Sunday, October 23, 2016

Arguments from motive

 People think they have reasons to believe in God, and you cannot explain them away by attributing ulterior motives to those who accept those reasons. If you could do that, then a believer could say that the real reason people are atheists is  because they don't want there to be a supreme being who can tell them what to do, or that they are engaged in activity that Christians regard as sinful, and they would have to stop it if they became believers. Or someone might be so afraid of wishful thinking that can't consider the reasons for being a believer.

The real question concerns the reasons people have for believing what they do. Whichever side is right, there is no shortage of ulterior motives to explain how someone might have ended up with the wrong answer. Arguments from motive really don't do much, because they are too easy for both sides to produce, and cancel each other out.

38 comments:

Crude said...

I've run into atheists who have insisted, sometimes with dramatics, that they desperately want to believe in God, but they see no evidence - and thus, they have no motives or bias. I've asked them if they wanted Christianity to be true, and they pivot back to snarling that the God of Christianity is horrible, evil, wicked, etc. By the time they've figured out that their pleas to a lack of motive for disbelief in the Christian God are now eliminated, they usually want to talk about something else.

Cal Metzger said...

VR: " People think they have reasons to believe in God, and you cannot explain them away by attributing ulterior motives to those who accept those reasons."

The "reasons" are all so terrible that we are compelled to find another explanation. That's really all there is to it.

VR: "If you could do that, then a believer could say that the real reason people are atheists is because they don't want there to be a supreme being who can tell them what to do, or that they are engaged in activity that Christians regard as sinful, and they would have to stop it if they became believers."

Sure, the believer could say that. And maybe there are some atheists who think this way. But that's not really the question, though, is it? The question is, Are there any good reasons to believe that something like the Christian god exists? (After that, we can ask, Then why do some people think that something like the Christian god exists?)

VR: "The real question concerns the reasons people have for believing what they do."

Yes, This never goes well for religious believers. Hence, why we look at other explanations.

VR: "Whichever side is right, there is no shortage of ulterior motives to explain how someone might have ended up with the wrong answer. Arguments from motive really don't do much, because they are too easy for both sides to produce, and cancel each other out."

Well, no. Many beliefs are motive-based. And that --NOT the facts -- is what helps explain them. Your conclusion above implies that the majority of people who consider themselves to be better looking than average could all be correct, when in fact we can determine that a) the majority must be wrong, and b) explore the reasons why the majority often makes this mistake. And pointing out that the majority must be wrong isn't motive-based -- it's based on facts and reason.

B. Prokop said...

"The question is, Are there any good reasons to believe that something like the Christian [G]od exists?"

The answer is, yes there are. Just a few, among the multitude:

- There is something rather than nothing.
- Good and evil objectively exist.
- Music.
- The example/witness of the Saints.
- The rock-solid case for the Resurrection, still triumphant after 2000 years of trying to disprove it. (This ought to be first on any list. Christianity stands or falls on the Fact of the literal, physical, historical, actual Resurrection of Christ. No Resurrection - no Christianity. Yes Resurrection - why are you not a Christian?)

Crude said...

The "reasons" are all so terrible that we are compelled to find another explanation. That's really all there is to it.

It's funny how the guys who say this usually suck at arguing about the 'reasons'. Which is why modern atheism's Hallmark is "I just lack belief I don't BELIEVE anything, that means I don't need to defend my beliefs. It's totally unlikely God exists! Wait shit I meant I lack belief. Evolution is totally undesigned! I mean no, I lack belief it's designed, stop asking me to be consistent."

Sure, the believer could say that. And maybe there are some atheists who think this way. But that's not really the question, though, is it? The question is,

What did I say about 'They suddenly want to talk about something else'? ;)

Yes, This never goes well for religious believers.

It goes uniquely well for them, since they have arguments and evidence for their beliefs. Atheists are meanwhile in a Schrodinger's Belief situation, where they believe and talk as if God exists, until you examine their beliefs. Then they suddenly just -lack- beliefs.

Well, no. Many beliefs are motive-based. And that --NOT the facts -- is what helps explain them.

In other words, for Cal, he wants to assume that all of your beliefs fail and are wrong and skip right to motive questioning, without that pesky process of 'arguing against the claims and evidence'.

No, Cal. Pointing out that someone is wrong isn't necessarily 'facts and reason' based. In fact, you're famously incapable of providing much other than 'GRRRRR' when it's time to argue. That's precisely why you skip to motive-mongering; it's more cathartic than theists, even not-especially-well-informed theists, pointing out the flaws in your arguments.

Legion of Logic said...

Something making sense and having superior explanatory power to the alternative is indeed an excellent motivation for believing something. Hence, I am not an atheist, as atheism lacks this motivation.

It could be that one day atheism will step up to the plate and offer real arguments and solutions, other than trying and failing to defeat arguments for God-belief, but while I wait for this to occur, I won't be holding my breath.

Making blustery posts with no actual arguments sure is fun. Thanks for the lessons, Cal.

Chris said...

I am somethng of a lurker here. I have noticed that Cal has been commenting on this blog for a while and has a rather muscular style. Yet, not once, not even a little bit, have I ever heard him say anything in the way of an argument for atheo-materialism. Why is that?

B. Prokop said...

"Yet, not once, not even a little bit, have I ever heard him say anything in the way of an argument for atheo-materialism."

Is there any such animal? Seriously, when has any atheist ever argued for atheism, and not just attacked someone else's belief? At its core, atheism is nothing but a giant negative. There's nothing there to defend.

It was not by accident that C.S. Lewis called the evil spirit in Perelandra the Un-man.

Joe Hinman said...

I agree arguing about other people's motives is foolish. We need to worry about our own motives, I think there is a truth that no one really uses a God argument as the reason they believe, I think that;s transparent even to me,m I have 52 God arguments.I don't think God arguments have to be the real reason one believes.

speaking of God arguments On Metacorck's Blog Monday I defend my argument from my book against the attack of atheist apologist "I am Skeptical."

Ilíon said...

Discussing -- trying to understand -- people's motives for believing, or at least for asserting, falsehood is not foolish ... unless that is where one starts, in which case it is just motive-mongering which is, as the OP states, easily cancelled by the other guy motive-mongering in return.

Ilíon said...

Chris: "Yet, not once, not even a little bit, have I ever heard him say anything in the way of an argument for atheo-materialism."

B.Prokop: "Is there any such animal? Seriously, when has any atheist ever argued for atheism ..."

No, there is never been an 'atheist' who has presented an argument *for* atheism.

And, no, there is not, nor can be, "any such animal". For, were an 'atheist' even to attempt to formulate an argument for atheism, his argument would implicitly assume the reality of God. Necessarily.

B. Prokop said...

"Motive" is a tricky subject. Although I believe the evidence for God to be practically overwhelming, I don't think there are many (if any at all) people who are genuinely Christian on the basis of argument, or even of evidence. Such things may get one to the threshold, no question about it. But it takes a personal commitment, an act of will, an encounter with The Living God, a personal relationship, to actually enter within.

Is that what some people count as "motive"? If so, then bedrock is the motive for a building not falling down.

I'd hazard that there has been far too little self-examination on the part of self identified skeptics or non-believers. I suspect one would find far less "I was swayed by the evidence!" and far more "I just don't want Christianity to be true!" than generally acknowledged.

SteveK said...

The real reason you wrote this, Victor, was to generate controversy.
:)

B. Prokop said...

"Not that there's anything wrong with that!"

Cal Metzger said...

Me: ""The question is, Are there any good reasons to believe that something like the Christian god exists?"

Prokop: The answer is, yes there are. Just a few, among the multitude:
- There is something rather than nothing."

This is not an argument for the Christian god. (I doubt it's really an "argument" for anything.)

Prokop: "- Good and evil objectively exist."

This is not an argument for the Christian god. (It's also demonstrably false.)

Prokop: "- Music."

This is not an argument for the Christian god.

Prokop: "The example/witness of the Saints."

Bad reasons -- every religion has its martyrs, and the rest, what you call witness, is hearsay and stories -- stories that are accounts of things that ONLY happen in, well, stories. Hmm.

Prokop: "- The rock-solid case for the Resurrection, still triumphant after 2000 years of trying to disprove it. (This ought to be first on any list. Christianity stands or falls on the Fact of the literal, physical, historical, actual Resurrection of Christ. No Resurrection - no Christianity. Yes Resurrection - why are you not a Christian?)"

Um, by the "rock-sold case for the Resurrection" I think you mean, a story. And one that has the problem of conflicting with all of our background knowledge. So, really, the opposite of rock solid. Stories that conflict with our background knowledge are about as flimsy as it gets.

-------------

But really, the interesting question here isn't how much you all think you have good reasons for believing what you do (I trust that you do, even though I see such obvious problems in your claims) -- the interesting question is whether or not incredible (in the technical sense) claims are best explained by psychological motives. I'm not sure about that one way or another -- I think that religious beliefs, like conspiratorial ones -- might prove more the exception to psychological tendencies than other undemonstrable beliefs.

B. Prokop said...

Definition of "incredible": impossible to believe.
Synonyms for "incredible": unbelievable, beyond belief, hard to believe, unconvincing, far-fetched, implausible, improbable, highly unlikely, dubious, doubtful.

"The interesting question is whether or not incredible (in the technical sense) claims are best explained by psychological motives."

Wow! It looks like Cal and I are once again in agreement here. The really interesting question is whether or not such an incredible (in the dictionary sense) claim as "There is no God" is best explained by psychological motives.

Cal Metzger said...

Chris: "I am somethng of a lurker here. I have noticed that Cal has been commenting on this blog for a while and has a rather muscular style. Yet, not once, not even a little bit, have I ever heard him say anything in the way of an argument for atheo-materialism. Why is that?"

The case for "atheo-materialism"? Not knowing what you really mean by that, I'd guess that you mean why take my skeptical stance toward religious beliefs?

Um, because religious beliefs are based on a process that doesn't work (it produces nothing, has made no progress, and hinders productive investigative processes), and because investigative methods that eschew supernatural thinking are the only ones that provide real knowledge. (Before anybody protests, please read my words CAREFULLY.)

Isn't that (incredibly) obvious from what I've written here?

SteveK said...

Tut-tut. Your claims are so vague as to be meaningless.

All processes produce something
All processes that produce something, work
All processes that work, make progress
Religious beliefs are based on a process (says Cal)
Religious beliefs produce something, work and make progress

Cal Metzger said...

Why does it say about criticism like SteveK's, that it can't seem to represent my words correctly?

Does anyone think here think that misrepresenting amounts to actual criticism?

Because I think it amounts to a kind of pretending.

SteveK said...

Your words are represented as being equally as vague in my comment as they are in yours. That's my criticism, Cal.

Legion of Logic said...

"Um, because religious beliefs are based on a process that doesn't work (it produces nothing, has made no progress, and hinders productive investigative processes)"

When my bladder is full, I need to empty it. Even animals know this. This knowledge produces nothing, makes no progress (and in many cases hinders productive processes)...but it is still true. Something does not have to be scientific in nature to be true.

Science isn't the only form of knowledge, so saying religious beliefs aren't scientific in nature as a criticism is a very poor criticism indeed.

Chris said...

Can you smell what the scientism is cooking?

Ilíon said...

Whatever it is, it's unsavory.

B. Prokop said...

We reached the curving brink of a steep bank
constructed of enormous broken rocks;
below us was a crueler den of pain.

And the disgusting overflow of stench
the deep abyss was vomiting forced us
back from the edge.

(Dante, The Inferno, Canto XI, lines 1-6)

Cal Metzger said...

SteveK; "Your words are represented as being equally as vague in my comment as they are in yours. That's my criticism, Cal."

And the above is why your comments are met with a communal "meh" every time you write them; you seem to want to sound insightful, but no one can figure out a way to read them that can save you.

Legion: "When my bladder is full, I need to empty it. Even animals know this. This knowledge produces nothing, makes no progress (and in many cases hinders productive processes)...but it is still true. Something does not have to be scientific in nature to be true."

This is almost SteveK like. You are better than this.

Legion of Logic said...

"This is almost SteveK like. You are better than this."

It's a tongue-in-cheek analogy pointing out the fact that truth and science are not equivalent. "Produces nothing", "makes no progress", and "hindering productive investigative processes" are not synonymous with "untrue", so I'm not certain what point you were trying to make there.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "It's a tongue-in-cheek analogy pointing out the fact that truth and science are not equivalent. "Produces nothing", "makes no progress", and "hindering productive investigative processes" are not synonymous with "untrue", so I'm not certain what point you were trying to make there."

Okay, several things. I haven't typed out the words "science" or "truth" in any of my comments.

And why do you think that emptying a bladder produces nothing?

Lastly, why do you think an organic process (urination) is relevant to a discussion about beliefs? Are you saying that the perception that one's bladder is full is divorced from the reality about the amount of waste held in that bladder.

Legion: "...so I'm not certain what point you were trying to make there."

The point was that I was asked to "make an argument for atheo materialism" (?), and so I thought I'd mention something about that. Then you brought up your bladder.

SteveK can be trusted to try and sneer in his comments, while simultaneously revealing that he doesn't really understand the concepts being discussed. I have come to kind of like your comments, because I think they are usually consistent, and you seem smart enough to normally articulate what you find unsatisfying concerning others', as opposed to your own, beliefs.

Legion of Logic said...

More the thought process behind having a full bladder than the full bladder itself, but...

As a critique of religious beliefs, you said that they "produce nothing", "make no progress", and "hinder productive investigative processes". If you are not speaking about science with those three descriptions, then my apologies. However, my statement still stands that even if a belief matches all three descriptions, that would still not equate to being untrue.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "However, my statement still stands that even if a belief matches all three descriptions, that would still not equate to being untrue."

Again, your word "true" here, not mine.

I'm not saying that human experience is useless -- on the contrary, I'm a big fan. I'm just saying that when it comes to justifying my skepticism about religious beliefs, I can point out that superstitious thinking produces nothing (reliable, predictive, etc., if I were to elaborate), makes no progress (same questions, same disagreements, no end in sight), and hinders productive investigative processes (see: religious objections to scientific theories like Evolution and man-influenced Global Warming).

This leaves plenty of room for talking about the human experience, about our subjective experiences, etc. But it is my shorthand way for outlining my objections to superstitious thinking (the question I was asked) -- basically, it gets in the way or is superfluous to real knowledge, and I don't need it to enjoy the company of others, music, literature, or to notice that my bladder feels full.

Legion of Logic said...

"real knowledge"

There we go. What makes something "real knowledge"? I suspect this is identical to what I was trying to get at, but I could be wrong.

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "There we go. What makes something "real knowledge"? I suspect this is identical to what I was trying to get at, but I could be wrong."

Real knowledge can be shared intersubjectively, and is corrigible.

You can know that you're hungry, or now that you enjoy a taste, or know that you feel emotion, etc. And I don't discount those personal experiences, but they are incorrigible, and they cannot be shared -- I cannot have knowledge of them, as I don't experience your experiences directly. However, I can experience many things that you also experience, and these things that we can both experience constitute (for a lack of a better term) real knowledge about shared reality. Something approximately like that, anyway.

B. Prokop said...

5 points to Cal for using the word "corrigible"!

It's one of those words like couth, hinged (in the psychological sense), or gruntled that one very rarely encounters.

Ilíon said...

LoL: "As a critique of religious beliefs, you said that they "produce nothing", "make no progress", and "hinder productive investigative processes". If you are not speaking about science with those three descriptions, then my apologies. However, my statement still stands that even if a belief matches all three descriptions, that would still not equate to being untrue."

Moreover, what do phrases such as "make progress" and "make no progress" even *mean* if atheism were the truth about the nature of realty? You can't "make progress" unless there is some end-goal, some telos to which one's movement is aimed; "to progress" is not *merely* to move or change.

And, for that matter, even the word "process" doesn't really fit into an atheistic world, for that word also implies a telos. A "process" is not *merely* a series of events.

SteveK said...

More people saying (as I did) that your terms are vague to the point of being meaningless, Cal.

Also, Legion can share his knowledge of hunger with you - with anyone. It's real knowledge that can be shared. Maybe you meant to say that Legion's real knowledge cannot be experienced.

Real knowledge can be obtained without having direct experience. Happens all the time.

Chris said...

I thought the expression atheo-materialism was pretty clear. Philosophical materialism, as I understand it, rejects teleology straight away. And yet, as pointed out, the atheo-materialist talks in terms of process, progress, and agency all the time.

Cal Metzger said...

Chris: "I thought the expression atheo-materialism was pretty clear. Philosophical materialism, as I understand it, rejects teleology straight away. And yet, as pointed out, the atheo-materialist talks in terms of process, progress, and agency all the time."

I don't know who the atheo-materialists are (I've never heard the term before, anyway). I don't think I am one, because (of course) there are such things as process, progress, and agency.

Chris said...

Atheo refers to atheism. Materialism refers to philosophical materialism.

What is PM? The central premise of Materialism is that only matter/energy is real (materialistic monism). There is no other, spiritual reality. In a sense, then, materialism might be understood as denying metaphysics altogether, there is nothing beyond ('meta') the observable, material world. A corollary of Materialism is determinism. Every state of the universe results, merely by simple cause and effect, from the previous state. Everything is essentially mechanical in which case nature is purposeless and evolution has no goal or direction.

B. Prokop said...

"because (of course) there are such things as process, progress, and agency."

Well then, you are no materialist! (And I am most glad that you are not.) Process, progress, and agency are part and parcel of, inextricably enmeshed with, and inseparable from teleology - which is anathema to materialism.

Cal Metzger said...

Process and process describe entities and states in time. Agency is (more or less) a description of intelligence and intention.

That these things exist IN our world does not entail that they exist about our world, nor outside it.

But process, progress, and agency are all perfectly useful descriptions of what we observe in our world.