Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Refuting Rhology: A Defense of Rationality and Reason

This composition is a rebuttal to this posting. Please note: Specially formatted passages are comments by Rhology, to whom I am publicly responding.—Ed.

In regards to everything you said,

There is no truth without examining evidence (#3). So, please provide evidence for this statement.

Let this response commence with an admission. This particular quote is somewhat problematic for me. Truth, in itself, exists quite apart from the evidences for that truth. Dinosaurs existed (and went extinct) before human primates had any evidence of dinosaurs. Neutrinos existed before we had any evidence of them. Pluto existed before we had any evidence of it. However—and I stand firmly behind this—evidence has proven to be the single most reliable method by which fallible human primates can discover truth (or its close approximation). The reason for this is the very definition of the word “evidence,” to which I later shall come. [I shall repeat this definition ad infinitum, so forgive my delay in presenting it.]

With that clarification in mind, I shall use evidence to prove that evidence is the single most reliable method by which fallible humans can discover larger truths. Let us consider the American criminal justice system as an example. Say a football star is charged with inflicting brutal, sadistic torture on innocent canines. The only reliable way to decide whether this football star is guilty or innocent is to examine the evidence in the case. Certainly, the jury arbitrarily could declare the person guilty or innocent based upon rhetorical flourishes and prosecutorial aggressiveness (or some other basis unrelated to evidence), but we surely would have many innocents rotting in jail and equally many thugs roaming the streets. “The truth” exists apart from the examination, and presence, of evidence. However, for the best chance of finding that truth, evidence is the road on which one must travel. The reason? “Evidence” is just another way of saying “the relevant facts” as they pertain to a larger truth-claim, incident, phenomenon, event, etc.

Quickly, let us consider another example. Say you (god forbid) have a relative who is gravely sick with cancer. Numerous types of treatment are available to be tried, but they must be done exclusively, rather than in combination. I have a feeling that, in this hypothetical instance, you gladly would accept that evidence (the relevant facts) is a damn good guide to reaching the larger truth about which method of treatment would have the best odds of saving your beloved relative’s life.

Every day, we all operate according to evidence—that is, according to the relevant facts. We carry an umbrella when we see storm clouds or hear a negative weather report. We go to the doctor when we feel a strange, unfamiliar lump on our body. We call the police when we see a swarthy miscreant looming outside our house in the dead of night.

Once again, to be obnoxiously repetitive and abundantly clear, “evidence” is nothing more than “the relevant facts” as they pertain to a larger, more complex truth. Through the collection and examination of the relevant facts, fallible humans grant themselves the best opportunity to capture truth—as imperfectly as we do so.

Making unsubstantiated assertions gets us nowhere (#5). So, please provide evidence that there is no truth w/o examining evidence. What is the evidence for these two statements?

As I already have admitted, in clarifying the truth-claim with which you started, the truth of any given matter simply exists, and it exists quite apart from our meager species happening upon evidence. The truth is not dependent upon primates such as we discovering it, through evidence or otherwise. [As I already have written, neutrinos existed before we were aware of them and before we had access to any evidence for them.] However, as I previously have argued—by means of presenting evidence—the relevant facts (the evidence) represent the best way to happen upon truth, and every person utilizes evidence every day precisely because it helps us make better choices about natural reality. Through evidence, we have a better chance of discovering the truth about whether it shall rain or be sunny, to beat my example to death mercilessly.

As it pertains to making unsubstantiated assertions, it generally is a masturbatory and useless exercise. I, myself, made unsubstantiated assertions to David about there being an ethereal cosmic catfish. I presented no evidence for the catfish, and I described it in vague, generalized, unfalsifiable terms. I added nothing to the dialogue in doing so, which was precisely the point of my argument. Anybody can posit anything, from TgOTB to magical elves to cosmic catfishes to Bertrand Russell’s teapot to Carl Sagan’s garage dragon. If no evidence is presented for a given assertion, one can dismiss the assertion as baseless. If, in addition to having no supporting evidence, the claim also is designed to be unfalsifiable, it goes beyond baseless and ventures into obnoxious.

As such, the atheistic position makes no truth-claims (#7). Should I consider that statement true or false? Is it or is it not part of the atheistic position?

The atheistic position has precisely one characteristic: Atheists lack a belief in god. That is all atheism says, ever has said and ever shall say. Much as I try, I cannot live up to atheism’s pure definition. My personal views and biases damn me to inject my stances in my compositions. No claims I make about natural reality should be interpreted as reflective of pure atheism, because atheism offers no positive worldview in itself. Atheism, in its pure and unadulterated form, denotes a lack and only a lack.

Where there are no truth-claims, there is no burden of proof (#8). How is this statement provable and why wouldn't you have the burden of proof as relates to it?

Some things simply are obvious; and, it should be noted, the types of “truth-claims” on which you call me out are utterly different from the types of truth-claims you yourself frivolously posit. I am advancing truth-claims of a most innocuous and nearly self-evident nature. You, on the other hand, are claiming a very specific CREATURE, which is CONSCIOUS, is EXTANT in a specifically SUPERNATURAL REALM. Then, you claim to know that creature’s NATURE and claim the creature directly INSPIRED a BOOK that is TOTALLY PERFECT. Then, you claim the creature presides over an AFTERLIFE where all people either will be REWARDED or PUNISHED for ETERNITY. This seems just a bit different from my truth-claims (which include “only through evidence can humans reliably discover truth”; “reality exists and is perceptible”; “language can convey meaning”; “absurdities exist”; “contradictions exist”; “analysis can be reasoned”; “blame can be placed”; etc.).

If somebody is not claiming something, one need not provide evidence. Why? One cannot provide evidence in support of a non-existent truth-claim. “I lack belief in god” is not a truth-claim because it is not a claim at all. Evidence does not apply to a statement which claims nothing. On the contrary, “god exists” or “god does not exist” both represent claims. “I lack belief in god” is not a claim and, thus, evidence is inapplicable (and would be patently absurd).

The burden of proof is not on the doubter (#12). I doubt that this phrase is correct, so please provide proof that it is true.

Again, these types of claims are utterly different and wholly unanalogous to your claims, which involve things like JESUS being CRUCIFIED, BURIED and RISING FROM THE DEAD. Then, you claim he subsequently WALKED AROUND for some disputed length of time before ASCENDING BODILY into HEAVEN. If the truth-claims you plucked are the best you could muster in your quick-as-a-whip response, I have been diligent in avoiding extraneous truth-claims.

As to the claim in question, I already have addressed this. In order to present “proof” for something, there must be “a something” to which proof is applicable. A true, by-the-definition doubter is not advancing anything, but merely doubting what others have advanced. To say, “I doubt what you advance” is not a truth-claim, so no evidence possibly could be applied to it and no burden of proof possibly could be levied. The burden of proof only exists when an individual states, “X is the case” or “X is not the case.” To say, “I lack belief X is the case” is to claim nothing about reality. That statement expresses lack—the utter antithesis of a positive assertion.

Without evidence, the doubter can dismiss you out of hand (#14). OK, unless you can help me out on #s 3 and 5, I'll go ahead and dismiss everything you've said out of hand.

I am confident I have supported these “truth-claims” sufficiently, and I am confident my claims were innocuous and obvious enough that this response is virtually superfluous. You are attempting to analogize my truth-claims to your own, yet they are so utterly different that you do yourself a disservice when you respond in this manner. Your response, in my view, represents a clever strategy to avoid providing the convincing evidence for which I asked in relation to your truth-claims.

Once again, if the truth-claims you outline above are the worst you could find in my 3636-word reply, I pat myself on the back for eschewing extraneous truth-claims in refuting your presuppositional philosophy.

Nature is material, finite, limited and comprehensible (#20). And you're part of nature, so why should I believe you when you presume to speak on the topic of that which is immaterial, transcendent, infinite, and beyond the bounds of knowledge?

I offer my abundant thanks for your word choice. You have done me a great favor and helped me (temporarily) avoid my characteristic verbosity. You essentially have said god is “beyond the bounds of knowledge.” Therefore, you possess no knowledge of god, because said deity is beyond knowledge’s bounds. Thusly, the discussion is concluded, with the doubter victorious.

There are infinite theoretically possible explanations for the universe’s mass-energy (#30), and attributes, by definition, are limited (#29). Hmm, not sure I can make sense of this one.

I shall make sense of it in a single sentence: Theoretically possible explanations for cosmic origins are not “attributes.”

Because that is resolved, I now shall elaborate on this whole issue. I already have given examples of attributes in my previous extended reply. I also explained why “infinite attributes” are self-contradictory and, thus, absurd. There is no such thing as a man who is “infinitely tall” and such an idea is self-defeating. To use the word “tall” to describe a man is to imply there is an end to the man’s height. If the man goes on forever into oblivion, the word “height” cannot even apply to the man. There is no such thing as a man who is “infinitely fat,” and such an idea is self-defeating. To use the word “fat” to describe a man is to imply an end to the man’s weight. If the man goes on forever outward in limitless girth, the word “weight” cannot even apply to the man. No being can be “infinitely hairy.” No being can be “infinitely muscular.” Descriptors unavoidably imply limits, and to take away limitation itself is to take away the meaningfulness of descriptors. Analogously, the words “knowledge” and “power” also imply limits, as is the case for all descriptors. The “unlimited attribute” is a fallacy…a flagrant contradiction of terms that leads inexorably to gibberish.

Here's the beef: You are an atheist, you believe that the universe has not been created by a logical, rational being who can thus provide grounds for using logic and rationality, for knowing what they are. Please provide evidence that the secretions of your brain, that the banging-around of atoms inside your skull that produce tappings on a keyboard, are meaningful. Nobody holds a bottle of lotion up to their ear to hear what it has to say about theism, yet it is no less a collection of atoms banging around than your brain.

A quick correction: Contrary to your summation, my stance much more accurately could be described as lacking belief that the universe was created by a logical, rational being. To advance being-belief would be to make a truth-claim. To categorize being-belief as false would be to make a truth-claim. I, on the other hand, simply do not possess this belief.

I really think you need to elaborate on this summation somewhat. Yes, essentially everything on this planet is composed of atoms. However, that certainly does not mean everything is the same and must be treated identically. Humans have evolved into wonderful creatures, capable of reasoning, learning, analyzing, loving, having passions, feeling joy and much else. A bottle of lotion is inanimate and vastly different from humans (and different from aardvarks and yaks, not to mention daffodils and chrysanthemums, as well). Where is the valid point of comparison, sir?

In short, you really need to explain the problem at which you are trying to get.

Gloriously, I have an answer to the conundrum - humans are made in the image of God. You'll say, "Proof?" Evidence is available, but to quote the highly-quotable Doug Wilson, I want evidence that evidence is valid. You can start by answering the questions raised above.

You seem to have constructed a strange, menacing ogre out of the word “evidence,” making it into a frightening threat to your leap of faith. Evidence, as I already have articulated ad infinitum, simply means “relevant facts” as they relate to a truth-claim, phenomenon, event, incident, etc. Doug Wilson wants me to explain why relevant facts are of use in attempting to discover larger, more complex truths? I would guess Mr. Wilson checks the Weather Channel on occasion, to learn the temperature, humidity or see the radar in his local area. That way, Wilson can dress appropriately and, perhaps, grab an umbrella as he leaves the house (surely off to do something that shall leave utterly defeated atheists in his glorious wake). I chose one small example here but, clearly, in all the rest of his life, Wilson relies upon relevant facts in order to make decisions and approximate truth on larger matters. Then, in one instance, where it threatens his theological construction, Wilson decries evidence—relevant facts—as questionable in itself.

Show me somebody who eschews relevant facts in conducting his daily affairs, and I shall show you somebody who credibly can decry evidence.

With my claims now fortified, I briefly shall introduce questions for you. First, it is clear that you project a high degree of confidence as it relates to your god character. You would have your readership believe you are downright certain of Christianity’s truth. However, consider for a moment the Palestinian mujahideen, who eagerly strap bombs onto themselves and blow their bodies into a billion pieces. Consider the individuals who flew planes into skyscrapers at 500 miles per hour. As abominable as those deeds were...that is unwavering certitude. You are utterly certain of Christianity; they are utterly certain of Islam (as well as your eternal, fiery damnation). Why is your certainty more valid than their certainty? Why do you know unknowable things better than they know unknowable things?

Finally, with respect to TgOTB, could your mind possibly be changed, or is it unchangeable?




Blogger BlackSun said...

Cheers, JN

Jolly good rebuttal. But this guy is a complete waste of time. I no longer engage people like him. The reason? I've done my time. The answer to your last question is clearly a resounding no, his mind is not changeable.

Forcing you to defend the term "evidence??"

Sheesh. That's like arguing over what the definition of the word "is" is. We are talking either gross self-deception or bona fide mental illness here.

Even funnier, checking out his blog, he has no trouble debunking "The Secret" yet he makes a boatload of equally incoherent claims.

Wow. I know there are loonies are out there, but I haven't run into a discussion this absurd in ages. Except maybe the disgorgements of Vox Day. Ad hominem? You betcha, you already decimated his arguments. Now all that's left is the requisite mockery.


3:53 AM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

Jolly, in the comments to the last thread, Rhology laid down an impossible to meet requirement for proving that Christianity is not true.

People like Rhology need to believe what they believe because their self esteem depends on it. As long as he believes that Jesus is the son of god and that he is "saved", it gives him a sense of superiority that he so desperately craves.

It's a sad story, but then again the world is full of sad stories.

12:27 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...


You've been answered. I invite your response whenever you feel like it.


5:58 PM EDT  
Anonymous SimonC said...

"I asked for evidence that examining evidence is the way to truth. What is he doing? Pointing to more evidence."
Sheesh!! The stupidity there is painful. I'm trying to think of another way of presenting him with the evidence he asked for that doesn't involve showing it to him but the recursions are hurting my head.

1:41 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

How will presenting evidence to prove that evidence is evidential helpful? This seems to be escaping you.

11:24 AM EDT  

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