, which is a foundation for civil participation -- this is the same rationale behind public education. The critical thinking skills that his course teaches can be used to reject all unsupported beliefs (which I think most would agree is a good thing), and his course makes no distinction on religious grounds as to which these skills should apply. So, I can see a solid defense on part one of the test.


yea critical thinking. Triumph of the will sought to celebrate the human spirit,. And the pigs the signs because the old one's weren't as clear.

"The purpose of political language is to murder respectable and lies believable and to give the illusion of solidity to pure wind." George Orwell



Boghossian calls for"Containment?"

Boghossian hate speech?

Crude said...

I'm not even sure you could accuse PeteBog of trying to propose some kind of coherent ideology above and beyond 'Wow he's some creeper with an anti-theism obsession'. He takes that typical 'humanist' tack of being so broad in his cooperative values that his only real standard of whether or not you're on his side seems to literally come down to 'are you anti-theist enough'. Which means he's butting heads with irreligious SJWs who fetishize Islam, without stopping to wonder what role secularization and irreligion played in the rise of that very (powerful) group.

Speaking of that, remember how it wasn't that long ago when Europe was held up as a kind of model of secularism, the one place in the world where rising irreligiosity was not associated with a kind of Orwellian monster-state? Oh well, it was a nice - what, one? Two decades? - while it lasted.

How come no one brings up Sweden as an atheist utopia anymore? Oh, those were the days...

Miguel said...

>2016
>Peter Boghossiam

Really? Isn't he the epistemologist who managed to write an entire book-length example of strawman fallacy (with cringeworthy shit like "we should promote cartoons where epistemic knights fight against faith monsters" included)?

And now he's teaching a class about that? Amazing. Boghossian's brilliantly "mature" and "sophisticated" analysis of faith and religion would end up relegating people like Aristotle, Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Leibniz, Thomas Reid, Samuel Clarke, Michael Dummet, Peter Geach, Anscombe, Kurt Gödel and company to the "children's table". (man, I would love to sit at such a table).

Again, amazing. Way to go, atheists!

Legion of Logic said...

While most of us recognize the glaring flaws with Boghossian and New Atheism as a whole, the central point is that regardless of how idiotic Boghossian's teachings, does blatant advocacy of atheism in a public institution deserve to be treated differently than Christianity?

Atheists say that atheism is a mere "lack of belief" and that it is akin to bald being a hair color. That's cute, but why does someone claim to be an atheist and not an aunicornist? Why, for the same reason that we call someone with a hairless head bald, but we never describe someone with a hairless chin bald. Bald is a condition pertaining to the hair on one's head, and the concept exists entirely dependent upon comparison to those who have hair on their head. One cannot describe oneself as bald without focusing on their state of hair.

Similarly, categorizing oneself as an atheist is only done in context of religious matters. Atheism is a religious matter, a response to religious questions, and only relevant in a religious context. As such, government advocacy of atheism - which is not at all synonymous with critical thinking - is in fact favoring one position on religion over all others.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "While most of us recognize the glaring flaws with Boghossian and New Atheism as a whole, the central point is that regardless of how idiotic Boghossian's teachings, does blatant advocacy of atheism in a public institution deserve to be treated differently than Christianity?"

I agree that this is the central point.

Legion: "Atheism is a religious matter, a response to religious questions, and only relevant in a religious context."

Disagree with your first clause, but agree with the second two.

Legion: "As such, government advocacy of atheism - which is not at all synonymous with critical thinking..."

Agree that being an atheist is not the same thing as being a critical thinker. But maintain that atheism is a product of critical thinking. Still, there are no doubt a wide swathe of poor thinkers who count themselves as atheists.

Legion: "... - is in fact favoring one position on religion over all others."

Having a position "on religion" is not the same thing as belonging "to a religion." To insist otherwise just seems like a bridge too far.

Victor Reppert said...

But does forcing certain belief patterns on people with respect to religion under the guise of critical thinking really self-defeating. If I, using the power of the grade, tell my students that failure to agree with me about this subject is the only way they can show me that they are thinking critically, then, far from teaching critical thinking, I am making critical thinking impossible. Students will do what one student said she did in his class, pretend to agree with him in order to pass while remaining fully convinced of exactly the opposite. Critical thinking isn't critical thinking if only one answer is acceptable.

B. Prokop said...

Here's the bottom line. Whether or not you consider atheism to be a religion, Boghossian is acting like it is. That much is beyond dispute. Therefore, his course curriculum ought to be subject to the same rules and restrictions an any other course on religion (i.e., no proselytizing) in a public institution. (Unless you're advocating to lift the ban on proselytizing for overtly religious professors as well.)

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "But does forcing certain belief patterns on people with respect to religion under the guise of critical thinking really self-defeating."

All right, after all the fuss here I actually went and checked (what am I, crazy?) on Boghossian's syllabus for his course on Atheism.

From the Syllabus: "Just as the purpose of religious studies is not to convert students to a particular faith tradition,this course is not about “converting” students to atheism."

So, why do you even think that Boghossian's course forces certain belief patterns on people? How many of you have read the syllabus for his course? I highly recommend checking it out here:

http://www.skeptic.com/skepticism-101/downloads/syllabi/Syllabus-Atheism-by-Peter-Boghossian.pdf

The course sounds like a blast, actually.

Victor Reppert said...

It's time for the Strait answer:

Now if you'll buy that.

I got some ocean front property in Arizona.
From my front porch you can see the sea.
I got some ocean front property in Arizona.
If you'll buy that, I'll throw the golden gate in free.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioPa1URjZ_Y

Sometimes atheists are so gullible.

https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/peter-boghossians-course-disclaimer/

Cal Metzger said...

So, Victor, you've got no meaningful objection to Boghossian's syllabus, then?

Instead, you have a song lyric, a youtube video (which I can't watch now), and someone else's blog saying... what exactly?

There hasn't been a meaningful objection yet to what I've pointed out here (excluding Legion, who at least raises a reasonable concern about consistency and the rule of law, one that I agree with in principle but disagree on details). Otherwise, it looks like a lot of moaning and handwaving.

Cal Metzger said...

Victor: "Sometimes atheists are so gullible."

Yes, and sometimes so are believers. The only real difference I've seen is that atheists have stopped being gullible toward religious claims. Other than that, atheists are (surprise!) same as the rest of us.

Ilíon said...

VR: "I am afraid Boghossian has no idea, and wants to have no idea, what I am talking about."

Whoa! That's pretty stong language (coming from you)! I approve!

Crude said...

There hasn't been a meaningful objection yet to what I've pointed out here (excluding Legion, who at least raises a reasonable concern about consistency and the rule of law, one that I agree with in principle but disagree on details).

Actually, there's been more than meaningful objections brought up, Cal - your view has been shot down to the point of being beyond recovery. The only thing that keeps you going is your personal unwillingness to admit to rather decisive objections.

But if we need to heft more dirt onto you after you've dug your hole, by all means - I'm willing to get the shovel out again.

From the Syllabus: "Just as the purpose of religious studies is not to convert students to a particular faith tradition,this course is not about “converting” students to atheism."

You quote this as if this is some kind of evidence that his course is legitimate. Hey, he said this course isn't about converting students to atheism! Nevermind that, if it was this easy, all objections against Intelligent Design would have been defused from the get-go (with greater ease, no less.) Also nevermind that you yourself have defined 'critical thought' as absolutely necessitating atheism, which makes your pleas that 'All he's trying to do is promote critical thought!' suspect.

Should we also put aside the fact that PeteBog is legendary for defining faith as 'pretending to know something you don't know', and how he's utterly rejected every objection to that definition on the grounds that 'Hey I talked with theists and this is what I think they're doing'?

Oh, and to top it all off - how seriously should we take PeteBog's claim that this course absolutely isn't intended to promote atheism, when one of the required readings is his book 'A Manual for Creating Atheists'? Or when his syllabus for 'critical thought' is overwhelmingly New Atheist oriented, with a smattering of Plantinga thrown in - which particularly focuses on the most controversial of Plantinga's claims?

But hey, as I said - if you want to justify PeteBog's lesson, ignoring his history, his syllabus, and his skew, go for it. But don't be surprised if, in short order, it's discovered that biology lessons with a syllabus topheavy with Behe, Dembski and more, along with words from critics like Michael Ruse and perhaps Ed Feser, turn out to be utterly acceptable in a public school or university setting.

Crude said...

Yes, and sometimes so are believers. The only real difference I've seen is that atheists have stopped being gullible toward religious claims.

Actually, atheists seem to be vastly more gullible towards religious claims. They'll even swallow whoppers like 'anti-theism is not religious' and 'PeteBog's course is not at all biased against religious belief'. ;)

Crude said...

Oh, and one more for now.

Gender Studies is primarily composed of radical ideologues who view indoctrination as their primary duty. These departments must be defunded

That would be Peter Boghossian.

Shall we compare a Gender Studies course with PeteBog's, and see which syllabus is more benign at a glance?

Cal Metzger said...

Crude: "Hey, he said this course isn't about converting students to atheism! Nevermind that, if it was this easy, all objections against Intelligent Design would have been defused from the get-go (with greater ease, no less.)"

My problem was that I took VR at his word when he wrote: "What I said was that having a course at a public university that brings up religious issues, and in that course makes it evident that if they have certain religious views and express them in the course, they cannot get a passing grade..."

By "makes it evident" I thought that VR meant something along the lines of, you know, stating that fact, being explicit, etc. That was, I suppose, my mistake.

----

Has anyone here actually taken the time to read the full syllabus that I linked to? It would take about 5 minutes to read it. Honestly, I think that most of you would calm down a bit if you actually read the entire syllabus -- not in some small part because it's an actual university course discussing the stuff that we obsess about ALL THE TIME! Honestly, it's almost a vindication of what we could be accused of frittering away our time on.

Cal Metzger said...

Crude: "Shall we compare a Gender Studies course with PeteBog's, and see which syllabus is more benign at a glance?"

Absolutely!


Crude said...

Cal,

By "makes it evident" I thought that VR meant something along the lines of, you know, stating that fact, being explicit, etc. That was, I suppose, my mistake.

Please.

Has anyone here actually taken the time to read the full syllabus that I linked to?

Considering I referenced it in my reply? Yes. It's an inane syllabus from start to finish, and the bias is obvious unless you're gullible or blind in way after way.

And, as I pointed out - Boghossian himself believes that the entire *field* of Gender Studies is one big, long course dedicated to indoctrination and must be defunded.

I ask if you want to compare them and you say...

Absolutely!

Cool. Let's start here.

Do feel free to explain how this syllabus exposes indoctrination in ways that PeteBog's syllabus doesn't. Keep in mind my opinion of Women's/Gender Studies in general is that it's complete BS, so it's not like I say this as someone with a high opinion of the field. It's just that if Pete wants to talk about how these courses are rife with indoctrination (good God can you believe this one expects you to read Glamour magazine), then the red flags are going up all over his syllabus to an extreme.

Of course, you can also reply that while the syllabus looks generally benign, you can glean a thing or two about the orientation of it by the behavior of the academics. That won't zip around and bite Bog in the ass or anything.

Edgestow said...

Hey, he said this course isn't about converting students to atheism! Nevermind that, if it was this easy, all objections against Intelligent Design would have been defused from the get-go (with greater ease, no less.)

Brilliant, simply brilliant!

Victor Reppert said...

Look, if on the one hand the teacher says "I'm not going to tell you what to think" but his book is entitled, A Manual for Creating Atheists, if he tells you about a couple of defenses of religious belief but at the same time says that these defenses are so unworthy of serious
consideration that you shouldn't let a few pennies of royalties fall into the author's coffers, you can understand if maybe I don't believe you when you tell me you aren't trying to make me believe anything, or that I could get a good grade if I so much as challenged the main theme of the course.

Here's a kind of "outsider test" for you to ask why this is a problem. Suppose there was a Christian teacher who assigned as their text a book called " A manual for winning souls for Jesus," written by the instructor. Would you have a problem with that? I know I would if I were an atheist.

Crude said...

I suggest what we have here is a very deliberate kind of naivete. The sort that lawyers tend to come up with when having to explain why very large life insurance policies were taken out on a spouse who was clearly hated, right before they fall off the side of a train.

SteveK said...

More here

https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/another-flimsy-disclaimer/

I see no class entitled “Christianity” taught by a Christian apologist who uses his own book, “Manual for Creating Christians” as a required text. Sorry, but Boghossian’s syllabus doesn’t read like any religious studies syllabus from a public university that I have seen. If it did, it would explore and describe the different types of atheism around the world (materialists, idealists, buddhists, communists, humanists, etc). But judging from his syllabus, Boghossian’s course is about viewing the world as an atheist.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Tangent:

I just skimmed Boghossian's syllabus. Let's put completely to the side for now the fact that his book is one of the required books for the class. I found the rest of the books and other media listed in his syllabus to be odd choices.

Joe Hinman said...

How come no one brings up Sweden as an atheist utopia anymore? Oh, those were the days...

I would like to say because my article on the Christian history of their social coalition disproved it. Everyone who read that article agrees with it, and both of them are really convinced.

Legion of Logic said...

Another problem is that even if Boghossian was not violating the law, he is pretending to know what he doesnt know. I read his article about the girl who wrote that she memorized the answers needed to pass but disagreed with what he taught, and he makes a series of comparisons while complaining about it - one must believe a plus sign adds numbers together. One must believe the foundations of civil engineering to build a bridge. He compares this to atheism being the inevitable result of critical thinking based on reality.

Math and civil engineering can be logically and empirically proven. Boghossian is pretending to know what he doesn't know with his stance toward the existence of God, which is a foolishness that doesn't belong in a university setting.

Crude said...

I just skimmed Boghossian's syllabus. Let's put completely to the side for now the fact that his book is one of the required books for the class. I found the rest of the books and other media listed in his syllabus to be odd choices.

No kidding. Welcome to Philosophy 365, a study of Atheism. We'll largely be focusing on my shitty book and the books of my personal friends. Recommended additional reading: their twitters and blogs!

Edgestow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

I just finished reading through Boghossian's syllabus - fascinating stuff. It's studded with terms and phrases such as good, bad, moral obligation, morally wrong, immoral, etc. Where does he get such ideas from, and how does he defend their validity? Just wondering...

Jezu ufam tobie!

Ilíon said...

^ If one looks closely, one will notice that almost all atheistic criticism of (and especially polemics against) "religion" rely on just such blind appeals to unsupported (*) alleged moral obligations.


(*) and unsupportable in terms consistent with God-denial

Edgestow said...

I read his article about the girl

This sounds interesting. Is there a link to it?

Never mind, I found it myself after some creative googling. Here it is.

Miguel said...

"Hitchens, C. (2009). god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. ISBN-10: 0446697966"

Is that a typo or is Bog so serious about his critical thinking(tm) that he can't even capitalize "God" in a book title?

I'll just consider it a typo, lol

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "Here's a kind of "outsider test" for you to ask why this is a problem. Suppose there was a Christian teacher who assigned as their text a book called " A manual for winning souls for Jesus," written by the instructor. Would you have a problem with that? I know I would if I were an atheist."

It the course was on "Religious Beliefs" and discussed all the reasons that people come to believe in different religions, and also why others do not believe in religions, then I wouldn't have any more of a problem with that scenario than I experienced taking any number of courses offered in the humanities departments.

Do you think that Boghossian is the first teacher to include a book they've written on their syllabus? Because in my experience, that's more the rule than the exception.

As a side note, I entirely agree that some professors use their classes as a stick with which to push their political agenda on students and toward a larger audience. While I don't think that this is entirely a fixable problem, I do think it can be greatly reduced by requiring that humanities courses do a better job of relating their curriculum to real things. In other words, the problem of a professor passing off his/her agenda in the guise of learning becomes more prevalent the more the subject ignores or clashes with reality.

---

Along the lines of Boghossian being not only biased but wrong, why don't you demonstrate to us how a Christian student should defend the Trinity in a way that shouldn't receive a poor grade in Boghossian's course. As a PhD in these matters, I would think it should easy for you to ace this one, and show everyone how unfair Boghossian's course must really be to those who aren't pretending to know something that they don't really know.






Victor Reppert said...

Hitchens put the word god in lower case in his title for the book. Boghossian, in this case, is just being faithful to the book.

Miguel said...

I didn't know that, I was really just making a joke. Now I just checked that, and I don't know whether I think it's funny or sad.

Miguel said...

I don't know why the Trinity suddenly came up, but it's not like it is something illogical or that has never received in-depth philosophical treatment in the past centuries.

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1029.htm

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1030.htm

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1031.htm


If anyone wants to *seriously* criticize the doctrine of the Trinity, the least they should do is read and understand what the great philosophical theologians wrote about it.

Victor Reppert said...

There's nothing wrong with putting your own book on the syllabus. However, if your book has content that gives students are reason to think they can't get a fair grade unless they agree with the professor about certain things, then that is a problem.

Since people disagree about what reality consists in, requiring that instructors "relate their curriculum to real things" is a question-begging recommendation.

I wrote a published paper for International Journal for Philosophy of Religion which I developed with my atheist philosophy of science instructor during my years in graduate school. It came out in 1989. I still think it's pretty darn good.

http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Reppert-Miracles-and-the-case-for-theism.pdf

I think it would still get a bad grade in Boghossian's class.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "Since people disagree about what reality consists in, requiring that instructors "relate their curriculum to real things" is a question-begging recommendation."

Which is the kind of thing people say when they realize they can't demonstrate what they say they can.

Instructor: "This class is about demonstrating one's claims."
Student: "I have a unicorn."
Instructor: "Show me."
Student: "What does it even mean to 'show' someone something?"
Instructor: "To provide something examinable -- something that's objective, reliable, and verifiable."
Student: "I disagree. Give me an A."



Cal Metzger said...

Me: "Along the lines of Boghossian being not only biased but wrong, why don't you demonstrate to us how a Christian student should defend the Trinity in a way that shouldn't receive a poor grade in Boghossian's course. As a PhD in these matters, I would think it should easy for you to ace this one, and show everyone how unfair Boghossian's course must really be to those who aren't pretending to know something that they don't really know. "

VR: "I wrote a published paper for International Journal for Philosophy of Religion which I developed with my atheist philosophy of science instructor during my years in graduate school. It came out in 1989. I still think it's pretty darn good."

Can you cite the section or part of your paper that answers my question?

SteveK said...

Instructor: "This class is about demonstrating one's claims."
Student: "I'm not convinced that every claim can be demonstrated"
Instructor: "Then those claim are an example of pretending to know"
Student: "Please demonstrate your claim that every claim can be demonstrated."
Instructor: "Uhh...what do you mean by demonstrate?"
Student: "To provide something examinable -- something that's objective, reliable, and verifiable."
Instructor: "I disagree. You get an F."

Cal Metzger said...

Yawn.

SteveK Scenario:
Instructor: "This class is about demonstrating one's claims."
Student: "I'm not convinced that every claim can be demonstrated"
Instructor: "Then those claim are an example of pretending to know"
Student: "Please demonstrate your claim that every claim can be demonstrated."
Instructor: "I didn't say that every claim can be demonstrated."
Student: "Oh."

B. Prokop said...

"why don't you demonstrate to us how a Christian student should defend the Trinity in a way that shouldn't receive a poor grade in Boghossian's course"

Piece of cake. The Resurrection can be demonstrated to be an historical fact, using the evidence alone (i.e., not dependent on "argument"). Once the Resurrection is accepted, then it follows that whatever conclusions are drawn from that Fact are valid, as long as the conclusion does not contradict the evidence used to authenticate the Resurrection. The doctrine of the Trinity is one such conclusion, and is therefore defendable using "critical thinking" alone.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Legion of Logic said...

Instructor: "This class is about demonstrating one's claims."

Me as student: "Good, you get an entire semester to try and demonstrate to a skeptic that critical thinking leads to atheism!"

I suspect that he would fail to demonstrate his claims, so I could inform him that he was sadly pretending to know what he didn't know at the end of the class. I'd get an F, but it would be worth it.

SteveK said...

Cal,
What's yawn-inducing is your example of a unicorn. As if unicorns have anything to do with what VR is talking about. I just thought I'd give you equal treatment.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "'Good, you get an entire semester to try and demonstrate to a skeptic that critical thinking leads to atheism!' / I suspect that he would fail to demonstrate his claims, so I could inform him that he was sadly pretending to know what he didn't know at the end of the class."

I'm curious what you think would be an acceptable demonstration of the claim that critical thinking leads to atheism. (I do think this is true, but I am wondering what you think would demonstrate it to you, and others.)

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Piece of cake. The Resurrection can be demonstrated to be an historical fact, using the evidence alone...."

Yeah, no.

There are plenty of Christians who don't even accept the above, let alone all other religions and non-believers, etc.

B. Prokop said...

To conclude from the evidence alone that the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ on the 27th of March, A.D. 33, is an historical fact, while not recognizing (and acknowledging) that that changes everything, would be a classic case of not using "critical thinking". To not become a Christian as rapidly as possible after coming to such a conclusion would be the pinnacle of illogic. How could such behavior possibly be justified? It would be akin to realizing that one had to eat in order to survive, but then to refuse to eat anything!

From the above, two things become abundantly clear:

1. Christianity stands or falls on the reality of the Resurrection of Christ, as a literal, physical, observable, verifiable, historical event. No symbolism, no allegory, no "spiritual" interpretation allowed. Did it happen, or not? If yes, then all else (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Exodus, the fall of man, the Law and the Prophets, the Redemption, the Ten Commandments, the sanctity of marriage, the evil of abortion, the efficacy of the Sacraments, the value of prayer, etc., etc.) follows, as one geometric theorem after another does in math. If not, then Christianity is a lie and/or a delusion. It's that simple.

2. It is foolish and illogical to demand "non-Christian" contemporary sources backing up the claim that the Resurrection is a fact. Once anyone is convinced of its reality, only an idiot or a madman (or a coward) would remain a non-Christian. Therefore, anyone having evidence that the Resurrection actually happened would be a Christian. which explains why only Christian sources provide evidence for its veracity.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Miguel said...

"Critical thinking leads to atheism"

How so?

Legion of Logic said...

"I'm curious what you think would be an acceptable demonstration of the claim that critical thinking leads to atheism. (I do think this is true, but I am wondering what you think would demonstrate it to you, and others.)"

Well from the start it's a very uphill battle since the counter position is coming from Pete Boghossian, a man who thinks faith is pretending and is on record as saying he sees Christians as mentally ill. The latter is demonstrably false (the former is considered false by essentially one hundred percent of Christians), so out of the gate I already suspect that critical thinking isn't one of his particular skill sets.

So first, Boghossian would have to either demonstrate that he understands how to utilize critical thinking and then adequately explain his ridiculous errors regarding religious people, or he would have to prove through scientific evidence that religious belief is in fact a form of mental illness. These would be the minimum requirements for me to even begin to take him seriously as an authority on critical thinking.

Then, he would have to show how utilizing critial thinking not only undermines Christianity and the entire philosophical concept of God or gods, but also supports atheism (the two are related but not synonymous). He would have to do this without the use of rhetoric, hyperbole, fallacies, or ignoring counter arguments, and be able to demonstrate that his thinking is based on facts and not opinions or biases.

If he could do that, the only way for me to resist would be to bury my head in the sand or run away.

Crude said...

Cal,

What happened to the "Absolutely!"? I provided you with a syllabus for Women's Studies - surely you can support Bog's claim.

There are plenty of Christians who don't even accept the above, let alone all other religions and non-believers, etc.

Actually, the number of Christians who deny the resurrection is pretty small. Also, the number of Christians who deny atheism - or that critical thinking leads to atheism - is considerable. Is that knock-down evidence against your claim?

And since everyone's constructing a strawman, I'll have a go:

Pete: Faith is pretending to know what you do not know.
Student: Show me God probably doesn't exist.
Pete: There's your mistake. You're treating atheism as a claim, but atheism is the lack of claims, and...
Student: I'm referring to the Atheist Bus Campaign.
Pete: Oh.
Student: Which a good portion of your book authors signed on with.
Pete: ...
Student: And they said they added 'probably' only because they were told they couldn't make it 'certainly' due to limitations on unprovable claims.
Pete: ...
Student: So, show me that God probably doesn't exist.
Pete: I'd rather you show me that God doesn't exist.
Student: Is it because you can't support your claim?
Pete: ...
Student: So I guess Dawkins and yourself have faith, right?
Pete: This is not what the course is supposed to be about.
Student: No fucking kidding.

And finally...

Along the lines of Boghossian being not only biased but wrong, why don't you demonstrate to us how a Christian student should defend the Trinity in a way that shouldn't receive a poor grade in Boghossian's course.

Getting an F from PeteBog wouldn't demonstrate anything about the student's critical thinking skills. You know what does a great demonstration of it, though? Your insistence that there's absolutely no reason to regard PeteBog's course as quite likely to be biased and inane, despite his atheism-obsession, the books he's written, his syllabus structure, and more.

Why? Because you say critical thinking leads to atheism. Why? You won't give the demonstration - instead you want people to tell you how to give the demonstration (that old trick of avoiding defending your claim.) Because, as has been evident in the past - your statement is mighty bold, but delivering on it is another question. It is a faith-based claim in the Boghossian sense of the term.

B. Prokop said...

"I'm curious what you think would be an acceptable demonstration of the claim that critical thinking leads to atheism. (I do think this is true, but I am wondering what you think would demonstrate it to you, and others.)"

It's not gonna happen, because there is simply no conceivable way that honest, critical thinking will ever lead to atheism.

Atheism demands that one close one's mind to the illogic of something coming from nothing (or else one has to redefine "nothing" to the point where it is actually "something").

Atheism demands that one overlook the fact that atheism necessarily means there is no objective morality, that good and evil are nothing more than subjective judgements of a mind that one can't actually trust to make such judgements.

Atheism demands that one ignore the fact that 99.9 percent of humanity since the Dawn of Time have believed in, worshiped, and prayed to God (or to gods). Atheists are required to think their tiny minority are "right" and the overwhelming majority of people are "wrong" about the most important of all imaginable questions.

Atheists must insist that all questions can be reduced to matters of empirical evidence and "science" - that art, literature, history, music, architecture, personal experience, all are somehow defective or fundamentally lacking, not quite worthy of trust, ultimately to be (negatively) evaluated against the one-and-only objective standard given the atheist seal of approval.

Atheists must never, ever allow themselves to realize that atheism means that everything is meaningless, that in the end of ends it does not matter what kind of life one leads, or even whether one is or is not an atheist - because a single microsecond after one's death, it is all as though it never happened, so who cares?

Atheists must never face up to the inevitable implication of materialism that individual identity does not really exist - that we are simply complex bundles of matter and energy, which, if its configuration is somehow altered or destroyed, becomes something else.

Atheists must believe that our noblest traits, our highest aspirations, our sublimest thoughts, are nothing more than electrical impulses and chemical reactions in a soulless meat machine, of no greater significance than combustion or sublimation. The love I feel for my family is simply a Darwinian survival mechanism.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Atheism is the very negtion of critical thinking. To the contrary, a case can be made for its being perilously close to insanity

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Me: "I'm curious what you think would be an acceptable demonstration of the claim that critical thinking leads to atheism?"

Legion: "So first, Boghossian would have to either demonstrate that he understands how to utilize critical thinking..."

That's what I mean; what would that demonstration be -- what would Boghossian have to do?

Legion: "...or he would have to prove through scientific evidence that religious belief is in fact a form of mental illness."

And that still leaves unanswered the question of what would you accept as scientific evidence that religious belief is in fact a form of mental illness.

I am starting to wonder if many here have given much thought to what it means to think critically.

Cal Metzger said...

Crude: "Crude: "Shall we compare a Gender Studies course with PeteBog's, and see which syllabus is more benign at a glance?"
Me: Absolutely!

Crude: "What happened to the "Absolutely!"? I provided you with a syllabus for Women's Studies - surely you can support Bog's claim."

What claim are you talking about? I am waiting for you to make your comparison. It's your offer, so what's your point?

SteveK said...

Cal,
"I do think this is true, but I am wondering what you think would demonstrate it to you, and others"

If you think it (critical thinking leads to atheism) can be demonstrated, then please tell us how. Don't wait for others to tell you what they'd like to see when you already have an idea of how.

If you don't think it can be demonstrated, why are you asking Christian's who agree that it cannot?

Crude said...

What claim are you talking about? I am waiting for you to make your comparison. It's your offer, so what's your point?

I already offered my comparison - compare the syllabi. The Women's Studies syllabi compares favorably to Bog's.

Now, that's selected at random. Bog claims that the departments are corrupt and oriented towards indoctrination. Feel free to show me how he supports this claim - because I hypothesize whatever he pulls to support it is going to be easy to use against him.

And that still leaves unanswered the question of what would you accept as scientific evidence that religious belief is in fact a form of mental illness.

It's like asking what scientific evidence exists that blue is, in fact, the number two. It's not a scientific question to begin with, if someone insists that blue is, in fact, the number two, it's up to them to explain how they're arriving at that conclusion if they want anyone to believe it.

What's that saying from Hitchens? That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence?

Why do you keep advancing and supporting claims here, and then when people say it's time for you to put up or shut up, suddenly the onus is on -them- to make your case for you? Because it looks an awful lot like you've got nothing and are hoping to - ha ha - Bog people down.

Crude said...

Why do you keep advancing and supporting claims here

Whoops, my mistake - those claims aren't being supported. ;)

It's just assertion after assertion, and when someone asks for evidence for the assertion, 'hey now why don't YOU tell me how to provide evidence for my assertion'. How about you provide evidence for your own damn assertion, and if you can't, we blow you off as all talk and focus on people who can - you know - at least try to back up their claims?

Legion of Logic said...

Cal: "That's what I mean; what would that demonstration be -- what would Boghossian have to do?"

If I've learned anything from atheists over the years, it's that as a skeptic, I'm not required to identify what it would take to convince me of something. Seeing as how I am more charitable than they, however, in Boghossian's case, he would have to display critical thinking skills on a topic outside religion. Once he demonstrated that he was in fact capable of utilizing those skills, we could move on and use those critical thinking skills to determine if he was simply incapable or unwilling to use them on religious matters, or if he is in fact correct that God-belief is a mental illness. Which leads to the second part:

Cal: "And that still leaves unanswered the question of what would you accept as scientific evidence that religious belief is in fact a form of mental illness."

*insert repeat of how atheists don't answer this question when it comes to God* Now then, from Wikipedia:

"A mental disorder (also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder) is a diagnosis of a behavioral or mental pattern that can cause suffering or a poor ability to function in ordinary life."

From Mental Health America:

"A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines."

Scientific evidence supporting religious belief being a mental illness would probably take the form of studies showing that a religious person, with other factors being controlled and accounted for, will have suffering, disturbances in thought and/or behavior, and a poor ability to function in, and cope with, ordinary life. Given that there are approximately zero studies showing this - and more than zero studies showing quite the opposite - I would be interested to see how Boghossian, using critical thinking, would justify his assertion. And this segues into the third part:

Cal: "I am starting to wonder if many here have given much thought to what it means to think critically."

Indeed I have. A much more pertinent question, based on what has been written, is whether or not Boghossian knows what it means to think critically.



Cal Metzger said...

Crude: "I already offered my comparison - compare the syllabi. The Women's Studies syllabi compares favorably to Bog's."

If you say so.

Crude: "Bog claims that the departments are corrupt and oriented towards indoctrination. Feel free to show me how he supports this claim - because I hypothesize whatever he pulls to support it is going to be easy to use against him."

Seems kind of off topic to me. And not my topic. But if you want to make your case, I'm all ears.

Crude: "It's like asking what scientific evidence exists that blue is, in fact, the number two. It's not a scientific question to begin with, if someone insists that blue is, in fact, the number two, it's up to them to explain how they're arriving at that conclusion if they want anyone to believe it."

This makes no sense. I asked a follow up question, and it seems like you're upset with the answer to which I asked a follow-up question. Take it up with Legion if you don't like his answer.

Crude: "Why do you keep advancing and supporting claims here, and then when people say it's time for you to put up or shut up, suddenly the onus is on -them- to make your case for you?"

Um, I'm asking questions and offering criticism concerning some of the claims and responses offered here. I'm actually not sure what it is you think you're doing.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "If I've learned anything from atheists over the years, it's that as a skeptic, I'm not required to identify what it would take to convince me of something."

It seems you've been hanging out with bad skeptics, then.

Legion: "Seeing as how I am more charitable than they, however, in Boghossian's case, he would have to display critical thinking skills on a topic outside religion. Once he demonstrated that he was in fact capable of utilizing those skills, we could move on and use those critical thinking skills to determine if he was simply incapable or unwilling to use them on religious matters, or if he is in fact correct that God-belief is a mental illness. "

Yes, but do you see where you're just repeating yourself? What does that mean -- to display or utilize critical thinking skills?

Legion: "Which leads to the second part.... Scientific evidence supporting religious belief being a mental illness would probably take the form of studies showing that a religious person, with other factors being controlled and accounted for, will have suffering, disturbances in thought and/or behavior, and a poor ability to function in, and cope with, ordinary life."

Okay, I agree that this seems like a reasonable request. I'd even suggest that the bar on that test seems a little too low.


Crude said...

If you say so.

Funny how you went from 'Yeah I TOTALLY want to see that comparison!' to 'if you say so' and 'gosh that seems off-topic' rather fast, eh?

It's not off-topic to note, when making the claim that PeteBog's course reeks of bias, that he himself alleges bias not just of classes, but whole areas of study. In fact, more than bias, but departments devoted entirely to indoctrination, which need to be shuttered en-masse.

You point at his syllabus and make the argument that 'Hey, he doesn't outright say the point of course is to convert you to atheism, so there's nothing to worry about'. I point at a typical Women's Studies course in exchange and ask, where's the overt bias?

You went from being enthusiastic to talk about the comparison to keeping your mouth shut and not really having anything to say, because suddenly it's all off-topic. Go figure, eh?

This makes no sense. I asked a follow up question, and it seems like you're upset with the answer to which I asked a follow-up question.

No, you made a claim. You were asked to provide evidence for your claim. Your response has been to say 'How about you tell me how I can provide evidence for your claim?' and then to act like it's cheating when you're told, no, the onus is on you to provide evidence for your claim if you wish to make it.

You've rolled in with claims: "The critical thinking skills that his course teaches can be used to reject all unsupported beliefs", you say critical thinking leads to atheism. When time comes to support the claims, you find other topics to discuss instead.

Um, I'm asking questions and offering criticism concerning some of the claims and responses offered here. I'm actually not sure what it is you think you're doing.

I'm offering evidence for my claims, and noting when you change the subject, come up short, or make claims that you don't support. See, this is part of critical thinking. If you don't recognize it in action, you may want to ask yourself why.

What does that mean -- to display or utilize critical thinking skills?

For one thing, recognizing the biases and starting assumptions in a given argument (and the worldview which comes with it) which frames the evidence to begin with. Also, to correct oneself or appropriate amend oneself when one is wrong - and also to start with the acceptance that one, in fact, may well be wrong.

With PeteBog, he's had it pointed out to him repeatedly that his definition of faith is inane. Theologians don't define it that way, it has next to no biblical support, and most people don't subscribe to it. It's a view he insists they have based on what amounts to a gut feeling about how they have to be reasoning, and one which he treats as a settled matter, not open to dispute or even bias on his part.

Would you regard that as critical thinking on his part?

Miguel said...

Cal,

Just show us how critical thinking leads to atheism. You made that assertion, I just want to see how you would back it up. Since you made the assertion, you must have some idea about how critical thinking leads to atheism, so show us.

Legion of Logic said...

"Yes, but do you see where you're just repeating yourself? What does that mean -- to display or utilize critical thinking skills?"

I may be weird, but perhaps since I am a robot / automation technician by trade, I picture critical thinking as analogous to mechanical troubleshooting. When a pneumatic cylinder will not move as it should, and I see an inexperienced tech replacing a part that has literally nothing to do with the cylinder or its control valve, or a tech who leaps in with wrenches to replace the cylinder, and I reach in and point out where the air line had popped off so the cylinder had no air pressure, I'm left scratching my head. They obviously did not use any troubleshooting skills, or at the very least severely botched the process due to incomplete information or past experiences not relevant to the current issue. Troubleshooting involves knowing the problem, knowing the facts of the problem such as mechanical, electrical, and pneumatic principles, analyzing the problem on the basis of those facts, and then identifying the problem based upon that analysis.

Critical thinking is really no different. Identifying a problem, knowing the facts of the problem, knowing what one does and does not know about the problem and attempting to learn what one can to alleviate those knowledge gaps, analyzing the problem in light of what is known or reasonably inferred, and basing one's conclusions on that process. As Crude pointed out, being aware of one's own beliefs and biases and being able to determine where that might cloud the conclusions is also a giant plus.

Cal Metzger said...

Miguel: "Just show us how critical thinking leads to atheism."

The link between critical thinking and religious belief is apparent to me in countless examples, although I understand that those believers who I see as not thinking critically don't feel the same way. I think the best explanation (and evidence) for this effect can be found here ( http://www.anth.uconn.edu/degree_programs/ecolevo/divineintuition.pdf ), but there are lots and lots of other ways of breaking it down. Really, I think that the bulk of my comments on a blog like this are examples of pointing out where I don't think believers are thinking critically. I suppose that one of the great questions about being human is how any of us can do a better job of applying critical thinking skills to our beliefs.

That being said, one person's "critical thinking" is another's wrong-headed approach to, well, everything. So, for the sake of understanding how I understand critical thinking I typically mean a process that includes: consistency, a minimum of premises going in, awareness of one's limitations (perceptions and biases), taking steps to become more indifferent to the conclusion (postponing determinations, separating our beliefs from our identity, etc.), constantly testing premises, and probably a bunch of other things I'm forgetting.

My observation, the biggest thing I've learned over the years of observing how others behave around analyzing their beliefs (I exclude myself from these observations, although I' entirely sure I suffer in ways that I can't see): the biggest hurdle in doing better at thinking critically is in overcoming those areas where our identity, and group belong based on that identity, is most strongly identified with our beliefs.

Cal Metzger said...

Crude: "It's not off-topic to note, when making the claim that PeteBog's course reeks of bias, that he himself alleges bias not just of classes, but whole areas of study."

Whether or not something "reeks of bias" is different than showing that it is biased. I am pointing out that it seems that Boghossian can defend himself from the kind of bias charges that would trigger the Lemon Law.

Where does Boghossian say that Women's studies is biased? Can you cite him saying that (link?).

Crude: "You point at his syllabus and make the argument that 'Hey, he doesn't outright say the point of course is to convert you to atheism, so there's nothing to worry about'. I point at a typical Women's Studies course in exchange and ask, where's the overt bias?"

I agree, neither seems overtly biased based on their syllabi.

Crude: "You went from being enthusiastic to talk about the comparison to keeping your mouth shut and not really having anything to say, because suddenly it's all off-topic. Go figure, eh?"

This is your topic. I still don't really know what you want me to do with it.

Crude: "You've rolled in with claims: "The critical thinking skills that his course teaches can be used to reject all unsupported beliefs", you say critical thinking leads to atheism. When time comes to support the claims, you find other topics to discuss instead."

Please see my last (previous) comment above.

Crude: "I'm offering evidence for my claims, and noting when you change the subject, come up short, or make claims that you don't support. See, this is part of critical thinking. If you don't recognize it in action, you may want to ask yourself why."

I disagree with your assessment.

Crude: "With PeteBog, he's had it pointed out to him repeatedly that his definition of faith is inane. Theologians don't define it that way, it has next to no biblical support, and most people don't subscribe to it. It's a view he insists they have based on what amounts to a gut feeling about how they have to be reasoning, and one which he treats as a settled matter, not open to dispute or even bias on his part."

Boghossian's pointing out that faith can be equally well defined as "pretending to know something you don't know" remains correct, and it just doesn't matter how uncomfortable that makes theologians and other believers. You can see how his reframing of the word remains apt by inserting his phrase into most times someone uses the word "faith" without changing the facts the words describe.

And I understand that the above will give you such an emotional reaction you'll unlikely be able to accept that it is correct. But correct it remains.

Crude said...

Let's all take time to note something here: Cal said more than once that critical thinking leads to atheism. It's a pretty common theme with him, a bold assertion. When he was asked to demonstrate this, he kept changing the subject. Finally, when cornered, he replies with... a full-blown, tail-between-his-legs-retreat.

No demonstration that critical thinking leads to atheism. Not even an argument that critical thinking leads one to regard atheism as more likely. Instead we get a link to a weak and largely irrelevant academic paper, and then what amounts to 'well you know, everyone critically thinks in their own way, my way differs from yours I'm sure' and vague boilerplate about general kinda-sorta nice features of critical thinking.

So much for the big claim. 'Critical thinking leads to atheism', via Cal, apparently just cashes out to 'Well I'm an atheist and I think I'm a critical thinker, so I dunno, I guess it's leading to it for me?'

Pardon me, I expected something more than a retreat into the subjective.

Moving on...

Where does Boghossian say that Women's studies is biased?

https://twitter.com/peterboghossian/status/724733627578372096 - Right here. And not just Women's Studies, but Gender Studies - which covers Women's Studies and more. They must be defunded, they are indoctrination centers.

And hey, I'm on-board. But Bog's course is no better.

This is your topic. I still don't really know what you want me to do with it.

I'm inviting you to think critically here. Can you think of some ways Boghossian would support his contention that Gender Studies is biased? I grabbed a random syllabus - you see no bias. So what would Boghossian consider evidence? Course structure? Arrangement of the questions? Orientation of the class' approach?

I disagree with your assessment.

Your faith is noted. Speaking of that...

Boghossian's pointing out that faith can be equally well defined as "pretending to know something you don't know" remains correct,

It remains either A) flat-out false, or B) only salvaged by bluffing on 'pretending' and 'know' so hard that that 'faith' becomes a far and away common trait of the typical gnu.

There's a reason why this move remains largely specific to PeteBog and his fan cadre, despite him harping on it incessantly for years. It's similar to why no one uses Dawkins' Boeing 747 argument anymore - because it's inane, and easy to show as much.

You've already retreated on the 'critical thinking leads to atheism' front. Want to discuss this one and add another retreat?

Ilíon said...

B.Prokop (channelling Ilíon, seemingly): "Atheism demands that one close one's mind to the illogic of [etc, etc, etc]"

Exactly! Both the affirmation of the reality of God and the denial of the reality of God are statements about the very nature of reality, of truth, of reason, of morality, of meaning, of love, of beauty, of personhood, of agency, and of our individual selves (*). The question of the reality of God is the First Question, because everything else follows from the answer to that question.
(*) and of much else, besides; that list is not exhaustive.

I have posted an expansion on the above here

B. Prokop said...

Looks like it's once again time to remind people what faith actually is.

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

"B.Prokop (channelling Ilíon, seemingly)"

Actually, channeling Bishop Robert Barron, who has occasionally expounded on the often unacknowledged logical ramifications of atheism in his Youtube videos.

Ilíon said...

Ah! But I am a "poison personality" (*) for having done the same -- and having then expounded on the further implications (**) -- since I discovered VR's blog.



(*) just to make clear, that particular accusation wasn't from B.Prokop's

(**) such as: *all* so-called atheists are intellectually dishonest in (anti-)virtue of their God-denial

SteveK said...

"Pardon me, I expected something more than a retreat into the subjective."

You aren't the only one.

Cal Metzger said...

Crude: "Let's all take time to note something here: Cal said more than once that critical thinking leads to atheism. It's a pretty common theme with him, a bold assertion. When he was asked to demonstrate this, he kept changing the subject. Finally, when cornered, he replies with... a full-blown, tail-between-his-legs-retreat. / No demonstration that critical thinking leads to atheism. Not even an argument that critical thinking leads one to regard atheism as more likely."

The gloating rant above reads like an attempt to over-compensate for something. One thing for sure is that it makes you seem less confident, not more so.

Crude: "So much for the big claim. 'Critical thinking leads to atheism', via Cal, apparently just cashes out to 'Well I'm an atheist and I think I'm a critical thinker, so I dunno, I guess it's leading to it for me?' "

"Critical thinking leads to atheism" is a "big claim" only in your little world. Out here in the great big world it's about as common as the claim that water is wet.

Look up any of the reasons atheists normally give for why they stop believing. They are invariably conclusions best described as the conclusion of critical thinking -- discovering inconsistencies, contradictions, mundane explanations, testing, etc. If you think that this is truly contestable, then you are as delusional as your comments are making you appear. I don't know why you'd want to appear delusional.

Crude: "Pardon me, I expected something more than a retreat into the subjective."

I tried explaining one of the ways I could be wrong, at least one of the ones I am aware of. That you see this as a retreat indicates how unprepared you seem for critical thinking on this topic.

Crude: "Can you think of some ways Boghossian would support his contention that Gender Studies is biased? I grabbed a random syllabus - you see no bias. So what would Boghossian consider evidence?"

The same evidence you apparently consider persuasive when you say "And hey, I'm on-board" regarding Boghossian's tweet. So I am confused about what more you need for something you and Boghossian appears to agree on.

Crude: "[Boghossian's pointing out that faith can be equally well defined as "pretending to know something you don't know" remains correct, [ remains either A) flat-out false, or B) only salvaged by bluffing on 'pretending' and 'know' so hard that that 'faith' becomes a far and away common trait of the typical gnu."

On the contrary, it seems that I can substitute per Boghossian and not change the meaning of virtually any saying or text where a believer talks about "faith."

Here's Harold Camping, talking about the impending Apocalypse on October 21 of 2011 (after his May 21 prediction failed)"

Camping: "In the meanwhile, oh my, it’s been so good to hear about those who are continuing to be faithful>. They, undoubtedly, are the elect of God, and we know absolutely that the elect will be saved. There is no question at all about that. And we know that there are in the Family Radio many who have been so faithful> and are remaining faithful> right to the end. Praise God for that."

So who's bluffing here?

Cal Metzger said...

@Legion, so, based on the definition you provided of critical thinking (more of a "troubleshooting" approach), how would someone demonstrate to you that critical thinking could lead to atheism?

Edgestow said...

"Critical thinking leads to atheism" is a "big claim" only in your little world. Out here in the great big world it's about as common as the claim that water is wet.

Wait a second! So, the approximately 3% of humanity who are atheists is now "the great big world" while the 97% who aren't is "your little world"?

What am I missing here?

Crude said...

The gloating rant above reads like

Blah, blah, Cal. You're the one who wrote your glorified retreat - I'm highlighting it. Makes me a bit of an asshole to rub your nose in it, but I assure you, it's treatment I reserve for those who can talk beyond their capabilities. Respecting your limitations will do you wonders here.

Look up any of the reasons atheists normally give for why they stop believing. They are invariably conclusions best described as the conclusion of critical thinking

Oh, so that's what you were really about? Not that critical thinking necessarily leads to atheism, but that some people have claimed to have thought critically, or that they had this or that or another reason which was a kind of critical thinking, and then became atheists?

Set the bar that low and critical thinking leads to theism too. Also to evolutionary belief and skepticism of evolution. Atheist style faith in modern medicine (See: Dennett's personal choices) and atheist style abhorrence of it (see: Maher).

And by the way? I also see a whole lot of 'I became an atheist at 12 when I just felt it was all nonsense' out of atheists, particularly the leadership. Coyne famously had some kind of Beatles-related freak-out. It ain't a pretty spread.

I tried explaining one of the ways I could be wrong, at least one of the ones I am aware of. That you see this as a retreat indicates how unprepared you seem for critical thinking on this topic.

What I was unprepared for is how thorough your collapse was. From 'critical thinking leads to atheism' to 'Well gosh, everyone's critical thinking differs' to, now, 'What I meant was that atheists typically at least cite an argument or bit of evidence that I categorize as critical thought'. Critical thought is what's noticing your inability to back up your talk, that strange disjoint between Cal on critical thought a day or two ago and Cal on critical thought now.

The same evidence you apparently consider persuasive when you say "And hey, I'm on-board" regarding Boghossian's tweet.

And you know this how? What is this evidence, Cal? I think Bog's got rotten reasoning - for all I know he came to the same conclusion I did in a rotten way. Why don't you want to evaluate this? Is it because you know that it's going to be pretty hard to come up with standards Bog can reasonably be using that won't open him up to the same charges regarding his own course?

Here's Harold Camping,

Hahahaha. That's your ace in the hole? Harold effing Camping, roundly rejected by Christians all over the country even -before- his prediction?

Here's the worst part, Cal: Camping doesn't even work as an example here, unless - as I said - you water down 'faith' and 'knowing'' down to 'believing something that turns out to be wrong, or can turn out to be wrong'. In which case, atheists all over the place - including the Cult of Gnu high clerics themselves - are demonstrable faith-heads.

Think critically, Cal. You may learn something here.

Cal Metzger said...

Also, screwed up the HTML on the Camping quote. Here it is in it's full, correct glory (emphasis mine):

Camping: "In the meanwhile, oh my, it’s been so good to hear about those who are continuing to be faithful. They, undoubtedly, are the elect of God, and we know absolutely that the elect will be saved. There is no question at all about that. And we know that there are in the Family Radio many who have been so faithful and are remaining faithful right to the end. Praise God for that."

B. Prokop said...

"Camping quote"

And this is relevant how? Camping was a nut, and in no way representative of Christian thought.

Lenin was an atheist. Should we now quote him, in the expectation that Cal will get uncomfortable, or think he has to defend him? No, Cal will (rightly) say, "Lenin is not representative of all atheist thought."

Cal, Camping is not even "low hanging fruit" - he is windfall. To quote him simply shows how out of ammo you are.

Cal Metzger said...

Crude:

Prokop: "And this is relevant how? Camping was a nut, and in no way representative of Christian thought."

Camping: "I’m not even thinking about that at all. It. Is. Going. To. Happen. Because I trust the Bible implicitly, the Bible is God’s word — it’s not from a man, it’s not from an organization of some kind where there’s plenty of room for error. It is the word of God. When God speaks that it is going to happen, the Bible is a very factual book, and God gives many examples of how he has made prophesies and it always has happened in exact accord with what God has prophesied."

So, Christians don't trust the bible? They don't believe that the Bible is the word of God? That there are no prophesies in the Bible that ever came true?

I agree that Camping is embarrassing, but the only real mistake he seems to have made is to make an actual prediction. And to have used the term faith in a way that can be tested like other knowledge can.

B. Prokop said...

Cal,

Bringing Camping into the discussion is like introducing a six year old T-ball player into the World Series.

If you cannot tell the difference between Camping and serious Christian thinkers, then that explains much.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Me: "Critical thinking leads to atheism" is a "big claim" only in your little world. Out here in the great big world it's about as common as the claim that water is wet."
Edge: "Wait a second! So, the approximately 3% of humanity who are atheists is now "the great big world" while the 97% who aren't is "your little world"? / What am I missing here?"

Logic.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "If you cannot tell the difference between Camping and serious Christian thinkers, then that explains much."

If you cannot tell the difference between Scotsman and serious Scotsman, then that explains much.

Cal Metzger said...

On the Trinity, by John Wesley: "The Word was made flesh." I Believe this fact also. There is no mystery in it; but as to the manner how he was made flesh, wherein the mystery lies, I know nothing about it; I believe nothing about it: It is no more the object of my faith, than it is of my understanding."

"The Word was made flesh." I Believe this fact also. There is no mystery in it; but as to the manner how he was made flesh, wherein the mystery lies, I know nothing about it; I believe nothing about it: It is no more the object of my pretending to know what I don't know, than it is of my understanding."

What's the difference again?

B. Prokop said...

[Cal]: "Critical thinking leads to atheism" is a "big claim" only in your little world. Out here in the great big world it's about as common as the claim that water is wet."
Edge: "Wait a second! So, the approximately 3% of humanity who are atheists is now "the great big world" while the 97% who aren't is "your little world"? / What am I missing here?"

[Cal:] Logic.


As I posted yesterday at 2:30 PM, "Atheism demands that one ignore the fact that 99.9 percent of humanity since the Dawn of Time have believed in, worshiped, and prayed to God (or to gods). Atheists are required to think their tiny minority are "right" and the overwhelming majority of people are "wrong" about the most important of all imaginable questions."

B. Prokop said...

Cal,

Can you not read? Wesley is clearly saying that the "manner" of the Incarnation is outside his sphere of knowledge, and is not an object of his Faith. "I know nothing about it; I believe nothing about it: It is no more the object of my faith, than it is of my understanding." Wesley is explicitly saying that he is not pretending to know what he does not know.

So what is your point?

Cal Metzger said...

Crude: [That faith can be defined as 'pretending to know what you do not know'] remains either A) flat-out false, or B) only salvaged by bluffing on 'pretending' and 'know' so hard that that 'faith' becomes a far and away common trait of the typical gnu."

"The doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to the Christian faith....While we cannot fully understand everything about the Trinity (or anything else), it is possible to answer questions like these and come to a solid grasp of what it means for God to be three in one." (From http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-doctrine-of-the-trinity)
and
"The Trinity is beyond human comprehension, and the Bible never explains it. We’re only asked to believe it." (
From https://gracethrufaith.com/ask-a-bible-teacher/understanding-the-trinity)

And Boghossian has his understanding of faith all wrong again why?

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "So what is your point?"

That by the word faith one could reasonably substitute the words "pretending to know what I don't know."

Crude has declared that flat out false, or bluffing (?).

I don't see how Crude could reasonably be right about that. Unless he wants to take on all Christians, and the Internet.

Miguel said...

Cal,

It's still not clear to me how critical thinking would lead to atheism. If I understood it correctly, you're simply claiming that many unbelievers came to reject their past religious beliefs through a process of critical thinking, but that's not sufficient to establish the claim that "critical thinking leads to atheism", because the same could be said for many theists and religious people in general (and, in fact, history is full of people with critical dispositions who converted to Christianity, like C. S. Lewis for instance). In this case, "critical thinking leads to atheism" would be an uninteresting assertion ("critical thinking can lead to atheism; sometimes critical thinking leads people to atheism, sometimes to theism, etc").

Moreover, renouncing one's religion is not the same as renouncing theism or embracing atheism, so there's that, too.

Miguel said...

Cal,

Disregarding the fact that the links you just posted do not speak for all Christians, there is the important caveat that we do not need to exhaustively know or comprehend X in order to rationally believe that X is the case. While you could, perhaps, argue that not fully understanding X would count (at least a little) against justifications for believing that X is the case, that would hardly be a knock-down refutation.

With that in mind, you can't -- without begging the question -- simply say these authors are using faith in the Boghossian sense.

B. Prokop said...

"Crude has declared that flat out false, or bluffing."

And Crude is 100 percent correct.

If you genuinely want to know what Faith really is, instead of stubbornly sticking by Boghossian's fantasy version, go to the link I posted above, at 9:58 AM.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Crude said...

Logic

Sure, Cal. Logic that you can't put on display, and which you fled from providing a demonstration of when called on over it.

I agree that Camping is embarrassing,

Embarrassing? To who? He's an unfortunate case, but considering the nigh-universal rejection of his claims, he's no embarrassment to anyone in this thread, or most Christians generally.

Your point is that Camping made a claim, a claim which turned out to be demonstrably wrong. Remember what I said earlier?

"Camping doesn't even work as an example here, unless - as I said - you water down 'faith' and 'knowing'' down to 'believing something that turns out to be wrong, or can turn out to be wrong'."

And you're just demonstrating as much. You may as well say that Einstein was a faith-head given his views about quantum physics, that Maher is given to faith due to his views about western medicine, and more.

As I said, if you want to water down faith and knowledge in that way, you're more than welcome to do so. It just means that I'm going to be able to show an absolute abundance of faith in atheists and the irreligious, and thus show how meaningless the term becomes when you make that move to save Boghossian. If you want to say 'But Christians believe X is true without understanding why X is true - they take it on authority', then bad news - you'll once again have outlined a view of 'faith' that picks up countless atheists and people in general, from 'person who believes the earth is 14 billion years old purely because someone they trust testifies to that' to otherwise.

I don't see how Crude could reasonably be right about that.

And it turns out you were wrong, Cal. That's what you get for pretending to know what you don't know, eh?

Crude said...

BTW, just to play off that 'people become atheists due to critical thinking' bit:

One of the more colorful scientific de-conversion stories comes from Jerry Coyne, a professor of genetics and evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago. It happened in 1967 when Coyne, then 17, was listening for the first time to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album while lying on his parents’ couch in Alexandria, Va.

Suddenly Coyne began to shake and sweat. For reasons he still doesn’t understand, it dawned on him at that moment that there was no God, and he wasn’t going anywhere when he died. His casual Judaism seemed to wash away as the album played on. The crisis lasted about 30 minutes, he says, and when it was over, he had left religion behind for good. He went on to study how new species evolve, and found the Darwinian view of nature perfectly in tune with his abandonment of faith.


Jerry Coyne, ladies and gentlemen.

Apparently 'I Am the Eggman' is pure, undiluted logic.

Legion of Logic said...

"@Legion, so, based on the definition you provided of critical thinking (more of a "troubleshooting" approach), how would someone demonstrate to you that critical thinking could lead to atheism?"

Worded like this, I have no doubt that critical thinking could lead to atheism, depending on things that are impossible to truly abolish - starting biases, emotional reactions, etc. Given all the arguments I've seen over the past twelve or thirteen years of doing this, I suspect there are no existing arguments that would convince me atheism is probable or even possible based upon what we currently know...but I also suck at hypotheticals, so the exercise for me is a moot point.

"Boghossian's pointing out that faith can be equally well defined as "pretending to know something you don't know" remains correct"

I'm not so sure.

Mat. 8:10 - When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such pretending to know what one doesn't know, not even in Israel!"

Mat. 9:22 - But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; pretending to know what you don't know has made you well.”

Mat. 16:8 - But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little pretending to know what one doesn't know, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?"

Acts 6:8 - And Stephen, full of pretending to know what he didn't know and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.

Rom. 1:17 - For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from pretend knowledge to pretend knowledge; as it is written, “The just shall live by pretending to know what they don't know.”

Rom. 5:1 - Therefore, having been justified by pretending to know what we don't know, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ

1 Cor. 13:13 - And now abide pretending to know what you don't know, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

And how about these from Hebrews:

By pretending to know what he didn't know, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain

By pretending to know what he didn't know, Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household

By pretending to know what they didn't know, they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.

Now, amusing as those are to read, is it even remotely sensible to assume that "pretending to know what one doesn't know" is synonymous with "faith" in these contexts? Now then, replace "faith" with "trust" or "hope" in all these statements, and you see that it works perfectly. "Pretending to know what one doesn't know" doesn't make an ounce of sense for the Christian faith.

B. Prokop said...

Legion,

THANK YOU! I never thought of doing that. Absolutely brilliant! Blows Boghossian's nonsense out of the water once and for all.

Crude said...

By the way, Cal.

I'm hard on Bog because Bog's a deceitful guy with bad priorities, probably owing to his inability to give up on his decades of self-described 'professional atheism'. I'm hard on you because you parrot this garbage and have to know you don't have much of a case. Assuming you're the sort of atheist who isn't a fan of Atheism+ and the tide of SJWdom that's swept in to replace the cultural vacuum left by Christianity, here's something to consider.

It may well be that your anti-theistic passion is entirely wrong-headed.

Consider coming to terms with the idea that neither theists nor theism are necessarily irrational, and that atheism and irreligion doesn't seem to be quite the talisman against corrosive thoughts as the more gullible atheists hoped a few short years ago. PeteBog's rage against religion looks downright myopic when its his irreligious allies who are dabbling in the stuff he'd rightly regard as threats, existential and otherwise. At this point, caterwauling about the wicked, dangerous Christians - it's a mental illness, dontcha know - while your fellow irreligious are working overtime to see burqas and minarets multiply in Sweden is one hell of a thing. In fact, it reeks of a mental problem that makes Camping, at his worst, look sensible.

You don't have to start praying, but re-aligning your freaking priorities sure seems to be in order, unless you're still looking wistfully at Scandinavia as some model of irreligious serenity. Who knows, maybe you've thrown back the Kool-Aid with Team Atheism+.

Cal Metzger said...

Miguel: "It's still not clear to me how critical thinking would lead to atheism."

As I defined critical thinking above, it's just an exercise of applying those principals and surmising that while existence and creation are baffling none of the religions offer a good explanation for the world we live in -- and pretty much all of them get things seriously wrong.

Miguel: "If I understood it correctly, you're simply claiming that many unbelievers came to reject their past religious beliefs through a process of critical thinking, but that's not sufficient to establish the claim that "critical thinking leads to atheism"..."

Actually, that is sufficient. I didn't make an absolute statement like "critical thinking always leads everyone to atheism every time, etc." But very often, critical thinking does lead to atheism -- and we know this because so many atheists credit critical thinking as they reason they left their faith and determined that it's more probable that no gods exist.

Miguel: "... because the same could be said for many theists and religious people in general (and, in fact, history is full of people with critical dispositions who converted to Christianity, like C. S. Lewis for instance)."

And that is why, in anticipation of this, that I pointed out upthread that I know that other people differ about what constitutes critical thinking. I am just observing that many atheists like myself observe that we lost our faith as a result of critical thinking (as I have described it).

Miguel: "In this case, "critical thinking leads to atheism" would be an uninteresting assertion ("critical thinking can lead to atheism; sometimes critical thinking leads people to atheism, sometimes to theism, etc")."

Well, I don't think that those who believe in a god are really applying the critical thinking skills that I have started to describe -- I think that at very best the religious have to be inconsistent, and accept that their belief depends on arbitrary application of certain principals. In other words, it's one thing to declare that one's beliefs are based on critical thinking, but it's another to be able to defend those beliefs against a determined criticism. As I have said, most of my comments here are about pointing out those (primarily) inconsistencies in the statements around belief made on this site.

Miguel: "Moreover, renouncing one's religion is not the same as renouncing theism or embracing atheism, so there's that, too."

I agree that for many people the journey from religious adherent to atheist comes in steps. Some simply become less religious. Others move to metaphorical interpretations and a kind of pantheism. I would only ever call myself an atheist because I understand theism, and the claims of most religions, to involve gods who are interested in involved in our lives, who intercede on reality, etc. And this notion is one that I think critical thinking exposes as almost certainly false.

Cal Metzger said...

Crude: "It may well be that your anti-theistic passion is entirely wrong-headed."

As I have said her before, I'm compelled to oppose hypocrisy, inconsistency, and sanctimony. I don't really have a problem with your garden-variety believer, but so long as apologists (among others) embrace these behaviors I'll continue to speak out, thank you very much.





planks length said...

I'm genuinely curious, Cal. You claim you wish to speak out against "hypocrisy, inconsistency, and sanctimony" amongst believers, yet you post to this site where the only people I ever see exhibiting such traits are you and your fellow atheists (and mostly you).

Can you give us examples of where you see this behavior on Dangerous Idea by Christian posters?

Crude said...

As I have said her before, I'm compelled to oppose hypocrisy, inconsistency, and sanctimony. I don't really have a problem with your garden-variety believer,

And you talk about sanctimony? You've got your panties in a goddamn twist because people are rightly pointing out PeteBog's faults. Apparently reasonable self-defense is 'sanctimony' now.

You don't have a problem with 'your garden-variety believer'? You are running devoted defense for Pete Boghossian, who treats the garden variety believer as people with a mental disease in need of containment and curing by the state. You won't even entertain the reasonable inference that the self-described 'professional atheist' is a bit of a mono-focused maniac. You're not 'speaking out' against such behavior, you're still fighting the inane battles of a half decade ago.

Physician, heal thy freaking self.

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "I'm genuinely curious, Cal. You claim you wish to speak out against "hypocrisy, inconsistency, and sanctimony" amongst believers, yet you post to this site where the only people I ever see exhibiting such traits are you and your fellow atheists (and mostly you)."

What are the examples you see me displaying inconsistency, hypocrisy, and sanctimony?

planks length said...

Oh, no! You first, since you threw the first punch. You said you were here to speak out against inconsistency, hypocrisy, and sanctimony. Where have you seen such by believers? I cannot think of a single instance (and I'm trying).

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "You said you were here to speak out against inconsistency, hypocrisy, and sanctimony. Where have you seen such by believers? I cannot think of a single instance (and I'm trying)."

From the first time I remember posting here, VR posted: "The fact that Christians have never claimed to believe in a physical God....It rarely occurs to [critical thinkers] that such physical proof would actually run 100% counter to Judeo-Christian theistic claims."

Why is it inconsistent? Because it clashes with the fact that CHRISTIANS BELIEVE IN THE BIBLE, WHICH TELLS STORIES ABOUT A PHYSICAL GOD INTERACTING WITH REALITY.

Why is it sanctimonious? Because it condescends to critical thinkers ("... it rarely occurs..."), pretending that they are too daft to see the truth, when in fact it is VR who is missing the fact that Christian believe that their god actually physically reacts with reality. What do you call it when you reprimand someone for something you yourself are doing? Oh, yeah, hypocrisy.

Now, what examples of mine can you provide and explain where i am inconsistent, hypocritical, and sanctimonious?




planks length said...

Uh.. The Bible never once tells of God physically interacting with creation (a.k.a., "reality"), other than in the singular case of the Incarnation (when, of course, God entered into His creation in the person of Jesus). No inconsistency there (on the part of Christians). The only inconsistency is on the part of the self-described "skeptics", who seem unaware (and that's not in the least sanctimonious) of the possibilities of literary conventions - who insist on a woodenly literalist interpretation of texts that were never meant to be so interpreted by their authors. So, it does indeed seem that "they are too daft to see the truth". Is it "inconsistent" or hypocritical" to speak the truth? Because the truth is, sadly, that your very comment shows how clueless you really are about things you are forever making sweeping statements about.

You do not believe in the Inspiration of the Bible, yet you somehow think it is your place to tell people who do, how they are supposed to read their own book. If that is not "sanctimony", then I do not know what is.

You have been told this before, and you fail to modify your opinions to fit the new (to you) facts. Yet you claim to engage in "critical thinking". If that is not hypocrisy, then I do not know what is.

You have had the logical consequences of an atheist worldview spelled out to you (in Prokop's and Ilion's comments above), yet you have not a whisper of a response. So one must assume that you persevere in the Doublethink necessary to maintain your worldview, but are either unwilling or unable to defend it. If that is not inconsistency, then I do not know what is.

Crude said...

Why is it inconsistent? Because it clashes with the fact that CHRISTIANS BELIEVE IN THE BIBLE, WHICH TELLS STORIES ABOUT A PHYSICAL GOD INTERACTING WITH REALITY.

Heh. It's inconsistent because... you have a different interpretation of the bible (one that's been rejected by pretty well every major Christian tradition, and has been for ages)?

Better yet...

Why is it sanctimonious? Because it condescends to critical thinkers ("... it rarely occurs..."), pretending that they are too daft to see the truth,

It's sanctimony, because you're equally sure that all of those Christians are flat-out lying when they say they don't believe in God being physical? It's a grand conspiracy?

That is amazing.

Crude said...

By the way, just to circle this back around:

I don't really have a problem with your garden-variety believer,

Yeah, Cal. Guess what? When this effectively cashes out to 'I'm totally cool with all believers, so long as they all agree with me about how to interpret their religion and are completely self-effacing', you actually have a problem with pretty much any believer out there. It's like saying 'I don't have a problem with just about any atheist, so long as they view their atheism as a severe psychological defect which they are trying to get over by taking Pascal's Wager.'

Again: you may want to reconsider.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Now then, replace "faith" with "trust" or "hope" in all these statements, and you see that it works perfectly."

I agree with this -- that one should replace the word "hope" in pretty much all uses of the word faith as it's typically used by believers.

The problem (as I understand it) is that there are some apologists who invest the word "faith" with something more than "hope" -- that they also intend that it to be a claim about knowing. And this is the use that Boghossian et al. is drawing attention to.

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "Uh.. The Bible never once tells of God physically interacting with creation (a.k.a., "reality"), other than in the singular case of the Incarnation (when, of course, God entered into His creation in the person of Jesus)."

What? How does Yahweh create the universe without interacting with it? How does one make noise walking in the garden without physically interacting? Give instructions to men? Burn bushes? Part the sea? Etc. Like I said, inconsistency abounds here.

Planks: "You do not believe in the Inspiration of the Bible, yet you somehow think it is your place to tell people who do, how they are supposed to read their own book. If that is not "sanctimony", then I do not know what is. You have been told this before, and you fail to modify your opinions to fit the new (to you) facts. Yet you claim to engage in "critical thinking". If that is not hypocrisy, then I do not know what is."

So, don't interpret the words of the bible and comment on conflicting Christian traditions, because only you can do that? If that's not hypocrisy, what is?

Planks: "You have had the logical consequences of an atheist worldview spelled out to you (in Prokop's and Ilion's comments above), yet you have not a whisper of a response."

I respond to the comments that I think are the most engaged and interesting. I think it should be obvious to most readers why I don't bother to respond to all of the comments here.

Planks: "So one must assume that you persevere in the Doublethink necessary to maintain your worldview, but are either unwilling or unable to defend it. If that is not inconsistency, then I do not know what is."

So, I'm inconsistent, hypocritical, and sanctimonious because -- you've surmised I must be?

I asked for EXAMPLES of my comments exemplifying inconsistency, hypocrisy, and sanctimony. You said, "Oh, no! You first, since you threw the first punch."

I provided what you asked for, and in return you give me no examples. What are the words for when someone says they'll do something ("Oh, no, you first!") but don't? When they demand something of someone they won't do themselves? There are words for that, aren't there?

planks length said...

Cal, your claim (in ALL CAPS, no less) was that The Bible says a physical God interacted with creation. The Bible says no such thing. No inconsistency here (at least, none on the part of believers) at all.

and in return you give me no examples

Huh? My entire last posting was a list of examples. (I count four of them.)

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "Huh? My entire last posting was a list of examples. (I count four of them.)"

Example = at least one citation.

Btw, I think it would be pretty easy to characterize comments of mine as sanctimonious. What I'm really interested in is where you think what I'm saying is inconsistent and/or hypocritical. And to see that it's customary to use my actual words. (<--See, there's some sanctimony right there!)

Cal Metzger said...

Crude: " It's inconsistent because... you have a different interpretation of the bible (one that's been rejected by pretty well every major Christian tradition, and has been for ages)?"

It's inconsistent to say that Yahweh isn't physical, and yet Yahweh once did all these physical things.

I understand that you won't admit that there's a real problem there. But that doesn't change the fact about those two things being inconsistent.

I Say Not Physical ≠ I Say Once Did Physical Things

planks length said...

I Say Not Physical ≠ I Say Once Did Physical Things

Your exact words (to include the all-caps): "CHRISTIANS BELIEVE IN THE BIBLE, WHICH TELLS STORIES ABOUT A PHYSICAL GOD INTERACTING WITH REALITY." (emphasis added)

Ouch! It hurts, doesn't it, when all one has to do is scroll up and see when you're lying.

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "Ouch! It hurts, doesn't it, when all one has to do is scroll up and see when you're lying."

Yeah, that's it.

Which is the part where I'm "lying" exactly?

Is it whereI say that Christians believe in the bible?

Or is it where I say the bible tells stories about a physical* god interacting with reality?

* Note: I wrote: "How does Yahweh create the universe without interacting with it? How does one make noise walking in the garden without physically interacting? Give instructions to men? Burn bushes? Part the sea? Etc." Are you saying that Christians don't believe that their god has ever had a physical (real) effect like he did in the bible -- including being born, walking around, getting crucified, etc.? Because if you want to say Yahweh has never been physical, then you and I are in complete agreement.

Also, how you doing with those example of me being inconsistent / hypocritical? Should I still be expecting those?

planks length said...

Which is the part where I'm "lying" exactly? ... is it where I say the bible tells stories about a physical* god interacting with reality?

Yes, that's the part. Because just a few posts later, you insisted that you never said that. I quote: "I Say Not Physical ≠ I Say Once Did Physical Things"

As I said, it must hurt when all we have to do is scroll up to see your contradictions.

Cal Metzger said...

@Planks, I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say.

I am saying that these two things:

"I Say Not Physical ≠ I Say Once Did Physical Things"

are incompatible / inconsistent. I was trying to show you what I think is inconsistent / contradictory in the position regarding the "I say God is not physical" and "I say Yahweh did all these physical things" by simplifying / comparing the two claims side by side.

planks length said...

Well then, you certainly have a convoluted way of saying things!

Cal Metzger said...

Planks: "Well then, you certainly have a convoluted way of saying things!"

And here I thought I was simplifying it into its purest form. :)

Ilíon said...

PL: "Cal, your claim (in ALL CAPS, no less) was that The Bible says a physical God interacted with creation. The Bible says no such thing."

The Bible not only says no such thing, but says the exact opposite.

Crude said...

Cal,

It's inconsistent to say that Yahweh isn't physical, and yet Yahweh once did all these physical things.

No one cares about your bizarre idiosyncratic definitions of 'physical', man. And this comes from a guy who openly says he doesn't care about the supernatural/natural distinction anyway. It'd be one thing if you were trying to mount an argument alone - and it'd be flawed there - but when you're using that to justify why you behaving like a frantic piss-pants when talking to theists, it's just sad.

My advice? Knock it off. You're just demonstrating the irrational side of atheism, and it ain't necessary.

Cal Metzger said...

Crude: "No one cares about your bizarre idiosyncratic definitions of 'physical', man."

Bizarre? I don't think it's bizarre to say that when something creates the physical universe, walks around so as to make noise, parts oceans, turns over tables, kills trees, eats fish, whatever -- that thing has a physical presence. The only way it wouldn't be bizarre to say that all these things actually "happened" (but NOT in a physical way) would be to admit that by "happened" we mean metaphorically. Like in stories. And that would be, I admit, a perfectly mundane and reasonable thing to say.

Crude: "And this comes from a guy who openly says he doesn't care about the supernatural/natural distinction anyway."

It's more that I don't understand what the distinction is supposed to be between the natural and this other thing people propose, the supernatural. No one seems to be able to explain what the supernatural is, so I've stopped being concerned about it.

Crude: "It'd be one thing if you were trying to mount an argument alone - and it'd be flawed there - but when you're using that to justify why you behaving like a frantic piss-pants when talking to theists, it's just sad."

Oh, c'mon, all this is kind of fun. Let's not take ourselves all too seriously. If we can't find a little bit of ridiculousness in who we are and what we care about sometimes then we probably shouldn't be arguing about anything.


SteveK said...

"I don't think it's bizarre to say that when something creates the physical universe, walks around so as to make noise, parts oceans, turns over tables, kills trees, eats fish, whatever -- that thing has a physical presence."

You're thinking that the effect MUST be the same as the cause - both are physical. You can think that from a philosophical perspective, but that's not what CHRISTIANITY teaches. That's the point here, Cal. It's BIZARRE to say that this is what Christianity teaches.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "It's BIZARRE to say that this is what Christianity teaches."

My point exactly.

SteveK said...

If your point is it's bizarre for someone to say that Christianity teaches that God is a physical presence then we agree that your point is bizarre - but I suspect you don't agree with that, so I'm probably not really getting your point. Maybe you can be less cryptic and explain.

Chris said...

I think Cal is calling out the interaction problem? The Creator-created relationship being analogous to the mind-body problem. Is that right?

Cal Metzger said...

@SteveK,

It's bizarre for you to declare that Christianity teaches that God has no physical presence, when the bible is filled with stories of Yahweh (and Jesus) reacting physically with the world.

It's bizarre for you to declare that Christianity teaches that God has no physical presence, when Christianity promotes the notion that prayer will induce god to bring about changes in physical reality.

Etc.


B. Prokop said...

"The Creator-created relationship being analogous to the mind-body problem. Is that right?"

I would not agree with that at all. The Creator-created relationship is more like a painter and his painting. Cal seems to be under the impression that for a painter to add a few daubs of paint to his canvas, he must somehow be part of the painting. In the same manner, God can cause things to happen within the universe and remain not a part of it.

Now Jesus is an entirely different matter altogether. The Incarnation is absolutely a (the) case of the Creator entering into His own creation (something no painter could ever do). There, I will agree with Cal. The New Testament is chock full of God entering physically into this world and interacting with it.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Chris: "I think Cal is calling out the interaction problem? The Creator-created relationship being analogous to the mind-body problem. Is that right?"

Yes, that is partly correct. That's still the problem for someone who wants to retreat upstream to a philosopher's god. It's a bigger problem, however, with the god of the bible -- Yahweh (and Jesus) supposedly did all these things, physically, that just impress the hell out of everyone.

Chris said...

Cal, I'm getting the sense that it's not so much the problem of the immaterial interacting with the material, but with the kind and frequency of that interaction that is described in the bible? Right? Incidentally, I know a lot of spiritualit types who are staunch anti-materialists, yet are just as critical of the bible as you are because it so obviously "mythological" to them.

Cal Metzger said...

Chris: "Cal, I'm getting the sense that it's not so much the problem of the immaterial interacting with the material..."

Well, no, I think that is a problem. For starters, there's no undisputed evidence that any physical event has any immaterial cause -- ALL of the times that we've discovered ANY CAUSE for an event, that cause has turned out to be physical. Also, no one can provide an explanation for how it is that the immaterial actually interacts with the material -- how it is that we could determine that the thing, causing the physical effect, is something immaterial. And there's also the logical problem around the hypothesis -- that something that's supposed to NOT be detectable (because it's immaterial) is actually being detected because it's having a physical effect. Huh? So, no evidence, no explanation, and prima facie illogical. Those are the problems.

Chris: "...but with the kind and frequency of that interaction that is described in the bible?"

The above is the problem for those who try to hypothesize that something immaterial (gods?) have created and interacted with our world. The problem for believing Christians is compounded by the fact that they (as seen above) appear to say that a hidden (meaningless) god is the one they believe in once they're pressed for evidence, but this is contradicted by a) their assertion that Yahweh did create and interacts with our world today (just in less obvious ways), and b) once Yahweh interacted with our world in all these really cool, obvious ways. It's kind of like saying you believe in Superman, only the Superman you believe in has new policy where he never, ever, ever takes off his glasses and stops being Clark Kent.

Chris: "Incidentally, I know a lot of spiritualit types who are staunch anti-materialists, yet are just as critical of the bible as you are because it so obviously "mythological" to them."

Yes, I agree -- for every hardcore Christian I know, there have to be at least a half-dozen transcendental spiritualists out there. I think it's just hard-wired into all of us.

B. Prokop said...

"Also, no one can provide an explanation for how it is that the immaterial actually interacts with the material -- how it is that we could determine that the thing, causing the physical effect, is something immaterial.

I do not see why this should be a problem. We know how matter works in the universe, but we haven't the slightest ("scientific") idea why matter behaves as it does. And punting to "the Laws of Nature" is no help. As C.S. Lewis pointed out (in The Discarded Image), the Medievalists said things in the world moved under the influence of Love, whereas today we say they follow Laws. But both explanations are nothing more than anthropomorphisms. An inanimate object can no more obey a law than it can love anything.

So having no explanation ought not prevent us from describing behavior.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "We know how matter works in the universe, but we haven't the slightest ("scientific") idea why matter behaves as it does."

Which is why I didn't say "why" -- I said "how." I don't really think skipping ahead to "why" makes much sense when we haven't even established a fact yet. And it's true that the problem of "how" is among the first problems for those who posit an immaterial cause. If one can make the "how" of immaterial causes work somehow, then one could probably move to talking about the "why" -- but to get to why you have to start with a fact, and after a fact you can talk about the how. After that, we could pursue the "why" until we arrive at some brute facts.

But I also disagree about there being no "why" answers regarding matter behaving. We know that matter behaves in all kinds of predictable ways, and the "why" is basically because of the second law of thermodynamics (among other, higher level why answers). So there are indeed all kinds of "why" answers about matter in the universe, as well as in science.

B. Prokop said...

"and the "why" is basically because of the second law..."

Just like I said! We anthropomorphically imagine inanimate objects as somehow obeying laws - a very human thing to do. But unless you are willing to posit a universal consciousness, then there remains no observable mechanism to account for this behavior.

(I am aware that some physicists believe that consciousness resides in all matter - right down to the least electron. It's at least a coherent explanation.)

Jeu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Just like I said! We anthropomorphically imagine inanimate objects as somehow obeying laws - a very human thing to do. But unless you are willing to posit a universal consciousness, then there remains no observable mechanism to account for this behavior."

Maybe we all do anthropomorphize. But we also really do observe matter behaving consistently, and from those observations we can extrapolate laws. These laws (simplifications, really) can be used to predict how matter will behave in the future -- we don't have to wait to see if a gas will uniformly disperse within a container to know that a gas released in a container will disperse uniformly. And that's because we know the answer to a why question about gases -- that gases disperse uniformly in a container because they are part of a system, and systems are subject to the 2nd law of thermodynamics. So, I don't need to posit a universal consciousness to account for the fact that reality behaves consistently, and that this consistency can be expressed in simplifications (or abstractions) that predict and answer some why questions about how matter behaves.

Prokop: "I am aware that some physicists believe that consciousness resides in all matter - right down to the least electron. It's at least a coherent explanation."

This always seems to me like saying that every stroke of Seurat's brush must contain the entire painting in order for us to see what Seurat painted.

B. Prokop said...

"This always seems to me like saying that every stroke of Seurat's brush must contain the entire painting in order for us to see what Seurat painted."

Well, think about that as you read this.

Jezu ufam tobie!

SteveK said...

Why is there a sustained ordering cause known as the second law?
If this sustained cause is physical, as Cal claims it is, it must be everywhere the second law is in effect.

SteveK said...

More...

If we haven't identified the physical cause known as the second law, how does anyone know it's physical?
If no other cause can disrupt the sustained orderly cause we know as the second law, it's immutable. How many physical things that exist in the universe are immutable?

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "If we haven't identified the physical cause known as the second law, how does anyone know it's physical?"

The second law of thermodynamics describes how a physical system behaves. There is no other way to describe a physical system other than by physical terms.

SteveK: "If no other cause can disrupt the sustained orderly cause we know as the second law, it's immutable."

What cause? We're talking about the describing the (observable and predictable) behavior of systems, made up of physical objects.

SteveK: "How many physical things that exist in the universe are immutable?"

I don't know.Do you? How do you know when a physical thing is immutable, or not?

Or are you just talking out of your ass (again)?

William said...

Cal,

The second law of thermodynamics is generally expressed, by those who actually use it in measurement, as a differential equation (or the result of an integration of that equation in a specific case).

Are differential equations physical?

From an instrumentalist point of view, all this talk of laws as physical objects seems naively realist about things that are not physical objects and which function mainly as as useful if not always accurate predictors of actual experience.

B. Prokop said...

Punting to the "Laws of Nature" to explain how matter and energy behave is ultimately fatal to materialism. The materialist is either forced upon a "just because" explanation

Child A: "Why do you like to play with trucks?"
Child B: "Because."


or he needs actually explain why things act the way they do. Just saying, "Well, they do," ain't good enough.

The problem is there is no mechanism to explain why an electron is attracted to a proton, rather than being repelled. And saying, "That's its nature" is no help. An electron has no parts. There is no place to store the information "Go toward that proton," within its structure.

I have heard only two possible answers to this problem. The first was explained to me by an astrophysicist in my astronomy club who was an expert in quantum mechanics. My mistake, he told me, was in thinking there was any "physical" reality to an electron at all. All that existed at that rock-bottom, elementary level was information, which could thereby interrelate with other bits of information with ease. But all by itself, that destroys materialism right then and there.

The second possible solution is Panpsychism - the idea that consciousness is universal, that even elementary particles are self aware. But that idea is even more anathema to a strict materialist.

There appears to be no materialist answer to this question. All the solutions lead to the existence of something other than just matter and energy.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

William: "Are differential equations physical?"

Not how I understand the term "physical."

William: "From an instrumentalist point of view, all this talk of laws as physical objects..."

I haven't anyone here claim that laws are physical objects, so I'm not sure what talk you're referring to.

William: "...seems naively realist about things that are not physical objects and which function mainly as as useful if not always accurate predictors of actual experience."

I agree that physics (as expressed through math) is a useful tool. I think that this tool is derived from our experience with the physical world. In other words, I don't think that the underlying mathematics used in physics is actually physical thing that controls or directs or in some way constrains the physical world -- I think that the physical world exists, and that some math can be derived that describes it. That seems about as straightforward and minimal as I think we can get.

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "Punting to the "Laws of Nature" to explain how matter and energy behave is ultimately fatal to materialism."

Punting to the "Laws of the lawgiver" to explain how matter and energy behave is ultimately fatal to the theist.

Prokop: "The problem is there is no mechanism to explain why an electron is attracted to a proton, rather than being repelled. And saying, "That's its nature" is no help."

The problem is there is no mechanism to explain why an electron is attracted to a proton, rather than being repelled. And saying, "That's god's will" is no help.

Etc.

--------

Prokop: "The first was explained to me by an astrophysicist in my astronomy club who was an expert in quantum mechanics. My mistake, he told me, was in thinking there was any "physical" reality to an electron at all."

This "expert" should go tell all the other physicists that electrons have no physical reality at all. They'll all be so surprised at how they've all been wasting their time quantifying and describing its physical properties for the last century or more.


SteveK said...

Cal = "I haven't anyone here claim that laws are physical objects, so I'm not sure what talk you're referring to."

Cal = "We know that matter behaves in all kinds of predictable ways, and the "why" is basically because of the second law of thermodynamics (among other, higher level why answers)."

So we have matter and we have the second law that explains why matter behaves like it does. The two are not the same. The second law is the reason why the predictable effect occurs. It's a cause.

Cal = "ALL of the times that we've discovered ANY CAUSE for an event, that cause has turned out to be physical"

The second law cause is either physical, or it's not. Do you know which?

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "So we have matter and we have the second law that explains why matter behaves like it does. The two are not the same. The second law is the reason why the predictable effect occurs. It's a cause."

No. A physical law is a description. This is basic science stuff. Which is yet another example of a type of belief that runs alongside not understanding basic science.

SteveK: "The second law cause is either physical, or it's not. Do you know which"

I explained what the math of physics is above (it's not physical, and it doesn't "cause" anything physical to happen).

You don't understand a very basic concept of scientific understanding. You should try to figure that out, first, before you start jumping ahead to thinking you have problems with it.

SteveK said...

If it doesn't cause the behavior, it doesn't explain why it behaves that way. But you said it does explain why. You might want to rethink one of your prior statements.

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK: "If it doesn't cause the behavior, it doesn't explain why it behaves that way. But you said it does explain why."

Lie much?

SteveK said...

"...and the "why" is basically because of the second law of thermodynamic"

B. Prokop said...

SteveK: "If it doesn't cause the behavior, it doesn't explain why it behaves that way. But you said it does explain why."

Cal: "Lie much?"

Cal (earlier): "We know that matter behaves in all kinds of predictable ways, and the "why" is basically because of the second law of thermodynamics." (emphasis added)

Me: Yeah, I guess you do.

B. Prokop said...

Sorry, Steve. You beat me to it while I was typing.

Cal Metzger said...

@Steve and Bob,

Steve: "If [the math of physics] doesn't cause the behavior, [the math of physics] doesn't explain why it behaves that way. But you said [the math of physics] does explain why."
Me: "Lie much?"

Sigh. It's a lie to take a part of my prior explanation about a kind of why answer that science can give (in response to Bob's claim that science cannot offer any why answers), and tie that part to your silly claim that in order to explain, the math of physics must cause (?).




B. Prokop said...

"in order to explain, the math of physics must cause"

It absolutely must cause, in order to be an explanation. Otherwise, it is nothing more than a description.

William said...

B. Prokop:


"It absolutely must cause, in order to be an explanation. Otherwise, it is nothing more than a description."

Not quite I think. For example, it was a law with the Greeks that things fell toward the center of the earth. That seemed causal, but if we stand on the Moon and drop something, it falls toward the center of the Moon, not the earth.

So some laws are descriptive, not causal: they are descriptive of the behavior of things in certain circumstances, but are not the actual cause of that behavior, as seen in a different context.

B. Prokop said...

William,

I guess we define "cause" differently. To me, a "cause" is what makes an object behave as it does, not just a description of how it behaves. Even in your Greek example, their law simply states that things fall toward the center of the Earth, but does not explain the "why" of such action. I'll confess that I'm not up on my Aristotle enough to know how they did explain it. But I do know that the Medievalists attributed the actions of inanimate objects (such as a falling rock) to Love. And as I said earlier, all we've done nowadays is replace Love with Law, but that really doesn't tell us why things behave the way they do - it just tells us how.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "[The math of physics] absolutely must cause, in order to be an explanation. Otherwise, it is nothing more than a description."

This would make you a kind of Platonist. And I think that Platonists are pretty silly, don't you?

The math of physics is a kind of description, but that math alone is not the scientific explanation. As I tried to explain earlier, the scientific explanation includes a number of other determinations that, alongside the descriptive math, provide some answers about why events occur.

Prokop: "But I do know that the Medievalists attributed the actions of inanimate objects (such as a falling rock) to Love. And as I said earlier, all we've done nowadays is replace Love with Law, but that really doesn't tell us why things behave the way they do - it just tells us how."

Which is just another way of saying that there's a point at which a "why" question becomes meaningless, because that is the point at which no one has currently figure out a way to pose the question in a way that's tractable. Every explanation (event those that end with god!) can be subject to another "why" question.

B. Prokop said...

Shameless self promotion here, but I've just finished going back over all the postings on my blog Celestial Pilgrimage, adding some pretty cool images to most of them. If I do say so myself, it's worth a look-see - even if you've already been there.

Ilíon said...

B.Prokop: "... but that really doesn't tell us why things behave the way they do - it just tells us [that they do]."

FIFY

Ilíon said...

some foolish (and intellectually dishonest) materialist "Sigh. It's a lie to take a part of my prior explanation about a kind of why answer that science can give (in response to Bob's claim that science cannot offer any why answers), and tie that part to your silly claim that in order to explain, the math of physics must cause "

B.Prokop:"It absolutely must cause, in order to be an explanation. Otherwise, it is nothing more than a description."

Perhaps ol' Cal is trying to re-introduce Aristotle's four classes of causation ... while still sticking to the materialistic pretense that only material causes are real, and explanatory.

Ilíon said...

Chris: "Cal, I'm getting the sense that it's not so much the problem of the immaterial interacting with the material, but with the kind and frequency of that interaction that is described in the bible? Right? Incidentally, I know a lot of spiritualit types who are staunch anti-materialists, yet are just as critical of the bible as you are because it so obviously "mythological" to them."

Maybe you haven't heard -- all the *best* 'Science!' fetishists have no problem with claims that "so obviously "mythological"" events have occurred: in fact, they assert that claims about all manner of "so obviously "mythological"" events are the height and epitome of 'Science!'.

In truth, it's only when some "so obviously "mythological"" event is advanced as supporting Christianity that 'Science!' fetishists start having problems with it.

SteveK said...

"Your free throw percentage explains why you missed your last shot"

Science!

Legion of Logic said...

"Which is just another way of saying that there's a point at which a "why" question becomes meaningless, because that is the point at which no one has currently figure out a way to pose the question in a way that's tractable."

On the contrary, I would say that it is at the point you would declare it to become meaningless that I would call it the most important question of all.

Miguel said...

Laws of nature are mere descriptions... It makes no sense to say that a thing operates in a certain sense "because of the law X"; on the contrary, we start talking about "law X" because of the regularity, order and patterns we observe. This leads us to teleology, obviously. There is an immanent teleology in the universe which cries out for some explanation.