Sunday, January 10, 2010

Visiting weareSMRT Again.

Again, welcome to folks who are referred here by the weareSMRT bulletin board. Since no one has chosen to challenge or otherwise engage me here on issues that are posted over there, I will go ahead and take the initiative by challenging one of their front page posts. I will restate the arguments into syllogisms or something close to syllogisms:

Five SMRT Reasons To Be An Atheist

1. “Contrary to popular belief, lack of evidence is proof of lack of existence.”

Consider this for a moment. The statement might be made clear as follows: There is no evidence for X, therefore there is no X. Now let’s substitute something for X, such as X-rays, for example, which had no evidence for millennia. Or radio frequency electromagnetic signals. Or a zillion other things, including sub-atomic particles, dark matter, planets around other stars, etc.

In the comment section the author defends the statement as probabilistic: an island with no visible residents can be said to be “probably uninhabited”. This is of course, far different from declaring that something in another dimension does not – in fact – exist. Or declaring that the entire universe has been searched for all time and space, and decisions made at each point. Nor does it defend against the allegations that certain physical irregular singularities within human history are attributable to deity intervention, by claiming to have resolved, empirically, each and every one. Both the defense and the argument itself are not robust and are false.

Even mature Atheists agree that a negative cannot be proven. That’s why they move to cover their tracks with the notion of having “no deity theory” as opposed to a “theory of no deity”. The unicorn / orbiting tea pot / flying spaghetti machine theories are superficial veneers for actual arguments; they fail at first investigation, because they are arguments created specifically as “proof of no deity”, which they cannot do as failed proof-of-negative analogs.

For example, the probability of “no orbiting tea pot” is far different from the probability of a First Cause, or the existence of other dimensions, or the connection between mind and matter that doesn’t seem to exist between matter and matter. The fallacy is the “Black and White Fallacy”, and the tactic is the “Red Herring Fallacy”, used to redirect an argument into false argumentation.

2. All gods are made up; therefore the Judeo-Christian deity is false.

This is a Genetic Fallacy, combined with a Guilt By Association fallacy. There is no attempt to prove that the allegation is specifically valid for the target; the target is lumped together (falsely associated with) other entities in order to discredit purely by the association.

As a logic syllogism, the premise fails due to lack of empirical evidence: even if most gods are made up it doesn’t prove that all gods are made up; so the conclusion cannot be valid, being based on a non-valid premise. This is a basic type of logic error: false premise.

3. Religions are absurd (silly). Evidence for this is a) transubstantiation, b) condemning homosexuality, but allowing servitude; therefore religion doesn’t make any sense.

The attack here is not on any deity nor is it a defense of Atheism, it is a) an attack upon an ecclesiastical quirk, and b) a politically correct moral take on biblical positions, one of which is true (homosexuality), and one of which misunderstands biblical servitude as being “slavery”, which it is not.

Let’s take a) the ecclesiastical position of transubstantiation. This is a belief of a subset of theists. It is a human creation, added to theism, but it is neither necessary nor sufficient for theism to be valid or for a deity to exist. As an attack on theism, then, it misses the mark completely. As evidence for No Deity, it doesn’t even qualify as a minor position of rational Atheists at all.

b) The bible is against homosexual conduct, but it is not “homophobic” (an erroneous term used to engender an aura of victimhood, which resonates in today’s Leftist lexicon). The biblical sodomites were not merely homosexual, they were rapists. The view of homosexuality as non-aberrational is a recently manufactured view (mid 1970's), promoted via costly PR campaigns that have painted it as something which it is not: wholesome and normal and without consequences. Recovered homosexuals testify to this quite well. Homosexuality as non-aberrational is a view that requires a non-traditional scientific viewpoint along with denial of real statistics of both rate of incidence, consequences, and rehabilitation capacity.

As for “servitude”, biblical servitude practiced by Hebrews was not slavery for the most part, it was indentured servitude, wherein a person repaid a debt by service to the debt holder; and every so often all the debtors were automatically released from servitude. Enemies of the Hebrews did take slaves. And yes, sometimes the Hebrews were ordered to slay their enemies and take some prisoners, with it not being clear whether they were servants or slaves. Whether or not this offends modern, relativist sensitivities, the practicality can’t be argued on Consequentialist grounds; so if this is truly part of the ethics of a deity, then the ethics of the deity involved is congruent with Atheist Consequentialism on this point. So if the deity approves it, the Hebrews approved it, and the Consequentialist Atheists approve it, there is no argument left. (Note 1)

4. Religions promote violence, therefore there is no deity.

This fails immediately since the conclusion does not follow from the premise, and of course the over-generalization in the premise is not true. Neither the followers of Buddha nor the words of Jesus promote violence. Probably not all the 300 million gods of Hinduism promote violence. Much of the Qu’ran does promote violence; but Islam is not “all religion”.

Yes, the Bible is against homosexuality… but as a practice, not as people. And as for Prop 8, the violence was waged by the angry homosexuals, including against old women, when the homosexuals didn’t get their way – not by the anti-Prop 8 crowd. And the vote was turned by majorities of Hispanics and blacks voting against it, a multi-ethnic rejection. But homosexual enthusiasts blame Mormons. In fact, the homosexuals would have rioted against secularists if the secularists had defeated the proposition; the anger was not religion based, it was a violent homosexual tantrum at not getting what they wanted, when they wanted it.

The reference to the violence of Islam is always a point in the favor of Christianity. The connection between the Left and Islam, and the Leftist hatred for Israel and the Leftist anti-Semitism is an indicator of the radicalism and fascism that exists in the Atheist, elitist Left, not in Christianity. (Want to discuss this?)

But of course, the ethical opposite of Christianity is Islam, yet the violence of Islam is used as a smear against all religions, which is the familiar Genetic and Guilt By Association Fallacy, as in item 2, above. Once again, a presupposed a priori disdain of ecclesiasticism (human institutions) is substituted as an argument against the existence of a deity / First Cause.

But again, the argument fails, since it fails to address the conditions of existence of a deity / First Cause. The conclusion does not follow from the premise, and the premise is not true of all states of religious existence.

5. Prayers don’t work. Test this by praying for something and see if you get it.

Prayer is intended to be a communication channel with the deity, not a magic vending machine. This is either an indication of massive ignorance on the writer’s part, or a deliberate deception being practiced on the unwary (and such a deception is practiced by some media "evangelists", contra the bible). Either way, it is false, and millions who do pray successfully and have attained such a relationship will attest to that, and are ignored here.

These reasons do not rise to arguments against the existence of a deity or the conditions surrounding that argument. More substantive arguments such as “who made God” and “the argument from evil” and even "evolution as proof of philosophical materialism", are ignored. But I will discuss these and any other “reasons”, just say the word (or ask a question).

Please feel free to question or discuss any part of this.

Note 1: Slavery in the USA was defended by the Democrat party, the party of Southern slaveholders. The Democrats continued to practice severe discrimination against blacks during the 100 years following the Civil War, via Jim Crow and Separate but Equal legislation. Civil Rights legislation was passed by Republicans with many Democrats opposing it. But the Left now claims it as their own, contra historical fact. The Left has always identified with tyrannical leaders and within its power, practiced tyrannical and victimological legislation here in the USA. Care to discuss this further?

71 comments:

Vagon said...

Looks like you were constructing this while I posted. I'll give it a read now.

Vagon said...

Hi Stan I might break this down into parts.

1. Before I address your line of thought could you clear up some questions for me?

Or declaring that the entire universe has been searched for all time and space, and decisions made at each point.

Can you explain why it is useful to assume the potential of this absolute knowledge?

For example, the probability of “no orbiting tea pot” is far different from the probability of a First Cause, or the existence of other dimensions, or the connection between mind and matter that doesn’t seem to exist between matter and matter.

Can you show how an idea can exist without a brain?

Thanks,
Vagon

Vagon said...

2. I think you'll find you've confused a valid reducto ad absurdem argument with a genetic fallacy. That is, what about your god makes it more probable than any other of the gods which you do not accept?

Let me know if you think I've avoided your criticism.

Vagon said...

3. In this case your attack seems meritted, perhaps you could provide a direct link to this argument one of us has made?

Vagon said...

4. I believe again you've perhaps read into it wrongly. Its more than religion justifies absurd actions. Voltaire is quoted as saying:

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities"

Vagon said...

5. Could you show any statistical data that correlates prayer with working.

I will also trot out an internet favourite, why hasn't any god healed amputees?

Vagon said...

I have found the post you're referring to, for anyone concerned it is http://www.wearesmrt.com/2009/11/five-good-reasons-for-being-an-atheist/

Vagon said...

3. a) You correctly identify it as a the practice of a subset of theists, can you show that it was not intended to be viewed in such a way?

b) Are you suggesting that that homophobia is not the practice of any subset (list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations) of Christianity?

c)Where in the post is slavery mentioned? The point is comparative, that condemning homosexuality while enabling forced servitude for six years is absurd.

Considering the extensive number of Christian denominations can you explain how we can tell which rituals are not absurd and on what basis?

Anonymous said...

"Since no one has chosen to challenge or otherwise engage me here on issues that are posted over there, I will go ahead and take the initiative by challenging one of their front page posts."

Ahem, there are six comments on the original post that you have not commented on.

Anonymous said...

Also in the original post you said,
"This is a tendency of block-thinking groups that proclaim “skepticism” for themselves,......"

Now you have picked off an article on the front page.

For your information, SMRTies are freethinkers and there are some epic battles within the commentators from time to time.

Next, front page articles are submitted and published with no changes and may or may not represent the group as a whole, but I have rarely seen a subject that has been agreed on by everybody so your insults are unfounded.

Finally, here you are group thinking with the "birthers" and you accuse another loose knit group as "Block thinking."

James said...

As a fellow SMRTie (or SMRTist, or SMRTenite, or SMRTarse), I would like to draw your attention to the forums, which are far more active than the front page: www.wearesmrt.com/bb. The front page essay to which you respond was written some time ago.

James said...

And yes, I agree with Anon: as an example I personally do not find the 5 reasons essay to be convincing.

Actually, we had a discussion about group-think at SMRT some time back, and couldn't agree within ourselves whether or not we are guilty of it. Hee hee hee.

Anonymous said...

So what gives here?
The guy is whining about no discussion but he's the only one not discussing.

This is a joke.

Vagon said...

Maybe not, the post came out seconds after I posted in the Obama thread. My guess is, during the time he constructed this we all posted there.

Stan said...

Vagon, Anonymous, James, and others,

Thanks for your comments, and especially for your measured tones and statements. I will address each of your issues tomorrow, I hope you'll come around again for a discussion.

I was vaguely aware of a discussion board over there but I haven't been into it so far.

I'll be back here tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Stan-
2. All gods are made up; therefore the Judeo-Christian deity is false.
This is the fallacy commonly referred to as-'begging the question.' (A textbook example)

Vagon said...

Above anonymous - respectfully, you've miswritten the statement. Let me formalise it for you, where X is the god in question and Y is any other deity:

1. All Zs other than X are consider false (mutual agreement).
2. X has a similar ontology to the other Zs (non positive).
3. Therefore to say X exists is special pleading (in exemption of compelling, specific argument for X).


Note how there is even more problems if you are pantheist, in which case you probably wouldn't have the agreement I have assume in 1.

BathTub said...

The site is the forum, the blog is really more of an afterthought.

Stan said...

SMRTs: Good Morning all,
A note about this blog. I don’t try to treat this blog as a chat room in the sense that I can stay on for long periods and exchange thoughts in almost real time. The comments do get answered, but sometimes with a delay that is significant. I actually find this format to be beneficial because it provides time for thought, rather than off-the-cuff responses. I don’t get everything right and I sometimes offer corrections, usually when I don’t take enough time to work an issue properly.

I’ll try to respond sequentially to the issues presented by the commentors above.

Vagon said,

Stan: “Or declaring that the entire universe has been searched for all time and space, and decisions made at each point.”

Can you explain why it is useful to assume the potential of this absolute knowledge?

This is a response to the standard claim that there “is no evidence for a deity”, which presumes that all possible evidence has been explored and examined.

Vagon said,

Stan: “For example, the probability of “no orbiting tea pot” is far different from the probability of a First Cause, or the existence of other dimensions, or the connection between mind and matter that doesn’t seem to exist between matter and matter.

Can you show how an idea can exist without a brain?


First I’ll answer the mechanics of the question, then I’ll answer what I believe to be the intent of the question.

If ideas did not exist outside the brain, then transmission of information would be fruitless, as would storage of ideas as patents, on various media from stone to digits on plastic. If I am to communicate an idea, it has to exist in the void between my brain and the brain receiving the idea.

But I don’t think that is the real issue. I suspect that the real question concerns the existence of a mind outside the confines of a brain.

The brain is not the mind, of course, or else all mental processes and ideas would pre-exist in the brain as hardwired neurological memory entries, obtained no doubt through evolutionary mutations. The brain is the substrate for the mind, it is not the mind. The mind needs a physical substrate even though it is not a physical entity. Observing the electronic activity of a computer does not reveal the meaning of the activity of the software (a weak example, I know, because the brain is massively parallel without clocked states, as is a digital computer). However, when a computer is turned off in the middle of a software activity, that activity is lost, even though the computer remains. The software is not the hardware, and the mind is not the brain.

(continued in the next comment due to space limitations of blogger)

Stan said...

(continued from previous comment)

The brain can exist without the mind, but is it true that the mind does not exist without the brain? (This is one of those negative questions which cannot be proven in the sense of producing robust empirical data for “not existing”). However it is clear that within our dimensional limitations (space-time, mass-energy), minds probably do not continue to exist without a functioning brain. So the question devolves to whether the mind continues in another dimension, separate and inaccessible from our dimensional limitations.

At this point, the question is usually disallowed by Philosophical Materialists as being non-valid due to the lack of other dimensions that are empirically examinable from our own space-time, mass-energy perspective. However, the fact that these dimensions are mathematically predicted and are not constrained to physical boundaries or timeframes throws Philosophical Materialism into doubt.

In fact, the mind has no mass, no weight, no physical dimensions, and is not merely energy floating between different potentials. The mind exists outside the materialistic domain; it has a hierarchy of meaning, and meaning of meaning, etc. Yet, like software, it requires a substrate, a scaffold. In a very real sense, it exists in another dimension, without the physical attributes of our limited universe.

So the question of the mind existing without a brain is mechanically unanswerable, yet is conceivable; it is either intuited as valid or it is intuitively rejected; it legitimately engenders the caution of agnosticism but not the absolutism of dogmatic rejection.

Vagon said,

“2. I think you'll find you've confused a valid reducto ad absurdem argument with a genetic fallacy. That is, what about your god makes it more probable than any other of the gods which you do not accept?”

Assuming that all proposed deities exist outside the familiar dimensions that exist in our universe, calculating probabilities is not possible. So you likely mean that inferred liklihoods of each deity existing, rather than mathematical calculations of probability.

And assuming that a universe with rational physical laws could mean a rational source for the universe, then each proposed deity can be examined for rational coherence.

But this is not the real issue, is it? The real issue is the attempt to negate all possible deities, based on an argument that if some are false, then all are false. This fallacy is false association; it does not appear to me to be reductio ad absurdem, which is more closely related to false analogy. Flying Spaghetti Machine type arguments are attempts at reductio ad absurdem, which fail because they are actually false analogies.

(I will continue to answer questions as time permits: comments / objections welcome).

Stan said...

Continuing with the questions asked in the comments above:

Vagon said...
3. In this case your attack seems meritted, perhaps you could provide a direct link to this argument one of us has made?


This is on the home page of the site, under Five Good Reasons To Be An Atheist.

Vagon said…
4. I believe again you've perhaps read into it wrongly. Its more than religion justifies absurd actions. Voltaire is quoted as saying:

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities"


It’s interesting that you quote Voltaire, who was not an Atheist, and who was actually referring to the Atheist bloodbath in the French Revolution. Voltaire built a chapel in his backyard in his later years. [Note 1]

Vagon said…
5. Could you show any statistical data that correlates prayer with working.


I will look for data on satisfied customers, i.e. those with a relationship with God.

I will also trot out an internet favourite, why hasn't any god healed amputees?

Voltaire had an interesting answer to that in Note 1, below.

Vagon said…
3. a) You correctly identify it as a the practice of a subset of theists, can you show that it was not intended to be viewed in such a way?


Well of course the idea is that it is a “good reason for being an Atheist” as the article advertises: presumably one needs a fairly universal reason for rejecting God, not just the practices of a subset of ecclesiasts.

b) Are you suggesting that that homophobia is not the practice of any subset (list here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations) of Christianity?

I am not suggesting, I am saying that “homophobia” is a term manufactured to incite hatred when it is applied to despised individuals and organizations that do not share the idea that homosexuality is wholesome and without consequences. (I also do not use Wiki for anything, as a policy). There certainly are aberrant psuedo Christian sects that are as hateful as are the activist homosexuals. That has exactly no bearing on the existence of a pre-existing, intelligent First Cause. So the entire issue is a diversion from the subject of Atheism, dare I say “Red Herring"?

(continued in the next comment due to lack of space in blogger)

Stan said...

(Continued from previous comment)

Vagon said…
“Where in the post is slavery mentioned? The point is comparative, that condemning homosexuality while enabling forced servitude for six years is absurd.”


That’s not what was said, but, Ok let’s do it your way. Based on what foundational principles is your assessment of absurdity derived? Be careful that relativism does not creep in, because that will also negate and well as support your assessment. In other words, absurd based on what standards of not absurd/absurd? In order to answer this question, you are placing yourself in the position of judging the actions of a proposed deity as “absurd” under some standard. But Atheism has no single approved standard for anything (other than the truth value of Atheism, possibly), unless you have some Atheist standard of which I am not aware.


That’s all for now, but I’ll be back, maybe this afternoon or evening.


Note 1: “Let it not be supposed from all this that Voltaire was quite without religion. He decisively rejects atheism [Note 2]; so much so that some of the Encyclopedists turned against him, saying, ‘ Voltaire is a bigot; he believes in God’. …

He [Voltaire] wrote to Diderot:
‘I confess that I am not at all of the opinion of Saunderson, who denies a God because he was born sightless. I am perhaps mistaken; but in his place I should recognize a great Intelligence, who had given me so many wonderful substitutes for sight; an perceiving , on reflection, the wonderful revelations between all things, I should have suspected a Workman infinitely able. If it is very presumptuous to divine what He is, and why He has made everything that exists, so it seems to me very presumptuous to deny that he exists. I am very anxious to meet and talk with you, whether you think yourself one of his works, or a particle drawn, of necessity, from eternal and necessary matter. Whatever you are, you are a part of that great whole which I do not understand.’”

Note 2: ‘Voltaire and His Letters’, p 81.”

All the above from Will Durant, “The Story of Philosophy”, pg 182.

Stan said...

Alright there is only one last issue, Special Pleading.

From FallacyFiles:

Rule: Xs are generally Ys.
x is an X.
x is an exception to the rule because it is I (where I is an irrelevant characteristic).
Therefore, x is not a Y.


So the question becomes, is there a proposed deity (x) that is an exception to the “made up deities” (Y) for reasons that are not “irrelevant”.

The key, then, is what features, exactly, are relevant to the concept of the existence of a) a First Cause? Further, but not necessary, what features are relevant to the existence of b) an intelligent or rational First Cause?

So I put it to you: What relevant features must a proposed deity possess in order to comply with a) and b)? In other words, what are the rules of the game? Here’s your chance to steer it your way!

James said...

RE: The mind-brain thing, because this interests me.

Stan wrote:The brain is not the mind, of course, or else all mental processes and ideas would pre-exist in the brain as hardwired neurological memory entries, obtained no doubt through evolutionary mutations. The brain is the substrate for the mind, it is not the mind. The mind needs a physical substrate even though it is not a physical entity. Observing the electronic activity of a computer does not reveal the meaning of the activity of the software (a weak example, I know, because the brain is massively parallel without clocked states, as is a digital computer). However, when a computer is turned off in the middle of a software activity, that activity is lost, even though the computer remains. The software is not the hardware, and the mind is not the brain.

Your analogy is a good one, but I believe you are confusing processes with 'things.' Computer hardware is a material 'thing,' but software, such as a computer program, is not: it is a process performed by the hardware. Likewise for the mind: it is an ongoing process, performed by the brain. You are correct when you say the mind is not a physical entity: it is not an entity all. It is something an entity does.

Stan wrote:
The brain can exist without the mind, but is it true that the mind does not exist without the brain? (This is one of those negative questions which cannot be proven in the sense of producing robust empirical data for “not existing”). However it is clear that within our dimensional limitations (space-time, mass-energy), minds probably do not continue to exist without a functioning brain. So the question devolves to whether the mind continues in another dimension, separate and inaccessible from our dimensional limitations.

Question for you: if I turn off my computer, does Windows Vista continue to run in another dimension, separate and inaccessible from our dimensional limitations? (Answer: no. Because I'm running XP. Nevertheless, the point stands)

Stan wrote:
In fact, the mind has no mass, no weight, no physical dimensions, and is not merely energy floating between different potentials.

This is correct. Because it is a process. Or more accurately, it is the word we use to reference a process.

The human mind has a tendency to categorise things: it has a very hard time with processes. There is no such thing as a fetus, a baby, a child, a teenager, an adult or an old person. These are all the same thing, at different points in the process of aging.

Stan wrote:
The mind exists outside the materialistic domain; it has a hierarchy of meaning, and meaning of meaning, etc. Yet, like software, it requires a substrate, a scaffold. In a very real sense, it exists in another dimension, without the physical attributes of our limited universe.

I'm not entirely convinced this makes any sense whatsoever. Keep in mind that anything you say about the mind here could equally be applied to Windows.

PS: Rereading this: sorry if it sounds a wee bit sarcastic. I don't mean it to be, I just have an odd sense of humour.

Stan said...

Answering a question (above somewhere) re: successful prayer

This PEW poll indicates the percentage of Americans that pray daily; the average of the "total U.S. Population" is 58%.

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1211/pray-daily-demographics-religion

The real question is (presumably) whether prayer has value. The position that it does not have value would be falsified by just one report that it does have value. As with many things Atheist, the position that prayer has no value is a negative position, one that requires proof of a negative, which cannot be done. In this case, it not only cannot be proved, it can easily be falsified... and is.

Denying the value of prayer is taking the position of denying an experience not had by the denier, and claiming that no one else, therefore, could have the experience either.

And the basis for denial is claimed also on a purely materialist grounding: prayer is presumed to produce material goods, a fallacious premise.

Debunkey Monkey said...

Hey, I wrote the article you critiqued. I don't want to reply to every point you made in this post, but I do thank you for taking the time to read it.

Please feel free to read and comment on whatever we write about on the board or front page.

Thank again!

Debunkey Monkey said...

Oh, I should point out though that I wasn't making a serious argument for atheism; I was writing content for the people at wearesmrt to enjoy and talk about.

The truth of the matter is that all arguments for the existence of God are unscientific and contain logical fallacies or assumptions. Take for example the argument that, "creation is 100% proof there's a creator." This is a clear example of begging the question; yet I hear this argument being used more frequently than you would think.

No one has ever provided any compelling evidence that God exists, so why should I believe in God, let alone YOUR God?

Since we're on the subject, if you were born in the Middle East, you would be arguing for the existence of Allah, in India, you would be arguing for the existence of Vishnu, etc... It's so obvious all these gods are just made up nonsense. I am assuming you think the idea of Thor is absurd.

But you claim YOUR God is real. That's a terrible case of special pleading, and you know it.

Before you say, "But Kate! I have had experiences so I know my God exists!", so has everyone else from every other religion.

Give me a break.

Anyway, have a great day, and thanks again for reading my article. Please feel free to stop by the wearesmrt message boards and leave us a message or two.

* Note: What I talk about God, I am talking about a personal God, not something like Spinoza's God.

Stan said...

Debunky Monkey,
The article claims the author was someone self-appellated "intellectual ninja". So maybe you wrote, maybe not. No matter.

You said,
Take for example the argument that, "creation is 100% proof there's a creator."

I agree 100% with your assessment; that is not a valid argument.

You said,
"No one has ever provided any compelling evidence that God exists, so why should I believe in God, let alone YOUR God?"

This is a Philosophical Materialist viewpoint, arguing that material evidence is required for a non-material deity. I have no need for you to believe in anything; You are free to make up your own mind, as I have. But it is illogical to look for a transcendent entity in a material-only context. We can discuss Philosophical Materialism in detail if you wish.

You said,

"Since we're on the subject, if you were born in the Middle East, you would be arguing for the existence of Allah, in India, you would be arguing for the existence of Vishnu, etc... It's so obvious all these gods are just made up nonsense. I am assuming you think the idea of Thor is absurd."

This argument is false from the get-go. There are Muslims everywhere, Atheists everywhere, Buddhists everywhere, Christians nearly everywhere, even in Iran and China. Conversions happen daily. Your argument stems from the hubris that you alone are capable of determining Truth; all others are stupid followers. Sorry, that's false.

You said,
"...blah, blah, special pleading..."

This is a standard Atheist mis-use of the term "special pleading". The term "special pleading" is used to cover for the actual fallacy being presented by the Atheist straw man set up for just that purpose: Fallacy of Guilt by Association. I addressed that in the comments above; read that and if you still want to discuss it let me know, I'll be happy to.

You said,
"Before you say, "But Kate! I have had experiences so I know my God exists!", so has everyone else from every other religion."

Actually, Muslims do not have direct contact with their deity; they fear that contact greatly, and they ameliorate that fear through jihad. Buddhists admit to no deity, and try to become one with nirvana (that great nothingness). Hindus create their own gods and treat them however they wish.

Your massive overgeneralization is called Fallacy of Accident, aka Fallacy of Sweeping Genralization, aka Fallacy Dicto Simpliciter.

Of the major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judeo-Chrisianity, only Christianity has a promise of direct contact with the deity (and even so, Catholics do not, leaving Protestants).

You said,
"Give me a break."

I think not. But yes, have a nice day! And feel free to comment here any time, too.

Anonymous said...

^ Stan...

Ouch!

Nice one! Keep up the good work.

James said...

Debunky Monkey,
The article claims the author was someone self-appellated "intellectual ninja". So maybe you wrote, maybe not. No matter.

I can verify that Intellectual Ninja is the Debunky Monkey. As evidence, I present: I. Ninja's avatar.

"No one has ever provided any compelling evidence that God exists, so why should I believe in God, let alone YOUR God?"

This is a Philosophical Materialist viewpoint, arguing that material evidence is required for a non-material deity. I have no need for you to believe in anything; You are free to make up your own mind, as I have. But it is illogical to look for a transcendent entity in a material-only context. We can discuss Philosophical Materialism in detail if you wish.


I believe you may have misread her question: She is not claiming that material evidence is required for a non-material deity to exist, she is claiming that belief in a non-material deity without any evidence is illogical.

I would argue that given that we are incapable of obseving non-material phenomena, except by it's effects on physical material, all evidence must be material. But as you said, that argument does begin to slide into Philosophical Materialism.

Stan said...

So her statement includes non-physical, non-material evidence? I am dubious, because her statement reads,

"No one has ever provided any compelling evidence..." which seems to preclude anything except objective, material evidence, to be transmitted to her by someone else. Evidence of the transcendental exists in abundance, but for the most part cannot be lugged around for display to someone else. Yet this is what Materialists demand (and yes, Atheists are de facto Materialists; so many subjects, so ripe for discussion... I love it!)

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

Sorry, I may have mislead you: I don't think her statement included non-physical, non-material evidence, because I don't see any way we, as material beings, are capable of experiencing non-physical, non-material phenomena: at least, not in this life. (The position that there is a non-material existance awaiting us after death is an unsupportable one, precisely because it is non-material: if said existance was to be detectable to any methods, including interacting in any way our brains, then by definition it has to have some form of a material existance, which kind of defeats the whole non-material label. This doesn't mean it's not true, but it is unsupportable)

My original point, however, was that Kate's statement was not of the form: "No-one has provided any evidence in favor, therefore God cannot exist" (which you implied when you said "This is a Philosophical Materialist viewpoint, arguing that material evidence is required for a non-material deity.") It was instead of the form: "No-one has provided any evidence in favor, therefore belief in God is unwarrented."

Vagon said...

Woah a lot to respond to, let me have a read and get back to you.

Vagon said...

Stan you restated This is a response to the standard claim that there “is no evidence for a deity”, which presumes that all possible evidence has been explored and examined.

What I'm asking for is a justification for demanding omniscience when making evidential claims. Do you think it useful to assume there are fire-breathing sea monsters simply because we can't check every body of water?

Vagon said...

If I am to communicate an idea, it has to exist in the void between my brain and the brain receiving the idea.

When you say void do mean literally there is nothing, or do you accept that there is ink/paper, 1s/0s, etc?

Vagon said...

It’s interesting that you quote Voltaire, who was not an Atheist, and who was actually referring to the Atheist bloodbath in the French Revolution. Voltaire built a chapel in his backyard in his later years.

Ironic no? I'd be happy to concede this point on the condition you allow that the bible (I assume its not any of the other texts) is not inerrant.

Vagon said...

Re point 5.

I will look for data on satisfied customers, i.e. those with a relationship with God.

and later:

This PEW poll indicates the percentage of Americans that pray daily; the average of the "total U.S. Population" is 58%.

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1211/pray-daily-demographics-religion
_

I'm sure you'd agree that the popularity of a notion is not compelling.

The real question is (presumably) whether prayer has value. The position that it does not have value would be falsified by just one report that it does have value.

Value is subjective, I was looking for empirical evidence of it working.

As with many things Atheist, the position that prayer has no value is a negative position, one that requires proof of a negative, which cannot be done.

I believe the prayer you referred to started under 2000 years ago. Before this prayer to your deity did not exist. The burden of proof is clearly upon the person claiming prayer to a particular deity produces specific results.

Voltaire had an interesting answer to that in Note 1, below.

Voltaire on the healing of the handicapped.

and:

Denying the value of prayer is taking the position of denying an experience not had by the denier, and claiming that no one else, therefore, could have the experience either.

And the basis for denial is claimed also on a purely materialist grounding: prayer is presumed to produce material goods, a fallacious premise
.


If you agree with the common theist position that a specific result of prayer is miraculous healing in a material sense, please provide empirical evidence of healing through prayer or concede that the criticism is valid.

If you believe prayer gives you an immaterial relationship with an immaterial being with no material consequences I don't see a point in trying to argue that.

Vagon said...

3 a) and b) I am happy to concede on the condition you accept that the bible is not inerrant.

Stan said...

The one has no bearing on the other of course. So you are attempting a little friendly blackmail here, no? (Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "other texts"?)

However, the position that the bible is inerrant is an impossible position to defend, if it is taken as word-for-word inerrancy. The bible is composed of numerous styles by numerous authors, including poetry, songs and many many metaphors - which it is presumed that the reader would understand to be metaphors. Moreover, the problem of translating ancient Hebrew makes the translations questionable, even thugh they might very close; most translations include the other possible translations for a troublesome word.

I know of at least one Christian subgroup that claims that only the King James Version of the bible is inerrant. It's not clear how James got blessed with inerrancy, but that is their claim. However, such claims and counter-claims have no bearing on the existence or non-existence of a rational First Cause, and that is the question that decides for Atheism vs. Theism.

The issue of non-inerrancy doesn't harm the overall usefulness of the bible in understanding the view of their deity that was held, in honesty, by those authors. So while the bible is not unquestionable, it is also reliable from an overall standpoint both historically ... (No, I'm not a creationist)... and ethically.

Did this confuse my viewpoint for you? I can try again.

Vagon said...

Re: servitude.

Based on what foundational principles is your assessment of absurdity derived?

This is an epistemic question that would take several posts to reply to. I'm assuming by the fact we are having this discussion that you trust in my ability to utilise logic to some degree and that should be sufficient.

On an ethical basis I find forced servitude at conflicts with human rights, by contrast I find a person's private sex life inconsequential.

Vagon said...

The key, then, is what features, exactly, are relevant to the concept of the existence of a) a First Cause? Further, but not necessary, what features are relevant to the existence of b) an intelligent or rational First Cause?

So I put it to you: What relevant features must a proposed deity possess in order to comply with a) and b)? In other words, what are the rules of the game? Here’s your chance to steer it your way
!

Thanks for the opportunity, however I respectfully decline. a) I can not conceive of any possible way to explain causality at a quantum level and b) I cannot conceive of any definition of intelligence that would have a mechanism to act at such a level. Considering this I find it prudent not to make claims of gods and I find those that do are misleading.

Rgds,
Vagon

Stan said...

Too many issues to respond to tonight. I wish blogger would number the comments for reference. I have time for one:

James said,

""No-one has provided any evidence in favor, therefore belief in God is unwarrented." I accept that interpretation, but the issue remains: no-one can provide such information, it must be derived individually, personally, subjectively, intutitively, internally. So the issue still is that demanding evidence from a place it cannot exist (the material universe), instead of searching the place where it does exist (internally, according to many) is not just unproductive, it is illogical.

Now if one says, "I have searched the subjective space available to me internally, thoroughly and without bias, and I find no evidence or cause to think that a rational First Cause of the universe might exist", then the argument for skepticism, and Agnosticsm is valid and warranted. (Atheism is never warranted under rules of rationality).

However, this is part of the process that I went through, and Agnosticism was not the conclusion to which I arrived. And it was unexpected and disorienting and exhilarating, all at the same time.

Vagon said...

The one has no bearing on the other of course. So you are attempting a little friendly blackmail here, no? (Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "other texts"?)

Of course :)

My insertion of "other texts" was an attempt to bring it out to theism as a whole. What I intend to say is, unless you see every notion of the bible/koran/bhagavad gita/etc as inerrant then I believe we both see the problem as people justifying horrible action irrationally.

Did this confuse my viewpoint for you? I can try again.

Not at all I find it completely understandable and without going to far into your personal theology I'm happy to concede. If you ask Kate I think you'll find this was directed at the literalists.

James said...

no-one can provide such information, it must be derived individually, personally, subjectively, intutitively, internally. So the issue still is that demanding evidence from a place it cannot exist (the material universe), instead of searching the place where it does exist (internally, according to many) is not just unproductive, it is illogical.

You would seem to be implying that personal experience is the only evidence for God, yet personal experience is notoriously unreliable. Recent experiments in stimulating certain area's of the brain have produced 'religous experiences' that fit the description of the phenomena that brought many to Theism, which suggests that there may be a rational explanation for such experiences.

These same experiments indicate that some people are incapable of having these 'religous experiences.' For such people, and I have reason to believe that I am one, searching "internally" can have no results. Our brains are not configured for religous experiences.

Now if one says, "I have searched the subjective space available to me internally, thoroughly and without bias, and I find no evidence or cause to think that a rational First Cause of the universe might exist", then the argument for skepticism, and Agnosticsm is valid and warranted. (Atheism is never warranted under rules of rationality).

You seem to be assuming that a "Rational First Cause" implies Theism. What if said First Cause was materialistic? Or what if the past is accepted to be a potential (rather than actual) infinite, and thus an infinite regression of some form can be considered as a valid alternative to a first cause?

I also don't understand what "searching the subjective space available to me internally" means. I assume it means a close and thorough examination of my own mental processes, their causes and effects.

Finally, if Atheism is never warrented under the rules of rationality, is it not equally valid to say that acceptence of the non-existance of Russels Teapot is equally unwarrented?

Stan said...

It will take me some time to catch up here...

Vagon said,

"Stan you restated This is a response to the standard claim that there “is no evidence for a deity”, which presumes that all possible evidence has been explored and examined.

What I'm asking for is a justification for demanding omniscience when making evidential claims. Do you think it useful to assume there are fire-breathing sea monsters simply because we can't check every body of water?"


My point is two-fold; first, the claim of Atheism is that there is no deity. This is a positive absolute claim regarding a negative proposition. And Atheists claim a need for material evidence for everything. Yet they have no material evidence to support the claim that there is no deity.

A modern work-around approach to this problem by Atheists is to deny the claim of "no deity". This is done by claiming to have "no deity theory" instead. However, this places them out of the Atheist category and into the agnostic. So they redefined Atheism into the subcategories of "weak" and "strong" Atheism, where weak Atheism claims the same definition as agnosticism. This is intellectually dishonest, becaause they do, in fact, have a God theory: there is no God. All this was done to avoid the obvious fallacy of claiming positive knowledge of a negative proposition, without the possibility of evidence for support.

As for oceans/fire breathing sea monsters, let's take Loch Ness and Nessie. When significant portions of the population make a positive claim of an existence, one that cannot be confirmed - or disconfirmed - agnosticism is warranted. It is not possible to say conclusively, with evidence to back up the claim, that Nessie does not exist. (This is a material example of a non-material issue, of course).

Now say that I choose to claim "not to have a Nessie theory". I have heard of Nessie, I know the issues surrounding Nessie, and yet I have no theory. This clearly is agnosticism.

This is an example of why Atheism is never rationally warranted, even when it is redefined into categories. It makes a materialist claim that it cannot support with evidence.

Agnosticism, on the other hand, is coherent.

Stan said...

Vagon said,

Stan:
Based on what foundational principles is your assessment of absurdity derived?

Vagon:
This is an epistemic question that would take several posts to reply to. I'm assuming by the fact we are having this discussion that you trust in my ability to utilise logic to some degree and that should be sufficient.

On an ethical basis I find forced servitude at conflicts with human rights, by contrast I find a person's private sex life inconsequential.


Of course, utilizing logic to some degree can never be presumed, without the presentation of the logical pathway that is taken, presuming one wants logic to be the basis for acceptance of a proposition. In a great many arguments that I have seen made by Atheists, the culmination is a reference to absurdity, without any reason for that other than the opinion of the proponent. In fact, most cases of attempts to use Argumentum Ad Absurdum, the actual case being made is either a False Analogy or a False Dichotomy. When this is pointed out, with reasons, the arguer commonly defends himself with a variant of, “well that’s just absurd!”

But on to the ethics issue. I will repeat the original question, directed at the foundation of ethics:

“Based on what foundational principles is your assessment of ethical right or wrong derived?”

(Note that you have based one ethic, anti-slavery, on another ethic, human rights).

Stan said...

Vagon said,

Stan:
"If I am to communicate an idea, it has to exist in the void between my brain and the brain receiving the idea.

Vagon:
When you say void do mean literally there is nothing, or do you accept that there is ink/paper, 1s/0s, etc?

The original question was "how does an idea exist outside the mind?" Yes, it exists on a material substrate which allows other minds to apprehend and hopefully comprehend. I don't remember the context at the moment.

Stan said...

The Brain and the God Spot
James said,
"These same experiments [brain tickling] indicate that some people are incapable of having these 'religous experiences.' For such people, and I have reason to believe that I am one, searching "internally" can have no results. Our brains are not configured for religous experiences."

James, I find this highly unlikely. Research and studies of all types do not produce proof, they produce indicators that point to the need for more research that is intended to find if the study can be falsified.

The most recent God Spot study, published in March of ’09 in the National Association of Science (NAS) shows not one, but three major lobes are activated under certain conditions. These conditions are claimed to be excitation of neural activity due to religious incitement.

But when the details are seen – judge for yourself – the actual excitation and response is to linguistic interpretation, metaphoric analysis, inter-personal empathy and other normal functions, and not mysterious religious experiences.

Moreover the lobes which are excited are used for other thought processes as well, and are not dedicated spaces in the brain solely for religious functions.

A good report is here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1160904/Research-brains-God-spot-reveals-areas-brain-involved-religious-belief.html

”In the latest study, published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Professor Grafman and his colleagues asked three types of question, while performing brain scans.

First, volunteers were asked to think about statements about whether God intervenes in the world, such as 'God's will guide my acts'.

This activated the lateral frontal lobe regions of the brain, used by humans to empathise with each other.

Then they were asked to dwell on God's emotional state. When it came to statements such as 'God is wrathful', the areas that lit up were the medial temporal and frontal gyri, which helps us to judge emotions of others.

Finally the participants were asked to contemplate abstract statements such as 'a resurrection will occur'. This time they tapped into the right inferior temporal gyrus, which we use to understand metaphorical meaning.

In all three cases the neural activity in the subjects’ brains corresponded to brain networks known to have nonreligious functions.

'There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures,' Professor Grafman said.

'Religion doesn't have a 'God spot' as such, instead it's embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use every day.'

The networks activated by religious beliefs overlap with those that mediate political beliefs and moral beliefs, he said.

Dr Andrew Newberg, director of the Centre for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times that Dr Grafman’s findings were in line with other research that has so far failed to find any specific structure in the brain that is dedicated to religious belief.”


Another critique that is useful is at the NeuroWhoa! site, an analysis by a non-religious type:

http://neurowhoa.blogspot.com/2009/03/further-thoughts-on-no-more-god-spot.html

My personal experience included nothing on the order of flashing lights, voices on high, a feeling of levitation, or any other such thing. My experience was one of realization that truth exists necessarily, and the secondary realization of the overall impact of the first realization. There was a euphoria in the sense of a forehead slapping moment; the rest was intellectual and the understanding that my knowledge base was waaay too limited, as was my concept of reality.

Vagon said...

This is intellectually dishonest, becaause they do, in fact, have a God theory: there is no God. All this was done to avoid the obvious fallacy of claiming positive knowledge of a negative proposition, without the possibility of evidence for support.

I completely agree from an absolute sense, however because I do not see evidence of absolutes in anything but our own systems, I find it a standard that is impossible to meet. Therefore it is useful to proclaim truth, certainty etc within the context of human knowledge, a non-absolute standard. After all what other context is there?

As for oceans/fire breathing sea monsters, let's take Loch Ness and Nessie. When significant portions of the population make a positive claim of an existence, one that cannot be confirmed - or disconfirmed - agnosticism is warranted. It is not possible to say conclusively, with evidence to back up the claim, that Nessie does not exist. (This is a material example of a non-material issue, of course)...

This is an example of why Atheism is never rationally warranted, even when it is redefined into categories. It makes a materialist claim that it cannot support with evidence.

Agnosticism, on the other hand, is coherent
.

There are two problems with this:

1. As per above, in the absence of absolutes we have no compelling reason to be held to that standard.

2. You have ruled out falsification. You can think that sea-monsters could exist. You can think they could breathe fire. You could think you can fly, but sooner or later reality will come knocking - some things are some improbable that we can say they are impossible.

Vagon said...

In a great many arguments that I have seen made by Atheists, the culmination is a reference to absurdity, without any reason for that other than the opinion of the proponent.

Thats not my intention, but it should be clear to you that epistemology and ethics are two very broad subjects and asking me to cover them in a blog post is pretty optimistic. Suffice to say that unless you disagree and say that forced servitude for 6 years is a "good" thing (regardless of how you come to that conclusion) then the argument stands.

Vagon said...

The original question was "how does an idea exist outside the mind?" Yes, it exists on a material substrate which allows other minds to apprehend and hopefully comprehend. I don't remember the context at the moment.

Would you also agree that people interpret meaning from material things where there is none, say reading tea leaves?

Stan said...

Actually in the absence of absolutes, you are correct; you have no inviolable, steady-state standards that are credible to anyone but yourself, and are therefore not credible to anyone but yourself. Atheists seem proud that they disagree amongst themselves on many things; but without standards, how could they not?

Your second statement is confusing. A falsification would be to produce positive evidence of an existence. How does that support your claim of improbability? The "improbable equals impossible" argument is another argument that Atheists use that has no empirical evidentiary backing or substance; it is totally subjective as to what level of probability is acceptable to call impossible.

The crowning example of that is the case of abiogenesis; unquestioned calculations of a probability of 10^-400 for abiogenesis don't seem to even faze Atheists. Even though compared with 10^32 atoms total in the universe for size comparison. "It's still possible, right?" Sure, right.

But the liklihood of a rational source for a rational universe? No way.

BathTub said...

Mostly because probablility calculations are deliberately designed to misrepresent the argument.

The claim is usually made 'the likelyhood that the molecules of the first cell came together randomly by chance is...X'.

When of course no one thinks that the molecules randomly came together in the first place.

Chemistry isn't Random.

Stan said...

Vagon said,
"Suffice to say that unless you disagree and say that forced servitude for 6 years is a "good" thing (regardless of how you come to that conclusion) then the argument stands."

In my business trips to Singapore and Taiwan I was surprised to find that the factories there use, and house, indentured servants, mostly young women from the outer reaches of Thailand, Cambodia, etc. These girls worked voluntarily for a set number of years for which they received a sustenance for their impoverished families back home. They were honored and revered for doing so. They were, however, not allowed to return permanently until the term of indenture was finished.

Yes, indentured servitude can be a good and decent thing.

Your argument of a personal ethic based on relative, or no standards is likely to conflict with the relative or no standards of other Atheists; so the dominant standard would be?? It likely would be dictated by the strongest Atheist, the most likely to assert control.

The 20th century is full of examples.

Stan said...

Vagon said,
"Would you also agree that people interpret meaning from material things where there is none, say reading tea leaves"

If your point is that misinterpretation of certain things by certain people negates any chance of proper interpretation, then I disagree.

Stan said...

BathTub said...
"Mostly because probablility calculations are deliberately designed to misrepresent the argument.

The claim is usually made 'the likelyhood that the molecules of the first cell came together randomly by chance is...X'.

When of course no one thinks that the molecules randomly came together in the first place.

Chemistry isn't Random."


Chemistry is not random. it follows rational laws of indeterminate origin. But that is not the issue. The issue is whether all the necessary conditions could be met in a non-determinate fashion sufficient to create life.

BathTub said...

Yes exactly, but then you wave around a probablistic number that's meant to look ridiculously huge. Usually these numbers are based on random arrangements of atoms randomly placing themselves into the correct arrangement to just randomly form some sort of cell. Which was my point.

If the number you quoted isn't based on this fallacious reasoning, please share your work on how it was derived.

James said...

Stans 10^400 figure is fairly close to the commonly used 1 in 2.04x10^390 for the formation of any given 300 amino acid long protein, so for the sake of brevity I'm going to assume that it was taken from a similar source.

However, such calculations are hardly "unquestioned," and "it's still possible, right?" is hardly a defence anyone informed on the subject would use when exposed to such figures. Such figures stem from a rather ignorant view of abiogenesis and a multiude of statistical and biological fallacies.

I would venture that Stan has been gulled by dishonest people if he truly believe's that statistical probability arguments can be used against abiogenesis without incurring several hundred fallacy demerit points.

For a brilliant deconstruction of the statistical arguments against abiogenesis, see this essay by one Ian Musgrave.

Vagon said...

Actually in the absence of absolutes, you are correct; you have no inviolable, steady-state standards that are credible to anyone but yourself, and are therefore not credible to anyone but yourself. Atheists seem proud that they disagree amongst themselves on many things; but without standards, how could they not?

You seem to be conflating systemic absolutes (like deduction or logic) with foundational things like ontology and epistemology. I'm not sure what pride has to do with, its practical. Can you provide an example of an absolute, one that isn't part of a system of thought?


Your second statement is confusing. A falsification would be to produce positive evidence of an existence. How does that support your claim of improbability? The "improbable equals impossible" argument is another argument that Atheists use that has no empirical evidentiary backing or substance; it is totally subjective as to what level of probability is acceptable to call impossible.

What I mean is, we make truth statements that can be falsified, you however will not accept these statements. what then is the role of falsification? Nothing can ever be proclaimed true (not even falsification) under your model without having all data.

The crowning example of that is the case of abiogenesis; unquestioned calculations of a probability of 10^-400 for abiogenesis don't seem to even faze Atheists. Even though compared with 10^32 atoms total in the universe for size comparison. "It's still possible, right?" Sure, right.

But the liklihood of a rational source for a rational universe? No way.


If I was to challenge this I'd ask for the source, then if it was the source i think it is I'd ask you to state why you've used a modern protein, why the calculation uses a fixed number of proteins, why sequential rather than simultaneous trials were used. But I'm more interested in staying on topic, which is the five points raised by Kate.

Vagon said...

Your argument of a personal ethic based on relative, or no standards is likely to conflict with the relative or no standards of other Atheists; so the dominant standard would be?? It likely would be dictated by the strongest Atheist, the most likely to assert control.

The 20th century is full of examples
.

Oh my, you are arguing for child labour. I'll let those ethics speak for themselves.

Vagon said...

If your point is that misinterpretation of certain things by certain people negates any chance of proper interpretation, then I disagree.

No, my point is that meaning is subjective and simply because we agree on somethings does not mean they exist any more than the message in tea leaves exists. If you disagree perhaps you could show an idea that is objectively interpretable, i.e. an idea without a mind.

Stan said...

"...simply because we agree on the meaning of something does not mean they exist.."

Apparently I am missing something here. Do you mean (yes: mean) that meaning doesn't exist? Or do you mean that the objects that have meaning don't exist?

Actually either way doesn't make sense to me, could you try again, please?

Stan said...

I'm trying to get to the “idea” you are trying convey regarding ideas sans minds.

Let’s try to get some basic definitions we can agree to.

Ideas are twofold (at least).

First, The material world is perceived and interpreted as numerous ideas based on our tactile sensory inputs. These ideas are internal to the person, and are limited in accuracy to the person’s senses, time taken in observation, predilection toward analysis of objective reality, ability to process, etc.

Second, ideas are synthesized internally to the person, either combining existing concepts or creating new concepts or analyzing subjective abstractions.

Ideas exist on the substrate of the brain, not having been hardwired in genetically: blank slate.

Ideas are transmissible by using material substrates such as paper, magnetic storage, electromagnetic fields, etc. However it is debatable whether the transmitting bits / digits / ink which contain ideas are actually ideas, in the sense that they are not created at that level.

Can we agree so far? If so, what exactly is your question, boiled down to its essence?

Vagon said...

Re: meaning, mind/matter and ideas.

If ideas don't exist outside of a brain, I'm wondering how you justify something being omniscient without a means to store, retrieve and relation information.

Vagon said...

In terms of meaning not existing, meaning is what Locke would have called a secondary quality, it exists in reality as a signals through neurons. For example I might say its cold today, whereas a Canadian would be wearing shorts. What we mean by hot and cold doesn't exist, what exists is the actual temperature, or if you want to get to a finer detail, the movement speed of particles or waves.

Stan said...

Vagon,
Sorry you'll have to be more specific, I don't remember calling any "thing" omniscient.

As for meaning, it is an electrical excitation only, and therefore has no meaning? Is that what you mean? (Or perhaps your meaning here is relative to just you being your particular electrical excitation, and has nothing to offer me?)

You semm to be diving into a sea of paradox, necessarily brought on by relativity, in this case relativity of meaning.

If meaning is relative, then I can take your communication to mean whatever seems appropriate to me and my neurons. Do you really think that meaning is not transmissable? If so, then none of this comment has meaning. If an idea has no meaning, it is not really an idea, it is meaningless neural activity.

Since this makes no sense, I assume that I still don't grasp your... meaning.

Vagon said...

Sorry you'll have to be more specific, I don't remember calling any "thing" omniscient.

Call it an assumption on my behalf, after having read some of your arguments against evolution I had assumed you were not simply deist. Even however, if your god is not omniscient the point stands for anything that could "will" a first cause.

If meaning is relative, then I can take your communication to mean whatever seems appropriate to me and my neurons. Do you really think that meaning is not transmissable? If so, then none of this comment has meaning. If an idea has no meaning, it is not really an idea, it is meaningless neural activity.

I'm not sure how your argument from incredulity is warranted. Of course meaning is transmissible, do you think it has perfect fidelity?

My point is the medium is objective, whereas the message is subjective. Perhaps our terms are confused. I take meaning to involve interpretation as well, but I can see an argument that, without interpretation, meaning is objective (though not outside of neural activity). In my example interpretation was swayed by the entity's local temperature.

Stan said...

A quick perusal through the stack of comments above still leaves me mystified about the digression we are now pursuing; presumably you want to go to some further point to be made if we can get past this one?

As for meaning and interpretation, I take meaning to exist in patents, for example, which exist on paper and magnetic media, yet despite their non-sentience are able to transmit meaning to other people who never meet the inventor, yet are able to comprehend and reproduce his patented idea.

Interpretation is required of every sensory input and it seems to me that it is a measure of accurate transmission. In other words, a perfectly accurate interpretation presents no impediment to transmission of meaning. Less than perfect interpretation represents a degradation in transmission of meaning.

Well presented and communicated meaning will encounter less issue with interpretation than poorly presented and communicated.

I suspect that we agree on this; what I don't understand is what your objective is in this thread.

Vagon said...

My objective is to show that by leveraging the problem of induction:In the comment section the author defends the statement as probabilistic: an island with no visible residents can be said to be “probably uninhabited”. This is of course, far different from declaring that something in another dimension does not – in fact – exist. you have avoided a (somewhat) valid argument.

I am working towards a case for arguing this is, by contrast not far different from declaring something exists.

Although Kate didn't (and I don't think intended to) offer a complete argument, she has justified her use of induction via probability. Considering Kolmogorov's axioms, she has hinged her use of induction on a deductive system.

I find her argument lacks an important consideration in the call for evidence: the use of falsification. This was what I was hoping to arrive at via the mind/matter discussion. Where I was hoping to establish how to falsify a god through finding a commonly held attribute (omniscience) incoherent.

Stan said...

Perhaps I should wait until you've fledged out your thoughts.

As for falsification, I do recomment that you read Karl Popper, "The Logic of Scinetific Discovery". Popper uses the properties of falsification to deliniate a boundary between material issues which are falsifiable (appropriate for science) and non-material issues which are not falsifiable (metaphysical, not appropriate for science). Plus he gives a fairly definitive discussion of induction and deduction and their weaknesses.

Maybe you've already read this, if so great.