Thursday, September 01, 2016

Where do these conversations go wrong?

Here. 

What causes these conversations to go wrong? The most common reason is that believers launch into a defense of the faith before finding out anything at all about the skeptic.

59 comments:

B. Prokop said...

Not true, Victor. They go wrong after we have heard enough from the "skeptics" (something, by the way, they definitely are not) to know they're not engaging in honest conversation. More times than I can count, we've seen cases of stark denial of something they posted just a few minutes ago. Or after a long comment, we see a response that picks apart a single phrase, or even a word, completely twisting its meaning and then demanding an explanation while ignoring the substance of the comment. Or we're asked to defend beliefs we don't ourselves hold (such as YEC). Or the unbeliever will display astonishing ignorance about the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. Or we're told that only one side in this debate has the burden of proof, or (even more hilariously) we're told the other side has no beliefs to defend (how convenient!). I could go on, but you get the point.

So after enough of this, it's easy to see why one might get a bit impatient with such practices. This is most definitely not a case of "both sides are to blame".

grodrigues said...

"What causes these conversations to go wrong? The most common reason is that believers launch into a defense of the faith before finding out anything at all about the skeptic."

This is not only flatly false, but extremely unfair.

B. Prokop said...

I should have pointed out that I was not referring to all unbelievers, just the subset of them who routinely derail conversations.

Joe Hinman said...

Prokop I think the article assumes talking to intelligent people not message board atheists,

B. Prokop said...

You're probably right, but Victor's one line summary quotation cried out for a rebuttal.

Dan Gillson said...

These conversations go wrongly because people don't participate in them with a spirit of goodwill and collegiality. The first rule of commenting is, abandon ye your social virtues.

Joe Hinman said...

Dan I think you have something there

David Brightly said...

At bottom because there are two incommensurable world-views in play. Both are more or less self-consistent and both are more or less complete. But all too often a fragment of one view is put forward and commenters try to make sense of it from within the opposing view. All too often they fail. This failure reinforces their belief that the first view is worthless. Likewise, few will be converted to the first view by piecemeal presentations. There is surely a holistic aspect to this a la Quine. I suspect that as our intellectual development progresses we find ourselves gravitating to one view or the other and by adulthood we have reached a settled view, possible having passed through a number of inconsistent 'mixed' positions. There will be exceptions to this trajectory and it would be interesting to make a study of adult conversion experiences, in both directions. Does anyone know of any?

The preceding thread, which turned into a discussion on the efficacy of prayer, is a nice example. If we try to apply the statistical methods of the sciences to see if prayer 'works' (in illness, say), we have to assume that spontaneous recovery from illness is a stochastic process governed by some probability. Our null hypothesis is that prayer makes no difference and the alternative hypothesis is that it increases the recovery probability, just as administering some treatment might do. We do an experiment and if the number of spontaneous recoveries under prayer is higher than some critical value we reject the null hypothesis and accept the alternative. But in the opposing world view this makes no sense at all: one altogether rejects the assumption that recovery is a random business.

grodrigues said...

@David Brightly:

"But in the opposing world view this makes no sense at all: one altogether rejects the assumption that recovery is a random business."

The problem with your analysis is you are presupposing a symmetry that does not exist. Prayer is a quintessentially religious act, if you are a religious person, and quintessentially futile if you are not. Atheists do not have a conception of prayer, a theory of prayer, a theology of prayer; any atheist critique of prayer can only proceed via contradiction. So assuming from the get go what the only party that has a conception, a theory, a theology of prayer, outright rejects, is a futile exercise that proves absolutely nothing, besides the idiocy of those that engage in it.

Cal Metzger said...

Grod: "Prayer is a quintessentially religious act, if you are a religious person, and quintessentially futile if you are not."

Define a religious act, and how that definition relates to effectiveness (not futile).

Grod: "Atheists do not have a conception of prayer, a theory of prayer, a theology of prayer; any atheist critique of prayer can only proceed via contradiction."

How would revealing that intercessory prayer has no measurable effect proceed via a contradiction?

What seems like a contradiction is this sly, vague implication that prayer has a real effect, and then when pressed scoffing at the notion that prayer is supposed to have a real effect.



B. Prokop said...

For reasons of His own, God wills that we participate in His redemption of the world.

Thus, He could have chosen to give us a world with no possibility of physical harm and no need to work for our Daily Bread (i.e., submit to the devil's first temptation in the Wilderness). Instead, He allows us to bring about the Kingdom of God here on Earth through our own efforts.

He could have compelled belief by some irresistible, overwhelming sign, the witnessing of which would leave no choice but to believe (i.e., submit to the devil's second temptation in the Wilderness). Instead, He allows human beings to spread the Gospel, person to person.

He could have chosen to override our Free Will, and turn us into robots - no more free to accept or reject His reign than a stone or a tree (i.e., submit to the devil's third temptation in the Wilderness). Instead, He allows us to freely align our wills to His, thereby establishing the Reign of God on Earth.

Our prayers are but a piece of the puzzle in this Grand Design of drawing us into the Divine Will. God has no need for our participation in this design, but it is our choice to be for Him or against Him.

As Bob Dylan said so eloquently, You Gotta Serve Somebody.

(The ordering of the temptations here follows that in Matthew.)

David Brightly said...

I agree that from a religious perspective the project to 'verify' the efficacy of prayer by statistical test seems futile. And where it's been tried the results support the null hypothesis, as both parties expect. But what would be really idiotic for the atheist would be to import into his view a religious theory of prayer. For in all likelihood that would render his system inconsistent. As Bob eloquently points out, the atheist is free to construct his own understanding of prayer from whatever resources he finds in his system.

Miguel said...

I also disagree. From my experience, unbelievers in many of these discussions act in very irrational ways. I am not saying all unbelievers are like this, or even that we should expect this kind of position from an unbeliever right away -- we should suppose thheir good will, we have no reason to doubt them straight away. I've seen many unbelievers change their minds (and even convert) as the result of rational discussion and logical argumentation. But there's also a great number of unbelievers who are incredibly stubborn and not open at all to serious debate, and in most derailed discussions I've witnessed things happened just like Prokop described.

A huge problem, I think, is how some atheists think Christianity is comparable to belief in invisible pink unicorns, fairies or greek gods with material bodies. And they then "ask" for evidence for it -- which is silly. Why bother to try to convince someone of the existence of invisible pink unicorns, or of bearded Zeus in the sky throwing lightning bolts with his hands? The person has to have some maturity to at least understand the relevant metaphysical, ethical, anthropological and historical differences between a religious tradition and belief like Christianity and "belief in a pink unicorn". It's not that they have to study history of religion and traditions in-depth or anyhing, but that they can't be so naïve as to compare the beliefs of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Thomas More and St. Gemma Galgani (for instance) with the beliefs of a looney on the streets who think pink unicorns exist.

I'm not a muslim, and I don't even grant serious probabilities to Islam, but I sure don't believe it's in any way comparable with belief in pink unicorns or spaghetti monsters. Same for hinduism, taoism, judaism and so on.

How can you pretend to try to convince someone of the existence of a spaghetti monster? The fact that naïve people even ask for evidence concerning such things is just cynical.

Ilíon said...

"Where do these conversations go wrong?"

The "these conversations" of the linked piece is a very different set of conversations than the ones *here* which (supposedly) "go wrong".

jdhuey said...

"that they can't be so naïve as to compare the beliefs of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Thomas More and St. Gemma Galgani (for instance) with the beliefs of a looney on the streets who think pink unicorns exist."

You seem to have missed the point the IPU arguement. The point is not that the beliefs are comparable but that the arguments for those beliefs are no better than the arguments for the existence of IPU (which, of course dosen't exist.) In point of fact, the original purpose for IPU was to show the invalidity of a common religious argument: that skeptics can't "prove" that God doesn't exist therefore Christianity is correct. It is also not possible to "prove" that IPU doesn't exist. So, on that point God and IPU are comparable.

jdhuey said...

"religious theory of prayer"

And what is an example of a religious theory of prayer? Theories are used to explain things, what does a theory of prayer explain?

jdhuey said...

Given that billions of people have been praying to a myriad of different gods for thousands of years and that of all those gods, all but at most one, are false, how does prayer to the Real God (tm) compare to all those other false prayers?

B. Prokop said...

jdhuey,

I would imagine that " the Real God " takes into account the intent and sincerity of the prayer, and grants allowances for ignorance. Paul says so in Acts. Speaking explicitly about worshiping false gods, he says, "The times of ignorance God overlooked."

So you would likely see no statistical difference in effect.

Miguel said...

"You seem to have missed the point the IPU arguement. The point is not that the beliefs are comparable but that the arguments for those beliefs are no better than the arguments for the existence of IPU (which, of course dosen't exist.)"

See. How are you going to say that the beliefs are not comparable, if you also say that the arguments for both beliefs are equally bad? How does that not allow for some sort of comparison between beliefs? Moreover, that is just another example of the extremely naïve assessment of religion and argumentation by unbelievers.

How can anyone *seriously* believe that the arguments put forward by Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Anselm, Maimonides, Al-Ghazali, Avicenna, Leibniz, Samuel Clarke, Thomas Reid, Anscombe, Copleston, Peter Geach, Michael Dummett and company are no better than "arguments for the existence of an invisible pink unicorn"?

Was Dummett's argument in "Thought and Reality" for the existence of an omnipotent observer who grounds reality just as bad as any argument for an IPU (never heard any arguments for an IPU, by the way)? Even if you think his argument fails, do you think there's a comparison to be had here?

Was Leibniz's argument really that bad? Could we get an invisible pink unicorn by appealing to PSR and the contingency of the world? I suppose Spinoza's argument could've also concluded that nature is actually an invisible pink unicorn...?

Are arguments for the Resurrection based on serious and critical historical research and scholarship for a richly philosophical religious tradition just as bad as the "arguments" for an IPU?

And even if we are (curiously) disregarding a religion's main thinkers, theologians and philosophers and instead settle down with very simple common believers who may base their belief on some personal experiences -- are we to disregard the fact that they have background knowledge of certain facts (including the existence of great theologians, philosophers, the whole cultural tradition and history, community and body of believers, wisdom of sacred texts, everything combined etc) that are not available for something as silly as an IPU or spaghetti monster, and that this background knowledge may give force to those experiences and their conclusions in a way to make them at least more credible than "belief in an IPU"?

IPUs and spaghetti monsters are just wrong from the start. They're naïve, silly caricatures that do not serve for any analogy with belief in the great religious traditions. And if the whole point of an IPU parody is just to avoid the burden of proof, so be it, but that's not how it's often trotted about in many discussions. Unfortunately, many atheists are just as naïve as I described them when it comes to their unicorns and spaghetti monsters.

Ilíon said...

Miguel: "... IPUs and spaghetti monsters are just wrong from the start. They're naïve, silly caricatures that do not serve for any analogy with belief in the great religious traditions. And if the whole point of an IPU parody is just to avoid the burden of proof, so be it, but that's not how it's often trotted about in many discussions. ..."

As witness the post to which Miguel is responding --

jdhuey: "You seem to have missed the point [of] the IPU arguement. The point is not that the beliefs are comparable but that the arguments for those beliefs are no better than the arguments for the existence of IPU (which, of course dosen't exist.) In point of fact, the original purpose for IPU was to show the invalidity of a common religious argument: that skeptics can't "prove" that God doesn't exist therefore Christianity is correct. It is also not possible to "prove" that IPU doesn't exist. So, on that point God and IPU are comparable."

1) There is no IPU argument; never has been, never will be. The entire point of the IPU non-argument is to airily dimiss without any consideration at all all the arguments and evidence presented to support the proposition "God is";
2) If the arguments put forward to prove the proposition "God is" really were as logically flawed as the IPU non-argument, then God-deniers wouldn't have had the need to invent the IPU or the Spaghetti Monster in the first place: they could have just pointed out the logical flaws in the theistic arguments;
2a) Why is it that God-deniers *always* seek to avoid engaging the arguments *actually* presented?
2b) Why is it that the "nice" people *always* cooperate with, or provide cover for, the God-deniers in this project?
3) There is no "common religious argument: that skeptics can't "prove" that God doesn't exist therefore Christianity is correct" argument -- while that may indeed be the way that the God-deniers desire to "translate" the arguments actually presented, that is not, and never has been, any part of any of the arguments put forward to prove the proposition "God is";
3a) Why is it that God-deniers *always* seek to avoid their own burden of proof, and indeed, seek to add *their* BoP to that of the "theists"?
3b) Why is it that the "nice" people *always* cooperate with, or provide cover for, the God-deniers in this project?
4) As a matter of actual fact, it *is* possible to prove the non-existence of the IPU (*). I myself have done so numerous times -- 'pink' is the term by which we denote a certain spectrum of visible light; 'invisible' is the term by which we denote our inability to see a thing; definitionally, the IPU is simultaneously visible and invisible (in the same way at the same time, as the phrase goes); ERGO: by definition the IPU is a self-contradiction;
4a) The arguments put forward to prove the proposition "God is" are *not* self-contradictions: again, if they were, the God-deniers could simply have pointed to the self-contradiction without inventing the IPU.
5) ERGO, it is *not* true that "on that point God and IPU are comparable"

(*) and to which fact jdhuey alludes when he says, "... IPU (which, of course dosen't exist.)" even as he also asserts that, "It is also not possible to "prove" that IPU doesn't exist" What? Are you "nice" people going to insist that jdhuey is too stupid to see/grasp his own self-contradiction, just so you can avoid admitting that he is intellectually dishonest?

jdhuey said...

I mis-wrote. The point of the IPU is simply to show the illogic of demanding that atheists prove that God doesn't exist. No one can show that IPU doesn't exist, so it makes no sense to ask atheists to prove that God doesn't exist. Some folks have borrowed traditional arguments for the existence of God and have shown that they can be applied to IPU as well. This shows that the arguments are not sound; however, there is a subtle but definite difference between an argument for a belief and the belief itself.


I suppose that an elaborate well crafted unsound argument is better than a simplistic poorly crafted unsound argument but regardless, they are all unsound.


grodrigues said...

"The point of the IPU is simply to show the illogic of demanding that atheists prove that God doesn't exist. No one can show that IPU doesn't exist, so it makes no sense to ask atheists to prove that God doesn't exist."

So it is "illogic" to demand that "atheists prove that God doesn't exist", that is, it is "illogic" to "demand" of atheists that they prove what they actually believe in, and presumably because it is unreasonably difficult or even impossible to do so -- evidence of which is the difficulty, nay the very impossibility, of proving the IPU does not exist. But then, for parallel reasons, it is likewise "illogic" for atheists to "demand" of theists that they prove that God exists.

Who would'a thunk it that (some) atheists are logically committed to say that it is "illogic" to "demand" that theists prove their case?

jdhuey said...

""demand" of atheists that they prove what they actually believe in"

And here we swing right back around to the OP: no one here has ever actually asked me exactly what it is I beleive. A lot of surmise and assumption (probably accurate) but no questions.

Cal Metzger said...

grod: "But then, for parallel reasons, it is likewise "illogic" for atheists to "demand" of theists that they prove that God exists."

Positive claims bear the burden of proof. Always have, always will.

grodrigues said...

@jdhuey:

"A lot of surmise and assumption (probably accurate) but no questions."

I drew the logical implications of what you claimed. You can follow an argument, can you?

@Cal Metzger:

"Positive claims bear the burden of proof. Always have, always will."

All claims bear the burden of proof; positive claims (by which I presume you mean existencial statements) are not special in this regard. Claiming otherwise is simply a convenient, if intellectually dishonest, ploy to gerrymander the discussion.

But I understand if (some) atheists try to shake off their burden as much as possible. It shows how well they can bear it. And their regard for the truth. And the confidence they have in their own beliefs.

Cal Metzger said...

grod: "All claims bear the burden of proof"

Sure they do.

That's why you are so ready to bear the burden of proving to us that IPU's don't exist.

But you never, ever, ever will.

Is that because you can't bear it?

Is that because you have no regard for the truth?

Or is it based on the confidence in your beliefs?

Nppe. It's because there are basic rules about claims, even if it pains you to accept them explicitly.



Dan Gillson said...

I don't know why Cal hasn't learned his lesson yet. I mean, grod just mercilessly destroys Cal's arguments again and again and again. Are you a masochist, Cal?

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"That's why you are so ready to bear the burden of proving to us that IPU's don't exist."

IPU's don't exist and Ilion showed why. There is no special difficulty in this. And if there was any such difficulty, then I gave you an argument. Or are you claiming that you can easily shoulder the burden and prove that IPU's do exist?

There is no special logical status to negative existencial claims that relieves them of a burden of proof, neither there is any specific difficulty in proving them. Mathematicians do it as a matter of routine. Every science is cram-filled with such negative existencial claims and their proofs, with the proof methods proper to each, from "trivial" cases holding by a simple logic (since every negative existencial is logically equivalent to a universally quantified statement) to highly non-trivial, contingent truths about our universe (for an example, I still remember vividly the news coming from CERN that there are no more than three generations of leptons).

"Nppe. It's because there are basic rules about claims, even if it pains you to accept them explicitly."

Outside of procedural, conventional debating rules about who goes first that both parties agree to, there are no such rules. These so-called "basic rules" are nothing but an invention of yours. Do you think I am allowing myself to be saddled by a transparently intellectually dishonest imposition of some random internet jackass? And what would such an imposition acccomplish besides openly admitting
that the opposing party has no arguments to make their case, and thus are literally i-rrational? And where have you learned these so called "basic rules"? You received a communication from God on high? Gazed directly into the Platonic exemplar of intellectual discussion, survived the experience and have come to tell us how it is?

Ilíon said...

Dan Gillson: "I don't know why Cal hasn't learned his lesson yet. I mean, grod just mercilessly destroys Cal's arguments again and again and again. Are you a masochist, Cal?"

Since no one ever seems to notice this, I'll have to point it out myself -- Has anyone ever noticed how differently that mean ol' Ilíon treats, say, Dan Gillson, compared to how he treats, say, Cal Metzger ... or BDK (when he was posting here) or that Paragon of Reason and Reasonability, JJL? What could explain such ... hmmm, is "discrimination" the right word ... I wonder?

Cal Metzger said...

grod: "IPU's don't exist and Ilion showed why. There is no special difficulty in this. And if there was any such difficulty, then I gave you an argument. Or are you claiming that you can easily shoulder the burden and prove that IPU's do exist?."

This is just fatuous. For instance:

Ilion: "1) There is no IPU argument; never has been, never will be."

Yes, there is an invisible pink unicorn argument. It's front and center. Here, from the Wikipedia page for unicorns, is an argument for IPU:

"Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them."

Ilion goes on to get more things wrong. E.g.,

Ilion: "The entire point of the IPU non-argument is to airily dimiss without any consideration at all all the arguments and evidence presented to support the proposition "God is";"

Nope. The entire point of the IPU is to show how trivially easy it is to make arguments that can't be disproven, and to highlight the fact that "You can't disprove the existence of my god, therefore my god exists" is as empty as "You can't disprove the existence of invisible pink unicorns, therefore, invisible pink unicorns exist." I can see why those who want to privilege their beliefs from the burden of proof would like to fob off IPU's as something else, however.

Etc.

Ilíon said...

^ What a fool! Just one example --

Mean ol' Ilíon: "There is no IPU argument; never has been, never will be."

Cal Metzger: "Yes, there is an invisible pink unicorn argument. It's front and center. Here, from the Wikipedia page for unicorns, is an argument for IPU:

"Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them."
"

Assertions are not arguments; definitions are not arguments; "cute" misrepresentations of "the bad guys" are not arguments.

But, then, anyone who has been paying attention already knows that Cal Metzger doesn't *really* get all those stuffy old words like 'argument', 'proof', 'evidence', 'reason', 'logical consequence', 'entailment' and so, so many more.

Cal Metzger said...

Ilion: "Assertions are not arguments..."

Says the man how asserts the outlandishly false, "There is no IPU argument; never has been, never will be."

Whatever. If you don't want words to mean things, then you don't want words to mean things.




grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"This is just fatuous."

Yes you are fatuous gasbag. Read again what Ílion wrote as you missed his disproof. And that was not all I said, but quite predictably you do not address it. Furthermore:

"Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them."

This is not an argument; a string of baseless claims with no evidence or logical progression from assumptions to conclusions does not an argument make.

But I understand that the arguments of (some) atheists are no better than the non-existent arguments for the non-existent IPU.

"The entire point of the IPU is to show how trivially easy it is to make arguments that can't be disproven, and to highlight the fact that "You can't disprove the existence of my god, therefore my god exists" is as empty"

Obviously, you do not know what an argument is or even have the minimum requisite evidentiary and reasoning skills, neither have I maintained, said or implied "You can't disprove the existence of my god, therefore my god exists". Never, as it is an obviously invalid inference. You are simply inventing crap.

Go read a book as I have no time or patience for your clueless idiocy.

Dan Gillson said...

If you really can't spot the obvious false equivalence you're making in comparing God and IPUs, then you indeed are beyond our help, Cal.

Cal Metzger said...

grod: "This is not an argument; a string of baseless claims with no evidence or logical progression from assumptions to conclusions does not an argument make."

The irony here is that is what Ilion's "argument" is above. Beginning with his first, false assertion.

If we can't agree that words mean something, then there's no point in discussing.

Cal Metzger said...

Gillson: "If you really can't spot the obvious false equivalence you're making in comparing God and IPUs, then you indeed are beyond our help, Cal."

If you can't see how the analogy of IPU's can be applied to claims about gods, then you are beyond my help.

Ilíon said...

^ Yes.

To put it bluntly -- IF he *really* cannot see the obvious false equivalency he is attempting to draw between God and the IPU, or between the arguments "theists" make to support the proposition, "God is", and the anti-arguments that some 'atheists' make concerning the IPU so as to pretend that those "theists" made logically invalid arguments, THEN he is stupid beyond belief.

I phrased that last that way because *no one* who reads this blog does actually believe that he is that stupid. However, if perchance I am wrong, and someone does believe that he is so stupid, then the proper action for that person is to totally ignore everything he posts. For, if he is that stupid, then to attempt to engage him in rational discussion of things he simply *cannot* grasp is to cruelly torment him.

On the other hand, IF he is not so stupid that his in incapable of grasping the obvious false equivalency he is attempting to draw between, THEN there are only two other possible explanations for what he is doing:
1) he is (currently) ignorant of some fact, and this ignorance is preventing him seeing the obvious;
2) he does already grasp the error his is making ... and deliberately makes it anyway.

Since I don't (and can't) believe that he is stupid, that possible explanation isn't available to me, though it may be available to the reader.

Since his obvious error has been explained multiple times, that possible explanation isn't available to any of us.

So, the *only* possible explanation available to *me* is that he's intellectually dishonest. The reader *may* have to option of avoiding that "mean" explanation if he opts for "Cal Metzger is just too stupid to understand what he's doing".

Dan Gillson said...

Certainly there are some bad claims about God to which the IPU argument applies, Cal, but they certainly aren't taken seriously, especially by people around here, so trotting out your IPU argument is both a waste of your time and ours, unless of course your goal is to be taken parodically, which I can assure you, is hiw you're being taken.

Victor Reppert said...

"It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." - Richard Dawkins (The Blind Watchmaker)

Are these options applicable to people who use the Invisible Pink Unicorn as an argument?

Legion of Logic said...

"Are these options applicable to people who use the Invisible Pink Unicorn as an argument?"

Yes sir. Over on Shadow to Light we have a colorful gent calling God "Sky Santa" and seems to actually beleven that the reasons for believing in God and the reason children some children believe in Santa are the same. That is either ignorance of the highest order, complete stupidity, reality-bending insanity, or intentional deceit.

Legion of Logic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Gillson said...

That's an odd question, Dr Reppert. Of course they're available as there is nothing currently restraining stupidity from suffering social consequences.

jdhuey said...

From where does all this vitriol come from for this rather straight forward argument? Atheists can not prove (in the sense of a philosophical proof) that any one particular diety doesn't exist, God being one of those dieties; and, by the same token you folks can not prove that a charming but shy invisible pink unicorn isn't standing by your left elbow. Whimsical, yes, but also valid.

Is it that you take so much umbrage that your chosen deity is being treated with less than total respect that you can't follow the logic of the example?

B. Prokop said...

"that you can't follow the logic of the example?"

The problem is that the "example" is not at all analogous - it has no relevance. For one to "follow the logic" there has to be logic to follow. In this case, there is none. It's like saying, "You can't prove the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor because this is how traffic lights work."

jdhuey said...

So, your saying it is possible to disprove the existence of a goddess but not possible to disprove the existence of a God?

Cal Metzger said...

jdhuey: "Is it that you take so much umbrage that your chosen deity is being treated with less than total respect that you can't follow the logic of the example?"

No, that couldn't be it. Impossible.

B. Prokop said...

"So, [you're] saying it is possible to disprove the existence of a goddess but not possible to disprove the existence of a God?"

Not at all, not at all. Interesting that you should ask that, as much of the discussions here on DI have recently revolved about so-called "religious experiences". I personally have had only two that might qualify as such in my entire 65 years so far. The first, I've described at some length over on my own blog, here. The other occurred in 2002 while visiting the British Museum in London. I was standing in front of a statue of the goddess Aphrodite, and it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks that I was looking at not just an image of a beautiful woman, but one of God. I got so dizzy I had to sit down. I've never afterwards understood the atheist trope about believing in "one less God than you". Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, Odin, Ganesha... I basically believe in them all. There is but one God, but human beings have perceived Him differently throughout the millennia - sometimes more clearly, sometimes less.

jdhuey said...

An interesting perspective, one that warrants thinking about before commenting.

grodrigues said...

@jdhuey:

"Atheists can not prove (in the sense of a philosophical proof) that any one particular diety doesn't exist, God being one of those dieties; and, by the same token you folks can not prove that a charming but shy invisible pink unicorn isn't standing by your left elbow. Whimsical, yes, but also valid."

There is no argument for the existence of the IPU, none whatsoever, much less a sound one. I should add that it follows from what you said earlier, that it is "illogic" to "demand" such a proof. At which point, the only reasonable question is what exactly are *your* reasons for believing the IPU does not exist? Apparently none, so you condemn yourself as an irrational man -- but here I may be getting ahead of myself, maybe you are agnostic on the issue. Or you just a lack the belief that the IPU exists? Grin. Which would not be surprising given that you are logically committed to believe that the case for atheism is no better than the non-existent case for the non-existence of the IPU.

But point of fact is that there can be no such argument, because although it is beyond your skills, it is actually pretty easy to prove the IPU does not exist -- Ílion did it. And there being none or many arguments for the IPU on the table tells us nothing about God; for it to tell us anything about God you would have to show that the IPU is similar in the relevant ways to God, which is patently false. For one, the fact that conceivably there could be an existential claim that could always be defended against by ad hoc adding more hypothesis ad infinitum, tells us nothing about God or any other existential claims, or even that the claim could not in fact be refuted (as it can be in the IPU case), but only about your miserable philosophical poverty. For another, because God -- although what I am about to say will not be agreed upon by all theists, it is firmly within the classical tradition from Plato and Aristotle to Aquinas and, to an extent, Leibniz -- is not in the genus "deities", that the methods of proof applicable in principle to the likes of Odin or Thor, apply to Him.

Nor, come to think of it, have you actually addressed any point that was made but simply repeated yourself as if nothing was said.

"Is it that you take so much umbrage that your chosen deity is being treated with less than total respect that you can't follow the logic of the example?"

That cannot be quite it, because the "logic of the example" is non-existent. But aside from this, it could be that I am indeed taking umbrage at that. Or it could be that I am taking umbrage at the antics of a pair of clueless idiots. You choose the one you are most comfortable with as I couldn't care less.

Cal Metzger said...

grod: "But aside from this, it could be that I am indeed taking umbrage at that."

Most of the time I find myself pretty bored just a few sentence into your comments. It's like reading the long-winded preambles that were customary in political speech in the mid 1800's. When is this guy going to make a point?

Here's what is actually clear from your writing; you've affected the style of a kind of intellectual fop, because, I suppose, it helps many apologists pretend that their beliefs deserve some kind sort of privilege or respectability. I suppose it fools those who can be fooled into thinking that long-winded, rambling, and affected language are a sign of deep intellectual study. As if.

Pretend pretend pretend.

Dan Gillson said...

Your deficiency in attention span ("I get bored reading... ") might explain your inability to parse or make any real arguments, Cal. Also, grod has his PhD in Mathematics, so he isn't affecting the style of an intellectual fop. He is an intellectual fop. You, however, write like you *maybe* have a BA in something stupid, like Business or Communications. I'd not be offering any critique of someone else's writing style without first addressing issues with your own.

grodrigues said...

@Cal Metzger:

"Most of the time I find myself pretty bored just a few sentence into your comments."

What can I say? I actually agree with you here. What I do know is Mathematics (and Physics to a lesser extent) and Mathematical writing is of the most excruciatingly boring kind. English is not my primary language, and my particular brand of it is dreadfull, dreary and dull, the coarse, crude trading tool of mercenaries, hacks and lawyers. I am no Joyce or Nabokov; and even Nabokov would all his life mourn the having had to trade his infinitely rich and supple mother tongue for a second rate, bastardized English.

But style is orthogonal to substance. And on the substance, quite predictably, you have nothing of relevance to say. The accusation of "intellectual fop" leaves me dead cold -- I care even less about it than you care about my opinion of you. It is the last refuge of an intellectual scoundrel, the unwitting compliment he pays to his betters. And after all is said and done, a dull writer is still preferable over a morally shallow, clueless idiot. Which is also one of the most witless, vapid and insufferably dull of the drone gnutoids I have ever had the displeasure to read.

B. Prokop said...

"Most of the time I find myself pretty bored just a few sentence into your comments."

I wasn't going to say anything about this, but since others have commented..

Since when is length a sign of affectation? I suppose The Brothers Karamazov is "long winded and rambling"? How about Augustine? Tolkien? Herman Wouk? I guess we all need to confine our thoughts to 140 characters? Perhaps all wisdom needs to be displayable on a bumper sticker? 'Cause in that case, perhaps we could all just post "John 3:16" over and over again? After all, it says everything that needs to be said. Why elaborate?...

grodruiges,

Knowing both Russian and English, I can say with confidence that, as beautiful as Russian is (and it is very beautiful), English is by far the richer language, because of its "bastardized" history, being a messy conglomeration of German, French, Latin, Greek, Spanish, and you name it.

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

"Knowing both Russian and English, I can say with confidence that, as beautiful as Russian is (and it is very beautiful), English is by far the richer language, because of its "bastardized" history, being a messy conglomeration of German, French, Latin, Greek, Spanish, and you name it."

Right, but Nabokov's remarks (repeated at different times, in different circumstances and in different rhetorical dressings) are not about the comparative merits of both languages, but about his own personal tragedy of having lost a language, a history and a tradition, and having to adapt to and make use of a, to quote myself, "second rate, bastardized English".

B. Prokop said...

Ahh.. gotcha!

Ilíon said...

"... drone gnutoids ..."

In general, I very dislike the internet custom of adding "-tard" to the descriptors of those one dislikes, but, in this instance, I'll make an exception (primarily because if flows so well) ... How about "gnutards"?

jdhuey said...

>Or it could be that I am taking umbrage at the antics of a pair of clueless idiots. You choose the one you are most comfortable with as I couldn't care less.

And here is why these conversations go wrong: flinging insults.

grodrigues said...

@jdhuey:

"And here is why these conversations go wrong: flinging insults."

First, there has been no conversation for it to be terminated by "flinging insults" or otherwise. Second, strictly speaking I did not fling any insult because the sentence starts with "Or it could be that", so I did not make a claim. But I am not one to hide behind technicalities, so my response is since when it is an insult to tell the truth? The evidence is all over the thread. Want proof? Well, by your own pinciples it is illogic to demand such a proof.

Technical note: consider the predicate P(x) in one free variable given by "if x is jdhuey then x is a clueless idiot". It is easy to see that "jdhuey is a clueless idiot" is logically equivalent to P(jdhuey); that the latter is logically equivalent to the universally quantified statement Ax P(x) and that this statement in itself is, by double negation and the De Morgan laws for quantifiers, logically equivalent to not (Ex not P(x)) which is a negative existencial statement. You have not deigned to clarify, but the implicature of your claims is that it is illogic to demand proof of negative existentials, so it is illogic to demand proof of the particular claim I made.

Cal Metzger said...

grod: "But I am not one to hide behind technicalities, so my response is since when it is an insult to tell the truth?"

I think that grod invents trivial and picayune objections in order to pretend that he has good reasons to believe what he does without having to really examine his silly beliefs.

Because the above is true, it is not an insult.

Love your style, grod.