Friday, March 28, 2014

What I Learned At Patheos

My foray into patheos–land is over. I don’t usually venture into other blogs because they are commonly infested with nasty hangers-on (PZ anyone?), but this one seemed different… at first. And it is different, but really only in the politeness of their same old refusal to actually engage in any analysis of atheism. After I posted a number of comments with various commenters requesting the standard evidence and logic for support of their beliefs, everyone but two of them just went away: vanished. The two who remained educated me on the actual purpose of the forum, and then went into silly mode, as do most atheists who are challenged with producing the actual evidence and logic which they claim is their domain.

The purpose of that area of the web, I was told, is not deduction; they just aren’t interested in deduction, it’s, well, not interesting. What they like at that site is induction and Bayesian probabilities. Now as we know over here, induction is a fine precursor to science, in the sense that it is a classification tool. Items with like or similar characteristics are placed into a single category, and then differentiated into sub-categories, and sub-sub-categories. But it also is a tool for rationalization, of a sort, where a conclusion is asserted and premises are sought which support it. This is intellectually hazardous, because a case can be built with supportive premises while ignoring, or not identifying, negating premises. When used exclusively, it can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies. This is especially the case when it is used as the tool for justifying a cherished worldview.

Deduction, is rather the opposite. A hypothesis is declared, and investigated to determine its truth value, based on explicit rules for maintaining the complete integrity of all elements of the argument, as well as contrary alternatives. Empiricism uses deduction as a check on inductively declared hypotheses. Deduction/experimentation are the objective part of physical knowledge attainment. Induction is not.

Bayesian probability theory is an attempt to reconcile the tension between a hypothesis and its alternative(s). One of the problems with Bayesian calculations arises when the actual probabilities are not known, and the prejudice of the person doing the calculations is allowed entry into the calculating process. A famous case called simply the Philpott Example is used in one statistics book to demonstrate the collapse of the calculation into prjudice: it occurs when the calculator believes that the proposition being investigated is absurd so he assigns a probability of zero to it. That winds up giving the Bayesian calculation a value of zero divided by zero. Even if he assigns an actual non-zero value to it, it still can be seen to be prejudicial, being based solely on the opinion of the individual. This is an Argumentum Ad Absurdum falsification for the use of Bayes, at least for ideologies.

Bayesian calculations are also circular, in the sense that a presupposition of truth of a proposition actually serves to place the conclusion into the hypothesis. Since the calculation involves a subjective input, it is again based solely on the opinion of the individual. So used in isolation from other techniques (disciplined deduction for example), dependence on Bayes can devolve into self-fulfilling prophecies just like induction.

There are instances where opinion of the calculator would not necessarily be a factor; atheist calculations of the probability of the truth of atheism would not qualify as objective, however, and would not qualify as one of those instances.

But back to my gentle steering away.
I was informed that while they just don’t do deduction at that site that I might be better off finding a site which does do deductions. In the meantime they really wanted to attack my beliefs, which of course I never reveal, since I am involved purely in analyzing atheist propositions, and nothing more. No matter how many times I pointed out that atheism should be robust enough to be defended based on its own facts and principles, no one engaged. No one ever produced any case in defense of Atheism, except for silly stories a couple of times. All they did was the standard dance around, dodging all attempts to get them to produce conclusive reasons for having atheism as a worldview. there was lots of language chopping over there, with complaints about my having said that “atheism says…”, when atheism doesn’t really say anything because its not a person or agent, but then turning right around and doing the same thing themselves and making excuses for their use. (This is merely a minor quibble about the level to which discussion devolved).

I’m genuinely disappointed. I thought that a more civil class of atheist (hard to find) would engage in analytical discussion of the validity and truth content of atheism. But it was not to be. It took me too long to find that out. But at least for the most part they weren’t rude.

Metaphysical Atheism
Here’s an interesting observation on what I got out of (my very brief contact with) their concept of “metaphysical atheism”. There is some indication that they accept that agency, for example, requires non-physicalist explanation. So they have created “metaphysical atheism” which would contain metaphysical answers for those non-deterministic features of being alive (I think that must be what it is, I’m not completely sure). So they have created another level of principles which supercede physicalist principles with the caveat that there absolutely is no deity involved.

This is, of course, not testable because it is not physically available for testing. So it is a non-falsifiable, non-objective position (again, if I have understood it from my brief time there). What it is, is an induction of a necessary solution based only on fantasy (fantasy was thrown out a couple of times at my own comments there) but coupled with a fiat declaration of no deity involvement, also with no reasoning attached other, I suppose, than that’s how the fantasy is constructed. This seems hardly discernable from a religious declaration, only based merely upon necessity for the worldview; a set of conditions for self-fulfillment for a predetermined conclusion: rationalization.

So what they have, is an untestable induction which does nothing to address the question of source: what is the source of the metaphysical control of physical matter in the production of agency. If it "just is", then they could say that about agency itself, without any need for supernatural rules controlling natural existence. It appears to me that they have merely created a dualist material existence, with the second part of the material, material-B, being "undetermined matter", just like Bertrand Russell did in his "Nine Lectures on Mind". In other words, a fantasy dual material solution, which is necessary for the maintenance of physicalism/materialism.

I have left them to their own devices; they have no intention of analyzing their own premises, and that is what my purpose is – to analyze atheist thoughts, hypotheses, logical usage, and material evidence for the support of their position. Atheists do still claim to have worldviews based in logic and evidence, even though when they do use logic they don’t use the analytical part; and material evidence, well that’s for the other guy to hand them if they even care about it all. There is no concept whatsoever that their own worldview should stand on its own merits, independent of any other worldview.

I’m sure I could have handled myself better had I known up front that they don’t do analytic deductive logic. For one thing, I think, retroactively, that I should just have left Dr. Thibodeau to his own inductions, and never have even bothered him. Oh well.

ADDENDUM: Now I'm being called a liar, over at Patheos. It is claimed that I did not respond to the analysis nor to the list of purported empirical studies which apparently robustly prove that there is no deity possible and that a deity cannot exist. I replied to the analysis; and I also said that I would read all the list of evidence. Who is lying?


Moor said...

Your thoughts remind me of a conversation I had recently, and some articles I've read recently, wherein some Atheists now seem to be articulating this "new" position: We know that there's more to the world than just material and material causes, but we also know that the "more" can't be the Christian God.

Such a position is, of course, nonsensical, but in a system and debate void of criticism and avoidant toward deduction, it seems the perfect retreat.

Stan said...

Yes. Any concept can be induced by defining certain defeaters to be outside the arena. Intellectual dishonesty takes many forms; intellectual honesty, only one.

Same goes for truth; there are huge possible numbers of untruth for any given concept; but there is only one truth.

Steven Satak said...

C'mon, Stan... you know full well they aren't about to let you spoil their fantasy. The internet, and before it the media, are the fertile ground in which self-annointed messiahs grow best.

They didn't get to where they are using reason and logic. Why do you think you can use reason to lure them away from it?

The very first step, if John C. Wright is correct, is to abandon reason and logic.

Of course, I believe he IS correct. Check it out. Makes for one of the most enlightening reads I have had in a while.

Robert Coble said...


"I’m genuinely disappointed. I thought that a more civil class of atheist (hard to find) would engage in analytical discussion of the validity and truth content of atheism. But it was not to be. It took me too long to find that out. But at least for the most part they weren’t rude."

Stan, my apology for suggesting your possible involvement over there. I (wrongly) assumed from the civil tenor of the discussions that the majority of participants (particularly Mr. Lowder) were interested in searching for Truth; it appears that I was wrong to make that assumption. So far, I have seen considerable evidence of a "circle the wagons; an infidel is among us" mentality at work. I am considerably disappointed.


Thanks for the link to John C. Wright's article "The Unified Field Theory of Madness". I concur with your opinion on its value.

Stan said...

It was definitely not a lost experience. It was interesting to see responses, and the dedication to a particular methodology at the expense of other, more reliable methods. I think they should be referred to as Atheist Methodists, because they are dedicated to their method, and others can just leave or get hooted out.

Anonymous said...

I find it very interesting that Jeff Lowder and company appeal to intuition (when they run out of options) yet are unable to justify its non-material content.
Contradiction much?