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Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Atheism, Biblical Exegesis, Featured, God's Characteristics | 487 comments

The Problem With Yahweh #1

Many people believe ridiculous things. Most of the time, we eventually shuffle off such beliefs. But some remain. In the case of Christianity, this is the belief in Yahweh. I don’t mean to be overly rhetorical, but the belief in Yahweh is patently ridiculous, much more so than the belief in God.

Primarily, Yahweh is a product parochial people with little connection to the rest of the world. In fact, the details and the ‘reality’ (vis-a-vis what people actually believed about him) of Yahweh are, for all intents and purposes, not believed any more by most Christians. What I mean by this is that most Christians are atheistic towards Yahweh in the same way they are atheistic towards Zeus, and even if they claim to believe in Yahweh, their reinterpreted version of Yahweh is so far removed from the Old Testamental version as to effectively result in a lack of accurate belief qua atheism of such a narrowly defined piece of antiquity.

This is the thesis of Dr Jako Gericke in his excellent chapter “Can God exist if Yahweh doesn’t?” in John Loftus’s superb anthology The End of Christianity. I will hopefully lay out some of the main points in the chapter in this series.

The best argument against any Christian dogma is its own history back to and from within the Bible itself. Christians’ own reinterpretations show us that even the most fundamentalist “believer” is really an atheist when it comes to Yahweh, and the most “biblical” of believers are not as biblical as they think. In the end Christian theology was brought down by Christian ethics; belief was destroyed by its own morality, which demanded we follow the truth. (p. 153)

The thesis states that there are many aspects of this God which root it within the contemporary culture and which are no longer adhered to:

  • Historically who Yahweh was
  • His body
  • His mind
  • His world

Gericke does a great job in bringing all of these threads together to create a watertight canvas upon which is painted a picture of Yahwistic inconsistency and incoherence. Towards the end of his piece, Gericke states:

But few Christian philosophers ever ask why it is that a god’s main desire is that his creations agree that he exists. Of all the things one could, in theory, worry about–and then do so little to make possible. That a god needs to be hidden and that there needs to be faith to make a relationship possible is simply a ridiculous and unbiblical notion. Moses allegedly both saw and believed in Yahweh, and they had a great relationship. So what is the problem with one-on-one  intimacy on a daily basis with every human being, in a time when atheism is more popular than ever? Like Voltaire said before Nietzsche, God’s only excuse is that he doesn’t care. (p. 152)

This is a massively important point, which Gericke earlier details in pointing out that the Old Testament concerns itself with evidentialism. In other words, God reveals himself through empirically verifiable methods. Evidence first, philosophising second.

Nowadays, Christianity has been absent of evidence as God has been on holiday for 2000 years. The sort of god that Yahweh was, was an in-your-face sort of god, relating very obviously and personally with people, appearing with his booming voice. And this isn’t something which can be taken allegorically or metaphorically since these things either happened or they didn’t. Moses either did those things, or he didn’t, as reported by the Bible in which God dictated his desires rather verbally.

What happens today is that Christians believe predominantly on faith. Now they love to claim that faith is not defined as belief in something in the absence of evidence; but really, this is exactly what it means, otherwise words like hope, trust or belief based on evidence will suffice. Faith, in this case, is not necessary as a term.

So we have a scenario where God simply doesn’t turn up past the odd feeling that he has answered a prayer, or the feeling of the holy spirit or some such other physically explicable phenomena. And yet for the Old Testamental peoples, he was right there, getting involved (albeit with a consort, with physical attributes, and arrayed in heaven with only the technology of bronze-aged people, etc.). No matter how you look at it, Yahweh is the product of his bronze-age inventors, and is best explained in the same way that all other such gods are: he just doesn’t exist.

The Christian god is so far removed from the entity that was Yahweh, that he/she/it is almost unconnected; a different god concept. And modern Christians do not believe in this Yahwistic version, they just don’t like to admit it (save for the most fundamental Christians, but even they reinterpret such an ontology).

In later posts I will look at these characteristics of Yahweh which are no longer believed.

Related Posts:

Yahweh’s Amazing Test – Another Nonstampcollector classic

“Why I am an atheist” – Guest Post by The Thinker

The incompatibilities of God’s perfect nature. Or, he ain’t all that and a bag of chips.

  • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

    For me there are only two plausible possibilities that could be true. Either naturalism is true and there are no gods, or deism is true and there is an impersonal creator god. Anything else, such as theism, no matter what kind, is patently false at best, and ridiculous to the point of absurdity at worst.

    • Luke Breuer

      The Binary Thinker strikes again!

      • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

        The fuzzy-wuzzy theist strikes again!

  • Luke Breuer

    Jonathan, why don’t you just say that CFW is true and this means YHWH is false/meaningless? You seem utterly unwilling to consider spontaneous eruption of local order (SELO) as possibly upsetting CFW, although perhaps growing block universe could give you pause.

    • Nerdsamwich

      Maybe because that’s not what this post is about? It’s about the way modern believers really don’t believe in the same god that Abraham and Moses did, even though they may think they do.

      • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

        Precisely!

      • Luke Breuer

        FYI, also @johnnyp76:disqus.

    • Andy_Schueler

      You seem utterly unwilling to consider spontaneous eruption of local order (SELO) as possibly upsetting CFW

      You seem to be utterly unwilling to consider fgweg goiqwenogiwe giopqejnofgn fuioqwbufdawfja (FGGF) as possibly upsetting Yahweh.

    • Void L. Walker

      I think you misread the entire post, Luke.

      • Luke Breuer

        Nope, I just jumped to what I saw as the logical conclusions. The game goes as follows:

             (1) pretend the current problem isn’t a problem
             (2) pretend the next one isn’t, either
             (3) iterate
             (4) detect the root, core problem

        In this case, I guess—and this is a guess—that the core problem is that God didn’t do something, prevent something, etc. And a way to protect oneself from such a conclusion is to deny the option for things having been any differently. Determinism and pure-random indeterminism provide such a denial. They lead to CFW. If God has CFW, then God couldn’t have done/not done whenever it was that was not done/done.

        • Void L. Walker

          Ah, I see. Well your vagueness (which I am also guilty of :-p) is to blame again ;-)

        • Andy_Schueler

          In this case, I guess—and this is a guess

          No, it´s not a guess – it´s a confused and incoherent mess.

          • Luke Breuer

            And you know this how? My comment wasn’t even addressed to you. I’m getting the sense of being dogged.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “And you know this how?”
            – By learning the english language.

          • Luke Breuer

            You seem more interested in pointing out ugliness than helping make beautiful what might be marred. You actually have done the latter with me a bit and I was quite thankful (perhaps I did not express my gratitude strongly enough?), but you’ve regressed. If you are merely going to be a negative gadfly, you become well-described by this:

            “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

          • Andy_Schueler

            And you seem to be a zealot who hides his extremism behind a wall of verbosity and ambiguity.

          • Luke Breuer

            Zealots are by definition bad? Better not believe anything too strongly? Too bad that is a self-defeating statement. Hopefully it is a straw man.

        • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

          God doesn’t have free will.

          • Luke Breuer

            You’ve made him an impersonal force, akin to Einstein’s God. Just note that anger against God is irrational, in this case. Utterly, 100% irrational. If you are angry at him for doing/not doing something, you are delusional and the insides of your brain which cause you to feel this way need reordering.

          • Void L. Walker

            Luke, ad hominem? From you? Come now. I know you’re only human, but resorting to that is never a safe bet in any discussion.

          • Luke Breuer

            “If”

          • Void L. Walker

            Really? There is no “if”, you clearly think he is delusional for holding to his opinion (which is that God should have/could have done something differently). Even in an if scenario, calling someone delusional and telling them that their brain needs reordering is rude.

          • Luke Breuer

            Please do not play god and insist on what I meant. Give me the dignity of telling you want I meant. Else we aren’t truly communicating.

          • Void L. Walker

            Well perhaps I misunderstood you, but it seemed quite clear to me. Even if you throw an “If” in front of something, it doesn’t make you exempt from what was said. Also, it seems that “if” may not be the best word; your history with The Thinker in mind, It seems to me that you believe that HE believes Yahweh is responsible for His actions, therefore inserting an “if” did little to downplay the ad hominem tones. Perhaps I’m missing something?

          • Luke Breuer

            Perhaps you are used to people who use “If…” without meaning it. I mean it. I use language intentionally.

          • Void L. Walker

            But still, you called an “if” variant of the person you were discussing the matter with royally fucked cognitively (more or less). Even if you meant if (wow I’m tired of typing that word) in the context you specify, it does little to alter the meaning that T.T would glean. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot? I’m not trying to be a dick here (even if I’m so good at it), I just never imagined seeing such a comment from you. You also effectively called anyone who does hold Yahweh accountable for his actions crazy…

          • Luke Breuer

            How about we engage what I actually said, instead of jumping to the conclusion that it was an ad hominem? Is it rational to be angry with a being who could not have acted otherwise than he/she/it did? What purpose would anger serve in such a context?

          • Void L. Walker

            Do you think that I’m angry with you? Trust me, when I’m angry it’s obvious; I was merely pointing out what I viewed as rather rude (I know that he can be this way too, mind you).

            How did I jump to a conclusion, though? As I said, if T.T had of said something similar you may have reacted in much the same way. I still view it as ad hominem, but even if it weren’t you still insinuated that anyone who DOES believe that Y is responsible for action/lack thereof is more or less in cognitive disrepair.

          • Luke Breuer

            Would I have viewed it as ad hominem? Also, I wasn’t imputing anger to you; I was attempting to articulate my “ad hominem”. I still don’t see it as an ad hominem.

          • Void L. Walker

            Fair enough (I do still). But you still haven’t addressed the insinuation that you made. I thought calling the opposition crazy was an Atheist thing. ;-)

          • Luke Breuer

            Please either explain this ad hominem or “insinuation”, or drop the subject. Please be articulate. I despise it when people say I did a bad thing, and do not help me understand how it was bad. This is fucking evil to do to people. See:

            Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. (Mt 23:1-4)

            Help me not do this bad thing you are talking about (and this means helping me understand how you are seeing what I did as “bad”), or don’t criticize. My life has been filled with people who merely pointed and said “WRONG!”, and expected me to magically understand. This is evil. Plain evil. Don’t do it, please. Don’t be a Pharisee.

          • Void L. Walker

            Luke, look back at your original comment. “…you are delusional and the insides of your brain which cause you to feel this way need reordering.” (I’m not quoting out of context; the part I quoted is the most relevant). Now that started with an if, but you made it quite clear that anyone who believes God is accountable falls into this bracket (delusional, brain damaged). Basically, you said that if anyone believes God could have/should have done A or not done B they are impaired.

            I thought I was being clear about that, so my apologies if I offended you. I’m not trying to critique, I just felt the need to call you out on this.

          • Luke Breuer

            Sigh. This is what I said:

            You’ve made him an impersonal force, akin to Einstein’s God. Just note that anger against God is irrational, in this case. Utterly, 100% irrational. If you are angry at him for doing/not doing something, you are delusional and the insides of your brain which cause you to feel this way need reordering.

            If The Thinker is not “angry at [God]”, then my “you are delusional” does not apply. Does this make sense? This is why I asked:

            Is it rational to be angry with a being who could not have acted otherwise than he/she/it did? What purpose would anger serve in such a context?

            Does this make it clear that my “If” was very intentionally employed? I only mean to call The Thinker “delusional” if he is angry at a certain conception of God—a CFW conception of God. I was specific for a reason, Void L. Walker.

          • Void L. Walker

            I’m sorry, but wow.

            My entire point has been that you’re calling someone who doesn’t agree with your perception of Yahweh delusional, brain damaged (are you going to deny this, too?). You said if (as we’ve gone over about 1,000 times), so? I’m inclined to believe that your perception of TT is just as I’ve said, and “if” was a mask. If someone is angry at God, good for them. Why would this make them delusional? Maybe they have an honest right to harbor said anger. (or maybe they’re “special”)

            I think you’re taking way too much offense here, this is not a personal attack.

            Do you require another example? “Luke, if you believe that human beings are first cause agents, your are a mentally handicapped, brain-damaged fool”. See, even with the if part there it’s still easily construed as offensive by another party.

          • Luke Breuer

            What does being angry at a CFW omni-god accomplish? My answer: nothing positive, nothing good. Therefore, I claim it is irrational to be angry at a CFW omni-god. Do you disagree? If so, why?

          • Void L. Walker

            What does ANY anger really accomplish, Luke? Must everything meet a necessary goal or end in your mind? Anger does not accomplish virtually anything, but it is a reaction from someone. That anyone could be (and plenty of people have been!) angry at such a God is perfectly understandable: not acting when a child is suffering a terminal illness, not doing anything to prevent natural disasters (and yes, I’m mostly talking about those that preceded our modern technology), etc. Want more examples? I’m talking about things that we cannot stop, control, predict, act on. God knows (or does he?), yet nothing happens. An illogical place to aim hatred? Hardly.

            You always say that God has perfect knowledge, but somehow doesn’t know what us fleshy “first cause agents” are going to do. Hmm. I’m sorry, that’s kind of a problem for me. See, an omni being, in my opinion, shouldn’t be so limited (and yes, THAT is a limitation). If you put shackles on God, what can really be feted from that?

            Lastly, what type of God do you even really believe in? I mean, really…I’m curious.

          • Luke Breuer

            What does ANY anger really accomplish, Luke?

            I view anger, in part, as an indicator that my perception of reality greatly mismatches my idea of how reality ought to be, in that I judge my perception to be ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ or ‘ugly’ in some way. So, in part, I view anger as a holistic comparison function, between perceived ‘is’ and perceived ‘ought’.

            Note that perception can be flawed in is-land as well as ought-land. I believe that anger and other emotions, just like all inputs to the consciousness can be tuned. I believe this is what Rom 12:9 describes: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

            Well-tuned anger is a very efficient computation, helping us very quickly make judgments which we can then test with our more analytical faculties. Ill-tuned anger doesn’t do this, just like someone who doesn’t know how to read MRIs won’t be able to do much with their observations of MRI scans.

            Must everything meet a necessary goal or end in your mind?

            I think everything can meet a purpose or telos, because I believe that the universe was designed to make this possible and indeed, to make this glorious. I don’t believe anything is fundamentally random; things merely appear random when we cannot see further structure. The central limit theorem gives one explanation for why one class of phenomena seem ‘random’.

            That anyone could be (and plenty of people have been!) angry at such a God is perfectly understandable: not acting when a child is suffering a terminal illness, not doing anything to prevent natural disasters (and yes, I’m mostly talking about those that preceded our modern technology), etc.

            Getting angry at a CFW God for doing things the way he did it is precisely the same as getting angry at the laws of physics for why our senses are perceiving whatever they are perceiving. It is nonsensical. It’s spurious emotional noise.

            God knows (or does he?), yet nothing happens.

            But a CFW God could not have done otherwise! You realize this, right? A CFW God had to do precisely what he did. He didn’t have freedom of will. He was predestined to whatever he did, by random chance plus some laws.

            Lastly, what type of God do you even really believe in?

            For one, a non-CFW God. A non-CFW God who can create non-CFW beings, at whom we can be justifiably angry.

          • Void L. Walker

            Drinking before posting here is a bad idea…CFW concept of God now uploaded to my hard drive.

            So basically, are you asserting that God has the same amount of FW that we have? That would be a god worth hating, IMO.

          • Luke Breuer

            I believe we are made in God’s image. From Keith Ward’s The Case for Religion:

            But in Islam attention turned away from scientific investigation of the world to concentrating on submission to divine law. The divine will, perhaps because it was not seen as expressed in Logos, remained inscrutable, to be accepted without question, not to be critically examined. Humans, not being conceived as created in the image of God, were in no sense sharers in the divine nature, and could be wholly subordinated to the demands of the divine power. In the Christian world, however, God’s will was in the end rational, and could be understood—so questioning in order to discover the underlying reason of things was justified. And since persons are meant to share in the divine nature, they are to be respected as children of God and not treated as mere means even to the realization of the divine purpose. (152-153)

            Why would you hate a god who gives you true free will, and not some [pseudo-]deterministic free will? Because it is possible to make bad choices and instead of blaming ourselves, we blame God? Or because this means other people can harm us against our wills? But if you hold to this last idea, then your ideal world is one where there’s virtually no human-human interaction, for such interactions carry with themselves the possibility of evil, unless you just want to make them all neutral in some way?

            I am struggling to make sense of your “god worth hating”; I cannot construct a coherent “logically possible world” where that makes sense.

          • Void L. Walker

            Of course you can’t, Luke A belief in God is central for your life, and to deny this would be patently absurd.

            Firstly, that you believe in total free will is very confusing to me. As I’ve said before, I’ve actually lived with people who’s brains are deteriorating. Their “wills” are inexorably connected to their brains. How could you claim free will when we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that environment, genes, etc. all play major determining roles in our development? I see nothing, at all, even remotely close to “free” when it comes to our wills.

            I’d love a God who gave a flying fuck, Luke. I’d love a God who regularly made Himself apparent, to all, aided us, struck down the wicked, hell (and this ones out there!) maybe a God who could’ve created a perfect world (garden of eden anyone?) and not allowed it to collapse within days? If we have a perfect world when we die, but couldn’t have had the same thing HERE, that makes no sense at all. Free will just doesn’t cut it for me, mostly because I see it as A: far from the reality of our brains/minds and B: a big, smoldering excuse.

          • Nerdsamwich

            If we don’t have true free will, whatever that is, then one would have no choice about whether or not to be angry at God, or anything else, for that matter.

          • Void L. Walker

            Am I to gather that you accept either LFW or CFW?

          • Void L. Walker

            I suppose that what I meant by “true” free will (poor working on my part!) was the variety (that he has yet to even define) that Luke subscribes to. Until he gives it a name (and a definition), I will call it “true” free will. :)

          • Luke Breuer

            Firstly, that you believe in total free will is very confusing to me.

            I do not know what “total free will” (TFW) means. There are two kinds of freedom:

                 (1) freedom-from constraints
                 (2) freedom-to achieve one’s dreams

            Most people tend to over-focus on (1), forgetting that without proper education and training, no constraints leads to the bad form of anarchy. Roger Olson wrote the 2012-10-05 Christianity Today article The Bonds of Freedom, which gets at this ‘freedom’-to idea in some depth. Consider a scientist who becomes very good at what she does. In addition to whatever constraints are placed on her by her institution, she places her own constraints on her behavior, to discourage badness and encourage goodness. After she does this, does she have “total free will”?

            There’s also a question of whether TFW can exist when two beings are in contact with each other. Each being will have ideas of how the world (i) works; (ii) ought to work. These ideas will sometimes mesh and sometimes clash. When they clash, does this not restrict freedom somehow?

            Their “wills” are inexorably connected to their brains, and when those brains are damaged….pop goes the will.

            Are you treating ‘will’ as perhaps a bit too binary?

            How could you claim free will when we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that environment, genes, etc. all play major determining roles in our development? I see nothing, at all, even remotely close to “free” when it comes to our wills. (if you acknowledge that we are at least partially determined, how could you not call yourself a CFW believer?)

            The difference between “totally determine” and “partially determine” makes all the difference in the world. One cannot amplify a nonexistent quantity, but one can amplify the smallest of quantities. Consider this: one of the most intense ways you can bless another person is to give him more freedom to pursue his dreams. Those dreams might need a bit of modification by the way, but that’s fine; many people’s ideas of their dreams aren’t 100% accurate anyhow.

            I’d love a God who gave a flying fuck, Luke. I’d love a God who regularly made Himself apparent, to all, aided us, struck down the wicked.

            How do you know God doesn’t do any of this? Consider whether your argument would change if the evil in the world were halved. Now halve it again. Keep doing it, and tell me when you would consider God having acted in the world. Jesus said “I only do what I see my father doing”; he could see God’ actions in the world. And he ‘amplified’ them: healing people, fighting social injustice, and opening up a can of whoop-ass on the religious elite. He and Paul advocated a radical egalitarianism which swept the land, until Christians got in bed with Caesar. More here.

            Hell, (and this ones out there!) maybe a God who could’ve created a perfect world (garden of Eden anyone?) and not allowed it to collapse within days? If we have a perfect world when we die, but couldn’t have had the same thing HERE, that makes no sense at all. Free will as an answer to this just doesn’t cut it for me, mostly because I see it as A: far from the reality of our brains/minds and B: a big, smoldering excuse. (but wait! Adam and Eve like, CHOSE to ignore God! Right….)

            Do you realize that you are exercising non-compatibilist free will in disagreeing with how God did things? What does it even mean for a CFW being to disagree with God?

            Actually, much of what you believe about God seems almost contingent upon the existence of Free Will. Yet I’ve never seen you offer any supporting evidence that we even have it.

            Why is the null hypothesis that we don’t have it? I could turn the tables on you and say that nobody has ever provided me with a convincing description of what it is that CFW denies, which threatens to make CFW utterly meaningless! If it can explain everything, it explains nothing. I ask a Phil.SE question, What would falsify compatibilism?—no responses. Jonathan Pearce has offered what I consider a pretty terrible set of reasons for what would falsify CFW; if I recall correctly:

                 (A) people making random decisions
                 (B) us being ok with there being no explanation for (A)

            I cannot make sense of these. They destroy the option to e.g. become good at playing the piano. What I consider the height of irony is that folks are ok to accept lack of causation in:

                 (i) choice of natural laws
                 (ii) initial conditions
                 (iii) quantum + thermal noise

            We are ok with no known cause for any of these, apparently. But when it comes to first-cause agents, that’s just off the table! Any agent, any mind, must be a result of (i-iii), and nothing else. Doesn’t this strike you as just a bit suspicious?

          • Void L. Walker

            Do you realize that I’m not behind CFW? Also, when I said “total” free will, I meant the kind that you believe in (supernaturally motivated, isn’t it? God gave it to us, you must accept that it isn’t entirely natural). I also find it a bit odd that you believe my view of the “will” is binary, when all that I said was that our wills are fragile, easily altered, and immensely malleable. Good grief man, we are bad at communicating.

            I’m sorry, but perhaps I shouldn’t have insinuated that our wills are only partially determined? I really think you should delve into a lot of recent work done in the field of human development. The signs are clear: we do NOT choose our wills. Our wills are a construct of a swath of prior causes. Genetics are only one of many; most recent research has shown that the peers you interact with from a young age sculpt many of our presuppositions and even our mood. Basically, our will is not free. How could it even be so? And if it is only partially determined, doesn’t that undermine a belief that it is completely free? (and yes Luke, you clearly believe it is more or less completely free; able to rise above nature, to an extent, you call us “first cause” agents. Pretty sure if prior causes made us –even partially– that we would be drawing from them, molded by them, and hardly capable of crafting anything novel).

            “How do you know that God doesn’t do any of this?” Really? Are you high? I’ve experienced a lot of loss in my life and I know countless others who have as well. God didn’t act, Luke, and it’s as simple as that. God doesn’t stop natural disasters from happening, cancer, disease, gratuitous suffering, etc. My argument WOULD change, to an extent if the evil were halved. But guess what? It hasn’t been. It’s worse than ever. Stop claiming I’m CFW here, also; I’m attacking the type of God that YOU believe in, Luke. This particular God could act, but does not do so. I cannot imagine a truly loving, maximally good entity sitting idly by while A: life takes a slow, gradual course to etch out a living (with countless deaths and dead ends along the way) over billions of years, and B God ceases to act when his “beloved” children are in dire need of help. I fail to see any logic behind either A or B.

          • Void L. Walker

            Tell me, for example, why God allows children to suffer so very much?

          • Luke Breuer

            Tell me, for example, why God allows children to suffer so very much?

            Because we humans have been given a lot of responsibility, and have done a fucking shitty job with it. I keep returning to all these smart-ass scientists in the beginning of the 20th century who marveled at their excellence and at the awesomeness of science, and how man was going to get taken to the heavens, with them as gods. Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit, but only a bit. Guess what happened later: World War I, and since nobody learned their fucking lessons, World War II. Talk about a massive fucking failure to understand human nature. See, for example, the Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment and The Third Wave.

            Now you might say, even if humans were to live responsibly, there would still be lots of child-suffering. We do not know this. What I suggest is that the complaining stop until we can really look at ourselves in the mirror, and say that we truly believe that we, as a world, did the best job we could expect to do in alleviating suffering and promoting joy. Can we do that no? Fuck no. Not like a long shot. Instead of blaming ourselves, we blame God. How fucked up is that?

            We can take The Thinker’s A Case For Secular Morality, for example. He thinks “morality is dealing with external behavior” (from a response to my comment which hasn’t loaded yet, argh @disqus). The crux of the matter lies here (quoting from the end of The Thinker’s not-yet-visible reply):

            We have to assess a reasonable expectation of the person given background knowledge of the situation.

            One reason God might be required is to guarantee that we will receive what is objectively “enough information”—this is merely a contingent fact of the universe and it doesn’t have to be that way.

            That’s basically like saying god commands something because it is good – external to him. In other words, he’s just the messenger. But even so, because of the massive epistemic problem whenever you include god into morality, your theory falls apart. No one has any clue what god commanded what command and how to properly interpret it. It’s an utter failure.

            I claim that much evil that happens on earth is due to humans not heeding the “sufficient information” that is provided to them. I believe this because I believe (a) God is good; (b) God gives man much freedom. When man fails to use his freedom appropriately, people suffer and die. I hold that man has sufficient information to act better and better, due to (a). But if you don’t hold to (a), then perhaps we really are doing the best we can. I reject this with my whole being. We could do much better. We don’t. We are at fault. Period.

            Interpreted within my paradigm, what you’re arguing for, Void L. Walker, is that humans aren’t ready for the responsibility they have been given. They are children, who need to be protected from hurting each other and themselves, and Sky Daddy should come and do that. Because Sky Daddy doesn’t do this, he isn’t omni-*, or doesn’t even exist. I reject this as baloney. It is the neotenization of the human race. It is regressive. It is a giving up of responsibility. When enough people give up responsibility, tyrants take over. This is not better. See Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, for example:

            According to Schopenhauer, denial of the will to live is the way to salvation from suffering.

            Ahh yes, if the mass of humanity denies its will, you get the Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment and The Third Wave. Do we want these things? I don’t. I believe that I am given enough information to deal with sharp knives properly. I don’t believe I am a toddler. Do you think you’re a toddler who has been given a sharp knife?

            Perhaps Positive Disintegration will help you understand me a bit. I’ve had that done to me, time and time and time and time again. I am wrong, I am broken, I am malformed, I need to be fixed. Fuck no, I had some issues, but so did the other person. Enough of this “you’re 100% wrong and I’m 100% right” bullshit. I know you don’t do this to me, Void, but many have in the past. And you know what? It has taught me some things. It has taught me reasons for why this world is so fucked up. And you know what? So much of it is the fault of pusillanimous humans, the folks who are perennially warned by:

            All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

            This is 100% consistent with Socrates’:

            Socrates believed that nobody willingly chooses to do wrong.

            Lack of sufficiently strong good intention is all that is required for evil to prosper. And there is a terrific lack of sufficiently strong good intention, intention for the welfare of all human beings and not just one’s own friends and family.

          • Void L. Walker

            I would add: why would god view free will as so precious and important that He wouldn’t, at least once, directly intervene and stop some of these horrendous things that we experience daily? Does our freedom of the will take THAT much precedent? And if so, why? One would think that our ultimate well being would be the most important thing, if God truly is the embodiment of love.

          • Luke Breuer

            The more God is our Sky Daddy, the more we are helpless children.

            Who says God hasn’t acted “at least once”? How would you know?

          • Void L. Walker

            Perhaps he HAS acted at least once, but (IMO) never when it really mattered. Not when the world trade center collapsed, killing hundreds (one of which was a pregnant woman who leaped to her death from a second story; try to not even imagine that), nor when innocence are experiencing prolonged suffering and agony. I just don’t see it.

            God would not need to be a Sky Daddy in order to do some real good in the world. He would need only to crush evil, once and for all (though I much prefer the idea of evil having never been born). Why wait until jesus comes back? Why prolong the suffering and death of his creations just to make a grand, acid trip entrance?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Incidentally, did you get round to writing a review for the free will book?

          • Void L. Walker

            Working on it later today Jon :) It will be under a different name than Void (cuz that name just doesn’t really work), but I’ll make sure that it’s fairly in depth and rightfully sings your praises. I’ll reply to you again when it’s done if you wanna check it out.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Can’t tell you how much I appreciate it! Thanks mate. I often wonder how differently I would write it these years on.

          • Void L. Walker

            Thank you for the book, jon. The best I’ve ever read on the subject :) I hope my review brings a few other people into the subject.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Than you sir! I hugely appreciate your kind words. Thanks.

          • Void L. Walker

            Anytime. Free will honestly strikes me as something that is as vehemently defended as religious faith, even if the individual(s) who subscribe to it are not religious. But when you closely examine just about any concept of free will (especially the absurd dualistic variety), it is quickly crushed by it’s own weight. Can you recommend any other books on the subject?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Yes:

            http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2013/11/11/psychology-neuroscience-and-a-fundamental-lack-of-free-will/

            Read the post (I like this post, lots of cool stuff) and get the book. Not on free will per se, but loads of things on the brain. Really easy to read and fascinating.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce
          • Void L. Walker

            Now I have to add yet another book to my reading list. At this rate, I won’t be finished until I’m 50! Really though, thanks Jon :)

          • Luke Breuer

            Perhaps he HAS acted at least once, but (IMO) never when it really mattered.

            You simply cannot know this, unless you are privy to “how the world could have been had God not intervened”. I suppose this could be a kind of religious experience. But to claim that sans that, absence of evidence is evidence of absence, seems pretty suspicious to me.

            Not when the world trade center collapsed, killing hundreds (one of which was a pregnant woman who leaped to her death from a second story; try to not even imagine that), nor when innocence are experiencing prolonged suffering and agony. I just don’t see it.

            Wait a second. Let’s limit this to one person dying at one place at one time. Is that enough to say that God ain’t omni-*? Let’s not load up on examples if one will do. So please, firm up your argument. If everything throughout history were dandy, except for one untimely death, would that be enough to say that omni-* God ain’t so omni-*?

            Why prolong the suffering and death of his creations just to make a grand, acid trip entrance?

            Maybe he’s teaching them to get off their fat, lazy asses and learn to crush evil themselves. Actually, it seems more that he wants MLK Jr. and Gandhi-type ideological warfare. Anyhow, it seems that his creations could learn a thing or two by actually fighting evil. You don’t seem to think this is worth it; is that correct?

          • Void L. Walker

            “firm up your argument” Really? Wow. Here’s the bottom line: you claim that God is the embodiment of love. The example that I gave has countless people burning to death, a pregnant woman exploding (literally) on the ground, her baby (still alive for a few minutes) sliding out of her in pieces. Firm up my argument? If God is supposed to be all loving, my argument could not be MORE firm. Unless God cannot see these things happening? What, is he sitting there, shaking his head like “Darn! Free will, I tell ya.” Perhaps you need to firm your argument. If you want a few dozen individual examples of “one person at a time” agony, I’d be happy to illuminate you; if God is a fraction as loving as you clearly think He is, then even just ONE horrendously agonizing death of an innocent would be enough for me to refute the claim of “perfectly loving”.

            “you simply cannot know this.” Just as you simply cannot know that God even exists to begin with. If you believe that he HAS acted in some instances, how would you know that? If he has acted, it would be impossible to prove this. Please, though: give me an example of God “acting” that you believe actually happened.

            “Maybe he’s teaching them to get off their fat, lazy asses…” Okay uh….hmm. So God wants us to act as the custodians of the earth, and obliterate evil ourselves? You always assert that one of the “reasons” for evil is to learn valuable lessons. You seem to be putting limitations on God. Why could He not have just created a world devoid of evil, but figured out (I hear he’s kinda clever….) a means of teaching us the most important of lessons without gratuitous suffering, disease, natural disasters? Do tell.

          • Luke Breuer

            Here’s the bottom line: you claim that God is the embodiment of love.

            Threaten the children of a mother who loves them very much, and you get anger. Or is this a bad kind of love, a broken kind of love?

            If God is supposed to be all loving, my argument could not be MORE firm.

            and all-controlling

            if God is a fraction as loving as you clearly think He is, then even just ONE horrendously agonizing death of an innocent would be enough for me to refute the claim of “perfectly loving”.

            False; you must require that God restrict human free will so that we cannot be monsters to each other. I don’t think you understand how restrictive this is. For example, suppose there is a class of kindergarten children. I probably would not be allowed to give a cookie to all but one, because that would be implicitly doing evil to one of them. Your model of what a “perfectly loving” God seems to require some pretty crazy things, but I am doing a bit of guessing, here. It would be interesting to hear from you what a world would look like, created by your image of an omni-god. What would love look like in that world?

            Just as you simply cannot know that God even exists to begin with.

            There exists evidence which can be interpreted as God existing. For example, a good God would teach us about the true properties of human nature, properties which would predict the Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment, and The Third Wave. The model held by scientists just prior to WWI could not predict these. WWI and WWII and the USSR and Communist China were shocking to many people. Not to Christians who do their best to not cherry-pick their Bibles. I don’t mean in vagueries, either: Deut 5 and Israel’s demand for a king can be analyzed and understood extensively. Jesus in Mt 20:20-28 is profoundly compelling, and vastly counter-cultural. I also suggest reading this comment. Talk about the kind of thing an omni-god would do; Jesus is a fantastic example!

            What would change his mind and spur action?

            Moses asking for God to not destroy Israel, and thus choosing to stand in the breach. Atheists and skeptics love to point out God repenting; they fail to see that God changes behavior if and when humans choose to stand up and have a backbone, directly contrary to e.g. Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, in which Schopenhauer goes Buddhist:

            According to Schopenhauer, denial of the will to live is the way to salvation from suffering.

            Contrast this to the 7+1 instances of “one who conquers” in revelation, or Jesus’ “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” Jesus had incredible will; it was merely directed toward the enhancement of people and resurrection of souls, not the domination of souls, the enslaver of humans. (see slavery in antiquity)

            “Maybe he’s teaching them to get off their fat, lazy asses…” Okay uh….hmm. So God wants us to act as the custodians of the earth, and obliterate evil ourselves?

            Not all by ourselves; we have both the Bible and the Holy Spirit as resources, not to mention Jesus’ death which both did something mystically, and gave us an example to follow. Overcome evil with good—which means that the term “crush evil” is perhaps a bad one, because it usually is not used in the 2 Cor 10:3-6 sense.

            You want God to do it for you so that you don’t have to. Lest I be insensitive, perhaps some horrible shit has happened to you, and/or people you care about. Some horrible shit has happened to me, and actually, to many of my close friends. One of them watched his mother shoot herself in the head, start wailing and moaning, fall down a set of stairs, spray blood and brains everywhere, and finally die. He suspects Project MKUltra, which took advantage of depressed and otherwise hard-off people, to experiment on them. Talk about an inversion of the biblical mandate to take care of the poor, oppressed, widows, and orphaned.

            And yet, this friend is a fantastic scientist, who foresaw global climactic instability in the 80’s if not 70’s, and realized that humans would fail to take care of the environment before it was greatly damaged. He realized that it didn’t matter whether it was global warming or cooling: we were pumping both greenhouse gases and dark particulate into the atmosphere, in such a way so that the atmosphere would be able to store more energy: hotter hots, and colder colds, with the ultimate effect being global climactic instability. Parts of the world will lose their growing seasons. So this friend decided to start a 300-year research project which would culminate in the technologies to clean up the climactic mess we as the human race will almost inevitably cause. This friend of mine used evil as a motivator to make there be less evil.

            I claim that many people actually amplify the evil done to them, by spreading it around. Sometimes this is called revenge, and is why the Bible contains, “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” Paul describes this amplification in one way:

            I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Rom 6:19)

            So pretty much every human has the option to either make the world a better place through strong intention which continually accrues knowledge, or he/she will inevitably make the world a worse place, if by doing nothing else but accepting the system as it is:

            All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

            gratuitous suffering

            Hello irreducible complexity, how are you doing today?

          • Void L. Walker

            Free will, free will, free will. You’re not as novel as I originally gave you credit for. Ask a question regarding suffering (or just about anything else regarding the nature of God) and the common (tiresome) retort is free will.

            I understand, fully, just how “restrictive” a God who actually acts would be. Why is this a bad thing, given the alternative (reality) of suffering/death? What is worse? You still have yet to even remotely define the kind of free will you subscribe to, and seem unscathed by the fact that our wills are naturally constructed by a ton of priori. There is nothing free about them! If you disagree, give me several examples that somehow act against the established facts. Our environment, genetics, peers, in tandem, create our wills. How can the will even be free when you understand this? You’re very confusing to me.

            Irreducible complexity? Really? First, you need to elaborate a LOT. Second, gratuitous suffering DOES exist, and I’ve known several people who can attest to that. Nothing about this type of suffering (in my experience) is even REMOTELY redeemable. It begs the question, then, why does it even exist? Nothing can come of it, except for the agony that those who experience it must endure. Once again, you’re a truly bewildering person. Please clarify a statement like that before just tossing it out.

            Your faith that A: Jesus was the son of God, and B: he was a miracle worker are both unfounded. The narrative structure of the gospels (when they aren’t contradicting themselves) is hardly that of an historical retelling of events. In both style and structure it is much, MUCH more akin to mythicism. See here for an example: adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/ancient-historical-writing-compared-to-the-gospels-of-the-new-testament/

          • Luke Breuer

            Free will, free will, free will. You’re not as novel as I originally gave you credit for. Ask a question regarding suffering (or just about anything else regarding the nature of God) and the common (tiresome) retort is free will.

            The Problem of Evil presupposes that God has free will, no?

          • Void L. Walker

            The variants I have encountered do, yes (although I’m fairly certain one could construct a CFW God problem of evil). That’s the whole point. I realize that you avoid this by positing that God can never “fully know” what course of action we will take, but that argument is really weak IMO.

            Essentially, you’re saying that Omni God would choose to create beings that are rather unpredictable, and capable (as noted in an earlier comment of mine) of actually doing things that God could not entirely foresee. Do you not see the problem with this? God basically allowed for entities that COULD bring about suffering/evil. He must have been at least partially aware (fully would be better) of this, after all he made us. Do you mean to tell me that God would never had considered that granting such first causation to us could potentially entail death/suffering?

          • Luke Breuer

            The variants I have encountered do, yes (although I’m fairly certain one could construct a CFW God problem of evil).

            Yeah, it’d look like this:

                 (1) the world is based on law + pure randomness
                 (2) some worlds will look like they have good gods
                 (3) some will not
                 (4) regardless, there would be no ontic omni-* god

            In other words, premise (1) excludes an omni-god from preexisting.

            I realize that you avoid this by positing that God can never “fully know” what course of action we will take, but that argument is really weak IMO.

            Not quite; I argue that God can pick anywhere on the spectrum:

                 (A) create robots with fully determined futures
                 (B) create 100% first-cause agents

            God can do anything between (A) and (B), endpoints included. But to the extent that he does (B), he doesn’t determine the corresponding actions. What you seem to want is for God to prevent every bad first-cause action, while letting all of the good first-cause actions to be taken. Is this accurate?

          • Void L. Walker

            How about creating choices that DO NOT eventuate suffering/death? Why would these even be options?

          • Luke Breuer

            If the alternative is worse. CS Lewis, in The Problem of Pain or Mere Christianity, asks us to consider a world in which every time someone tries to hit someone else with a bat, it turns into moss or something. And he asks: what if we don’t even let people think evil thoughts? This reminds me of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What if eating of the tree was the taking of the option to think evil thoughts? But this isn’t quite right, for there is a possibly important distinction:

                 (1) Adam is commanded not to eat of it in Gen 2:17
                 (2) Eve added “no touching” in Gen 3:3

            The reason this is possible different is that perhaps Adam and Eve were to (i) conceive of evil (touch), but never (ii) commit evil (ingest). Consider that some stories are told so that they don’t have to become real; Nineteen Eighty-Four is an example. But what is the difference between (i) and (ii)? Even our current science doesn’t know! See SEP’s Consciousness and Intentionality.

            It could be the case that it is not possible to allow (i) without (ii) being an option. Recall God’s attempt to warn Cain in Gen 4:1-7. Perhaps God meant to help mankind grow by instructing him when (i) was in danger of turning into (ii). That certainly fits the pattern of the Bible quite well! It also establishes a really neat role for God to play in our mental realm: on the bleeding edge of creativity and discovery.

            Consider what would happen if we could never do (i). Is that an interesting world? I cannot construct such a world that I deem interesting. Would you like to give it a shot? Don’t just posit such a world, describe it. Tell some compelling stories that could happen in it. Make it realistic. And if you can’t, I suggest that is an indicator that maybe there is no such realistic world!

          • Void L. Walker

            You must realize that THE best way to get someone to do something is tell them that they cannot, right? Well, one of the best ways (if you disagree you’ve clearly not spent enough time around teenagers and many adults). How about this: Yahweh tells them, in DETAIL, why they are to not eat of the fruit. If they could conceive of evil, as you say, then a little additional info from Yahweh couldn’t have hurt.

          • Luke Breuer

            Reverse psychology is what you tell to someone who is in rebellion. Adam and Eve were not in rebellion. Now, to humans who were in rebellion, precisely your strategy was chosen:

                “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
                Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”
                But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” (Joshua 24:14-24)

            Fancy that!

            As I’ve said numerous times, Genesis is a MYTH.

            Myths have mathematical structure which can be repurposed to talk about another situation. Consider analogies and metaphors. The truth or falsity of the actual events recorded in Genesis 1-3 is irrelevant to how I am using it.

            using something that NEVER happened is not a good way to approach this.

            If this is true, why is fiction so powerful for human beings?

          • Void L. Walker

            I think it’s VERY relevant, because you’re using it to address history. You’re using Genesis as a means to explain to me the origin of sin (which you do not actually know). In this regard, using myth is functionally useless. Fiction is powerful because it can be evocative. It does not properly explain things in the manner you’re attempting to use Genesis.

          • Luke Breuer

            I simply disagree. Analogies and metaphors are useful. Why? Underlying symmetries in mathematical structure.

          • Void L. Walker

            Well we will have to agree to disagree then :)

          • Luke Breuer

            How about this: Yahweh tells them, in DETAIL, why they are to not eat of the fruit.

            Does this strategy work for human parents and children? If not, why not? I think you are making very false assumptions about the fundamental nature of human cognition here, so that even an omniscient parent cannot do what you want done.

            Trust is simply required; you want to avoid this, but it is unavoidable. Either trust, or fuck up and reap the consequences.

          • Void L. Walker

            So are you asserting that Yahweh trusted Adam and Eve? That he could not have possibly known they would act in such a manner? If so, that really strikes me as limiting an allegedly limitless being.

            If, as I’ve stated before, God possessed the knowledge of what COULD be, and what MAY happen, how can you call him maximally loving? Knowing, firsthand, that there is a large probability of something bad happening, and taking no measures to combat said probability (please don’t pull out the Jesus card) renders Yahweh on equal footing with us, guilt-wise.

            Not to beat this rotting horse (it’s mush by now), but using the Genesis creation narrative to convey a point isn’t working that well here. Since there was no garden, no tree of good and evil, no literal 6-day creation, we are left with a highly speculative, hypothetical Adam and Eve who appeared at some point during the course of our evolution. Now, if you could build THAT up (which I do not see as even remotely tenable), you’d have something.

          • Luke Breuer

            In the final equation, the only choices are (a) life or (b) death. See:

            And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. (Gen 1:29-30)

            And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2:9)

            And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)

            So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:6)

            I want you to notice two things:

                 (1) Adam and Eve could eat of all plants yielding seed.
                 (2) God made all trees which were both:
                     (i) pleasant to the sight
                     (ii) good for food

            This passage does not state that God made the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It doesn’t say who made that tree, if you read carefully enough. (You’re welcome to call me a Jew for saying this.)

            I’m going to claim that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was (i) pleasant to the sight, but (ii’) not good for food. Why? Because God said eating of it produces (b) death, not (a) life. It looked pleasant, but inside it contained the non-seed of death. It was not good for food. Adam and Eve judged by sight and not by true nature! And we do that ourselves, again and again and again.

            Fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil led to death. This was why Adam and Eve weren’t to eat of it. The choice was between life and death. Death looks good at the beginning—it is (i) pleasant to the sight. Only when one can simulate the consequences of death-choices does one recognize that they are death-choices. This is what the properly functioning human imagination is for, plus trust in God.

          • Void L. Walker

            Why do you keep citing the Genesis creation myth to make a point, when you can’t even be sure A: WHEN sin entered the world, and B: how?

          • Luke Breuer

            In your complaint, you seem to have completely missed that I just attempted to do exactly B! As to A, I don’t know.

          • Void L. Walker

            I didn’t get an answer to B in your comment, sorry. The vagueness strikes again. If eating of a “forbidden” fruit was not the catalyst for sin, what was? Also, saying that God did not create the tree…..um….hmm.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m sorry, but it seems like you’re no longer sufficiently interested in helping me avoid vagueness. The less helpful you are, the more effort I have to do. If all you can see is darkness and ugliness and badness in what I say, then I am forced to somehow turn that into beauty. This is an incredibly taxing process, and I sometimes just choose not to do it alone. I make that choice here.

          • Void L. Walker

            Luke, the only person who can rid you of your vagueness is YOU. I can point out THAT you’re vague, and even HOW you’re vague, but that does little to motivate you towards more lucid, understandable descriptions of what you believe.

          • Luke Breuer

            This is false. You have within you beauty that you can bring to bear to try and make my statements make more sense. I do it to other people all the time. The highest quality people do it to me, too. It’s a fantastic way to interact.

          • Void L. Walker

            The problems: A: I do not really know you, and B: I’d need proper interaction with you in order to make an attempt to persuade you properly. That’s how I operate, for better or worse.

          • Luke Breuer

            I have falsified this in practice, via internet discussion. So has Andy Schueler, and I think you have, as well.

          • Void L. Walker

            Have I? If so, perhaps you could refresh me. I’m unaware of ever having done this.

          • Luke Breuer

            Bug me if it’s important to find them; I’m a bit tapped out at the moment. But your mere liking of my analogy was more kindness than I usually receive from atheists and skeptics on the internet.

            Think of it this way. A lot of atheists and skeptics on the internet who choose to interact with Christians have been hurt by Christians. This hurt, IRL, stays on the inside. Under anonymity, that hurt comes out, in the form of verbal daggers aimed at the hearts of other Christians. Sometimes I can see this very clearly. Sometimes the statements that get typed out are very clear reflections of the author’s heart. It is sad that Christians have wrought so much damage, so much hurt, by telling such insidious lies and being such Pharisaical hypocrites. And so, I willfully endure the demeaning insults in order to gain understanding, and maybe just offer the opportunity for healing.

            I’ve had some success in said healing department; two people on Disqus were glad that I am not like typical Christians. It is slow going, and I must have vast emotional reserves (the alternative is a hard and calloused heart and I fight that happening to me). It will be, in the end I think, worth it. Incredibly worth it. Much suffering is the cost, but I believe the reward to be extreme.

          • Void L. Walker

            If you say that I did so, I’ll believe you. My memory can be a sneaky fucker sometimes. Apologies.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            I’m glad that you pointed out that ‘you simply cannot kwno this’ works both ways.

          • Void L. Walker

            I find that most arguments theists pull out can be tossed right back in their faces with a few tweaks.

          • Luke Breuer

            Tell me, for example, why God allows children to suffer so very much?

            Why do we allow children to suffer so very much? You have three options:

                 (1) God had no option to choose otherwise.

                 (2) God had the option to choose otherwise but could not create other beings with this ability.

                 (3) Could could create beings like himself.

            To which option do you hold? This comment is relevant:

            can you imagine logically possible worlds in which agents have “the ability to do otherwise”? If yes, then why is LFW illogical? If no, then “the ability to do otherwise” does not deny anything, and is thus a meaningless statement, no? I thank Andy Schueler for pointing out this pattern on another matter.

          • Void L. Walker

            How about none of them?

          • Luke Breuer

            What’s the (4)? You seem to think God could have done things differently, no? That is, if he existed, you can imagine that it is logically possible that he could have done things differently, to be more omni-*.

          • Void L. Walker

            For the sake of argument, I’ll pretend that I still believe in God.

            Yes, the God that I believed in had the ultimate, ineffable kind of free will. I knew that he could do anything, at any time.

            Yes, God could have done things differently. Why not? Regarding your option 3 (which you clearly hold to), God chose to create beings much like him (even though modern neuroscience kinda disagrees with you on free will). God must have known that these beings would be capable (as you believe) of enacting first causes, thereby superseding his Omni nature, in part, when we “choose” to do this and that. So basically, it seems to me that God, favoring free will, set himself up with a universe that was destined for suffering. He must be capable of at least plotting out several POSSIBLE courses of action we would take, so wouldn’t sin and death be among them?

          • Luke Breuer

            Can God create agents which also could have done things differently? Could we be some of those agents? Could we be morally responsible for at least some of the evil on earth, and be responsible to fight it, here and now?

          • Void L. Walker

            See my latest comment. God creating us with the propensity to initiate a first cause would see him at least PARTIALLY responsible for what we do, unless he’s really not omni at all, and his own creations are not entirely known to him; actions, especially. Sounds more like Zueu to me.

          • Luke Breuer

            Yes, and Jesus is him fulfilling his part of the responsibility.

          • Void L. Walker

            So you concede that God is at least partially responsible, then?

            So. God fulfills His end by coming down to earth and bleeding out on a couple 2×4’s, then raising from the dead and floating up like a magical balloon. We fulfill our end by experiencing death, Hell, suffering, torment, disease, persecution…..yeah, that seems to balance nicely.

          • Luke Breuer

            I think you have grossly caricatured what Jesus did. See this comment. Or see the spread of early Christianity. To say that Jesus did very little is just delusional. He changed the course of history. He was the nucleation point.

          • Void L. Walker

            No, I drew an obvious correlation between God’s part of the burden, and ours; how He dealt with his part, and how we (continue) to deal with ours. Zero equality.

          • Luke Breuer

            You won’t even talk about “how we (continue) to deal with ours”.

          • Void L. Walker

            What?? O_o

          • Luke Breuer

            Will you talk about your own sin, your own contributions to the world being a shittier place? I will talk about my own sin, if you’d like me to take the lead. Let’s use Solzhenitsyn’s words as backdrop:

            It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains . . . an unuprooted small corner of evil.

          • Void L. Walker

            Considering that I do not believe “sin” even exists, this conversation has little room to develop.

          • Luke Breuer

            So there’s nothing wrong with the world? Or nothing that could be different, had some agent chosen differently? Are we back to 100% scapegoating God, a god with no “free” will? So all your complaints of wrongness were mere “dislikes”?

          • Void L. Walker

            Firstly, there are plenty of things wrong with the world. I merely refuse to label them as biproducts of “sin”; shitty things happen, people age, suffer and die, natural disasters destroy, non human animals devour each other, diseases spread, etc. This is the natural order of things, no need to inject the supernatural to properly explain it. Second, my complaints of wrongness are an attempt to spur discussion, and maybe change your mind. No more, no less.

          • Luke Breuer

            Your complaint about the suffering of children seemed like it was more than an observation of nature. It seemed loaded with “This is wrong!”—something one can only maintain on emotional grounds, or free-will grounds. (Have I missed any?)

          • Void L. Walker

            How about basic, natural, moral grounds? We’re a very social animal, it’s only natural that we should feel as I did about the suffering/death of a young human being. Again, why inject the supernatural? If we did NOT have this morality, I would argue that our species would not have survived for as long as it has. In fact, I’m positive that we wouldn’t have. The evolution of compassion/empathy is among the most important of behavioral adaptations (we are not the only beings that display it, either. I would recommend doing some research into animal morality. African elephants have been known to honor their dead).

          • Luke Breuer

            The only thing “the supernatural” does here is provide an absolute reference point, one which pierces any and all human subjectivity.

            As to the general issue here, we apparently cannot communicate, as I hold to free will and you do not. On my plane of existence, God could be morally culpable, but so can I. And I am more willing to question my own culpability, as well as the culpability of all other mortals, before considering God’s. On your plane of existence, God cannot be morally culpable, because he had no other choice—if there’s even a “he”, instead of Einstein’s God.

          • Void L. Walker

            On my plane of existence, God does not exist, period. Operating under the assumption that he DID, I fail to see how I’ve even insinuated that God works in a deterministic fashion. Rather, I’ve laid out why he would be as easily blamed as us for the fall (I’ve already told you I do not adhere to CFW, and that when I was a believer, God had limitless free will).

            I suppose that we cannot properly communicate. But hey, I’ve enjoyed the back and forth in any case.

          • Luke Breuer

            When you refuse to let me talk about Genesis as a metaphor, you insist that we discuss on your plane of existence. I cannot make the statements I need to make on your plane of existence. So perhaps you have been asking me for impossible things, or things I do not know how I could provide. And then you slap on the word “vagueness” here and there, sometimes jokingly, but sometimes very pointedly. I apologize for when I have reacted badly to it.

            I too have enjoyed our interactions; my experiences talking to you are among the best, in my interactions with atheists and skeptics on the internet. Most skeptics and atheists generally assume that they are 99.9999% right and if I am right at all, it is 0.0001% of the time. These are extraordinarily harsh working conditions; I do the best I can, but I fail often. I thank you for providing me much better working conditions than is normal. It has been refreshing.

          • Void L. Walker

            I’m glad that I’ve been refreshing to you, certainly like-wise on my part. I see no point, at all, in poking fun, demeaning, and treating the opposition like morons. You’re clearly intelligent and compassionate, so I believe you’re worthy of respect.

          • Luke Breuer

            Thanks. But your comment about what makes one worthy of respect is a bit concerning; consider the following parable:

            “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Mt 13:45-46)

            We are the pearls, contra many idiot Christians who want to turn salvation into a works-based venture—even professing Protestants. The wondrous thing is that we were seen to be pearls of great value before being saved. Jesus saw the beauty in us before cleaning us up. The “worth” was judged by his looking into our souls, not into our appearances, or at our hurt. Jesus calls us to view our fellow human beings like this, as does Paul:

            From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor 5:16-17)

            Judging people according to the flesh is exceedingly ugly. It reinforces whatever hurt they have experienced, “solidifying” it in a way, almost like the quantum zeno effect. What if, instead, you did your best to see the beauty in people and ideas, and did your best to bring it out, to make it more? You wouldn’t be imposing your image, your idea of ‘should’, on the person or idea. Instead, you’d see beauty outside of yourself, and do what you can to encourage its growth.

            I claim that more people doing the above would make this a much more glorious world.

          • Void L. Walker

            I believe I was vague, this time. I never asserted that my criteria for deeming a person worthy of respect was seated upon intelligence and compassion. Those are just two traits that I admire and respect. Frankly, this world is short of both.

          • Luke Breuer

            The Christian holds that there is nothing a person can do in order to be worthy of respect. I would challenge you to think of the consequences of such a system of valuation. It is required for “unconditional love” to exist. Unconditional love can see the beauty in the most rotten and backwards of people—and enhance it. This is one of the wonders of Christianity. I do not often get to talk about it, for much of the time, atheist and skeptics wish to dwell on the worst parts they can find:

            “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

            If I can draw out darkness this way and effect healing, I will continue to do it. But at some point, the person needs to self-examine and ask whether he/she wants to be the kind of person who mostly sees ugliness and wrongness. For if that’s what you see on the outside, that’s what you see on the inside, after the brittle wall of arrogance/pride is penetrated. Ultimately, you treat others how you treat yourself, even if the two can get “out of phase”, as it were. The consequences of sin are built into it: you damage yourself at the very same time that you damage another person. It is a symmetry which cannot be violated. Fortunately, if you look for beauty in others, it will help you look for beauty in yourself. I wish to encourage more people to do this, to see the value in this. The world would be brighter with more such people in it.

          • Void L. Walker

            I see where you’re coming from, but I digress (to an extent). Not all people have good in them. Frankly, I think that giving CERTAIN people the benefit of a doubt can be very dangerous. Examples include certain varieties of rapist, con men, general psycho fucks who lure children to their doom, etc. Good, honest people gave them a shot, and in return were severely hurt or much worse.

            Now I’m all for SEARCHING for good in people, but the criteria that I abide by are in place for good reasons. One of them is safety. Not just for me, mind you, but those I love. You must also realize that the two traits I mentioned are but a tiny fraction that I use when evaluating people.

            Also I question your sampling of atheists/skeptics. Most whom I have encountered are pleasant, loving, beauty seeking individuals who see the good in life as well as the bad. We are all different, each of us. I’ve known a good deal of Christians who see more ugliness than I do!

          • Luke Breuer

            Not all people have good in them.

            I disagree 100%, contra Randal Rauser, per the conversation which terminates here. (Due to Disqus’ comment loading algorithm, it is best to link to the latest post.) Believe that a person does not have any good in them is to place them in hell, and encourage further inability to see beauty in oneself:

            “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

            I am increasingly of the belief that when we make a judgment of others, we do the same to ourselves, kind of like Newton’s third law. Or:

            “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

            If you call something that is partly beautiful and partly ugly in another person “100% wholly ugly”, then you apply that standard to yourself, cursing both ugliness in yourself as well as beauty. The light in you becomes darker. What would happen if, instead, you focused on bringing the beauty out in other people and their arguments? Then you would do the same to your own internal beauty. “[W]ith the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

            Now I’m all for SEARCHING for good in people, but the criteria that I abide by are in place for good reasons. One of them is safety. Not just for me, mind you, but those I love.

            This is why Jesus said one had to “hate” one’s family. Insist on safety, refuse to bear your cross, and you will be limited in what you can do, in how much you can bless the world. If there is evil or ugliness in you or those who are being kept “safe”, and excising that evil/ugliness would be “unsafe”, then you will refuse to do it. And even worse, you will call that evil/ugliness “good”. You will make yourself an autonomous god who decides what is good and what is evil, instead of discovering it.

            Also I question your sampling of atheists/skeptics. Most whom I have encountered are pleasant, loving, beauty seeking individuals who see the good in life as well as the bad. We are all different, each of us. I’ve known a good deal of Christians who see more ugliness than I do!

            I have no doubt that my sampling is from a very small number of atheists. That being said, your observations are a result of this:

            “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

            It is easy to love and see beauty in people who are like you. The true test of a person is how he/she treats people vastly differently from him/her. I have run this test again and again and again online, where anonymity reigns. Time and again, atheists and skeptics are only able to acknowledge darkness/ugliness/evil in everything I say. They set themselves up as autonomous gods, deciding what is good/beautiful and what is evil/ugly.

          • Void L. Walker

            I must apologize for my prior claim, I was in a rush and had little time to respond. I retract my statement that not everyone possesses good.

            True, virtually everyone has good in them. But how much, exactly? You certainly could not claim that the BTK killer is on equal footing with yourself “goodness” wise, so my point is as follows: while we may all possess good to an extent, many of us have an uneven balance of good-bad. Certain people may do SOME good things, but their evil actions grossly outweigh the bad ones. There truly is such a thing as a “bad egg” in this context.

            You may claim that we could bring out the good in them, but I disagree. You see, many people (criminals are fine examples) have faulty neuro-wiring. Their brains just aren’t set up in a way that would allow them to function normally in most social/moral situations. They act out, misbehave and (in some cases) torture and murder. Evil and good are entirely natural, you see; judgements that social beings make in order to facilitate more parsimonious interactions with one another, so as to cohere into a more functional unit. Sometimes people simply cannot change their ways. I’ve seen this before.

            Now, I’m not saying that good and evil do not exist, but rather that you view them as supernaturally adherent, whereas I view them as naturally so (crafted by evolutionary processes).

          • Luke Breuer

            True, virtually everyone has good in them. But how much, exactly?

            Why does this matter? Do we “give up” on people without some minimum amount of ‘good’ in them? What if the reason for small amounts of ‘good’ are due to how we have treated them? What if our measure of ‘good’ is skewed?

            There truly is such a thing as a “bad egg” in this context.

            I disagree 100%. I am not against restricting the possible actions of e.g. pedophiles, until they have been given the tools to restrain their impulses. And perhaps even then, they will need some kind of extra surveillance. But there are ways to provide only the restraints on people which are likely required to keep them from hurting others. And we can get ever-better at reducing those restraints. The Christian believes a person can become a completely “new man”; stories exist to this effect. But the Christian also believes that some might forever choose evil over good, and thus knows to guard against such people.

            You see, many people (criminals are fine examples) have faulty neuro-wiring. Their brains just aren’t set up in a way that would allow them to function normally in most social/moral situations.

            How would we falsify this hypothesis? If it is unfalsifiable, it is mythology, not fact. I would claim that enough evil treatment of a person can make him/her seem like he/she has “faulty neuro-wiring”. This treatment can span generations, showing up in genetics, epigenetics, family cultures, etc.

            Your argument is dangerously close to that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, who declared some races only fit for slavery. It would allow us to scapegoat a segment of the population, treating them like shit, letting their brains start to appear faulty, and then we can shovel them off into insane asylums or “reprogram” them, as if it were all their faults in the first place. This way lies evil. You know about the Soviets “reeducating” political dissidents, no?

            Sometimes people simply cannot change their ways.

            This is not knowable, in principle. All you can ever say is that you do not know how to help someone change his/her ways. This is a very important distinction.

            Now, I’m not saying that good and evil do not exist, but rather that you view them as supernaturally adherent, whereas I view them as naturally so (crafted by evolutionary processes).

            I would be curious to see your “line of demarcation” between good and evil. It’d be kind of like Jesus’ “I only do what I see my father doing”—I believe he picked out only some of what he saw happening in reality, attributing that and that alone to God. Perhaps he saw that which promotes life, attributing it to God, and that which promotes death, attributing that to Satan.

          • Void L. Walker

            Seriously, FUCK DISQUS. I replied to this comment, and I can see that you replied to my reply, yet neither show! AAAAARGH!

          • Luke Breuer

            What do you mean by “wrong with the world”? Is it anything other than, “things I don’t like about the world”?

          • Void L. Walker

            The things I’ve mentioned are loathed by the majority of people, so I’d hardly say “things *I* don’t like about the world”. Rather, my complaints are lodged towards a belief in a “perfectly loving” entity. Also, I’m a science man, and I see no reason for God from a naturalistic perspective.

          • Luke Breuer

            Why does it matter if you plus another person loath something? Number seems utterly irrelevant here, unless we’re operating under something like argumentum ad populum—we aren’t, are we? The number of Germans who didn’t fight the extermination of the Jews is irrelevant to the wrongness of said extermination, is it not?

            How do you know that you have a sufficiently accurate conception of “perfectly loving”? Furthermore, does perfect love of an object or person include anger against that which threatens the [continuing] existence of the object or person?

            I understand that one can ground reality in personality or impersonality. There are things you lose if you ground it in impersonality: will becomes non-free, what is, is right, etc. Your axioms dictate what forms your model can take. For example, I believe you are stuck at something like Emotivism, which MacIntyre convincingly argues is nothing more than a veiled Nietzschean imposition of the will, of the strong on the weak.

          • Void L. Walker

            I would think that “perfect love” would be a love that is devoid of flaws and all encompassing. When I ascribe such a thing as perfect love to an omni being, those would both apply. It follows, then, that God and evil simply do not mix. At all. Or else the very definition of perfectly loving flies out the window. Yahweh created Satan, as well as Hell. Yahweh also imbued us with the ability to act in a manner such as him. I’ve already outlined why this is problematic, as God would be aware of PROBABILITIES regarding the potential for bad things to happen, so armed with that knowledge, how can we claim that God is anywhere near perfectly loving?

          • Luke Breuer

            Yahweh created Satan, as well as Hell.

            Partially false and fully false. Yahweh created an angel who then chose self-love over love of God, who chose himself as the standard of beauty over God. If you want to say that God ought to have prevented Satan from making this choice, you have to insist on love which compels. And yet 1 Cor 13:5 claims that agape love “does not insist on its own way”. So it seems that you must hold that God ought to have created a world in which evil was impossible. But are you 100% sure that such a world would be as good as a world with sin and redemption?

            I think we create hell. I create hell for someone by calling him 100% ugly. I can create partial hell for someone by calling beautiful parts of her ‘ugly’. People can create hells for themselves, by declaring themselves standards of beauty, and thus rejecting everyone and everything which does not increasingly become ‘beautiful’ like they are. God did not create hell. We do. By loving God more than ourselves, by letting God define beauty instead of ourselves, we can escape hell.

            Yahweh also imbued us with the ability to act in a manner such as him. I’ve already outlined why this is problematic, as God would be aware of PROBABILITIES regarding the potential for bad things to happen, so armed with that knowledge, how can we claim that God is anywhere near perfectly loving?

            Our ability to sin comes from our creatureliness. We have gaps in knowledge which lead to uncertainties as to how to act. God offers to fill those gaps with himself; we have the option to trust him, or to trust our own knowledge as ‘sufficient’. When we trust our own knowledge, we ‘harden’ an imperfect conception of reality, declaring that the picture of the thing is the thing. This causes great quantities of evil. Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

            Your objection actually seems to be that it is evil for God to create finite creatures able to grow, at least when there is the possibility of bad growth as well as good growth. And yet, finite creatures only able to make ‘good’ decisions are not so much creatures as robots. And yet here you run into a fantastic problem, for by your conception of will, we are robots! And we are robots who don’t like that we are robots! This seems virtually self-defeating. We have no right to dislike our situation, unless we have the ability to alter it. Schematically:

                 (1) “we are robots” ⇒ no right to complain
                 (2) “we have free will” ⇒ ability to fight evil

            Have I erred?

          • Void L. Walker

            God created beings capable of superseding his omni nature (to the extent that He cannot always know precisely what they will do). This has been my primary point. God WOULD know SOME probabilities, so how can he be maximally good/loving? It would be like creating your own highly intelligent pet, imbued with the ability to act of it’s own (unpredictable) will, but know that there was a VERY good chance of something profoundly bad happening. Calling yourself a loving master, in this case, simply would not follow at all.

            I object to 1. I never made the claim we are robots! You’re being very presumptuous. I do not accept hard determinism. If you wish for clarification on what I DO accept, I’ll work on it for you.

            My objection here, as it always has been, is to dubbing God as loving given the problems I’ve pointed out.

          • Luke Breuer

            God WOULD know SOME probabilities, so how can he be maximally good/loving?

            Are you claiming that a maximally good/loving deity would never create creatures who could reject him?

            but know that there was a VERY good chance of something profoundly bad happening.

            You do not know this. You do not know the probabilities in this case.

            I object to 1. I never made the claim we are robots! You’re being very presumptuous. I do not accept hard determinism. If you wish for clarification on what I DO accept, I’ll work on it for you.

            I would appreciate your articulation of your viewpoint. My apologies for imputing 1. to you.

          • Void L. Walker

            “Are you claiming that a maximally good/loving deity would never create creatures who could reject him?” Not really. I’m claiming that having Hell, suffering, and death as a necessary consequence OF rejecting him seems a bit extreme.

            “you do not know this…” In the example I gave, you would (hypothetically; remember this is not to be taken too literally) indeed possess the requisite foreknowledge. It was merely an example. :)

            Perhaps a bit later tonight I’ll get to illuminating you about my beliefs regarding determinism.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m claiming that having Hell, suffering, and death as a necessary consequence OF rejecting him seems a bit extreme.

            What would be a better consequence of rejecting him? What if we say that God creates life, and that we have the option of either promoting life, and thus acting according to God’s morality, or destroying life, and thus acting according to Satan’s morality? Then, what can it mean to reject God, but also to reject life?

          • Void L. Walker

            “What would be a better consequence of rejecting him?” Could God not have conceived of something else? Something that would not entail eternal damnation/separation from Him, death, suffering? If God is beyond limitations, why must we impose an either or scenario? Why could God have not found a less painful, tragic result of rejecting him? As for what that would be, I do not know. but then, I’m not God :-P I just don’t think that the options should be so narrow. “Follow me, and you will have eternal paradise! Reject me, and you’re fucked.” Just kinda seems weak to me.

          • Luke Breuer

            I think it seems weak because nuanced realizations of this are almost never taught; it’s all shrouded in fucking mystery, as if God didn’t create the world to be increasingly well-understood! I reject this as unbiblical, controlling evil: John 17:3 says that eternal life is “to know God”, and I believe “know” includes knowledge! And if God is infinitely complex, then we, being finite creatures able to understand more at a finite rate, will be continually learning more and more about God into eternity. And I don’t believe there’s some stupid-ass glass ceiling on understanding God now.

            I just got finished reading Josef Pieper’s The Concept of Sin (originally written in German), which gets into much more detail of this “separation from God” issue than any other source I’ve read. Pieper is neo-Thomistic; he was a German Catholic theologian, lived through WWI and WWII in Germany, and seems more connected to reality than most people I know or have read. His Leisure: The Basis of Culture is just fantastic.

            Anyhow, I hold that God is the source of life. In a system with entropy, one needs a constant source of energy in order to stay living. We don’t know how life could work without entropy, without thermodynamically irreversible events. Maybe it could, but for now we don’t (as far as I know). So we ought to not pretend that it could, in my opinion. Ok. I hold that one will ultimately attach more strongly to (a) God, or (b) oneself. One will love God or self more than the other. If one loves God, one can draw life from God. If one loves self, one attempts to draw life from oneself, but this produces an entropic problem! Love of self produces death, because self cannot sustain self ad infinitum.

            Consider that there are certain ways we can act to promote life, with all the other ways promoting death. Let’s make this multidimensional; we can promote life in some ways that we act, and promote death in other ways. I hold that God draws us to him by both (i) providing more ways to promote life; (ii) pointing out ways we are promoting death. We have the option to trust or distrust God on both these points. When we distrust him on (i), we automatically accept ways of producing death as “good”. When we distrust him on (ii), we harden our death-producing ways, deluding ourselves into strongly believing they are life-producing.

            At some point, we either fully detach ourselves from God and his attempts to teach us what produces life, or we fully attach ourselves to God, ridding ourselves of ways that produce death. I claim it is an unstable system, where you end up at one point or the other, probably after some finite amount of time. If you fully detach yourself from God, I think you create a kind of hell for yourself, the kind which has a “a great chasm”, described in Luke 16:19-31. Notice in that parable, that the rich man is still treating Lazarus as a slave! “Abraham, compel your slave to do my bidding.” Seriously? It is strongly holding onto ideas like this which causes the gates to hell to be locked from the inside.

            Does this make any sense? It ties deeply to the idea of God as “the ground of being”—something I am only beginning to understand.

          • Void L. Walker

            Yes, it makes sense to me. I maintain my prior claims, however.

            Let me ask you this: can YOU conceive of an alternative to evil/suffering for rebellion against God, or agree that there could have been another solution? If not, why?

          • Luke Breuer

            I can imagine alternative solutions, but the result would be kenotic blindspots, aspects of reality to which humans would not have access. This, it seems, would restrict the creative power of humans, making them less than created in the image of God.

            I find questions like this hard to answer, because I try to stay very rooted in reality as it is now, mostly thinking ‘perturbatively’. Now, I’m happy to try and chart a course away from where reality is “defaulting to”, but I am unwilling to do that if I cannot chart the next few steps, steps small enough to actually take.

            So instead of answering your question, I’m going to answer a related one: “How can we make the world a better place, a bit more heaven-like?” Schopenhauer, in The World as Will and Representation, goes Buddhist and says that denial of the will is the way out. This sounds terrible to me! It seems to assert that there is no way for all humans to will strongly, in a way that is not discordant, but harmonious. It seems to assert that it would be better for humans to be robots than humans. Very degrading, in my opinion! Furthermore, it is an attitude which lets tyrants rule and do terrible, terrible things.

            My answer is to help people express their image-of-Godness, via helping them be creative in ways that enhance the world. I think part of imago dei is the burning desire for more. Many people through the ages seem to consider this a bad thing. It certainly can be used toward bad ends, but why not toward good ends? Why not create better and more glorious things, ad infinitum? Why not continually enhance other humans, thereby enhancing ourselves? Everyone’s will—everyone’s being—can be strengthened and increased in such a way that unity of all people can be maintained. At least, all people who want to participate in such a society, vs. one where some people exert power over others, Nietzschean-style. I choose the former society. Unity amidst diversity, with neither eating up the other.

          • Void L. Walker

            I see, interesting. Well it’s always nice to learn more of someone (even if our views are at odds). I must say that of all the Christians I’ve engaged, you are the most fun and open minded :)

            BTW, I hope to get around to writing up my views on determinism later tonight. I will just reply to a random comment of yours with the finished product.

          • Luke Breuer

            Thanks! I try to make interpret the Bible in the light of particle-and-field reality. I believe that because I’ve been able to match so much of the Bible against reality fairly intricately, that I’ll be able to match more and more as time goes on. I am beginning to suspect that the deepest difference between me and most atheists/skeptics is that I believe in true freedom of the will, plus an absolute distinction between good and evil which must be discovered, not decided upon.

            The above is clearly required if one sees the Bible as largely a discussion of relationship, between God, man, men, man & woman, and man with himself. It’s almost a set of field equations between minds. The primary error I see people making in general is that their perceptions of (i) what is; (ii) what ought to be, contain gross errors. For example, many people arrogantly think that their way of thinking about things is The Right Way, making them into metaphysical tyrants, out to impose their view of reality on everyone else. If there’s anything the Bible says, it is that God defines (i) and (ii), not us. God lets other people try out their own (i) and (ii), but ultimately only those who are increasingly discovering instead of deciding will survive. The original sin was pride: the desire to legislate what is right and what is wrong, kind of like the ancient Greek and Roman gods.

            But I digress. :-)

          • Void L. Walker

            You’re especially refreshing after I’ve spent time debating with YEC’s (shivers). Now THAT is a test of patience.

            I shit you not, I STILL get asked “if we evolved from MONKEYS (jesus!) why are there still monkeys around?” I mean…really, people. Evolution isn’t scary. It’s actually pretty amazing and intricate. Please don’t even get me started on the Intelligent Design movement (or as I like to call it, Creationism in a fancy suit). My head really hurts now. Oops, I ranted a bit.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            As I mentioned to you before, but am unsure whether you answered, this notion of sin is problematic and implies essentialism and that there is some way humans SHOULD be. Under naturalism, attributes are descriptive, not prescriptive. And that should also be the understanding from what we empirically see around us, and through evolution.

            Essences are subjective and conceptual (ie realism vs nominalism).

          • Luke Breuer

            Yep; I’m beginning to see a reason why some creationist/ID advocates argue their cases. It seems to go back to Aristotle’s biological teleology, in a way. I happen to believe there is a nature that sin violates. Were we to get back to our natures, I believe we could realize what is described in Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23. Unity in diversity, with neither eating up the other. Without this belief, what guarantee do we have that some don’t need to be exterminated, or have their freedom curtailed, in order for us to have nice lives? A huge claim in the NT is that nobody’s freedom ought to be curtailed, except for the Christian’s; see Mt 20:20-28.

            How does the rejection of universals deal with quantum entanglement, whereby you cannot describe an aspect of one particle without defining that aspect of its pair-particle? Let’s not even get into non-monogamous entanglement. It seems that this “nonlocal state” gets awfully close to being a kind of universal. It also seems like electrons, minus their position and momenta are universals. Then again, I only have a layman’s grasp of the problem of universals.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            What does that even mean, to get back to our natures? This IS our nature! We don’t have a specified nature unless you subscribe to God designing and describing exactly what we must be like. Evolution, naturalism and non-essentialism should show that this is patently false. We aren’t supposed to be like anything.

            This is akin to the should/ought argument. You don’t get intrinsic oughts. You get goal oriented oughts. But that becomes circular if you say:

            We should act like X if we want to be adhering to our human nature. What is our human nature, you ask? Well, acting like X.

          • Luke Breuer

            What does that even mean, to get back to our natures? This IS our nature! We don’t have a specified nature unless you subscribe to God designing and describing exactly what we must be like.

            A foundational Christian claim is that sin mars our natures. Falsehoods are accepted and passed down the generations. There is often a price to pay to reject falsehoods; many people refuse to pay that price. Jesus allegedly mysteriously reduced that price, but many still refuse. Believing one falsehood leads to believing more falsehoods; falsehoods are like cancer. Paul uses the phrase “lawlessness leading to more lawlessness”.

            The world is not as it ought to be, due to first-cause, moral agents refusing to trust God. This is Christianity, through-and-through! Adam and Eve chose to be “like God”, in being definers of what is good and what is evil, instead of discoverers. You, without this structure, cannot support the idea of ought; all you have is want. Your want vs. my want. We battle it out, Nietzschean-style. For, there is no guarantee of a possible shared telos, a la the ancient Greek polis.

            The Christian says, au contraire, each person has a poiēma, all of which can be woven into a master poiēma, per the following:

            For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20)

            For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph 2:10)

            The bolded sections are the only uses of poiēma in the NT; for more, see my Hermeneutics.SE question, What would be a good translation of ‘poiēma’?

            The naturalist has no such guarantee. Maybe some people just won’t fit in society. Maybe some people are just doomed to less freedom than others—just like the Romans and Greeks thought! I mean, some races are just fit for slavery, right? They can’t become philosophers, and definitely not philosopher-kings! That’s reserved for us, the elite!

            The Christian says that everyone, through trust in Christ and acts of a [partially] free will, can become an increasingly equal part of the grand poiēma. This is Good News! There is a poisonous idea that any given marring of our nature is due to us, but (a) the book of Job was supposed to destroy that idea; (b) “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?” The poor are poor due to their own fault, the Christian says? “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?”, James says.

            The message of sin and rescue from it is Good News! It means I no longer have to hate myself! It means I no longer have a reason to hate others! I can certainly hate evil ideas and war against them, but I need not hate people, or see people as 100% evil, as so many are wont to do. Instead, I can start seeing potential beauty in every single human; I can see hints of each person’s poiēma, and do what I can to try and amplify it, to beautify it.

            The most terrible news possible is that I’m fucked, I am what I am and there will be little to no increase in beauty, little to no overcoming of that which I struggle with, etc. etc. This is news of slavery. Now, many Christians are fucking retarded in the head and think that escape from slavery means they form you into their image, instead of God’s image and in particular, the poiēma God has given you. You are to sing your song, not someone else’s. For more Christian fuckwittery, see my Hermeneutics.SE question, 1 Cor 12:22-25 — ‘weaker’? ‘less honorable’? ‘unpresentable’?

            This is akin to the should/ought argument. You don’t get intrinsic oughts. You get goal oriented oughts.

            Yep, and if we humans find a telos which can include all humans as equal participants—no philosopher-kings—then we will have gotten closer to discovering God’s telos for us. We get further away when we scatter others from our midst, instead of letting them scatter themselves:

            Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

          • Luke Breuer

            You’re arguing that God should have put [more] bumpers on the bowling lanes. Right? (I want to establish that before saying more.)

          • Void L. Walker

            Hahaha :) Nice analogy :-P Basically, I’m arguing that, at bottom, evil of ANY kind is at odds with a maximally loving being. Free will, in my opinion, is a theological trick that places all of the blame upon human shoulders, when God CHOSE to give it to us, meaning he HAD to possess some knowledge of the POTENTIAL repercussions .

          • Luke Breuer

            Thanks! :-) Do note though, that you must argue that either:

                 (1) nothing good comes out of free will, or
                 (2) nothing worth the bad comes out of free will

            Or do you disagree?

          • Void L. Walker

            I disagree, because (as I’ve stated numerous times) “free” will is illusory and contradicted by recent insights into human cognition.

          • Luke Breuer

            Which recent insights? And what do you mean by “free” will? Can you even state it in a way that is logically coherent, inside your system of logic? If not, you’re not actually denying anything.

          • Void L. Walker

            What I mean by “free” will is what you mean by it (however vague you’ve been, I more or less understand your view). What recent insights? Try reading Jon’s book about free will for a start (if you haven’t), then check out Harris’ work “Free Will”. Then go to any science website (like SCIAM) and do a search on Free will. That should be a nice start for you. You may also note that I’ve actually lived with people who have endured EXTENSIVE brain damage, so I’ve had a front row seat.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            We allow it because we have the inability to correct it. We, as moral beings, do our very best (far short of perfection) to challenge ideas of poverty and suffering. It is our moral obligation.

            Apparently God does not have this moral obligation, even though he created the word thusly.

          • Luke Breuer

            We, as moral beings, do our very best (far short of perfection) to challenge ideas of poverty and suffering.

            How do you know this is true? Because of determinism? You seem to have philosophically denied, or perhaps not admitted the possibility of, this statement being false. But that’s very iffy; it’s as if you have presumed its truth, instead of empirically demonstrated it.

          • Void L. Walker

            You’ll notice that this time, I’m not drunk :-p

          • Void L. Walker

            Oh, you didn’t claim it was “irrational”. I believe the word “delusional” has a different meaning.

          • Luke Breuer

            I said:

            You’ve made him an impersonal force, akin to Einstein’s God. Just note that anger against God is irrational, in this case. Utterly, 100% irrational. If you are angry at him for doing/not doing something, you are delusional and the insides of your brain which cause you to feel this way need reordering.

            2x ‘irrational’
            1x ‘delusional’

            Being angry at a CFW God for doing/not doing something means that you think:

                 (1) God could have not done/done the thing
                 (2) God chose otherwise

            At least, this is based on my model of anger. If you, on the other hand, see anger as just a kind of noise, instead of tunable, then I accuse you of special-pleading, according to “I trust my senses” — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses?

          • Void L. Walker

            Hmmm…..I just contextualized what you originally said. I believe I was wrong! Your vagueness actually isn’t to blame here, my skipping comments and jumping to conclusions is. :-/ Apologies, Luke. I tend to….skip things, misinterpret, and rant when I’m intoxicated.

          • Luke Breuer

            It happens to the best of us! There are two kinds of people who participate in internet discussions:

                 (1) those who apologize when they’re wrong
                 (2) those who never admit they’re wrong

            The second type of person can get very tedious, so thanks for not being that kind of person!

          • Void L. Walker

            No worries, I think that I should lay off the sauce when I make an attempt to discuss something (anything).

          • Void L. Walker

            I’m all for dropping this, by the way :-p

          • Void L. Walker

            Example: if you believe that God is maximally good, you are delusional and the regions of your brain associated with that idea need reordering. See?

          • Luke Breuer

            No; I have no idea what you mean by this.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Ad hominem + nonsensical = Luke Breuer.

            Do you even have a coherent argument for how Yahweh can have free will? How does a timeless being that knows everything have free will? You can either deny that god is (1) timeless and/or (2) omniscient, but if you do you’ve opened yourself up to other problems. Or perhaps maybe you’ve got a third option. What will it be?

          • Luke Breuer

            Do you have a coherent argument for what, precisely, CFW denies? See What would falsify compatibilism?, or this recent comment. If CFW does not deny anything, it asserts nothing. If CFW does not deny anything, it is meaningless.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            If CFW does not deny anything, it asserts nothing. If CFW does not deny anything, it is meaningless.

            If liberal Christianity doesn’t deny anything, it is meaningless. “God did it” is the explanatory equivalent of, silly putty: It can take any shape it wants.

            I asked: Do you even have a coherent argument for how Yahweh can have free will? How does a timeless being that knows everything have free will?

            Please explain the best you can. Mr. Fuzzy.

          • Luke Breuer

            I haven’t thoroughly comprehended stuff like IEP’s God and Time, so I don’t have a non-fuzzy answer to you. But that’s ok, because there’s a lot of fuzziness to life and we can still navigate in it and act in it. But perhaps you can provide a bibliography on your readings of God and how he can be timeless/free/etc.? You seem much more fascinated about this issue than I.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Read WLC. He has written about this the most of anyone I can mention. Brian Leftow is another philosopher that comes to mind. Craig and Leftow disagree however.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’ll make a deal with you. You pick any book you want me to read, and we can discuss. In exchange, you read MacIntyre’s After Virtue, and discuss with me. Sound good?

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Sorry, I cannot commit to something like that because my schedule is subject to change and I don’t like making promises I can’t keep.

          • Luke Breuer

            That is unfortunate. I’m not sure how much we’re really going to advance the state of the art without a serious commitment like that; do you? You’ve been trying to employ me as a research assistant lately, and I only want to do that if you’re going to return the favor. It seems like you are quite unwilling.

            P.S. Your reply to my comment on your blog won’t show up in the Disqus comments for some reason, even though I got an email notification about it and it shows up in my Disqus dashboard.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Luke, I will try and learn as much as I can within reasonable time frames. I have other things I must commit to as I’m starting a new job this week, I will have a lot less time for these kind of discussions. Is After Virtue your highest recommendation?

            P.S.
            Try going here: http://www.atheismandthecity.com/2013/02/a-case-for-secular-morality-objective.html#comment-1278781363

          • Luke Breuer

            You spend a lot of time making comments, for not having that much time. But perhaps the new job is a new factor that hasn’t been present before.

            At this point, After Virtue would be my highest recommendation. It is widely respect in the field of meta-ethics, even by some who disagree with it.

            The link still doesn’t not work. I see my comment, but no other comments in reply to it. This is happening with other Disqus email notifications, so perhaps it is a Disqus error. When I go to that page of yours, Disqus says there are 12 comments. Does it say 13+ when you visit?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            http://epistemh.pbworks.com/f/4.+Macintyre.pdf

            After Virtue available as pdf here.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Good call.

    • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

      How do you get free will from something that is spontaneous?

      • Luke Breuer

        I don’t know. And yet, I know that one can have spontaneous eruption of local order (SELO) which cannot be explained by (a) physical laws; (b) random noise. And so I know that it is possible for compatibilist free will to be false. If this doesn’t disprove CFW, then CFW becomes meaningless, for anything that does not deny something is meaningless, as Andy is fond of telling me. Or have I erred?

        We can always question whether we actually observe SELO in this universe.

        P.S. Another phrasing is “spontaneous eruption of beauty”. If beauty is the result of evolution, that sounds scarily teleological, I would think.

        • Nerdsamwich

          You’re not giving nearly enough credence to random chance.

          • Luke Breuer

            You’re not giving nearly enough credence to random chance.

            It is impossible to positively know that there exists “random chance”. It is not a knowable thing. Instead, all you can ever know is: “I cannot discern any further order.” Making a positive claim that something is purely random is tantamount to prohibiting further understanding of the thing, prohibiting further pattern-discovery.

            And of course beauty is the result of evolution. Your brain evolved to find certain things beautiful.

            See In Search of Beauty. Do you think our brains evolved to do physics?

          • Nerdsamwich

            Hell yeah, they did. No other animal can throw an object as accurately as a human. That’s the start of physics, is it not?

          • Luke Breuer

            It’s not at all clear that reasoning symbolically is an evolutionary advantage. Consider, for example, that we almost exterminated ourselves in the Cold War. But let’s suppose that evolution did lead to our ability to do physics. That makes evolution seem a good bit more teleological than most would assume, doesn’t it? After all, does mere propagation of a species require so much beauty to be created in the process?

          • Nerdsamwich

            The creation of beautiful things helps us get laid. Also, it makes us happier. Also, you’ve got it backward. We didn’t evolve to create beauty. Our perceptions evolved to find our creations beautiful.

          • Luke Breuer

            And yet if our perceptions evolved to help us do physics, then why say any input to our brain is less objective than any other input? See my Phil.SE question, “I trust my senses” — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses?

          • Nerdsamwich

            We find aesthetic pleasure in much besides physics. Unless you, somehow, don’t. Physics doesn’t make a tree lovely, biology does.

          • Luke Breuer

            Is beauty necessarily any less of a truth-seeking faculty than vision?

          • Nerdsamwich

            Beauty resides solely in the eye of the beholder. I find beauty in many things which my sister, for instance, does not. Likewise, plenty of little girls are mesmerized by horses; this makes no sense to me. I’m sure you find beauty in much I would term ugly, and vice versa.

          • Luke Breuer

            How are you not special-pleading, in the sense I describe in “I trust my senses” — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses? ?

          • Nerdsamwich

            Aesthetics is an opinion. There do seem to be a few universals, such as the Golden Ratio and the archetypal savannah, but it’s really variable beyond that. Hell, our actual perceptions are variable enough; don’t go bringing opinions into it.

          • Luke Breuer

            You don’t seem interested in rigorously arguing for why you aren’t special-pleading, so I think we should drop this tangent.

          • Nerdsamwich

            Because it’s an opinion, that’s why. Would you describe political leanings as a “truth-seeking faculty” on the order of vision? How about favorite weather? Preference for skiing vs. snowboarding? If your answer is “no” for these types of opinion, it becomes special pleading to argue “yes” for aesthetics.

          • Luke Breuer

            Why are you starting with fantastically complex cases, instead of sufficiently simple ones? I have shown you that there is an objective kind of beauty when seeking for scientific models that describe how fundamental reality work. You seem to have most ignored them as not-important, instead of as evidence that maybe there is an objective form of beauty, but we cannot understand it in really complex situations, yet.

          • Nerdsamwich

            Because those “fantastically complex cases” are easily relatable, not requiring advanced physics to comprehend, unlike your “sufficiently simple” one. So I’ll say it one more time, as simply as humanly possible: beauty is an opinion. There may be things that every human finds beautiful, but that does not entail that beauty is objective. It means that we all have similar brains.

          • Luke Breuer

            I will then end this tangent by claiming that these “fantastically complex cases” are too complex to understand objectively at this point in time, perhaps due to The Unreliability of Naive Introspection. We ought to start with what is simple and very close to objective, and move out from there. Perhaps we will find more and more and more objectivity. This is the goal of scientists, no? What you’re doing by positing examples currently beyond the ken of scientists is tantamount to the ID advocate’s presenting of ‘irreducible complexity’ as “proof” that evolution cannot work without an intelligent designer.

          • Nerdsamwich

            Do you believe in true free will? If you do, you can’t possibly think that opinions are baked into the laws of physics. There is no purer act of will than forming an opinion.

          • Luke Breuer

            I think that it’s turtles all the way down as all the way up, and that it goes infinitely in both directions. I’m privy to some research into the foundations of quantum mechanics that deeply question many folks’ assumption that e.g. QFT is “the bottom” of physics. Now on one sense we know that because QFT and GR don’t meet yet, but it seems that many believe that “the last theory” is one which will unify QFT and GR. I don’t believe that. I believe we will find structure under structure under structure, ad infinitum. This seems to be the most logical result of performing induction on the history of science. Looking in the other direction, we seem to be able to develop emergent system after emergent system, (see Pigliucci’s Essays on Emergence).

            Somehow, mysteriously, I think ‘will’ is an ontic thing, different from particles and fields, even if it expresses itself through particles and fields. Maybe this commits me to a kind of Cartesian dualism, but I’m not yet sure.

            There is a strain between (a) holding to a ‘will'; (b) trying to fully describe all of reality. Paradoxically, the harder science gets, the stronger people’s wills will have to be in order to pay the requisite cost to advance the state of the art. Furthermore, as I said, I don’t think (b) will ever ‘finish’. I think a lot of denial of free will comes from the idea that science really will ‘bottom out’ and describe all of reality, modulo initial conditions, discovery of which will be “janitorial work”; see History of physics#20th century: Birth of Modern Physics:

            At the end of the 19th century, physics had evolved to the point at which classical mechanics could cope with highly complex problems involving macroscopic situations; thermodynamics and kinetic theory were well established; geometrical and physical optics could be understood in terms of electromagnetic waves; and the conservation laws for energy and momentum (and mass) were widely accepted. So profound were these and other developments that it was generally accepted that all the important laws of physics had been discovered and that, henceforth, research would be concerned with clearing up minor problems and particularly with improvements of method and measurement.

            Arrogance! Utter Hubris! And yet we dare to repeat it?

          • Nerdsamwich

            That was only barely germane to the question at hand. All I asked was whether or not you subscribe to non-deterministic concept of will. I would think so, as your God-concept seems to include a desire for meaningful relationships with humans, and those are hard to have with a robot.

          • Luke Breuer

            The idea of “deterministic” is an awfully difficult one; most people end up having it terminate in pure random chance. See, for example, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow’s The Grand Design, or Lawrence Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing. They terminate causality in a quantum vacuum state which has random fluctuations, some of which turn into universes which can support life.

            What does it mean to not terminate causality in pure randomness? I think this is a very important question worth asking. It gets at the heart of your question, of whether or not ‘will’ is ‘deterministic’. If we don’t properly understand what ‘deterministic’ means—and I claim we don’t—then I cannot give you an easy answer to your question.

          • Nerdsamwich

            That’s an artful dodge, but a dodge nonetheless.

          • Luke Breuer

            If you’re not going to provide a coherent definition of ‘deterministic’, then I cannot answer your question. I attempted to get at such a definition; if you don’t like it, provide your own or let this tangent die.

          • Nerdsamwich

            You can’t just work off of the dictionary like the rest of us? We have a set of common referents like that so that we don’t have to go bogging down every discussion we have defining terms. The precise definition of determinism is not central to the line of discussion at hand. I’ll frame it another way: Do you think that you can choose your own actions? Can you choose to go to the park right now instead of whatever else you were planning to do?

          • Nerdsamwich

            This thing seems to have eaten my reply, so I’ll attempt to reproduce it.

            Would you contend that one’s political leanings are “a truth-seeking faculty” on the order of vision? How about a preference for skiing vs. snowboarding? Favorite breakfast cereal? If your answer to any of these is “no”, how is it not special pleading to argue “yes” for aesthetics?

          • Luke Breuer

            It didn’t eat your reply; Disqus only loads 50 comments at a time, which can get really confusing. It really ought to load all comments further down in the current tree branch, but…

          • Nerdsamwich

            That’s irritating.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Our perceptions did not evolve to help us do physics. They evolved to help us survive on the Plains of Africa. Being able to do physics is a byproduct of that. There’s no teleology there. You got it ass backwards.

          • Luke Breuer

            Not all atheists seem to agree with you. Arguing that the ability to do physics is a spandrel seems to be a pretty big jump. Big enough to need justification.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            Sure, just justify SELO first and we’ll get started.

          • Luke Breuer

            SELO is very similar to growing block universe, if you break the dichotomy that all events are either:

                 (1) caused by antecedent states of affairs, or
                 (2) purely randomly generated

            There is absolutely no a priori reason to think that (1) + (2) explains all that exists in reality. Indeed, the very idea that people think they have free will is a tremendous reason to suppose that there is a (3). SELO is my attempt at a (3), but it may not be the only option.

          • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

            I’m not sure how you get SELO from possiblism, which is the growing block universe. Under possiblism the universe could still be fully determined, just that the future does not exist yet.

            Given that the laws of physics are deterministic, and neuroscience shows that mental states are the last thing to occur on the list of neurological events, the case fro FW and SELO looks pretty bleak. I fail to see how a spontaneous eruption resembles anything close to LFW, or any kind of FW.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Making a positive claim that something is purely random is tantamount to prohibiting further understanding of the thing, prohibiting further pattern-discovery.

            Bullshit. Randomness itself is a pattern that can be studied. We do it all the time in many different fields, population genetics for example.

          • Luke Breuer

            purely random ≠ randomness

        • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

          I think you don’t know because your theory lacks coherence. It sounds like the kind of things that creationists come up with to explain away their worldview’s troubles.

          Is SELO supposed to be your main competitor to CFW? I’ve recently been gravitating away from CFW because CFW isn’t really FW, but it’s a nice way to pretend we have FW given determinism. I think since your worldview depends so much on us having FW to make sense, I’d think really, really hard on a way to show, philosophically and perhaps also scientifically, how FW arises. SELO offers nothing as far as an explanation.

          From my insight into the matter over the past few years, FW is dead. And if SELO is what you’ve had to resort to to somehow maintain your belief in FW, I wouldn’t want to put any of my eggs in that basket.

          • Luke Breuer

            SELO is merely my attempt to provide something which would falsify CFW. It is my attempt to understand something that CFW denies. If nothing falsifies CFW, CFW is meaningless.

        • Andy_Schueler

          . And yet, I know that one can have spontaneous eruption of local order (SELO)

          Bullshit. “spontaneous eruption of local order” is a phrase that you pulled out of your nether regions and which you cannot even define, much less explain what it has to do with anything related to free will.

          And so I know that it is possible for compatibilist free will to be false. If this doesn’t disprove CFW, then CFW becomes meaningless, for anything that does not deny something is meaningless, as Andy is fond of telling me. Or have I erred?

          Who are you even talking to? Who is defending compatibilism? I certainly never tried to defend compatibilism and told you many times that I do not subscribe to it. There is a will, it cannot possibly be a “libertarian free” one, period. If you want to add to that that it also cannot possible be a “compatibilist free” one, be my guest – I couldn´t care less.
          What is your aim here, do you think that showing that an alternative conception of free will also cannot possibly be true or is not meaningfully defined, will magically change the fact that the version of free will that you would like to be true is self-refuting?

          • Luke Breuer

            Jonathan Pearce argues strongly for compatibilism, and this does happen to be his blog. My point here is to determine whether anybody else has a better conception of free will than I do, or whether actually, all conceptions of the will are meaningless, at least by the standards of folks posting here.

          • Andy_Schueler

            There is a will, it ain´t “libertarian free will”, get over it.

          • Luke Breuer

            No bitterness there, I see. Define ‘will’, such that it denies something meaningful. Otherwise it’s meaningless, right?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Indeed it would be. And you aren´t behaving randomly, ergo, you have a will.

          • Luke Breuer
          • Andy_Schueler

            You might likehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T…

            Have you even read that?
            This is from the same guy who said:
            “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.”

            If you agree with Schopenhauer on this matter – good, then we agree as well.

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m just trying to understand an idea you seem unwilling to articulate. I only just came across the above article this morning! I haven’t formed much of an opinion yet, although I find it fascinating that Schopenhauer thinks he has solved one of Kant’s bit problems: knowing the thing-in-itself.

          • Luke Breuer

            What does “will what he wills” mean? What does it deny? I don’t understand it. What would it look like to be able to “will what you will”? I have no conception of what that could possibly be, other than some kind of infinite regress.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            EXACTLY! This is precisely the contention we have with LFW. It makes no rational sense at all. You need reasons to will something. This is the dilemma of determinism.

          • Luke Breuer

            “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.”
                                ↓
            “Man can do what he wills but blarghdkfhtsbd.”

            What does determinism deny? What does in determinism deny? Is the middle excluded???

          • Andy_Schueler

            “What does determinism deny?”
            That every event has causes and is completely determined by those causes.

            “What does indeterminism deny?”
            ¬(That every event has causes and is completely determined by those causes.)

            “Is the middle excluded???”
            Indeterminism covers both the exact opposite of determinism and any middle ground between the two extremes.

          • Luke Breuer

            So everything is a linear combination of:

            A. determinism
            B. pure randomness

            ? I don’t see how these are the only options. Why should I believe that?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Something can happen for a reason. Something can happen for no reason.
            Something cannot happen for both no reason AND ¬ no reason.

          • Luke Breuer

            How can you ever know that an event did not happen for a reason? This seems impossible. All you can do is express ignorance of the cause/reason.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “How can you ever know that an event did not happen for a reason?”
            I don´t have to – this is a complete red herring wrt the issue of free will.

          • Luke Breuer

            You asserted this:

            Something can happen for no reason.

            I question that assertion. If I am also questioning all forms of indeterminism, so be it. But this is relevant for talking about free will. If there is nothing that does not happen for a reason, then where does that leave us wrt will? It almost seems to require will, and perhaps free will.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “I question that assertion. If I am also questioning all forms of indeterminism, so be it.”
            Then you question something and its negation at the same time.

            “But this is relevant for talking about free will. If there is nothing that does not happen for a reason, then where does that leave us wrt will? It almost seems to require will, and perhaps free will.”

            Will that is “free” as in CFW – maybe. “Free” as in LFW – certainly not.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Your will has influence over what you do but no influence over itself / over what you will.

          • Luke Breuer

            How do you know this? This seems to be a complete non-sequitur. Even electrons self-interfere. Why cannot the will?

          • Andy_Schueler

            “How do you know this?”
            By understanding that this would require voluntary control over an uncaused event and further understanding that this is a logically self-refuting idea.

          • Luke Breuer

            The will could be an ever-growing regress. I could always discover deeper and deeper desires. But perhaps you would see this as an unfolding of will? That has some interesting theological implications…

          • Andy_Schueler

            “The will could be an ever-growing regress. I could always discover deeper and deeper desires.”
            – Which would have exactly nothing whatsoever to do with libertarian free will.

          • Luke Breuer

            Yes, but does your idea of the “will” survive it becoming an ever-growing regress? Can this exist in your ontology?

          • Andy_Schueler

            “Yes, but does your idea of the “will” survive it becoming an ever-growing regress?”
            In the sense of it not being “free” – absolutely.

          • Luke Breuer

            I still don’t know what you are denying by saying that there is no free will. Is this like saying square circles don’t exist? That is problematic, for:

                 (1) square circles don’t exist
                  ⇕
                 (2) ashflagranhi don’t exist

            Or is this incorrect? Does (1) have more content than (2)? If not, then the term “free will” ⇔ “ashflagranhi”, and then the statement,

                 (3) free will doesn’t exist
                  ⇕
                 (2′) ashflagranhus doesn’t exist

            This would make the (3) meaningless. And thus you wouldn’t have denied anything by saying that “free will doesn’t exist”. You would have uttered a meaningless statement. If so, then how can you define ‘will’? What is the difference between ‘will’ and “particles and fields evolving according to the laws of physics”?

          • Andy_Schueler

            “That is problematic, for:

            (1) square circles don’t exist

            (2) ashflagranhi don’t exist

            Or is this incorrect? Does (1) have more content than (2)?”

            – For people that are aware of the english language and thus able to parse the words “square” and “circle” – yes.

          • Luke Breuer

            How? What is a “square circle”? I don’t understand what content (1) has which (2) does not have. Please explain, as if to a child.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “How? What is a “square circle”?”

            – A colloquial way of calling something a self-refuting idea / an a priori impossible thing. The words “circle” and “square” are defined in such a way that a circle cannot possibly be square – which makes a “square circle” an impossible thing. Popular alternative to the “square circle” in colloquial english is the “married bachelor”.

          • Luke Breuer

            Ok, but then the following holds:

                 (1) square circles don’t exist
                  ⇕
                 (2) impossible things don’t exist

            This is really a tautology. The only way for “square circle” to be distinguishable from “impossible thing” is if it contains more content. The only way I can see for it to have more content is to say that it is not representable properly in two dimensions; this would mean that any projection of the object into two dimensions is either square, circle, or neither. So:

                 (1′) square circles don’t exist [in 2-space]
                  ⇕
                 (2”) impossible things don’t exist [in 2-space]

            But do we live in 2-space? No. Now, consider:

                 (3′) free will doesn’t exist [in 4-space]
                  ⇕
                 (4) impossible things don’t exist [in 4-space]

            Who says we live in 4-space? M-theorists are explicitly questioning this! Indeed, I would argue that the intuition that will can be free is a good argument for us not existing merely in 4-space.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Ok, but then the following holds:

            (1) square circles don’t exist

            (2) impossible things don’t exist

            This is really a tautology.

            Which is why I didn´t just say that, but rather explained to you for what feels like a gazillion times why libertarianism is a “square circle” – because it requires voluntary control over an uncaused event, which is an a priori impossible concept.

            Who says we live in 4-space? M-theorists are explicitly questioning this! Indeed, I would argue that the intuition that will canbe free is a good argument for us not existing merely in 4-space.

            I doubt that there are many M-theorists who would argue that the extra dimensions they propose would mean that a man can be a bachelor and married at the same time.

          • Luke Breuer

            I doubt that there are many M-theorists who would argue that the extra dimensions they propose would mean that a man can be a bachelor and married at the same time.

            If you look at the entire life history of a man who got married, then if you try and describe the entire life history, you will have to assert that he is both a bachelor and married. It is only when one separates out the time dimension that one can say that he is one or the other, at any given time index. But if you aren’t able to index by time, then there is a contradiction. The contradiction arises because of how you represented the problem. Similarly, an object that can be projected as a square to one person and a circle to another can truly exist. One way for this to happen would be for the people to be in different inertial frames, or perhaps for different parts of the object to be in different inertial frames.

            Can we make the will ‘free’ by adding dimensions? I cannot defend a firm ‘no’. There seems to be too much mystery to give a firm ‘no’. And yet you are confident that the answer is ‘no’. I find that fascinating.

          • Andy_Schueler

            If you look at the entire life history of a man who got married, then if you try and describe the entire life history, you will have to assert that he is both a bachelor and married. It is only when one separates out the time dimension that one can say that he is one or the other, at any given time index. But if you aren’t able to index by time, then there is a contradiction. The contradiction arises because of how you represented the problem.

            Thanks for pointing that out Captain Obvious.

            Can we make the will ‘free’ by adding dimensions? I cannot defend a firm ‘no’. There seems to be too much mystery to give a firm ‘no’. And yet you are confident that the answer is ‘no’. I find that fascinating.

            Could I be Jesus and Lucifer and not be either one all at the same time? I guess you cannot defend a firm no to that because M-theory.

          • Luke Breuer

            Could I be Jesus and Lucifer and not be either one all at the same time?

            I’ll let Jesus answer you:

            If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.

            So: is Jesus “coming to an end”?

          • Andy_Schueler

            “I’ll let Jesus answer you”
            – Here it looks as if you copy-pasted some random BS from the Bible. But maybe “Luke copy-pasting bible verses” and “Jesus answering” is actually the same thing because M-theory.

            “So: is Jesus “coming to an end”?”
            – Maybe he is coming to an end and not coming to an end and this is totally not a contradiction because M-theory.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Electrons are governed by physical laws. If you grant indeterminism, then random might play a role. Either random or determined reason governs their behaviour.

            The same for the will.

          • Luke Breuer

            Why is the middle excluded? Why must everything be either:

                 (1) purely random, or
                 (2) predetermined

            ? How do you know that these two categories describe everything that exists? You don’t get to just assert that; you’ve got to justify it—otherwise it’s not knowledge!

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Exactly. Munchausen’s trilemma. Either infinite (determinism, grounded eventually in some Big Bang type scenario, or actually infinite), circular (not relevant in this analogy),or brute fact (random).

            To have control over something as an agent in order to cause a different outcome, there must be some reason for this otherwise it is by definition random. Free will 101.

          • Luke Breuer

            You might like Massimo Pigliucci’s recent This Isn’t the Free Will You’re Looking For. I posted the following comment:

            Compatibilism seems to beg the question of whether there is such a thing as uncaused events, events which are 100% purely random. How could we ever know such a thing? We couldn’t: we can only admit that we do not know, that we do not need further ‘structure’ in the indeterminacy than we posit exists in order to support current scientific models. But this leaves a question: how do we think about that which is currently a mystery? What ‘structure’ do we put there? It seems that we can put a ‘personal’ structure there, giving first-class status to beings with wills, or we can put an ‘impersonal’ structure there, in which case compatibilism obtains.

            Importantly, as illustrated in Pigliucci’s first “Essay on emergence”, there are many substructures or “microstructures” which one can use to undergird the next level, the level which starts to be falsifiable by current science and thought. Which one ought one pick? The only answer is: the one which maximally helps us better understand reality. One cannot answer on empirical grounds! And yet, the choice, I claim, matters.

            This is, of course, a philosophical issue: how do we handle that which is still mysterious to us? Do we insist that we have pretty close to an understanding of the thing, or do we very much admit that all we have is a picture of the thing? I’m reminded of Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, in which he thinks he has conquered the per-Kant unknowable “thing-in-itself” through positing the will, which can explore reality and investigate Kant’s “thing-in-itself” ever more deeply and widely. I’m also reminded of Harry Frankfurt’s On Truth, which argues that we know objective truth exists because sometimes we don’t get what we want—what we will.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Actually, I don’t, and often wonder at the continuous mention of CFW, as I mention in my book. I am a determinist, and agree to compatibilism inasmuch as if that is how you define free will, then we have CFW. I just don’t define free will in the same way. I understand free will as LFW, and that is flatly internally incoherent.

            Compatibilism is fine, but the free will which is compatible with determinism should not be called free will, because this equivocates on fol understanding of the term. What did Dennett agree to, “volition of morally competent agents”?

          • Luke Breuer

            Thanks for the clarification. So what does “will” mean to you? What does it deny that is logically possible, such that the term communicates something about the structure of reality?

            You may replace “will” with “compatibilism”, above.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            To me it means a want or a desire to do something. It is not free, because as Schopenhauer states, “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills”

          • Luke Breuer

            What does that deny?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            The ability to do otherwise.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            In a sense of ownership over that.

          • Luke Breuer

            Is that a meaningful statement? I don’t know what “to do otherwise” looks like. What configurations of particles and fields does it say we will never see? If it doesn’t deny anything, it doesn’t affirm anything and is meaningless.

          • Andy_Schueler

            No will = your actions are 100% random, or you don´t act at all. What´s so hard about that?

          • Luke Breuer

            Why is the middle of “determinism” ↔ “100% random” excluded? I see no reason for this.

            Do you mean to describe the will in the same way one talks about momentum or inertia? The two ways sound very familiar. A particle in a gas is essentially random, while a baseball moving through a gas is not.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “Why is the middle of “determinism” ↔ “100% random” excluded?”
            It isn´t. You just replaced “will” by “determinism” for no reason.

          • Luke Breuer

            Here’s a ping to answer my question, which I can rephrase: can you imagine logically possible worlds in which agents have “the ability to do otherwise”? If yes, then why is LFW illogical? If no, then “the ability to do otherwise” does not deny anything, and is thus a meaningless statement, no? I thank Andy Schueler for pointing out this pattern on another matter.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            No I can’t imagine them, because the preceding causal chain would have to be different.

            It is a meaningless statement – that is kinda the point. The whole basis, given universal causality, is incoherent.

          • Luke Breuer

            When you deny a meaningless statement, all you do is deny that it can be formulated within one’s current system of axioms. For example, “square circles” are impossible in 2-space, but one can have a 3-space object which can be projected into 2-space as a square or a circle, depending on the projection.

            When you deny a meaningless statement, you don’t make a falsifiable statement. Do you realize this? Do you find this an important observation? Andy Schueler has repeatedly pointed out to me that I’m not communicating anything if my sentences don’t deny anything. Do you find this to be the case as well, or do you think that he might be wrong? I can probably quote the specifics if you’d like.

          • Andy_Schueler

            When you deny a meaningless statement

            A meaningless statement cannot be denied, just like it cannot be affirmed. You cannot deny or affirm the statement: “wjiergiwb239u is f2io3ht923ng” unless it would actually mean something and you knew what it is supposed to mean.

            For example, “square circles” are impossible

            Category mistake. A meaningless claim is something completely different from an impossible claim.
            This is a meaningless claim:
            “wjklenifg98273rjn 8fj239nfiqo3fb nfg9q23nfu2″
            This is an impossible claim:
            “There is an euclidean triangle t, t has three angles with degrees that add up to 523°”

            The impossible claim means something, you could not know that it is impossible if it wouldn´t mean anything.

            in 2-space, but one can have a 3-space object which can be projected into 2-space as a square or a circle, depending on the projection.

            FFS, how do you come up with nonsense like this?
            Let x1 be a cube.
            Let x2 be a projection of x1 into 2-dimensional space according to the function f1 – a projection that is a circle in 2D space.
            Let x3 be a projection of x1 into 2-dimensional space according to function f2 – a projection that is a square in 2D space.

            This doesn´t prove that a circle can be square because x1 is NOT equal to x2 which is also NOT equal to x3. A transformation of a thing is BY DEFINITION not identical to the thing. Seriously, this is not hard.

            When you deny a meaningless statement, you don’t make a falsifiable statement. Do you realize this?

            Again, a meaningless statement cannot be denied or affirmed.

          • Luke Breuer

            A meaningless claim is something completely different from an impossible claim.

            You told me earlier that a statement which does not deny anything is ‘meaningless'; is my memory incorrect, or do you need to retract that statement? “Impossible things are impossible” hardly seems worthy of being a statement; it contains no more meaning than the concept behind ‘impossible’. To be as clear as I can: “Square circles are impossible.” does not deny any logically possible state of affairs. So how is it a meaningful statement?

            This doesn´t prove that a circle can be square because x1 is NOT equal to x2 which is also NOT equal to x3. A transformation of a thing is BY DEFINITION not identical to the thing. Seriously, this is not hard.

            I never claimed what you think I claimed. Instead, it would be possible for two people to see the same object differently, with the conjunction of the observations found to be contradictory until one discovers that a [metaphorical] Lorentz transformation is required. Lorentz transforms are rotations; switching to projections (dimensionality-reducing) is not a big conceptual leap; none of us is observing anything from precisely the same location.

            If you say “I see a square!” and I say “I see a circle!”, we can be seeing the same thing if I’m looking at a cylinder from one perspective and you are looking at a cylinder from another perspective. It’d be the blind men and an elephant. Unless you or I insist that the other person is wrong, we can conclude that we are viewing a higher-dimensional structure and start surmising as to what it might be, a process which would probably include us discovering appropriate transforms from my point of view to your point of view.

            When discussing matters of the will, you can focus on “people don’t change!” and I can focus on “people who change”; both of us can observe accurately, but need each other’s observations to build a fuller picture. I attempted to do this recently, by viewing ‘will’ as momentum, p, and then asking what the ∆p‘s look like and how they come about.

            Again, a meaningless statement cannot be denied or affirmed.

            I claim that it is impossible to conceptualize a two-dimensional “square circle”, and thus I cannot affirm or deny the existence of the concept allegedly referred to by the term “square circle”. All I can truly say is that I cannot construct “square circle” in 2-space.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I was already wondering why the hell Luke brings up compatibilism over and over and over again, apparently for no reason at all….

    • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Luke, the issue is with you and other Christians. I don’t believe in God for a myriad of reasons, one of which is the incoherence of free will.

      Yahweh is an antiquated parochial figure whom no one really believes in anymore. They just don’t want to admit it. He was a power-obsessed god of his time. The Christian God for most modern christians is a philosophical one, as is obvious from your approach. The idea that you had this god, who was in a pantheon, had a consort, beat Ba’al, asked people chose him over other gods, had a heaven full of very bronze-agey stuff, had parts of the body etc, is wholly incongruent with what people actually believe.

      And before you say it, no they cannot all be taken metaphorically, since much of the writing and claims were literalistic.

      • Luke Breuer

        Thanks for responding; I know you’re pretty busy.

        I don’t believe in God for a myriad of reasons, one of which is the incoherence of free will.

        Why do any of the other reasons matter, if God does not have non-compatibilist free will? That, in and of itself, cuts his balls off, as it were. After all, if God has CFW, then he couldn’t have done anything differently, and thus we cannot complain to him about various things that were/were not done to us.

        Why do you even care about other arguments? Is it because you are not actually as certain that CFW obtains as I often interpret you to be? You do seem to be awfully convinced that CFW is true.

  • Luke Breuer
    But few Christian philosophers ever ask why it is that a god’s main desire is that his creations agree that he exists.

    Is this an accurate portrayal of Yahweh? I would love to see scriptural support for this, support which does not cherry-pick. In my experience with reading and talking about OT, Yahweh wanted much more than bare acknowledgment of his existence. Lucifer acknowledged his existence; this didn’t seem to help Lucifer much?

    Nowadays, Christianity has been absent of evidence as God has been on holiday for 2000 years.

    Religious experiences, anyone? Loftus’ RDVT is false.

    Moses either did those things, or he didn’t, as reported by the Bible in which God dictated his desires rather verbally.

    Fun fact about words, via Judith Butler’s Performativity:

    Performativity is an interdisciplinary term often used to name the capacity of speech and gestures to act or consummate an action, or to construct and perform an identity.

    Performativity is the process by which semiotic expression (in language or a symbol system) produces results or real consequences in extra-semiotic reality, including the result of constructing reality itself. In the frequently cited Butlerian vein of performativity, gestures and speech acts do not express an interior identity; they perform that very identity and even its assumed quality of interiority.[1] In this way, performativity reverses the idea that an identity is the source of more secondary actions (speech, gestures). Instead, it inquires into the construction of identities as they are caused by performative actions, behaviors, and gestures. However, these acts are not performed by lone individuals. Rather, the production of cultural signification for bodies (e.g. gender) relies upon and is enforced by discursive power and so they are always already situated within larger social contexts.

    Performativity problematizes notions of intention and agency; it complicates the constitution of gender and subjects.

    Jonathan, this gets at stories and how telling a different story is a way to change the future; I mentioned this briefly before, and you mentioned making a blog post on it. Maybe the above article would provide enough info for an interesting blog post?

    What happens today is that Christians believe predominantly on faith. Now they love to claim that faith is not defined as belief in something in the absence of evidence; but really, this is exactly what it means, otherwise words like hope, trust or belief based on evidence will suffice. Faith, in this case, is not necessary as a term.

    Faith is the momentum built up in heading toward what/who one hopes for and love is the Christian way of getting there. Christians claim that they are indeed heading toward God, via Jesus, through loving one another. I can elaborate if you’d like, but this comment is already too long.

    • Steven King

      You and Ken Ham have a lot in common.

      • Luke Breuer

        It would be fascinating for you to articulate the parallels.

      • Void L. Walker

        I disagree. I’ve engaged Luke quite a bit and if he was even half as bad as Ham I would have comitted suicide by now :-p

    • Nerdsamwich

      All scriptural support is cherry-picking, given the dizzying number of contradictions to choose from.

      • Luke Breuer

        All scriptural support is cherry-picking, given the dizzying number of contradictions to choose from.

        All observation of reality is cherry-picking, given the dizzying number of seemingly contradictory phenomena out there. Let’s just totally ignore any progress we’ve made in untangling some of the knots, for other knots keep manifesting! I mean, what oh what will we do about QFT and GR and the lack of a theory of quantum gravity!!!

        Lucifer doesn’t exist in the OT. You’re thinking Ha-Satan, who was an important and trusted advisor to YHWH; see Job.

        Yep, I figured someone would nitpick that. Does it matter, for the current conversation?

        Religious experiences always seem to match the religion a person was raised with. If I were to have a vision of Kali, that might be persuasive. Otherwise, not remotely evidence.

        Loftus’ RDVT is false.

        • Nerdsamwich

          After wading through the verbal soup of your link, it seems that all of your points rather support the argument that any particular religion is probably wrong. Since this sounds like the opposite of what you were shooting for, I have to wonder why you would choose to argue in that manner.

          Yes, it matters a lot whether or not there was a Lucifer in the OT, since we’re discussing the OT and you tried to base a counterpoint on Lucifer. Funny you should choose now to complain about hair-splitting.

          Your reductio got hung up on that word “seemingly”. Sure, reality contains what may appear to be paradoxes, but Scripture contains a good many explicit ones, like a supposedly omnipotent being foiled by mildly superior military technology. I could go on, but it would be easier to just Google it yourself.

          • Luke Breuer

            After wading through the verbal soup of your link, it seems that all of your points rather support the argument that any particular religion is probably wrong. Since this sounds like the opposite of what you were shooting for, I have to wonder why you would choose to argue in that manner.

            Can you only see wrongness, and not bits of rightness? You wouldn’t make a good scientist if this is the case. Scientists have to be able to see patterns amidst what is approximated as ‘noise’. (This is possible due to facts such as the Central Limit Theorem.) I know that it is an option to:

                 (1) dismiss all religious experience as ‘brain noise’

            Andy Schueler doesn’t like the term ‘brain noise’, but it seems to me a generalization of the term ‘hallucination’, which is often used to dismiss visual religious experience. Anyhow, I think it is distinctly possible that:

                 (2) religious experience is the subjective reporting of objective experience

            All observations are subjective. See my Phil.SE question, “I trust my senses” — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses? Even beauty can be objective (or more precisely, ‘truth-seeking’); see In Search of Beauty, which describes physicists preferring beautiful math for its models of reality, and how this is an effective search method for promising hypotheses.

            Another way to understand this ‘subjective’ is to consider special relativity, and how different inertial reference frames can be compared via Lorentz transforms. This means that we all can truly be exploring different parts of a 4-space, which is a generalization of the blind men and the elephant (they were exploring 3-space). As long as a given person’s observations sufficiently overlap with enough other people, nobody needs to see the whole elephant in order to be able to collectively provide a full description of the elephant.

            Yes, it matters a lot whether or not there was a Lucifer in the OT, since we’re discussing the OT and you tried to base a counterpoint on Lucifer. Funny you should choose now to complain about hair-splitting.

            Given that you could swap “Satan” for “Lucifer” in my statement and render it fine, I fail to see your criticism as anything other than a nitpick. Or perhaps you would have a different complaint if I did a s/Lucifer/Satan/?

            Your reductio got hung up on that word “seemingly”. Sure, reality contains what may appear to be paradoxes, but Scripture contains a good many explicit ones, like a supposedly omnipotent being foiled by mildly superior military technology. I could go on, but it would be easier to just Google it yourself.

            If you were to examine more of scripture, you’d find that people routinely don’t follow God precisely enough, and thus get thwarted by things. See “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” What you seem to be engaged in is not a search for truth and beauty, but for the slightest error and ugliness. See:

            “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

          • Nerdsamwich

            Ha-Satan in the OT is not the Satan/Lucifer/Old Scratch of the modern parlance. Ha-Satan, “The Adversary”, was more like a combination prosecuting attorney/testing proctor. His function was to draw YHWH’s attention to things he thought should be poked at, and then poke at them. He set obstacles in the way of the faithful, that they might overcome them and be stronger. He was an important functionary and trusted advisor in the court of YHWH. He was most emphatically NOT the Medieval fallen angel, rebelling against the Most High, tempting men to sin out of spite, and even more not the more recent Persian-influenced Author of All Evil, locked in eternal battle with the forces of Good, and waging war on Earth for the souls of mankind. The difference is not a mere “nitpick”; you’re talking about two entirely different mythical archetypes.
            I wouldn’t make a good scientist for several reasons, but too much skepticism is not among them. For one thing, I’m not that good at math. For another, I’m even worse at academic politics
            It’s not a dismissal to classify religious experiences as hallucinations. On the contrary, it opens up exciting new areas of study. A woman recently underwent an fMRI during an out-of-body experience; I’d love to see the same kind of thing done for other types of mysticism.
            For your first/last point, do you think all I do is argue about the bedtime stories of bronze-age barbarians? I appreciate beauty plenty. I just don’t find it in religion.

          • Luke Breuer

            Suppose I had said “Satan” instead of “Lucifer”. Would you still have disagreed with my statement?

            I appreciate the history lesson on Ha-Satan by the way. I know a bit more than the average Christian, but you added a bit. I really should read up on this at some point.

            Something to remember is that one way to model the OT is by seeing Yahweh as slowly correcting the various bad conceptions of him/other gods in the OT, bringing those conceptions closer to the truth. This seems to be how we do science, no?

          • Nerdsamwich

            Yes, I would still have disagreed, because the entity you refer to by that label is a relatively modern conception, colored by contact with several other religions and cultures. The concept that is meant when a modern Christian says “Satan” is not what an ancient Hebrew meant when invoking Ha-Satan.
            Why would YHWH create those misconceptions in the first place? That’s just silly. Unless it’s malicious.

          • Luke Breuer

            Is it your claim that Yahweh would prevent people from believing in more than so much falsehood? Remember, I’m arguing that Yahweh was calling people to him; this involves correcting their wrong beliefs and teaching them new beliefs.

          • Nerdsamwich

            They could only have learned about him in the first place from the source. Why didn’t he teach them correctly to begin with? OT YHWH was far from shy.

          • Luke Breuer

            What does “teach them correctly” mean? If God were to teach them F = ma, would this be ‘wrong’, because GR is more correct? But GR is wrong near black hole event horizons. What if the true description of reality is infinite, like a computer program that cannot be compressed to finite size? Then anything finite God would teach would be an approximation, valid in some places and invalid in others.

            In other words, I cannot make sense of your proposal, if reality is “infinite in description”, which I happen to believe it is. But perhaps you believe it isn’t, that there is some finite equation with finite initial conditions and a finite “tape of randomness” that is being played as time rolls forward?

          • Nerdsamwich

            Have we read the same OT? YHWH was manifestly uninterested in teaching anyone science. Remember, you’re arguing that YHWH was calling people to him; this involves correcting their wrong beliefs and teaching them new beliefs. Like in the Edenic, Noachian, Abrahamic, Mosaic and, finally, Yeshuite Covenants. Why would he give people with whom he had regular conversations erroneous beliefs about his very nature? Why should multiple covenants have been necessary, when YHWH could have given the “proper” instructions to begin with? Without changing the subject this time.

          • Luke Breuer

            The science was an analogy. Did you expect Yahweh to correct all the Israelites’ beliefs in a single generation?

          • Nerdsamwich

            Yes! The dude reportedly spoke directly to people on a myriad of occasions. Any of those would constitute a missed opportunity to set the record straight. A perfect opportunity would have been the giving of the Mosaic Laws. Chapter upon chapter of how and when to perform blood sacrifices, detailed strictures on running the slave trade, who it’s okay to kidnap and rape, and nothing to clear up any of those pesky misconceptions about the divine nature? I’m pretty sure the only self-description YHWH ever gives is to characterize himself as vengeful and jealous. Most Christians would say that’s inaccurate; do you?

          • Luke Breuer

            Does your “Yes!” match up with your model of human nature? Have you ever tried to give advice to a person and have him/her resist it, even though it was without a doubt, true and useful advice? Why would being able to threaten the person with omni-power be any better? Doing the right thing out of fear isn’t necessary any kind of solution! You seem to want a world ruled by a tyrant omni-deity. :-(

          • Nerdsamwich

            The OT posits a world ruled by a tyrant deity. I wouldn’t call YHWH omni-anything, but there really should be no misconceptions about a being that comes to talk to you on such a regular basis. You’re probably under very few misconceptions about the opinions of Robert Ingersoll, and he’s been dead for several generations. YHWH was actively interacting with the sons of Abraham for generations, and they still couldn’t get it right? At what point must you conclude that the fault lies in the message?

          • Luke Breuer

            there really should be no misconceptions about a being that comes to talk to you on such a regular basis.

            Why should you trust such a being? Are you aware of the ST TNG episode Devil’s Due?

          • Nerdsamwich

            I don’t. But you tell me that you do. It’s why we’re having this discussion. Are you telling me that you think God routinely lies?

          • Luke Breuer

            No, I’m questioning your ideas of what an omni-God would do. See Jonathan’s How can we mere mortals state what God SHOULD do?

          • Nerdsamwich

            Are we not endowed with a spark of the divine? Strictly speaking, we stole it, but that’s beside the point. The legacy of Adam is to be as one of the gods, knowing good from evil. Of course I can state what God should do. Who better to know what’s wrong than the guy on the ground?

          • Luke Breuer

            Who better to know what’s wrong than the guy on the ground?

            The programmer who can stop the simulation whenever he wants, tweak it, and then let it go again. Of course I don’t believe God did this, because I don’t think he had to tweak it. But if you think of yourself as running a digital simulation of sentient, sapient beings, I think you can start understanding what’s wrong with one of the created beings saying, “You’re doing it wrong!” Well, wrong according to whom? And based on what reasoning? Merely saying “it hurts” is not enough; plenty of people undertake activities that hurt, because they value the thing on the other side.

          • Nerdsamwich

            But the programmer could have made it so that the activity didn’t hurt in the first place. And that’s not even relevant to the majority of problems. We have *nerves* in our *teeth* for Thor’s sake! Nerves whose only possible function is to get infected. What valuable thing do starving Somalis strive for, for which they willingly suffer? Is it your contention that we are characters in a simulation, and that evils arise due to bugs in the programming?

          • Luke Breuer

            Have you ever run across congenital insensitivity to pain? It’s not a good condition to have.

            As to things you don’t understand, be careful of the ‘irreducible complexity’ fallacy, whereby you say that because you cannot understand something, or because the state of the art cannot yet explain something, that it is in principle unexplainable.

            As to the problem of evil in general, I know that I can reduce the amount of evil in the world, and that some people choose not to do this, or even to increase it. So I can trace a lot of evil to the actions of human agents. It seems to me that at least some part of the problem of evil is an expression of anger that God didn’t babysit humans more. I get that there is so-called “natural evil”, but I think it’s a bit of a misnomer, as it is “not yet know to be moral evil”. It’s kind of like saying that there exists “pure randomness”—no, you don’t know that; you simply know that you cannot yet find a pattern!

          • Andy_Schueler

            “I get that there is so-called “natural evil”, but I think it’s a bit of a misnomer, as it is “not yet know to be moral evil”. It’s kind of like saying that there exists “pure randomness”—no, you don’t know that; you simply know that you cannot yet find a pattern!”
            – Bullshit. Mutations, earthquakes, tsunamis etc.pp. are not “pure randomness” and we know why they happen.

          • Luke Breuer

            I just posted the following to Massimo Pigliucci’s This Isn’t the Free Will You’re Looking For:

            Compatibilism seems to beg the question of whether there is such a thing as uncaused events, events which are 100% purely random. How could we ever know such a thing? We couldn’t: we can only admit that we do not know, that we do not need further ‘structure’ in the indeterminacy than we posit exists in order to support current scientific models. But this leaves a question: how do we think about that which is currently a mystery? What ‘structure’ do we put there? It seems that we can put a ‘personal’ structure there, giving first-class status to beings with wills, or we can put an ‘impersonal’ structure there, in which case compatibilism obtains.

            Importantly, as illustrated in Pigliucci’s first “Essay on emergence”, there are many substructures or “microstructures” which one can use to undergird the next level, the level which starts to be falsifiable by current science and thought. Which one ought one pick? The only answer is: the one which maximally helps us better understand reality. One cannot answer on empirical grounds! And yet, the choice, I claim, matters.

            This is, of course, a philosophical issue: how do we handle that which is still mysterious to us? Do we insist that we have pretty close to an understanding of the thing, or do we very much admit that all we have is a picture of the thing? I’m reminded of Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, in which he thinks he has conquered the per-Kant unknowable “thing-in-itself” through positing the will, which can explore reality and investigate Kant’s “thing-in-itself” ever more deeply and widely. I’m also reminded of Harry Frankfurt’s On Truth, which argues that we know objective truth exists because sometimes we don’t get what we want—what we will.

            You only know how this stuff happens down to some level. At that level, you insert ‘indeterminism'; there you terminate causality. But you don’t know that causality terminates here. This isn’t a knowable statement! And yet, you seem to treat it as such; why? Or have I misunderstood you? Your statement, “we know why they happen” seems to express exhaustive knowledge, knowledge which I claim you are not justified in claiming. You can merely trace the causal chain back a few steps. That’s good, but that’s not the end of the matter. You can only hold that philosophically; you cannot know that empirically.

          • Andy_Schueler

            You only know how this stuff happens down to some level. At that level, you insert ‘indeterminism'; there you terminate causality. But you don’t know that causality terminates here.

            Nonsense. When you ask the question “where do earthquakes come from” – and someone explains plate tectonics and how it causes earthquakes to you, you can of course always ask follow up questions along the line “and why did that happen?” or “and where did this come from” – but at some point you would no longer be talking about earthquakes per se but rather about planet formation, and when you ask further this would go from planet formation to cosmic evolution, and you can keep asking questions until you reach a point where the only reasonable answer is “we have no fucking clue”. But when you have reached this point, you have long stopped talking about earthquakes and moved on to completely different issues.

          • Luke Breuer

            Irrelevant. You’re still complaining about those initial conditions which led to the earthquake which led to people dying. Or perhaps you’re complaining about natural law. Either way, irrelevant.

          • Andy_Schueler

            :-D That´s your defense against the evidential problem of evil? Fascinating.
            Well, then I hope you are consistent and refrain from calling the holocaust or anything else that humans have ever done “evil” unless you can reconstruct a complete causal chain from the big bang to the event that is allegedly evil.

          • Luke Breuer

            It is more important to know how I ought to act in the future, than why things happened in the past. Growing knowledge of why things happened is important for acting better in the future, but I do not think it to be as important as you seem to think.

            When it comes to the evidential problem of evil, there is a lot of concern with getting judgments right (this was evil, that wasn’t evil) and I believe this concern is misplaced. It is an attempt to be god and decide what is right and wrong (you could even call this the definition of god-likeness); I am not God. I will do my best to make the decisions I can based on the evidence and grid of interpretations I have. I don’t need to call historical events/laws evil in the way you do, to properly guide my actions toward reducing evil in the present.

            You seem to want to know more than I think is required. It is well-explained by the model that you desire to not have to trust anyone. A common theme emerging in my Disqus conversations these days is a complete unwillingness to trust any other being; knowledge is desired, instead. This is curious; I think it is misguided, but I am very much actively researching it.

          • Andy_Schueler

            It is more important to know how I ought to act in the future, than why things happened in the past. Growing knowledge of why things happened isimportant for acting better in the future, but I do not think it to be as important as you seem to think.

            I will dismiss out of hand any suggestion from you regarding either how people ought to have behaved at some point in the past or how we ought to behave right now, unless you present a complete causal chain from the big bang to now.
            Consistency is nice, you should try it once.

            I don’t need to call historical events/laws evil in the way you do, to properly guide my actions toward reducing evil in the present.

            Since you cannot reconstruct a complete causal chain from the big bang to now, you have to be completely agnostic about the moral status of anything that has been done or could be done now, meaning that your actions cannot be “properly guide[d] … toward reducing evil in the present”, in principle.

          • Luke Breuer

            I will dismiss out of hand any suggestion from you regarding either how people ought to have behaved at some point in the past or how we ought to behave right now, unless you present a complete causal chain from the big bang to now.

            Consistency is nice, you should try it once.

            Why must I do something which you cannot do? Is it because I am making stronger claims than you? Furthermore, your appeal to the big bang is perhaps not accurate; see growing block universe. It is not at all clear that all causes terminate at the big bang; some appear to terminate more recently. At least, from a 3+1 spacetime perspective. I’m not actually convinced that they terminate more recently, but we can treat them as such until we can penetrate further into the causal chain.

            Since you cannot reconstruct a complete causal chain from the big bang to now, you have to be completely agnostic about the moral status of anything that has been done or could be done now, meaning that your actions cannot be “properly guide[d] … toward reducing evil in the present”, in principle.

            I do not understand your logic. As I increasingly understand the structure of reality, I can more powerfully impact it, moving my planning horizon further in the future. This is very much a Neurathian bootstrap situation, where I must start from now, and stretch my thinking out in spacetime, both into the past and into the future. “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”

          • Andy_Schueler

            Why must I do something which you cannot do?

            Because I reject your epistemology completely.

            I do not understand your logic. As I increasingly understand the structure of reality, I can more powerfully impact it, moving my planning horizon further in the future. This is very much aNeurathian bootstrap situation, where I must start from now, and stretch my thinking out in spacetime, both into the past and into the future. “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”

            Awesome. Then present a complete causal chain for something that you allegedly do understand or keep it to yourself.

          • Luke Breuer

            How are you not holding me to a different standard than yourself? How are you not acting hypocritically?

          • Andy_Schueler

            You are being a hypocrite because you start with ultra-verbose meta discussions about M-theory, theories of time and whatever other meta-stuff you can think of, all to avoid conclusions that you don´t like. All I´m doing is forcing you to apply these ridiculous standards not only to claims you don´t want to be true but also to claims you do want to be true. Which means that I will reject out of hand everything you say about anything unless you can strictly prove:
            – that it is not only valid in 4 dimensions but also in M dimensions
            – that it will still hold under any conceivable theory of time
            – that knowledge of the complete causal chain that is relevant for the claim you are making would not disprove your claim
            – all other meta-stuff that you have used as cop outs before (the complete list will be quite long)

            Alternatively, you could stop with the endless meta-meta-meta-meta-discussions whenever you are faced with a conclusion that you don´t want to be true and instead deal with the actual issue like everyone else does.

          • Luke Breuer

            You are making a demand of me that no human can fulfill; only God could.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Prove that this would still be true in M dimensions.

          • Luke Breuer

            Proof is only possible in mathematics. You’ll simply doubt whatever axioms I choose. This is a boring game.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Then you should stop playing it.

          • Luke Breuer

            I can stop playing it with you. I’m not going to let you be God with your “should”, though.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Ah, so it´s only ok when you do it. Got it.

          • Luke Breuer

            Where have I done this to you? Please quote & cite, for I would like to stop doing it if it is truly hypocritical.

          • Andy_Schueler

            You do it every damn time whenever you are faced with a conclusion that you do not like.
            You are faced with an argument that shows that the version of free will you would like to be true is impossible – no problem, just start a meta-discussion on M-theory and casually dismiss the argument because additional dimensions could obviously invalidate the laws of logic (hint: that was sarcasm), for arguments that you like however, the additional-dimensions-overturning-the-laws-of-logic thingy obviously doesn´t apply.
            You are faced with an argument that earthquakes, tsunamis, DNA mutations etc.pp. cause gratuitous suffering – no problem, just start a meta-discussion on theories of time or insist on impossible proofs like a demonstration of the complete causal chain leading to an earthquake. For arguments that you like however, you obviously don´t have to meet the same burden of proof because that would clearly be ridiculous.
            You do it every damn time – whenever you are faced with conclusions you don´t like, you start obfuscating by starting completely irrelevant meta-discussions about additional dimensions, theories of time and whatever other meta-stuff you can think of at the moment and / or insist on a burden of proof that you don´t deem to be necessary for your own arguments. I cannot think of a single time where I have seen you discussing with someone who disagrees with you where you did not try to pull of either one or even both of these stunts (obfusation with irrelevant meta-discussions and a double standard where you apply a burden of proof for arguments that you do not like that are impossible to meet and that you do not apply to your own arguments).

          • Luke Breuer

            So “meta discussion” = “question the other person’s metaphysical commitments”? How am I not doing this? Because if I am, I fail to see the problem with it.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “So “meta discussion” = “question the other person’s metaphysical commitments”?”

            No. “Meta-discussions” = ignore the actual issue and instead start an ultra-verbose subthread on additional dimensions, theories of time or whatever else you can think of.
            And you clearly do see a problem with that, but you only see it when the table is turned and someone else dismisses your arguments by starting irrelevant meta-discussions.

          • Luke Breuer

            “Meta-discussions” = ignore the actual issue

            Where “the issue” is defined according to YOUR presuppositions. How do you not see this? When I deviate from YOUR presuppositions, you get angry. When I deviate from YOUR presuppositions, you require a level of proof that you do not apply to yourself, as far as I can tell.

            Christianity is, at its core, a rejection of certain claims made by non-Christians. It differs philosophically from other ways of viewing the world. This means that I cannot show you aspects of Christianity from within your worldview! It just doesn’t work. It’s like trying to explain hyperbolic geometry to someone who refuses to let go of his parallel postulate.

            If you don’t see me as doing what I describe here, you will need to help me understand how I am not doing what I describe here, if you want to try and have better conversations with me. But you are welcome to give up, instead. Continuing to insult me will be the same as giving up, from my perspective.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Where “the issue” is defined according to YOUR presuppositions. How do you not see this? When I deviate from YOUR presuppositions, you get angry. When I deviate from YOUR presuppositions, you require a level of proof that you do not apply to yourself, as far as I can tell.

            Oh really? Then by all means, give an example for that, the examples I provided paint a very different picture.

            So far, when you’ve done this, I could only interpret it as mocking me by producing caricatures that were nothing like what I was doing.

            HOW exactly was what you were doing ANY different?

          • Luke Breuer

            Oh really? Then by all means, give an example for that, the examples I provided paint a very different picture.

            Our conversation about the difference between a Christianese-relationship and English-relationship seemed to orbit at least one of the following presuppositions:

            1. Jesus does not exist.
            2. Jesus might exist but certaintly does not have an E-relationship with Luke Breuer.
            3. If Jesus had an E-relationship with Luke, Luke would be able to introduce Jesus to Andy like one introduces one friend to another friend.
            4. ???

            When we talked about C-relationships, we noted that they are no different from e.g. your relationship with MLK Jr. or Atticus Finch. I tried to articulate a relationship which is not a C-relationship, nor a 3.-relationship. We should probably switch C-relationship → Historical-relationship.

            Undergirding the conversation seemed to be the staunch claim that whatever my relationship with Jesus, that Jesus is not ontic: the best that could be said is that he is historical. It is as if you are Death in George Herbert’s A Dialogue-Anthem:

                                          Christian, Death

            Chr.   ALAS, poor Death ! where is thy glory ?
                      Where is thy famous force, thy ancient sting ?
            Dea.   Alas, poor mortal, void of story !
                      Go spell and read how I have killed thy King.

            Chr.   Poor Death ! and who was hurt thereby ?
                      Thy curse being laid on Him makes thee accurst.
            Dea.   Let losers talk, yet thou shalt die ;
                      These arms shall crush thee.

            Chr.                                                 Spare not, do thy worst.
                      I shall be one day better than before ;
                      Thou so much worse, that thou shalt be no more.

            Alas, poor mortal! I have killed thy King!

            In our discussion about my relationship with Jesus, you appeared to resist, with all your might, that perhaps this is true:

            If there is any realm of life where one’s residual misconceptions or illogical reasoning would show up, it would probably be in religious experiences and thinking of what “the greatest possible being” (a) is like; (b) would do. It seems to me that religious thinking and experience are the most ‘holistic’ activities in which one can engage, and thus the activities least protected from e.g. compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance.

            That is, the idea that one’s entire belief structure will critically color one’s relationship with Jesus, such that too many wrong beliefs will thwart communication. Perhaps this is neither an H-relationship nor an E-relationship! The Kingdom of Heaven is a culture; if one comes from a sufficiently different culture and tries to engage it directly instead of bit by bit, one may not be able to communicate! I am reminded of the TNG episode Darmok. Only by sufficiently denying his own conceptions of how communication should operate or even could operate, was Picard able to communicate.

            Consider Max Planck’s “Science progresses one funeral at at time.” This is true because powerful scientists, who control hiring and funding, believe false things which perhaps advanced the state of the art at one point, but hinder progress after a while. Their false beliefs render them unable to progress too much further in science. If the truest form of relationship is one that is growing ad infinitum, too many wrong beliefs will kill the growth. I have argued that too many wrong beliefs disallow growth in relationship with Jesus. Without growth, there is no life. Without life, one can turn that relationship into an H-relationship. This is why I insisted on unbounded life with respect to the hypothetical scenario where you had an E-relationship with MLK Jr.

            Perhaps you simply view humans not just as finite beings, but bounded beings? I don’t know, but I know that you are strongly holding to at least one presupposition which continually thwarted our ability to communicate past a certain amount on this issue.

            HOW exactly was what you were doing ANY different?

            I do not see it as doing the same. Would you show me how it is the same? Will you expend the requisite effort? Will you share more of the burden of communication between two people who believe very differently on some crucial issues?

          • Andy_Schueler

            Our conversation about the difference between a Christianese-relationship and English-relationship seemed to orbit at least one of the following presuppositions:

            1. Jesus does not exist.
            2. Jesus might exist but certaintly does not have an E-relationship with Luke Breuer.
            3. If Jesus had an E-relationship with Luke, Luke would be able to introduce Jesus to Andy like one introduces one friend to another friend.

            4. ???

            Re 1. I have repeated ad nauseam that I grant you the existence of Jesus for the sake of the argument.
            Re 2. That is not a presupposition that is a CONCLUSION based on how you described your “relationship” with Jesus.
            Re 3. I repeated ad nauseam that this is not an argument against you having a relationship with Jesus, I said that this is an argument for why I cannot have one even if you had one .
            I have told you all of this ad nauseam – you are being willfully obtuse.

            Undergirding the conversation seemed to be the staunch claim that whatevermy relationship with Jesus, that Jesus is not ontic

            For fucks sake, count the number of instances where I told you that I GRANT YOU THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS FOR THE SAKE OF THE ARGUMENT. Again, you are being willfully obtuse.

            In our discussion about my relationship with Jesus, you appeared to resist, with all your might, that perhaps this is true:

            If there is any realm of life where one’s residual misconceptions or illogical reasoning would show up, it would probably be in religious experiences and thinking of what “the greatest possible being” (a) is like; (b) would do. It seems to me that religious thinking and experience are the most ‘holistic’ activities in which one can engage, and thus the activities least protected from e.g. compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance.

            That is, the idea that one’s entire belief structure will critically color one’s relationship with Jesus, such that too many wrong beliefs will thwart communication.

            I´ll grant you that this is true just as I grant you that Jesus is real. Changes nothing whatsoever – you still have a christianese relationship with Jesus.

            I do not see it as doing the same. Would you show me how it is the same?

            You cop out by starting to discuss M-theory although it is completely irrelevant for the subject at hand, I do the same.

          • Luke Breuer

            Re 2. That is not a presupposition that is a CONCLUSION based on how you described your “relationship” with Jesus.

            I suppose we are back at my claim that this is not how I described my “relationship”, and that I must go back and comb through the discussion, because you are too frustrated to work on it any more until then, as you make very clear with your “ad nauseam” and “willfully obtuse”.

            I am very amused by your use of “willfully“, given your lack of belief in free will. It’s as if you’re blaming me for doing something when I couldn’t do otherwise. But I suppose that you’d just retort that you couldn’t do otherwise. How this doesn’t e.g. absolve racists from their racism is beyond me. According to you, is the only moral fault here that you happen to dislike the way I discuss? How do you know your emotions are in proper order? Why is your frustration/anger trustworthy?

            I´ll grant you that this is true just as I grant you that Jesus is real. Changes nothing whatsoever – you still have a christianese relationship with Jesus.

            Will you grant that a person’s relationship with Jesus might be different in kind with the kind of relationship you have with MLK Jr. or Atticus Finch? Can you imagine a kind of relationship other than your conception of E-relationship or C/H-relationships? In particular, I’m thinking of the kind of relationship which brings continual inner healing and growth, ad infinitum, with no upper bound. I know of no H-relationship which could do this, given the finite amount of information available on any historical person. Finite information = finite healing/growth.

            You cop out by starting to discuss M-theory although it is completely irrelevant for the subject at hand, I do the same.

            I pointed out that denying impossible things asserts nothing, except possibly that the impossible thing could exist in a higher dimension. Impossible things are only impossible because of how they are constructed. But who says that your building blocks are the only building blocks available? Nobody. But within your system of thought, denying the existence of impossible things is tantamount to saying that you can describe anything that can possibly exist. This is a very bold claim!

            I have consistently argued that compatibilism is either meaningless, or rules out some possible worlds. You have yet to describe a possible world which it rules out, which still has sentient & sapient beings. This means that my positing freedom of will would be an expansion of your idea of what is possible. It would expand what you currently see as the set of possible worlds. And it would expand it precisely by adding the axiom of “freedom of will”. I know of no other way to expand your idea of which worlds are possible, of what can be constructed. The idea of a “free will” seems foundational, not something derivable from other axioms.

            Freedom of the will explains how anger and frustration can be rational, can be truth-seeking. Freedom of the will explains the tremendous amount of evil in the world, but more importantly, it tells us that we humans can do something about it—or we can not do something about it. God’s goodness promises that we have sufficient resources to eliminate the evil in the world, although it will require self-denial and self-sacrifice.

            Without freedom, without God, there is no justification for hope. It is what it is without God. What is, is right, without God. And yet, paradoxically, the stronger a person’s believe that something is true, the more likely he/she will achieve that thing, if indeed it is true. It is as if some truths are only accessible by sufficiently strong exertions of the will. I claim, of free will.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I suppose we are back at my claim that this is not how I described my “relationship”

            It clearly is – you described it exactly like a christianese relationship, a relationship that involves 100% imagination and 0% interaction, a relationship that is entirely one-sided, a relationship that is exactly like the relationships that people routinely have with dead or fictional characters. Even if I granted you that Jesus magically inserts thoughts into your head or something along that line, thus effectively granting you that you are completely and absolutely right about this particular issue here, even then it would still be true that your relationship with Jesus is completely and utterly indistinguishable from a christianese one.

            I am very amused by your use of “willfully”, given your lack of belief in free will. It’s as if you’re blaming me for doing something when I couldn’t do otherwise.

            You couldn´t do otherwise if determinism is true. If it ain´t, then you very much could, but you didn´t want to, hence willfully obtuse instead of just obtuse.

            Can you imagine a kind of relationship other than your conception of E-relationship or C/H-relationships? In particular, I’m thinking of the kind of relationship which brings continual inner healing and growth, ad infinitum, with no upper bound. I know of no H-relationship which could do this, given the finite amount of information available on any historical person. Finite information = finite healing/growth.

            That is like asking “can you imagine a relationship that is just like a christianese relationship but is not actually a christianese relationship”. There is no “upper bound” to ANY christianese relationship, you start with limited information, like the New Testament or Harry Potter or To Kill a Mockingbird or Game of Thrones or MLKs collected writings, and from there, the sky is the limits. The “upper bound” for a christianese relationship is exactly identical to the power of your creative mind – your imagination – if that is infinite or quasi-infinite in potential, then so is the potential of your christianese relationship.

            I pointed out that denying impossible things asserts nothing

            Which is irrelevant because my claim was not “impossible things are impossible” but rather “libertarianism is impossible because …”

            Impossible things are only impossible because of how they are constructed. But who says that your building blocks are the only building blocks available?

            Additional “building blocks” do not affect my argument that shows why libertarianism is impossible – libertarianism boils down to something simultaneously happening for a reason and for no reason, which is a contradiction and which will always remain a contradiction no matter which building blocks you use. It doesn´t depend in any way on which kind of “reasons” exist, it doesn´t depend in any way on any particular theory of time and / or causality, it ONLY presupposes that the law of non-contradiction holds. If you want to reject the law of non-contradiction, be my guest (if you do indeed reject that, then I will from now on simply claim to be Jesus, have fun coming up with a valid argument against me being Jesus after flushing logical reasoning down the crapper).

            I have consistently argued that compatibilism is either meaningless, or rules out some possible worlds. You have yet to describe a possible world which it rules out

            I guess it doesn´t matter how often I say that I neither subscribe to compatibilism nor am I interested in defending it – you just won´t care and bring it up ad nauseam anyways, won´t you?

            This means that my positing freedom of will would be an expansion of your idea of what is possible. It would expand what you currently see as the set of possible worlds. And it would expand it precisely by adding the axiom of “freedom of will”. I know of no other way to expand your idea of which worlds are possible

            If I asked you to consider the idea that I am Jesus and Lucifer and neither one of them all at the same time – could you consider it for the sake of the argument even if you wanted to, or could you not grasp what that would even mean if it were true since it is an idea that is logically incoherent and self-refuting? I strongly suspect it is the latter, if it isn´t, then I´d ask you to explain to me what it would *mean* for me to simultaneously be Jesus AND Lucifer AND NOT be either one of them ALL AT ONCE – I cannot imagine what that would mean anymore than I could imagine an euclidean triangle with angles that add up to 592°.
            I cannot consider your idea that free will in a libertarian sense might exist even if I wanted to because I cannot imagine impossible concepts – show where my argument fails, else I could not consider your idea, not even for the sake of the argument.

            Without freedom, without God, there is no justification for hope.

            How odd, and here I am hoping for all kinds of things without believing in your god or any other gods.

          • Luke Breuer

            It clearly is – you described it exactly like a christianese relationship, a relationship that involves 100% imagination and 0% interaction, a relationship that is entirely one-sided, a relationship that is exactly like the relationships that people routinely have with dead or fictional characters. Even if I granted you that Jesus magically inserts thoughts into your head or something along that line, thus effectively granting you that you are completely and absolutely right about this particular issue here, even then it would still be true that your relationship with Jesus is completely and utterly indistinguishable from a christianese one.

            We are disagreeing over how I described it. Apparently, the only way for me to disabuse you of your interpretation is for me to meticulously comb through what I said, and your interpretation thereof, and point out mismatches. I may do this at some point.

            You couldn´t do otherwise if determinism is true. If it ain´t, then you very much could, but you didn´t want to, hence willfully obtuse instead of just obtuse.

            Does your use of ‘willfully’ require either (i) compatibilism to be true; or (ii) will to be free? I’m very curious! As best I understand your model of “the will”, all that ‘willfully’ means is the build-up of a kind of momentum. It contains no moral element whatsoever. Nobody is to blame. We are two particles, headed in different directions; it is what it is.

            The “upper bound” for a christianese relationship is exactly identical to the power of your creative mind – your imagination – if that is infinite or quasi-infinite in potential, then so is the potential of your christianese relationship.

            I disagree; at some point, the ideas you come up with will contain more of you than of MLK, Atticus Finch, Harry Potter, etc. They might be seeds, but it will be you who gave the growth. Heh.

            This seems to reduce to who provides the growth. If a large group of very different people are all able to live together and help each other grow ad infinitum, and welcome newcomers and still interact with the world, does this mean they are all getting part of their growth from a single source? It seems this is the only situation which would tease out the difference between growth coming from a person and growth coming from outside the person. Perhaps this is a reason for Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23, especially the last passage! I’m also reminded of “my sheep know my voice” in John 10. Lately, I’ve been thinking of the Holy Spirit as a kind of non-local coordinating entity; perhaps this is one way to demonstrate the existence of an additional entity: cooperation which is not explainable in any other way.

            Which is irrelevant because my claim was not “impossible things are impossible” but rather “libertarianism is impossible because …”

            I’m not convinced that I am arguing for libertarianism. I think I’m more arguing for not-your-model-of-free-will. You’re atheist, I’m a-Andy_Schueler’s-will, at least to the extent that I understand your model of it. You’ve been pretty cagey about it.

            My argument against my best guess of your version of ‘will’ is that it does not allow one to be rationally angry at God for why things are as they are. I cling more strongly to the claim that the entire human system of cognition operating can be tuned to operate increasingly well, than the claim that inability to fully ground such a ‘will’ is an argument against it. Feynman famously said that the results of the two-slit experiment are as-of-yet impenetrable. I think the same can be held of the will. There must be mystery somewhere in one’s conception of reality, mystery or contradiction, per Gödel’s incompleteness theorems—unless you think you can understand reality without “basic arithmetical truths” and “certain truths about formal provability”. Gödel sentences provide fodder for reformulating one’s axioms, ad infinitum.

            I guess it doesn´t matter how often I say that I neither subscribe to compatibilism nor am I interested in defending it – you just won´t care and bring it up ad nauseam anyways, won´t you?

            How about you finally articulate your model of the will, or whatever it is you believe? Then I can have a much better chance at understanding what you believe, instead of being forced to work off of noisy inferences.

            it ONLY presupposes that the law of non-contradiction holds.

            Which is having problems in the quantum realm, if you subscribe to certain interpretations of quantum mechanics. Or see problem of future contingents, which talks about Aristotle’s famous sea battle puzzle. If statements about the future are neither necessarily true or necessarily false, perhaps they can be willed to be true or false, with this impacting the probabilities. But don’t expect me to be able to provide a consistent and complete model of reality; I believe that to be impossible. Instead, I’ll proceed with the Neurathian bootstrap, tackling one Gödel sentence after the next, hoping to expand my idea of what is possible and what is not every step of the way.

            If I asked you to consider the idea that I am Jesus and Lucifer and neither one of them all at the same time

            Sounds like Heisenberg’s cat, except not quite.

            How odd, and here I am hoping for all kinds of things without believing in your god or any other gods.

            Key word: justification.

          • Andy_Schueler

            We are disagreeing over how I described it. Apparently, the only way for me to disabuse you of your interpretation is for me to meticulously comb through what I said,

            No, the only way would be to retract everything you said about this issue so far and start describing a relationship that is completely different from what you have described so far.

            Does your use of ‘willfully’ require either (i) compatibilism to be true; or (ii) will to be free?

            No.

            I disagree; at some point, the ideas you come up with will contain more of youthan of MLK, Atticus Finch, Harry Potter, etc. They might be seeds, but it will be you who gave the growth.

            Then you are not disagreeing at all but rather simply rephrasing my point – it´s all you, your creative mind, your imagination, it´s entirely one-sided, zero interaction is involved, it is NOT an actual relationship, It is a christianese relationship.

            If a large group of very different people are all able to live together and help each other grow ad infinitum, and welcome newcomers and still interact with the world, does this mean they are all getting part of their growth from a single source?

            No, three sources – a book, their own mind and the minds of their fellow fanboys and -girls. It´s always these three sources in a christianese relationship, no matter whether it is about Jesus, Star Trek, Game of Thrones or what have you (well, sometimes it´s only two sources, for those people that are not very social and rather prefer a hermit lifestyle).

            I think I’m more arguing for not-your-model-of-free-will.

            That is most certainly not what you are doing. Since I have never described “my model” of free will to you, you cannot possibly argue against it (hint: there is no such thing as “my free will model” because I don´t subscribe to ANY form of free will to begin with)

            My argument against my best guess of your version of ‘will’ is that it does not allow one to be rationally angry at God

            That is not an “argument” at all. You might as well say “my argument is that I don´t like your conclusion”. It´s not only not an argument, it´s not even remotely interesting for anyone except you – I don´t give a flying fuck about your God, being “rationally angry” at your God is just as silly an idea to me as “being rationally angry at Luke´s concept of Captain James Tiberius Kirk”.

            There must be mystery somewhere in one’s conception of reality, mystery or contradiction, per Gödel’s incompleteness theorems—unless you think you can understand reality without “basic arithmetical truths” and “certain truths about formal provability”.

            That is bullshit and I´m sick and tired of explaining to you why since you will ignore it anyway.

            How about you finally articulate your model of the will, or whatever it is you believe? Then I can have a much better chance at understanding what you believe

            What I believe is most likely a subset of what you believe. “Will” = the sum of all things that lead to patterns in your behaviour and that are part of yourself / that can be demarcated from the rest of the world, in other words – the sum of your beliefs, wants, desires and all other conscious and subconscious factors that influence the decisions you make. Libertarian freedom cannot possibly be involved at any step because libertarian freedom is an impossible concept.

            And that´s pretty much it.

            Which is having problems in the quantum realm, if you subscribe to certain interpretations of quantum mechanics.

            No, it doesn´t:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_logic

            If statements about the future are neither necessarily true or necessarily false, perhaps they can be willed to be true or false, with this impacting the probabilities.

            They most certainly can, but this doesn´t even touch my argument against libertarian freedom being an impossible concept.

            Sounds like Heisenberg’s cat, except not quite.

            Can you imagine me being Jesus AND being Lucifer AND NOT being either one of them ALL AT ONCE? Can you imagine what it would mean / what it would look like, if that were true, just for the sake of the argument – can you imagine that, yes or no?

            Key word: justification.

            “Justified hope” is kind of an oxymoron. If you can justify what you hope for, then you stop hoping for it and start believing / knowing it, if you don´t start to do that, then your justification sucks and you yourself are not convinced by it.

          • Luke Breuer

            No, the only way would be to retract everything you said about this issue so far and start describing a relationship that is completely different from what you have described so far.

            You seem much more interested in there being two ontic entities that you can verify as ontic, than the effects of the ‘relationship’ being good. This is fascinating.

            No.

            You realize that when someone says, “you are being willfully obtuse”, it is generally implied that the fault lies in the other person, right? That is, there are connotations for which I fail to see any supporting “structure” or motivation, according to your model of reality.

            Then you are NOT disagreeing at all but rather simply rephrasing my point – it´s all you, your creative mind, your imagination, it´s entirely one-sided, zero interaction is involved, it is NOT an actual relationship, It is a christianese relationship.

            From this analysis, if someone were telepathically communicating with you and you never saw the person, you would be forced to conclude that whatever it is, it’s actually just you. This seems to be an ugly conclusion. This sounds like a recipe for falsely diagnosing disassociative identity disorder.

            No, three sources – a book (or movie or whatever), their own mind and the minds of their fellow fanboys and -girls.

            We’ve already covered the option of exhausting the informational content of a finite source, whether it be a book, movie, or something else. So if this group of people I describe can continue to create/discover a person they all know and can identify as “the same person”, this commonality would have to be a result of a common feature of their brains. To eliminate societal norms, we can talk about multiple groups, spatially and temporally and historically isolated. Would this be enough, or would you just say that humans have a tendency to construct this Jesus-figure, that the same Jesus is somehow just programmed into at least some people’s minds, and some of those people are able to ‘resurrect’ this programming?

            Perhaps you are unaware that I believe we can continue to understand God better and better? I thought I made this clear over at How can we mere mortals state what God SHOULD do?

            Since I have never described “my model” of free will to you, you cannot possibly argue against it (hint: there is no such thing as “my free will model” because I don´t subscribe to ANY form of free will to begin with)

            I’m sorry, the ‘free’ was a typo. I have been attempting to infer your model of free will. It has been quite difficult. You’ve been much more interested in telling me that my inferences are wrong, than actually explaining your position. Fortunately, that is starting to change.

            That is not an “argument” at all. You might as well say “my argument is that I don´t like your conclusion”. It´s not only not an argument, it´s not even remotely interesting for anyone except you – I don´t give a flying fuck about your God, being “rationally angry” at your God is just as silly an idea to me as “being rationally angry at Luke´s concept of Captain James Tiberius Kirk”.

            My observation is that many atheists get quite angry when talking about all that evil that God supposedly allows. So the anger I was talking about is not my own. I have a hard time attributing said anger solely to the damage that theists have caused with their beliefs through history, given the amount of damage caused by non-theists. Unless perhaps those atheists are scapegoating, but that is an ugly conclusion.

            What I believe is most likely a subset of what you believe. “Will” = the sum of all things that lead to patterns in your behaviour and that are part of yourself / that can be demarcated from the rest of the world, in other words – the sum of your beliefs, wants, desires and all other conscious and subconscious factors that influence the decisions you make. Libertarian freedom cannot possibly be involved at any step because libertarian freedom is an impossible concept.

            Perhaps I can model this as ‘will’ = ‘momentum’, of a many-dimensional sort. Assuming you are ok with this, what is the cause of ∆p‘s? And when one hits a Lagrangian point, what causes one to take one path vs. the next? In my discussions with you, my model of free will has always been that we can affect smallv‘s, not large ones. So extant momentum is very important. I’ve even talked about ion thrusters, current versions of which only make sense in terms of satellites and orbital mechanics.

            It seems to me that you can attribute ∆p‘s to (i) randomness or (ii) further order. And yet, don’t we find personhood somewhere here, a difference between man and machine? Exactly what that difference is, I am not sure. It could have to do with the fact that life seems constantly in the pursuit of more, and that there are many, many ways to conduct said pursuit. Humans can pursue ‘more’ by increasing their power over other humans, they can do it by empowering other humans, they can do it by learning more, etc. I am very interested in what separates man from machine, because I see many men and women treated as machines in our world. There is perhaps a sorites paradox hiding here.

            No, it doesn´t

            All that says is we cannot observe violations of the law of non-contradiction. What goes on, on the other side of measurement is still very fuzzy.

            Can you imagine me being Jesus AND being Lucifer AND NOT being either one of them ALL AT ONCE? Can you imagine what it would mean / what it would look like, if that were true, just for the sake of the argument – can you imagine that, yes or no?

            I said “not quite” intentionally. It is hard enough imagining Heisenberg’s cat!

            “Justified hope” is kind of an oxymoron. If you can justify what you hope for, then you stop hoping for it and start believing / knowing it, if you don´t start to do that, then your justification sucks and you yourself are not convinced by it.

            No, it is not. We can base hope on “the probabilities”, probabilities which inescapably depend on both our theories and our observations, neither of which is derivable from the other. Furthermore, the right kind of hoping can make the hope more likely to be satisfied, than if it weren’t hoped.

          • Andy_Schueler

            You seem much more interested in there being two ontic entities that you can verify as ontic, than the effects of the ‘relationship’ being good. This is fascinating.

            Two completely seperate issues. I think my “relationship” with Atticus Finch was a very positive influence, that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with whether Atticus Finch is real or not.

            You realize that when someone says, “you are being willfully obtuse”, it is generally implied that the fault lies in the other person, right? That is, there are connotations for which I fail to see any supporting “structure” or motivation, according to your model of reality.

            Why?

            From this analysis, if someone were telepathically communicating with you…

            Start asking questions to Jesus right now and wait for his “telepathic” answer, get back to me as soon as Jesus starts telepathically talking to you. If he doesn´t, then this is a red herring.
            Based on what you described so far, Jesus is NOT communicating with you telepathically or in any other way. The only way you found so far to weasel your way out of this was something along the line of Jesus “inserting thoughts into your head” – that would NOT be “telepathy”, that would be completely indistinguishable from any other thought that emerges within your imagination and it is no more “communication with Jesus” than me thinking about To Kill a Mockinbird would be “communication with Atticus Finch”.

            We’ve already covered the option of exhausting the informational content of a finite source, whether it be a book, movie, or something else. So if this group of people I describe can continue to create/discover a person they all know and can identify as “the same person”, this commonality would have to be a result of a common feature of their brains. To eliminate societal norms, we can talk about multiple groups, spatially and temporally and historically isolated. Would this be enough, or would you just say that humans have a tendency to construct this Jesus-figure, that the same Jesus is somehow just programmed into at least some people’s minds, and some of those people are able to ‘resurrect’ this programming?

            There is no difference whatsoever between Jesus fanboys spinning stories about what Jesus would say or do and Game of Thrones fanboys spinning stories about what Tyrion Lannister would say or do in a given situation. The creative potential is infinite in both cases even though both start with limited source material. Thousands of people all across the planet can spin fan-fiction stories about such fictional characters all based on reading stories about him, and their fellow fanboys and -girls can evaluate those stories and plenty of times they do agree and say something along the line “yes, that´s what Tyrion would do!” – they can even ask the author who invented the character and ask him for his opinion on whether a given fan-fiction story is plausible. There is nothing special about this and there is absolutely no difference whatsoever between Jesus fanboys and Star Trek fanboys or any other kind of community that values this kind of “relationship”.

            In my discussions with you, my model of free will has always been that we can affect small ∆v’s, not large ones.

            Doesn´t matter how large or small they are – they cannot possibly free in a libertarian sense. If this conclusion is to emotionally troubling for you then don´t talk about it, but I´m not interested in playing a “what if we just ignored that libertarianism is impossible” game.

            All that says is we cannot observe violations of the law of non-contradiction.

            Yes, observing impossible things is impossible, that´s also impossible on the quantum or any other level. Quantum theory made a reformulation of propositional logic necessary – the law of non-contradiction still holds.

            No, it is not. We can base hope on “the probabilities”,

            You don´t hope for what you know to be probable, you expect what you know to be probable. You hope for what you find desirable but for what you have no rational ground to expect it to happen.

          • Luke Breuer

            Why?

            If you don’t understand how “you are being willfully obtuse” tends to impute moral guilt, I’m not sure I can explain.

            Start asking questions to Jesus right now and wait for his “telepathic” answer, get back to me as soon as Jesus starts telepathically talking to you. If he doesn´t, then this is a red herring.

            I’ll give you an example. Last Friday night, I got the vague message that I ought not go to a coffee shop the next morning. This saddened me, because I really like going to a coffee shop in the morning to read books, blogs, and comment on each. However, I submitted to this vague message. The next morning, I was primed to call my parents instead of do the default thing of go to the coffee shop (where it’s too noisy to make phone calls). I had the single best conversation I have ever had with my parents that morning. When did the almost two hour conversation finish? 12:05. I went to the coffee shop that day, but not in the morning.

            Now, I anticipate the retort that I get all sorts of such “vague messages”, and only remember the ones that led to something good. This would be an unfalsifiable claim on your part, for you can easily appeal to my lack of memory, something which I cannot refute. But I claim that the above really was possibly telepathy, and telepathy which led to an absolutely fantastic result, the kind of result I want to encourage to happen, again and again and again.

            I should note that the above message, even being so vague, is something of which I am rarely conscious. It’s only happened a few other times, one of which was the idea that “learning a concept is like diagonalizing a matrix”. My boss, a polymath, corrected this to “eigenizing a matrix”. The idea was still the same: see how the output wiggles based on the input, such that I fully understand each degree of freedom. This does seem to get to the core of what fully grasping a concept is like. And the idea popped into my head so suddenly that it could easily have been telepathic communication, utilizing the concepts within my head to communicate with me.

            There is another retort you could give: if I am sufficiently focused on pursuing increased goodness in the world, including increased knowledge—see Richard Hamming’s You and Your Research, or Phil 1:9, 4:8—my own creativity will respond accordingly, producing the two examples, above. That is, it’s all just me, through and through. This, however, appears to deny the observation of the kind of divine action I believe happens: God making the world a better place, as our follow worker. You’ve demanded that God show up in a different way than this if he is to convince you that he is ontic. Too bad, I think. Maybe you’ll be convinced when Jesus comes like lightning. But if you take that long, you’ll miss out on much possible awesomeness in life, much Good News.

            The only way you found so far to weasel your way out of this was something along the line of Jesus “inserting thoughts into your head” – that would NOT be “telepathy”, that would be completely indistinguishable from any other thought that emerges within your imagination

            It’s funny how many people think they can distinguish what you call “completely indistinguishable”. But surely you are the one who is right.

            Doesn´t matter how large or small they are – they cannot possibly free in a libertarian sense. If this conclusion is to emotionally troubling for you then don´t talk about it, but I´m not interested in playing a “what if we just ignored that libertarianism is impossible” game.

            I’m more interested in a “what if Andy’s model of will is wrong” game. I mean, surely your model of the world denies something, such that it is not meaningless?

            You don´t hope for what you know to be probable, you expect what you know to be probable. You hope for what you find desirable but for what you have no rational ground to expect it to happen.

            I suppose we simply disagree. See the following:

            since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,

            Here, I view ‘faith’ as momentum, with ‘hope’ being the point at infinity at which the velocity vector of the momentum is pointed. Here, ‘hope’ is viewed as having an attractive force, as if it is causing an increase in momentum, and a continual redirecting toward itself. When Jesus was raised up on the cross, he drew all men to him. To complete this picture, ‘love’ is the method for applying the relevant ∆p‘s.

            In this model, it is easy to see situations in which the momentum is not enough to achieve the point aimed at by the velocity vector. For one, the point at infinity could exert no attractive force. For another, there could be nearby attractors or repellers which thwart more than some bounded progress toward that point at infinity.

          • Andy_Schueler

            If you don’t understand how “you are being willfully obtuse” tends to impute moral guilt, I’m not sure I can explain.

            That was not what I meant. Why do you believe that guilt / responsibility / whatever requires libertarianism?

            I’ll give you an example. Last Friday night, I got the vague message that I ought not

            A vague feeling is not telepathy.

            Now, I anticipate the retort that I get allsorts of such “vague messages”,

            No, the retort you get is this: this is not a “message” and this is not “communication”, not telepathic or otherwise.

            There is another retort you could give

            Yes – which would be the following:
            I asked you to ask Jesus a question and wait for his telepathic answer. You cannot do it. Period – end of story, you cannot communicate with Jesus either telepathically or in any other way and you can write entire books about why you didn´t go to a coffee shop because of some vague feeling you had, it won´t change the fact that you cannot communicate with Jesus in any way.

            Maybe you’ll be convinced when Jesus comes like lightning. But if you take that long, you’ll miss out on much possible awesomeness in life, much Good News.

            Maybe you´ll be convinced that Jesus is imaginary if you stop applying this ridiculously irrational double standard. Reality is awesome, you should visit it someday.

            It’s funny how many people think they can distinguish what you call “completely indistinguishable”.

            Ah, so you claim that you can distinguish them? Interesting. Then give a list of the thoughts for which you claim that Jesus put them in your mind and explain how you know that they were put into your mind by someone else.

            I’m more interested in a “what if Andy’s model of will is wrong” game. I mean, surely your model of the world denies something, such that it is not meaningless?

            I deny that humans do not (yes, it´s turning into a double negative now) have beliefs, wants, desires and other conscious and subconscious factors that lead to non-random patterns in their behaviour.

            I suppose we simply disagree. See the following:

            since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,

            Here, I view ‘faith’ as momentum…

            There´s no point in trying to explain this to me, the details of the christian belief system are all incomprehensible gibberish to me.

          • Luke Breuer

            That was not what I meant. Why do you believe that guilt / responsibility / whatever requires libertarianism?

            It’s not so much this I meant, than that you seem to be attempting to manipulate my emotions through phrases such as “you are being willfully obtuse”, ostensibly while simultaneously believing that we are supposed to be having a rational discussion, not an emotional discussion, unless you think that the emotions can be trustworthy?

            No, the retort you get is this: this is not a “message” and this is not “communication”, not telepathic or otherwise.

            You sure enjoy despising small beginnings. I guess you prefer strong signals, eh? There are places in the world for such people.

            I asked you to ask Jesus a question and wait for his telepathic answer. You cannot do it. Period – end of story, you cannot communicate with Jesus either telepathically or in any other way and you can write entire books about why you didn´t go to a coffee shop because of some vague feeling you had, it won´t change the fact that you cannot communicate with Jesus in any way.

            Currently, due to the still large number of false beliefs I hold, I cannot get the answer in a small enough ∆t to make you happy. Instead, I have to think very hard about questions I have, and often wait a long time to find answers. The larger the ∆t, the more you are likely inclined to think that the response came from my own mind, than from any other mind. The second example I gave was of this type.

            The first example I gave was of a different type: a desire to increase excellence and goodness in the world. This is a very broad desire, and there are many ways to go about it. I believe that one of the things that Jesus, or perhaps the Holy Spirit, does is act as a coordinator, that omniscient coordinator that utilitarianism does not have and desperately needs to get off the ground.

            Reality is awesome, you should visit it someday.

            Your attempts to manipulate my emotions, whether intended or not, do not make your idea of reality very attractive to me. I am suspicious of any and all people who attempt to manipulate me, regardless of intent.

            Then give a list of the thoughts for which you claim that Jesus put them in your mind and explain how you know that they were put into your mind by someone else.

            My two examples should suffice just as well as one thousand examples would. As to your “how”, go take a look at “the problem of other minds”.

            I deny that humans do not (yes, it´s turning into a double negative now) have beliefs, wants, desires and other conscious and subconscious factors that lead to non-random patterns in their behaviour.

            What is this “non-random”? Is that your idea of any conception of the will that differs from your—that it models will as “random”? No, no, no; my model of free will allows for large momenta and small ∆p, where the { ∆p } are distinctly not isotropic.

            There´s no point in trying to explain this to me, the details of the christian belief system are all incomprehensible gibberish to me.

            Do you or do you not think that your idea of the ‘will’ can be modeled as a many-dimensional momentum vector?

          • Andy_Schueler

            It’s not so much this I meant, than that you seem to be attempting to manipulate my emotions through phrases such as “you are being willfully obtuse”, ostensibly while simultaneously believing that we are supposed to be having a rational discussion, not an emotional discussion, unless you think that the emotions can be trustworthy?

            I explained to you why I used the phrase, if you think that pointing this out is “emotional manipulation”, be my guest, I don´t care.

            You sure enjoy despising small beginnings. I guess you prefer strong signals, eh?

            You don´t get “weak signals” from Jesus and you don´t make “small beginnings” in communicating with Jesus, you cannot communicate with Jesus at all.

            Currently, due to the still large number of false beliefs I hold, I cannot get the answer in a small enough ∆t to make you happy.

            Instead, I have to think very hard about questions I have, and often wait a long time to find answers. The larger the ∆t, the more you are likely inclined to think that the response came from my own mind, than from any other mind.

            Completely false. The delay in time could be 0 and this still wouldn´t be “communication”.
            I highlighted the relevant part – “I have to think very hard” – you don´t get any answers from Jesus at all, it´s all YOU, YOU are thinking and YOU are coming up with an answer. Jesus doesn´t tell you anything, telepathically or otherwise, YOU think until you have found an answer that you are satisfied with. EVERYONE can do the exact same with ANY dead or fictional person.

            Your attempts to manipulate my emotions, whether intended or not, do not make your idea of reality very attractive to me. I am suspicious of any and all people who attempt to manipulate me, regardless of intent.

            Ah, so this was me attempting to manipulate your emotions? Interesting. Well, I am certain that this:
            “Maybe you’ll be convinced when Jesus comes like lightning. But if you take that long, you’ll miss out on much possible awesomeness in life, much Good News.”
            is obviously not an attempt to manipulate my emotions then, because you did it, and you obviously don´t have to play by the same rules as everyone else.

            My two examples should suffice just as well as one thousand examples would. As to your “how”, go take a look at “the problem of other minds”.

            The problem of other minds is completely and utterly irrelevant here. For the conversation we are having right here – I know perfectly well with 100% accuracy which thoughts were contributed by me and which were contributed by you. I would never confuse one for the other – I would NEVER for example assume that it was actually me and not you who thought of raising the problem of other minds as potentially relevant to the issue at hand, I know that it was you, the problem of other minds did not enter my conscious thought in this conversation until you brought it up. I can distinguish my thoughts from yours in this conversation without any problems and with 100% accuracy. How do you tell your own thoughts apart from those that were allegedly inserted into your mind by Jesus?

            What is this “non-random”? Is that your idea of any conception of the will that differs from your—that it models will as “random”?

            What my position denies is that humans do not have a will.
            “What my position denies” is not equal to “how must ANY alternative position look like”. Libertarian free will for example is not a denial of my position, but rather a superset of my position – it takes what I believe about a “will” and adds libertarian freedom to that.

            No, no, no; my model of free will allows for large momenta and small ∆p, where the { ∆p } are distinctly notisotropic.

            If those “∆p” are based on libertarian choices, your model is logically impossible.

            Do you or do you not think that your idea of the ‘will’ can be modeled as a many-dimensional momentum vector?

            No.

          • Luke Breuer

            For the conversation we are having right here – I know perfectly well with 100% accuracy which thoughts were contributed by me and which were contributed by you.

            This is false. Communication is not ‘clean’ like this. Your 100% confidence is something which makes conversation with you painful. Maybe someday you will realize why. For now:

            The best hypothesis seems to be that many people have experience of spiritual powers, but the specific information provided—whether in the form of visions or of ‘heard’ messages—depends very much upon cultural expectations, general background beliefs and the imaginative ability of the human mind to construct vast edifices of ontology from the merest hints of mystery. The omens are not good for the very specific claims that many religions make about God, spirits and the afterlife. Each cultural tradition builds up an increasingly detailed set of such claims. (The Case for Religion, 88)

            This applies to interacting with any other mind, not just God. What you hear me say depends very much on your belief system. I am not communicating concepts to you, I am attempting to get you to construct a concept in your head which matches the concept in my head. See: Unknowable and Incommunicable, plus The Lost Art of Listening. You seem to think communication operates other than how it does, Andy.

          • Andy_Schueler

            This is false. Communication is not ‘clean’ like this.

            So, you actually intend to claim that you cannot distinguish your own thoughts from the messages you receive from someone else in a conversation. You seriously claim that you are genuinely uncertain whether this:
            “This is false. Communication is not ‘clean’ like this”
            is your message or mine – you genuinely do not know what I said and what you said. Well, that would make conversation with you rather pointless, and it also makes an accusation like “this is false” extremely funny – because you would have no idea whether this is my false idea or your own.

            The best hypothesis seems to be that many people have experience of spiritual powers, but the specific information provided—whether in the form of visions or of ‘heard’ messages…

            Completely irrelevant, you didn´t report seeing any visions nor hearing any messages.

            What you hear me say depends very much on your belief system. I am not communicating concepts to you, I am attempting to get you to construct a concept in your head which matches the concept in my head.

            Different ballpark. Completely different ballpark. You cannot magically insert your own thoughts into my mind or vice versa, that indeed is true and trivially so – you can only communicate your thoughts by means of some form of language and this limits both your means of expression and my abilities to understand your intended meaning. And yes, the meaning that I will assign to your message absolutely does depend on my background beliefs. But I will never confuse YOUR messages for MY OWN messages.

            See: Unknowable and Incommunicable, plus The Lost Art of Listening. You seem to think communication operates other than how it does, Andy.

            No. You cannot stay on topic. You never manage to stay on topic when it becomes too obvious that you are wrong.

          • Luke Breuer

            I tire of be thing one who is always at fault for any misunderstanding, Andy. Go find someone else to talk to if this is how you intend to communicate. There are other people, such as Void L. Walker, who will actually do this thing called apologizing. I have apologized to you, but I cannot recall a single instances of you apologizing to me. You talk to me as if you are always right, and I am always wrong. I have tolerated this for a while, but I choose to cease tolerating it.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I tire of be thing one who is always at fault for any misunderstanding, Andy.

            What you claimed was very simple to understand – that religious people, you included, claim to be able to distinguish their own thoughts from those that they received as a message from Jesus.
            What I asked you was also very simple – how do you do that. I don´t see any reason to believe that there was any serious misunderstanding here, that it was not the case that I sufficiently understood your claim and you sufficiently understood my question.
            I didn´t accuse you of being at fault for misunderstanding and I don´t believe that there was any serious misunderstanding going on here to begin with. You know what the issue was about, and you also know that you cannot distinguish “Luke” and “Jesus” in your alleged “communications with Jesus” while you are perfectly able to distinguish “Luke” and “Andy” when we are having a conversation.
            It´s easy, all that´s required is a memory, you remember what you said, wrote or communicated in any other verbal or nonverbal way and you remember what I said, wrote or communicated in any other verbal or nonverbal way – knowing that there are two parties involved that exchange messages, and distinguishing those two parties – “Luke” and “Andy” – from each other is a trivial exercise, if it can even be called an “exercise”. You cannot do that with Jesus. Even if I granted you virtually your entire case – that Jesus is real and that Jesus does magically insert thoughts into your head – you still would not be able to have a conversation with Jesus. You cannot tell your own thoughts apart from the thoughts that you allegedly receive as a “message from Jesus”, you cannot tell “Jesus” apart from “Luke”, there is no “conversation” going on no matter how far you stretch the meaning of the word “conversation”. Your original claim was false, you cannot make the distinction that you claimed to be able to make.
            And here´s the thing – I find myself unable to believe that you don´t realize that. As I said at the beginning of this comment, both your claim and my question are not hard to understand and there are no signs here that there was any serious misunderstanding going on.
            I don´t believe that you are being sincere, this is not the first time this happens and the explanation that you try to deliberately derail from the actual subject has simply become much more plausible.

          • Luke Breuer

            It is precisely your disbelief that I am attempting to be sincere that contributes to tedious discussion. I have operated under such disbelief before; it is degrading and I now choose to stop operating under it. You can cease treating me this way, or we can be communicate exclusively at my discretion. Your choice. Your free choice. Godhood is lonely if you decide what is beautiful and what is ugly.

          • Andy_Schueler

            It is precisely your disbelief that I am attempting to be sincere that contributes to tedious discussion.

            From your perspective maybe. From my perspective, this is tedious because of your hyper-verbosity, ambiguity and obtuseness, deliberate or not.

            I have operated under such disbelief before; it is degrading and I now choose to stop operating under it.

            If you are used to these kind of reactions, then it is of course clear that you did nothing to deserve these reactions and everyone else must be at fault.

            Godhood is lonely if you decide what is beautiful and what is ugly.

            I sense that this is supposed to be some kind of parting shot but pointing out that you believe that your imaginary friend is lonely would be the weirdest parting shot I´ve ever seen.

          • Andy_Schueler

            While we´re at it: I´d also be curious to know if you can point to even just a SINGLE presupposition that I make but you don´t.

          • Luke Breuer

            That pure randomness is ontic.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Swing and a miss. Try again.

          • Luke Breuer

            Wait, this is surprising to me. What do you think is ontic?

          • Andy_Schueler

            An external world outside my imagination.
            I strongly suspect that my presuppositions are a subset of yours, I´d be very surprised if you can find even one thing that I presuppose but you don´t.

          • Luke Breuer

            That free will cannot exist. That trying to build a conception of the world based on freedom of the will is bad, somehow.

          • Andy_Schueler

            “That free will cannot exist.”
            … is a conclusion of mine, pretty much the oppossite of a presupposition.
            Yet another miss, try again.

          • Luke Breuer

            What do you take to be the difference between a person and a non-person? What constitutes personhood, in your view?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce
          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            That is a conclusion, not a presupposition. And it is derived from AN AWFUL AWFUL LOT OF EVIDENCE.

            LFW has absolutely no evidence to support it, other than PRESUPPOSITION based on the truth of the Bible, and that truth being largely invalidated if LFW is not true.

            Do you know what, @Andy_Schueler:disqus, @void_walker_2000:disqus and my lives will be easier in some senses if LFW was true. We have no presupposed need for it to be true. In fact, making sense of morality and politics and crime and punishment is more difficult considering the truth of determinism (but we can still do it, mind). I think you have chosen the wrong, wrong example here. It took evidence to change my mind on this, then an awful lot of philosophical research.

          • Luke Breuer

            That is a conclusion, not a presupposition. And it is derived from AN AWFUL AWFUL LOT OF EVIDENCE.

            Is LFW the only kind of non-{version of free will you hold to}? A while ago, you told me that non-{} would look like:

            1. people randomly doing things with no explanation and people being ok with that
            2. something else that I forget

            I replied, calling 1. nonsense. One can understand skill in anything as the build-up of momentum along the relevant dimensions in a high-dimensional space. Recently, I presented the following to Void:

            I think that many of my actions are determined by choices and stimuli from years past. The issue is not completely freedom to do whatever I want; it is the very act of constraining my actions that allows me to become skilled at various activities, like machining aluminum! So I’m not sure you’re thinking about “freedom of will” properly.

            Imagine that you are a satellite and you have only a given amount of thrust per unit time that you can apply. If you know enough about celestial mechanics—see the Interplanetary Transport Network, for example—you can apply the right ∆v‘s at the right points, to achieve a final desired position. But you’ve gotta apply them at the right points, else your final position might be way off!

            Freedom of will, to me, is the ability to tell your own story. This isn’t completely free from constraints, but you can compare your ability to tell your own story, compared to the next guy. If the next guy has considerable more freedom, you can suspect that there’s some significant social inequality, ceteris paribus. I might even go as far as to define ‘slavery’, at least in part, as “limiting people’s abilities to tell their own stories”.

            This idea of applying small ∆v‘s—theoretically, infinitesimal thrusts seems to throw a wrench in your conception of what {} would look like; see the ITN and discussion of Lagrange points. You seem to be operating under the conception that freedom in a fighter plane is the ability to pick your momentum arbitrarily, instead of pick a ∆p, with some maximum. I don’t understand why. So again: what would falsify the {version of free will you hold to}? What logically possible worlds does it rule out? If it does not rule any out, it is meaningless, no?

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            It may be late, and I have tippled somewhat, but can you restate this:

            “Is LFW the only kind of non-{version of free will you hold to}? A while ago, you told me that non-{} would look like:

            1. people randomly doing things with no explanation and people being ok with that
            2. something else that I forget

            I replied, calling 1. nonsense. One can understand skill in anything as the build-up of momentum along the relevant dimensions in a high-dimensional space. Recently, I presented the following to Void:”

            I am struggling to get you here

          • Luke Breuer

            I want to know what your model of will denies—which logically possible states of affairs does it say do not obtain in this universe? It strikes me that perhaps your world is consistent, but small: fewer building blocks means a smaller set of logically possible worlds. See my Intersubjectivity is Key.

          • Luke Breuer

            And you clearly do see a problem with that, but you only see it when the table is turned and someone else dismisses your arguments by starting irrelevant meta-discussions.

            So far, when you’ve done this, I could only interpret it as mocking me by producing caricatures that were nothing like what I was doing. Perhaps this is a problem with my perception of things, but when you inject too much mockery and refuse to help me understand your points, there is not much I can do. I put a terrific amount of energy into understanding other people, but I have my limits. It is tedious when folks like you insist that 100% of the fault is mine for failure to communicate. Sometimes I just don’t want to work under those conditions.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Luke Breuer – I was just about to write the same sort of comment. When things are not going your way, you change the rules.:

            “When you deny a meaningless statement, all you do is deny that it can be formulated within one’s current system of axioms. For example, “square circles” are impossible in 2-space, but one can have a 3-space object which can be projected into 2-space as a square or a circle, depending on the projection.

            When you deny a meaningless statement, you don’t make a falsifiable statement. Do you realize this? Do you find this an important observation? Andy Schueler has repeatedly pointed out to me that I’m not communicating anything if my sentences don’t deny anything. Do you find this to be the case as well, or do you think that he might be wrong? I can probably quote the specifics if you’d like.”

            So talking about square circles, we are clearly implying Euclidean geometry – that is what makes the terms square and circle make sense. You then change the rules of the analogy to make it fit your point and save you from the obvious consequences. If something is logically meaningless, changing the rules of logic rather than except a rather obvious point seems disingenuous. ;)

            What I think you do a lot of it positing possibilities (coulds) and hang more than is warranted n that, Don’t worry, you are in good company – WLC and most apologists do this to the point that I think possibiliter ergo probabiliter is one of the most prevalent fallacies in debates (Carrier’s latinization there).

            Granted I should give you more concrete examples but that would mean a serious trawling through some comments!

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            The way I see it si this:

            Void/atheist: There is much suffering / things not right with the world / inconsistencies

            Luke / theists: They seem inconsistent / gratuitous but are not

            VA: OK, well I need a pretty good reason for all this mess

            LT: I have enough other information and evidence to know/suppose God exists. I do not need this other knowledge or cannot access this other knowledge that gives me the reasons for the range of suffeing / not rightness with the world.

            VA: I need good reasons , or God can do one.

            LT: You seek more knowledge than you need (to believe and come to love God)

            VA: I simply CANNOT believe with this huge gap in understanding

            LT: I CAN

            And so the two diverge. The theist relies on the logical problem of evil, the atheist on the evidential problem of evil.

            I will post a post to articulate this better.

          • Luke Breuer

            You ignore a crucial factor of increasing knowledge. A critical component of science is life: we know a good idea is good because it leads to more good ideas, on and on and on. When we hit a dead end, we can trace back, find something bad, and rectify it. Max Planck said “Science advances one funeral at a time.” for a reason. We trust science in large part because it has life.

            A similar process is available in the response to evil. In my life, I have learned how to redeem greater and greater evils. This comes from increasing moral knowledge: of what ought to be, how what is deviates from it, and how to move from isought. There is life in this process, an increasing knowledge.

            I will note that I argued this five months ago:

            On Philosophy.SE, I asked, How could ‘objective morality’ be known/investigated? There, I posit that:

                 (1) research into objective reality

            may be mirrored by

                 (2) research into objective morality.

            A key aspect of said research when it comes to science is that we don’t talk about the ‘end goal’—what reality is truly like—or at least we don’t spend too much time on that. Instead, most of the time is spent on the next step forward. I suggest that (2) should follow the same methodology, and that this does much to mitigate against the problems with thinking about infinity mentioned by Jonathan.

            Your argument is predicated upon stagnancy of Christianity. If it can show signs of life, if it can demonstrate ability to do (2), then your argument falls to pieces. Or have I erred?

          • Nerdsamwich

            Please tell me you’re kidding–that you did not just pull a Pat Robertson and blame viruses and hurricanes on human wickedness. I thought you were better than that.
            Is there a moral failing to account for the size difference between male and female elephant seals, such that the female often doesn’t survive mating? Are female ducks so horrible that they deserve for over three-fourths of duck sex to be straight up rape? Do little babies merit being born with spina bifida, or is that punishment for their parents? Why not punish the parents with childlessness instead?
            Problems caused by lack of pain wouldn’t exist if existence weren’t based largely on suffering. If there is a programmer, that’s the programmer’s fault. Hell, since you like to break things down to the level of math, how about Malthus’s Law? I’m pretty sure that if a regular human programmer wanted to simulate himself a friend, he wouldn’t do it by creating billions upon billions of helpless, conscious AIs who, by design, had to kill each other to sustain themselves. I can imagine a greater being.

          • Luke Breuer

            I did not mean to indicate that humans are the only moral agents other than God, but I can see how it seemed that way. As to why not punish parents with childlessness, this would not allow people to understand what it means when they take the lives of others’ children—or something less heinous. Many people refuse to trust; the next step after this is to force them to experience evil. God can do this easily by forcing two evil parties into contact. The OT is full of this: Habakkuk is a nice, compact example. Let evil destroy evil.

          • Nerdsamwich

            So congenital defects are punishment to parents. So YHWH considers human lives mere means to an end?

          • Void L. Walker

            Luke, Idk if you’ve been busy but you haven’t answered my last comment. When you get around to it

          • Luke Breuer

            I can imagine a greater being.

            Like yourself? Like you would be a better god than God? This bit was written for you. And it is one reason Jesus said we must “deny ourselves”.

          • Nerdsamwich

            If by “God” you mean YHWH, that’s a big yes. Not only am I morally superior, I can figure out a way to deal with a dude on an iron chariot.

          • Luke Breuer

            So you could do better than Isaiah 58? I’ve seen nothing from you that would indicate such, but I haven’t observed that many aspects of you, so perhaps you do have some beauty in that direction.

          • Nerdsamwich

            I would counter with the entire books of Numbers and Judges. Kings can be pretty horrible, too. And let’s not forget Genesis, where he sets up humanity to commit original sin, kills nearly everyone, infants included, in a temper tantrum, and creates racism out of fear of human potential. Yeah, I can do better.

          • Luke Breuer

            Who, exactly, planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

            Yes, you can do better given your starting point. We so often forget that the accident of our birth so strongly impacts how we think of reality and what we think the line of demarcation is, between good and evil. We forget barbaric times, and we forget how slow moral progress can be, how stubborn people can be.

            We forget facts like our beliefs impacting our perceptions:

            The best hypothesis seems to be that many people have experience of spiritual powers, but the specific information provided—whether in the form of visions or of ‘heard’ messages—depends very much upon cultural expectations, general background beliefs and the imaginative ability of the human mind to construct vast edifices of ontology from the merest hints of mystery. The omens are not good for the very specific claims that many religions make about God, spirits and the afterlife. Each cultural tradition builds up an increasingly detailed set of such claims. (The Case for Religion, 88)

            We think that communication is perfect, which is false, false, false.

          • Nerdsamwich

            Given that Elohim planted the tree, you would think they would be a little better at the whole moral thing.
            “We think that communication is perfect, which is false, false, false.” This is my point. You’re talking about an absolutely perfect omni-being. Why can’t it communicate effectively?

          • Luke Breuer

            Given that Elohim planted the tree, you would think they would be a little better at the whole moral thing.

            Who says that’s given? I suggest a closer reading:

            And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2:9)

            God made every tree which was (i) pleasant to the sight; (ii) good for food. Now notice:

            So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:6)

            Eve identified this tree as both (ii) and (i). But God said:

            And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)

            I’m pretty sure that bit about “you shall surely die” means that it was bad for food, or ¬(ii). Which means God didn’t plant that tree, per Gen 2:9. Clearly there are other agents at play who can alter creation, injecting poison into it—or perhaps privation, per Augustine’s privation theory of evil.

          • Nerdsamwich

            So you’re a polytheist, then? How does that play at your church?

          • Luke Breuer

            I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; (Ps 82:6)

          • Luke Breuer

            “We think that communication is perfect, which is false, false, false.” This is my point. You’re talking about an absolutely perfect omni-being. Why can’t it communicate effectively?

            Your definition of “communicate effectively” includes an element of compulsion, which is not agape love, and thus is not in God’s nature. With words we create reality; see Judith Butler’s Performativity for details on this. Words are the most powerful entities in existence. For this “communicate effectively” to work, God would have to force us to think about things properly. But this would turn us into robots!

            After all, we are our conceptions of (i) what is; (ii) what ought to be. For God to “communicate effectively” would mean the magical use of words to alter (i) and/or (ii). This would mean God forcibly changing who we are. This is not in God’s nature. It is in Satan’s nature. How does Satan compel? By lying. By telling you that if you do things his suggested way, you’ll get something you want more easily than God’s suggested way. Maybe Satan bullshits as well.

            Another way of thinking about this is to consider God as life-giver. Our freedom consists in how we direct the growth. See:

            What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor 3:5-9)

            If God were also to direct the growth, forcibly, there would be no freedom, and we would not be made in his image, with the potential to be as free as he is. Instead, we would be robots.

          • Nerdsamwich

            I said communicate effectively. That is, to actually make known in unambiguous language what he wants, among other things. If my two-year-old tells me that she wants a glass of juice, that’s clear, unambiguous, effective communication. There is no element of compulsion; I can refuse to get her the juice, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that she wants it. How is it that your “greatest conceivable being” can’t communicate as well as my two-year-old daughter? And then he blames humans for not getting the message, and if it’s the OT, he starts slaughtering them en masse; in the NT, he waits for them to die and then tortures them forever. Isn’t that compulsion?

            PS: Your argument about Satan(who doesn’t exist in the OT, remember) seems to make him very nearly YHWH’s equal. Pretty sure that’s blasphemy.

          • Luke Breuer

            That is, to actually make known in unambiguous language what he wants, among other things.

            You speak as if language is like a magical thing, whereby I can construct precisely the concept I want in your head, by using the right incantation. This is false, for you may resist this process of construction. If you have your heart set on obtaining a thing, my attempts at explaining why this is bad may fail, due to false beliefs you have adopted and/or a will which is opposed to the threat that it is pursuing something which will be bad.

            Now, fortunately the above is not required. Instead, we can approach the truth via successive approximation, just like we do in science. The mathematical structure of General Relativity subsumed the mathematical structure of F = ma. And so can successive conceptions of what God is like, of how he created the world, and of what he wants (which I believe is fundamentally human thriving; see Deut 6:20-25).

            You may be laboring under the false conception that what God wants is finitely communicable; I believe this is manifestly false. I discuss this in my comment on Jonathan’s How can we mere mortals state what God SHOULD do?, where I argue that the definition of “human thriving” is a real infinity, in the sense of being defined by [infinitely many] non-recursively enumerable axioms. And so, God can help us arrive at better and better conceptions of “human thriving”, with no upper bound, no limit.

            PS: Your argument about Satan(who doesn’t exist in the OT, remember) seems to make him very nearly YHWH’s equal. Pretty sure that’s blasphemy.

            Fine, we can talk about “the accuser”. I can argue for why I believe Satan and “the accuser” are one and the same—throw in the serpent, too if you want.

          • Nerdsamwich

            If you’re going to create finitely, you’d better be able to communicate finitely. Your argument boils down to “talking is hard”. That does not excuse an infinite being.

            “Fine, we can talk about “the accuser”. I can argue for why I believe
            Satan and “the accuser” are one and the same—throw in the serpent, too if you want.” This is a definitional quibble, completely sidestepping the point of that to which you’re replying. Which is an insinuation of blasphemy, in case you forgot.

          • Luke Breuer

            On the contrary, you must demonstrate, based on a realistic model of human nature as observed by looking at humans throughout spacetime, that there was a better way for God to communicate. Demonstrating such a counter factual is surprisingly hard. What you have been doing is what I call “waving your omni-wand”—pretending that there is a different possible state of affairs, without showing that such a state of affairs is indeed possible.

            As to the Satan thing, I reject all your claims and point out that it was you who raised the issue, not I.

          • Nerdsamwich

            I don’t have an omni-wand, YHWH does. Hypothetically. In any case, it’s not required here. Just plain old words. Ones that say what they mean. You don’t seem to realize that I’m arguing from your premises, here. You posit that the big, wide universe was created by a person. With no body or existence in time. Who loves me unconditionally(conditions apply) and wants me to be happy(His way. If I do it mine, I get tortured for eternity.).
            This concept is terribly at odds with YHWH’s self-description in his own book. I merely pointed out holes in your concept, and compared with the documented version in the OT.

            “As to the Satan thing, I reject all your claims and point out that it was you who raised the issue, not I.” Au contraire: “This is not in God’s nature. It is in Satan’s nature.” And one more time; how is it that this Satan of yours has the power to disrupt and alter your god’s perfect plan?

          • Luke Breuer

            As long as you argue that certain possible worlds exist—worlds ‘better’ than ours, via your concept of ‘better’—without giving realistic constructions of them, I will be unable to talk about such worlds with you, nor your concept of ‘better’.

            Who loves me unconditionally(conditions apply) and wants me to be happy(His way. If I do it mine, I get tortured for eternity.).

            From C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain:

            What are you asking God to so? To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what he does. (128)

            From Josef Pieper’s The Concept of Sin:

            The word “forgive,” apparently dropped here so casually by Lewis, summons up a couple of more questions for us to consider. That forgiveness can be vouchsafed only to the one who wants it, or at least is willing to accept it, is perfectly obvious to everyone. If someone were to be forgiven who does not want forgiveness, that would mean declaring him literally incapable of assuming responsibility for himself. (91)

            If I do it mine, I get tortured for eternity.

            Alternatively, you create your own hell by choosing yourself over God. Pieper notes that Sartre also has the idea of hell being locked from the inside, in his No Exit. More Pieper:

            hell consists in man being taken at his own word when he refuses to love. (91)

            C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces is a wonderful story about someone who thought she was loving, when she was being, at her core, selfish, self-loving. C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce also gets at this, by exposing people’s rationalizations for self-love.

            If your way is self-love, Nerdsamwich, you will get the naturalistic consequences of that self-love. If you love others more than yourself, I think you will ultimately love God the most, very much in line with Luke 14:25-33.

            You speak as if you ought to be allowed to decide the rules of morality, any more than you can decide the rules of physics. This is insanity. I do think God lets us be creative—he could let us pick what direction to go from Lagrangian points, for example. But if we choose options leading to death—that is, to believe false statements—then after some amount of attempts to dissuade us, he will give us what we want: death.

            Whether the true end is annihilation, a finite amount of suffering over an infinite amount of time (see convergent series), or an infinite amount of suffering, I do not know. It is not particularly relevant to me, because I don’t use hell as a motivator for myself in any way, shape, or form. “Perfect love casts out fear.”

          • Nerdsamwich

            “As long as you argue that certain possible worlds exist—worlds ‘better’
            than ours, via your concept of ‘better’—without giving realistic
            constructions of them, I will be unable to talk about such worlds with
            you, nor your concept of ‘better’.” How about one with an OT in which YHWH self-describes according to whatever god-concept you would term “accurate”, instead the current one is which he calls himself jealous, vengeful, and full of wrath? You argued earlier that God needs to bring people’s ideas of himself nearer reality; why did he give them the wrong idea in the first place?

          • Luke Breuer

            You assume it was Yahweh who gave them their initial conception of him. What if God were in the business of building a conception of him, using various extant concepts available at the time? The Bible holds that Abraham was not the first human to know Yahweh. What if knowledge of Yahweh had eroded over time and needed to be reestablished? You seem to have assumed all these options out of logical possibility space, or perhaps, the ‘reasonable’ portion therein.

          • Nerdsamwich

            “The Bible holds that Abraham was not the first human to know Yahweh.” Who was?

          • Luke Breuer

            Well, mythologically, Adam and Eve. But that really isn’t important. What is important is that in Abraham’s case, his idea of Yahweh very likely evolved out of a polytheistic world. Yahweh “artificially selected” Abraham’s theistic beliefs. :-)

            Surely you know that a society’s beliefs morph over time, and can become more delusional? Just look at post-WWI, pre-WWII thought in England. There was denial all over the place. Appeasement, appeasement! Right. The art of un-deluding a society is very difficult; war is one way to do it, but it is better to at least try more peaceful methods.

            What your claim seems to reduce to is that God ought not have let people’s conceptions of is and ought get as twisted as they did, and still do. God should put bumpers in the bowling lanes, as it were. This would restrict freedom of will, but perhaps the cost would be worth the benefit? I don’t think this, but perhaps you do.

          • Nerdsamwich

            Early Genesis was Elohim, not YHWH. Late Genesis–Noah–was El, which you might notice is the singular form of Elohim. Pretty sure Abraham was the first mention of YHWH.

            “Surely you know that a society’s beliefs morph over time, and can become more delusional?” How do you know that’s not what happened to your church? After all, their ideas about the god of Abraham certainly don’t match those of Abraham himself, which was the point of the OP.

          • Luke Breuer

            The important question is whether there is continuity with an understandable set of transforms (at the limit: a full continuous function). My best guess is that there is. My conception of Yahweh is a refined version of what was believed 2500-3500 years ago. It’s as if people understand God better as time rolls forward. Fancy that!

          • Nerdsamwich

            ” My conception of Yahweh is a refined version of what was believed 2500-3500 years ago.” I beg to differ. He’s an entirely different person. The god of Abraham named himself Jealous, stated outright that he was exceedingly vengeful and filled with wrath. You say that God loves everyone, that he told us to love our neighbors. YHWH told his people to massacre their neighbors. Jesus said to turn the other cheek. YHWH said that he would visit the offenses of the fathers upon three generations of their sons. YHWH said, “Serve not the strange gods of your neighbors.” Your church says there are no strange gods to serve. Gotta face facts, here. You do not worship the God of Abraham and Moses.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Spot on, Nerd.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            But this is exactly the issue that Gericke and thus myself are pointing to. You cannot say it has evolved from those times because those OT claims were, in the main, literalist claims. You cannot interpret them in the way that you want, no matter how much you might philosophically need to.

            Those parochial claims were certainly of their time, but they were also un-interpretable. In other words, false. And if that is the case, Christianity falls to pieces, since Jesus is an incarnation of that parochial Warrior Storm God who declared to make sure every jot and tittle is fulfilled.

            House of cards, matey.

          • Luke Breuer

            those OT claims were, in the main, literalist claims.

            John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One argues that the epistemology of ANE folks 2500-3500 years ago was more functional than ontic; this seems to be in conflict to “in the main, literalist”.

            I see that Jako Gericke is also a scholar in this realm; it seems that he and Walton have some fundamental disagreements. Do you know of any attempts to resolve those disagreements?

            House of cards, matey.

            Not so fast; the idea that religion has always primarily been a means of explaining what is, is torn apart by Keith Ward in The Case for Religion:

            One immediate result of such an inquiry [figuring out how modern religious adherents would describe ‘religion’] would surely be to suggest that people are not primarily interested in trying to explain why events happen, and their practice is not primarily intended to make things happen as they wish. The contemporary Christian does not go to church to find out how televisions or transistors work, or to make sure that she gets a good job. Appeal to God is so far from explaining anything that it is more often a puzzle than a clarification. The query, ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ never explains it; it intensifies the problem. So it seems very odd to suggest that the motivation for belief in God is a desire for explanation. Similarly, Christians are usually castigated by preachers for trying to use religion as a means to worldly success. (46)

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            The problem then becomes that God would know that most Christians from thereon in would have an incorrect use of the Bible (think about the misappropriation of Scripture to defend slavery as an analogy). Thus the revelation is imperfect and people use the Bible in a way not originally intended, coming up with incorrect conclusions. Shoddy work.

          • Luke Breuer

            You’re turning people into information processing machines, whereby they just need the right input and they’ll give the right output. I realize this fits in with your idea of the will, but I disagree strongly, and I have a long tradition to back me up. You cannot even blame God for doing what he did, if he does not have freedom of the will. So if you want to blame God, you must presuppose freedom of the will for the conversation, and once you’ve done that, then mere knowledge is not enough: people have to choose God over themselves. And then, you must ask whether the misinterpretation that goes on is a matter of innocence or sin.

          • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

            Have you seen my second par? Also, I am replying to Jayman there which will have a lot more detail about what you mention there.

            http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2014/03/14/the-problem-with-yahweh-2/

          • Nerdsamwich

            Awesome! I’d been awaiting its advent with bated breath.

          • Luke Breuer

            Hell, since you like to break things down to the level of math, how about Malthus’s Law?

            If you think evolution is driven primarily by Malthus’ Law, you’ve got some learning to do. You could start at the Nature article Symbiosis leads to diversity. Or we could look at all the beauty that has resulted from evolution and ask whether it is really necessary†. We could then take the Jesus approach of looking to see (a) what it was God was doing; (b) what it was God was not doing. Just like the beginning of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, I don’t believe God is the only creative force after some ∆T after creation.

            † You must be careful here, for evolution is not a ‘finished’ theory. So to say that the current formulation can explain all issues is fallacious to the extreme; it is the same category of error as those late nineteenth century classical physicists who said they had everything figured out. This does not mean there is anything close to being a competitor to the theory of evolution. (We could call it ‘fact’ and adjust our vocabulary appropriately if you’d like.) Evolution really is the best we’ve got now.

            You are viewing the history of evolution through death- and pain- and shit-colored glasses. All you can see is these things, if you see evolution as largely based on Malthus’ Law. Maybe you can see a bit of beauty here or there, but even it is viewed through these glasses, as solely ‘purposed’ toward “the survival of the fittest”. Natural selection is vicious, we are told. It is no respecter of persons.

            I was talking to a professor of computer science, who did cell biology early on in his profession, and he noted that “survival of the fittest” is flawed: it should be “survival of the fittest or of the equally fit“: see genetic drift. This has a direct analog for people: egalitarianism is a way to approach “equally fit” among humans, which can be contrasted with Social Darwinism, which is predicated upon a >-sign, instead of a ≥-sign.

            “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

            Your glasses cause you to see only darkness, Nerdsamwich. Try taking them off? Oh, How Wolves Change Rivers is relevant to this conversation. Whether or not you think it supports your point or my point better is up for you to decide. :-)

          • Nerdsamwich

            I wasn’t talking about evolution, I was talking about the necessary cruelty of a Creator who would ordain nature such that Malthus’s Law applies. I don’t see how you got a jump to evolutionary theory from a discussion of natural evils, which, you’ll recall, you referred to as “not yet known to be moral evils”. I countered with several examples of natural evils, and challenged you to point out how they could have as a cause any moral lack. Nice attempt to change the subject, though. Not to mention taking that quote entirely out of context.

          • Luke Breuer

            It’s almost as if God weren’t the only one first-causing…

          • Nerdsamwich

            Again, refer to the examples: hurricanes, earthquakes, ducks raping each other. Where is the moral dimension? I submit that the only moral failing that could possibly result in these natural evils is on the part of a postulated creator.

          • Luke Breuer

            Postulating non-human, non-God moral agents is something that, at this point, must merely be posited to get the whole system working. Scientists do this, too: see dark matter.

          • Nerdsamwich

            So, what, some evil ground-shaking fairy is responsible for earthquakes? Maybe one named, I don’t know, Poseidon? You’re straying perilously close to idolatry, sir.

          • Luke Breuer

            You seem to have forgotten, or never acknowledged, the ‘we’ and ‘us’ in Gen 1:26. I’d look into “the heavenly court”. I would also suggest the first chapter of Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.

            As to idolatry, you don’t know your first two Words:

                “You shall have no other gods before me.
                “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Ex 20:3-6)

            1. “before me”

            2. Don’t make a picture of the thing and call it the thing. Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

          • Nerdsamwich

            You know, you never did answer the question posed immediately above. At what point must you conclude that the fault lies in the message?

          • Luke Breuer

            Pick up a 200-year-old science textbook. If you lack the appropriate expertise, you may not have any idea whether the author was correct or not. The only thing you can really know is whether you can use the book as fodder to better understand reality and learn how to better act in it. You could find logical contradictions in the textbook, but that wouldn’t be an open-and-shut case; see the ultraviolet catastrophe. You could find a single wrong fact, but that also isn’t a close-and-shut case. Indeed, perhaps the facts changed (e.g. average global temperature), perhaps the commonly accepted ideas made this textbook a critical step forward (see Phrenology, especially as discussed in Descartes’ Error).

            At some point though, I could just give up on the textbook, declaring that I am unable to extract more than some amount of knowledge from it. If, after trying and trying and trying, I could extract no more, I would be left with the conclusion that there is fault either in the message or in me. I am not God. But the effect would be [partially] the same as declaring fault lies in it: I would stop trying to extract new knowledge from the textbook.

            I have not hit “some point” with the Bible. And so I still read it, think about it, talk about it, etc. Sometimes I hit “some point” in various parts of the Bible, but due to it’s fantastic library-nature, I can almost always find something which will teach me something new, somewhere else. For example, yesterday I read:

            And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” And to the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the house. (Ezek 9:4-6)

            This reminded me of the mark of the beast, and I thought: I wonder if someone will try to ‘fulfill’ the above Ezekiel passage, in the future! Or perhaps that future is past. I don’t know, but it was a pretty neat discovery, especially since a friend of mine who has done some thinking about the mark of the beast hadn’t recalled the above passage. Ezek 9:4-6 also links to James 4, especially vv7-10. It is especially neat given that those given the mark in Ezek 9:4-6 are those with empathy, which shockingly matches up with John Loftus’ The Basis for Morality is Empathy. Loftus is vehemently anti-Christian, in a fundamentalist sense btw.

          • Nerdsamwich

            That’s all very fascinating, but has absolutely nothing to do with the question. We were discussing YHWH, the Old Testament god who would routinely speak directly to his people, giving them instructions for how to run a country, conduct a war, and just live day to day. According to the book, he spoke with various prophets and the kings of Israel on a regular basis for centuries. Yet, a few posts ago, you told me that several iterations of the Covenant were needed to bring people closer to him. That they had the wrong idea about his nature. How? After generations of conversing with the guy, how could they still be so horribly wrong? Either they were remarkably stupid, or YHWH is just a horrible communicator. Or lying. And if was stupidity on the part of the Hebrews, why did YHWH make them that way? Or choose them as his special people? That is the point I’m getting at. It just makes no sense that a people who have so much direct experience with their deity would have misconceptions about its nature.

          • Luke Breuer

            That’s all very fascinating, but has absolutely nothing to do with the question.

            If you are going to decide what is true, instead of say things like, “I don’t see how this connects”, I cannot profitably communicate with you.

          • Nerdsamwich

            I think the system ate my reply. If not, apologies for DP. Here’s my best recollection of what it was.(Plus a bit)

            You’re still dodging the point, and taking a single line of my reply out of context as a basis for your response(isn’t that what theists are always accusing secularists of?). I followed your quoted line with an explanation of the point, to try to get things back on track. I followed that with an answer to your further digression, because I thought the point was worth addressing. Feel free to address both the main point and the digression if you want, but this dodgery is getting old.

          • Luke Breuer

            The problem is, what you see as inconsequential, I see as perhaps a mismatch of presuppositions. If you are the arbiter of what is and is not important, then we cannot communicate, except on your terms and your terms alone. I am not interested in such communication.

            Note that another of our discussions is getting at the issues you raise, above. I am not intentionally dodging anything; I’m merely trying to construct a coherent view, instead of work off of presuppositions which are either too small (cannot prove the truth of true statements), or contradictory.

            P.S. I suggest editing responses in a text/html editor, because of the untrustworthiness of Disqus.

          • Luke Breuer

            As to Ha-Satan, I think I should read more about him before continuing this discussion. Do you have recommendations?

          • Nerdsamwich

            A quick and vigorous Googling brought me this: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090731133327AAY0UNO
            The question contains the pertinent information, along with references, biblical and otherwise. The answers are far less useful. The Wikipedia entry is also nifty: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satan

          • Luke Breuer

            Thanks; it’s been a while since I looked at this and I don’t think the WP article was nearly as intricate back then.

          • Luke Breuer

            It’s not a dismissal to classify religious experiences as hallucinations.

            In a sense this is true; the real question is whether one views religious experiences as noise—that is, randomness—or whether you think there is order, or ‘structure’ to them. The more we discover this ‘structure’, the more we will learn. And perhaps we will find objectivity after enough structure is discovered. We did it with beauty in physics. There is a kind of beauty which is pretty close to objective. (In Search of Beauty)

          • Nerdsamwich

            That’s training your aesthetic sensibilities to enjoy heavy math. If anything, it’s a testament to the subjectivity of aesthetics.

          • Luke Breuer

            Do you believe in an objective anything? Or is it all subjective?

          • Nerdsamwich

            Rocks are pretty objective. As are measurements of the properties of rocks. Opinions, on the other hand…

          • Luke Breuer

            Then you are special-pleading if you think that your five external-facing senses are more ‘objective’ than all the other inputs to your brain (including the input that says, “this is probably accurate”): see “I trust my senses” — Why does this tend to be restricted to the external senses? If you cannot demonstrate that you aren’t special-pleading, then I shall reject your argument on that ground. You would do the same to me, I predict.

          • Nerdsamwich

            Opinions, aesthetics included, are not inputs. They are outputs–reactions to input stimuli.
            On another note, I only trust my senses because they’re the only game in town, and I seek independent verification of their inputs whenever possible. Reality may indeed not be objective, but every method I have of testing it acts like it is, so I kinda just have to go along with it.

          • Luke Breuer

            If you think your five external senses are objective, you are deluded. Your brain highly processes all sensory input. As to “reactions to input stimuli”—how is judgment not also such a reaction? You are still likely special-pleading.

          • Nerdsamwich

            I just said that I trust my senses only because I lack other options, and only insofar as they can be independently verified. That is, not very objective at all. You are being quite disingenuous. Is it deliberate?

          • Luke Breuer

            Do you trust your judgment? If so, is it one of your senses, or is it generated from your senses, like beauty?

          • Nerdsamwich

            Sometimes, and no, it’s a synthesis.

            You know, in all this back-and-forth, we seem to have lost sight of something: words mean things. An objective phenomenon, by definition, is external to the observer. So no, an opinion can in no wise be objective.

          • Luke Breuer

            How is your judgment not “an opinion”? You seem to be trying, very hard, to let judgment be more objective than beauty or whatever else, even though it is a computation done on sense-data just as beauty is. You’re special-pleading, wiggle as you try to convince yourself and me that you aren’t.

          • Nerdsamwich

            I didn’t say that. A synthesis of information is organizing, recombining and computing with it, exactly as we both described. Calm down, man. Far from special pleading, I have been arguing this whole time–opposed by you, I might add–to class the aesthetic sensibility right along with every other purely internal experience: as completely subjective. You were the one trying to make a mere opinion into “a truth-seeking sense” on the order of vision and hearing. I agree that there appears to be some special pleading going on here, but respectfully differ as to its source.

          • Luke Breuer

            So you agree that our judgment of what is true and what is false is “completely subjective”? I mean, what’s the difference between our judgment of what is true and what is false—which arises 100% from sense-experience—and our sense of beauty—which also arises 100% from sense-experience?

          • Nerdsamwich

            Have you never someone who couldn’t tell when something was too good to be true?

          • Luke Breuer

            For your first/last point, do you think all I do is argue about the bedtime stories of bronze-age barbarians? I appreciate beauty plenty. I just don’t find it in religion.

            What did I say to give the impression that I concluded that ^ is “all you do”? I don’t understand how you interpreted this from my words.

            When you claim that X is irreparably contradictory, you make a very strong statement. Oftentimes when people do this, I find that they’ve actually just been lazy. Imagine if scientists hadn’t struggled with particle-wave duality until it no longer seemed paradoxical!

          • Andy_Schueler

            I know that it is an option to:

            (1) dismiss all religious experience as ‘brain noise’

            Andy Schueler doesn’t like the term ‘brain noise’, but it seems to me a generalization of the term ‘hallucination’, which is often used to dismiss visual religious experience. Anyhow, I think it is distinctly possible that:

            (2) religious experience is the subjective reporting of objective experience

            You can repeat this Bullshit as often as you want – NO ONE dismisses your “religious experiences” as “brain noise”, “hallucinations” or anything else. Your “religious experiences” are real, and your “relationship” with Jesus provides exactly as much evidence for Jesus being real as someone else´s “relationship” with Harry Potter provides evidence for Harry Potter being real.

          • Luke Breuer

            Philosophy Now‘s Hallucinatory Experience & Religion Formation:

            Shawn Harte considers how hallucination might be mistaken for the supernatural.

            Jan/Feb 2014 issue, heh.

          • Andy_Schueler

            NO ONE dismisses your “religious experiences” as “brain noise”, “hallucinations” or anything else

          • Luke Breuer

            Oh I seem a joke! Kinda hard to detect with all the bullshit.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Not a joke, you described your religious experiences and there is nothing among those that even remotely resembles a hallucination no matter how far you stretch the meaning of the word “hallucination”.

    • GearHedEd

      Yahweh wanted much more than bare acknowledgment of his existence. Lucifer acknowledged his existence; this didn’t seem to help Lucifer much?

      A: its a fairy tale; anything goes, and it need not be logical.

      B: IF it isn’t a fairy tale (arguendo…), then God wanted his “chosen people” to grovel and worship him, and him alone as well (apparently, there were other choices available…) (See Exodus 20:3…).

      • Luke Breuer

        I simply disagree that ‘grovel’ describes the situation. It takes a very pessimistic view, which differs greatly from the revelation of Jesus Christ. You basically have two options:

             (1) Agree with Marcion that Jesus and Yahweh are completely different and not the same Trinitarian ouisa.

             (2) Consider that your interpretation of Yahweh is wrong and in need of correction, a correction which Jesus provides.

        Many choose (1). I choose (2). It may be the case that (2) is impossible, but I have yet to be convinced of it. Indeed, the more I read the OT, the more I find (2) possible. When Jesus was teaching his disciples on the Road to Emmaus, I believe he was providing a (2)-interpretation of the OT.

        • GearHedEd

          You basically have two options:

          Nope. There are at least three options:

          Option # 3: It’s all mythology and none of it has any traction in the real world. This is what it looks like to me, and I defy you to refute this.

          • Luke Breuer

            Whether or not it is mythology is irrelevant to (1) and (2).

          • GearHedEd

            Nice refutation!

            Whether or not it is mythology is irrelevant to (1) and (2).

            If it’s mythology, then we’re really arguing whether Aragorn has a legitimate claim to the throne of Gondor, and the Jesus/Yahweh question becomes just so much quibbling over details in a fiction.

          • Luke Breuer

            What isn’t fiction? F = ma is a fiction. GR is a fiction. Our perceptions are fictions. The true question is how close the fiction is to reality. Many myths are powerful because they connect to reality. They do this because patterns in them match patterns in reality, even though the match is never 100%. The world is not binary, unless you’re a non-sentient computer.

          • GearHedEd

            From my point of view, the fiction of Gospel Jesus doesn’t map anywhere near “reality”.

          • Luke Breuer

            Have you looked at the spread of the early Christian church and tried to figure out what a sufficient cause for that spread would be?

          • GearHedEd

            A desire to believe that Death is not really The End.

            A general acceptance of belief in the supernatural among the unwashed masses of the time.

            A perception that the more outrageous the claim (e.g., rising from the dead to sit at the right hand of GOD), the better the chance that people would gravitate to it; i.e., why continue to worship puny pagan gods when Jesus is so much more powerful? The pagans were literally choked with gods, so it isn’t hard to swallow the idea that another one claiming to be a godling might be taken seriously, even in the event that he was just a man.

            Lack of any evidence to disconfirm the wild claims, e.g., “The Tomb was empty!” (this can only mean that the claim of resurrection is surely Troo™…

            Wild zealots roaming into town from the desert claiming that “Jesus is Risen!” and starting churches all over Asia Minor. Folks like that would have been considered ‘Holy Men’ in those days of rampant superstition, not as folks with mental issues who should be avoided.

            All of these either separately or more likely in combination (and this is by no means an exhaustive list…) could explain the emergence of Christianity. As it stands Christianity didn’t become “big” until the mid-4th Century. There were reputed to have been some 300 “bishops” at the First Council of Nicaea in 325, but one must remember that the early Christian definition of ‘bishop’ included everything down to street preachers with one or two followers. And the Christianity we know today was BORN in Nicaea, not in the crucifixion or the resurrection. One of the central issues debated and voted upon there was whether Jesus was divine or not.

            So Jesus became the divine son of God as a result of ‘winning the vote’ some 300 years after the death of Jesus, and the Nicene Creed became the orthodoxy that was utterly lacking in the early “church”. Even as a kid when I was reciting the Nicene Creed in church, I felt like the Prosecutor in the Original Series Star Trek episode All Our Yesterdays who hollers out “There are witches! There ARE!” when Kirk confronts him with his suspicion that the Prosecutor is also from the planet’s future. That guy KNEW there were no such things as witches, but he maintains the façade because everyone else believes there are…

          • Luke Breuer

            All of these either separately or more likely in combination (and this is by no means an exhaustive list…) could explain the emergence of Christianity.

            Do these constitute a tested model, or mythology?

          • GearHedEd

            I’m guessing if you had any legitimate concerns with any of these, you’d have already objected instead of posing a question…

            You asked; I answered.

          • Luke Breuer

            You know what the difference is between a just-so story and a tested model, right? Are your I-IV an example of the former, or the latter? If the latter, you have an evidential burden.

          • GearHedEd

            As far as I’m concerned, the Gospels are a rack of “just-so stories”. You want us to believe in magic, then YOU have an evidential burden. Nothing I said above in I. through V. requires anything beyond the mundane, and if you would defeat those, you need to provide some evidence.

          • Luke Breuer

            You could take a look at Jesus’ impact on the world, which I just wrote about, and tell me if it is explainable by any mechanism you know of. Hint: identify the precursors to what Jesus did, and what he kicked off. It might be a harder task than you have intimated.

          • GearHedEd

            Jesus didn’t DO anything that can be substantiated. Jesus’ impact on the world is and always has been carried out by ordinary humans adhering to the IDEA of Jesus, and what he allegedly stood for.

            Holy Ghost, indeed!

          • Luke Breuer

            Nonetheless, you must explain how “the IDEA of Jesus” arose. Ideas like Jesus don’t just pop out of nowhere and have the impact Jesus did. And if it is sufficiently hard to discover how such an idea arose, that raises very interesting questions.

          • GearHedEd

            As I understand it (and without going into a lengthy discussion; you already know the arguments here…), Paul is responsible for much of it.

            …and Paul never met a living “Jesus”.

          • Luke Breuer

            Paul was “a Pharisee of Pharisees”, according to him. Whence came the huge change in thought—he called his Pharisee credentials ‘shit’ in Philippians 3:8, as explained by A Brief Word Study on Σκύβαλον? Effects have causes, or at least effects like this do. And why did so many people believe Paul? Why not dismiss him as a nutcase? Effects need believable causal explanations!

          • GearHedEd

            There wasn’t a “huge change in thought”. At least not one that happened overnight. Christianity lingered in the shadows for 300 years as a source of lion food before it even had a patron (Constantine) who brought it into the light. Can you tell me any detail about what was going on 300 years ago? I’ll bet a month’s pay that neither could the “bishops” at Nicaea…

          • Luke Breuer

            There wasn’t a “huge change in thought”.

            Why do you say this? I tried to present evidence that there was; your only response is, “No, it wasn’t.” I guess you can end the conversation like that, if you want. It doesn’t really edify either of us to do so, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

            Maybe he was tired of needing to beat up a bunch of pathetic Christians just because his job description required it. Could YOU do what Saul of Tarsus the Pharisee was said to have done and live with yourself?

            It is extremely hard to reason counterfactuals like this; much of my reasoning is predicated on knowledge and experiences not conceivable in Paul’s time. So I cannot really answer your question either way. We could try and find other examples where the persecutor of some new religion suddenly converts to it and becomes its biggest apostle. I don’t know much about Islam and whether it happened there; did we see this happen anywhere in the Spanish Inquisition, for example? That isn’t an equivalent situation, but it might yield interesting results nonetheless.

          • GearHedEd

            And now we get to the real gist of this thread: the fact that there is too much uncertainty involved to say anything with authority. We DON’T know what motivated any of the people referenced in your recent comments. Were they prone to belief in supernatural entities, such that another god becoming known to them would make a dent in their psyches? Probably. Did PTSD exist back then, even if it wasn’t defined until about 1990? Absolutely. Did Paul change his mind? Yes, but WHY? Was it because of the TROOTH™ of Christianity, or was it a reaction to the repugnant things he was forced to do?

            Of the two of us here, I am the one who remains agnostic about the causes, and you are the one campaigning for the side of “I know what it was, it was the Son of God”.

            The point is, I can think of mundane reasons why things turned out the way they did all day long without even straining; there’s nothing fantastic going on here. Society evolves. Society has evolved SINCE Jesus. Can you say with a straight face that we would have never come to the conclusions that we find in the ethics and morals ascribed to Christianity if not for Jesus? That’s a pretty strong claim without a shred of evidence to back it. Furthermore, the existence of thriving moral societies that are NOT Abrahamic in origin is disconfirming evidence against your claims.

          • Void L. Walker

            Ed, I don’t know if you’ve discussed anything at length with Luke. If you have not, fair warning: verbosity, ambiguity and long winded rants will follow just about any meaningful question or answer you pose.

          • Luke Breuer

            Wow, a switch from kindness to this? Good grief.

          • Void L. Walker

            But IS grief good? How can we fully determine this? If we carefully examine the motions of individual constraints, inserting 4954096843098643986 into the vector of what IS and is NOT, Matthew 23:11, Luke 12:10, mark 8:08. SELO could potentially answer our inquiries, while lending us a sense of odfodfjbnoetnorijb4timb to the equation.

          • Luke Breuer

            For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

            You asked for it, with your own snarkiness. :-p

          • Void L. Walker

            Well, I’ll die with a big, stupid smile on my face at least.

          • Void L. Walker

            ….or maybe with a warped, horrified expression. I’ve often wondered which it will be…

          • Void L. Walker

            Wait, wait, wait….before we call it quits, you still haven’t answered a question I posed. You’ve mentioned on a few occasions that you were “despised by men”, giving me bible verses to solidify your claim. Why where you “despised”? If it’s a personal issue, I can give you my email address.

          • Luke Breuer

            Many instances where my actions were misinterpreted as me being a terrible person. Kind of like when I unintentionally insulted you, asked why, and you were even more offended by that question. Except mostly much worse. I was therefore extremely isolated, and had no friends until I was 21. Everything I did socially, I did wrongly, for a long, long time. And everyone except for a few people here and there, saw me as a terrible and/or stupid person. I felt very much “built wrong” for much of my life.

          • Void L. Walker

            Hmm, interesting. What kind of actions do you speak of?

          • Luke Breuer

            Social interaction. Trying to be friends with people. Trying to talk about interesting things. Trying to discover new things. Trying to not just occupy my life with boring shit. Even that ticks lots of people off, apparently!

          • Void L. Walker

            Well, it seems we have a lot in common. Would you accept my apology for the earlier comment (reply to GearHedEd)? Do not think that I’m apologizing merely because of commonalities, either. When I’ve told you that a few screws are lose, I meant it…

          • Luke Breuer

            Of course! I know what it’s like to have some screws loose; I likely have cyclothymia. Fortunately, intense discipline has helped me do the opposite of kindling; I credit my wife, my friends, and Jesus for being critical in this, as well as intense intellectual and emotional discipline. Josef Pieper’s “Divine Madness”: Plato’s Case Against Secular Humanism gets at this kind of thing, I think. He uses the term theomania:

            1. A religious mania.
            2. A mental illness in which the patient believes to be a god or to be possessed by one.

            I have very little evidence, but I suspect Pieper was onto something. And if he were, the discipline required to channel the power of the gods, or of God, is intense. I connect Paul’s description to this topic:

            Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:24-27)

            I also wonder whether Thomas Aquinas’ vision, which compelled him to call his vast amount of work “straw”, had something to do with lack of sufficient discipline or something. Who knows!

          • Void L. Walker

            I’m bi-polar, manically depressed, border line personality disorder. Basically, mentally fucked to the third power. Thankfully, my good friend marijuana manages to balance my mood nicely and grants deeper introspection than usual.

            The trick, for me, is to regularly delve into my sub consciousness and tackle the negativity, hold it down, beat it to a pulp, then resurface (hopefully unscathed by this otherwise traumatic experience). The trouble is, every time I practice this method I seem to lose just a bit more of my sanity. Oh well!

            On an unrelated note, what do you do for fun in Cali?

          • Luke Breuer

            To what extent have you scoured research for how to reduce/eliminate/reverse kindling? I’m not going to claim that I figured out The Way (pun intended!), but I can say that my hypomanic episodes have gotten remarkably calmer, as evaluated by my wife (who initially disliked them), and by a Caltech faculty member. During hypomanic episodes, I’ve discovered pretty neat spiritual insights—such as how additional scripture connects with particle-and-field reality, in ways I can describe to other people. Have you had similar creative productivity?

            I go on hikes, bike rides and hang out at coffee shops, occasionally meeting really neat people at them. :-) I’m a little lame, as I love philosophy, theology, science, and engineering; my wife helps get me out more and keeps me in shape (bahaha). I also like to go on long walks, sometimes listening to podcasts and sometimes listening to nothing at all, except my own inner voice, which sometimes I try to quiet to just observe.

            How about you, wherever you live?

          • GearHedEd

            I’ve been suicidal on occasion, too. No need to go into detail, but I have three ex-wives…

          • Void L. Walker

            Damn. I’ve had women problems, too. Sometimes life really, really sucks. But fear not! Jesus loves us! :-D

          • Void L. Walker

            @_@

          • Luke Breuer

            Indeed! What’s really fun is when people project their preferences onto how the world ought to be that things really start getting fucked up. They match these three paragraphs eerily well. They set themselves up as little autonomous gods, instead of admitting that different people think differently, and that is ok. They become metaphysical tyrants. This is evil, it is stunting, and it needs to be stopped! :-) or perhaps >:-[

          • Void L. Walker

            Yeah, the mad face seems to fit a bit more…. :-p

            I agree, and have encountered atheists, christians, even pantheists who behave this way. I apologize again for any rudeness. You need to be aware that I have VERY bad days, sometimes. I tend to lash out at otherwise good people, which is wrong. But alas, I cannot help it most of the time. I honestly think that regions of my brain associated with emotional control are damaged.

          • Luke Breuer

            Sometimes, I have found myself lashing out at people when it was really lashing out at ways I have been treated, myself. I dunno if you can connect this pattern with anything in your own life. Coming to a better, solid understanding of good and evil helped a lot, it turns out. And, ta dun!, theology has helped a lot in this domain. One secular acid test in this domain is to consider what you could tell a person on a suicide hotline to get him/her to back away from attempting, and what would send him/her over the edge. This cuts through a lot of fucked up, bullshit platitudes and other sayings. Including shitty Christian ones. I discovered this in spades in a two-day intensive suicide prevention workshop I attended, on 3 and 2 hours of sleep beforehand. It was intense.

          • Void L. Walker

            For me, the best advice that one could give to a suicidal person would be something like this:

            1: You must consider how permanent a solution this is to a temporary problem

            2: There are people who love you more than you know; if you went through with this, you would devastate them

            3: (the best, IMO) inform the individual that you, too, have been down as low as you can get. At that depth, it is hard to see the light, but the light is ALWAYS there. Tell them that you managed to climb out of the darkness, and that they can, too.

            I actually prevented MYSELF from committing suicide a few times. One attempt still haunts me. I slashed my wrists when I was 15, and nearly bled out. I managed to wrap my wounds before passing out. When I awoke, something in me had changed. Why am I telling you this? Uh-oh. I’m drunk.

          • Luke Breuer

            I tried a different route and am thankful that I, too, failed. You and I understand darkness that would cause others to shit their pants. And then they mock us for it, calling us ‘weak’. Those people have no conception whatsoever of what true strength is. True strength can rescue the suicidal. Preening arrogance is the most fragile of shells.

          • Void L. Walker

            We have even more in common than I’d previously thought. We have both delved into some of life’s darkest reaches and managed to survive.

            It is rather unfortunate that either of us had to go through any of this, isn’t it? However, to have stared death in the face and lived to tell the tale says something about our strength and resolve.

            It’s a pity that we can’t get together and actually converse face to face, you’re definitely a fascinating person. Perhaps one day our paths will cross?

          • Luke Breuer

            Wow, I read ‘reaches’ as ‘riches’ and thought that was one of the most sardonic things I’d ever read. Alas, it was tiredness and not sardonic-ness.

            On the one hand it is unfortunate, but on the other hand, a friend of mine who has gone through much worse says that 2 Cor 1:3-11 is the “second half of Job”. I wish I knew Greek, because I’ll bet you 2 Cor 1:3-11 isn’t nearly so dry and pedantic and crap as the ESV makes it out to be. While Daniel B. Wallace is of the NET Bible translation, his A Brief Word Study on Σκύβαλον shows you the attitude of many if not all of the popular Bible translators:

            However, due to English sensibilities, and considering the readership (Christians), [I’m going to mistranslate the Bible.]

            More rant, and even more rant!

            On a less theological note, someone has to experience closer to the extreme ends of the bell curve of suffering and hopefully, knowledge can be extracted from this which can be used to reduce the amount of similar suffering that happens in the world. I call this “wisdom propagation”. And we suck at it hard. Why? This is a question which occupies a good deal of my thought-life.

            I would love it if our paths could cross! Where do you live? (I’m sorry if you’ve said before; my memory of such ‘inconsequential’ things can be pretty bad.) At some point, I hope to travel the world.

          • Void L. Walker

            I currently live in Wyoming (you can shoot me any time), but eventually I’m moving to Oregon. The unusually oonservative behavior of most people in this state is enough to drive a man over the edge of sanity cliff. It has it’s high points though, much as any state.

            On a decidedly unrelated note, did you hear about this: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140318-multiverse-inflation-big-bang-science-space/ ? Fascinating stuff.

          • Luke Breuer

            I have never been to Wyoming, but I have been to Oregon.

            I did hear about the inflation discovery; it’s really neat! I counter with “A New Theory of Free Will” and the Peer-to-Peer Simulation Hypothesis.

          • Void L. Walker

            Interesting.

            Back into the fray, shall we? ;-)

            I’ve mentioned before the problem with not presenting evidence that humans are capable of breaking causal chains, and frankly I think that the free will issue should be argued for in the realm of human development/cognition.

            Let me present to you a causal chain, and allow you room to demonstrate how it may be broken.

            The subject of said chain is hypothetical, of course. We shall name him Jerry.

            Jerry is born in a rural town in Mississippi. His parents, while very poor, are loving, gentle people. From the time that Jerry is young, kindness is fostered daily by his parents. Things begin to go wrong, however, when Jerry is age 5. His parents both die in a horrible car accident.

            Weeks later, Jerry is now living with his Aunt. Unbeknownst to him, his aunt is a very sick individual, and begins making sexual advances on him. Jerry is traumatized by these experiences, which recur at an alarming rate.

            Jerry is now 13, attending a local school. Due to his small stature, he is regularly picked on by larger boys, and subsequently bullied/beaten up. Every day that Jerry returns, he must also combat advances from his aunt. Depression sweeps over him like a rolling thunder storm.

            Jerry is now 20, graduated from school (with barely passing grades), and seeking employment at the local lumber mill. Upon receiving a job there, he begins to notice that he is becoming increasingly detached from reality in very noticeable ways; losing his grip on what is real and what is not. One of his fellow employees strikes him, belittles him, and pokes fun on a nearly daily basis.

            Jerry is 24, sitting in prison for the murder of his fellow employee, just 2 years prior.

            How can we claim that Jerry was entirely to blame for this act, when the causative chain clearly wrecked his mind? How, further, can we make the claim that his will is exempt from these priori, such that he could be considered a first cause agent?

            This is a fairly drawn out example (And I say that YOU rant), but still an effective one.

          • Luke Breuer

            Sorry, I got a bit overwhelmed and let a few threads stagnate. I did keep the email notification unread. :-)

            How can we claim that Jerry was entirely to blame for this act

            I wouldn’t say that he is “entirely to blame”. Environmental conditions give us huge momenta p; I have consistently argued that freedom of the will means ability to exert small ∆p‘s. I’d like to see you thoroughly acknowledge this model of mine, because so far, you really haven’t. You seem to keep rejecting it in how you talk, as if it somehow cannot be inserted into your model of me.

            There’s a fun fact about those ∆p‘s: if a person goes through a Lagrangian point just right, then the required ∆p to change trajectory is zero. You could think of quantum noise being enough to flick the p one way or another. So perhaps freedom of the will doesn’t actually require anything more than an infinitessimalp: a dp.

            Perhaps you can think of moments in your life where it really could have gone one way or another. In other moments, your hand was really forced, and it would have been really hard to act otherwise. But in some, you had options, didn’t really have to choose one of them, and the choice had repercussions throughout your life. If God is going to judge us, these decisions will play a major role. It is in these cases where our true nature is made most clear.

            CS Lewis talks about this stuff in Mere Christianity:

            The bad psychological material is not a sin but a disease. It does not need to be repented of, but to be cured. And by the way, that is very important. Human beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges them by their moral choices. When a neurotic who has a pathological horror of cats forces himself to pick up a cat for some good reason, it is quite possible that in God’s eyes he has shown more courage than a healthy man may have shown in winning the V.C. When a man who has been perverted from his youth and taught that cruelty is the right thing, does some tiny little kindness, or refrains from some cruelty he might have committed, and thereby, perhaps, risks being sneered at by his companions, he may, in God’s eyes, be doing more than you and I would do if we gave up life itself for a friend.

          • Void L. Walker

            “Perhaps you can think of moments in your life where it really could have gone one way or another.”

            Yes, of course I can. Just as I used to think I could change a persons mind by merely looking into their eyes (clearly false). Just because it SEEMS we could have done differently does not mean that we could have. I will grant that I cannot prove this beyond reasonable doubt, but you cannot prove the opposite. Feeling that we could have done something does not, by any stretch, mean that we could have. There are plenty of moments in life where we felt compelled to do one thing or the other, but I would argue against these being indicative of free will. Want me to elaborate?

          • Luke Breuer

            I just want to know why one ought to pick ‘freedom’ over ‘no freedom’ or vice versa. I don’t see how evidence could convince you one way or the other. It seems more of a philosophical position that impacts quite a lot of life. For example, you aren’t allowed to get mad at God under the ‘no freedom’ option. It’s irrational to get made at God if he couldn’t have done things differently.

          • Void L. Walker

            The causal chain that I laid out for you does not constitute evidence in any way? Also, it is NOT (at least, it surely wasn’t for me) a matter of choice. I saw little evidence that we possess the ability to freely choose, studied a lot of human cognition, lived with people who’s wills have been turned to mush. I would much rather believe in free will, I just don’t see ANY sufficient evidence for it, philosophical or otherwise.

          • Luke Breuer

            Think about it this way. Evidence has two functions: one is to tell us about ways in which the world works, which are enigmas to us and force us to acknowledge that the world is bigger than we thought. The advance of the perihelion of Mercury is an example. The other function is to tell us that while we can imagine reality working in various different ways, the evidence says it actually mostly works in one of those ways. And so, we have world-expanding evidence and world-shrinking evidence. We also have logical contradictions, which point out that we need to do more science if nothing else (see: wave–particle duality).

            What kind of evidence is your example? Prima facie, it is world-shrinking. But is this true? What bigger world existed that we could imagine, which it says doesn’t exist? I can see no bigger world. So what is the function of that evidence?

            I saw little evidence that we possess the ability to freely choose

            What would such evidence even look like? This is 100% a serious question.

          • Void L. Walker

            Luke….you’re doing it again :-p

            “What would such evidence even look like? This is 100% a serious question.”

            Easy. Imagine something akin to Libets experiment, except involving multilayered, complex decisions (such as what goals to seek in a given year, what people you want in your life, etc). If we gleaned the same results, this would be a strong, powerful piece of evidence.

            Also, you have never lived with someone suffering from a serious cognitive disease. I have and let me tell you, if you ever believed in free will or that the personality is indicative of the soul, you will not after a few solid years. It became clear to me that many of our “cherished” faculties are inexorably linked to the states of our brains. When our brains are damaged in serious ways, so too are our personalities and wills. Care for me to share a few of these experiences with you? Painful to recall, but if it helps me make a point I’ll gladly do so.

          • Luke Breuer

            If we gleaned the same results, this would be a strong, powerful piece of evidence.

            I’m sorry, but please actually give me a realistic description of the kinds of results which would convince you that we have free will. Don’t just posit that we might see such results, describe them. Otherwise, I have a hard time believing that there is anything which scientists could observe, which would be actual evidence that free will exists.

            Also, you have never lived with someone suffering from a serious cognitive disease. I have and let me tell you, if you ever believed in free will or that the personality is indicative of the soul, you will not after a few solid years.

            Actually, I have personal experience with my willpower being vastly restricted at times. But how can you argue that freedom of the will doesn’t exist, based on examples where if it existed, it would be greatly restricted, perhaps to signal levels below those which we can measure? This seems to be an insane way to analyze the issue.

            It became clear to me that many of our “cherished” faculties are inexorably linked to the states of our brains.

            Why does this matter?

          • Void L. Walker

            “I’m sorry, but please actually give me a realistic description of the kinds of results which would convince you that we have free will.”

            With pleasure. The kind of results I would expect as vindication of free will would be the exact opposite of what libet found. I.E, for more complex decisions, we would find evidence that our awareness of forming the decision would come BEFORE our brains decided upon which decision and why. Good enough for you? Or, on a related note, clear evidence that causal chains could be violated, at any point (or “link” in said chain). Is this sufficient for you?

            “This seems to be an insane way to analyze the issue.”

            Not at all, my dear Breuer. I have years worth of experience watching people crippled by dementia make decisions. You should try it sometime, it’s actually quite heartbreaking. As the brain erodes, so too does the will. An example: my grandmother, a few months before she died, was behaving like a 5 year old. She threw tantrums, cussed up a storm, and was incapable of acting on her own. Basically, her will regressed to that of a toddler. She could not make decisions on her own, in any capacity. How can you not see where I’m going with this?

            “Why does this matter?”

            Really? Because our wills are a product of our brains. As the brain waxes and crumbles, so too does the will.

          • Luke Breuer

            The kind of results I would expect as vindication of free will would be the exact opposite of what libet found. I.E, for more complex decisions, we would find evidence that our awareness of forming the decision would come BEFORE our brains decided upon which decision and why.

            Why does freedom of the will require that the will be entirely or even mostly conscious thought? I actually see consciousness as more of an ability to examine all the non-conscious parts of our brains and tune them. It is like a Turing machine’s ability to “print out own description”. Our consciousness is like our brain’s auditor. I do not equate ‘consciousness’ with ‘will’. Why do you?

            Or, on a related note, clear evidence that causal chains could be violated, at any point (or “link” in said chain).

            What would this look like? I’m having trouble imagining what it would look like, other than something god-of-the-gaps—which I would find bad.

            I have years worth of experience watching people crippled by dementia make decisions. You should try it sometime, it’s actually quite heartbreaking. As the brain erodes, so too does [freedom of] the will

            Why is my addition invalid?

            Really?

            Yeah, really. You seem to believe that ¬Cartesian dualism ⇒ ¬freedom of the will. Is this the case?

          • Void L. Walker

            “Why does freedom of the will require that the will be entirely or even mostly conscious thought?”

            What, in your opinion, is freedom of the will then? What region(s) of the brain contribute and/or allow for it?

            “What would this look like?”

            Easy, a clear example of a person acting against their psychological predispositions; go back to the example I gave of a causal chain involving Jerry. Show how he could have acted differently given the myriad causes that eventuated his behavior; show how he is exempt from causation. Until you do this, asserting that human beings are “first causers” is untenable at best.

            “Yeah, really. You seem to believe that ¬Cartesian dualism ⇒ ¬freedom of the will. Is this the case?”

            Certainly not, I merely assumed you were a dualist, as most Christians I’ve encountered are. My apologies. There are many varieties of free will, LFW among the most “popular”.

          • Luke Breuer

            What, in your opinion, is freedom of the will then? What region(s) of the brain contribute and/or allow for it?

            Freedom of the will is the ability to change course, to tell a new story and make it come true. It can mean using your consciousness to analyze your subconscious/unconscious, see that they are leading you to a bad destination, and then learn how to ‘tune’ them so that they lead you to successively better destinations. It can mean reading The Unreliability of Naive Introspection, and then learning to have non-naive introspection which becomes reliable. And so forth.

            Easy, a clear example of a person acting against their psychological predispositions;

            People generally don’t violently oppose their psychological predispositions; if they do this suddenly, we typically call it a psychotic break. However, people can slowly change, over time, with concerted effort. You don’t seem to have an opening for this latter kind of change!

            Show how he could have acted differently given the myriad causes that eventuated his behavior

            He would have to take time to analyze where he’s headed, decide he doesn’t like it, and then take the appropriate steps to change course. He might need professional help, and definitely good friends. The less hes has these, the less ∆p he can apply, and the smaller the range of targets he can aim for.

            Certainly not, I merely assumed you were a dualist, as most Christians I’ve encountered are. My apologies. There are many varieties of free will, LFW among the most “popular”.

            I have no idea whether Cartesian dualism obtains; the interaction problem threatens to collapse it into monism, as far as I can tell. And I don’t see a need for LFW to be true in order for there to be freedom of the will.

          • Void L. Walker

            How about we move this discussion over and marry it with the other? The similarities are abundant :-p

          • Luke Breuer

            Ok.

          • Void L. Walker

            Also, no worries about the late response :) I’m just glad you actually responded to me.

          • Luke Breuer

            And now we get to the real gist of this thread: the fact that there is too much uncertainty involved to say anything with authority. We DON’T know what motivated any of the people referenced in your recent comments.

            Wait a second, weren’t you fairly confident about your I-V? You said:

            All of these either separately or more likely in combination (and this is by no means an exhaustive list…) could explain the emergence of Christianity.
            […]
            Nothing miraculous going on here, folks… Move along.

            You didn’t indicate much uncertainty at all; has this changed?

            Perhaps you have thoughts on Jonathan’s recent Why I am going on strike, where he notes the degrading conditions of public education, where he possibly agreed with my:

            You realize this is all designed to create a two-tiered society, right? Give the masses shitty education and send the rich kids and really smart poor kids to private schools. It’s happening in the US, too.

            For much of history, society has been at least two-tiered. Jesus and Paul argued for a radically egalitarian society; we’re headed away from a radically egalitarian society, to the extent that we were ever there. America got pretty good at one point, and is still perhaps the best out there (although I read some article about Sweden being nicer to entrepreneurs?). But being the best is of little worth if the best isn’t very good.

            I recently randomly met an orthodox Jew gone agnostic, who claimed that the first few centuries of Christianity were radically egalitarian; I don’t have a firm enough grasp on early Christian history to confirm/deny this, although hopefully Otto Borchert’s The Original Jesus will help. What I do know is that radical egalitarianism is very unstable, and that it is slipping through our hands like sand. It’s almost as if we’re missing a crucial ingredient for sustaining it…

          • Luke Breuer

            Society evolves.

            Evolution is unguided. So why expect progress? Why expect an increase in egalitarianism, instead of an increase in inequality? See Myth of Progress.

            Furthermore, the existence of thriving moral societies that are NOT Abrahamic in origin is disconfirming evidence against your claims.

            Examples? For counterexamples, see Aristotle on slavery and Untouchability.

  • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

    It’s a total non-sequitor to go from the concept of “greatest conceivable being” (however problematic that may be) to connecting that being to Yahweh. Yahweh is far from the greatest conceivable being.

    • Nerdsamwich

      For that matter, “greatest conceivable being” is incoherent. There’s no upper limit to awesome, for one. For another, you can also be great at being terrible, which is incompatible with being great at being not-terrible.

      • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

        It’s like the greatest conceivable number. Doh!

  • deuZige

    though i agree with the final conclusion (he doesn’t exist) i feel i must mention that yahweh is not an invention of bronze age people. Yahweh is the merging of at least two different gods of two different societies who had been forced to merge together when the Judeans were banished after their lands had been conquered by assyrians. One of the gods was El who was the god of creation of man and the other was the god of thunder (i think) called YWHW. The name of the one god and the traits of the other became YHWH . Which went on to serve as god for the israelites and the judeans and through time evolved into the one true god that we all know tofay.
    I suspect that the polythistic religious system that had evolved in the levant began to become to costly and time consuming (a god for everything from the sun to the sea and fiom frutility to trade) and created the need to reduce the number of gods to wordship and provide offerings to.

    • Void L. Walker

      Fascinating, I’d heard of that before :)

    • http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/ Jonathan MS Pearce

      Absolutely – my turn of phrase was just that, but it is certainly more nuanced than that and the documentary hypothesis has a lot to say about that.

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  • Luca

    I’m Curious to know, what Definition this article is pertaining “Yahweh” to? because the Hebrew Definition of Yahweh is simply “God” or Christ, as He is God in physical form. what i’m getting is that (according to this article) Yahweh and God are to separate beings belonging to two separate beliefs when in reality they are one in the same.