Thursday, May 29, 2008

‘Golden Oldies’ or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Deceased Equine Flogging

Dear Rhology,


As I read your latest vigorous broadside against metaphysical naturalism and my humble articulation thereof, one word irresistibly came screaming to my mind: gold. No, this does not reference what some might consider your 24-karat intellect. Rather, it appears you are attempting, with much strain but negligible success, to split the atom. All this shall be fully explicated, but first a brief digression.

Suppose you have a block of gold and you wish to break it down into smaller pieces. Obviously, this is easy enough to do, so you crack it apart until you have several hundred small pieces of gold. But suppose you want really, really small pieces. Well, you could take a few of the smallest chunks you have and dice them up further, until they are really infinitesimally small. And you could repeat this process without end, creating smaller and smaller pieces of gold, right? Actually, no, you could not. As Richard Dawkins (in service of a different point) explained in “The God Delusion,” “Why shouldn’t you cut one of those pieces in half and produce an even smaller smidgen of gold? The regress in this case is decisively terminated by the atom. The smallest possible piece of gold is a nucleus consisting of exactly 79 protons and a slightly larger number of neutrons, surrounded by a swarm of 79 electrons. If you ‘cut’ gold any further than the level of the single atom, whatever else you get it is not gold. The atom provides a natural terminator….” In the case of gold division, the infinite regress is thwarted by the atom. The atom terminates the series.

Well, what then is a First Principle, philosophically speaking? A First Principle is a broad supposition—yes, a supposition—about the nature of reality. This supposition, once chosen, forms a foundation upon which grander conclusions can be stacked. Said another way, a First Principle is a postulate, from which to argue and with which to build. Because a First Principle is foundational—that is, it cannot be deduced from any other assumption or proposition—it cannot be “split” or independently proved. The best that can be said is that the postulate does not contradict itself. My preferred example of a self-annihilating axiom is “Mathematics is the only way humans can reach truth.” This First Principle fails because one cannot appeal to mathematics in order to show mathematics is the only way humans can reach truth. As such, it annihilates itself. My First Principle—that being, evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth—is materially different from the mathematics example because evidence (relevant facts) can be marshaled to demonstrate evidence’s utility. Because of this, my postulate is self-subsisting.

What, then, of your objections? Clearly, you are attempting to confect an infinite regress where none actually exists. Your series of “can you supply evidence” questions is analogous to trying to divide that smidgen of gold just a little bit further. However, just as the atom provides a natural terminator to gold division (whatever else results from further division, it is not gold), the First Principle provides a natural terminator to the series of questions. The First Principle is primary—step number one. Try as you might to dice it up, it is indivisible—or, at least, following subsequent division, you no longer would be dealing with the postulate (any more than you could split a gold atom and still have gold). As such, it is enough to say my axiom—unlike the mathematics example—is self-subsisting and internally coherent. And thus, on top of this supposition, all my conclusions are built.

Why do I feel confident in my First Principle? The reasons are innumerable. First, throughout humankind’s history, evidence has proven its worth, quite literally, a million times over. The most reliable systems of justice currently in existence revolve around the presentation of evidence. The most effective medical systems in the world are those that discover the relevant facts of illness and base their treatments thereon. In our everyday lives, we all operate according to evidence: When we catch a weather report predicting rain (evidence), we carry an umbrella (utilization thereof). When we notice brake lights illuminate in front of us (evidence), we slow our own vehicle (utilization thereof). When we (hazily) see a knife protruding from our belly and blood gushing everywhere (evidence), we get the knife removed and the wound treated (utilization thereof). The usefulness of relevant facts is manifest…is self-evident…precisely the kind of thing for which one should look in a First Principle.

Another benefit of my chosen postulate is that, far from starting me at the finish line, it could lead me anywhere. My evidentialist axiom could lead me to atheism or theism…to Christianity or Hinduism…to naturalism or supernaturalism. Even now, certain evidence would make me accept Christianity’s truth. For instance, god could speak to every living human being on the planet, sharing precisely the same message and offering exactly the same instructions vis-à-vis salvation. Some people might still reject the deity but, at the least, every human alive would possess direct spoken knowledge of god’s wishes. Alternately, Yahweh, in an instant, could carve his name onto the Moon. Or, on a lark, god could rearrange the planets in our solar system. [Presumably, given his omnipotence, god capriciously could swap Earth and Pluto, yet maintain the solar system’s stability and keep Earth’s creatures alive.] Prayer in Jesus’ name could result in amputees re-growing their missing limbs. Or, spectacularly devout Christian believers could have unexplainable healing powers, along the lines of limb regeneration. Evidentialism in no way precludes acceptance of Christianity’s truth; it simply requires actual evidence. Your postulate, by contrast, does equate to starting the race at the finish line. Atheism vs. Theism? Already answered. Christianity vs. Hinduism? Already answered. Naturalism vs. Supernaturalism? Already answered. Ad infinitum. When you describe your First Principle as being “far fuller,” you unwittingly verify my “start-at-the-finish-line” objection.

There is nothing more to add in rebutting section one, so I next shall turn to the scriptural issues on which we have touched.

In response to my observation that the New Testament is not unanimous in its stated path to salvation, you write, “Oh please. Are you seriously proposing that you are familiar enough with biblical hermeneutics and exegesis to make a serious argument on these grounds?” To my point that a decent argument could be crafted for salvation being granted by means other than saving faith, you respond, “Yes, please do. Make it a post on your blog and let's see how well you do.” Such a post shall not be composed, because it would have as much place on my blog as a post arguing that fairy dust—not pixie dust—is emitted from pixie wings. I do not care about such issues. Suffice it to remark that the documents from which the New Testament was cobbled together were written by several different authors, each of whose theological ideas had unique accents and distinctions. The differences between Mark and Luke, for example, rise above piddling storyline inconsistencies; the New Testament’s several authors did not have identical theological views (although, compared to the apocrypha, they do fall in line) and your claim to absolutely uniform consistency is not in evidence.

The other scriptural issue with which to contend relates to Jesus’ failed prophecy regarding the imminence of his second coming. In my initial communication with you, I quoted Matthew 16:27-28, whereas, in my second post, I quoted Matthew 24:25-35. You respond, “Oy vey. This is exactly what I mean. You jump from Matt 16 to Matt 24 and hope no one will notice! Did you even try to read ch 17-23 before jumping all the way to Matt 24? Why not just go whole hog and insist that I apply the same hermeneutical principles from the genealogy of Matt 1 to Matt 24?” Responding to my declaration that the weight of the evidence pointed to a failed prophecy, you write, “Well, since you didn't offer a counterargument nor present an exegesis of this Matt 24 psg, one can only guess at how you came to that conclusion.”

I do not know the degree to which you respect C.S. Lewis’ biblical scholarship, but I assume you are aware that, according to Lewis, my selection from Matthew 24 contains “the most embarrassing verse in the Bible” (Matthew 24:34). My reason for bringing up both passages was their similarity of language and seeming similarity of prediction. And, whereas, for my original selection, you could employ the excuse of Jesus’ transfiguration, that particular excuse is not available for my second selection. In any case, this also seems to me not to be particularly important. Suffice it to note that historians agree that first century Christians expected Jesus’ return to be imminent—as in, before they tasted of death. Although, of course, the first gospel was not written until around 70 CE, Jesus’ apocalyptic sayings seemingly convinced Paul, who expected the second coming of Jesus in his near future and during his own lifetime. Please consider 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:2-11.

In this area of your response, you say I come across as an atheist fundamentalist. You write, “You just KNOW all this is nonsense and you don't NEED to prove it. It's OBVIOUS. To EVERYONE. Except MORONS and FLAT-EARTHERS….” Your comments here remind me of something written by David Hume in his piece on miracles. Hume writes, for a just reasoner, “a miracle, supported by any human testimony, [is] more properly a subject of derision than of argument.” In the case of, for example, Matthew’s attestation to hordes of zombies roaming about Jerusalem (Matthew 27:52-53), derision is indeed the best counterargument.

My disproof? Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

For a claim such as zombies, that disproof is as sound and devastating as possibly could be mounted. However, I rarely take that argumentative tack.

You addressed several peripheral issues, but I think only three warrant further consideration. First is the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God (TAG), which, although your preferred argument for the existence of god, I characterize as philosophical prestidigitation. In response to my assertion that I can “prove” the Ethereal Cosmic Catfish (ECC) using TAG just as easily as you can “prove” Yahweh with it, you write, “And I already explained why that is full of hot air.” In fact, you have not, so I shall restate the point concisely. TAG is the kind of argument that depends upon the nature of god in order to work; that is, certain of god’s attributes make TAG effective. [This is why, for example, you say TAG could not be used to prove Baal or some such deity.] However, you have failed to prove that every jot and tittle of Yahweh’s nature is essential for TAG to work. Unless and until you prove that, one rightly assumes only certain core elements of Yahweh’s nature are required. That being the case, I could endow ECC with the core essentialities that make TAG functional, and then add sundry variables to ensure ECC is different from Yahweh. After so doing, I could deploy TAG to prove ECC, and use the Catfish as my metaphysical foundation. That such an exercise could be done ably demonstrates the fatuousness of the argument; it is little different from Anselm’s ontological argument, as previously noted. If conjuring god with this trick, you might as well wave a magic wand and pull a rabbit from your hat.

Second, you express concerns about Carl Sagan’s observations. You accuse me of being “a product of Western-centrism” when I say that one’s chosen flavor of religion tends to be determined by parental/societal inculcation and coincidence of geography. Your countervailing evidence is (a) there are more born-again Christians in China than in the US, (b) there is a very significant missionary movement in India by Indians, and (c) South Korea sends more missionaries overseas per capita than any other country. These facts would mean more, however, if we did not live in a globalized world. Christians are extraordinarily media savvy, spreading their message worldwide through television, radio and even cinema. Moreover, Christians boast a robust missionary movement, familiarizing third-world-country dwellers with their superstition. Far more convincing to me (and the late Dr. Sagan) would be independent revelation from god himself, directed to people who had never previously heard of Yahweh or Christianity. You cite China, which reminds me of my favorite quote from Christopher Hitchens’ “god is not Great.” Hitchens writes, “One recalls the question that was asked by the Chinese when the first Christian missionaries made their appearance. If god has revealed himself, how is it that he has allowed so many centuries to elapse before informing the Chinese?” Whatever deities might have haunted Chinese history, none was distinguishably Yahweh. This is telling. Imagine if, around 2000 BCE, worship of Yahweh had simultaneously arisen in the Middle East, China, the Americas and central Africa. What compelling evidence that would have been! In actuality, primitive populations begin to worship Yahweh when believers in Yahweh arrive at their shores.

Finally, you are uncomfortable with my charge that Yahweh has an idolatrous fetish for free will. So what is idolatry? It is worship of any cult image, idea or object (usually in opposition to the monotheistic god character). I chose this descriptor largely because, in traditional Christian thought, god is characterized as loving. For the word “loving” to be comprehensible in the context of god, it must mean the same thing as “loving” in the context of humans: We are familiar with, and can understand, this definition. If, in the context of god, “loving” has a mysterious alternate meaning, then you might as well say god is “oglivok” because both statements would convey no actual information. [This is why I have said, for the statement “god is knowledgeable and/or powerful” to be meaningful, those words must be defined identically as in human affairs. Mysterious alternate definitions make such declarations incomprehensible.] In human affairs, to characterize an individual as loving is to say he has loving intentions and acts upon them regularly. No human who consigned billions of people to a place of endless, agonizing torture could be considered loving. Because you believe god does damn people by the billions, something must be undoing his loving intentions. The standard Christian answer is human free will. God’s devotion to human free will is such that he permits people to make their own choices, even choices that shall result in consignment to eternal agony. Because god’s loving intentions are unraveled by his affection for free will, I rightly observe god, if existent, has an idolatrous fetish for the free will idea.

None of the other points is substantial enough to justify extending this already-lengthy diatribe. However, I must comment on this curiosity: “I pray for your eventual repentance and salvation.” Thank you, Rhology. And I, for my part, shall sacrifice a goat and castrate a sheep on your behalf in order to appease Baal, who is well known as a jealous and angry god. I am sure there is a suitable altar in the Tri-State Region.

In all seriousness, I give you my best. I retain hope that the purest water of reason still—some day—might touch your lips, washing away the unfortunate stain of superstitious primitivism. Yes, the first jarring “splash” might shock you, but this is only the jolt of rising from slumber to brilliant wakefulness.


Warm regards,

Dan

103 Comments:

Blogger Phinehas said...

I have a hard time understanding why most atheists insist that if God was real then he would approach them on their terms.

9:56 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

And I have a hard time understanding why most theists insist that if God was real it wouldn't approach us on our terms. Actually, I have a hard time with the idea that any being powerful and intelligent enough to create this vast universe in which our planet is such an infinitesimal speck requires our worship in the first place.

10:20 PM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

Phinehas: I'm not sure why you have a hard time understanding that, since your own religious text tells you that God has approached us on our terms repeatedly, speaking directly to us, carrying out miracles and deliberately guiding us towards his will. This is clearly reported in the Old Testament.

For some reason, he gradually stopped doing that. What I find strange is that he appears to have stopped doing it at exactly the same time as humanity started to develop the mental tools to properly judge whether those approaches were genuine divine interventions, or just the result of the well-documented human propensity for massive and chronic cognitive errors.

Truly he works in mysterious ways, but apparently these days they're not just mysterious but also largely undetectable.

3:50 AM EDT  
Blogger MothandRust said...

I love the Chinese meets Christianity quote. Many christians believe that Jesus won't return until all nations are witnessed to, but of course there are more nations now then there were in the start of the religion, and even if they are 'covered' at some point it would negate the millions of people who didn't live to hear 'the gospel' before missionaries came.

6:26 AM EDT  
Blogger MothandRust said...

I never tire of seeing Rhoblogger's rambles taken to task. Great read here.

6:30 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Oh, I get it. You have faith that evidence is the best way to truth, and then deny that evidence is needed to support that claim. OK. Well, I have faith that the God of the Bible is and is not silent, and I deny that evidence is needed to support that claim.
That was easy! Have a good day!

8:44 AM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

No, he has evidence that evidence is the best way to truth, which is why it's an effective First Principle - it is self-supporting and consistent with observations of the world. Contrast this with your first principle:

I have faith that the God of the Bible is and is not silent.

This is neither self-supporting (you assume that the God of the Bible exists) or consistent with observations of the world (at least for the majority of humanity).

10:41 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

That's just the thing, Paul. He says sometimes that he has evidence for his FP, and other times he says he doesn't need evidence for it. It's only when he realises that his head is between the jaws of the bear trap that he denies that he needs evidence for his FP that evidence is the best way to discover truth. You seem to be caught in the same confusion, which is sad. The JN has no basis for any morality outside of his own likes and dislikes, but he should be ashamed of his double-mindedness here.

10:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

He says sometimes that he has evidence for his FP, and other times he says he doesn't need evidence for it.

No, he's been quite clear in this post (and previously) that this First Principle works because it is self-supporting and consistent with observations of the world. You can keep claiming that this is not the case, but that won't make it true.

10:59 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Let other readers judge. Your blindness can be amazing.

11:02 AM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

If you think you have a case against this First Principle, let's read it. So far your argument against it is based solely on the fact that it doesn't mention God enough times.

Oh, and it's worth pointing out that this is your First Principle as well - in fact it's everybody's First Principle, when you get down to it - but you don't seem to be able to grasp that.

I'm not sure why.

11:05 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Um, it's not my FP. If it were, I would've said so...
My FP makes evidence possible but is not evidence itself.

11:06 AM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

No, I realise that you don't think that it's your First Principle, but it is nonetheless.

I'm assuming that at some point in your life, you decided that you were Christian. If you had to make a decision, you first weighed the evidence, in which case the First Principle came before your belief in God. If you didn't weigh the evidence, how did you reach your belief?

The ways that you have tried to persuade all of us that we should follow God have also relied on presenting us with what you consider to be "evidence". Thus you show that you believe the First Principle to be universally valid even for people who don't belive in God.

11:18 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Wow, Paul C. Thank God you're here to set me straight about what I believe.
This FP is not self-justifying and leads to an infinite regress. The JN realises this at some level b/c he retreats in and out of saying there is evidence for his FP. He can't make up his mind b/c he sees the danger and yet loves his faith-based position so dearly that he also desires to be faithful to it. I don't know what other explanation there could be.

I am a Christian today b/c my FP enables evidence to exist, b/c it is internally consistent.

*MY* FP is universally valid even for people who don't belive in God, yes. You borrow from it every time you present evidence for anything.

11:26 AM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

As I have pointed out, and as anybody can see from reading JN's piece here, he is quite clear about the role that evidence plays in his thinking, and that his First Principle can't be split any further down.

This FP is not self-justifying and leads to an infinite regress.

You continue to mistake brute fact for infinite regress.

The JN realises this at some level b/c he retreats in and out of saying there is evidence for his FP.

On the basis of this piece, no, he doesn't.

I don't know what other explanation there could be.

You've fundamentally misunderstood his entire argument?

I am a Christian today b/c my FP enables evidence to exist, b/c it is internally consistent.

How did you become a Christian? If it wasn't based on evidence, what was it based on? If it wasn't based on evidence, then why do you continually try to reach us using evidence?

*MY* FP is universally valid even for people who don't belive in God, yes.

So the First Principle that God exists is valid for people who don't believe God exists? That's remarkable.

You borrow from it every time you present evidence for anything.

*Sigh*

No, I don't.

11:35 AM EDT  
Blogger Dr Funkenstein said...

so Rhology if your FP is that God is self-evident, by what means are you aware of this fact and how do you separate it from being a figment of imagination without reference to any other standard?

11:45 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Dr Funk, the impossibility of the contrary. Evidence, intelligibility, rationality are impossible without my FP.

11:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Dr Funkenstein said...

so it's impossible for a God not to just be something that purely exists in imagination as opposed to something real?

11:51 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Correct.

11:52 AM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

Evidence, intelligibility, rationality are impossible without my FP.

And yet you can't formulate your First Principle without rationality; you can't understand your First principle without intelligibility; and you can't accept your First Principle without evidence.

It just doesn't sound very "First" to me.

11:56 AM EDT  
Blogger Dr Funkenstein said...

Correct.

So if someone chooses Allah, the great pumpkin in the sky etc as self-evident/a first principle there should be no claim that it's purely imaginary?

12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

And yet you can't formulate your First Principle without rationality

Right. And my FP can justify rationality. Yours can't.

Dr Funk,

Since Islam is internally inconsistent, yes.
And the great pumpkin can't ground rationality like the God of the Bible does.

12:17 PM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

Right. And my FP can justify rationality. Yours can't.

You have missed the point, again.

1. The only way to formulate your claimed First Principle is using rationality.
2. Therefore you must first assume rationality before you can reach your First Principle.
3. Thus it is not your First Principle.

12:23 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Rather, I must assume my FP before I can posit rationality. On atheism, there are all sorts of barriers to positing rationality. The EAAN, solipsism, the problem of induction, the fact that brain gas = liver bile, etc.

12:26 PM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

Rather, I must assume my FP before I can posit rationality.

So you're arguing that your First Principle is not rationa.

12:30 PM EDT  
Blogger Dr Funkenstein said...

Since Islam is internally inconsistent, yes.
And the great pumpkin can't ground rationality like the God of the Bible does.


How do you know the GP can't do this? If written internal consistency is all that's needed, can I not simply record the 'revelations' I am receiving from it, including its claims to be a basis for rationality etc?

If the GOTB is self-evident, then the newly discovered tribe in Brazil should be as aware of it as you are without recourse to reading or being told about the bible. Would you be aware of the self-evident nature of the GOTB without first having access to the bible and how would you become aware of this?

12:33 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Funk,

Good luck trying to create a fully internally consistent worldview. From scratch. By yourself.
And of course, that's only a necessary element of a sufficient FP, not a sufficient element.

And the Bible explains that all people DO know that He exists and certain things about Him, but people suppress the truth in wickedness.
I became aware of this b/c God was gracious to reveal Himself to me and open my heart to believe.
Subsequently, I have spent long hours studying alternative worldviews and all have come up seriously deficient, so my mind as well as my heart is satisfied.

Peace,
Rhology

12:43 PM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

Good luck trying to create a fully internally consistent worldview. From scratch. By yourself. And of course, that's only a necessary element of a sufficient FP, not a sufficient element.

It's all coming off the rails a bit here, isn't it? The First Principle has to come before the "fully internally consistent worldview" - that's why it's called the First Principle. (The clue is "First".)

Subsequently, I have spent long hours studying alternative worldviews and all have come up seriously deficient, so my mind as well as my heart is satisfied.

You must have been shocked to find that starting from a worldview that states every other worldview is wrong lead you to the conclusion that every other worldview is wrong.

12:52 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

How do you know the GP can't do this?

Funk, I tried worshipping the Great Pumpkin. It was the worst three weeks of my life!

I have spent long hours studying alternative worldviews and all have come up seriously deficient, so my mind as well as my heart is satisfied.

Don't worry Rho, you're still young and have plenty of time.

12:53 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Heh.
There aren't too many left, Tommy.

12:54 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

What, a few years? Decades?

1:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Phinehas said...

Just to clarify, I was specifically referring to the section about "lining up the planets" or whatever was said. I just notice a lot of "If God was real then why doesn't he do this specific thing to help me believe" type stuff.

Just seems to me that if God was real, and truly transcendental, and truly all-knowing, I'm not quite sure he would cater unswervingly to every skeptic's demands of Him.

1:31 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

Just seems to me that if God was real, and truly transcendental, and truly all-knowing, I'm not quite sure he would cater unswervingly to every skeptic's demands of Him.

And if god was real Phinehas, why would such a being of immense power even require our subservience to begin with?

1:39 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

He wants it, doesn't require it.
Tommy, attack away, just attack our actual position. Is that too much to ask?

1:58 PM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

Just seems to me that if God was real, and truly transcendental, and truly all-knowing, I'm not quite sure he would cater unswervingly to every skeptic's demands of Him.

I'm not sure of that either. On the other hand, he seems to do it pretty regularly in the Bible accounts.

Incidentally, why do you call requests for evidence "demands"? And why do you assume that a skeptic's requests are made in bad faith? And why -

Oh, forget it. The whole thing is nonsense. The fact is, God doesn't show up any more. At least he's equal opportunity - he doesn't show up for believers and non-believers alike.

And no, "I felt the presence of God" or "he arranged for me to get a new set of filing cabinets" doesn't count. Sorry.

3:04 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Uh oh...

The fact is, God doesn't show up any more.

What's your evidence for that statement?

3:20 PM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

What's your evidence for that statement?

The fact that God doesn't show up any more.

4:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Haha, nice. The more you talk, the better my case looks, Paul C.

4:05 PM EDT  
Blogger Dr Funkenstein said...

So Rhology, how does someone come to see TGOTB as being self-evident?

Direct appearance - this is apparently what happened to a small subset of people in the Middle East 2-6 millenia ago. Obviously their experiences are not mine or that of many other people that have existed. Like them, you may have had what you consider direct contact with God, I and many others have not.

Personal revelation - someone could easily say the same for the Great Pumpkin. Since either could easily be products of a fertile imagination or wishful thinking this is little more than their say-so rather than anything self-evident. One would also expect people with no possible means of prior knowledge of the Christian God to be able to proclaim his existence if this is possible.

The Bible itself - to refer to this requires a lot of previous assumptions, since to interpret the bible and come to the conclusion it is accurate would require the assumption of many other things first (eg rationality, adequate sensory processing etc etc)

I'm not quite sure he would cater unswervingly to every skeptic's demands of Him.


So for what reason should we simply believe? The onus is on the believer to provide a means by which God can be apparent to us non-believers, not the other way round. After all, if someone said you should believe in the Great Pumpkin's revelation on their say-so, or a book full of claims that bear no resemblance to our reality, would you do it?

What's your evidence for that statement?

Can you show us an example of where something in recent times was unmistakably down to God and how you worked this out, as well as differentiated it from any other supernatural agent?

4:13 PM EDT  
Blogger Dr Funkenstein said...

This FP is not self-justifying and leads to an infinite regress.

But your FP suffers from the problem of the circularity of the prior assumption of its conclusions to come to the conclusion TGOTB exists

4:28 PM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

The more you talk, the better my case looks, Paul C.

I fail to see why. That God doesn't show up any more is the evidence. Can you guess what the conclusion is?

4:30 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

I eagerly await your response, Rhology. Even though we both proofread our salvos more than once (I know I do, and assume the same is true for you), each of us invariably makes a few missteps in these large posts. And, just as invariably, the other latches onto those, creating fertile fodder for a vigorous rebuttal. As I noted on May 27, it is distinctly unlikely that I will rebut your response. My Case Against God, for all purposes and intents, is in well-deserved retirement: I have said exactly all I have to say and, for that reason, any prolongation would be superfluous and self-indulgent.

With respect to my latest essay in particular, whatever you might think of its conclusions, its content is certainly clear. With it so being, I have nothing to subtract and nothing supplementary to add. If I could not convince you with 2600 words (and countless other blogalogue interactions), there is no reason to think an additional 1000, 2000, 5000 or 10,000 would do the job.

Let the readers judge.

7:21 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

He wants it, doesn't require it.
Tommy, attack away, just attack our actual position. Is that too much to ask?


Uh, excuse me, but this isn't your blog. I will say whatever I want.

12:27 AM EDT  
Blogger meliken said...

Ok- I'm new to this whole argument/discussion/verbal joust- however- and not that this means anything to anyone- I can very ably see both sides of this. I used to be a Christian- in fact it's strange to say 'used to be' as I still haven't made any firm decisions about changing my belief system. However, the JN's points are sound- and those of Rhology are familiar to me and as such, are comforting, not that they aren't sound as well...
In truth, One believes in science with their mind and in God with their heart and I'm not certain the two will ever be reconciled or could be or should be-
Science gives us evidence whilst God and the belief therein gives us hope. Are we willing to sacrifice one to have the other?
It is this question which plagues me now as I struggle to discern my own system of belief. It seems, frustratingly enough, that evidence and hope are irreconcilable.
Also maddening that if this God exists He is seemingly unwilling to show himself in any way that our senses can understand. He demands/wants/requires our obedience and faith- without ever having to take the sheet off or pull back the curtain and reveal the wizard.
Why is that?? Why is it all compromise of intellect on our part? If He exists, he must be the one who endowed the human creature with intelligence and reason- why then, would he ask us to go against our basic instincts and abilities to reach him?
Just questions- I don't expect answers.

3:52 PM EDT  
Blogger John Morales said...

First, may I say this is an entertaining thread.

Meliken, regarding your question:
1 In truth, One believes in science with their mind and in God with their heart and I'm not certain the two will ever be reconciled or could be or should be-
2 Science gives us evidence whilst God and the belief therein gives us hope. Are we willing to sacrifice one to have the other?


1. I agree with you that faith is a form of belief - it is belief without or despite the evidence.
2. Are you sure this is an either/or choice? I'm pretty sure I can hope just as hard as any theist - hope for improbable outcomes need not invoke the supernatural.

It seems, frustratingly enough, that evidence and hope are irreconcilable.

You have my sympathy - it would be wonderful if a supernatural realm existed, and psionics worked, and magic was efficacious, and prayers were answered...

I think it's best just to accept the way the world is, and make the best of it.
Live for this (real) life, not for some wishful post-mortem one.

7:43 AM EDT  
Blogger meliken said...

John,
Agreed on the point of living this life to the fullest and for the here and now. And indeed, I've always felt as though most Evangelical Fundamentalists did themselves an injustice by perpetually watching the skies, as it were- for this fabled second coming of Jesus. The problem didn't lie in the fact that they had faith in what their religion taught, but that in doing so- they stopped living. Their faith became a form of escaping the real world, of escaping fact.
I think perhaps, for too many modern Christians- though certainly I cannot speak for all- their faith is simply a crutch, a socially acceptable vessel for their co-dependency. They do not know why they believe what they believe and they do not care, provided their faith meets their every emotional need and provides for their every discomfort and failure.
I think we'd all like to believe that we're loved unconditionally by the God of the universe (How flattering)- But at the moment, I have to concur with Paul C's earlier post that God has not shown up in awhile and frankly, it looks mighty suspicious.

12:12 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Try as some might to deny the obvious, it cannot be ignored: god is a do-nothing no-show. Awfully suspicious, I would say.

6:55 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

meliken said:
crutch

What does that have to do with whether Christianity is true?
Or are you not addressing that question here? If not, that's OK.


JN said:
god is a do-nothing no-show

What is your evidence for that?
(I asked another atheist, Paul C, that same question recently, and he responded: "the evidence is that he doesn't do anything." I'm hoping for sthg with a little beef than that from you.)

8:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

This is getting a little surreal. The evidence that God is a do-nothing no-show is:

a) the lack of evidence that God does anything,
b) the lack of evidence that God even shows up.

What part of that do you find difficult to understand, Rhology? Because it seems to present a huge stumbling block for you in these discussions.

9:19 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Paul C, dude, you make my job so easy sometimes.

9:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

I don't think people with religious faith are delusional to believe in God. However I do think that you are delusional if you think that you have either triumphed in any of the online discussions that you have been involved with, or that you have ever provided an adequate witness to your faith, rather than demonstrating to the world the intellectual and social bankruptcy of your brand of apologetics.

9:28 AM EDT  
Blogger MothandRust said...

Come on Alan, we're getting too much of this from you lately. It seems you're too often resorting to sticking your fingers in your ears and poking out your tongue with a "nyah, nyah, nyah". We Rhology watchers expect so much more from you. Where's the passion? We know you've got it in you to bring back the glory days. Don't let us down champ.

I get that you truly believe you've been chosen to preach on the blog highways, but you've got nothing to offer, other than snide remarks without substance.

You even admit that you were unaware of your god until he himself 'revealed' himself to you. Before that, he was a no show. Right? Here's the deal. When he show up with some evidence to me and 'opens my heart' then I'll give him some credit. Until then, there's zero evidence, and even then, it's useless to share anyway until he 'reveals' himself to others.

became aware of this b/c God was gracious to reveal Himself to me and open my heart to believe.

9:45 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Perhaps, MothAndRust, you have some other evidence to offer that God has not revealed Himself than "God has not revealed Himself"?

9:59 AM EDT  
Blogger MothandRust said...

Perhaps, MothAndRust, you have some other evidence to offer that God has not revealed Himself than "God has not revealed Himself"?

Alan, did you have evidence before he 'revealed' himself to you, or was he revealing what was already revealed, thereby not revealing anything further.

10:03 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Now *that's* a good question.

The evidence was present for the finding, but b/c of the state of my heart, my willful blindness, I refused to take it into account. I was called, invited, and obligated to do so, but I did not.

Paul C seems to be saying that God has not given this evidence, which is different from saying that he does not take it into account. I want to know how he knows God hasn't done so. He says that God just hasn't; take Paul's word for it. As if you'd accept such an explanation from someone else, like Kent Hovind. But no, b/c it comes from the illustrious Paul C, renowned atheist, I'm to believe it, no questions asked!

Paul claims to rely on evidence to back up his assertions, but is coming up empty here with a lot of special pleading.

10:08 AM EDT  
Blogger MothandRust said...

I myself haven't seen any evidence of a supernaturally occuring god. It hasn't been due to lack of trying, mind you. If the evidence you're alluding to is pretty flowers and well developed fauna then perhaps that's enough for some to conceptualise a creator. I'm not educated enough to make a stand for evolution and prove or disprove it academically.

As for other hit and miss evidence of a god that heals amputees or allows people to walk on water, then unfortunately for my eternal 'soul' I just haven't seen any evidence to entertain the idea that an unseen super being exists and that he's testing me in order to let me pass on to the next level.

Anyway, hi. It's been a while. I notice I'm still on your wall for the misguided amusements and I hope I stay there. I check in on it now and then. lol - Pete.

10:15 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

1. Name three specific things—not vague generalities but specific, particular actions—that god has done so far in the year 2008. Here are examples of the kind of statements I would like:

• Hillary Clinton endorsed Barack Obama this year.
• Sydney Pollack died this year.
• Robert Downey Jr. released the film Iron Man this year.
• Yahweh did ... this year.

2. If you read the Bible, you see that, for a time, god was very active here on Earth. If those tales are true, there was a time when god’s existence was apparent. He did things...said things...interacted with people...acted in real time in the real world. Then he just folded up his tent and went home? Blah.

10:16 AM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

Paul C seems to be saying that God has not given this evidence, which is different from saying that he does not take it into account.

Why lie when anybody can check what I actually wrote on the same page? What I wrote is: there is a lack of evidence. This lack of evidence could be for many reasons, none of which interest me in themselves; what interests me is that there is a lack of evidence - and so far, Rhology, you have presented none.

I want to know how he knows God hasn't done so. He says that God just hasn't; take Paul's word for it.

No, absolutely do not take my word for it. Look for evidence for yourself, and please - if you find some, please let me know as soon as possible.

Paul claims to rely on evidence to back up his assertions, but is coming up empty here with a lot of special pleading.

I'm not claiming to rely on evidence, I'm claiming a lack of evidence; so if you think that I am "coming up empty", then you're merely agreeing with my argument.

10:21 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

In 2008, God
1) held the universe together
2) continued to provide the ultimate ground for rationality and intelligibility
3) continued to provide the ultimate ground for morality
4) continued to provide the ultimate ground for existence
5) brought a few hundred thousand people or more into His kingdom.

The JN will say:
But that's not what I'm looking for!

And I should care... why?

11:52 AM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

And I should care... why?

Well, you came here, didn't you? So part of you must care.

[God] did things...said things...interacted with people...acted in real time in the real world.

Jolly, you think there might have been a little 'Brokeback Mountain' action going on there between Abraham and Yahweh? They did spend an awful lot of time together.

Moth, I just love that avatar with the head spinning thing going on.

12:39 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

In 2008, God held the universe together

You mean God has to consciously hold the universe together 24/7? He didn't construct it so that it holds itself together? Gee, I hope he doesn't get too distracted. He might accidentally let go of a pillar or something and cause the Sombrero Galaxy to get crushed.

12:59 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

No, Tommy, I don't come here b/c I care about this kind of input.

And yes, God holds the universe intentionally together 24/7.

1:03 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

And, yet, if the Bible is to be believed, just a few thousand years ago, god did so much MORE than mere components of the TAG argument. As I wrote earlier, god spoke...acted...engaged with the real world in tangible ways. He was full of prodigies and spectacular doings. And now...nothing. He took his ethereal ball and went home.

2:10 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

A naked assertion, which I deny. I can personally confidently tell you that He is not silent in my life. It is changed in an amazing way; I am little like I was a mere 14 yrs ago. Nor am I the only life changed.

2:12 PM EDT  
Blogger meliken said...

Rhology-
*What does that have to do with whether or not Christianity is true?*

Not addressing that question in my comment. My point was that for so many, the question is irrelevant. They don't care whether or not it's true because it meets so many of their emotional needs.
And my point behind that (I expect you all to read my mind here and I can't figure out why you're not doing it) is that faith of any sort is so amazingly individualized that the question of whether or not God exists cannot be answered.
He existed fully for me until about a year ago. Was I wrong before that and God did not exist? Was I delusional? No, I don't think so. Am I wrong now to doubt? To question? No, I don't think so. And any Christian who says they've never doubted, well, I'm afraid they're probably being dishonest- perhaps just too afraid to admit, even to themselves, that they have the same fears and insecurities as anyone, even the most unbelieving.
If God does show up for people, my guess is that those big miraculous stunts He used to do, would no longer be effective for us. Perhaps we'd only explain them away... It seems, however, that those who've had a personal experience with God - If He Exists- are as convinced as if He'd written His name in the sky because He did, in a way- write His name in their own sky.
Apparently I'm looking at this in a more abstract fashion than the rest of you- I'm also throwing some of this out there for the sake of my own processing. Feel free to ignore it, I'm more or less just talking to myself.

2:51 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

It is changed in an amazing way; I am little like I was a mere 14 yrs ago.

And my life is much better than it was a mere 14 years ago, and all of that while being an atheist. Got a better job, met the love of my life, got a house, and two healthy, beautiful young children. I wouldn't trade places with anybody in this world.

2:57 PM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

And I should care... why?

Because you increasingly realise that you're providing an incredibly poor witness to your faith? Just a guess.

3:33 PM EDT  
Blogger MothandRust said...

"If God does show up for people, my guess is that those big miraculous stunts He used to do, would no longer be effective for us."

Ya reckon? I think if the pacific ocean parted in front of witnesses today, it'd be effective. Heck, people clutch at straws to make a big miracle out of... face image in toast, speaking in tongues... I think a huge supernatural event on a biblical scale would have an effect, for sure.

5:44 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

A naked assertion, which I deny. I can personally confidently tell you that He is not silent in my life. It is changed in an amazing way; I am little like I was a mere 14 yrs ago. Nor am I the only life changed.

Clearly, you have had a personal transformative experience. Many people have had similar experiences, such as Stephen Baldwin, who has given up his "party boy" ways and become an evangelical.

But there is one problem, at least in an evidentialist's eyes. You have not proven that an outside agent is essential for such a transformation. That is, I believe the transformation came from within rather than from without. After all, many who belatedly accept Islam and Hinduism also have powerful personal stories to tell. You are not unique in this, nor is this a distinctly Christian episode. You have had a human experience.

Until you can prove your transformation was the result of an outside agent, there is no good reason to assume it was. You simply discovered your "better" self.

7:09 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

You simply discovered your "better" self.

Well, let's not jump to conclusions Jolly!

8:37 PM EDT  
Blogger Dr Funkenstein said...

"A naked assertion, which I deny. I can personally confidently tell you that He is not silent in my life. It is changed in an amazing way; I am little like I was a mere 14 yrs ago. Nor am I the only life changed."

I'd imagine most people are pretty different after a gap of 14 years whether they change religious views or not. Most people would be fairly concerned if I thought and bheaved the same way now as I did when I was 13 I would think!

5:10 PM EDT  
Blogger John Morales said...

Rhology's amazing life change eerily parallels that of one of my friends, who said almost exactly the same thing about Scientology.

I am of the opinion that it is the belief itself, not that which is believed in, that is significant.
God as a psychic placebo.

As Meliken has alluded to, God exists in the imagination, no more and no less real than any other idea invented by humans.

7:54 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

The personal transformative experience need not be religious...need not even be vaguely spiritual...and it certainly need not be Christian--let alone particularly Protestant! After all, noted atheist (and, in my opinion, quite brilliant philosopher/historian) Richard Carrier had a personal transformative experience in embracing Taoism. He gave up the childish metaphysics, but kept the scraps he feels work for him as an evidentialist and metaphysical naturalist.

9:21 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

I know it's off thread, but Jolly, you've been tagged.

9:25 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

I was just reminded of this question for the JN:
Your blog is called "My Case Against God." But I take TGOTB's existence as a first principle, as we've discussed.
Is it not, then, the case that your claims against God's existence and your requests for evidence that God exists are attempts to split the gold atom?

3:14 PM EDT  
Blogger John Morales said...

Actually, gold atoms do split: "Gold (Au) has one stable isotope, 197Au, and 18 radioisotopes with 195Au being the most stable with a half-life of 186 days."

10:26 PM EDT  
Blogger larryniven said...

"I take TGOTB's existence as a first principle, as we've discussed."

Just so that you don't have the last word, you arrogant fraud, no - as has been demonstrated here, this is not your first principle. You yourself even admitted that you had to change your perspective in order to reach this principle. Whatever motivated your change in perspective, then, has primacy over this principle (it could not have been the principle itself for obvious reasons). The difference is that nobody has to be convinced of the reliability of evidence and (at least elementary) logic: these come naturally. In fact, as you've conveniently demonstrated, one has to be pried forcefully away from this principle in order not to have it - without the significant brainwashing effects of a system like Christianity, you'd still hold to it.

3:27 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

larryniven apparently decided that my comments hit too close for comfort; I'm banned from his blog. Let the reader judge who's more open and secure in his position.

Anyway, I have answered the JN's main points here, leaving the others aside for some other time.

12:44 PM EDT  
Blogger larryniven said...

Your comments make me sick: it's more of the same with you here. "I don't have to answer that argument or even acknowledge it; please see instead this link, in which I argue for something else equally badly." Why are you incapable of responding to the actual arguments that have been leveled against you, Rhoblogy? I'll reiterate it, because I know how taxing it can be for you to scroll back up:

Having changed your mind in this matter, some other principle must have primacy - in fact, it must have primacy in such a way as to motivate your change of mind. The only way for your beliefs to be grounded at all, therefore, is for you to maintain the primacy of whatever this was: otherwise you say that your acceptance of Christianity is self-refuting.

3:09 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

"Augmenting" one's arguments with such wild-eyed fanatical verbiage doesn't help one's credibility, larryniven.

this is not your first principle.

What is, then?
Make sure you provide an argument, and make sure to quote me.


You yourself even admitted that you had to change your perspective in order to reach this principle.

You mean when I became a Christian? Of course!
Otherwise, to what do you refer? Quote me.


Whatever motivated your change in perspective, then, has primacy over this principle

1) What is your argument for that assertion?
2) If you refer to my becoming a Christian, the God of the Bible WAS whatever motivated my change in perspective. So we agree.


The difference is that nobody has to be convinced of the reliability of evidence and (at least elementary) logic: these come naturally.

1) I would argue that the knowledge of deity comes naturally. How about an argument to that effect?
2) Wanting to snatch a toy out of the hand of a competitor "comes naturally". So does lusting indiscriminately over multiple dozens of potential sexual partners. For some people, violent rages "come naturally".


without the significant brainwashing effects of a system like Christianity, you'd still hold to it.

I never said I didn't hold to the principle. I hold to it, however, b/c the God of the BIble is my first principle and the way He made the universe is that evidence is an excellent way to discover truth. In an atheist universe, however, there is no reason to think that is the case.


Your comments make me sick

You seem to have problems with this emoting.
You know, no one is forcing you to "interact" with me.
Why don't you just stop whining and defeat my arguments?


Peace,
Rhology

3:57 PM EDT  
Blogger larryniven said...

I don't need to help my credibility. This isn't some kind of popularity contest where you get to go to heaven if you can convince enough idiots (including yourself) that you're right. If you ever get over that middle-school method of truth evaluation, you might start to make sense.

I don't need to quote you in my argument - since when was that a rule of logic? You can read my argument - twice - by simply scrolling up and rereading the comments to which you've already responded. But I know already that you have no desire to, just like you have no desire to learn the basics of logic and no desire to treat English words the same way other people do. For you, winning the argument (at least, in your own mind) is the ultimate goal, regardless of who's actually right. But go ahead - try to prove me wrong on this point and actually engage my argument above.

The rest of your comment is, essentially, gibberish. That stuff about things coming naturally is a total shot in the dark on your part and as irrelevant to the topic at hand as can be imagined. To say that the Bible is self-sufficient for belief is obviously absurd: it's self-contradictory. Furthermore, in order to even understand the Bible, you have to understand language, logic (there it is again), and so on. Some kind of self-sufficiency that is.

This is the funniest thing you said in that last comment: "the way He made the universe is that evidence is an excellent way to discover truth" - this is perhaps the dumbest: "Why don't you just stop whining and defeat my arguments?" To say that you rely on evidence because of the Bible is a non sequitur and totally backwards - all the evidence falls against the Bible, not for it. And in order for me to defeat your arguments, you'd have to have some. As it is, you just have statement after statement after statement, most of which are clear attempts to change the subject and none of which are ever argued for. If you can manage to present several either self-evident or evidenced premises that lead logically to a conclusion, that would be an argument and something I could work with. Repeating your tenets of faith ad nauseum does not quite suffice for that.

4:18 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Fine, don't quote me. You have made charges about me. When you are asked to substantiate those charges, you refuse to do so and simply substitute bluster. Your lack of actual argument is duly noted.

For you, winning the argument (at least, in your own mind) is the ultimate goal

You have no idea what my ultimate goal is.
Can you read minds?

That stuff about things coming naturally is a total shot in the dark on your part and as irrelevant to the topic at hand as can be imagined.

Why? What is your argument that it is irrelevant?


To say that the Bible is self-sufficient for belief is obviously absurd: it's self-contradictory.

Why?


Furthermore, in order to even understand the Bible, you have to understand language, logic (there it is again), and so on. Some kind of self-sufficiency that is.

You'd be right if my First Principle were that the Bible is my foundation. But it's not. God is. You need to understand the distinction, or keep attacking a strawman.


all the evidence falls against the Bible, not for it.

1) All? Not one single thing the Bible says is accurate? Not one?
2) Deal with my arguments in my linked-to post that an atheist universe can support the use of evidence.

4:23 PM EDT  
Blogger larryniven said...

"Your lack of actual argument is duly noted."

For Rhology, every day is Irony Day.

"Can you read minds?"

In general yes, but yours appears to be blank.

"All? Not one single thing the Bible says is accurate? Not one?"

Yes, that's clearly what I meant - please continue to make obvious straw men out of what I say. It's maybe the one thing you're good at.

"You'd be right if my First Principle were that the Bible is my foundation. But it's not. God is."

Oh, sorry - that's called "begging the question." You mean to say that you think God is. Good luck trying to prove otherwise. In the absence of such a proof, I'll continue to assert that you put your faith in the Bible, because that's something that actually exists. Even if you somehow do, though, that won't save you: you must have used some chain of reasoning and some evidence to come to the conclusion that God should be your first principle. If not, I invite you to share your logic- and evidence-free conversion with the rest of the world.

"Deal with my arguments in my linked-to post that an atheist universe can support the use of evidence."

Oh, we can argue with links, now? Here - www.infidels.org. You deal with all the arguments there and then I'll look at your stuff.

4:32 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

You mean to say that you think God is

Sir, you seem not to understand what a First Principle is.
It is the position on which I base my worldview. The JN has admitted his FP is faith-based as well.
Perhaps you could explain what your own FP is. Could you?

I'll continue to assert

That's what you appear to be best at. I don't see a single argument in this comment.

you must have used some chain of reasoning and some evidence to come to the conclusion that God should be your first principle

Just b/c I came to the conclusion thru a series of reasoning means nothing.
I access the world and communicate with people thru reason. I then use reason to examine whether "evidence is the best way to discover truth" is a viable FP.


Here - www.infidels.org. You deal with all the arguments there and then I'll look at your stuff.

That is absolutely pitiful. See you later.

4:39 PM EDT  
Blogger larryniven said...

"Perhaps you could explain what your own FP is. Could you?"

Perhaps you could stick to the subject. Don't you find it odd how every time you can't think of something to say in defense of your laughable positions, you ask me to defend mine? How is that relevant, I wonder? Are there not other options than yours and mine? I feel as though there must be. So what would the correctness of my view have to do with the correctness of yours? I have to conclude that the two are totally unrelated, except insofar as you think it would score you some Argument Points to make me look bad, and that's what makes you a sophist. You do realize that "Thank You For Smoking" was kidding about how to win arguments, right?

"Just b/c I came to the conclusion thru a series of reasoning means nothing."

Whoops! That's actually not true, even a little bit. Prior to your imaginary God becoming your first principle, reasoning was - or, at least, it had primacy over the idea of God. So, by replacing it with the idea of God, you've devalued the only reason for you to believe in God - i.e., your belief in God is self-refuting (logic & evidence -> God -> not logic & not evidence). In other words, unless you maintain that logic and evidence have primacy over the idea of God, your first principle is what Stephen Law calls an intellectual black hole.

"[Rhology] is absolutely pitiful."

There - I fixed your quote for you. I won't even bill you for the service; consider it a gift.

4:51 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

by replacing (reason) with the idea of God, you've devalued the only reason for you to believe in God - i.e., your belief in God is self-refuting (logic & evidence -> God -> not logic & not evidence).

But I have not replaced reason with the idea of God. I've given reason its place.
With this FP, I can have confidence in reason.


larryniven apparently thinks that it's perfectly OK to keep attacking, attacking, attacking, without ever defending his own position. Let the reader judge how respectable that is.

4:59 PM EDT  
Blogger larryniven said...

Oh, I see - reason used to be your fundamental source of knowledge, and now the idea of God is, but you "have not replaced reason with the idea of God." So when you replace one thing with another, what you've done is not replacement. Gotcha.

"larryniven apparently thinks that it's perfectly OK to keep attacking, attacking, attacking, without ever defending his own position. Let the reader judge how RESPECTABLE that is."

Emphasis mine. Here you are again, confusing respectability with correctness. Run away all you want behind your little wall o' popularity, being liked is not the same as bring right. The difference between you and me, evidently, is that if we have to choose between the two, you'll go for well-liked every time whereas I'll stick to the truth. I know it must be tiresome for you to see me say this again, but that's flagrant sophistry on your part. And do you often say "see you later" when nobody's going anywhere?

5:05 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

You are quite a character, and high on my list of most irrational people I've ever interacted with.

Answer my arguments, or we're done.
I think I know what you're going to say, so yeah, see you. I'm going somewhere.

5:08 PM EDT  
Blogger larryniven said...

"Answer my arguments, or we're done."

Answer your arguments? If you're going to tell me to do something with a nonexistent entity, you might as well make it interesting. Next time, tell me to feed your unicorns or wash your Holy Grail or something. Saying that I'm not respectable isn't really an argument, I'm afraid (and anyway, I'm not sure I disagree). But then again, "arguments" for you are totally different than "arguments" for the rest of us, aren't they? After all, with reason "in its place," God could tell you to believe (P & ~P) and you couldn't really defer. So maybe I should answer your garbled nonsense, then. If so, here goes: there is no spoon; all your base are belong to us; therefore, God is a sock.

5:16 PM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

Can I just say that this is brilliant for the spectators. Thanks, larryniven!

p.s. Rhology - you asked the reader to judge larryniven's arguments. I'm a reader, and I judge that you're getting the sh*t kicked out of you.

8:46 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Greetings, Rhology.

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

As you have surely noticed, I am no longer actively blogging, nor am I participating in comment boxes at this time. I consider “My Case Against God” closed, in the sense that my argument is complete and, for now, the final chapter has been written. Of course, at some later date, I might reactivate the site. However, I judge the prospect unlikely.

Given your considerable readership, I am sure you will find capable interlocutors to chew over these points. Although I strongly disagree with your line of argument, I do not currently possess “the fire in the belly” to disabuse theists of their fallacies, no matter how much fun such activity usually is. My work, including the essay to which you responded, stands on its own, as does evidentialism as a robust Philosophical First Principle (as distinguished from a Cosmic First Principle).**



** I am deliberately departing from the established lexicon to make a critical distinction. I would define a Cosmic First Principle as one that, quite literally, explains everything: Such a principle would presuppose nothing (not even the coherency of “principle” as a concept), yet, in itself and through itself, illuminate everything. Such a principle would be true, active and vital before any consciousness was around to grasp or utilize it; that is, it would in no way be dependent on humans, our sentience or our thoughts. A Cosmic First Principle would be there—true, active and vital—even before matter condensed in the cosmos.
By contrast, a Philosophical First Principle is an indivisible, un-splittable foundation of human thought. Taking certain things (including, but not restricted to, one’s own existence, one’s own sentience and the existence of abstract concepts such as principles) as granted (all those things are manifest, by the way), such a principle aspires to be a roadmap for efficacious reasoning. [Think of it this way: “Here we are…sentient beings on this planet in this universe. How best might we harness our minds?”] The postulate you quoted, and to which I still hold, “Evidence is the best, most reliable way for humans to approximate truth,” is a First Principle of exactly this philosophical flavor.

9:37 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Paul C, maybe you could do me the favor of quoting larryniven's arguments. I don't see very many. Just a simple copy/paste will do.

9:04 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

I submit just one additional thought before I make my departure from this issue.

I find it fantastically odd that you inextricably link the cosmos’ actual natural reality with human beings having a “consistent and complete worldview,” as you might phrase it. To employ an analogy of scale, it is as though you think the nature and actuality of planet Earth somehow is bound up with the musings of Drosophila melanogaster. The universe is incomprehensibly old and unimaginably vast; in the game of existence, human beings are neophytes…microscopic, inconsequential parasites crawling around a tiny, long-forgotten-about speck of stardust. It is unforgivably solipsistic, not to mention speciocentric, to tie the entirety of cosmic reality into humankind’s haphazard musings, in the form of our respective worldviews.

The cosmos preceded us. It shall outlast us. It, its nature and its reality have no dependence upon our neural firing patterns. [I remind crusading environmentalists that attempting “to save planet Earth” is egocentric folly; this planet also preceded us and certainly shall outlast us.] The best we may do, as sentient beings who find ourselves here, is to direct our brainpower toward rational thought…in hopes that our (ultimately insignificant) lives might persist a bit longer.

4:51 PM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

Nah, I don't think that's worth doing. The fact that you really can't see it is actually one of the things that makes your comments so funny.

6:01 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Paul C,

You responded exactly like I thought you would.
Next time try making an argument. larryniven has had trouble doing that. Don't hitch your wagon to someone like him.

JN,

So...forming, refining, and keeping a consistent and complete worldview is not a goal of yours?
Or is it the case that you think that a worldview that agrees with and accounts for "the cosmos’ actual natural reality" is unimportant? Impossible? Really hard?
Once again I am glad to remind myself and everyone reading that the Christian worldview not only accounts for the "musings of Drosophila melanogaster" but also my own musings, problems, worries, and struggles, as well as the cosmos’ actual natural reality. All of it. The God of the Bible made it all and watches it all and holds it all together by His power. He knows it all, and He has been kind to reveal a great deal of it to humanity. Yes, we are tiny. Yes, we are puny. We are insignificant, as size goes. Yet we are loved by a great and wonderful God Who has forgiven those of us who repent of breaking His law.
It looks like you're giving up here, JN. that's not a shame, but what is a shame is that, having apparently conceded that your worldview does not account for much of the cosmos’ actual natural reality, you will still hold to it. I thought Christians were the ones who were supposed to be the ones who take everything on blind and unprovable faith...

Peace,
Rhology

9:45 AM EDT  
Blogger Paul C said...

IT'S COMEDY GOLD 24/7 WITH RHOLOGY.

10:08 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Greetings, Rhology.

Having read your rejoinders, it has become clear I must address a couple of additional items. First, though, let me say that I am glad you recognize the critical distinction between a Cosmic First Principle (hereafter “CFP”) and Philosophical First Principle (hereafter “PFP”). Again, these terms might not be in the conventional lexicon, but, clearly, they are distinct from each other.

When you say, "So...forming, refining, and keeping a consistent and complete worldview is not a goal of yours?" you are, in essence, asking whether I hold a particular, foundational First Principle. Indeed, I do. However, it is a PFP, rather than a CFP. Indeed, from all I have seen, CFPs are presuppositional sophistry or, more crassly stated, pious handjobbery. Here is why:

You have worded your CFP in various forms, but it always comes down to Yahweh; that is, all meaning and value flow from Yahweh, his existence and his nature. Yahweh is the self-subsistent CFP. You hasten to add that Zeus, among other god characters, is insufficient as a CFP (because Zeus lacks Yahwehian characteristics A, B, C, D, etc.). However—and we have been through this before—if you believe Yahweh works as a CFP, he must possess certain character traits (which Zeus lacks) that make him suitable as one. And, because you have never proved that every dot and iota of Yahweh's nature is critical for this job, one must assume it comes down to a set of core essentialities. This being the case, I could define the Ethereal Cosmic Catfish (hereafter “ECC”) so as to possess all those core essentialities, and then sprinkle in sundry variables, to taste. [This step ensures ECC is materially different from Yahweh and other deities.] Through this exercise, ECC would transform into a CFP—the singular source of a comprehensive, complete, consistent worldview. And, yet, I would remain pitifully ignorant of the cosmos’ actual natural reality. Such is the folly of the CFP.

With the PFP, I have armed myself with a fantastically powerful axiom. It gives me an efficacious method to interrogate the world in which I find myself.

Second, the entirety of your line of reasoning is based upon what I deem to be a fallacious notion: that the bare facts of reality cannot be the bare facts of reality, but, instead, require “grounding.” The cosmos exists—this is manifest. Homo sapiens sapiens exist as a species—this is manifest, as well. Homo sapiens sapiens comprise a sentient species—this, too, is manifest. Abstract concepts such as principles can be dealt with by the human species—this, per the pattern, is also manifest. My PFP takes as "granted" the brute facts of the cosmos (among them, the accidental existence of humankind); instead of a grand, overarching worldview, the PFP is a lens through which to examine reality’s bare facts.

If you believe those bare facts of reality require external grounding, I suggest you attempt to demonstrate such.

The fictional world you confect with your CFP reminds me of a passage from "Seems Madam? Nay, It Is" (1899), by the inimitable Bertrand Russell, whom I shall quote:


For the essence of my contention is that Reality, as constructed by metaphysics, bears no sort of relation to the world of experience. It is an empty abstraction, from which no single inference can be validly made as to the world of appearance, in which world, nevertheless, all our interests lie. Even the pure intellectual interest, from which metaphysics springs, is an interest in explaining the world of appearance. But instead of really explaining this actual, palpable, sensible world, metaphysics constructs another fundamentally different world, so different, so unconnected with actual experience, that the world of daily life remains wholly unaffected by it and goes on its way just as if there were no world of Reality at all.


Who, then, is busying himself with empty intellectual calisthenics?


Cheers,
JN

8:48 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommy said...

Or is it the case that you think that a worldview that agrees with and accounts for "the cosmos’ actual natural reality" is unimportant?

Speaking only for myself, for the most part answer is no. I wake up in the morning, eat my breakfast, take a shower, take my kids to day camp, catch the train to work, do my job and have a lunch break, take the train back home, pick up my kids, feed them, feed myself, read the kids a couple of stories, surf the net, and go to bed myself. If it is a weekend, we do chores and errands, maybe the wife and I take the kids to a movie or a park or something.

Now where does the "reality" of the cosmos come into this at all? Unless astronomers inform us that a huge asteroid or other celestial body is on a collision course with Earth in the very near future, the cosmos has no impact (no pun intended!) on how I conduct my affairs on a day to day basis.

On the other hand, it does not mean I do not take an interest in things cosmic. I think it is totally awesome that on certain nights I can set up my telescope and observe Jupiter and its four largest moons or Saturn and its rings.

But here is where the "the cosmos’ actual natural reality" does shape my worldview. From what we have learned from our study of the cosmos, our Earth is one of eight planets that orbits a star in the center of our solar system that we call the sun. Ours is one of countless solar systems in our Milky Way galaxy, which is itself one of countless galaxies filled with their own solar systems. According to a literal reading of Genesis, god made the Earth first, and then 3 days later, he makes the sun around which the Earth revolves as well as every other star, planet, moon, comet, asteroid et cetera.

Now, the latter is what one would expect people ignorant of the nature of the cosmos and with a geocentric bias to speak and write about thousands of years ago. When I read the creation myth in Genesis, I can picture a child sitting around a campfire with his father one night and asking him, "Dad, where did all of this come from?" and the father, relying on what he himself can see and what others may have told him, answers, "In the beginning..."

When I look at the evidence with an open mind, I just don't find it credible at all that the Earth was created BEFORE the rest of the universe and that plants grew on the Earth BEFORE the sun was made. But if performing the mental gymnastics necessary to believe such a thing is what it takes to get you out of bed in the morning and to go through your day without murdering or molesting anyone, then bully for you.

12:14 AM EDT  
Blogger Dr Funkenstein said...

Haha, things are getting quite heated here by the looks of things! Let's mellow out with some highlights from the wonderful world of presuppositonalism:

The claims of presuppositionalists are brilliant, they demand we 'account for' or 'ground' self-evident propositions like logic etc

yet can they 'ground' or 'account for' this God-principle? Let's have a look at these absolutely golden John Frame quotes here

Mysterious though the process may be, somehow God illumines the human mind to discern the divine source of the Word. We know without knowing how we know.

A parallel would be the evangelical doctrine of biblical inspiration: we know that Scripture is God’s Word, but we know very little about the process by which God inspires the biblical writers and texts.

I cannot explain the psychology here to the satisfaction of very many. In this case as in others (for we walk by faith, not by sight!) we may have to accept the fact even without an explanation of the fact. Somehow, God manages to get his Word across to us, despite the logical and psychological barriers.


Hmmm, that'll be a no then.


Gene Cook does an even better job of double-talk with presuppostionalism

here

as well as providing the rather brilliant 2-step proof of God as summarised by Steven Carr

1) Assume God exists.
2) It follows from 1), that God exists.

In his debate with Prof Gene Witmer (UF Philosophy dept), Cook stated Christianity explains everything (and you have to say it's quite a feat that these guys have hit on what has eluded every philosopher and scientist that has ever existed on the planet by explaining everything), yet couldn't explain why God exists when asked by Witmer. Like Chris Hallquist pointed out on his blog, this is no better than "atheism explains everything; I don't know how, but it does."


You have further dollops of genius, such as Frame stating that a person could go through life knowing nothing about presuppositonalism and be perfectly happy. But wait, I thought knowing God exists was essential to reason, rationality etc? I also thought it was supposed to be self-evident, so how can something that apparently isn't self-evident be ..uh..self-evident?


Moving on, apparently the TAG is the be all and end all of religious arguments to these guys (never mind it works just as well for the Supreme Teapot as the Christian God) - well, apart from the fact they can't agree if they just need that one argument (Van Til), or a load of others too (Frame), or if the law of non-contradiction flows from God's nature (Van Til - No; Clarke - Yes).

Easy to see why they can claim everyone else has no basis for their beliefs when they are sitting on such rock solid foundations...

8:07 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

JN,

1) You have not even attempted to address the arguments I made in my post.
2) Rather, you appear to want to divorce reality from "sthg that works for me" in terms of functionality. After all, it wouldn't be any good if it didn't work, right? You're after sthg that gets you thru the day, thru life. I'm after Truth. The disparity is open and obvious.
3) You're escaping to precisely that which I said in my post, namely: "his First Principle is a faith position. I have known that all along, but it's been quite a chore to get him to admit it. Such is obvious to the rest of us and I'm not used to seeing atheists admit stuff like this. In fact, "faith-free zone" seems to be an atheist shibboleth these days, so the JN is definitely breaking ranks with his atheist compadres, but that's OK - he is entitled to do that."

You believe my position is based on virtually nothing but faith. You've admitted that your own position is based solely on faith. Three questions, then:

1) What is the difference between your faith position and my faith position from your perspective?

2) Even though you have hardly interacted with my post at all, I'd really like you to deal with the brain in a vat question. How do you know you're not a brain in a vat? My FP rules that out. In what way does yours? How do you know that evidence "works", is an "efficacious method to interrogate the world in which I find myself"?

3) Is there any compelling reason you could offer someone as to WHY they SHOULD accept your FP over mine? What's in it for anyone? In other words, if your FP is true, so what?

Peace,
Rhology

PS - I forgot to mention, I'll post sthg on the ECC a little later. I'm gathering my thoughts.

8:19 AM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

Dr Funk,

There's a whole post on this very topic; if you have time (and it appears you do, given your glut of posting), I'd love your feedback on it.

The claims of presuppositionalists are brilliant, they demand we 'account for' or 'ground' self-evident propositions like logic etc

Or you could just repair to faith, like the JN has. But then you lose one of your mocking talking points against Christianity.


John Frame said:
Mysterious though the process may be, somehow God illumines the human mind to discern the divine source of the Word. We know without knowing how we know.

This has nothing to do with whether God grounds rationality and everything to do with how a human comes to know that fact.


A parallel would be the evangelical doctrine of biblical inspiration: we know that Scripture is God’s Word, but we know very little about the process by which God inspires the biblical writers and texts.

Ditto.


In this case as in others (for we walk by faith, not by sight!) we may have to accept the fact even without an explanation of the fact. Somehow, God manages to get his Word across to us, despite the logical and psychological barriers.

And this is about how a human comes to be persuaded of this fact.
It's the same big difference between, say, my answer to each of the following two questions:
1) Why do you believe in Jesus?
2) What are your reasons why someone should believe in Jesus?

It's still a mystery how God broke through my blindness and hatred of Him (indeed, how He does so for any human who eventually turns to Christ), but He did it and I'm glad. The intellectual satisfaction I have found since then is gravy, but it's very real gravy.


Dr Funk said:
Hmmm, that'll be a no then.

Maybe you could find some quotes from someone that actually deals with the subject at hand.


Gene Cook does an even better job of double-talk with presuppostionalism

Why don't you just call him and ask him that question? He's a big boy.


1) Assume God exists.
2) It follows from 1), that God exists.


Which is, of course, a strawman. Thanks for playing.
And as we've seen, the same 2-step applies to you guys:
1) Assume evidence is.
2) Use it to justify your use of evidence.

Only there are decisive refutations of that (some of which I've just written on). I've yet to see any of the God of the Bible.


"atheism explains everything; I don't know how, but it does."

Only I've just finished showing how it DOESN'T explain everything.
Maybe you could show how Christianity doesn't explain everything.


Frame stating that a person could go through life knowing nothing about presuppositonalism and be perfectly happy. But wait, I thought knowing God exists was essential to reason, rationality etc?

Dr Funk, you appear to be out of your element here. You're not presenting a coherent train of thought. A little more practice is in order. But then again, that's what we're doing here, isn't it?
The answer is in the very words you pasted.

"a person could go through life knowing nothing *****about presuppositonalism***** and be perfectly happy"
"***knowing God exists*** was essential to reason, rationality etc?"

Those are not the same thing, and you should know that. There's a big difference between knowing sthg is true and being able to explain WHY you believe it or prove it exhaustively. There's not enough time in the day, and that's not everyone's bag.


(never mind it works just as well for the Supreme Teapot as the Christian God)

Stay tuned for why that argument fails utterly.
See here for an appetizer.


Easy to see why they can claim everyone else has no basis for their beliefs when they are sitting on such rock solid foundations...

Ever considered attempting to justify your own? I know, it's just easier to throw rocks at others, but you could at least give it a try, you know. The GodD---ed Podcasters have recently been trying (and failing miserably) to escape the retreat to faith that we've seen the JN resort to.

Peace,
Rhology

8:33 AM EDT  
Blogger Dr Funkenstein said...

There's a whole post on this very topic; if you have time (and it appears you do, given your glut of posting), I'd love your feedback on it.

Haha, I wouldn't call it a glut, I only made 2 medium-ish posts (one of which I'd half started a couple of weeks back) and one short one - maybe I just got a bit excited after being away from the interweb for 2 weeks :) I'll try and get involved, although I'll have to reply to your post on my blog before that.

Sorry to hear you were sick by the way - obviously we have our differences of opinion, but I'm sure you realise I don't wish you any personal ill-will.


Or you could just repair to faith, like the JN has. But then you lose one of your mocking talking points against Christianity.

Everyone has to start from a set of assumptions, but the idea should be that these are self-evident eg existence is self-evident as how would we be having this discussion (or doing anything) otherwise? Logic is self-evident seeing as it would be impossible to make an argument against it without being logical etc etc. TGOTB is not self-evident.


This has nothing to do with whether God grounds rationality and everything to do with how a human comes to know that fact.

So you have to make another assumption that that you can't provide any justification for (as Frame clearly can't), as well as the assumption of eg rationality - why not just make the one assumption of rationality since it's self-evident and doesn't require any extra assumptions on top? He's just added extra problems that he admits he can't account for.


And this is about how a human comes to be persuaded of this fact.
It's the same big difference between, say, my answer to each of the following two questions:
1) Why do you believe in Jesus?
2) What are your reasons why someone should believe in Jesus?

It's still a mystery how God broke through my blindness and hatred of Him (indeed, how He does so for any human who eventually turns to Christ), but He did it and I'm glad. The intellectual satisfaction I have found since then is gravy, but it's very real gravy.


Fair enough, but I could equally say I get plenty of satisfaction from atheism or scientific thought. If it helps you enjoy your life and you're not bothering anyone, more power to you I say - however, it's just arguing from emotion ie it makes me feel good so I'll believe it. I meant to point out previously that you often bring up the idea that atheists hate Jesus - I don't. I simply don't believe he was a God, just a man like any of the rest of us.


Maybe you could find some quotes from someone that actually deals with the subject at hand.

Presuppositionalists demand we account for foundational beliefs such as logic etc. I demand presuppositionalists account for foundational beliefs like how they know God exists, how they know God was able to communicate with the writers of the bible and how God imparts knowledge of himself to them. Since Frame clearly can't (and from what I've read of Bahnsen and Van Til neither can they), why grant them leeway that they won't grant the rest of us?


Why don't you just call him and ask him that question? He's a big boy.

I've listened to a few of his shows, he's a very good presenter for sure and I've heard him absolutely demolish a couple of people that went on. However, read over those quotes on the blog from the Hallquist debate and his response to Witmer - he clearly has no better justification for his starting assumptions than he demands of atheists/non-presuppers, and blatantly contradicted himself in his claims that he had justification for his views that he states non-presupps don't have.


Which is, of course, a strawman. Thanks for playing.

it really isn't though - read what Cook says:

"The point that was not made clear, because Chris never asked for clarification, was concerning my justification for the existence of God.

"My belief that God exists is a foundational belief that is held by faith. I do not hold that Christians nor atheists have a rational justification for every foundational belief.

"Now having said that, I do have a rational justification for the existence of God. For example he is the precondition for intelligibility. But I have to assume he exists BEFORE I can demonstrate that belief in Him is rational.

"Got it?"


The bit in italics is exactly what Steven Carr summarised. What other conclusion would anyone arrive at if they'd assumed it as a starting point?

And as we've seen, the same 2-step applies to you guys:
1) Assume evidence is.
2) Use it to justify your use of evidence.


Assuming you're referring to the JN there, you'll notice (as he's pointed out many times) he could still end up with your worldiew, and in fact some apologists are evidentialists as the David Snoke essay points out. From your FP there is no other possible conclusion you can end up with.

Everyone has to start from a set of axioms. If you want to find truth, surely making the minimal possible number of assumptions (and that these assumptions should be self-evident) that leaves the possibility of any conclusion open (whether it be atheism or a variant of theism or whatever) is the smartest plan? However, presuppers seem to think this means anything goes, and in addition to choosing the axioms the rest of us do, throw in a few extra enormous assumptions which cannot possibly lead to any other conclusion - most of them even admit the circularity, which Frame illustrates in the article with the example of the guy assuming his professors etc are out to get him then shoehorns everything around it. Frame's a smart guy by all accounts, so I'm amazed he didn't see the irony in what he'd written.

Only there are decisive refutations of that (some of which I've just written on). I've yet to see any of the God of the Bible.

I've yet to see any theistic argument that is more than an argument for deism whether it be TAG or other, and as far as I'm aware all of them have been refuted numerous times (eg I know Hume and Kant rebutted many of the better known ones, and more recently Michael Martin and JL Mackie have written extensively)

Only I've just finished showing how it DOESN'T explain everything.
Maybe you could show how Christianity doesn't explain everything.


Again, read the dialogue with Cook - he states that Christianity explains everything, he just doesn't know how. If he doesn't know how, how does he know it explains everything? Again, this runs to a double standard as Chris Hallquist pointed out.

"atheism explains everything; I don't know how, but it does."

Dr Funk, you appear to be out of your element here. You're not presenting a coherent train of thought. A little more practice is in order. But then again, that's what we're doing here, isn't it?
The answer is in the very words you pasted.

"a person could go through life knowing nothing *****about presuppositonalism***** and be perfectly happy"
"***knowing God exists*** was essential to reason, rationality etc?"


A central tenet of presuppositionalism is the idea that without God, rationality, logic etc would be impossible. If someone tried to conduct their life without logic, rationality etc they would swiftly have themselves up for a Darwin award. Clearly if they don't need to know about presuppositionalism and by extension don't need to know about TGOTB to conduct their life or understand the world they live in, then they don't need to presuppose God at any point and therefore its a totally unneccessary principle.


Those are not the same thing, and you should know that. There's a big difference between knowing sthg is true and being able to explain WHY you believe it or prove it exhaustively. There's not enough time in the day, and that's not everyone's bag.

But as Chris pointed out this is no better than me saying 'I know atheism is true even though I don't know why'. The standard is exactly the same.


Stay tuned for why that argument fails utterly.
See here for an appetizer.


It doesn't though, since "if X exists, then TGOTB exists" is a totally arbitrary statement, as the JN has demonstrated amply with the ECC, and which is apparent to anyone who is not committed to believing TGOTB at all costs. Furthermore, if you read that P1, it doesn't just presuppose God, it presupposes existence meaning that God is not actually your first principle, existence is.


Ever considered attempting to justify your own? I know, it's just easier to throw rocks at others, but you could at least give it a try, you know. The GodD---ed Podcasters have recently been trying (and failing miserably) to escape the retreat to faith that we've seen the JN resort to.

The point of this wasn't for me to justify my foundations (and the point of axioms is that they are argued from, not argued for - there's no need to justify things that are self-evident like existence. Our axioms are probably pretty much the same minus me adding God on to the top of them), it was a response to your statements here that essentially claim noone has any foundation for their beliefs apart from presuppers. However, reading over the links and quotes I've provided, it's clear that presuppositional apologetic foundations are:

a) At best no more solid than the belief systems they criticise
b) Adds in far more starting assumptions than are necessary in other views such as the JN's
c) Works to a double standard by demanding accountability that they can't provide for their own foundations, despite their grand claims
d) Makes meaningless unsubstantiated statements such as 'the impossibility of the contrary' - how exactly would anyone prove this?
e) relies on flawed arguments with totally arbitrary premises such as TAG

etc etc

6:56 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Rhology,


You have not even attempted to address the arguments I made in my post.

Actually, that is not quite accurate. Despite the fact that I announced my intention to withdraw from continued internet debate, largely because I feel “all is accomplished,” I did interact, through the comment box, with several aspects of your most recent post. Your most important argument was that my First Principle (hereafter “FP”) is inadequate because it is forced to “smuggle” concepts into the equation. You asserted my FP was but a tiny shard of a complete, comprehensive worldview.

I rebutted this point by distinguishing a Cosmic First Principle (hereafter “CFP”) from a Philosophical First Principle (hereafter “PFP”). A PFP is a lens through which an individual interrogates the world in which he finds himself. A CFP seems to attempt to overarch the world itself. In my quoted passage from Russell, he seems to denigrate those enamored of CFPs, metaphysical musings and resultant confected realities.


You're escaping to precisely that which I said in my post, namely: "his First Principle is a faith position. I have known that all along, but it's been quite a chore to get him to admit it. Such is obvious to the rest of us and I'm not used to seeing atheists admit stuff like this. In fact, "faith-free zone" seems to be an atheist shibboleth these days, so the JN is definitely breaking ranks with his atheist compadres, but that's OK - he is entitled to do that."
You believe my position is based on virtually nothing but faith. You've admitted that your own position is based solely on faith.


I do not have any real issue with your analysis, but the semantics are suspect. “Faith” is a loaded word, which you are deliberately using to maximize what you perceive to be my discomfort with the term. Consider an example: If an American soldier serving in Iraq killed people during the course of battles, he could be accurately labeled a “killer.” After all, he killed people. However, the word, due to its intrinsic baggage, conveys a misleading impression. In the same way, my FP is better described as an axiom, supposition or postulate. You may employ those descriptors, too, if you like.


What is the difference between your faith position and my faith position from your perspective?

The key difference is that you cling to a CFP whereas I possess a PFP—a distinction you have already recognized as valid and comprehensible. Looking at my position, I take that which is manifest, e.g., the cosmos, me as an individual, my sentience, etc., as “granted”…requiring no external “grounding” or formalized justification. (This is NOT to say these things are fundamentally inexplicable—after all, we know quite a bit about how the cosmos came to its current form and a great deal about how humans, such as me, evolved—but rather that these things need not be externally “grounded,” as you would phrase it.) There are good PFPs and bad PFPs. Mine is good—that is, a good lens through which to interrogate the world—because it is self-subsisting, reliable and efficacious. Other PFPs, such as “Mathematics is the only way humans can reach truth,” fail for one reason or another. (That one, of course, fails because it is self-annihilating. My own is NOT self-annihilating because evidence can be marshaled to demonstrate evidence’s utility.)

My criticism of CFPs is twofold: First, I share Russell’s concern that such musings exist solely in the land of metaphysics, having no real relationship with the world of experience. Second, and much more important, my Ethereal Cosmic Catfish (hereafter “ECC”) argument shows that one can craft a genuine CFP—what you consider to be the root of a complete, comprehensive worldview—and yet gain no actual knowledge of the cosmos’ actual natural reality. Judging from your comments vis-à-vis Yahweh, all I would need to do to have a robust CFP is define ECC with sufficient meticulousness. As long as I imbued ECC with certain core essentialities, I could define it into existence and, resultantly, put it at the head of the cosmos (which I would gain no actual knowledge of through this process). At the barest minimum, my PFP is rooted in that which is manifest.


Even though you have hardly interacted with my post at all, I'd really like you to deal with the brain in a vat question. How do you know you're not a brain in a vat? My FP rules that out. In what way does yours? How do you know that evidence "works", is an "efficacious method to interrogate the world in which I find myself"?

I do not have to deal with the “brain in a vat” question because the location of my brain—inside my skull—is manifest. That I have 10 fingers, rather than 16, is manifest. That I have glasses on my face right now is manifest. That I am sitting on a chair, rather than on a sleeping lion, is manifest. I see no reason to waste time debating the obvious; the basic facts are the basic facts. The universe exists and, more importantly, exists in a particular way. The valuable question is how the facts converge…the process of gathering data, analyzing it and reaching grander, more complex conclusions. This is where a PFP gets its play: Analyzing several manifest facts of the universe and drawing broader conclusions therefrom. If you wish to deny or question that which is manifest, you may do so—but do not pretend others must.


Is there any compelling reason you could offer someone as to WHY they SHOULD accept your FP over mine? What's in it for anyone? In other words, if your FP is true, so what?

Every voluntary action undertaken by a human is an attempt (successful or unsuccessful) to fulfill a desire. Suppose you are standing in the dining room, with the kitchen to your left and the den to your right. If you turn left and walk into the kitchen, it is because you desired to do so. Every voluntary action represents an attempt at desire fulfillment. Sometimes, desires are conflicting. Suppose you are a college student and your alarm has roused you. It is 8AM…time for class. Part of you desires to roll over and go back to sleep. Another part of you desires to rise, dress and go to class. If you do get up and start moving, it is only because you desired to do so—and desired it more than staying in bed. In fact, in the case of directly contradictory desires, one desire becomes dominant and the other ceases to be a genuine desire. Ultimately, in terms of voluntary actions, one always follows one’s desire.

That rambling preface was required to show my PFP’s worth. If evidence is an excellent way to approximate truth—and it is—then people would benefit from following my PFP because accurate, truthful knowledge enables them to align their behaviors with their desires. Every voluntary action undertaken by a human is an attempt to fulfill a desire, but if said human is filled with false information, his attempt at desire fulfillment might be entirely wrongheaded and counterproductive. Only with accurate knowledge can desire and action be aligned effectively. Thus, if I were evangelizing my FP, I would make exactly this argument. Using evidence as one’s guiding light, the effectiveness of one’s voluntary actions is maximized.


JN

9:13 PM EDT  

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