Friday, July 12, 2019

Of course, there is no proof of God's existence

The textbook that I use in Introduction to Ethics uses as an argument against the Divine Command theory the idea that there is no proof of God's existence. Of course there is a lot of debate about these arguments for God, and there is an atheist side to the discussion. What bothers me in the text is its assumption, without talking about any of the arguments, that of course there's no proof of God's existence. This is a popular belief in our culture, typically arrived at with no real study. 

201 comments:

1 – 200 of 201   Newer›   Newest»
Legion of Logic said...

Without being able to read it, I wonder how they are using "proof". Undeniable evidence? Beyond reasonable doubt? Synonymous with evidence?

oozzielionel said...

Perhaps they mean "satisfactory" proof. There is proof that is satisfactory to many.
Perhaps they mean "scientific" proof? God is stubborn about getting into a test tube.

wrf3 said...

If you think there is a proof of God's existence which doesn't either hide the existence of God as one of the axioms, or has an axiom that can't be reasonably denied, then provide it. Likewise, if there is a proof of God's non-existence that doesn't either hide the non-existence of God as one of the axioms, or has an axiom that can't be reasonably denied, then provide it. Having looked at a large number of both kinds of arguments, I claim it hasn't been done.

Even more basic, what makes you think that God's existence/non-existence can be rationally shown? The truth of "this sentence has five words" can't be shown except empirically. Why should we think that God's existence is any different?

Starhopper said...

Hmm... As for "proof", I know of no proof of the existence of anything outside of myself. But getting aside such dorm room pseudo philosophy, I've got at least a dozen proofs for God's existence.

The trouble with such proofs, however, is what is "proof" for one person is no such thing for another. This is an issue that will never be resolved as long as the universe exists.

My personal top seven (in no particular order):

1. There is something rather than nothing.
2. Evil exists.
3. I am conscious of my existence.
4. The universe is rational and comprehensible.
5. The "First Cause" argument.
6. The Catholic Church, the stupidest, most incompetent, and certainly the most humanly fallible institution in all of history, not only remains in existence after 2,000 years, but is nevertheless the largest (1.6 billion members) institution in the world today. Meanwhile, other human constructs, far more "rational" and certainly better organized, have long since been consigned to the dustbin of history.
7. Christ verifiably and beyond reasonable doubt rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, A.D. 33.

wrf3 said...

Starhopper: I know of no proof of the existence of anything outside of myself.
Is that because it's impossible or just that a proof hasn't been found? If it's impossible, then proofs of (a traditional) God are pointless.

The trouble with such proofs, however, is what is "proof" for one person is no such thing for another.
Nobody argues against Pythagoras' proof which relates the length of the sides of a right triangle to the length of the hypotenuse. As far as I know, nobody disagrees with Wiles' proof of Fermat's last theorem. So either these so-called "proofs" for/against the existence of God either have axioms that aren't supportable or sneak in the desired conclusion or have mistakes of reasoning.

As for your "proofs":
1. How do you go from "something" to God?
2. This is hardly a proof for God. Good and evil are simply by-products of goal-seeking organisms. If you want to go north, then going south is bad. If you want to go south, then going north is bad. And so on.
3. How do you go from this to God?
4. How do you know this? Do you think that the value of the fine-structure constant can be obtained by reason and not by measurement?
5. How do you know that there was a first cause? Why can't the universe be an endless loop? And, if not a loop, a "bubbling pot" where universes bubble, expand, and pop endlessly?
6. Indian and Chinese civilizations, with 1 billion people each, have been around longer than the Catholic church.
7. Sure. But I can't prove it.

Starhopper said...

1. The more important question is, how can there be something without God?
2. It is a proof for the supernatural, that is, something "outside" of what we regard as the universe. Just as a baseball game requires an umpire, who is not on either team, in order for there to be balls and strikes, so there cannot be good and evil without an outside, objective observer.
3. Once again, it is, if not proof then at least powerful evidence for the supernatural. There is no way to get from pure physicalism to self awareness.
4. If it is not rational, then we might as well all shut up.
5. This was answered centuries ago by Thomas Aquinas, and no one has ever refuted him.
6. Civilizations are not institutions.
7. I can, and have on this very website. Look it up.

wrf3 said...

Starhopper

1. Simply make that something eternal, i.e. an eternal universe. The sad truth is that almost all of the proofs for God's existence/non-existence are either (de)anthropomorphization, lack of imagination, or unwarranted trust in intuition.
2. Nonsense. Whether or not you want to turn left or right at Albuquerque doesn't depend on anything but your own choice. As to baseball, those are arbitrary communal rules -- just like driving on the left in British colonies and driving on the right in America.
3. That's not true, e.g. here (shameless blog recommendation).
4. Not at all. While there are limits to what we can know via reason (e.g. Gödel) and limits to what we can know via empiricism (e.g. Planck's constant), we don't know where the boundaries are. We'll keep looking.
5. One refutation is that cause is circular, not linear. Another refutation is that there is no cause, just quantum randomness and entanglement (cf. getting deterministic behavior out of non-determinism cf. here).
6. Of course they are. One of the definitions of "institution" is "a society or organization founded for a religious, educational, societal, or similar purpose" (emphasis mine).
7. If you want to provide the link, I'll take the time to show you the hole(s) in your proof.

bmiller said...

wrf3,

One refutation is that cause is circular, not linear.

Circular causation itself still requires a first cause for that. Answered by Aristotle centuries before even Aquinas.

Another refutation is that there is no cause, just quantum randomness and entanglement

So things caused by "quantum randomness and entanglement" are not causes? That doesn't make much sense. It also appears you are confounding determinism with causation. They are different concepts.

bmiller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bmiller said...

Starhopper said:
4. The universe is rational and comprehensible....If it is not rational, then we might as well all shut up.

wrf3 said:
4. Not at all. While there are limits to what we can know via reason (e.g. Gödel) and limits to what we can know via empiricism (e.g. Planck's constant), we don't know where the boundaries are. We'll keep looking.

That's interesting. Someone invoking people who thought the universe was comprehensible against the idea that the universe is comprehensible.

wrf3 said...

bmiller: Circular causation itself still requires a first cause for that.
Where's the beginning of a circle?

So things caused by "quantum randomness and entanglement" are not causes?
The point of the "causes" argument is to get back to an uncaused first cause. But in quantum mechanics, according to John Conway's "Free Will Theorem", when a quantum observable is measured, there is nothing in the past light cone of the object that has any influence on the result and the result is random.

wrf3 said...

bmiller: Someone invoking people who thought the universe was comprehensible against the idea that the universe is comprehensible

Partially comprehensible is not fully comprehensible.

Legion of Logic said...

Where's the beginning of a circle?

The time at which it is created.

wrf3 said...

Legion of Logic: The time at which it is created.

It wasn't created. It just is.

Starhopper said...

Ahh... And there we have it. The old "brute fact" argument. How convenient.

You can't argue with a person who refuses to use reason, or who believes the universe is not rational. And here we have both at once.

wrf3 said...

Starhopper: The old "brute fact" argument. How convenient.

I gave you an example of a brute fact, namely, “This sentence has five words”.

I also gave you an example of a possible brute fact, namely, the fine-structure constant. It is an open problem in physics whether or not this value can be determined rationally instead of empirically.

Because we don’t know the answer, claiming that there must be a rational answer is simply a “just-so” story. Which shows that axioms are also brute facts. That is, your response relies on a “brute fact” e.g. the principle of sufficient reason. Which is an axiom that sneaks God in.

You can't argue with a person who refuses to use reason, or who believes the universe is not rational. And here we have both at once.
Recognizing limits to rationality and empiricism does not make them any less useful. That you resort to ad hominem speaks volumes since ad hominem is a logical fallacy and, therefore, against reason.

Starhopper said...

"That you resort to ad hominem"

This is what we call a "tell". The first line of defense for a person whose argument cannot stand up to scrutiny is to say that the person who has bested him is "just attacking me" when no such attack has occurred.

wtf3, I did not "attack" you, I attacked your argument (or, more accurately, your lack thereof). I do not know you, so I cannot attack you personally even if I wanted to (which I do not).

And as for your example of a "brute fact" ("This sentence has five words."), it is actually no such thing. Someone had to think up that sentence. In fact, someone had to invent the English language in order for it to be thought up. It does not exist on its own.

bmiller said...

It wasn't created. It just is.

How does it remain in existence?

bmiller said...

The point of the "causes" argument is to get back to an uncaused first cause.

No, the point of positing a cause is to explain an effect that occurs always or for the most part.

But in quantum mechanics, according to John Conway's "Free Will Theorem", when a quantum observable is measured, there is nothing in the past light cone of the object that has any influence on the result and the result is random.

So according to John Conway when a quantum observable is measured there's just as much of a chance that an elephant will appear as that the universe will disappear? Does he mean that quantum physics has zero power to predict outcomes? Seems a waste of time to study quantum physics then doesn't it?

Once again, it looks like you are confounding determinism with causation.

Starhopper said...

"How does it remain in existence?"

Thanks for bringing that up, bmiller. Too many people (believers included) regard creation as an historical event rather than an ongoing "process" (in quotes, because I'm not sure whether that's the right word). Creation is happening right now.

As usual, St. Paul said it best: "In [Jesus] all things were created. [...] He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:16, my emphasis) The "holding together" is what causes everything to remain in existence.

wrf3 said...

bmiller: How does it remain in existence?

It just does.

wrf3 said...

Starhopper: wtf3, I did not "attack" you...

I'll take you at your word, then, even though my name was misspelled in a way such that it became a common, somewhat derogatory, three letter acronym.

It does not exist on its own.
And yet it's an analogy for a self-referential system that you do claim exists on its own, so it's a useful way think about things. In particular, it's a self-referential system that cannot be analyzed by reason, but must be approached empirically. It might very well be an analogy for the nature of the fine-structure constant. And in many ways, it's very similar to what we see in Scripture. I cannot find one place where the God of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be known by reason; instead, He must be known by experience -- by His call. If you have a counterexample, I'd love to see it. That no proof of God's existence/non-existence has succeeded, although not dispositive, is certainly interesting pertaining to this viewpoint.

wrf3 said...

bmiller: No, the point of positing a cause is to explain an effect that occurs always or for the most part.
What do you call something that a) is random and b) happens with no connection to any prior event?

So according to John Conway when a quantum observable is measured there's just as much of a chance that an elephant will appear as that the universe will disappear?
No.

Starhopper said...

"even though my name was misspelled in a way such that..."

Ha! I honestly saw "wtf" when I read your screen name. My abject apologies.

"I cannot find one place where the God of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be known by reason; instead, He must be known by experience -- by His call."

You are correct. A rabbi I know once explained Abraham's call in the same way. God, he said, was not a proposition to be proven but a person to be encountered. I totally agree.

But His call comes to us in many guises. For some, it's a literal mystical experience. Such was the case for St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, to whom Jesus appeared on multiple occasions. For others (such as St. Augustine), the "call" was the result of reading scripture (see: The Confessions of St. Augustine, Vol. VII, Part 1). I describe my own encounter here (start at page 44).

bmiller said...

bmiller: How does it remain in existence?

wrf3:It just does.


So I assume you are not thinking of a geometric circle but instead are thinking of a series of a things that cannot move by themselves? And that the motion of one is caused by the motion of a prior moved mover?

John Mitchel said...

2Ahh... And there we have it. The old "brute fact" argument. How convenient.

You can't argue with a person who refuses to use reason, or who believes the universe is not rational. And here we have both at once."

Bob,i agree with you that the existence of the universe is not a brute fact.
But you are exhibiting indecent behaviour.
The claim that the universe exists without explanation is, taken at face value, a coherent hypothesis that cannot be brushed aside by calling the one that espouses it irrational.

You gave no reason to think that this cannot be the case, is unlikely or highly problematical

bmiller said...

What do you call something that a) is random and b) happens with no connection to any prior event?

Do you think there is a difference between your a) and b)? If so, what is it?

No.
Then I would say that John Conway does not actually think that the result is random. I suspect instead he would say the result is somewhat indeterminate in that the exact resulting quantum state will fall within a certain probability distribution function of possible states (none of which involve elephants or the universe). An AT philosopher would phrase it that a cause always or for the most part results in a certain effect or range of effects.

Starhopper said...

"But you are exhibiting indecent behaviour."

Not at all, not at all. wrt3 himself said that he did not consider the universe to be either (fully) comprehensible or rational. And a universe which is only "partially" rational is irrational, just as one cannot be only "partially" pregnant. You either are, or you aren't.

In any case, "It just is" (a.k.a., brute force) arguments are not arguments at all. They aren't even reasoning. They are essentially a shutting down of the argument.

There is a wonderful old Peanuts cartoon in which Linus asks Lucy "Why is the sky blue?" and she yells back in response "Because it isn't green!" The very essence of "just because" reasoning. If, as you suggest, the universe can exist "without explanation", then further discussion is pointless.

John Mitchel said...

"Not at all, not at all. wrt3 himself said that he did not consider the universe to be either (fully) comprehensible or rational. And a universe which is only "partially" rational is irrational, just as one cannot be only "partially" pregnant."

You should not use the 'rational' but rather 'intelligible'. People are rational, things are not.

"In any case, "It just is" (a.k.a., brute force) arguments are not arguments at all. They aren't even reasoning. They are essentially a shutting down of the argument."

Nobody claimed that positing the universe as a brute act is an argument. Nobody.
What is claimed here, is that the universe existing without an explanation is a possibility.

"If, as you suggest, the universe can exist "without explanation", then further discussion is pointless."

There are lots of arguments against the acceptance of brute facts. I dont know why the discussion is supposed to be over

Starhopper said...

Oh, it wouldn't be so much that the discussion would be over. It's just that there would be no point in having one. If you honestly believe that things can happen "without explanation", then what else is there to say? Any question, any line of inquiry, any issue whatsoever could be answered with "No explanation needed. It just is." For once you allow such a dodge to be used in one place, there's no coherent way to prevent its use anywhere.

"Why is the sky blue?" "No reason, it just is."
"Why did the Allies win WWII?" "Why do you ask? We won. No explanation necessary."
"Why does the Earth have a Moon?" "Who cares? It just does. No need to explain why it does."
"Why do things fall when I drop them?" Well, what did you expect them to do?"

Legion of Logic said...

What is claimed here, is that the universe existing without an explanation is a possibility.

There is an explanation even if we do not currently know it, or even if we never know it. So I would disagree with your statement.

bmiller said...

"even though my name was misspelled in a way such that..."

Ha! I honestly saw "wtf" when I read your screen name. My abject apologies.


I just got a new prescription for my glasses that are causing me all sorts of problems. I caught myself almost typing the same thing. I decided to just cut and paste wrf3's name.

wrf3,

If you catch me doing that, it's not on purpose. If it is, I'll let you know ;-)

bmiller said...

I cannot find one place where the God of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be known by reason; instead, He must be known by experience -- by His call. If you have a counterexample, I'd love to see it.

John 1:1-4.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."


"The Word" is "The Logos" in Greek and although there is more to "The Logos" than just an impersonal "divine reason implicit in the cosmos, ordering it and giving it form and meaning." John nonetheless considers Him the ordering principle of the universe. We who are made in the image of God can recognize this order.

wrf3 said...

Legion of Logic: There is an explanation even if we do not currently know it, or even if we never know it. So I would disagree with your statement.

Why? If you say “because of the PSR” I’ll ask you why you believe in the PSR. The PSR can’t explain itself other than “because”.

wrf3 said...

bmiller wrote: ... John 1:1

Continue on. "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory..." Skipping to 1 John 1: "We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ."

So one can argue (rightly, IMO) is that John 1:1 is based on the empirical encounter with Christ. John first encountered Christ and then provided additional details (that were revealed to him).

I'll address additional posts tomorrow. This one was too good to wait.

P.S. My ophthalmologist is also adjusting my prescriptions and I'm trying to adapt. Small world.

bmiller said...

So one can argue (rightly, IMO) is that John 1:1 is based on the empirical encounter with Christ. John first encountered Christ and then provided additional details (that were revealed to him).

One does not have to have met Jesus in the flesh to perceive the intelligibility of the universe and contemplate how and why it exists. But of course that sort of knowledge of Christ is inferior to the personal experience that John had.

John recognized that Jesus was "The Logos", "became flesh" and John was an eye witness. That is what the Gospels are, collections of eye witness accounts. But eye witness accounts are different than empirical science. That is not to say they are unreliable, but just a different path to the truth than repeatable experiments.

Unfortunately too many people think that only "science" can lead to Truth.

John Mitchel said...

"Why? If you say “because of the PSR” I’ll ask you why you believe in the PSR. The PSR can’t explain itself other than “because”."

If you claim that the PSR is self-referentially incoherent, then i would say that i think the PSR can be formulated in a way that avoids this pitfall.

"If you honestly believe that things can happen "without explanation", then what else is there to say? Any question, any line of inquiry, any issue whatsoever could be answered with "No explanation needed. It just is."

As i already stated, i don't believe in brute facts.
But if i may play devil's advocate for a bit longer: The possibility that some facts do not have explanations does not imply that there are no explanations that we should look for.
As Bertrand Russel put it: "A man may look for gold without assuming there is gold everywhere"

Legion of Logic said...

Why? If you say “because of the PSR” I’ll ask you why you believe in the PSR. The PSR can’t explain itself other than “because”.

I would say that even God is not above explanation. That's not to say that God has a cause, but there is an explanation due to his own nature. God is fundamentally not like the matter and energy of the universe, as many Christian philosophers would love the opportunity to expound upon.

Of course one could claim that there is some quantum or sub-quantum level of reality that exists and must exist due to its fundamental nature, as an alternative to God, but such a claim would of course require more than a simple assertion.

Maybe we are talking past each other due to different word usage, but I have yet to see any reason to believe it is within the realm of possibility for something to exist that literally has no explanation whatsoever.

wrf3 said...

bmiller: Do you think there is a difference between your a) and b)? If so, what is it?

Sure. One form of randomness is based on chaotic behavior. It's the result of a prior sequence of events. Another form of randomness is based on quantum behavior. It's the result of no prior sequence of events.

Then I would say that John Conway does not actually think that the result is random.
Then I suggest you listen to what Conway has to say.

wrf3 said...

Starhopper: And a universe which is only "partially" rational is irrational, just as one cannot be only "partially" pregnant. You either are, or you aren't.

This is a false analogy. The universe contains both noise (which is irrational) and signal (which can be rational).

The very essence of "just because" reasoning. If, as you suggest, the universe can exist "without explanation", then further discussion is pointless.

Only if you've reached the point where no further explanation is possible. Sometimes we don't know where that point is.

wrf3 said...

bmiller wrote: One does not have to have met Jesus in the flesh to perceive the intelligibility of the universe and contemplate how and why it exists.

But we aren't talking about perception of (alleged) intelligibility (cf. Heider-Simmel experiment) or contemplation that leads to "just-so" stories. We're talking about proof, specifically, rational proof (as opposed to empirical), specifically about God's existence.

wrf3 said...

John Mitchell: If you claim that the PSR is self-referentially incoherent, then i would say that i think the PSR can be formulated in a way that avoids this pitfall.

Please do. I'll tell you how I'll find a flaw in it. Rationality cannot work apart from axioms, and axioms are "just because" statements of truth. That is, they are "atomic" in that they cannot be divisible into smaller units of truth.

wrf3 said...

Legion of Logic: I would say that even God is not above explanation. That's not to say that God has a cause, but there is an explanation due to his own nature.

That may be, but you have to move from the realm of "just so story" to "rational proof". And I'll demand that the proof be rigorous.

but I have yet to see any reason to believe it is within the realm of possibility for something to exist that literally has no explanation whatsoever.

We aren't talking about what you believe. We're talking about what you can prove. I have no problem with you saying that you believe God exists. Even the demons do that, and tremble. I do have a problem with you claiming the existence of a rational proof for God without you providing it.

Starhopper said...

What does it mean to prove something? As I commented near the beginning of this discussion, what is proof for one person is nothing of the sort for another. I listed 7 "proofs" of God's existence, all of which satisfy for me the requisites for being considered as such. In the case of all 7, I cannot come to any rational conclusion other than that there is indeed a God, and He is active in creation and in history.

I do not ask for anyone else to consider them to be proofs, but in a discussion like this, we must all lay our cards on the table as to where we stand, and clearly identify where we differ. And as St. Peter says, "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you." (1 Peter 3:15)

Starhopper said...

In other words (I should have said this in my last comment), if someone were to ask me "Why do you believe in God? (as my nephew did recently), I would answer with one of those 7 reasons.

(And I have a totally different answer to the question (which I get far more frequently) "Why are you a Catholic?")

bmiller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bmiller said...

Sure. One form of randomness is based on chaotic behavior. It's the result of a prior sequence of events. Another form of randomness is based on quantum behavior. It's the result of no prior sequence of events.

So a) is like an elephant suddenly appearing and b) is like an instrument collapsing the wave function into one of several possible quantum states?

I would respond that case a) falls outside the study of physics, because the study of physics relies on final causes.

b) can be studied since, although a particular outcome cannot be determined for each experiment, a limited range of probable results can be observed. But there's no need to invoke quantum physics as if this is something new. One has always had a 1/6 chance of rolling a 1 on a die. But one has to roll the die to cause the 1 to come up and one has to take a measurement to collapse the wave function. Both are prior events.

In any case, not all knowledge is contained in the study of physics.

Legion of Logic said...

Just because something can be asserted does not mean there is any reason to put it in the "possible" category. I see no reason to put "things that have no explanation" in that category.

Unless one can be provided?

bmiller said...

But we aren't talking about perception of (alleged) intelligibility (cf. Heider-Simmel experiment) or contemplation that leads to "just-so" stories. We're talking about proof, specifically, rational proof (as opposed to empirical), specifically about God's existence.

I disagree. Most of us perceive the intelligibility of the world. Those of us who don't are unable to function day to day and either end up dead or locked up for their own and other's safety.

The only example of "rational proof" you gave was Gödel. Does that mean that you only count mathematical proofs as "rational proof"?

John Mitchel said...

"John Mitchell: If you claim that the PSR is self-referentially incoherent, then i would say that i think the PSR can be formulated in a way that avoids this pitfall.

wrtf3 :Please do. I'll tell you how I'll find a flaw in it. Rationality cannot work apart from axioms, and axioms are "just because" statements of truth. That is, they are "atomic" in that they cannot be divisible into smaller units of truth."

First, i think there is a little confusion here. I talked aboout self-referential incoherence, not the axiomatic nature of the PSR.

1. If the PSR is self-referentially incoherent, that would mean that it demands an explanation of itself that cannot be provided and therefor shows that the PSR is itself false.
2. You seem to attack the PSR on the ground that it is unprovable or unproven, i.e. axiomatically proposed.

So let me say something about 1) and 2)

1. Take a formulation of the PSR such as:
A. For every entity X, if X exists, then there is a sufficient explanation for why X exists.
The defender of the PSR can claim that the PSR itself is not an entity but rather a metaphysical principle, so that the content of the PSR does not reference the PSR itself.
Or take a broader forumulation of the PSR:
B. For every proposition P, if P is true, then there is a sufficient explanation for why P is true.
Here, the defender of the PSR has to admit that the content of the PSR references the PSR itself, since it is obviously true that it is a proposition. But he can claim that there is a sufficient explanation for why the PSR is true, namely that, indeed, every other proposition has a sufficient explanation and therefor the PSR does too.

2. You seem to be saying that, since the PSR is not logically implied or deriveable from completely self-evident facts, therefor we have no good reasons to believe it.
But that's, i think, clearly false.
a) Your demand seems unreasonable and would undercut most of the knowledge we have.
b) Reasons for accepting the PSR would be the intelligibility, predictability and uniformity of nature, as we observe it. So the PSR is not deductively inferred but rather accepted as an appeal to the best explanation

wrf3 said...

John Mitchell:

Re: 1a: metaphysical principles exist, even if they don't (necessarily) exist the same way atoms do. So their existence needs explanation, too.
1b: Clearly, it is true that PSR is a proposition. But is it a true proposition> If it's true, what is the explanation for the PSR? What is the explanation for the explanation of the PSR?

It's "metaphysical state" really isn't the point, though. The PSR is a recursive definition. Where does it stop?

2a: Not so. Knowledge is both empirical and rational. Rational knowledge has to start with things that are held to be true, for no other reason than they are held to be true. If axioms appear to correspond to common (allegedly external) reality, so much the better.
2b.1: the problem is that this viewpoint is based on too small a sample. The realm of the very small is random and unpredictable. As one person said, "no reasonable definition of reality could be expected to permit this [where this is quantum mechanics]". The realm of the very fast is equally unintuitive. Maximum speed? Time dilation? Lorentz contraction? So accepting the PSR via appeal to experience is the equivalent of basing a conclusion on selective citing.
2b.2: it sneaks God in through the side door. Any proof that hides God in one of its axioms to show that God exists is cheating. Just like any proof that hides God's non-existence in one of its axioms is also cheating. Just be up-front with it and be done with it. The problem is that the PSR actually works against with being up front with axioms.

wrf3 said...

bmiller wrote: Most of us perceive the intelligibility of the world.

Sure. The issue then becomes trying to find an explanation for this. I claim I can show, simply from the way the brain is wired, why this must be the case.

Those of us who don't are unable to function day to day and either end up dead or locked up for their own and other's safety
Suppose that's true. Would you then agree that this behavior is then just an evolutionary survival mechanism?

Does that mean that you only count mathematical proofs as "rational proof"?
No. What it does mean, however, is that the strict rules of proof must be followed. If you follow the rules, and can get me to agree to your axioms, then I'll grant your proof. What this means in the context of our host's blog post is that any proof for God's existence can't cheat and hide God in one of the axioms (just as any proof of God's non-existence can cheat and exclude God in one of its axioms).

wrf3 said...

Legion of Logic @ July 15, 2019 5:38 AM: Just because something can be asserted does not mean there is any reason to put it in the "possible" category. ... Unless one can be provided?

Just by faith.

bmiller said...

wrf3,

I claim I can show, simply from the way the brain is wired, why this must be the case.

You can't prove it rigorously can you?

Suppose that's true. Would you then agree that this behavior is then just an evolutionary survival mechanism?

Evolution is a "just so" story. You'd have to convince me.

No. What it does mean, however, is that the strict rules of proof must be followed.

It seems you have your own "strict rules of proof". Can you explain or provide an example?

What this means in the context of our host's blog post is that any proof for God's existence can't cheat and hide God in one of the axioms (just as any proof of God's non-existence can cheat and exclude God in one of its axioms).

Not sure what you mean. You mean you won't accept a logical conclusion based on true premises?

Starhopper said...

"Would you then agree that this behavior is then just an evolutionary survival mechanism?"

One thing I have consistently noticed is that, when a non-biologist invokes evolution, his bringing it up adds absolutely nothing to the discussion. Saying that something is "just an evolutionary survival mechanism" is basically saying the same thing as "something is". It explains nothing, settles nothing, and illuminates nothing.

Don't get me wrong. I do not disbelieve in evolution. I just don't see why it's anything to worry about. It's not even interesting.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

It explains nothing, settles nothing, and illuminates nothing.

Right. Like somehow if evolution is true, there is no God or if God exists, evolution is impossible.

I agree with you. I really don't see what the big whoop is with it one way or the other. The problem with making it a "big whoop" is that it makes it almost impossible to discuss it. If you point out a flaw, you're a "fundamentalist" and if you write a study using it as a basis you're "godless".

John Mitchel said...

"wrtf3: Re: 1a: metaphysical principles exist, even if they don't (necessarily) exist the same way atoms do. So their existence needs explanation, too."

That's controversial, to say the least. Metaphysical Principles are formulations of certain ways things are. The question is if they are considered to be 'entities'.
I dont think they are.

"1b: Clearly, it is true that PSR is a proposition. But is it a true proposition> If it's true, what is the explanation for the PSR? "

You need to read more carefully, because i already answered that.


"2a: Not so. Knowledge is both empirical and rational. Rational knowledge has to start with things that are held to be true, for no other reason than they are held to be true. If axioms appear to correspond to common (allegedly external) reality, so much the better."

I don't understand what that has to do with what i wrote.

"2b.1: the problem is that this viewpoint is based on too small a sample. The realm of the very small is random and unpredictable. As one person said, "no reasonable definition of reality could be expected to permit this [where this is quantum mechanics]". The realm of the very fast is equally unintuitive. Maximum speed? Time dilation? Lorentz contraction? So accepting the PSR via appeal to experience is the equivalent of basing a conclusion on selective citing."

None of that undercuts my point though.


"2b.2: it sneaks God in through the side door. Any proof that hides God in one of its axioms to show that God exists is cheating."

I didn't even talk about God.

"The problem is that the PSR actually works against with being up front with axioms."

??





One Brow said...

Blogger John Mitchel said...
b) Reasons for accepting the PSR would be the intelligibility, predictability and uniformity of nature, as we observe it.

Nonsense. If any particular proton behaved differently from any other proton, people would still invoke the PSR to explain it. If you explain A with Q and ~A with Q, then neither A nor ~A can be considered that Q has explanatory power.

John Mitchel said...

"Nonsense. If any particular proton behaved differently from any other proton, people would still invoke the PSR to explain it. If you explain A with Q and ~A with Q, then neither A nor ~A can be considered that Q has explanatory power."

Nobody invokes the PSR to explain photon behaviour. I don't know where you get that from.
Plus i really don't see what that actually has to do with what i wrote.

wrf3 said...

bmiller asked: You can't prove it rigorously can you?

I think I can.

Evolution is a "just so" story. You'd have to convince me.
How? Randomness as a creative engine is well understood. The famous computer scientists Donald Knuth has written, for example: "Indeed, computer scientists have proved that certain important computational tasks can be done much more efficiently with random numbers than they could possibly ever be done by deterministic procedure. Many of today's best computational algorithms, like methods for searching the internet, are based on randomization."

The main issue, besides abiogenesis, is why the expected values of the probabilities of things in the universe are the way they are. At this point, you either end up with "God" (i.e. "the God of the gaps" explanation) or the Anthropic Principle (i.e. "the gaps are for man" explanation).

It seems you have your own "strict rules of proof". Can you explain or provide an example?
They aren't my own, although since I'm a mathematician by education perhaps I'm more familiar with them. They're the basic rules of logic. You start with "atomic" truths (i.e. truths which cannot be further divided into smaller truths) and, using the rules of logic, combine them into larger true objects. One of the things you cannot do is start with a large compound truth and use it to prove a smaller truth. Proofs go from smaller to larger; not larger to smaller. To hide what you're trying to prove at the start of a proof is to commit the problem of circular reasoning.

You mean you won't accept a logical conclusion based on true premises?
Not if the thing you're trying to prove is actually a part of a premise. From Wikipedia: "The components of a circular argument are often logically valid because if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. Circular reasoning is not a formal logical fallacy but a pragmatic defect in an argument whereby the premises are just as much in need of proof or evidence as the conclusion, and as a consequence the argument fails to persuade. Other ways to express this are that there is no reason to accept the premises unless one already believes the conclusion, or that the premises provide no independent ground or evidence for the conclusion"

wrf3 said...

John Miller wrote: That's controversial, to say the least. Metaphysical Principles are formulations of certain ways things are. The question is if they are considered to be 'entities'....

Ok, but for every metaphysical principle there is an equal and opposite metaphysical principle, e.g. "God exists" vs. "God does not exist." Either something has to explain them, or the PSR doesn't apply to axioms (which, according to Wikipedia, is open to controversy. That the PSR is controversial with respect to axioms tells me that the PSR is ill-conceived). In any case, you could say that "the PSR, 'God exists', and 'God does not exist'", being metaphysical entities, need no explanation. But then you'd have to explain why those who hold to the PSR try to use it to explain the existence of God.

You need to read more carefully, because i already answered that.
Yes, but where you use the word "entity", I use the word "axiom", and it isn't clear to me whether you hold the PSR to apply to axioms.

I think the rest is covered in the first part. If not, let me know.

John Mitchel said...

"Ok, but for every metaphysical principle there is an equal and opposite metaphysical principle, e.g. "God exists" vs. "God does not exist." Either something has to explain them, or the PSR doesn't apply to axioms (which, according to Wikipedia, is open to controversy. That the PSR is controversial with respect to axioms tells me that the PSR is ill-conceived). In any case, you could say that "the PSR, 'God exists', and 'God does not exist'", being metaphysical entities, need no explanation. But then you'd have to explain why those who hold to the PSR try to use it to explain the existence of God."


I dont really understand what you mean. If God does exist and the PSR holds, then there is a reason why God exists. Which means the proposition 'God exists' has an explanation, since, in that case, God's existence has an explanation.

Now, in any case, if the PSR holds, is there an explanation for why it holds? (Given that it itself demands one)
I think there is one: namely, that all other true propositions have an explanation.


I quote from wiki:
An axiom or postulate is a statement that is taken to be true, to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments (...) As defined in classic philosophy, an axiom is a statement that is so evident or well-established, that it is accepted without controversy or question"

Now, back to the questions of axiom. I quoted wikipedia because i dont know what you really mean by it.
Given the philosophical definition of the word, i dont see any problem with axioms being subject to the PSR. Maybe you can explain what you mean, because i dont get it.

bmiller said...

Me:"One does not have to have met Jesus in the flesh to perceive the intelligibility of the universe and contemplate how and why it exists.

Most of us perceive the intelligibility of the world. "

You:"Sure."


It seems that you've agreed with me that the world is intelligibile.

"The issue then becomes trying to find an explanation for this. I claim I can show, simply from the way the brain is wired, why this must be the case."

Since you'd have to know how "the brain is wired" I'm sure you can't prove it rigorously.

"... Many of today's best computational algorithms, like methods for searching the internet, are based on randomization...."

Are you arguing that evolution is a computational algorithm?


The main issue, besides abiogenesis, is why the expected values of the probabilities of things in the universe are the way they are. At this point, you either end up with "God" (i.e. "the God of the gaps" explanation) or the Anthropic Principle (i.e. "the gaps are for man" explanation).


Since this has nothing to do with how people can percieve the intelligibility of the universe I'm going to ignore it.

Me:It seems you have your own "strict rules of proof". Can you explain or provide an example?"

You:They aren't my own,...They're the basic rules of logic....etc....

You explanation is not very helpful. Perhaps all you are familiar with is how proofs are done in the discipline of mathematics. Why don't you provide what you consider a rigorous argument for anything other than that discipline.

David Brightly said...

Perhaps the notion of 'proof' here is more like something that would pass muster in a court of law. If there were such a proof we'd all be believers.

bmiller said...

All people don't agree with court rulings either do they?

Legion of Logic said...

People seem to assign guilt or innocence based more on their own personal biases than on evidence, so I would expect atheists to reject such proof were it provided.

One Brow said...

John Mitchel said...
"Nonsense. If any particular proton behaved differently from any other proton, people would still invoke the PSR to explain it. If you explain A with Q and ~A with Q, then neither A nor ~A can be considered that Q has explanatory power."

Nobody invokes the PSR to explain photon behaviour. I don't know where you get that from.
Plus i really don't see what that actually has to do with what i wrote.


You really thought the point of my paragraph was the first sentence, and not the second? OK. I'll try again.

b) Reasons for accepting the PSR would be the intelligibility, predictability and uniformity of nature, as we observe it.

The problem is that when nature is perceived to behave unintelligibly, unpredictably, or non-uniformly, we would also apply the PSR to ground that behavior as well. For example, if one proton behaved differently from any other proton, people would still apply the PSR to say there must be a reason for the difference in behavior. IF the PSR has equal applicability to a universe that is unintelligible, unpredictable, and non-uniform as to a universe that is intelligible, predictable, and uniform, then it offers no explanatory power regarding the nature of the universe, and the nature of the universe can offer no support to the PSR.

One Brow said...

wrf3 said...
They aren't my own, although since I'm a mathematician by education perhaps I'm more familiar with them. They're the basic rules of logic. You start with "atomic" truths (i.e. truths which cannot be further divided into smaller truths) and, using the rules of logic, combine them into larger true objects. One of the things you cannot do is start with a large compound truth and use it to prove a smaller truth. Proofs go from smaller to larger; not larger to smaller. To hide what you're trying to prove at the start of a proof is to commit the problem of circular reasoning.

I'm going to disagree on that direction. Logical/mathematical proofs, in some sense, always contain the conclusions within the assumptions. We don't consider the proof circular if the reasons for the conclusion are divided among the different assumptions. You can see this clearly enough if you envision proofs as constructions of Euler diagrams. The object being proved is the smallest region, tucked inside the larger region of the assumptions.

Every proof of the existence of God must contain the existence of God in the assumptions, just like every proof of the Pythagorean Theorem contains the Pythagorean Theorem in the assumptions. The proof is just make a result of the assumptions clear.

John Mitchel said...

"For example, if one proton behaved differently from any other proton, people would still apply the PSR to say there must be a reason for the difference in behavior. IF the PSR has equal applicability to a universe that is unintelligible (...)"

If the universe is unintelligible, then the PSR is wrong. Thats it.

"then it offers no explanatory power regarding the nature of the universe, and the nature of the universe can offer no support to the PSR."

I dont understand why you seem to think the PSR has 'explanatory power'. The PSR states that there are reasons for why things are the way they are. It does not attempt to offer any explanation of the things themselves. It just claims there are explanations. And if that is not the case, then the PSR is simply wrong.

SteveK said...

>>> "Many of today's best computational algorithms, like methods for searching the internet, are based on randomization."

Searches have an intended goal, or objective. It's not a process that is grounded in randomness, rather it's a process that is grounded in being ordered toward the objective. It uses randomness but that isn't the same thing.

wrf3 said...

SteveK wrote: Searches have an intended goal, or objective.
Nature doesn't work like that. Light, for example, takes all paths from point A to point B, but the probability amplitude wavefront cancels itself out for most paths. Nature is bizarre. It doesn't conform to our fundamental intuitions.

wrf3 said...

OneBrow: Logical/mathematical proofs, in some sense, always contain the conclusions within the assumptions

Sure. The Pythagorean theorem implies that space is flat. Everything is connected.

We don't consider the proof circular if the reasons for the conclusion are divided among the different assumptions.
Right. What's the difference between a conclusion and an assumption? Why do we start with "space is flat" and reason to "the sum of the squares of the measures of the sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the measure of the hypotenuse" instead of the other way around?

The proof is just make a result of the assumptions clear
No. The assumptions are clear because they are assumptions. That's why they are stated up front instead of being uncovered by a "proof".

That's why these existence proofs of God are so maddeningly misguided. You don't prove what you assume. Furthermore, if Christians believe in "divine simplicity", then God -- by His Nature -- is the ultimate assumption. He is the building block, as it were, out of which everything else is made. You don't build something out of Lego's and go, "ta da! See? Lego's therefore exist."

wrf3 said...

Legion of Logic: People seem to assign guilt or innocence based more on their own personal biases than on evidence, so I would expect atheists to reject such proof were it provided

s/atheist/theist/

There is a difference between a "just so" story (which is what is told in a court of law) and a rigorous proof. Atheists and theists are united in that there are infinitely many primes or that the square root of two is an irrational number.

wrf3 said...

bmiller: It seems that you've agreed with me that the world is intelligibile.

No, I agreed that people perceive the world as intelligible. The problem is that our perceptions aren't 100% reliable, especially since the more we study Nature, the more "unreasonable" it becomes. Nature contains signal and noise, order and chaos. We have the ability to make sense out of order but not with chaos. We try with the latter but, in the end, Rorschach inkblots are just inkblots.

Are you arguing that evolution is a computational algorithm?
Not here, since it's a distraction from the main point. But such an argument could easily be made. But I'd have to deal with the objection that "but computation has a goal and goals require designers". Nature doesn't work like you think it does. Nature tries everything. If something sticks, it sticks.

David Brightly said...

Well, the point is that 'proofs' in courts of law remain within the bounds of everyday understandings that we all share. Or take detective fiction. At the start we don't know who the murderer is but after Holmes or Poirot etc have done their deductive stuff we know and understand. Perhaps the author of Victor's textbook prefers to keep meta-ethical accounts within the realm of common understanding.

SteveK said...

>> "Nature doesn't work like that."

Huh? If nature doesn't function non-randomly (meaning: repeatable, predicable cause/effect relationships) then science is impossible. Science is possible, therefore nature works like that.

bmiller said...

wrf3,

No, I agreed that people perceive the world as intelligible.

You're right. The context was that most people can see the order in nature, the "Logos".
But science is also based on that perception and uses it as a basic assumption as SteveK pointed out.

So one can tell they are on the wrong track if they think science concludes that nature is unintelligible. You're sawing off the branch you're sitting on so-to-speak.

wrf3 said...

SteveK: If nature doesn't function non-randomly (meaning: repeatable, predicable cause/effect relationships) then science is impossible.

bmiller: So one can tell they are on the wrong track if they think science concludes that nature is unintelligible. You're sawing off the branch you're sitting on so-to-speak.

Consider the formula for photon polarization: |ψ⟩ = α|H⟩ + β|V⟩. The formula is the rational part. But the probability amplitudes introduce randomness. The polarization of an individual photon must be determined empirically.

bmiller said...

And a particular coin toss must be determined empirically even though we know the probability of a "heads" is 1/2.

What's your point? We know that there are 2 possible outcomes and that is intelligible.

StardustyPsyche said...

"Of course there is a lot of debate about these arguments for God,"
Not among contemporary philosophers of any significant capacity to find the defects in arguments.

All arguments for god are so patently bad they can be dispatched effortlessly. The difficulty is not is showing how bad all such arguments are, that is easy. The difficulty is penetrating the willful segmented illogic of theistic philosophers and laymen.

"This is a popular belief in our culture, typically arrived at with no real study. "
False. It simply does not require much study to effortlessly show how every argument for god is patently invalid. Further study only confirms and brings more illustrations to just how bad all arguments for god are.

Legion of Logic said...

Still superior to any purported reason to be an atheist.

Starhopper said...

Legion,

I wish we could "like" comments on this blog, because your latest certainly deserves one.

Legion of Logic said...

It would be my first like ever!

Starhopper said...

Awww... Looks like someone needs a hug!

One Brow said...

John Mitchel said...
If the universe is unintelligible, then the PSR is wrong. Thats it.

Wrong in both directions. It's possible for things to have sufficient reasons that are not intelligible. It's possible to understand behavior that has no basis.

I dont understand why you seem to think the PSR has 'explanatory power'. The PSR states that there are reasons for why things are the way they are. It does not attempt to offer any explanation of the things themselves. It just claims there are explanations. And if that is not the case, then the PSR is simply wrong.

If the PSR does not describe anything at all about the universe, then why would we be discussing it? Claiming there are always reasons is an explanation of the nature of the universe. It's just one that can't be verified by any actual observation of the universe.

One Brow said...

Legion of Logic said...
Still superior to any purported reason to be an atheist.

I agree there is no reason to be an atheist. Once I see a good reason to be a theist, I'll stop being an atheist.

Legion of Logic said...

I agree there is no reason to be an atheist. Once I see a good reason to be a theist, I'll stop being an atheist.

I like the anti-PSR approach you took here.

Starhopper said...

Interesting question: Is there a difference between "seeing a good reason to be a theist" and finding a "proof of God's existence"?

I think yes, because millions of believers are quite comfortable with the idea that you can't prove that God exists. But is the reverse true? Can one believe that you cannot disprove the existence of God and still be an atheist?

Starhopper said...

Put another way, in order to be an atheist, must one assert "Without doubt, there is no God"?

wrf3 said...

One Brow: I agree there is no reason to be an atheist. Once I see a good reason to be a theist, I'll stop being an atheist.

Part of this discussion has been whether reason is/is-not primary compared to empiricism. That is, can one reason one’s way to God, or does one experience one’s way to God? I have taken the (new to me) position that reason cannot lead to God. That is, whether or not you choose to believe God exists is a free choice you can make. That is, it is not externally compelled. You either believe or you don’t.

And what I find interesting is that the Bible takes an empirical approach to encountering God, e.g. “today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.”

YMMV.

Legion of Logic said...

I have taken the (new to me) position that reason cannot lead to God.

I would say reason can lead to God, but not everyone can reason nearly as well as they think they can. And absolutely no one is infallible.

Atheists who care about converting others to atheism have quite the burden. They not only have to decisively defeat all the best arguments for God's existence, which I have yet to see even a good attempt in roughly fifteen years of debating them and reading their writings, but they also have to provide a reasonable alternative that makes atheism itself intellectually tenable. Try to disprove Christianity or any other religion all you want, that still doesn't make atheism sensible.

SteveK said...

>>> "Once I see a good reason to be a theist, I'll stop being an atheist."

You think your existence is ruled by obligations. Rational obligations of the mind being one of the most obvious. Who is obligating you? There's your sufficiently good reason.

SteveK said...

If your existence (mind) is not obligated to anything then reason is a personal construct. Logic is nothing but a person preference and it can't be said that a person reasons incorrectly because there is no obligation for one mental concept to follow from another (which is what logic is). All you can say is that you have your logic and I have mine.

StardustyPsyche said...

Legion
"They not only have to decisively defeat all the best arguments for God's existence, which"
That's the easy part, showing where the arguments for god fail. They are all so bad that the refutations are nearly effortless.

" but they also have to provide a reasonable alternative that makes atheism itself intellectually tenable."
That's easy too.

Start wherever you wish, if you feel like it. I can easily dispatch any and all arguments for god.

If you have some notions of how atheism somehow does not make sense I can clear those up in short order too.

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"Who is obligating you?"
The sense of ought is an evolved emotion, a personal sensibility that overall drives a reproductive advantage in a social species. The appearance of near universality for certain moral propositions is simply an artifact of our shared physiology.

Starhopper said...

"The sense of ought is an evolved emotion"

Once again, the reference to evolution adds nothing to the conversation. Consider the following sentence: "The sense of ought is an emotion." Note that there is no substantive difference between the edited version and the original.

This has nothing to do with whether or not evolution is "true", but rather that its inclusion is little more than smokescreen for the sneaking in of all sorts of ancillary ideas which do nothing except change the subject and befog the issue.

Legion of Logic said...

They are all so bad that the refutations are nearly effortless.

Then atheists are universally lazy and have exerted exactly zero effort, because they have yet to do so. If they had, I would have noticed.

That's easy too.

Go for it.

wrf3 said...

StardustyPsyche: If you have some notions of how atheism somehow does not make sense I can clear those up in short order too.

I'd like your comments on my post Atheism: It isn't about evidence.

In short:
1) The atheist claim is that it's about evidence is false. It isn't about evidence but how brains process data.
2) The atheist is at an evolutionary disadvantage, since our brains are wired for teleological thinking (has to be, but that's another long post). Being an evolutionary minority, the atheist is seen by the majority as defecting against the group. Therefore, based on the iterated prisoner's dilemma, it is right for the majority to punish defection. This means that the wisest course for the atheist is to adopt "protective camouflage". But they don't. Why?

John Mitchel said...

"It's possible for things to have sufficient reasons that are not intelligible. It's possible to understand behavior that has no basis."

"If the PSR does not describe anything at all about the universe, then why would we be discussing it? Claiming there are always reasons is an explanation of the nature of the universe. "

I dont think you understand what im talking about.

One Brow said...

Legion of Logic said...
I like the anti-PSR approach you took here.

Is there a good reason to think the PSR is true?

One Brow said...

Starhopper said...
Can one believe that you cannot disprove the existence of God and still be an atheist?

An atheist lack belief in God. I don't think you can prove nor disprove the existence of God/gods/a god, but I am still an atheist.

One Brow said...

SteveK said...
You think your existence is ruled by obligations. Rational obligations of the mind being one of the most obvious. Who is obligating you? There's your sufficiently good reason.

I'm obligating myself, just like any believer obligates themself.

One Brow said...

SteveK said...
If your existence (mind) is not obligated to anything then reason is a personal construct. Logic is nothing but a person preference and it can't be said that a person reasons incorrectly because there is no obligation for one mental concept to follow from another (which is what logic is). All you can say is that you have your logic and I have mine.

Logic and reason are a human constructs, and we only agree to play by the same rules to make communication easier and more straightforward. If we did not all have our own logic, then I would not be hearing Legion of Logic talk about how there are sound proofs for the existence of God, when every such proof seems to fall apart before my eyes when closely examined.

One Brow said...

John Mitchel said...
I dont think you understand what im talking about.

Perhaps not. Please elucidate.

wrf3 said...

One Brow: I'm obligating myself, just like any believer obligates themself.

The issue isn’t what you do but why you do it. What is the atheist’s basis for this? The Christian is obligated to Jesus, who obligated us to love and evangelization. What is the atheist basis for what you should do and why?

Legion of Logic said...

Is there a good reason to think the PSR is true?

Risking the possibility of talking past each other due to different definitions of PSR, can you give me an example of something that exists that does not have a reason, explanation, or cause? Even a virtual particle that pops up "without cause" is still obeying the characteristics of quantum mechanics, so even they have explanation.

Starhopper said...

"I don't think you can prove nor disprove the existence of God"

So doesn't that just make you an agnostic? Seems to me that atheism requires a definite disbelief in God.

John Mitchel said...

"Perhaps not. Please elucidate."

You deny the fact that an unintelligible universe is incompatible with the PSR. I fail to see how that could be the case.
I would think that calling sth unintelligible means that it is, in principle, impossible to understand, meaning that there is no explanation of this fact.
And if there is no explanation, then the PSR is wrong, since it claims that there is an explanation for every fact.

StardustyPsyche said...

Legion of Logic
" Go for it."
Go for what? I offered to clear up any parts of atheism that don't make sense to you. You have not stated what part of atheism doesn't make sense to you.

So, what part of atheism doesn't make sense to you?

StardustyPsyche said...

wrf3 said...
" 1) The atheist claim is that it's about evidence is false. It isn't about evidence but how brains process data."
We have vast evidence that the material structures of the brain process data. We have zero evidence that a soul or immaterial or any other such unintelligible speculation processes data. Hence, the evidence for atheism is vast in this field alone, in addition to many others.

"2) The atheist is at an evolutionary disadvantage, since our brains are wired for teleological thinking (has to be, but that's another long post). Being an evolutionary minority, the atheist is seen by the majority as defecting against the group. Therefore, based on the iterated prisoner's dilemma, it is right for the majority to punish defection. This means that the wisest course for the atheist is to adopt "protective camouflage". But they don't. Why?"
In Islamic countries they do. Here in the West we don't have to so we don't. Atheism is progressing toward the majority, as we are already the majority among many segments of the highly educated and highly intelligent. Over time the less educated and less intelligent will likely catch up.

SteveK said...

>>> "Logic and reason are a human constructs, and we only agree to play by the same rules to make communication easier and more straightforward."

In summary:
Logical fallacies are what people want them to be. Logical conclusions are what people want them to be. Rational thought is what people want them to be.

Legion of Logic said...

So, what part of atheism doesn't make sense to you?

Other than its definition, very little. But just to hit the point I was making, an atheist attempting to refute god arguments to convert someone to atheism is like attacking beer trying to convert someone to drinking wine. Making someone swear off beer does not suddenly make wine taste good.

Make atheism taste good. An explanation for how an atheistic worldview best explains why something exists rather than nothing, and why that something just so happens to have the properties to allow sentient life to emerge and conceive of God.


Atheism is progressing toward the majority, as we are already the majority among many segments of the highly educated and highly intelligent

Some of the biggest idiots I have ever known were highly educated and no doubt very intelligent. Some of the wisest I have known did poorly in school and did not go to college. Needless to say, neither education nor IQ impress me.

SteveK said...

>> "The sense of ought is an evolved emotion, a personal sensibility that overall drives a reproductive advantage in a social species."

Is this the same Stardusty Psyche that believes deceased grandfathers help cause their grandchildren to move sticks? That would explain a lot.

StardustyPsyche said...

Legion
" An explanation for how an atheistic worldview best explains why something exists rather than nothing,"
It doesn't. That is an unsolved mystery. God does not help because why does god exist rather than nothing? If one can define god as necessary then one can define quantum fields (or whatever the ultimate material turns out to be) as necessary.

Either material is a brute fact or some speculated unevidenced precursor to material is a brute fact, or there somehow is a reason for existence of something yet no human being has identified that reason.

"why that something just so happens to have the properties to allow sentient life to emerge and conceive of God."
Nobody knows that either, and again, the speculation of god doesn't help. What does this sort of god exist as opposed to some other imaginable sort of god? No human being has solved these riddles.

Atheism is just honest about what remains unsolved. Theists posit a speculation that solves nothing, only adds unknowns, and then theists pretend they have provided as solution.

Thus, atheism is fundamentally honest and theism is fundamentally dishonest. If honesty tastes better to you then that would be a reason to change drinks.

TBC...

John Mitchel said...

"If one can define god as necessary then one can define quantum fields (or whatever the ultimate material turns out to be) as necessary. "

That is a fundamentally dishonest way of dealing with an interesting question.
Everybody who took at least some hours to delve into the matter will understand why quantum fields are not a candidate for necessity.
I know Stardusty and he will, no doubt, be able to write up a whole lot of drivel to justify this nonse, so i wont bother with him but i want to say something general about this.

The theistic worldview may have many problems just like every substantial metaphysical thesis but none that cuts as deep as the problem of grounding the existence of a contingent universe.
And that brings me to the heart of the problem with non-theism, it lacks a solid metaphysical foundation. Most modern atheist philosphers argue for atheism on an empricist basis, meaning: they argue from the suffering in the world, the hiddenness of God and other facts. But noone offers a real metaphysical system that actually explains the existence of a contingent universe, its uniformity and regularity.
The 'brute facts' approach does undermine any approach to ground a metaphysical system since if there can be facts without there being reasons for these facts, then, it seems, these facts can change at any time for no reason and that defeats every coherent metaphysics.

Now might there be a non-theistic metaphysic that solves these problems? Maybe. But as Stardusty here, many atheists simply deny the problem or come up with a lot of silly verbiage that tries to detract from the problem.


SteveK said...

John Mitchel
Dusty's argument from brute facts involves material that is unchanging in the existential respect. Instead of God, Dusty argues for the reality of unchanging matter.

If you care to read through all 3000+ comments, you might want to pour yourself a stiff drink...or ten stiff drinks.

Dusty: "Matter/energy never changes in its existential respect. The evidence for this scientific fact is all around us, and is confirmed again and again in physics experiments and nuclear reactions"

John Mitchel said...

"If you care to read through all 3000+ comments, you might want to pour yourself a stiff drink...or ten stiff drinks. "

Fuck, no.

"Dusty: "Matter/energy never changes in its existential respect. The evidence for this scientific fact is all around us, and is confirmed again and again in physics experiments and nuclear reactions" "

Is that supposed to make it necessary? No, dont bother. I read such kind of stuff from Richard Carrier and it what it is. Nonsense

Legion of Logic said...

An explanation for how an atheistic worldview best explains why something exists rather than nothing

It doesn't.

Agreed. Atheism has no value here.


why that something just so happens to have the properties to allow sentient life to emerge and conceive of God

Nobody knows that either

Agreed. Atheism has no value here, either.

So right off the bat, we see that atheism has no practical advantage on the big questions. Wine is indistinguishable from beer.

And that was my request. Distinguish why atheism tastes better than theism. You provided an opinion that atheism is more "honest", and I would obviously agree if I believed science was the sum totality of admissible consideration. I don't.

God is far more elegant an explanation than any atheistic alternative. It explains everything we know about the universe, both how and why. It explains history. It explains the fundamental difference between man and even the apes. Atheism doesn't even have a guess. It can't even scratch the surface beyond "just because".

That's not even getting into the personal relationship with God - something meaningless and delusional to you due to your beliefs, but profound to me due to my experience. You consider atheism honest, I consider it tragically self-blinding.

I've heard all that before, many times, but thank you for taking the time to respond.

StardustyPsyche said...

John
"Everybody who took at least some hours to delve into the matter will understand why quantum fields are not a candidate for necessity."
Nonsense. If something can be eternal it may as well be quantum fields.
If something can pop out of nothing it may as well be quantum fields.

God adds no explanatory value because speculating god is just as incomprehensible as speculating something from nothing or speculating an eternal something.

That's why it is an unsolved mystery. There are strong objections to every speculated solution and no good solutions on offer.

"And that brings me to the heart of the problem with non-theism, it lacks a solid metaphysical foundation."
Funny, as though god speculation is a solid foundation. Ha Ha Ha.

"But noone offers a real metaphysical system that actually explains the existence of a contingent universe, its uniformity and regularity."
It is a mystery, an unsolved riddle. Nobody has any explanation whatsoever.

Atheists are honest about that mystery, theists are dishonest because in science "Nobody knows" is a perfectly acceptable answer when it is the truth. Theists feel compelled to falsely declare they have solved the unsolvable.

"The 'brute facts' approach does undermine any approach to ground a metaphysical system since if there can be facts without there being reasons for these facts, then, it seems, these facts can change at any time for no reason and that defeats every coherent metaphysics."
God is a much worse assertion of a brute fact, because god isn't a fact at all, just an idle speculation, utterly lacking in evidence. At least a brute fact of material existence has vast evidence of there at least being a material existence.

StardustyPsyche said...

Dusty: "Matter/energy never changes in its existential respect. The evidence for this scientific fact is all around us, and is confirmed again and again in physics experiments and nuclear reactions"
Right, which is why eternal material is the only evidenced solution to the mystery.

God is not in evidence.
Something from nothing is not in evidence.
Eternal material is vastly in evidences.

StardustyPsyche said...

John,
"s that supposed to make it necessary? No, dont bother. I read such kind of stuff from Richard Carrier and it what it is. Nonsense"
I suggest you ignore Carrier on this subject.

He has the idiotic view that something can come from nothing because in nothing there are no rules to prevent something from nothing therefore anything can happen, including something from nothing.

I wrote a post pointing out to him that effects occur because of causes, not because of the lack of inhibitors. A rock in space doesn't just go popping off in any old direction because there is nothing stopping it. Of course he did not publish that post.

StardustyPsyche said...

Legion,
"God is far more elegant an explanation than any atheistic alternative. It explains everything we know about the universe, "
God explains nothing, just pushes the problem back a step, and is the ugliest asserted explanation of all, because it is so dishonest.

All the same questions must be asked of god, if one is honest. If you find some self delusion for not asking those same questions of god then you are being dishonest with yourself.

If you ask all the same questions you are even worse off, because not only do you not have any explanation for the existence of god as opposed to nothing, or the order of god, or the source of god's powers, or the mechanism for his creative powers, or how he interacts with material, or why your particular god exists, or anything else...you don't even have any evidence for the existence of god at all.

If all that is somehow "elegant" to you then you are just deluding yourself, which is profoundly dishonest.

Eternal material, however, is in evidence all around us. That still does not answer the question of why there is eternal material as opposed to absolutely nothing at all, or why this sort of material is the case as opposed to any other imaginable sort of material, but eternal material has the great advantage of being the only existential assertion that is vastly in evidence all around us.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty,

Your response is typical of how atheists think of the matter, so again, I've seen it many times before. What you call delusion, I call accepting the obvious. And atheists have given me no reason to suspect my reasoning is flawed.

Again, thank you for sharing your opinion.

John Mitchel said...

Dusty: "He has the idiotic view that something can come from nothing because in nothing there are no rules to prevent something from nothing therefore anything can happen, including something from nothing."

If even you think he is being an idiot for repeatedly declaring that he has proven how a universe, such as ours, will necessarily arise out of nothing, then Carrier is in trouble.

Yes, Carrier made the idiotic assertion, that things will pop into existence, if there is no law that prevents them from doing that. Just think about it.
The idiot thinks that there are laws that somehow causally interact with things that do not yet exist and prevent them from beginning to exist.

SteveK said...

Dusty: "He [Carrier] has the idiotic view that something can come from nothing"

About that idiotic view...

Dusty: "If something can pop out of nothing it may as well be quantum fields."


Starhopper said...

I find it significant that the idea of creation ex nihilo did not start out as a scientific theory but rather as a revolutionary battle cry. The first ever mention of the concept is found in the book of 2 Maccabees. The tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes, in the midst of a campaign to wipe out Judaism, has ordered the seven sons of an unnamed mother be cruelly tortured to death for refusing to eat swine's flesh. Before their execution, their mother consoles them with the following words:

Look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being.
(2 Maccabees 7:28, my emphasis)

She assures her children that one day they will rise gloriously, while the temporarily victorious tyrant will not escape his doom.

And so it is will all the great truths of Christianity. They are not dry statistics in a textbook to be "proven" or "disproven", but are rather living words that empower those who listen.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and return not thither but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

(Isaiah 55:10-11, my emphasis)

StardustyPsyche said...

Legion
"Your response is typical of how atheists think of the matter, so again, I've seen it many times before. What you call delusion, I call accepting the obvious"
God is the opposite of obvious, rather, entirely not in evidence.

Eternal material is obvious, it is all around us.
Obviously, you never see stuff just popping into existence out of nothing.
Obviously, you never see stuff just disappearing from existence into nothing.
Obviously, you see stuff in existence all around you.

You see, hear, taste, smell, and touch eternal material every moment you are conscious, and even when you sleep. Obviously.

Where is this supposedly obvious god of yours? Did you have a dream about him? Did you experience some sort of emotional sense? Pretty vague, and easily attributable to material effects.

Can you answer these questions?
Why does god exist as opposed to absolutely nothing?
How is god ordered in such manner that he can know literally everything?
How do god's powers of knowing all everywhere actually work?
What is the mechanism for his creative powers?
What is the mechanism for how he interacts with material?
How can a god outside of time and space act over and through both space and time?
Why does this particular sort of god exist as opposed to the unbounded alternative sorts of gods that have been and could be imagined to exist?

If you can't answer these questions in what sense do you assert that your speculation of god explains anything at all?

If you refuse to even attempt to answer or acknowledge that you are as obligated to answer these question as the materialist is about material then how do you consider yourself to be an honest person at all?

One Brow said...

wrf3 said...
The issue isn’t what you do but why you do it. What is the atheist’s basis for this? The Christian is obligated to Jesus, who obligated us to love and evangelization. What is the atheist basis for what you should do and why?

The Christian obligation only attaches if you agree with the goals of God and/or want his supposed rewards, so it's still one you choose for yourself.

I choose to be moral because, as a social being, I want to make society better.

One Brow said...

Starhopper said...
So doesn't that just make you an agnostic? Seems to me that atheism requires a definite disbelief in God.

Is there a difference between that and a definite lack of belief? I have no belief in any putative God/gods/a god.

One Brow said...

John Mitchel said...
... in principle, impossible to understand, meaning that there is no explanation of this fact.

I think we are discussing the same thing. I disagree with this implication.

wrf3 said...

One Brow: The Christian obligation only attaches if you agree with the goals of God and/or want his supposed rewards, so it's still one you choose for yourself.

Maybe. You then have to get into the details of the source of our choices. According to Christian doctrine we are self-referential creatures that exist "inside" of an eternal self-referential Being. (You can de-anthropomorphize this and say that we are self-referential creatures that exist inside of Nature. We can then argue whether or not Nature is self-referential). So an interesting question to ask is: where do you end and God begins? The atheist can ask the same thing: where do you end and Nature begins? In any case, Christianity says "we love [God] because He first loved us." [1 John 4:19]

I choose to be moral because, as a social being, I want to make society better.
Define "better". Tell me who is in your society and who is out (i.e. answer "who is my brother?") Ground it in atheism, instead of drafting behind Christian influence.

John Mitchel said...

"I think we are discussing the same thing. I disagree with this implication."

Go on, then.

wrf3 said...

StardustyPsyche: We have vast evidence that the material structures of the brain process data.

Right. I agree with you.

We have zero evidence that a soul or immaterial or any other such unintelligible speculation processes data. Hence, the evidence for atheism is vast in this field alone, in addition to many others.
We don't have zero evidence. We have the evidence that there is some kind of difference between mental and physical processes, for the trivially simple reason that physical things exist (that's why they're physical) and mental things need not exist. That's why we have the never ending speculation that: 1) Everything is matter. Mental things somehow arise out of physical things. 2) Everything is mental. Matter arises somehow out of thought. 3) Mental things and physical things both exist and are somehow bound together (dualism), 4) Mental and physical things are the same (very odd) thing and differentiate depending on how we look at it.

Atheism is progressing toward the majority, as we are already the majority among many segments of the highly educated and highly intelligent. Over time the less educated and less intelligent will likely catch up.
Wishful thinking. First, the claim that atheism is progressing to the majority is questioned even by Wikipedia. Second, it ignores the fact that teleological thinking is built into our brains (it has to be). Your hope is that people will suppress it, but most people won't suppress it any more than they can their physical appetites (atheists, like incels, will always be rare). What will happen is that the object of their teleology will change. That's why paganism and forms of mystical woo seem to be increasing. And while you may like to pat yourself on the back for being oh so smart, never forget that "those of you who think you know everything are annoying to those of us who do." ;-)

wrf3 said...

StardustyPsyche wrote:

Eternal material is obvious, it is all around us.
Material is obvious. That it is eternal is not. Unless you posit an eternal bubbling universe, of which our universe is but one bubble of many, the Big Bang hints at a beginning.

Obviously, you never see stuff just popping into existence out of nothing
The Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics says that we do. See Mermin's Is the moon there when no one looks.

Where is this supposedly obvious god of yours?
He's everywhere.

Pretty vague, and easily attributable to material effects
Sure. The only way you can see an immaterial God is through material effects. That's why Scripture uses the analogy of the wind blowing through the trees. The primary material effect was the resurrection of His Son.

And what's interesting is that there are people who can't see material things. Every year when I go have my vision checked, I find the book that the doctor uses to check for color blindness. Some people just can't see some of the numbers. Doesn't mean they aren't there.

StardustyPsyche said...

"We have the evidence that there is some kind of difference between mental and physical processes"
No we don't. Brain function is a process of material. If you don't think so then get a lobotomy and see what happens, or cut out a section of your brain if you believe your thoughts could possibly be in any way something other than purely brain function, a process of the material brain.

2), 3) and 4) are woo. Woo that people have been asserting with thousands of pages of nonsense writing for thousands of years. There is nothing to it and it all breaks down under modern examination.

"Your hope is that people will suppress it,"
Nope, my hope is that eventually the understanding of the most educated and scientifically minded segment of our society with filter down. It eventually does, heliocentrism and evolution being examples.

StardustyPsyche said...

"The Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics says that we do"
More woo.

"He's everywhere"
You are everywhere delusional.

" The primary material effect was the resurrection of His Son"
Ancient magic stories.

I mean, really? This is what you base your life on? Woo physics, imagined omnipresence of an invisible being, your favorite little ancient mythology book?

SteveK said...

>>> "If you can't answer these questions in what sense do you assert that your speculation of god explains anything at all?"

Assert?? Dusty has the hutzpah to suggest that nobody in the history of mankind has thought about addressing the hard questions before. It's easy to see why people think Dusty is a troll and why he gets banned.

bmiller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Starhopper said...

Stardusty reminds me of the unlamented im-skeptical, who once haunted these spaces. He adds nothing to the conversation, other than scolding everyone in the universe except himself for being "delusional". He appears to be totally oblivious to the fact that Christianity has a 2000 year history of the greatest intellects the world has ever seen asking (and answering) the toughest questions ever posed.

Legion of Logic said...

God is the opposite of obvious, rather, entirely not in evidence.

When the permissable evidence is by definition exclusionary, then this is not surprising.

Eternal material is obvious, it is all around us.

Yup, but it also has no explanatory power and is hardly contradictory or damaging to the idea of God. Quite the opposite.


Where is this supposedly obvious god of yours? Did you have a dream about him? Did you experience some sort of emotional sense? Pretty vague, and easily attributable to material effects.

Personal testimony is universally dismissed by atheists. Let's not pretend otherwise.

Can you answer these questions?
Why does god exist as opposed to absolutely nothing?


Any argument about "god" existing for any reason is automatically a bad argument in your mind, no matter the premises. Let's not pretend otherwise.

How is god ordered in such manner that he can know literally everything?

I don't know how many things work. Ignorance of a thing's functionality does not lead to doubt of its existence or efficacy. Acknowledgement does not require understanding.

How do god's powers of knowing all everywhere actually work?

See above.

What is the mechanism for his creative powers?

See above.


What is the mechanism for how he interacts with material?

See above.

How can a god outside of time and space act over and through both space and time?

See above.

Why does this particular sort of god exist as opposed to the unbounded alternative sorts of gods that have been and could be imagined to exist?

Does this mean you find all concepts of a deity to be of similar plausibility? Most internet atheists I've dealt with do. It's a position of ignorance to think so.

If you can't answer these questions in what sense do you assert that your speculation of god explains anything at all?

Most of them were entirely irrelevant.

If you refuse to even attempt to answer or acknowledge that you are as obligated to answer these question as the materialist is about material then how do you consider yourself to be an honest person at all?

I think it's the other way around. Atheists are so, so dismissive of God. "Zero evidence". "Theists are delusional, unreasonable, irrational, anti-science", and on and on with the gibberish. This mindset betrays a certainty that theists are wrong.

For theists to be wrong, there has to be no god. For there to be no god, there has to be a sufficient materialistic explanation to make God or some other deity unnecessary. All atheists have failed to present this alternative. "I don't know, but it's not a god!" is ludicrous, particularly with how smart they think they are compared to Christians. It's quite adorable.

I'm obligated to be honest with myself. I'm not obligated to impress atheists in order to be correct.

One Brow said...

wrf3 said...
The atheist can ask the same thing: where do you end and Nature begins?

To the degree Nature exists, I am a part of Nature. Are you a person of the Godhead? If not, you are further removed from God than I from Nature.

Define "better".

I'm not sure I can do that justice, and certainly not in a blog post. Generally, I don't believe in unwillingly sacrificing individuals for society, but do believe we should act in ways to get everyone enough food, shelter, education, etc.

Tell me who is in your society and who is out (i.e. answer "who is my brother?")

To varying degrees, all humans are in my society. We are a single global population.

Ground it in atheism, instead of drafting behind Christian influence.

Will biology suffice?

More to the point, I can no more separate from my cultural prior than Christianity can from the prior mix of Roman and Jewish religion, nor Judaism from the prior pagan religions of Canaan. We aways build on what others have done.

wrf3 said...

StardustyPsyche: More woo
Are you saying that the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is woo, or that Quantum Mechanics is woo? If the former, state which interpretation of QM is correct and why. If the latter, explain the double-slit experiment.

You are everywhere delusional.
Or you are blind. We can do this all day.

imagined omnipresence of an invisible being
Just curious, but do you think there's sufficient evidence to hold that dark matter exists?

wrf3 said...

One Brow wrote: To the degree Nature exists, I am a part of Nature.

Do you control Nature, or does Nature control you? (Note that your answer to this will tie into what comes below).

Are you a person of the Godhead?
No.

If not, you are further removed from God than I from Nature
Christian doctrine holds to a union.

but do believe we should act in ways to get everyone enough food, shelter, education, etc
Commendable. Christian-like, even. But the question is why is it better? Morality is related to goal seeking behavior. What makes one goal better than another? All goals exist inside a 3-space where one axis is death and life, another axis is time preference, and another axis is group makeup. Christianity (tries to) maximize life, time, and group size. If you don't limit all of these choices, you end up with anarchy. What is the atheistic basis for limiting points in goal space? Personal whim? Strongest group?

Will biology suffice?
If you can show that we have to follow our biology. I don't think you can, since its clear from current events, for example, that some groups don't particularly like their biology. Got anything else?

More to the point, I can no more separate from my cultural prior
Why not? Is it because atheism doesn't have a moral compass and that you have to borrow from your surroundings?

StardustyPsyche said...

Starhopper
" .. He appears to be totally oblivious to the fact that Christianity has a 2000 year history of the greatest intellects the world has ever seen asking (and answering) the toughest questions ever posed."
Hilarious. All theistic philosophers spout incoherent gibberish wrapped up in sophisticated sounding language that fools the gullible masses into thinking such philosophers are doing something more than telling unintelligible fairy tales using a long collections of big words.

I can quickly and easily dismantle any arguments for god or against atheism put out by any of those supposedly great intellects.

StardustyPsyche said...

Legion,
"SP Eternal material is obvious, it is all around us.

Yup, but it also has no explanatory power and is hardly contradictory or damaging to the idea of God. Quite the opposite."
Nether does god, you are just imagining things if you think god explains why there is something rather than nothing.

Human beings simply do not have any such explanations available. It is a universal riddle unsolved by all.

"Acknowledgement does not require understanding."
Thus the speculation of god has no explanatory value. No assertions regarding the ultimate riddles of existence have any explanatory value. Atheists are just honest about that, theists are dishonest about that.

That is one of the senses religion poisons "everything". It corrodes and debases the very core of your integrity, honesty, and intellectual capacities.

"Does this mean you find all concepts of a deity to be of similar plausibility? Most internet atheists I've dealt with do. It's a position of ignorance to think so."
Dodge. Be honest, other sorts of gods, an unbounded number of them, can be speculated with equal or greater plausibility than your particular god, none of which offer any explanatory value.

" "I don't know, but it's not a god!" is ludicrous"
Strawman, another typically dishonest theistic self delusional mind trick. The real atheist position is "nobody knows for sure, but all we have in evidence is eternal material, with no evidence for an unbounded number of idle speculations such as god, so the speculation of god is a preposterous as a teapot in orbit prior to the space program, and truly ridicule-ous.

You have been communicating with atheists for a long time, yet you trot out this tired strawman, how is that anything other than dishonest in the sense of willfully self delusional?

One Brow said...

wrf3 said...
Do you control Nature, or does Nature control you? (Note that your answer to this will tie into what comes below).

Every living thing changes its surroundings, and every living thing is changed by its surroundings. So, both?

Christian doctrine holds to a union.

However, certainly not a oneness in the same way I am a part of the universe.

Commendable. Christian-like, even.

Sure. It's also Hindu-like, Buddhist-like, Shinto-like, Muslim-like, humanist-like, etc. Being mostly social creatures, humans put their social values into their belief systems.

But the question is why is it better? Morality is related to goal seeking behavior. What makes one goal better than another? All goals exist inside a 3-space where one axis is death and life, another axis is time preference, and another axis is group makeup. Christianity (tries to) maximize life, time, and group size. If you don't limit all of these choices, you end up with anarchy. What is the atheistic basis for limiting points in goal space? Personal whim? Strongest group?

I find the axes ill-defined, so I'm not sure what the limitations would be. What does an axis of "death and life" or "group size" even mean? How can something to multifaceted as time preference be put into an axis?

For the more general questions, are you asking why is it better when other people don't suffer? No specific reason, I suppose. I'm a social being valuing what makes sense for a social being to value.

If you can show that we have to follow our biology. I don't think you can, since its clear from current events, for example, that some groups don't particularly like their biology. Got anything else?

I don't know what you think "follow our biology" is supposed to mean in terms of being a single global population. That's like saying we have to follow our physics. We are a single global population, making every human a part of my society to a greater or lesser degree. If that's not enough for you, I can't understand why.

Why not? Is it because atheism doesn't have a moral compass and that you have to borrow from your surroundings?

That seems more like an attempt to score points than a serious question ("borrow", really?).

Still, our moral compass is derived from some basic tendencies that most people get as social creatures, from how we are raised, and from our culture generally. So, of course I adopt these things, as did you and every other human. Being an atheist doesn't change that.

One Brow said...

wrf3 said...
Just curious, but do you think there's sufficient evidence to hold that dark matter exists?

The only reason the term "dark matter" exists is because of behavior indicating the existence of some creating gravity that was not otherwise detectable. The something causing the gravitation exists. Whether that matches your mental image, or mine, of "dark matter", is a different question.

One Brow said...

Starhopper said...
He appears to be totally oblivious to the fact that Christianity has a 2000 year history of the greatest intellects the world has ever seen asking (and answering) the toughest questions ever posed.

Vallicella gets a lot wrong, but one of the things he right about is that the really interesting questions never get final answers; they produce interesting discussions instead.

Starhopper said...

"the really interesting questions never get final answers"

Exactly right! The same is the case for genuine science as well. Last week at my astronomy club's monthly meeting, our guest speaker was a planetologist studying Pluto. She mentioned how every question they answered inevitably brought out three more questions that previously no one even knew to ask.

Incidentally, that is why I do not regard creationism as a science. Yes, it answers questions, but it does not lead to the "next" question. And that is the hallmark of True Science - forever exposing not our knowledge, but rather our ignorance.

wrf3 said...

Starhopper: ... and that is the hallmark of True Science - forever exposing not our knowledge, but rather our ignorance.

So is a Theory of Everything either not possible (if so, why?) or, if found, not science?

wrf3 said...

One Brow wrote: ... because of behavior indicating the existence of some creating gravity that was not otherwise detectable

So our brains are so constructed to look for explanations for behavior, whether it is astronomical or local; particles or people. That something isn't seen isn't reason to discount it. Whether that source is, in principle, seeable or unseeable is, then, one of first principles. Agree or disagree?

Starhopper said...

"So is a Theory of Everything either not possible (if so, why?) or, if found, not science?"

Unless I am not understanding the TOE correctly, it appears that the term may be something of a misnomer. If found, the TOE would not explain everything, but would "only" (!) provide a single framework for the various models we currently use in physics. It basically says nothing about all the other sciences (unless you're one of those rather tiresome people who believe that everything is physics).

But even under those constraints, I am certain that its discovery would only lead to a whole new raft of questions for the next generation of physicists to ponder.

"And whether we delve baffled into the unknown smallness of the small, or whether we peer, blind and helpless, into the unknown largeness of the large, it is the same - infinity is comprehensible only to the Infinite One: the all-shaping Force directing and controlling the Universe and the unknowable Sphere. The more we know, the vaster the virgin fields of investigation open to us, and the more infinitesimal becomes our knowledge."
(Orlon of Norlamin, from Skylark Three by E.E. Smith, PhD, 1934)

wrf3 said...

One Brow: Every living thing changes its surroundings, and every living thing is changed by its surroundings. So, both?
On one level, sure. But is there a fundamental unchangeable part of Nature?

However, certainly not a oneness in the same way I am a part of the universe.
I'm not sure I agree with that, but I'm also not sure I'm (yet) able to cogently defend my position.

Being mostly social creatures, humans put their social values into their belief systems.
Right, cf. Axelrod's "Evolution of Cooperation". But there's instinct (what we do due to evolution) and there's reason (what we do because we've figured something out). If atheism is concerned with reason, one would think that "instinct" would not be an acceptable answer for behavior.

I find the axes ill-defined
Life is the precondition for our making decisions, death ends individual decision making. So war, murder, abortion, would be on the "death" end. Peace and birth would be on the "life" end. Just some examples among many. Time preference would vary between short-term outlook and long term outlook. Focus on the quarter's earnings instead on long-term sustainability. Forego a cookie now for two cookies later. Group preference determines who we cooperate with/defect against. "Meat is murder" can arise by putting animals into the group of "human". "Demonizing an opponent" would be an example of putting someone in the out group.

That's like saying we have to follow our physics.
Well, we do have to follow our physics. "Two hundred eighty six thousand two hundred eighty two miles per hour. It's just not a good idea, it's the law." So, are there ideals for human behavior, or is it just instinct?

If that's not enough for you, I can't understand why.
Sure. If there's no ideal behavior, then it's personal whim based on instinctive behavior. The problem, then, is what happens when two differing instincts clash. What then?

("borrow", really?).
Didn't you just say that you take your cues from the dominant local culture?

Still, our moral compass is derived from some basic tendencies that most people get as social creatures, from how we are raised, and from our culture generally
Why, yes, you did say "borrow", if not the exact word.

Being an atheist doesn't change that.
Hence a problem with atheism. If you grew up in a murderous authoritarian society (e.g. North Korea), it would be perfectly fine. Now, I know that those are provocative words. But tell me if, and how, atheism can rise above tribalism, instinct, and biology.

SteveK said...

>>> "Sure. If there's no ideal behavior, then it's personal whim based on instinctive behavior. The problem, then, is what happens when two differing instincts clash. What then?"

Regarding logic and reason, he agrees it's based on personal preferences. You're trying to reason with a person who says there is no ideal way to reason. You have your way and he has his.

One Brow:"Logic and reason are a human constructs, and we only agree to play by the same rules to make communication easier and more straightforward."

wrf3 said...

SteveK: You're trying to reason with a person who says there is no ideal way to reason.

I would phrase it a bit differently. Reason is just mechanical operations on data. All logic is just repeated sequences of combination and selection. Reason just combines axioms of truth the way nature combines elementary particles into atoms, atoms into molecules, ... So I would say I'm trying to reason with a person who says that there are no ideals, no preferred directions in nature -- at least when it comes to human behavior. If there are, all he has to do is ground it outside of individual preference.

You have your way and he has his.
So does sodium and so does water. If he's going to be consistent, he's going to have to say "well, if they combine and explode, then that's ok, and if they stay apart, that's ok too. But we humans shouldn't try to put them together, and we shouldn't try to keep them apart. We should just let nature take its course.

"Logic and reason are a human constructs...
I would say that they are physical constructs that humans happen to find convenient to use. A Platonist would say they are more than that.

wrf3 said...

One Brow wrote: It's also Hindu-like...

P.S. I've lived with Christian society, post-Christian secular society, Hindu society, and folk-Muslim/atheist society. Hindu society has no respect for human life. A Hindu co-worker once lamented that the U.S. didn't nuke Pakistan in our hunt for bin Laden. When I observed that the fallout would kill thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of his countrymen, his response was, "So what? They're disposable people." Hindu society has a much smaller in-group setting than Christian society.

wrf3 said...

StardustyPsyche claimed: I can quickly and easily dismantle any arguments for god or against atheism put out by any of those supposedly great intellects.

Will you please clarify your statement?

Is it that you can dismantle any and all arguments for God or against atheism? That is, you believe there is no proof whatsoever for God or against atheism?

Or is it that there is an existing proof for God or against atheism that has been provided by someone outside of the set of "supposedly great intellects"? If so, what is it?

Or is it that there might be an argument for God or against atheism that could be provided by some greater intellect? Like whether or not P equals/does not equal NP, it's an open question?

Starhopper said...

I've occasionally wondered whether belief in reincarnation devalues human life. "After all, they're just going to be reborn anyway. Why fuss too much over this particular death?"

Legion of Logic said...

Yawn, Stardusty. Yawn.

True, my answers are rather flippant. I'm not having an in-depth, serious discussion on this with you because I've seen you in action for quite some time now. When you are obviously wrong, you are incapable of seeing it, or perhaps admitting it. This means that a serious conversation will never take place on this subject.

You honestly believe that you can dismantle every argument for God (which grammatically is capitalized, a simple thing that your refusal to do so says a lot about your objectivity and ability to reason fairly), which would make you the very first person in history not only capable of doing so, but also the laziest person in history for never doing so. Your supreme confidence in your own powers of reasoning are also not indicative of a possibility of real conversation. We can just skip to "You're wrong." "No, you."

As soon as you call someone delusional or irrational for having a belief, that is a symptom of certainty. You KNOW there is no god if you call someone deluded for believing so, or you KNOW that there is a far more likely explanation. If that wasn't the case, you would settle for calling them mistaken. You, like apparently all anti-theists, are as certain as any theist could ever hope to be. That there is no god, that you are a superior being of reason. Yet you can't even show a single argument for why atheism has any sort of superior explanatory power. Delusional, indeed.

As an atheist committed to excluding any possible evidence for God, you will not allow any interpretation of any piece of evidence that supports belief in him. You will reject all personal testimony. You already believe you have defeated all arguments for God, despite not having done so. In short, right out of the gate there is absolutely no chance of me convincing you of even a minor point, quite independently of the validity of anything I say.

If your behavior was in any way atypical of the atheistic certainty that swarmed the internet after 9/11, I might attempt a real dialogue. But it's all the same unjustifiable arrogance and misrepresentation of both theists' and atheists' beliefs. The former, because you don't actually take them seriously due to your certainty, and the latter because what your group always describes as a mere "lack of belief" is anything but. We both know it's true, so there's no reason attempting to appear hyper-rational and objective.

Let's just be honest, shall we? I certainly have been.

wrf3 said...

Legion of Logic wrote: ... superior explanatory power...

My problem with the way you use this is that you haven't unambiguously defined what "superior" means. Just because there is an explanation doesn't mean the explanation is true (sometimes a "just so" story is just a story). And then you have to define what measure of truth you're using. One sense of "true" is "logically conforming to a set of axioms". Another sense of true builds on the first sense by adding "and accurately describes reality (whatever that happens to be)". I would hope that both atheists and theists would not consider the first usage to be what is meant when talking about God. After all, Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries are true in the first sense, but not true in the second sense (which geometry is true in the second sense depends on the amount of matter in the universe, since matter curves space).

So the so-called "proofs" of God's existence depend on axioms that are congruent with Nature. And they simply either aren't, or don't have to be.

You're absolutely right about the hole in StardustyPsyche's apparent position. If there are no proofs/disproofs of God's existence, then atheism, agnosticism, and theism are logically free choices. He can't then call us delusional, irrational, or stupid for making a logically free choice. Unless he could then show how this logically free choice is denied by empiricism. But he can't do that, either. Furthermore, making a logically free choice is to live by faith, and we know which worldview has the corner on that market.

SteveK said...

>>> "As an atheist committed to excluding any possible evidence for God, you will not allow any interpretation of any piece of evidence that supports belief in him."

I wonder...what evidence would convince Dusty?

Legion of Logic said...

wrf3,

I'm not engaged in an actual debate at the moment, so I'm flying with a lot more casual commentary and rhetoric than I otherwise would. Formalities are for actual conversations where ideas are exchanged and fairly considered.

Starhopper said...

Hmm... I just went back over this entire thread - every comment. My own first comment was way up front (the forth in the entire series), in which I listed seven reasons why I believe in God - seven "proofs" of His existence. Having nothing else to do this evening, I conducted a thought experiment and asked myself, "What if I were wrong in all seven propositions? What then?" The surprising answer was definitely not atheism, but rather Buddhism. (I have always considered Hinduism to be the only reasonable alternative to Christianity).

But as I said, it's just a thought experiment. I haven't yet found a convincing reason to disbelieve any of my seven reasons to be a Christian. But I now have to take Buddhism more seriously than I ever had before.

StardustyPsyche said...

Legion,
"As soon as you call someone delusional or irrational for having a belief, that is a symptom of certainty. You KNOW there is no god "
Strawman.

When an unintelligent person makes such a blatant mischaracterization we consider his lack of intelligence.

When an ignorant person does so we can consider lack of education.

When an intelligent educated person does so then a lack of honesty, a corroded and debased character is on the table.

You are delusional when you assert you have solved the unsolvable, explained the unexplainable. I clearly stated that, but religion eats away at honesty and integrity so you trot out another strawman that being personally convinced there simply is some sort of god is delusional.

"As an atheist committed to excluding any possible evidence for God"
Another dishonest strawman.
You are probably a very honest person in most aspects of your life. But religion poisons "everything", as you have clearly been poisoned into strawman after strawman after strawman.

If you were a stupid or ignorant person it would be unlikely to be an issue of dishonesty, but since you have such long experience on these subjects the poisonous effect of religion that drives you to the fundamentally dishonest claim that you have explained the unexplainable has eaten away at your integrity to the point that you only have strawmen left to say.

Starhopper said...

"As an atheist committed to excluding any possible evidence for God"
Another dishonest strawman.


OK, Stardusty, I'll bite. You have stated that an atheist excluding any possible evidence for God is a "strawman". So... what is the evidence you would accept as proving God's existence? If you cannot name something, then there is no strawman - just reality.

StardustyPsyche said...

Starhopper,
" So... what is the evidence you would accept as proving God's existence?"
The only things that can be proved are directly related to cogito ergo sum.

The strawman Legion, who very sadly has clearly been poisoned into a debased state of lack of integrity by the religious claim to be able to explain the unexplainable, presents is that I supposedly "exclude any possible evidence for god"

Evidence for X is very different than proving X.

You have not claimed extensive interactions with atheists over the years that I know of, perhaps you have elsewhere but I am not aware of such, so I prefer to keep the corrosive effects on the integrity of the individual inflicted by religion off the table for now with respect to your badly malformed question.

In short, I suspect you just didn't know any better than to ask such a badly worded question.

bmiller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bmiller said...

Stardusty,

The only things that can be proved are directly related to cogito ergo sum.

And the only thing that can be proved directly from that is Solipsism. Anything else?

Because you've been claiming that Legion has been dishonest when his point all along has been that atheists haven't provided a more reasonable explanation of the way things are compared to theists. If you think Solipsism is the honest truth, who do you think you're arguing with?

wrf3 said...

Legion of Logic: I'm not engaged in an actual debate at the moment ...

Fair enough. Still, a thoughtful response to my post at July 23, 2019 12:29 PM would be very helpful.

StardustyPsyche said...

bmiller,
" If you think Solipsism is the honest truth, who do you think you're arguing with?"
What I think and what I can prove are two very different things. I am strongly personally convinced of the basic reliability of the human senses, and that there is no god. But I can prove neither.

That is the atheist position for virtually all public atheists, those of us who write or speak publicly on the logic and philosophy atheism.

However, religion, not necessarily all notions of god such as a non-personal deity, but theistic religion of most practiced sorts is very different in its claims. Theists typically claim to have explained the most fundamental questions that have perplexed mankind for thousands of years.

Any person who is at once intelligent, educated, and honest quickly realizes that no human being can explain why there is something rather than nothing, nor is any explanation available for why the particular sort of something that does in fact exist, exists.

But religion, theism as it is typically held and practiced, claims to have explained the unexplainable. That is a core reason that religion tends to attract the unintelligent, uneducated, and dishonest, and why the intelligent, educated, and honest people tend to not be religious, particularly among theists who engage publicly.

The average theist might no even think about the ultimate explanations very much, if at all, so for them, the corrosive effects of holding and defending a falsehood are not a major factor. But for internet theists the situation becomes critical, because the more one claims to have explained the unexplainable the more dishonest the individual becomes.

Legion seems like a really nice and thoughtful guy, but because he has taken on for himself the defense of the indefensible he has lost the intellectual integrity needed to accurately characterize the position of the other side, and thus can only trot out strawman after strawman.

wrf3 said...

StardustyPsyche wrote: I am strongly personally convinced of the basic reliability of the human senses, and that there is no god.

Assuming the basic reliability of our senses, science is not on your side. This article shows that people are wired to think teleologically. People with Asperger's are an exception in that their wiring prevents seeing meaning. Atheists, however, see teleology, but then suppress it. See also the work of Catherine Caldwell Harris.

One Brow said...

wrf3 said...
So our brains are so constructed to look for explanations for behavior, whether it is astronomical or local; particles or people. That something isn't seen isn't reason to discount it. Whether that source is, in principle, seeable or unseeable is, then, one of first principles. Agree or disagree?

While "constructed" is loaded language, our brains do develop that way, for the most part. As for whether something needs to be "seen", there are observable effects of dark matter, so at most you might say something does not need to be directly seen, but can be posited based on indirect observations, and even then only to a limited degree.

I would agree its a first principle of science that we always look for the deeper explanation, that doesn't mean we will find one.

One Brow said...

wrf3 said...
On one level, sure. But is there a fundamental unchangeable part of Nature?

I am unaware of any part of nature that is not subject to change, even if that change. IIRC, photons can dissolve into pairs of particles, or be absorbed into other things.

Right, cf. Axelrod's "Evolution of Cooperation". But there's instinct (what we do due to evolution) and there's reason (what we do because we've figured something out). If atheism is concerned with reason, one would think that "instinct" would not be an acceptable answer for behavior.

Atheism, in and of itself, is not concerned with anything; it is a simple lack of belief in supernatural beings. Different atheists come up with different notions of what reason is, the amount of our behavior that is the result of reason, etc., much as different Christians come up with different answers. Some atheists believe in a non-material soul, for example.

If you are asking me in particular, I see reason as a learned behavior, following rules we learn from prior generations.

Life is the precondition for our making decisions, death ends individual decision making. So war, murder, abortion, would be on the "death" end. Peace and birth would be on the "life" end. Just some examples among many. Time preference would vary between short-term outlook and long term outlook. Focus on the quarter's earnings instead on long-term sustainability. Forego a cookie now for two cookies later. Group preference determines who we cooperate with/defect against. "Meat is murder" can arise by putting animals into the group of "human". "Demonizing an opponent" would be an example of putting someone in the out group.

Thank you for the explanation. There is no "atheistic basis" for decisions on these axes, and many atheists will come to different answers. There are pro-war atheists and anti-war atheists, pro-choice and anti-abortion, those who focus on the short term and the long term, ethical vegan and racists; this is much the same as for Christians and other theists. With both groups, AFAICT, people decide what feels better, and then rationalize those decisions into a format they can claim comes from reason. In fact, if every position you think of as a moral position is also an position you are comfortable with, that's a good sign reason played no part in deciding your morality.

So, are there ideals for human behavior, or is it just instinct?

Cultural ideals obviously exist. People apply personal ideals. What sort of ideals did you have in mind?

Sure. If there's no ideal behavior, then it's personal whim based on instinctive behavior. The problem, then, is what happens when two differing instincts clash. What then?

I'm not sure how this tangent connects back to us being a single global population, making every human a member of my society to some degree, which was the context of what I said.

However, I do find the notion that "there is no ideal behavior" to be highly questionable, at least in need of some very serious caveats.

Didn't you just say that you take your cues from the dominant local culture?

You think I'm not a part of my dominant local culture? I am as much an owner of it as anyone else.

Why, yes, you did say "borrow", if not the exact word.

So, you think you borrowed your morals from your local culture, as well?

Being an atheist doesn't change that.
Hence a problem with atheism. If you grew up in a murderous authoritarian society (e.g. North Korea), it would be perfectly fine. Now, I know that those are provocative words. But tell me if, and how, atheism can rise above tribalism, instinct, and biology.


From what I can see, neither atheism nor any sort of theism can rise above tribalism, that sort of thinking comes on a different sort of axis. It comes from exposure, education, exhortation, and cultural evolution over generations.

One Brow said...

SteveK said...
Regarding logic and reason, he agrees it's based on personal preferences. You're trying to reason with a person who says there is no ideal way to reason. You have your way and he has his.

As usual, you have a talent for contradicting the very evidence you put forward.

One Brow:"Logic and reason are a human constructs, and we only agree to play by the same rules to make communication easier and more straightforward."

We can't be playing by the same rules if "You have your way and he has his" is in effect.

One Brow said...

wrf3 said...
P.S. I've lived with Christian society, post-Christian secular society, Hindu society, and folk-Muslim/atheist society. Hindu society has no respect for human life. A Hindu co-worker once lamented that the U.S. didn't nuke Pakistan in our hunt for bin Laden. When I observed that the fallout would kill thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of his countrymen, his response was, "So what? They're disposable people." Hindu society has a much smaller in-group setting than Christian society.

I've also lived in a Christian society. Which of these do you think is true?
1) I have never heard a Christian refer to other citizens of his own country as disposable or undesirable.
2) I regularly hear Christians refer to other citizens of his own country as disposable or undesirable.

I have also worked with several Hindu people. Which of these do you think is true?
1) They regularly refer to the people of their country as disposable.
2) They talk about their fellow citizens with respect and appreciation.

So, do I trust my experiences, or your anecdote?

One Brow said...

Starhopper said...
I've occasionally wondered whether belief in reincarnation devalues human life. "After all, they're just going to be reborn anyway. Why fuss too much over this particular death?"

Replace "they're just going to be reborn anyway" with "they will go to heaven anyway", and ask yourself if you would be offended by that statement. If you come back with 'it's more complicated than that' for Christianity, I would mention that the same is true of Hinduism and Buddhism. People of all religions, and none, value life.

SteveK said...

>>> "We can't be playing by the same rules if "You have your way and he has his" is in effect."

I don't see any reason to think that you're playing by the same rules.

wrf3 said...

One Brow: Replace "they're just going to be reborn anyway" with "they will go to heaven anyway", and ask yourself if you would be offended by that statement.
I won't be offended, but I will claim false equivalence.
If you come back with 'it's more complicated than that' for Christianity, I would mention that the same is true of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Whether or not you think two completely different principles is "more complicated" is up to you. But the law of Karma ("you get what you deserve") is different from the provision of grace to those whom God chooses to save. So, "they're going to be reborn anyway" is a direct application of Karma. "They're going to heaven anyway" isn't a direct application of Christianity.
People of all religions, and none, value life.
There are two issues here. Whether or not life should be valued and whether or not life is valued. That is, whether or not there are fixed ideals/goals that we ought to follow, then whether or not we actually manage to follow them.

So we're back to the question: are there any ideals in atheism, that are grounded in atheism, and are universally applicable?

wrf3 said...

One Brow: So, do I trust my experiences, or your anecdote?
It depends. Is experience all we have when it comes to questions of goals? (cf. my comment at "July 24, 2019 2:27 PM")

wrf3 said...

One Brow: I am unaware of any part of nature that is not subject to change
Fundamental constants, such as the speed of light, may be unchangeable. Schrödinger's equation may be unchangeable. In any case, I'm more interested in that part of nature that changes, but which the individual cannot effect. The value that a quantum observable takes when measured is not something under our control (that's why QM doesn't lead to superluminal signaling). So, at the most fundamental level, Nature controls you.

Atheism, in and of itself, is not concerned with anything.
Then why do Atheists which to propagate atheism and tear down theism? They act as if there are ideals for human behavior that theists violate.

With both groups, AFAICT, people decide what feels better, and then rationalize those decisions into a format they can claim comes from reason.
Sadly, I have to agree with you. For Christians, this is certainly not what they should do.

In fact, if every position you think of as a moral position is also an position you are comfortable with, that's a good sign reason played no part in deciding your morality
"Love your enemy", "Do good to those who persecute you", "Give him your cloak, also", "take up your cross and follow me", ... are thoroughly uncomfortable.

What sort of ideals did you have in mind?
Something external to man, which are as universal in intent as, say, the law of gravity is in action.

However, I do find the notion that "there is no ideal behavior" to be highly questionable, at least in need of some very serious caveats.

Ok, why? And what are the caveats?

So, you think you borrowed your morals from your local culture, as well?
Heavens, no. The US is most definitely not a Christian country. The opposite is true. The US has partly borrowed from Christian culture and whatever of Christianity remains is being diluted.

One Brow said...

wrf3 said...
I won't be offended, but I will claim false equivalence.

Making a claim is different from substantiating it.

But the law of Karma ("you get what you deserve") is different from the provision of grace to those whom God chooses to save. So, "they're going to be reborn anyway" is a direct application of Karma. "They're going to heaven anyway" isn't a direct application of Christianity.

First, since the context of this comment was the valuing of human life, even if you were correct regarding the directness of the application, it's not relevant to how it effects the valuation of human life.

However, for a person so insistently focusing on goals, you seem to have conveniently missed the application of goals to this tangent. Going to heaven is goal of Christianity, reincarnation is not a goal of Hinduism.

So we're back to the question: are there any ideals in atheism, that are grounded in atheism, and are universally applicable?

I'm not sure why my previous answer was insufficient. 'There is no "atheistic basis" for decisions on these axes, and many atheists will come to different answers.'

It depends. Is experience all we have when it comes to questions of goals? (cf. my comment at "July 24, 2019 2:27 PM")

While an abstract analysis of goals has its uses, we also need to account for the reality of how people internalize and express these ideals. The better way to decide if "Hindu society has a much smaller in-group setting than Christian society" is to observe if people from Hindu society actually act as if they have a smaller in-group setting. AFAICT, they don't.

One Brow said...

wrf3 said...
Fundamental constants, such as the speed of light, may be unchangeable.

1) Fundamental constants are a description of nature, not a part of it.
2) The speed of actual light wavicles does vary from medium to medium.

So, at the most fundamental level, Nature controls you.

I agree.

Then why do Atheists which to propagate atheism and tear down theism? They act as if there are ideals for human behavior that theists violate.

Atheists, like theists, are often motivated by desires that have nothing to do with their (lack of) religious beliefs. It was only 30 years ago that a POTUS declared atheists couldn't be proper american citizens, and no one cared besides atheists. As few as 20 years ago, atheists were less trusted than used car salesmen. So, many atheists see conversion as a pathway to broader social acceptance, as well as being good for the converted (not a position I endorse).

As I said above, different atheists may have widely varying beliefs.

Sadly, I have to agree with you. For Christians, this is certainly not what they should do.

I did sense a kindred spirit within are disagreements.

"Love your enemy", "Do good to those who persecute you", "Give him your cloak, also", "take up your cross and follow me", ... are thoroughly uncomfortable.

More so when they are put into action than when stated in text, I'm sure we agree.

Something external to man, which are as universal in intent as, say, the law of gravity is in action.

Personally, I have trouble seeing how that which is created by humans can be external to humans.

Ok, why? And what are the caveats?

Aye, there's the rub. It's one thing to say that it feels wrong to say there are no ideals, but pining down those ideals that may exist is a tricky thing. At a minimum, since I am related to all humans, I suppose considering all humans to be part of my extended family is a start. Still, there are parts of my more immediate family I'm not very fond of ...

Heavens, no. The US is most definitely not a Christian country. The opposite is true. The US has partly borrowed from Christian culture and whatever of Christianity remains is being diluted.

I don't think there has been a single Christian culture since the first century. Outside of that, I largely agree.

wrf3 said...

One Brow: it's not relevant to how it effects the valuation of human life.
I agree. Since the question contained facts not in evidence, I didn't go on to the next part. Too, since I don't know how to go from what we see in Nature to value statements, any answer I would give would involve revelation from God, which isn't something you would accept. All I can say is that I think Christianity uses the three "knobs" of life, eternity, and all mankind for guiding the search through goal space.

However, for a person so insistently focusing on goals, you seem to have conveniently missed the application of goals to this tangent.
First, one has to establish the goals. Second, it would be nice to have an explanation for the goals. Third, it would be nice to know if the goals are universal or (i.e. something everyone ought to do, something a particular group ought to do, or something left up to individual whim). Then we can talk about application. But the last part is the easy part to talk about.

Going to heaven is goal of Christianity
Actually, it isn't. The goal is to glorify God. In any case, that's a tangent we need not pursue, unless you want to.

'm not sure why my previous answer was insufficient.
Because you also said, "It's one thing to say that it feels wrong to say there are no ideals..."

Is this a case where emotion precedes logic, or is there a rational case to be made for universal ideals within atheism?

As few as 20 years ago, atheists were less trusted than used car salesmen
Surely it's easy to see why. Doctors, for example, are trusted, at least in the West, because they have a communal standard of care. We distrust individual doctors when they don't live up to that standard. Christians have a communal standard of behavior. We distrust individual Christians when they don't live up to that standard. If a large (for some definition of large) number of individuals betray their trust, then we begin to distrust the community in spite of their standards. But, for atheists, there is no apparent standard. In fact, it appears that there is an "anti-standard". YMMV.

Anyway, if you have any more questions, I'll be glad to try and answer them. I appreciate the discussion we've had.

One Brow said...

wrf3 said...
Actually, it isn't. The goal is to glorify God. In any case, that's a tangent we need not pursue, unless you want to.

That was my fault for not typing the "a", as in "a goal". However, different Christians do have different goals.

Is this a case where emotion precedes logic, or is there a rational case to be made for universal ideals within atheism?

For me, any rational case is an exercise in circularity, because any outcome of a logical argument is built into the premises, and there is no objective way to choose universal premises. However, some philosophers disagree. One of my favorite reads was Daniel Fincke of Camels with Hammers (last I checked, he was more concerned with making a living in his on-line classes than blogging, a decision that is hard to fault). He was looking at using a form of hylomorphism without the less-than-robust arguments that try to lead to some Deity, to create universal ideals based on what is good for beings.

Christians have a communal standard of behavior. We distrust individual Christians when they don't live up to that standard.

That may be the goal, but in practice, I see the opposite frequently. Jim Bakker is still around. Just yesterday, I read about a judge who gave a pastor a light sentence in a child molestation case because of his religious work. It seems to me that Christians (or at least, smaller sects of Christians) trust each other even when they don't live up to communal standards.

But, for atheists, there is no apparent standard. In fact, it appears that there is an "anti-standard". YMMV.

For me, atheists have the same standards as everyone else; the standards of the community. Some atheists, like some Christians, violate these standards.

araybold said...

The discussion here shows why we can confidently postulate that there is no proof of God's existence, and I think there's a helpful analogy to be found in cryptography.

A message encoded with a properly random one-time pad is undecipherable without the key. The proof of this rests on the fact that any possible plaintext (up to the length of the message) is a possible deciphering, and there is literally no reason to select one rather than another.

In arguments about the existence of God, the field of discourse is so broad, and the subject of the argument is so weakly defined, that a great many axioms can be proposed. Consequently, all arguments about the existence of God devolve into the question of which axioms are right, and reason will not help you with that, just as all attempts to decipher a message created with a one-time pad devolve into the question of what was the actual key, and reason cannot help you with that.

You might be thinking that the situation may indicate that one particular plaintext is most likely, but using that knowledge would not be a deciphering: in effect, one would be using empirical evidence to select what key (axiom, in the analogy) was used. What the argument for the existence of God needs, in order to make progress, is evidence that is unambiguous and persuasive to almost everybody. Bmiller, for example, finds some words in the Bible as persuasive, and that is fine, but I hope he can detach himself enough from his intuitions to see that other people might find the presence of these words moot, or even tendentious.

SteveK said...

araybold,
Your analogy starts with a rational reason to think the message is encoded, a rational reason to think a key exists. Arguing over which key is the correct one comes later. Arguments for God are similar. They start with rational reasons to think God exists before moving on to the various arguments for which God is the correct one.

Why do people think God exists? There are many reasons. Some of the strongest reasons are derived from universally shared experiences.

wrf3 said...

araybold wrote: that a great many axioms can be proposed...

True, both for the existence and non-existence of God. Since there is no rational basis for preferring one over the other, the choice(s) of axioms are free choices. You have to pick one and see where it leads. But picking among logically free choices is another word for faith, and we know which worldview says that we have to live by faith.

one would be using empirical evidence to select what key (axiom, in the analogy) was used.
So, if you manage to find a decoding that makes sense, is that not sufficient empirical evidence? Why, or why not?

is evidence that is unambiguous and persuasive to almost everybody
Why? I can make an engineering-based argument from the construction of the human brain that the opposite is true -- that we are so "wired" such that we are biased against evidence for God's existence.

araybold said...

SteveK, wrf3:
In your own ways, I think you are both missing an issue here, which is that your choice of axioms (once we have weeded out mutually contradictory ones) is not a rational one -- if you think your choice is the result of a rational deliberation, you actually have other, more fundamental axioms.

Each of you seems to think that you have come to a rational conclusion, but your conclusions disagree. I would guess that you both think, therefore, that the other has made an error of reasoning. That might be so for either or both of you, but it is also possible that both arguments are valid, given the axioms they derive from, and the difference between you lies in your choice of those axioms. In general, after all errors of reasoning are eliminated, disagreement over the choice of axioms can persist, and as I pointed out in the previous paragraph, if you think you have made a rational selection of axioms, they are not actually your axioms.

This is not true of arguments in general, because one side's axioms often end up being empirically falsified (empirical evidence introduces new axioms that can only be avoided with the likelihood of denying reality, which tends to drive away all but the most ardent supporters.) In this case, however, the concept of God is so flexible and so easily shielded from empirical verification or refutation, while at the same time being so lacking in objective evidence, that disagreement over axioms can be sustained indefinitely.

Proof is the wrong way to approach the issue; one can settle the matter, one way or the other, for oneself, but hoping to definitively put the question to rest through pure reason is a vain hope.

Consider vitalism: it has not yet been definitively disproved, but few people seem to be arguing the issue any more. Why is this so? It is because evidence (not arguments, such as the one wrf3 claims can be made about how we are wired, or the one SteveK claims can be made from universally shared experiences) has accumulated against the proposition.

araybold said...

I was meaning to add that my thoughts on this have been influenced by Aumann's agreement theorem and, in particular, whether agreement can be expected on this particular issue, and if not, why not.

SteveK said...

>> "your choice of axioms (once we have weeded out mutually contradictory ones) is not a rational one -- if you think your choice is the result of a rational deliberation, you actually have other, more fundamental axioms."

I would say it like this: Without knowledge there can be no rational thought. We are able to have knowledge of reality directly. That knowledge is what allows us to think rationally.

wrf3 said...

araybold: In your own ways, I think you are both missing an issue here, which is that your choice of axioms (once we have weeded out mutually contradictory ones) is not a rational one...

Where did I say that it was? If you'll follow the conversation here, axioms are indivisible units of truth, comprised of nothing smaller.

This is not true of arguments in general, because one side's axioms often end up being empirically falsified...
Often is not always.

with the likelihood of denying reality
What's reality, really? Do you know? How do you know?

In this case, however, the concept of God is so flexible and so easily shielded from empirical verification or refutation, while at the same time being so lacking in objective evidence, that disagreement over axioms can be sustained indefinitely.
Substitute "the concept of no God" for "the concept of God" and your sentence is equally true.

but hoping to definitively put the question to rest through pure reason is a vain hope.
Which I have said several times in this thread. IMO, there are no valid proofs of God's existence/non-existence.

It is because evidence ... has accumulated against the proposition
And what evidence might that be? Especially since one's worldview controls how one evaluates evidence. Furthermore, can you show that you've looked at all of the evidence? As the history of science has shown, all it takes is one anomaly to bring things crashing down.

araybold said...

wrf3: To deal with some specific points first:

Where did I say that it was...
I'm just making a guess as to why you (and also SteveK) seemed to be missing a point in my original post. More specifically, the comment "But picking among logically free choices is another word for faith, and we know which worldview says that we have to live by faith" seems to be oblivious to the fact that it would equally be so in any worldview. I think it is also relevant that axioms are not so much indivisible units of truth (a conjunction of axioms is still an axiom) as they are unargued beliefs.

This is not true of arguments in general...
'In general' was a poor choice; I should have written 'for the most part', Note that, in this dictionary, two definitions are given, but the examples of the first seem also to be using it in the sense of the second. I should try to avoid the use of words and phrases where the usage, in practice, does not conform to the dictionary definition.

What's reality, really?
Alas, I don't have the time to give you a complete answer here, but is it not clear, from the context, that in this particular case, all I am saying is that if a theory is clearly at odds with observations, the theory is likely to lose support from all but its most zealous adherents?

Substitute "the concept of no God" for "the concept of God" and your sentence is equally true.
Well, if you say so, then this would just be consistent with a viewpoint that we both seem to hold (see below.) To me, however, the concept of no God is pretty straightforward in comparison to the seemingly endless variations on the concept of God. There may be multitudinous arguments for the no God proposition only because there are multitudinous arguments for God, in some form or other.

Which I have said several times in this thread.
It is amusing that you are contesting almost every point I make, when we both agree on the conclusion. The fact that I am making my own argument for that point does not mean that I necessarily disagree with you.

And what evidence might that be?
I am not saying that there is any such evidence, I am saying what would be needed to move beyond an endless cycle of argument and counter-argument.

In general, I think it would help this discussion if, rather than merely attempting to pick holes in one another's arguments, we should try to understand each other's view, and recognize that our differences ultimately stem from disagreement about axioms, which cannot be resolved through pure reason. This is why I said I was influenced by Aumann's agreement theorem (even though, in this particular case, I don't think rational people will necessarily agree), and, more specifically, this commentary on it by Scott Aaronson.

wrf3 said...

araybold: ... seems to be oblivious to the fact that it would equally be so in any worldview...
The point is one worldview specifically affirms this, others ignore or deny it. Why do they ignore/deny what is true?

I think it is also relevant that axioms are not so much indivisible units of truth ... as they are unargued beliefs.
What's the difference? At some point you have to say "this is true just because". Most "arguments" are really the generation of smoke to hide the "just because" foundations.

... Alas, I don't have the time to give you a complete answer here ...
Try giving a partial answer, because what you tell me about what you think reality really is will help show what you hold to be a priori true.

... all I am saying is that if a theory is clearly at odds with observations...
How do you observe something that isn't seen?

... the concept of no God is pretty straightforward in comparison to the seemingly endless variations on the concept of God...
So it's more true because it's intellectually easier? One only has to look at the different interpretations of quantum mechanics to see that true things are often bewildering.

...In general, I think it would help this discussion if, rather than merely attempting to pick holes in one another's arguments ...
Inconsistency is a sign of error.

ultimately stem from disagreement about axioms, which cannot be resolved through pure reason
Therefore confirming what I have said from the beginning -- there are no rational arguments for/against the existence of God. The best you can hope for is to show an inconsistency of some kind stemming from the choice of axiom. It seems, however, that Nature is flexible enough to accommodate both.

This is why I said I was influenced by Aumann's agreement...
If there is no rational reason for the choice of axioms, how can there be rational reasons for choice of priors?

araybold said...

wrf3:
>The point is one worldview specifically affirms this, others ignore or deny it. Why do they ignore/deny what is true?

Who are the 'they' in the second sentence? What truth are they ignoring or denying?

>What's the difference?
I should have said that axioms are unargued propositions, though the ones we are concerned with are beliefs. I explained previously why axioms are not necessarily atomic, and beliefs are not necessarily true (also, in a valid proof by contradiction, at least one premise is false, and the concept of soundness exists specifically because premises can be false.)

>Try giving a partial answer.
Sorry, I was being facetious. Ignore that sentence and continue with the rest of the paragraph, which contains all you need to know in this particular case.

>How do you observe something that isn't seen?
Note the 'if' in the sentence you quoted - I am not claiming or assuming you can.

> So it's more true because it's intellectually easier?
No.

> Inconsistency is a sign of error.
...including misunderstandings by the questioner, apparently.

> Therefore confirming what I have said from the beginning...
You seem to be unshakable in your belief that I am disagreeing with you in all sorts of ways that I am not.

> The best you can hope for is to show an inconsistency of some kind stemming from the choice of axiom.
Once you have eliminated all the invalid arguments, you are still left with an unending supply (in this case) of those whose soundness cannot be decided from the available evidence.

> Nature is flexible enough to accommodate both.
It is not so much nature, per se, as it is a lack of good evidence for some of the premises being used.

> If there is no rational reason for the choice of axioms, how can there be rational reasons for choice of priors?
Data, if there is any. There's also the principle of indifference, though IMHO, it is used more often than I think is justified, especially in situations where the probabilities are Knightian.

wrf3 said...

araybold: Who are the 'they' in the second sentence? What truth are they ignoring or denying?
Any group that denies that faith is the foundation of rationality.

I should have said that axioms are unargued propositions, though the ones we are concerned with are beliefs
What's the difference between an "unargued proposition" and a "belief"?

I am not claiming or assuming you can [observe something that isn't seen]
Are you claiming or assuming you can't?

No. [i.e. the concept of God is not more true because it's simpler].
Then why advance it if simplicity isn't always an indicator of truth?

...including misunderstandings by the questioner, apparently.
Or the inability to clearly communicate on the part of a speaker. I can trade insults all day, but I'd rather not.

of those whose soundness cannot be decided from the available evidence.
You have to face the issue that evidence isn't evaluated in a vacuum. The chosen axiom system constrains how evidence is evaluated. Very few people (a) know what their axiom system is (after all, people do basic arithmetic without knowing the Zermelo-Frankel axioms of number theory, and whether or not they subscribe to the axiom of choice) and b) very few people are able to switch between axiom systems to get a different view of observations.

as it is a lack of good evidence for some of the premises being used
As before. Which comes first, the premise or the evidence? And, as before, how might you see something that is unseen?

There's also the principle of indifference
So have you assigned the probability of theism the same as the probability of atheism and re-evaluated evidence? If not, why not? If so, what might have dissuaded you from the theistic position? Was your evaluation accurate?

StardustyPsyche said...

wrt3
"At some point you have to say (of an axiom)"this is true just because""
No, at some point, if one has the personal sensibility of valuing logical analysis, one must say "this axiom seems true, but I cannot prove it is true, nor can I even imagine how it could not be true, nor can I even imagine how anybody could ever prove it to be true, so let's all just agree to provisionally accept this axiom as if it is true and agree by convention to proceed on that basis until such time as somebody comes along to show the axiom is not true, and if that ever happens we will need to alter all our logical work accordingly."

Thus, there is no need for faith, no need to positively assert the axiom must be true, and in all this then the materialist philosophy remains free of any circularity or unjustifiable truth claims.

araybold said...

wrf3:
> What's the difference between an "unargued proposition" and a "belief"?
Propositions are not necessarily believed - in fact, in a proof by contradiction, one starts by stating a proposition one wishes to deny. And beliefs can be argued for: I could make a case for my belief that I just typed the previous sentence.

> Are you claiming or assuming you can't observe something that isn't seen?
I have no problem with the proposition that astronomers have observed black holes, but I don't see the relevance of your questions on the matter to anything I have written here. I suspect that this is one more example of you attributing to me positions that I do not hold, but in this case, I can't guess what the misconception is.

> Then why advance it if simplicity isn't always an indicator of truth?
People generally advance beliefs because they think they are facts (i.e. justified true beliefs.) As, in your previous post, you offered an argument against the proposition that simplicity is a reliable guide to truth, it would seem you have already answered your own question.

> Or the inability to clearly communicate on the part of a speaker.
I admit that I failed to anticipate the extent that you could find, in my words, things that are not there (unseen observables, perhaps?)

> You have to face the issue that evidence isn't evaluated in a vacuum.
I wasn't aware that I was avoiding it.

> Which comes first, the premise or the evidence?
It does not matter.

> So have you assigned the probability of theism the same as the probability of atheism and re-evaluated evidence?
My position is beside the point.

Regrettably, the weekend is over and it is becoming too time-consuming to reply to your barrage of questions and non-sequiturs. I do not intend to reply to any more unless they are clearly relevant, or at least interesting.

araybold said...

wrf3:
One of my previous replies is not clear, so I will make time to fix that:

> Then why advance it if simplicity isn't always an indicator of truth?

People advance beliefs for all sorts of reasons. As simplicity is not always an indicator of truth, there is no reason for simplicity to necessarily factor into the choice to advance a belief, even for impeccably rational people. By the way, it also seems that ranking propositions by simplicity is itself a difficult thing to get agreement on, when people have an agenda.

wrf3 said...

araybold: People advance beliefs for all sorts of reasons...

I didn't ask why people advance beliefs, I asked why you prefer the concept of "no God" over the concept of "God/gods" if, as you agree, simplicity isn't always an indicator of truth?

My position is beside the point.
That's exactly the point because the reason of this overall post is to get to the "why?"

wrf3 said...

StardustyPsyche wrote: ... so let's all just agree to provisionally accept this axiom as if it is true and agree by convention to proceed on that basis...

That's what faith is. Don't know why you're disagreeing with me.

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 201   Newer› Newest»